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Sunday, May 31, 2015

NOT A PUBLIC PARK



Somebody who thinks it their right to take whatever they want has stolen the head of my yard Quan Yin. It was an unopened geode that has been there a quarter century. It comes up missing from time to time. I bird will stand on it. When the bird flies, the geode rolls to the ground. It is never more than three feet from the base. This time, I have searched until I can't search any more. It happened Memorial weekend Saturday while I was gone several hours. I've had a No Hunting sign stolen off the woodshed a few weeks ago. It has been there the entire time. People who visit the waterfall, park their cars across the road from the house and take the path beside the creek. It has come to a place when I'm not home during the weekend, I look to see what's missing when I get home. This is the last weekend I will have the problem. This coming week, a chain will be stretched across the entrance to the path and a No Trespassing sign will decorate the tree trunk the chain connects to. I'll put a Keep Out sign by the road in front of the house. Hand paint the signs. Make them look like they have an ignernt hillbilly behind them with three teeth and a double-barrel shotgun. I've been sweet about the trespass long enough that it's time to turn on sour. 



I like the saying, No good deed goes unpunished. It's such a universal truth, I imagine Confucius might have addressed the issue. I took it for cynical first time I heard it. Time went by and I noticed it can be counted on. Makes me question what "good deed" actually means. Seems like it would be the other way around, like good deeds would be rewarded. I wonder if the good deed that gets punished is perhaps an egoic deed, called good because it feels good to the ego. Chalk one up for a false idea of selflessness. I didn't think it was an egoic decision to allow people wanting to go to the waterfall to park here and walk over my land. It was not a selfless decision either. I thought it just practical, and generous. What it is telling me, more than anything, is a change in attitudes of the young. It would have been a teenage boy doing the stealing. Looking for something to take. A gesture to impress whoever he's with, other guys or a girl. It's like that deal in school we all hated when one person in the class overstepped a boundary, the whole class lost a privelege. I'd be charged with profiling to put up a sign saying, no teenage white boys. I know no other way. I've closed it down before, as a result of abuse, and let it go some years later. Too bad. I won't be lifting the ban in my lifetime, and it will continue long after I'm gone. Suburbanites from cities, who work in offices, don't need to be walking in these woods. A bear outruns somebody, who sees him or herself on a National Geographic channel nature show, and I get sued for allowing them on my property. It's over. 



There was a time I advised people who parked here of the bears, coyotes and wolves that are new to these woods. They all laughed at me. Standup comic not my ambition, I don't take kindly to being laughed at. Watching them walk away, I'd think, Fuck ya, yer on yer own. A chain and a sign will clear me in court if somebody does something stupid. Allowing public access has not been entirely objectionable. Have spoken with some interesting and pleasant people. One time I fell into an awkward situation that caught me. Came home from someplace and a whole family was parked and standing around a massive SUV. They were waiting for next carload. We spoke. The man, grandpa, close to my age, a peer, dressed like an LL Bean model, wanted to talk, told me he was from High Meadows Country Club. It came up I was from KC and he used to play football for the Kansas City Chiefs, told me his name. My tire went flat. In his bearing and tone of voice, I could see he was counting on me to be impressed, ask him to sign my tshirt. I didn't jump to attention when he mentioned the country club, earlier. It wasn't a good day for him. The only thing that could have impressed me less would have been for him to say he was a Marine. I didn't know what to say. I said, "I haven't watched television since 1965," instead of, I don't give a shit about football. I became a bewilderment to him, and he was already boring to me. Fortunately, the next SUV drove up to free us from the awkward space we'd stepped into.  



Another time, I came home from someplace and parked. Another LL Bean model driving a gold Jeep Cherokee with gold trim. He introduced himself from Winston-Salem. He aimed to buy my house. I laughed, thinking, this isn't going anyplace. Told him it's not for sale. He told me, "Everything is for sale." I said, "Not necessarily." He told me there is a price I would take for it. I told him he doesn't have enough money. He told me I don't know that. I told him I do know that, nobody has enough money, not even Warren Buffet. I don't want money. The house is what I want and it's mine. I have a way of being final that I'm not aware of, but have been told by a few friends that it really shows when I'm done. He said he'd be in touch. I said, "Whatever," and came to the house. Never heard from him. His arrogance annoyed the hell out of me. My friend Jean has said of my characteristic, "When his face turns red, it's time to look out." I finally understood why people back off when I want them to, without saying anything. I thought maybe they were psychic. Makes me laugh to think of how obviously my feelings show in ways I'm not aware of. I'll let this be the last weekend of waterfall visits. Next weekend it will be off limits. No more awkward experiences with people I never wanted to meet. I don't live on a back road in the mountains because I want a bunch of suburbanites at my door on weekends and disrespecting my land thinking they're on tv. Several other ways to get to the waterfalls can be found easily by anyone clever enough to figure it out.    

photos by tj worthington


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Friday, May 29, 2015

BELIEF IS MY GUIDE



It is not easy to look back at how I used to think at any time in the life, even a week ago. The way I think now is related to how I thought twenty years ago, but not the same. To go all the way back to childhood in church hearing the preacher excited about hell and damnation and you-better-not and atheism is evil, I believed it. I remember at age nineteen being talked to by a serious Southern California John Bircher, a convicted missionary. I thought he made sense, while having no idea what he was talking about. This was in Wichita, home of the Koch Bros. In that time, around 1960, the name meant rich people, the kind that impress other rich people, lived in the most expensive house in the most expensive part of the city, hotdogs in the rich people's country club. I worked with the groundskeepers at their country club the last summer of high school, mowing, weeding and watering greens. Probably saw them several times and didn't know it, didn't care, still don't. Though, then, still in my time of indoctrination into a world I could not live in, I would have been impressed. 

the hillbillies

I did not know what I wanted, only knew a great long list of what I did not want. The only motivation for self was education and healing, needed both desperately, and to live an authentic life, authentic by my own standard. I never intended to use my education for job training or use the transcript for credentials. I didn't care about making a C in Milton or a WF in Chemistry. I never had a job that required a degree. I've worked with chainsaws, shovels, axes, hammers, power tools, paintbrushes, ladders. Working an axe is fun and a fine skill. Old man Tom Pruitt could lay an axe down in the very line he made the first swing. I could do it sometimes, but his skill took a lifetime of practice. I wanted to live at the bottom of the working class. My motivation was inability to live a fake life of pretend appearance and kissing ass up the status ladder. This is why I'm unable to run my art through a gallery. Sucking up to the rich at openings and Christmas parties is something I'm unable to do, the same as a duck is unable to meow. Much of living what I believe involves staying out of what I don't want to do. 

roscoe holcomb

Recalling a woman in the coffee shop a year or more ago. As she was leaving, she stopped to speak with a big smile, interrupting, of course, "TJ, it would be to your benefit to pay more attention to the new people moving here." She strutted off, wiggling her ass out the door like she'd done something big. My impulse was to call to her, "How do you know? What benefit?" Automatic editor jumped in like a referee and said, If you don't want it started, don't start it. Back to conversation with friend who was, coincidentally, once new here. Inside, I laughed, like how did she know? She didn't even know me. I only slightly knew her name, had to remind self when she started talking. She sure as hell did not know the people I'd be turning my back to for the opportunity to meet more commercials incarnate like her. I'd be turning my back to my people for the thrill of knowing her people. They need to, and will, continue as her people. If I were to waste my time with the people of her choice for me, I'd be telling Justin, Crystal and Melvin about them on Sunday afternoons watching the race, and we would laugh. Thirty years ago, I'd have thought there might be something to what she said. By now, whatever the benefit might be, I know from a lifetime of experience, anything it could be, I don't want it. It's somebody else's idea of benefit, not mine. 

tommy jarrell and fred cockerham

I dove into the world of the hillbilly, because I like the human beings they are. I like living among the people of the mountains. I appreciate them as friends. In hillbilly friendships, watching your back is part of it. A fickle hillbilly is somebody who has no friends, no backup. Backup is important in a rural community. Backup is friends who watch your back. Like somebody wants to pull some shit on you, if he knows you, he knows your backup. He will decide whether he wants to face your backup before he says or does something stupid. Like when somebody starts talking about one of my friends, I'll step in and say, "Before you go too far, I need to tell you, this is my friend." It means, I'm not mad yet, but keep it up and a landmine might go off right there where you're standing. The hillbilly code is a rough code, and it's hard. It comes from several generations of a hard life, working all the time for very little return, poverty, a culture of poverty. Living in poverty, pretense and shallow thinking have no place on the list of options. The hillbilly code evolved from generations of working in solitude on one's own farm, hunting in solitude, plenty of time to think, so much time it leads to deep thinking and clear mind. Old farmers and their women have a very well-educated intelligence from studying the Bible deeply, their knowledge only known amongst themselves. No one outside their world has a clue about them. They're mostly silent and out of sight, philosophers with little experience talking. It would take a force more powerful than a stranger's notion of a benefit to pull me away from these people.    

morgan sexton


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

BELIEVING AND LIVING



Oh good, the rain has begun. The green world is ready. A couple weeks have gone by without rain, but for a welcome shower one night. I went to Carpenter's house earlier to water a young mountain laurel I'd transplanted from the woods a couple weeks ago. They are hardy. I'm watering it every other day to keep it wet, give it a liquid diet while it grows new root hairs. The leaves are perked up and happy. The Dutch irises transplanted a couple weeks ago stand straight up like green rapiers, telling me they're happy. The large patch of wild violet leaves, out the window, flutter in random patterns, make a dance, bring to mind Philip Glass music. It's a visualization of his music, like the continuous flow lines in the films he scored, Koyaanisqatsi and the unspellable others. I heard him in a radio interview a few days ago, the occasion of his new memoir's release. I actually allowed self to spend $45 on the cd collection of Einstein On The Beach. That was when $45 was $45. Never regretted it. Haven't yet gone to amazon to see about his book. If it is under 500 pages, I may look into it. I'm still stuck in the middle of a thousand page Van Gogh biography, taking a diversion after 500 pages, like gimme a break. I feel like I'm creeping up on getting back into it, but facing 500 more pages is like, Lord have mercy. I've read six books during the respite from Van Gogh, and may yet read a few more.  



While looking within at the trails of destiny leading to today, I have a note on the desk to my right written on a piece of pocket-sized nobebook paper, "to see what you believe, see how you live." It has been here for a few weeks. I look at it fairly often, awareness it's there. I have never been able to answer the question, what do I beleive. NPR used to have people write in their stories of what they believe. Every time I'd hear them start, I'd wonder what I'd say, and couldn't put what I believed into a capsule form of one thing that makes a good story. Where do you start, and where do you end? I believe that if I cross the yellow lines in front of an oncoming car I'll have a problem. Haven't tested the hypothesis, but believe it. It's a belief I've gained by noting other people's experience. It's part of what I like about reading. I like reading someone else's story, seeing through someone else's point of view, good practice in awareness that others do, indeed, have a point of view particular to their own experience. Somebody I used to have lunch with regularly was convinced, by a belief about his point of view, that his was the only one valid---he's right, everybody else is wrong. A time came I was unable to put self through the torment again of my own volition, to take the first step toward the door. The people I know who read are comfortable with a point a view besides their own. Someone else's point of view tells me I share this world with others of very interesting points of view, if I can put my own out of the way enough to allow the other. 



How I live will tell what I believe. On the obvious level, when you walk in the door you see clutter. My workshop is the footstool to the chair I read in, watch movies in and listen to music in. A piece of plywood on the footstool is the workbench. Parts for things I'm putting together lie around in stacks, boxes filled with jars and tubes of paint, finished objects, magazines, books on shelves, books in stacks, a variety of pictures and African masks around the walls. Two of them are the real deal, three of them made for tourists. I don't care if they're all made for tourists. Some people are afraid of them. I believe they're good medicine. One has pointed teeth. It looks frightful to a Westerner. I've looked closely at the person it was modeled on in the mask itself and see a striking likeness. It's just a human face. The feeling I get from it is balance, so I think of it as balance. It is the image on the wall daily reminder of balance. I think the masks are beautiful, the purpose for having them. Pictures of Meher Baba on each wall. Asked, Don't you think you have enough pictures of Baba? I say, No. He has a great deal to do with my destiny. set me on the path to being able to find my destiny within, my path itself within. My work along the way has been to keep bills paid and basic needs taken care of. The way I'm living now is the way I wanted to live in my youth, but wasn't ready.



By here, I mean the place I see from, gazing out the window at the donkey meadow, green, the fence, a fly exploring the pane of glass looking for a hole in the invisible wall. He can see where he wants to go, but can't find a hole. I live simply. It doesn't mean self-sufficient. That's too much work, requires too much focus of attention, more than I'm willing to pay for something I can buy at the grocery store for so little. Growing it costs more than buying it. I know, better for ya, but if eating like I eat is deadly, because I didn't grow it, why am I not dead yet? I know the answer to why I'm not dead yet: science. Praise the Scientific Method! I live below the poverty line by choice. Don't have much to offer the world of money flow. The boycott of one says no to a belief system I don't share. Because I don't want to participate in the System, does not imply resistance. My form of resistance is nonparticipation. Be like water, flow around it. I believe television has wrecked American life, but can't struggle against something so big. I lose before it starts. I go around it and stay out of television, I don't like to infect my head with the mystery of the obvious, preferring a life where everyday life is not so obvious. The subliminal application of graduate-school Psychology is not guiding an ongoing effort to seduce my attention when I'm not watching tv. None of the books in the house are spun by the propaganda fear machine, nor is the music. No Tom Clancy novels. No commercials here. No pop radio. Only NPR for absence of commercials. 

photos by tj worthington



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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A SELF-CREATED DESTINY


larry rivers

Questioning the destiny of being a reader in a world of nonreaders, like everyone in my extended family and nearly everyone I know, I wonder where I got it and why it stuck. I can remember being read to by mommy at bedtime. Daddy came home from the war and that was the end of mommy reading to baby in fourth year. With him in the house, mommy shut down and baby shut down. A raging ego was in the house demanding all attention for himself, how it stayed until I was able to get away and find my own life. First rule for self: never need to be center of attention. In the last years of high school, I moved to the garage where I found my peace and could read. I listened to jazz and mother complained that the noise coming from my room sounded like a night club. Rock n roll was new in my teens. Parents, hating the music I listened to, told me, Elvis won't last. Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller will last. Glenn Miller is music. Whatever. Out from under their control, I rented an apartment and read just about all the time I was not working. Didn't know what I should be reading, so I read books from paperback racks that looked like I might like them, best-sellers of the time. Then, one day I walked into a bookstore, feeling like I was in a world foreign to any I'd ever experienced. The memory of it is kind of ghostly. I remember the light in the place. I found Allen Ginsburg's Howl and Other Poems, a turning point. 

dan flavin

I couldn't make out what any of it was about, but the language was familiar, the language I used instead of convoluted Nineteenth Century poetry as remote to an American teenager as Bible times. Emily Dickenson, Longfellow, even Walt Whitman said nothing to me, though Allen Ginsburg spoke my own thoughts in my own language. Eventually, I came to laugh at Ginsburg as an American poet, and later, when that arrogance subsided, came to appreciate him again, this time with some understanding. Saw him perform once in Birmhingham, Alabama, at Birmingham Southern. I wanted to transfer there, drawn to the Deep South mystique. The South has had a mystique for me from as far back as I can recollect. I don't mean the politics. The politics in the South is as dumb as everywhere else. I sometimes think about being born in some unforeseen place next lifetime. Where would I like? All places have a dark side balancing the light side. The only place on earth that has a mystique for me in later years like the South had in the early years is a Tibetan community of northeastern India. As with the attraction to the South, it's so romantic a notion it bears questioning extensively before committing. It could be fun acquiring a taste for Tibetan tea that makes Westerners gag. As for next lifetime, I'd rather leave it to karma and see what turns up. If karma chose this last go-round, I needed some serious grounding at the start. If I chose it, I lost confidence in making a rational decision for self. 



By now, having at least become acquainted with the soul, innermost self, I'm beginning to have maybe a keyhole peek into soul, itself?, myself?. Exploring the threads of destiny running through the life from first understandings, seeing them weave into patterns, reading the patterns as clearly as in a book by Chris Hedges, I see the tracks like deer trails in the forest leading to the present moment. The first twenty-three years kept the kid tied up in knots within, the kind of knots it takes a magician untie. Out of the Navy, I'd fulfilled all the you-gottas I was born into. It was a Friday. On Monday, I started school. It just worked out that way. A moment in the flow that told me, in retrospect, I was on the right track. At the moment, the weekend was the chop on the chopping block that freed self to start the healing process of untying the knots for the rest of the life, half a continent away from other people making my decisions. I became so jealous of living by my own decisions, I got the name of being remote. The process of untying interior knots became my purpose, the only purpose I completely committed to. I wanted mental/emotional health, wanted to read, to learn. There has never been a day I've missed anything that went before the chopping block weekend, but my hillbilly grandmother. 



I don't mean I deny all that went before, I just don't dwell there but to attempt to understand the kid that constructed a shell around self, a fence, to keep out anti-rational influence. I'm glad I was in school during the transition years. It gave ground to stand on while I simultaneously did my wild-thang, drank more liquor than in all the years since. Worked in a bookstore, the ideal. Thought I'd stay with it after school, the corporate bookstores shut down the small bookstores, nothing left to do but find something to do. Came to a place I realized I don't make good decisions for self. One Tuesday afternoon at lunch, it came to me I've gone nowhere by my own decision making. Decided to let chance have it. Chance could only be better at making decisions than my sorry ego. It was like turning on the ignition. Day after day, I just allowed whatever was happening to be, became aware of consciousness in apparent chance, going by events during the day. Came to a place I wanted to step out of my life for an unknown number of days, to think about things, assess, restart. By chance I learned about Meher Baba's Center, between Myrtle Beach Hilton and North Myrtle Beach, between highway 17 and the beach, 500 acres of virgin forest with the path of the King's Highway running through it. A year later, by chance, I jumped on an opportunity to caretake a farm in the Blue Ridge year round. At the time, I thought of it as therapy. Turned out it was good medicine.  




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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A SEEKER'S DESTINY

kate shepherd


I must have come into this lifetime with something that put me at odds with the world of people I live among, wherever I live. I don't mean by any means I was a clairvoyant child, would that I were, though seeing what GM corporation did with my daddy, layoff every other year, union strikes, I made an agreement with self that I would never work for a corporation or government. Senior year in college, corporations sent representatives to set up at folding card tables to take applications and talk about the corporation. I saw the young guys in suits at the tables parasites, avoided them like I avoid bears. I liked that the small Southern school lacked sports emphasis and the science department was too basic to attract government money. The school did not depend on government control, though was willing and would have, nor did it depend on sports arenas. No jock gangs on campus, the privileged guys exempt from study or attending class, given passing grades for raping the girls and terrorizing nerds. Good at playing with a ball. The school had no prestige, which made me like it all the more. I'm seeing in my nature my destiny in action all the way along. Today, it is my philosophy I live by to have no status and want no status. At the college thirtieth reunion I saw as clearly as on a graph that I'm a success. I have no status. Lawyers, judges, doctors and their dressed-up wives. I was a hillbilly house painter with a hillbilly accent, gone native. 

kate shepherd


A childhood recollection surfaces, when I realized it to be true what I'd heard in movies, heard in church, from my grandmother, when you have money, you don't know who your friends are. It's the money they're drawn to. The fake friends are more convincing than the real friends. The real friends turn up when you're down and out. This is perhaps the beginning, or an affirmation of what was already within. Or maybe came from taking something seriously in church I wasn't old enough to know I'm expected to ignore. The reasoning rang the bell of truth such that I decided pre-ten never to pursue money. I went to college wanting education. The people around me were there for vocational school, the degree essential for a good-paying job. A year after school, I ran into someone from my Shakespeare class. In our brief conversation, I mentioned something about Shakespeare, him being our connection. She said, "I forgot everything about Shakespeare when I turned in the final exam." My inner balloon went flat. Our conversation was over. I didn't know what to say and she didn't either. All I could think was, what a waste. Unable to say it, I couldn't think of anything else. I saw her indifference the equivalent of saving to buy a Robert Rauschenberg print and throwing it away when it arrived in the mail. 

kate shepherd

One thing I suspect had strong influence was the emphasis in church on being in the world, not of it. I had no idea what it meant. It became something like a Zen koan trying to figure out what is the world and what is not. The obvious for the world would be Las Vegas, vice city. But that's kind of limited. Over years and years of considering the question, I came to see, eventually, that the church, itself, was the world, as much as a bar is the world, though the earth, the globe was not. I came to see the world aspects of the human mind. To be in the world, in mind, not of it, not identifying mind as self. Use mind, guide it to work for me instead of against me, the guide being my true self that directs mind by deeper self's attitude toward life. Having run through the major part of the life, I've come to allowing mind, using mind, valuing mind, without mind identifying who I am. Identifying self with mind, knowledge, beliefs, what have you, is equal to identifying self with money or new car smell. Mind is one of many aspects of self, a tool. A young dog checking out a snake is more cautious the second time.  I lost interest in paying taxes when I learned that two-thirds of American tax dollars go to military to kill, impoverish and afflict with misery the people of poor, defenseless countries, Vietnam then, destabilize defenseless countries, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Latin America, and around the globe. American boots-on-the-ground are marching into Africa now, quicksand to American military. Remember Mogadishu. They want endless war. They've found it. The largest continent on earth full of poor people.  


kate shepherd

In my early years of working, I learned that when I earn below a certain amount, I pay no or very little taxes. Some people like to go to prison for not paying taxes. I decided to do it the legal way, learn to live well with a poverty income. This way, I'm not complicit in the American military's spread of misery. I pay state and local tax with sales tax. I like to pay taxes when the money goes to the needs of the community or the country. I could not sanction paying with my labor to support my government's passion for killing the poor. I am one with the American people, at odds with the corporate takeover of my country's government and the racist police state that pushed out democracy when the Patriot Act nullified the constitution. What can I do? Complain? Write to a republican congressman? I chose to live in poverty, live empathetic with the poor, at once curious what it was about the poor that made God so partial to them. I prefer the ground to climbing the ladder to money and status. I prefer friends whose loyalty I have no occasion to question. It's not that I look forward to a pink Cadillac convertible in heaven for being good. I can't change any of it. If I'm aggravated all the time, I develop stomach cancer from everything eating at my guts. I choose nonparticipation in my government's war crimes. I'm happy to be one of the American people, so I live among people already suspicious of the law from their own experience. I can say with heartfelt meaning, God bless America, meaning help us get through this transition from Capitalist fascism to whatever is next peaceably, gently as possible.


kate shepherd



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Monday, May 25, 2015

DECIPHERING DESTINY

karl horst hodicke


Looking back at how and why I came to where I am, living in solitude in Blue Ridge Mountains, specifically the central Blue Ridge, it looks like divine destiny from forty years after. Yet, at the time, I only knew place as rural. It felt more like stepping into the unknown than some high sounding word like destiny, like I know what destiny means. Bob Dylan defined destiny as, briefly, what one already knows about oneself. Whatever that means. I feel like it gives me something to go by, a place to start looking. From my own point of view it was arbitrary as spinning a quarter on a tabletop and betting on which side turns up. I knew woods were plentiful and the people were old-timey. Purpose, manual labor on a farm as caretaker, somebody who had never cut down a tree or driven a tractor. I learned fast. Every fall I had to cut firewood for four houses through the winter. That's a lot of wood. I only cut dead trees, of which there are plenty. We seldom think about trees growing old and dying, but they do. Fallen tree trunks lie everywhere in the forest in varied phases of decay. Some will stand for decades before they fall. I have actually witnessed two locust trees fall over. Each one I just happened to glance at movement that caught my eye in the near distance and it turned out to be a locust tree on its way down. I say, "actually," for it being so rare a thing to see, like witnessing a deer give birth, which I've seen once.


karl horst hodicke

The top of the list of the unforeseen is that I choose to stay here unto my last day. To have been told any time during the first ten years that I'd be here for life, I'd have felt like it was a prison sentence. Right away, it felt like home, familiar in ways I could not make out why. The first familiar was everyone talked like my grandmother Worthington, who grew up in Kansas. I wrote it off to a universally American rural accent. That was as far as I could get making out how it was familiar. The people I met along the way were natured like my grandmother, philosophically minded. I don't mean philosophical like resignation, but thought about questions they had, worked things out reasonably and morally in their minds. My friend Justin is a good example of the old-time mountain way of thinking. He has a conundrum, he goes fishing, works it out in his mind. Last year he had such a conundrum he asked Crystal to allow him to be off to himself a couple of days. He slept in his sleeping bag in the deer blind, stayed to himself, went fishing. By the third day, decision made, he was fresh and ready to go, the burden that had grown onto his back fallen away. Justin's practical sense of morality blows my mind the times I've seen it in action. In this I see him carrying the heart of the mountain way of life as it's fading fast by generations. It was not intimidated into him by church, but worked out in practical everyday life with a philosophical mind. I've seen the same reasoning in the people gone now of the old culture, Jr Maxwell in particular. They had active philosophical minds. I don't mean they read Kant and Heidegger. Their reading amounted to the Bible, philosophy from front to back. 

karl horst hodicke

I got my philosophical-minded ways from grandmother. By the time of my parents' generation, the Bible was reduced to a book of rules you dare not question. My generation of people brought up by religionists value questioning. Many of us questioned our ways out of religion. I reached a place where I saw religion is fake, though was unable to see beyond religion, a projection of the human mind, associating religion with God. I had to let go of God. Soon after, I found that God indeed is, but not much like I got from religion, besides verses the preacher never interpreted to my satisfaction, like, God is love. In the church I came up in, God hated an awful lot and was the Supreme Judge. Of course, the white people were God's chosen, specifically American with English names. For many years I disliked my name because it was too much like a name on an office door. I had a problem with that until one day I realized my name does not make me, I make my name. My name means who I am. To some it means an arrogant asshole, to some it means a jackass whisperer, to some somewhat likable, to some a friend. The name appears to be destined for an office door, but not necessarily. I never had an inner need for my name on a door. What I wanted for myself, without knowing it, was to be where I am now. In childhood, my grandmother was my comfort. Also, with extensive woods nearby, the canopy of trees were my other comfort. With her and in the woods were the places I could be who I am.

karl horst hodicke

My relationships with adults amounted to obedience. With grandmother, it mattered that I was a sentient being who thought about things and wanted to learn. In the woods, I felt the closeness of the world of nature. I knew the renewing quality of a canopy of trees. I learned after about thirty years in the mountains that my grandmother's parents moved to Kansas from Pulaski County, Kentucky, southeastern Kentucky, explaining her accent and her philosophical mind. Even before realizing she was a transplanted hillbilly, I had referred to these mountains as grandmother's arms. The woods, the trees, I need like a bird needs feathers. This is my destiny, the place my parachute landed me, in a little empty house on a back road, a place I can walk among trees all day long and never be far from home. In my early years, people from Away would want me to drive a couple hours to someplace to go hiking in the mountains. I only went once out of curiosity and found the same as I have here someplace else. Never felt the need to go hiking. I step out the door, cross the road and I'm on a path in the woods beside a mountain stream. I've walked all over the woods of Air Bellows and some beyond with the dog of my life, Sadie. She came to me already named or I would have called her Louise. So she was Sadie Louise. My destiny turned out to be the places of my childhood I felt safe, the places I felt were real in an unreal world. How I found the place that is just right for who I am by a seeming throw of the die is beyond my ability to see.


karl horst hodicke



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Sunday, May 24, 2015

TAO TE CHING 72


etel adnan




                               72


     When they lose their sense of awe,

     people turn to religion.

     When they no longer trust themselves,

     they begin to depend on authority.


     Therefore the Master steps back

     so people won't be confused.

     He teaches without teaching,

     so people will have nothing to learn.



                       ---tr by Stephen Mitchell


etel adnan








Friday, May 22, 2015

SEEING CAROLE


angel over whitehead
landmark church

Pleasant day today, good day to get out and go for a drive through the mountains on backroads and highway, curves in the roads this way and that, curves that turn into a nuisance overdriven, hit the brakes, swerve across the yellow lines, back, give it some gas, turn the steering wheel, hit the brakes, give it some gas. Find the speed for a smooth flow up and down, back and forth, the car flows like a boat on ocean waves, land waves, and the curves become a joy to drive. When I find the groove and somebody comes up behind me, they're on their own. I'm not going to speed up, crank the steering wheel, hit the brakes, give it gas, hit the brakes over some guy in a pickup and a ballcap wanting to struggle his way over the mountain, likes the physical activity of it, likes the tension, wants to ride my rear end like he wants to push me. As happened today on a long stretch of curves, a guy came up behind me in a black pickup and I stepped on the gas to get away from him. I can drive the curves faster than is sensible, but don't like to. Sometimes I will for practice. Today was practice. Sometimes I drive with right side tires on the white line for practice. I like an automatic awareness of where my tires are, a cautious driver, who's been told I'm hyper-vigilant, it's ok with me whatever it's called. I've not had any wrecks. Driving is the most dangerous thing I ever do. I don't need a law to wear a seatbelt. Driving is hyper-dangerous. I need to know what is going on in the rearview mirror as well as the windshield. Somebody riding grabs my steering wheel once, never does it again. I'm not violent or threatening, but I'm clear. I can talk and listen while driving, but attention is on the road.

carole

The occasion to get out and ride some backroads was inspired by the morning's phone conversation with my friend, Carole, whose car was in the shop for an unknown number of days, she was down to two cigarettes and out of Coffee Mate. Familiar with fear of running out of an inebriate, I said I'd go to town and get her some. No. Don't do that. I can make it. I said, No point in making it when I can easily find some Coffee Mate and the cigarettes and bring them to you. Oh no, too much trouble, I have two cigarettes left, I can make them last the day, maybe have one a day. What are friends for if not to make a cigarette run? I said it is so much easier for me to drive to town and bring you some cigarettes than it is for you to sit there and stare out the window wishing you had a cigarette for the next three days. It's not like I don't want to see you. When we finished our conversation, I headed Catfish up the road, a good day to ride the land waves. Overcast some and cloudy some, on the verge of rain some. Three times I needed to run the wipers one beat. That's not even trying to rain. It's barely trying to sprinkle. The roads were still wet from the night rain. Almost no traffic on the paved roads, none on the gravel roads. The landscape of fresh leaves recently opened, the early green of spring everywhere in the trees, in the meadows, rhododendron and mountain azalea in bloom, deep blue sky, big cotton puffs of clouds with gray undersides drift on slow-moving air, a fish's view of boats in a fishing tournament. 

carole

Drove out 221 to Stratford, a road with the name of being crookeder'n the back of a runnin snake. Then up at least a half mile of crooked driveway with holes and ruts, straight down on one side for awhile. From the road, it goes straight uphill for a long ways like that first hill on a rollercoaster. At the top it curves around to the right and to the left and to the right and left and down the hill and up the hill, to the left to the right, up the hill, to the left, up the hill and land on the pad at the top. The house, built into the side of the mountain, has almost disappeared in the growth around it. From the parking space to the entrance/exit door the ground is covered with moss. Inside, a modest, modern house. Out the sliding glass door of a living room wall, a mountain vista. A small porch close to the ground. A young groundhog took up under the porch last year. This year, she or he has a mate. It won't be long til baby groundhogs will be wiggling around the postage stamp lawn where deer sometimes graze, rabbits nibble, turkeys peck, a coyote passes through, a blacksnake. She never goes out there, the only human activity and scent would be the guy who mows and weedeats a few times a summer. Occasionally, a squirrel, a groundhog, and a few others have come up to the glass and looked at her like she was in a zoo. And she's watching them like in a wall-sized terrarium. We sat and talked, had a couple cups of tea, smoked some cigarettes, her uncertainty settled. We talk every day on the phone, so it's not like we have problems talking. We can talk as long as we feel like it. We flow well together like a mountain road and a car at moderate speed rolling with the waves. We have no limits to where we go conversationally, wide open and free. 

carole

I have said that Jr Maxwell is the one man I have known I call wise without hesitation, besides another who lives in a monastery. Carole is the one woman I have known I call wise without hesitation, besides another who lived in comparable to a monastery. I feel divinely blessed in that I have had the opportunity to know well a man and a woman I take for wise as assuredly as I take Caterpillar for a cat. Younger, and actually all my life, I have sought and wondered if I'd ever find someone wise. I thought I'd have a better chance finding somebody with wisdom in the mountains more readily than in a city. Jr was already here. Carole came here around twenty years ago. It was like as soon as we met we needed to know each other, it had to be. She  lives where she lives, I live where I live, we're here for ourselves and at the same time here for each other. Like in AA having a friend to call and talk with to quell the need for a drink. She is on her path, I am on mine. Our paths run side by side through this time of our lives. We believe we were given each other to walk our paths with, friends who understand one another without emotional tensions. She is my feminine representative of the Master. Of course, I would drive to town to buy her some cigarettes, and deliver them, sit and visit for awhile, face to face. Suffering? Sacrifice? I don't think so. We often forget our friends like to do something to help us out when help is needed. It is a gift to give a friend a chance to lend a hand. I'm quick to jump to lend a friend a hand, forgetting, or just not thinking that my friends would like to jump with the same intent to lend me a hand when needed. Carole forgets that too. So we remind one another from time to time. 

carole


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

LIKE THE OLD PUNK ROCKER SAID

jacob shelton and daniel biggins
the seduction

Another cycle around the sun, circled twelve times by the moon, 365 turns of Earth spiraling through what? Nothingness? Future? Space? Illusion? Cycles within cycles. I've seen my life in seven year cycles. They flow so evenly into the next, it takes awhile to see in retrospect. I've been aware of the seven year cycles long enough to have seen the changes and how seamlessly one flows into the next. The cycles are not evident until you notice them. It's been five years in this present cycle. The cycle started same year as I took up writing this daily blog. It was the next thing. It just happened. One day talking with friend of many years in her office, she said I should do a blog. What's a blog? She didn't really know, her daughter told her about blogs. She  told me how to connect with blogspot. I thought about it overnight. I liked the idea that everybody can have a forum to write for, arrange pictures for, make photographs for, speak your meaning without editors and sponsors. Freedom to write and not have to deal with publishers, contracts and money. I like especially that it's not about money in any way. I don't want advertisers and they don't want me. Early in this cycle, I made videos of bluegrass and old-time shows, put them on youtube and wrote about them. Now I'm making video at punk concerts and writing about them. It seems strange, but I see old-time fiddle and banjo music the same as acoustic punk. An old-time string band plays wide open, fast, charging rhythms, rhythms to put dancers on their feet. All the instruments play at the same time, nobody takes a lead and performs solo, nobody emotes physically or vocally. The only part of the body in motion would be forearms and the fingers on the strings.

daniel biggins, jonathan owens, brandon hamby
the seduction


the seduction

Old-time is the pedal-to-the-metal birthplace of rock n roll. Punk has similar driving charge to old-time tunes, though amplified considerably. In old-time, the songs are chosen from a long list of standards. In punk, the bands compose their own songs. My first summer in the mountains, I went to a fiddler's convention in Independence, Virginia, the next town across the state line. I'd been listening to punk a couple years. It was new and fresh. The fire had gone out of the experimental aspect of Sixties rock, which degenerated into REO Speedwagon, bands making pop of an initially experimental music. They rocked, but when I heard them, it was like, been there, done that. I wanted to listen to Patti Smith Group, Nina Hagen Band, the Damned, Generation X. The Sixties taught me to find music I wanted to hear that radio stations didn't play. Drug music was what it meant to them. Sponsors were freaked out by it. Rock was anti-war and conditionally patriotic. Punk came on in the mid-Seventies, seeming to me the natural next thing. The radio wouldn't play punk either, except college stations free of sponsors. It was twenty-five years before punk rose above ground. Billy Idol injected some punk attitude and rhythms into American Metal. It's strange now with punk mainstream. Talking with Daniel on the road to the show in Winston, I said, I only have two friends of my peers I'm aware of, who can tolerate a minute of rock I like to listen to, one in New York and one in Georgia. From here in the woods, high on the mountain where I listen to music, it felt good to be in the company of, surrounded by, with people who share an interest in good ass-kickin rock n roll.

the swamp


bask

I saw self a bit comic in a place where I could be grandpa to most of them and daddy to the older ones, grooving to the music wholeheartedly, music I've listened to longer than most of the people in the Garage had been living. Talking with a woman I met last year at the Milepost in Charlotte, a face so beautiful I felt like I died and this was the angel sent to guide me to heaven, Hayden, girlfriend of the bass player, she blew my mind to smithereens when she told me her mother was once a punk rocker. This coming Saturday, I'll see my friend I've known all her life, Eve, for lunch, whose mother is my New York punk rocker friend. Though my self-consciousness saw self a comic figure, no one else in the place seemed to. Everyone I talked with regarded me with respect I don't get other places. They think it's cool I've listened to punk since the beginning before they were born. Everyone I talked with welcomed me and thanked me for being there. I felt like everybody in the place was my bodyguard. It was the atmosphere. It was so for everyone in the place. All were safe in friendly company, would be helped in whatever ways needed, whatever might happen, immediately. I find punk rockers sincerely friendly, caring people, and not just to me, but all the way around in all their circles. Their styles are individual. To be a hippie, long hair was commandment number one of a long list of codes, evidence of commitment. A punk rocker can, of his own free will, wear a suit and have a barbershop haircut. His style. You're not even required to say dude. Some do. Some don't.

viajando


the seduction

The show Sunday night came to me as a result of a decision made in my late fifties. I heard self start two sentences, the kids these days. Hearing it the second time, I said to self with firm determination, the kind I use when I mean it, set it in motion that moment, this will not happen a third time. I'm done talking that shit. I decided to go to a rock concert of the present moment on my 0 birthdays. For sixtieth, a Papa Roach show at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem. It was what I needed. People packed  in tight, shoulder to shoulder, hopping up and down in place, the band right there in yer face. I got in among the kids these days and found them cool people. For seventieth birthday, Thrice in Charlotte at the Fillmore, and Animals as Leaders. Another situation shoulder to shoulder among the kids these days finding them cool people. By now, I'm drawn to the kids these days because white men my age these days gripe about nothing good on television anymore, opinions from Fake news and rant radio, waiting to die. They bring me down, make me worry that I'm going to die any minute of something, when I really don't care. Ok, I can die any minute. For me, it's not something to dread. I'm so curious about what's on the other side, I have to remind self not to have any accidentally on purpose accidents. I feel like it's the same me on the other side as it is on this side, so why not enjoy this side while I'm here. After the Seduction played, people talking sounded to my ears like they'd inhaled helium. I thought, yeah, just right. My life has opened up since I came to see this side of the veil the same as the other side and allowed it to be. Last year I said I'm going to celebrate every birthday with a concert. Still, three days after, the show Sunday night continues to occupy my mind's eye and ear. It's not involuntary, like buzzing ears, but quite voluntary. I want it in my mind.      

nick brown
viajando


daniel biggins
the seduction


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

UNCUT ROCK N ROLL: THE SEDUCTION




the seduction @ the garage


Nothing is more punk than being self-determined
and respecting the self-determination of others.
                                                   --graffiti

I got my rock n roll fix at the Garage in Winston-Salem Sunday night. The place was a powerhouse of energy from 9 til 2. My friend Daniel Biggins' band, The Seduction, played in a show with three other bands, The Swamp, Bask and Viajando. All played hardcore punk in their own particular take on it. All the bands were good and all the musicians stellar. They were unafraid to make some noise. The band, Viajando, turned their guitars up to screaming, then started. A three-piece band, the guitar was all over the place. The bass gave the guitar a surface to dance on that, itself, was a dance. The bass player's fingers hopped all over the strings and I could hear what he was doing. The sound system was just right. The lead guitar, Nick, played kind-of melodic, abstracted sounds beyond description. Viajando had an almighty drummer, too. He was the vocalist. Talking with him after the show, while the bands were packing instruments and electronic equipment into their vans, I asked him the source of their name, Viajando. He said it's Spanish for a journey, they felt like they were on a journey as a band, and they liked the word. I made it a point to express my appreciation to one person in each band, and everybody in the Seduction, through the course of the night between bands. On the road to the show in the van, Daniel played a cd with some music by Bask and Viajando. Taking I-40 into the city, I told Daniel, if this is what we'll be hearing, I am ready. I was anyway. He said they are bands difficult to follow onstage, and he loves it. They make him play all the harder. 


viajando


bask

The van parked in front of the band entrance door, everybody in the band did their part unloading a major sound system in several parts from the trailer and transporting them to the stage area, placing them out of the way, allowing the first band to put their equipment on the stage. Between bands, the band just finished removes their sound equipment, the next band sets up theirs and wires it all together. The beginnings of each of the band's sets, they played sounds they use to check out the system of wires and tunings. I loved it. It brought to mind an orchestra checking out their tunings before a concert, conditioned intro to some good music. The sounds are quite different, the only likeness being they're the same thing. Each band had their own such intro. By chance, I made video of the Seduction checking out their connections. I thought they were starting the first song and pushed the record button. Catching on that they were checking the sound, I thought, what a waste, then thought, it's digital, no waste, no problem, and thought, wow, this is cool, glad I got this. I stayed near the "merch" table throughout the show, allowing Nolan, who was taking care of the table, a chance to go outside for a smoke from time to time. There was no way I could leave one of the bands once they got going. For my own personal taste in rock, I'm awfully particular about what I listen to, these four bands delivered full satisfaction. I wanted cds by all of them, but only two had cds for sale. Before the show, I spoke with the guy setting up Bask's merch table, who turned out to play guitar and do vocals, and bought their cd. He didn't have many and I didn't want to chance waiting til after the show. Haven't played it yet, but am itching to. To play it now, I would not be able to carry on here until it finished. While they were playing, I felt like a treasure was in my pocket.    


bask

the swamp

The merch table between Bask and the Seduction was the Swamp's section. The guy setting it up and working it turned out to be the vocalist with the Swamp. Like everybody in all the bands, he looked like just another guy who might be in there. His tshirt said, channel your inner catfish. I told him my car's name is Catfish. He told me how he found the shirt. Adam, if I remember correctly. It's his story for him to tell, not me. It's personal, neither vulgar nor intimate. It's his own story, a good one. I enjoyed our brief conversation. As with the guy from Bask, Zeb, it felt like conversation with artists. I already know why, because they are artists. It's the artist in them I appreciate. It's why I was there. They are songwriters. They are musicians, who really are musicians. They compose and arrange songs. It is the art in punk that has drawn me to punk since it's beginnings in the New York Dolls, Patti Smith Group, Nina Hagen Band, the Clash, Richard Hell, a short list. Like punk in London in the Seventies, every band had its own expression. The musicians, the bands make music the way they want to hear music made. Punk is not so much a sound as an attitude. The attitude creates the sound. The attitude is raw American individualism. The code in punk circles, I just want to be myself. The bands playing at the Garage Sunday night were what we call hardcore punk, what I think of as post-Black Flag punk. Punk has evolved infinitely since its beginnings forty years ago. American punk came out of the New York Sixties bands, Velvet Underground, Mothers of Invention and the Fugs. Before them was Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly in the Fifties. Punk has been a line running through rock n roll since the beginning. By now, every city in the country has multiple punk clubs and bands to keep them going every night of the week.   


the seduction


brandon hamby
the seduction

Talking with someone before the show started, I was asked what band I was here for. It came to me from out of the blue. I said, All of them. I want to hear them all. I'm here with the Seduction, to hear them is the reason I'm here, I want to hear all the bands. The Garage is a comfortable place with great sound. I'd seen the Seduction back in September in awe of what I heard then, a giant step beyond their previous cd. What I heard Sunday night was a giant step beyond last September. I don't know where I could put my finger on what has improved about them. Their delivery, their approach to the songs, their extensive stage experience since then. I can't say more or better of anything than before. It felt like it was a fuller sound, a flow from familiarity with what they're doing, their flow with each other evident in their music making. It's what they do on weekends while they work full-time all week. Jacob's bass I did not hear in September like I heard this time. He was cranked up loud, his noting fingers jumping all over the strings. I felt like the playing of all four of them has freed-up somewhat. Not that it didn't have freedom before, they flowed together. The sound was so good I could hear each of them, individually, and the whole band at the same time. It was loud, too. Just right. The drums, I felt were stronger than before. Everybody in the band has more power than before, they're stronger, like Jonathan Owens, the drummer. Perhaps this is what I hear that makes me feel they've taken a step I can't put my finger on. It takes time to build up the physical strength, the stamina, for what they do. The drummer is an athlete. He is stronger and more practiced than he was eight months ago, like everybody else in the band. I like this band, like what they're doing, like the band members, four very different individuals together making a dynamic entity called rock n roll. I like their hope.  


jacob shelton and daniel biggins
the seduction

the garage
drummer with the swamp



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