Word is they started gassing people in New York yesterday. I've been following the "Occupation" loosely, mostly from articles my more politically minded friends have shared on Facebook. I try to avoid those type posts. However Ruth and me sat on the couch two nights ago and watched the Youtube video of the girls getting maced point blank behind an orange barricade on Wall street. As we drove the truck across the Nickel Bridge I told her I was thinking that going up there might be the most important use of my time that weekend. A quarter mile to the west a slow train was crossing the river over the arched rail-bridge, the sun going down behind it. I won't give you a laundry list of everything I'm up against. If you're one of the ten regular readers here, you've probably got a pretty good idea. I appreciate the understanding. So I guess we can agree the message expressed in New York this weekend likely applies to me, my situation, the current and future well being of my children. In Southside, Ruth and me discussed all of this over cheese dip. My original plan for the weekend was to focus mainly on more job-hunting.
The idea of open conflict with the NYPD does not excite me. Of all the cops I've had run-ins with in my career, Manhattan cops have always seemed the most laid back, the most intelligent, the most human. Neither does the idea of getting maced, or locked up, of even knocked around by cops scare me much either. My intentions for going would not be because of anything I have to prove to anyone, not even myself. I am a free agent. My time is my time. It seemed to me for a little while that going would be like my friend Larry Levis said at the end of his poem "In 1969"
As the summer went on, some were drafted, some enlisted
In a generation that would not stop falling, a generation
Of leave sticking to body bags, & when they turned them
Over, they floated back to us on television, even then,
In the Summer of Love, in 1967,
When riot police waited beyond the doors of perception,
And the best thing one could do was get arrested.
Or counted or gassed or rounded up by the hundred with hands zip-tied behind backs and sat on the street. I would go because it seemed like an important time to be there, to see what it was like to be inside an Eric Drooker drawing. I would go so that I could hear what was being said, break away for it for a minute, go two blocks and see the waters rushing over the 9/11 monument. To come back home and write and tell you what I saw.
We sat and ate and Ruth told me all the good reasons to stay. The money. The fact that I've got to be at the Fan Free Clinic on Monday to see if they can line up a CT scan for me. If I got locked up, I might not be able to make it. If I missed work because I got locked up, the temp agency might fire me and then everything would be a world of shit. We left out from Mexico with our take-home box. The sun was setting and finally had a good Fall look to it. Red and orange going straight up with purple and blue down around the edges. We drove home and Ruth nibbled on chips and cheese dip as we crossed over the Huguenot bridge. The air was crisp, the sky seemed to be on fire and everything was as it should be.
By the time we got home and I checked Facebook, there was another interested party, another Clay, with revolutionary bicycle emblems as his profile. Nobody had ever met anyone else, yet everyone seemed to be on the same page. Even though in my gut it seemed like exactly the next right thing to do, I told them sorry, but I couldn't go.
I stayed because I decided it seemed a little too much like other times when I've run out the door like that; bad, reckless, dangerous times. No, I didn't go because I made a commitment a while back not to live like that anymore. To avoid, whenever I could, acting as an agent of chaos, no matter how good or pure the intentions driving me.
The first stop today was a giant hulking wreck of a sycamore that hadn't even been cut yet. It was every bit of forty foot long and six foot around and it was all wet and green, green as a garden snake and vibrantly mottled like the way a sycamore does. Flinging various dismembered parts of it frightened me a little, like we were handling the carcass of a brontosaurus. I do believe I told it I was sorry that it had died.
To which my friend John Holland responded that he was expecting a "memoir of my time on the back of that truck" and that he was "dead effing serious." So I told him okay, I would do it.
So yeah, there you go. I'm going to try and write a book now and maybe even get it published. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for staying with me.
"SelfPortrait" & "Fig.18-Stone Mountain"
Other pictures of these drawings can be found here and here. I have not yet taken pictures of the one with my parents on the elephant, I essentially "mostly" finished it up and then stuffed it in the tube so that it could make it on time for the show. Also Thank you Mrs. 21K for the Link!
For example, working for the City of Richmond, I find myself daily watching refuse truck unloading at a transfer station over in Southside. Their freight is dumped on a “tipping-floor” of a huge, open structure, and then loaded by heavy equipment into open-top tractor trailers which is then “transferred” somewhere else. It is a loud, dangerous operation. Everything is huge and moves too fast. The texture of several tons of trash is enough to overload your senses, not even taking into account the smell. Plastic bags and styrofoam get blown out and hung up in the tall oaks and pines that boarder the place. At some point I started noticing the birds. Each tractor trailer seemed to have a line of sparrows riding along the top edge of its box, darting down occasionally to scavenge food. Red-tailed hawks hunkered down sixty feet up a massive radio tower across the way. The place is essentially in a healthy wood with some good sized loblolly pines and pin oaks. The trash used to depress me, as did my station and paycheck associated with it. I am a middle-aged pilgrim wandering the new economy with children to care for. After a few months of watching birds dart through chain-link choked with Trumpet Vine, I was struck by the idea, a concept maybe, of “Urban Naturalism.” I realized I previously always looked away whenever I saw a municipality truck, that I’d never really considered the shape a trash truck makes.
Or rather, I’d forgotten about it. Large trucks are like elephants. You become an adult and have kids and a mortgage and dysfunctional relationships and then one day you wander into a large open space at the Bronx zoo and there is an elephant walking on it’s huge elephant feet, waving it’s trunk around and you realize somehow you’d forgotten all about elephants. You remember the child-like feeling of not being able to fully comprehend something that foreign, that much bigger than yourself, much less appropriately describe how it moves through space. I mean, look at it! All you want to talk about is elephants, you want to write a story about elephants. Ideally it should be about the elephant, but shouldn’t you acknowledge that your anxiety about how close the children are is partially based on the hangover you haven’t been able to walk off? Also, how can you leave out the comment your mother-in-law made to you back in the dark halls of the reptile house? In the real world, shouldn’t all this inform your elephant?
My first night out I stayed in Wears Valley again, at my Aunt Judys' place. I hadn’t been down in almost three years. Judy and Bill couldn’t come up as they were in Chattanooga with Bill’s sister Beverly who was at Erlanger getting some un-named medical procedure. I’d stay the night alone then, like almost always. The irises and blaze red dragon lilies had grown to enormous proportions, there was still a huge bottle of Vodka in the freezer, there were still ants in the kitchen. It was as lonely as it always was, looking out over the valley, but it didn’t scare me to stay there anymore. Just before dark I went down into the valley to fuel up and get a milkshake. I tightened the chain in the parking lot of the grocery and gas place, sitting on the pavement, torquing on the axle nuts, hands on one wrench and boot on another. Harley tourists roared all around. A big crew-cab Ford towing a giant black trailer pulled up next to me with my tools spilled everywhere and a group of heavy set dudes sounding like Atlanta middle management rolled out and eyeballed me. I eyeballed them back. Another small pack hollered over by the pumps when gas overflowed and poured down the sides of the tank of a big expensive machine. I figured half of everybody there was down to ride the world famous “Dragon” outside Robbinsville. Check the website. I rode the four-lane in the opposite direction to the dilapidated Burgermaster, got a malted from a girl behind the tiny window and drank it sitting in the tall grass beside the blinking arrow sign parked on the edge of the gravel horseshoe driveway.
I kept waking up in the night, checking my phone. Determined four a.m. was too early to head out. By dawn I was showered and packing up, the bike in the yard and the contents of the saddle bags scattered all over the front porch. My hands were shaking with nervous excitement, it had rained in the night and smoke hung on the mountain looming across from my aunt’s front yard. I wiped my seat down with yesterday’s t-shirt. I stretched and prayed and prayed again and headed out. I set the idle low as I could, just a bare grumble, so as not to disturb the woods and hills. Under my helmet I prayed for safe passage, for the roads to dry, for the sun to crest enough to penetrate the blue morning of the hollows. I made myself take it slow despite my nervousness. Rolling down into Metcalf Bottoms I slowed to a stop to let a small family of wild turkey cross, tiny velociraptors hopping the moss-lined ditch into the cover of tall ferns. By the time I picked up 441 to Cherokee, it was still early enough for me to be the only one on the road. Fleets of winnebagos and RV’s must have still been getting breakfast at the Pancake houses lining Gatlinburg. I started climbing.
Half a summer’s worth of huge slow moving vehicles left a treacherous snail trail of oil and grease down the center of my lane. Old growth pines and oaks canopied green overhead, green rushing alongside. There was some construction on the old brown road, payloaders like sleeping dinosaurs crowded the narrow shoulders trailing gravel washout toward the insides of the corners. Halfway up, the earth fell away on one side leaving nothing but road and sky, rock, cedars, hemlock and pines. At some point amid the mist and conifers I passed from Tennessee into North Carolina and started down toward Cherokee. I clutched the bike into third gear and let it growl there as we picked up speed. Cold wind rushed over my small windshield and buffeted my helmet. Everything in the periphery turned to a green blur. I realized I had been afraid of this moment the whole trip. Three years previous I was out of control with grief, half convinced I’d come to Tennessee to wipe myself out on a mountain. I lined up the first few curves and ran them a little shaky, nervous about the rushing edges of the tree lined road. Correcting the geometry of a corner that you’ve entered too fast is tricky at best. After about five minutes I realized I was holding my breath. I decided to concentrate on my breathing- stop worrying about tire pressure and nailing each apex. Line up a corner, brake slightly, breathe in, roll on the throttle and exhale as I pushed through the exit. Breathing through each curve, under a dark tunnel of hanging limbs. In this way I wound my way down the mountain. I hadn’t yet scraped a foot peg. I wondered about the engineers of that road. Did they imagine an abstract concept of the math that went into each radius? Or was it just laid down along the knobby spine of the mountain? Did they mean for a man like me to be able to run along it on a motorcycle averaging sixty five miles an hour? It was the fastest I’d ever run a mountain road like that. At some point it occurred to me that I’d reached the limit of what my machine could do. At some point I realized I had no idea what drove me to go that fast or that alone. As the road flattened onto the valley floor and ran suddenly through an open field, blue sky soaring above, I realized I had started crying.
- chogyam trungpa
Ruth took the picture in the new header, going about forty five miles an hour through West Virginia. See that shade of blue up in the left hand corner? That is about the closest estimation of blue I have yet seen of her eyes.
Also, I have gotten this up finally. Hopefully I'll get my shit together enough soon to write an artists' statement and send it all out to galleries, etc. start trying to show my stuff around RVa. Or something.
like a lover's voice across the mountain side."
Something about Fatherhood maybe or Blue Rhinos.
Approximately 5ft. by 6ft4. More Sharpies.
Could really use a bigger room to photograph in as well as some of those umbrella flash things. Yes I stole "Dürer's Rhinoceros "
PHYSICAL AND DEXTERITY REQUIREMENTS: Physical and dexterity refers to the requirement for physical exertion and coordination of limb and body movement. Requires medium work that involves walking, standing, stooping, jumping, stretching, or lifting all of the time; exerting between 20 and 50 pounds of force on a regular and recurring basis; and exceptional skill, adeptness, and speed in the use of fingers, hands, or limbs in tasks involving very close tolerances or limits of accuracy.
it was all bold and everything, but this is the part I really like
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: Environmental hazards refer to the job conditions that may lead to injury or health hazards even though precautions have been taken. The job may risk exposure to extreme heat and/or cold, bright/dim light, dusts and pollen, wet or humid conditions, extreme noise levels, vibration, fumes and/or noxious odors, traffic, moving machinery, electric shock, animals/wildlife, and disease/pathogens. SENSORY REQUIREMENTS: Sensory ability refers to hearing, sight, touch, taste, and smell required by the job. The job requires normal visual acuity, depth perception, and field of vision, hearing, speaking and sense of smell. ADA COMPLIANCE The City of Richmond, Virginia is an Equal Opportunity Employer. ADA requires the City to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. Prospective and current employees are invited to discuss accommodations.
and just this morning they gave us a four page handout to review about dogs as potential threats. It's funny cause I got chased up the side of the truck last summer by an escaped pit-bull. I was reminded again that my job is somewhat hilariously dangerous.
The mountains of Georgia are the oldest in Appalachia, worn down almost to nothing. Something that ancient has an inherent weirdness to it, I believe. Down the road were woods several acres thick behind my friend Jeff’s house which nobody seemed to own. We’d get into them a day at a time, tell each other lies and smoke his dad’s cigarettes. They had stands of lower pines there and open areas with rock and sand for some reason, and in one clearing him and his sister and two brother’s had made a stone ring lined with stone chairs in the middle of which they would burn things. We found cars in his woods and farm equipment in mine. He showed me a fox-hole under a cedar one time and we dared each other to scramble down into the walls hung with roots yet neither of us would go. The hole was still too thick with the smell of wild animal.
Next to my house was a stand of tall loblolly pines, planted originally in rows but then grown to dark vine-twisted wildness. I had to cut an entrance with my buck knife just to get in them. I would spend afternoons laying quiet in big piles of pine needles, sometimes reading, sometimes daydreaming. Once, from nowhere a great wind rushed along the roof, shoving it all back and forth till I realized it was a low flying cloud of blackbirds. A pestilence flying so thick they almost obliterated what little sky showed through. I used to think it was normal for a twelve year old boy to spend all day getting lost in the woods, now I’m not so sure. I used to try and force my wrists to grow retractable claws, like Wolverine. Sometimes I would pretend I was Grizzly Adams and my only friends were deer, rabbits, birds and snakes and they could talk to me.
At the end of one summer my dad thought we should clear out one tree-line divider between fields, the one that ran away from the back of the house into the state park. Hacking at one end we found what seemed to be a cave entrance, a passage through the wild brush with childrens tin toys scattered along the floor and pieces of fabric nailed to the underbelly of low branches. It ran about fifty feet, had two or three entrances and in five years or more, none of us had discovered it. We named it the “Rabbit Hole." I think that was the summer I first read Watership Down.
Adjacent to that was where we kept our usual stack of seasoned material ready after a year or two to be brought into the house. It was here once that my dad, my brother and I finally got down to the lowest layers or soft and rotted timber and rolling over a log, I uncovered something, an animal of some sort that turned its small head and hissed in rage at me and then disappeared. It wasn’t a snake and it wasn’t a cat, but maybe some sort of large insect only about a foot or two away from my face. When I saw it, my entire perception seemed to go blurry, I only remember eyes and a mouth. I paused and turned to my brother and my dad, but nobody seemed to have noticed anything as they kept working. I’m not even sure now if it really happened or if I dreamt it.
Many years later, either in a dream or in a blackout, I returned and climbed down into that fox hole behind Jeff’s house. It was tight and dark but after a distance opened up into a large tall cavern. The walls were made of clay and lined with hundreds of small animals embedded into the red mud, rabbits or something like them, horrified wide-eyed and screaming. In the dream I scrambled back out as fast as I could, tripped and fell breathlessly, laying among scattered piles of shale and gnarled, whispering cedars with the sky above cloudless and mercilessly blue.
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your lifetimes that and twice it's double
That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed
So make sure when you say you're in it, but not of it
You're not helpin' to make this earth
A place sometimes called hell
Change your words into truths
And then change that truth into love
And maybe our children's grandchildren
And their great grandchildren will tell
I'll be loving you until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Stevie Wonder- AS
Songs in the Key of Life 1976
or maybe you ought to re-familiarize yourself with it.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
As of last week I have been turned down for ten different positions with CSX and eight different positions with the City. There are rumors about trash-collector positions coming up but nothing's materialized. Couldn't get a call-back from friggin Starbucks. I have approximately fifteen years experience as a carpenter and woodworker. I am under the belief that my trade is dying. I stopped blaming the Mexicans for this just last week.
Also last week I quit what has been my year and a half commitment to opening up the Al-anon meeting I helped found. I'm not sure if it will keep going or not. I decided I needed to get out of it's way so that it could either grow up on it's own or else die a tragic lonely death. Of course now I'm in a panic to find other meetings.
I've been reading this book at work as I bounce around in the boom truck. It, as well as it's predecessor, have been an absolute miracle to me.
As of today I have been clean for one thousand seven hundred and thirty eight days.
I've been watching youtube footage of the tsunami in Japan all week and listening to Tool's album Lateralus in the truck or while washing dishes. I decided earlier today that neither of these things have been very helpful. The main reason I haven't been able to write is I feel that everything I have to say right now is bitchy. However I know for a fact that I've never been healthier or stronger in my life. I also suspect I might just be insanely happy on some level.
So that I don't wake up Ruth, I shower in the dark each morning where I often find myself deep into "fox-hole" prayer. However today I woke up to the thought that I have absolutely no time right now to entertain fear, bitterness or resentment. I got too much going on, too much at stake and I need to be able to travel fast and light.
-- Raising Arizona
Fire in the Belly
In the song of this season, the trees that ring the fountain
Are ablaze and the one in the fountain is no longer there.
If I am to be burst apart, to never get better, if this
Is what is required of me, then so be it. I have been reduced
To less than the sum of my parts, I remain defiant in that
I am what remains, defiant. I am pieces stitched together
With a current run through. I find myself forming the position
Of a man doubled over, eviscerated, clutching whatever
is left inside.
I am one of the lucky ones, I have been blessed with eyes unlocked
And I'm not listening to anyone anymore. This is a gift,
You'll get your chance one day if you're lucky.
I have been told to wrap each night around me to grieve
And sing my song to God. I am spurred by it, I travel by day
With fists against the ground. There are waves of grief,
Bigger and bigger that rise in the dark and I cannot describe
What I've seen in them, I find myself making an animal growl,
And if banishment is what is required of me then so be it.
It was Dvorák that reminded me, playing out into the yard,
That I had been hearing the sound of violins all along,
That the maples lining the street had finally exploded
Into crimson and orange, and forming this golden corridor,
My three year old daughter running under it and her perfect sky,
Up to me on the steps, I am reminded that holding her
Is the only thing that feels safe anymore.
posted November 17, 2008