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Wednesday, January 30, 2013


silent sign by tj worthington

Again, ongoing problems with website. I write a sentence and the computer locks. I wait and wait, it starts again, I write a sentence and computer freezes again. I've learned that when it happens to stop and not force myself against it, because it turns into a cussing frenzy and makes me crazy. The only reason I've got this far is that it has stopped. When it starts I click on "send feedback" and tell the anonymous entity that sees the feedback the "interface" is not working again. Anonymous Entity never responds to questions. Wait a few hours and it's ok. I get so tired of that I think of letting this project go. I see in a baby a year and a half old a humorous version of my own behavior. She cannot figure something out, like screwing a cap onto a bottle, she tries until she sees she can't do it, puts it down and the thing is no longer of interest to her. She goes off to something else. That's how I do. It takes all my self-will to continue. Attempted to start writing a few minutes ago. I decided to go take a nap. Attempted it again after just a few minutes and it worked this time. Whatever.

An hour or so ago I saw an interview somebody had put on facebook of Colin Powell with Bill O'Reilly. I couldn't watch it all. Again, Powell was the easy target setting himself up for republican refudiation of his credibility pointing at his negritude on the air. Powell called O'Reilly on calling him an African American all the time. It didn't faze O'Reilly. Fact is, Powell is Jamaican by birth. Maybe he's an African Jamaican, or a Jamaican American, or in Powell's way of seeing it, an American. That won't do, however. It's not divisive enough. It doesn't separate him from the white audience. Of course, O'Reilly is seeing a nigger and Powell is playing through it. Sometimes I go to these odd videos from Faux News for comedy, to hear yo-yos O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Coulter, Ingraham, and almost always turn it off before it's a third of the way into it. It is not easy for me to listen to that mind. It's not even glossed over. It's plain stupid. I wonder about what kind of morons they are. It doesn't seem rational to me that people would have a talking head job on tv and take such pride in ignorance and deception.I didn't realize such ignorant people could keep high-profile well-paying jobs. Sarah Palin, not the dumbest of them all, was put aside. This guy Paul Rand is showing himself to be a Sarah Palin wannabe. He's really bad off. It comes out his mouth every time he speaks. Like saying to Hilary Clinton at the "hearing," "if I were president, I'd fire you." I saw a clever meme on facebook that captioned Hilary saying, "I stopped listening when you said, if you were president."

I have a problem with calling people stupid and the frequency of its use in the time of online chat and name calling in comment boxes. In the first several times of my problems with the blogger website, I'd click on send feedback and wallow in the freedom to let whoever was reading feedback have it. Finally, I caught on that it was somebody at the other end doing the best that can be done attempting to take the kinks out of the program and make it a better experience instead of worse. I fell into that tendency with a computer to regard the anonymous person at the other end an asshole, moron, stupid, idiot, dork, words that are the most popular on the internet. I've stopped myself from using those words, except where there is no other word. I've come to see the use of these words an invalid attitude toward the unknown other. Of course, the reason the words are so abundant online is you don't know the person at the other end, both ways. Nobody is going to knock on your door and when you open it kick your ass. This is what we become when there are no repercussions to our actions. It's nothing to be proud of, but many are.

I've never heard conservatives define conservatism in a manner that satisfied me, nor have I heard any self-definition by liberals that satisfies what I see. I've finally found that both can be broken down to tolerance. The conservative agenda has to do with intolerance. The liberal agenda has to do with tolerance. Faux News is nothing but intolerance spewing round the clock. Intolerance is for all except ignorant white men. I suppose it is a good thing to have Faux News because it brings out the ignorance in the American white man belief system. White man has presented himself before as rational thinking and in charge. Since Limbaugh, you want to find out what white men are thinking, listen to him. He's paid $4,000,000 a year to be the voice of the white man. Before Limbaugh, these people did not have a voice. Now that they do have a voice, I'd like them to shut up. I'm glad I never fell for the comfort of ignorance among white men. This is only one of many reasons I embrace my self-created Outsider status.

I'm recalling someone I once knew who kept a sticker on his car's rear window that said TOLERANCE. I had to laugh every time I saw it. This is the most intolerant individual I have known. All I could figure was he put it there to remind himself of tolerance since he had so little. He was very tolerant where the latest cool thing to be tolerant about was somebody else's race or sexuality, indignantly tolerant. It's very close to indignant piety. The sticker's colors faded, it dried and curled up. Eventually it fell off after several years. Every time I saw it was a reminder of his intolerance. That he's tolerant of black people and gay people, doesn't mean he's tolerant of the people around him. They're just ideas. I've not found that he likes anyone in his world, that being the people of the county and the American people. He thinks of them like he thinks of me, too ignorant to bother with. After blowing his mind with LSD in the Sixties, he spends his life in superiority to everyone around him. He only looks down on others from way high up where you can see the curve of the earth. Not one is good enough to rate his attention. His wives have moved in, freaked out, and left, like frogs dropped into boiling water. After 30+ years of knowing him, I never saw his superiority bear out. It comes down to he is himself and everyone else is not. So he's got the goods on everybody.

Hearing him harangue on the ignorance of the people of this county left my mouth hanging open. He has lived here as long as I have. I don't see the mountain people like that at all. I've found the mountain people so incredibly intelligent they humble whatever intelligence I may have. The time he told me of his contempt for the mountain people, I wanted to say something to give him a new way to look at the people around him, but realized this was an expression of his attitude toward life, just like his absence of tolerance was his attitude toward life, as well. When I look at his intolerance of all but self, it bespeaks an ego so profound, evidently so overwhelming to him he worships it. He loves his ego. He's the only one that knows anything, wherever his, whoever he's among. He's always right and everybody else is always wrong. He told me he can only tolerate being among these ignorant mountain people nine months of the year, has to get away for three months to another part of the world where the people are not as ignorant as here. My tolerance of him dried up and fell away like the sticker on his car.

I've not seen him in over a year and don't want to see him or hear his voice again. I don't appreciate the people I know to be true human beings held for ignorant, incompetent and stupid. Those are words I'd use on him, but not any others I live among. I've tried for years to tolerate him, but a year ago something inside snapped. That day he was being especially contrarian at lunch and I called him on it. He got up and walked away and I thought: Wow! That was easy! I could have done that years ago! After a year of his absence from my life, it makes me joyous to think of the span of time getting longer every day. He'll never call me again and I'll never call him. In the past I had enjoyed his three month absences. It was never good to see him again. I've not seen his car in town so I'm guessing he's gone away to someplace in the rest of the world where he accords everybody there his intellectual equal. I've never let on, but I don't see his intellect anything to crow about, let alone be proud of. What he calls his intellect I call his ego. I don't even like to use his name anymore. I asked him once, just to be a bitch, if he put that sticker on his car window to remind himself of tolerance. No. He doesn't believe there is enough tolerance in the world. There's certainly none in his world.


Sunday, January 27, 2013



These days of bitter cold have got me down. Playing like I'm in Norway and it's summer doesn't work. A friend with half Norwegian ancestry was thinking about going there and someone from Norway told him the snow is all the time, but for a very short time in summer. The snow makes everything you do a major bother, dealing with the snow. It sure is a bother here dealing with the snow. I've read that the Native American Indians, anyway the Lakota, had names for something like 26 kinds of snow. I've noticed over my years of dealing with snow in the mountains, which means less and less every year, I don't recall two kinds of snow the same. Surely it happened, but I've been struck every time it snows at how different one kind of snow is from another. Some of it is easy to walk in, some you have to punch every footstep through the snow. Some is wet and sticks to everything, some is dry and sticks to nothing. Some drifts and some does not. I've not given the varieties of snow I've encountered names, but I do know how to read it for walking and for driving from half a lifetime of experience. I have to admit, I'm all for global warming. Sorry, Polar Bears. I like a short winter. Winters here in the mountains used to be about half the year. It would start getting cold end of August and finally toward the end of May would let up. The hard part would be November through March. Now winter is a little bit of a cold spell we're going through. I've heard in Helsinki, Finland, the summer temperatures have risen into the 80s and people are buying air conditioners the first time.

I went out and walked a little over half a mile in the below twenty temperature Friday afternoon. My nose has been running, feeling a tiny bit feverish, though not. I'm waiting to see if it's going to turn into something. Spent most of the day in bed today attempting to sleep it off. I hope I'm feeling better before doctor appointment Tuesday. Anything I tell him I'm having issues with, he jumps to write a prescription and I have to tell him it's not a problem, I don't want pills for it. I just thought he'd like to know. He didn't want to know. I take enough pills per day. It's like with somebody involved in the psychiatric profession, they ask if you've ever thought of killing yourself, and if you say yes, here come the men in white coats. I made that mistake. Then I had to explain, Of course I've thought of it. I'm a human with a mind. Everybody has thought about it. Anybody who says they have not is lying. It must be one of their alarm signals. If you say yes, all hell breaks loose and you have to talk fast to explain I REALLY DIDN'T MEAN IT. I got an ear infection, I suppose. Woke up this morning unable to hear from the right ear. I so don't want to tell the doctor about it. Next stop, drugstore to pick up another prescription. I don't like to tell the doctor about anything that's not debilitating. This is debilitating. All sounds are like they're on my left side.

He told me once, "We are chemical machines," so I go see him like I see a mechanic, when the machine needs fixing. First lesson among mechanics: if it aint broke don't fix it. When he said that, I stopped myself from saying, "Maybe you are." Or like PeeWee Herman said, "I know you are, but what am I?" Then, I'm not really sure. I know he was right in the way he meant it. It just ran all over me the way he put it. I can't identify my body as a machine, the same way I can't identify my mind a computer. When he diagnosed my heart issue, he said, "You're gonna die." Only thing I could think to say was, "Duh." He's known for being off-putting when he talks. I like that in him, to a point. He's direct, tells it straight. Suburbanites moving here to the exurbs hate him as a doctor. They go a few times and find a new doctor. "He doesn't have a bedside manner." My feeling about that is, who needs a bedside manner? I'm not going to bed with him. Though I do have some problem with him. I've gone to him thirty-five years and he has no idea who I am. He has his charts. All he wants to know about me is in the charts. A few times I attempted to give him context around something that happened. He wasn't interested. He's jaded by years of being a country doctor, dealing with people who don't take care of themselves as he instructs them, like taking their pills as told, instead of when you think about it. I think he's of the belief system that losing someone to death is a failure. Like wanting me to get a new heart so I can end up in a nursing home having strokes and staring at the ceiling, watching auction shows on tv, shitting in diapers. Glory Land cannot be that bad. I have so many friends and pets over there, I don't have a lot of resistance to Glory Land.

Forecast says the temperature will be up to 50 Monday and 60 Tuesday. I'm past ready. I'd forgotten how miserable below 20 can be. My game of pretending I'm in Norway and it's normal is not working. I'm thinking of how miserable it must be below 20 half the year. And wind off the North Sea. In Kansas, I grew up in Scandinavian protestantism. I understand why Norwegians I see in movies are largely quiet and don't make chatter. I got it when I saw a documentary of conversations with Ingmar Bergman in his retirement. I wrote about it in I WAS A TEENAGE EXISTENTIALIST. He had the same kind of protestant austerity through his childhood as I had in mine. Different, of course, because his was in Sweden and mine was in Kansas. Growing up with a Swede for a preacher was austere. Absolutely austere. I learned how to play along in appearance and go my own way in my mind. It got me through those years where only appearance of being controlled was required. I learned how to be out of control and it not show. Sometimes I like that, then sometimes I don't. I've no idea what it would take for me to break loose and express myself emotionally. When somebody really pisses me off, I act like I have no problem. Learned that from being lorded over by daddy, who would hit me again if I reacted. Whoever it was will never have a chance to piss me off again. I have control over second time. I stay away from that individual like I stay away from crocodiles. So I just took it and acted like it didn't matter, when what daddy was really doing was making me hate him more than I hated him the day before.

Mother was a churchaholic, dead and buried in denial, and daddy a mad man. The kid didn't have a chance. I reparented myself after I got away from them. Coming to the mountains was a big part of the reparenting. I had discovered Meher Baba on the way to the mountains, so arriving here was a spiritual path thing for me. New understandings, new knowledge, I came to the mountains as to a monastic situation where I lived by myself with Meher Baba my abbot in spirit. It doesn't mean I meditate around the clock. I don't meditate at all. I don't do austerity except for what my meager income cannot afford. Don't believe in it. I don't do yoga or tai chi. I've come to believe in living my life. I didn't know that before. I don't worry myself over sins. I have a fair enough understanding of what sin is not to be bothered by it. Largely sin is a control device by protestant preachers and catholic priests, religionists generally. Mother told me she's had it with the grand children. They don't visit her and they don't invite her to their birthday parties. I couldn't say it, but she's a wet blanket to kids. They know she's watching every move they make and hearing everything they say, judging them. And they know they can't get away from her without being told she wished they went to church more often and would get saved. It wouldn't matter if I told her. She wouldn't do anything about it. She's on automatic pilot for the Lord's work. It's her duty. And the grandkids only see her when it's their duty.

A couple weeks ago somebody told me that some kind of behavior was my duty. I said, "I don't do duty." Nor do I do should or s'posed-to. I make my own decisions for my own reasons and nobody who watches television is going to advise me on should, s'posed-to, or duty. The philosophy of television is if it can't be seen by a camera it's not real. In my way of seeing, it's the other way around. If it can be seen by a camera it's not real. Like after so many years of medical school, doctors tend to give little attention to the subjective. Only the objective is real. I'm of the belief that only the subjective is real. Not a belief like a religious belief. It's just obvious to me. The subjective is where intent is formed by attitude toward life, which is created by all kinds of subjective influences. Objective is excellent for the scientific method and I have no problem with the objective. Thanks to the scientific method I'm writing this on a laptop online. Without the scientific method I'd be using quill, parchment and candle light. This is faster, but slower is surer. Still, I see the scientific method as a tool, not as the nature of existence. It's a good tool for picking apart the nature of existence to help understanding. If the kingdom of heaven is indeed within, that seems to me awfully subjective.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


     robert mangold, distorted circle with polygon, 1973

The mountain is covered with ice. I'm glad it was not as predicted. Forecast said freezing rain and snow from Friday around noon through Saturday. We got about a half an inch of very fine granules of ice on top of freezing rain that put down a half inch layer of ice on the roads under the half inch of ice granules. The little bit of texture made walking on it easy and driving possible, except for a steep grade up or down the hill. Even four-wheel can't handle that. After the precipitation we had frozen fog the rest of the day. I walked next door a third of a mile to Allan's, face advancing through the oncoming faint breeze with tiny flakes of ice so small they can't be seen, only felt on the face. It was not unpleasant. In that way I preferred the return home with that little bit of breeze on my back. Then I didn't even know the air had these microscopic pieces of flying ice.

From inside the house I could see against distant background the slight rain of the ice that looked like a snow of tiny flakes. The temperature was below twenty. I wore two pair of sweatpants, a tshirt, a long-sleeved tshirt and a sweatshirt under a good warm coat and a neck scarf my friend Pat knitted for me many years ago. Two hats. Gloves. The shoes I wore were my regular shoes. With no insulation under the floor, my feet are cold all the time anyway, so why would a little bit colder matter? I was warm everywhere but feet, face and hands. Gloves tend to make my hands colder than they would be without the gloves. I bought some driving gloves for this winter, but never wear them because my fingers freeze in them. I wore the gloves anyway. Hands were not quite as cold as they would be without the gloves.

A gray squirrel from the woods across the road is foraging for sunflower seeds I threw out there an hour ago. I'm glad the squirrel has decided to pick up snacks here. I like to watch squirrels. Every move they make is quick. I've seen them jump from tree to tree, flying through the air with all four feet extended and open to grasp a limb not half an inch thick. They are the monkeys of our forests. Two red squirrels live in the trees around the house. They pick up bird seed too. Several bluejays, thirty or more snowbirds, a pair of cardinals. The male cardinal is a rooster. Another cardinal comes in and the cardinal that claims this feeding station for his territory runs the other one off immediately. A few sparrows. Some nuthatches, a pair of woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and two different kinds of buntings. These are the winter birds. Finches come in summer with the doves and wrens. I feed them twice a day when it's cold on the belief that they need plenty of food energy to get them through the long cold nights. They're growing too. The oil in the sunflower seeds gives their feathers a luminous quality. I know they love it. Birds have a certain vanity about their feathers.

My friend Justin came by in his 4-wheel pickup with his wife Crystal and his kids, Vada, Cheyanne and Landon. They took me with them riding around on the ice on back roads. Justin loves to put the truck in 2-wheel and spin around curves sideways and he's good at straightening it up as soon as it's necessary. He can't "drift" a pickup with big tires made for grip on dry pavement. I know he can drift a car through a curve, a rear-wheel drive car, but I've never seen him do it. We went around to back roads and had a ball. At night headlights warn of approaching vehicles, which there were none of in the roads we took. Only one set of tracks in front of us, somebody doing the same thing we were doing. The kids slept. Drifting is from the movie, Fast And Furious: Tokyo Drift. It's a good movie if you like car driving action. Drifting is running the rear wheels so fast they can't get a grip. It smokes the tires like after a nascar race when the winner holds the checkered flag out his window and drifts in circles, sometimes sending up a cloud of smoke the car disappears inside. I found a video of a guy drifting up the California mountain highway, Mulholland Drive. He left two black lines all the way up the road. Justin is a good driver, a very good driver. His dad taught him well. One exercise he passed to Justin was to drive with outside wheels on the white line. It helps to know where the edge of the road is in relation to the front edge of the hood. It's about keeping it in the road. I'm relaxed when I ride with him, knowing what an excellent driver he is. I felt as comfortable riding with his dad in the past.

We passed a place where Crystal told me she almost killed a girl. Of course I asked for the story. The girl was her friend and she'd been screwing Crystal's first husband before he died. Crystal found out soon after he died, Crystal wanted to "beat the crap out of her. I wanted to really hurt her." Crystal knew a town detective and went to him asking how far she could beat the girl down and stay out of jail. He advised her not to do it. She told me what she intended to do with the girl. It was wicked. She talked to Justin about it. Justin has a great deal of experience fighting, and he talked her out of it. The problem, Crystal felt, was that once she got started beating her she wouldn't stop til the girl was dead. She said, "I was a grieving widow!" Crystal grew up with two older brothers. She can fight. She talked herself out of it by realizing she probably would beat the girl to death, and didn't want to go to prison over it. She knew she would "lose it." She said, "I was out of it. He had just died. If she'd broken my nose, I wouldn't even have felt it. I would have destroyed her. It's best I didn't do it." The girl left the county and hasn't come back. I'm thinking somebody told her Crystal was seriously looking for her. And she knew what that meant.

You'd think you don't see much riding the roads at night, but all three of us were satisfied we saw an awful lot. Several years ago my friend Joyce was visiting from Charlotte. I took her for a ride on some roads after dark I thought especially nice. Headlights were good, houses were lit up, the road carried the shape of the landscape. Old fence posts. I thought I was giving her a good mountain experience. When we returned she told me she didn't see anything. It was night. That knocked a big one out from under me. I thought, but couldn't say, Are you blind? The time my mother and dad drove here from Kansas, I knew they'd never been in these mountains. They drove through the mountains quite a ways from the western edge to the eastern edge. In the central Blue Ridge that's a good distance. I asked mother how she liked landscape on the drive. "I didn't see anything. I just watched the road." She was the passenger. So how do you know in advance, before speaking, who is satisfied with just seeing the road and who needs to see landscape? It's a stab in the dark. This is how we find out. Trial and error.


Friday, January 25, 2013


yoshimoto takaaki
                     Our words are charming.
                    "Flesh," once said;
                    we immediately cling to the earth.
                    "Spirit," if spoken;
                    we are already flying.
                    Our souls belong
                    to gravity and buoyancy,
                    to suspicion and aspiration.
                   The world is made of coercion,
                   causes and mistakes,
                   but surely, a blue the same as the sky
                   hangs deep in our skulls.
                   standing on fragile legs,
                   how could we ride the image of wings
                   to possess endlessly higher places.
                                 ---Yoshimoto Takaaki
                                        tr Kijima Hajime
                                        and Nagatomo Shigenori


Thursday, January 24, 2013


    found art by tj worthington

Something serious has broken in our American society. Just about every day, someplace in America a young white guy kills several people and himself. It's like the guys with guns are people that want to die, saying, By God, I aint goin down by myself. I'm takin as many with me as I can. It says we have a lot of white men in our country who want to die. The black men are killing each other. White men are killing white children and crowds of white people. Most of it doesn't make the news because there is too much. Husbands killing wives, wives killing husbands, that's yesterday's news. Killing is our disease, not gun madness. A gun is a tool used toward the end of killing. A pipe wrench is a tool. It can very easily be used to kill. Easier than a knife or a pillow. Our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are killing themselves more than they are being killed in gunfights or by bombs. Something is wrong in America and guns are not it any more than a burning tire around somebody's neck in South Africa is it. Because we have guns we don't do that. Assessing what it is about America in this time when we have a civil war of terrorism going on, this civil war is looking like it is working out as everybody against everybody. Somebody by surprise goes out and kills several people. Going postal. That's not an act of love. It's hate. It's hate for self and it's hate for others.

The people anesthetized by television don't see what somebody who looks at it every once in awhile at somebody's house can see. I'm amazed by what I see. Violence to the most indifferent extreme. Not just violence in killing, but a violent tone of voice that runs through an awful lot of it. Like the reason you need a new Lexus is told in no uncertain terms. The flash, the glitz, demanding attention by sound and by sight; explosions, guns going off, people falling. The anonymous people Arnold kills never have funerals, never have kids, family or anything. They're faceless, nameless entities, like the people in a crowd some shooter lights up with machine gun fire. All my adult life, everybody has said, It's not television. Television is not the problem. And I'm saying, It's sure as hell not guns. I see football games once a week, and what I see around the games in commercials, news items and a lot of talk is the tones of voice and attitudes of aggression. Scripture used to be the glue that held us together in civilization. In America now, what scripture is paid attention to is twisted to political agendas by gross misinterpretation and manipulation.

Television is the American religion. When it comes to looking at causes of our social ills, mention television and the din of the uproar teaches one never to do that again. It's sacred. Everybody I know claims commercials and television attitudes have no effect on them. Then why do multi-national corporations spend so much money on commercials? Big money. Like millions for a Superbowl half minute. They know the power of television to manipulate. Television is even more sacred than guns. I get laughed at and derided whenever I point to tv for influence on behavior. It's the ONLY influence. I don't even dare mention a book for any reason. You want to see faces fall, say something that makes reference to reading a book. Television is the American mind. Period. It is easy to tell when somebody gets their information from Faux News. It's in their attitude, tone of voice and subjects of interest. Rant is often their form of conversation. I see the American span of attention narrowing down to nothing. Get around a bunch of people and silence becomes the dreaded monster. Everybody chattering as fast as they can go, talking over each other, saying nothing, filling in the silence with noise. Like on tv, doesn't matter what the noise is as long as it's noise. We're getting so bad about acting like we're on tv, I see lights on top of heads flashing, ON THE AIR.

In the late 1980s I visited San Diego, where I came into this lifetime. I noticed people were dressed like on tv. I came home and saw the school kids dressed like California kids, walking like them, carrying a skateboard around. People in Sparta live just like people in California, New Jersey, anyplace USA. Television is our ideology that holds us together. Buy this, buy that, pay no attention to your intelligence, go by what you want, let desire run free, indulge yourself, use the tv noise to drown out your thoughts. Tv is the propaganda organ we buy and put in our homes of our own free will. It's subliminal and who notices and who cares? Without the television fix we're blind and searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn't there. The New Normal. Why are zombies so popular in pop culture now? Are the young identifying with the living dead, being dead while alive? There is no life in television. It is a flickering light, Mammon's cathedral. Because tv is sacred we don't hear anything about television in the corporate media-led examination of whether guns kill people or people kill people, or whether more guns will make America a safer place. Anybody who mentions television as an influence is quickly shut down. We are not powerless against television. We have free will. The same button that turns it on turns it off.

Since the early 80s when the Reaganistas lit into our population with the divide and conquer strategy bent on destroying the democrat party, we the people have divided into two camps that have become intolerant of each other and focus attention on each other while the corporate police state positions itself off camera, and how many questions are asked? And so what if questions are asked? Police state rules with guns and propaganda, not logic, reason or popularity. The Patriot Act deleted our Constitution. Where did it come from? Immediately after the imploding of the twin towers on tv, every senator and congressman was given a copy of the Patriot Act so thick even a crew of aides could not have it read through by next morning when the vote on it was scheduled. Again, where did it come from? It was written over several years and strategized over several years as the new constitution for the police state. It was printed, bound, boxed and ready to go. Then guess what happened. EMERGENCY. Hmm. Pretty good timing. Advertising now "targets" us. I'm remembering the time I called Ted Stern the night of the democrat convention. I asked if he was watching the convention. He laughed. "No," he said, "I'm ninety-nine. I don't care who wins." He'd rather watch basketball. And I didn't listen to the convention on the radio.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


 jim dine, gate

I'm flooded with memories of Ted Stern over the last few days. Today I was remembering his first year at the college, my last year, when the sound throughout the campus every day in class was the pounding of telephone pole sized steel tubes driven into the ground in a grid where the new library was being built, and another place nearby where a new classroom building was being built. BAM - BAM - BAM all day long, the pile-drivers beating those huge things into the ground. This was every day. It was not objectionable. It was the new college. It was evidence that the college was going to survive the financial crisis it was going through. In a way, it was hope. Charleston the city was wasting away after business went to North Charleston and the suburban malls. Charleston then was in a place similar to what Sparta is in now, businesses barely making it and shutting down. Four movie theaters closed. Only one restaurant and two greasy spoon diners. Even the sailor bars and strip joints moved to North Charleston. For students, faculty and staff at the college, a new university was being built around us. Big change. Some liked it. Some didn't. I didn't like it at first, but when I saw what was happening, I liked it.

Progress was Ted Stern's guiding light. At that time in my life I took progress for a dirty word. It was progress that was messing everything up. I recall a time after I had been in the mountains some years, Ted Stern retired and needing to go back to Charleston for some meetings, I drove his new Cadillac, a really nice ride on the highway, going with him to visit some of my friends there. Charlotte was putting up a beltway all the way around the city during that time. Going out of Charlotte on the southern end of I-77 we saw what to my eyes was uttermost devastation. Not anything growing as far as could be seen, a red clay desert. Big cement structures were up and a highway being built between them for an up in the air experience cloverleaf sort of configuration. Big earth-moving equipment, the kind with tires ten feet high, real American he-man Heavy Equipment. Giant Tonka toys. Ted remarked about how beautiful this was, progress, people at work, new highway being built to accommodate more cars coming into the world every year. It lit him up like it would light me up to see that much acreage in virgin forest. Knowing him taught me to appreciate progress. Years later, I passed over that same stretch of highway, even drove around on it, feeling eerie that high up in the air. It's a beautiful area, really beautiful to my eye.

I'm remembering the time he told me of how his father, Hugo, died. The telephone rang, somebody told him the stock market crashed, the phone hit the floor, he hit the floor and that was it. Ted said the people that came in to clean the body stole his gold cufflinks, his money clip and the money in it. He said he was not going to die over money. He never let money be that important to him. Money was important in that he kept track of it and did his own taxes every year, kept up with the new loopholes. Every time he bought something he'd ask what kind of deal could be worked for him, and he'd get a good deal. In his later years he leased a new gray or silver Cadillac every other year. It was a better deal than buying them. I came out of the College of Charleston thinking I was educated. Over the years post-college knowing Ted Stern as the caretaker of his farm and one he could talk to about decisions he's involved in with the college, Spoleto, whatever it was, aware that I would not be telling any of his business around, I learned that compared to Ted Stern I was a dumb shit every way I can be looked at. I was his ear in that way to the point I taught myself to forget Charleston business he told me, because I was serious about not letting any of  it slip. I did one time, but by chance it did not go any further than the moment. It taught me. Never again will that happen. It was good training for other aspects of my life too. Several old mountain people have told me the stories of their lives with the confidence I would not blabber any of it around. I've told them that if-when I write about them it will never embarrass them.

Ted and I have had some differences too. That I look up to him, respect him highly, it doesn't mean I haven't seen his human side too, which is more on display at home than at work. A year or two after I came to the mountains to work the farm, Ted Stern was having a cocktail party event for the business leaders in Sparta. He said I would wear a white shirt with a bow tie and serve drinks. I told him I would not. He told me I would. I could not convince him I would not, and he could not convince me I would. His final word down at the wire was that I would do it. Mine was you'll see. I told him I have to live here. I was not Ted Stern's step-n-fetch-it, and the gossip around Sparta would never be that I was. I did not know those people then, but knew I would eventually. It might have been a pride thing. I don't care. There wasn't any way in this world I was going to do such a thing. Not that I have a problem with pouring a drink for somebody. I worked among people in bib overalls, bluejeans, workboots and ballcaps. This was my new world I was having to learn in a hurry working the farm. Nobody was ever going to see me in a bow tie, anyway. Especially in my new life among hillbillies that I was quickly coming to appreciate. Ted Stern did the drink pouring at the party or made it a communal pour-your-own. I don't know. I wasn't there. I had to problem with it. I never once told him I would. I only told him I would not. He never let on later like he had a problem with it. I know I paid for it in some way, but don't know how and don't care to know how. If he'd told me to get my ass off the farm, I'd have said ok.

As for somebody to work for, I've only worked for one employer his equal when it comes to being consceintious toward employees. Attorney Donna Shumate. Tom Pruitt, the old farmer who lived nearby and helped me with the farm had a great deal of respect for Ted Stern because all his financial dealings were straight up, on time. He never had the first money issue with the man. That impressed Tom mightily. After living in a culture of poverty awhile I learned why. In a life of poverty people need money all the time, really need it. A dollar or two you're entrusted with won't last long. It's a culture where you have to know somebody very well before you can trust them. Trust doesn't extend beyond family very often in the mountains. By now I've come to understand and feel the same way. I don't ever trust somebody I've just recently come to know, from here or from Away. It now takes me years to know somebody before trust becomes an option. I was told by a smart-ass one day at lunch when we were talking about trust and I mentioned my hesitation. "I'm sorry for you," he said in his superior tone of voice that says: how stupid you are compared to me. I didn't pay him any mind. I knew him for a long time, would never think of trusting him. He taught me not to several times. Ted Stern never talked down to anybody about anything. He regarded everyone with respect and was someone who could be trusted absolutely.


Monday, January 21, 2013


     cleve gray, red thrust on gray

This is the day Ted Stern had his memorial service at the cistern, by his request weather permitting. I found a short video Channel 5 put online of the flag-wrapped bier with a friend of more than half my life inside it dead. First time I went to google to look for info on his passing, I saw "Ted Stern dead at 100." It knocked me for a wobble on my track. Dead. It was a little bit hard to take. Dead  is such a dead word. It's inert like a cinder block. A name and memories. The first time I saw him, he was walking across the cistern on his way into the main building. We at the college knew we had a new president, though I hadn't seen him. One day I was walking into the quadrangle through the gate between the library and the main building (1968) and saw Ted Stern walking over the cistern. At a distance and at a glance, he looked somewhat formidable. He walked with a self-confident air. I'd heard he was retired Navy, which turned me against him automatically. I'd been in the Navy too, though he and I had very different experiences there. The Navy was good to him. He gave it his all. The Navy was not good to me, because I gave it my time that it had usurped in the period of the draft, and nothing else. The ultimate authority. I resented having two years of my life taken because I was born a boy in USA. In retrospect, I have an entirely different version of the time in the Navy. Yes, it took me out of my life, but I needed it at the time. The time in the Navy was my transition from rule from outside myself to making my own decisions for myself, which theretofore I'd failed at repeatedly. I needed to get outside my life at exactly that time to assess the pit I'd fallen into of my own ignorance.

I'd come out of a family situation where I had been taught to reject authority. In photographs I've seen of self in childhood, I see that rejection of authority started about the age one and a half. That's when the deep furrows between my eyes started their very early development. Resentment. Hating being hit. Hating the ongoing berating. By the time I left parents, I was dead set against authority and dead to parents. Him for the hitting and berating. Her for never protecting the boy child from his insanity. Hitting the kid sublimated hitting her. Resentment of male authority runs deep in me. Like I say, all the way back to age one. The child within hated being hit daily without recourse. Didn't just dislike it. Hated it. Hated. Going to a Kansas fundamentalist church five times a week, it was hate that was developing in me, not love. Love was nasty. It was a four-letter word. Bad. There wasn't any of it going around in our house, anyway. Certainly not in the church. Church was duty. Or else. In my time in the Navy and the College of Charleston, love was a word I scorned. Had no idea about it. Experienced some heat, but it wasn't anywhere near love. It was a peep hole, nonetheless. A beginning.

I tell this for the origin of my rejection of authority. The authority I grew up under was wildly irrational. There was no reasoning behind it, no guidance, no correction. The only thing I was required to understand was No, Don't and You Better Not. I was promised a better life if I could start everything I do with no-dont-you-better-not. A kid has to move. A kid has to talk. I refused the straight-jacket, so I was in trouble every day. Existence was the cause of my trouble. It doesn't sound good to resent parents openly, but when your mother tells a neighbor woman, "He's my kid, I'll kill him if I want to," and then tells the kid about it, proud of herself, it causes a child to question the advisability of living with these people. But there was no place to go to. It was a matter of seeing I was born in prison with a sentence at least through high school. Free from parents and church, then I had the prison sentence of the military to go through for being born in Amerika. Then there is the prison sentence of you-better, you-oughta, you're-supposed-to, you should, the rules unspoken, but you're expected to know them and go by them. When-ya-gonna-get-married-when-ya-gonna-get-married-when-ya-gonna.... I got married, because of supposed-to.  I'm an Hephaestus personality drawn to an Aphrodite personality. He failed to see the humor in his wife's infidelity.

All this to say that in the first view of Ted Stern at about fifty feet and maybe ten seconds, I saw Authority. He was big with a big Jewish nose, which I respected. I'd known a few people of the Charleston Jewish community, liked them all and respected their intelligence. Upon seeing him with his Hebraic schnoz, I was entirely disposed to rejection, though with curiosity. The Jewish part told me this is not the average white man. It indicated that the board hired him for reasons that cancelled any prejudices among the Southern white men of the Old South way of thinking. Still, it didn't matter to me, one way or the other. Navy. Authority. Why did this have to happen at my school? Within, I was braced against him. There came a time I did something arrogant, disrespecting his authority. He handled it like King Solomon. I was so impressed by his way of "taking me to prayer meeting," rationally, intelligently, as well as firmly, I came away from it respecting his authority. He did it in front of about thirty people, never letting on who he was talking about, never making eye contact with me to say, I'm talking about you. I sat in my metal folding chair red faced in awe. I had never experienced such intelligent authority. My respect for Ted Stern started that day. It didn't change anything between him and me, because I didn't know him to avoid him or cultivate him. I just stopped talking down about him among my friends.

It was not cool to admit I admired him suddenly. His pattern all the way along in his time in Charleston was to turn the people most dead set against him into his most ardent supporters. I saw it even in cases I never believed would be sympathetic with him, like my own. He had a great deal of opposition in his first few years with the college, and he played through it. I'm recalling a Miles Davis concert in England, Isle of Wight Festival, in a documentary about his music. It was a big outdoor show of what is now called classic rock, the Who, Hendrix, Janis, the Doors. Miles was playing his electric music. Audience was throwing every kind of trash at the band, booing them. At a certain point in the music, the bass player told Miles he couldn't take dodging flying bottles and being booed any more. He wanted to quit and leave the stage. Miles said, "Play through it." By the time they finished the set, the booing and bottle throwing had ended and the audience went nuts in ovation wanting more. This sentence, play through it, has been with me since Ted Stern's passing. He played through it when metaphorical bottles were thrown at him and he came out of it beloved by the people of a great Southern city, his funeral a major moment in the history of the city of Charleston. For the College of Charleston, corny as it sounds to say it, Ted Stern was indeed its founding father. His obituary could be reduced to three words, an honorable man.


Sunday, January 20, 2013


              the air bellows outdoor museum of art
             Older and younger brother meet---
             both with white eyebrows drooping down.
             And what delight in this time of peace,
             day after day getting drunk as fools!
                               ---RYOKAN  (1758-1831)
                                      tr by Burton Watson

Friday, January 18, 2013


     hallelujah bye and bye

Three hours ago the news came to me by email that my friend of 40+ years, Ted Stern, left the body this morning. The email came from Robert Macdonald who is writing his biography. He was hoping Ted would live long enough to see it. He's projecting to be finished with the writing around April. This morning I found an email from Macdonald telling me Ted was not feeling well. I responded by email and then his return email was to tell me Ted had gone on. All morning I'd been thinking about calling Ted. I thought I'd wait until 11:30, before lunch and plenty of time to be alert after getting up. Macdonald's email came through at a quarter to eleven. I set out to send Stern's grandson Eric an email. I'd started to put down his address, had written "eric" and the phone rang. It was Eric to tell me he'd had a call from Uncle Sandy. I sit here looking out the windows at the birds picking up sunflower seeds on the surface of the snow. When I gaze back at the monitor it turns pink and aqua from snow blindness, followed by a moment unable to see at all, then I can see ok. Caterpillar is on her window seat watching the slate-gray snowbirds hopping about and flying against the white background. From time to time she'll squeak and her whiskers will twitch in the Maine Coon way. It excites her so much to watch the birds that it triggers this involuntary twitch of the upper lip.

I find myself reminding self from time to time that this is the day Ted Stern left the body. I've only seen him a few times in the last years. I knew he was in comfortable circumstances at the very expensive assisted-living facility nursing home where they're paid to pay attention to you, not just to clean up after you. He had his own apartment with his own decorations on the walls, furniture from home, and people of his society for neighbors. His peers. He had his books he read during the daytime and football, basketball and baseball to watch in the evenings after the news and a drink. He was a master of self-discipline. It gave the appearance of a neurosis, but I felt like I knew him well enough to see that it was learned. He didn't operate by reaction. Unless somebody really pist him off. It wasn't then that the other would suffer the consequences, but later when it counted. Hitting was not a solution for him. He learned a very great deal of his public service acumen from his cousin in New York, where Ted is from, Robert Moses, the man who could be said to have designed modern Manhattan. I'd met him a few times in his 90s and found most notable Ted's visible respect for him. Ted regarded everyone with respect, so it appeared no more than with anyone else, but his respect for Moses had a golden glow about it. Reverence for the Master. Robert Moses was his teacher, sensei, his spiritual master, guru, cousin and close friend, confident. Moses was the only of Ted's relatives who went to Ted's wedding when he married outside the family religion.

My respect for Ted Stern is that kind of high. He has been my teacher in many ways since we first became acquainted. He was hired to be president at the College of Charleston when I was in my last year. Straight out of the Navy, which I'd been in too and had no love for. I had a hard time respecting a lifer from the military. It was the time of campus activism, not that anything political was going on at College of Charleston. Charleston is not a place for a demonstration. It's like, suppose you gave a demonstration and nobody came. There were half dozen of us that played the anti-war role in our minds. I went to DC in 68 for the march on Washington concerning Vietnam. I'm glad I went, only because it killed my interest in politics except to look at from afar and never commit to. I was a bit insolent after that time. A week or more later my thinking from what I'd seen educated me with new data I needed to know. Stay out of all of it. I hold Johnson down there with Reagan as the very lowest. My regard for Johnson took a nose dive and crashed. Not from what happened at the rally, but from learning afterward the lie he told the press to report in a press conference before the event. The press reported as told, like the good soldiers they're paid well to be, all of them knowing that if they reported what actually happened they'd be shut out of journalism as a career, or any other corporate job. I saw it first reported by Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice, the only journalist brave enough to tell it. Then it turned up in Norman Mailer's book Armies Of The Night. He was at the press conference too.

I pained under the disillusionment that was also a dissolution, beliefs falling away. I didn't know it then, but learned later that disillusionment equals enlightenment. So enlightenment must be the result of being disillusioned. I can't say that Ted Stern saw through the illusion, because I don't know, but he saw through an awful lot of illusion. He spoke in favor of government decisions at the time, respected Westmoreland, and I took it he bought the package. Did I ever find out different. Some years later I saw him in the hospital after an operation; I don't remember what was removed. He was sailing on some pain medication. He spoke freely and conversationally like he was largely unable to do otherwise. He wasn't much for talking unless it had to do with some sort of action, like relating to a mind full of decisions to make every day. He told me his vision of what he sees civilization coming to in the near future. It was darker than my own. Mine has a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit down to like f22. His tunnel was a long cave. I never heard any of that kind of talk again. In his fully conscious mind he saw the illusion of taking care of business, but also saw we need something to keep us going or we revert to shoot-outs, no law enforcement, heavily armed bandits plundering until the ammunition runs out. His desire to make the world a better place as a result of him having been in it transformed the College of Charleston, a little Southern college going under the third time like somebody drowning, into a nationally respected South Carolina state university inside ten years.

He was instrumental in getting the Spoleto Festival to happen in Charleston. He became a friend and confident to Jean Carlo Menotti, the self-centered composer nearly no one could get along with for any period of time. Arbitration was Stern's talent, his learned talent from Robert Moses and possibly an admiral or two along the way. Menotti needed an arbitrator at his side like he would need a translator if he didn't know English. For Menotti, Ted Stern was his harbor pilot who guided Menotti through the minefield of troubles he created for himself. I think Ted took Menotti for somebody who needed help, the kind of help Ted had to give. The way a big kid will sometimes take care of a little kid. He respected Menotti and liked him. He gave him the Ted Stern treatment that he does for everyone close to him, if they'll allow it. Respect is what the Ted Stern treatment amounts to, an encouraging pat-on-the-back respect. The middle class has lost respect for just about all but money and things associated with money. The Ted Stern kind of respect, respect for your humanity first, stands out. In the mountains he was respected by the people that knew him because he respected them first. Respect is very important in the mountains. He was respected here for his respect.

He has told me his life over the years I've known him. I've also learned in conversations with Robert Macdonald writing the biography that I know very little of his early life. I knew upper West Side New York, Jewish, somewhat privileged, the very definition of Capricorn, Johns Hopkins, Navy 27 years, Charleston. At the same time he transformed the College, he did the same with Charleston, transforming it into the ultimate tourist town that is gracious and beautiful, rewarding to visitors. It's odd how a New York Jew's parachute landed him in the quadrangle of a Southern college going under, a truly Southern place in the latter days of the Old South, and it wasn't very long before he was received like the latest thing from Goodwill Planet. The spirit of friendliness that runs through Charleston now is a part of Ted Stern's making, too. His is the optimistic can-do spirit that supports and encourages. The new Charleston was built in that spirit. There was a time in the early 1970s he told me he was president of 35 civic organizations besides the College. The business community paid close attention to him. He became a friend to the black community because he didn't bullshit them. I suppose he would best be called a visionary in that he visioned the new College of Charleston and the new Charleston into existence, step by step. He has been a loyal and true friend to me all the time I've known him. He was instrumental in getting me to the mountains, my home sweet home, before I knew Air Bellows Mountain was the home of my soul. I know he is being received happily today on the other side of the veil.



Big adventure today. Snow. Big snow. I'm hearing ten inches in Ennice, Pine Swamp and Stratford. Here at my home at Air Bellows I have six inches. I'm told that because I'm at higher elevation I should have more than ten inches. But it didn't work out that way. Looking at the way the snow is mounded on objects doesn't look like ten inches to me. I took yard stick out to measure and it came up six inches everywhere I put it down. Wet snow that transitioned from three days and nights of rain to freezing rain, sleet, ice, snow, then snow and more snow. I put out extra seeds for the birds before the snow started, thinking they'll need a little extra to get through the long cold night. They'll be looking for something to eat first thing in the morning. It's a beautiful world outside with the light on the rhododendron completely covered in snow. The snow stuck to everything. Wet, sticky snow. My friend Justin said he had to cut up a tree that fell across Pine Swamp Road. The weight of the ice in the tree pulled it up by the roots that were in soggy ground after the soaking rain.

Justin was on his way here to pick me up. His friend Chad was with him in Chad's pickup. Chad had his daughter with him, and we were going to go riding around in the snow. Both of them with four wheel drive and neither one could make it up the mountain. My phone was busy because I'd had a telemarketing call earlier, clicked the off button while it was ringing, didn't know it but that somehow kept the phone on so it gave out a busy signal. I'll have to look at my phone bill next time and see if I've been charged a three hour phone call to some telemarketing center anyplace USA or India. I saw on facebook Justin's wife reported they'd lost power. She didn't have any candles, flashlights or anything. They have a wood stove for heat, so it's not really a problem except for freezer and refrigerator. I was disappointed the snow is so bad. It's all ice on the bottom. And the ground is soggy too. I was looking forward to riding around in the snow with two guys who know how to drive in it, who do this every winter for fun. They take two trucks in case one gets stuck. They carry a chain and a chainsaw and shovel. I think I remember Justin saying Chad's truck slid off Pine Swamp Road today and had to be pulled back onto the road.

I'm glad there is no power outage here. If there were, I'd take a flashlight and walk to next door neighbor's house 1/3 mile down the road, where they have wood heat. I had to give up wood heat when the heart turned delicate. Carrying wood into the house is where I learned I had an issue with the heart. It's been kerosene heat ever since. I cut firewood and burned it for twenty years. That's enough. There comes a time when it's just too physical an activity hauling wood into the house three and four times a day. It's not objectionable, but at a certain time in life it's not what somebody wants to do. I prefer wood heat to any other, but only when it's practical. I only used trees that had already died, so it wasn't like I was doing anything but cleaning up. I was very particular about the wooded places where I cut the trees. When I cut a trail through a section of woods for the truck to drive through to load the wood, I never made a straight line. I used the lines of least trees and rhododendron, mountain laurel and mountain azalea. Actually, you couldn't even see one of my roads through the woods because it never went in a straight line and it went between trees instead of through them. Some guys I know cut a line straight into the woods about twice the width of their trucks, taking out anything in the way.

I felt like it was important to keep the integrity of the forest, not considering it won't be long after I'm gone the woods I took my firewood from will be bulldozed down for a subdivision. I forget that the future is a big house on an acre or two of lawn. In one case here on the mountain, a high school principal retired from Florida came up here, cleared a big patch of woods, because he "didn't like snakes," had a lawn, took out a lot of beautiful rhododendron and mountain azaleas, so the lawn would be pretty. Then painted the house red. Then the man died. I thought at the time I really do hope my last years on earth are not about destroying the portion of the earth I have dominion over. I did not come to the mountains to destroy the mountains. I love the mountains. I don't want to be a factor in their deforestation, but have to remind myself that when the ocean rises very soon, a few more years of hurricanes wiping out coastal cities, the people of the coast will go to the mountains. Not half way to the mountains. All the way to the mountains. When the ocean has risen as far as it's going to, these mountains may be like the Japanese islands, packed with people, pavement, houses. The mountains will be stripped down to rock like the Greek islands denuded by shipbuilding in their great age of wars. Haiti was deforested and it never came back.

I think about doing something positive for the "environment" and see around me thousands of abuses and indifferent destruction. I can't help it, though. Before the  Christmas tree plague at Air Bellows, I liked to watch the native trout swim in the creek. I'd sit on a rock beside the creek in the woods. Sit still for an hour and then the fish come out and live their lives. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life, certainly unforgettable. And the day a water snake curled up beside me on a rock I was sitting on beside the stream. It was the snake's sunning rock and I had taken it. I didn't realize what I'd done until it was too late, when I finally got it that the snake wanted the rock. It was sunning time of day. I finally left, but too late for the snake's satisfaction. Now the native trout are gone, the minnows are gone, the water snakes are gone, and now the creeks have that unnatural green moss growing on the rocks from too much fertilizer in the water, runoff from the Christmas tree fields and from the way they spread the fertilizer all over the whole area by helicopter. It's a shame for me to see a mountain stream die at its source. Then I remind myself the stream will never come back to life. After the Christmas trees have destroyed the topsoil a subdivision will come in and make it into rolling lawns with fertilizer runoff. Who knows, they may pave the whole area for the Air Bellows Walmart parking lot.

My early years in the mountains I was conscientious about not destroying the natural world around me. It's what I came here for. I wanted to be a benefit to the mountain. I was even over-conscientious in that any application of conscientious is overdone in American reality. I look back and laugh a my inability to see the future, to see how things will change when my time of calling the shots on a small plot of land is up. A guy I let hunt on my land hates crows. He shoots crows for practice. I feed the crows. I don't see a problem. Nearly all the hunters shoot crows for practice. It's a tradition that goes all the way back, based in medieval superstition about the devil or whatever. They're black, they're bigger birds and were menaces to farmers in the past. I think the crows are maginificent birds. Now farming uses poison seeds. And we eat what the poison seed grows. I am happy I saw and drank from mountain springs before they became poison from the Christmas tree pesticides, herbicides, this cide and that cide, killing everything living in the streams and poisoning the people of the region with cancer. This is the highest cancer part of the state, the Christmas tree growing parts of the mountains. It's ok. County government doesn't have a problem. The Christmas tree growers pay more taxes than the people that get the cancer. It's the American way. Even to mention it is not ok. They're making money. They're sacred. However, a Christmas tree patch in deep snow is an amazing spectacle. White cones all the same size in rows.

I value the time I had with the creek when it was alive, the same as I value my time in Charleston, South Carolina, at the tail end of the Old South, seeing the Old South while it was still living, albeit wobbly in its late 90s. In the mountains I've seen the old-time ways die out with the old people, a culture, a way of life that was valuable, way more valuable than the culture and way of life that replaced it. I'm happy that I had some time in these mountains with the people who are derisively called hillbillies, people I call hillbillies with respect, because I know what hillbilly really means. I have to say I look way up to hillbillies. It's not because I was naturally disposed to. It was because hillbillies taught me by knowing so many and living among them. The latter half of my life lived among hillbillies has been the very best span of years of my life. The best came when I learned half my blood is hillbilly. My grandmother who kept me whole throughout my childhood was a hillbilly, I just didn't know it then. First thing I noticed in the mountains was that everybody talked like my grandmother, the same sayings, same phrases, same emphatic accents. I felt at home in the arms of love from the beginning here in these emerald mountains.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Colin Powell would do best to stay at home and watch television. I can't imagine how he justifies his participation among republicans that point their racism at him, an easy target. It's like in the Sixties when the Black Panthers were staging evening news events, going into the churches of white liberals and demanding "reparations." I wondered what would happen if they went into a Baptist church toting shotguns and demanding money. I suppose they wondered too, the reason they only picked on liberals. They cracked me up in that time pointing their racism at easy targets, people that appeal to reason and logic before they point fingers. Now the republicans are bashing Colin Powell again for being dumb enough to associate with them. I thought the Cheney-Rummy-Bush triumvirate burned Powell bad enough a blister to keep him out of their circles. He talks like he thinks the republican party has reason tucked away in some out of sight niche, if he continues to talk sense, maybe it will connect with somebody in the party who has some sense. It has never happened for him. Cheney-Rummy-Bush set him up to be the stooge for their lies about WMD and got Powell discredited and out of their way. Powell is now back saying racism and intolerance characterize the republican party. Duh. Now they're all over him running him down, calling him a fool in their third grade tone of voice: So there!

I saw it in a video clip somebody put up on facebook, Americans Against The Republican Party. I went there to see what they had to say, but turned it off 30 sec into it. It's that So there! attitude they spit in your face when they talk about (oh no!) liberals. So there liberals! Being a somewhat rational man, the republican party is no place for Colin Powell. I don't know why he keeps on going back for more unless his publicist is telling him negative attention is better than no attention, or unless he really is not rational. Dems don't want him same as they don't want Joe Lieberman. The republicans shit in Powell's face, he goes back for more, they rub it in and he doesn't get it. He must have more invested in reason and logic as human motivation than I do. I learned many years ago never to expect reason or logic, unless maybe in a test question. I am coming to see that Powell wants reason and logic to be a factor in the world he lives in so much that he goes about acting like they function for him. Maybe he's practicing the principle of being the change he wants to see in the world. Maybe he thinks if he believes enough that republicans can be rational, his belief will make it happen. If so, it failed to work out.

I'm not going to complain about the implosion of the republican party. I'm happy to see the party of lies, assassinations, deception, racism, sexism, hate, contempt for the American people, the party of uneducated white men, the party attempting to turn forward momentum to backward momentum, happy to see the party fade away as do individuals who build their reputations on falsehoods. It works for awhile. Then it doesn't work at all. They're going into the doesn't-work-at-all phase. The funny part is by now their lies and chicanery are not fooling anybody but themselves. Occasionally I'll look at something on youtube from Fox. Every time, I think nobody can believe this but people who want to believe it. They get together convinced they're right and always have been, reinforce each other with agreement and emphatic tones of voice. Like at a Southern Baptist convention where they're expected to believe alike, and pat themselves on the back for it. Sameness confirms rightness. It must be why they're called the Right. They're right about the way they see everything. Being right is very important. It's the foundation of their smarty-pants tones of voice. Laura Ingraham on Fox talks like Ann Coulter, the blond mini-skirted Barbie in highest of all possible heels. I laugh every time I see something of these blond commentators with the camera looking directly between their legs requiring them to keep their legs tightly crossed with hand on miniskirt holding it down. They squirm keeping their legs together, except Ann Coulter. What a riot she is.

Gore Vidal's words ring in my mind, When Americans can't recognize stupid, we're out of business. Not all Americans, by any means. Maybe "out of business" will be localized to republican party, the ones that embrace stupid. Mark Twain has a saying something like, "It's easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled." That's what the republican party and Fox pretend-news knows. And they count on the American attention span being shorter than a cat's. This isn't to say everybody. Just enough to make 51% a challenge. A century and a half of the science of psychology, our people with mental issues are on the streets and in prisons without being charged or tried. The knowledge gained from the science of psychology is used in advertising, propaganda, population manipulation. We're told that gun violence in movies, easy killing, does not influence people who watch it. Maybe not once, but watch it every day of your life and it has some kind of influence. Advertisers pay an awful lot for a half minute to influence your mind. I think they know something the purveyors of killing as entertainment also know. I see the Yeats line, the center does not hold. Centrifugal force without gravity. Interesting time in that way. This is how a belief system flies apart. It can be looked at as sad. It can be looked at as necessary to break down the old calcified belief systems that have become tradition and need changing. They have to go before we can move forward to the next phase of our collective development as Americans and as human beings.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


earthwork, woodlawn va

Earlier today I watched a documentary of Bob Dylan in the 80s, the years I paid him no mind. It was called Both Ends Of The Rainbow, 1978-1989. I didn't know anything about Dylan's music in that time. In the film I learned that I wasn't the only only one to lose interest in Dylan after his album Saved. I listened to first side and gave it to a "Christian." Dylan had a didactic streak from the start, part of what I liked about him in that time, as I'd recently come out of childhood and teens of didacticism with fundamentalist church. Then it was familiar, sounded like truth. Later, by the time he made that ridiculous album, Saved, I'd lost my attraction to the didactic. Dylan was bad to use the gospel convention of starting a song "You better...." You better, you oughta, you needta, you're supposed to. Up until Slow Train Coming I thought nothing could turn me away from Bob Dylan. It was like he spoke my mind. I didn't know it when I fell away as a fan, a huge portion of his fan base had lost their interest. Dylan was never cliched until he attempted gospel songs. I was surprised at how many albums went by before I started paying attention to him. Next album I bought was Oh Mercy to see what it was like, and that was after reading his book Chronicle, which told the story of recording the album. It's supposed to be one of his better ones. Maybe it is.

The film showed me why I paid Dylan no mind through the 80s. I don't have a problem with Dylan living his life, being who he is, writing the songs and performing them to his own satisfaction like a good artist. His imaginative lyrics went away. The film's perspective was guided by a guy who wrote a biography of Dylan and some others connected with magazines like Rolling Stone. They were saying after he ran off his fan base he had lost his identity as to what kind of music he played. The 80s were disco time, another aspect of the 80s I ignored. Punk came on in 1975 and I started listening to punk that year. It was fresh and new, the next thing. The post-Sixties time of Bon Jovi, Ted Nugent, and religion rock bored me. Corporate music, sequels to the Sixties sound. Dylan was looking like he was growing old ungraciously. In the film they said he had a hard time finding the music to bring his audience back. Nothing he made through the 80s brought anybody back. They were saying his albums during that time didn't even figure in the top 50. He appeared to be attempting pop, which he'd never done before. He tried propping himself up with Mark Knopfler and Tom Petty. Then the Traveling Wilburys happened, bringing Dylan back to favor with much of his fans he'd run off. I never took to Traveling Wilburys. I was off in another world of music, punk and African I'd discovered on Afropop, an NPR show none of the stations I get play anymore.

Through the 80s I wanted to hear Patti Smith, Nina Hagen, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sex Pistols, Generation X, Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs, Lou Reed, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh. If Dylan was going to go into disco and post-Sixties sequels, he was going without me. I figured it was inevitable. Friends tend to grow apart over time as their experiences lead them in different directions, into different worlds of the mind. I figured it was all right to let Bob Dylan go. Once he'd satisfied me mightily. Little Richard too. Little Richard satisfied me totally in my teens; then he made By The Light Of The Silvery Moon and took up preaching. He threw a big diamond ring in a river. I saw Little Richard preach in Winston-Salem in 1977. He was ranting about the devil being behind rock and roll, that while he was singing he was with the devil. Then Jesus saved him. Dylan said the same things in his Jesus time, that rock and roll was of the devil. I suppose it's ok to come back to it when you need the money to live in the manner to which you've become accustomed. Maybe that brings Jesus back into it. Next thing I see Little Richard on tv as has-been rock n roll star complaining because he wasn't getting enough royalty money from his songs. Next he's at a music awards show excited out of his mind he won an award he indeed deserved. It appears in both cases the devil took a back seat to need for recognition and money.

The Dylan that pulled me all the way back was Time Out of Mind, then Love And Theft, Together Through Life, Modern Times, and now apex Dylan, Tempest. I'm back in his fan base as solid as in the early years. On a different level this time. The 80s were a freaky time. Politically, it was a reaction against the freedom of the Sixties. Dylan didn't go with punk, the new underground music not played on radio except at college FM stations. Punk carried on the artistic explorations of the Sixties period after auditorium guitar had been taken as far as it could go. Punk pulled rock back from overdone virtuosity to jamming. I was going to conjecture Dylan might have bypassed his 80s awkwardness turning to punk instead of pop. But that's not for me to say. He has to go with his own karma, his own vision, his own artistic sense. I had a feeling everything went out from under him when the Sixties, the context he came along in, went away replaced by corporate pop, which the folk music he came up in was a reaction against. I'm hearing Modern Times now. It sounds awfully good. It sounds Dylan. Not like early Dylan, but soul of Dylan. I wonder how much being a big pop star doing his own thing, going his own way, pulled him away from his own way into the pop formula that pays so well. It appears to me that's the issue. It disoriented him, he went through a time of diminished creativity, then pulled himself back onto his own track.  


Monday, January 14, 2013



It's been ongoing humor to see how the conservative / liberal agendas play out in absolute resistance to each other. The repubs in their 30+ year attempt to destroy, put out of business, the democrat party have failed. They put all their eggs in the Reagan basket, the bottomless pit. I have come to suspect it so much, though still hesitate to say I believe it, but I see it that the republican half of the voting population, or a quarter of the population, given that only half the population votes, are the portion of the American citizenry that has fallen under the spell of what William Casey, CIA director early 80s, said of the American people, "We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American people believe is false." There it is. It is an active Disinformation Program going on at least since then. The repubs are now in self-destruct mode. They've had for their agenda destroying the democrat party using false information so long that it has become their momentum. Winning elections with lies, racism and transparent chicanery has evidently run its course. This last election trumped Karl Rove, the cutting edge of the Disinformation Program's propaganda politically. It trumped hairdoo Donald Trump too. And Ted Nugent. What a laugh he has made of himself. As a rocker he has what it takes, but as a mind, never mind.

The part I object to most is what hits me at home. Of course, ongoing inflation and no increase in income for the working people over the last 30+ years is a big one. Mostly, it's that I live in a world of people, wherever I am in America, who have become part of the Disinformation Program by falling for it. Fox tv channel is a very active part of the Disinformation Program. Limbaugh is the out-front spokesperson. I chose to use person instead of man. Where I live, the word man has a bit of respect about it. Person is diverse. Somebody on death row for murder and rape is a person, while not necessarily a man one can respect very well. Like I can't call Limbaugh a pig because I respect a pig more than I do him. He's one that belongs on death row. He stirs hate with rant. Skepticism and questioning are, alas, not American virtues, which Limbaugh as republican philosoph takes advantage of to the hilt, meaning all the way in. Yes, some of us non celebrities do think about things, but if you want to find one, you have to go seeking. What do you go by? A certain alertness that television has not yet turned to slumber. There is a difference from the bright-eyed smiling fake front and true alertness that doesn't necessarily smile all the time or parrot political (television) correctness with enthusiasm. Fake alertness you see everywhere. All the publications Rupert Murdoch "bought" were turned into organs of the Disinformation Program. So are the CEOs and owners of the other networks purveyors of the Disinformation Program. You want corporate government? Here it is, like it or don't.

Though I only see television a few hours a week, mostly football this time of year and racing the rest of the year, I can see the psychological manipulation with a bit more clarity than someone asleep in tv. It's not an anesthetic for me. I can't doze for very long in a state of mental torpor watching commercials of guys in the stands at the football game holding the label of their beer bottles and cans toward the field to work a mojo on the game. It's slightly humorous in a locker room fraternity way the first time. I'm glad to see the big corporations are at least doing more commercials with humor. It's dorky corporate humor, though an attempt nonetheless. I only listen at home to non commercial radio. NPR is not commercial free, but their commercials are shorter and directly to the point about it. Don't think I believe NPR is independent of the Disinformation Program. Initially, I believe they set out to be. Then the Disinformation Program began in earnest, the Reagan Revolution, and repubs have been trying to get NPR off the air, or at least as misrepresentative as Fox, ever since. Reagan sliced NPR's budget down to the bone, like he did everything of benefit to the American people, the 99%. The people at NPR were attempting something like BBC here, which they found unacceptable in the Texas of the world.

I sit here looking out two windows between sentences at an overcast, wet, slightly sprinkling day. It's the kind of wet you can walk to the mailbox and back with slight wetness on hair. The colors are vivid at their very best with light fog in the distant trees. I love how colors come out when rain wets them. It gives them a vivid lightness of being. Rhododendron leaves rich green with white accenting them, the branches dark lines like in a Japanese painting. Every shade of reddish light brown leaves carpets the ground, curled and making a chance collage with pine needles, sticks and twigs that also fell from the trees. I spread two sizes of sunflower seeds over the ground. I've been watching the birds of all sizes pecking peaceably, a red squirrel searching, picking up a seed, biting through the shell and eating the seed inside. The red squirrel then runs and looks for another. A time comes when the squirrel is full and starts tucking the seeds away in pockets it makes with its front feet, tiny hands. It runs to get more and tucks them into a another little pocket called a midden. I will be surprised if sunflowers don't take up from at least some of the places they're tucked away. Birds scratching find a lot of them. It feels good in my spirit to see the snowbirds hopping about, scratching, flying, and the nuthatches, the bluejays, the titmice (titmouses?), a small black and white woodpecker with a red dot on the back of its head. Chickadees and titmice chirp to me from nearby branches when I go out the door in the morning with the day's ration. The birds of my mountain are so much more enjoyable to me than anything on tv that it doesn't feel right using them in the same sentence where tv is mentioned. The difference is that I love my bird friends and I don't love tv. Major difference.