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Monday, May 30, 2011


all babies are yogis

Friend Crystal Smith had her baby 6:15pm, Monday, 30 May, in Elkin. I went to astrology sites and printed out 3 horoscopes from different sources for the child, Vada. They'll all tell the same story. Another one of my babies, Vada. Her daddy, Justin, was a child of friends I've known all his life. Now he's reproduced again and I have a new baby to watch grow. This is the first of the children of my friends I've see through to reproduction. A kind of grandbaby. I never wanted any of my own, but it is fun enjoying other people's babies and little kids. Curiously, I never wanted the responsibility, mainly out of fear that I don't know how I'd be as a daddy. Not much. It's a self-esteem issue that goes way, way back and took a long time to find balance. During the child-bearing part of my life, I know I was not fit to be a parent. Surely I must be, because everybody else seems to do it without thinking about it. I tend to think far ahead and that kind of thinking inhibits reproduction.

I suppose the basic reasons I don't want the responsibility is all that goes with it. The first thing that goes with it is to have steady income, the most I can make, all the way along, no lapses, no regrets, no wanting my own time. All the way back in childhood, I felt like the state of civilization is such that I don't want to add another number to the population explosion. It also takes wanting a companion for life, or for a part of it, anyway. I never wanted a companion. In childhood I knew I wanted to go it alone for the duration. There is enough uncertainty in this world going it alone. With 2, 3 and 4 others depending on my earning capacity, the thought of locking myself down to samo suburban living, working at a job I can't tolerate that I can't quit because of mouths to feed, insurance to pay, school expenses, when all I ever really wanted to do was get by on the least it takes.

I've never wanted to be a part of society, any society, or on the climb. I have the artist temperament, though no ambition to do anything with my art other than just do it. I have never liked selling paintings, because the money, no matter how much it is, always seems like nothing in relation to my friend I'll never see again, unless it goes to my friends. So I like for my friends to have my paintings. Not interested in galleries and all that goes with them, like parties where I'm expected to suck up to the rich and act like a dancing monkey. I only want my friends to have my paintings. Something that might sell for $1000 in a gallery I'd get $500. I'd rather sell them to my friends for $500.

For example, I gave 2 paintings to Justin and Crystal for their new house. If I was represented by a gallery, I wouldn't be allowed to give any of them without money involved. On my own, I can do anything I want. Justin and Crystal, both, are among my closest friends; they are at their beginnings, don't have money for frills such as art, and are making the most of what they have. All the time Justin was growing up, I never dared hope he would fall into such a healthy adult life. I didn't dare dream so much for him. The much I'm talking about is Crystal. She loves him like crazy and he loves her the same. Her mother and dad love Justin in a wide-open embracing way. His mother's new husband and his family all receive Justin as one of them. He is completely encircled by love, several layers of circles. Though he's not my biological own, I claim him as a spiritual brother, possibly several past lives in differing relationships.

As my spiritual brother, I feel tremendous gratitude to God for hearing my prayers all along Justin's way, especially for setting up his relationship with Crystal. The selection of the house that appeared by apparent chance is as perfect for the couple as each is for the other. The house has a powerful good vibration about it. It's an excellent house for a young couple to start their adventure through life in. I've wondered if the good feeling of restoring the house to new with friends helping in various steps along the way has filled the house with good energy. But it feels like more than that. The energy in the house doesn't feel like passive love vibration, but almost like a beating heart itself. The first day they moved their furniture and other stuff in, the house felt lived in. The cat took to the house immediately. Justin said she ran down the hall of smooth hardwood floor he'd put down, fell over on her side and slid a ways. I feel at home when I walk in the door. They do too. It was instant home feeling.

I wonder if it could be that the former buyers had a loving relationship at home. If they had that much love for each other and lived in the house together happy as partners to such an extent that their love became the house's energy, soaked into the walls, floors, ceilings and the space between. This baby has been born into a treasure chest of love. I'm seeing that Justin's path is the path of love. I'm happy to see he's comfortable receiving love and giving. This was the sort of thing I prayed for in his life, not that he have a lot of money and property and position. That his life be buoyed up on a sea of love. And there it is. I want to do for them and the baby all I can. As well as the other kids, Landon and Shayann. Landon at age 3 has the very same spirit Justin had at that age. It's like seeing Justin little again. It tickles me good to see this baby born into such a radiant love nest.



found art: wheel! of! fortune!

A day of mild temperatures, no wind, no hail storms, no lightning storms, no torrential rain. It's almost like it wasn't a day at all, an all-day stasis of sunshine and short-sleeve conditions. It's such an unusual time when we're not having some kind of cosmic event, it makes me wonder if a day like today can even be called a day. It's like a period of time of nothing. I forget that weather means the good times too. Even a pleasant day is weather. I looked at the 5day forecast at and it's thunderstorms every day, 30 and 40 percent chance. Just like last week. The back glass in the car is nearly opaque at night, though good enough during the day that I seldom think to clean the inside except at night. Today I went out and went after the inside of the glass lying down in the back seat. Very difficult glass to clean, but I got er done. It just about takes a yoga practitioner.

Crystal is about to have her baby. She's scheduled it for Monday by inducing labor. She's a career girl, can't wait around to let it happen like she's got nothing else to do. Get er done. Monday, next to the last day in May, Gemini. I believe I'll get Crystal a horoscope chart through They give awfully good readings there. I say "good," because everything I've done at the site rings true all the way and every time. I've done some astrological investigations there and some tarot. When it comes to defining who I am, there is nothing like my astrological chart. When I read it, I read who I am. It doesn't mean I'm necessarily restricted to what it says. Rather, it's that if I'm in the flow with my own self, this is who I am. If I go contrary to who I am and spend my life swimming upstream, I can break the connection and make it something like the TaoTeChing to a westerner, opaque.

I don't see how there can be anything "mystical" to astrology, tarot, divination cards, numerology, I Ching, when they all tell the same thing per individual. I've checked them all out on my own nature, and all of them nail it to a T, saying the same things in their own ways. I'm remembering somebody I used to know for a relatively short period of time, a year or so in a work situation, who wanted to see what his astrological chart said. When he saw it, he rejected and denied everything. I was a bit taken aback, as I saw it read his beads down to the detail. He was, and still is, so totally out of touch with his inner self that when he's face to face with it, what he sees is not-himself. It scared him. I believe it scared him, because it told him he's that part of himself he's suppressed all his life, that part of himself that's something on the order of a real person. It's not that he's gay, but that he's locked down in shoulds and oughtas and his real self has never had a chance to be, whatever it is.

Whenever I use astrology or tarot, it's to get a perspective of where I am on my path, if I'm on my path, everything in relation to my spiritual path that is sometimes difficult to discern in a world where only the material is regarded real. For me, the tarot and astrology see into the subconscious and give me a sense of how my "conscious" mind is doing in relation to my path, or who I am at the core. In my first several years of exploring these various ways to insight into self knowledge, which, by the way, Jesus recommended in 2 words, thereby affirming Socrates: know thyself, I found them opaque and contrary to life as I knew it. I found the way of the spirit paradoxical. I don't see it that way anymore. I see it the other way around, where now the material world has become opaque to me and contrary to life, paradoxical. I don't mean to say I'm fully tuned in to my own nature, but a whole lot more now than used to be. At least I recognize myself by my true nature.

I recall a meeting with a psychic in Charlotte several years ago, back when I knew Jim Rhodes, my optometrist. He knew of the psychic and we drove to Charlotte one day to see her. I think we mutually disliked each other first sight on the spirit level. First thing she said was she wanted to see my hands. I held my hands so she could see the open palms. She studied them a bit and said in a gruff, demanding voice: Who are you? I didn't know what to say. Name, rank, serial number? So I said, I'm here for you to tell me. She said she's not into space. When she looks at my hands all she sees is space. She wanted to know what I was doing here, like I was a from a space coalition different from her own. I told her I don't know about anything like that. The only part that disturbed me was that what she saw in me freaked her out. She kept on that I was from space, an alien, and wanted to know what I was doing here on earth in this time. How in the hell can I answer a question like that? Uh, trying to find my way home, like a homing pigeon, but without the internal knowing, the impulse without the ability. Like Johnny Depp's character said of himself at the end of the movie BLOW, My ambition far exceeded my talent.

I didn't quite know what to make of the psychic. Basically, all I could see was she didn't like me and I didn't like her. It was a personality thing, nothing else. I took her for a fraud. She took me for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, early 50s television. Or something. She never said. She told me my people pick me up in the night while I sleep and take me for rides in their space ships. How come I didn't know any of this? Why wouldn't I even have remote memory of going on joy rides in space with my buddies? Seems like it would turn up in dreams. I can't help but think she was off in some remote place, herself. She told me some interesting details about recent past lives that rang true. Nothing big deal like I was Napoleon--not me, but real life possibilities that help explain understandings I've had without experience to aid or inform understanding.

The funny part of her asking who I am, the aspect of it that made me laugh so much inside I had a hard time taking it seriously, was when she said, Who are you? The band The Who came to mind, Who are you? who-who? who-who? I still have a hard time coming up with an answer to that question. Just another Joe, is about the best I can do. I don't see that I have any special karma that separates me from everybody else with something they don't have. I'm just one of the souls in a body experiencing earth in this time along the path of the evolution of civilization. One of the things I have learned in this lifetime is social change is slow, glacial slow. So is individual change. The difference on the surface may be quite big, but just below the surface is the place where things don't change so fast.


Sunday, May 29, 2011


b. tomlin, untitled

Did I ever give myself a tough assignment. I watched to completion a documentary, With God On Our Side: George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right. Made in 2004 for television. I supposed it would be something on the order of investigative reporting. I suspected irony in the title. Not. Turned out it was an almost 2 hour long infomercial making the case that W was God's chosen candidate, that we finally had a born-again evangelical believer in the White House. It started with Billy Graham and Ike, then Billy Graham and Nixon, until Nixon bit him with the Watergate scandal. The film gave a history of fundamentalist religion moving in on politics in America with purpose, to take over and rule the nation and the world by their belief system.

Almost immediately I saw this was an infomercial for fundamentalist thinking and regretted ordering the thing. However, I pay so little attention to that mind, having grown up in it, the very way of thinking that made me want to be an atheist, made atheism desirable, I had to flush my mind of it over a period of 15 years. My issue was with religion, not God or Jesus, though I didn't know that for a long time. Rejecting the falsehoods of religion I took to be equivalent with and approved by God, I threw the baby out with the bath water.

I took God to be the hoax created by the human mind to advance power of the few over the many. Turns out, it was religion I found muddied with the false, hypocrisy created by the human mind. God is still here/ there/ everywhere. The sayings of Jesus continue to resonate with one's truth center. I had found religious expression largely hypocritical at the core, unable to see through it to the other side that's been obscured by all the smoke-blowing going on in religion. Smoke gone from my head, I was suddenly able to see that Jesus really did have the real thing; it's just that religion smeared it over with hypocrisy.

This made-for-tv infomercial on the religious right under the names of Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell and all the other evangelists who didn't fall so well, therefore left out of the film, like Jim & Tammy Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart, who liked to sniff without scratching. There was a moment of Jim Bakker telling he'd had an inappropriate relationship with a woman other than his wife for 20 minutes. All they needed to do to tell Swaggart's story was show his face, which they did for maybe a second. I felt revulsion all the time Pat Robertson talked about the Lord with Geo W Bush, and the other religion bureaucrats (evangelists) talking like W was next to the 2nd Coming, if not the thing itself. Every time I heard Jerry Fallwell's revolting mind expressed in his jabberings about moral majority, I felt a turning in my guts, the kind of feeling that I can understand where stomach cancer comes from---years of revulsion. I've felt that revulsion all through the last 40 years of the political rise of American fundamentalism.

My one hope where the political fundamentalists are concerned is that they will ally themselves so deeply with the political party that is only interested in their money and numbers, they will become identified with the party and bring it down under the weight of their own falsehood. Then again, falsehood does very well in the political arena. That's getting awfully close to sounding like preaching. I apologize if it appears that way. Maybe it is. Hearing a Rush Limbaugh parrot last night squawking corny jokes about liberals made me want to say to him, "I'm as liberal as Amnesty International." Only problem, he might not get it, so I'd have to edit before saying it, "I'm as liberal as the ACLU." Now, them's fighting words. Most of all, I just wanted him to go on talking to somebody else, not me, so I kept out of it.

Perhaps five minutes into the documentary I recognized it an infomercial and made the decision to go on watching it, already knowing where it was headed. I don't pay any attention to the "religious right," because I saw where they were coming from before they were political. I've come to see what the propagandists call the Terrorist war is more aptly called the Fundamentalist war. It's American fundies vs Islamic fundies. The people of Islam are saying their fundamentalist terrorists are not acting on the teachings of Islam, but a perversion of Islam. It's the same with American fundamentalists playing politics. It was notable that Rummy and Cheney were left out of the story. Sanitized. Lots of clips of W raving about the Evil ones, but never showing the evil ones with him, the birds of a feather.

From time to time I like to see something that goes totally against my grain. Like I know and like a lot of people who go against my grain politically. In the post-Reagan divide-and-conquer times we've become intolerant of each other politically. In the old ways when people didn't talk about politics, it was because a man's politics was his own. I've known a lot of old-time hillbillies in agreement that I differ from them politically. It's no problem. I don't push my way of seeing politically in their faces and they don't do it to me either. We get along very well. Today, if you disagree with somebody politically, it's the same as being of another color. It's something I've observed in myself and others.


Saturday, May 28, 2011



Wine tasting at Selma's tonight. Thirty people turned up, most of them the regulars, plus a half dozen Cubans who are friends of Selma. They appeared not to be rich Cubans, meaning they didn't have arrogance radiating from them like cheap perfume.I see people I know and people I don't know. My time was spent on a stool at the bar out of the way of the comings and goings and excuse-mes on the floor where everybody stood around with a plate of snacks in one hand, a fork in the other, talking with mouths full like we tell kids not to do. It was a happy crowd of friendly people.

Talked with an old boy my age, Moxley, retired social studies teacher from Ohio, returned to the mountains of his childhood. A Limbaugh Republican was there talking cliches about liberals. Moxley and I talked some examining what is a Conservative and what is a Liberal. We concluded Liberals tend to be people who care about others, and Conservatives tend to be people who don't want to pay school taxes when they don't have a kid in school. Recently I've been seeing interesting changes in political beliefs around me. People are talking back to right wing maniacs when they go spouting off their Limbaugh garbage. For several years, they dominated wherever they were. During the Bush administration, people were afraid of them. The true neo-Nazis. Skinheads are the thug element. I'm glad to see there has at least been enough social change in thinking that somebody talking Limbaugh is no longer tolerated, and often called on it. 

Now that NPR has been forced to tell more Republican news and have more Republicans interviewed, it's becoming silly to listen to All Things Considered. This morning Diane Rhem called a Republican on talking Limbaugh, telling him, in effect, that Rush Limbaugh is not information. Hearing more Republicans being interviewed on ATC now, the level of intelligence has dropped considerably. The dumbing down of National Public Radio has brought it down to almost corporate broadcasting news level. It doesn't have far to go. The Republicans have had a bead on NPR since Reagan launched the first assault to put it out of business 30 years ago. It's limping along now, only because they've compromised their integrity away to stay on the air.

Yesterday at lunch with Jim Winfield, we took to talking about male (testosterone) posturing, how when you start thinking about it, you see all men do it. Look at chickens in the yard. The rooster postures every minute. The hens don't posture, they just peck other hens in their strict pecking order. Male dogs posture, walk with a sense of style like they have chrome points on the toes of their cowboy boots. Macho man. GI Joe. In a dream this morning half asleep, half awake, I saw a rooster with red back feathers, profuse dark green neck and tail feathers and wings. For a brief second I saw him falling head downward, green feathers all in motion attempting to catch the air and not getting it done. It was a second of fluttering rooster feathers in freefall. The rooster had lost his posturing. He was out of control. Even though I don't see myself as one who postures, I do. It's a testosterone thang. 

Jim is serious about his spiritual path, as I am about my own. He and I have very different paths. In both our ways, transcending the ego is the ultimate goal. He's still in his time of believing he can overcome ego by clamping down on it. I don't like to say, been there--done that, so I don't, but in my experience, that thinking is in the past and advanced me nowhere. I've finally come to a relaxed place about it. I can't transcend my ego of my own doing. Pretending I don't have ego doesn't help either. Worrying about ego just makes it worse.

I've come to a place where I don't think about it anymore. Sure, everything I do is ego. Everything I think or say is ego. Even not doing is ego. I've learned to live with it, befriend it. Instead of trying to champion it, I allow it to be. Like I do with my pets. I allow them to be who they are. This way we live together in peace. I don't have ego revolting, insisting on attention at awkward times, generally being difficult. I'm most comfortable just letting it be, like I let Caterpillar go in and out of the house at will. My ego is gentle largely, doesn't intend to hurt others---sometimes it may, though without intent. I'm not afraid to eat crow anymore. Tastes like chicken.


Friday, May 27, 2011


caterpillar birdwatching

Today's foreign film was English. PINK FLOYD: The Making of the Dark Side of the Moon. I had no idea what to expect, and didn't even dare expect. Turned out, it was better than I'd hoped it would be. It amounted to extended interviews with the different musicians and technicians involved in the album, Dark Side of the Moon. My biggest surprise was to see so much time given to Roger Waters, the bass player who left the band that kept on going without him. I don't know anything about his relationship with the others in the band and don't want to know. I don't care. Their music is the only reason I pay attention to them. I've always thought of Pink Floyd as music for space ships.

I enjoyed listening to Roger Waters talk the most of any of them. He had a great deal on his mind and spoke it well. Wrote it well in some awfully good songs too. Also Richard Wright, keyboard, had some very interesting things to say about the music and moments that gave the album some musical peaks, like the chord he borrowed from listening to Miles Davis. Roger Waters played acoustic guitar and sang a few songs. David Gilmore, lead guitar, played acoustic guitar and electric, playing and singing entire songs low fidelity. It had the same kind of feel as the Stones' album STRIPPED, recorded in very small clubs in Amsterdam and Paris. It's lo-fi with Keith Richards playing acoustic guitar, and when he plays electric, it's not the big auditorium sound, but the small blues club sound. It's more like a Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker album than rock.

The lightning, thunder and rain have been going on a couple hours. Bad lightning for the first hour of it. Second hour the lightning is in the distance. First hour, it was all around here, lighting up the night over and over. Still, every once in awhile the sky cracks and thunder rolls. Caterpillar is under the house. She was outside lying on the stone walkway watching the birds dine at the feeder when the rain started. She doesn't bother them anymore, just likes to watch. She's like an old man looking at pornography. It makes her whiskers twitch and draws involuntary squeaks out her. She'll be under the house until the middle of the night when I wake up and go to the door to open it. She'll be there and step into the house with a barely audible voice in her throat that says, Thank you, in cat language. She'll curl up in her bed in the bedroom and stay there all day tomorrow.

I've been trying to think if I recall a time of this much lightning and rain. In the late 70s and early 80s it rained an awful lot. July and August were wet. June was dry. May was wet. But never lightning every night for weeks, vicious, big bang lightning that keeps on keeping on. Two hours of it tonight. It's gone, but an occasional crash of lightning strikes by surprise from time to time. This year, I made it a point to remember that it thundered the 27th of February. We had our last frost then in May. The old lore is that the day it thunders in February is the last frost in May. People with gardens could plan ahead when to plant the garden after the 28th of May. This much lightning is unprecedented in my memory. It has surely happened before, but not in the last 35 years. I welcome all the rain. Bring it on. The ground water has been receding for several years and this year is being replenished. I dug a hole with a posthole digger about 4' deep the other day and the clay was damp all the way down. No danger of my spring drying up this year.

The lightning has become something I dread every night. When it starts, I get anxious inside. This evening I told myself to get in tune with it. As long as I see it and hear it, it hasn't hit me. I unplugged computer and telephone line, sat down, turned out the light with a cup of hot chocolate, listened to the thunder and watched the lightning flashes light up the landscape out the window. I told myself this is nothing to fear. I'll be like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, stand without fear during an artillery invasion and never get hit. There is only a guarantee of making it like that in a movie. I couldn't really rationalize the fear away. When I'd get myself almost convinced it's nothing but a cosmic event, one would bang not very far away to remind me I never know when or where the next one will hit, or the next one, or the next one. Like a horde of zombies walking through a mine field at night, one goes off here, one goes off there, random explosions from any direction.

I like to fantasize myself fearless, like I'm beyond fear. It's not so. A bolt of lightning within a hundred feet of the house can challenge any belief in a hurry. I don't curl up in the corner of a closet physically, but I do emotionally. It doesn't help to remind myself that if I hear it, it hasn't hit me. The one that hits me will give no warning, I won't feel it, just a blink of the eye and it's heavenward bound or getting onboard the boat to cross the river Styx. The funny part for me is that I really deep down believe I'm not afraid of dying. What I'm finding, however, are exceptions to what I take for the rule. What it gets down to is my mind is settled with dying. But the subconscious below or beyond the mind has its own way of seeing things. The body automatically thinks in its interconnected nervous system way of self-preservation, whatever my mind has come to believe.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1958

Today foreign movie, a Japanese film made in 1962 by Masaki Kobayashi, HARAKIRI. That's right, harry carry, suicide by running a sharp knife through the guts. I think that it was made in 1962 is what caught my interest to want to see it. That was the year I saw my first foreign film, La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini. That was the year I became aware that there was something going on in film beyond Hollywood. From then to now, almost 50 years, I've seen so many films with subtitles that I even play movies in English with subtitles, because especially if they're American there will be long periods of whispering and much muttering throughout. After the whispering comes the obligatory Hollywood explosion. It goes from turn the volume up, then turn it way down in a hurry. With subtitles I know what they're saying though I can't hear it, and don't have to endure the shock of the explosion that invariably comes next.

I've come to prefer subtitles for the clarity of what is being said. I'm so used to subtitles after half a century, 72% of my lifetime and all of my adult life. No more restricted to public school, baptist religion and parents making my decisions. By the time I saw my first Indian movie in early childhood, I already knew white man speaks with forked tongue. When I heard an Indian in a movie say that, I thought: he still does. In my world as a child, I was lied to from every direction, the way adults lie to kids and think nothing of it, do it so much they don't even notice, but the kids notice. Anyway, I did. I've known white man throughout my adult life too, to speak with forked tongue. I've noticed that Obama, a black man, is having a difficult time keeping in step with government policy that is made by white minds that live denial. Obama doesn't appear to play the denial game.

The film Harakiri was a very powerful story and it was just as powerful visually. The scenes were all made inside Japanese classic interiors, like a big room with black vertical posts, black trim and white walls. Fairly high contrast black and white film, made even greater by the use of stark white framed in stark black. Several beautiful wall-sized screens covered with gold leaf and amazing pictures of pine trees and other designs. After a swordfight a calligraphy painting of black on white will have a splash of red blood slung across it. Though the film was not in color, those blood splashes appeared red to the mind's eye. In a Kitano film last week I saw him doing the same thing with color film. A black and white painting with a splash of blood across it in a manner that looks like it could be part of the painting. The architecture of black vertical and horizontal lines and the spaces between them white was the landscape the story happened in.

Though made in 1962, it feels contemporary. The time period was the 1500s, a time of peace when samurai were out of work and some were killing themselves. I'm sure someone with a PhD in Japanese films would be able to date the film, but for someone like me to see it, I find nothing about it that could give an idea of the time period it was filmed in. It's a flawless gem of a film, like Kurosawa's Rashomon, every scene is of dynamic beauty. The characters function in this classic architectural beauty that is specifically Japanese. While it's a very simple story, it's also complex at the same time. The talk about Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, that it's the greatest black and white ever, has always bored me. A film like this one, Harakiri, in black & white takes b&w to a new level. It would be worth keeping another day to see it again tomorrow.

The story was around what a man about to die has to say. Due to a series of circumstances, our man is about to be sliced into hamburger by 20 something samurai with swords trying to kill him. He killed 4 and severely wounded 8 before they got him. Before all that broke loose, he was telling his story on the block where he was sentenced to kill himself. The man in charge told everyone to listen, because this man sentenced to die had something to say. He told them it would be something they must listen to and learn something from what he had to say. He got a bit more than he was expecting, as the story ultimately turned into present action, a swordfight between the samurai set to die and the rest of the samurai. At the end of the story, which occurred in private, a conspiracy of lies arranged it so nothing had ever happened.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


This evening I saw again BLUEGRASS COUNTRY SOUL, a bluegrass festival 1972, Reidsville, NC, put on by Carlton Haney. The film footage from the festival was edited into its present form in 2007. In it Ralph Stanley sings what is to my ear his finest rendering of Man of Constant Sorrow. He defies all the rules in how to sing making big Os with lips and mouth big and open. Ralph's lips barely move. He looks like a ventriloquist when he sings. Jimmy Martin sang Freeborn Man Jimmy Martin style. Then there was Bobby Osborne singing Rocky Top, Ruby, and Listening to the Rain. I was thinking while hearing them do Rocky Top that it is their song and theirs alone. Ronnie Reno was picking guitar and singing with the Osborne Brothers. The Lily Brothers were there, Everett and B with Don Stover banjo and Tex Logan fiddle. Earl Scruggs was there, Chubby Wise, JD Crowe, Mac Wiseman. Roy Acuff sang Wabash Cannonball, the song he got from Sara Carter and made his own.

These early bluegrass musicians still sound brand new to my ear. I'm one of the people of the mind that bluegrass as it was played by them is bluegrass. What's happened since then isn't always what you might call bluegrass. The singers of the early years still had hillbilly accents in their voices. Those accents are gone largely from bluegrass now, except for local music up and down the mountains, from WVA to Georgia. The Lily Brothers lived in Boston for 20 years where they played every night, 7 nights a week, at the Hillbilly Ranch, a bluegrass club. The live recording made of them playing there is a dynamite bluegrass album. They lived in Boston all that time and never lost their West Virginia accent. Tex Logan, a fiddler from Texas working on a PhD at MIT in Engineering, or so I've heard, found them at Hillbilly Ranch and became their fiddler. Don Stover, came from a place in West Virginia not far from the Everett and B's home town.

Big Country Bluegrass plays in the spirit of that era of bluegrass. They're a mountain bluegrass band and that's the kind of bluegrass the mountain people like. Mountain people took to bluegrass from the first time they heard it. A few times in the film the man with the camera went out to the parking area to film some pickers. A night scene of Tommy Malboeuf playing fiddle and Gene Mead playing guitar. I couldn't see the banjo picker. His back was to the camera the whole time. A woman played the bass. I have an idea I know who she might be, but have an even better idea that it's not who I think it could be. I have an old 33 of Tommy Malboeuf making music with Cullen Galyean. Malboeuf played fiddle on Big Country Bluegrass's first album. He and Gene Mead are both legends of NW NC music.

During one of the asides, Everett Lily mentioned the swimming chickens out in the pond. Carlton Haney told him they was ducks. He said, No, them's swimmin chickens, anybody can see them's chickens. He had an oddball sense of humor like that. He had a small stick in his left hand and pocket knife in right hand, whittling at it. Haney asked him what he was making. He said he was making a mandolin neck. He might have to find another stick to finish the mandolin, he said. Don Stover, Tex Logan and B were sitting there too, in a circle of lawn chairs beside the pond. They paid no mind to Everett's humor, knowing it very well. But he had Haney, who was new to Everett's humor.

I found a picture once of Everett Lily as a Bluegrass Boy with Bill Monroe. He had a guitar then. Art Wooten was in the picture too, telling me Everett and Art were Bluegrass Boys at the same time. Everett appeared in a show at the Lincoln Theater in Marion, Virginia, a couple years ago with his son's bluegrass band. He was around 90 and had to be seated throughout the show. He needed help walking onto the stage and off. He played his mandolin with some effort. It didn't matter what he did. It was the living Everett Lily, somebody I think of about like I think of Ralph Stanley, way up there. Everett Lily sang the most beautiful Barbara Allen I've heard. It's the only singing of the song that makes me want to listen to every word. He calls her Barbary Allen. He has a hillbilly way of singing it that makes it just right. Hard hearted Barbary Allen.  



Monday, May 23, 2011


Last night at 10:27 a bolt of lightning struck so nearby that the time between flash and thunder was maybe half a second. It was definitely within sight. A bang about as big as lightning makes was so powerful I felt a thump along with the flash, like hitting the ground with a God-size sledgehammer. The lights in the house never went out, but the flash from the lightning overwhelmed the yellow-white light in the room as if it were darkness in the brief moment of overwhelming blue-white light. The digital clock that jumps back to 12:00 when the electricity flickers never lost its time. The computer was unplugged, but it wouldn't have mattered. It broke loose the telephone connection. No phone, no modem. Took the modem to the Skyline office this morning to have it tested. It was ok. I didn't want the electricity to come on and leave me a burnt modem. It turned out that only the phone line was hit, and not bad enough to hurt the modem. Probably all it took to get it going again was for someone in an office to poke the tip of a straightened paperclip into the reset hole.  

The lightning strike was so powerful it gave me chills that lingered about half an hour. Even when the chill went away, I hesitated to lie down in case a fire might be in an early smoldering phase. In the next couple hours I felt alone in ways that had an uneasy edge, ways I seldom think about. Like the house is not in any township fire zone. A 20 minute drive from town or Laurel Springs means the house is gone by the time the firetrucks get here, if any firetrucks come at all, it being outside Laurel Springs, Whitehead, Pine Swamp and Sparta fire zones. None of them come here. It would be too late if they did. A house made of pine has as much chance in a fire situation as the interior of a car where everything is oil-based fuel. Beyond that apprehension I could easily let roll into a fear was recognition that I am defenseless 8 miles out from town and no house in sight either direction up the road, pitch black dark moonless night.

I tell myself I'm not really defenseless under the watchful eye of omniscient God. But when a feeling that is physical moves in and takes over, probably a chemical created by the brain, the progression to fear can run away with itself before I can even notice. It was a feeling of being utterly alone, a lesser version of the dark night of the soul, lasting only about as long as the chills lasted after the lightning. But that's plenty long to be uncomfortable in awareness that I'm hanging by a thin thread over an abyss. It's a down and out feeling of the spirit. Maybe the word that tells best the feeling is vulnerable. Utterly vulnerable without hope.

Today's film from netflix was a documentary about Simon Wiesenthal, I Have Never Forgotten You: the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal. Both he and his wife went through the Nazi concentration camps where both lost all their near and extended families. It became his life's calling to find and prosecute war criminals long after the war was over. He did it for the people they'd killed in the concentration camps and because he had been one of them. He was a survivor. He did it for all the survivors as well. He did it for the Russians, the gypsies, the homosexuals as well as for the Jews. It was the story of a man with real integrity he lived by. It's not like his integrity was a mansion and he lived in a shed out back. His integrity as a human being was his guiding light for every aspect of his life.

It's curious that last night I had the experience of brief helplessness and hopelessness within, and today the movie in the mailbox was the story of a man who had lived absolute vulnerability for a long enough period of time to get used to it. I knew a woman in Charleston who had the numbers on her forearm. I didn't know how to regard her. She was intensely quiet and stayed to herself. I only felt sorrow and pain when I saw her, knowing I could not fathom what she was feeling in any way of looking at it. I could not pretend to pretend I had any understanding. I didn't want to talk to her feeling sorry for her, but could feel no other way when around her. She knew the horror, was all I could think. Among Jews I've known, of my generation several have become atheists because they can't accept that a God, loving or unloving, could allow the Nazi atrocities. I wonder if God might have allowed it to get the state of Israel going, remembering that death is no more to God than the blink of an eye.

I went into the Wiesenthal story with a minor regret that I'd put it on the Q way back when, but there it was, another down story about the Jews trampled by the German right wing for the literal hell of it. I've read so much, seen so many documentaries and dramas about the camps and the time, the film was familiar territory from the start. By this time in the life I have a fair to moderate understanding of the history of the WW2 era in Europe, and the director carried me through the story that I knew like knowing a map. I don't want the experience. So I value Wiesenthal's experience, a man who didn't want the experience either. A lot of people didn't want the experience. The ones that got the experience need to tell it, and I who have it soft as someone privileged need to hear it. Whenever I think about who are great men, I never look among politicians. It's in people of Wiesenthal's character I find what we call greatness. Like Wiesenthal said of himself at the end, I'm not a hero, don't think of me a hero, I'm a survivor. Bonnie Vaughn of Sparta comes to mind. I believe everyone who knows Bonnie has heard her say, "There but for the grace of God go I." Phew. 


Sunday, May 22, 2011


found art

Today I took a day of rest after weeks of schedules just about every day, driving every day on gas that's almost $4. Today I refused to do anything. Took a brief nap. Didn't sleep much last night, 4 hours or so, but it didn't feel like anything but adrenaline through the course of the day. There were things I wanted to do, but wasn't really tuned to do anything. This was my day to do nothing. Watched a good Moroccan-made film that took place in Casablanca, Ali Zaoua. It's not Bogart and Bergman either. It's a hard look at street kids, orphans that grow up on the streets in a gang of beggars. It has a hard edge and it has a soft edge too.

Later in the evening I put on the movie I call my favorite of all I've ever seen. I wanted to see if it still is. I made the mistake a couple years ago of loaning it to someone I believed I could trust. After a long time, I asked about it. Oh, somebody came by who wanted to borrow it...I'll get it. That was that. Rather than worry my mind over whether I ever see it again, I ordered another one. The film is so out there over the wall in left field, nobody much wants to see it, so it didn't cost much. Still haven't heard from the other one, never will. No problem. Watched it tonight. It's still my favorite movie and for the same reasons. It's off the wall imaginative in ways that are particularly of a Japanese aesthetic.

It's Japanese title is Rampo. The American title is The Mystery of Rampo. Probably in America Rampo is too close to Rambo. Lotsa mad customers buying it thinking it was Rocky blowing up gooks, the sequel to the sequel to the sequel to the sequel. This one is the story of a Japanese writer subject to censorship in the time of WW2. His new novel was rejected by the censor because it was too unlikely a story to happen in Japan. Same day his agent found an article in the paper, the story of an incident exactly as he had written. He looked up the woman of the story, started writing again, and as he wrote, he used her as the model in his mind's eye, and eventually found that she was living what he wrote simultaneous with the writing. To save his character who is his alter-ego from the woman who got out of control in the writing and became a danger, he enters the story he is writing, becomes subject to the story that has taken its own turn. All of the illusion breaks down around him. In the end it's just him and her, and she's fiction.

A bird appeared at the bird feeder I'd not seen before. Looked it up by googling it and found it must have been a Tennessee Warbler. They're in migration now from wintering in Cuba and Central America to Canada for the summer. It makes sense it would be migrating as this is the only one I've seen and it's the south to north time of year. The feeder from Jr's house has seeds in it finches like, snowbirds, doves and others. Thought I'd put up another little house just like it for sunflower seeds. A cardinal is around here. The birds are slow to find this feeder. Maybe I need to let the other one go empty before they'll look someplace else. I'll not worry over it. The Tennessee Warbler was at it, evidence it is getting used. I saw some broken hulls around it too. They'll figure it out before very long.

This evening after 8 I called my mother in Wichita to tell her I was checking to see if she'd been carried away by the rapture. No answer, left a message, "Called to see if you were taken away by the rapture. I reckon you were." We're of different minds on Fundamentalism. Her ideal for me when growing up would have been Fundamentalist preacher or missionary. That's why I moved to the coast. Even as a child I knew I wasn't going to be a preacher. I've been betrayed by a Fundamentalist preacher like never before or since by anyone. He gave me a good learning young. I've so forgotten him, I don't even remember his name.

I never wanted to live my life leading people to believe God thinks I'm a hotdog with a connection they don't have, that my opinions are God's opinions, send me your money. I tend to see a preacher the biggest ego rooster in the chicken house. I won't say most are that way, because I don't believe they are. It's the ones that give all the rest a bad name. Tammy Faye Bakker, for example. If you've never heard of her, google her some time for a belly laugh. In Time or Newsweek several years ago I saw a picture of her in a designer sweatshirt with shoulder pads. Not long ago I found a quotation from her, "Watching a half hour of television makes you want to go out and kill yourself." She could have only been talking about the PTL Club Tammy Faye Show. Three minutes of that would advance erectile dysfunction.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


katy taylor


 scott, katy, willard

Katy played at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn tonight with Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart. The three of them are half their band of the first part of the 2000s, Alternate Roots. They made 4 fine albums, Tales of Love and Sorrow, Another Dirt Road, Branching Out and Planted in Tradition. Every album was a fine collection of songs, each one a gem of musicianship and music. These people are not shy about making music, either. When they get together, it's music that happens, not a likeness, but Thereal McCoy. Katy is one of the better bluegrass singers in our region, along with Scott and Willard, who hold their own vocally as well as Katy, such that when the three of them are singing and harmonizing together, bluegrass or country, whichever they're singing, it is music of the Central Blue Ridge as it's played today.

Katy sang mostly songs from their Alternate Roots years together. For me, tonight's show was something on the order of Alternate Roots Unplugged, though AR was never plugged. Unplugged, because the band performed sitting down, casual, Doc Watson style. Perhaps what I'm getting at is they took their bluegrass songs and folked them. I've heard all their albums multiple times, played them on the radio show multiple times, went to 14 concerts, never tire of hearing Alternate Roots music and never will. Their music is the kind you can listen to all your life and never tire of them, even if it's an exceptionally long life. They'll keep you grooving at 100.

I feel fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunity to know about the band. I could easily have missed them. I believe it was the divine hand that set me in the band's orbit. I never hesitate to tell them AR is my favorite band, because I mean it. The musicians are true to the tradition and jazz the tradition as Bill Monroe did, but in their own style of jazzing the old mountain songs and composing new ones in their own way of bluegrass that is also not bluegrass. All the musicians in the band were among the better ones in the region, among the better ones all over the nation, a band of musicians who make music their art form.

Katy's voice is clear as a wind chime. She portrays feeling through her voice, too. She doesn't need to squirm like Madonna to express the emotion in the song. Like Sara Carter, she carries the emotion in her voice. She's used to singing with Scott country duet style and harmonizing. She is used to singing with Willard. For the three of them, it was a memory of good times. They took turns singing lead. Katy told me before the show she'd been through chemo and came through it. She's apparently well now and shows no sign of having once been beat down by such an ordeal. She's a different Katy now from the Katy before, wiser. I felt an impulse to hug her for what she'd gone through, but inhibited it with hesitation to put on a drama when heart-felt words and eye contact are enough. It didn't hurt her singing any. Surely it did for a time, but that time is past.

Scott spotted a musician in the crowd in the second half of the show, Billy C Smith, bass player with JD Higgins country band, and with David Johnson in Wilkes. Scott found an acoustic/electric bass, plugged it in and asked Billy C Smith to come up and join them. He played bass through the rest of the show. He sang a Merle Haggard song, Today I Started Loving You Again. It was a good worded song. Then Willard sang Merle Haggard's Mama Tried, a song Willard sang with Alternate Roots on their 4th album, Planted In Tradition. Toward the end of the show tonight, Katy sang the John Prine song, Hello In There, from AR's first album, Tales of Love and Sorrow. She sings it right. The video camera quit recording near the end of the song. Frustration. I call upon the comfort of reminding myself that shit happens. Get over it and go on. It was toward the end of the show anyway, and my arms were giving out from holding the camera up high over the heads of the audience, standing all the way at the back. It sounds like an effort, but the act itself is effortless. It just starts becoming intensely uncomfortable after an hour and a half. The last half hour I'm mostly sitting down and resting my arms.

Everyone was happy to see Katy out and singing again. Scott and Willard knew of her situation. She's been singing publicly again, getting the feel of it again after her mind has been thoroughly blown. It felt good to see her doing so well, holding up so well. Playing guitar and singing for two hours takes some physical stamina. She sang beautifully right up to the end. She made the audience happy. Everyone loved her singing. Everyone loved the music. It's become a crowd of mostly people who return every week now. Like after a rock concert, everyone has a face lit up with the joy in enjoyment. Standing at the back, I see the people in the audience stand up and turn around. The faces I see are happy they made the effort to get in the car to go hear what Scott and Willard were presenting tonight. I, a tshirt and ballcap wearing fan of Alternate Roots, had enjoyment supreme seeing/hearing Katy with Scott and Willard again.


Friday, May 20, 2011



Thursday evening a week ago, I had finished the day's project helping Justin paint the interior of the new house. It was after sunset, before dark, the gloaming. I was maybe a tenth of a mile from the driveway, gathering speed on Wagoner Ridge Road, 25-30 mph, and a bat flew across the windshield just a few inches from it. Evidently the bat had misread the speed of the car and flew a little closer than intended. The wings were grabbing at the air in a sudden panic to get out of the way of the flying wall. I feel like moments like that are worth noting, like when I turn down my road and a redtail hawk joins me, flying above where a hood ornament would be, no more than 6 feet in front of the windshield, loping along, looking back periodically to see if the truck is still back there. Crows have done that too. A few times going down the mountain, a fox has run out in front of the truck and run in the middle of the gravel road, the dog beside me on the seat dancing and squealing to get out and chase that fox on foot.

These moments don't happen very often, but now that they've started surfacing in my mind, there have been quite a number. I remember every one, like the time a horse-sized buck jumped over the hood of my truck in pea soup fog. I was on Air Bellows Gap Road a half mile from the Parkway in front of what was then the Colonel Holbrook house going no more than 10mph. The grace is what struck me as this horse with horns performed a full leap no more than 4 feet in front of my face. In every one of these surprise encounters with one of God's creatures civilization has not yet killed, it's the grace that strikes me most. Moments I've seen a running cow, I'm struck by the grace, tending not to think of cows as graceful, though they are. Most graceful of all, however, was the swimming water snake. She performed for me the very essence of grace. She changed the way I see legless reptiles.

On the day of such a chance encounter, I look up whatever it was in Jamie Sams' and David Carson's book MEDICINE CARDS. They tell, animal by animal, birds and reptiles too, the spiritual meaning of each of these threads in the Persian carpet of life on earth. Like the day a classic barn owl sat on a fence post and watched me drive by. I went online looking through pictures of owls called barn owl and couldn't find one. I went to Medicine Cards to see what the owl is about, and the illustration of owl was the exact same as the owl I saw. Sometimes, though not often by any means, I'll shuffle the deck and pick one card to look up its message for whatever is concerning my mind. I don't think of them an answer so much as something worth paying attention to, an assist in searching for the answer. A chance encounter with a bat I think of the same as drawing the bat card.

Bat "symbolizes the need for a ritualistic death of some way of life that no longer suits your new growth pattern....Bat signals rebirth of some part of yourself or the death of old patterns." I noted the ritualistic death the Indians went through on their vision quest, and looked at a vision quest in everyday life, a ritualistic death, whatever that might mean. Next evening I drove to Woodlawn to hear Skeeter & the Skidmarks, and returning home found the computer would not start. A big lightning storm went through while I was gone. Next day I carried it to Selma's coffee shop hoping Tim the Techman might be there. He did indeed come in. He took the battery out, started the computer plugged into the wall and replaced the battery while it was running. He said that "flushes" it. At home I got it going, then it wouldn't go online. Waited til Monday, took modem to Skyline office, had it tested and it was ok. Still could not get online. Called Skyline tech assistance and troubleshot to find the problem was not in the modem or the wire, but the "card" where it goes into the computer. Next day I took computer (laptop) to Selma's with modem and what amounted to a handwritten letter explaining what it has been troubleshot down to, to give him an idea what to look for.

I saw Tim next day at Selma's and he started with "do you want the good news or bad news first?" I bent over laughing seeing there was no way this was going to be as easy as I was hoping it would be. He said the wireless part still works and the other "card" is fried, I need a wireless router or a new computer. Router costs a lot less. I asked him what that was. He showed me the box with Selma's computer that makes it possible for people to bring laptops in to go online. My thought at the time, I'll have a blackberry inside a year.  Not that I want one, just recognition that it's probably the next step, like cds after cassettes. Tim brought a new wireless router this morning, plugged everything in, got it going, and now everything is copacetic. I have risen from the ritualistic tomb of a week unable to use the computer, unable to write to you for a whole week, and it got me out of sorts.

Every day, I imagined I'd have it going the next day. Each day told one more day. I started feeling dammed up inside wanting to write you every day and unable. I used Selma's public access computer for emails, but couldn't write like this there or at the library or even somebody else's house. Maybe it would work if I tried, but it comes down to, I don't wanna. And that's ok. I don't wanna is good enough reason for me as I have an appointment. It's really the best reason of all. I took a surprise vacation from writing you every day. The "bat medicine," rebirth of some part of myself or death of old patterns. One thing it did for certain was get me fired up to get back to writing you, every day fired up a bit more, a battery in a recharger. Every day something came to me I wanted to write about. A week offline inspired awareness of how much time per day I sit before the computer. Caterpillar could tell it.


Thursday, May 12, 2011



Rain in the night, wet and overcast this morning and now fog creeping in as it does. A propeller plane flying over. Those vertical takeoff planes with 2 large propellers sound like 2 helicopters when they fly over the house. Air Force planes tend to use the mountains for flying practice, or whatever reason. The jets are mostly trainers, and every once in awhile a F-15 or F-16 flies over. Big noise difference between the Fs and the trainers. The Fs make a thunder you can hear all the way to horizon like thunder rumbling across the sky to eventual fade-out. When they pass over, I always think of people on the ground in places like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other places American military might rules, death from the sky, run for cover. Helicopters make me think such thoughts too, the sound that says, Run for it, run for it, run for it.

One time, at lunch with friend Jim Winfield, just picking, I said when a jet flew over, "The sound of freedom." I was thinking ironically, but learned many years ago, don't use irony in America. It goes over everybody's head. Or under it or around it. It goes on by like a blank where a word was meant to go. I've heard it said of Jim, he's so liberal he's conservative. It's true. I was picking at his liberal mind. He shot back, "No it's not!" It got him so fired up, I regretted saying it. It didn't take him long to settle down. It had the effect of making a really loud noise by surprise. I don't know why I had to explain I was speaking ironically. He knows me well enough to know I was playing with language again. Once it was explained, we could talk again.

I have to confess I think myself a liberal, maybe on the verge of radical, in case you don't get it by now. Though I imagine among truly radical people I'd be questioning my reasons for being there. That's Amnesty International kind of serious. I'm not that serious. I'm all with AI, but the few people I've seen involved are way too serious for me. I'm not a radical. There aren't too many liberals going about in the mountains, but there are plenty. Before the mountains, all the people I knew were liberals. Conservatives were hardly worthy of consideration. In the mountains, the major part of my adult life has been around conservatives. They know I'm not one of them politically, but it doesn't matter between us. Everybody has their own politics.

The ones I call my friends, like Jr Maxwell, Tom Pruitt, Millard Pruitt and a some more, were dead set Republican, born Republican, died Republican. Millard was the very subject of a song Groucho Marx sang in his movie, I think it's Horse Feathers, Whatever It Is I'm Against It. It can be found on YouTube. It is a riotously funny jib-jab at the block-headed American male mind. Not all, by any means, just the block-headed ones, and we all know who they are in our lives. I felt I understood where they were coming from. They were pre-Reagan Republicans. Their daddies were Republicans. I don't know for certain, but I have a feeling mountain Democrats were descendants of Confederate sympathizers and Republicans of Yankee sympathizers. I don't know that, but it looks that way from where I see. Except when I remember Jr's grandpa was snuffed with the homeguard just before the end of the war by a Yankee sniper while watering his horse at Bledsoe Creek, just below the Bypass turnoff in front of Blevins.

My grandfather, Tom Worthington, was the grandson of a Confederate soldier who survived the war, born at Ninemile, east Tennessee, about 60 mi north of Chatanooga, in the Cumberland plateau. His parents moved to Kansas when he was a child. My grandmother's people left Pulaski County, Kentucky, southeastern part of the state, also in the Cumberland plateau, just before the end of the War of Yankee Aggression, about 30 years before she was born. Kansas being a new Yankee state, greatgrandpa I take it was getting the hell out of Dodge. He might have done some favors for Yankees that got him condemned by his neighbors. I have no idea. My grandmother often talked about how she cancelled her husband's vote. I suppose it was her trump card. She was not a woman to be taken lightly. Everyone who knew her knew that.

My parachute landed me in the midst of really conservative Republicans. It served as evidence God's hand was in the deal. His way of saying, You need to learn something, pay attention. It wasn't long before I was saying, Some of my best friends are Republicans. There were times I churned in the mind over their political ignorance, until the evening I drove home from a visit with Millard in the time of the Reagan junta. I was boiling all the way down the road. Until the gravel road winding its way up the mountain. I recall the curve the truck was in when I got it. I'm having a fit over opinions. What are opinions? Answer: Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even air that's useful for breathing. Opinions are useful for nothing. Because their very essence is nothing. Good old saying about opinions, They're like assholes: everbody's got one.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


wall drawing by sol lewitt

Shostakovich is in the air, a piano concerto, Martha Argerich of Argentina tickling the ivories. Sometimes I think I've heard so much music in this lifetime that I've come to the place where wind chimes have become the most ideal music I know. They're abstract music of chance. The wind isn't blowing now, so the chimes are not making music. When they make music I love to listen. I've been thinking about making a cassette tape of the windchimes on a day with enough wind to keep them going. It would make good music to drive with in the car. Several years ago I made a tape of katydids on one side and crickets on the other. It was relaxing to have it in the air driving. Shostokovich is in full storm at the moment, big piano bass chords and right hand fingers walking slowly in the middle notes.

I hear binLaden, binLaden every time I turn on the radio. The situation in Lybia gets worse daily. It's kind of absurd thinking demonstrations are going to convince a North African dictator, Khadafy in particular, to turn over power, fortune, family, anything, because a bunch of people made some noise on the internet. I get the impression they (NATO) think they can smoke him out not allowing him to use air force to defend himself. Surely they've not forgotten he was the terrorist they kept their eyes on until binLaden. He's clever as a fox and not necessarily rational.

A lightning storm came through. Thought I'd better turn off the computer. As soon as it was off, the storm was gone. Buddy Guy's album Sweet Tea had been calling to me from the shelf. It's his album of blues as played in northern Mississippi, Jr Kimbrough country. Been having it on my mind, possibly because the South has been on my mind so much over the last week or so. This is music Suthun as it gets. It's music you might hear in beach joints on the Gulf coast. It's not California beach music, it's Suthun beach music. This is electric blues guitar to the max.

It calls to mind the concert Martin Scorcese filmed of the Rolling Stones, Shine On. Buddy Guy came onto the stage to play. He and Keith Richards made some Suthun blues outa this world. At the end of their duo, when the audience was in full roar, Richards handed his guitar to Buddy Guy, saying, "It's yours." Ron Wood took a close look at it, recognized it by the smile on his face as the perfect guitar out of Keith's collection to pass on to Buddy Guy. Being totally outside the know in such matters, I'm guessing it must have belonged to one of the great blues singers of Mississippi, maybe Robert Johnson or Son House, somebody like that. Something only Keith Richards could afford when it came up on auction.

The big difference between Shostokovich and Buddy Guy is when Buddy Guy is playing it's all I can do to pull my head out of the speakers. His music, his guitar, his vocals, the songs pull my attention the same as a really strong electromagnet. I sit here, fingers on keyboard, foot tapping, grooving, flowing with the rhythm his band generates in the air. This is why I can't write to you and listen to music at once. It never works. Had to turn it off. Earlier, I'd heard the classical dj say something about playing music that it clears the mind. It does that for me too, listening. Perhaps it's something I found young that could at least temporarily wipe away worries and concerns. Shostakovich pulled me in too, the piano, though it's not quite so strong a magnetic attraction. I like hearing his approach to mind music. Buddy Guy's I'll call heart music. By heart I mean emotional. Blues, like mountain music, isn't music unless it's played from the heart.

I'm back to windchimes. Hong Kong composer Tan Dun understands the sound of windchimes. Japanese composer, Toru Takemitsu understands wind chimes too, and he understands Japanese gardens. Takemitsu understands water flow. Sometimes his music is like flowing water and wind chimes. Water dripping from the edge of the roof and from the trees make the only sound in the stillness after the storm has passed.


Monday, May 9, 2011


by mark rothko

This evening I sat for 2 hours and watched a documentary by Alex Gibney called Client-9. It was the story of the New York attorney general power tripping, prosecuting Wall St people for greed. He puts himself on the hot plate going up against the big dogs of Wall St, even threatening them and prosecuting some. He was something of a bulldog prosecutor, who appeared to me to get carried away with his successes that tapped the arrogance already in him. By the end, he saw his power wane to nothing when the big dogs got through with him, people who know people who know people who know people. Money really is power. Eliot Spitzer was the one carried away with his own power. A weakness rose to the surface, expensive pussy on the side, and his flying carpet ran out of gas.

Greed and sex appeared to be the themes of the film, while the one I saw in operation was an arrogance as carried away with itself as the greed he thought he was patrolling. He got some really good lessons in humility. They were probably so shocking to him he never noticed. As governor of NY, he appeared to me over the top on the arrogance scale. The most interesting part, the part that makes the story, he planted his own seed of destruction. He called the "service" of his own volition for a site he found or was told about on the internet, probably told about. It appeared to be at a time in his life when he was so expected of that he needed a couple hours outside his life. My first thought when he was getting in touch by cell phone, he needed breathing space. What better way to settle one's nerves than to be pampered sexually. Like one of the people said at the end of the film, if this had been in France, it wouldn't have been a story.

It's not in France, however, it's in the USofA where denial rules everywhere, especially in politics. Seeing Spitzer's ordeal from my own perspective instead of American corporate pop press perspective, all I can see is the man had become so pressured by expectations from all aspects of his life, he needed to get out of his head for at least a few minutes from time to time. It's perfectly human. The phone call to the "agency" was the valve on his inner pressure cooker. Letting off steam. I know, his wife, his family.... They were part of the pressure cooker of expectations too. The big dogs had private investigators following him, looking for something, and this was what they found. It had nothing to do with moralism or his wife or anything else. It's the story of an ankle biter challenging the big dogs and they whupped his aiss. They found his pressure release valve.

This business of framing somebody or putting them out of power using sex is American as jazz. I don't know if there is another country in the world as freaked out over sex as the USA. It's a political gaming device that works and has worked predictably in American politics. When Newt Gingrich was tied up in assassinating Bill Clinton's character, making him testify to sex act, Gingrich was in process of divorcing his wife dying of cancer in an Atlanta hospital and having an affair with a high maintenance DC babe. It's all about power. Those with minimal power best not be biting the ankles of big dogs, because they don't like it.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


seeds of the spirit

Reading in the new biography of Johnny Appleseed, about half way through it, by Howard Means. The first thing Means states is that everything we think we know about Johnny Appleseed is not so. Parallel his life a legend grew up around him and it's the legend we hear about. He was a gentle spirit in the late 1700s who didn't wear shoes and conventional clothing, very seldom slept indoors and had no source of income, eating what he found like a hunter-gatherer. He walked from home in south central Massachusetts to northwestern Pennsylvania, where he walked all up and down that end of Pennsylvania, planting apple seeds into orchards and surround them with brush to keep the deer out.

It turns out Johnny Appleseed, whose other name was John Chapman, discovered the Swedish theologian of the time, Emmanuel Swedenborg, who died 2 years before Johnny was born. William Blake read Swedenborg, Ralph Waldo Emerson did too, and a great number of people in that time. Johnny Appleseed became something of an evangelist of the Swedenborgian way of seeing, and spread the Swedenborg gospel everywhere he went. He would tear the books apart and leave a section with somebody. It was a time of much evangelism in the western frontier, just then crossing the Appalachian mountains into Ohio and Kentucky. I get the impression he was what we call "not right." He had a screw or two loose. Maybe. Or he was someone with a powerful conviction he lived by, not eating any meat, not wearing shoes, living outdoors. Working at nurseries seemed to be his skill.

Johnny Appleseed was somebody who loved the natural forest, walking deer and Indian trails, Indians with an attitude still in the area, though being shoved west, the reason behind their attitude. If he had settled in one spot and put in apple orchards, he could have been a wealthy apple producer. But he bought a piece of land on credit, planted apple seeds, started an orchard, and once he saw it was growing good, moved on and did it again. Eventually the land would go back and be sold to somebody, already with apple trees on the land. He didn't have what it took to stay in one place. He may have compared himself to the wind more than once. Goes where the wind blows. The wind gradually blew him west into Ohio. He saw himself something of an evangelist of Swedenborg in the time when evangelists were everywhere converting people on the western edge of expansion across the mountains at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Perhaps a reason he is so well known in our time, anyway known as a name, as a legend, the only way he's ever been known, just another Joe, not a billionaire, not a big landowner, not a general, not anything but a wandering guy who followed his own spirit. He had a gentle nature, and gave away whatever money he might earn soon after he earned it. I've wondered if he might have been a mystic such as William Blake, one who didn't write anything to be famous for, or do anything big and grand. He just walked about barefoot. There were quite a lot of people on the frontier. Many of them fed him and sometimes gave him shelter in severely foul weather. Probably about everyone who knew him liked him. He probably had the open nature of someone just slightly "retarded" that is friendly, not littered with guilts, no aggression, no seething anger, and possibly fun to be around. He quoted scripture, the beatitudes, big sections of scripture, and introduced people to Swedenborg everywhere he went. A lover of God is what he was. It's said that he never preached. Only quoted scripture.

He wasn't spreading religion, but God's word as in the Bible and in the words of Swedenborg, who is known for saying that Jesus was not the son of God, but God himself, which is how I see it and didn't know Swedenborg did too. Just reading about Johnny Appleseed has got me wanting to check out Swedenborg and see what he had to say. My friend Carole went to a Swedenborgian group when she lived in Roanoke and told me Johnny Appleseed figures in the history of Swedenborg in the USA. There's something it took me a long damn time to learn, that there are an awful lot of really wonderful people in this world. They're everywhere. They're not all on the banks of the Ganges in India, nor are they all refugees from Tibet, nor yoga instructors, nor CEOs, nor rich and famous. They're just folks around us living their lives.

Before I came to the mountains I had believed the truly extraordinary people are the well known people, people who wrote books, people biographies were about. After several years living in the mountains, I've learned, and I think have really learned, not just wishing I could and convincing myself I did, but it's clear to me now that the very most extraordinary people are within reach. It's just up to me to recognize them if I want to find them. In Johnny Appleseed's time he seems to have been known as a friendly, generous, a little bit off his rocker kind of guy. He's remembered today for his spontaneous evangelism, spreading seeds of the gospel that became synonymous with sowing appleseeds. Perhaps a man without guile. He seems to have been something of a blessing to people who knew him. His life reads like he was in the spirit all the time. Like somebody with a banjo on his back loving the chance to make some music for people that want to hear him play, kids, hobos, anybody. Johnny Appleseed's banjo was Swedenborg's spiritual philosophy and his music was the spirit of God. I'm glad I was curious enough about him to read the book after hearing Howard Means talk on the Diane Rehm show on NPR. The man has done some serious research.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


pregnant woman with drill descending a stepladder

Just back from helping friends Justin and Crystal paint the interior of their new house. I like painting trim and they like to paint walls. It works out just right. This is their first house. Crystal is glad to be getting out of the rented trailer with tires on the roof. The house was affordable for them and all three of us are impressed with how well the house was built. The doors fit and the windows are not stuck. As it is right now, all walls painted white and plywood cabinets in the kitchen, it's a bit plain. The carpet was light gray and dingy, not worth cleaning. Justin will put hardwood floor in the kitchen and recarpet the rest of the house. We all love the place as a white canvas. They're painting the rooms in colors, each room its own. They've picked out some nice colors. Justin has been working at house painting for enough time to have a feel for colors in rooms. Crystal is working her own photography studio doing wedding pictures, baby pictures, portraits.

Crystal has an eye for color and Justin does too. I hadn't seen the eye for color in him before. Painting interiors for awhile, he's developed quite an eye for color. After we'd finished for the night, around 10:30, Justin opened the can of apple green paint for the kitchen and painted some on the wall. The plywood pretend pretty wood cabinets will be painted black. It will be dynamic. In my mind I see a green hillside with black cows grazing it. It's one of the beautiful sights in the mountains, driving along a country road and see a big green meadow on the side of a hill with black cows is as nice as seeing the meadow in snow with black cows. Black enhances all the colors. I think of the French painter Rouault, who outlined his colors in black, an exaggerated version of Japanese prints with the colors outlined in a thin black line. Rouault didn't do thin. Thick black lines. His paintings have the dynamic quality black used well can give. 

The colors they've chosen are light without being pastel. He put a little of the color for the living room on the wall, to see it outside the can. It's the color of orange sherbet. A stunning orange that has no suggestion of Halloween in it. Not even a breath of it. Crystal is considering all the black entertainment center props like tv, a big one, and the furniture. Bathroom will be a blue between aqua and turquoise. I'm happy to be helping them out. Like I say, they don't like painting trim and I do. So I want to give them all the time I have. This is their first house, a good, firm house with good walls and windows. Big deck around 2 sides and a big yard for the kids. Speaking of which, Crystal is getting so big she's about to pop. She waddles about, forgetting everything with what she calls "pregnant mind." Baby due next month or sooner. She's hoping we'll have the house ready to receive the baby. She's not over-doing it helping with the new house. She's getting exercise and functioning at the same time.

The basement is the full size of the house with a garage door. A good basement to be Justin's world with tools and projects. It has a good wood stove that only needs a little cleaning. It can keep the floor warm in winter and the heat bill down. These are people I'd do anything for, and this project is a part of anything. Justin I've known since he was around 3. Crystal I've known since they were married a few years ago. First thing I said to her when we became acquainted was, "You're a brave girl." Later, I learned what she'd been through before, losing first husband, Justin's friend, and I realized she is, indeed, a brave girl. I said once, "I'm glad he found you." She laughed and said, "I'm glad I found him." By now I've come to believe they are something on the order of twin souls, soul mates, whatever it's called. I'll go with soul mates. They definitely are mates to that deep an extent. 

I feel like they have a closeness of souls that sought each other unknowing until they found. Something I've noticed, when Crystal is worn out, tired from a full day of all-out work, when her face loses the feminine in her countenance, she looks like Justin. It's got to the place where I see the same person, one in masculine face and one in feminine face. I have full confidence now that I can leave this world assured Justin won't need my prayers any more. Justin's life makes me want to take down from the shelf The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, the Polish existentialist, like Roman Polanski, and read it again after 40 years. He's a powerful writer, and Justin has a powerful energy.  

Justin has a good mind for paying attention. When he took up bow hunting, he started going to tournaments to fine tune his skill. He golfs, and learns from every encounter with the ball. Everything he turns his hand to, he does well. He practices and gets better. He doesn't mind working and he has a wife who doesn't mind working either. She has been getting pregnancy pictures of herself showing her belly. I got the above picture of Crystal working in the new house. It's an enjoyment for me to see them both so happy in their new adventure having their first house, at last, after working toward it for so long. They have a huge area for any size garden they want. The house has a good deck around 2 sides with good railing and verticals close enough a toddler can't squeeze between them. The improvements the house needs are minimal. They have found a place to call their home.