Monday, August 24, 2009

When I Look Into Cynical Eyes

Guided By Voices has really been speaking to me of late.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lunchbox Kid Hanging Out With Electric Jesus

My grand plans to put up all of my primary and elementary school pictures are done. I’ve decided they are better placed on Facebook, so instead of finishing that plan I’ve decided to spotlight failure today.

Believe or not I strive for quality here at Soulfish Stew...well most of the time. So that means a lot of posts are started and then left to just take up space on my hard drive. I find it difficult to let go of these orphan posts because sometimes they provide the foundation of another better one. Most of the time they don't and they become like all of the letters unsent I boxed up many years ago. They'll be dragged out once every few years and I'll muse upon them perhaps receiving an emotional charge of some sort before throwing them back in the box and into the attic.

So instead of letting my discarded blog post attempts suffer the same fate I've decided to do a very stewlike thing with them. I'm going to post all of them here today no matter how impoverished or undeveloped they are. First up is what was supposed to be a fever dream spontaneous composition type essay ostensibly about hanging out in Murfreesboro on a hot summer night during the 1985-1987 era. It's actually filled with lots of true things, but it's all so obscured and edited in a way that one shouldn't be able to tell whether it's real or fiction unless you actually know the people.

I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Electric Jesus and his troupe of happy groupies....E.T. used to hang with him when he'd wear his Jesus robes to the game room slash driving range next to Interstate 24 where we'd go to play pinball and then watch people hitting golf balls placing side bets on how many times the little carts retrieving the golf balls would get struck. I imagine you'd get used to the sound of the golf balls like tin roof rain...E.T. had one side of her head shaved and it just wasn't the same as Michelle bobbing her hair, but DD wanted to look for the girl in the Mustang so we'd hit the Memorial Boulevard strip before the merchants and police put a stop to the cruising and we would look for the beautiful girl in the convertible Ford even though we'd probably never even talk to her - she was like fine art on wheels - the exemplary model of teen socialite boredom. People would bring lawn chairs and just sit and watch the poets of the street night weave by and through and around their lives. We were all just little satellites in orbit. Frisbee parking lot and DD would also dream about Carlson and I would dream about leaving town for good, but those were just shimmering asphalt mirages too - I'd barrel across county to work at Mazzio's all week just to pay for some Friday night pyramids shotgun bongs skateboarding and torture chambers of youth.

Next up is something titled the Sedaka Theory Of Relativity. It’s about writing and failure with the ultimate outcome being the failure to even complete the blog post which is apropos.

I used to think I was one hell of a writer. I was going to light cherry bombs under the entire literary world and watch them scatter. I had read Kerouac and Kesey. Burroughs and Bukowski. Worshipped at the clay feet of musicians thought to be poets like Lennon, Morrison, Dylan, and Reed. I wore a DIY anarchy button on my thrift store sportcoat and got kicked out of high school assemblies for rowdy behavior. I was ten years ahead of my time in my mind floating around in a miscreant cloud of synched in and out psychosis that was perhaps merely mild narcissist agoraphobia or Asperger's Syndrome.

I ran around scribbling down my thoughts and random story ideas into little spiral bound notebooks feeling like I was a capital A artist and while nobody understood me then...well they would all get it one day and they would kneel before the new god of thunder of prosody. Punks like McIrnerny and Easton Ellis were part of the dying hippie gasp with their proto-yuppie trash aesthetic novels that ripped off Fitzgerald with their marginally sensationalized drug glorifying trips for the post collegiate set.

I kept this up for more than a decade. This fantasy world invention of young author versus whatever you got was compelling and I almost acted upon the shadowy impulse behind the Situationist construct I was building. I almost interviewed to be a sportswriter for the Daily News Journal. I enjoyed sports, while not to the degree of a Frederick Exley, and felt I could be an adept journalist. The interview time arrived and I didn't go. A sudden attack of depression and it was all over. I washed away my dreams of covering Little League and junior school athletics with alcohol and Suicidal Tendencies.

Not that there weren't minor triumphs. One of my friend's mother read one of my notebooks and thought it was really good. She put me right up there with Richard Bach. She loaned me some of his books and I realized my friend's mom must have been a hippie. The only resemblance to Richard Bach my writing bore was that both were in English.

I sent a poem to DD Blank and he liked it because it contained the two lines: prose is for pussies, poetry is for wimps. Or maybe it was the other way around. It does work either way. That portion of the poem was about how jocks viewed a library. Yes, the poem was that deep. It was mainly an ode to a girl I had known in high school that had cut her long hair in the manner of Fitzgerald's character Bernice which had amused and intrigued me. It was also about disappointment of the sort that sometimes turns people into goth zombies.

I showed one of notebooks to my friend Bruno. It happened to be the one that begins "Bruno is now my literary enemy. I can no longer stomach his infantile dreams of rock and roll fame" and so on in rather derogatory fashion down the first page. He never really said much about the content, but we did begin to drift apart as he went on to write for MTSU's Sidelines. He even achieved some campus fame of sorts after he wrote a column titled "Life's A Bitch And Then You Die" which was really about enjoying spring break. Even better was when he got threatening letters from the band Burning Hearts after he called the lead singer effeminate. It got really confusing a few years later after Burning Hearts really did get a female lead singer. I was a writer in my head, but Bruno was doing it for real.

Time wore on and wore out like it has a habit to do. I kept on with the spiral bound trash heaps I was creating. Some of it actually took shape and became, well, good in places. Reading it is like walking through a slum and suddenly turning a corner and finding a shiny dime on the cracked sidewalk. Glimpses of clarity and spirit begin to be discerned. There is some actual lower case "a" art in these latter day notebooks of the 90's. But the indecision was still bugging me.

The Nashville Scene needed some music writers. I talked to Johnathan Marx for what seemed like hours over the phone one day about becoming a paid journalist for them. And then I didn't do it. I chickened out. Oh, yes I did crank out a few issues of a fanzine called Anti-Society. It even got some ego stroking rave reviews by Flipside and Grand Royal, but I wasn’t making cash money. I gave it away and nothing ever really came of it.

I quit working in Nashville and I got out of the pop culture petri dish. I devolved into a consumer again. I no longer played in a band either. I puttered around. I wrote some things that never really went anywhere: a guide to car crash movies, an episode guide to Square Pegs, and the outlines to a kids book I’m still scribbling on every few months or so. It was just scattered energies and creative death.

I got excited for a short time after a phone conversation with DD Blank. I told him about the children during the 70’s that lived at the garbage dump down the road from my grandmother in Ripley, Mississippi. They used to ride by her house on these outlandish bicycles made from trashed bikes and other junk from the dump. They were sorta’ scary. I knew I was dirt poor white trash, but I wasn’t as lowdown as a kid that had to live at a garbage dump. DD thought that little story was great. The thought of dump people tickled his fancy.

So I decided to write the North Mississippi version of Dubliners. The first story I wrote was very brief. It was a trifle titled "The Last Cotton Field." The Dead Mule website put it up....but then again I guess they put all entries up. I’ve done bits and pieces for all of the following titles:

1. “The Last Cotton Field”
2. “The Dump People”
3. “The House Movers”
4. “The Barnstormer”
5. “The Man Who Runs Things”
6. “The Blackberry Hunters”
7. “The CafĂ©”
8. “The Shadow of Colonel Falkner”
9. “The Pictures”
10. “Blue Mountain”

So I got excited about these stories, but the excitement wore off as other things like my job and family took up more time. I know you’ve got to make time if you want to be creative, but it gets so tough as you get older.

Third on this list of aborted posts is Nachotastic which is primarily just jibber jabber that doesn’t make any literal sense so let’s call it a “life study.”

mayhaps the nachotastic kid returns to cause a mixture of dismay, trouble, and pain with a cherry jalapeno on top to finally bring some joy - what is last is first and what is first rides in the hearse.

Egad we be OLD! All I've got is my lame old brain decrepit and prone to breakdown.

Nothin' to du but wallow in the past while the present implodes and the future corrodes.

Yep, just swallow it down on the boulevard, tattooed and scarred, mentally barred and tarred,

supernaughting is not anything like pussyfooting, but it is akin to juggernaughting...

Egan ripping off antennas - man cars are like bugs...

"with my face on the floor" sometimes I feel like dying, sometimes I feel like I'm Emitt Rhodes

dully I scrambled
exactly as I liked
to end up first up
scared of the light

More in my North Mississippi material – this time a couple of stories my mother told me, no title given.

My mother told me how she's lucky to be alive because when she was a child she stepped on a nail and blood poisoning set in and traveled up her leg in a black treacle infestation of bad kudzu blood. She lived in Arkansas at the time (it would have been the Forties) on a sharecropper cotton farm far from West Memphis and medical care. Someone saw how bad her leg was and insisted she be taken to the hospital. So off the family went to West Memphis where the doctor drained the bad blood and pronounced her well enough to walk and go home a few days later, but admonished the family for letting her get so bad for she would have surely died had they delayed much longer.

Her other brush with death arrived in a cotton barn with her baby sister Beatrice in her arms. They were inside the barn when their older sister Inez decided to play with some matches near some cotton bales either not knowing or caring about the flammability of cotton. She discarded a match on the ground and a slight breeze sparked the cotton and soon there was a rim of fire around the barn with my mother and Beatrice still inside. While most of the large family set upon dousing the flames my uncle Palmer heard my mother and Beatrice screaming so he went to get them out of the barn that was filling with smoke. He told my mother to jump across the fire but she wouldn't. So he rushed across, took Beatrice and threw her over the fire first and then my mother. The fire was extinguished before it got too out of hand and the poor sharecroppers hoped the owner of the farm wouldn't notice the cotton that had gotten burned.

And finally one I began just a few days ago, but probably wouldn’t have finished. We’ll call it Ringing The Belle.

I saw a girl wearing a Belle And Sebastian t-shirt in the local Wal-Mart here in Smithville. I said hello to her and expressed my amazement that another person in this town knew about Belle And Sebastian. I couldn’t think of the album If You’re Feeling Sinister when we talked about them, but neither could she and that gave us a laugh. She was a student at the Appalachian Center. Once the power of a rock and roll t-shirt was made manifest in my imagination.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

School Days Grade The 3rd

3rd Grade Mitchell-Neilson Elementary 1975-76

Teacher Mrs. Jennings

1st Row - Bottom
(L-R) Lori Lane, Theresa Koebeck, Kim Poland, don't remember, Kim Moore, Debra Reed, Mary Gannon,
Amy Christiansen, Amy Craddock

2nd Row - Middle
(L-R) Jessie Miles?, me, Britt Smithson, Cindy Davenport, Jimmy Davis, Barbara Money, Detra Cason,
Greg Tidwell

3rd Row - Top
(L-R) Mike Stacey, Kevin Johnston, David Fedak, Darin Coe, Hank Hirlston, Chuckie Boykin, David Burke

Moving on up to the big time. Mitchell-Neilson Elementary is located just across Jones Boulavard from Mitchell-Neilson Primary. It's where the big kids attended school and it was a major deal to begin 3rd grade there. Mrs. Jennings was my teacher. She was a delightful lady. I drove her crazy early on because I printed everything I wrote with squiggly lines. I was just doing it for kicks and later when we learned cursive writing I earned the penmanship award - a dollar bill which I've never spent.

David Burke was my best friend. He was obsessed by the World War's and we used to play war against the girls led by Lori Lan and Debra Reed. We'd pretend on the playground and later draw up elaborate peace treaties that the girls always refused to sign. I'd pretend I was in a fighter plane when I would swing on the most incredible swingset in the world behind the school, leaping out when I was high as I could go.

The playground behind Mitchell-Neilson Elementary was the best. It located under a bunch of trees so it was never too hot and they had these concrete pipes at the edge where you could hide. There actually was a mini woods that began after the pipes and often kids would wander far away and the teachers would have to look for them. It sounds goofy, but it truly was magical. We felt like this was our world of metal monkey bars, jungle gyms, see saws, and more with the dirt in the shade, rocks, and trees all our friends.

Gym class brought us Coach Hedrick and the delights of poison ball and bombardment, both dodge ball variants. I liked bombardment better since the boys and girls got to play it together. It was more like classic dodgeball. Poison ball could be sheer murder with the bigger boys feasting on the smaller ones. There were no lines you had to throw behind. It was just a free for all. I actually won posion ball once. When the girls played poison ball we'd sit up in the stands bored.We played lots of kick ball too.

Since it was the Bicentennial season our class put on a show. I dressed up like Ben Franklin and during our performance in fron of our parents and guests, the kid, Ricky Beckham, who lived across the street brought his younger sisters who made me start giggling. I spent the rest of the night lamenting that I ruined the performance then some girl played the wrong record at the end so I didn;t feel so bad. The only picture taken of me in the outfit was taken by Cindy Davenport, but I never got a copy. I've been told that I was really cute in it.

Kris Hettish used to make up his own version of Mad magazine and then sell them before class began. I wish I still had one of them. I also remember he had a crush on Chris Evert. I learned how to play chess in the library that year. I also read massive amounts of space exploration books and The Hobbit. Where did the time go?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

School Days Grade The 2nd

Man, I barely remember many of these kids. Maybe the trauma of all of those tornado drills back then crowds most everything else out. Here's the list of those I remember and the ones I don't.

2nd Grade Mitchell-Neilson Primary 1974-75

Teacher Mrs. Dunston

1st row - Floor
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, David Scott?, Flint Baskin, Steve Goodman, don't remember his fist name, but his last name was Zorn

2nd row
(L-R) Me, Kris Hettish, don't remember but maybe Luther Coppage, Darryl Keener, Detra Cason, Vicky Nichols, don't remember, Therese Brown

3rd row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Ross Alexander, don't remember though it resembles Scott Hercules, don't remember, don't remember, don't remember

4th row
(L-R) maybe Susan Garrett?, Tammy Young?, don't remember, Joy Patterson, Debra Reed, Karen Newcomb, Karin Radar, Paulette Gates?

No time today for much exposition - just some snippets.

Got in trouble and had to sit beside chalk board.

Kris Hettish also used to get in trouble so we would slide the erasers back in forth. Argued about whether Land Of The Lost or Valley Of The Dinosaurs was live action…I was right.

Also used to get my hand smacked with a yardstick. I never held it against Mrs. Dunston though.

Had Mrs. Jennings for reading at the start of the schooyear.
She told me to go home and finish a chapter - I thought she meant the whole book.
A few weeks later I got transferred to the highest level reading class..Mrs. Cooper.

Gym and cafeteria were one and the same. Cafeteria tables would roll into the wall like Murphy beds.

"Me Chinese me play joke" was really popular at lunch.

Another fave was the Electric Company inspired "Sh….it" joke.

My best friend was Karin Radar. I think she became a veternarian.

The day before the last day of school a big hole was blown into the wall of our classroom in order for the library to be expanded. It was cool getting to see the giant hole.

I drew a picture of Jack And The Beanstalk which got me 2nd place in some school contest.

I dressed up like an Indian to accept the award - a book about a mouse named Sylvester and a guitar. I've still got the book. Too bad no body got a picture of me as the Indian.

I guess I'll try to get around to 3rd tomorrow.

Monday, August 03, 2009

School Days Grade The 1st

Here's my shot at listing the names from my 1st grade class. You can click on the photo to make it bigger.

1st row - floor
(L-R) don't remember, myself, Ken Lane, Fred Martin

2nd row
(L-R) Wendy Warpoole, don't remember, don't remember, Jan or Nan Higdon (I never could tell them apart), don't remember, Sebrina Pendergrast, don't remember, Kim Young, and I believe her name is Tammy Young

3rd row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Mark (Gonz) Taylor, don't remember, Scott Hercules, either Steve Goodman or Steve Effler, Gene Dixon, maybe Mike Stacey, don't remember

4th row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Darin Coe, Debra Reed, Theresa Koebeck, Karen Newcomb, I think this is Sherry Beasley, Kim Poland, and Vickie Haislip

If you know any of the people or have a correction let me know. Tomorrow I'll post 2nd grade.

Children just don't get a summer vacation these days. It was back to school today so in honor of this momentous occasion I figured I'd share some class pictures and a few words from my primary and elementary school days. This is my 1st grade class picture from the 1973-74 school year at Mitchell-Neilson Primary. Miss Wilson was my teacher. Boy, did I have a crush on her. I even still remember that she drove an AMC Gremlin. I sometimes wonder if my constant chatter in class was because I wanted to sit next to her desk where the problem kids had to sit facing the class. It sure seemed like I was in that spot often which only fed my ego. I'd make funny faces at Debra Reed and get in even more trouble.

I couldn't have been too bad a kid since I passed even after missing more than two months of the school year for chicken pox and the mumps. I had Mrs. Armstong for math class and there is where I found the first chicken pox bump. I caught the mumps almost the day I came back to school. I'm sure I missed other days too as I distinctly recall one morning before class I felt sick and my classmates thought I was kidding. They quickly changed their minds after I threw up on them.

One memory that sticks out is quiet time. Miss Wilson would turn out the lights and usually play a record about Peter & The Wolf. She also loved to play "Seasons In The Sun." That tune is engraved upon my mind. Sometimes she'd let us bring records and I'd always bring my mother's 45 of "Hound Dog" and this red headed kid named Darin Coe would do his great Elvis impersonation. My best friend Mark (Gonz) Taylor was a big Elvis fan too. We'd stay friends thoughout our lives and later rock and roll in the punk band The Dislocated.

I hadn't looked at my class photos in many years and I'm saddened less by the passage of time, but by the fact that I don't remember many of my classmates's names. It would be neat if I knew everyone's story, but I guess it's simply amazing that I still know some of these people.