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Thursday, May 31, 2012

DOC WATSON 1923-2012

doc watson 

It's time to honor Doc Watson. From this region of the mountains, it was Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson. Doc is gone now and Ralph may not be far behind. Doc Watson seemed, somehow, immortal, like the right man in the right place in the right time. He and Bob Dylan started in the same approximate time, and by now with Ralph Stanley, the three great voices of Americana music are of an age to be dropping off. Strange to think of what it would be like to be 20 and listening to Bob Dylan at 70. Probably it would be about like listening to Muddy Waters at 70 or John Lee Hooker at 70. Before this generation of rock musicians, white entertainers had no career after 30. Bob Hope and them did it for the comedians. And Lawrence Welk, music for grandparents. Now white people can rock at 70. I used to wonder why black musicians could go on into their 70s and 80s, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, and many more, and white musicians were over at 30 or soon after, with some Vaudeville exceptions, Sophie Tucker, Jimmy Durante. I wonder if this period might be the beginning of white people being able to appreciate a writer or musician past 40. Bob Dylan played in NY coffee houses at the same time Doc Watson played in the NY coffee house scene too. Bob Dylan recorded his own version of Man of Constant Sorrow on his first album. He took Ralph Stanley's signature song and made it his own.

I've never been a Doc Watson groupie or fan club member or in the front row at a concert. I've listened to every period of his evolving musicianship and singing. Played him quite a bit on the radio show. Saw him at the Wayne Henderson fest in 08. He lived 50 miles down the road on the way to Boone. Jr Maxwell's first wife, Mary Magdeline Watson was Doc's cousin. Jr said the Watsons in Alleghany County are direct kin to the Watsons in Deep Gap. Arthel was going to blind school in Raleigh when they were married. A doctor in Winston-Salem who reads my pacemaker is a Deep Gap Watson, who grew up just down the street from Doc. I've put on my favorite Doc Watson album to listen to while I write. Mostly I don't listen to music while writing, because it takes over my attention and I start writing about it. I meant for it to happen this time. It is Doc Watson's first album, as far as I know, DOC WATSON AND CLARENCE ASHLEY 1960 through 1962. A 2cd Smithsonian Folkways album. Every song insists I listen to all the words. His delivery is such that he tells the words in subtle ways, emphases, that also reveal insight into meaning. Willard Gayheart is such a singer. More than once I've seen new insight into a song's meaning I never saw before Willard made it happen.

He just now finished John Brown's Dream, Doc accompanying his father-in-law who played the fiddle, Gaither Carlton. Field Recorders has a cd of Carlton. It is among the most beautiful albums of old-time music I know of. It is there with this one, Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley, in the zone where it is so good it is always new. I've heard this album a lot of times and it is still new every time I hear it. I always hear licks I never heard before and lines in songs. Clarence Ashley becomes more amazing to me with each hearing, as does fiddler Fred Price, who has a sensitive, smooth bow with strong feeling. Another old-time album perhaps the equal of this one is Tommy Jarrell's and Kyle Creed's June Apple. Clint Howard, who plays rhythm guitar, has played at Merlefest with Doc Watson almost every year. They have been friends since that time. Ashley, Price and Howard were from the Mountain City region of east Tennessee, close to the border with Ashe County, so it's one county over, so to speak. The story is that Ralph Rinzler, a folklorist from NY came down to NC, got up with Clarence Ashley at Union Grove fiddlers convention and asked him to get some people together for a tour of the college and big city circuit to ride the wave of the then "folk revival" of the late 50s and early 60s.

doc watson 

Clarence Ashley was from the days of minstrel shows that he left home to join in his teens and took up pre-Vaudeville banjo. He is said to have paid much attention to how the black musicians played it, it being, then, a black instrument. A truly Southern old-time musician. I say that because there wasn't so much racial interaction in the music up north. He was of the generation that was the first to record in the late 20s. In the time Rinzler talked to him, he was playing with Dock Walsh of Wilkes County in The Carolina Tar Heels. Ashley suggested the musicians he knew at Mountain City, Fred Price and Clint Howard, and he recommended Doc (then Arthel) Watson, who at that time played rockabilly electric guitar. Watson told Ashley he couldn't play an acoustic guitar. Ashley told him he could and took him along. I don't know how many shows they put on, but they travelled all over the country to university auditoriums and big cities where enough people could gather who want to hear old-time mountain music to make it pay. They appeared on Pete Seeger's folk music tv show in NY without Ashley. Knocked Pete's sox off. The recording of 3 songs performed on the show, as well as 2 songs and an interview with Clarence Ashley in that time, is on a Vestapol dvd Legends of Old Time Music, featuring, Tommy Jarrell, Clarence Ashley, Roscoe Holcomb, Doc Watson, Sam McGee and several others, Jean Ritchie one of them.

It was from this tour that Doc Watson was invited to play at NY coffee houses in the early 60s, the time of Beatniks, pre-hippies. One of Doc's albums from that time is at Gerdes Folk City, quite a good one. I've been told that when his brother Arnold went with him to play banjo with Doc, Arnold didn't last long. He couldn't look at those people any more. They made him feel like he'd died and went to hell. He went home. Doc couldn't see, so they were all beautiful people to him. In my personal preferences, I like his early music the best, though that's not as dramatic as it sounds: The Best. I prefer his early music and the more homey music, esp the Smithsonian album of his family members, The Doc Watson Family. As a gospel singer, he's among the very best. He can deliver a gospel song with the soul of Ralph and Carter Stanley. I read an article today crediting Doc with the phenomenon known as Americana music via Merlefest. I've not read many of the articles turning up on facebook, mainly because they all write of him as unreachable hero. He's known around here as a man, as a good man, a master guitar picker. The guitar pickers around here look to him as the Master, up there with Maybelle Carter, another picker of the Central Blue Ridge. He has been known all the way along as one open to his fans, will talk with people he'd never met and be friendly. He jammed with local musicians. He was one of them.

In his concerts he gets a love circle going with the audience. The audience projects love to him, he projects love to his audience, and through the course of the concert that love circle gets to going and it can be responsible for a big feeling in the heart with all that love energy in the air. That is what I found most notable about a Doc Watson concert, the love circle he gets going with the audience. I feel no problem that he has chosen this time to leave the body. If he'd survived the operations, he could afford to be taken care of at home, but better not to be taken care of. He went under his own power as long as he could do it. Singing a whole concert and picking serious guitar the whole time is exhausting for a man in his upper 80s. But he was right there. He was a man of these mountains. Throughout his career of countless recordings, concerts all over the world, the red carpet everywhere he goes, he likes his home in Deep Gap with his family the way they like to live, not the way they live in southern California. Throughout his period of fame and fortune he never strayed to any degree from who he, himself, was. He was a true man of these mountains. I've mixed past and present tense throughout this writing. I decided not to correct it because it is correct as it is. His spirit is so recently free from the body that he still feels present.

doc watson


Wednesday, May 30, 2012


As of today I have a GPS for the car. It came in the mail from amazon, a birthday present from friends in Georgia who live on the cutting edge of the modern, have had one for years. Judy said she thought it would be a good assist finding some regional music venues in places I don't know my way around. Like this weekend is MtAiry fiddler's convention. It will be a great assist finding the place. It's in a freaked out place in town that you almost have to belong to a secret society for the key to find it. It is a secret society-- the old-time music community. Secret not because they guard it jealously, but because nobody else is interested. Judy went with me last year to the Albert Hash Festival at Whitetop VA, over hills and dales, beautiful drive up 58 from Mouth of Wilson. Actually, the beautiful drive starts at my driveway. In these mountains it's beautiful everywhere I go. I'm a Taurus whose ruling planet is Venus, meaning a Taurus personality needs the beautiful, in my case mountains and trees, the green world that draws me into it feeling more like home the deeper I go.

Sat in the car reading instructions, assembling it part by part, strictly according to instructions, one step at a time. I'm in a world there completely foreign to any world I know. Not completely foreign. Let's just say I don't know the language. It's familiar, like nearly everybody has one, and simple to operate. It's so simple it's just right. Makes it possible for me to deal with it in my indifferent attitude toward the tsunami of hi-tech gadgets we can't live without now. In Polanski's film, Carnage, the lawyer who has alienated his wife with his cell phone fell to pieces on the floor when she dunked his blackberry in water. "My life is in there!!!" The women fell out laughing and couldn't stop laughing, loosened somewhat by some liquor mid-day, and the man lay on the floor practically in convulsions. I couldn't laugh so hard because I wasn't as mad at him as they were. I just saw him as one of those people I'm glad I don't know. People jumping out of their skin from anxiety and stressed to the max make me nervous. Ambition has never been one of my driving forces. One day many years ago reading in the discourses of Sri Upasni Maharaj it rang the bell within when he recommended living without ambition. I wondered about its meaning for some years, yet at the same time saw it straight-forward and obvious, about as direct as know thyself.

Because I've lived my adult life without ambition, I've got nowhere. The Buddhist ideal: nobody going nowhere. The art of Andy Goldsworthy. A red leaf floating down a stream among rocks covered in moss. Flowing with the Tao, the Way, the way of the birds, the way of the ants, the way of all life on earth in evolution to the forebrain that gave the hairless ape the curiosity to leave the shelter of the trees. From there on, look what we've done. We're in a place in civilization when it's probably as good as it has ever been, yet at the same time gives cause to declare it the worst of times. Along my way working at outdoor labor jobs like caretaking a farm and house painting, I've felt no ambition to be a contractor, hire people to work for me, get big jobs, big money, big office, big name, hotdogs forever in heaven. I have spent my life in a world of people who want to be looked upon with favor by them from on high. The great American smile always makes me see a children's market in China, I'm nice, I'll cook for you, I'll scrub floors for you, wash your clothes, I'm nice. That's what I've come to see ambition reduces one to. Ambition involves selling self, selling time, selling attention.

In a time of wanting to climb the art gallery ladder, I was told in seriousness to paint primitives of nigger kids playing around a school house. That's what people want. She blew my circuits. I didn't know there was anyone in the civilized world that ignorant. It pushed me over the edge. In another gallery situation, I was invited to show things to the top dog who complained that they were too much of a kind, not enough variety. On the wall of the gallery at the very moment was a show of one tree in landscape over and over, same landscape, same tree, over and over all the way through the gallery. I left the place making vows to myself. Before I was out of Raleigh I saw a big pink Buick of about 20 years old with a tag on the front that said Love God. That set me to laughing and my dark mood went away like a hat flying up through a sunroof. Got with a hot dog gallery for a year and brought everything home because I couldn't stand the drive the Chapel Hill once a month, for Christmas parties, for openings, and being treated like the truck driver when I show up. Didn't paint for ten or more years after that.

Scott Freeman set me in motion again, this time on the only track I've found that is right for me. He asked me to paint a picture for the album cover he used on his fiddle album. Working on that picture brought me back. By then I had discovered the artist in the mountain musician, and saw that music was the only art form in mountain culture, and preaching. Preaching the old time way was an art form. The mountain musician isn't ambitious about fortune and fame. The mountain musician makes music for the joy of making music. He likes to get paid, but will make music for gas money. The musicians are more interested in their own skill than anything else. Also, "making it plain." That means make it straight-forward what it is. In music making, it's note for note, no effort to draw attention to the banjo picker, but to the banjo keeping rhythm and playing tenor to the fiddle. The style of playing is to honor the tune not the musician. In my paintings now I want them to honor the mountain musicians. I paint "plainly" in a realism easy to interpret. I've adopted the principles of mountain music for my painting of mountain musicians. It's the best principles I've ever operated by. They are sound principles, like find your own style, don't make a spectacle of self. It's the art the creation is about, not the artist. The artist is about giving expression to the art form, manifesting it.


Monday, May 28, 2012


         cocacola 600 charlotte

Baby Vada's first birthday party Sunday, a party of 20 or so all day. Baby was looking at different people, like whoever might be holding her at the time, who are you? have I ever seen you? She was comfortable when somebody put a camera in her face. That's like home with mommy who takes pictures of her almost every day. When daddy held her and when mommy held her, she relaxed, was in the arms of the familiar. My mind went to the time with friend Jr Maxwell when his mind went away. People would come to the house to see him, he would look at them and try to figure out who it was while they talked to him. When they or I told him who it was he pretended to get it. As soon as they were out the door he'd ask me who it was. I'd explain to his friends before they saw him that he may not, probably will not recognize them, and if he seems to it's because he's pretending. Nonetheless, his subconscious, the whole of who he is, is still there. Though his conscious mind isn't working any more, he recognizes you anyway, and attention felt good to him, it helped his spirit.

I experienced the joy of motherhood again, after my three kittens born on mother's day 1997 and given to me two weeks later, the day their eyes opened, by their mother by running under a car. That was my first experience as mother. I knew they needed mother love to live, so I went within and turned on mother love. It was mother love that helped me taking care of Jr, the diapers, feeding, cleaning, changing clothes, dealing with a baby that has no mind. Learning to communicate with the subconscious mind when the conscious mind was gone was not much different from communicating with a cat or a dog or a horse. They can't talk but they are good at communicating with each other. Learn how they do that and I can communicate with them. I've always lived with dogs and cats, so I'm well versed in communication without language, without the forebrain. I read these opportunities to activate the mother within as gifts from goddess. They tell me she's with me and that gives my spirit comfort.

I've been allowed into Justin and Crystal's hearts as family. I've seen Baby Vada since the very beginning and known of her since conception. Before she was born Crystal knew she liked bluegrass. After she was born she lights up hearing bluegrass. Reggae too. This is somebody with a brilliant mind. Justin was telling me she pays attention and responds. Like if she's crawling toward something she needs to stay away from, he said just the merest command she responds to immediately. I see two people I believe actually need each other and I'm happy for them. I'm happy for them all the time I'm around them and when I'm not around them. I can't help but see their relationship somewhat mystical, because so much love is involved and it grows. The house, itself, has a powerful love spirit in it, which surely complements the love between everyone in the house. Crystal's love energy is radiant. And Justin is the beneficiary. She brings the love energy in him to the surface. I'm happy that Baby Vada is to grow up in the light of parents with a very real love energy going between them. I'm happy for all concerned.

This evening Justin and I watched the CocaCola 600 until around midnight. Toward the end of the race Crystal, who had been sleeping with Baby V, came walking through on the way to the kitchen for something. She said, "You guys are retarded." There really wasn't anything to say to that, so we just heard it. He'd wanted to do some fishing during the time the race was on. His tv is set to record the race every week. I drove over there to watch the race when he was ready. Since the parkway opened, it takes 10 minutes less to get there. The closest to a wreck in this race was Tony Steward pulling in to pit stop, getting bumped and turned around in the pit road. It was a good clean run round and round the freshly painted track that had a beautiful yellow line around it that looked good above the slate gray track and the green of the infield grass below, cars on the track running 195. Sometimes I think I like the visuals at least as much as the race itself.


Sunday, May 27, 2012


     damien hirst, spot painting

I've been watching THE TREE OF LIFE for an hour and so far it's the most boring movie I've sat this far through. It strikes me as a National Geographic presentation of the suburban American family idealized unto vapid suburban nothingness. I'd rather watch kids skateboard on YouTube. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn stand around and sit around looking officious. A lot of slow motion explosions, images of flow in water and air, volcanoes. It's like a 60s hippie dream of the ideal of suburban living. An hour into it I don't know the characters, don't care about them, don't want to see them in the next scene, but there they are. I get the feeling it is an attempt to make an abstract film accessible to the masses that don't care. Now, half way through it, I have to listen to a boring sermon by a priest, the kind of thing I endured every Sunday of my childhood. It's a vision of the 50s American suburban family in all its worst, parents alienating their kids. The post-war generation of psycho parenting.  In the beginning was a suggestion to turn the volume up loud. I tried it. People talk in whispers. Turned volume down after I realized it's a whisper movie and put the subtitles on. At netflix it has 5 stars. Several people told me it's really great, gotta see it. All that's missing is vaseline on the lens.

Two-thirds of the way through the film I'm seeing it was my time of growing up, 13 in 1955, and seeing similar attitudes and belief systems in the household familiar to me. It's appearing the boy who might grow up to be Sean Penn has the very same relationship with his dad as I did mine. The film is attempting to portray how it feels in a round about way that doesn't work. It evokes a feeling, but it's nowhere near what the kid is feeling. Merely a portrayal of the twists bad parenting puts in the kids. Even though I don't like the movie so far, it is starting to get to me a little bit emotionally, bringing up memories I'd prefer to forget. Then about the time I start thinking I could like it, Brad Pitt starts jabbering about the beauty of the flowers and trees and I gag within. I don't think the word "zilch" was in popular usage in 1955. I'm thinking it is a more recent word than that. But, what do I know? I was a kid then and don't remember very well now.

Time is about up, it should be wrapping up now. The very most boring end of all time. This had to be made by an old hippie who still has long hair to prove he's authentic.  Phew. I thought it was over, then it was not. That's it. I am so very glad it's over. Don't ever want to see it again. Don't even want to remember it. I know I'm overlooking artistic merit, pretty smoke clouds, filthy dirty waterfalls of almost black water from the pollution. I know, that's part of what it has to say. It wasn't all flowers and trees, but when I want to see a National Geographic nature extravaganza of artistic shots of waves washing up on a beach, and suburbs, suburbs, suburbs, I know how to find them. Much of what I couldn't stand I'll call the "corn factor," which amounts to mom dancing barefoot in the suburban street. Way too hippie for 1955. And dancing in the lawn sprinkler's spray in her house dress. I had a physical reaction to that film just now when a slideshow of scenes from the film flashed on the screen: GAK!!! It's title is even over the edge in the corn factor.

Possibly my reaction to the film is a result of seeing it an attempt to make an art film by people whose careers have been making commercial films. This looked like an attempt to make a commercial art film. It worked more or less. It's a box office and critical hit, but it seems like guns and butter--if you're going to do art, can't be too caught up in the commercial; if you're doing commercial, you can't give much space to art. This one attempted commercial art, and it was evidently a success commercially. I doubt it will get much attention as an art film. I can't help but think of its evocative,
suggestive style as Hollywood Hippie. The next generation of Hollywood's hip pot smokers, the Sean Penn, Willie Nelson generation. And Sean Penn's nose didn't match the nose of the kid that grew up into him. A National Geographic nature and cosmos extravaganza for the first hour, then a Southern gothic story in Waco, Texas, 1955, finalizing in desert, glass and steel skyscrapers, a cast of hundreds in the final scene walking about like zombies on a beach. The rare moments it engaged me, it repelled me.


Saturday, May 26, 2012


harrol blevins, mike gayheart, willard gayheart

harrol blevins

willard gayheart

mike gayheart

harrol blevins, mike gayheart, willard gayheart

Harrol Blevins made music with Willard Gayheart in Scott Freeman's absence. Scott is on the road in SC tonight with Johnny and Jeanette Williams promoting their new cd, FREEMAN AND WILLIAMS. Blevins has been making music with Willard on the Parkway on Thursday afternoons in Scott's absence at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Willard and Harrol have not played a great deal together, but it didn't matter. The music was right and they flowed together well. It was the usual crowd of people tonight, most of the ones there every week and and a few who had not been there before. It's become almost a social gathering for the ones who go every week. The one thing we all have in common is the privilege of hearing the music Willard and Scott present every week from northwestern NC and southwestern Virginia. We have in common this music, which we all know is good as it gets. We all have a connection at the Front Porch. Willard announced tonight that the Crooked Road program of hwy 58 crossing southern Virginia had accepted the Fiddle and Plow show at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, Va. as a "Crooked Road venue." They had to wait for 2 years for that designation. He said a delegation from the Crooked Road will attend a show in the near future.

Two years it has been that I've been driving to Woodlawn almost every Friday night. Last week I missed it because I didn't feel like going out the door. I call that valid enough reason. For me, I don't want to is as valid a reason as a funeral or an illness. When I feel like I don't want to go, I stay home. Sometimes the hour drive each way and sitting there for 2 hours is something I don't feel like doing that particular day. So I don't. That's not very often, but I allow myself my feelings. I'm not under any obligation to go, nor am I being paid. It is entirely my own volition, so I go on my own terms, like everybody else. I do, however, feel obliged to myself to go there on Friday nights, because I love the music. Scott and Willard's music has become the music of my heart in this time of my life. Willard and Harrol started Take Me Back To Tulsa before I knew they were going to start. I wanted their version of it for youtube, but was too late. It's a beautiful song and Willard sings it just right every time. I like his version tonight, closer to a folk style than western swing. Every time has it's video missed or a good still missed. No problem. When I moved to the mountains, people I knew spoke of all I'd miss being outside a city. I'd answer I miss everything going on in NY, London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, everyplace in the world. And I don't miss any of it. I don't subscribe to the New Yorker because I don't want to know what's going on in NY.

It's too frustrating when I know Robert Wilson's Einstein On The Beach is playing somewhere and I can't be there. So I pay it no mind. It's just one of everything I miss. I came to the country because I don't miss everything I miss that's going on in cities. With netflix I have better than a city with an art house movie theater, infinitely better. By this time in my life I've learned what I like and I've learned the importance of going with what I like instead of what I oughta like. The ongoing thoughts in the head have settled down by now. I can listen to music without thoughts in my head putting the music in the background. I can hear subtle differences in Willard's delivery of MY HENDERSON GUITAR from time to time that he plays it. I spoke to him at intermission, told him tonight's version of the song was relaxed, a new way of playing it. He said yesterday he and Harrol were playing at the Blue Ridge Music Center and he played it slower than he'd done it before. He liked it. He said it doesn't have to have drive behind it. The song stands by itself. I agreed, saying it's now a song he can play either way, bluegrass or folk. It will be a few weeks before I'm able to get the video online at youtube.

Harrol played his Henderson guitar this evening. He makes guitars, too. I get the impression his guitars are a truly high quality. He made one for Lynn Worth a few years ago and she loves it. Harrell is a man with inner resources. Harrol is an intelligent man with a work history that has allowed him a retirement he can make music in all he wants and make all the guitars he can in what time he's allowed. He has entered the SW Virginia music scene through the jams in Independence, Fries and Sparta. He's good enough guitar player and singer to settle in among the better musicians of the area. Making music with Willard Gayheart is no small thing in my way of seeing. With more practice together, more performances together, they could polish easily the rough spots, the hesitations, which were few and not worth mentioning. They have the potential to become as good a duo as Scott and Willard, though in an altogether different way. As usual, at the end everybody was happy. 


Friday, May 25, 2012


woody allen in a corner

I like it when I click on "new post" and don't see a pop-up in the bottom right corner that says "send feedback." When that is on, it's crazy-making trying to write. Last night's problem frustrated me so much I quit writing after a paragraph, deleted it and went to bed. It's kind of like videos on youtube at a time of day a lot of people are engaged at youtube---the video stops and the horizontal thermometer at the bottom has to do its thing first, then the movie can go again, then it stops and the thermometer has to catch up again. It's the same kind of thing with the writing. I write about a line, then it stops and I have to wait half a minute or so, then write another line and it stops, I wait, it starts again, I go, it stops, I wait. I send feedback almost every day. They don't explain what they're doing. I'm imagining the website needs more space and they're making more space possible. I don't know. I hope they're working toward making it better, not worse. So far, it's only been worse, and it's been a few months. Sometimes, like now, it is working right. When they drop back to the previous format everything works smoothly. When they're working on what is evidently a new one, it messes up. I trust they're making it worse to make it better, tearing down the old to put up the new. Stay in one place in this world and you start slipping backwards into time past. Oops.

Have just now finished Woody Allen's 2011 film, WHATEVER WORKS. I'm glad to see Allen has returned to New York from London. He understands NY people. He does not understand the Brits with the same degree of subtlety. In America, he portrays what he understands. This film threw me back into earlier Allen films, Bananas, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, not by particular references, but by association, by seeing Woody Allen's art eye and ear evolving to this one film that could be used as Allen's farewell message to his modest fan club. If he never makes another film, this one could be used to for the summation of everything he has ever had to say as an artist, and an allegory of his interior life. He's packed it all into this film like packing a billion snowflakes into a snowball. I'm glad he's gone to using an actor besides himself in his advanced years when his nose is uglier than ever. He's the perfect one to be the lead role in roles he writes for himself. In this one, Larry David played Allen's role. Early in the film he didn't look like Allen, but as it went along he looked more and more like Allen until by the final scene closeups on his face looked like Woody Allen without the awkward nose.

He worked the two women in the story as he most often does the leading women. In the beginning they're plain and nice looking. They change through the unveiling of the story and by the end come to be seen such gorgeous women they make Marilyn a cliche, which she has always been. He took two women from southern Mississippi, daughter and mother, and dropped them into Manhattan unannounced and unprepared, separately. "The chance factor in life is mind boggling," quoth he in the beginnings of his discoveries regarding the irrational in relation to the rational. Too much rational is confining like too much irrational. Together they make a balance, each one half a circle. This seemed to me the theme of the film, incompletion coming to some sort of temporary completion. It's like all the abstract background is true, but only in relation to the foreground which acts in specifics on the principles of the background, the super-ego and ego working together. Allen does think in psychological terms, so it's natural he would dramatize the relationship of the super-ego and the ego. All the foreground characters were adjusting their own relationships with themselves, like the frustrated Louisiana preacher who fell in love with a man in NY when he went there looking for his estranged wife, who happened to be living with two men, wallowing in irreverence.

Allen went all the way back to Greek plays and to Shakespeare, using a soliloquy to fill the audience in on some background to what we're seeing, turning aside from his role in the story to talk to the audience, which only he can see. At the end, he said to the audience, "I'm the only one that can see the whole picture. That's what makes me a genius." He's the one able to see that they're all roles in a play, as in life. Allen, himself, is often called a genius. This film indicates to me that he identifies with the word, embraces it, also is aware of its limitations. He puts his character, himself, the artist within, through assaults of the irrational to find completion, balance. Allen took the deep plunge in his own life when he divorced his wife, Mia Farrow, a woman whose beauty he accented in several films, to marry their adopted daughter, who was 19 at the time. He bought the Peggy Guggenheim's estate in Venice, knowing it was associated with bad luck for its owners. He subsequently made a string of films in London, lesser versions of films he'd made before, like Crimes and Misdemeanors became Match Point. In my way of seeing, the best films he made were done while married to Mia Farrow, evidently something of a muse, which she had been to Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn before Woody Allen.

Mia Farrow struck me as something of a vulnerable, humble sparrow Woody Allen transformed into a golden finch in the course of each film. Marrying his 19 yr old adopted daughter reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 yr old cousin. From then on, Jerry Lee was just another country singer who happened to be Jerry Lee Lewis. Seems like Allen's apparent folly (no telling how many hours his psychiatrist listened to him about the move from wife to daughter) was something of a blow to his reputation. However, I suspect it did nothing to the faithful, including myself, while the ones with a superficial interest in Allen fell away. That's just as well. It's best to have a small audience that appreciates what you're doing. My friends who are also Woody Allen fans have no less affection for his film making than before. Still, I'd about stopped watching the post-divorce films, because they were so much less than Woody Allen can deliver. A self-conscious old man. Woody Allen is too cool to be self-conscious about his old age, though the hypochondriac he is can't resist the temptation. In this one, Whatever Works, he's back in New York, an old guy marrying a Creole belle not long out of high school, a fussy old intellectual of an era gone by overtaken by cliches that tell it better, by letting go of the rational long enough to receive when "fate knocks at the door" or chance makes a connection otherwise unanticipated.

Whatever Works is straight-forwardly the story of a man who was all mind, understood everything mentally, had no room for that which did not figure rationally, like God and relationships with other people. This man is confronted by a chance encounter that made him pay attention to chance and start allowing the wisdom of the irrational to complete his incompletion, to make him whole. I felt like he was saying at the end that other people had called him a genius all along because he was so brilliant of mind, but finally by the end of the story he had found his own completion in his dive into the irrational. Finally he was able to see his own completion, accepting that it's not just about mind. In Woody Allen fashion, this film got zanier with each scene, all the way to the end where it was zaniest of all. Having seen so many of his films, this one is definitely a part of the whole, and it's back in New York where he is at home. One of his great lines that appeared here, the kind he inserts one or more of in every film, "If it wasn't for sexual inadequacy the NRA would go broke." His character said in praise of Job's wife, "she chose death to obsequious acceptance." Woody Allen is still very much alive and he's back. As a film, I'd say it's nowhere near Interiors, but it fits in well as one of the lesser of the better ones. I cannot ask any artist to be running on all cylinders all the time. This one struck me as something of an absurdist play instead of a movie. It had a kind of Neil Simon quality I cannot explain.


Thursday, May 24, 2012


animal by jaap mooy, 1915-1987

This morning the local branch of Hospice put on a talk by Amy Douglas Green on dementia. This was what happened to Jr Maxwell. I was wide awake to everything she had to say. She gave the science behind it, dying brain cells, something on the order of hardening of the arteries, plaque. It happens in brain too. Seems like with all the tiny blood vessels running through the brain they'd plug up easily with plaque. There are several kinds of dementia, Alzheimer's one of them, and there are several kinds of Alzheimer's. I guess that comes down to it's individual like everything else about us. It brought back my experience with Jr, brought it back happily. Happily in that it was such a precious time. He had become the same as a baby, everything strange and new, nothing familiar. I saw when his mind went away that it was only the surface mind that fell away. The subconscious was still there, which is to say I never felt like anything happened to who Jr Maxwell was. He was still very much present. He was enough not present that I was glad it was me and not someone else taking care of him who would not know him well enough to see his self there. I wanted him to have someone with him who understood him, who would allow him to stay in his own home when he was unable to take care of himself.

I talked today about as much as Amy did. Several of us talked. We were a vocal bunch. It was all interesting. Everything Amy talked about was familiar to me, the stages along the way. Somehow having explanations of the particulars of what is happening in the brain to cause certain behaviors makes it easier for me to think about; therefore, deal with.mind loss. I've known older people all my life and I've seen the processes they go through, collectively, in the aging process. Like now I forget a lot, to the point I don't even attempt to remember anything anymore. I've seen it happen so regularly in older people I take it for perfectly natural when it happens to me. A lot of my peers resist it, get mad and hate forgetting, but I see no point in that. Fingers get arthritis. I wear a medal around my neck, an alloy of 4 metals, one of them copper, no arthritis stiffness or pain. Leave it off for two weeks and the finger joints start stiffening and hurt. Rather than become debilitated by arthritis, I wear copper. Easy. With forgetting I can make notes. I see a need for making notes rather overwhelmingly. A few days ago I thought of 4 things I needed to do in town the next day. I didn't make a note, thought I'd remember them. Next day, time to go to town, I couldn't remember any of them.

Rather than get mad at myself and blow a gasket, I laugh. It's funny. I'm doing old age stuff and it's the same me as was 15, 10, 5. Teens have their difficulties, twenties have their difficulties, as do 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s. Each phase of our development and degeneration is common to most of us. I've seen old age symptoms all my life. Every person goes into and through old age differently. It depends on the individual's attitude toward life how we get through, as in the other phases of our lives. Since I turned 70 everyone around me says, "you don't look 70." That's not what I see when I look in a mirror. I see 70 loud and clear, as much as on anybody else. I think it's that I'm not a grandparent and don't have grandkids graduating from college making me feel old. As it is, I don't feel an age. I feel a phase in a process of my own biological development and undevelopment. What I feel like more than I feel like 70 is I don't have a lot of time to go. That's what I identify with inside more than 70. There are a few things I'd like to do before I go, none of them urgent, and I have a bunch of friends I really don't want to leave. But, everything changes. Stop one thing from changing in a tapestry in continual change and you've got a flaw, a broken thread, a still point in a pattern of perpetual motion.

I feel like I'm flowing in this time of the life with my own rhythm. This is what Social Security allows. I like it not only for myself, but for everyone who gets its assistance. I'm grateful with every moment of every day for Social Security. It is allowing me a life as I want it for myself, time to paint, time to write, time not to worry about it, time to visit friends, time. Early in my life, while still in school, I reasoned that living a life is a matter of time or money. If I want money, I give up time. If I want time, I give up money. I chose time. Money is something I don't need beyond necessities. I don't want luxuries. A 93 Buick century suits me as good as a 2012 BMW sports car. Better. Takes less gas. Costs lest to insure. Costs less. Makes nobody envy me. Makes nobody jealous. Makes nobody look up to me for the wrong reasons. Makes nobody want to steal it. My old Buick says it's owner is not between anyone and what they want. Not a stepping stone nor a rung on a ladder. No conscious inclination to impress. I like a car that says this is nobody to suck up to socially, nobody you want to notice. The owner of this car can get you nowhere.

Working in Winston-Salem on a job in the late 80s, a woman I knew there who drove a Mercedes said of my blue 78 Toyota pickup with red driver's side door, "You still driving that old trap?" I said, Yeah. I was thinking, Let's race up 21 mountain and see who gets to the top first. If you do, I won't be far behind, might be pushing you. That thing was a go-kart. I loved it. It handled like an expensive car, took curves good. This 93 Buick is everything I need for get-up-and-go. First time I pushed pedal to the metal, passing gear, it threw me back in the seat and jerked the steering wheel out of my hand. I was ready the second time. Now it's like, let's go! I imagine gas consumption in that moment about 1mpg. It takes off like a rocket. It's front wheel drive and the back end drops like the bumper is going to drag, front end goes up in the air like a minor wheelie and I'm a-gettin it down the road. None of my pickups before had that "passing gear." It's not like something I'd miss if the Buick didn't have it. But it is handy when I need to get around somebody in a hurry. Once on hwy 21 between Twin Oaks and the state line, I passed a couple of college age guys in an open Jeep. They sped up like they wanted to race. I laughed at them in the rear view mirror. First car I've ever owned that would do that. It handles well in curves too. If I needed to I could drive the wheels off the thing.

The Buick has good center of gravity and good power. On the highway with a car wanting to ride up close behind me, I separate myself from it in the curves. I will take a curve faster than I know the other is able to handle it, give it gas in the curve, drive through the curve picking up speed while the car behind is fading back in the curve. It catches up to me in the straightaway and I open the gap between us through the curves. I really dislike somebody on my bumper at night with headlights. My eyes are getting psychedelic. Headlights approaching and in the rearview mirror now have rays of light going out from them in all directions. Sometimes it's a light show on hwy18 going toward Sparta, heading down the hill toward the Napco road at the bottom. The yellow reflectors in the centerline of the road, the white reflectors in the guardrails on both sides of the road, signs beside the road activated by  headlights, headlights coming the other way and in the rear view mirror make a psychedelic experience. Then it's a nice glide up the hill and around the gradual curve to the left, then to the right and we're headed into Spartaritaville 35mph.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


new beginning

Did a little painting today on the new one of Jr Maxwell playing his 5-string. I put flesh on his face and hands, his hair in place, got the hands placed on the banjo, made the circle of the banjo head fairly well. I only make circles and geometric shapes free-hand, including the banjo neck, two long straight lines. I like the bit of waver in a line that is "straight." With gentle wiggles in the line, it has a movement about it, subliminal to be sure. A ruler-edge straight line is dead in my visual perception. I always find at this stage major errors in placement of shoulders, hands, knees, nose, glasses, chin, ears, hair. This second phase after the initial sketch and color placement I find places that are a bit off and correct them in this time. This visit with it I found what I want to do next time, the blue shirt and blue pants, cobalt blue work clothes. The right shoulder and arm I want to have close to the light source, bright to white and dark to deep cobalt. Have the dark and the light dancing in the folds of the cloth in relation to the light. That will bring the shoulder forward. The left shoulder and arm I'll have very low contrast in the folds of the cloth, which will set it back visually. I want the right shoulder forward, sit him at an angle leaning over the banjo head, big white moon.

Wanting to do the Whitetop Mountain Band next, I started this one of Jr Maxwell. I'd been wanting to make another portrait of him, this time a solo portrait. I was looking through some photographs and found one of Jr Maxwell that jumped at me. He was picking his bluegrass banjo. I wanted to make one of Jr to be a match to the one of Willard playing his guitar. I like the dynamic nature of that one of Willard with the red square behind him in blue shirt and yellow guitar. I want this one to have its own power. I've thought about painting a faint pattern of the moon on the banjo head. Wouldn't want to do it too obvious, just a suggestion. Maybe. Not sure yet. Just a thought to toss around. I like the long black line of the neck making a diagonal line in relation to the circle. It suggests a sign by the side of the road. On first glance, the diagonal black line suggests one of those signs with the red circle and the red diagonal line that means DONT. They catch our eye because they have information we need to know with reference to the highway. This one is not red, but just the icon of the circle with a diagonal line draws attention. Once the eye pauses on the image, there sits a man in the icon playing a banjo, more circles.

Attempts to make a chrome ring around the banjo head will be done using black and white lines close together, using those opposites together bring it forward. Like first glance it's a sign, then the eye settles and it's a man sitting in a circle with a banjo. Has the plane of the big circle and the plane of the white circle, and between them a man sitting slightly diagonally. I'm seeing where it's going and liking what I see. He already seems to have dimension about him. What do I mean by dimension? I mean his face had taken on the beginnings of roundness, the posture is starting to take an interesting twist over the banjo. Already it feels like he is in tune with the banjo. They are one. I'm looking at it, seeing the next phase, seeing the advance beyond what is there now. Beginning to see where I want to take it. I want to make the banjo dazzle, the chrome rim that is several circles and the black neck with a thin white line along each side. Those white lines will be interesting. One day I'll feel it, squeeze a glob of white out of the tube and git-er-done in just a few minutes. No point even attempting it when I'm not feeling it. I've found with things like that, like with fiddle bows, there's no point even attempting it when I'm not feeling it. It's just one of those moments, you know it when it's upon you. This is what I like about art forms, how they evolve.

I'm noticing that the right side of the image, the half circle and the black diagonal line suggest flatness, like maybe a clock with the big hand on the 2, then the dark image on the left turns out to be a man sitting down picking a banjo. When the left side becomes interesting to look at, the round banjo head with the hand in the middle of it draws attention. It comes way forward from the dark blue shirt and pants, and they come way forward from the circle behind. In first glance it goes from flat to having depth and back to flat. I like that. A little bit of visual tension in the colors. When I look at those three levels, they go back and forth. The hair is mostly gray with some black outlines and some white. I'll work the hair to bring the head forward and to help round it. I could leave it like it is right now and call it Don Reno. But it's not Don Reno. Reno was Jr's favorite bluegrass banjo picker. He appreciated the Earl Scruggs style of banjo, too, but Reno was da Man. I'm glad that the image suggests Don Reno, because it was his picking Jr would aspire toward. I don't have to do anything to bring out that suggestion; it's already there in the image. Good.

Already the face is looking like him. Won't have much to do on his face beyond rounding curves and accomplishing the illusion of roundness. That's where the fun is. Part of it. The fun is seeing a likeness occur, playing with the likeness with light here, dark there, until the person I know comes through. That's when I stop. When I have the likeness, any additions will take away from likeness. It's the same when the eyes can see. I'll fuss over the eyes until the moment comes they can see. I never touch them again. His right hand appears to have some motion in it. I'll see what can be done to enhance that suggested movement. In the middle of the white orb that is the banjo head, that hand is rather much like the focal point of the painting. Therefore, it must dance. It will dance. It might be fun to give it an Italian Futurist touch, just enough of a blur at the edges to suggest motion. The noting fingers of his left hand can be dealt with similarly. That would be ideal to give them motion. That is the same thing with eyes and face; when it's there, it's there and I mess with it no more. I won't do the blur in such a way to draw attention to itself, just to be there as part of it, like the shoulder strap. And I may decide not to. A consideration.  

It's fun to start a new one. And it's fun to paint Jr again. In a wordless way, it's like communicating with him again. I'm seeing that here, again, I have a triangle running from right hand to left hand to eyes and back to right hand. That triangle is inside a circle, which is inside a square. I'm thinking painting the two sides of the canvas the same color as the circle. That could be either interesting or not. There's only one way to find out. If I don't like, black will cover it. Already I can feel his relationship with the banjo, the gaze, the focus, the fingers. If I can keep it in there, that feeling of his focus on his fingers and them dancing, that will be the "spirit" in the image, the spirit of life. That is the life energy in this image, the relationship between the eyes and the hands. It's beginning to find its direction, it's life. The triangle of the eyes and the two hands is where I find the living element to work with and bring forward, out in front of the banjo, adding an invisible plane in front of the banjo and the figure. If I can get that just right, and I can, or at least acceptable.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


      pedal to the metal

Today's adventure was new brakes for the 93 Buick. The rotors were scored way past the legal limit and the pad on the right front brake was worn down to the metal. It was a mess. Chuck lets me hang out in the garage area and watch him. I stay out of his way and don't try to talk to him when he's working. He has WPAQ AM out of MtAiry playing on a laptop computer with small speakers on top of a cabinet. It was gospel music hour and some preaching. I heard a singing quartet, the Chestnut Grove Quartet. Never heard them, never heard of them before today. I liked their singing a lot. They played two songs. I listened to several gospel songs that had me on the verge of in the spirit. A preacher from Walkertown, Louisiana, was talking word for word the very same preaching I heard as a kid in Kansas City and in Wichita. My bone to pick with Christendom is there is never any progress along a spiritual path. The deal is, you get saved and you're all right. From then on, you go to church. All I see coming out of Christendom in this time is the same old thing: you better get saved or you're gonna go to hell. What kind of inspiration is that? Fear. Not inspirational at all. Stay outta the street or I'll give you a switching. You better, or else. That mind repelled me more than it attracted me. Didn't attract me at all.

What spirit I was getting into with the good country singing of the good old hymns, the preacher talked out of me, talking about he knows this and that, because he's experienced it, so bad a talker I had to interpret his meaning by knowing already what he meant, though he had a tough time getting there. That's not being kind to him. He was well meaning. But still, he never talked anything beyond you better or you're gonna. All the time he talked, he told me he didn't have any grasp of the scripture other than what he's supposed to have. Another preacher running his mouth on and on, dancing around the only subject of the New Testament: Love. Still involved in what Jesus specifically said to put aside; crossing the t's and dotting the i's of rules and regulations that grow to endless. To avoid the subject of love and the sermon on the mount, we get overwhelmed with a list of rules to go by that aren't even written down, that include EVERYTHING anybody might or could do. You're born guilty and, by God, you're not going to forget guilt. Personally, I refuse to go along with any of it. I don't give in to guilt trips. Love is what it's about, and churches I know of don't seem to get it, so I go my own way. Be in the world, not of the world. Church is as much the world as Exxon.

Whenever I'm called upon to define the nature of my path in a few words, I say everyday life is my path. It's everyday life "spirituality" is about. It's not about saying Om until you have some mystical experience. I see more as I have more experience that mystical stuff amounts to a merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, a roller coaster. My grandmother said to me when I was little about a merry-go-round, you get on it, go round and round, when you get off it, where you been? It didn't take the fun out of those things, but it clarified for me that sideshow sorts of things, rock concerts, bluegrass concerts, films, a lot of entertainments, are no more than entertainments, and reasonably ought not to be taken for more than what they are. We clicked. I felt like I understood her when she told me such things. She wasn't trying to dampen my spirit, but to give me some understanding, some self-awareness, something to think about. It was something of a riddle, which she took to mean a foolish waste of time, and wanted me to think about it. I don't think I ever rode a merry-go-round again. Mainly, because after the age of 5 they're boring.

Early on my spiritual path I wanted some mystical experiences, but as time went by, perhaps I matured spiritually enough that I don't think about mystical things any more. It was quite a number of years I wanted to do nifty things like be psychic, channel, do neat things that make other people marvel. I've grown out of that to where I don't even want it now and am glad it never came to me. I don't go about hugging everybody I see and saying peace, love or making expressions of love, because it gets taken so very wrongly so predictably. I've found for myself the best expression of love I can give with everyone I come face to face with is to allow them who they are, hear them when they speak, and treat everyone with basic human respect. In this world, that's a lot. I am so not a missionary, I'm possibly an anti-missionary. The church of my childhood was all wound up with missionaries in the mission field, like Africa and South America, sending them money. The Peter Matthiessen novel, At Play In The Fields Of The Lord, is a grand allegory for what the missionary mind creates. In the case of his story, the missionaries brought the flu that wiped out the people of the region.

I've seen so much harm come of innocent good intentions in spiritual expressions, and they never get it because the intentions were for the Lord. Like when the Sparta Revitalization Committee cut down the century old holly tree on the courthouse lawn, the reason they gave was "the ever present problem of prickly leaves." And they planted 7 hollies. Kinda belies the smoke screen. I don't like to operate by intentions any more. I do, but don't like to. Intentions imply an agenda, and I've come to a place I don't want agendas, and I suspect other people's agendas. I'm in a place I want to just settle down and enjoy every day in its passing and not concern myself with issues I have no voice in, which is everything beyond the reach of my hands. I know people in Whitehead whose minds don't go past Whitehead, my friend Jr Maxwell was one of them, and I almost envy that way of thinking. I feel like they have a more realistic view of living their lives than I do. I hear somebody say family is the only important thing in this world. I've seen that so much in Chinese film and contemporary fiction. I never understood why family is so important until I've lived over 50 years without family as the focus of my life. I don't mean to imply that I want it.

In the nature of such beliefs is the maxim, exceptions prove the rule. Exceptions would be a family with one or both of the parents the kind of people that alienate their kids and keep everybody in the house at odds with each other. As a rule, family is the answer. But not always. I believe the spirit is practical and doesn't want us to have to live in demeaning circumstances. Too often efforts to do good end up as ego trips. There is the question, how to do good without it being an ego trip? That's where I allow spontenaiety. Ego is right there in setting out to do good. That's ego only. How to do "good" without having it as an agenda, an intention; that is the thin line of narrow lines. It comes down to an attitude toward life, the attitude itself. Then you get down to what "good" means in doing good. The Tao te Ching recommends doing nothing. That is my own inclination, to live my life by my own attitude toward life, which I know is not accurate, and is changing all the time. It will never be accurate, because accurate is not possible, but I like it to be practical, which I'd say balances inaccuracy of interpretation. Practical I think of as awareness of context. That's good enough.


Monday, May 21, 2012


sliding sideways

I can't type today. Every other word, the cursor goes away and it's a minute or so before I can make a new letter. I'm on the verge of throwing the computer through the window. Can't write today. It is insane making for me to struggle against this website today.


Sunday, May 20, 2012


animals as leaders

animals as leaders



Don't know where to start. Left here around 5:30 with Justin driving his truck to Charlotte to the Fillmore on NC Music Factory Blvd. It's been a long time since I've been out in the world. That whole music factory area is a happening place, several live music venues, big parking lot that isn't near big enough, cops sitting around in patrol cars like spiders in window corners waiting for the unaware. The Fillmore is an excellent place for bands. It's a floor about the size of a basketball floor, maybe not quite as long. The stage would be on the middle at the side. Big sound system, computerized lights, the interior ceiling with ducts, pipes, everything painted black. Hardwood floor. The place held several hundred people, all stand-up, no place to sit. It was a comfortable crowd. The place was packed though there was a bit of space between people. I expect it was a bit tight down front where the crush from all the people behind them were pushing unconsciously. I noticed as I stood in place the people in front of me would be about half step further toward the stage than before. I moved about a half step forward enough times that it made me wonder about the people in the crush getting squeezed a little bit more all the time. They love it. Nothing to worry over. It's part of the concert experience.

I loved the music so much tonight it's hard to even start using words. Animals As Leaders knocked my sox off. I believe I need to be finding some recordings by them. They played all instrumental, 2 8-string guitars and a drummer that was all over the drums at all times. He was a powerful drummer. The guitars made sounds and connections you've never heard before. The closest I can get is jazz rock. They are jazzing rock. It's like rock transcending into jazz, its own jazz, not a copy of what we call jazz on the jazz stations. It's like Bill Monroe jazzing old-time tunes and making bluegrass. These guys in Animals As Leaders are making jazz on rock's terms. The two guys, both with 8-string guitars, keep a hard rhythm going with abstract guitar work running with the rhythm. When I say rhythm, I mean with drums all out and a guitar making fast-paced bass rhythms, the other guitar playing really intricate runs on his 8-string. I never tired of listening to them. They have a myspace webpage with samples of their sound. It's new. Always looking for something new in rock. The latest and the newest is its nature.

I'd have been satisfied if Animals As Leaders had been the main band. I was very happy listening to what they were doing.  The crowd liked them too. The first band, O'Brother was a young band, fairly new to opening for a name band. Two Japanese guys played guitars, both with long black hair they slung forward and back continually. They could crank their guitars strings pretty well. The vocalist like to scream a lot. The vocalist for Thrice is a screamer too, like the Used, screaming that is a scream without words. A time in his screaming he was like screaming a song that was no words, just the scream. The audience screamed along with him. It was a scream-a-thon all around me. Some of the songs became a male chorus with the guys in the audience screaming the words along with the screamer on the stage. A guy directly behind me was screaming his lungs out. I saw several guys within 10 feet of me in a half circle screaming every word like they were on stage screaming. That's the kind of audience participation I like, spontaneous.

Thrice had me and the whole audience going, heads bobbing up and down everywhere, hands in the air with the forefinger and little finger up. When I say the people near me were screaming as loud as the screamer on stage and I couldn't hear them, I mean I saw their mouths going and saw the intensity in veins popping out on their faces and necks drawn tight, heard a general chorus that accompanied the sound throbbing from the speakers. The bass player for Thrice was never still for a minute. He had the bass's volume up so high it roared for a long time when he struck a string. When he gets a hard fast rhythm going, something like quadruple time, his bass made the sound all the rest of the band played inside. It was a powerful rhythm band with the drummer keeping a hard rhythm going with the bass that was all over it. The two guitar players both played rhythm and lead alternately. They made the biggest noise they could make with the guitars, often letting them scream from being turned up so high the reverb and distortion were the screams of the guitars. This screaming is something I've been hearing more and more of in rock since the 90s. Rock has served, from the beginning, as a collective, subliminal primal scream. It signals to me something new, rather a new intensity. Rock vocals have always had the scream since Little Richard, though now the wordless scream is replacing words in the vocals. That's the part I find interesting. It mirrors some sort of social change from one generation to the next, as rock changes.

This concert was a birthday present from Justin for my 70th. Went to a Papa Roach concert on the 60th. Transiting a year with a 0 in it can be subconsciously alarming even when it's not consciously so. I go to a rock concert on a decade transiting year to remind myself that I never want to start a sentence, "The kids these days." I looked around at the mostly college age people there, imagining I'm older than the grandparents of nearly all of them. That gave me a kick. I let my white hair shine. It cracked me up being the only one in the place with white hair. I looked at the people there thinking the kids these days are like the kids of my days in late teens, early twenties. It was in that time of my life I was in such inner confusion the inside of my head was opaque. I noticed tonight that in this time of my life,  I am able to let mind take a rest and just focus on the music, listening to the music itself, not a background to mental ongoing aggitation. Several times I'd close my eyes, let the colored lights flash on my eyelids and hear the music raw. Awesome. Truly awesome. Thrice was just the sound I wanted to hear. I wanted music so loud I didn't need ears. I laughed a few times feeling the throbs of the bass and the drums and the other two guitars I wondered if they might set off my defibrillator. There I'd be. Jamming like crazy within, BAM. It didn't happen, but I was never sure it wouldn't.

I loved being among the young rockers. It's not that they make me feel young. Lord have mercy, I was far and away the oldest one in there. That's what it showed me, not that I was trying to fool myself into believing I'm young. I don't want to be young. Been there done that. I looked around at all these people having a great time, the same kind of great time I was having. I'd think, the kids these days, and what I saw was wonderful, beautiful people having a great time together. They looked like cool cats and kittens everywhere I looked. Fact is, they looked like they have a whole lot more on the ball than a group like that of kids my age when I was of that age. In a lot of ways I think the kids today are way advanced beyond the kids of my day. I like their spontenaiety. So many generation gaps between me and the kids these days, the people I saw at the concert, I can't even count the generation gaps. Makes it difficult to connect with someone, because a generation gap amounts to a culture. Lots of cultural changes since Chuck Berry first recorded Maybellene. It's still easy to communicate. I thanked Justin from the heart for this birthday present that may be the best ever. Maybe now I can get to sleep. I attempted sleep, but got up after an hour and started writing this. Maybe I can sleep now.


Saturday, May 19, 2012


        joan miro, 1925, siesta

I skipped going to Woodlawn tonight for whatever music was playing. It was a quiet day at home with Caterpillar and no problems. Watched a Spanish film, THE GRANDFATHER. Quite a story. Looked like it might have come from a novel. The story amounts to the old man who took care of a lot of people in the community along the way, helped the church out with big money, was generous with the people around him. In his old age, they become the vultures wanting to shut him up in a monastery, a nursing home for the wealthy, because they wanted his money too. His sorrow in his old age was seeing everyone he had helped along the way position themselves for his leavings. The story amounted to the various people in the film finding opportunities tell every one of them in no uncertain terms they are ethically without any foundation. His daughter-in-law tood the chance to tell him off, he told her off. The tellings off alienated some and drew others to him. He was like a grumpy old character, but he was also not. He'd been abused and had undeniable right to say what he said, which was always more understated than overstated.

His story was an example in a life story of one of the reasons I never wanted wealth. I did not want my friends to be the sort that abandon me when I'm down and out. Hail far, I've been down and out all the way along, so nobody I know as a friend has an eye on my status or money. My friends take me for who I am, as I take them for who they are. Nobody gets any status points for knowing me. That's for sure. It's more like anti-status points you get for knowing me. You don't tell people you know that curmudgeon old crackpot on the mountain without a disclaimer. I love the freedom in having no money beyond skeletal necessity. Nobody rubbing up on me with a cheshire cat grin wanting whatever they perceive in their imaginations could rub off on them. I really love that. Relatives aren't sucking up to me, gathering around like buzzards around a dying buffalo waiting for it to quit breathing. I have no power anyone else would want close to. I've found when I make my own decisions everything flows smoothly, more or less. When I let other people make my decisions, they're never right, what comes of them never has anything to do with where I am on my path. It's the same when I make somebody else's decision.

By this time in my life, I don't let other people make my decisions. It irritates the hell out of some, and that's ok. Whatever it takes. Nobody has a right to make other people's decisions unless for someone in their care who is unable to decide for self. Somebody comes along I've recently met and in a little bit start telling me what I'm going to do, and then I have to tell that what I'm not going to do is what, alas, they intend for me to do. Every time somebody comes along determined to make my decisions, I have to make it clear according to context that I make my own decisons, too bad if you don't like it. I watched very closely while taking care of Jr that I allow him to make all decisions he was able to. I was his servant. I was there to allow him to live by his own power, even when it's so dim as to be no more than the ability to decide whether or not he felt like eating when it was time. Clock time and body time are not always the same. I was never there to rule him for a moment, only to serve. Jr only had one or two buzzards and they went their way after finding no hidden money.

The old boy in the movie, The Grandfather, showed me what a blessing it was for Jr to have a caregiver who was there to help him live by his own decision making as long as he was able. When he became unable, I knew him well enough to anticipate his decisions so I could continue with his flow. I would like to have seen Dean before he went out, but he was in serious hospital in Boone on the verge for quite awhile. I'd been thinking about calling to see if he was home so I could stop by and visit. That was when I saw the yellow Cadillac in the procession. It didn't seem right. It never seems right. Dean is one of the people we need more of on this earth, not less of. So was Jr. So it is with a lot of people. Since I've lived in these mountains I've known some mighty wonderful people, people who don't laugh at basic human values, people who want to be real by their own definition of reality. Sincerity and authenticity matter to the people of the mountains. Dean and Jr were of the generation that is the hair on the tip of the fox's tail, the very end of mountain culture is going away with them.

They are not the end of mountain culture. When someone I know dies, it used to seem a major loss to have a whole lifetime of experience come to nothing in dying. I'm seeing now the soul is having our experiences, the soul is where they register in who we are, individually. It's true to say we are our experiences. If the soul, then, is the repository of our expriences, we carry them with us when the soul leaves the body, or anyway the impressions of our experiences. Like maybe if one dies in a car wreck, he might be somebody next lifetime who refuses to learn to drive a car. That's a conjecture, not putting it down as a rule or guideline. Thinking "out loud," thinking through my fingertips.

I want to read some more Surrealist poetry by people like Paul Eluard, Robert Desnos, Jacques Prevert, Louis Aragon. Somewhere in the house is an anothology of 20th Century French poetry I will find soon and read some amazing poetry. One I like quite a lot that I'm looking through now is a 1955 edition from Grove Press, edited by Wallace Fowlie. Loaded with poetry so far off the wall it's out in the middle of the room. In my way of seeing, the French and the Americans ruled the world in 20th Century poetry, in very different ways. The French are the heirs of Rimbaud. We are the heirs of Walt Whitman. That Prevert poem I uploaded yesterday woke up that facet of my interest. French poetry has that je ne sait quois that sets French cuisine apart, that je ne sait quois that is French and French alone.        


Friday, May 18, 2012


         jr maxwell, photo by dean richardson

A song by Tom T Hall is in my mind, sung by Scott Freeman, Jeanette Williams and Johnny Williams, You can't see where you're going if you're always looking back. It's one of those many songs that carry meaning worth paying attention to. The train that you're waiting for is way on down the track. When this song is singing inside my head, I always think of Jr Maxwell who said the past is done and gone, thinking about it changes nothing, it's over. The present and future was where he focused his attention. He'd been beat down so many times in the past his strength came from getting up and starting again. His past had immense sorrows in it, several, too many for one man. Late in his life when he had little future left, he began to notice things like the spider living in the window, watching it live its life, watching the raincrow pluck feathers out of the backs of crows in flight, watching the rabbits graze outside the window. His present didn't impress him much, because he had no money, had been stripped of self-esteem and money by a woman who left him because she'd run through all his assets and he hadn't died soon enough to suit her. He went on living alone in such deep depression I call it despair. In the divorce she took him for half of what he had left, which he borrowed from the bank rather than sell his house, shop and few acres of land.

Yesterday I found an email from Milly Richardson in the messages section of Facebook that I never look at. Every once in awhile I think to look there and find a few messages from a month or two ago. Milly's message was at the top telling me her dad, Dean Richardson, "had gone to be with Jr." A week ago. I'd wondered why nobody had told me. She already had and probably wondered why I didn't respond. Dean, like Jr, waited until there was not another day left in his ability to function as an organism. Dean was eight years younger than Jr. He told me when they were kids he didn't know Jr very well because of the age difference, Dean being in first grade when Jr was in 8th grade. He said Jr was never arrogant with the little kids like the other boys were. Dean respected Jr from those days when he looked up to him as one of the big guys that was good to him, treated him right. All their lives they lived in the same community. They lived very different lives. Dean worked his career as a Parkway Ranger. He loved driving fast. Jr loved driving fast, too, except Jr did it illegally. Dean would have, too, if he hadn't had the chance to do it legally.

I think it was last Friday, driving home from town, heading down 18, Ricky Royal, town cop, was holding up traffic for a funeral procession turning into 18 from the bypass. A long line of cars. I saw one of Dean's yellow Cadillac with daughter Dena driving it. I wondered if that might be Dean's funeral, but told myself it was not. Probably someone Dena knew. But it was an awfully long line of cars, which made me wonder, because Dean would have such a line at his funeral. Then I convinced myself it was Dean. I hate it he's gone; he was one of the lights in the world. Then I convinced myself it was not Dean and turned left to avoid following the slow procession all the way to wherever it was going. I had thought of following it on the chance it might be Dean, but that didn't feel right, somehow. I don't know why. I'd just left grocery store, drugstore, bank, gas station, and wanted to be at home. It seemed like somebody would have told me by then it was Dean. Well, Milly had. I just missed it. I don't go to funerals except of people I feel close to. I would like to have been Dean's. It wasn't in the stars.

Dean was the greatest support I had in the time of looking after Jr in his last year. Dean brought us Whopper Juniors from Burger King several days a week. He would come by frequently to visit with Jr. He was the only one who visited, regularly. No. Paul Reeves dropped by every other weekend. Harold Hayes dropped by several times. Harold had been bass player in Jr's band The Green Mountain Boys. It looked to me like Dean, Paul and Harold turned out to be Jr's closest friends, the ones who didn't abandon him in his slow fade unto dementia. Dean expressed a lot of gratitude toward me for helping Jr stay out of a nursing home. I was always glad to see Dean's Cadillac pull up out front. He was good company, told good stories from experiences in his role as Parkway Ranger, chasing after guys running liquor on the Parkway. He was a good driver. He took a respect for me taking care of Jr and showed it all the time I was around him. I appreciated his respect, and held quite a respect for Dean. I enjoyed every minute of conversation with him when he dropped by. I especially appreciated the interest he took in Jr in his individual end time. Jr appreciated it too. I will always appreciate Dean for taking an interest in Jr's last years, months and weeks like he did.

I'll always remember, too, the time Dean told me of being a kid in school looking up to Jr, one of the big guys. He said Jr had always liked pranks and Dean thought him especially cool for the pranks he pulled. They were at Whitehead school. I'm recalling a prank Jr told me about. Jr and another kid were hanging at the Whitehead Store. A preacher they knew came by on his horse. This preacher always talked down to the boys and warned them about the devil. Jr found a chestnut burr and without the preacher seeing him he lifted the horse's tail and placed it on the soft flesh under the tail. He slapped the horse on the tail and it took off kicking up the dust. Preacher had a wild ride home. One of the differences between Jr and Dean was that Jr had little to no respect for a preacher, and Dean did. Dean was a church goer all the way along. Jr quit church in his teens. Jr knew too much about the private lives of preachers to have any confidence in the men. Dean saw it differently. Jr was a republican and Dean was a democrat in a county where those distinctions matter. They didn't talk about religion and politics, and did ok through their entire lives. By the time Jr's spirit left the body, I'd developed a deep respect for Dean Richardson the individual, the man of these mountains. Now he's left the body and Whitehead has lost another one of it's more colorful characters.


Thursday, May 17, 2012


carla luvviness

            I AM AS I AM

            I am as I am

            I'm made like that

            When I want to laugh

                 Yes, I roar with laughter

            I love him who loves me

                 Is it my fault

            If it's not the same one

                 I love each time

                 I am as I am

                 I'm made like that

                 What more do you want

                 What do you want of me

                 I am made to please

                 And can't do anything about it

            My heels are too high

                 My shape too curved

            My breasts much too hard

                 And my eyes too sunken

                      And so what

            What's it to you

                 I am as I am

                 I please whomever I please

            What's it to you

                           What happened to me

                      Yes I loved someone

                 Yes someone loved me

            Like children who love one another

                 Simply know how to love

                           To love, to love...
                 Why question me

            I am there to please you

                 And can't do anything about it.

                                  ---Jacques Prevert
                                      tr: Anthony Hartley