Memories –

Once upon a time Bill Smith, aka “billy lee” a Louisville poet and writer was leaving to go to Ann Arbor for school. He and his wife was moving way too much stuff to a small college dorm and had rented a moving truck. They asked me to tag along to drive eight hours or so, to help with the move. I was in the truck with another feller and Bill and his wife was in a car. He told me he would buy us dinner. So, off to we went and Bill handed me and the driver of the moving truck ten bean burritos from Taco Belle and off we went to Michigan.

Once I fired a steamboat all the way to West Virginia from Louisville, Kentucky. It took seven days to get there. Something like that.

Once upon a time, I called Sun Ra’s house in Philly, to talk with Marshall Allen about visiting him and the Arkestra. He said come on over.

Went to Philly another time and visited a Sufi mystics fellowship and read some works he wrote that were not published. Ate mung bean curry for the first time. Prayed in his mosque.

Once in NYC, I met Hunter Thompson out on the balcony of the place where a group of beat poets were giving a presentation. He stole my lighter after asking where I was from. I told him, Louavul. He said, “yep, you are.” I didn’t know who he was at the time.

Me and Mark Anthony Mulligan drove to Leitchfield, KY once for fun. He was a homeless person and songwriter, artist who loved old gas station signs. We ate at the all you can eat Chinese buffet and then went home.

Hung out with Wendell Berry once in his truck. My son rode in the back with the dogs. We talked about railroading and sheep. My Son ran off into the woods and found some old glass bottles and a turtle shell.

Went to a biker bar in the West End of Louisville with my Step-Father and Mother once. The women were supposed to tack their panties on the door if it was their first time visiting. My Mom went to the bathroom and took off her grandma panties and put them up. She was my hero. I was maybe twelve at the time.

Saved a train hobo kids life once. He was in Nashville, TN. looking to get the hell out of town. I told him he could ride my train. He was somewhat delirious and overheated and needed help. He rode my train in the second engine and drank water and slept all night with his two pit bulls. I gave him my Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.

Once upon a time, I saw Burrell Farnsley sitting with the bronze statue of his father, Mayor Charles Farnsley. He was sitting on the bench talking with his Dad, or so I found out when I asked him if he wanted a ride. He told me, “yes, let me finish talking with my Father.” Burrell used to come to a book store I worked at and bring muffins and the New York Times to the owner.

Once upon a time, in communication with Rumi translator and poet Coleman Barks, Coleman asked if, “white boys can sing the blues?” I told him that they could and that the blues were blue. He sent me a story about when he used to walk the wharf in Chattanooga, Tennessee and see people dancing on the Delta Queen Steamboat.

Was a judge in the Hobo Olympics out in Mt. Shasta, California once. Met guitar Whitey, he was an old Bo’ from back in the day. Took my son with me so he could see rebellious people. Met Utah Phillip’s Son and we played a gig in the town of Dunsmuir.

Can You Bodensee The Mountains?

All is quiet. And I mean so quiet that I can hear that 440 electrical buzz sound in my head. This is so different than the airplanes rushing overhead every thirty seconds and a major interstate right in my backyard. My neighbors used to be The United Parcel Service by way of their world-port and my other noisy neighbor was the main traffic vein of the Eastern U.S.A, Interstate 65. There is an occasional sound of a car going down my street. There is home sounds like the sound of my laptop fan, but these sounds are the noises that I never heard before it got all quiet. This morning I woke up at 6:30. Went to bed aww, about midnight, slept all night and woke up to a dark, creaky old house suggesting to me with every step to the kitchen, that the coffee is so good. So, coffee brewing, time to roll a smoke, and pick up the cell phone and scroll the morning news paper screen.

The weather report around these parts is simple. Can you see the mountains? If you can’t see the mountains in the morning, prolly ain’t gonna be no sun all day. I do this every morning. I look out the kitchen window as I open the blinds and gaze at the far away Swiss Alps. The snow cover fluctuates from day to day. The ever changing colors are so different from the only other mountains I have ever seen. The Great Smoky Mountains are great sure, but this is another thing all together. Now that I have passed my German Language test, I think it might be time to get out and walk around some. The other day, I went fishing in lake Constance (Bodensee.)

Going fishing was the first time I had driven anywhere by myself. I woke early, got all layered up because the temperature was going to hover right around freezing for most of the day. Working as an engineer on the Steamer Belle of Louisville got me trained to handle some pretty harsh weather, but this was going to be the opposite spectrum of the heat of being a boiler fireman. I did pretty good, all for the battery powered heated vest my captain had ready for me. My captain is my wife’s best girlfriends man. And he is quite the feller. His boat is a trolling boat, nothing fancy, however we went in style with sandwiches and lots of layers to keep us warm. I didn’t bring coffee was my mistake and he forgetting the hot tea was his. We talked for eight hours or more and got to know each other pretty well. We caught eight lake trout and all of them were massive. (hehe) in eight hours we caught one what he called small, but big enough trout. To me, a lake fisherman from Kentucky used to bass, it was pretty big.

And pretty tasty I might add.

Cringe Writing

I just just sat down to write. It’s oh, eight hundred and I got my coffee, watched a few reels on IG, and now it’s time to let this reel go in my head. What to share? That is one of the questions I as a writer often worry about. I have the inspirational folks I follow that help me make that decision. There is one poet I know who shares all the gory details of everything he is going through. His past drug life, his cancer, soon maybe death, and sometimes his darkness is so hard and truthful that I can’t get to the end of the writing. He shares his work on Facebook freely. I have another poet friend, a writer, who like me has tried all the ways to be seen and gets an occasional bite here and there. He has a good following on various social media platforms. And one poet I know posts freely on his Facebook poems that seem to come from past works, the poems are at least done, or so they seem to be final drafts. And the question remains. What to share and how much? Do people really want to read a journal entry? Is that writing?

I read an Instagram story recently that mentioned that kind of writing as cringe. That type of in-your-face, here is what is happening and you should watch, me fall, learn, fall again and then look at me now. I am thinking about Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style of injecting his complicated life as it was into the stories that he was writing/experiencing in the moment. Like the time he had to write the forward to one of his books and what he describes as absolute torture (the action or practice of inflicting severe pain or suffering on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.) So I wonder. What is too much to share about personal experiences. Maybe this was the reason Kurt Vonnegut agonized about writing a book about his involvement in WW2. His book about Dresden haunted him for years. Writing seems to go against all the best life practices that there are.

My favorite parts of Vonnegut’s books are the forwards. In Slapstick he mentions that this book will be the most autobiographical thing about him that he had ever written. Timequake he mentions right out the gate Ernest Hemingway’s difficulty in producing a document that was not eaten alive by critics. Breakfast of Champions, he talks about growing older and going over the hill in the form of a roof and sliding down the other side. Letting go of all the things that he didn’t need anymore. He also mentions that this book, Breakfast of Champions, is a registered trademark … (hehe) was a gift to himself for reaching the age of fifty. The forward feels to me like his declaration of freedom to share whatever, however, and in any form whatever the hell he wished even if it was silly and somewhat ridiculous.

So now it is oh, nine hundred hours. I wrote three paragraphs. Looked up two words. Torture and Ridiculous. Well now it’s 9:30 and that is because I got up from my laptop and had a smoke in the kitchen. If this was work, like I was at a job, I took a smoke break. And a flood of thoughts came, so did one of the cats and then a half hour went by. I thought about how I love Willie Nelson’s description of how to write a song. Also his Autobiography, It’s A Long Story. I am an audiobook kinda feller. Audible learner. He narrates the introduction and in that, you hear the writer’s voice. I love that. His book is like meeting up with Willie at your kitchen table and getting to know him face to face. I also thought about an Instagram post I saw this morning with Sting talking about the shape of songs these days and how they don’t have a bridge. That part of the song takes you to a new place. So now back at typing after the break I realize I have come close to answering my own question. And this came after the thought about the time, some twenty years ago I talked with a Locomotive Engineer I was working with about songwriting. He suggested writing about what you know. So a new question comes about. What is it that I know? I know I just passed a German Language test and here I am playing with English. I am a high-school dropout, a self-taught writer, and thinking about trying to follow my bliss once more.

I also know I am in a foreign land starting all over at life at the age of dreiundfunfzig. 53. Jahre alt. I fully understand what Kurt Vonnegut was saying in his forward to Breakfast of Champions. Just keep going and throw all the shit you don’t need over your shoulder and let it all hang out! Even if it is panties, assholes, talking critically about something you love, fucking, family and the lack thereof, community, and the serious need for common decency. I guess it is acceptance or maybe surrendering. Be what it is that you seem to know to be and go ahead and be that. That is the answer. Now what?

Sundi Drive

A quick Sundi drive up to the Tobacco store.

And how many bourbons could there actually be?

Straight down the buffalo trail:

Preston and east on Eastern Parkway to Hunter Thompson’s

(he ran from here like a bat outta hell) neighborhood and

Mark Anthony Mulligan’s streets. Where is he I wonder?

(a homeless angel)

The ol’ Highlands :

And I am talking Louisville, Kentucky blues shit RN.

Behind an ol haunt, in the parking lot of St. Brigid

a homeless man washes his feet from the church hose.

I say, “that’s one way to get Jesus to wash your feet brother!”

Offer a bottled water, he smiles and says, “bless you.”

I always have water in my painted pony art car for this.

Back out to the streets of this lonesome southern wanna-be town.

If you stay here you gonna get stuck here sense of place.

The long way home, through Germantown :

A line around the local little ice cream joint!

And isn’t this a fine day to dream?

I scream you scream :

The radio is playing some sentimental

open road song on the local bluegrass radio show.

A double stop twines memories from the fiddle and

these streets I have ran, explored, they know me.

I know them lamenting like the E minor chord to A minor chord.

This song is a cookie-cutter twenty-somethings bluegrass

new grass mindless recreation of the working man’s blues.

These streets are just like worn out metaphors.

Nobody goes down the dark mines around here anymore.

Mark Anthony Sings, Jefferson County