Time Capsule – (A guide to Faith in the modern world)

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Time Capsule –

(A guide to Faith in the modern world.)

Introduction

First and foremost, I guess this is my Autobiography. I am sort of killing two birds with one stone. I want to leave my Son a good idea of who his Pop is/was. I have wanted to write a book about faith, God, religion, politics and all the things you are not supposed to talk about at the Thanksgiving dinner table, for some time now. I want to tell some tall tales, maybe, help you make heads of tails out of this that and the other. I want to lay down some Myth, spit it on the mic! One, Two, One Two, mic check, testing testing, Houston, we have a problem. I digress often.

To write about what I believe, I think it would be important to state what I do not believe first. Then, write about certain events throughout this life ( of a half century ) that have fortified what I have come to believe as of now. Today. This year. I also think that it would be important to give a bit of a historical context to the make up of the unreasonable reality from where this rendering of a life experience is coming from.

If there was one thing I would want to shine through this writing – that one thing would be a light of hope. I am dedicating this book to my Son, Jonah William Malik-Wright as well as dedicating this book to the youth. The new generation of seekers, poets, musicians and kids. Generation ?, whatever the hell THEY are going to call you to try and get you to buy some shit. THEY call me Generation X. With a big G.

I do not believe in God, Our Father, who art in heaven. I do not believe God is a person, place or thing. I do not believe that God lives in stone buildings, built hundreds of years ago or that God can be found in a book. However, I do think, Bob Dylan was on to something when he sang, “you don’t ask questions when God is on your side.” You will notice the word God will remain capitalized throughout this book.

That is because, although I do not believe in the traditional suggestions of God, I do believe in positive and negative. I do believe that at one time, there was a Buddha, a person named Muhammad, (pbuh). I think the Veda’s are interesting as well as Jedi, Hobbits, and the Ring of Power and the Force and all that jazz is … I have seen the H.H. The Dalai Lama twice ( bless his heart! ) and not to mention, no matter how you feel about Jesus, in most hotel rooms in the USA, there is a Bible. So, Jesus exists there for sure. I would not call myself an atheist or an agnostic. I am a serious fan of Sun Ra. Space is the Place and dig this as we kiss the sky together, in my opinion, when Jimmie Hendrix played the guitar, I think he was tapping into that place where God is located, I feel the same way about John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and friends, dig this …

I was a deckhand at the largest riverboat casino in the world. The riverboat casino is an idea that is almost defunct. Defunct. When the Ohio River flooded, the company I worked for put us up in the casino hotel while we worked the boat. The company I worked for was Caesars. Get this, there is a Bible in the top drawer of the hotel, named Ceasers. WTF, LOL, SMHROTFL double plus good … go figure. Render unto Caesar the least as possible is my faith. Amen, and Womyn too. Good luck, you are going to need it.

Forward

The year is 2020. I started this book on March 22nd . There is a global pandemic that has spread across the globe and in a manner of weeks has shut down the economies of almost every country it has effected. Covid 19! A flu that attacks the victims respiratory system. The political fabric of the United States is split almost 50/50. There are only two political parties one can choose from and Corporate America has found favor in a President who infamously made his wealth by bankrupting the many businesses that he has owned. The POTUS rose to power from the fame and name recognition of being a media mogul, hotel / casino slash game show host. Go figure. LOL. SMH. Double minus good.

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where this book is being written, a Corporate Lawyer, son of a deeply entrenched Democratic Party political family is the Governor. The Kentucky Derby, a horse race built on the exploitation of horses and human vice has been postponed for the first time in it’s many year history. I have been furloughed from my job as Steamboat Fireman on the Str. Belle Of Louisville and am enjoying the hush money the government is giving out so as to keep people from hitting the streets in protest. Amazingly enough, there are pockets of people protesting. Some of the protesters are being paid to protest by right wing front groups, so I guess they are not employed? Who knows? The people who normally are accused of being paid protesters are accusing these folks of being paid protesters, so it is pretty confusing. If what they say about the Flu is true, Darwinian theory will tell the tale of the protesters assembling in groups to protest being paid to stay home. I am worried about small local business, however, I digress, often.

Except for the fact that Capitalism is still the economic policy of this country and most of the developing world economies, everything is going just fine. Past the normal levels of poverty and protection of the status-quo and unknown levels of violence and disaster from the results of various wars against people, small farmers and land . In the United States, War has been subcontracted out mostly to private mercenaries for the free trade use of the global oil and gas companies. Most of the population of the United States could not tell you where the United States Military is active or non active. The Internet is the main media source and Facebook ( a crowd sourced media platform built on human vanity ) is the mainstream media choice for many folks in their 30’s and older.

Christian Religions still find favor in the hearts and minds of a few pockets of American society. Science and Reason still exists, thank God, and folks are generally aware automation and technology is looming just around the corner to replace most repetitive jobs. The first self driving cars and trucks are being manufactured and tested. Freight trains are almost self driving and there are rovers on Mars still sending information back to a mostly privatized Space Program, Yet, we still do not have high speed rail. Many of the highest selling video games being marketed to the gamer populous are dystopian first person, doomsday, thematic, drone training exercises. Eastern religions and new age belief systems are on the rise, Yoga is a popular past time and there ya go, have at it … Let The Games Begin! Basically, everything has gone to pot. Weed is almost legal in every state in the nation. CBD oil and THC, USA and … GOD, guts and country.

John Paul Wright

Madrid, Kentucky

2020

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This morning, I think the third day of leaving Louisville for the solitude of the lake, I wrote an inspired piece and published it on my blog. If anyone is interested in Rumi poetry, I have studied that work, been to many of the sources and the piece is chocked full of tidbits of information about how Coleman Barks came to be one of the most popular poets in the USA. I sent him a link to the article. The last time we talked he told me a story about seeing the Steamer Delta Queen in Chattanooga.

Went to town. Was going to go to town yesterday but a wind storm blew a tree over the road and plans were changed. Nothing much going on in town. Walmart was not as busy as I thought it would be, finally got a good loaf of bread. Their two for one dollar pies need to not be on sale. I am a sucker for a good pie and they are not bad. I hate Walmart, but, and however and say no more, nudge nudge, going straight into the heart of American culture is fun sometimes.

The Mennonites are planting their gardens. Plowing their fields. They have a big pile of horse shit and dirt piled up to spread over. Got a wave from the woman who makes quilts and also repairs them. Her gardens are ready to go, she has greens in the green house and many chickens in the yard. The windmill at the other big house was spinning. I think they use it for water pumping.

horse

The Mennonite boy was plowing today. He has five big workhorses tied up to a plow. I have watched him season by season become an experianced field worker. A couple of seasons ago, I watched as his father taught him how to plow using the horses. He was about nine and it looked funny seeing a kid in charge of that much power. Five big horses. Big ones. Beautiful. The fields, absent the tractor plowing, really look amazing. Brown, rich, ready to work!

Played the Banjo a bit today. Went on a walk down by the lake. The water rose about 3 feet with the rains. Got a bit of firewood split yesterday when I thought the electricity might be out for a while. Got plenty of good food. Polished and sharpened an old kitchen knife I think was my Grandma’s. That is what I love about this place. There is a little bit of my family everywhere.

Talked today with my buddy Paul Hassfurder. Paul inherited the hand built house that Harlan built when he was in his fifties. We talked about what Harlan Hubbard would have said about this pandemic. I think about Harlan a-lot. Paul is always good for a Harlan story. I bought a peach pie today because the last time I went to Payne Hollow we stayed up late and eventually ate a whole peach pie together by the fire. We sat up all night talking about art, music, and he would tell stories about the Hubbards. That memory of that night is good for peach pies.  I will not forget the story he told about when Harlan was bit several times by a copperhead on the foot.  What a fireside story. While I visited Paul, I read Harlan’s Payne Hollow Journal sitting by the fireplace that is illustrated in the first pages while sitting in the chair he wrote the book in. 

The plan for the rest of this evening will be to drink some more of this good decaf coffee, fart around, finish listening to this Idries Shah podcast. Might play some guitar, might not, might work on some poetry, might not. Might build a fire and sit by it and call it mediation. I am good at that.

March 14 – 2020


A possible chapter one? **draft**

It’s a picturesque nice fall day in October. Rich yellows and reds are reflecting off the Ohio River creating a sunset glare that makes it hard to see out my car windows. My name is John. I am a father, a son and a rail-yard ghost. I am starting a new career at a riverboat casino. The place called simply the boat by the locals, is a massive riverboat that does not go anywhere. Seriously, I have been hired to be a deckhand on a boat that has only one function. To render. Render what is Caesar’s has been going through my head as I walk the long hallways that lead from the hotel parking area to the almost a half mile away casino area. Ceasers was the previous name of this place. Now it is called the Horseshoe.

Last summer I decided to get a job on a steamboat as a deckhand. That almost killed me. Sixteen years before jumping ship, I was a locomotive engineer. I sat on my butt and pulled a throttle, then after a few years on the job, I was replaced by a computer. After years of manually running trains it slowly became my job to blow the horn and babysit a computer while it did what I had so painstakingly learned how to do. Demoralizing to say the least. And I could go on and on, telling railroad stories. Killing people with trains, hitting cows and dogs. Long nights, cold steel rails. All that stuff of lonesome blues Americana.

Many times this week as I walked from the training room to the bathroom, I caught myself speaking in a low tone asking, “what the hell have I got myself into?” Just today while washing my hands, I looked into the mirror and said, “Oh God, I look like my mother!”

Last night was my first shift at the boat. As I walked into the deckhand locker room, coffee was brewing. The locker room reminded me of the many 1950’s style railroad shanties that i had reported to work when I worked them cold steel rails. Old men, lockers, union stickers and newspapers. The size of this vessel is insane. The hardest part of last night was remembering where you were in belly of the whale.
And that metaphor, be it the biblical reference that it is, is epically applied. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. And that rendering was happening all night into the wee early morning hours. Money. This new experience is going to be a trip somewhat liken to a trip into the hearts of darkness. “Never get outta the boat,” was the lesson from the old vietnam era movie Apocalypse Now.
Flashing lights, bells, sounds, people walking around tipsy like zombies. Regular old folks and their working class conversations in the card dealer break areas. In the belly of the whale. If I was a religious man, this whole place exists for sin. If money is at the root of all evil, then this place is certainly a lesson in “whatever floats your boat.” It is what it is.

– The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died –

That passage comes from a book by Joseph Campbell titled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and explains perfectly what I am hoping will happen over this cold third shift winter experience. I am approaching fifty years on this planet. This job is another bullet point, another journey on a resume that is very hard to explain.
The work is mindless, repetitive and to some would be considered demoralizing. We take out the trash. What I hope to gather from this new employment is time. Time looking out over the vastness of the river south of the Falls of the Ohio. Time driving out a river road that I used to travel everyday some twenty two years ago. I am going to fantasy that the native people, whos artifacts this place is built on, will also be in the belly of the whale with me, protecting me on this moored excursion.

FXEU7592

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!!