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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A LIFE IN RACISM

      maya lin, civil rights monument, montgomery, alabama




Reading in Howard Zinn's The People's History of the United States. I wanted to start at the place where I first became aware of our collective dream show of "what's going on," the Kennedy assassination. I'd paid a little attention before, but not enough to mention, like the Kennedy vs Nixon debate, which was just another tv show. I remember how exciting it was to have a "young" president who could count all the fingers on his hands and a lot more. Kennedy's charisma was the great attention grabber. Though he was not, he seemed to be sympathetic with the 99%. Soon after the assassination I was inducted into the Navy. I paid attention to current events because I was interested in the struggle of the black people. I believed it was valid and necessary, necessary for all people. The black struggle was the first political subject I took an interest in. I felt it was urgent and important for the black people to be accorded at least close to equal rights in court, a good place to start. I don't know about prejudice. Some people both sides of the fence have it. Racism comes from so deep in our roots and goes back so far, I don't even think about going up against such a dark behemoth. I can't stop it or change it. The best I can do is not be it.



In the early years of integration, it was strange. When I went into the 7th grade, the black kids, who before had taken buses to a black school, Sumner in Kansas City, Kansas, suddenly had to go to the white school and they were scared. I'd known some black kids in my early years, and we were friendly-like, but with immense distrust between us. They knew better than to trust a white kid to treat them like they're human, and I didn't know anything about them except cliches I'd heard from my grandfather, and not much of that. Pre-school, maybe age 3, my mother took a train from KC to the Marine base in NC because the war was over and daddy came home. Shortly afterward, I went on the train with grandmother to see daddy in E North Carolina. Mother and I lived in base housing, a tiny trailer. Two black women did the cleaning in our cluster of trailers. One of them I had a real connecting friendship with, so it seemed to a toddler. She was wonderful to me and I always looked forward to seeing her. My first experience with the race. My first experience outside immediate family.



Later, when daddy was out of the Marines, we fell into a house close to where he had grown up in Argentine, just up the hill from Argentine high school, close to the football stadium. I was playing on the front porch, age 4, and a black woman walked down the alley beside the house to get to her home that was down the alley a ways, then down the hill a ways. A nice spot surrounded by woods. We talked when I saw her. One day I asked her why she was brown. She told me that when the Lord made her he had run out of soap. This was 1946. I didn't know what to make of that, but adults said a lot I couldn't figure out. Parents and grandparents thought it was so cute that little TJ asked the nigger why she was colored. I hated what they did with it. For me, it was a moment of real conversation with my new neighbor, a nice old dark skinned woman. I was already disposed to like her, because of her blackness, because my experience before was so good between two people who make eye contact and notice one another. Like in the John Prine song, "Hello in there." She was black, I was a little kid, nobody saw black people and nobody saw kids, but we saw each other. I thought she was special.



 By the time I reached the 7th grade in 1954, the year of integration, I knew some black people just from a few people that lived nearby. Plus, walking through the black section going to the movie theater I saw the same people over and over. We spoke and nodded. As far as I could tell, they were no less human than me. The men were terribly depressed, but I didn't know that's what it was at the time. The tough looking guys weren't friendly, but the older people were. I wanted to know them, but they were taboo. I was also afraid, because I was in the territory of black kids my age and if they chose to they could kick my ass. It was the same in the Mexican neighborhood. All through grade school, my best friend was a Mexican, Mitchell Ledesma, who had been kicked out of Catholic school and exiled to public school. All his Mexican friends left Catholic school after the 6th grade, so in 7th grade he had his Mexican friends. We were still friends, but our friendship faded and we each drifted back into our own cultures by 8th grade.



A year after high school, this time in Wichita, Kansas, I had fallen in with people of liberal thinking, people who believed black people deserve basic American rights. Walked in a Fair Housing march, 1961 probably. My grandparents were visiting that weekend. On Sunday morning my picture was on the front page of the paper, easy to spot. I pointed to it for grandpa. He said, "Boy, I oughta shoot you." I said, "I know where the shotgun is. I'll get it for you." Grandmother said, "You boys, now cut it out." When I left parents, I left the baptist religion same day. My mother is one who will hound you with the same question all your life until you simply tell her to stop it. In this time, I didn't know telling her to stop it would work. She forever wanted to know if I'd found a church. So I went to a Unitarian church, thinking it as far away from baptist as I could get and not go Catholic. I had been reading about Thoreau and civil disobedience. I was getting to know varieties of people, not just white working class baptists. I've been interested in people of other cultures, other races, other parts of the world, other experiences from mine, all along the way. I'm wondering if that experience with the black cleaning woman in faraway North Carolina motivated my interest in the cause.



It was the beginning of the time I started making my own decisions. I'd known black kids from the 7th grade on to the 12th, liked the ones I knew. In gym class the guy exactly my size and weight I had to wrestle with when we did wrestling was a black guy whose name is gone. He kept a pint of liquor in his locker and stayed lit through school. He smelled pretty bad and was easy to beat, because he didn't care. He never got in trouble for drinking, because school authorities didn't care what the niggers did. Just don't attract attention to yourselves. Though integration was forced, the black kids were not comfortable being minorities in white schools. They had to cling together in gangs for self-defense, and once they become a gang, they become a threat, and round and round it goes. White people win, black people lose. Again. They're used to it. I liked my wrestling friend about as good as I liked any of my friends in high school. I thought he was brave and bold to drink in school. Of course, it meant he had no future. He had no future anyway. School's boring if you're not looking to college; if you're looking at a lifetime of being shut out because you're black, then school isn't worth the time of even appearing for class. He was a sharp guy, and I felt for him that he had no hope.



In my own beginnings, I wanted to join the bandwagon to help the black people and let them see not all white people are the same. Black Panthers came along and the fake friendliness that went with integration went POOF. Hostile attitudes started coming to the surface. I saw this is not my struggle. I have my own to tend to. I decided then that the way I'll do my part to express my support of the American ideal, equal rights for all, is make every encounter with someone black the same as with someone white, if they'll let me. Some won't. Ok. Whatever. If they don't want to allow that I'm ok with them, I can't help it. Black Panthers going into white liberal gatherings in the North with shotguns demanding money for reparations made me laugh. When I saw those bits of news during that trend of Panthers demanding (demand was the verb of the time), I'd think: Try that in a First Baptist church in the South. That extreme swing of the pendulum didn't last. We got a few good books out of the time by Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, Malcom X and some others. There is so much anger running both ways now that the best I can do is stay out of all of it. Now I just see people I know and people I don't know. I've lived long enough to see there is no difference between races except the culture that goes with them, which is the same as a collective personality, and that's easy to translate.



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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THE MORALITY OF POLITICIANS

     joseph beuys, the end of the 20th century



I found a note today I'd written myself several days ago. It says: What's wrong with the morality of our politicians? Next question: which politicians? They're kind of like people in that they're individual and can't be categorized under one word. I like to think there is a difference between Senator William Fulbright and Newt Gingrich, between --- I draw a blank. I was trying to think of a politician who had some integrity about representing the people, the voters, the working people (not just the working class), the people that pay the taxes that pay their way and the the military that doesn't defend us any more. It's involved in preemptive strikes, attacking countries in poverty with nonwhite people: collateral damage, no problem. The Iraq propaganda started with the killing of Iraqis, the stated goal the capture of Saddam. They caught him and killed him before he had a chance to talk publicly and tell what they don't want told. The US forces went on killing Iraqi people. The war of "Iraqi Liberation" has become (from the start) the war on the Iraqi people. After our government reduced the people of Iraq to rubble, they continue to beat them down and beat them down. The Iraqi resistance is saying, Get out and leave us alone. Oh, but they're sitting on an awful lot of oil. The USA is going to have it if they have to kill the last Iraqi. American history has no problem with genocide.



The morality of the politicians would be the same as the morality of the American people. You say each one of us has our own standards of morality, not all the same. Like birds of a feather, we tend to the company of people whose moral standards are about the same as our own. We end up in clusters of the like-minded. Largely, our government's policy is to support dictators and keep them supplied with military equipment to keep their people down. It's a quandary, even for the Obama administration, what to do about the Arab Spring, people wanting democracy and rid of the dictators USA has supported all the way along. State Department wants to publicly embrace the democracy movement, because it sure looks good. Except they don't want us. They don't want American democracy. They know how fraudulent everything is that comes from America. They do, however, want the money. Uncle Sam money bags. Hey Uncle, how you doin? Since Reagan, Uncle Sam has turned into Scrooge McDuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham in one. It's like our government's role is to take from the working people and give to the corporations that don't pay taxes.



I can't think of morality as something to judge, but something to assess, like telling the tree by its fruits. Morality, like everything else in illusion, is relative according to circumstances and perception. I have an idea the politicians have a different moral standard from mine. For one thing, my moral standard wouldn't allow me to be a politician. Why? Have you ever heard a politician tell the truth about anything? They speak with forked tongue, consistently. It can be said of them all. Lying is a politician's truth. One of my favorite quotations from my friend, Jr Maxwell, If you can't lie, you can't be a politician. The Reagan Revolution cut loose greed and taking from the poor. Reagan is how the people kept in mental institutions by tax money were put out to find their way as the homeless in cardboard washing machine boxes. People unable to take care of themselves. They get picked up for peeing behind a bush, put in jail for indecency, no trial, no charges, no anything. They end up dying in prison of AIDS after several years, traumatized until they give out and die.



The part I have the worst problem with is that the so-called representatives represent only the rich. They represent money and money only. It used to be they pretended to represent us at least a little bit for show, but by now the pretense is gone and they're up front about it. Money is their only purpose. The republicans have absolutely no regard for the American people, especially the half of the population "of color." When all the "representatives" vote according to what they're being told by the strategists to do, vote no on everything, they do. And they have their state representatives doing the same thing. Virginia Foxx who "represents" my district of NW North Carolina, you can be sure does not represent me. I aint got no money, honey. The press throws democrats in with the republicans doing the irresponsible voting, but they're not. The press has been throughout my lifetime the organ of the political right wing. Our press, of course, is corporate. Therefore it is used for smokescreen to cover what we the people aren't supposed to know. We have become the enemy of our government. Since the assassination of Kennedy when the corporate world took our government by coup, the corporations and the government protect themselves from us the best they can.



One thing I have to say for the Occupy Wall Street throngs, is they are making it last. It is gradually sinking in as more and more people become aware of it, that we really are the 99%. It's as powerful an understanding as looking at Andy Warhol's soup cans until you see them. Of course, the 1% control the media, which will be used to set factions inside the 99% at odds with each other. They'll use the tool of the Reagan Revolution: Divide and conquer. They will infiltrate and divide, another strategy. Occupy Wall Street is powerless politically. But the longer it keeps going, the more they show their peace, they start catching the attention of more and more people. It's not like they want to convert anyone to their cause. They're standing up saying we the 99% are subject to the 1%. It's not so powerful the first time I hear or see 99%. The longer I think about it, the more every day I see that we do have the advantage and we have given our power to the 1%. All we have to do is take our power back. Everybody may have a different reason, but taking back your power is taking back your power.



I've wondered for a long time about a president who orders a given action, like sending several hundred soldiers into Beirut, almost 300 are killed, the rest come home. Oops. A president who orders a missile strike on a place in a city, and kills several people nearby, collateral damage. Does the misery created by the decision stay with the individual president's soul? Is "following orders" absolution from killing kids, pregnant women, old people? The people who have done that have had very difficult times forgiving themselves, even though they were following orders. They'll never follow orders blindly again. It really doesn't matter if a politician is absolved of mass murder by decision. Governors make decisions about death row murders. What about an executioner's soul? That's off into places that are not mine to know. I don't want to find out by doing it to see. What is the morality of giving the nod to the assassination of a president to step into his place? What is the morality of assassinating somebody's character, reputation and credibility to shut them up? I can't help but think a lot of it sticks to the soul. I want a simple life where I don't have to worry about whether it sticks or not.



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Monday, November 28, 2011

ANDY WARHOL AMERICAN MASTER

     andy warhol campbell soup cans, 1962



Watched twice the PBS series American Masters documentary of Andy Warhol. Four hours and not one dull second. Warhol's world didn't have a dull second in it either. I've heard four hours of art critic talk about Warhol, in-the-present, in-your-face. I heard one critic say the first half of the 20th century was Picasso's, the 2nd half Warhol's. When he was happening, it was like he was the greatest thing since Matisse, dismissed by some of the art world, praised by some of it. I and several of my friends watched Warhol like a gossip columnist follows a movie star. He was the star he set out to be. His works of art had profound and complex meaning. He, himself, claimed to have none. And I think he was right. He was a sponge. He gathered people around him to give him ideas. He had a circle going of people giving him ideas and him giving them ideas. He kept a fertility going in his work, always new, always powerful meaning, always the claim there's no more to it, and himself, than a silver screen. 



In his time, my belief was that he was doing incredible work that made powerful social statements. I felt the same about Bob Dylan. In both cases, I was happy they occurred in my lifetime. I've been able to watch Bob Dylan's music grow from 1963, when I first heard him, until now. He's one year older than me. He was a driven genius. Andy Warhol was a driven genius. These are the people of my time I've been happy to have for contemporaries. I feel like Dylan and Harold Pinter are the Shakespeares of our time. Dylan even the Mozart, as he's both writer and composer. He is the original poet who sang his poems. Chinese poems in the old days were written to traditional tunes and sung. This is the time for the anti-traditional, which Dylan is all the way, Pinter too, and Warhol. They are so against the tradition, they are the foundational beginnings of a new tradition.



Up to WW1 we looked back to the Classical Age in Greece and Rome as the foundation of the tradition; afterward, the 20th century carved out the new tradition that will be the Classical Age for the future. The renascence in Greece and Rome, and the Renaissance in Italy, which went into London and Paris and all around as well, we looked back to as the authority until the 20th Century, when it happened again. These times are times of high energy energizing humanity to new heights in all fields of human endeavor. We're now in the reformation following the most recent renascence, the greatest the world has seen, because it had more to work with. Andy Warhol, himself, saw his fame fade out and away, depicted in his 8'x8' silkscreen, Myths, 1981. He saw himself a temporary pop sensation like Howdy Doody and Mickey Mouse. I never knew how to assess the scope of his fame. I was seeing his work when it was almost new and hearing reactions of all varieties, from the totally uninformed, "it's not art," to the greatest ever. I don't know the art world and don't want to know it, but Warhol got a very great deal said in pictures important to our society and civilization as a whole, in beautiful images. 



In the late 60s the Warhol hangers-on made headlines that defined cool for the time. They showed up at the same club every night, a big gang of them, junkies, drag queens, nut cases, all of them wannabes, American jabberers on amphetymenes, too deep into every kind of drug to be anything but stupid. Warhol's persona without a personality was a cool pose for the time. In the time of corporate cool, cocaine, he acted like he was high on it all the time, and never was. The people that drifted into his circle were high all the time, and he just copied their far away gaze. They dressed in exaggerated clothes of other times from thrift stores and strutted about New York like children playing dressup, going out in public to show their creations. He catches criticism now for allowing several of the people to destroy themselves as he watched. That's nonsense. He was in self-destruct mode too. Warhol was a great enigma for artists of the time, too. I think many got what he was doing, some sympathetically, some not, and found him hard to be influenced by, his style being so much his own. It would be like painting like vanGogh or Georgia OKeefe. It's already been done. 



Art history goes through Warhol, not around him. In the film, early on when talking about the abstract expressionists of the 1950s like they believed they'd found the pinnacle of pure art, at an early Warhol show, some man spoke with self-important authority that this is "anti-art." Duh. Anti-art has been the nature of avant-garde art since the impressionists. Anti-art is the only tradition of the 20th century. The man told more about himself than he told about Warhol. The soup cans do it for me. One time in New York, I went into the Leo Castelli gallery and saw some Warhols I'd guestimate 6'x3' of soup cans in dayglo colors, 4 of them, each one different. It was stunning. That would have been late 60s. I saw what he was doing, what Pop was doing, taking abstraction the next step, from soft-edged unfamiliar to hard-edged familiar. While the people whose careers were invested in abstract expressionism made a lot of noise about Pop not being art, an artist I knew at the time called Robert Indiana's canvases "propaganda." I thought that was stretching it quite a bit looking for objection. 




Since I saw it, standing before those Warhols in Castelli's, I've seen minimalism that came on with Pop as abstract as abstract expressionism too. Minimalism and Pop took out the painterliness, which for the abstractionists was a kind of anti-industrial statement. Minimalists and Popists accepted the industrial, the manufactured, made smooth lines and colors without brush strokes. They took the action out of action painting. Warhol went for the mass produced. He painted every one of the cans pictured at the top by hand, one at a time, all the same, except the name of the soup in each can. He later made repeating images with silk screen, but in his first years made repeating images by hand, like a page of postage stamps, dollar bills, S&H green stamps. Until the soup cans, nothing he did caught much attention, but the soup cans put him on the international art map over night. At the same time, post-abstract expressionism exploded into several directions. Frank Stella's straight lines, Richard Serra's steel panels, Roy Lichtenstein's comic book images, Jasper Johns' flags and targets, Robert Rauschenberg's "combines," abstractions using paint and found objects. It sort of exploded into post-modernism.  



At the time, I thought Warhol was the apex of contemporary art. The junkies and drag queens and "underground superstars," were childishly glamorous for a few years. The drugs started taking their toll, stranger and stranger people came into the circle, which became something of a free-for-all party scene for people falling through their own bottom. Andy was using these people for ideas, watching them, imitating them, seeing them the self-image he wanted to project onto the world. It worked for him. And they all did it for nothing, for the fun of being an Andy Warhol Superstar, in the scene of the day. Everything seemed to be going great until he was shot. He had to re-invent himself, do what's next. First thing he did was change the people he kept around him. One of the guys from the office in the time of the magazine Interview, Bob Colacello, told of a time Andy said in the office, You guys are boring. Colacello said, You don't have to worry about us shooting you. Colacello later wrote, Holy Terror, Andy Warhol Close Up. It was an inside look at Warhol in the time after the shooting. Warhol fell into doing portraits of the rich and famous all the same size, 40"x40". He told dealer Irving Blum he envisioned in the future a show of all of them. He wanted them to hang touching side by side on the walls around the museum like in his montage images.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

CATERPILLAR FRUSTRATED

     caterpillar



Talking with my friend Carole on the phone yesterday morning, I was mentioning Caterpillar's big knot of hair under her tail. It has been a problem for her in the litter box. I was thinking it needs done now, not tomorrow. This was Friday morning. Last day of the week. We got off the phone, I put a pillow in the cat carrier, then picked up Caterpillar to put her in the box. She wasn't going in. She made certain I understood I could not force her inside the box. I never, ever have handled her with force, hands that say I am taking charge of you. I made the mistake of not telling her we would be going to the doctor's office to get that knot of hair taken off her backside. She would have been ok with that. She wouldn't like it, but she has enough experience to know she comes back from the doctor better than she went in. I wasn't thinking and did it the old way, the way I had to do when the cats were younger and could run outside and disappear or hide in some place in the house. If I even pictured in my mind the vet's office, they were gone. At vet time, I had to pick one up by surprise and pop it in the box. They've never liked it. I don't like it either, but when we're out in the network of human society with cars and pavement and unfamiliar territory, a cat belongs secure in a cat carrier.



The moment I stuffed Caterpillar in far enough that I could get the door closed, she started howling. Howling as only Caterpillar can howl. It was a child's temper tantrum. Every breath she made a cat howl, rou-urr, two syllables, sometimes three when she was so frustrated she had to add emphasis. All the way to the vet, at 20 minute drive, Caterpillar howled. I could not comfort her by singing to her. I'd rub her nose, and that settled her for a short time. By the time we made it to the parking lot she'd wound down a little bit and wasn't doing it so relentlessly. I opened her door and pulled the cage out and she started again, louder that ever. She was mad and she was telling the world. I opened the door and carried her in howling and everyone's head jerked around. A woman at the counter said, "That cat is mad." Caterpillar's howling was so exaggerated it was comic, except it made all of us feel for her frustration. She meant business and and there was no two ways about it. She wanted out of that box.



Dr Michelle Tompkins was the one who would do the operation. I told her Caterpillar is not a biter and I'd hold her while she did whatever she did. Caterpillar doesn't like hands back there. I know she won't bite me, and I believed she would be more comfortable with her friend of her whole life she lived with holding her than a stranger. Michelle and I both were surprised at how Caterpillar calmed right down when I put her on the stainless steel table on her belly. I wondered if she'd go bananas over the electric clippers back there, but she seemed to understand what we were doing there, what was happening. She never made another fuss. It took 5 minutes, start to finish. Once she saw what we were doing there, she was happy with it. She made no fuss all the way home. I let her out of the cage in the house and she disappeared. She stayed in a hiding place all day and into the night. She might have been glad to be rid of that knot of hair, but she wasn't happy with me. I acted like we didn't know each other, when we do know each other. I overpowered her with my human will, which I don't like to do. I'd forgotten she's 14 1/2 and doesn't have a lot of resistance in her. I just overwhelmed her without explaining anything and tossed her in a box when she thought she was getting picked up to be held. I pissed her off by bypassing our closeness. We do communicate, and I acted like we don't.



Today she came out and sat on my lap while I watched a documentary about Andy Warhol. I'd picked up a tube of the one-spot flea eradication at the vet's office. I have always had to put it on in the past by surprise. While she was relaxed, I played with the fur on the back of her neck, separating it to get to the skin, then dabbed the tube on her and she acted like nothing happened. Caterpillar has become more vocal now that it's just the two of us. I talk to her in words and she has taken to vocalizing to me in cat language. She'll use her voice to get my attention, something she never did before. I read her tone of voice and she reads my tone of voice. We use eyes too when we talk. It's been 2 years of just us. We've learned from each other how to communicate, and we do pretty well now. When we don't, it's my lapse, not hers. She always took the back seat where my attention was concerned when Tapo and TarBaby were with us. Caterpillar let them get the attention and stayed to herself much of the time. 



Caterpillar was beginning to smell. When I estimated how much more she would smell if I waited all weekend to take her to the vet Monday, it needed doing today. I feel a great deal of love taking one of my friends to the doctor, Twin Oaks Vet has never let me down. I've always had the confidence they could help my friends and they always have. I felt almost as good taking Caterpillar home as I have an idea she felt knowing that knot of fur is gone from her rear end. She didn't know what to do about it, and now it's no longer an issue. That tantrum she threw was the most she has ever vocalized her displeasure. Though I felt for her frustration, I couldn't do anything about it. This is how we go to the doctor with cats. Once she got the picture where she was, I opened the door and spoke to her, asking her to come on out. I spoke to her like I do at home. Before picking her up, I asked if I could pick her up. She stopped and waited for me to lift her. I could talk to her and she responded casually. It seemed like when she saw where she was, she calmed down. She never made another fuss. But she was happy to get home.


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Saturday, November 26, 2011

VW BOYS LIGHT UP WOODLAWN VIRGINIA

     tim white, fat albert blackburn, dave vaught


             tim white


             dave vaught


             fat albert blackburn


     tim white, fat albert blackburn, mack puckett



Bluegrass at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, Virginia, Friday night. It's predictable that the VW Boys make good music and good humor. I took my friend Justin along to hear some good live bluegrass. Justin I've known since before he started school, so I've known him almost all his life. Now he has 3 kids and is almost 30. His wife, Crystal, Christmas shopped all night last night and was sleeping. It was a bit of a mind adventure for me on the way there, worried about running out of gas, somewhat confident it would not happen, but not sure, because it was the closest the needle had been to the E line since the new fuel pump, and I didn't know where E really was. Before the new fuel pump, it ran out of gas when the needle touched the quarter tank line. I had an idea it would have to go all the way to the E line to be empty, because when it was full the needle didn't quite touch the F line. I was wanting to fill the tank in Galax where I found gas for $3.13 when it's $3.45 in Sparta. Put in 15 gallons for $4.80 less than in Sparta, just by crossing the state line. By the time we made it to Woodlawn the worry about running out of gas was in the past and my head was clear, ready to focus on some bluegrass music.



It was good to be back among the people who go to the Friday night Fiddle & Plow shows at Willard Gayheart's frame shop and gallery. Walk in and shake hands around, greet, how-ya-doin, talk about looking forward to the music about to happen, remembering how good their show was last time they played at the Front Porch. Seeing the guys in the band brought memory back of their music and their musicianship. Willard and Scott played the opening song, Willard singing Lay Down My Old Guitar. I've heard him sing it several times, but felt like tonight his voice flowed seamlessly through the song, Scott's mandolin sounding as good as Willard's lyrics. It's a good worded song, the story of a man at the end of his life laying down his old guitar, "wish I could strap it to my side and take it along with me." Very satisfying song just to listen to as well as to hear the words. The old-time songs are all good-worded, but this one has a satisfaction about it when it ends that makes me say to myself, good song. Willard sings it like it's his own, too. Scott's daughter, Dori Freeman, took Willard's place on the next song and sang beautifully, accompanying herself with guitar, and Scott played along on mandolin. 



VW Boys came forward telling light hearted jokes and comical sayings, connecting with the audience. All three of them are singers. Dave Vaught on guitar plays rhythm and lead. Tim White plays bluegrass banjo and guitar. Fat Albert plays bass and sings melodiously a variety of song styles. He played bass and sang with the bluegrass band Fescue, I think he said 17 years. Fescue was a very respectable SW Virginia bluegrass band. Albert took the place of Larry McPeak whose cancer has reached the place where he can't get out anymore. Larry was a good part of the band, played electric bass, sang and wrote a good song. Larry also played with the bluegrass band, the McPeak Brothers. Larry had a personality for taking the background. Albert's personality is foreground. His bass, his extroverted voice and his size standing between Tim and Dave makes a pyramid. Dave said of Albert that he grew up through his hair. He said his present wife is an angel. She's up in the air harping all the time. He told about an old boy that said he wasn't going to get married anymore, said he was going to buy a house every 5 years and give it to a woman he hates. 



They had the audience going, grooving to the music and laughing over their jokes. They kept me laughing nearly the whole time. Justin was laughing at least as much as I was. The band started off with the Rooster song that tears Justin up every time he hears it. I think the VWBoys do that song as good as I've heard it. Everybody that does it, does it well. Justin fell out when they played If My Nose Was Running Money, honey, I'd blow it all on you. If my nose was running money, but it'snot. It's a booger of a problem I've got. I'd buy you a Cadillac and a PT Cruiser too, if my nose was running money, honey, I'd blow it all on you. That's a song they borrowed from the Moron Brothers of Kentucky. The Moron Brothers are worth looking up on YouTube. Good comedy bluegrass in the vein of comic bluegrass the VWBoys are in. Telling their jokes, they flow freely as making music. When they make music, you know it's music you're hearing. It's the real deal. Actual music.



They played a song I remembered from the early 50s, RAGGMOPP, Ragmop, just before rock & roll rose to the surface. Dave Vaught told me during intermission they found the song went back to about 1932. That made my ear listen a little more closely. Sounds like it has a Charleston rhythm. I hear Cab Calloway in the fast beat in the dance music of that time. Another they played from later in the 50s, a comedy song, Hot Rod Lincoln. "My dad said, Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin if you don't stop drivin that Hot--Rod--Lincoln." They played Bob Dylan's Wagon Wheel with the zeal the song deserves. Fat Albert sings it and does it right. It seemed to me they made that song their own. They played the Everly Brothers' Dreamin. I didn't know back in the 50s that the Everly Brothers were so close to bluegrass. Back then I didn't know about bluegrass. Heard it listening to Grand Ole Opry with my grandmother, but didn't know what it was. It was my grandmother's music.



I was laughing throughout the show from start to finish. Justin was too. There was an old boy in the next row of seats, about 10 years older than me, wearing a jacket with a waving US flag on the back and stars down the sleeves. I said to Justin, "I need a jacket like that to start dressing my age." He was laughing bent over much of the time. I thought all their jokes were funny and the funny songs cracked me up too. It would be too much to hear the VWBoys and the Moron Brothers on the same show, one following the other. Laughter therapy. Whatever I had going into it, I'd come out of it cured. Tonight was a good night of light hearted feeling in a room of about 20 people, every one feeling light hearted and happy. It was over too soon, even though they played three hours.      


Friday, November 25, 2011

A 21st CENTURY THANKSGIVING

     composition in gray


Turkey day came and went. It was a good day. Our weather could not have been better, high 60s all day, sun out, pleasant. Spent noon to 6 with friend Jim Winfield, who is scheduled to leave for Thailand soon, waiting for flood water there to recede in Bangkok. We watched a little bit of a Noam Chomsky talk and put the tv on National Geographic documentaries about seals, another about salmon and sharks, without sound, visuals only. I know sharks are a threat to humans in the water, but that doesn't really concern me, because I stay out of the ocean. I figure the ocean is full of swimming things that are all looking for something to eat. Made of meat, I'm fish food when I'm in the ocean. It is for swimmers that get their oxygen from the water. I get my oxygen from the air, and can't help but think that up here in the air is where I belong.



I used to have feelings of fear when I'd see a shark. I see it something like a swimming lion. With me not in the water, I think sharks are great. I've learned so much recently about the endangered nature of the sharks, looking like ten more years and the shark population will be down to where it's unable to recover. I feel sorrow now when I see a shark, reminded of how necessary they are, how their population has been reduced considerably for their fins. The people that catch them cut the fins off and throw them back in the water to wiggle to the bottom and lay there wiggling until they starve to death or sharks the trawlers missed eat them. Shark fin soup is good luck, served at wedding receptions all over Asia. About all the fishing for sharks is pirates out of control, cannot be stopped, who have no more concern about taking the last shark out of the ocean than a Wall Street CEO does.



Seeing the sharks on a film made probably a few years ago, I could assume the sharks we saw have had their fins removed by now. We are both people who used to love to talk about matters of opinions at length. By the time we're in our own 60s, we've become less talkative. We like to talk, but tend to speak in shorter sentences now, single world exclamations, even silence. If we were Cubans we'd be good domino partners. We have known each other 35 years. I knew his dad before him. He's a Buddhist now, even a devout Buddhist, and likes to go to Thailand for the Buddhism there. He's been to Bodh Gaya, the tree where the Buddha found his enlightenment, a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists everywhere. He was there among thousands of Asians at the holy of holies. Werner Herzog made a film with a hand-held camera of the Bodh Gaya gathering (Wheel of Time, 2006), Tibetans everywhere, or people with the look of that region from Nepal, Bhutan, Southeast Asia. Beatific people. Serene.



This is how I would like to see the world of the future on the other side of this period of tribulation we're in, the promised thousand years of peace. We may have a spiritual revival like the world has never seen. Surely, the Jerusalem religions will be subdued, brought down out of their warrior minds imitating the Old Testament wars. What comes after this Jerusalem religions apocalypse, will have to be something on the order of Buddhist inner stillness, the Way of love. It can't be religions of people browbeating others to win everybody over to the Lord. If we're not to have wars in that time, surely the motivation to war will have to go away of its own accord, undermine itself by what ought to be embarrassingly too much. But nobody is embarrassed by war excess, except the people who pay attention, the ones called intellectuals, the first targets of a police state. They don't assassinate much anymore. They discredit, destroy reputations and credibility. The low down slime element of our government since November 22, 1963, when the Texas Oil Cartel took our government by coup, I thought they could not go any further. I've thought that before. There was a time I thought there was no way we'd make it to 1975, a time in the future it looked like everything would come due at once, meaning it's been like this for at least half a century.



It won't be like this in the thousand years of peace. It will be like at Bodh Gaya where people are happy to be together, communal food, the center of the universe. I've an idea we'll enter that phase of our collective evolution by sequence of events in my next lifetime. I remember in December, 1989, lawyer Lorne Campbell was in his last weeks, seeing the news of the Berlin Wall coming down and Boris Yeltsen announcing the end of the Soviet Union, the Russian experiment with Communism. Campbell said he never thought he might live to see the fall of Communism. Now we have people saying it was better under Communism. Like the time in the 70s when Russians were allowed to leave the country. A good many came to USA, New York mainly, and other cities. It wasn't long before a large number of them went back. They liked it better in post-Communist Russia.



Americans are complacent people it takes a lot to rouse. It's easy to rouse small groups, but it takes a lot to get people to come out and protest all day every day for weeks, now months. Conditions in the working class and middle class get worse year after year since 1980. You never hear anyone using the word Progress anymore. I've not heard it since the Reagan Revolution began dismantling all the progress of the previous half century. By now, we're back to Depression times. In the 50s, 60s, 70s Progress was an important optimistic belief system. By now the 1% have 70% of the money in USA. The 99% are an awful lot of people to function with 30% of the money. The Banks are strangling us. Our government is helping the Banks. It's not helping us. It's taking from the 99% and giving to the 1%. Our government functions for the 1%. The 99% are quickly declining toward a condition something like the serfs in Czarist Russia. Our American complacency appears to be making a turn toward action, as predicted by our rogue government in the light of absence of regard for We The People. FEMA has built concentration camps all over the country. They're ready for occupancy. The cop with the pepper spray may be just the beginning.




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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MIDDLE CLASS BETRAYED

     constantin brancusi, blind, marble, 1916



I've listened to the news all my adult life and to this day have heard little to no evidence we have a working class, the biggest of the American classes. I hear about the middle class, the rich and the poor. Meaning, I suppose, if you're in the working class, you're poor. Everybody in the working class knows that. Interesting that they are calling the working class the poor--it's about the only thing I've ever heard on the news that tells it like it is. And it's a denial of a working class. The working class in America is the poverty class. I have a feeling the words working class are somewhat political as it is the working class the ruling class regards the enemy that must be kept down. When the Reagan Revolution began, the working class was its target, the enemy. It was said in that time the Reagan Revolution was making us into a Third World country, that is the rich vs the poor, the working class. No more middle class. The rich and the peasant class.



We hear hours and hours of concerned talk about the receding middle class. Nobody ever mentions what the "economic downturn" means to the working class. It means something that cannot be said with a smiley face; therefore, it gets glossed over and  ignored. To report on the condition of the working class in America today, not just the white, but Hispanic and black, too, is radical left wing unto communist, the enemy. Evidently, it's as forbidden to say working class in public as to say nigger, except it's more silent, nobody saying, "don't say that word." Hearing "working class" they shudder inside and say nothing. The lefties, the pinkos, the reds, the commies. The working class has bad taste. Prisons are full of the working poor. Middle class goes to a tennis club for prison and ruling class doesn't go to prison at all. The bankers Obama baled out belong in prison. The money given to the banks "too big to fail" (they weren't too big--they did fail) rewarded them for bilking millions of middle class people and the people bilked got nothing but robbed. Not even a kiss my ass. I'm inclined toward Obama, but this one needs some explaining I haven't yet heard. He's no more working toward the benefit of "the people" than Bush was. I hate to say it, but he still looks like a Republican.



When I see some attention given the working class for anything but crime and ignorance, it's told like it's from a foreign country, like French Guiana, and there's no understanding of the culture. The middle class, where the news comes from, looks only up the ladder at the ruling class with envy. When they see someone of the working class they feel superior. This is another thing about America a lot of people like to deny, that we have a very strict class structure. It's the same as denying racism. It sounds optimistic to say we have a classless society, same as it sounds enlightened to say we don't have racism. We have class consciousness and racism covered with the blanket of denial. It's awfully lumpy under there, but practiced denial overlooks the lumps easily.



The greatest problem this thinking creates is the school system. Public schools are about college prep, SAT tests. There are a few "Voc" classes for work training at laying brick, but merely a concession to a check list that requires the schools to have something for working people, a token. The middle class kids are often motivated, heading to college. The working class kids don't have any hope where school is concerned. Their only hope is to find a job that pays better than minimum wage. You don't need trig to drive a dump truck. The schools attempt to keep the working class kids interested in frustration. The school system is geared to middle class culture. Dump truck drivers are necessary. They are part of our world, an active part. Working class culture is the inferior culture, looked down on as hick, thick-fingered, redneck people that know nothing about style. The schools serve the middle class. In the schools they don't know what to do about the unmotivated working class kids. They're not motivated, because nothing is of interest to them. It's all about memorizing details for tests. For somebody who knows he will not / cannot go to college, he has no motivation in high school to prepare for something out of his reach.



I can't say any of the above is absolute, because it's not. It's a problem in varying degrees from school to school. I can't say I have any solutions for the matter. I'd recommend seeing the documentary film, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. It's an attempt to find why our educational system failed and what can be done to get it going. In the documentary, it was found that the adults in the school system are the problem, not the kids. What little I've seen into the school system, I've found among the adults the sense that the kids are the enemy. I got the image of the teachers as cowboys inside the circle of wagons and wild Indians running all around the wagons yelling like banshees altogether out of control. Of course, that's in denial too.


In my 2nd winter here, I took a temporary job at what was then Glade Valley School, a Methodist supported minimum security prison for kids with problem parents. The teachers kept continual war going with the kids. I was dramatically told off one day by a guy who hated the smile on my face when he told me not to talk to his advisees before he does. I paid as much attention to him as I pay to other people's expectations. One of the teachers, the kind of woman no one likes, officious, snippy, tight-lipped, the kind that grows into a harridan in old age, found a coat on a couch in a place called a lounge--an empty space with some furniture that belonged in the landfill. She went through the pockets (against every civil right there is) and found "CRUMBS" in the corner of one of the pockets. It was on to find Jessica and punish her. Soon thereafter, I saw Jessica. I told her two of the teachers were looking for her. I told her which one went through her pockets and found "crumbs." When Mr Advisor brought it up to her, she said, "Yeah, I know. TJ told me." It took the wind out of his drama sail. His authoritarian demeanor fell flat at Jessica's feet and he was mad, giving TJ the what-for, evidently thinking TJ cared. When he finished I had to let him know I didn't care at all, not by saying it, but with a certain smile that says, What are you gonna do, beat me up?



Much of what the "teachers" there did to the kids was illegal as illegal can be. They knew it too. The day they corralled all the kids into the cafeteria, they told me to stand guard at one of the doors. I said I'm having no part in it. I liked the kids. They locked up the kids and the teachers not assigned to guarding the doors went through all the dorm rooms like police, throwing things out of drawers, tipping mattresses, destroying every room. They found a few kids with weed in their rooms and kicked them out. Half the teachers smoked reefer and punished the kids for it. While the travesty was in motion, I sat in the library with black construction paper and scissors, cutting out black hearts for each of the teachers. They had a wall of mail slots for their mail or bulletins or whatever. I put one heart in each teacher's mail slot. Did that ever get a reaction! It was like they took it for voodoo and it freaked every one of them, some more than others. One of them was so spooked I almost regretted what I'd done. However they interpreted the black heart, my only intent was the obvious: they have black hearts. Not one of them had the least inkling of any kind of integrity. A bunch of college graduates who couldn't get jobs teaching and were hired by this place that took anybody. High turnover.



The president or whatever they called him was a Methodist preacher put out to pasture whose ambitions far exceeded his talent. I heard him in the pulpit once, and it was a joke. He'd married a state senator's daughter thinking it would bring him up in status, but it brought her down. He wanted to be anywhere on earth but where he was. He had the demanor of someone exiled to Siberia. The school shut down after another year, a money hole for the church, and the property was sold. What a sorrowful place it was. I felt sad for the kids, who were as far as I could tell bright kids. Parents were largely middle class alcoholics and drunks who never paid any attention to their kids. Too busy with the social life at the country club. The kids rebelled by slacking off in school, then were sent to the last chance school: Glade Valley. They're regarded problems by the teachers from the first day. By lying to them, cheating them and betraying them, the teachers alienated them and made them into problems, just like the parents did. Punishment is a powerful American passion.



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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

FORREST GUMP REVISITED

     telling his story


Last night I saw FORREST GUMP again, the 3rd time since it was new. Several years had passed since the last time. Good feeling all the way through. I identified so closely with Forrest that by the end I said to myself, "I am Forrest Gump." I don't have his experience. I don't have his interpretations of experience. I don't have his mind. But I do have his bewilderment at everything going on around him. Shuffled through this world by necessities I can't avoid, my own way of interpreting experience as bewildered as Forrest's, I did a little bit better than him when it came to learning to fill out forms, but not where attitude toward life is concerned. Forrest's attitude was my attitude in early childhood, before it was hardened, twisted, wrung out and tossed into a hot tumbler to dry. These sorts of things happened to Forrest too, but they didn't harden him. They bewildered him all the more.



Perhaps this bewilderment motivated me to higher education and reading. I wanted to learn to understand my experience and be able to read what is going on around me as accurately as possible. I can't say I'm better off than Forrest Gump because of it. His girlfriend, Jenny: somebody else would have broken both of her arms. Forrest saw the light in her and his love was wide open God-type love. Ive never been able to love so unconditionally. Seeing her through Forrest's eyes, she's the most wonderful angel there ever was. And she was. He knew the Jenny within, the only Jenny he knew. The judgments everybody else got excited about, like whore, junkie, freak, were invisible to Forrest like the Jenny within was invisible to everyone but Forrest.



His chance involvements with presidents and political events of the 60s and 70s made a clever unto artful look at the time from Kennedy through Ford in the different American ways of interpreting our national experience. Forrest, himself, never took to opinions, making him a fresh, candid eye to see our shared national events with. An inscribed photograph of Marilyn in the White House men's room. Forrest showing Johnson his scar on his but-tocks, like Johnson was then famous for showing his belly scar after a surgery. Racial matters had no meaning for Forrest. He sat next to Bubba on the bus and they became friends for life. It was so right of Forrest to give Bubba's family Bubba's half of the shrimp boat earnings after Bubba had been dead from Vietnam several years. I hoped the production crew had an air mattress out of sight behind her. She fell straight as a board backwards. Only a martial artist could make that move and not be hurt.



His involvement briefly with the hippie pretend revolutionaries of the late 60s, Forrest took seriously. He didn't like their disrespect and hated how they treated his friend, Jenny. The black pretend revolutionaries had their say and ran him off with their exaggerated testosterone poses. Forrest found the System the least objectionable of the alternatives. He had been through the war; he knew that macho posing gets nothing done. When you're out in the field with rifles popping, you don't strut your stuff. You're just as vulnerable a target as the company nerd. Forrest might not have been too bright, but he was no fool. "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is." His mama taught him in easy to remember sayings how to live in this world. She was a single mom raising a boy without a daddy, doing the best she knew how. In that sense, she was a home schooler. He had to go to school by law, and it all went over his head, but mama taught him how to live by the heart. Perhaps, because he was weak in mental power, he became strong in heart power. Forrrest Gump didn't have enough power of the mind to override the heart. Mama taught the heart. School taught the mind. School missed, and mama made a direct hit.



The last time I saw Forrest Gump was a long time before netflix. I've seen many of the finest films ever made, have seen a tremendous number of a great variety of films. This didn't diminish Forrest Gump a bit. It is in the league of the very finest film making. I love that it is a visualization of his story told on a bench at a bus stop in Savannah, Ga, to anybody that would or would not listen. The black woman was listening, though pretending not to. The round-faced white man, who looked like Jonathan Winters, was pretending to listen, but wasn't really paying attention. The elder woman he told the last part of the story to, let a bus go by so she could hear more. Run, Forrest, run. He ran all over the country. He ran on the Blue Ridge Parkway between rows of old-timey rail fences just a few miles from my house, between 5 and 10. He would have run within a half mile of my house a few minutes earlier in his run. I love it he ran so close to where I live. I know his story is fiction, and also is not. The movie was an open hearted assessment of our world and drew no conclusions. Seems it comes out the same if we interpret or if we don't.



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Monday, November 21, 2011

TONY STEWART WINS HOMESTEAD 2011

 pedal to the metal


changing tires 


carl edwards laying rubber


tony stewart leader of the pack


tony stewart a'layin it to it


tony stewart as seen by carl edwards


The race at Homestead, Florida, today I had to say was the best race I've ever watched. If it isn't, I don't remember being this satisfied by a race, ever. Tony Stewart's was a win by the best driver and the best car in the race. I like it when it works out like that. One car touched the wall at the end of a turn and lost it, smoked his tires, all the cars were able to avoid him smoking his way down the bank of the track. Another time somebody lost it pretty bad, but was the only car hurt in the incident. So much smoke from the braking tires at 150 mph the car is enveloped and out of sight in the cloud of white smoke. Somebody lost a transmission. That was it for the mistakes. The rest of it was a clean run that was all the drivers going all out. It was a good track with fairly predictable handling for the drivers. It wasn't like a desert track that is hot while the sun is on it and cold when the sun sets, changing driving conditions considerably. The Homestead track didn't seem to have any eccentricities. Yes it did. It had the outside of the track banked good on turns while the inside of the track wasn't banked well. They could go faster riding the wall around a turn. 



It was a thrill to watch Tony Stewart take charge of that race. He started off good, then something from possibly the blown transmission hit his grille, but fortunately didn't get the radiator. That set him back from about 5th place to 40th. He worked his way up to 2nd place. A yellow flag put him back to 5th place. He came out of pit stops a few places back from going in, but he came out aggressive and took charge passing cars like a drunk on an interstate. First time, I think he came out 7th and in one lap was up to third. Last time, I think he came out of the pit 5th and ran right up to first and showed Carl Stewart his ass end for the rest of the race. It was true sport watching Stewart and Edwards giving it all they had. It was their race from the start. Predictions were that it would be their race. But chance has a way of changing things, so the predictions were cautious. Right away in the race it became clear that it was their race. A few other cars would join them after a yellow flag, but when the race was on, Tony Stewart was passing cars. If I remember correctly, and I don't, I think the announcer said at the end that he'd passed 76 cars in the course of the race. 



Toward the end, the last 50 or so laps, it was an all out run between Edwards and Stewart giving it everything, trying to push the gas pedal through the floorboard. It even felt frustrating watching Edwards behind Stewart, unable to gain more than half a second on Stewart's second and a half lead. They paced the pack and had to pass the cars that wouldn't give them the upper lane of the track. They went through the back of the pack so it started looking like they might take the lead a second time. Edwards was back there going with everything he had and Stewart simply outran him. Both of them outran everybody else such that the cameras were on them the whole second half of the race. They didn't run any in-car cameras today. The cameras around the track at Homestead weren't inventive like some of them where you have odd and interesting angles. The photography at Homestead was standard race photography. It was good. I've no complaints. Odd to see palm trees with winter coming on.



I loved watching Tony Stewart. There was a time it looked like Carl Edwards would be unbeatable. He stayed in the front and led the pack a large number of times, making points like crazy. Stewart could have outpointed him if they'd given points for cars passed. I've never paid much attention to any particular drivers. About half the drivers' names are familiar, and half not. I don't pay attention to them so much as I just like to watch the cars run. I don't care who wins. I want the best driver in the race to win. I like a good run like today with no wrecks, no pileups of 15 and 20 cars, no end over end rolling down the track and sliding for half a mile on its top in the grass. None of that. Just a good, solid race. I love a good race. I started pulling for Stewart in the last half of the race when he had already shown he aimed to win this race. Edwards stayed out in front while Stewart was set back several times, and every time came right back to the challenging position. I saw him make one pass that would take your breath if you were in the car with him. He had perfect command of his steering wheel throughout the race. He never made a mistake. His car was in perfect running order. 



I had the impression that Stewart's car and Edwards' car were equals. At the end, Carl Edwards had a mic pushed into his face as soon as he emerged from the car's side window. He told it straight. He was simply outrun. He mentioned Stewart's strategies, which I didn't know what they were, but he did. He noted the strategies Stewart used with more emphasis than the car being faster. Stewart out maneuvered him. Once Stewart got himself in front of Edwards, he just never let Edwards catch up. If Edwards could have gone any faster, I don't believe Stewart could have. It looked like they were both running as fast as they were able to make their cars go. All Edwards could hope for was a mistake from the driver in front of him, who hadn't made any mistakes and wasn't likely to. He didn't. He won the race fair and square as a race can be won. Carl Edwards couldn't do anything but concede, he got beat. It was a tough one for him to gulp down, the big race for hot dog of the year, and he almost had it. Stewart pulled over to the Victory stand and Edwards stuck his head in the window and they had some good words, you could see on their faces. 



Tony Stewart made $10,000 by taking a drink from a Coke bottle handed to him after he squeezed out the window. People above showering orange Gatorade on him, a steady flow of it while Stewart and announcer with mic are talking. Then it started raining and the shower changed from orange to silver. They were already soaked, so they continued to talk in the rain. Stewart was wildly jacked up after all those hours of intense concentration. He said, "I'll be up all night!" He'd won the race, won the championship. He'd performed several hours of flawless driving, making moves easily that were dare-devil moves. He said while they were on a break during rain that he had nothing to lose. If he loses the race he still comes out second in the championship. So he went all the way, took chances he might not otherwise take. The announcer said several times, "he's on a mission." When it was over, the announcer continued to repeat this was the best race he'd ever seen, speaking my exact words. I loved this race like no other I've ever seen. I might call it the perfect race because it was nothing but a race, an all-out race from the first green flag to the checkered. 



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Saturday, November 19, 2011

MY FRIENDS THE BIRDS

     snowbird



Indian Summer has come and gone. Winter has spoken. Below freezing last night, below freezing tonight. Wind today to make wind chimes ting and birds flying in a bee line to the feeder, picking up a seed and flying away in a bee line. It looks like they're storing seeds. I heard somebody talking about birds say a chickadee can remember over a hundred hiding places where they store seeds for the winter. He said on a ten hour night in cold winter, a chickadee has such a high rate of metabolism that it can die in the night if it doesn't get enough to eat during the day. We always have nights like that in the winter. Snow on the ground makes it worse for the birds. I'll keep my bird friends well fed that live near here through this winter. Before, with cats, I discouraged the birds coming around. Now it's a new treat to have birds, watch their behavior. I go out the door and they fly in all directions. The brave ones fly to branches just above the feeder. A titmouse makes its clicking sound at me. A chickadee makes a clicking telling the giant to go away. They're super cautious, hyper aware of every movement all the way around them. They're quick as a cat at reacting to a new sound.



I open the door and it looks like a slow motion video of shrapnel flying out from an exploding hand grenade when the birds fly off in every direction, a silent explosion. Flying birds ascending to the upper branches of the trees, on the edge of the open sky where they know for certain they're safe, unless a hawk comes along. I walk my path to the car listening to the birds above make clicking noises at me. I mostly think they're annoyed with me for scaring them. But I also wonder if they're saying Thank You in bird talk. They all know I put the seeds in the feeders. I put the seeds in every morning and throw some on the ground. They fly to tree limbs in all directions and watch me go to the feeder. Before the giant that lives in the house went to the feeder, it was nearly empty. After the giant went back inside the house, the feeder had an abundance of the kinds of seed they all like, small black sunflower seeds. Small woodpeckers dive in for a few seeds.



The warblers rule the feeder, the reason I throw some on the ground. The smaller and slower birds, like snowbirds, titmice, the cardinal pair, especially doves like to stay away from those darting warblers with a spear for a beak. They move so fast walking, pecking, climbing, flying, and they dart when they fly, they make the doves a nervous wreck. Before the warblers discovered the feeder, the doves were regulars. I throw seed on the ground for the doves now. I'm afraid something might have got the towhee. It's a calico thrush with a nice taWeet for its call. They are awfully vulnerable as they like to scratch in the dry leaves on the ground. Caterpillar didn't get it. With no cat marking territory now a rambling cat might have passed through here and found the towhee. We have feral cats all over the mountain. Haven't seen it in several weeks. The ancestry of the Air Bellows and Whitehead feral cats and the pets go back to one calico Maine Coon, who was the great great great great grandmother of my cats. A black cat down in Whitehead was TarBaby's daddy. I hated it when I saw him dead, a roadkill on hwy 18. Highways are rough on cats.



I'm a bit torn about spoiling them to reproduce more as they have far more to eat than their territory can furnish otherwise, so when I croak, I leave an overpopulated area of spoiled birds without their food source suddenly and they all die the following winter during a month of snow on the ground and temperatures below zero at night. My doing. However, that's a worst case scenario, and events never come to pass nearly as disastrously as imagined. They'll get by and if they don't, well a lot of other birds don't make it too. I can't help that any more than I can stop road kill. It's beyond my reach. So I feed the birds and watch them out the window. I learned the joy of watching birds at Jr's house where we spent long stretches of time watching the hummingbirds at the feeder outside the window, and the crows on the lawn where I threw them apple slices, and the raincrow that lived in what I think was a blue spruce that was planted for possibly an outdoor Christmas tree to put lights on for his last wife. It was maybe 12 feet tall. The raincrow liked to stand on the tip top of it and look all around. A crow come around and he'd dive-bomb the crow and peck a feather out of his back.



I know the s'posed-to of conscious ecological thinking. But I'm not that, so why should I limit my decisions to that mind? That thinking is for the people that think that way. I'm not one of them, so I'll do my birdfeeders my way. I'll do like Sid Vicious who took Frank Sinatra's song My Way, destroyed it by singing it as bad as it could be done, and made it his own. I'll do it MY WAY. And there is Nina Hagen, who took it from Sid Vicious and made it her own. "She's the mother of punk, so what the funk?" I'm a rebel. I won't do bird feeders like I'm supposed to if I want to be an ecologically conscious certified cool dude. I'm self-centered about it because I like to watch the birds flying about and pecking on the ground. They're in continuous motion. It's like watching basketball on tv without the noise of the announcers.



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Friday, November 18, 2011

EXPECTATION IN EVERYDAY LIFE

     a scene from after the wedding

 
I watched a Danish film twice today, AFTER THE WEDDING, by director Suzanne Bier. Filmed in Copenhagen, it gave several small peeps into the city, scenes from expensive apartment windows with views of the city. It's a beautiful city. Old. It's architecture goes way back. It must have been a problem, like in all European cities when electricity and plumbing were introduced. The first thing I have to say about Suzanne Bier is that I like the way she decorates homes of the wealthy and corporate office buildings with contemporary, or close to it, abstract art. Sometimes she'd frame a beautiful work of art in the background between two people talking. While they talk, I can look at the beautiful painting long enough to get a feel of it. She likes to decorate rooms with modern abstract works. The homes of the rich and corporate office buildings have abstract paintings and prints on the walls. Woody Allen puts interesting art in his interiors too.


I've been discovering the art of Danish film making. I never wondered about Danish film, until I saw PELE THE CONQUEROR, a beautiful film that told me somebody in Denmark is making good films. Ole Christian Madsen, Bille August, Henrik Ruben Genz, Lars von Trier and Suzanne Bier are the directors of films I've given 5 stars to at netflix. They're all extraordinary film makers from Denmark, a country I never gave much thought to where making films was concerned. These are film makers among the best in the world. And that's actually quite a lot, I'm happy to say. Henrik Ruben Genz made a powerful film called TERRIBLY HAPPY. It's a story of suspense. The suspense rises gradually from the start when you know something is not right. Then something else is not right and it starts getting scary with twists and turns in a very small Danish town where the law is local, not state.


From what I see in Danish films, I am comfortable with their character. It must be the Nordic protestant that feels like home to me. It's not very different from mountain protestant, its feet way back there in the 17th and 18th centuries, possibly going back to the Reformation and before it, the renascence in the Elizabethan period. The protestant belief systems have strong influences on our attitudes toward life. This is why I can't join a Primitive Baptist Church. I'm done being expected of. I'm an old turd. Somebody says to me he's noticed I've not been coming to church much. I need to come more often. I'm thinking, You don't know me. You don't know if I need to be going to your church more often. You don't know my karma. Whether or not I go more often is my decision for myself, not for the expectations of somebody I don't even know, not even his name. I could step into a Scandinavian protestant church and probably feel like I'm closer to home than ever.


I'm not comfortable giving my life, my karma over to somebody else's expectations, esp people I don't know, but do know they do not know me and have no right to be expecting that I walk their line, for whatever reason. I love a Primitive Baptist Church meeting, the singing, the preaching, the people, the handshaking, the good feeling, the presence of the Spirit. Unfortunately, not enough to sign my life over to towing the line of what is expected of a member. I'm not driving to Blowing Rock to a liquor store so I won't be seen. When I want liquor I go to the liquor store in Sparta. They want to talk about me, have at it, but don't be holding me to 18th century doctrine I do not believe. It's all mental stuff of the human mind, theologians, worry about sin. We like to focus on sin. Get together with a lot of church people, preachers, they like to talk about all them things the young people's into in this day and time, aint it awful, terrible, people don't do no better'n 'at. It's the end of time, sin everywhere.


I can't help but see that a knot of hysteria created by focusing outward when the spiritual focus, seems to me, is inward. Instead of fussing over other people's sins and pointing the finger, I can't help but see it more beneficial to one's spiritual life, perhaps to one's karma, to focus attention in relation to God inward. Didn't Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is within? It's not the other side of the clouds. It is, in that the spirit of God is even in the nothing space between universes, but not in the way we think of God in the sky. The sky is good symbolism, infinity, forever, endless, so we look to the sky instead of in our hearts. So much protestant attention in USA has to do with the mission field, forever being the missionary, brow-beating people around them with the Lord. Missionarizing / advertising the protestant church. I can't do that.

In the church I grew up in, all us kids were expected to go to a missionary prep college in Alberta, Canada. Though, not the flock's black sheep. Spiritually, I don't hold with missionarizing. It has caused Christendom to jump the track, focusing attention outward on other people, when one's own life experience is where the focus belongs, seems to me. I'm not a theologian and I see the attempt to persuade somebody to bypass hell with Jesus. I'm so different from that mind, even was as a child, that it doesn't do for me to even think about it. I'll never believe missionarizing is God's will. My understanding of the spiritual path is that it is inward, between self and God, directed by the will of God. I can't believe it's about getting saved and that's it. Then you start being a missionary, meddling in other people's lives, bringing them into the fold where they can be expected of by a bunch of gossips. I'd best stay out of the churches. My path is what I call my Pilgrim Way. It's mine and mine alone. 


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

THE WILD THINGS


      caterpillar lioness



A squirrel has lived in the trees somewhere near the house for several months. I put up a bird feeder and the squirrel discovered it. The squirrel jumped from a tree to the roof of the birdfeeder. It's a little wooden one with a roof. At first, it was something new for the squirrel, but the benefit of the birdfeeder was negligible. A lot of work for very little. I started throwing seeds on the ground for the squirrel and birds that like the seeds on the ground. There was a period of time I didn't see the squirrel. What looked like at least half a dozen chipmunks ran about under the feeders nibbling seeds they could find. None could get past the squirrel guard. I threw seed on the ground for them. I don't mind who gets it. I put it out there for whoever comes along. A raccoon discovered one of the birdfeeders. When I put in too much during the day for the birds and there is some left in the night, the coon will sometimes throw the roof off the feeder and tear it apart getting at the seeds. I can't defeat the coon, so I put the roof back on and try not to have any left over by dark. If there is, it doesn't matter. If it gives the coon a vicarious thrill to feast on some morsels from a birdfeeder, I say go for it. Give it all you got. I don't mind the coon having some sunflower seeds the same as I don't mind the birds eating them.



I've been seeing what I thought were two young squirrels on the ground around the birdfeeders. So I've been throwing seed on the ground for them. Since they have come around, the chipmunks have vacated the birdfeeding area. I never see one. Earlier in the day I noticed two of the young squirrels running up and down a cedar tree outside the window that looks to the meadow. Then I saw a third one join in their game running up and down the trunk and the branches. Thought I saw a 4th one, or maybe the 3rd one again. I watched them all run up the trunk of the cedar to a nest. It looks like the squirrel that jumped on the birdfeeder from the tree had some babies and they're now big enough to run about on their own. One day last week I had the door open. I noticed Caterpillar on the inside of the screen door and one of the young squirrels outside the door and they were looking at each other. Caterpillar at age 14 is heavy enough she can't jump onto the footstool, needs to climb or be lifted. On a sunny day she lays on the ground like a gray rock and watches the flying candybars.



Caterpillar is long past catching birds. I saw her one day when she was a couple years old stalking a snowbird. From about 6 feet beyond Caterpillar the bird took off and flew over Caterpillar. She leaped straight up and swatted at the bird that was about 4 feet above the ground. She tapped one of the wings and set the bird to wobbling, and I saw she'd done that before. Three young cats was the end of birds around the house for a long time. No danger lurks here for birds or chipmunks or squirrels now. I sit at the desk with 3 windows and Caterpillar looking up at me wanting to be touched. Needing a few minutes of attention. Not a lot. She doesn't like too much attention. When she wants me to pick her up, it's for no more than a few minutes. If I act like I don't have time sitting at the desk looking at the rectangle of light, she can sit at my feet and beg plead until the end of time. I've learned when she wants attention, pick her up, talk to her, pet her and inside 2 minutes she wants down. She's satisfied. That was all she needed, held and touched, keeping the cat batteries charged.



I have a nest of squirrels now. That feels good. I've let trees grow around the house and made the ground like in the woods, a carpet of leaves, some rocks, some ferns. I like it that a squirrel chose to nest maybe 20 feet from the house. I laugh at myself. That means the attic space of the house has a good chance of becoming a squirrel apartment this winter. Exactly what I don't need. How do I get rid of them? Bring home a young cat. Then it's back to no birds or squirrels or chipmunks. Martha, the dog from next door, who spends her days here, is no bother to the critters. Dogs are good to keep critters like possums and coons from taking up under the house. A few weeks ago Martha killed a rabbit that ran under the house when it saw her, and Martha knows under the house like a kid knows its own bedroom. The rabbit didn't have a chance. While they were thumping around under the house, Caterpillar was listening with her ears alert, eyes inward, seeing with her ears. I didn't worry about Caterpillar feeling bad for the rabbit. If she were able, she'd have at least attempted to catch it. Martha brought it to the door to show what she'd done for me. Half-heartedly I told her she's a good dog. She picked it up and carried it off someplace to eat it.



Caterpillar, the lone cat now, seems to be happy with her place as the best and only. She didn't like the other two cats. Caterpillar has a solitary nature. She did seem to me to feel sorrow for a few days after TarBaby and Tapo had been gone long enough to see they're not coming back. I learned to communicate fairly well with my cats, enough that I believe I could tell sorrow when I saw it. She felt it. But like a cat, it lasted a short time, then it's back to the concerns of the day. Extended mourning is a mind thing for humans. I've learned from cats that our human way of standing over a grave or lingering at something sentimental is superficial. A cat sees a thing one time. That's all it needs. Second time, it doesn't need to look. It's already seen. When I took Jr to the cemeteries to visit his mother's grave and his dad's grave, he walked up to each one, looked at it a brief moment, turned and walked back to the car. He didn't need to stand over the grave. A look was what he went for. When I visit his grave, that's what I do, see it and leave. I learned it from him and the cats.    



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