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Monday, October 31, 2011


        andrea galvani, balloons


It was another good day to drive. The trip I wrote about in LOST IN AN EXURBAN SUBDIVISION last week turned out to be in vain anyway. The Sunday I was to be there was this Sunday, not last Sunday. The friends I went to see were in Minneapolis last Sunday. The gathering was a bunch of friends who hang at Selma's Backwoods Bean Coffee Shop. I always enjoy being among these people, at the coffee shop and at the parties that are springing up now among the people who go there. Today I knew where the house was and how to get there. Had a good learning last week. It's a nice place for a subdivision. Somebody made a big bundle of money selling the lots. The road is not state maintained. In places it is awfully steep, the kind of steep that when you start down the hill you feel alarm right away if you go at it like a regular downhill grade, because there are a few places it's like going over the top of the first hill on a rollercoaster and starting down that first slope that looks like it's straight down.

I feel like I'm in a new phase of the life, which I already know, entering a new 7-year cycle starting a couple years ago. It's like the coffee shop is the hub of my social world now. It's not like I've ever had a social world besides just the people I know. And that's what it amounts to at the coffee shop. Some of my friends there are people I've known several years, an awful lot of years, about 30 years in one case, and some just a few years and some since going to the coffee shop. I think we all feel like we've found the people in the county we resonate with like tuning forks. We tend to be people who like to know individual other people well instead a lot of people superficially. I've an idea this trend for knowing a lot of people superficially led to such social phenomena as political correctness, a Roberts Rules of Order for social intercourse with people you don't know and will never know. We sit on the stools at the bar talking with animation, sometimes much animation---meaning motion not agitation.

It's becoming a very beautiful social energy happening in there. First Cuban Celebration party the Cubans were on one side and the Anglos on the other. We chatted some, and the Anglos watched the Cubans dance, hypnotized by the beauty and the music of it. We didn't know each other. By the end of that night we were acquainted. This Friday night's Cuban Celebration was much freer in interchanges between Cubans and Anglos. Much conversational and even dancing interactions. The Cubans and the Anglos flowed freely together. We, the Anglos, are learning that just because they talk English with an accent, they can still understand spoken English. We really can talk with each other. We have a doctor in town who went to medical school and became a doctor in Columbia. The degree did not transfer to USA, so now she has a doctorate degree in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and is practicing in Sparta. Dr Sandra Mora-Viera can make castanets sing. Her husband, Dr Pablo deVincenzo, plays accordion like a professional showman you'd see in LA or New York.

At their website:, you can see their pictures and read of all their degrees and medical experience. They have brought a new mind for medicine to Sparta. It's called holistic what they do, meaning the whole, takes in everything, works with the relationship between spirit, mind and body. What they do is not simplistic. Almost makes me wish I had something wrong so I could utilize their services. I'd guess it would be a very educational experience in important ways, and surely healing. Both of them have a healing energy about them. They are part of the life at the Cuban parties. Dr Pablo's accordion blows everybody's minds that an accordion can sound so good. Our Anglo association with the accordion is Lawrence Welk. I feel like I've found what it is about what he's doing that makes it so special, he plays music. He plays music that makes you move, makes dancers dance. Like Jr Maxwell said of making mountain music, if th'aint no music in it, it aint nothin. Pablo playing the music is definitely something. It's not "the accordion" any more when he makes the music flow. It's like: Wow, he can make an accordion do that? The two times I've heard him play I listened in awe. And then Sandra gets to crankin up the castanets when she's feeling it and they take us closer to the equator.

Selma and I spoke today of noticing the Anglos and the Latins interacting more the second go round. Becoming acquainted is important and it's happening. I can't call them Cubans, really, given that Sandra is from Columbia and Pablo from Venezuela and Italy. And Selma was talking today of how she's learned that all Spanish speaking people here are Mexicans. Doesn't matter if they're from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, they're Mexicans. She's given up explaining she's not Mexican and consents to it. It's the mountain form of brevity. Like if it flies and stings, it's a bee. Wasp, hornet, yellow jacket, bumble bee, honey bee; they're all bees. Everybody from south of the border is a Mexican. I told Selma I believe there is at least one Mexican in the county who plays guitar. I suspect there are several Mexican musicians here. We were both thinking it would be fun to bring them into the wine-tasting parties. We're all about inclusion. Have a Mexican Celebration. Chile today, hot tamale.

This afternoon we stood around eating finger food JoEllen prepared that was from another league delicious. She is wife of Todd Smith, new holistic chiropractor here on Main St across from the new county office building. They are healthy people. I feel like a trashbag full of water that sits down about like Jabba the Hutt and spreads out like a water balloon. They're trim and sharp and pay attention to their own health in such a way it's ongoing and keeps them in good shape. I'd take it from that his chiropractic work is valid. Our other chiropractor, Klingensmith, is another example of good health, somebody who pays attention. Todd has only been here several months. He and JoEllen came here from Winston-Salem. We of the gathering this afternoon were all here from other places. We're people who respect each other and are becoming friends as time passes and we dance together more. It's a beautiful energy generating on Main St across from the courthouse. I won't go so far as to say it's a new Sparta. It's not that. It's a new experience in Sparta.  


Saturday, October 29, 2011


      dr & mrs jose arocha

Another Cuban night at Selma's Backwoods Bean Coffee Shop, Main St., Sparta. I think everyone I talked with last night who has been in the county awhile said, "It's hard to believe this is happening in Sparta." By this, the meaning was the openly happy, friendly atmosphere in the place, Cubans and Anglos partying together, getting acquainted, becoming friends. The dance of the night was Dr Arocha and his wife. After much of the evening had gone by, someone called for the Arochas to dance. He was ready and she didn't want to. He talked to her just right and she consented. I'd taken the camera along and had not yet taken any pictures. When they started, I got out the camera. I'd kicked myself since the last Cuban party at Selma's where I failed to get any photos of the dancing Arochas. So this time, those were the only pictures I got. These pictures tell the party fairly well, the Latin flavor of the music in the dancing.

I was remembering the movie title, White Men Can't Jump, looking at the dancers thinking, Anglos can't dance. Except mountain country people, hillbillies. They can dance for sure. The rest of us stand around and shake and move feet as an assist to stay in motion. Cubans were dancing, Anglos standing around with wine glasses in hands, watching in awe. We were all in awe of what the Cubans were doing with dance. A woman in her 80s did some dancing that was dance, not just the motions. Lisa deMilo sang her Broadway hit tunes, again around age 80, in her well-experienced stage presence and Latin attitude. Lisa's husband, Johnny Violin, played some tunes on his violin. This man commanded an orchestra of violins in Miami for much of his adult life. Both he and Lisa have a lifetime of stage experience. She has a stage presence that I found remarkable. When she had something to say and wanted everyone to listen, like an announcement or introducing a song, she immediately got everyone's attention and all went silent. I was thinking, if I'd tried that, they'd have talked all the louder.

My neighbor, Allan, danced with Selma and I had to laugh. He grew up on disco, and seeing him attempt to incorporate Selma's moves and make them work as dance was amusing to say the very least. I say I had to laugh, because he was brave enough to look awkward in front of everybody, and the transition from disco to Cuban dancing was simply comic. I was also thinking, of all the people here who would like to learn to dance Cuban style, Allan would be the first and in the end the best. Because he's brave enough to jump in, plus, he loves dance. He could even learn to do the dancing with the Latin braggadocio that looks like the castanets are popping and the heels clicking. I couldn't help but think about our cultures, Anglo and Latin, both new world cultures. Anglos came from English culture transported across the ocean and changed until it can be called American culture. The Cubans came from Spanish culture around the same time, transported across the ocean and changed to become Cuban culture. Spain is their mother culture like England is ours. 

Perhaps the saving grace of the coffee shop is that Selma is Cuban. It keeps the "right" people away. The right people who position themselves according to race and assets, whose culture amounts to showing money in their things. Like Andy Warhol said when people look at his paintings they see money. If it's price is $20,000, that's what they see. So put the money on the wall and look at the money itself. He made several silkscreens of dollar bills in multiples. The people who like to be among people who show money don't come into Selma's a second time, because the atmosphere in the coffee shop has nothing to do with money. People who read books go in there. Artists tend to go there. People who have interests besides money and watching tv are there. A conversation with someone in Selma's place is most often about something, talking about a subject. It may be nothing big deal, but usually not about what somebody else is driving or wearing, unless it stands out, like the guy at the party last night dressed as Tarzan. He was a good Tarzan too. 

In about as many ways as it can be thought about, it still seems odd to have so many Cubans in the county. They don't just live at Little Cuba in Piney Creek. They're all over the county. We have three Cuban doctors. The administrator at the hospital is Cuban. At Selma's is where the people go who are ok with that vastly overused word, diversity. Initally, diversity was what American individualism was about, but it got lost in the conformity that went with the abundance of machines, making everything exactly alike, like some people think we're supposed to be, products. I used to think that way, probably still have some loose ends of it mixed in with all the other, because I was trained that way by school, church, tv and home. By this time in the life, after half my life in the mountains where individualism continues, I've allowed myself to be who I am, even when it's not acceptable. I won't say I go so far as to be objectionable, because I'm not about being objectionable either.

I don't know if it's just the people I see, the people karmically connected loosely, or if it's a legitimate pie slice, but I've found that just about everybody wants to be nice, liked, friendly, useful, good. The people we call bad, maybe 1/100th or less of the prison population, are made that way by experience when they're young. Experience this life or experience in a previous lifetime that went to the soul. People I know who have a name for being bad, I don't find bad at all. One I know who spent 15 years in hard prison, his neighbor across the road says he's the best neighbor she's ever had. All I see is people maybe a little slow in figuring they can do something illegal and get away with it, thereby getting a record: Bad. I despise it that the people I know who have been in prison automatically feel like I look down on them for it, when the fact is, I respect them and look up to them for what they've been through. Our penal system is cruel. Not as cruel as in Myanmar and India, maybe. Comparison does not justify the cruelty. But the American people have to change before the penal system can change. The so-called Christians certainly are not doing them any good. In Texas they cheered Perry, evangelist and presidential wannabe, bragging about killing 200+ prisoners with death sentences, no concern that some of them might have been innocent or the sentences draconian.

This could be a subject of conversation at the bar in the coffee shop. The conversations go according to the individuals involved. Like Dudley and I can go just about anywhere conversationally. He can't handle mountain music in any shape nor form and I don't require him to. I can't handle choral music and he doesn't expect it of me. This is what I've found among the mountain people I've known, that you can talk, be friends or acquaintances or first time talking and you don't have to agree. Mountain people know that we are all individual, unique, one of a kind, the only one ever. Everybody has their own thoughts on a given matter. I don't get it so much that people from Away understand that. They tend to have a neon sign on the forehead flashing: Approval, Approval. You don't get that from mountain people at all. You don't like it that his tshirt says, White Tail Hunter, well FU, look the other way. You gonna kick my ass about it, let's go. The suburban middle-class way is to avoid, bypass, dance around confrontation, speak in terms of political correctness that carry denotation without connotation. Handy words, like penis and vagina that children are allowed to say. The people in Selma's who are from here and from Away tend to be people who appreciate the individuals we all are, even enjoy it like the different colors of personalities that make a work of art. Again, last night I heard it said several times, "It's hard to believe this is happening in Sparta." It happens every day in Sparta.


Thursday, October 27, 2011


mark rothko

Yesterday I saw a one hour documentary on Mark Rothko, New York abstract expressionist of the 50s and 60s. He painted colors, rectangles of colors. This is a sample of a repeating pattern, though each time individual. Like people in that way, individual variations in a pattern. Rothko, like Josef Albers painted what I call colors. They surely have something to say about it other than colors, but color is the theme for both of them. Rothko paints his colors in what he called paragraphs. The National Gallery in DC has a room of Rothkos that is righteous. It's like the light comes out of the paintings. I saw that in Gauguins I've seen on museum walls  He had light in his colors. Maybe Rothko would say he painted light before he'd say he painted color. His colors have feeling. He can paint 3 or 4 paragraphs of different feelings jammed together in relation to one another. A brief story in colors.

mark rothko

People viewing Rothko paintings in a museum evidently tend to stand and gaze at them for periods of time. Time after time in the film you'd see people standing or sitting in front of one in spontaneous meditation. Recalling my time in the room in the National Gallery, I stared for long periods of time. It was like they had energy inside that radiated. We stand in the glow of the energy. I saw his pieces commissioned for a chapel at Rice University, Houston, Texas. Interesting dark browns of oxidation. I didn't feel good in there. It felt like inside his mind on a bad day, or in a bad year for the mind. I didn't care to go there with him. It's a valid thing to do with art, but I didn't feel comfortable. It felt like the place the soul goes after suicide. I don't know how I think I know that, but that's what it felt like to me. Dark and murky was the feeling. A dense fog in near darkness, industrial rust-brown darkness. I'd rather meditate with his paragraphs of light than dark. An artist has to go there. He can't paint all light paintings because one guy who can't afford even a print likes them best. I don't mean to sound like I want to limit what he does. Only telling how I feel in their presence. Somebody else might feel great. Evidently he did. I would too, probably, if I gave them more attention.

mark rothko

I feel like he covered the full range of the spirit, using color like Dante did with story telling. Rothko's paragraphs of colors make me look at them and wonder why I'm looking at them--what am I looking at?--I can't answer any of it. I look at all of it; I look at the fuzzy edges of the colors, the brushstrokes, the feeling in the color, the feeling in two colors side by side, and a third. I look at them and see the colors he uses, uniquely themselves. Believe it or not, I have to put there with the Rothko paragraphs, some of Warhol's dayglo colored silkscreens of the Campbell's soup can, 6 or so feet tall. That is something to stand before and let the mind drain. The Warhol's are equally beautiful, to my eye, but I'd rather sit on the floor in a room of half a dozen Rothkos for several hours than the Warhols, though maybe not. Only because the cans are recognizable as a familiar thing. With the Rothkos, it's just a color, and a vision of the color I've never seen before. It glows.

mark rothko

I look at these images of the paintings and love them. Then I see one, face to face, in a museum situation and that's when I see the full extent of its artistry. The colors are good reproduced. I love reproduced pictures. In nearly all cases, that's all I have to go by. It's good enough considering I don't have access to the thing itself. And when I do see one in some modern art museum somewhere, there is always one, at least, it is a moment of awe. I'm grateful for the internet making it possible to see all the Rothkos I can possibly digest multiplied by endless, or any of the artists I'd have no way to be able to see, meaning afford to see, because I'd have to go somewhere other than home and pay admission. The light in the computer screen gives them color closer than ink on paper can do. That quality of light Rothko gave his colors was luminous, like something that glows in the daylight. I appreciated most, perhaps, that the film did not dwell on biography. It was about his painting and stayed with it. I've read a biography and find his paintings much more interesting than his everyday life. They are his life. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


       trees of air bellows

Several sun shiny days in a row. Long-sleeve weather, but not sweater except for when the sun goes down and the cool wave of evening moves in. When I step outside the door, the birds fly away from the bird feeder and the ground under it in a flurry of fluttering wings, an explosion of parts going off in all directions. A wall I built of placed rocks several years ago about waist high, maybe ten giant steps long, and filled in behind it broken cinderblocks for drainage, then rocks, then gravel, is full of chipmunks. By now dirt has come in and grass grows there. I had to raise my parking space when the State put the paved road through here. They raised the road a meter. The wall is now a chipmunk apartment. I suppose they use the spaces among the broken parts of cinderblock. The race of the chipmunks to their apartments through the dry leaves on the ground, the sound of running through the leaves coincides with the flutter of half a dozen or more sets of wings and the involuntary chirpings of the birds taking off.

I feel a little guilt for messing up their lunch, but I pay it no mind, because they wouldn't be having lunch if I weren't putting it there. These warblers I didn't know were around here. They're of the woodpecker family. This morning I saw a big pileated woodpecker fly through the barren trees across the road. They fly like jets. The warblers can walk under, around; upside down doesn't matter. They walk around a tree trunk like a woodpecker. They go searching for bugs too. They stab at what they're going after, bug or seed, but just once at a time, when a woodpecker goes like a burst from a machine gun. The warblers fly like darts with wings. I toss seed onto the ground too, for the birds that like it on the ground and for the chipmunks. If they like the birdseed, I'm glad to feed them too. Like what morsels are left of Caterpillar's food in the morning I put out for Martha the dog. Because it's "catfood" doesn't mean a dog can't eat it. She loves it.

The leaves are gone from nearly all the trees by now. Some oaks hang onto their leaves. We had a good display of leaves this year. At the peak, a big wind came and blew quite a few off the trees; then the next day rain and wind that dislodged some more. By the time that run of weather had passed, we had about half the leaves that were left, and the rest fell to the ground soon after. By today, the leaves are mostly gone. It's strange to step out the door one day and the trees are bare. Heading into winter. Another 6 months of wearing sweaters. The birdfeeders will be as busy then as they are now, if not maybe more. I know the argument about not feeding the birds so they won't overpopulate their natural resources, which they will do. I figure everything is so out of whack by now, if I feel like feeding birds, I'm going to feed birds. I like watching them. Bought a 40 lb bag of sunflower seeds. The birds gobble them up. Any left after dark, the coon that lives near here will take what the birds leave.

A squirrel drops by during the day for some nibbles. He or she lives near here. I don't worry about the squirrel. Like the birds, the squirrel needs some of the handouts at the homeless shelter. The squirrel jumps to a tree, runs up the trunk, out on a branch, jumps to the branch of another tree, travels through the trees to get away when the giant steps out the door. Yesterday I was outside the door for maybe fifteen minutes. The birds started to chide me from nearby branches. They were afraid to fly to the feeder with the giant outside. As many as flew away when I went out were letting me have it. Get back in your house you big old giant. Go on, get outta here, we're hungry. They know I put the seed in the feeders, because they see me do it, every day, morning and afternoon. They fly to the trees and watch. The return after I'm in the house long enough to suggest I'm in for awhile. They know the score. I loved it that they felt like they knew me well enough to talk to me.

They know I'm the giant that lives in the house, the giant that keeps the birdfeeders with seeds in them, evidently seeds these birds like. If these feeding stations of healthy bird food will benefit these birds through the winter, I'm glad to pay for the seeds. They're the same birds every day, the birds with territories nearby. They know the lion lives in the house with the giant. Sometimes the lion gets out and curls up on a spot of sunlight near the birdfeeder and watches the birds, flying candy bars. The lion is old and heavy, doesn't attack the birds, but still, they're cautious. The dog comes around sometimes during the day. The dog can't catch them, but they don't chance it. The dog is unpredictable what it might do. I can't have chickens now. My grandmother taught me a love for the birds. She had a special affection for birds. She kept a singing canary in a cage. When one died, she'd get another. She knew how to doctor them. She grew up with chickens. The birds at the feeder satisfy interest in birds. They keep me in touch with bird nature.    


Monday, October 24, 2011


        by paul berthier

Again, I believe it can be said I've seen another perfect film, Summer Hours, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, French, sub-titles. It's a film of feeling. It makes you feel. Not necessarily good, not necessarily bad, a range of feelings that make associations with your own feelings and activate them. I found myself feeling this story as much as mentally following the clues of what's happening. While there is very little going on, like in a Patrick White novel, a great deal of feeling is bubbling below the surface. A mother, her daughter and two sons, the wives of the sons and their kids in their teens. A sophisticated Parisian upper middle class family, people aware of their cultural heritage, mother in old age concerned about the fate of the house and the "museum quality" pieces of furniture, the art on the walls, Redon and Corot perhaps the most valuable. Her 3 offspring are not in positions with work and family to be able to keep the house after mama dies. The house is mother's fantasy treasure box of the past, particularly focused on her uncle, who doubled as lover in her youth, the French artist Paul Berthier.

The family was gathered from the different places they live to visit mother on her birthday, which they did every year. Mother talked almost obsessively about values of particular works of art and furniture, Uncle Paul's paintings and sketchbooks. Certain objects the Musee was interested in having, and she noted which they were. Her daughter, Juliette Binoche, is living in New York, and brought mother for her birthday the recently published copy of the book she put together on Paul Berthier. This was mother's labor of love, as she had a hand in the creation of the book. The publication of the book seemed to close a chapter door for mother. Her satisfaction was such that the purpose in her life had been fulfilled. She died not long after the first gathering of family on her birthday.

The next gathering of family is over mother's funeral and the distribution of objects and money. They were sensible, not greedy people with attitudes of fairness toward one another. It wasn't a drama of jealousy and envy, fighting over things. They didn't do that. The relationships between the three were of respect and genuine appreciation of each other. They're three intelligent people who see themselves drifting away from each other with regret, the sister in New York and probably not coming back to France more than once a year. One of the boys has a long-term job in China with a shoe factory and won't be able to commute. The one in Paris was left to himself, selling the house and taking care of the museum acquisitions, lawyers etc. He didn't really like it, but he understood the circumstances simply worked out this way.

Turning away from the past is what every one of them was doing in each one's particular way. Turning the furniture and art over to the museum for the tax write-off toward inheritance tax was the key. It was difficult for them having mother's things carried away to be sold at auction. The three heirs agreed on distribution of what they bring over time. The teenage next generation come more and more into the picture as the past was taken away, piece by piece, to museums and to be sold. The house becoming an empty shell, scene by scene, struck me as the theme of the story. The three of the heirs had family memories of the house, it was home, but their lives had become such that it was only practical to get rid of everything, keeping a few things of their choosing. The French teenagers come and go talking on cell phones, dressed like American teenagers, listening to rap, the endless party, out of their parent's control. The culture of the teens was as different from their parent's culture as the parents were from their mother's culture, and on back to her uncle's culture. The grandchildren and the grandmother were as different as they are here in the mountains where grandpa might drive a tractor and a pickup and grandson watches tv and plays video games.

It's the same issue we deal with in the mountains after all the changes of the 20th Century. Grandpa wears "overhauls" and watches the Andy Griffith Show. Grandkid dresses like an urban rapper, hat backwards, listening to rap, posturing like gangstas in LA (on tv). Grandpa is a Bible studying old-time Baptist, and morality is important to him. The grandkid only goes to church when his parents make him go. He'd rather play Metalica on electric guitar with headphones in his bedroom. Hi grandpa. Bye grandpa. Love ya grandpa. The very same story happening from generation to generation among the Parisian well to do as here at home. This story evidently applies all around the globe. Released in 2008. Chinese films and fiction use the theme quite a lot. It is a major issue in this time when the flood of pop culture has swept away any connection to the past, a Dada moment, the chopping block, the end of the world as we know it. This beautiful film illustrates the transition from the end of the world as we know it to what comes next. No judgments. It tells the story like it happens, one flows into the other incomprehensibly and it keeps on going.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


        alexandre istrati, composition en vert

What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things...
it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real
by imitating its exterior surface.
                                            ---Constantin Brancusi

One of an endless list of reasons I love the mountains is that they are "nature" that cannot be overlooked. It's true that back in the time of Jesus it was possible to move a mountain by prayer. Now in West Virginia and E Kentucky they move mountains one dumptruck load at a time. No prayer about it. It's like emptying a sandbox with a teaspoon, but it gets the job done. Living in the mountains I see long streams of cloud roll down the side of Bullhead from a lake of low-flying cloud backed up at the long ridge from Bullhead to Green Mountain to Laurel Springs. The cloud seeps through the gaps in long streams like smoke sometimes, other times like a big conscious white blob that crawls over the ridge between Bullhead and Green Mountain, the site of the firetower before satellites. The cloud crawls into the valley below, Glade Valley, over to Pine Swamp and Gap Civil, until it fills the whole basin with white cloud seen from above at Air Bellows. It's colorful at sunrise.

The way of the Tao is the way of what we call nature, from galaxies that float in infinite space like smoke spirals, moving like smoke, like water, to the rocks I walk on from the house to the car, to the birds at the feeder, Caterpillar the cat who only watches the birds at age 14, the changes that come over us at certain ages, like spilling food and drink on the front of one's shirt starting around 60. I think of it as natural and go about with spotted shirts in front like it's not any kind of issue. I think of that as an expression of being with the flow of the Tao. Accepting those kinds of changes is going with the flow. Resistance to such changes by wishing it wasn't that way or hating getting old go against the flow. We have the Tao te Ching and a library full of scriptures as visible and comprehensible accounts of the nature of the flow of life we are part of.

Down through civilization we've had monasteries for people who wanted to get out of the chaos of mind and into the flow. Our civilization has been pushing the envelope through the 20th Century to see how far collective humanity can go ignoring the flow. One thing we've done is come to the time we're in now, when it's time to pay up, and foreclosure is the consequences. We've lost craftsmanship in making things. Everything has gone over to machines and hierarchical corporate/military structures. When the skyscraper made of cards falls, our basic self-preservation skills will be forgotten. We will have to relearn how to take care of a farm. Books in libraries and used book stores on gardening, composting, keeping orchards, growing grapes. Global warming is making the mountains good for growing grapes for wine. It's also making the mountains unfit for fraser firs, the Christmas tree that has been so successful here making a lot of money for a few and giving cancer to the many. This part of the mountains is as far south as they grow.

Like Amos Wagoner at Farmer's Hardware is reported to have told a customer who was griping about this town and these people, ignorance, the cliches, "Nobody asked you to come here and nobody is going to miss you when you leave." This is the entire county's attitude toward Christmas trees. Nobody will miss them when they're gone. County government will miss the tax from them. Then they can tax grapes. Perhaps the future of the mountains is to look like the Tuscan region of Italy with few trees, rolling hills and grapes growing everywhere. Growing grapes makes more sense when it comes to concern for the topsoil. A tree, you cut it down, you have a stump and topsoil ruined by years of pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. Grapes, you pick them and they come back next year on the same vine. Making sense isn't the issue, however; it's making money. The way of money is contrary to the way of the Tao, the spirit, the way of nature. I don't think it's because it is money, because money has a flow too. It's the love of money. That's where everything starts going haywire.

Bernie Made-off lived the high life for quite a few years. Now wife hates him, son killed himself, name made into a bad word, and a cell in a prison for a home. In the way of what we might call the spirit, the poor can hold their heads up. It's free for everyone. I think of all the people in my country alone, let alone the rest of the world, who have a natural, God-given talent and slim possibilities for expression, especially born in the working class. For myself, to honor the way of the Tao, I must give expression to my natural-born talent for visual art or be frustrated. I've not done a great deal and I've certainly not distinguished myself artistically. That's not been my purpose. I don't believe in competition. It's been a good thing in this time of inventive creativity, as wars, too, advance discoveries in science and other fields. I've come to see that living the Tao, or the way of the spirit, has more to do with attitude toward life than proximity of trees.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


 Against logic there is no armor like ignorance.
                       ---Lawrence J Peter (1919-1990)          

A few days ago a friend sent me an email telling that TeaPartiers demonstrate with guns and the cops don't bother them. Peaceful protesters from the Wall Street demonstrations get beat up and dragged to jail. Maybe they should carry guns too. The reason Iran wants nukes is because USA doesn't threaten and attack countries that have nukes. I wrote back to friend, the cops ARE the right wing. TeaPartiers with guns is the same as cops with guns. I once read in a dream analysis book that a dream of cops represents angels. Really? I can't say I have personally had a bad experience with a cop. I've never called a cop for any reason. I've had a couple of cops over the years attempt to intimidate me, and I let them believe they did, because once they get a bead on you, you have no recourse. When I was new to the South, a cop came into my apartment threatening me. I told him he's in my place without permission, and I don't have to answer his questions. He said, "By the time we get you to the station, we'll have something on you." This was my first learning about Old South police. I didn't have a Southern accent and certainly did not know the South.

My attitude toward cops came with the realization that they ARE the right wing. I've never appreciated the right wing, because I really do believe in American ideals. The role of cops is to enforce law. It really is. And that's what they do, to some extent. I've seen over the years a lot of them don't know the laws; they go by what they think oughta be a law. In court, their oughta be a law thinking gets cases thrown out of court and cops calling courts liberal. We once had a sheriff's deputy in Alleghany who had a passion for putting young guys in prison. The sheriff's department under that administration passionately set up the young for arrest. Two of the deputies, especially, were wild-eyed about putting local boys in prison. I say "wild-eyed" because they were. Their eyes were wild every time I saw them, wild with the passion of rightness.

One of them got carried away with setting up kids. He got with two kids who were charged with having drugs. He said he'd get them off their charge if they'd sell come cocaine for him out of the evidence locker. The kids were dumb, but not that dumb. They turned him in. One wore a "wire" for use in court. He was put away for 15 years. That was one of the times in the life I've seen justice actually take place in a courtroom, which I tend to think of as the gaming room, poker-faced lawyers attempting to bluff. I had to go to court once for a speeding ticket. It scared hell out of me. I went into the courtroom knowing American law is a "crapshoot." May the best lawyer win. I recently saw the outcome of a case in the paper where a prediction I'd heard came true. A particular lawyer held his case off until a certain judge would be presiding, common legal practice, a judge who always gave this particular lawyer his way in court. It turned out he got his way when it didn't make a bit of sense.

Since the draconian "mandatory sentencing" laws of the Reagan Revolution, and republicans packing courts with right wing judges all over the country for the last 30+ years, especially in this time we're in, I do not trust the police or the courts. When it was my time to stand before the judge, I was mortified. I'd learned about highway patrol quotas and all kinds of things that make our law a poker game. Evidence that everyone knows this is in the common belief that going into court you need the "best" lawyer, the one with the winningest record. It's like picking a team to bet on for the world series. You go for the one you think has the best chance to win. That's the only thing we look for in a lawyer. We pick the one we believe by reputation to have the best chance of winning. Observed courtroom chicanery over the years taught me by this time in the life to be afraid of court. It's like your fate is determined by the flip of a coin.

I'm learning why old people tend to be uninterested in politics and withdraw from much that is around them. It's not because they're old and don't get it anymore. The problem is, they get it. They've lived long enough to see the world they live in is false to the core. Many wouldn't put it like that, but I feel like this is the root, considering my own motivations. I've seen that falseness to the core since childhood. Possibly it was the influence of the Swedish preacher in the non-denominational baptist fundamentalist church where the preacher preached against Godless Communism in the early 1950s, the McCarthy era. The influence that had on me was pretty strong, until the day my dad told me out of the blue on a Saturday when he was in the house, "I'll kill you of you ever join the Communist Party." From then on, I wanted to be a Communist. I wanted to find a Communist Party to join. Communism became a great curiosity for me. Until I got to Stalin, or Dick Cheney with absolute power. He made Communism tremendously unappealing. The assassination of Trotsky in Mexico City. Khrushchev making noise at the UN, banging his shoe. So red around the collar.

Eventually I read the Communist Manifesto, to see what it was. It made a great deal of sense, and I suspect K Marx of visionary status. It had no relation to Communism in action, Russia or China, same as our Capitalism wedded to democracy isn't what it's cracked up to be. One of my learnings in life has been that when the human mind gets hold of something, that's the end of it. The way of the human mind runs counter to the way of the spirit, which is the way of everything living in the world around us, even ourselves. Concoctions of the human mind are, by their limited nature, short-lived. I'd venture around the same time the date for the end of democracy; though the most telling evidence that the supreme court, overruling an election, ended it in the year 2000, is rather compelling. I don't look to see it coming back. Like a precious caged exotic bird, once it gets out the door, it's gone. Won't be long til a hawk catches a good meal.

It's looking like it was mafia that replaced the Soviet government. The gambling casinos of Wall Street hold the power in America now. In our case, it's a legal mafia as they've spent the last half century shaping the laws to their benefit by buying off the "representatives" of "the people" with money and country club memberships from lobbyists. We haven't had any representatives in a very long time. Rational legislation to the benefit of the American working people, the 99%, is defeated by ignorance, with the cheerleading of Limbaugh and the strategies of Karl Rove that trump intelligence with ignorance. It works as surely as assassination works. We have the mafia of heirarchical corporate power. We used to be citizens. Now we are consumers, fires that burn up products. This is the world I have separated myself from in my later years, staying as low under the radar as I can. I'm of the old school of American individualism, and have seen it go away in my lifetime. I've seen in older people the ground of their belief systems go out from under them. I'm seeing it now in myself.  


Friday, October 21, 2011


            franz marc, blue horse II

Today has been sleep day. Had 2 naps and could go back to sleep now, not awake an hour from last nap. It seems like a week or two of going like usual, then one day I want to sleep all day. In this time of the life I can allow that. I think I've always had that inclination; it's that now I have the flexibility to follow my own rhythm instead the 9-5, M-F rhythm of schedules, which isn't a rhythm at all. It's a calendar with appointment times and dates. Pixels. On the radio news they're talking about pollution permits. Earlier, I was looking at some Remi Gaillard videos on YouTube. I've seen several by now, and some several times. They are moments of absurdity. Then I hear about pollution permits like it's something serious.

And the day's big news: the death of Lybia's Gaddafi. American wars are great geography lessons. This recent attention on Lybia taught me how to spell it. I thought the Y and I were the other way around. Iraq. Who ever heard of Iraq before American might smashed it? Who ever heard of Vietnam before American force invaded? Where can we go next that nobody's heard of? Maybe Togo or Namibia or Zambia. First thing I heard this morning about Gaddafi was somebody saying he, Gaddafi, called the resistance rats, and they found him in hiding in a culvert, "like a rat." Careful what you say. It will come back and bite you in the ass. I read that when they were apprehended, his body guard shot him in the chest, but it didn't kill him immediately. He bled for about half an hour and expired. I found short video on YouTube of him dead from AlJazeera. I think I was 354 to see it, meaning it had only been up a few minutes. By now it's probably several thousand and will soon be over a million. I saw the illicit video of the Saddam hanging too.

I felt for Gaddafi, everything he'd dished out coming back on him in a brief period of time; hate shooting bullets and missiles at him. He'd evidently become so insulated from the world everybody else lived in by his own kingdom. He was something of an Ottoman ruler, gone insane from generations of in-breeding in their case, him gone insane from surrounding himself by flatterers. Shakespeare could have made a good story of it. His secret longing for Condi Rice came to the surface when they raided his house. He created a Disneyworld for himself that one day turned upside down. I heard people saying they wished he'd lived so he could stand trial. That wouldn't happen. Milosevic made very boring news in his time of trial. Then he died. Gaddafi had the good fortune not to have to live in perhaps a prison cell, watched round the clock, and publicly humiliated as long as he lives. His body guard did the right thing. The mob that caught him would have killed him if his body guard hadn't already.

It's kind of like the death of Michael Jackson. What's next? Up there with tsunami on an island you've never heard of. What's next? Assassination of a judge in Belarus. What's next? I have to say it's an enjoyment to hear something on the news besides suicide bombs in Kandahar. From the Middle East to North Africa, Afghanistan to Lybia. All of it killing. If it bleeds, it leads. There is no telling how many different versions of the story of the death of Gaddafi are going around the world reported by different reporters, all of them racing to get the story to their employers first. Leave it to historians to sort out what really happened from all the different accounts. The account I mentioned of his body guard shooting him was just the first thing I heard. Tomorrow it will be something else, then something else and then we'll never hear about it again. Lybia can only be a better place now, if a civil war doesn't come next.

The fun part about the news is there is no telling what will come up next. It's a "crapshoot." That perhaps has a great deal to do with why the news makes an evening soap opera that keeps us coming back to see what happens next. It's an every day mystery. How many dead today? I wasn't cranked up about Gaddafi inside like the issue was something important. But I have to confess when I saw the headline that he was dead, I felt relief, like that's finally over, sort of. It's a very important day in the history of Lybia. We don't know if Lybia will be better or worse off after this. Like was it better to get rid of Saddam and destroy Iraq because the people don't like American occupation? Iraq is not better off after Saddam. It's yet to be seen what happens in Lybia. I'd like to see it thrive and become the vacation capital of North Africa.

The news on the hour is happening. I heard a version of his killing entirely different from the one this morning. This time, his captors were driving him away in a car and there was a firefight and he was hit in the head. Ho hum. His body guard shooting him to save him from capture makes more sense than shot in a car in a firefight. From now on, it will be like that radio comedy show on the weekends, Wadayaknow? I think it is. They ask someone to pick a true news story from two others that are made up. When you have nothing to go by but the story in a few sentences, it's a challenge. By Sunday morning it will be a challenge to sort out which story of the killing of Gaddafi is true. The funny part is there won't be an answer.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


            appalachian textures by bill jameson

Through the coffee shop and hospice I'm knowing more people like myself from Away. They are relaxing to be among. We're ex-pats that never left the country. In my case, I left the culture of the urban world. I wanted to live someplace with a culture. The cities had become television culture. Movie theaters were shutting down in cities. I didn't know anything about mountain culture, but suspected it was different. I'd prayed for a place to go and a way to get there where it's a different culture and they speak English. My parachute landed me in Air Bellows. This is my spot on earth. I take a lot of things for God's will and have full confidence it was. So I approached the unknown as such in the beginning. What no one but me knew was I was not leaving these mountains. It wasn't going to be too rough for me, because rough was what I wanted. Old man Tom Pruitt, my nearest neighbor and farmwork supervisor. In the beginning he gave me work to do he though would make me turn around and head back down the mountain. It was what I wanted. I knew I needed to get into some physical shape right away, so I took it as boot camp and worked like crazy building up strength and endurance.

Many years went by before I began to get clues of why my parachute landed me here with God doing the steering. Right away the mountain people I became acquainted with talked in a way that was familiar to me. Months later, I realized my grandmother Worthington talked like the people here talked, the rhythmic emphasis, turns of phrase, same country sayings. I learned after I'd been here almost 30 years that my grandmother's family took a wagon west to the Kansas territory from eastern Kentucky, Pulaski County. I found at the same time my grandfather Worthington, who died of pneumonia 7 years before I was born, was born in east Tennessee, Bledsoe County, and his parents moved out to the Kansas territory when he was a kid. Must have been in his teens, because my grandmother said to a friend of hers when she saw him first time, "He can put his shoes under my bed any time." And then he did.

I didn't know it, but I had hillbilly blood. If I'd learned it before discovering the mountains, I'd have been ashamed. Oh no, I'm a hillbilly. I hate banjos. It explained why Tom Pruitt's talking was music for me. It brought back my grandmother, the rock of my childhood. Just the way everybody talked made me feel at home. Their beliefs made me feel at home. Especially the philosophizing. I found right away the mountain people are philosophers, all of them. They're people who think about things. Or anyway, it used to be like that. Half a century of television has ironed out that wrinkle. In television culture we're not allowed to think about anything except shopping. Not cool. I believe the philosophical way of thinking in the mountain people came from the Bible. The old-time Baptists studied spiritual teachings and applied them to their lives. There was Bessie Brooks of the Regular Baptist way of seeing was so beautiful a soul, she convinced me from knowing her that she was a veiled advanced soul. I'd never met Bessie's mother, but from what I've heard of her over the years, I'd say she probably would be too.

It turned out I had a mountain childhood in Kansas. When I came to know people here, I found we had the nature of our childhoods in common. They had country to roam in and they learned how to do things like hunt and fish and work a garden. I didn't learn any of that, but I had woods that came up to our line that went on for miles along the side of Monkey Mountain that overlooked the Kaw River. Thanks to grandmother, I had a family of chickens for several years. In the woods, it was my own world. Nobody else walked in the woods. There, I could be alone with myself. I didn't have to follow anybody's orders in the woods. I could go as I pleased. I felt comfort among the trees. The world of trees felt more like home than the house. What I have done without knowing it consciously was find a house like the house my great grandmother lived in outside Perry Kansas, the great grandmother from Bledsoe County, Tennessee, Nine Mile. I have seen her parent's graves at Nine Mile. I'm in great grandmother's house on the edge of an expanse of Blue Ridge Mountain woods my great grandparents and great great grandparents knew in far greater expanses and more pristine beauty.

When I asked God to show me to another culture, I didn't know he set me on a trip to where I came from in this lifetime, the culture I came from. You might say I have found my own root culture. I believe another reason my grandmother and grandfather got together was they were both from mountain culture living in Kansas. They probably clicked when they met, familiar already. It's this experience that taught me God knows how to find what I need better than I do. If I pay attention to it, it's a let go and let God kind of experience. It was a long time before I could see it like that. Many times I felt like I'd been thrown into the dungeon. There was a period of years I made vain attempts to get out of here. Every attempt failed at the start. By now, I call it the home of my soul. Could not live anywhere outside the mountains. The only way I can leave this county is in a casket.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011


              camino real by cy twombly

Yesterday I heard an hour long interview with Joe Kline, who wrote the "novel" about the Clinton Whitehouse by Anonymous. He writes for Newsweek. He's evidently on tour about the USA interviewing people of various sorts in various parts of the country. He's looking for what it is the American people are thinking politically. The comment he received that caught my attention most was a woman asking why we can't have some civility in DC among our "representatives." The common agreement is the Congress is not representative of the American people. As a people, we are more centrist than the republican right would have us. I've watched this progression since 1980 when Reagan promised to destroy our government. By 30 years later we have no more democracy, and with democracy gone, a police state can and will do whatever it desires for its own sake. The word then will probably be something like We're a nation of laws, a mask for the absence of democracy. Freedom can easily continue as a propaganda word because it can mean anything, and is most often used by scoundrels.

I saw a picture of Virginia Foxx on facebook yesterday. Someone wrote with it, something to the effect of, Does she represent you? I'm in her district and she sure doesn't represent me. She's a republican parrot like the rest of the republicans in congress and senate in DC and throughout the states. By now sedition is republican policy and purpose. If I didn't have to live here, I'd be happy to see them go ahead and tear everything down with their cancer that destroys from within. Their determination is so lemming-like, so much a primary purpose, and the democrats so timid and unable to believe the extent of the venality in the republican party, half the American people. The other half of the American people are bewildered, because they can't believe the republican party is what it looks like, smells like, tastes like. As usual in a campaign, the side with the most money spent wins. This year the democrats are raising big money. That's no problem. The supremes made a law that corporations from anywhere in the world can give money to the republican electoral effort. Scalia and Thomas are in there not for the benefit of the American people, not at all. They were placed by the corporate takeover of our government. They have already done what they were put there to do multiple times. Maybe this is why Clarence Thomas sleeps through court sessions.

I heard somebody today talking about the Wall Street demonstrations. He was saying they're not confronting Wall St. They are confronting symbols of Wall Street. He said Wall Street, itself, is what needs confronting. Good point. Who knows what all is going on there? The demonstrators seem to reflect the thoughts of the American people. There is no one cohesive purpose to the demonstrations. Everybody has their own reasons, and there are so many that no one reason is overarchingly dominant. Therefore, it's not a political force at all. Numbers mean nothing. Money is the only power in America, in the world. The 1%  control 70% of the money. The 99% have 30% of it. Where is the power? With the 1%. The 99% get too active, the 1% control the military. This is Latin America, the ruling class and the peasants. We'll be sneaking over the border into Canada as it gets more like Mexico here. I understand that since the Bush-Cheney-Rummy-Rice coup in 2000, more and more American ex-pats are moving their lives to someplace else. It's hard to love it when it when it doesn't love you.

Yet, while Olympus is locked in intentional chaos, down here on the ground we the people are getting along with each other, going about our business or out-of-business. I saw a news report on Yahoo news today that my SocSec benefit will increase by about $23 per month in January. Can't complain about that. It's half a tank of gas. Though, of course, the republicans have a bead on Social Security and next time they take absolute power, they won't be giving it up, and Social Security will be no more. I'd like to think republican excesses over especially the last 12 years would turn everyone away from republicans, but it attracts the ignorant like a magnet attracts metal. When they get school funding cut out, then they'll have the ignorant population they want. Half a century of television dumbing down the population isn't enough. They want us without education so their propaganda can work more dependably. Easier to control. Sound like conspiracy theory? We'll see.

People I know to talk with are of a variety of political points of view and we get along well. I'm not one to require all the people I have to do with to think the same way. I like varieties of people, people with very different experiences from mine. A different race makes somebody all the more interesting to me. Mostly, however, people of other races are as prejudiced against my race as my race is against them. Because I'm not of that mind doesn't matter. Same as for a black person who thinks exactly like somebody white, nobody cares. He's black. Black people call him an Oreo and white people don't even notice. It's a difficult world to live in. It's like every racial and political division is characterized by animosity these days. It's coming more and more to the surface how unhappy half the American population is with being shut out because of their pigmentation. It feels like the races are getting afraid of each other, apprehensive. The Reagan revolution has not been kind to persons of color, the same as it has not been kind to the working class and to a lesser degree the middle class.

I started paying attention in the time of the "oil embargo" of the early 70s. When it was over, all the small independent gas stations and oil companies were out of business. Exxons went up in their places. Every time we've had a "recession" since then, small businesses fold, and when it's over only the big corporate stores are left. I see the same happening now, though this time shaving out every business that is not international corporation controlled. When they get rid of these small businesses, they have more control and make more billions per year. The corporate world controls the art world, because only corportions can afford high dollar art now. Museums can't afford it any more. When all our businesses are too big to fail, they'll all fall at the same time. A puff of the whimsical wind blows down the skyscraper of cards. Alas, total collapse of the economy is what everybody I talk with sees coming. Maybe when that happens we can start over, consciously, intentionally. Yeah, like I can turn water into wine, bottle it, distribute it and be a billionaire too. Hey, Mr Buffett, let me buy you a drink. What would you like?

One of the biggest curiosities of all is I heard somebody again today talking about it's a good time to detach ourselves from desire for more money and stuff, start giving our spiritual values some attention.
What? I've heard somebody make reference to turning inward in this time of being down-sized to peasant status 3 times in the last week, and I don't listen to the news talk shows but a little. I know that's what comes next after building a nation on mindless greed until it reaches its apex in mindlessness and the void within the heart begins to yearn with hunger to be filled. Spiritual awakenings everywhere, starting in California. Out there, they built a society devoid of the traditions back east holding them back. They got there first. All the spiritual venues could fluorish. Perhaps in that time, the thousand years of peace, we'll be over concerns about immigrants of color. These centuries of collective self-centered emphasis on money have come to their end, like any of the 7 deadly sins. All are short lived. A nation built on self-centered greed is short lived. All we need to get through the eye of this needle is a collective attitude adjustment. Like my one experience crawling through a cave at Speedwell, Virginia. Some of the holes I had to crawl through were so tight I had to put one arm forward and one arm back to make shoulders diagonal to the vein I'm crawling through. I said to myself, I am water, and flowed through easily.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


     me as dumpy old turd, photo by lynn worth

It's been a fairly interesting process I've seen my mind go through since rejection from the show in West Jefferson last week. It's a complexity of old thinking and new thinking of my own intersecting and separating, in constant motion. Never once did I feel anything like self-pity for not being included, or mad for the rejection. Before I went to pick up my paintings I talked with the husband of a woman I know who entered some things and was rejected. He'd gone to pick up her paintings and said the exhibition was up and none of it was any good, all of it trash art. He said he didn't see mine. I'd not had a phone call or email to tell of the rejection. So I called the place and then drove to WJefferson to pick them up. Driving there, a 40 minute drive, beautiful country, not more than half a dozen stop signs between here and there, a tape of the Green Mountain Boys playing mountain bluegrass. In my mind, all I had to go by was what he'd said. I didn't have a great deal of confidence in his notions about art, as he's a retired engineer who went to the Citadel in Charleston. But, that doesn't really tell me anything, except that he and I have different eyes for art. That's all.

I was about half in a mood by the time I got there. My full confidence my paintings would get in the show was shattered. It's a blow, albeit without a sting. I couldn't imagine why, though I tried. The town of W Jefferson had painted parking space lines on the street at the opening of the arts council building's parking lot. A car was parked diagonally in the middle of the entrance to the parking lot. I squeezed by it to get in there, hoping nobody parked in that little opening before I needed to exit. It's one of those situations where I tell myself I've quit trying to understand other people's decisions, so I let go of it in my mind. No grumblings like it hadn't oughta be that way. It is that way. That's the beginning and the end of it. I went in the door telling my ego to settle down. It's nothing personal and it's definitely no big deal. I didn't enter with any notion of winning any awards. I like seeing something of mine among it's peers, other artists of NW North Carolina, and that was my only reason.

As soon as I stepped into the gallery space, I understood everything. Nothing of mine had a place in there. The entire collection on the walls was one magnificent painting after another, each in the painter's own style, every one of them I thought, by my own assessment, would make mine look lame on the wall beside it, or between any two. I'd be ashamed for my pictures to hang in this collection. I saw that I am, indeed, in the league of "self-taught" artists. Around the walls I saw the league of painters who had been art majors in college and studied art under teaching. Everything had the "painterly" way that in the 50s was radical and new and by now is the academic main stream. When you've been to art school, you paint this way. If you've not been to art school, you don't paint this way. The juror taught art at UNCCharlotte and is a very respectable artist. However many were on the walls, 20 or so, every one of them was in a league beyond what I do. I saw that, respected that, realized if I'd been the juror, my paintings would not have been on the wall either. Like I said, I'd be ashamed to see my images on the wall among these others. I have to say I felt awe standing in front of each one of them, and every one for its own reasons.

After we'd found my paintings from the back rooms, I walked slowly around the exhibit taking in each one, savoring them, one at a time, for as long as I felt like staying there. Mine I held back to back, the hanging wires in one hand. Easy to carry that way. A few other people came in and I noticed they all would stand before one painting for a long time before moving on to the next. Nobody was pushing me and I had all day, so I drank in these beautiful images. Disappointment was completely vanished. I knew maybe two of the artists on the walls and respect them both as artists. A few of them I'll remember the rest of my life. It actually blew my mind that there were at least this many really superb artists in NW North Carolina. I felt more privileged about being among them than ever before.

My own mental process over the next couple days I found educational. I had emotional response going: dammit, I wanted to be in that show! And mental response: It's no problem. I'm not in that league. That's not a problem and certainly not an issue. I found myself dampening emotional responses with mind telling emotional part of self it's ok, you'd be ashamed to see one of your own on the wall in that room. I went into it  saying I wasn't doing it to win awards or get attention, just to see them on the wall. So I don't get to see them on the wall. If I'd been the juror they still wouldn't be on the wall. It wasn't a difficult struggle, but another experience of mind reminding emotion that it's not all about self. Even when I thought I had it settled, emotional ego would creep in and tell me I oughta be at least disappointed. Then mind had to come in and remind emotion that I wouldn't have selected mine if I'd been the judge. Even if I'd wanted to be partial to self over others, I could not have selected them for inclusion.

That answer settles it every time. By now, 3 days later, the emotional part doesn't boil to the surface any more. I didn't like having it pop into my mind by surprise. If they'd just got somebody else to be the juror, I'd be in. No you wouldn't. Even if you juried it yourself, they wouldn't be on the wall. Then I give self-doubt it's say. Maybe I should alter the way I paint and educate myself into that league. Then I laugh out loud at myself. Why? is my first question. That settles it. I paint portraits of mountain musicians for mountain people. The mountain aesthetic sense doesn't reach as far as academic art. I'm not painting for New York, Charlotte, Berlin or Paris. I paint for Allehany County, for the people I live among, my world. My world is not New York. I am a self-taught provincial painter or artist, whatever you want to call it. Since the WJefferson show, I call myself a painter before artist. I'll use artist loosely on myself occasionally. When someone asks if I'm an artist, I say, "Sometimes." No need to start a monologue about definitions.

By today, I'm glad for the experience. It gave me a measure of my own place in the world of provincial art of my region. I find I've not been fooling myself about where my paintings stand among their peers. First, and most obvious, my league is the self-taught. In that league, I'd say my place is respectable, while far from "the Best." I'm nowhere near top dog and have no ambition toward it. I like that my way of learning painting was the same as a mountain musician; go at it and figure it out. How the mountain musician figures out his instrument becomes his style. In like manner, how I figured out painting became my style. Not all mountain musicians win Galax. Not all mountain artists get into exhibits. I did find, however, a universal truth about myself. I tend to think better of my abilities than works out, a lesser version of what the Johnny Depp character said at the end of the movie SNOW. He's in prison looking over what got him in there, concluding his ambition far exceeded his talent. I'm at a time in the life where I want to be fully honest about myself with myself, sweep away illusions. And certainly not think myself some hotshit artist. The answer found in my self-assessments over the last several years has been that I'm just another Joe. I say, TJ is for The Joe. The mountains put you in your place, give perspective. I like that about the mountains.


Monday, October 17, 2011


     whitehead community center

Today was a good day to drive. The sun was out, the temperature just right to have the window down. A few degrees cooler would have been too much. I set out to a gathering of the Selma's coffee shop regulars at Laurel Mountain Estates, a subdivision in the Stratford area. It's out 221. I went over Spicer Mountain Road to Antioch Church Road to 221. Turned left and drove as far as Walnut Branch Church Road, where I figured I'd missed it and turned around. Drove back as far as 93 to be certain I hadn't missed it somewhere unexpected. I turned around and it was nowhere. Just the other side of Walnut Branch Church Road was the Laurel Mountain Estate Road. Grrr. Up the road I go, instructions in hand, turn right on Tom's Knob Road, 3 mailboxes, and up the mountain to the first house on the left that is "almost mustard yellow." On the left side of the road all the way up the mountain were houses that would depend on what kind of mustard, what brand of mustard, pastel, honey mustard. I went until all the houses quit and it was forest for a long ways.

I turned around and went back to the mailboxes. It wasn't up that road. By wasn't, I mean I never saw a house with a car parked anywhere near it. When there was a car, it was just one. I figured there would be at least a red Miata and one more car, maybe two, maybe three. But all I ever saw was one and none. None of the houses had numbers on them. I had the number to go by. It was on one of the three mailboxes. But I passed at least a dozen houses up that road, maybe more like 20. Three mailboxes? Scenic Mountain Road went off up the perpendicular. I said, let's try it and see. I drove up it until no houses were left, turned around and went back to the mailboxes. Turned right and thought I'd go a little farther up the road this time, and passed the place I turned around. Came upon a colony of houses. One a pastel almost grey poupon yellow with rockwork in front, as described in the directions, a little red some kind of car with faded paint parked there. By this time I was an hour late. I said, "I'm going home."

I turned around and drove down the mountain a little too fast reminding myself of permission I'd given myself years ago. I have waited in the past beyond the point of feeling ridiculous until one day I told myself I have permission to walk away and quit waiting after the point where I start feeling ridiculous. By now, when I start feeling ridiculous, that's it. Heading down the mountain I felt I'd gone way past ridiculous. I told myself it would really be stupid to have a wreck on a gravel road by myself, slow down. At the mailboxes I pulled off the road where the gravel meets the pavement onto a parking space rectangle of mowed grass. Reached in my pocket and couldn't find the pen I thought I'd brought. It was in the seat beside me under the camera box. Paper. None. In a pocket in the door I found a Food Lion coupon never used. Been meaning to put it in the trash for months. I wrote my brief song of the blues on the back of the coupon, put the coupon inside the folded paper napkin the directions were written on, and put the package in the mailbox with the number I'd been looking for.

I drove away telling myself, "It's a good day to drive." I took the same road going home to bypass Sparta and drive through beautiful mountain, yellow and red trees, a dairy farm with big white tarp over a mound of silage and black rings of tires spread around on its white expanse to hold it down. Spicer Mountain Road again, a beautiful road, this time seen from the opposite direction, the scenery the same, but different. I hoped Jerry Edwards would be home, seeing on the way out that all three of his vehicles were in the driveway. Pretty good sign. When they came into sight I applied the brakes and backed into his driveway. I wanted to get a photograph of the Whitehead Community Center. Took the photograph from the driveway. The scene above is directly across the road. It's a beautiful sight in winter, too, the shadows of the bare trees spread like veins over the surface of the snow and the side of the building.

Just now took a sip of some nice white liquor. It put a warm glow in the belly. This is why I sip it. I learned sipping it from Jr Maxwell, who appreciated it with the same appreciation he might have for the way somebody played a banjo or a fiddle. As a banjo picker himself, meaning an artist, he appreciated the artistry in good liquor making. It's as much an art form as making music. One day the liquor corporations will be defunkt and the Christmas tree growers too, who poison our water at the source. Then we'll have mountain liquor without prison again. On the road today I played the tape of Jr's band the Green Mountain Boys. One of the songs was the Jim and Jesse bluegrass song, Paradise. "Daddy won't you take me back to Muelenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lays. I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in askin, Mr Peabody's coal train has hauled it away." Powerful song.

Jerry was home watching football. I hadn't seen Jerry in several months. Run into him here and there; hi, how you doin? Jerry is what Jr Maxwell called "a worker." There is no doubt about it. Jerry is my age, and his dad was Jr's friend all his life. Jr was grown up when Jerry was born. Jerry's dad died several years ago, and Jerry became Jr's hunting friend since then. Jerry and Jr have been friends longer than Jr and Jerry's dad. Jerry is always on his tractor, in his truck, or feeding cattle, hauling cattle, doing what needs to be done. Jerry and I became acquainted while I was looking to Jr's care in his passing. He is one of Jr's friends I want to go on knowing. I'd like to go on knowing them all, but many of them slip away to someplace else, or just enter the zone of forgotten, because our paths never cross, no "Hey, how are ye?" moments, no reminders until we fade away from each other's memory. I saw Jr's cousin Stephen Joines yesterday. We remind each other of someone we all miss. As they say in the mountains, Hit don' git no better'n 'at.

Todd and JoEllen will have to wait a day or two to find out why I never showed or called. The phone number was on the napkin left in the mailbox. I don't have a cell phone. And they are not listed in the phone book. I have a feeling that next time I talk with one of them, I'll be told I turned around too soon---just around the next bend. It felt like I was in a maze. My friend Carole lives right close there, but I didn't want to see her, because I was too strung out on frustration. I just wanted to get home. By the time I reached Jerry's, I was almost home. A nice drive in a yellow and red landscape can relax the frustration down to nothing. By the time I sat down in front of Jerry's tv, the frustration had faded like driving down the mountain out of a fog. This was why I left the house, to take the sight-seeing way to see Jerry.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


     sheets family and bill joines

     david joines

     joe wyatt, tim lewis, gracen lucas

     kermit pruitt, joe irwin

     bill dancy, wade petty, charlie edwards

     the rise and shine band

    eddie bakeberg, dr jack cahn, lynn worth, dr keith oliver  --  the drones

    red hat dancers

The Hillbilly Show Saturday night was nearly all music this year. A variety of music was played by different string bands and singers. I got a couple pictures of Dorothy Morris singing, but microphone stand was in front of her face, the only way I could get it from where I was standing. I was trying to get a picture of the band with a good face of Dorothy in it, and while trying to take the picture, standing at the edge of the open curtain out of sight of the audience. I was told to open the curtain more. When I did, I could only get one view of the band and it was with the mic rod in her face. Pulling the rope that opened and closed the curtain was my role. I got all the pictures from my station at the edge of the curtain out of sight of the audience. Used the zoom to get the close-ups.

The musicians in the pictures are some of the musicians of our county, Alleghany. The Rise & Shine Band plays at the Jubilee, the square dance place in downtown Sparta. A few years ago a bunch of white middle class women moved in here from the suburbs of Charlotte, Raleigh, W-S, Florida, and join groups to get to know people. They thought the Jubilee too corny to have on Main St. It didn't fit their image of Sparta a suburb of Blowing Rock. They wanted to tear the building down and make a walkway to the vacant lot behind the Main St businesses where the Teapot Museum was once projected to save us. Agnes, through connections in Raleigh, had the building declared an historical site, the Trojan movie theater, and defeated them. At the time, it was alarming, because it was being run through the process so fast that if something weren't done right away, it would be bulldozed down, Agnes and Ernest put out of their livelihood. That's of no concern when it comes to beautification, putting big plastic flower pots on the sidewalks people have to walk around that have dead flowers in them 2/3 of the year. Somebody plants them, nobody maintains them.

The audience tonight was no more than we've had the last several years. Quite a lot of advertising done this year didn't seem to make any difference, unless a whole lot less would have come otherwise. I'm thinking it might have to do with the people what would go to the Hillbilly Show are already going. It's mountain people specific, by mountain people, for mountain people. The people who think it's too ridiculous to think about, let along go to, aren't going to go, and advertising won't persuade them. It's old-fashioned and, besides, there was a football game tonight. Whatever the case, I'd guess somewhere between 700 and 800. That's a good sized crowd. The Hillbilly Show is the only show of local talent we have besides the fiddlers convention. The Jubilee on Main St has cars parked all up and down the street on the nights it's open. The other nights of the week, you don't see cars parked on Main St.

The audience enjoyed the show. The people putting it on enjoyed their parts. It was good old-time, bluegrass, country music and folk. I don't recall the Hillbilly Show having this much music in it and this many musicians. Dr Cahn played fiddle with the band The Drones. It was Cahn, Dr Oliver, the optometrist, Eddie Bakeberg and Lynn Worth. She played banjo and played twin fiddle with Jack Cahn and it sounded good. Initially, I think they meant drones like the drone string on a banjo, the same note every time it's struck. Now with the Afghanistan war we have flying drones that assassinate from the sky. A whole new meaning for the Drones. I'd like to see them embrace the meaning, use a picture of one for the band's logo. But that's one of those things fun to think about, but boring when it's done. Gracen Lucas, Tim Lewis and Joe Wyatt made some very respectable music. Wade Petty's fiddle made some beautiful music. Charlie Edwards, good singer, good guitar player. Mason Wagoner, a boy of early teens played a couple of old-time tunes very well on his banjo. I had to watch every performance closely to know when to pull the curtains. I liked watching it closely. I got a photograph of what I saw, the stage on the left, the curtain down the middle, backstage on the right.