26 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt Intermezzo: The Disposition of Emily F_____

Don't judge me. You wanna judge me, put on a black gown and get a gavel. - Lil' Wayne

Marriage is the chief cause of divorce. - Groucho Marx

True to neurotic form, I got myself to the courthouse on time. Actually, I got there early. The Carroll County Courthouse opens to the public at 8:30 in the morning. Court proceedings begin promptly at 9. For those of you have never, in any capacity, dealt with the legal system -- there must be two or three of you out there somewhere -- it's important to note that just because court BEGINS at 9, that doesn't mean you actually get in front of a judge at 9. Carroll County is a small court system, though, in comparison to others and I felt like I had a pretty good chance of getting the divorce expedited.

(Divorce: AKA "The Big D" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" [mouthed silently so as to avoid shaming either the person getting a divorce or making the person talking about it feel indelicate. Also, if you say it three times in a row, a Johnny Cochran-style divorce lawyer magically appears and rips out your genitalia.)

Of course, I had to take off my hat and my red sweater, and I had to leave my cell phone and my blue ruck sack -- full of littrature I'm trying to hock -- outside. I took my copy of the paper work in and found a seat in the empty gallery. I didn't like the idea of leaving my hat; I've grown fond of the oil cloth hat. It's traveled with me since January, is smashable so it can fit easily in my pack, and is perfectly worn in. I was sure if I left it on the coat rack, that someone would walk by and take it -- because it's a cool hat. More than one person has offered to buy it off me. It's a hat with a lot of personality... though not too much*, at least for me. And while it may sound vain to say so, I don't think most people have sufficient character to wear it. Which is to say, most people are not enough of a character to wear it. Nez Pa?

I sat and waited. The docket was posted out in the hall, and Parsons v Parsons was listed pretty high on the list.  So I don't know if it's fair to say I felt optimistic -- one doesn't typically feel optimistic about divorce proceedings, even he is the one who filed and even though there is nothing left to contest. 

The State's Attorney, Scott Brinkmeier, walked in and up to the prosecutor's table. He took notice of me and remembered my face from the many times that he's dodged making any comments regarding some article or another I'm working on. He smiled his political poster smile and, after getting my name wrong, asked why I was there.


"Ah." He pursed his lipless lips and lowered his tone. "Sorry to hear that."

"It happens."

This has become my response whenever someone expresses sympathy, empathy, shock, or judgement. It's easier than saying anything else, and people expect you to say something as a way to acknowledge their concern or to feed their need to butt into your private life. For me, it's an all purpose response:

Someone: Sorry to hear about your divorce.
Me: It happens.

Someone: Sorry to hear about your dog getting run over.
Me: It happens.

Someone: My condolences on the passing of your father.
Me: It happens.**

Someone: Sorry, the bar it closed.
Me: The hell you say.  (I mean: It happens.)

Brinkmeier's semi-uncomfortable silence was broken by the Bailiff, who called court into session, bid us all rise. The Robe walked in and waived us  back into our seats, and then another bailiff escorted in a stringy redheaded girl wearing orange jail scrubs.

This is Emily F___. According to what followed, she was supposed to show up for a court date on September 12th and did. She was picked up on the bench warrant and given a bail of $15,000. There was no mention of the charges, since it was a bench warrant hearing. In other words, she was brought in so the Robe could chastise her.

"Why didn't you make it to your court date?" asked the Robe.

"I was... uh... asleep," stammered Emily, probably in an attempt not to incriminate herself further.

"You slept for 3 days?"

"Uh, no," she replied. "I was going to turn myself in and then... I just didn't."

The Robe set a new court date, asked if she could pay 10% of the bail, and moved her on out. Then he called me up.

Approximately 10 minutes later -- after going over the paperwork, answering questions for the record such as  "Did you attempt to reconcile and find this useless?" the Robe ruled. I still had to pay $30 for the transcript, and once that was paid, he would sign the order thusly.

And that was it.

I walked outside after, and down the metal steps leading directly from the 2nd floor where the court rooms are located. The first thing I did was call Melissa. My call went straight voice mail. She had wanted me to text her when it was done; but I thought it too casual a communication method for something as serious as a civil divorce. I left her a brief message, and then sent her a text as well.

After that, I lit a cigar and sat down on the millstones in front of the court house. Set in concrete and looking like squat bench, the two millstones were from the old mill that used to operate along the bend of the Wakarusa River at the bottom the hill on Market Street. I'm unsure of how old the millstones are, but I know they are older than me, and probably older than my Dad was. They lasted longer than him. They lasted longer than the people who worked at the mill. They lasted longer than either of my marriages. And unless something happens, they will be there after I am worm food. Some things are meant to last. Others just aren't.

The cigar was nice, for a cheap gas station cigar. It helped me remember to breathe, which I had been trouble having most of the morning. Although I have been waiting for it, ready for it to not be hanging over my head for months, the weight of it... of the finality... was hitting me square in the chest. And even though I am quite happy with the direction my life is taking, it's difficult to know where to put it all, even still. The memories. The good and the bad of the years with her washed through me. Part of me wanted to cry, I won't lie. But I still have that old school admonition about men crying rolling around in my head. I'll save that for a more appropriate time, for a story or a poem.

Because really, that's where it all goes. Not catharsis. I don't believe in catharsis. For me, it's always about the story, the poem, the song. That was one of the things, I think, that maybe Melissa loved and hated the most about me. At some point, even the most intimate aspects of our lives became fodder for the work. I'm not enough of a hypocrite to apologize for it; but I am smart enough to recognize the part my need to play with words has in ordering -- or disordering -- the rest of my life.


*"Never wear a hat that has more character than you." - Utah Phillips

** Part of the reason I have adopted the sometimes sardonic "It happens" response is because, when my father died 22 years ago, I became keenly aware of just how incompetent people are in the face of death and tragedy. Canned advice, promises of prayer, and admonishments not to question "the will of God." Meh.

25 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Stage Fright

Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute towards it. - Walt Whitman

One who excels in traveling leaves no wheel tracks. - Lao Tzu

Last night was the first frost. It wasn't a hard frost; the leaves on the Grandfather Walnut tree in Dave and Julie's backyard didn't lose it's leaves last night like the ginkgo tree next to the old President's Residence at Morehead State University. -- all at once.

Yes, MSU is my alma mater.  The last time I looked at either of my diplomas was when I had move my shit out of the house on Pumpkin Hill. I never look them. I refused to go through the ceremony to receive them; instead I paid $10 each time and had them mail both my undergrad and graduate degree, since it was cheaper and less time than the graduation ceremony, an ostentatious program which was designed to give the university credit for the work done by students.

The importance of the place extends far beyond the education I worked for while I was there. So many of the crucial thematic elements in my life from the age of 18 to now are tied to that place. It, and all of Eastern Kentucky, occupy a mythic space in my mind. 

I've been feeling the cooler weather coming. Late summer stuck around longer than I expected, probably encouraged by the lack summer rain that has all but ruined the corn crop this year. (Don't worry. The agribusiness barons have plenty stockpiled to take advantage of the high price. As usual, only the little guys get screwed. After all, this is America.)

I'm ready to leave Paint City and the time is close. There are only a few things left to wrap up.

On the day this missive posts, my divorce will be final in what I hope will be anti-climatic fashion. And although I probably have taken more literary liberty with her than she would have preferred, I like to think we have managed to finish tearing this thing asunder. 

That very same evening -- this is tomorrow, Dear Readers, or Tuesday if you are in one of those far flung time zones in Australia or some such place I am unsure actually exists -- I will cover my last (No. Really. REALLY.) city council meeting. I've met my replacement and he's a scruffy, local guy from Lanark who knows all the principle characters in this badly written (Doris Bork, talentless hack), horribly directed (Doris Bork,  Director) , and incompetently produced (Clearly a Doris Bork Production) melodrama that is Paint City Politics.

I expect it to be a quiet meeting. And then I expect to get drunk, for every good and righteous reason that a man gets drunk on the day of his divorce. 

It may not be specifically listed in the Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence, but by GAWD it was surely intended.

I expect that she might be drunk, too. For every righteous reason that a woman gets drunk on the day of her divorce.

A civil divorce is more difficult than you might think. Having experienced both a civil one and a bloodletting, I can tell you this: the bloodletting is easier to wrap your head around intellectually. It makes more sense. A civil divorce, while more mature, rational, and reasonable, never stops feeling contrary to the laws of nature.

But I had one other thing on my list of things to do before leaving town. I've been trying to pick up and learn the guitar... again. I used to play the guitar. Played for years actually. I also played the trumpet, the piano, and BRIEFLY the harmonica. I sold my acoustic -- my LEFT-HANDED acoustic -- before leaving Arizona -- erroneously believing I would never pick it up again. But one of the things I rediscovered here -- primarily because I know more musicians than I do writers -- is that I miss playing music. I never really played in front of anyone. I never even liked playing the guitar in front of Melissa.

In addition to the 5 Minutes of Fame Open Mic I started that is still running strong in the very capable charge of my friend, local artist and all around nifty chick Heather Houzenga, there's also an ALL MUSIC open mic at Charlie's Bar and Grill hosted by local musician Forrest Carter Rische. Forrest is a twice nominated Country Music Bass Player. His kids are all musicians of the highest caliber. His brothers are, too. He runs the open mic with his girlfriend Wendy.

Even though I did get up on stage once after it was over and tell a story that people didn't hate, Forrest would only let me on stage if I learned a song. He said,

"You could do this, I bet. You're around it enough. Learn a song, tell me what it is, and I'll help you."

I don't quite know how to explain how rare and serendipitous it is for a professional bluegrass musician to make an offer like that. And after  told I him I used to play guitar ... albeit left-handed ... he encouraged me further, but suggested that I learn to play what Dave calls "the right way."

So I've spent the last month and half, using spare moments in Dave's basement when he's not practicing or around all that much, learning to play the guitar backwards. I found a simple song to play -- found it on a wobbly songbook blog site. The hardest part of playing backwards -- because that's surely what I'm doing -- are chord changes. Also, I've never tried to sing and play at the same time before. When I played guitar before, I didn't sing. I'm not much of a singer, really. I know enough about music to hold my own in a midnight chorus. Truth be told, I even sort of like to sing, mostly because I know I'm not very good at it.

So I practiced and set the goal for myself of standing up in front of people and singing my song.

This past Sunday I was backed into a corner. Dave and Julie were off running errands. I had some hefty newspaper deadline articles to work on. I didn't want to take Dave's Martin without asking him. I thought about NOT going and had every good reason in the world.

I didn't borrow Dave's guitar. But I went anyway. I told Forrest I had a song to sing, if I could borrow a guitar. He let me borrow one of his... a Martin. I've played an electric guitar before, but that was the first time I'd ever played an electric acoustic. The only wrinkle for me was that I had expected to play alone-- which was scary enough. But it turned out that Forrest and two other guys backed me up. Or played over me. Either way.

Some butterflies before getting up to read are normal. I was scared. Getting up on stage isn't altogether unnatural for me; but I was absolutely terrified. My friend Kerry was there with his son, and Dave walked in as I was starting to play. The bar was all but deserted by the time I got up to play.

And I played my song. Twice. And I loved it. Not because I have delusions of grandeur, but because I love music and I've missed music. If all I ever do is hang around other people who like music and pick around, I'll be content. If all I do is play and sing for myself, I'll be happy. If all I do is learn old songs to play when I'm out telling stories and poems, I will feel myself being released into the universe, dissipated into the air like steam.


20 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Intermezzo - Useful

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. - Jiddu Krishnamurti

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. - Abraham Lincoln

The Parsons family are all about working hard and doing what is needed to get ahead in life and be the best we can, and making a good life for our children, and serving our Country. what in any of that have you done or are doing? - Screechy Mary, Gun-running Cousin

The autumnal tinge in the air is telling me it's getting time to move on, and so is the calender. This time next week, the local magistrate will have backwards genuflected and any reverse broom-hopping will have been done. My return tenure at the paper will be more or less done --much to the glee of the grumps who are content to strangle the town into the nitrate poisoned dust. As the song goes

The chilly wind will soon begin and I'll be on my way....

As much as I've enjoyed seeing my friends here, listening to some great music, and getting the chance to tell a story or two, I'm ready to shake some the dirt off, stretch my legs, and get back out on the road. I plan on staying in the Midwest for a bit before jumping down to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Mothpocalypse and The Happy F%$^^in' Endings  on November 2nd-4th.  After that, back up to the Ohio Valley, for some Turkey Day celebrating with My Dear Sweet Ma, and then, another run through Kentucky, hopefully to visit friends, to the East Coast, where I'm hoping to see The Kid in between her school and work and generally impatient insistence on trying to be a GROWN-UP. And then, down the coast, to Florida, down to Port Charlotte -- where the beaches are warm, the water is beautiful, and there will be no snow.

At least, that's the plan. For now.

Because I'm still pondering flying against common sense and my own inclinations and going NORTH, to the Bakken Oil Fields in the Northwest corner of North Dakota to see what a boom town looks like... particularly in far off off OFF chance that Mitt Romney wins the election, since he would have us drilling even more than we are (even though Obama has allowed more drilling than GW Bush and we're taking so much coal out of the mountains that we've graduated from mine shafts to strip mining to mountain top removal ... that's TAKING THE TOPS OFF MOUNTAINS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND LONGER THAN WE HAVE.) 

To be fair, it probably doesn't matter who's sleeping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- they're both backed by  big banks, big business, and big pocketbooks. 

Please don't take this an opportunity to flood me with the virtues of Ron Paul. You want to see his virtue, look at his son, Rand -- named after Ayn "Fuck the Poor" Rand -- and listen to him after he's finished telling you he would abolish every government agency that you think is making your life miserable. He's a mook of the highest order -- a Libertarian who's too scared to use the label, his idea of America would effectively take us back to the dark ages.

But... North Dakota is still on my mind, yes. And so is the fact that I hate cold weather. But I am (re)learning -- constantly -- that the universe will blow me where ever it damn well pleases, and not always to my preference.

A motif that has been coming up... well...  since January ... is What I Plan on "Really" Doing. And even though I have, at various times, stated pretty clearly what I intend NOT to do... and even what I intend to do --which is travel, write, not buy into the dead myth of Pax Americana, love my country, question the government, meet good people, find stories worth re-telling, and (re)learn to play the guitar --  the question keeps cropping up, though in different words.

Mostly, people want to know what I'm going To DO... as in, what respectable job will I get. I feel I've been perfectly clear on this one as well.  But if anyone is confused, I plan to avoid anything that might cause me to be respected. To be respected in this society is to acquiesce to the rules and machinations of said society... regardless of how screwed up it is.

Fuck all that.

My hope is to be useful, though. And in spite of one recent Letter to the Editor which referred to what I do as "spinning lies for pocket change" (thanks, Nina for that. Sorry that you're such a lousy writer yourself and a miserable, bitter hag to boot.) I do think there is merit in paying attention. Because, if I'm being honest, that's pretty much what I do. I pay attention. To people. To stories. To poems. To songs. To events. To history. To you. 

I was also called out recently for shaming my father's memory and for not following one particularly bitchy relative's notion of what my family tradition is. Then again -- it seems like the Parsons family tradition has more to it than money grubbing and exploiting misinformation to make more money selling bullets to people who believe Obama is going to take away their guns. My dad didn't keep guns around. He didn't need them. One tongue lashing / lecture from him and you'd rather be shot. Believe me. My Dad DID tell me some stories, try and get me to think right about some things, and tried to keep me out of jail (Which would have been preferable to any of his punishments.)  He did things his own way more or less. He told me about my grandfather -- who did things his own way. From what I can tell, the only thing anyone on the Old Man's side of the family has in common is that we have nothing in common except that we do things our own way.

In this, then, I am not far off the mark, at least.

With any luck, I will find ways to be useful -- and not in some way defined by someone else. Generally I find that most problems, personal and otherwise, arise from language barriers. Useful is one of those words that people tend to define narrowly and with very little imagination.  When you begin defining language for yourself, when you begin defining the elements that impact your life in your own way, you cease being useful to a lot of people. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

What can be a bad thing is when you stop short of redefining for yourself what it means to be useful. Or, in the process of defining what it means, you forget that humanity is more important the terms people often use to define it.


17 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Synchronicity Extract

Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Yesterday I thought about Odysseus -- specifically, Odysseus Among the Lotus Eaters.  It's a story I return to often in my thoughts. Certainly the epic poem, it's variations and permutations will cross my mind simply because it's one of the greatest poems ever written, translated, and rewritten. The classic epic poems (that includes Gilgamesh, Beowulf,  and The Illiad,)  mirror something I see repeated in poetry, in stories, in songs, in movies -- though to varying degrees of success.

The image of the Lotus-Eaters has, for many years now, served as a personal metaphor for the hypnotic way with which daily life finds a way of interfering with the living of it.

I've been back here in Paint City for nearly a month and half, trying to get my divorce finalized, writing for the Prairie Advocate -- finding the same epic stupidity among some disgraced and not-so-prominent-as-they'd-like-to-think folk and losing contact with a relative thanks to one noxious political troll   -- and enjoying the company of friends, the sound of music and poetry, the creation of art... reflections all of beautiful things, of necessary things.

Paint City is becoming a place for people to come and hear good music -- not only the myriad of local, talented musicians, some of whom have been playing as long as I've been on the earth, but musicians from elsewhere. This past weekend, a brother/sister duo from Nashville came into town -- their dad Forrest is a local musician and pretty cool guy -- and played two different venues as well as gracing the 5 Minutes of Fame Open Mic that, in spite of the Bears/Packers game, still pulled a respectable crowd. It's nice to be here and see the natural outgrowth of people's passions become positive energy.

There are some growing pains and the usual naysayers and spoilers -- but that's not the focus here. I will say this, though. If I've learned anything, it's that synchronicity can be a powerful force. When it's turning positive, it's best to work with it, so that when it turns negative (and it will, at some point) you're in a better spiritual and mental place to deal with it. There are some folks here who, in spite of how good things are going, still try to strangle it... some with good intentions, I suppose. But stupidity and short-sighted aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

There is a sort of lotus-eater effect of being in a place like Mount Carroll. You have to make your own fun, create your own life, in a place like this -- because if you don't, you're stuck living someone else's life, having someone else's idea of fun, based on rules dictated by choices that are not your own.  There's a sense of independence that goes along with the interdependence, the sense of community. And when it works, it works well. It's a kind of narcotic for weary souls, for people who want to believe that utopias exist and that it is never where they are. It's invigorating, really. Sort of refreshing.

But only for a while.

Then there's the rest of it.  It's been said over and over again by a bunch of people, none of whom have probably lived in a small town in recent memory, that small towns are a microcosm of the larger world; the idea being that everything that happens in a city, in a nation, in the world, happens in a small town, to a much smaller degree. That assumes, however, that your point of view is global. For the most part, people paint their views of the rest of the world the same colors they see off their front porch. And everything that happens, from the latest teen pregnancy to whoever's name is listed in the Court House News, becomes as important as -- say, an attack on an American Embassy in which four people were killed. The only difference is, of course, that Tripoli is a place most of them have only heard of in The Marine's Hymn, while an unwed mother is a social dilemma that, Once Upon a Time When All Was (Never) Perfect, was handled more discretely.

You know. Shame. Social isolation. Judgement. Exile. Real high American Ideals.

A small town is an extract -- the whole universe boiled down and put in a particular environment. Sometimes the combination works. Sometimes it doesn't. Small towns are fading from the map because the commerce and traffic that created them are changing routes. Mount Carroll is surrounded by towns that are dying off -- both literally and metaphorically -- and like the lotus eaters, there are folks around here who, while they may not be content, are content in the knowledge that there's nothing to be done.

That's why the synchronicity here is important; there are good things happening, but the idiots are never far behind, being critical and saying that it can't/shouldn't be done. Or worse, they're holding onto an idealized version of the place that may have never existed. Because utopias don't simply exist, and they are rarely made. None of it's perfect.

Paint City still holds a lot of mixed memories for me; and the longer I'm here, the more I'm steeped in them. That's part of the reason why, when people ask me why I just don't stick around -- and they do -- I can never give them a concrete answer. The rest of the reason is that in spite of a few assertions lately that I'm not doing anything worthwhile, that I am accomplishing nothing, that I am not impacting anything for the better -- I happen to agree with them. Somewhat.

What I do is worthwhile -- at least to me. And I accomplish quite a bit -- though not by any standard that my critics will understand.

But the world is a big place and worth living in. And sometimes you have to wander around a bit to see how it is you fit into it.

Oh, and if you haven't yet, stop by and "like" my new Facebook page. You can also follow me on twitter @amrevisionary.

12 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Family Tradition

Politics make for strange bedfellows. -My Dear Sweet Ma

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of the respect and joy in each other's life. - Richard Bach

Libertarians are anarchists who sold their souls. - J. Bob Friendly

Revise the high and holy dead.
Use the fathers to abuse the sons.
Character assassination is easy
When you hoard all the guns. -- Ditty from Travel Journal

Every once in a while, I'm reminded why, growing up, I never remember anyone in my household talking openly about religion or politics.

While on the Eastward-Ish Jaunt, I wrote about being in Colorado, and about meeting my Uncle Dan for the first time. The Parsons family is generally a scattered bunch. My Aunt Mary (R.I.P) who lived in Florida. My Uncle Danny, who lives in Denver. My Uncle Bill, who... unless he's died, is still alive in the house on S. Charity Street in Bethel, where he, my Dad, my aunt, and my other uncle, all grew up. (The house sits directly across the street from the house my mom and Uncle Jack grew up living in.)

If I seem out of touch with the clan whose last name I carry, read on. I now realize there are reasons.

When I was in Colorado, I stayed with my first cousin, Mary, who's named after my aunt, the oldest child of Daniel and Minnie Parsons, my grandparents. Mary sells guns, rides Harleys, and has made tons of money doing one in order to afford the other. A staunch conservative -- one of those family traditions I DID NOT pick up -- she believes firmly that Obama is out to take away everyone's guns -- which I am sure makes for a good selling point;  that taxes are bad; that wars are necessary, and that They (whoever that happens to be today) really are out to get Us. Formerly of Naval Intelligence, she claims to have insider information -- that I am supposed to trust implicitly because She Told Me So even though she can't discuss any of it for 144 years -- which definitively shows that the Muslims really are out to destroy our way of life.

As I type, I still marvel at the randomness -- or not -- of not being able to talk about something for such a specific time as 144 years. Who was the bureaucratic juggernaut who came up with THAT number? 

We had exactly one discussion about politics -- during which my disagreement with current, past, and future wars was summarily dismissed, the U.S. policy of using mercenaries who are above military law was justified, and -- again -- it was explained, primarily in terms that impact her business, how dem evil Dems want to disarm everyone and create a socialist police state.

I was staying under her roof and enjoying the hospitality she extended to me. So I didn't dig in. Nor did I argue with her assertion that men in the Parsons family avoid conflict like the plague. I kept in mind that

  1. She probably didn't hear the same stories of Grandpa Parsons that I did, and 
  2. She never really knew my Dad.

All that happened in JUNE.

Fast forward to YESTERDAY.

Being of a particular bent that I have not really hidden from anybody, I posted this image in support of the Chicago Teacher's Union Strike on my Facebook page:

The arrow, in case you didn't get it, was pointed at my wooly profile pic.

In less than a half hour, this drew the ire and hollow rhetoric of a particularly nauseous troll. While she may troll other people's pages in search of ways to shut down any argument but a Tea Party/ Birther one, she was making a point to troll me because I do, sometimes, write for her dad's newspaper.  Yesterday, however, I got tired of it. 

Read the meme here.

Yes. I blocked her. Facebook is a public forum, and I have plenty of "Facebook Friends" who don't agree with me on a lot of things, political and otherwise. I even have friends who are Steeler Fans, gawd forgive 'em.

I didn't go on her page to troll, didn't report her as offensive -- the REAL ploy of folks who want to silence free speech. I simply removed her. 

This got my cousin all tied in knots, of course. My cousin who rarely visits my page, who hardly ever comments on things I post, and who has never engaged me in a serious political discussion other than the previously mentioned BECAUSE I SAY SO talk.  

By the way, for those who may not know this: BECAUSE I SAY SO IS NOT A VAILID ARGUMENT TO USE AGAINST ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 5. And even then, it's still piss poor.

After trying to explain WHY to my cousin, I then posted a status update, which you can read here. 

Now -- even though I made it CLEAR I was NOT talking about her, my cousin posted this response:

"you don't give a shit who I am or whose daughter I happen to be? well guess what? I don't give a shit about you either! I voice an opinion and it is different from yours and you decide to call people trolls and remove them for that? WOW...says ALOT about your character!! well...I am the daughter of your uncle who is the brother to your father, and how ashamed your father would be if he was alive today of you and how you are living your life! The Parsons family are all about working hard and doing what is needed to get ahead in life and be the best we can, and making a good life for our children, and serving our Country. what in any of that have you done or are doing? how are you bettering the life of your daughter? everyday that I live and breathe I do something for my children! I work hard to give them things, like a good education! I am a capitalist, and very proud of it! I believe in working hard and making as much money as I can, and that is something I have passed to my kids, which was something that was passed to me from my father. and one more thing...... UNIONS SUCK!!!! and yes...I am happy thank you very much!" (emphasis added)

Did I mention that I wasn't talking about her, but about a Facebook Troll who had been giving my problems and trying to derail every political post in order to rant about Socialism and Obama -- who, even though she claims not to like Romney (she is, in fact, a Ron Paul supporter -- don't get me started on Libertarians, but pay heed, instead to the wise words of J. Bob. Friendly) will not be critical of him for fear of seeming to be Pro-Obama?

I did.

What did my cousin do? She proceeded to rant about her martyrdom. She used my daughter -- who she doesn't know -- and my DEAD FATHER -- who she barely knew and probably never met -- against me.


Because I support a teacher's union strike. 

A strike, by the way, with standardized testing as the primary breaking point. The State of IL(L) mandates that standardized testing scores be used to determine a teacher's proficency. This, by the way, is nothing new. Another Bush Era debacle, No Child Left Behind, ensured this would happen.  

There's also considerable evidence -- both statistical and anecdotal -- that standardized testing not only is not a proper indicator of student learning ... and certainly not teacher effectiveness-- but that the current educational model being touted is to essentially TEACH TO THE TEST. 

Critical thought? Not important. 

Picking A, B, C, D? That's a good little monkey.

I was hoping to go back and visit my uncle and learn more about the family whose name I bear and about the father who -- according to one more GOOD CATHOLIC who didn't really know him, and who, as I recall, didn't bother to come to the funeral -- would be ashamed of me. The inability to fill in those gaps is the thing that bothers me the most. There were a lot of stories Dad never told me because I was never old enough (according to him.) That I will now never hear them because of a small-minded troll and my cousin's terrible affliction -- that my Dad would have called "Elephant Mouth and Hummingbird Ass) -- is such a damn and avoidable shame.  

I would also say  "If only she had read..." but that might lead me back into why the Chicago Teacher's Strike is so important. Because it's not enough to read. You have too be able to think critically, too.

11 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Rhetoric Junkie

Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce

He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot. -- 
Groucho Marx

I was going to begin by talking about events local here in Paint City -- recent updates regarding some free advertising in the Letters to the Editor page and misquoting of my words by a local disgraced ex-political figure, and a recent visit to the local Rotary Club chapter, among other things. And I still will discuss those things at a later date; but first I have to get something out of the way.

I am a rhetoric junkie.

Political speech is particularly interesting to me, and I've had a lot of it to ponder lately. From local politics to Presidential campaigns, to Facebook flame wars: the more I talk, the more it seems to bring out the most interesting kinds of folks. Folks without whom our political process might actually be able to achieve something lasting, something noble. Hell, something. But folks are folks and ideas, like bird droppings,  fall on the intellectually suited and unsuited alike.

A few words about the Democratic National Convention: like every stage show, it had it's stars and it's boors. Sandra Fluke and Bill Clinton rank near the top of my list, other than Obama for sheer rhetorical skill. Jennifer Grandholm is a carnival barker, and I like the cut of her jib. But Sandra Fluke impresses me in that she refuses to be silenced by Congressional Republicans or by Neo-con talk radio pundits. Ran through the ringer, called a slut, a whore, her character impugned beyond reason... and she still speaks out. Kudos.

Clinton? Well, shit. What can you say about Bubba? He is, without question, the single most effective political figure in this generation of politicians. He still knows how to reach out to a crowd, and he does it well. Say what you want about his getting a blow job in the Oval Office... but he wasn't the first, and he won't be the last.  He's got political and cultural star power.

Obama? I've said it before and I'll say it again. The guy is a master rhetorician. He knows how to give a speech. In comparison to Romney, Obama's speech delivered a tone, a message, and an image. He knows how to make it about himself without really saying so. Romney's RNC speech was the equivalent to


And while heard a lot from Romney about tax cuts for wealthy people being good and I heard a lot from Obama about the middle class, I would just like to point out that in both the RNC and the DNC, the poor were summarily ignored.

To be fair, though, the demonization of the poor by GOP'ers, Tea Baggers, Birthers, and other fomenting fringe fascists -- who will not remain on the fringe for long unless we do something about it -- is inherent in their speech, whether they mention the poor directly or not.

And why are the poor summarily ignored -- unless they are summarily exploited by one major party or the other?

Because no one thinks they vote. And because they can't contribute cold hard cash to reelection campaigns. And because it's easy to blame people who don't have a political voice.

Thank Jeebus, then for the Facebook meme TROLL. You know them. You love them. Or not. Because they DO have a political voice. Insipid, rude, lacking insight, yes. But a voice. Here's the modus operandi. They wait for you to post something on your Facebook page and then proceed to hijack the discussion and bend it towards whatever their end result is... lately, in my case, someone keeps trying to use my page to bash Obama. Not for his signing of the NDAA, his strengthening of the Patriot Act, or his continuation of Bush Era intelligence gathering methods (torture). No, this troll spouts Tea Party/Birther bullshit mixed with some of that Cold War McCarthyism that comes around every few years whenever there's a Democrat in the big chair.

If that's what political speech is reduced to, then political speech is dead. It's all spin, baby. Spin.

03 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: 22 Years and Counting (Memoriam) /

But the love of adventure was in father's blood. -- Buffalo Bill

I wore his name like armor. - Elena Bell

22 years gone and I still remember
that though some are set above 
given higher rank, higher status, more prestige,
they are not better people --
just blowhards with brains of butter. (partial poem draft from Travel Journal)

I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. I've felt it coming on for several days, like the onset of a flu. Like standing in the tracks in the path of an oncoming train. The last time I remember hearing the sound of my father's voice was in a dream, maybe 5 years ago. I was so unused to the sound of it, so accustomed to the idea that he's dead, that it frightened me awake.

My first real bout of insomnia happened not long after his death. My senior year of high school is blur, primarily because I was a shell-shock zombie. What I do remember involved my daughter's mother ... which, being candid, I would rather forget ... and very little else. My reaction to my father's death was to run. I ran from the hospital room because I couldn't look at his fresh corpse in the ICU. I ran from sleep because I couldn't escape dreams that condemned me for being  weak son. I stayed away from home because I couldn't stand to watch my mother mourn, take the emptiness of the house in my father's absence ... though the house itself started to take a shrine-like place in my mind. When my mother sold the house and moved, I felt (at the time) like something was being taken from me, even though I didn't live there anymore. Now I understand that shrines are only useful when they help us live better, not when they enable us to envy the dead. Now I know it's possible to remember without worship. Now I know the voices of the Elders are not dreams that frighten us awake in the middle of the night. We are the voice of the Elders; their words and ours  combine into the stories, the songs, the poems that record our personal and our collective histories into the consciousness I like to think of as The Long Memory.

And in spite of everything the GOP'ers tell you about the evils of the estate tax, the only thing we can pass on to the future generations that any real value or any real meaning is The Long Memory... because it is ours to continue and pass on, and it is theirs too -- whether they know it or not -- from the moment they are born.

My bouts of insomnia are infrequent these days. When I have a night or two when I can't sleep these days, it's usually tied to the fact that I'm in one place too long... a built in alarm clock tied to my itchy foot. According to My Dear Sweet Ma, I get the itchy foot from The Old Man. He was able to soothe his in his relative youth, and settled down in his middle age.

As you might have noticed, Dear Reader, my trajectory has been a bit different.

Today I am mindful of The Old Man and of the many other Old Men -- and Old Women --  who ought to be remembered this day. Of the lessons my dad tried to teach me that actually stuck, the one I always seem to come back to is embodied in the phrase

Every man's a VIP.

I thought about that quite a bit when I was out on the road these last 7 or 8 months.  And while I'm not entirely sure that he would agree with my interpretation/assessment of what that phrase means, I do know that he was less interested in how much people had squirreled away than he was in how they behaved.  For his part, he treated people decently until, in his opinion, they did something to deserve harsher treatment. He could be temperamental, and knew how to hold a grudge. His reaction to his own physical decline colored most of his reactions to everything else -- anger and determination. He would be the first person to point out that life is almost always unfair; but he never seemed to stop expecting that fairness would win out.

There is no greater example of this than his love of football; specifically, the Bengals. Any Bengals fan -- any real fan, at any rate -- will tell you that being a fan is about more than painting your face and screaming like a banshee when they're playing good. It's about holding your head in your hands when they're playing really, really BAD... and then watching them again the following week, find hope where the talking heads, pundits, and spineless, gutless bandwagoneers insist there is none.

One overly concerned individual, in regards to my name changing/identity politicking in my online life, made mention of the fact that in changing my name -- or in expressing a desire to change my name -- that I am, in essence, spitting on my father's memory.

I thanked him kindly, not pointing out the only thing I spit on are flags, sacred cows, and -- whenever possible -- in the coffee of certain local political figures.

Regardless of my nom de route, (that's s pronounced 'root' from the French meaning path, and sounds like the English term for the underground  inner workings that make trees grow tall.) I could never erase The Old Man. And the only way I could ever disrespect his memory is to live in such a way as to abdicate my ability to think and to live to anyone or anything that does not deserve my fealty. And although my dad was, in the traditional sense, very much a patriot, I like to think he would understand that I am, in my own way, a patriot. I love my country, because a country is made up of people, not institutions. I despise the institutions and machinations that are undermining it. He might disagree with every belief I have come to hold as true based on my life experience; but he would absolutely prefer me to reach my own conclusions than to trust something so important to mediocre machinations. He would prefer that I retain my right and my ability to determine for myself who my enemy is, rather than listen to people who value their opinion over my experiences.

And for the record, the only union strike I ever heard my dad be critical of was the 1984 MLB strike. And he was a Republican most of the time.