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Sunday
May192019

A Thousand Miles Ago

Sitting there one morning surrounded by grasslands, as close to the middle of nowhere as I've ever been in some time, I can see how doomed my little project is but can't imagine not going on--that's how doomed it is, my little project.

The refrigerator in the RV is 'out' again, and I can't walk to coffee. My friend the writer tells me he's working on his new book, but it's not about poetry as he'd told me, it's about science fiction. We both own a televison no one is watching.

Up ahead, somewhere between Trinidad, Colorado and Sterling, Kansas there's a big Victorian house I can buy for $1,700.00. It's painted yellow and looks good from the outside. A meth addict and his 3 kids have been living in it for the past two years: I don't know this until I've bought the house and opened the front door for the first time and see that what I've bought isn't The American Dream.

By the time I get to Oklahoma I can't wait to get out of Oklahoma. I take the Interstate for some reason, though I'd vowed not to take the Interstates. 

Kansas is so far behind me, those last little towns I stopped in and enjoyed--Wellington especially and Caldwell too. If I was to go back in time I'd settle in a small town in Kansas and live my life all over again.

Thursday
May092019

Chaco Culture, northeastern New Mexico

Travellng, I discover something about my own language and imagine the discovery is very much like an archaeologist discovering an entire buried civilization in the rubble and sandstone of northeastern New Mexico.

My discovery is this: that I have to this point in my life referred to time as something being taken away from me, as in the road from Gallup, New Mexico to the turnoff to Chaco Canyon takes a long time, and the road from the turnoff to arrive at the Chaco Culture Visitors Center, a 20 mi. unpaved road so tortuous that it unhinges the refrigerator in our RV, takes even longer...

Time isn't being taken from me, it never has been and never will be. Time isn't a possession, something that can be taken from me, as posited by my culture and embedded in its way of life, and as embodied in such an utterance. Such an utterance is the way my language is set up within me, the way it's been conditioned and custom-fit for the world I'm living in, and I have the power to change the way I've been taught to think about time by changing my language.

This discovery may seem to you, the reader, to be a small find, but to me it's monumental. It causes me to examine the nature of other utterances, both spoken and written, that I habitually make. That I make this discovery in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a dirt road in northeastern New Mexico after walking for hours through the ruins of Chaco Canyon, a World Heritage Site, only adds to the delight of the discovery.

Thursday
Apr252019

Road-dansters to Yonway*

*Road-dansters to Yonway is the provisional name given my upcoming roadtrip across the USA by Fred Dewey, a writer focused on contemporary issues, events, and discourses, now writing a book for my imprint, IF SF Publishing. You will benefit from reading Mr. Dewey's previous book, The School of Public Life, Errant Bodies Press: Doormats4, Los Angeles/Berlin, 2014. 

______________________________________________________

I'm packing up for a cross-country road trip, commencing tomorrow. 

Haven't gone cross-country since 1969 when I hitchiked from LA to NYC with my late friend Tom McSparran. We lived on PayDay candy bars and RC colas. I do remember getting a ride from Salt Lake City to Ames, Iowa from a nice kid who lived near Ames and let me drive when he got sleepy. Then a ride in a fresh-off-the-rack yellow schoolhouse from Akron, Ohio to New York City. Whether or not Tom and I made it to Woodstock is sealed until 2050.

Getting ready for this trip I imagine I'm feeling what an astronaut must feel just before blast-off, as this country has become a kind of combo outer-space and wilderness to me. We're hoping to stay off the interstates, take the backroads that aren't underwater, and to cross no bridge that hasn't been recently inspected. 

Our small RV is big enough for me to stand up in but not big enough for jumping jacks or yoga, not that I do yoga but Lea Ann does.Commencing officially in southern Utah, the outback. Staying in national parks, showering at YMCA's, splurging once in awhile on a hotel room.

I'm eager to see the infrastructure, that is, the small towns and lonely roads to see if they live up or down to my imagination. I want to meet people who wear Make American Great Again hats and talk to them to hear what they're thinking--I'm pretty sure it's not what I think they're thinking.

The Arches, UT, Arizona, Gila AZ where my grandfather owned a silver mine, New Mex, Austin & San Antonio, up to Kansas, over to Tennessee, Mississippi, maybe Thomasville, Georgia where my mother was born, up the east coast, thru W. Virginia where Granny came from (Moundsville, Wheeling), Philadelphia, NY, then loop northwest, Minnesota, the Great Lakes, Chicago...that's about as much of an itinerary as we have.

No more than 200 miles a day. Taking our bikes, hope to bike Natchez Trace and other biketrails where there are no cars.

I want to see Baltimore too, where EA Poe was born.

Whenever I travel, time compresses mightily before departure. All the things that need to be taken care of--subscriptions cancelled, disconnect the tv, and so on. There's a pile of mail, bills, notices, charities that I'm trying to be conscientious about.

One of these caught my eye! An invitation to join The Academy of American Poets. I read the letters from the Chairman Michael Jacobs and The Poet, Juan Felipe Herrara, a former US Poet Laureate 2015-17. Then I licked their signatures to see if they'd really signed the thing or a machine had signed for them.

A machine had signed. I didn't join.

 Direct mail from The Academy of American Poets, 'Celebrating Poets Since 1934'.

Wednesday
Apr242019

No island is a man

It is now easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

from Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher, Zero Books, 2009

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It seems I'm one of those people who's always looking around for meaning wherever I am. 

I don't claim this as virtue. It's much more like walking around in the dark at 3 a.m., walking as if bolted down and needing to remove each bolt, bolt-by-bolt, step-by-step, so as not to fall, stepping twice with each foot while wading into the trout stream as instructed by my friend in Wyoming, an outdoorsman, and taking the lesson I learned from him in the wild back into the otherwise calm domesticity of my home.

My home: the greatest gift of my capitalism.

To have a home is to know exactly where you are.

At home I know the exact number of steps I have to take to get from x to y in the dark at 3 a.m. In my case x=my bedroom and y=the kitchen. There are 11 steps from the bedroom to the kitchen, 11 down and 11 up. 

In those times when I can't sleep I sit in the black chair, once I get downstairs, and think how fortunate I am to have a conscience that wakes me at night and keeps me awake for however long it likes. A conscience is the greatest gift my parents gave me. My conscience is what tiptoes around at night looking for things it can seek justice for in the morning.

The high school kids I saw yesterday afternoon. 4 of 5 of them just out of school, on the corner of Balboa and 34th, were on cellphones, not talking to someone else but scrolling intensely, each with their head down. I felt sorry for them, I didn't need to but I did. I think it was my conscience feeling sorry for them. Not only did these kids not look happy they looked like they needed to be constantly entertained. I thought, they're looking to their future, a future they're addicted to achieving ASAP.

Going up the staircase I refer to in the prose above. There are 11 steps down & 11 steps up, a dogleg left coming down, a dogleg right going up. Photo by author, August, 2018. 

Tuesday
Apr232019

Jerry Brown and the pendulum of words

1. Another way of saying what I tried to say yesterday--

when I read The New York Times I'm seeing the taxes I am paying to the federal government, the dollars I've earned spinning away from my personal possession and into the arms of the state, a state from which I'm extracting smaller and smaller value and about which I'm dismayed daily--

and yet I continue to read The New York Times, for what else is there?

2. I'll read old poetry instead, poets I read in the 70s and 80s, the minimalist compressors like Robert Lax:

 

prais

ing

 

this 

mo-

ment

 

with

all

of 

his

heart

 

Jerry Brown, ex-Minimalist Governor of California, said of this particular political time that the pendulum swings. That it's swung one way and will swing another. 

The way we use our words is this pendulum.

Lake in Oregon at dawn, photo by author, 2018. Lines quoted above are from the Robert Lax poem "Sea and Sky," from Robert Lax Poems, (1962-1997) Wave Books, 2013.