Isolation Report #16 – Hurricane Justice

Isolation Report #16

Shit, Madrid, Kentucky.

(I have received my mission.)

Report : Sunday the 7th of June at 0800 hours. Watchman, swing shift. Mile Post 604, Louisville wharf. It will be my job to take care of two national monuments. One, the only Steamboat left in working condition from the old steamboat days of American River transportation era and the other The Andrew Broaddus. A Life Saving Station that is older than the U.S. Coast Guard. And no this is not fiction. This is really what I am doing right now.

When I first arrived on April 9th, the Covid- 19 was a new bestselling novel and my town was just starting to lock itself down for what was to come. Our corporate lawyer Governor was keeping the peace everyday at 5 pm. with his Andy Griffith style swagger in the form of a daily job briefing slash safety meeting of a sorts – every body find a place of safety, we will get through this, we will get through this together. I am actually glad, he is bringing a much needed calmer voice than the Tea Party dingbat we had before in Bevin, however, this Democrat we got now is privileged to the gills, comes from a lawyer career political family. He has his work cut out for him now. The streets in Louisville now?

Here is the news report:

Hurricane Justice.

Current location, stalled in Jefferson County, Kentucky

Eye Location – Jefferson Square, Downtown Louisville.

Sustained winds of tear gas.

Shops and homes boarded up.

People running for shelter.

Flying objects in the air.

Confusion Break Bones. (FELA)

and BTW, that song sounds like what is going on in my town, look it up. Confusion Break Bones.

This will be my last report from the isolation of this Rough River Location. I will be back staying at one of the busiest intersections in Louisville. Back to the Gonzo neighborhood of town, back to work and back to …. fuck, I don’t know. And that was the point of coming down here in the first place but back when I came, my whole town was not in the condition that it is now. I can’t wait to roll into town. This place Lothlórien, my family hermitage,is awfully lonesome, and that was the isolation I was looking for.

The plan was to come down here and answer some deep personal questions. Take the time to get up in my head and work on some poetry, music, do some emotional reorganization and get back to work when the Belle called. I did work on the poetry. I did collect and compile my songs. And I have as of this word, written 16,000 some odd words of a small book. It feels like I didn’t really get anything done. Except have a vision quest and a feeling of absolute resolve come over me. I got pretty depressed, smoked too many cigarettes, watched too many crazy movies, drove about 1000 miles of back roads, made friends of a few Mennonites and drank a fifth of Kentucky Tavern to boot.

I did stop mourning and now it’s time to Organize. I spoke to the mourning doves! Listened to the owls. Watched Blue Jays have territory wars. This place is a natural fact! I was inspired somewhat moved watching Mennonites work. Their family structure albeit is patriarchal and religious based is quite beautiful Take the good and leave the bad! I feel like I have gone crazy and my methods are unsound. And yes I do quote from Apocalypse Now a bunch, matter of fact I am listening to the Apocalypse Sessions right now that Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead recorded for the documentary, Hearts of Darkness. Once a deadhead, always a deadhead. What a long strange two months it has been.

I am, right now, typing like mad, getting this all out before I report for my mission. I feel like I could punch a mirror and collapse on the floor with a bleeding fist – with blood all over my face naked and broken. Naked. This is me, Y’all. I am worried! It’s time to come home! It takes a worried man to sing a worried song. I am worried now. Deeply worried, maybe even troubled by what I am seeing from the news reports and live Facebook vids.

I read somewheres once that people from Kentucky are always in a state of going home. Well, so be it. I talked with an organizer friend from the Bay Area today for a long time and he talked about Gary Snyder and hwis mountain walks. He gave me an account of what is going on out there in Oakland. We talked about our organizing years ago. We talked Railroad Workers United and Dirty Face and all the Hobo stuff and a possible trip out west.

Today, for some reason, I posted a link to a blog-post about the recording I made with my ex-wife, Tapestry. We did a piece that she was inspired to write from a Wendell Berry poem. And yes I talk about Wendell too much and yes he is privileged out the kwazoo and yes I rode in his truck and yes, yes, yes. And who gives a fuck. I do. Partly my insanity, my Balrog so to speak, that I have been fighting, is all that bitterness of not being able to seemingly get any attention for all the work I did when I decided to quit my job and become a river man. I am a river man. Sort of. I come from the Derby City, where women are fast and horses are pretty, can you hear that thunder, you better run you better take cover, because Hurricane Justice is in town. I digress all the goddamn time Y’all.

I looked up Balrog on wikipedia, I donate to wikipedia BTW, double plus good, and I spelled Balrog correctly. Ok, friends, fellow workers, here is the skinny. Before I came down here, I was making these crazy off the cuff videos and in those vids, sometimes R2D2 would make an appearance. I would ask him questions and my roommate Geoff Gage thought that was funny as hell. When I left the ol’ homeplace to come down here, I said out loud, as I turned the key in my art car, my black stallion – “Set the controls for the Degoba system. Time to go visit Yoda.”

My walking stick that I made from a Sassafras tree was in the back seat. I took that walking stick when I first visited Payne Hollow, Harlan Hubbard’s place, and came on down to the lake to find some conclusions – while my town was dealing with the Corona Virus. I needed to break anyway and conditions were favorable. I did fight the Balrog. I am now John Paul the White. Do y’all get it? All this myth and why? I am hoping this writing presents many questions. I hope young people who understand half of what I am saying will inquire within. This is coming to a conclusion. I am coming home. The war for Middle Earth is upon us. I am leaving Lothlorien, a new man. Really. WTF.

I have to be very honest. One of the other reason I came down here was to find my Anna. That would be Harlan’s wife. Anna Hubbard. I didn’t find her. I tried some Facebook dating, and seriously? I had a fun time making Facebook find all the women who list themselves as “Spirtitual” and whoa was that funny. I got a download that mercury was in retrograde and decided to to some thumb yoga and deleted that APP. Whoa. I did have a visitor. Actually, I had a couple friends come down and that is the point … friends. But, the other night, around a star soaked fire, a friend of mine, I met down river, visited the lake and we had a wonderful night. We talked. And that was all.

Of all the women I have flirted with, she is the one who I do get that fuzzy spark feeling about. She is long and tall and half my age and we are getting to be very close friends. Friends. I am going to have to turn off my feelings for her. I guess that was the lesson I got from that Elder/Student experience. Don’t Stand So Close To Me. Oh, God, here comes word association. The Police, fuck the police, they have been running a little hot. I can barely see the road from the heat coming off of it. Now would be a good time to roll a cigarette, adjust my saddle, reach down between my legs and ease the seat back. God I am so Gen-X … I can only hope Hot For Teacher is next.

So, writing in circles and blowing smoke rings.

This Isolation Report is most likely redundant in some places. It is, what it is. And I must mention again that the woman who crashed her X-wing fighter in my Walden Pond so to say, when she visited ,gave some of the best advice about that worry I was having about talking about Wendell Berry too much. She said, “own it.” She said that down river months ago and it has resonated over and over in my head ever since. And I do own it, in a folkways kinda storyteller way. Now I have lots of work to do because of the inspiration taken from those meetings. I feel like those meetings were me, the warrior, meeting with Wendell, the wise elder, and me, trying not to have a Black Elk Speaks Moment. While she was down here, the woman who visited, that young woman who is questioning her religion and at a juncture in her life, while she was here, our meeting by the river was something to take me away from this life journey that I have been on, it was a nice exit so to say from this highway. We talked about dating and she gave me some real talk. Told me to have patience. We did at least come to a small conclusion, or maybe I did .. we are going to have to stop meeting like this.

So in conclusion.

I’ll be home soon. I have a new found resolve to get back involved in some way in the activism department. I was feeling terribly guilty for being down here, 80 miles away from one of the biggest battles of my lifetime in the streets of my hometown. But … and that is a big but. As a seasoned activist, I am not healthy enuf for front line battles. I am an new elder. However, and that is a transition that make me sound educated. Yo Yo Yo! Steal This Book! Share this story. It’s nuts and going around and around – it is full of name dropping, grammatical mistakes and all that shit. It’s kinda country, kinda city. I am in someways a Southern man, and in someways a hippie. I feel as if I have figured some things out and will be returning to my city, to be in. That’s it … we need a be in. Let’s all BE IN. OK, settle down. Just go home John. OK, I am talking to myself. I think I have gone crazy, maybe a little Gonzo.

So in the tradition of 1980’s rap. I am a bad ass MC. I have a million watts of power coming outta my mouth, making all the young ladies want to scream and shout. With a different beat for everyday of the week, so.

In further conclusion. I am a Fat Boy. Gen-X. Covid19 / LOL — WTF – this is NEWSPEAK 1984. Double plus Good –> Madrid, KY —> GDTRFB —> 8 more miles to looieville —> Slipknot —> Drums —> Wendell Berry —> Uncle John’s Band —> Catfish John —> Ginseng Sullivan —> U.S Blues

enc. Sing Me Back Home.

This has been one hell of journey into the self. I do feel I have left a certain Slipknot. I can’t wait to pack up and come home to whatever the hell this is.

See you on the boat!

John Paul Wright

Dead Set on departure.

Madrid, Kentucky

06/02/2020

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The Kentucky Derby was …

The Kentucky Derby is:

Exactly what Hunter S. Thompson said it was. It used to be just a week long. The week party that was a marathon, a balloon race, a steamboat race, a Friday party and the big shindig on Saturday. And then the corporate folks got involved. Churchill Downs entered the stock market race. And then our week to shine became a non-stop three week commercial for Kroger’s poisonous roses and an international airport that UPS uses to stage its assault on our lungs – crop dusting us all night with the fumes from the interests of some Arab’s region. The Kentucky Derby is a thunderous celebration of militaristic Chinese explosions. It is a celebration of tax breaks, good ol’ boy networks and bonded whiskey gentry politics.

It used to be my Grandma’s hard boiled eggs and a keg of beer in the backyard. A party three yards wide and all day and night long. The Derby used to be the time when us natives sang our hearts out around a basement Germantown bar and then woke up hungover to sing again at church. The greatest two minutes in sports used to be the T.V. out of place, attached to a long extension cord, outside in the backyard. It was Dad, heading over to a bar, Tim Tam’s, named for a derby horse, to take the family bets to the bookie. The Kentucky Derby was my aunts cutting out little pieces of the newspaper and us kids getting to bet two bucks on a horse.

The Kentucky Derby is a Pappy Van Winkle load of bullshit. It is what it is, just like how the corporate sponsors don’t really want to admit, that when their private jets land, they park their flying machines at the Muhammad Ali International Airport. And what most tourists don’t know, is that Col. Harland Sanders and Cassius Clay are resting in peace in the same dirt where Revolutionary war and Civil war soldiers sleep where the rich people go to die. The Derby was, because today it aint, because ain’t is a word, round here.

The Kentucky Derby is the day, I sit, and wish for the good old days to come back. Like when I got to drink my first Falls City Beer or when Grandma would have herself a highball and then dance with ol’ Grandad! Bonded in memory, his IBEW local 369 union family picnic he attended in spirit. The Derby is all that, decadent, depraved, and Hunter was right. And if he was alive, he would have loved our party. The Wright’s FREAK POWER electrician’s – German -American Club singing derby party. Y’all come! Just 3 blocks away from Mulberry Hill, George Rogers Clark Park. York and Sacajawea may be among the living!

The Kentucky Derby is a horse race, built on slavery. It’s gambling. It’s just one of those things us locals have to deal with. Because money makes the horses go round and round. The Kentucky Derby is Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys singing, Run ol’ Molly run, Run ol’ Molly run! Tenbroeck gonna beat you to the bright shining sun! And that is song about the first derby. A slave horse and Kentucky history. And I guess, this was for Ol’ Hunter, like his put himself into the story journalism. The Kentucky Derby is Gonzo!!, always will be.

The Derby is insane and whatever the hell you want it to be! The Kentucky Derby is … on Saturday, the first Saturday in May and I am a Steamboat Fireman, from the Belle of Louisville, reporting – because I am furloughed. And, that is the rest of the story … The Great Steamboat Race, didn’t happen, just like today, The Derby won’t run! It is what it is and we all know the Steamboat race is actually the race to watch, because there ain’t no rules in Steamboatin’.

And if you don’t know what I am talking about, it’s because you ain’t from around here. This is Kentucky! Just like Twain said, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else.” And some people say he never said that, but it’s true blue, just like me, and I am John Paul Wright reporting. Amen and woymen too. And, they’re off. Covid 19 with Andy Beshear riding for the win!

John Paul Wright

Madrid, Kentucky

Derby Day

05/02/2020


Songs for WMMT – FM 88.7

Let’s hear it for Kentucky Mountain Radio! In response to the rapidly developing situation facing our music and arts community, WMMT is calling on local musicians to send them their music! Now this is exactly what community radio is made for! Here is my offering and thanks WMMT!

 

 

Downloadable links

Freedomhttps://1drv.ms/u/s!AtTWGbxiyMZDjBE5ja5PoKu06BIs?e=SGDRSk

Songs Are Bluehttps://1drv.ms/u/s!AtTWGbxiyMZDjBK57e7VgB_YqnUI?e=JZyIHw

The Vision inspired by Wendell Berry – https://1drv.ms/u/s!AtTWGbxiyMZDjBOE8Ro_si0IlAfa?e=p3J2Kt

For liner notes and purchase go here.


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John Henry The Myth – The Flogging Will Continue Until Morale Improves.

John Henry was the second folk song I worked on after I started working at the CSX railroad as a yard switchman. The first tune I wrote was Hub Engineer. We will get to that later.

There was so much going on around us as this tune was being reformatted for contemporary use. A new technology was being introduced, jobs were being cut and morale was at an all time low. Written on the cab wall of one of the railroad yard switch engines, in big black letters read:

The Flogging Will Continue Until Morale Improves.

Remote control technology had been a rumor for a long time and every once in a while in conversation we railroaders would suggest that it could never work, or any version of that argument, however, the union was making agreements, the remote control boxes were arriving and something needed to be done.

I grew up around folk music my whole life!

I was raised by a railroader and political activist! I knew the John Henry story and knew the power of song and being a Sun Ra devotee, knew that myth was important to developing our story. John Henry might as well had been a steel driving man, but we needed a hero. We needed myth and a story. What we needed was good old folk music to the rescue!

After releasing the song, I was sort of concerned because my co-workers were not fully aware of one of their own working class heroes. What was even more troubling, was that the moral to the real folk story John Henry was not being heeded.

Pride killed John Henry, and pride was not going to help us organize against this new technology.  The railroad knew Remote Control Technology was a direct threat to the locomotive engineer craft. They knew the two unions it was being forced on were historically known to fight each other. The railroad worked every aspect of the pride issue and eventually got exactly what they wanted. We were railroaded.

Dumb Boys UTU BLET Fighting Cartoon

Everybody was pissed off, mad and nervous.

Things were changing fast! Operations were changing, two unions were being pitted against each other and something historical was happening and needed to be told. A story. A story about what was going on back in the not so far away past. In some ways, I was embedded behind the front lines of the class war. Sort of a war journalist in a railyard battlefield.

I compiled the song John Henry on a CD titled Music For Modern Railroaders and sold them at the railyard from a clerk van. I think we sold about 200 copies at the yard. The song made everybody who bought a CD from the railroad clerk, laugh.

We needed laughter, bad.

There really was a locomotive engineer named John Henry at the railyard. He retired before the remote control technology was implemented. Ol’ John used to say when the rumors became a locker room conversation, that he would be gone before they came. If you get the nickname John Henry on the railroad these days, it’s probably because you are a company man. You probably need to slow down. He was one of those who would work us out of a job. Slow down! John Henry for ya’ work us all out of a job!

John Henry 2006 from (JP) (rufus porter) 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 allready 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!!