28 May, 2020

Consarn it! Figuring out life in the post pre-pandemic world

If I were (still) a betting man, my money would be on the terra firma. 

Now that people can get a hair cut and angry anti-maskers feel like they can bully anyone wearing a mask like a roided up Alpha Beta,  it's past the time when we need to start figuring out what life in the wake of this pandemic will look like.

I suppose the first thing to keep in mind is that there is going to be a learning curve. Our national myth is built on a double-foundation that absolutely works against us: exceptionalism and rugged individualism. 
Revenge of the Nerds (1985)

And what this gets translated to now is some Gabby Hayes caricature of the backwards '49er nursed on amphetamines and instant gratification.   So we're going to have to figure some new things out, like respecting personal space and adjusting (temporarily) to some different social norms in regards to eating out and interpersonal greetings. 

George "Gabby" Hayes (RIP)

This will be hardest on the huggers, I think... though not on those of us who are selective huggers, and certainly not for the non-huggers out there. 

In these areas, though, I have a lot of confidence in our ability to make a shift. The Karens and Stans of the world will take longer to adjust, but they will when it's made obvious to them that being a spoiled brat will keep them out of the salon chair longer and their roots will be as much of an indication of their selfishness as it will be their vanity. 

There are, of course, the gun-toting anti-maskers... these bastions of Muricanism, that have less of an understanding of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights than the average 7 year old.  They have the 3 Percenters to protect them -- jackboots that represent the bully base of the Trump regime, who have managed to infiltrate state and local police departments while Karen and Stan were too busy complaining about the number of sprinkles on their FroYo because, you know, YOLO, right?  I have less confidence that they will eventually embrace any kind of true social responsibility because life to them is nothing more than a remake of a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie.  Fully swaddled in a nostalgia for Something that Never Was, they, along with their low rent buddies in various white power militias that take Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome as gospel will take it upon themselves to bully, to frighten, and to do whatever it takes to turn the world -- or what they decide is their corner of it -- into a whites only dystopian nightmare.  

They feel pretty confident in their ability to do all this because their figurehead has given them permission. Trump is a carnival barker at heart. He knows how rile people up and he knows -- just like corporate hacks and powermongers know -- that getting one half of the country to murder the other half is just good business.  The murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Lousiville are not isolated incidents.  The increase in racially motivated crimes against people of Asian descent are not isolated incidents. There's been an increase in these crimes since Trump took office; but it would be a mistake to pin it all on him like he created it.

That would be giving him too much credit.

I've said before that Trump only stood up in front of a tide that was already rolling. My assertions of this were dismissed in 2015 by highly educated and well-intended liberals who honestly still had faith in the system... or, if not faith, a sort of strangled hope that while the system is completely fucked, it's "the system we have." I told them then that Trump was probably going to win. Not because I wanted him to win (I didn't) but because of something else that I had difficulty articulating.  

Now I understand what I meant to say five years ago.

Tyrants are not dynamic people. Dictators CAN be. But, like Brodsky wrote, "To be a tyrant, one had better be dull."  Tyrants are not game changers, swamp drainers, or bringers of change. Tyrants are bureaucrats of their own hearts that want order ... order that cements the status quo in place ... at all costs.  And make no mistake... Trump isn't a tyrant just YET. 

But he's in the running. 

And, so, as we try to figure out how to live in this pandemic stamped world, I have to be honest. My money is on the dirt. Any conventional wisdom suggests that we're not done with COVID yet, no matter how much people want it to be done.  And there will be those who will continue to exploit the situation in the name of profit or power. And the system will tighten its hold, unless we examine the possibility that all these little fires might be fueled from a single source. And it's not so much about the election, but about making changes to the system itself that will make it more humane. 

They're not going to make it easy, though. 

19 May, 2020

Special Patreon Podcast Episode: The day I should have let go of capitalism but missed the metaphor

Episode 21: a Patreon​ Special!

I'm working on a couple of new regular podcast episodes as well as two new PATRONS ONLY episodes, but I thought I'd share this one through my Patreon page. This episode is set for the PUBLIC... that's you! Feel free to share! And if you want to hear those PATRON ONLY episodes... there's usually 2 of those a month... all you have to do is be a Patron. Starting at $1/ month, you will get new Patron Only Podcasts delivered to your email. 

18 May, 2020

Social Distance Diary: Remembering your first (quarantine)

Your humble narrator (L)  age almost 3. 

This is one of the few digitally archived photos available that prove I ever had a childhood. There are others, but this, like those, is a picture of a picture... which means someone, probably not me, either scanned in or took a picture of the original with their phone.  It's an especially telling picture; one that explains not only a lot about me, but about some of the dynamics that helped forge most of my childhood. You'll notice that it's a birthday party. My brother's actually. And that's me, wanting my piece of the spotlight like only an almost 3 year old can.  (Sorry, Brian.) That's me, on the left and my older brother on the right. We're sitting on our dad's lap. He was still fixing airplanes at Lunken Airport, where Proctor & Gamble executives used to fly in and out on their corporate jets.

Wasn't I a cute little duffer? I always thought so. It was quite the shock to my system when I learned that not everyone thought so. Of course, one of the reasons that maybe a pitiful few didn't like me was because it took a while for me to get socialized to the point that I realized I wasn't the center of the friggin' universe.

If you're paying attention to the picture, you might notice that I look on the pale side. I'd been sick when the picture was taken.  I was sick a lot.  A cold/ flu that never seemed to end, that kept me (and my parents) awake at night; hacking coughs, trouble breathing, a come and go high temperature.  Doctor after doctor misdiagnosing it. At one point they took out my tonsils just in case that was the problem. (It wasn't.)  I wasn't breathing well, but it never occurred to me that I was sick because no one TOLD me I was sick and I hadn't been around other kids enough to know that not everyone was experiencing life the way I was. 

By the time I was 5, I'd been sick for most of my life.  I almost didn't get into kindergarten on time because I was small for my age.  I was in Kindergarten when I was finally diagnosed correctly, and was sick so much of the academic year that I was nearly held back because of how much I missed. (I was ultimately allowed to make up everything and went on to 1st grade, which just goes to show that kindergarten teachers have infinitely more faith than say, grad school administrators who insist on making me finish late when the delay wasn't my fault but I was well able to catch up. But that's another story.

The diagnosis: chronic asthma, made worse by allergies. These words are far more common now, as are the treatments. But in the late 1970's chronic asthma was considered rare. I was pretty much allergic to the entire outside world. I was started on an aggressive treatment of allergy shots, daily inhaler use, and some other medicines.  I was sent to camps and workshops to learn breathing techniques and strategies that were designed to maybe reduce the amount of medicine I was taking. (It worked.)

My parents were also told to limit my exposure to dust and pollen as much as possible. They pulled the carpet out of my bedroom. I had to give up my stuffed animals. My mom mopped my room, floor to ceiling, every single day. If anyone in a 5 yard radius was mowing in the summer, I wasn't allowed outside. And since we had a next door neighbor who couldn't help but mow his grass, whether it needed it or not, I was always inside. 


When I was 8, the doctors finally gave my parents the green light to let me outside other than school or church.  I had a lot to catch up on, and mostly I didn't. I've never been great at sports; years of having to stay inside and inactive made it that much harder for me to pick up everything from swimming to riding my bicycle. I didn't know it then, but I had picked up a Fear of the World. After all, it was trying to kill me, right?

It took me a long time to figure out that I'd developed not so much a fear of dying as much as a fear of living. I knew it what it felt like to almost die. Seriously.  The body's panic center goes into hyper drive when, for example, you're unable to breathe, and working harder at it only makes it worse. A full blown asthma attack feels like drowning on the absence of air. 

I've been thinking about that time a lot over the last almost three months. I returned from San Antonio on in early March and I've been under some kind of social distancing/quarantine regiment ever since. Not because I was told to, or because I'm sick, other than the garden variety Ohio Valley Funk that nearly everyone living in Louisville gets in the Spring. But because it's been the right thing to do.  I was accused early on of not taking it seriously when I voiced concerns that mass shut downs without a plan in place was a form of economic warfare. I have been accused of being manipulated by one grand conspiracy or another because I wear a mask when I go out and I support social distancing as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The economic warfare has gone on anyway, just in macro. The grifters in charge of the country have used the stimulus bills to rob the country blind while throwing pennies at some of the rest of us.   

But I come back to this picture. Not because I was a cute little duffer, or because it's a good picture. But because at this point, I hadn't learned to be afraid of life yet.  And it does make me wonder, what will come out of the pandemic. What will we learn? Will we learn? I'm not enough of an optimist to believe that this apocalypse, like the others before, will be the grand turning point. This isn't even my first apocalypse; and if you're reading, it's not yours either.  Even if you're too young to remember 9/11, it was an apocalypse that has impacted us for the worse. So learn some breathing exercises. Adopt some strategies... ones that keep you calm. We may be "re-opening" whatever the hell that means, but this apocalypse is far from done. And it won't be the last one. 

05 May, 2020


Yes, it could be worse. My ankle is on the mend, and we were able to get the roof fixed. Springtime in Kentucky means that my allergies, like most people's, have kicked into high gear.  That's the reason I'm not posting a new episode of  Record of a Well-Worn Pair of Traveling Boots; I'm coughing a little too much and my voice isn't its usual, harmonious self.   I'm looking forward to getting back out on the road and having new stories to tell, and I'm hopeful that maybe sometime in this summer I'll be able to do just that.  

Don't worry, though. I'm just taking a break this week from my regular episode and the Patron Only Episodes available on my Patreon Page.  I'm planning on being back in a week or two with another story from my recent or not-so-recent travels for both the regular episodes and the Patron Only Episodes for the month of May.

The pandemic has brought a lot things to the surface: sheer stupidity on the part of protests with dubious ties to right wing gun's rights and ultra-conservative groups; the best in human love and compassion for one another; and the worst, selfish behavior from hording of everything from toilet paper to tofu and a total disregard for health care workers and the people who really do create the wealth in this country. (NOTE: not anyone represented on the President's "re-opening council.")

But one thing that's actually been happening for a while is that well established independent literary presses are in trouble. Late last year, one of the larger independent presses that I very much admire used a GoFundMe to publish collection of poetry.  In today's mail, I received a letter from another independent press of goodly size, inviting me to a monthly membership:

I get it. I really do. It's the same thing I'm trying to do over on my Patreon Page, with my podcast, and with various other writing projects over the years. From what I can tell, there are quite a few people who believe my work is pretty good.  They visit my blog, they visit my Instagram, they download my podcast. True, it started out as my circle of friends, but people are catching on. 

So why do I ask for support? Why don't I just publish a book with some established press? 

Well, I hope to. I really do. Although I'm a massive proponent of self-publishing, I also think the established publishing paths have their worth. Where I tend to differ from a lot of writers and artists is that I don't reject one in the name of the other. This does present some problems since pretty much any poem I publish digitally or in a pamphlet won't even be considered by most other journals, magazines, or online publishers. Some of that is a copyright issue. Most of it has to do with a hold over attitude dating at least to the 1920's about who will be able to claim to have "discovered" someone who might someday be famous... as famous as poets get, anyway. 

And yes. If editors are being honest, their bias against republishing already
self-published work boils down to an unseemly one-upmanship and outdated 
 ideas about the "vetting" process of publishing.

This bias has kept most of the traditional publishing lanes open, with the help of that same snobbery being adopted by most of the grant and fellowship foundations that offer some kind of stipend for doing the work. 

And yet, I find myself wondering what the difference is between a press that uses a GoFundMe, another that offers a monthly membership, and me?

Nothing. There isn't a difference at all. 

But the larger question then becomes not just about me being able to pay my mortgage. I'm one of many upon many of artistic voices. And I believe all the voices should be heard.  Who's job is to support the work of being done now? And what is the nature of that support?

The reason I post so often... on Instagram, on this blog, and in other 
forums... is because I believe  my work, like me, lives mostly on the currents. 

This isn't to say that I think it lacks "value," or that I even think of my work as something that needs to be defined in terms of  "value,"  I put my work out on the wind because that's where all words go, whether they're Art or not. Might as well give the meaningful words a chance to breathe, too. 

About 10 years back, when I was passing around the manuscript of a novel that's never seen daylight... a crime noir-ish thing called Toxicity ...  an agent who wrote me a very nice, personal rejection letter pointed out to me that in any given year more than ONE MILLION books are published and that less than 1% of those are new, still living authors. This was before epublishing, of course. I'm sure that taking into account the number of writers who publish ebooks exclusively on Amazon, for example,  there are significantly more new writers publishing every year. 

But making it easier to publish a book doesn't make it any easier to be able to pay the electric bill, or to fix a leaky roof. 

Most writers I know hustle to sell their own work, just like most of the musicians I know. As a matter of fact, there are more artists hustling for themselves now than ever before because the tools to do so are easy to use, generally accessible, and (for the most part) available at no cost. 

That also means that 

the time we spend hustling, we aren't making art .. a situation that, over the long term, can be self-defeating.

So I hope you'll take that into consideration. Living artists need to live. That includes me, of course. But there's a lot of us. After you've wandered over to my Patreon Page, take a look around on Patreon and wherever you spend your internet time. There's good work being done. Please support it.