Google+ Followers

Saturday, April 30, 2011


yo, sambo

Milly Richardson just now brought my attention to what I wrote yesterday about the South. This is one of the bonds Milly and I have, our love for the South, the irrational as well as the rational of it, from the very meanest and worst to the most generous and best, the entire picture in between, like on a Japanese fan. The one thing somebody from West Virginia has in common with someone from Mississippi is they are both Southern, and in that way share the same culture, as people from the West Virginia mountains have in common with people of the North Carolina mountains is the culture of the Southern Appalachians. Above the Mason-Dixon line, old-time music was played a different way. It had no black influence in it, or next to none. The banjo is the fusion of the black people's ways of playing the music and the ways of the white people. White influence came from the British Isles.

The black influence came through white old-time music, filtered through African sensibilities, into music the musicians could play together. More than likely slave musicians played for a lot of white square dances. Uncle Dave Macon, the first Grand Ole Opry banjo comedian, came from central Tennessee. By age 14 he was picking a banjo. He met a black man who picked banjo. They taught each other new licks. This was the case with a number of the early white banjo pickers. Clarence Ashley of Mountain City, Tennessee, learned licks when he was young from a black banjo picker. The banjo, an African instrument, was probably made among slaves by somebody kidnapped into slavery who had been a maker and player of the instrument. It went through changes this side of the ocean, like old-time music went through changes this side of the ocean, which the slaves learned from the white people that were everywhere. Young white boys who had music in them were drawn to it in the minstrel shows of white guys in blackface, the banjo known as the black instrument. I expect the white boys that picked up the banjo, the ones that really got into it, sought a black man to show him how it's "really" played.

And the Yankees accuse us in the South of not liking black people. For every Yankee who would say, I don't think that way about Southerners, there are Southerners who like black people very much simply for who they are, friends. There is at least as much interracial friendship happening in the South as in the North. I can't say there is more or less, because I have no idea, but I do know that in the Southern white middle class, nigger is the most unacceptable word in the dictionary. Even worse than fuck. You don't get lectured and pointed at for saying fuck. And if you're a bred and buttered Confederate redneck of the flag waving variety, whose greatgreatgrandpa fought in the Civil War, that's the password. It's more the shock value and statement of a separate status from the white middle class that looks down on them. It's a working class Southern boy's middle finger to the condescending middle class, the management class, the boss. Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on.

That's it for what's left of Southern racism. To start with, not hardly all Southerners were racists, and there is less racism as time goes by, as older generations die out and younger generations come in. It's going away of its own, because it's simply not practical anymore. It was of another time. And where collective guilt for slavery is concerned, slavery just makes us members of the international community. Slavery is an African institution from Bible times to the present day. An ongoing international slave trade is alive an well. The Bible justified it for the colonists. It was the  European colonists buying slaves from Africans that got the New World slave trade going. When the American colonies broke free of "the Crown," we were left to do with this situation we did not create the best we knew how. There is no rational or irrational to what followed. American history. Bombs from the sky on the Iraqi people. If you're going to blame Southerners for the plight of the black people, remember to blame all Americans, black and white and in between, for the plight of the Iraqi people, for the plight of the North American Indians.  

Later on, you have the Allman Brothers, Southern Rock knee deep in the Delta Blues. In turn, there was white influence in black music, perhaps to the same degree. It's a complex weaving of the ways white people think that are particular to white people, racial arrogance for one, and the ways black people think particular to black people, a minority consciousness. Both are prime in decision-making and make very different cultures based in the same culture, subcultures that share the bigger culture. I get really tired of people from outside the South accusing Southerners of racism and sympathy for slavery. I do not allow that Southerners are expected to feel guilty for being Southern. Yankees had slaves too.

And when it comes to racism, there is plenty of it in the South, to be sure, but it's not universal by any means. And there's plenty of it in the North, Midwest and West. None of the great Southern writers were racist, Eudora Welty, John Crowe Ransom, Carson McCullers, Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, and a great long string of others. Elvis was a Southern boy. Before he started recording, he was finding his style as a singer in the black clubs of Memphis. He was as black a singer as any white man could sound. Then you have Chuck Berry of Memphis singing like a white man. Jerry Lee Lewis singing like a black man. Rock and roll. Minstrel shows again.

AP Carter drove around the mountains of the Blue Ridge looking for songs in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, traveling by car for weeks and often months at a time. His companion was a black guitar player and singer, Leslie Riddle. Through Riddle, AP had access to the black homes as well as the white. No distinction is made in the songs of the Carter Family for whether they came from white community or black. The Carter Family, the essence of mountain music, was another fusion of black music and white.

I absolutely reject the notion that a white Southerner is automatically guilty of historical racism. There are aplenty of racists outside the South. The song Billie Holiday sang, Strange Fruit, the story a lynching and hanging of a black man from a poplar tree. The first line, Southern trees bear strange fruit. The lynching the song was about and the writing of the song both took place in the state of Indiana. Google Indiana and see if it's in the South. It's what we call 'round here a Yankee state.


Friday, April 29, 2011


by cy twombly

This morning I  heard on the Diane Rehm Show a man talk about loyalty. He'd just researched and wrote in depth about a subject that was dear to him by the time he'd finished the project. Loyalty is one of the most valued human attributes, like humility, those ways of being that have to come from within or they don't work, are too obviously fake. Loyalty has been important to me throughout my adult life. For the first time, I felt like calling in to the radio show, but thought better of it. I had an experience in the department of loyalty that was so complex that to this day I'm not sure if my reading of it has validity.

A friend of 15 years lied me into making him a deed of a plot of his mother's land, land she had that was increasing in value, waiting for her need in her old age. She wanted it to be divided at her death among her 4 boys. My friend convinced me she wanted to make the deed to her land over to him. I took the deed by the house for her signature. She held the pen over the paper and couldn't touch the paper. It was like there was a force that radiated about an inch from the paper that her pen could not penetrate. She started shaking and was on the verge of breaking into tears when he barked into her ear, "Remember what we talked about last night." The invisible protective shield vanished and she signed quick as lightning. I grieved within. I had assisted fraud. At the moment, there was nothing I could do but notarize it. She signed it. The window for saying I wouldn't do it lasted just a few seconds, and my mind wasn't able to work fast enough to figure everything out in 2 seconds.

The window passed and there I was with the paper in my hand to record that I knew was fraud, but couldn't prove it. A prosecutor could make what he said into something sweet and helpful with an old woman who couldn't think right. There was nothing sweet about the tone of voice. I regretted it so much every day that it became a wedge in our friendship. I lost respect and my loyalty went with my respect. He'll hate me forever for not being loyal to our friendship. But, by the time I had the opportunity to help mama get her land back in court when she contested his fraud and I was the witness, he was not my friend and hadn't been for some time. A friend does not commit a friend to fraud with lies to rip off his own mother. A part he didn't understand, his mother was my friend too. He eliminates himself as my friend, his mother remains my friend. My loyalty went to her.

That was a difficult decision for me to make. He calls me a back-stabber, and he's right. Everything he says about my loyalty as a friend is correct. He put me to the extreme test, requiring of me a criminal mind, which I don't have, and that in itself is enough to put the end to a friendship once it surfaces. In my first year in the mountains, running with the Pruitt boys for a year, running the roads and drinking on weekends, friends. When they decided I was ok, they invited me to come along to a breaking and entering. I said they can drop me off at the house on the way. And they had no more to do with me, which was ok on my part, because if breaking into somebody's house and taking whatever I want is initiation into a friendship, forget it. Same as a friend lying me into committing fraud against his mother, forget it. I am not able to allow myself to hurt people with the feeling of being raped for my own minuscule gain; a bottle of liquor, a gun, a portable tv.

I'm not that desperate for a friend. And I don't want somebody who would expect that of me for a friend. That's prison mind. I'm not interested in tempting prison, because I don't want it by any means. Certainly not American prison, nor any prison any place in the world. In December of 1971 I was on a stool at the bar in a London pub. A jackass a couple seats down picked up on my Southern accent and started loud talk about You Americans, You Southerners, I've been to the South, I know about what you Southerners do to those poor black people. I'm sitting there seeing him dead. All I had to do was swing my left fist around in a quick motion straightening out my arm, hit his chin or anywhere on the face, he falls over backward on the stool, the back of his head hits the floor, he dies instantly, I'm the American in an English prison the rest of my life. I got up and left. On my way out, somebody spoke to me and said pay him no mind, he's just an asshole. I said, Very nearly a dead asshole. By then I was already sick of You Americans, and You Southerners pushed me over the edge. If my fuse had been about a half inch shorter, I'd have been in a heap of trouble.

Don't you be talkin bout no South! I mean that thang. The South is dear to Southerners in ways nobody outside the South is able to fathom. The South is not just Larry the Cable Guy. It's also William Faulkner and Lucinda Williams. It's the Skillet Lickers and Grandpa Jones. It's a form of loyalty in the South. A form of loyalty I ascribe to. I don't have a great deal of respect for Jefferson Davis, knowing before the war started the South didn't have a chance. But at the same time, that's not all there was to it. I'd rather shake Jeffferson Davis's hand than any of the Presidents. At his birthplace, Fairview, Kentucky, evidently the State of Kentucky erected a spire on the order of the Washington monument in DC, though not as tall. It stands high above the grove of oaks around its base and the sea of cornfields all around it as far as the horizon in all directions. In a sea of green this spire points skyward in memory of Jefferson Davis. I've never read a biography, so it's not like he has virtues I admire or anything like that. His name is synonymous with the South, therefore I honor it with the same affection I feel for the South. The other side of the Mason-Dixon line really is a foreign country. They even talk different.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


on dan osborne road near hwy 18

The guy who put up the sign is making his living, or supplementing it, scavenging scrap metal and hauling a load on the back of his pickup piled up high, as much as it will hold, to Wilkes where he can sell it for a little bit and maybe have gas money for a few weeks. We'll see more and more people scavenging for scrap metal, aluminum cans by the road, plastic, anything that can be resold as we begin our slow journey to becoming like Latin America; the rich and the poor. In Mexico the rich have walls around their houses with broken glass in the cement on top, or spikes, what have you. In the Old South the rich had walls around their houses with broken glass on top and spikes to inhibit the poor from entertaining thoughts of robbery.

It must be strange to live inside walls so high you can't see out. Like an animal in a cage, the cage becomes the safe zone and the animal is not comfortable outside the cage where everything is so uncertain. A world of barbarians the other side of the gate, all of them eager to have your nice things for themselves. Now we have gated communities, country clubs and underground shelters to keep the rich separate from the thick-fingered masses. It's probably no more strange inside the walls than outside them. It's all human existence. This world is where we walk our own spiritual path however we choose. One can be born into unlimited wealth and one can be born into gypsy poverty. One can be a buyer and seller of camels in Egypt or a tea merchant in Thailand. We're each one walking our own path, only some of us know it and some don't.

What we do is not what's important. It's how we do it. I enjoy watching a ball game on tv or a race, something where everyone is functioning almost flawlessly and to the max of humanly possible. I like to watch a guy in the outfield run full-tilt, make a flying dive and catch the ball in his glove just before it (and he) hits the ground. I like to see a bullet pass caught at the full extremity of the receiver's flight through the air to grab it out of the air with one hand. I have to respect a guy who can drive 190 on a race track all day in intense heat and noise, win or lose. It seems to me like anything a human can do has the potential to become art. A mechanic who seems to have intuition with motors is an artist. Art is not restricted to galleries and not always made by people who call themselves artists.

Children drawing pictures illustrate how they are feeling inside and the image they see in their mind's eye, putting it together into a story in one picture. A few months back, the Head Start program in Sparta had the kids draw pictures for us at BROC where we give them a certain amount a year for children's books for them, in memory of Homer Reeves. The pictures are now on the wall at the BROC office, all of them. There may be 20 or so. I walk in there and I'm the same as in MoMA in New York. Each one is art itself. It's easy to find the most balanced and happiest kid and it's easy to find the most miserable kid. The ones in between are full of stories the kids could explain with much animation.

Listening to a kid tell the story of a drawing is to my way of seeing, the essence of art. I like to read relationships the kids have with other family members, and themselves in all sorts of ways they see themselves. They tell a story in one picture, and it's spontaneous. It didn't take any period of time to think about it. it started and grew into what it became. Watching a children's movie with kids is fun no matter what the movie is. I can watch them with kids, but not by myself. I tend to see the humor through the kids, who laugh like crazy. Watching Weird Al videos with a half dozen kids is a good laugh. I can't help but admire how he can connect so well with kid humor and make kids roll on the floor laughing.

I found by chance a quotation from HL Mencken yesterday, At eight or nine, I suppose, intelligence is no more than a small spot of light on the floor of a large and murky room. My entire being recoiled when I read that. It told me Mencken didn't pay any attention to kids. I've seen plenty of intelligence in kids that age. They may not have advanced degrees, but it doesn't make them uninteresting.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


by andy goldsworthy

Much of the day went to painting, NPR on the radio, which I don't listen to a great deal any more from waning interest in being lied to. The funniest of all, a tunnel was dug in Afghanistan that freed 500 prisoners from the American prison at Kandahar, if I remember correctly. I'd guess some heads rolled over this one. Another story of high-tech vs guts where guts wins. I remember from school in childhood the wisdom of the American freedom fighters in the time if the Revolutionary War. The British lined up in rows and traveled in long columns. The local boys hid behind trees and worked more as snipers, thus defeating the Empire by stealth, because they knew the land. Whether it was so or not, I don't know, it's what the teacher said, or possibly false memory of what the teacher said. When it's on our side, such ingenuity is patriotism to the max. Now that we're the big intimidating Force and the other side pulls something immensely ingenious, they're Taliban, terrorists, axis of evil. We are, after all, on their land, which they know a whole lot better than by satellite maps. American Indians knew the land too. 

Generals from the Pentagon are appealing to our venal Congress to stop taking food from hungry children in poverty, a rather large number in America, and basic infrastructure, like bridge replacement, and education, the one thing politicians don't want us to have. In the early 80s Reagan embarrassed the Pentagon by increasing their budget so incredibly much while slashing programs that helped black people in poverty. If it benefitted anybody black, it had to go. And it was well known that in the Reagan Whitehouse Martin Luther King was known as Martin Lucifer Coon. Bear down on the black people and build prisons for them. Good for the economy. Now 30+ years later, we're in such a fix the Pentagon is pleading with government to take needed money from their over-stuffed budget that gets spent on hyper-inflated prices for hammers, toilet seats and so on and so on. I never believed I'd see the day the Pentagon would appeal to government to take some of it's glut and pass it around to the American people who are waning from paying taxes for a war machine that has to create ongoing wars to justify itself, getting nothing in return but contempt from the rest of the world. 

I heard a man talk about narcissism on the rise in America. He was going by degrees of narcissism in pop songs of a given time. That took hold of my interest somewhat. In the 1980s American individualism degenerated to narcissism, has stayed there ever since, and evidently increasing, as it would. I don't see it so much in country people, but in exurbanites I see a great deal of it. And I've learned over the years when it's a mass trend, everybody doing it, the origin is television. Some weeks after 911 when the corporate media had the American mind locked down in fear, my friend Lucas in Georgia, asked me if I felt any fear of terrorists. I couldn't believe he was asking. Why would I? They like cities. I don't watch tv and didn't get cranked up into the collective fear rush. When I saw the towers fall straight down, I took it there was something fishy going on. It wasn't terrorists I had to be afraid of, but I already knew that. 

On the Diane Rehm interview show this morning, she was talking with James Stewart, who had researched and wrote a book on the increasing frequency of perjury by our "leaders." His premise was to spell out how false statements are undermining America. I think the title was Tangled Webs. The moment I heard that, my antennae went to whirring. This guy might have something to say worth hearing. Clinton is not the only president to commit perjury. I have seen Reagan lie under oath on tv news. Bush2 was known to lie only. I have a video set of government made films during the Vietnam War. At the beginning is Lyndon Johnson talking on tv to the American people lying with the straightest face you ever looked at. Practiced liar. Of course, we already knew that. I don't think Nixon had many stars by his name for truth telling. Like the reggae singer Burning Spear says, Babylon will fall.

Politics and truth don't go together very well, as it's always been, but Stewart was noting increasing frequency of our "leaders" lying under oath. You don't see government officials speak truth under oath any more. And no one calls them on it. A few weeks ago I saw footage in a documentary film of a general lying under oath in a Congressional hearing. The congressman knew he was lying and never even flinched. They are the best of the best. Stewart stated the obvious, that the conduct of our "leaders" such as presidents, senators, supreme court justices, influences the people a whole lot more than a baseball player lying about steroids. It's that lying is generally known to be the language of our "leaders." The president lies on tv news every day for 8 years and a baseball player on the spot uses his example. It worked for him, maybe it will work for me. Stewart had a great deal to say worth hearing, indeed. He had seen so deeply into the subject he was talking about, he had passion sparked by the rampant perjury going on by the international megacorporations too. Who's going to call them on it? Not the Thomas supreme court. If I could tolerate reading about those people, it would surely be an interesting read. I can't read an entire book about people who disgust me, unless it's written by Patrick White.

I found much of interest in today's radio news programs. It was like seeing a footprint in the march thru time, a time when American individualism has broken bounds and gone off into arrogant egoism of the most Xtreme. And at the same time, in the world I live in, the world of my friends, lying is not the norm. Nor is arrogance nor narcissism. The people I live among are peaceable people, who might lie to you if you started asking questions they didn't believe were any of your business to ask. Maybe them lying in Washington DC keeps us living in peace at home. But I'm with James Stewart, I don't think so. At the computer after a day of painting, I went to YouTube and found 2 videos of Thornton Spencer playing fiddle and Emily, his wife, playing guitar, with Enoch Rutherford clucking his banjo. There was no lying in that. There were no false people involved either. I'm glad to see somebody has put this present trend among our "leaders" out in the open so any of us that want to can see it. It isn't going to change anything in DC. However, it's a good resource for term papers and historians. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


by robert mangold

It feels so good to have doors and windows open during the day! Soon can have windows open at night too. Flies come in, flies go out. They hang around too long and a spider gets them.  Leaving windows open without screens all summer long, I have very few nuisances from flies. It feels good not to put on a coat to go to the mailbox. With the cost of heating oil and kerosene going up, up, up, what can I say but come on global warming. This present inflation is about profits, certainly not the working man's wages, which will stay the same. Keeping the working man's wages down keeps profits up. But what is that compared to a springtime mountain landscape? It's another kind of landscape, the invisible landscape of money changing bank accounts by computer, by mind, in a steady flow like ocean currents all around the world. Without the flow, as in blood stream, suddenly you have a corpse.

We of the working class have had our loose spending tightened up. Necessities continue to increase in expense and our income doesn't go up anywhere near proportionally. At the same time that we're turnips being squeezed for blood, the whole economy thing is fluid as air and essentially amounts to commonly agreed upon beliefs about money holding the system together. Everybody believes it, so it's so. Is that so with gravity? No. Though that's how it has a name. I don't think anybody disputes gravity calling it just a theory. It's the same as the law of karma. What goes up must come down. What goes out must come back. I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you. It must have been in kindergarten I learned that. Not from a teacher, from another kid. It might have been the first thing I learned in school. The very first thing I learned, the law of karma.

The only thing that mattered about saying I'm rubber, you're glue, is it infuriated the other. Somebody, another kid, says something unflattering to you and you say that. There wasn't a good comeback for it, so it usually was the final word. A few years later, maybe 2nd grade or 3rd, it was no longer funny. It was too childish, too kindergarten. I'm not going to schizz off into everything I know I learned in kindergarten. Maybe so, maybe not. I tend to doubt it. Seems to me, I learn things every day. But there it is, perhaps the most important learning in one's educational experience, the first thing I learned in school and didn't even get it until an embarrassing number of years later. The most important natural law there is to be aware of. Gravity takes care of itself. Karma goes with decision making.

Becoming aware of karma as it works out, not as a mystical foreign word, is right in there with the root of self-awareness and can be the beginning of conscious living. Once I caught on that I create what comes to me by what I put out in my interactions with others, worries and concerns began to fall away. Like do unto others as you would have them do unto you, in church it came across as an order, a rule you better go by or Jesus is going to be unhappy with you and he just might let the devil have you. Or in preacher terms, it's a commandment. You better...or else. When I finally got it, it turned out to be just good sense, because they will do unto me as I have done unto them. And I will do unto someone in turn what that person did unto me. Revenge, the theme of countless Asian action films. I'm thinking when something like that becomes a commandment you better obey, my response is never to think about it, even to wonder what it means. When I see it as something practical that works as surely as gravity and is just as invisible, it becomes a tool I can use consciously to make my life better.

In my own experience, I've found as I carry for my guiding light to treat others right, I get treated right. It's not 100% because some people don't ever treat anybody right. It just goes with living in a world that is the collective human mind. When somebody treats me right, I tend to make a mental note of it regarding that individual for first chance I get, I'll treat him/her right. Get them back. Same as we make a mental note when somebody does us wrong. Like when Steven Seagal says, "I'm gonna find who killed Bobby Lupo." "What you gonna do when you find him?" "I'm gonna kill him." Whatever weapon somebody comes at Steven Seagal with, he takes it and does to them with it what they set out to do to him. Mr Instant Karma Man. When he starts, it's like karma itself has taken human form and set out to bring things in the world back to balance. Evidently, that's what karma is about, keeping balance.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


doin it in the road

Caterpillar started out the door to investigate before dark and ducked back inside the house. I took a look and saw the above. First thought: bucket of water. Second thought: No, camera. This is Jolene in black and I don't know the other dog's name. I'll call him Pucci. Jolene lives a half mile to the west of me, Pucci lives a half mile to the east. They meet at my place. Pucci has been here about a year. He recently discovered 2 bitches in heat nearby and the ground around my house has been their meeting place for doggie activities, "Let's meet at TJs, TJ won't mind."

Jolene's human said it's all right, she's getting an abortion. He was waiting til after her first heat to have her spayed. These two have been rambling too. People I know on Cleary Rd about half way to Jane Taylor Mountain, found them at their place. I figure if the dogs are rambling like that, they won't be living much longer. Rambling dogs have a way of getting into trouble and the crack of a high-powered rifle often settles the matter. Cattle farmers wary of coyotes keep a rifle in the pickup. They don't like dogs killing their calves either. To the farmers, rambling dogs are the same as coyotes, targets.

How many times have I heard TJ-won't-mind? People looking for somebody to shit on, often say, TJ won't mind. It always brings to mind a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gimpel the Fool. Everybody took Gimpel for somebody they could dump their shit on. In TJ's case, middle class folks who consider themselves upper middle, tend to be the ones to take TJ for the fool. TJ does his independent thing by doing what he's going to do anyway. I don't get in their faces and threaten them to cut it out. I just stay away from them. There are plenty of people they take for fools. They'll find somebody willing to serve their whims. Middle class people aren't all that interesting anyway, plus they seclude themselves in subdivisions to watch tv behind locked doors and insure their precious things in case of theft.

My solution to theft is don't have anything thieves want. What I do have thieves might want, they'll never find. If by court order I had to live in NYC, I'd want a walkman to carry for music and a small
laptop for computer in a carrying case, leaving the apartment unlocked so thieves wouldn't have to break anything getting in. Thieves have been in my house. They've taken small change, less that $2, and nothing else, three times. Therein, I find sound spiritual counsel, be mindful of not provoking envy, greed or jealousy, lust too. I don't like to be seen as someone who has something somebody else wants. I've never wanted money, because I've not wanted my death accompanied by circling buzzards of the human variety. Don't have anything anybody else wants, is a rule of thumb I like to live by.

Sometimes I feel like an outsider because climbers take a look at me and look away. They assess right off I don't have anything they want, be it influence, money, what have you. I like to discourage climbers, let them know up front and right off I'm not in the climbing game and you'll get nowhere knowing me. Not a rung on the ladder. I feel safest on the ground. Like Joseph Campbell said, you spend your life climbing a ladder to success. At the top, you find you chose the wrong ladder. I learned soon after going out into the world on my own that I did not make good life decisions for myself. What I mean by "life" is long term. I made very, very poor long term decisions for myself. When I learned I'm no good at it, I quit doing it, preferring to live simply, short of austerity. Simple is mindful. Austerity causes reaction, like a feast after a fast.

What I love about the dogs above, they're not even humiliated. They were not the least bit embarrassed that I saw them. Both were appealing to me with their eyes to help them out. Humans take care of dogs when dogs can't take care of selves, they know that. I thought about a bucket of water, but at this moment, I don't have a bucket of water. They won't stay that way very long. It's uncomfortable, though neither one seemed terribly agonized with the situation. I had to make a short run in the car and when I returned they were separated. It's what dogs do. I hate it for them, but we humans have our issues too. It's a shame ours aren't that simple. We get all knotted up in the mind.


Saturday, April 23, 2011


scott freeman, edwin lacy, willard gayheart

Last night was the Edwin Lacy Show at the Front Porch Gallery, Woodlawn, Virginia. It was Edwin's night to play what he wanted. Being a devoted lover of God, he wanted to play gospel music, it being Good Friday, though that was not the motivation. Or maybe it was. A happy coincidence or well laid plan. Either way, it worked. Playing gospel music doesn't mean he wasn't playing music. Edwin, Willard and Scott lit the place up like usual. Yet, it was a different kind of show from usual. Edwin led at least 4, maybe half a dozen sing-alongs to verses of hymns everybody knew, led the audience in singing. He did it well. He totally connected with the audience from the start and by the time he felt everyone was ready, he set everybody in the place to singing with him as he played the banjo. In his presence with the audience, he was an all-round entertainer. Instead of telling jokes, he told humorous asides, made humorous observations. He kept the spirit in the place light-hearted and happy.

I'm not a sing-along type of guy, so during those songs, I sat, watched and listened, admiring Edwin's ease and seemingly carefree exchanges with the audience, bringing the audience into his show, and the sing-along not being corny, but comfortable, an at-home feeling for everyone, because everybody knew the songs since childhood, and he'd pre-printed stapled copies of the songs in large print. They were the foundation songs of everyone's life. I didn't make video of any of them, which today I'm seeing was the mistake I feared it might be at the time. I'd stopped at Selma's on the way to Woodlawn for an afternoon coffee to help me continue til 9 since I'd not had a nap and didn't sleep long enough the night before, after watching a 2 disk Pink Floyd concert.

What happened, was after holding the camera up for awhile, I could hold it past my tiredness, that's when the coffee kicked in and made the arms feel like it's only electrical charges holding them up, no effort at all. The coffee seemed to drain the strength out of my arms and then drain the strength out of the rest of me. I used the sing-alongs to take a break from holding the camera. I won't use a tripod because I want the motion of hand-held. Last night got a lot of motion.That's cool. I like it. I like it so much that when I look at a video made with tripod, it feels static. Like abstract painting came as a kind of reaction to the photograph. I like the camera to move about and wiggle as my own kind of reaction to the professionally made look. I want the amateur, anybody can do this look.

From the film Purple Rain, I got it that really bad acting can make the story seem more real, almost documentary. In like manner, the imperfectly hand-held camera makes the video feel to me more in the human dimension, soft-edged, moving edges. The eye focuses on the musicians themselves and their instruments, fingers dancing like chicken feet on hot plates, the center of attention. All around the periphery, the edges of the frame are in motion. It helps, too, to balance all the squares and rectangles on the walls, as an afterthought, not a motivation. Another reason I didn't make video of the sing-alongs, was I couldn't think of how. The lights were out over the audience and my impulse would have been to keep the whole audience and musicians in the picture. It didn't look right in my mind's eye at the time and I couldn't find a way to see it to go back and forth like a slow tennis game. In short, I was baffled. Also, was grateful for the break from holding up the camera. Took still photographs during those times.

Edwin, Scott and Willard made some mighty good music the rest of the time. The audience was plentiful, only two visitors, them from West Virginia. All others were the people who come to the show every week, or just about it, the people who know very well by now that no matter who is playing there, it's good. All know Edwin's music by now well enough to make it easy to put on a coat, pick up the keys and head out the door. Five dollars to get in is next to free anymore. We, the regulars, are the fan base for Edwin, Scott and Willard. We are the people they play music for every week. They have created their own audience over a year by playing every week. People drop in and come back and keep on coming back, and come to realize they'd rather hear these guys make music than just about anything. I'm speaking for myself, of course, and this is what I hear in conversation with the others. Everyone is awed every week.

I don't mean to identify Edwin the banjo-pickin preacher, because he is a preacher, Presbyterian. I think they might call him minister. I don't know what. I'm not of that persuasion and don't know much about it. Edwin is more a banjo picker who is also a preacher, or the other way around. He's not one to preach off the back of a pickup and use the banjo to draw a crowd, though he could and get a kick out of it. After Skeeter & the Skidmarks did their thing in early 90s, Edwin felt the call to seminary, went and was assigned to a church in Indiana. A transfer possibility came up for him to be stationed in Bristol. He got it and now he's back in the mountains again.

Scott asked him during one of the shows a few weeks back if he was going to leave this region again. Edwin said, "No. I learned my lesson." He said it with a conviction I understand. Anymore, for me just to drive outside this region of the mountains, or more specifically, Alleghany County, is always something I never want to do again. Of course, one must, but only when necessary. Woodlawn is pushing the envelope, but it's just across the county line and I can be home before bedtime. For Edwin, his absence was necessary. He's back and he's back to stay. The Skidmarks gonna rise again.


Friday, April 22, 2011


caterpillar doin all right

Since Caterpillar's brother and sister have gone to be with Jesus, we're alone together getting to know each other in new ways. Her Maine Coon nature could not adjust to having two other cats around. They were a nuisance to her. She stayed in a back room in a secluded corner much of the time. She came to me for petting every 3 or 4 days. TarBaby and Tapo were getting their handling every day. I really never noticed they were in my attention much more than Caterpillar was. She was something of a bitch with the other 2 cats, especially Tapo, the smallest and female, bottom of pecking order. Caterpillar and TarBaby could pounce on her and start a fight at will, which they did, and she couldn't pounce back. It's frustrating at the bottom of the pecking order. Tapo tended to stay away from Caterpillar, actually did not like her. I feel strongly that when TarBaby died and left Tapo, she went soon after, I've become convinced, to get away from Caterpillar.

I have never wondered which one would be the one I'd live with after the others were gone. They were born the same morning, Mother's day 1997, and have lived with me since birth. By the time they were old enough to find homes for, I wasn't even going to take a chance one of my babies might be mistreated somewhere along in its life. The only way I could be assured they would not be mistreated was to keep them here. By then I already loved them so much I couldn't let them go, bottle feeding them for weeks, watching them grow, learn to walk, learn to run. At the beginning they were like 3 bodies with one soul. They began to individuate as their experiences increased and their individual natures came into play one step at a time. I saw them gradually become themselves as cats. Cats tend to be solitary creatures and don't want other cats around. When it came time for them to establish their pecking order, they fought sometimes fiercely.

Their play taught them how to use their claws and teeth in play and at war. Caterpillar became the dominant one right away. Her Maine Coon nature makes her go all out in a fight at the very start. Play with Caterpillar amounted to a serious fight in an instant. She'd go completely outside her mind. Her mind wasn't anywhere near when she fought. Same when she looks at birds through the window. She goes into an unconscious zone, her lips twitch, making her whiskers wiggle up and down, and she makes a squeaking sound several times. TarBaby and Tapo walked as far around Caterpillar as furnitue allowed. They had little to do with her, but to watch her go by out the corner of the eye to see if she's going to suddenly pounce. I always had them eat out of the same bowl. Fed them in a rectangular casserole bowl, a trough, wanting them to eat together because they are family. They never fought at the trough, and rarely growled, unless Caterpillar was in an especially rotten mood.

One day when they were perhaps 3 or 4 years old, I was at the kitchen sink opening a can of tuna for them, their occasional treat. TarBaby and Caterpillar jumped onto the table where I fed them. Aster the dog lived here then and any food at floor level was hers. The 2 cats started walking in a circle, like the yin-yang, one black, one tones of gray, walking around and around, getting more excited as they circled. The sound of the can opener on the can excited them. It put me in a hurry, because I knew about the time TarBaby touched Caterpillar it would be on. TarBaby touched Caterpillar and instantly she had him down on his back boxing him. Instead of fighting back, which TarBaby was quite capable of doing, he let her box his head with her big paws.

They were howling like an outdoor cat fight and Tapo from the other room came running into the kitchen, made a flying squirrel big air leap and landed on Caterpillar's back with all four feet. Caterpillar went into a hissing fit, wiggled out from under Tapo. TarBaby wrestled his way out of there the moment she let go. Caterpillar spun 180 degrees around hissing, in another world. She looked around a moment and shook her head so fast her ears buzzed like hummingbird wings, then looked around getting her bearings on where she was. Tapo stayed on the table laughing. It was the funniest trick I ever saw her pull when it comes to making a cat jump. It seemed to be her way of getting back at Caterpillar for pouncing on her so much. Scaring Caterpillar so bad she lost all sense of what happened, Tapo got away with her jests. Caterpillar didn't seem to have any recollection of what sent her into that zone. The only reason Caterpillar didn't jump straight up was Tapo was on top of her. It was like Caterpillar had no recollection of what just happened. She flipped into another zone and when she came back she was on the table and I was serving yummy tuna.

For a couple weeks after Tapo died, Caterpillar seemed glad she was gone. Then I saw and felt a sorrow come into her that she lived with for a few weeks. I comforted her and she comforted me. We got through losing TarBaby and Tapo together. I began to see after awhile that Caterpillar and I barely know each other. Of course, she knows me inside out, it was I who knew her so little. We didn't know how to communicate. Gradually, we worked out getting our meaning across. I was going to say without language, but I have language and she knows an awful lot of words I use talking with her. Plus, I'm learning she understands what I'm saying when I tell her something in words like talking to somebody who understands. I've learned from several experiences that she understands me now. She has made a connection with my mind we didn't have before. I had that with TarBaby and Tapo. I feel like it's Caterpillar's turn now to communicate with me by however they do it, a kind of telepathy I've come to suspect strongly I've had with all my pets, even before I became aware of it.

Wednesday I took her to the Twin Oaks vet to take care of a skin problem she's had several years. Little scab-like things on her back from the middle of her back to the tail. I figured they had something to do with fleas, but when I kept her flealess they were still there. Dr Thompkins explained to me about steroids, how they've found a steroid shot helps relieve her. Dr found "flea dirt" meaning she does have fleas. Of course. Put some Revolution one spot flea remover on her. While Caterpillar was getting her shot I was thinking how funny it is, now she'll never be able to play pro baseball, ride a bicycle in the tour de France, and they may even write about her in National Enquirer. CATERPILLAR ON STEROIDS. Her career possibilities ruined before they started. She'll have to accept her fate as my cat and go on laying about the house, which she doesn't seem to mind too much. She loves getting all my attention. I'm happy to give it to her. She used to go about with an attitude like she was in charge and no cat better get in her way. That attitude is gone. I've discovered the Caterpillar behind the attitude that was something of a mask, her top of the totem pole face. She has new eyes.  


Thursday, April 21, 2011


emergence by tj worthington

I've let myself fall behind in uploading videos to YouTube, and don't aim to fall behind again. Today I put up Steve Lewis Trio from a few weeks ago. They are such good music. Steve and Scott Freeman play as feverishly together as Scott and Edwin Lacy, Scott and Willard Gayheart. These people are Scott's intimate music circle, people he can open up with playing his mandolin or fiddle, people he has made music with over many multiple hours and years. In their own world of music, they are artists that learn from one another how to interpret songs, write songs, and find a way to get a certain elusive sound.

Tomorrow I'll be putting up Jeanette and Johnny Williams playing bluegrass with Scott. I fell behind dreading the initial act of running through the individual videos to make notes of what number corresponds to what song, who is playing what and who is singing. It's nothing to dread, but I don't see that until doing it and remembering how much fun it was. The deal is, it took putting aside a couple hours to go through everything, and it was awhile before I found a couple hours. There were several spans of plenty of time, but I didn't feel like it, preferred doing something else. Now I feel like it and the Steve Lewis Trio is about all uploaded by now, all that I'm going to put up, ten.

Tomorrow I'll start getting Jeanette's show up before I got to Woodlawn Friday night for this week's music, which I believe will be Jimmy Zeh, banjo; Scott Freeman, mandolin and fiddle; Willard Gayheart, guitar; Mike Gayheart, bass. I'll want to get that online right away this time. Friday comes around awfully fast. That will be a night of good music. I like to have them done by end of weekend. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by too much. I don't go faster anymore when too much needs doing, just take longer. I'm not one to go in a hurry any more. This is my rebellious activity in a world where only money matters. I'm putting art online, like a whole lot of other people, for free. Expenses incurred are mine. It's my project. I do it for the musicians, to get them represented at YouTube where more and more people can hear them. I believe they're too good to go without recording in one way or another to catch and share this music they make.

You can find them at my channel. I'm hobblealong1. You can get all my videos up by putting that in the search box. You can put Steve Lewis Trio in the search box. Or Scott Freeman. You might want to put maybe bluegrass after their names, because they're not the only people with those names. They have other videos on YouTube from when they were at the Cook Shack down around Union Grove fairly recently. I enter the names of the band members in such a way that writing in Willard Gayheart, you'll get a pretty good list of videos to pick from. Willard had converted me to like those old Gene Autry and Sons of the Pioneer songs, My Little Red Wagon, Sweet Virginia, I'm Only Blue When it Rains. Wonderful beautiful songs that I've never paid attention to. Now they are brought to life by Willard who sings them so well I carry Willard songs in my head during the day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


talladega 2011

These are some pictures from Sunday's NASCAR race on tv. Talladega, Alabama. It was an undramatic race with few crashes and some incredible avoidance of crashes. 191-192-193 in the straightaways. It was a long race on a good track. Though it looked like matchbox cars running around in circles, they were racing. It was a race all the way to the finish line. Toward the end, when it was time for the drivers to be positioning for the lead, the lanes were so packed with cars it was not possible for any changes of position. Bumper to bumper, side to side, 190+ bearing down on it.

A hole opened for Jimmie Johnson in the last few seconds and his team mate Earnhart Jr literally pushed him over the finish line one foot ahead of the car next to him. Won by .002 sec. Three went across the finish line side by side, a few thousandths of a second apart. It was the kind of race I like, where they race all the way with the least number of cars eliminated by blown engines or crashes. I like to see them go at it with experienced slick maneuvering. It's like interstate full-tilt, highway patrol on strike.

Monday, April 18, 2011


         by Tanigami Konan  (1879-1928)                                   

        TAO TE CHING
     # 24

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

            ---tr by Stephen Mitchell

Enjoying documentary films from netflix more and more. Documentary became a genre that has been expanding its horizons over the last several years. Now that corporate newspapers don't have investigative reporting anymore, independent directors are making documentaries investigating a variety of subjects important to our time. Quite a lot of documentaries concerning the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They are all interesting. It seems like movies where the people are not scripted, where what happens is happening out here in the world, not on stage or film. Of course, there is Michael Moore who has had his character assassinated by the corporate republicans, because he asks hard questions. He makes fascists uncomfortable, gives them press that scares them, like exposing what goes in and out the back door. 

I've seen several documentaries concerning 9/11, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 among the more interesting ones. It's the one that cracked the shell erected around the truth of the matter. Of course, that makes him a conspiracy theorist. In a documentary viewed today on Exxon, called Out Of Balance, the president and CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, said, "Scientific certainty is an oxymoron." Wow. Sounds like Newt Gingrich, or Alleghany county commissioner Gudrow. The point of science is certainty. This is why every discovery has to pass the test so many times until it's consistent. Only then is it accepted fact. Theory is only the second level of conjecture (looks like, smells like, tastes like, must be), merely a question yet to be tested. I couldn't help but think when the CEO spoke party line for truth that oxymoron explains better Exxon commercials. 

Corporate contrarianism has become the rule now that the multi-national corporations have bought our government. In this time when our government only tells lies to we the people, we can count on any information coming out of government being false. That's the only thing we can count on. Another rule of thumb that can be counted on is money makes all decisions in our government. In the year 2000 the Supreme Court let everyone across the breadth and depth of the USA in on the theretofore big top-secret: democracy is dead, we don't do that any more. I hear talk on the news over Lybia and setting up democracy. A corporate police state setting up democracies in African countries doesn't compute. Like colonial missionaries: You have oil, we want it. We kill you and call it making the world safe for democracy.

I saw a cartoon this week by political cartoonist Patrick Chappette of Hilary standing at a Dept of State podium, old glory behind her, saying, "We support the struggle of the people...against the regimes we supported." American history doesn't make sense any more. Grown up, I've become so jaded by our government I have to go to independent documentaries of investigative reporting to find what is hidden by the smokescreen we're told. Like Michael Moore, these investigative reporters by video get their characters assassinated, legal assassination, and they pay the price.

Investigative documentaries such as The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress, uncovered corruption in Congress of Babylonian proportion. It was good to have him removed. But are they going to undo any of the legislation against the poor and children? No. History reading in school never prepared me for a time when our government would be overwhelmed by contemptible people, low-life, disgusting people like Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, and a long list of others. Ronnie Earle, the prosecutor in Texas who took DeLay down, stressed the point in his interviews, "the love of money really is the root of all evil." He also said, "Money is the mother's milk of politics. Money is the devil's brew." That about sums up the American government and the American dream. In the land where money is the only value, we the people amount to nothing but problems to be dealt with by deception.


Sunday, April 17, 2011


osborne homeplace

Driving up to the stop sign on Wolf Branch Rd at Mahogany Rock Rd, I saw on the right a house I hadn't seen in a very long time due to foliage grown up around it. In my very first years here, late 1970s, a couple of old Osborne brothers lived there, John and Dewey. I'd never seen Dewey, as far as I knew. Maybe once at a glance, maybe drugstore parking lot--no recollection where or when. I'd heard people tell about him that when he came back from Korea he wasn't right. His brother John stayed there with him, both in their 70s or 80s then. John I saw around town a good bit in a 56 Chevy, one of those old boys you don't want to get behind on a road with no passing lanes. In that time there were several old men around the county living mostly alone on the old homeplace after everybody else was gone; parents to the grave, sisters and brothers to the cities. There are still plenty of them scattered around the county, the next generation. Old man John wasn't right either, but he could get around pretty well.

Two old boys I drove to church for several years, Sherman Scott and Bert Holloway, were neither one of them "right," but they could get about and do their business. Sherman drove a red-belly Ford tractor to town with a box fixed to the back to carry groceries, and not a very big box. Lines of cars half a mile long would follow him in and out of town. You can drive a tractor without a license in NC, or could then. Bert didn't drive. He'd ask people he knew for rides. One time I was in Food Lion and saw him walking around in the store like he was looking for somebody. At the checkout counter he saw me, someone he knew, and asked me to drive him to his house. Of course. Men of his generation told me he was mean, he'd fight ye. They said when he fought, when they was kids, he'd take a board to ye, anything. Nobody picked a fight with Bert, because he went full-tilt wild man aiming to create some pain. He was the one to pick fights. Make him mad, he'd lay into ye. I only knew Bert as an old character who talked about girlfriends and money all the time. He lived in a little cinderblock cottage in Pine Swamp, inside the bend in Pine Swamp Rd where Fraser Rd comes into it.

Sherman Scott lived in Pine Swamp too just off of Bullhead Rd in the one bend in the paved part of the road. His farm is now divided up into tracts with houses on them. I can't even make out the landscape there any more it is so radically different. He lived in a little house he lived in with his mother and dad, Charity and Jim. Sherman lived in one room, like old man Tom up the road from me. Sherman grew up here at Air Bellows on what is now the Willis land, then known as the Jim Scott place. He was a slow kid who took to math. He grew up among a rough bunch of boys, between the Pruitts and the Caudills. He went to school in my house, which was then the Air Bellows schoolhouse. Then, the house was located a couple hundred yards to the west of where it is now, in the place that served as the loading pen for Stern's(Caudill's) farm. The driveway to Jim Scott's house went by the schoolhouse.

Sherman and Bert in the seat of my pickup riding to church and back was a good time for me. They were so funny that when they made me laugh, it made them laugh. In a stretch of the imagination way they brought to mind Laurel and Hardy from the slapstick early movies I saw on tv as a kid when tv was new. Goofy is what they were, but also good people, good as gold people. They made me happy I was able to allow people who weren't quite right into my life. I didn't see them as not right. I saw them as people just like the rest of us with a little twist in the mind that makes their reality a little bit different from ours, but not much. I'd rather wash feet in church with one of them, which I have done several times, than just about anybody else. I didn't realize it at the time, but washing feet with someone in an old-time Regular Baptist way makes a spiritual bond that never goes away. Driving Sherman home from church after washing feet was a good drive. The best part was that Sherman was the only individual in the house whose feet needed washing. A truly humble man.

It may have been around 1980, in the time when Lowe's was located in the parking lot and county jail lot behind the courthouse. I was approaching the stop sign on the street that ran between the two at Hwy 18. Old man John Osborne spoke to me through the side window, his car parked in the space behind the courthouse, and asked me to help him out. His car, the 56 Chevy, wouldn't run, he couldn't get it going, the battery was dead, he didn't have any money to get it fixed. I thought if he wanted a ride home, I'd take him. He wanted me to tow his car behind my truck with a chain. He had the chain. I saw the road between there and his house in my mind's eye, and by the time we arrived, the front of his Chevy would be bashed so bad the radiator would be in the fan, and probably tear off my back bumper. I couldn't see that done without incident, the Chevy handled by a really good driver.

A tow bar is what was needed and I wasn't equipped. I offered to give him a ride home. No, he needed to get his car home. We parted and I figure he made it home somehow. He was at home in Sparta. A lot of people knew him, ones who really could help him out. As he was one of the people God takes care of, I turned him back over to God. Next time I drove Mahogany Rock Rd his car was parked at the house. It looked abandoned when they lived in it, but for the car. I was curious to see the interior, as I knew it would be looking way back in time, but never enough to knock on the door. Eventually, I heard Dewey died, and they might have put John in a nursing home, because I never saw or heard of him again. The house has been so surrounded by growth for at least the 35 years I've seen the place, thicker all the time, I've never really had a good look at the house. I drove up on it Thursday looking naked. Remembering Jr when his mind was gone, the time a hospice nurse was bathing him in his wheelchair, he said, "I'm ashamed." I saw that little old house of another time standing alone on its barren ground, being dismantled, exposed, ashamed.


Saturday, April 16, 2011


both ends burning

This picture came to me through one of those emails that goes around. Upon seeing it, my first association came to mind: Edna StVincent Millay. A man I knew during college years had known her when they were younger, when she was living. He said she burned her candle at both ends. I may as well have seen her name. She wouldn't have come to mind any quicker. Odd to carry such an association over 45 years. I've never paid much attention to her poetry. I have a biography of her I've never read. She did some pretty fair translations of Baudelaire, too. I think of Millay and the French writer Anais Nin as similar sorts of characters. I've not read much of Nin either, so what I'm going by is image. I take Anais Nin for another woman of the time who burned her candle at both ends. Some people have it in them. Like John Lee Hooker said in Boogie Chillun, "it's got to come out." I don't know if anybody still uses that metaphor, burning the candle at both ends. It makes a picture.

Found a wonderful cartoon today I have to share by Benita Epstein. Image is a mother speaking to daughter who looks like maybe a teen, in front of mother on a table a birthday cake with candles not burning and 3 balloons in the air. Mom says to daughter, "As your mother, I took the liberty of making your wishes and blowing out your candles." Daughter has arms crossed in front and big round eyes. I've been wondering about seeing roller derby videos on YouTube and finally brought some up today and watched a few rounds, went to netflix and ordered a couple of roller derby documentaries. In the 50s I would watch Roller Derby every chance. I wanted to skate that banked track fast as I could go. It looks like the way they do it now is on a flat floor, like a gym, tape off the track and go. They can't go quite as fast, but they still get the job done.

Saw some bizarre movies this week. Two by a Japanese director, Takashi Miike. One was Shinjuku Triad Society and the other was Graveyard of Honor. Very strange films. They were something on the order of art action films. Both involved Yakuza, the Japanese mob. The people in them were so self-centered they never took anybody else into account for anything but a target. Really mean people. Miike gives the impression that the world of urban vice is where the really mean people can be found. The characters were so cold hearted toward one another I sat asking myself how people like this can live. It wasn't much of a wait before I saw they don't live long. Both films were beautiful visually, photographer using urban compositions of horizontal and vertical lines, colors galore, the people the movement in the various compositions. They were brilliantly made films. I'm glad I don't live in that world.

It's funny how attractive the world of the mob, wherever it is, can be to the rest of us who don't have what it takes to live like that, the pole dance clubs where cops go to find the guys they're looking for. What the French call l'enfer, the dark side, where everybody has a price tag and is advertising self for whatever the specialty. Lots of money changing hands. When I go into those places in movies, I marvel at how much money it costs to spend say one whole evening in such a place. Drinks would have some outrageous prices on them. So would the girls and the contract killers. I can't imagine how chilling it must be inside one of those places. Steven Seagal goes about in them like he knows his way around and is comfortable. Then he pulls out a gun and commences firing. Why do I watch things like this? It's a way of seeing into that world, knowing it's fiction, knowing the real such world is nothing like depicted in the action film, but there are aspects the production catches well, the visual part. Video comic books. 

Movies take me to wherever they are filmed. Sometimes cities in the world I'll never go to, like Bucharest, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Rio, China, the Himalayas, the various landscapes in Africa, everyplace in the world. I see into cultures, especially our own, see patterns that run through all cultures, like all people. I see architecture everywhere in the world, what people look like in various places, how people live in the different parts of the world. Film making gets better all the time as a result of all the schools teaching the aspects of making a film. I've come to appreciate several genres of film such that they all run together in this time of artistic fusion. In movies I can safely go into places and situations I'd never see in this lifetime. The physical activity of traveling and the expense, etc, keeps me at home having a travelogue I'm watching in story form, landscapes all over the world. I feel gratitude that I'm able to see so many of the best movies made and documentaries, every kind of thing, from the beginning of film making to present. I'm grateful indeed for that.  


Friday, April 15, 2011


 l to r: scott freeman, jeanette williams, johnny williams

jeanette williams

johnny williams

scott freeman

trevor watson

willard gayheart

Jeanette and Johnny Williams of Danville, Va, played at the Front Porch tonight with Scott Freeman. The three made a good trio and some good music for a couple hours in Woodlawn. What a great show. It wasn't dynamic and in your face, just good, well played, well delivered bluegrass with music flowing all the way along. It was like art bluegrass in place of sensational pop bluegrass. Bluegrass the way we like it in the mountains. We like it the other way too. In the mountains, we like bluegrass any way we can get it.

Jeanette has a stage presence of many thousands of hours of stage experience, comfortable on stage, good bluegrass singer and bass player. I've an idea she's a good woman to her man, Johnny, guitar player with Big Country Bluegass. He can pick a guitar and sing a song too. Both of them write songs and win awards with the songs they write. Again and again I feel privileged even to know about the music at Woodlawn, let alone to be there, hearing it live, raw, the real deal.

To hear Jeanette Williams and Johnny in such an intimate space is something truly special to me. Jeanette told me she loves playing for this size audience the best. I didn't count, but guess an audience of about 40 or 45. Some examples of their music tonight will be on YouTube soon. There are already several videos at YouTube of Jeanette Williams Band and some of Johnny with Big Country Bluegrass. They're not big name bluegrass, but they are certainly music worth listening to bluegrass. They both sound good on the cd player at home.

I wanted to buy one of Jeanette's cds, but Dori's new cd came available today and I made it a point to have money for Dori's if it were there. It was. I got it first thing. I want it, first, for the good music I know it is, and second, to support Dori's first effort at putting an album together, to support the artist in Dori in the early years when honest support is most needed.

Willard opened the show singing Little Red Wagon, a song he has taught me to love. It's a song I never gave a thought until I heard Willard sing it. Like Yellow Rose of Texas, I never paid that song a bit of mind as anything I wanted to hear, even as a fiddle tune, until I heard Willard sing it on the Skeeter project, the original words. Then it was a beautiful song on top of a beautiful song, double layer. And Willard's singing of it is the icing. He finished the show tonight with Little Log Cabin In the Lane. Banjo picker Trevor Watson of Lou Reid's Carolina bluegrass band was at the show. They invited him to pick 3 songs with them. He played a very respectable banjo, didn't make much of himself, just picked along with the music and did a request of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Always a good show at the Front Porch.

Jeanette has a passion and an energy on stage that flows with her music. Her long red hair stays in motion throughout the show like a candle flame in a draft. She keeps that bass going while she sings same as while she's not singing. She has a certain grace with the bass that flows with its shape, with its sound. It's kind of an oxymoron, such a petite woman and what me might call Big'n. Beauty and the beast, beauty and the bass that has it's own feminine beauty, a shadow of Jeanette's. They make a good justaposition and fit together like it was meant from the start to be.

The quick way to her website:



earthwork found at woodlawn, virginia

Every week I see this rock pile and every time I think of the mountains of Baja California, the finger of Mexico that extends below upper California. The mountains of Baja look like God had a mighty dumptruck loaded with boulders of one color. Purple, blue, yellow, orange, green, red boulders from the size of a big house to a pebble. I have not checked the place geologically, but it looks like this was once under water and these mountains were made by water currents, each in different colors. The lower 2/3 of Baja figures as some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen up close outside these mountains. It turns out I like pictures of the desert, but don't like the desert at all as a place to be.

Desert gives me the blues, brings up the black dog on my back. I don't know why that is. Perhaps it is the barrenness, but I don't know. Mostly the desert is not barren. Animal life comes alive at night. Even though there is plant life of varieties I see nowhere around here, it still feels like nothing. I found driving across desert I feel down and out, depressed and angry. Come into the Rockies south of the border a tropical paradise, the Sierras, huge ferns, lush greenery and highways from hell, straight down on one side, straight up on the other, little crosses with names like Hector and Juanita where their vehicle left the road and never returned. In the mountains, the dumptrucks have no mufflers. I thought of them as missiles. They took curves all the way to the oncoming side of the road. Their rattle became all the more unsettling after several hours experience of nothing but curves and dumptrucks by surprise barrelling the other way, pulling back into their lane at the last second.

Even with the terror of the dumptrucks and visions of my own cross by the side of the road, I felt good in the lush green mountains, though they were unsettling to drive in. I don't think it's so much that they felt like home as lush green mountains seem to me to have a nurturing aspect. I tend to think of the mountains in the feminine. In languages I know of where nouns have genders, mountain is feminine. It's the nurturing aspect of mountains that perhaps evokes the feminine. My feeling in the mountains has always been in grandmother's arms. I tend to believe the mountains have their own spirits, like everything living does. I don't mean a woo-woo ghost spirit, rather the spirit of life that radiates up through the ground. I'm not sure how the nurturing feeling would apply to the barren Rocky Mountains or the desert mountains of Kazakhstan or China. I feel like it might be the greenery I'm calling nurturing.

In these Blue Ridge Mountains, including the whole Appalachian chain from Alabama to Maine, the mountains are life forms themselves, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. I believe I feel my very best walking deer trails in these mountains with a dog. The canopy of the trees is a good ceiling with sparkles of light coming through. I've found I love every weather condition, every time of year in the mountains. The only problem with winter is it's so expensive to get through now with fuel bills way up and electric bills way up. I'm a minimum user and I pity the average user who pays multiple hundreds per month with a mortgage too, as well as car and pickup payments, and insurance for all of it. I didn't know there were any jobs in this county that pay enough to afford all that. Then I drive through the high school parking lot and see it loaded with new cars and trucks. Where does the money come from? Maybe it's self-explaining if I call it debt instead of money.

I brought home a rock from a Baja mountain. The rock is melon-shaped and green, sage green, and when it's wet it looks like a melon. The entire mountain was made of these rocks, from pebble to the size of a major house. The foot of the mountain came down close to the road, so I pulled over and found a rock I could carry easily with 2 hands and brought it home. An entire mountain made of sage green boulders, looking like God backed his dumptruck to this place, green ones here, and dumped the bed piled high with a great thundering roar. Strangely, driving in the desert of Baja California, the black dog stayed off my back.

The mountains all around, each one its own color, none with any vegetation that wasn't microscopic, still had the feeling of nurturers. Mountains lush with the green world would be all the more nurturing. I like the ground I'm on to have contours, up, down and around, all the time going through the passes between mountains, looking up at the great high mountains and down at the tops of trees. Clouds crawl across the mountains, making their way evenly through the trees, something neither matter nor spirit. Vapor. Others complain about the fog, can't see. I see myself inside a cloud and the cloud flowing all around me. I think that's cool as can be. Like standing at the far peak of Bullhead Mountain and seeing a fighter jet from above flying low around the mountain.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011



At Selma's twice today for morning coffee and an afternoon mocha. I can't go through Sparta and not stop at Selma's. Saw Dudley this morning and Joe came in after he left. Later, in the afternoon, Joe came in after awhile and asked if I'd been there since the morning. I told him I had, and Selma affirmed it. He had a hard time believing it, but there it was with witness. We bantered some more about it and finally he said, "Really?" Selma and I laughed and told him we'd made it up. I'd been away and just came back. That's the kind of fun we have. It's like games cats play on each other. A cat gets a kick out of seeing another cat jump. It amuses them just like it amuses us to see a cat jump. We just made Joe jump, had a good laugh and went on like nothing happened.

Cats really do have a sense of humor and so do dogs. They laugh too. They laugh like they talk, silently. Dudley, who was there this morning, would go with animals having a sense of humor. He made reference to himself as the unrepentant nerd. He asked what a repentant nerd might be. I couldn't answer it. The word nerd always carries for me images from the movie Revenge of the Nerds, a movie that made me laugh like PeeWee's Big Adventure did and Ernest Goes to Camp. Nutty, goofball movies with slap stick comedy that is still funny to some. Nerds come in a wide variety. The nerds are the people who haven't figured out what it takes to be cool, which comes apparently natural to most, or so it seems when you're a nerd. I've an idea there are as many nerds per class as there are cool kids. The nerds are more fun, because they're not straight-jacketed by attending to their cool quotient. The nerds are nerds often because they're interested in something besides sports.

As an unrepentant nerd, like Dudley, I look at the jocks as the nerds. What's so interesting about them? They practice rigorously every day chasing a ball. It never made a lick of sense to me. Perhaps that right there is the definition of a nerd. Doesn't see the sense in running with a ball or hitting a ball or bouncing a ball or kicking it. Doesn't get it. I never saw the thrill in shooting guns at other people with intent to kill. Why? If somebody makes you mad enough, that's pretty good reason until seeing in the mind's eye a prison cell from the inside. Nerds don't kill. Nerds sometimes get drafted and are forced to, but they hate it.

This night at an event I was talking with Hillbilly Wes about his act, what a good time he's having with his comic persona. He was saying he won't accept money for his mc act. The money would spoil it. He's doing it for the spirit of the fun in it. He was noting that the way things are now, we need to laugh. He goes up on stage and makes people laugh. That's important in this time. His small gesture to make his world a better place. Levity for the spirit. And there's enough greed in the world and everything having a dollar value to choke down the spirit in anybody. Doing his show for no pay he's breaking the cycle of money being the almighty, allowing the spirit of laughter to come through. I can't help but think as we get deeper into hard times that more and more people will be wanting to do things that help people in some kind of poverty, of the spirit, of the bank account, both. When times are rough, people tend to gather and do for one another and feel better about everyday life.

Hillbilly Wes gives a good show when he carries on as comedy mc. He's been in the Marines, did his time in Iraq rescuing people by helicopter in difficult zones. In his comic act he rescues people from the blues. The Wes Brinegar I know working in the Post Office has the same kind of heart as Hillbilly Wes. You'd think they were identical twins. They look just alike and talk just alike. They must have been twins separated at birth. I need to ask Wes about that. He's a valuable citizen in the Alleghany community.