Saturday, February 22, 2014

Compressing the 4th Season

You probably know that in just two weeks we'll be turning the clocks forward yet again, "making" the mornings dark again just as they were getting light about the time I get up, and "making" the evenings much lighter longer so that I can sit in my teevee chair and watch the light slowly fade, because damn if I feel like choppin' wood or running the leaf blower or changing the oil or climbing on the roof or and so forth after I've been standing on concrete for eight hours at my job. Yesterday someone at work said that "farmers hate daylight savings time because they can't get out into the fields." I didn't understand that at all--I'd always thought farmers pretty much lived by the light. Who knows.

Last week we were covered with 9 inches of snow, and I was walking up the hill through the woods to where I'd parked the truck, on the other side of the hill we can't drive up when there's snow on the driveway. I said "driveway." I meant "logging road." We had, for a couple of weeks, something approaching a northern winter. Maybe not really seriously northern, as my friend from Three Dog blog would describe it. But kinda. There was no ice fog, which is the real serious physics definition of northern weather. That's the point where water crystals in the air turn to ice. I have experienced ice fog once, a morning in Calgary as we were driving to the airport to head south. It was crisp. But what happens down here is, we just get these every-few-years kisses of "real" winter. Even in the middle of it, when the wood's shrinking down, our non-lizard brain doesn't lose it entirely. This will pass, cricket, it says to us. And so it came to pass.

I got home from work yesterday and noticed that the tin had blown off the far wood pile. There had been a very strong front passing through during the day, with heavy wind and rain. By late afternoon the sky was showing blue in the west--"the weekend's coming" I pointed to my office mate. But I went out to straighten up the pile, get the tin back on top of it and so forth, and when I came back in I'd apparently brought another harbinger of spring, cause this morning there was a deer tick dining on me. When I finish this I'm heading out to buy some wood so I can build a floor for our "shed in a box," which is a tent to store stuff in. I'll need to find the tick repellant too, as I'll be standing in the leaves to do the work. I hope I'll get significant progress today on this task, as Daytona is tomorrow. That's another harbinger.

"The King," that would be Richard Petty, from Level Cross, NC, just up the road, said this week that Danica Patrick would never win a race and was only in the field cause she was a purtty little thang and was good for bidness, her'n and NASCAR's. It reminded me of a bet that a guy I laid bricks and block with back in '86 had with the whole crew and, for that matter, the world. "Richard Petty will never win another race" he said. This was in fact after Richard's last win, although Richard was still running then. It was before Richard ran for I think it was Lieutenant Governor of NC on the Republican ticket. He was doing pretty good too, until one day on I-85 up near Level Cross he tapped a guy in front of him for going too slow. A week or two later he had to drop out of the race. You can look it up.

Richard has of course got a lot of flack for saying that about Danica. Tony Stewart has tossed some high test onto the fire by suggesting that Danica have a match race with the King. What in the world Danica could possibly win in that set up I don't know, and Tony Stewart ought to think before he runs his mouth, as should Richard for that matter. As many have pointed out, The King is 76 these days. But I really did like The King's complaint about the coverage. "I'm not sexist," he said. "I've been married to the same woman for 55 years."

They are all race car drivers, when you get down to it. To be good at it, you'd best start when you're a kid. Danica did. So did Richard. So did Tony. So did Jimmie. So did Dale, and Dale Jr. You only got so much time. If you're good at driving a stock car or an Indy car, pretty much you don't have time to learn about high flown concepts like the special theory of relativity, or the method of carbon-dating, or the social analysis of "sexism" and "racism." Go watch "Senna." As Jimmie says, best racing movie ever made. You can see the end on youtube if you want. Look it up. It's February 22nd here in NC, but damn! Spring is here. Daytona is tomorrow. Hopefully nobody gets killed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Yeah, What She Said

The other day Trey Gowdy (R, SC) popped off about our efforts to make health care more available to all of us and used being a poet as an alternative to being a tax payin' real workin' 'murrican. You can probably easily find what he said. Roy Edroso, at, quotes him extensively, giving me a good fume earlier this week, before the snow. Now although I posted a poem of mine yesterday, and although I do read poetry, and in some sense I am also a practitioner of the art in my small way, Jill McDonough is a "real" poet with poetry awards and books and all, and I am not in her league. But--by gawd she absolutely nailed Mr. Trey Gowdy, third (?) son of a nice doctor from Spartanburg, so Master Trey as well as everything else started on 3rd Base with a nice lead and a guy on the mound who has a sore neck and can't even look over there--Ms McDonough nailed him from Right Field no less, caught him before he could even start to turn back and tag the bag. And, well, HA, I say. HA HA. What in the hell is wrong with South Carolina?

I got Ms McDonough's pitch from Mr. Charles Pierce. I copied it. Here 'tis:

I am an American poet, and I am delighted my taxes help pay for Trey Gowdy's health care. I believe I live in a rich country, one that can provide money to pay for health care even for Trey Gowdys -- Trey Gowdys, who get $174,000 for working one out of every three days, not doing much of anything I can see. Plus which I'm a poet: I just want to say "Trey Gowdy" over and over again. Trey Gowdy is adorable: he believes he lives in a rich country, one where poets just put in a smidgen of time at some magical health-insurance-giving job, and spend the rest of their hours writing sonnets. I'm an American poet, and I am here to say "Oh, Trey Gowdy: I wish."

Being an American poet means that, while I have been writing poems, I have had the following jobs:

cleaning hotel rooms
teaching English in Japan
teaching writing in a high school
teaching English in a Japanese nuclear power plant
washing dishes
making salads
deviling eggs
painting houses
cleaning houses
teaching college writing classes in prisons
tending bar
waiting tables
calling sick people to ask about the quality of their home health care
teaching writing in adult education programs
running an online writing program
teaching writing in a college
teaching writing in a college
teaching writing in a college
teaching writing in ten more colleges

Guess how many of those jobs came with health insurance? Three. And one of those was in Japan. See all those college teaching jobs? Those were mostly "part-time" "adjunct" jobs. That's code for working more than fulltime -- way more than Trey Gowdy, Trey Gowdy! -- but without a promise my job would still be there the next semester. No promise = no insurance. Isn't this better, Trey Gowdy? I promise to keep paying taxes so you can keep buying health insurance. Because we live in a country rich enough for all of us to have health care, even those of us who only work one day out of three, going on the TV machine to talk smack about poets.

The Republican Party is so full of pure T horse pucky it's hard to imagine that any day now the whole lot of 'em won't just explode from the intestin...errrr... internal pressures. Thank you Ms McDonough. I kiss your feet! Here's one of Ms McDonough's poems, which I selected because she mentions the gig in her mash note to Trey:


Women's Prison Every Week

Lockers, metal detectors, steel doors, C.O.
to C.O., different forms, desks—mouth open, turn—so
slow I use the time to practice patience,
grace, tenderness for glassed-in guards. The rules
recited as if they were the same rules every week:
I can wear earrings. I cannot wear earrings. I can wear
my hair up. I cannot wear my hair up. I dressed
by rote: cords in blue or brown, grey turtleneck, black
clogs. The prisoners, all in grey sweatshirts, blue jeans,
joked I looked like them, fit in. I didn’t think about it,
until I dreamed of being shuffled in, locked
up in there, hustled through the heavy doors.
In the dream the guards just shook their heads, smirked
when I spelled my name, shook the freezing bars.
Instead of nightly escorts out, I’d stay in there
forever. Who would know? So I went to Goodwill,
spent ten bucks on pink angora, walked back down those halls
a movie star. When I stood at the front of the class
there rose a sharp collective sigh. The one
who said she never heard of pandering
until the arraignment said OK, I’m going
to tell her. Then she told me: freedom is wasted
on women like me. They hate the dark cotton, jeans
they have to wear, each one a shadow of the other
their whole sentence. You could wear red! she accused.
Their favorite dresses, silk slips, wool socks all long gone,
bagged up for sisters, moms—maybe Goodwill,
maybe I flicked past them looking for this cotton candy pink
angora cardigan, pearl buttons. They can’t stop staring, so
I take it off and pass it around, let each woman hold it
in her arms, appraise the wool between her fingers,
a familiar gesture, second nature, from another world.

Oh look. Gowdy's out again.

[the McDonough poem: ]


Update: not far away from South Carolina, Allan Grayson is running for the House in Florida. He's written a little piece about a beautiful song (poem) by Joni Mitchell, and he quotes the song to start. Wouldn't it be nice to have more Congressmen like Mr. Grayson.


Note: Initially I was under the mistaken impression that Trey Gowdy was the son of Curt Gowdy. My verbalization of this error has been excised from the post.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Buildings Move Up There

I write a poem now and then, some of which turn into songs, although this one probably will stay as it is. I sent this to my daughter Anna after I wrote it, early last fall, and I got a nice note from her about it just this morning. I'm up real early to stoke the stove. I went out for wood to do that. The sky was not quite black, and the wind was a solid, firm current, that cold dry high coming down from somewhere up near the Great Lakes. It's going to mix with wet, warm air from the Gulf of Mexico and probably knock our power out this coming night, and put all of us here in central NC in a state of stasis, all our travelling equipment irrelevant until warmer temperatures arrive in a few days. Nonetheless, the days are getting longer. I'm hoping trees don't come down across the driveway, or across our roof.

Anyways, below is how it looked last September, and a whisper of spring to come. I love all the seasons, and the great cycle of them. I love heating with wood, when we have enough cut ahead. Our last big winter blast, two weeks ago, an 89-year-old lady down the road slipped on the ice on her steps and huddled outside her own door for 24 hours before someone found her. Her body temperature had dropped to 72, but she miraculously survived ok, and was interviewed on the teevee a couple of nights ago, sitting in a recliner in her brick house, warm and toasty, with all the lights on. Her hairdresser alerted her folks because she hadn't shown up for an appointment, which was not like her. They went over to her house and found her. The lady said to the tv lady: "I guess the Lord had more for me to do."

The Buildings Move Up There

On some holiday, perhaps exhilarating Spring
I went with Anna to New York, arriving early;
We walked the empty streets observing vacant
Weedy places where in some while, as throngs
Expected gathered, they would move the bigger buildings,
For the day. People gathered annually
To celebrate and marvel this procession—Anna
Never having seen it, being a young teen—
Part of the fun was introducing her to this amazement,
And she said on the train home,
“Now I know why you come up here.”

I told her mom about it all, later, with the cats
Snuggled round our bed, the cool Fall air in the
Window. It was time to get up, feed them all,
Go to this job I have, where they bring in scrap metal.
What I see there is a big sycamore tree, leaves
Falling at the moment. Behind it are tired clouds
or a cloud bank, or blue sky. In the latter case,
There are also now and then contrails.
The man beyond the tracks burns off his summer garden.
And the shadow of our scale house creeps across the truck scale
In the dwindling afternoons.

--Silk Hope, 9/30/13

(Now and then the big cranes that unload trucks with a magnet roll up to where I sit and clean the scale of nails that might have fallen out of loads of scrap.)

Saturday, February 8, 2014


This is Puzzle and Wuzzy. They got themselves up on the top shelf of a set of crockery shelves that are built onto our kitchen wall. I didn't see how they did it. Cats are climbers. Wuzzy was the one who climbed plumb up to the tippy top of a tree last winter, up to where he had no idea at all how to get back down. I can refresh your memory of this event. (Maybe he'll be reading this blog and also remember how it goes when you don't think ahead.)

Wuzzy's the little black dot up there amongst the branches. I've circled him in red. It looks cold and lonely, and that was in the morning after the long long night, which followed most of the previous day. He probably felt a little like Edward Abbey did that time he decided to explore the alternate route down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Or maybe like that moment when some character on Doctor Who was put into the machine which showed him literally his relationship to the rest of the universe. The man in the boom truck came much later, in the afternoon, cut his way to where he could actually get his boom up to Wuzzy, and then rescued him. Deus ex machina. Not really having a concept of money, Wuzzy didn't even ask about how all this happened to work out so well. He just came in, ate a lot, and went to sleep.

At any rate, as is well known, Houdahenians are climbers. You can google it. There are many websites featuring cat stairs and perches. And of course if you have shelves and furniture, you already have stairs and perches. Same deal if you have trees. But in these times the vets tend to recommend that cats don't go out in the trees, and so there's now a veritable industry of cat stairs and perches, to substitute for the ready made ones you already have. Because cats aren't much concerned with how to get down at the moment they decide (should it be "decide"--you call the evolutionary geneticists and get back to us) to go up. And I definitely don't mean to kid the wonderful critters we love so much about their tendency to exuberance. Mike Tyson has compared himself to a double-bred tumbler pigeon. Those lovely avians get so engaged with their tumbling that they often never pull out of their dives. It's best, Mr. Tyson says, not to breed two champion tumblers.

I've already written about the squirrels in the kitchen ceiling. Living in the woods as we do, this had been a battle for many years, and we've mostly won, except for one very difficult to reach place in the kitchen roof, which is going to have to be dealt with when it gets warmer. I won't go into the roofing stuff, but squirrels, hardy little bastids though they be, would just as soon be indoors during the cold months, and will put up with insulation in their ears and the sense that creatures are near who would like to eat them for a warm cot and some acorns. Thus it is we now have this vector of intersection, between the formerly wild domestic cat, and the still wild squirrel, separated only by some one-by ceiling planks once the cats can get up to the top shelf.

Yesterday the two big brothers were up there, as you can see. It seemed as though the getting down might be dangerous both to them and to the crockery. These two are the big cats. Little Kirby has been climbing up there and getting down by just jumping to the counter, with is about five feet or so. Same with Mokey, who's also fairly light. For the big boys it would be more of a jolt to their shoulders and perhaps internal organs. This doesn't mean that they wouldn't try the big jump. It'd be just whenever they "decided" they'd had enough of being in that particular spot. But I climbed up and passed them both down to Libby last evening, and as far as I could tell this morning, they hadn't been back up again in the night. (In the winter Houdahenians are attracted even more to the wood stove in the back room, particularly when they've been fed. Squirrels? They can wait.

Today I'm going off to buy some one-by-six. I can see a few places for kitty stairs. The snow's held off till next week and it's Saturday. I'll post a picture perhaps. Meanwhile, one other report from the real world. Driving home from work yesterday I saw four dead skunks on the road to town. They were separated by at least a mile each. I'd say we've never seen skunks in Chatham county before a couple of years back. They're very pretty little creatures, and it's sad to see that they have little ability to deal with vehicles. Maybe they can't see too well, or are distracted by whatever it is they're immediately interested in when the fatal car tops the hill. Whatever the reason, we must have a burgeoning population of the critters here. It's another reason to keep the boys inside. A cat could certainly kill a skunk, but there would be a price.

(You wanna see some cat stairs and perches: )

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Cult of Privatization

While the insane right has taken the cult of the individual and run screaming with it out the door and indeed to the far reaches of the highest peaks, the cult itself curls within all of us Americans, sleeping unnoticed for the most part, eating just a little of our nourishment, taking just a little of our energy, being mostly a silent and enjoyable companion. The cult of privatization is the automobile. It drives how we've built the country, and the world is following. And only every now and then is the darker truth of privatization illuminated:

Read the whole damn thing. It's the truth. For many decades we've elected people who don't believe at all in government, in seeing the larger, longer picture. Instead, everything has been built and catered to the automobile and all that way of being implies. What the auto implies is Atlanta, as described in the politico article. And Raleigh, and Charlotte, and Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Putting people in government who believe that private industry can do everything better than government sits atop (logically) the almost entirely accepted idea that getting around solo is the best way to get around. We all want to live out somewheres, in the woods or on a quiet street, mostly apart, mostly alone. There's not enough traffic to each cul-de-sac to warrant a light rail system, and anyways, you have to wait for the next train. Cars is Freedom. Or at least bourgeois freedom. If those million Atlanteans had all been riding motorcycles, there would have been no gridlock (although as I've ridden a motorcycle I can attest that two wheels on ice is a receipt for quick disaster).

The idea of a city presumes organization. The insane right wing disdains organization, is in fact anarchic, and presumes that order derives from some ideal "natural" state of pure individualism. What is ignored is the obvious fact that in some circumstances facts dictate rational individual decisions which when made by everyone at the same time create the opposite of the desired outcome.

Yesterday, the snow having at last melted here in NC, I decided to drive home via the car wash and get the salt off the truck. Too bad. Everyone else had the same idea. Maybe this morning, or tomorrow.


How is it that Mr. Christie and/or HUD privatized the administration of Hurricane Sandy relief funds in New Jersey to a company in Louisiana, and that Mr. Christie fired said company some months ago. Where did the responsibility evaporate? Same place as the pallets of currency that landed in Iraq perhaps?

After the Super Bowl comes Daytona, and the great wheel of the seasons turns yet again.

Humans can easily hold contradictory ideas at the same moment, it is only reality which cannot abide a contradiction.

The Hudahenians are frustrated at the fact that squirrels have returned to our kitchen ceiling. If their eyes were lasers they'd get up there and deal with the problem. Below, Mokey at work:


The Tom Perkins whine has attracted a terrific rebuttal from a person in the know. Give the following a read:

The ways in which money equals power, political and otherwise, are myriad. Citizens United continues to be a great tragedy for American government.