Google+ Followers

Monday, September 30, 2013

ON THE ROAD THE MOVIE



A few days ago I learned Jack Kerouac's novel, ON THE ROAD, from the late 1950s was made into a film. Netflix had it. Saw it today. It took me back to an early part of myself as well as the beginnings of what became known as the Beat Generation, the Beats. I think it was early 1960 or late 1959 that I read the Signet paperback of On The Road. Several years ago I found a first edition of that paperback for a dime. I don't care about its value. I'm sure it has very little. I just like having it. Senior in high school, barely literate enough to look at Time magazine with a little bit of comprehension, though not much. A guy in my class I assessed cool without being a jock, was reading it and talking about it with the people who read books. I was beginning to read books by then, starting with things way over my head like Alan Watts' Way of Zen, which I didn't get, but it opened my eyes to something. It made me realize I couldn't read with comprehension. From there, I started reading Ben Hur after seeing the movie. The sense I got from the guy in high school talking about On The Road was that I too could be cool if I'd read On The Road, the book that defined cool. I found a copy and read it. So cool driving a Hudson across the desert, everybody nude, the chick playing bongos on the dashboard. The characters not long out of high school drink, smoke reefer, abandon chicks and drag bottom. I don't dare try to read it now. It's nice having a film version of the book, a review without reading it again, like dreaming it.



It has been 54 years since I read it, meaning I remember next to nothing of it except riding a Hudson across America and smoking reefer. The movie showed me I remembered it very well. That's about all there was to it. I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that it was a memoir of a friend who bottomed out, Dean Moriarity. The story is told by a young guy, Sal Paradise, aka Jack Kerouac, who wanted to be a writer, ached to be a writer, tried to write, nothing worked. He's in New York hanging with other young writer wannabes exploring the new world since WW2 with jazz in Harlem, abstract expressionism in painting, turning on to reefer in jazz clubs. In my fantasy memory, the characters had a golden glow about them, ultra cool white people hanging with black people, remembering I was in high school after a lifetime in fundamentalist church, sex crazed since puberty, wanting to get on any road out of where I was and freewheel throwing empty Thunderbird wine bottles out the window. Jump into late teen heedlessness all the way to no turning back. Kerouac and Moriarity were young writers in NY getting nowhere. They decided to cross the country by car. Kerouac kept notes along the way. They were gaining experience, getting down and dirty, working at hard labor jobs for very little, committing themselves to being down and out like it was romantic and cool, young writers paying their dues. 



Moriarity is the kind of guy who never catches on to the necessity to become responsible at a certain point in his life. He doesn't get it. He can't be taught it. And he can't figure out how to live without having a sense of responsibility even to himself. Set out on his own without parental support, he goes through whoever will take care of him until he alienates them to throwing him out saying, I don't ever want to see you again! Actress Kirsten Dunst appeared as the last woman who took him in until the day she said, Do you realize what I've given up for you? In a cast of some dreary characters, she was a refreshing play within a play. In Lars von Trier's MELANCHOLIA, Kirsten Dunst had a charisma that makes me light up when she shows up in a film. Her role in On The Road was short and carried a whole story in her brief moment. Now that it's been a few hours since it ended, her role turns out to be the strongest memory of the film and the first to come forward. When I called the other characters dreary, it was their depression, their aimless Nowheresville gaping about. It tells where these young writer wannabes were at in their own heads. They wanted to write, but had no experience, nothing to write about. Kerouac took off from New York with this guy whose only direction was downward. He watched his friend over a period of a few years fall through a crack in the bottom.
 
 
 
I appreciate that the young Kerouac wrote a memoir of his friend who was simply unable to live in this world. A lot of people are like that. More than we'd imagine. I feel like Kerouac's contribution to American writing is his memoir of somebody who couldn't make it in this world. It's a loving story of a friend he truly valued as a human being, seeing him drag across the bottom until it snagged and held him. It's an American story, even a profound American story. Often I saw Kerouac writing his own version of Henry Miller's, Air Conditioned Nightmare. Miller's journey starts in New York, goes down through the South to New Orleans, then on the northern California. I even felt like Kerouac learned to write from reading Henry Miller. I'd guess Kerouac had access to the Paris edition of Miller's Tropics novels by way of being smuggled into the country until the sensational Supreme Court ruling that they were not pornography in the late Fifties. Miller was the bohemian writer of the moment in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Kerouac was the bohemian writer of his own moment, the 1960s. After On The Road, I had to read The Dharma Bums, another one of freewheeling people unable to make a go of it for themselves in this world; some joined the domestic syndrome, some drifted down into nothingness.
 
 
 
On The Road celebrated the party time of life, between the ages of 18 and 23. That's when we're out of high school, unchained from parental control, setting out on our own with a job, a car, expenses, an apartment, insurance, speeding tickets, looking for babes, drinking and doing every drug there is. Kerouac's story is a handful of young guys starting out from nowhere, ambitious to get somewhere with no idea how to start. He started writing it in 1942, the year Air Conditioned Nightmare was published, and finished On The Road in 1951. It wasn't published until 1957 with much editing for legal purposes that were different then from how they are now. He wrote it throughout his twenties, it's conception in the time of his wild child time of life. I cannot read Kerouac's prose in this time of my life. He's down there even below Kurt Vonnegut in my own personal Olympus of American writers. Kerouac was great for a high school outsider kid to discover, a kid whose life as self had not yet begun. I was too inhibited to cut loose and run wild to such an extreme. Jack Kerouac did it for the frustrated kids of my generation, gave us a fairy tale unto instruction manual on being cool in America. Right away after it was published, Kerouac became the ultra-hipster of the New York "beat" writers. I wondered while watching the film version what meaning it would have for someone not aware of its historical moment. It seemed to me a period piece, a vision of living in America in its time. I like access to the story without having to wade through Kerouac's prose. The film, by director Walter Salles, was beautifully made. Another beautiful losers story.
 
 
.      
 
 
*



   

Saturday, September 28, 2013

OTHER AND SELF


marino marini


We're in a time of being manipulated into division over caring and not caring. All my life the people who go by conservatives, who used to be called reactionaries and hawks, have looked down on the progressives, the doves, the peaceniks. It's like the heat is turned up and the parts in the stew are swirling in the pot, the bottom rising to the top and the top going to the bottom. In our democracy where we are declared created equal as the foundation of our law, the present illustrates the movement cut loose by the Reagan Revolution of belief that one man's ignorance is the equal of another man's knowledge. It's frightful that the political party representing half the population, the below average half, believes education is misleading religiously and politically. The half of the population that sometimes entertains rational thought is largely overwhelmed by aggression of the ignorant obsessed with abortion, pussy, racism, in other words, smokescreen. Everywhere I go I hear somebody making a declaration that starts with "This country." It's all mental generalizations categorizing the unknown.
 
marino marini
 
 
It has become amusing to hear the varieties of the lists that follow this country. It's like a collective wave is going through USA that seems like self-examination, but turns out to be figuring out what's wrong and pointing the finger of blame. Blame the other while three fingers point back at self. We're picking it apart relentlessly, even mindlessly albeit by way of mentation. The trend coming into the new century is surrealist slayings in random locations all over the country. By surrealist I mean in the time of Surrealism in Paris between world wars one and two. One of the surrealists declared the ultimate surrealist act would be to carry a pistol into a crowd and shoot someone randomly. The other surrealists did not take to his idea and soon after put him out of the group. They were creators, artists, not killers. Love was the surrealist theme. Killing did not file well with love. The so-called ultimate surrealist act is now common news in television world where fantasy is reality. Somebody with advanced degrees in psychology, a guy not long out of high school, a guy working at a shipyard. Before the surprise mass shootings were the post office shootings by frustrated employees let go and denied their pensions.
 
marino marini
 
 
It's easy to say it's an expression of disregard unto contempt for others. Killing anyone who is present with no personal reason is an obvious expression of contempt, the most obvious. Looking at the lists of comments after almost any kind of article online, often the rudest, most contemptuous language is used by somebody who doesn't even know who it is on the receiving end, the other. Disregard for others is from ego and the Western attitude toward self in relation to others: me first, others last. The people committing these  outrageous acts for television news show absence of regard for other as a self. No empathy. Throughout my lifetime, experiences in this world trained me away from empathy until the time the Light revealed itself to me. Once I've seen it, I cannot live as though I had not. It's only then that empathy became important. In the time of developing my ego, the time before my understanding, empathy wasn't even a word I knew. I don't mean to sound like a preacher who tells about himself as the worst sinner who drank, played cards and danced, until Jesus turned him away from his evil ways. Not that at all for me. I wasn't living an evil life. I was just trying to make my own light and it never worked.
 
marino marini
 
 
On this side of the divide of empathy / non-empathy, I can see that somebody who has watched people killing on tv every day of his life since a baby can act without empathy. The other is the same as a mushroom. So much contempt for the other indicates three fingers pointing back at self. Self-loathing appears to be an epidemic of this time of the center not holding. The people who commit these slayings most often kill themselves. The guy in Aurora, Colorado, who did not kill himself is a mystery to me, something like Bradley Manning who released a Pandora's box of US government secrets knowing he'd be in maximum security prison for life, no parole. You don't do something like that not knowing what is next. I believe he wanted prison. That's not a psychic insight. It's how it appears to me going by what I've seen about him. The Colorado shooter evidently wanted to live the rest of his life in torment. I don't understand these people, because I don't understand anymore the absence of empathy. I don't believe it's widespread as these psycho actions make it seem. I don't believe these isolated incidents of zero empathy tell anything about the rest of us.
 
marino marini
 
 
I see the news, hear the talk, read articles and books, hear interviews, and I see the people in the world I live in. We're not anything like the generalizations and categorizations we're pigeon-holed by. We're under immense stress as a culture, stress factor kept up by television that tells us relentlessly we're not good enough. It's the weakest link in the chain that snaps. Everybody I know has strength of character that could never allow themselves to sink to that self-centered a way of life. That kind of self-centered behavior is particular to the individual. Each of us has our own karmic history that is particular to self, same as personality, fingerprints and horoscope. In the rainbow of human experience we range from the lowest down dirty chickenshit emeffer from hell to the most gracious flow of helpful kindness in an uplifting spirit. We run the scale of everything between these poles in what we call duality. Most of us waver in the middle somewhere. A swing to the right is balanced by a swing to the left, back and forth, the pendulum of time. I live in a world of wonderful people who would lend a hand before they'd take from behind your back. Empathy is slow to leave mountain culture, despite several generations of television stripping away empathic values from traditional beliefs. Yes, the end is near when the false values are cleared from our traditional beliefs to make way for the new. The beginning is next. That's the part I'm looking to. The day after the last day is the first new day. The last day has to happen to let the new day come in.   
 
marino marini
 
 
*
 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

AMERICA'S CUP 2013

usa (black) new zealand (red)

The America's Cup racing ended yesterday with an American win. I watched videos of five of the races, the 19th the last. The ones I saw were 6, 7, 15, 16 and 19.. To say a sailboat race was exciting sounds like saying a toad race is. I've always liked to see America's Cup races on tv, though seldom have. I recall the beautiful, sleek boats of the Fifties and Sixties, much like the slick Indy cars of that time. Along came the computer; boats and cars changed, as did planes and everything else. This year the boats were catamarans with 130 foot masts. The only difference I could see between the two boats were the size of what I think I remember called jibs, the small sail in front of the tall sail. They were different sizes, and a little bit different shapes. These were hi-tech to the present moment. Instead of the hulls skimming over the water, the catamarans had thin blades with a little wing at the bottom that sliced through the water raising the hulls of the catamarans into the air for nearly no resistance. These boats sliced through the water at 45 to 50 mph in a good wind. The skill of the dozen or so people operating each boat equaled a pit crew in NASCAR races changing tires, filling up gas, peeling a layer of windshield film, in twelve to fourteen seconds. The crew on these sailboats never stopped their all-out physical activity. They had to go into this race with a great deal of physical stamina, at least as much as it would take to play a soccer match or basketball.



I found it actually thrilling to watch the sailboats cut the water, leaving two narrow wakes that look like contrails from above. I have a powerful love for sailboats. They have attracted my attention all my life. I love their beauty, that the America's Cup sailboats are every year the cutting edge of the latest technology on aero and hydro dynamics at sea. A psychic told me I had a lifetime as a pirate in the North African part of the Atlantic and Mediterranean in the 13th Century. This is the only explanation I can figure for why I've loved sailboats since childhood, like I loved pirate movies in childhood. Even liked to dress as a pirate for Halloween. I've been on a few small sailboats, just enough to find that learning to sail is complex and fun, too complex for casual sailing. There is the truth that a boat is a hole in the water you throw money in, and I've never had nor wanted enough money to throw a large portion of it away. I like documentaries about circumnavigation in a sailboat for one. I think of that something like the Adamson's in East Africa knowing lions so well they could trust their knowledge to keep them safe among lions. Setting out to go around the tip of South Africa and the tip of South America in suicidal rough seas takes knowledge so subtle that the one operating the boat has full confidence in understanding the sea, the wind, the boat and self. It takes comfort with solitude to circumnavigate the globe solo.



The America's Cup racing teams are hyper athletic. One of them on the American team was said to be a winner of four Olympic gold medals. These are people dedicated to racing boats like NASCAR drivers dedicate every moment to racing. These people stand out in front of everybody else in their field. It takes dedication and work to get there and to stay there. They verge on flawless like the car race pit crews and our tv football games. Pro football is so tight by now that winning is a matter of making the least mistakes. It's the same with baseball. It's the skill I watch when I see a tv football game or baseball game. I see somebody hit a home run with a ball that he has to decide whether to swing at or let it go by the moment the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, the ball going 90mph. I wouldn't even see the ball. If I'd been on one of those catamarans, there would have been no place for me to get out of the way but to jump over the side. No room for passengers. The best thing for me to do is go to youTube, write americas cup 2013 in the box and pick a race to see. According the to the two men doing the talking during the race, moment by moment, like talking about car races, intelligent guys who understood high speed catamaran racing, America's Cup, the history, the rules, this may have been the most neck and neck race since the beginning. I'd rather see the youTube video than actually to have seen it from the shore of San Francisco Bay amidst the throng of people, parked cars, two sails in the near and far distance, mostly far, and that's it. I liked listening to these two guys talk about it for their knowledge.



 The American team came back from starting out with eight losses, and made that up plus the one, race 19, it took to win. Congratulations to the American crew. The New Zealand crew deserves congratulations for being so difficult to defeat. The crew was the equal of the American crew and the boats equal, too. The American crew took awhile to get in tune, but when they got there, they were unstoppable. It came down to race nineteen neck and neck. Even to have lost that race doesn't mean much. It was only by 35 or 40 seconds. That's not even a minute behind. The two teams and the two boats were so equal that it made a truly exciting race. The two men doing the talking were blown away by what good races these were. One read a tweet they'd received from somebody who said something to the effect of -- you never told me your sport was like this! The announcer said, "It's not like in your grandfather's day," meaning, I presume, the Fifties when America's cup was a sailboat race before catamarans and computer designs. Then, the hull rode on the water; now knife blades slice the water while the hull, itself, streamlined as a knife blade, flies above the surface. Watching the boats fly over the water brought to mind watching two NASCAR drivers running around a curve side by side at 150, perfect control. This sailboat race represented for me the image of near perfect control of self, as close as is humanly possible this year.


 

*

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BIG MIRACLE THE MOVIE



Saw a good children's movie called Big Miracle. The dvd started with previews of children's movies and I despaired about like when the previews are satanic blood lust explosions. Both make me afraid of the movie I'm about to see. Right away I saw when it started it was a made for tv children's film. It had a quality that told me in the beginning it was also a well made film and probably would transcend its categorization. It did. Character development was done minimally and well. The acting was tv family drama, and the story itself was about television as much as it was the whales in the ice hole. It also addressed Greenpeace concerns, one of the characters making a pretty good cliché Greenpeace activist, a strident control freak who sometimes let her vulnerabilities show. The film gave a good sense of the culture clash when self-important people from big city media arrive for a frenzy. No bridge was present between the two cultures. The native people of Barrow, Alaska, the farthest settlement north on our continent, accommodated the city people, made good money feeding and lodging them, a week of hyper-inflation that helped the town with practically no economy make it through another year.



The story is told by a young boy of the local people. At the beginning and end and a few moments in between, his voice is the narrator presenting the story. The boy's story is that he wanted to be a city boy like on tv; his grandpa despaired that the boy listened to Guns-n-Roses and couldn't keep his mind on learning the old ways. The boy sees his grandpa and the other local men turn out and do their part with their knowledge to help free the whales. The local notion of how to solve the matter would have been to kill and eat the whales, a year's worth of food in them, but the whales had become the focus of attention all over the country through tv coverage. Couldn't eat them. The local people applied their knowledge of whales and ice to the full orchestra triumph at the predictable end. It was such a feel-good movie much was forgiven. The bad people were converted and the good people were rewarded. Everybody came out to the good in their careers, got problems solved, a broken romance mended. Greenpeace and oil interest cooperated, rural and city people cooperated, young and old cooperated, masculine and feminine cooperated, and finally with a rush of the musical score, cooperation between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. King Reagan came into the picture in a few scenes and loads of references. "Hello Gorbie, this is Ronnie." Environmentalist Ron to the rescue.
 
 
 
Some of the photography of the whales looking up at them from below were quite beautiful images of swimming whales. They are grace itself. The grace in the film for me was the weaving of everybody's individual stories together into a living tapestry around the hole in the ice where the three whales were breathing. Big Oil came out to save the whales. Even Ronnie and Gorbie came out to save the whales. The Soviet ice breaker ship got the job done. The whales were set free to return to the ocean to head down to Guerrero Negro about half way up the Pacific side of Baja California. They're late, but they'll make it. So many different points of view came together in the telling of the story, all of them around the self-interest of advertising themselves caring, back in 1988 when environmentalism was every bit as ineffectual as it was in 2012 when the film was released. The Big Miracle was a moment in ongoing environmentalism that goes on being defeated by corporate government, a moment when a multitude of self-important parties came together and cheated a community out of three whales that could have fed the entire community through the long winter. Everybody came out a winner in the end. The elder of the local people told the younger ones who wanted to kill the whales that they had better cooperate with this wave of television sentiment over the whales or they, themselves, would be destroyed. The whales served everybody's interest. The local people, Indians, cooperated with the white people and survived the encounter; therefore, were happy.
 
 
 
 
 
*

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FANTASY IS REALITY

 


Every day I ask myself why I waste my time and mind paying attention to national and international news. I remind myself often to let it all go, leave it to them that want it. Evidently I want it. I justify interest by believing I like to know the signs of tsunami coming before it reaches my shore. I'm not sure there is anything to that. The news, current events, gives me the illusion in my mental construct of how I imagine "things" are that I understand what is "going on." I get a false report from one place, a false report from another, put them together and conclude I have a true report. I read in one of Gore Vidal's essays years ago that we have no history. History is written from letters, journals, memoirs, all of which are self-serving, and newspaper reports that we all know are incorrect. I recall wondering about this in school, though not nearly so articulately, questioning I had to put aside to pass the tests. The contest between Putin and Obama I look at like I think I have some understanding, but know that I actually have none. They are no more than names and faces for me, both of very different worlds, different minds from my own. I don't even understand my world.
 
 
 
I'm guessing the appeal of keeping up with the news is ongoing alterations and additions to the construct in my mind of "what's going on." A serial, tune-in-tomorrow. We call it "keeping up." Even ones who don't pay attention have a mental construct of what it is they ignore. The most recent news is the Somali terrorist attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Suddenly it occurred to me what a misfortune it must be to have Somalia share your border in the state Somalia is in now, no law, no government, lotsa guns. It's even more a rogue state than USA. It's what the Teabaggers in America want, but they say, "Not like that." How else? White instead of black? The Wild West has been an idea we in America have longed to go back to, the Golden Age, where we're so free we need to carry guns and ammo everywhere we go to protect ourselves from other free people, and everybody is like in John Wayne movies. What I suspect this really translates to is the 1950s, the television idea of culture with Andy Griffith, Ozzie & Harriet, Father Knows Best and a host of others. Some years ago a woman from the Florida Keys asked me if the people here in the mountains were like on Andy Griffith Show. I said, There's nobody like that anywhere. Made her mad. She wouldn't have any more to do with me. 
 
 
 
 
The Fifties television idea of life in the middle-class suburb was as far off the beam as the television idea of the Wild West. History and contemporary living were idealized unto children's fairy tales and stuck as the character of what we think used to be. That silly thing about the Fonz representing a Fifties hood (hoodlum) is as far-fetched as the white (Syrian) actor, Michael Ansara, playing Cochise the Apache warrior. These are slap-stick representations. Hubert Selby's Last Exit To Brooklyn is a closer representation of the time than any of the tv shows. And it was site specific. It appears that the Fifties television fantasy has set the standard for middle-class American culture. The politicians attempt to apply that Fifties gloss on themselves and pretend to live by the fairy tale as if it were reality itself. These are the hollow people TS Eliot wrote about. I hear George Clinton singing in my head, Fantasy is reality in the world today. It's a fantasy we buy with mental and emotional investment as well as with our money. What kind of fantasy is involved in buying a Cadillac pickup? I'd guess a different fantasy for each buyer.
 
 
 
I want to separate myself from the mind of what makes our news events happen. I'm like a Teabagger where the news is concerned: no news is good news. I could remind myself of that more often. I have a better day in the spirit when I pay no attention to who is killing whom. We make assessments about "this country" from daily news. Surprise people mowing down a bunch of people by surprise is surrealism itself. Can I say this is a surrealist country? Yes. No. The question encompasses a great big land with several cultures, economic levels, belief systems. How can I assess the whole from a few parts? That's what I do. It's the best I can do. It's not much. It's entirely illusion. Maybe I'd do a whole lot better ignoring news events from different places in the world, paying less attention to American political news. At the same time I look at what I believe I know as illusion inside illusion, I remind myself I believe it responsible to pay attention when one lives in a democracy. I know better than to act like we're in democracy, but so what? I don't have a great many years to go. Why spend my last years frustrated watching the decline and fall of the American Empire with so much attachment I get worked up and pist off? I remind myself I'm not in a democracy any more and it doesn't do to pay too much attention in a totalitarian state. I must withdraw further.
 
 
 
*
   

Saturday, September 21, 2013

JUST SAYING

 
lucio fontana


Looking at facebook this morning not long after waking, I found a video of a news broadcast in Russia from probably Moscow. It pointed out straight-forwardly as could be presented in a brief time that the Whitehouse and CIA were the aggressors in 9/11, not 19 Arabs with cell phones and box cutters. In about 15 minutes, the Russian news presentation made a case using the most convincing evidence available. The tv production spelled out that it was indeed an "inside job." None of it is new to me. It's new seeing it used in an international propaganda war. First thought: Obama recently disrespected Putin in public internationally. Putin's op-ed in the NY Times was no more than a statement that he fails to see the humor in being disrespected. Putin is a KGB martial artist. Martial arts is about avoidance, KGB martial arts is kill you in three seconds. Martial arts is a mental discipline as well as physical. Obama is a basketball player. Watching the video, I saw in my mind's eye Obama dribbling a basketball trying to get around Putin and Putin kills him. Vladimir Putin is one of the men on earth I would not challenge to a duel of any sort, physical or mental. I see Putin with superior physical and mental control and the soul of a bear. To hit him would be the same as hitting a tree. Except he'd deck you and the tree would just stand there. Whoever you are, Putin could take you out faster than Anderson Silva. Vladimir Putin is for me the image of a Bad Mutha.
 
lucio fontana
 
 
I remember my thought when I saw in the news Obama disrespect Putin like he did. I thought: do not challenge that man. You're a basketball player. He's a killer. W Bush disrespected Putin calling him Pootie-poot. That was Bush, with Cheney and Rummy for backup, saying fuck you, like at a fraternity beer party. Putin knew it. It was Bush Whitehouse/CIA behind 9/11, and Putin knows it. He knows Obama knows it too. Obama's silence on the matter and saying Bush "wasn't such a bad president," makes him complicit, same as the one driving the car in a drive-by.  I'm seeing Putin bring this lump under the rug out in the open. This Russian broadcast went all the way around the world. In a fighting match, I'd score Putin a direct hit, one that would send Obama staggering to catch his balance. Putin solved the Syria problem by convincing al-Assad to comply with turning over chemical agents they bought from USA to the UN. End of story. Then Obama starts publicly taking credit for it and making it into a conflict he won. It must have bent Putin over laughing, might have even spilled his vodka. I'm getting the impression nobody is counseling Obama that Putin has a whole lot more power than the American president. His house is not divided, or anyway not divided like Obama's. Putin has the power to clean Obama's clock, and he'd better start paying attention. To say we have The Bomb, they have it too. Our side pushes the button; while the missiles are in the air the other side pushes the button. End of History.
 
lucio fontana
 
 
That's calling for sensible thinking, which American government does not do. If it ever did, I don't know, but it has not demonstrated sensible thinking in my lifetime. Like in the last weeks Sen John McCain of Arizona is being heard to make a little bit of sense, leading me to believe dementia has taken away his mind, going so far off message. In his right mind, he was a parrot of Reaganism. Now he's saying, "It's not rational." Rational? When did rational become a concern to a republican? His mind is gone. It was bad before Johnson, bad before Nixon, bad before Reagan, then the Reagan Revolution took the American people on the present downhill run to the bottom. To quote Chris Hedges, "Brace yourself. The American Empire is over and the descent is going to be horrifying." I used to hope the Obama presidency might be the beginning of a turnaround from Reaganism, but it's not. Obama, I have seen, is a booster rocket for the downward run to police state. The flush occurred when the republicans stole the 2000 election out in the open, publicly, and said to we who don't like it: fuck you if you don't like it. Police state is here. Police state is now. Get it. Barak Obama gets it. He's using his power as president to assist the republican systematic lockstep dismantling of democracy in front of everybody's face on the evening news, followed by several commercials. Obviously, the American people want police state.
 
lucio fontana
 
 
Police state means white power in a time when democracy favors minorities. Shut down democracy, white man retains control. Obama cares nothing for the black people in America, same as he cares nothing for the white people. He just happens to be very good at passing tests and has a natural charisma that took him far. I'm wondering if he might not be an example of the Peter Principle: advanced to the level of his incompetence and there he stays. On the one hand, I see the republicans acting out racism on him. On the other hand, I see him challenging Putin publicly with disrespect as not an intelligent move. Of course, it's a strategy. He wouldn't do anything if it didn't have strategy behind it. He doesn't appear to have much respect for the Russian Bear is what I'm getting at. I'm curious to see the ripples that arise from this pebble thrown in the water. I would not want to be in the same room with Putin's energy. Nor would I want to be in the same room with Obama's energy. These are high energy egomaniacs whose souls are filling roles I don't want to be anywhere near. If Obama's staff has a video game idea of a Battle of the Titans, this American citizen would recommend not going there. Obama is way too vulnerable and gives me the impression he has not yet noticed. An American basketball player is no contest for a Russian KGB trained killer.
 
lucio fontana
 
 
*
 
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

DONKEY FRIEND

horse and rider by marino marini
 


Went to the meadow today to take Jack a couple of carrots. He heard the clanging chain on the metal gate, walked a little bit toward me, curious, ears up, and then at the point I guess to be about a hundred feet, which could be anywhere between fifty and a hundred and fifty. At this distance I see the sparkle in his eye when he recognizes me. Today he charged me before I had the gate latched. He set out in a wild gallop, head extended all the way forward, mouth open, squealing and braying. I was seeing a living image of a work by Italian sculptor Marino Marini, who made horse images, often with the horse's head extended forward or upward. I saw Jack a Marini horse burst into life. It really was a mild rush seeing Jack as a Marini sculpture come to life suddenly and charge me in a playful gallop on the verge of  breaking into dance. The bray started with a squeal that went louder, then into a full bray, hee-haw, two long syllables. It was a beautiful expression of joy. I hadn't even finished fastening the gate when I let the latch go and turned to receive Jack. It felt a little odd to be standing expectantly in front of an African Wild Ass bearing down in full gallop and full bray, mouth open, lips curled back, teeth showing, hee-haw. The rush I felt was humility and joy. I saw clear as anything can be seen that I am important to Jack. The wide open spontaneous expression of joy when he recognized me sent a wave of humility over my soul.
 
 
 
It was like a dog I lived with after I'd been gone for two weeks. So excited to be touched it can't stop squirming and jumping enough to be touched. What a sight it was seeing a donkey head pointed straight forward and lowered toward the ground like a dog about to attack. If I had walked into a field with a donkey I didn't know and this happened, I would not have had a chance to get back out the gate. For one thing, he was fast. He had purpose. He stopped in front of me with a dance and did the sound equines make fluttering their lips. Overwhelmed by seeing that I am now Jack's friend from Jack's point of view as well as mine, I saw a friendship like with a dog, and reminded myself never forget that we now have a bond as friends. I know in advance that I will never be betrayed by this friend, unlike with human friends. And being a human, fallible in the department of loyalty, I noted to myself that I must never forget this moment, never forget that Jack is now my friend. He is not stock. I never understood people who could buy and sell dogs. Somebody offers you a good price for your hunting dog, you sell it and buy another, train it into a good dog and sell it. I can't do that. I've seen books on how to train dogs, esp the ones by the monks purported to be so good, and I wouldn't do any of it to one of my dogs. I love my dogs. I can't treat them like stock. I don't require obedience, yet my dogs have obeyed to the letter. I can't do things to them that are about dominance and submission. I don't want submission from my friends. I want them to be themselves. The connection I make with my pets is love. I love them, they love me. They want to please me, so I don't have to train them. I want to please them, so they don't have to train me.
 
 
With every one of my dogs and cats that have lived out their lives with me and are buried outside my windows, I remember the moment of their first expression of love. It's a sparkle in the eyes, a smile few can see, visible joy. It's the same as I feel when I see them. Donkey Jack is responding to my love for him. I'm good to him. I don't treat him like stock. I take him a treat every day, carrots to crunch on, call him my friend when I talk to him. He's Jack when I'm calling him, and he's Friend talking to him. I tell him I am happy he's here, I like having Donkey Jack for my friend. I talk to him in sentences with certainty he understands my meaning through telepathy, how the four-leggeds communicate with each other. When I talk, he reads the images in my mind of what I'm talking about. I'm guessing it's about like the Chinese language, images. I know he doesn't understand the words except for words he hears over and over like Jack, friend, donkey, love. I tell him I love him and want to give him a good life here on my meadow. While he was doing his little quick-step dance in front of me, his nose went to my face, we touched nose to nose, I put my hands on the sides of his neck and put my forehead to his forehead and we held there a couple of seconds. I've learned with the four-leggeds that a gesture, when it's done it's done. We humans like to make things last a long time and dwell. My human inclination is to put foreheads together and hold for several seconds. A donkey, like a cat, like a dog, once the gesture is made it's meaning is communicated and it's over. No big deal made of it. I've asked him to teach me donkey and he is. Every day he gives me a new insight into donkey nature. Part of why I'm writing it here is so I won't forget, a memory aid, as well as to share it with you.
 
 
 
Jack's delight when he saw me was so ecstatic he humbled me to see my donkey friend act out his meaning. The way I see him, we have the same brain, except I have the curse of the forebrain that created all the confusion we call human. I see him fortunate to have a mind not burdened with questions, belief systems, traditions. I want to learn the language of silence, how the four-leggeds communicate with each other in silence. They have their language of sounds their tongues allow them to make, which is quite expressive. When I open the door for Caterpillar to come in the house, I say, "Hey, Pillar," and she mutters a barely audible sound that says Hi. She steps over beside her scratch pad and looks up at me, meaning pick me up and tell me you love me. In a short time she's had the experience she wanted and is ready for me to put her down. A moment of connecting heart-to-heart. She only needs it once a day. No matter what I'm doing, I do have time to take a moment to hold Caterpillar and connect with her. Today I saw I have bonded with Donkey Jack and from now on we are friends, the real deal. After today, instead of going to the meadow to give carrots to the donkey, I'll be going to see my friend with carrots. Now that we've made the heart connection, we can have a good time. He'll teach me donkey all the faster. When I sit with him in the meadow, it will no longer be me apprehensive of him turning his back to me and kicking, and Jack will no longer be watching me apprehensive of what I might do to him by surprise. From here on, we'll be more relaxed together. Our meetings will be characterized by a quiet comfort, feeling protected in the presence of the other. It is a thrill for me to befriend an African herd animal. Gives me insight into the individual minds of the zebra, the wildebeest, the antelopes when I see them in National Geographic videos.. They're people too.  
 


 

*
    

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE IF ONLY

 


 
Yesterday I heard somebody start a statement, "If everybody would (fill in the blank), the world would be a better place." In another context, I saw a meme on facebook that asked for comments on what I'd like to see change in the world. That one threw me. Like nothing is changing? Change is the nature of existence. What would I like to see changed? Racism was the first word that came to mind, but it's changing. Years ago, before I quit talking with anonymous phone calls telling me what to buy, one asked for anything I'd like to change about the evening news. I said that would take going all the way back to the beginning of humanity, too much for me to cover. I can't change it and I wouldn't change it. I think of Jesus saying love one another. Or even liking one another will do. Or even treating each other right . That was 2,100+ years ago, and his zealous fundamentalist devotees are practicing hate, preaching hate, parroting hate. And that was Jesus "commanding" we love one another. His voice has more authority than mine, and his fervent fundamentalist followers have turned to hate. Among his followers love is a four-letter word. It means fornication. Sin. Besides, love is wimpy. Real men don't do that shit. Like the saying, "Real men don't eat quiche," it can be added that real men don't love. My experience throughout childhood and youth in a Southern Baptist (fundamentalist) church in Kansas, the word love was only used in quoting verses, not meaning it. Mention the absence of love as a value, and the answer comes back: Of course we love. What's wrong with you? Supposed-to equals doing it: Of  course we love. We're s'posed-to. God commanded us to love one another.
 
 
A preacher I asked about loving everybody assured me it didn't mean everybody in the world, only "the brothers and sisters in the church." To hear them talk about each other, they didn't even like each other. The thought of loving somebody who does wrong, or loving somebody with more pigment in their skin is unthinkable. We see it in our politics now that the Teabaggers turn out to be American fundamentalism gone political. Their belief system, formerly kept to themselves, except for missionarizing, looks mighty ignorant out in the open. They threaten the rest of us with their venal attitude toward anybody not themselves, their racism, their absolutism. Like Jesus said of the preachers in his time, You make the people twofold more children for hell than you yourselves. They can only live up to it by denial, denying they do not adhere personally to their own absolutist belief system. They call it being imperfect. And they want to hold the rest of us to their folk religion beliefs that have little to nothing to do with love. Now that the republican party is the fundamentalist party, we have police state. I never dreamed American fundamentalism could take over a major political party. The republican party's appeal for ignorance has given us fundamentalism to back up the police state with such a long string of stupid people running for public office that it's unimaginable there are so many people in the country as dumb as they are. I guess stupid people follow party line unquestioning.  Fundamentalists don't question. Doubt is a sin.
 
 
 
 
I've said before that the best definition of evil I've come upon is ignorance. Going by this as the case, the republican party is quick to point the finger at evil. Three fingers point back at themselves. What they are doing consciously with purpose is dismantling American democracy to make police state, which they have already done. The Reagan Revolution was indeed a revolution. They called it that themselves, and to this day few see it. Because it's more interesting to see commercials about things you want, like a new car, new shampoo, new toilet paper, new mouthwash, stuff for the septic tank, stuff for the landfill. I have seen it evolve in this direction over my lifetime, but somehow didn't believe the American people would go all the way to having no values at all but in relation to money. Now it's here. The people who preach moral values do so in relation to money. Politicians can't turn their backs on their corporate owners over something as dumb as principles or ethics. Ethics is a ridiculous word in their world. It's never used. Nobody in that world knows what an ethic is. Also throughout my lifetime I've seen anti-intellectualism go all the way to anti-paying attention. Our educational system cannot work in a society where ignorance is held as the ideal. You think it's not? Take a look around.
 


Several years ago, when I heard somebody make the remark that the world would be a better place if everybody would.... For the first time, it struck me there is nothing that everybody is going to do but the obvious, ingest, evacuate and die. If everybody would love one another. That is out of the question. If everybody would quit smoking. It came to me that my world would improve if I attempted whatever it is I believe the world would be a better place if everybody would do. Even television can't make everybody alike, though it's made a valiant effort. If everybody would treat other people right. Aint gonna happen. However, I can treat other people right. I can function without expressions of racism. It would be a better place if everybody would quit judging each other. LOL. No way. But, I can give non-judgment a go in my own life. The spiritual path is not about making other people toe the line.. It is about finding one's own way a step at a time. That's the only thing it's about. Other people will do whatever they do. I have no control over anyone else, not a great deal of control over myself. Someone I know asked me recently, Why do I want to turn everybody in the world on to what I like? My answer: You're a missionary, a living commercial. It had more to do with his nature than philosophy. After a lifetime of television, he's a commercial for whatever comes up. He spends his life frustrated he can't get other people to be him. You gotta see this tv show, you'll love it! No I won't. You don't know, you haven't seen it. I do know myself well enough to know I will not enjoy a tv show about a serial killer, the good kind, only kills bad guys. Even JFK couldn't make everybody do according to his idea of what was right.
 
  
 
 
*
 

Monday, September 16, 2013

THE FLOWERS OF LATE SUMMER


 
The flowers of late summer give color to the sides of the roads. It's a great time to ride around on the back roads. Goldenrod is full and lush. And all the others with names I don't know. Jewelweed is one. The colors of fall are the same as the colors of spring; yellow, purple, white. Yesterday I drove by the old Jimmy Wagoner homeplace on Glade Valley Road. He's been gone quite a number of years. The barn meadow that ran alongside the road was covered up in the yellow and purple flowers of late summer. To my eye, it was more beautiful than a formal flower garden. Weeds. My favorite flowers. Perhaps I identify with weeds for their outsider quality and their perfectly natural right to exist. We don't even have to cultivate them. They grow where God flung em. Or, to put it more empirically, where the seeds fell. These are the flowers of my home. I love them growing on the sides of roads along fence rows. They grow here despite being unwelcome weeds. Other people tend to like the mowed pastoral look and keep the sides of the roads trimmed, but not I. I let the greenery grow and flower in abundance when it's their time. I love the flowers of this time of year like I love the birds. Eye candy. Something about flowers makes us feel good, when we notice. Stepping into the woods, under a canopy of trees, calms my interior being like nothing else. Instantly. 

 
 
In what you might call an argument I had with an old-time preacher years ago, I told him I feel the spirit in the woods better than anyplace. No. The church house is the only place you feel the spirit. No. I find the spirit in the woods too. No. That's the natural world. It's of the devil. Oh. I mentioned that the devil is not a creator. That doesn't matter. He rules the natural world. It's our way as Christians to go against the natural world, an extension of the natural man, born in sin, not good, must be changed away from the natural to the unnatural, God only sees the unnatural. This back and forth between us came to nothing. It started over the word duty. I told him I don't do duty. You better. God commands duty. Uh, not really. I was hearing old Sixteenth Century Protestant absolutism, mind. John Milton. It is Milton's cosmology. I grew up in that absolutist mind. It shaped me way more than I would have liked. It took years of searching and questioning, a little bit at a time, an insight at a time, an understanding at a time, a realization at a time, to transcend that thinking. Quite simply, that was my cosmology. My initial appeal to Bob Dylan's lyrics was his dogmatic mind. I'm so happy I've changed away from that. He has too. Maybe we grew up. 
 
 
 
Have reached a place where I don't want to advise anybody, don't want to tell somebody how to do something better, don't want to say I know more than you do. Finally, I have seen that the talk everywhere is a string of commercials. You needta listen to this. You gotta see this tv show. You gotta see this boutique. You gotta see the highest grossing movie of the week. Norman Mailer's early book of essays he called Advertisements For Myself. Unconscious anecdotal advertisements for ourselves has become the American mode of conversation in this time. We're of an Age where the grandparent generation was placed in front of a tv from birth, and all generations since. Television amounts to commercials every ten minutes. Even  the coercive hype of sports announcers and people keeping up with the cutting edge latest is commercial mind. Selling a product. People without a product have to sell their services or labor.  Being television people we interrupt each other freely, like commercials. We advertise ourselves with big smiles and clean teeth. I've consciously separated myself from that thinking. If I ever talk like a commercial, I'm unaware of it. As for the unnatural world being from God, that would put the Bank at the top of the list of Godlike. I never was able to understand how a man could come to such a way of seeing. Then again, the man, himself, was the very subject of a song Groucho Marx sang in one of his movies, Whatever it is, I'm against it. We had very different visions of God; mine did not influence him and his did not influence me. I have to say, I learned a very great deal from him, mountain culture, old-time mountain religion, as well as much regarding my own humanity.
  
 
 
In times when I'd rather not listen to the news on the car radio, I have a tape of Willard Gayheart's and Bobby Patterson's Galax bluegrass band, the Highlanders, from when they both had younger voices. It's straight-forward music of superb musicianship, good arranging, good singing, good songs worth singing. It's happy music for me. I play it over so many times the words are sticking so I can go about with them playing in my head. It feels like I'm in a flow of some sort. Willie Nelson songs in my head all day. What I do runs smoothly. I don't force anything. The day with Kathryn flowed very smoothly. It had some hitches and speed bumps, but none of them knocked me off the track. They were accepted as what's happening at the moment, not a problem unless I make it a problem. Driving from one place to another I see these roadside effusions of flowers in full bloom, and gaze at the landscape, the houses passing by, the black cattle in green meadows, the trees in full leaf, the occasional deer, feeling gratitude to God for landing my parachute in this particular place to walk my spiritual path. It is my home. It's been my home more than half my life. I was going to write, "the better half," then it came everything that went before was a step along the way to here, now, my Blue Ridge Mountain home, my own personal King Solomon's Mines. Everywhere I look is my home. Home has extended beyond my residence to the Central Blue Ridge and the Southern Appalachians. All the way to Roanoke and back for the Willie show, I was at home. The audience was full of my people.

photos by tj worthington


 *

Saturday, September 14, 2013

FRIDAY THE 13TH WITH WILLIE NELSON

 

Mothers don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Willie singing this song during the show pointed out to me what a classic song it is. And several other songs he sang were that kind of classic, a country music standard for all time. I've never been a Willie Nelson fan until this show. NPR interviewed him for his 80th birthday, the beginning of my appreciation of Willie Nelson. He sounded conscious when he talked, a man in touch with himself, in touch with his life, a true human being, not somebody talking pop flash and glitter nonsense. I often thought of Willard Gayheart, now 81, playing guitar probably the best he's ever played and singing the best ever. There is something about the relaxed singing of old men that has an ancient quality, like all the way back to Neolithic. I remember hearing old Regular Baptist preachers singing solo or duo, sounding like American Indians sitting around a drum singing, or some ancient singing from Greece or Turkey. Neither Willard nor Willie have that old-man vibration in their voices, but they have the relaxed ease of someone 80 singing who has sung on stage throughout his adult life. Like Willard, Willie plays his guitar and sings his songs, no cheap thrills, just delivery of the songs they know so well the songs have become part of who they are.
 

 
After four years of going to Woodlawn to hear Willard, Scott Freeman and guest musicians in a very small venue of an audience of twenty or less, I'm appreciating musicianship more than ever before. I have a lot of experience listening to and seeing mountain musicians play acoustic. Willie fell into the groove of what we appreciate in the mountains, a-pickin and a-grinnin. Willie's acoustic was definitely plugged IN. He played it like an electric guitar, which it was. He assaulted his acoustic the way a rocker would assault his electric. Willie didn't play melody so much as notes and chords to accompany the melody that enhance it. His rough guitar banging balanced his smooth singing. Musically, it was Willie's show. The people in his band were his accompanists; they provided the flow his picking rode like a surfboard. Respect  for Willie Nelson began to soar very soon after the music started. I was thinking what a great show it would be at Woodlawn, Willie picking with Willard (rhythm guitar), Scott Freeman (mandolin and fiddle), Steve Lewis (bluegrass banjo) and Josh Scott (bass). They would blow the roof off the place. Every one of them is up to what it takes to make music with someone as experienced with really good musicians as Willie. I like his guitar playing. It gives his music just the right edge. In a whole different way, he approaches the music something like Keith Richards does, dancing around the melody, playing through it, keeping its energy rolling, pushing it.
 
 
 
At times I felt like Willie's rapport with the audience was intimately as familiar as at Woodlawn with an audience of twenty. For him to play at Woodlawn, it would have to be unannounced without a leak. His friendliness with the audience was the same as at a very small place. I recalled a Doc Watson show where I felt like Doc set a circle of love flowing between himself and the audience. He sang with a love for his audience and the audience listened with love for him. It was a steady flow of love in a circle between performer and audience with Willie Nelson, too. By now, his fans are largely grown up, no longer star-struck like they used to be, familiar with Willie's music and his persona to where he's part of their lives all the way along. It seemed like everybody but me knew the words to all the songs. The songs had a living presence about them. His song with the refrain, You were always on my mind, hit me in the heart and set tracks of tears down my cheeks. My ears have heard the song a hundred times, but this was the first time I heard it. I listened to his songs with appreciation for him as songwriter. They are not only significant songs in country music, in American music, they are important songs. Important like Roy Acuff's Wabash Cannonball, like Hank Williams' Mama Tried, like Ralph Stanley's Man of Constant Sorrow. It didn't feel like a big deal, but I knew before the show was over that I was in the presence of the real deal, real music, a truly significant voice in his time, by voice I include his songwriting. He's a pop star whose persona is himself. Doc Watson's persona was himself. Ralph Stanley's persona is himself. It seems like Willie would say of his own talent the same as Ralph Stanley said of his, it's a gift.

 

This was my Friday the Thirteenth good luck day. I lost the car keys just before it was time to leave. I was picking up some trash from inside the car to carry to the house. My sweatpants had no pockets, the tshirt had no pockets. I carried the keys in with the trash. I put trash in two different trash cans. Went through both of them and can't find the keys. Searched everyplace in the house I had tread since returning from the car. All I did was change clothes. After fifteen minutes of searching, I decided to use the spare keys I keep for such moments. Set the GPS in the car for the Roanoke Civic Center and went to Kathryn's place to pick her up. It involved several turns and a few miles off the track the GPS was on. Driving back to the specified route, we were laughing at the poor thing having a nervous breakdown "recalculating." Her daughter Elizabeth was there to take care of mama and give Kathryn a break. This was my purpose for the day, a gift to Kathryn like it's her special day. She put on facebook a few weeks ago a note that she hopes somebody will invite her to the Willie Nelson concert. I saw her note in my newborn appreciation for Willie Nelson as musician, hadn't seen Kathryn in awhile, she hadn't been out of the house in awhile, I have some understanding of what she is going through taking care of her mother whose mind is drifting away. I wanted to do something for her. Automatically, I knew this was it, replied, I volunteer. I wanted Kathryn to have a happy day without flaw, conscious, even, of not frightening her with my driving.


 
We talked a steady streak back and forth like playing catch, catching up on passage of time, becoming the older generation, people with white hair, she in her old-hippie bib "overhauls" and straw hat, me in my Farm Bureau ballcap carrying a hospital cane. I knew we were in for a lot of walking from wherever I found a place to park the car, to the auditorium, to our seats. Steps. My left leg is a bit tender at the hip and I had a pretty good idea I'd be limping. The cane made a difference. It was even a commercial for using a cane. I can feel by empathy the ease a cane gave the pain in Jr Maxwell's knee, whose cane I was using. Getting out of the car to walk to the auditorium, I said, Let's count the senior privileges that come to us from using the cane. I'm getting ahead of myself. Back on the road again. I thought Floyd, Viginia, would be a good place to stop for dinner. I went to a Floyd website and found some restaurant possibilities. We picked the first one we found. It was a somewhat high-end middle class restaurant in the country, what I was looking for. Had art and photography by regional artists, nice tables. It was the worst meal I have ever paid for. Everything tasted exactly the same, soggy cardboard with a tinny edge like licking aluminum foil. I didn't say anything. My first question: am I being poisoned? That really was my first thought after first bite. Next thought, if it were poison, it would not be so obvious. I cannot allow myself to be one of the people that send food back, make a big deal of how sorry it was. A few days ago at the coffee shop, in conversation with Becca, I said, I don't want to make a fuss. She said, TJ, nobody will ever accuse you of making a fuss. Thinking I would have done better, all the way around, eating a McWrap from McDonalds drive-thru, I remembered Becca and laughed at myself. I didn't even tell Kathryn it was the worst meal of my life (no exaggeration). She didn't say anything about hers either, and I didn't ask.    



 
 
We returned to the car, happy to be on the road again to the Willie Nelson show. I turned the car on, the clock on the radio came on. It was 7:30. The show started at 7:30. We were an hour from Roanoke, not from the Roanoke city limit, but from downtown Roanoke obeying speed limits. We both felt a rush of alarm. It came to me right away that every time something like this happened in the past, like hurrying to meet somebody for lunch and have to wait for a road work crew, it always worked out and I made it on time. I said to Kathryn, An opening band will play for an hour, we'll take our seats on time for Willie to start. She agreed that's likely to be the case. By a happy twist of fate, we found a parking spot as soon as I turned into the parking lot. Approaching the auditorium we saw a lot of people milling about. We went in and it was intermission between first band and Willie. We found our seats, spoke with the people around us, found out the first band was "pretty good," meaning we missed nothing, the lights went down and Willie came on. For both Kathryn and me, the feeling seeing Willie Nelson was on the order of seeing Doc Watson, the quiet, country charisma of a performer whose persona is who he is. He just happens to be able to make music real good. Before the show was over, I had a feeling for Willie's heart he puts into his songs.

 

 
At the end, he shook hands with everyone from the front rows, walking the edge of the stage slowly from his left to right, shaking hands, signed autographs with a throng of the desperate holding up items for him to scrawl his name on. I thought, it's no wonder Willie's fans love him so much, he loved them first. He's a little bit country. He's a little bit soul. He's an American voice, in his own right, as much as Robert Lowell, Stanley Kunitz, Theodore Roethke. A different art form, different fans, while American as red, white and blue. Even more. They're coming from the soul of America as it is now. Kathryn had gone into the lobby to buy a tshirt during the show. A little bit later I did too. When the show was over, we laughed that we'd bought the same tshirt. Walking to the car, we counted our senior privileges. I found two overt ones and several subtle ones. Going in the big glass door, a great big black man in a suit with a beautiful dark chocolate round face was taking tickets. He held the glass door open for me. He patted my shoulder when I thanked him. During the show, a man and his wife on our row had to leave. We all had to stand up so they could go by. He saw my cane and patted me on the shoulder, a gesture of thanks for standing. A couple of women in their fifties were working the tshirt tables. They gave me attention like I've never received without a cane. It seemed like the friendly quotient of everyone around me went way up. I received friendly looks everywhere. The cane was signaling I am not a threat. A friendly. Cease fire.

all photos by tj worthington
 
 
 
*