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Friday, August 15, 2014

HIGHER UP THE MOUNTAIN


larry rivers

I'm seeing new reasons why I'm glad to live on Waterfall Road. Almost anywhere Appalachian would do, but this particular spot, my home, is the very place that will do. Every day when I see the news of the day before, it affirms a saying by a friend of several years ago, It's time to move higher up the mountain. I feel like I am in process of moving higher up the mountain again. My periods of moving higher up the mountain have been enough that I feel like a Himalayan climber; climb as much as you can in one day, set up a new camp with tents for sleeping in to go from there in first light. I'm satisfied with my separation from the worries of what is going on "out there," the world around me, the world of commerce. Alas, commerce is all that's going on out there. It's too boring to participate in. Anywhere I go I'm required to have money to spend. I stay home more than I ever have, and want to more. I don't know if I pay attention to current events and develop an attitude from what I learn there and project it onto the world around me, or if the human condition is getting as weird as it seems like it is. Or maybe I'm not the only one made crazy by media. I've found that when everybody is doing something, tv is the influence. The styles I see change in the people around me are from television. I can read the attitude of television seeing it in the people of my life, peaceable people not generating headlines. And for the first time in my life, I'm hearing somebody say every once in awhile, "I don't watch television anymore," or, "I don't watch much television." I seldom know what to say when somebody says they don't watch tv anymore. I want to tell them this is the beginning of a new and better life for them, but don't. I can't say I'm heartened to find a few people aren't paying tv any mind. I'm not an anti-television missionary. I figure it has its role for the people that need it. I don't need it, don't want it, can't tolerate it for myself, but don't believe it's necessary for me to browbeat anybody with my point of view. My point of view is my own. Your point of view is your own. I can appreciate yours without denying my own. What you can appreciate of mine does not deny your own.

larry rivers

It has happened several times in the last months that somebody I'm talking with mentions they don't watch television anymore. It comes about because I expect everybody around me is watching it, so I mention something I got from internet assuming they got it from television, and am told they don't watch. I'm wondering if this is a trend. Everyone who says they aren't watching it anymore says it almost apologetically, like they're admitting to feeling patriotism wane. I can't assess anything from my new findings that some people are turning away from its influence, though it feels good to see someone I know taking a turn toward a better life. Better in that the clutter of commercials jangling in their heads takes less precedence. I still have in my head commercials from the 1950s, the last decade I watched tv: halo is the shampoo that glorifies your hair; from the land of sky-blue wa-a-ters; he said that she said that he had halitosis; Meeska, mooska, mouska-teer, mouse cartoon time now is here. I've carried that nonsense in my head about all my life. Individually, memories of commercial jingles are more or less benign, but a head full of them from watching tv all my life would be maddening. I'd be a master at trivial pursuit. Back when I had the misfortune to be caught into playing Trivial Pursuit, the 1980s, I did terribly on the low score questions. They're all about television. People in the game would taunt me about not being able to answer the questions. You can do better than that. Like I'm not participating. Then we get into the high score questions and they're often from reading; suddenly, I'm scoring and they're not. I win and they're pist with me for my arcane reading. When rape is epidemic, look to television for the key. When cops killing people and saying he had a gun is epidemic, look to television for why. I call much of our social unrest artificial, because it is created by television, not by life circumstances. It is important to me for self to live everyday life ethically. I cannot have a head full of television and live ethically. Driving home from watching tv all afternoon on Sunday, the race, golf, football, basketball, baseball, at least a thousand commercials, my head is spinning and I need a week of no tv to be able to face it again the next Sunday.

larry rivers

Why do I do this to myself? Friends I watch the race with all work. The only chance we have to get together to visit is Sunday afternoon watching the race. It's not like cartoons, our attention can drift away from the tv and we can talk freely. It's like the tv is a focal point for us, the car we're riding in by way of metaphor. We talk and laugh, interact with Vada, watch her play. I started a game with Vada a few months ago, finding a coin in her ear. One day it occurred to me to find a dime in Vada's ear for a fun thing to do. Next visit, she turned her ear to me, "Do you see something in my ear?" I said, "No, I don't see anything right now. We'll look again in a little bit." To give myself a chance to scour my pocket without being seen. She knew what I was doing, but it was the game that was important. After a few times of pretending, I'd just take a coin out of my pocket and stick it in her ear and pull it out, gently, just enough so she can feel the coin with her ear. Sometimes I forget to take a coin and it's so disappointing to her I can't find money in her ear, I remind self to remember next time. It's become simply a way to give her a quarter each time I see her for her piggy bank. We both know that's what we're doing, but the game of pretending to find it in her ear is where we have the fun. It's more fun than handing it to her and telling her to put it in her piggy bank like a disinterested uncle. I wasn't even thinking about piggy bank. I do it for a play interaction, a game to play together. It's turned into something expected now, and that's ok. It's not the money in it that matters, but the play. I value in myself the freedom to play games with kids. I love about our coin in the ear game that we both know it is pretend. The fun is in the pretending, a game of fun like rolling a ball back and forth. An interaction that bridges the gap between a baby and a greatgrandpa figure is fun for both of us. I'm incomprehensibly far from her and she's incomprehensibly far from me. We have a gulf of experience between us, yet we find a way to communicate, like two people who speak different languages can find ways to communicate.
larry rivers

Some weeks ago, watching the race at Melvin's house, his girl, Beth, 13, told us she could talk to us in a way we would not understand anything she was saying and it would be perfectly clear to anybody at school. She also told us anybody that likes Star Wars is a geek. Not only do we have years of experience between old and young now, we have generation gaps. There are so many generation gaps between me and Beth, the bridge is one of those rope bridges that is one person at a time. It made me laugh, took me back to 1955 when I was 13 and rocknroll was in its beginnings, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly, and new words were "hep." That's Fifties hip. It changed in the Sixties, anyway for the white young. Cool was new. Every other word was crazy. Bill Haley had a song, Crazy Man Crazy. We had a new language coming in with the new music. Pop was new. Parents were partial to the big band sound and Frank Sinatra. "Rocknroll will never last," they said. Alas for them, it was big band and Sinatra that didn't last. I see a similar change has occurred with the cell phone generation. Like the band Government Mule. They're still recording and doing concerts. It doesn't mean they're the latest word for hip. I feel like such a gap has occurred again. Rocknroll has become irrelevant. Only parents and grandparents still listen to it, largely. The music has changed radically. Rocknroll is now one of a thousand genres. After a quarter century of punk, the original punk ideal has come into play, the freedom to do whatever musical expression trips your trigger. It's in this same way cultures become irrelevant. Old time mountain culture has zero relevance for now. The oldest people who lived it are long in their graves. The greater American culture that television has guided will change too. There will come a time geologists will be unearthing our tombstones too. I've watched the changes all along my way, until by now I'm glad I got to see it, because I wondered how rocknroll would eventually become irrelevant, wondered if I'd live to see the change. There are so many generation gaps between me and the people around me that I've learned to communicate in that place where you don't need the same common language or culture. It's a curious time. We're conforming with all our might and individuating to the same degree. All I know to do is roll with it.    



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