Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You Can't Take it Back

You know, more people should put a lot more thought into the things they say.  Someone once told me, 'Words are like bullets, once you let them out, you can't take them back,' and people, this is true.  I learned about diplomacy when I was 10 years old.  My father took me, my aunt Alice and her new grandson out to lunch one day.  Thing was, the baby wasn't her grand baby at all.  Her son's wife had cheated on him, and everyone in the family was talking about how the baby wasn't my cousin's biological child.  So when we sat down to lunch, my aunt held up the baby and said," Doesn't he look just like Ed?"  (Her son)  I huffed and said, "No, I think he looks like Chris Lavon," (the man her daughter-in-law cheated with) My aunt said nothing, but put the baby back in the car seat. After a few minutes of strained silence, she got up and left the restaurant.  My father said, " Erin, do you know what diplomacy means?"  I said no.  He explained, saying, " You know, you hurt your aunt Alice very much by what you just said.  You should always think before you speak, and if what you are thinking may be rude or hurtful, then it is not necessary to go on and say it,"  I hadn't actually thought before I spoke, and frankly, it had never occurred to me that my words could hurt someone.  When I look back on it now, I am horrified, and hope to God that my aunt doesn't remember what I said that day.  I learned that lesson very early in life, and make a daily, conscious effort to make sure I choose my words carefully, analyzing my words almost to death, and the impact they may have on the listener.  It is easy to do, and I find that I am the better person in many situations, even if I am the only one who knows it.  Sometimes I nearly have to bite my tongue completely off  to keep my words in, but in the end, I find that this effort is always worth it.  If you read this, take a moment think before you speak;  If it's not necessary or constructive, then for the love of God, don't say it!  I guarantee you, people around you, especially spouses or significant others will love you for it. 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Nut Ward

Yes I called it that, and I have every right to, considering that I have been confined there more than once. The last time was 17 days of confusion, hilarity and damn good times on the Fourth Floor Psychiatric ward of Denver Health Medical Center. I met some kickass people there, like George Welch. An old Hell's Angel biker from Sacramento, he checked in after being cracked out and not sleeping for more than a week. He was short and thin, with long hair and a Fu Manchu mustache that only old bikers can pull off. He was a con, and would wrench open the newspaper machine and steal a paper each time we went outside to smoke. And my best friend there, Pretty Girl who had the impulse to draw her own blood and shoot it out into the toilet, than draw it again, shoot it again. Then there was Noelle, who thought the devil was trying to eat her, and she so fat that she couldn't run to get away from him, a man named, and I shit you not, Robert Robert Roberts, we all just called him Bob. Or Sarge, who was a lean hard Vietnam vet who barely spoke until I went up to him one day and said I was proud of him. I had a special spot in my heart for him cause he'd lost a wife and very young kids in a wreck and then he had nobody so he went to live in his truck. Or Darren, who to this day more than a year later, is still sitting outside the public library next to Centennial Park for want of a place to go.
Or the artist Troi, who drew a landscape of mountains and pine trees on my foot with a blue ink pen, complete with flowers on each of my toes....One day I'm gonna send out invites to all the crazies I met on the ward and we'll all just show up one day and check back in...and have the time of our lives, all over again.


I lived in Leadville Colorado from July 9th 2006 until April 13th 2007. It sits 10,200 feet up in the mountains, officially the highest incorporated town on the face of the North American continent. It is a creepy place in a way, an old silver mining town that somehow never died. Two songs by slipknot take me back there like nothing else. "Circle" and "Vermillion Pt.2," I can taste the cheap coffee I would buy from the Kum and Go on 4th and Harrison. Every morning I would rise and walk for coffee, and watch the moon over the eastern mountains turn into the coming sun. I went overtop of Hagerman's Pass in a 1988 Honda Accord with a bent antenna, 13,000 feet; this with friend Jeff who lived in a school bus. I remember Rex, the drunk who also lived in a school bus with his Sharpei Pokey. Rex woke each morning to Red Bull, Squirt and vodka. He wore a blue cat collar around his ankle and had a leather harness with the words "Colorado Association For The Blind" that he would put on Pokey; he would wear dark glasses and pretend to be blind when he flew so Pokey could come on board for free. I remember the dark winter nights, sitting at my window in the Tabor Grand Hotel-turned-low-income-apartments, watching the snowflakes that were pat as pillows and thicker than clotted cream. I would hear the howling wind, shrieking and thought of how terrified the miners and prostitutes must have felt living only in their shanty shacks. I remember Jan, the purple nosed drunk fry cook at the Golden Burro, driving me over the bridge at Redcliff, I-24 West. My God, what a place, and what a motley group of hard ass people who lived there. It draws you in, and you get stuck there, and by the time that town is through with you, you are drained of every good feeling you ever had. I'll go back though, that I do know. Times I feel like I have to...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bad Bad Luck

The summer of '06 was in ways the best and in ways the worst of my life. I had spent the first part in North Carolina, then came back home to Kentucky for a minute. I was hanging out with a girl named Heather who was a witch, always calling on Kali and raining down curses on people, poor girl didn't understand why her own life kept falling apart. She was dark and sad and lived in a big ass doublewide in the country. When I listen to "Winners and Losers," by Social Distortion, I always think of her and our fat friend Derek, who used to make a pasta dish with a couple pounds of cream cheese, and a couple pounds of cheddar, you get the picture. My birthday that year was one of the worst days of my life, just as the birthday one year later was the same. I left Kentucky four days after the Fourth of July and headed west to a little town in Colorado called Leadville. That place is another story, but the point is that after two straight horrible, shitty birthdays, I'm hoping to God that this year things will be at least marginally better. I am listening to "Bad Luck" by the same band, and man, I sure hope my bad luck's gone for at least a little while. Here's to hoping, anyway.

The Not-So-Lazy Poorfolk

I wonder why the poor in America are so often overlooked. Why we are sending billions of dollars in food and related aid overseas when our own citizens are going hungry is something I will never understand. It could be said that, "This is America, anyone who wants to work should never go hungry," Perhaps, if you live in the inner city where there is work. What people fail to understand is that when you are born and raised in the hills and hollers of the Appalachian South, there is no work, and no way to get where there is work. For example, you live fifty miles to the nearest town where you might find sustainable employment. If your family cannot afford to buy you a car to get to town to work, then you are completely and irreversibly fucked. One must have a job to get a car, and a car to get to the job. I have heard too many people condemn the people of Appalachia as being lazy and shiftless, without ambition. I am always told, "It's simple, you pack up and move somewhere else," And just how, pray tell? Suppose you hitchhike to a city, where will you live while you are saving money for an apartment? 99% of employers require an address to be hired on for work. How will you feed yourself for two weeks until you get your first paycheck? People in Appalachia will grow a garden, or stalk a deer or fish for hours to feed their families. If you have ever grown a garden and canned vegetables, let me assure you, this is NOT easy work. It is hot miserable backbreaking work to pull weeds and stand over boiling Mason jars for hours at a time in the middle of the damn summer, 95 degrees with equal humidity. This is not laziness, is it? So when you ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, how in the hell is moving to a city to live on the streets going to get you anywhere but screwed? Can anybody give me an answer to that?


When I was in Stockholm, a good friend named Micaela turned me on to what I decided was one of the best bands I had ever heard. The name of this band is Beirut. There are perhaps a dozen members, each playing a different instrument, from the common piano to the more obscure bouzouki. One song in particular where it sounds like he is singing about Mumbai, it has a lilting accordion, trumpet and subsequent layers of a tambourine, and then several different kinds of drums. He speaks of being without his old world kind and I must say that I have never had a song move me so. There have been many days when I would put on this song and listen to it over and over, drifting out of my conscious present to far away places, feeling a rending down into my very soul. There is a feel of being in a small Eastern European village or town, hell, even a large city such as Belgrade or Prague. Of watching Gypsy girls with dark braids to their waists, selling roses on a street corner. Of the smell of chestnuts roasting over a barrel, of the feel of rough wool under your fingers. This music is the embodiment of the old world, of talented musicians who actually play instruments, not the "musicians" of today who use a mixer to create their superficial brand of music. I hope that all who read this will check out their music; if there is any love in your soul, you will feel the same way I do when I listen to this group, a gem in this dirty world we live in.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some Kind of Strange

On a hillside in Germany
I see my legs are a cartoon in motion
bicycling sideways kneecaps circular spinning
wooden bits in my mind,it's a brilliant feeling
something about corn or golden hair
the sound of the word "inhibition"
tastes beautiful in my mouth
apparently the tattooed man is better
than the 10 year old boy with which he fights
It's a brilliant feeling of notoriety
just like The Truman Show everybody's watching
you don't want them to watch as you're taking a shit
Carmelized pear and toasted pecan
the smell of White Castle's permeating my pores
Red dog is snoring and I thought it was Jenny

The Crippled Swan

A cobbled street I walk upon
an ice cream in my hand
a desperate pain envelopes me
for my other hand is empty
I fill it up with a handful of hair
as I sink to my knees and grieve
I turn away to Kungstradgorden
he leaves afull in bloom
I am the crippled swan
who can only swim in circles
getting nowhere, all alone
lonely outcast, flightless bird
the breadcrumbs of pity
sustaining me for naught

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Other Side of Intolerance

I am a tolerant person. Being from rural Kentucky, this is not a popular way to be. I am highly opinionated, yet I do something that many liberals and conservatives are incapable of: I allow others to believe whatever they wish. By allow, I simply mean that I do not mock, scorn, laugh at or otherwise demean those whose opinions differ from mine. It is enough to agree to disagree; it is unnecessary to insult or degrade while stating your opinion. However, I find that there are many people who are unable, for whatever reason, to allow others to hold opinions or viewpoints that differ from their own. I can hear a point of view that to me is disgusting, ridiculous, or egregiously offensive, and I shrug my shoulders and say, "If it makes you happy," and walk on. What kills me is meeting people who receive my respectful responses to their views, but upon hearing my views, actually laugh out loud, and let me know loud and clear that my views are ignorant, backwards, ill informed and in short, totally and irredeemably wrong. I have been told that, "One day you will open your eyes and see things my way," I.e., the right way. So here's the thing: An opinion is just the way a person thinks about something. A belief if simply what someone believes in, usually what they were taught from a very young age. One great thing about living in a free society is the freedom to think and feel whatever the hell you want to, and the right to voice that opinion without persecution. However, if an opinion is caustic or hateful, it should go without saying that just because you can say it, doesn't mean you should say it. There is responsibility that comes with freedom, and most people don't seem to understand the concepts of diplomacy and discretion. There is nothing wrong in having an opinion that is different, what is wrong is laughing at, mocking, or deriding another person for their views. If the tables were turned, and I as a Christian were treating a liberal with such disrespect and intolerance, people would say, "How typical," But to receive this kind of treatment from a liberal is shocking to me. It is blatantly hypocritical and so damned ass backwards that I cannot comprehend it. To learn that "open minded," "educated," people are just as, if not more intolerant than the Christian bigots they are always pointing fingers at, well, that in itself is the epitome of hypocrisy. I only wish more people could see it.

Last Chance Cafe

This is something I wrote about a home for addicts and drunks, in a small village called Gastrike Hammarby. This home is the last option for those men in Sweden who have exhausted all other resources, and who are in truth, at the proverbial end of their rope....

Golden leaves on aspen trees
stepping in water that never gets warm
crickets at dawn and thunderstorms sigh
strange colored lightning, a fire is born
ice cream and pancakes, salmon is cheap
where Finnish battalions fought imperious Russians
baptism day in hot tub water
simple amazement as I watch them play soccer
comings and goings, who drink antifreeze
as they sit all alone, uncared for
I cared for them all and I cared too much
never forget the oatmeal and curry
to pay for their rest
no hurry to leave
but plenty
to bleed

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't

It seems to me that my relationships always have one thing in common: I am damned if I do, and damned if I don't. If I change my hair to please someone, then I end up hating it so they can like how I look. If I quit smoking because someone doesn't like the smell, then I end up feeling resentful. If I dress a certain way, I might get more attention from my man, but I feel totally awkward and uncomfortable. I've had men who wouldn't touch me because they said I was too fat, and another who wouldn't touch me because he said I was too skinny. "You'll never have curves like Shakira," Quote, end quote. So I either eat like a pig, or I starve and vomit. On the other hand, if I don't make these changes, I have to worry that my man will start to look for someone who has the right kind of hair, or clothes, or I have to sit across the room and never receive any attention, physical or otherwise, from them, because they think I stink like a cigarette. Honestly, I have no clothing style because everything I owned came from a thrift store, purchased from sheer necessity and not because I thought it looked cool. Perhaps one day I will find someone who likes me just the way I am, but more importantly, I will find the strength and confidence to like myself, and to hell with anybody who has a problem with it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Like Alice But Deeper

Down a deep dark well she fell she fell
unabashed curiosity and fleeting consternation
puzzling things she saw and felt, indeed unto tasting
the rancid breath of forgotten deeds
flashes bright of yellows, reds
shocked as she was by the sound of her voice
being virtually deaf for a score of years
she buried it herself by conscious choice
in the loamy gloom of primeval places
dusty misplaced only known by the ancients
she watched life spring forth, the hidden agenda
of all possibilities the unknown truth lay exposed
fresh and raw she held it's stare
unblinking, invulnerable
discerning she studied individual facets
upon comprehension a vituperative glare
that faded transformed became a placidity
that would ever forth remain
profoundly conspicuous

Measured by Bathrooms

I remember times in my life by the bathrooms I have been in. I worked for an elderly woman who lived in a mansion built in 1815. Her bathroom had a floor to ceiling stained glass window of blues and aqua greens, with designs of peacocks that rose over an antique clawfoot tub. This bathroom signifies a good time in my life. Then there was the abandoned apartment building in the French Quarter of New Orleans;the bathroom there was simply a room, filled with broken pieces of drywall and shattered glass. This "bathroom" signified a very frightening time in my life. The bathroom where my Tequila drunk cousin and I shaved our heads on a hot August night, the hospital bathroom where I cut myself shaving with a cheap single blade razor, giving myself a scar that will never go away. The green metal cylinders with the grate in the ground that smelled of old piss on a hot day, Stockholm's version of the public bathroom. Perhaps it is strange, but these rooms are like little thumbnails in my mind, classifying each period in my life, whether I was well off or homeless, safe or in danger. The mind is funny like that, storing something ignominious and disregarding other, prabably more important things like... wait a minute, where in the hell did I put my keys?

On Altruism

I once knew a man who said that he did not believe that true altruism existed. He would often rail against the homeless, and stated that they did not deserve any help. So you could imagine my shock when he mentioned that he had donated $600 to a charity benefit for the homeless that was held by his place of employment. My disgust grew when he admitted that he truly did not care about the cause, but instead, did it for a look good. The worst part of it was that he had a wife and daughter who were sitting at home with no food in their larder. I will never understand this kind of false pretension! I, in fact, do believe in altruism, and practice it often. It is as simple as this: if something awful happened and you lost all you had, would you not want to be helped? The reason this nation is considered great is because we have a long standing tradition of generosity and charity. The growing egocentricism and self centeredness is what is destroying this nation from the inside out. So the next time you see a man lying on the sidewalk with matted hair and dirty clothes, instead of judging him as worthless, try to see him as someone's son, or someone's father. Try seeing him as your father.