I am sitting in a Super 8 hotel in Gallipolis, Ohio drinking strong coffee and listening to John Hartford. Today is Monday. I had to look the date up. Last night as I came back from the Mexican restaurant with my crew, I had a thought. I got here by Steamboat, not by road. I know we are slightly down river from the Kanawha River and tied up at the Shipyard, but that is about as far as I left knowing exactly where I am.
For a week, I fired a one hundred and six year old steamboat up the Ohio River. I fancy the idea of an escape. The thought of just leaving everything behind, all that stuff following your bliss, do whatchalike and all that jazz. I am doing that. I just did it. Crossed the threshold! I did not get out of the boat. To render just a lil’ bit more from that good old quote from a river journey movie dot, dot,dot … just as Kurtz, I split from the whole fucking program a long time ago, and so it goes, and so on, I digress often.
I have a story to tell. A river story. My idear is to write a book titled, Drift. Maybe the tale of two rivers. Maybe a tale about me, John Paul, down at Rough River, Central Kentucky hiding away during the beginning of Covid. Maybe my next book will be like Kurt Vonnegut said of Slapstick …
“This is the closest I will ever come to writing an autobiography.”
So, stick with me here. Follow this page, like. subscribe or, whatever. Some new material is coming soon. When I go back to my home port, I plan on organizing all this drift wood that I have collected over these 50 some odd years and make heads or tails out of this that and the other. Y’all come. Y’all come …
He said, “well, you are free!” I was talking to my hobo, rail-yard ghost- train riding friend while standing on the backside of my workplace. A river front life saving station positioned at mile 604 at the Louisville city front on the Mighty Ohio River is where I report for duty. A cold front was moving through whipping up cold wind and waves. I said, “hey, Jonah (my son) turned eighteen yesterday …” And it was a phone call from another world, to my world. In his world he is still roaming around from siding to siding. He just bought his little Big Rock Candy Mountain. His version of Payne Hollow, Walden Pond, upstate Wisconsin. A big river follows along the backside, train tracks bordering his front.
Free? I am free, to a degree. To wonder, wait and hope that all those seeds I planted in that kid, will grow. The strategic subtle mentions. The moral to the stories. The dark places. The radical union meetings, passing motions – all that. And later I realized why I was feeling funny all day. This day would have been my twenty fifth year anniversary with his Mom. But, that is how far away from all that I am now. That date will pass by like the drift in this river. I’ll notice its passing. And as it passes, it may be useful at the time. Might pick it up out of the river of life and admire a little of its worn away usefulness. Might remember something fond of what was an entire lifetime of something loving and honorable to be. Maybe memories will flood in, resembling a town once visited, like taking an unfamiliar exit on a dark- fog filled late night highway or pondering a yellowed family vacation photo of people I have never met.
And in this new brave digital world, photos will not yellow with time. The news articles will not crumble in some stored away manila folder. Family photos may be obsolete in the next decade as computers switch to a new file format. Most of what happens in these so called end days, happens in a place where there is no darkness. And yes, that is Orwellian as fuck. AF. Just as dark as the place I would have to go to continue this prose, uninterrupted- alone and isolated for days on end. But, and most importantly, I am not in that place right now. RN. The rest of the world may, in these pandemic times, be getting a taste of what it feels like to be a writer or a creative person. Creativity strikes, like a virus, and then you are forced to live or die from a want to produce. And sometimes in that place of isolated creative fire, hours on hours going by cutting and pasting, practicing, rolling out words from a place inside you infected with a desire to walk that razor blade of vanity, you isolate. You put on that mask. You do the work of the fool.
The rest of the world may as well be writing the Newspeak dictionary!RN, AF, double plus good, LMAO, emoji this, meme this and that. Time. Dystopian times. In a week we leave on this steamboat to be gone for a week. Clickty clackity, pushing upriver. In many ways, this will be my “hearts of darkness” trip, my “never get out of the boat” moment. I have an active imagination, Y’all. I have nothing to prove, no point to make. I am leaving myth and messages on a forest path of an escape. We will be leaving from the same place Lewis and Clark once left, whitewashing their way across an unexploited Undaunted Courage.
And as I write this prose, history is being retold. His story! The winners have lost control of their narrative. Statues are being taken off pedestals. A great power shift is happening. Things are in motion that can not be undone. All the Gods and Goddesses of colonial industry have been exposed and are dead or dying. The old money can’t keep up with the new developers and their ghost armies of followers and fans. The pendulum is swinging in a violent unmanageable windstorm of change. Heroes and heroine are being defaced and new slogans quickly installed. And all this stream of conscience drifting was inspired by one phone call from a friend. A rail-yard ghost called from a far. An ol’ pal of the Kerouac suggestion of free roaming. The let’s just go and see people. The “if there is a lower class, then I am of it,” folks. This writing might as well be a middle finger to the law and order crowd, or at least, maybe, a message of warning: Your Slip Is Showing. You fascists are losing your damned minds and losing favor with a new generation of electronically educated, self inspired natives. I can hear the far off drums! Can you?