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Thursday, June 30, 2011


by kader attia

This morning the 3rd meeting about an internet radio station in Sparta. As is the rule of thumb for meetings in Sparta, nothing has happened yet and no indication that anything will happen. The one that got the meetings going announced today she didn't want to do anything toward it, she just wanted to get the meetings going. Brought to mind a time in the early 70s in Charleston. A gal started calling meetings toward setting up a film society so we could see movies. By then, all movie theaters had left Charleston and went to North Charleston. Every meeting she announced she didn't want to run the thing, but as it turned out, she wouldn't let anybody else run it. After 4 meetings nobody went back.

This the third meeting and there it is again. I'm reminded of the I'm-gonna phenomenon. Many years ago I learned that when somebody starts a sentence "I'm gonna," whatever it is that's gonna, it never comes to pass. This is the one who is always telling me what I gotta do, needta do, better do, and quasi-psychically knowing what I'm doing when she's not there, but, alas, is never correct. If she were an Old Testament prophet, she'd have been stoned to death years ago. Today we get another bomb: I have a good idea, but I want you to do it, not me. I think I'm not going back. I know for a certainty nothing will happen next meeting, or the next, or the next. Again, meetings for the sake of meetings, the Sparta pastime. About the equivalent of, Let's go to the mall.

I really do have better things to do than get up early, drive to town, the one calling the meeting a half hour late--somethin come up, sit around and jabber with other people fooled into believing the meetings were about something other than having a meeting. Then drive home. A gallon of gas wasted. The morning wasted. The day ruined by a false start. I'm out. Not going back. I have a life. So far, 3 gallons of gas for nothing but annoyance. I can drive from Sparta to Woodlawn and back Friday nights on 3 gallons of gas. There, it's worth every cent of the expense. Going to these meetings is like buying something that is broken and there's no recourse. I know, I have a bad attitude. I've been told before.

I've been aggravated all day by yet another Sparta false start. Took a 4 hour nap. Woke up after 2 hours and went back to sleep. At least I got some sleep done today. This is somebody I care a very great deal about, which I guess makes it all the more maddening. I have my quota of meetings already fulfilled. Two is enough. The two I go to cannot be replaced by any other, especially by meetings for the sake of meetings. And I've got somebody wanting to debate me on everything I write to make certain I understand he knows that I am not right and likes to go to exaggerated lengths to push it in my face I'm wrong. Well, I don't give a shit. I'm wrong. What's so great about being right? Please don't lecture me on the virtue of being right. Right won't get me to heaven, wrong won't put me in hell. Both are interpretations

I'm writing a subjective account of the world I live in, one man's experience in the world of a given place and time. I tell it as I interpret it. I'm not putting my interpretations up for argument. I'm not laying my interpretations down as fact. They are just my interpretations and that's all I present them as. I think of the daily writings as free-flowing spontaneous prose poems. If you think I'm not addressing what you want me to address, then write your own blog and tell it your way. My interpretations are a minor testament of one way of seeing. There are presently something like 9 billion ways of seeing, and that's just humans. Then you have dogs and cats and horses and pigs, trout and squid, mollusks, bacteria. All live a totally subjective life. It's the nature of life in the physical world. This is why I like to blog surf sometimes, see radically different ways of interpreting. Listening to NPR news interview shows where people call in to tell their solution for something like whether or not using drones is a good thing, I hear every kind of response, all of them subjective. What I think about the matter is one of 9 billion ways of seeing it. I say 9 billion approximately. I don't know the actual number and I'm not going to look it up to pass a test.

Today at Selma's, Joe Allen brought up that he knows people who don't believe anybody walked on the moon. I've seen some pretty convincing evidence that some of the photographs were made in American desert and some in a studio. But that makes me a conspiracy theorist, not a good thing to be in the realm of the politically correct ostrich stance. We are Barbie girls in a Barbie world. They'll be calling me Michael Moore next. Gee, wouldn't that be awful. The only one who carried the torch for sanity through the Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Rice era gets laughed off as a conspiracy theorist. Ralph Nader has been right all the way along and he only gets laughed at. What's so great about being right?



Wednesday, June 29, 2011


maple leaves

It's been a happy day of seeing people I enjoy visiting with from 9 this morning to about 5:30 this evening. Even fed a good country dinner. The really good kind. Green beans out of a garden, corn from a garden, fried chicken leg, tomato and cornbread with butter. One of the joys of living in the mountains. The people seen today were from the entire span of time I've been in the mountains. Each one brought to mind a certain period of time, the people I knew at the time, memories of people long gone on, memories of good friends, good people, people I've learned from and am grateful to God for the opportunity to know them. I've been reviewing people special to me lately. It's like something that would be in a horoscope, the moon is such and such house going through such and such sign. Whatever it is, I'm enjoying these opportunities to see people I know and care about, but seldom see.

I was reminded of my initial purpose expatriating to the mountains and not looking back from the first day. Things came back like Wallace Stevens' poem, The Poem That Took The Place Of A Mountain. A poem by Chinese poet Han Yu, 768-824, called Southern Mountains I read several times. He's writing about the mountains of southern China. I translated it conceptually into my mountains of southern USA. Here are some lines from Han Yu's Southern Mountains. Indigo Field in the first line is the name of a town.

          I entered the mountains at Indigo Field
          Craning my head til the neck was stiff.

          Then Heaven darkened into a vast snowstorm---
          Tear-filled eyes blurred to blindness.

          The steepening road, straight up
          Like a waterfall, was stretched into ice.

          With robes tucked up I pushed my horse,
          Stumbling falling sliding back again.

I also read the poems of a Buddhist monk Han Shan of uncertain date, possibly late 7th century, early 8th, maybe. His book of poems is called Cold Mountain, which is also a translation of Han Shan. His name and the mountain are the same. Verse #61 from Cold Mountain by Han Shan:

          Among a thousand clouds and ten thousand streams,
          Here lies an idle man,
          In the daytime wandering over green mountains,
          At night coming home to sleep by the cliff.
          Swiftly the springs and autumns pass,
          But my mind is at peace, free from dust or delusion,
          How pleasant, to know I need nothing to lean on,
          To be still as the waters of the autumn river!

The Chinese poets that wrote about mountains I read like I couldn't get enough. A year before leaving the ways of the city, I found a new anthology of Chinese poetry called SUNFLOWER SPLENDOR. I don't know if it's still in print. It's dated 1975. I just now went to amazon and found they have 2 new copies for $25 ea. My copy is a hardcover. It's my desert island secular book. To my taste, there is no finer poetry in the world than Chinese. The anthology goes from the very beginning, back in Egyptian times by our western beginnings, to about the middle of the 20th century. Of poets I've read, Rilke is the closest of western poets to the artistry of the Chinese poets. I can read Rilke with complete satisfaction as I read Chinese poets with satisfaction. Tu Fu, Tao Chien, Po Chu-yi, Su Tung-po, Li Po leave me in awe. I don't know about them academically, or Chinese poetry academically. I only know them by the enjoyment of reading some verses I don't have to be high to get my mind blown by. I could happily spend a lifetime as a China scholar, the poetry, the art, the archaeology, the history.

Small books of Chinese poetry I'd take on walks into the woods in the first years in the mountains to find a place, a flat rock on or beside the water, where I could spend the day or several hours, inhaling the forest, hearing the birds, hearing the flowing water, seeing birds, crawdads, and native trout after sitting still for an hour. I'd take a bottle of wine or a thermos of hot tea and read, write or get up and walk around, whatever. Go out in the morning and come back when the clouds turn pink. I've only walked the trail int he woods after dark once. It was like the forest in Disney's Snow White. All the trees seemed animated and were watching me. That's not from being stoned either. It's creepy to walk among trees at night, even with a flashlight. That one night, I had to keep my eyes on the dog's tail which I could see a little bit, like the yellow center lines in a dense fog. I'd have been a long time finding the way home without the dog to lead me.

I came to the mountains what American poet James Dickey called a Rural Romantic. My romanticism had to do largely with a Chinese aesthetic appreciation for what we call the natural world. I even identified with the Richard Rogers tune Mountain Greenery. Quite a good jazz number. The Chinese poets gave my early years in the mountains a golden glow fueled by reverence. These poets helped me to see the mountains in a way I could appreciate them best. Without a television, Able to read all I wanted, I romanticized my own Southern Mountains. I don't mean like fantasy thinking. An aesthetic appreciation is what it was. My eyes were more sensitive to what they saw.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


by richard diebenkorn

Talking with an artist friend earlier, who was talking about wanting "good things" to happen in Sparta the whole time she's been here, a year or two longer than I have, and sees time after time something try to start up and it gets killed before it starts. That might be the rule, and I can't disagree with it, but now and then something good happens. You hear things like, 'I did all the work and look who got the credit.' That's often the case, but I can't get too excited over it, because that's the way of human doings all the way back. And possibly will be all the way ahead. The trick is, in my way of seeing and doing, don't want the credit. When I don't want the credit, it doesn't matter who gets it, as long as it's not me. My concern is that a project I or a group want done gets done. That's the only issue for me. Who gets the credit is neither here nor there. It's best if the one with the biggest ego gets the credit. It keeps them from plotting revenge when somebody else gets the credit. I've seen focus on revenge get totally out of control and become self-destructive. The best revenge is letting karma settle it.

Periodically, even more often than that, I remind myself why I came to the mountains, a way of keeping myself on my track, or my flow, what have you. I had fallen in with Meher Baba a year before. My inner world turned 180 degrees, like before, I was going north, then suddenly and by surprise I turn around and go south. It told me I was as far off my track as I could get. I knew that then. Didn't even know about things like my own flow, my track, my purpose, but I knew I was off my beam. The true me was buried under an avalanche of what I can only call ego. That's a good name for a bundle of issues rolled into one over-arching name. The bundle of issues pretty much amounted to wanting to be what I wasn't. Not with purpose. Didn't know what I was to get in tune with. I searched and searched for I knew not what, what I didn't have, who I was not. Confusion was where I dwelled. Wanting to be who and what I was not. Because, I believed within that who I was amounted to nothing of interest, an insignificant statistic, and if I fell back into myself, I couldn't live in the world, because my true self is not motivated by money, status or position.

I don't care if one person has more money and assets than another. Everybody is higher up the ladder of success than I am. I'm still on the ground. The people of the ladder can have it. Like Joseph Campbell is famous for saying, we spend our lives climbing a ladder and when we get to the top, it was the wrong ladder. I chose not to climb a ladder, but to keep my feet on the ground. I like grounded. It's like my feet really connect with the earth under them, the floor, too. That's where I like to be. When I'm around climbers, we really don't connect. Climbing turns out to be a game of bullshitting. Like I was before I found my path. People who give importance to money, status and position simply bore me, as I bore them. One thing I like about it is the people on the climb would have to look down to see me and they only look up the ladder. So they leave me alone. They climb away from where I stand. I like it on the ground among people that live who they are rather than who they are not. I find there are more people who are not on the climb than are on it. I've not done a survey or looked up a previously done survey on the matter, but that's how it looks from where I stand. The world of people not on the climb is the world of what I call my people.

When I encounter people of the climb, the ones I know I like the person they are, but they'd prefer I look at their nice things and be impressed. If I focus too much on their inner being I might not be impressed. Gotta make a good first impression. In Selma's at one of the wine tastings I met a woman I'd never seen before. We were introduced and she started squealing about how much good things she's heard about me, and this and that, pouring on the sugar. It was embarrassing, because she was loud. Two weeks later, to the day, we met again in the same place, almost standing in our previous footprints, and she'd never seen me before, never met me, I must be thinking of somebody else. After that, I kind of withdrew associations with her. Don't know where that came from and don't want to know. You might say I'm wary of her now. It's that make a good first impression mind. Somebody told me they love my painting and would be in the next day to buy one. The laugh would have been on me if I'd believed it. Months later, almost a year, I was asked to paint a picture of their house in the snow from a photo they have. I told them I'm only painting mountain musicians. Oh it made them mad.

I've learned from the country people to put first impressions on hold, wait and see what kind of character bears out. City people are different in that they apparently believe a good first impression is important. Climbers. In a community of people who have known each other all their lives, a first impression performance is automatically suspect. They're selling something, a false impression of themselves. For what? The smile as self-advertising is from a world of strangers. Surrounded by strangers everywhere all the time. So you smile as a way of saying I'm nice and make a good first impression. In a living community self-advertising is unnecessary. Everybody already thinks of you what they think of you and a great big smile isn't going to change or encourage anything. I've found the people that stay away from me because I don't smile enough to suit them are best left alone, and I don't even have to avoid them. They avoid me first. Great good karma.

I often remind myself of a rule of thumb passed to Jr from his dad, "Stay away from important people." Wow! What a sayin. And Jr did, all his life. My thinking about its meaning has come to important people are self-important only. And that's not really important. There are no important people. We're all born of woman. I'm inclined to see us each a drop of the spirit that we call God. Consider the ocean God for the sake of symbol. A wave hits a rock at Big Sur and sprays millions of droplets into the air, out of the ocean, their home. Flying through the air the droplets believe themselves separate from the ocean for a period of time, when, in fact, each one of them is the ocean. They are apparently separate from the source, out in the air believing they are individuated from the ocean itself, not even remembering what it was like as ocean itself. They suddenly die as a separate drop of water when they fall into the ocean, becoming the vastness of ocean again.


Monday, June 27, 2011


 a landscape of my world

one of ten trillion reasons i love the mountains

My mind is somewhat rattled after the day's big adventure. Wine and snacks at Joe's with about 10 others, all of us regulars at Selma's coffee shop in Sparta. I arrived late because I thought it started later than it did. Maybe an hour there talking and listening. From there most of us drove to Tom Guy's house on the side of Bullhead Mountain, for burgers, hotdogs, potato chips and chili. All of it good. Tom grilled on the deck. There, we sat on decks and ran our mouths, eating, and drinking wine or beer. Tom's house was built by him alone with hired help for aspects along the way in the construction he couldn't handle alone. It is a beautiful house, very well built, well designed. The outdoors consist of the woods coming up to the house, decks at different levels. It's a gorgeous place. Old mountain laurel and rhododendron around the house.

About 3 hours there talking with people I enjoy. We've become a small private club, Selma's regulars. We all like each other and even though Selma was not there, intended to be, but was having severe headaches, we had a good visit in the spirit of her coffee shop. We are the ones who love Selma. We're Selma's fan club. My friend Tom was there, who is writing a memoir of his experiences in a life of espionage. He's quite a character. I like to listen to him talk about some of what he got into. He doesn't talk much about the details of missions, though I don't think he's holding back, just hasn't got there. And it's not like I want him to tell things he's uncomfortable telling. I like to listen to him. I like some of his sayings, like, "When guns come out, run like hell. Moving targets are hard to hit." He told me of a time he was in a car somewhere in the Middle East being chased by "terrorists." He said his weapon of choice was a pistol grip sawed off shotgun, double barrell that shot 6 rounds. "Inside twenty yards you can't miss." When the terrorists were chasing him, 3 in the car, he hit the brakes hard, stopped the car, jumped out and blew them all away with his shotgun. Pop, Pop, Pop. He said, "I loved that shit."

He said now that he's retired he doesn't like guns anymore. I don't know him well, but can see him getting into some tight spots and having a thrill from it. He's a small guy with probably a very high rate of metabolism and had to be doing something high intensity to satisfy his fast mind and body that needed to be active all the time. I told him about a scene in the Steven Seagal movie I saw last week, The Keeper, where his girlfriend wants him to tell her what the trick is about a barroom game that impressed her. She put a long nail-like spike under an upside down tall paper cup and shuffled it around with 2 other cups. Three cups and one has a spike. She shifts them around. The trick is to pick one and hit it all the way to the table and it not have the spike in it. The cup he hit didn't have the spike. She was impressed. "How'd you know?!" He said he didn't know. 'The trick is, don't give a fuck." Tom bent over laughing, said, "Out in the field you can't give a fuck." He's lived his adult life going head first into death defying activity looking for information. In one place he was sent in as a telephone repair man who went into houses of insurgents remembering and reporting every detail he saw, who was there, what was going on.

He told me of a Russian operative who was sent to be a maid for 5 years for a US diplomat. Then she defected and went to work over here in the same field. Tom was saying that a time in Bogota, Columbia, he was talking with a guy who was a Communist there. The guy was telling him Soviet Union was a better place to live than USA. Tom said, you go down to the Russian Embassy when it opens in the morning, any given day, and see how many people are standing outside the gate to get in. None. Then go to the American Embassy and see a line of 500 people waiting to get in. He has a fairly large degree of patriotic zeal, though not political. He's all with USA right or wrong. I suspect a few degrees of his patriotism is the love for that kind of work and our government was his employer. He was a true believer. Give him the order, it gets done. I like to listen to tales of his adventures largely for his telling of them. He tells me about his experiences the way I want to hear it, the emotional involvement too. The fear charged him. He didn't like those moments of extreme fear, though he misses them and doesn't want any more, now that he's retired. I would like to live long enough to read his memoir when it's finished and published.

The weather was just right for outside on the deck socializing. Wine and getting lectured for smoking a cigarette. Clear sky with occasional puffy white clouds. On the way home I saw big pink clouds, the big ones, several miles high. In years gone by when I'd go into the woods to spend the day at and around the waterfalls, with blanket, book, paper, pen, for writing or sketching. The purpose, to stay a full day in one of the beautiful places in my world, sit there in reverence all day. Think and think until my thinking runs down and no-thinking sets in. Sitting there without purpose, no reason, but to stay or base myself on one spot, like a flat rock near waterfalls, especially one in the stream. I have several places along the creek, all the creeks around here, where I like to sit and let my mind settle. Driving home I saw a mirror smooth pond beside the road that set me to thinking about zen mind, the polished mirror, the water smooth as glass. It was a circle in the meadow of the sky's perfect reflection. I wanted to stop and get a picture, but somebody was behind me and I chose not to. It brought to mind a haiku by Japanese poet Basho:

It is fall and a full moon.
I walked around
the shore of the pond all night.


Sunday, June 26, 2011


mayor pro-tem agnes joines

Here is Agnes working the counter at Alleghany Cares Saturday, raising money for Alleghany Planning Committee's projects. After my spell of dread, it turned out to be a memorable and enjoyable day. We started it at the Pines for big buffet breakfast, the kind of breakfast we like around here; scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, biscuit, coffee, butter, jelly, all the good stuff. I think there were 10 of us around three tables put together to make one long table. An hour and a half together at the table we talked with animation, conversationally even, the ones not talking actually paying attention to the one talking, whoever it was, whatever was said. This is something I didn't know I liked so much about our team until just now when the sentence wrote itself. We actually talk with each other. What we are doing is our agenda, so we don't have to talk about our agendas, freeing us to talk about whatever surfaces. At the table was where I learned about Eldon Edwards going over yonder, where we learned how Helen's husband, George R, was getting along.

We talk about politics, no one with an agenda, in mutual agreement that whether or not you like Obama, all that Washington DC mess isn't worth anything but complaining about, so we take care of our little corner of the world where what we do matters. We talk about what's going on in our lives, what's important to us in the realm of our hearts. We can't do anything to make that up there in DC any way we want it, but we can do something in the world we really do live in, at home, to make our world a bit more to our liking. What we do operates on a person to person level, instead of a bureaucracy you can't reach by phone waiting on hold all day long. Washington DC is Kafka world, a maze of bureaucracies. We don't do that. We work with that in a small town way, but we don't do that, nor do we embrace it. It's a 'small is beautiful' way of thinking without self-consciously calling it that. Much laughter runs around the table as we enjoy being together. Sometimes a decision we need to make as a group comes up conversationally and gets settled conversationally. Agnes will ask anyone to make a motion. Somebody does and she says, "A second?" Somebody says, "Second," we go on talking.

All of them are among my favorite people. They're people I feel at home with, people I don't have to smile a lot with. They're not people of the uncertain smile, the smile as self-advertisement. What you see on somebody's face is what they're feeling at the moment, not like they're gazing into an invisible mirror. Like I felt among the people at Millard Pruitt's Regular Baptist Church in Glade Valley, I feel among the people of Alleghany Planning Committee, honored they'll have me among them. Honored is the word. No matter how the word itself is interpreted, it carries my meaning. Every one of them is someone I look up to and enjoy being around. Every one of them would wonder why. It would be like, If he thinks I'm somebody special, then I know he's crazy. Maybe that's why I find them special in this time late in a life of experience with a tremendous variety of people, every race, a lot of nationalities, mean people, happy people, people that love cats, people that think a cat a target, people with fast, brilliant minds, people with slow, dull minds, most of us the rainbow in between the two poles. I like the rainbow.

Breakfast done, the last coffee downed, we filed out the door to the parking lot where we went to our separate cars and entered the flow of traffic on the way to Alleghany Cares. We were given a tour of the place by Jonnie Whitlow, getting us acquainted with the sorting rooms in one building, then to the sales floor in the adjoining building where you walk into a gallery of an infinite variety of stuff. In my childhood, my mother was bookkeeper for a TG&Y dimestore. Daddy and kids would get in the car and go pick up Mommy when she got off work. I got to know the inventory of toys very well, was allowed to pick up and play with toys understanding they're not to be broken or stolen. Even now when I walk through a variety store like that, I have a tactile need to pick things up and look at them. It's largely not allowed, so I go like in a museum, look but don't touch. They have a tremendous variety of knick-knacky little figurine dolls, just a couple inches high, of plastic and porcelain, everything. I'd never seen so many little toys. One that caught my eye was an especially lifelike leopard sitting like a housecat, maybe 3 inches high. Both my grandmothers liked little figures like that.

I went through the tour in amazement at what I was seeing. It was a museum of things. If you need a thousand coffee cups, they have them at Alleghany Cares. Time to start, Agnes sent all the men to the loading dock in back. She put Ted out front to open the door for everybody coming and going. I went to the back with Ernest and Jack. Two guys were working what little there was to do. We offered to help several times and were told there's nothing for us to do. We sat together in some chairs and spent the time talking. We also went around looking at all the items back there. Every kind of thing. Again, if you need a thousand golf clubs, Alleghany Cares is the place. Ernest found a ski without the clamps for boots. He asked what it was. A ski. It didn't compute. Somebody passing through suggested he could use it as a kind scythe to cut weeds with. We agreed that could be it's only possible function.

Jack left at 12 with Linda, who was recovering from serious illness and didn't have the strength to last the whole day. Somebody brought in a small roll-top desk, Ernest bought it. We carried it to the house in his pickup. Took a smaller desk out and carried it back to the loading dock. Ernest wanted some water and I did too. We went to the kitchen/break room where they had bottled water in the refrigerator for free. Everybody there is volunteer, so a bottle of water isn't much to begrudge. Johnnie and Barbara were in there talking. They both knew who Ernest was, but neither of them had ever had a sit down shoot the breeze conversation with him. Ernest, a mountain man, is shy of people he doesn't know. I was thinking it best to go on, because they were involved in conversation and I didn't want to break it up. Ernest sat down and opened up like with anybody he knows. He told them some jokes that had them bending over in their chairs. Right away I settled in, thinking, This is a good thing. They were having a moment of discovering the real Ernest Joines behind the blank face people he doesn't know see, the only face they ever see, because he doesn't know them. It was like when Ernest walked in the door a light spirit came into the room and lit everybody up.

It turned out to be a good day for all concerned. Agnes reported that we did very well. It hadn't been figured yet, but we'll know soon. I know she had a ball at the counter. She probably knew at least 100 people that went through there. And probably half the ones she didn't know, she knew by the time they went out the door. Somebody Agnes doesn't know is someone she doesn't know yet. Ernest is fine watching the Beverly Hillbillies or picking a tune on a guitar, mandolin or banjo. He was on a Gary Moore tv show in 1961, one of those every night shows before or after supper, wherever in the country you lived, playing his one man band. He was in early 20s. It was What's my Line or I've Got a Secret. I have a fair certainty I saw it, because at our house we never missed Gary Moore. I recall seeing on b&w tv a one man band played. It may be false memory, but it was from that time that I ever knew there was such a thing, and what it was. Never saw or heard of another one until my parachute landed me in Alleghany County. Ernest has it on video at home. The sound recording of it is on the 4-cd set of Alleghany County music Ernest put together a few years ago. When I say somebody is a true human being, Ernest and Agnes are both illustrations of my meaning.


Friday, June 24, 2011


by robert ryman

Three things to do last night. Could only do one. Dori Freeman was singing at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, which I wanted to go to as the number one priority. Selma was having a wine tasting I wanted to go to. Alleghany Planning Committee was having a dinner and a meeting. Also, this week I can't afford the $14 it costs for gas to go to Woodlawn and back, alas, a real consideration. I'm out of money, so I needed the dinner. Thought I could go to the meeting first hour, then on to Woodlawn, but it didn't work out like that. I realized that my true obligation is with APC. They are my team. We had our meeting Friday night because Saturday we are working Alleghany Cares to raise some funds toward our projects for helping people in need of help. 8 Saturday morning at the Pines for breakfast, then to Alleghany Cares at 9 to be ready to open the store at 10. Alleghany Cares is a thrift store some people call the Sparta Walmart. All the money goes to charities. Also to pay staff and expenses of a business.

I wanted to get some pictures and videos of Dori, but it wasn't to be. I wanted to visit with friends at Selma's wine tasting, but it wasn't to be either. I did best staying with my friends at APC. These are the people I'm the most comfortable among. I'm comfortable among the friends at Woodlawn, too. And comfortable among the crowd at Selma's wine tastings. It was a difficult decision to make, but I made the right one. I feel like the Alleghany Planning Committee people are my church. In my own personal belief system, it is the role of the Christian churches to help out the poor. But they don't. Some do, but not the churches I like to go to. I do appreciate the old-time way of church where worship is the only thing church is about. I'm with that. But I'm also with helping out people who need help. The people in APC are all Christian people, by which I mean people on the spiritual path who integrate their spiritual beliefs of what's important into their everyday lives. That's not to say other people don't. Only to say the people of APC do.

Alleghany Planning Committee and Hospice are my only involvements in Sparta now. They are the only -- organization doesn't feel like the right word, but it's all I can think of -- organizations in town that I feel meet the criteria of what I want to do in an active, organized way with others. It's my own personal assessment that there is plenty of new, plenty of entertainment, plenty of meetings for the sake of meetings. The state of the "world" now I believe is harmful to human health in every respect, from spiritually, mentally, emotionally to physically. There are countless casualties overlooked by nearly everyone, especially in America where poverty equals leprosy. What can I do to make my world a better place? The only answer I can come to that rings my truth center is helping people having a rough time of it. Both APC and Hospice are about helping people who need help. Neither one takes a great deal of time, but they are where I feel I owe my allegiance.

I half dread the day at Alleghany Cares. We of APC will be working the store. The deal is we bring in a bunch of stuff to be sold and the staff puts it out for sale. We work the store a Saturday and whatever money comes in for the day we get toward our projects, such as helping people with electric bills year round and heating bills in winter. We give scholarships to deserving kids from families that can't help them financially. The Hillbilly Show in October is our big fund raiser of the year. We all get together to make fools of ourselves on stage to make the audience laugh. None of us are comedians, so we act stupid and it's funny. I think of it as Dada theater. Another thing I like about APC is it's mountain people helping mountain people. It's working from the heart instead of the mind. Though I dread the work all day, I know that once it starts it will be a good day all the way along. I'll take camera and get some pictures and tell you about it. I've learned over and over that when I go into something dreading it, the experience turns out to be a good time.

The worst news of the day, or possibly the best, depending on how you look at it, Eldon Edwards died Monday. I say "best' as in liberated from the body and all its attachments. All week long Eldon has been in my mind, aiming every day to go see him the next day. He's been fading for some time and I felt like he was getting close. I'd have gone to the funeral if I'd known. Eldon is one of the people I've looked up to for many years. A true human being. The only Republican I've ever voted for. And I voted for Eldon (County Commissioner 2 terms) with conviction. Mountain Republicans of his generation are not Reagan Republican lemmings. Eldon was the only Commissioner I ever heard of, before or since, who went around to all county employees once a month and talked with them about how they're getting along, what they need, what he can do to help their given needs on the job. County employees work "for" the Commissioners, but have no access to them. The Commissioners pay their employees no mind, whatsoever, like they're not there.

Eldon is someone I've respected as I have Jr Maxwell, Mildred Torney, Paul Reeves, Agnes Joines, Tom Pruitt, Millard Pruitt, Bessie Brooks, Faye Wagoner, Lorne Campbell, Donna Shumate, Jim Rhodes and a few others whose names don't come to mind right now. These are people I've felt blessed for the opportunity to know. I didn't know Eldon very well, but we shared a love for the mountain people, the mountain ways, mountain music, the mountains. When we talked, we communicated. Often I remember some wisdom passed to me from DeWitt Hanes back around 1988, to have done something is the same as doing it now. This is what I tell myself when I lose a friend or someone I respect, a pet, all forms of loss. I miss Jr Maxwell every day and remind myself to have known him is the same as knowing him now. It's true, can only be fathomed by the heart, not the mind. To try to get it by mind would be about the same as working out the mental geometry of hitting a golf ball. When I hold Caterpillar I miss TarBaby and tell myself that because I knew TarBaby, I still know TarBaby. Because I knew Tapo, I still know her. Because I knew all my friends who have passed through the veil, I still know them. They lived in my memory while I knew them in person. They live in my memory now. How I knew them continues.



underwater petting zoo

Today's film was called Sharkwater. A French guy with a consuming interest in sharks since childhood studied biology and sharks in particular. Learned underwater swimming and camera use. It's a kind of Dances With Wolves. Swims with sharks. The shark whisperer. He swam in among them, petted them like you'd pet a dog. He studied their ways. He said they're afraid of us. What isn't? We're the most predictable monsters on earth. We see it, we kill it. He swam among them relaxed, consciously keeping his heart rate down, no fear. They can read the fear through is heartbeat. Fear translates visually as aggression. Aggression triggers defensive attacks. Then it's on. He also noted that when they bite humans, it's out of curiosity of what it is. He said they don't bite chunks. At the end he noted that 5 people are killed a year by sharks. A list follows of a hundred killed by elephants and tigers, ultimately 8,000,000 by starvation.

It's like all of humanity is in agreement the shark is dangerous and has to go. It is being poached unto endangered species for the fins that are popular all over Asia for good health. It's more a symbol than a reality. It has no value of any sort taken internally. It's from a belief that sharks never get diseases like cancer. Turns out they do. He said 90% of the shark population of the oceans has been wiped out over the last 20 years. He explains their value in the life cycles of the ocean, such that when sharks are gone, we're gone. But who is going to inconvenience himself because sharks have a problem? Presumably a lot of people. A short film about the film in the special features gallery showed a huge demonstration in whatever city it was in Costa Rica after the film was shown there. The people did not want the big Taiwanese mafia using their country as their base of operations for incredible slaughter of sharks. Of course, the mafia was paying the government very well.

Rob Stewart is the name of the guy who made the film. He set out to make a low-budget documentary in 4 months of the sharks around an island way off the coast of Costa Rica and the Galapagos further south off Ecuador. What he discovered was shark poaching boats everywhere. With the help of a guy from Greenpeace who was confrontational at sea, they attempted to do something about it, but it turned on them. They were functioning by the law. But the law was money from shark fins, which is evidently as big an underground business in Asia as drugs in the West. It is a fair likelihood that the shark will be extinct in not very many years. The balance in the ocean is going way off. Oil spills take a major toll too. We only hear about a few of the oil spills. It's no wonder tsunami's are so frequent over the last few years. The ocean is reaching up to slap us, saying, Let me be! A few years ago I saw a couple of paragraphs in Time or Newsweek. Lumber companies were bulldozing down all the trees of a small island in the Southeast Asia archipelago. At a certain point, tigers started attacking bulldozer operators.

The film evidently has drawn quite a lot of attention to this serious issue. Then there is the other serious issue, and the other serious issue, ice caps melting, humans deconstructing the planet, killing anything and everything to extinction without any self-awareness nor any willingness to entertain self-awareness. We have quite advanced science by now and all of science has been telling us for years that we can't consume infinitely any longer. But who pays attention to science? Brainiacs. What do they know? They're off to themselves unknown to the average tv watcher. The Reagan Revolution gave a thumbs down to science, and anti-science has been GOP party line ever since. It's not just us. It's all over the world. Now that money madness has hit Asia and they have international corporations to consume with the potential to match ours, and now that the western world has consumed the earth to the point the earth is beginning to fight back, the Asian market is coming of age.

Everybody who pays attention knows we're on the highway to self-eradication. Like capital punishment does not stop capital crimes, everybody on earth knowing our balance is about to fall over like the the statue with clay feet means nothing. We go headlong in denial, going for the gold while it's still to be got. The passion among Christians for apocalypse, destruction, tear it all down, is such that if there's no apocalypse they'll tear civilization down just to be right. We humans are so at odds with each other, good sense gets lost in the shuffle with all the nonsense. Problems with our next door neighbors are the same as problems with a nation the other side of a border, like Cuba.

When we can learn to get along with our immediate neighbors, we'll be able to get along with our nation's neighbors. Not before. Two thousand years in the past, the one who knows the secrets of life and death advised us to get along with our neighbors as a formula for the peace we talk like we desire for ourselves. If the Lord Coming Again doesn't manifest pretty soon, we're sunk, not just as people who value taste, but economy sunk first, then all hell break loose next, and from there, no telling what. Sha-la-lalalala-live-for-today. Hey-e-heyhey. Sayeth the Mamas and the Papas. That's all we have. It's all we've ever had. It's all there is. And the best part: It's all illusion. Poof. No problem.


Thursday, June 23, 2011


found art

Here comes the lightning, thunder and rain. Every day we get thunder and lightning and rain. Not complaining, though the lightning sometimes is something to complain about when it hits close to the house. Caterpillar has gone to one of her hiding places. We need the ground water. The rain is splashing on the stone walkway along the house. The sound of rain in the leaves and splashing on the rocks brings to mind flames we can watch in a fireplace all our lives and never see one split-second pattern repeated. No split second of the sound of rain is ever the same as any other. It's this infinitely non-repeating pattern by sound or sight that relaxes us. This is God's way of doing things. The way of the human mind is repeating patterns like techno in music, the metronome, the beat in about all music. The steady repeating sound or visual tends to charge up our nervous system and make us want to get in motion. Move around the floor in a loco-motion.

We like both. Where sound is concerned, the repeating sounds mixed with non-repeating sounds makes music. Visually, disco strobe lights make a repeating pattern with the repeating patterns in the music. It's pretty cool first time you see it. Movies too, repeating patterns and non-repeating patterns, both. There is always a disco/strobe moment in a Steven Seagal movie. Like there is always a moment of tits and a moment of ass. The mandatory T&A in an action movie is always in his films. A checklist item. Making an action movie? T&A any way you can get them in and multiple big explosions. The purpose is to avoid such summations, 'Nah, man, that movie wasn't any good. I didn't see one tittie. Did you, man? When I watch a movie, man, I gotta see some titty. Know what I mean?' I think the punctuation of American films by explosions is to wake the audience up periodically, attention aids. Hollywood knows very well that after half a century of television the average American attention span is about the same as a cat's. The rest of the world too. The whole world loves American movies. They don't make you think.

Speaking of Steven Seagal, I saw his movie THE KEEPER the third or fourth time last night. It's one of the dozen or so of his 30 or so movies I like the best. It's fairly recent, 2009. One of the repeating patterns from one movie to the next of his would be rescuing a daughter from danger, most often his, but this time the daughter of a friend. And/or a good looking woman is being rescued. That's an oriental theme that I'm sure he repeats for the oriental audience, perhaps his biggest. He is non-racist as a man, as is his character. Girlfriends will be of any race. Seagal is not one to hold the white race up as superior, rather it's just another possible skin color to be born with. One of his producers is Thai. In this film, he was being told about somebody, one of the characteristics being racist. Seagal shook his head and said, half to himself, 'That's stupid.' Another repeating pattern, consistent from movie to movie, is he doesn't kill anybody that isn't trying to kill him.

He also plays a repeating character from movie to movie, a different name each time. Only in 2 movies did he use the same name, Jonathan Cold. The first one happened in Poland where he was what was called in the movie, a Foreigner, meaning CIA they didn't claim if something happened. The ultimate rogue. A master martial artist too. The next time he was Jonathan Cold, he turned up by surprise in LosAngeles, a man who will walk into a gunfight rather than away from it. He goes into every situation with full confidence he will survive it. In another 09 release, DRIVEN TO KILL, he demonstrates to a girlfriend how he does a trick with a spike under 3 tall paper soft drink cups. She shuffled the upside down cups, one with the spike under it, while he closed his eyes. When she was ready, he opened eyes and slapped one of the cups flat to the table. It didn't have the spike. She was impressed and asked how he knew. He said, 'The trick is not to give a fuck.' It explains how his character enters any dangerous situation. It's not that he's fearless, not that he knows he will come back all right. It's that he doesn't give a fuck. The international macho man, "I don't give a fuck!"

He uses a different director in almost every movie. And they're all good directors from all over the world. Different photographer and always ones with a good eye for urban and interior compositions per film and frequently the same script writers, Joe Halprin, Steven Seagal, and others. This one, The Keeper, had interesting visuals all the way through. It opened with the credits on Los Angeles at night with all lights on from a helicopter flying among the skyscrapers, each one a work of magnificent 20th Century architecture, a huge city,  carbon footprint. Most of the camera work was interiors and enclosed outdoor areas. Seagal has a friend in this movie, somebody from his past he'd known long enough that the man told the sheriff regarding Seagal, "I trust him." That was spoken from a world of men where the law is trust no one. It's not just rule of thumb. It's absolute. He and the sheriff knew each other, and the sheriff knew what he was saying. That was all he needed to hear.

I hear complaints about Seagal films from all quarters. They're not this, not that. He can't act. He doesn't really do martial arts---because he doesn't do cheap frilly martial arts of slinging feet around like ballet dancers. I don't agree with any of them. These are people who have seen one or none, maybe a preview, putting all the action movie heroes together in one bundle, which can't be done. I've seen them all but a few. They're called adolescent, etc, but please remember boys didn't pay attention in school. Intellectual films don't reach them when they're grown up. They're a valid audience. I like a Seagal film for the same reasons I like a movie of Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman. In the same way, it's not realism so much as legend. Seagal's character is a legend who reappears in each film in a new way, new name, new place, new maiden to save and protect. He defined himself to a priest in Pistol Whipped, a bad man trying to do some good. Then he said to the priest, 'You know, that's what I like about you. A good man like you got time for a bad man like me.' It's the legend in the stories that keep me going back to them, and Seagal the martial artist who choreographs the moves in a martial arts bout. He doesn't do flashy martial arts, but quick moves and dirty fighting. He does whatever it takes. And he knows how.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011


found art: minimalist sculpture factory made by anonymous

The State of North Carolina is using the Department Of Transportation budget to fund roadside art for the cultural value of having public art everywhere for North Carolinians. All over the county, modern art is being installed on the roadsides, more every year. It's the creation of a minimalist sculptor known as Anonymous, exactly reproduced in factories and firmly installed by road crews for permanent display. They are so well set in the ground that cars and trucks bounce off of them. Dents they leave in the sculpture are like wrinkles on a face; they show a life lived. White light reflecters are placed regularly along the sculptures, decorative lights powered by your headlights. Green energy. Yellow reflecters down the middle of the highway and along the sides make driving our highways at night an artistic light show, reminiscent of the tunnels in West Virginia on I-77 with white fluorescent bulbs end-to-end overhead along its length. How fortunate we are to live in a state that values our aesthetic sense.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


found art

The Supremes stuck it to the American people again yesterday, cross-hairs on women this time. We're spreading propaganda that what's behind the American military in the middle east is the status of women, equal rights for women. It's the same as the propaganda about forcing democracy in the middle east when our present Supreme Court is telling us, decision after decision since the year 2000, when they told us for a certainty this is not a democracy at home. That's  just high sounding words, democracy this, democracy that, like natural this, natural that, green this, green that. Sounds great and fools most of the people most of the time. When a thing works, go with it. I trust no one was surprised by the decision. Predictable as rising oil prices.

Today's film a well made low budget documentary of four guys in Baghdad who were rock star wannabes. Heavy Metal In Baghdad followed these guys in Baghdad who wanted to be a heavy metal band. They spoke American very well from video games, heavy metal cds, MTV. Evidently all their media input was American, as it would be, America the entertainment industry capital of the world, the cutting edge. One of them talked perfect American. He even looked American. Looked like he might be from Oregon or Colorado. Talked like it too. They were guys in their early 20s who wanted to be free to grow long hair, have a goatee instead of a beard and make some noise. Of course, the entire culture, police, religionists, everybody is repelled by the American infection of loud rebellious noise. Aren't the bombs enough American noise! These guys were swimming upstream. They stayed together as a band for 4 years without doing a stage show. They got together and made the music they wanted to hear, when the electricity was working. Sometimes they used gasoline powered generators.  

The film had quite a lot of bonus features of deleted scenes and a 45 min film that follows them the next step beyond the end of the film. They left Baghdad because it was dangerous, bullets flying everywhere, bombs, very little electricity. They joined refugees to Syria and spent some time in Damascus, where they put on a small show to some kids their ages, early 20s. They were the first heavy metal band to record in Damascus, recorded 3 demos. This isn't even a band with a van. These guys carry their instruments and walk. All of them living on the very edge, they had to get out of Baghdad. In Damascus they found peace, even liked the place, except that Iraqis were looked down on as the bottom people. Discrimination like being black in America, hopelessness for them, even worse, because they didn't have any laws on their side. They went on to Istanbul where they were allowed to grow their hair long, wear rock tshirts and even make some noise. They played a gig in a small joint with 50 or so twenty-somethings to an audience that received them wanting an encore. 

Then their time was up in Istanbul. UN refugee bureaucracies said they had to take a train on a 7hr ride to Ankara to apply for refugee status. There, they're told they have to wait perhaps 6 months in town off in the mountains of Turkey to see if a Western country will accept them. If they go back to Iraq they're dead, due to thoughtless circumstances on their part. We leave them at the end of the film isolated in a small Turkish city where they will not be able to find work and everybody will be against them, but the other refugees.

It's a swimming upstream story like Paul Theroux's novel, Mosquito Coast, the story of an American man on a tropical island manufacturing ice. These four young guys wanted to live in Baghdad with their families and friends and their lives, but the ongoing American war had been going on half their lives. They were beat down by it. They wanted to be rock stars. The whole world had turned on them for being Iraqi. Thanks to the American corporate lust for Iraqi oil, and one thing and another like SadSam Hussein, who knew too much and required elimination. 

I was watching these hopeless guys, who talked about their hopelessness, their every day despair, living through another day, and I'm thinking: brought to you by the big daddy of rogue states. My country, tis of thee, the most powerful police state ever, that only commits war on poor, defenseless countries, in the manner of the school bully, Gimme yer lunch money and I won't knock yer block off. He takes the kid's money and knocks his block off anyway. This is what I've seen of my country throughout my adult life. I've never liked it. In 1968 I got caught up in believing I lived in a democracy. It didn't last long. LBJ flattened that belief system for me like gum on the bottom of his shoe. I 've seen it so continuously since then, by now I accept it as how things are. The American Death Star vs the goatherding people of Iraq. Why? Because they're defenseless. Or so they appeared.


Monday, June 20, 2011


roadside attractions

These lilies are blooming everywhere now. On 18 north of Sparta (Hwy18 East) has several clusters of them by the side of the road, growing where guardrails were put up. These lilies grow on both sides of the guardrail. The County can't afford to mow the sides of the roads this year as last, meaning we have more roadside attractions in the greenery either side of the roads. I felt like they over-did it before, clipping every shoot of growth down to lawn. I can also see the promotional aspect for mowing, so we can see better any critter about to jump into the road, though I know that was not considered when whatever committee in Raleigh made the ruling that the roadsides must be clipped. The consideration was another job. Now it's letting go jobs. Whatever the State's motivation to clip or not to clip, I do like seeing the greenery along the sides of the roads go through the various life cycles and flowering processes, which happens all summer long, different flowers every month.

It's funny how nearly all of us despair at the thought of a form of government, County. State and especially Federal, making a decision we all must live by, like laws pushed through the process by liquor corporations to stop the sale and use of homemade liquor so the corporations get all the profits. And laws pushed through by insurance corporations to make us all wear seatbelts at the risk of a $75 fine, while children in schoolbuses cannot use seatbelts. No seatbelts there to be used. We have extremely articulate laws about placing babies in a baby carrier strapped to the back seat a certain way. Then in kindergarten when they start school, no seatbelts. The schoolbus a big moving cage with benches, ruled by bullies, who would be better strapped down. I like the analogy of a camel being a horse made by a committee.

On the other hand, when there are no decisions made by any committees, you get something like India where you see in documentary films that take place in the world the people live in, Hong Kong, hundreds of wires going to all the units for dwellings, offices, businesses, so many they look dangerous. Alleyways where poor people live, overhead are thousands of wires. These tight spaces were there before electricity. All the wiring is external. Here, we have regulations increasing by the year how to build wiring into structures. When there is that much make-shift wiring, much of it, if not all, is bound to be dangerous, especially for electricians who have to deal with it. I expect there are people who die every time it rains in those places due to bad wiring and puddles of water. I imagine people living in those circumstances would welcome regulations that by now we're worn out by.

Home from driving in Mexico for 2 weeks, I have been happy every year to get my car inspection, don't even mind paying for it. In Mexico you don't need brakelights, headlights, turn signals or license tags. Anyway, that's how it was 25 years ago and I doubt if it has changed. We forget how much we depend on brake lights and turn signals in traffic or on the highway. Headlights matter, too. Those 2 weeks driving in a place where the only rule was stay on the right side of the yellow line, not always adhered to, about made a rodeo driver of me.

The Sierra Madre mountains, the southern extension of the Rockies, are tropical and dramatic, beautiful to drive in, except for the rattling roar of dump trucks without mufflers taking the roads as fast as they can be driven, paying no attention to the yellow lines, using both lanes freely. Going into a curve I got to where I slowed way down anticipating one coming at me in my lane and no place to go. Wall of rock to the right, infinite chasm to the left. The road was a dumptruck race track. I came to tremble when I heard the sound. Stopped at a hotel in the mountains after driving all day in the mountains. All night long I shuddered unconsciously when a dump truck drove by on the highway. They became as threatening a sound as the buzz of a rattlesnake. A quarter century later I can still hear those exhaust pipes. They had their own particular sound.

Little crosses with Latin names on them, usually a pair, sometimes a family, were sticking out of the ground all along the highway, especially on bad curves. It was like the highway was a cemetery. My guess when I saw a cross was Miguel & Celina were run off the road by a dumptruck. Remembering that highway brings to mind the first line from an old hymn, Lonesome Tombs, 'I was strolling one day through a lonesome graveyard.' I didn't feel ready to have a cross with my name on it hammered into the ground on that highway in Mexico. But, we never know. Drove super cautiously, anxious every moment for the unknown in or around every curve, noting that every one of those crosses was put there by somebody in a car, who parked on the highway to get out and plant the cross. Car comes around the curve, both cars over the side. All the people involved had cars stopping on the highway to put up crosses for them.

Thanks to committees and regulations and enforcement of safety laws, I was so happy when I crossed the border into the land of regulations and laws, I bought a 6pack upon settling to roost and drank it all watching Mad Max on the tv before turning in. Back in the USofA. If you wonder why Mexicans are risking their lives to come here, go to Mexico and see. Photographs don't get it. It's everywhere the moment you cross the line, like the fascisti police that appreciate a Ben Franklin for a moment's privilege. It turns out I like living with regulations and a zillion squared laws to go by, almost needing a law degree to get along in life. I appreciate regulations unconsciously every time I drive to town and everybody stays in their lane, brake lights work, turn signals work; we're all subject to the same laws, rules of the road, which matter. In the Age of Oil, everyday life is more complex in our living situations than any time before when we walked or rode donkeys. Getting right down to it, whether or not to mow the roadsides all over the county is a decision that matters.


Sunday, June 19, 2011


whitehead primitive baptist

It's one of about half a dozen gray 93 Buick Centuries in the county. It's the one with black rims and the paint all messed up on the hood from clearcoating that didn't last. Big problem with that era of Buicks with clearcoating. The clearcoating gives out on the hood, top and trunklid after a given number of years. To get it repainted requires removing all the clearcoating from all over the car. I don't have the money or the time to do it myself. I have the time where the clock and calendar are concerned, but not the willingness to go over the whole car with sandpaper to rub it all away by hand. Not none of me. This is my old man car. Only old people drive these cars. I never dreamed I'd be driving a Buick even if it isn't the big hotdog model. It's the plebeian Century for the old folks that can't afford the luxury models. And 18 years old makes it for old folks that can't afford a new car or even slightly used. It's for old folks like me who can't afford a lot, but when I push down on the pedal it goes. That's all I want.

This afternoon around four I was driving to Ennice. From Whitehead through Sparta I followed a car without passing lanes all the patient way. The other side of Sparta a passing lane appeared. I was prepared this time for what happens when this almighty v6 kicks into passing gear: G-forces. First time, it pulled the steering wheel out of my hands, jerking me back in the seat so suddenly. Today I held the steering wheel tight when I hit the afterburner and it still surprised me. The immense power that took the car from 35 to 55 in a short space had me feeling like I was on a NASCAR track, Jimmy Johnson passing Earnhart Jr, at 190mph. Though it has front wheel drive, when it scoots the back end drops down and makes me think the back bumper will drag the road and send up sparks like in movies. It was a physical rush to hear the motor revving way up and to feel the car take off with dynamic energy. In my mind I was focused on keeping it in the road.

Curious how 30 to 50 years ago I'd have thought it the height of driving to have a car that would go like this and I'd lay it to it every chance. By now, I'm apprehensive of it. I know my coordination is slowing down. I don't mind it. It's not a problem. I like it, in fact. But it means I have to pay extra close attention driving. Also, it being front wheel drive, I really have to keep my eye on the road. Rear wheel drive doesn't seem to be so closely connected to the steering wheel. It's at the other end of the car. Rear wheel drive works as a kind of gyroscope that keeps the car aligned to its momentum. You can look at landscape, look at whatever and the car continues ahead.

With front wheel, you look to the right and the front wheels go to the right. Look to the left and the front wheels go to the left. It's a strange sensation to get used to. I've been used to it for a long time driving a 4wheel pickup a lot of years. Vehicles with 4wheel do the same thing, even when they're not in 4wheel. First thing I had to learn in transition from the rear wheel drive pickup before the 4wheel. At first it was dangerous. I live in the mountains because I love them and driving is touring for me. I've learned how to look where I want to look and keep the car in my lane by using short glances.

No car nor pickup I've had before was the equal to this Buick in the act of driving. It rides the highway smoothly. Coming home from town turning into that long, straight, gradual downhill grade of Thompson Flat on Hwy 18 I run the speed up to 55 and coast the length of the flat at the same speed. It was repaved a few years ago and it's nice and smooth. I like that stretch of highway, except for the possibility of a deer jumping a fence and running across the road. They tend to do that. I've heard guys talk about pegging a 140mph speedometer through that stretch. That's of no interest to me. I like 55 through there on account of the deer. I've seen too many cross the road in the middle. Saw one yesterday. I'd rather be able to avoid hitting one. I wouldn't want to be doing 80 through there and a deer jump in front of me. No missing it. An explosion of blood and the corpse hitting the windshield a few feet in front of my face, killing the deer, messing up the entire front end of my car. I want to be good to the deer and good to my car.

I've found since driving this Buick that I tend not to drive fast. From the day the title became mine, I have regarded it as Jr's car. He's letting me use it. Most of the time I feel like he's in the passenger seat like he was when he couldn't drive anymore and I drove home from two nursing homes. In the first days of driving it after Jr's passing I had strong feeling he really was in the seat. Sometimes I feel his presence, though mostly it's just the ongoing way I see the car is still Jr's car and he's letting me drive it. Sometimes in his old age, mid 80s, we would go for a ride around Whitehead or Pine Swamp. And he rode with me when I brought him home from 2 nursing homes. He used to be a wildman driver, but in his 80s the only wildman in his driving was taking a curve all the way in the other lane. That gets a passenger's attention.

Sometimes my driving was a little too fast for him. Too fast for his senses dulled by age. I became conscious right away that I needed to drive articulately to keep him comfortable. He never liked to ride. Always had to be the one driving. It wasn't long before I was driving him in ways that didn't make his old-man mind jump. I took curves and corners way too fast for him, so I slowed down and smoothed out rough driving to keep him comfortable. Now, I drive his car as if he were sitting beside me even when I don't feel presence. I take better care of the car thinking of it as Jr's car. I've never kept interiors clean and spiffy. In this one, I take it to the big vacuum hose at the car wash keeping the floors and seats clean. A fire extinguisher fits in the arm rest between the 2 front seats with a big compartment, just right for a perfect fit. Only an umbrella in the back seat. Never use it, but take it out of the car and next day I'll have to make a run from the car to the house in a downpour. With an umbrella I don't have to run.

A clean interior is entirely for Jr. I want it so that when he rides with me in spirit the interior will be the way he liked it. He kept the interior of his pickup about like I kept mine. Stuff on the floor that needs moving if somebody needs to get in the passenger side. A car is different from a pickup. I even replaced the floor mats that were old and worn. The carpet is in good condition. Everything in the interior is in good condition. Radio and cassette player work well. Left front speaker has a rattle in it, so I keep the sound to that speaker minimal. It doesn't diminish the sound. I don't even play the radio louder than Jr would like it. It isn't like he's ruling me. It's that the car is Jr's that makes me respect it as I respected him. I believe that's the answer to why I feel his presence, that I respect the car as I respected him, because it was his. I've come to see that keeping the car in good shape is how I honor his memory. I treat it as if borrowing it for the day.

Friday night I bought gas in Galax for 3.29.9. Passing through Sparta on the way home it was 3.63.9. As politicians like to say, do the math. 34c difference. Though I like to shop exclusively Sparta, that big a difference makes a difference.



Saturday, June 18, 2011


jerry bowman, daryl bryant, billy c smith, mark freeman

billy c smith

jerry bowman

jerry bowman, daryl bryant

billy c smith, daryl bryant, mark freeman, willard gayheart

Billy C Smith's band played at the Front Porch Gallery Friday night to an audience of Billy C's wife, Daryl Bryant's wife, Willard Gayheart, me and the white cat. The regular audience was side-tracked by a free concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center of Doc Watson, Wayne Henderson and some other regional musicians, Dori Freeman one of them. The entire Front Porch audience went there, all the regulars but me. I didn't go because Wayne Henderson doesn't trip my trigger and Doc Watson I appreciate a great deal, but not enough to skip a night at the Front Porch. Sometimes I do miss a show, but seldom. Mark Freeman started out as audience, but soon was called to join the band. It was a casual show, making it all the better. Willard joined them on guitar the last few songs of the night.

Billy C Smith, Daryl Bryant and Jerry Bowman play in JD Higgins' band Country Express. They play older country music from before the last 25 years of Nashville doing Motown corporate cookie-cutter music. All of them are really good musicians. They put on a show like the house was full, Billy C saying a couple times they've played for smaller audiences. Every song they played, they did very well. It was extra good classic country played by musicians who love it. I'll have the videos I made up on YouTube before the end of next week. I've got a couple of shows behind and need to dive into it for a few days and get caught up. Next week's show will be Dori Freeman singing the songs on her cd. 

Delivered Willard's painting to him this evening. I've been living with it for several months and it leaves a gap in the house on the easel where it was visible all the time. I've found I like to live with my paintings, so I paint them in the living room of the house. I keep 2 easels in the living room, one on either side of the home entertainment complex, one being finished, the other being started. On the way to Woodlawn I stopped at Selmas for a moca. An art lover friend was in there. She paints too. Doesn't want me to use her name. I went to the car to bring it in for her to see. I sat it upright on a wooden chair with a high back. We sat in front of it and talked about painting for perhaps twenty minutes, something like that. It was a treat for both of us to have someone to talk with about our painting. 

I was happy to hand the painting over to Willard. He is planning to make a pencil drawing of me painting the picture. I wanted Willard to have it, but didn't want to ask money for it. Didn't need anything for it. Just wanted Willard to have it. I painted it for Willard, like I painted the Ralph Stanley painting for the Stanley museum, wanted them to have it. Last week Willard asked about what I'd want for it. It told him I don't want money. I trade the picture for money, then I use the money to pay bills and the next day I'm out, I don't have the picture or the money. He suggested he make the drawing in exchange, and I'm happy with that. Happier than money involved. Money is on the lower end of the scale of what I value.

Willard is a musician and a man I have a great deal of respect for. I wanted to paint the picture to honor Willard for his achievements as pencil artist of musicians of SW Virginia, and other mountain people, as well as his guitar playing, singing and song writing. Plus, as a human being Willard is every bit as respectable as when he's making music. For me, the painting is my own personal form of awarding the Nobel Prize in mountain music. We were talking before the show and I told I'd been applying the principles of mountain musicians for my own art form. First, it has to come from the heart, all application of paint. Second, a degree of humility in the artist. Third, mountain musicians make music for the fun of making music. I now paint for the fun of painting. I don't make it a gotta-do thing or climbing a ladder to higher and higher prices and more sales. The ladder of success takes the fun out of it for me. Heart doesn't translate to money very well. Nor does fun. 


Friday, June 17, 2011


the jam

doug blevins, david joines, george flippen

gary joines, ernest joines, george eller

george flippen

david joines

gary joines and ernest joines

Tonight was the first Thursday night jam at the Jubilee in Sparta. It's at jams that musicians get together to make music on a night during the week. The only one I didn't know before tonight was the fiddler, George Flippen, nephew of Benton Flippen. He was the husband of Joncie Church I'd known years before when she lived here. Her maiden name Pruitt. We went to Millard Pruitt's Regular Baptist Church. She lost her husband Clifford Church. I never saw or heard of Joncie after that. She was there tonight sitting talking with Agnes when I arrived at the Jubilee. It has been many years since I've seen Joncie. This present husband, George Flippen, is a Primitive Baptist preacher down the mountain at State Road. She has been through every kind of medical nearness of death that can happen to somebody in that amount of time. She's been in hospitals for long extended stays.

The musicians were connecting somewhat. It appeared this was the first time almost all of them had made music together. Ernest Joines and Gary Joines have made quite a bit of music together. George Eller hadn't played his banjo in five years since his partner in music fiddler Fred McBride died. George Flippen hadn't played with other musicians in I think he said twenty years. David Joines is something of a regular at the Crouse House jams on Monday nights in the old-time room. I didn't know Doug Blevins picked. Going by his guitar, I'd say he can pick pretty good. Nobody tonight got to really get down and make some music. Each one's playing style was unknown to the others. They got together when they found a tune everyone knew. All of them coming together from different musical gatherings, they know different songs from each other. It sounded to my ear like everyone was attempting to get going together and flow with some music, but it never quite happened. Several times they got a groove going for awhile in a tune they all knew.

I spent the early part of the jam talking with Joncie and Agnes. Joncie was telling me what she'd been through since last time I saw her, which was considerable. Joncie's new husband has in him a great deal of caring for her. He's been a good support for her. It was "old times" with Joncie, talking between twenty and thirty years ago. We sat and talked for over an hour, talking old people talk, illnesses, the dead, the way things used to be. Sparta before 3 stoplights. Strangely, sitting there talking like old people talk, it felt more like talking with peers. When we were younger, we talked about what interested us. In old age what interests us are the miracles of contemporary medicine and the expense. 

The second hour of the jam I spent photographing everybody from one place. I don't like to go up to people with camera to get a closeup. The camera has a zoom lens, so I pick a place to photograph from, where I can see as many as possible from the front. In a circle, that's kind of hard to do. I want to be nearly invisible to the musicians, certainly not a distraction. I like to stay in one place and zoom for however I want the picture composed. I'm enjoying making portraits of the musicians playing their individual instruments. A little over a year of photographing musicians at the Front Porch in Woodlawn, almost once a week, I've found the manner of photographing musicians that satisfies my aesthetic sense for pictures of musicians making music. Many can do it better than I, which still allows me the right to evolve and to grow in my own art form. I don't have to be the best. Needing to be the best makes ulcers. Why give oneself ulcers for art?