Saturday, August 29, 2015

Whoah! Really!

Whoah! Really!

I am riding my motorcycle on a long narrow bridge that passes over the Rappahannock river.  This bridge climbs steeply up towards the center at about the mile and a half marker.  Like a church steeple over a deep channel where tall boats go under.  Wide river, over three miles, heavy winds right down the center.  Old bridge, built back before tractor-trailer traffic, no skirt – at all – just a concrete wall right where the yellow line would be.

Just as I approach the tallest section; cannot see over this top, less than a hundred yards of forward visibility -  wham!  Whoosh!.  Some kind of zipper car Daddy bought his little ray of girlish sunshine.  Windows wide open, I can see her ponytail bobbing around, cell phone crunched up between her ear and shoulder.  Maybe, just old enough to be behind the wheel, just barely.

My life, her own life!  Not a consideration.  Hasn’t even processed through her super-girl mind.  How do you get as old as me?  You don’t die when you’re as young as she obviously is.  That’s how.  Truly, it’s as much a matter of luck, as anything.  And anybody who thinks it’s because God loves you and wants you live a long life, or you are, in some fashion, just better than somebody else – well, I think those people are fools.  At her apparent age, I was easily as reckless (yeas, stupid) when I was that young and behind the wheel.  No, no, I was more stupid.

Far more reckless.  It really comes down to not having a clue how quickly shit can happen; how true innocence of calamity can land on your head like a tree bat at a picnic on a warm summer evening.  You taking a bite of your hot dog, sip of beer, then you’re running in circles waving your arms around trying to drive off a flying rat.  Drop the hot dog on your new floral pattern shirt, beer all over your brand new Patagonia cargo shorts.  “boink  - Where did that tree come from –!  Gawddamnit!  “I chipped a tooth!!!”

Or, worse.  Being a High School teacher, I have gone to more funerals of young people who never saw 20 years old.  Prime of life, prime of health and no longer with us, just due to ordinary bad luck.  Tragic to the point that my heart just aches every time I think of it.  Too many times.  Too many times.  It’s not stupidity, it’s not because they weren’t wonderful young people.  Not because they ever did anything really wrong or hurt anybody.  I don’t believe it was even just lousy karma.  Just a matter of standing under the wrong branch under the wrong tree when the crow shits.

However, so much can be avoided by the one principle that has formulated in my own mind as the years have flown by.  And that would be, “Think it through.”  “When in doubt, calmly think it through.”  “Slow down and just think it through.”  “It’s better to be late, than dead.”  You might get yelled at if you’re late, you might feel a bit humiliated, but if you’re dead you won’t hear or feel anything.  You’ll get over being late, you won’t get over being dead.

On one side of that long treacherous bridge is a small southern Virginia town that has … nothing.  A pizza parlor, a place that sells fresh caught fish and a pre-paycheck loan office.  As I say –nothing.  On the other side of that bridge is …  a pizza parlor, a place that sells fresh caught fish and a pre-paycheck loan office.  Plus a gas station and my Doctor’s office.  Which is, for me, the only reason for ever having to cross that bridge.  And I really don’t want to get killed on my way to see my Doctor ,,, about a mole that has changed color (or something paranoid like that).

What’s the big rush about getting from … basically nowhere, to … basically nowhere?  It definetly ain’t worth killing somebody or dying to get there … nowhere.

Yo, happy to see you.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Love and the Confederate Flag

Love and the Confederate Flag

From my house I must take a two-mile access road to reach a country road of the standard two lanes.  It is very rural and very nicely scenic.  Horse pastures and even a golf course.  Not so much upscale as backcountry Virginia.  It’s not unusual around here to have a trailer park at the same intersection as a church and the access to a seriously wealthy country club.

There is a lot of identity confusion around here though.  Half of the local long time residents would tell you they were southerners classic Johnny Reb types –( a.k.a. red necks).  Even though the state is home to a major portion of the nation’s legislators.  Or, members of the Federal Government.  Paid and living pretty high on the hog owned by the general taxpayers.  Still  … big pride in Southern History.

Now my heritage is old west.  Rocky Mountain high-yi.  Cowboys and cattle and sheep and dusty western farming.  So the whole Civil War brain set is really beyond my understanding.  In my mind it’s like, “There was a war between a bunch of bigots who were profiting immensely by standing on the necks of a whole race of people. They believed that the Bible and their white God gave them that situation by divine right – even as a duty.  And they did not want that to change.  They were willing to dissolve the entire nation to keep it that way.  And, a bunch of folks who thought that condition – called slavery – was immoral, plus they wanted to keep the country together as a Unified country. “

So that was history.  It was a war that happened a very long time ago.  The southern bigots lost.  The war ended.  I’ll say it again, the bigots lost.  They fucking lost the war!  So pack up your gear, go home, live with it.  Move on already.  World War II (two) – we fought and died by the millions, on all sides, with Germany and Japan.  Now we’re all the bestest buds. (?)  Even Viet Nam, where tens of thousands of my generation fought and died – along with just as many Viet Namese – and we go there for fucking vacations now!  I have young Viet Namese students at the school where I teach.

What is the issue with the American Southeners?  Still full of bigotry and hate.  And the state motto is “Virginia is for lovers” !!! ???  The flag symbolizing all that bigotry and hate was taken down from a couple southern state buildings.  A good move, to my mind.  But why was it even there in the first place?  After those states lost , why was it even allowed to be flown?  WTF?  But all that aside, even after a huge tragedy that could be directly  tied to that 150 year old symbol of hate, bigotry and flat out failure was deemed to be in violation of basic human and racial respect was removed, a lot of these local yahoos started putting it up everywhere.

Sure museums are fine.  It is history- yes, a major big thing.  Like just about the biggest part of American History after the Revolutionary War – or, say WW II.
History is important.  Vital – in my mind.  I love to study history.  So, to me, the question is not whether local cultural pride in one’s heritage is at issue, but whether the issue of slavery and bigotry are really part – a major part – of what that flag truly represents historically.  Or, are you actually, truly, proud of what your local cultural heritage believed in – fought and died to preserve? 

To be so proud of it would, logically, mean, you would return to that belief, those beliefs, if you could.  (?)  Yes, of course, think Germany and the Nazis.  I have been there, many times.  You will never see a Nazi flag flying from any public building anywhere in the entire country.  Yes, you will see it in Museums.  You can see the Nazi flag in thousands of museums in the United States, as well as much of Europe.  But NOT in public as reminder of proud local cultural heritage.  Nor will you see Japan’s “Rising Sun” flag anywhere.

As you enter the state of Virginia, on any major highway – interstate highway – at the first public highway rest stop, you will see, spelled out in ten foot tall letters, the word “LOVE”.  Huge!L O V E”.  In the parking lot, right there in the same rest stop, parked right in front of this huge declaration of affection and tolerance, you can also (frequently) see numerous cars and pick up trucks with Confederate flag decals.  Some of the pick-up trucks even have huge, full sized – as in might fly from the dome of the state house – Confederate flags.  AND, the license plates are registered in VIRGINIA?  Where the state motto is stamped right on those same license plates, “Virginia is for lovers”.  (???)

Am I missing something?  I don’t get it. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015



What is it like to loose your ambition?

I have lost most, maybe all, of my ambition.  This is weird.  Since I have always been a very ambitious person all of my life – so far.  Of course as an Artist, ambition is a pretty vital component of this kind of career.  I mean, without ambition how does an artist progress?  How do you survive in the shark tank that makes up most of the world that is Art, without a strong, or rock hard, sense of ambition?  Competition either raises your livelihood or sinks it.  How you deal with, handle, the competition defines success or failure.

Or, does it?

An argument with this notion might be, “The artist should work strictly for beauty, the creativity, the expression of their ideas.  Competition shouldn’t enter into it.”  Which, to me, is the dilatant’s viewpoint.  To me, a serious artist who does not feel a sense of competition with other artists is not really trying to progress or increase their skills.  This doesn’t have to be a hostile competition.  Just a serious understanding that it does exist.  The professional tennis player does not have to hate his or her opponent, but they never forget that they are trying to win and therefore defeat another person.  As is said, “That’s why they keep score.”

In order to win, each player must try their best to be better at the game than those against whom they play.  As they do their best to win, they increase their skill – to progress.  But they don’t have to hate anyone else.  They don’t have to be hostile about it. 

And, each artists needs to compete against themselves in each previous professional incarnation, as it were.  Every time I begin a new piece, I try to do it better than the last one.  I mean, what is the point otherwise?   This does not mean that any work done previously is any less valuable.  It is that each successive piece should show some sense of maybe (?) trying harder, or improvement ?  As an artist of over a half-century of effort, that to me is life.  And this is the only fraction of my own personal ambition that remains.

Isn’t this really, mostly, true of any profession, career, life work, whatever?  You maybe start in the mailroom and do your best to work your way up.

At my age and at my position, or stage, in my professional life, I just don’t care anymore.  I don’t mean this in a negative way – like in I have given up.  I am too stubborn – or stupid – too hard-headed to give up.  Even when I have proven, without a doubt, that I am just not all that good at something – like … oh say, painting – I still paint.  I still love to paint with oils on big canvases.  But I know I’m not very good at it.  I do try every time, with a new canvas, to improve, to do it better than the last one.

It’s just that I don’t care if I’m not as good as somebody else.  I don’t care if anyone else even likes what I do.  I have no ambition to prove anything.  When I was younger I had the ambition of becoming a Department Chair, a Director of This or That, a member of the School Administration, a Senior Faculty Member and Master Teacher.  Recognized and respected.  Now I just don’t care about that either.  In the past I have held all of those positions.  I have a track record of being very successful at those things.  Presently I don’t have any of that.  I’m a part time, largely ignored, bottom of the rung, teacher.  My Art is still unrecognized.  Nobody, outside of my wife and children, even knows most of what I have created.  I made it.  Everything I ever made was either sold or traded for something.  I have almost none of it in my possession. And I don’t care.

When I teach, and I have always felt this way, I teach everything I know.  No secrets, No hiding anything.  I push my students to be get better, to be better, than I am or ever was.  I want them to take what I have learned, all that I have done, and show me up.  To me, that’s how Art gets better, more exciting, more intrinsically valuable to our world at large.  That’s evolution.  “That’s the whole point of teaching.”  Students should walk away from a class and no longer need the teacher.

Is it because I have given up.  Once again, no – not at all.  I left the profession and retired for two years and when I was recruited back, I thought, “What the hell, why not.  Being retired is boring.”  So I made it clear that I did not want any position or responsibility of anything more than coming in and teaching and leaving right afterwards.  No ambition left.  And, what for.  I am no longer building a career.

That to me is one of the huge benefits of getting older.  That is, if you have tried your best and accomplished pretty much everything you set out to accomplish, why continue to hump so hard.  Not that I have become anyone of note or some kind of big shot.  I just had a sort of bucket list when I was young – maybe not a big or whoopy-dupey bucket list according to some – but it was pretty big to me.  And, as the years went along, I was always adding to it.  Then, one day I was old enough to realize that it was time for me to move over and let some younger people, with more energy, to take over. 

It just seems to be the smart thing to do.  Sooner or later every alpha gets taken down.  And, that is often a really bloody battle with the old worn out alpha getting the shit kicked out of him/her.  I say, “Walk away when you’re winning, or at least breaking even.”  The alphas who live the longest, I believe, are those that just say, “Okay, you wanna take the lead, you wanna be the first in the battle (every day), fine.  I’m gonna take a nap.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Response to Power

Response to Power

In response to those who responded to by last blog on “Power”.

I don’t allow for open responses to my blogs, because being such a nut-job I have a tendency to overreact and react improperly and just plain weirdly.  It other words, it takes me a while to understand.  Just kind of dense that way.  I’m a very tolerant and open-minded person, but I also process criticism and comments very slowly.  I have no idea why.  It just takes me while to understand other people, unless I am looking directly into their face.

That being said, I always welcome responses and the opinions of others.

Now when I said, “The powerful fall – they always fall …”.  I meant it.  But so many people place different values on what is success or even the definition of power.  So the matter of falling becomes academic – or semantics.  (?) The concept being is it based on money (wealth) or control of other peoples’ lives?  Or is it quality of life, a.k.a. happiness. 

Stay with me here. 

Is it possible for a person to live without fear of loosing whatever it is that person has placed at the pinnacle of their own value system?  Let’s say they become extremely wealthy.  Do they live in fear of loosing that wealth?  I would postulate there does not exist an extremely wealthy person who does not live every day in a constant state of anxiety about loosing that wealth.  I have known many, and the paranoia they display on this matter is obvious.  Plus as their wealth builds and as they age, it appears to become worse.  The same thing is true of those who unethically work the system to achieve power over others.

The assumption is made that since they appear to be enjoying this wealth and power that they are de facto happy.  The powerful who do fall – generally – do so in the public eye and we are made aware of that fall simply due to that fact alone.  To be in a position of separation from the common members of a society as in having far greater and thus distinctive wealth or power is to be, almost by definition, in the spotlight – center stage, as it were.  When they fall, they do so in front of everyone.

A view I have had for many years is that, “If you have little to loose, you rarely live in fear of loosing it.”  I would rather have so little of value in my house (domicile) that burglarizing it wouldn’t be worth it to anyone.  Breaking into where I live is obviously – and I mean obviously – not worth breaking (a door, window, etc.  that I then would have to fix) anything.  The same is true of my car and my motorcycle.  Small, cheap, if either one is parked next to any other car or motorcycle; the one next to it is worth more.  I can walk away from any of these possessions and just not think about them.

What does this all mean?  What am I getting at?  What, then, is my definition of falling as it relates to power or wealth?  In short, I would say I am referring to happiness.  To me the loss of the state of happiness is the fall from either of these conditions.  Whether the public at large is aware of it or not.  As the number of body-guards increase, the height of the barbed wire increases and the self imposed isolation becomes greater and greater until the actual quality of life diminishes, the fall becomes a greater and greater likely event. 

We all truly live within our own minds.  That place, the stratification we feel in the deepest parts of our soul can be a true one or it can be a fictional one with which we have replaced reality.  Wealth and power are external and assumed positions based on temporary holdings. And since every life at the end is stripped naked taking nothing at all with it into the void beyond (or whatever – there is no factual evidence for anything else), that which is external and assumed is by direct comparison fictional. 

The swiftest might be able to outrun the wolf, but only as long as they keep running.  If they ever stop running, the wolf (reality) wins.

Thanks for reading - 
Love, dance and do jazz hands.