Wow, seriously this Müsili with cinnamon sugar is great. The cats are all about the kitchen. Looks like it’s going to be a good day.
Month: March 2023
Welche Arbeit kannst du machen? (what work can you do?)
I should be learning German. I am here, right? Might as well get to work. It’s Samstag. Saturday around noon. Got a nice fire going and the cats are napping. So is my wife. I made a cardboard box hotel for my cat. Sunny. The cat’s name ist Sunny and he is a Siberian. Fluffy AF. Very fluffy. Kind of acts like a dog. Sunny meets me in the morning when I drink coffee. My wife and I have been nursing him from a sickness that we recently found out was a tumor. He is about 14 years old or so. Vierzehn Jahre alt.
The cardboard box hotel has windows and a small piece of cardboard for the window overhang. I wrote Holiday Inn Express on the side. Sunny owned it as soon as I put it in the living room. What is funny to me, living here in this little town of Lustenau, is two things. One, the dialect here is thick, just like in Louisville. Loosch no … Louavul. The second thing that is funny to me is the Holiday Inn on the outskirts of town as well as the McDonald’s.
Vorarlberg population 400,000, salut!
The Alpine mountains, a very large Lake Constance, Switzerland and a few small towns. People have been living in this Rhine river bottom land for a long while compared to what I am used to in the USA. The small towns don’t have much growing room with the lake and mountains as natural containments. My wife and I joke about this place being like the Hobbit Shire lands in the Lord of the Rings. When I walk along the Rhine and look south, I think about Gandalf and the boys up on the snow covered mountains or the beacons being lit to signal Gondor for aid. In the Spar grocery store they are selling “Blackout” boxes.
The boxes are quite fancy prepper boxes prepared for the “possible” power blackouts. In the info-book the Local Government sent out, the “possible” blackouts are said to be due to the electric grid “possibly” being overloaded. I put quotes around possible because the issue seems to me to not be that much of a big deal. Something that is possible would seem to require some sort of plan, one would think. The box at the grocery store is the only tangible thing I have seen, and that is being sold, not provided. The boxes contain a set of walkie talkies, a cooker and a crank radio. At least we will get to play with walkie-talkies, build fires and listen to the radio, right?
I have not been out in the towns as much as I could because being here in this house is much easier. When I shelter in this place, I am not spending money. Waiting for winter to break and living like a cat seems to be the “new me.” I am living a writer’s life so it seems. I have plenty of time, coffee, cigarettes and several projects that I could be working on. Poetry. There are Kilos of poetry from 2018-2019 that is sitting in this computer waiting to be edited and turned into a book. Then there is a load of writing from 2020-2021 to work on.
Lustenau and Louisville have many things in common, especially if you think about Germantown, Schnitzelburg Louisville, compared to here economically. This is where not going out as much as I could comes into play. I have had limited social interaction in the short amount of time I have been here but my eyes take it all in and people are people ya know. English is the second language. There is English all over the place and then there is the Holiday Inn, Micky D’s, and the Dunkin Donuts in the mall in Dornbirn. The mall is American style capitalism out the wazoo. I saw a kid with Levi’s jeans and a pair of Air Jordan’s looking nothing like what one would think an Austrian Volralburger would look like. Not to mention, I met two kids at a new friends workplace, both kids were under the age of six, both speaking English learned only from watching YouTube video’s and playing PlayStation.
Welche Arbeit kannst du machen?
What work can you do?
One of the ways I have been spending time has been listening to a radio show from the USA with my wife. We cuddle up on these long Austrian winter nights, build a cozy fire and stream A Way With Words.
An upbeat and lively public radio show and podcast about language examined through culture, history, and family. Language debates, variations, and evolution, as well as new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, word histories, etymology, linguistics, regional dialects, word games, grammar, books, literature, writing, and more.
Some of the work I have been doing, as a writer:
Going to Linguistic school via Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett as my professors
Getting a German Language A1 certification from the Goethe
Procrastinating and petting cats
My wife loves the radio show as she has a very good grasp of English. When she was in school the emphasis was on British English so for an American English as a second language student, this show is an amazing resource. In the show, there are many German influences and it seems Martha Barnette loves the German language. It’s fun to see if my wife has heard the phrase, word, or dialect. I like the show because Martha is from Louisville, Kentucky and we share a love of the southern American twang. Grant is the same age as me and a Father. I like that too. GenX’ers Unite! If I would have went to college this radio show would have made a great class. I am a self-taught writer and always looking for new inspiration and knowledge.
So, not really work but …
Last night’s show had some writers advice.
- Don’t go back and edit as you write. Get it all out and then maybe edit.
- Memoirs can be tricky.
- Be honest when writing memoirs.
- Be careful … people read into things.
- Be mindful.
I could go on and on about all the advice from the various shows and what is listed is not an exact list from the show. The crazy part is that we are at page 30 with a total of 80 pages. Six shows a page, so there will be lots more advice. But what about the elephant in the room? Arbeit. Work. How am I going to contribute to this Austrian European social democracy in the way of taxes? I guess another list may be in order?
- play music at the marketplaces
- continue trying to get people to donate to my writing
- make another recording
- finish these poetry books
- get serious about writing a memoir
- get a job doing something
- Be a cat
I have a very part time job lined up at a small factory and here we go with another chapter in my working life as I have already worked as a factory worker in a woodshop, briefly in a pipe organ factory, was a railroad worker, a contract artist, chef, dishwasher, deckhand on a steamboat and then the fireman. Worked as a deckhand on a casino boat, tele-opinion survey collector, drove a van for an afterschool Christian arts program. I think I would rather do the music and the writing part, however, I digress, often.
I think I am having my, You Can’t Go Home Again moment in life. Thomas Wolfe wrote a book about his hometown and when he goes back home again the townspeople are pissed because they think he wrote the stories specifically about them. He then goes on a trip to Berlin and writes critically about Capitalism and Nazi Rule. Something like that, but not that, but, I read the wiki and I think you know what I mean? No? What I am trying to say is …
I look back at the writing on this blog and see that much of it is about wishing for something to be taken seriously or, talking about the good ol’ days and the critical analysis of the downright amazement of whatever it is that I am doing at the time. I wrote extensively about spending several months alone at a Lake house in Central Kentucky during the pandemic. Wrote the Isolation Reports there. Then the shit hit the fan in Louisville when the Louisville police shot Breonna Taylor and an all-out war erupted with the police department that went on for months. Feeling like I needed to be part of the struggle, I came back to Louisville to continue living in a little outback garage in the Louisville Highlands neighborhood. The eerie sound of helicopters, nightly street protests, and police sirens. Thinking back on that time now?
Jesus, it was a surreal time — so,
work. What am I going to do over here in Lustenau, Austria? I plan to grow some food in our garden. Take a few trips up into the mountains. Probably go fishing with my new friend on the (lake) Bodensee. Oh and visit Einsiedeln, Switzerland. I guess this is the You Can Go Home Again moment? I met my wife on Instagram.
She searched a #(hashtag) #RailYardGhosts and found me from posts about a railroad Hobo folk music click that I sometimes do musical projects with. When we first started talking my now wife would only text because she was embarrassed by her accent. So we wrote a few books worth of conversation back and forth as I stood watch at the Belle of Louisville steamboat. One of the many things we texted about was how funny it was that the family tree on my Wright side was all about this little town in Switzerland very close to her home in Austria.
We talked and talked and then when she was comfortable we video chatted and then stayed connected all the way through the pandemic. After waiting several months for travel to resume, we met in person. While we waited we talked extensively about the way her life quite resembled mine as a child. A very tight knit family, small town atmosphere, she railed against male and female gender roles. I told her about a mouse that took a long journey and then when the mouse left the community, the little mouse couldn’t go home again. Well, kinda. That is a very long story made short from a teaching story I read many moons ago from a book titled, Seven Arrows.
So to break one of the rules I heard on A Way With Words, I’ll go back up to the top of this post and do some editing and attempt to sew all this together. I should be learning German. I have a cat that is somewhere about fourteen years old. I am married to a woman from Austria and have a fire going. It’s winter, I could be getting more involved in my local community and should be doing something with my life.
Seems as If I am doing it? Whatever it may be. One of the other things my girlfriend then and now wife talked about on our long calls across the pond was the hero’s journey and escape. I have been on many an escape drifting far out in the metaphorical seas of change. I am doing exactly that and fear I may not be able to go home again. Home is not in Louisville, except in the form of close family and an old job. I joke that when I go to Einsiedeln, I hope to find a lost castle that my Kaelin family owned and then I will move in and live the life of a Catholic Monk. Never been one of those.
But to mention the Holiday Inn and McDonald’s again.
I have many thoughts when I notice the USA coming in or when I see the English at the store and other places. Meine Muttersprache ist peripheral most of the time. Where is home? Wo ist Zuhause? This place, Lustenau, is suffering many of the same issues that Louisville suffers when it comes to outside entities sucking the place dry of culture and money. Some of the few books I brought are by Wendell Berry and Rumi books by Coleman Barks.
The stories in the Wendell Berry books are interesting if you think of Lustenau, Austria as being Port Royal, Kentucky. It’s the same story. Small river town, local traditions forgotten, the good old days sprinkled everywhere but fading fast. According to Wikipedia this place was once known for its embroidery industry and currently for technology. I guess it is known for its McDonald’s and Holiday Inn Express? As for the Rumi books … have you ever heard Coleman Barks read Rumi?
John Henry 2007
John Henry 2007 was written about the rapidly changing work conditions at the CSX Osborn railroad yards in Louisville, Kentucky. I had a feeling in my gut I should use my knowledge of folk music to document the historical changes in railroad operations that were occurring. I also knew something historical was happening and the people involved were not happy about it. John Henry 2007 was written to help lighten the mood for what were some very stressful, combative times as the union, CSX Railroad and the workers were all trying to make heads or tails out of what was being forced upon them.
At first the song John Henry was a sound file recorded with my phone and emailed to my local chairman. He then sent the tune out to everyone in his email box from the union and even to company officials. The tune was popular and my co-workers encouraged me to keep writing music about railroading. That’s when the CD Music for Modern Railroaders was born. With the help of a few railroad clerks who drove the yard van transportation, we sold about 200 copies of the CD.
When I was “hired in” five weeks of schooling were required. The soon to come changing work conditions were quietly mentioned at railroad school when I had attended five years prior to writing the song John Henry 2007. One of the instructors at CSX railroad school mentioned that a new method of railroading was just around the bend, however he also mentioned that he was happy he was retired and was not going to see any of the changes. That is it. That is all we discussed, just about fifteen minutes worth of, “one day they are going to run trains with one man.” We had a short talk about remote yard operations, a slight mention of what a remote was and that was it. Before the remotes came, nothing much had changed since about the late 1980’s when the cabooses were taken off the trains.
This song is a re-write of the classic John Henry folk song about a steel-driving man. In the tradition of Joe Hill and the I.W.W., this is how folk music works. You take a well known song and re-write it to fit the needs of the time. Workers on the railroad get a nickname and we had a John Henry. He was an old locomotive engineer close to retirement and agreed with the old railroad school instructor. He was happy he would not see the remotes and retired just before remote control operations started. He certainly was the inspiration for the conventional job as they called it back then. Osborn Yard was one of the first on CSX to implement RCO operations in the yard. The story in the song is actually pretty true to form as the implementation went along. Lots of tweaking the system, failures, lots of number crunching, derailments, and near misses.
John Henry 2007 To all my brothers and sisters in the BLE&T and The UTU! Well John Henry he was a locomotive engineer Workin' down in the Osborn bowl. And he looked at his switchman said you Better git to work. We’re gonna beat that RCO. Gonna beat that RCO! Yankin’ and a Pullin’ on them cars with his Switchman working as fast as he can. Ol’ John is a thinkin the whole time, A Machine aint gonna beat a man. A machine aint gonna beat a man. Well the groundhoggers came out of the shanty And they looked at the 6022. Said to each other as they switched on their boxes, Ya know we got a lotta work to do Ya know we got a lotta work to do. The groundhoggers were havin' a little problem. They couldn’t get their boxes to link up. Between a poll off-line and a comm loss, They wer’nt having a very good time. Seems like it happens everytime. Well the groundhoggers hollerd at the bowl. BOWL TOWR We’re havin a problem linkin up. We’ve tried everything we know how to do. I guess we’re shit outta luck I guess we’re shit outta luck. The tower hollers to John Henry. Come and get this engine outta the way It’s blockin the East and we gotta pull some cars, I guess we’ll convert one today, It seems like it’s better that way. The groundhoggers sat in the shanty, Waitin' for a Big E to come and git er done. John Henry and his switchman already pulled 300 cars! That RCO job pulled none. But it’s safer when you sit on your bum. There is a reason for this story, Corporate greed is killin this land. If we don’t do something and ORGANIZE. Say hello to the ONE MAN PLAN. That’s talkin Union! They wanna run trains with one man. Roll the Union on!!