Friday, June 29, 2012

Absalom, Absalom Pub Crawl & Faux Faulkner 2012

The Absalom, Absalom Pub Crawl went off without a hitch.  It is such a pleasure to work with folks like Kay Moore of DGI, David Murdock of Gadsden State Community College, Brandy Hyatt of the GPL, Gene Millican of the Downtown Tavern and Chris & Christi Robinson of the Blackstone Pub & Eatery…they make my job so easy!  And to always have the support of the community, well that means even more.  I never in my wildest dreams would have ever thought that Gadsden could have a Faux Faulkner Contest…but we did, and it was great!  This may end up being something we do every summer...

Two really great articles on the event, one from Andy Powell at the Gadsden Times

and the other from William Thornton of the Birmingham News

And although I was not able to enter the Faux Faulkner Contest (on account of me being the host), I wrote what would’ve been my entry if I could’ve been a contestant:

“You better get yourself back in here right now!” was all that the bleeding and manure-covered Vergie heard as she lit out across the yard as fast as her twelve-year-old legs would pump.  If she hadn’t been so intent upon getting gone from her Uncle Rube’s house, she would’ve probably noticed and possibly admired the fine gold-colored light of the late autumn day upon the pump house where the well that fed water to at least two of the buildings on the property was ensconced; the well that was dug on the exact spot where the willow branch Vergie herself three years ago had held and fought with her own hands the downward pull of as it indicated water when Enoch and his boy had come down to witch the property and had shown the begging Vergie that if she paid attention, that if she held the willow just right, then she could do what some thought was the breaking of the First Commandment, but what others knew was just dowsing.
Vergie was the daughter of a truck driver, a truck driver who had trucked himself out of her life once and for all when she was seven.   When she remembered him, she remembered the sardines he ate on saltine crackers with fingers darkened by axle grease; she remembered now the goody bag of nickel candy or once even a beaded Indian doll necklace from a reservation in Oklahoma he’d brought home to her when he’d been gone on the road for longer than he should’ve.  She still had that beaded Indian doll necklace, but now the leather skirt was missing from the beaded body and Vergie couldn’t bear to wear it anymore on account of how it felt wrong, just wrong to expose that small naked body for all the world to see.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June Blooms at The Bungalow

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans are my fav)

One of the many hydrangeas.  We have purple, blue, white...

Dusty Miller


Miss Reba's Lavender Crepe Myrtle

Crosomia Lucifer.  Red that burns my eyes.

Tiger Lily (lifted from Mom & Dad's yard!)

Gran & Big Jim's Blue Climbing Rose that is neither blue, nor climbs.

Lacecap Hydrangea

Spent center of Lantana.

Lantana, Ham & Eggs.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012

Happy Father’s Day to the man who gave me my name, who taught me how to swim, who showed me through his actions that we can all help each other in this world.  Daddy, thank you for sharing your sister’s name with me.  Thank you for always being there waiting in the water for me when I jumped off the adult diving board.  Thank you for always being kind to folks who were down on their luck and needed a hand.

I love the above photo because my dad looks like he was about to audition for Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.  Mr. White?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey

Usually when you mention the name of someone you haven’t seen in years, you end up running into them in the grocery store or at the beauty salon.  So, when I mentioned Natasha Trethewey in a blog post two days ago, instead of running into her at some public space, I see her name in the New York Times…as having been named our newest poet laureate.  Well that’s dramatic.  And well deserved.  Congratulations, Natasha!

I would love to say that Natasha and I are friends, but that wouldn’t be true.  She and I are just acquaintances.  I met her in a former life, when I lived in Auburn.  Natasha was at her first teaching gig at Auburn University, but was soon to take a position at Emory.  I fell in love with her poetry through Bellocq’s Ophelia, a collection of poems about identity, some written from the perspective of a Storyville District prostitute in New Orleans.  I fell deeper in love with her poetry when I read Domestic Work and then Native Guard.  I have yet to read Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but I have ordered it because I know it will be meaningful to this recurring dialogue about memory.

To read the NY Times article on Natasha, go here.

And on a sad note, I was distressed to hear of the passing of Ray Bradbury.  As I felt with the death of Kurt Vonnegut, I am stricken with a terrible fear that libraries and freedom of speech have lost one of their greatest champions...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ken Roark: CB Handle Super Duck

Here is one of my favorite pictures of my daddy.  He was one of the founding fathers of the Wingfoot division of Goodyear in Gadsden during the 70s (now defunct).  His CB handle at the time was Super Duck, which was a nod to Rubber Duck from Convoy.  I really like his denim suit and side-zip boots.  I may have owned a suit just like that at some point in my life...because I admired it (him) so much.

It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June...

I come from a long line of truckers.  My daddy, Ken Roark, was a trucker.  So was my grandpa, Chester Padgett.  My Uncle Big Jim Smith was one, too.  As a child, I thought climbing up into an eighteen-wheeler cab was more fun than climbing on a swing set.  And I cannot recall a time when I didn’t know how to use a CB radio, didn’t know how to check the oil in a vehicle, or didn’t know the lyrics to C.W. McCall’s 1975 hit Convoy 

If I had to come up with a desert island list of favorite honky-tonk, truck-driving music makers, I’d put Jerry Reed, Johnny Paycheck, Boxcar Willie and Ray Stevens in second, third, fourth and fifth place, leaving the number one spot to C.W. McCall for his lengthy trucking narrative Convoy.   Now, if William Faulkner had been alive in 1975 when Convoy was released, I think he would have been ten shades of jealous of McCall for such a fine telling of the heroic deeds of Rubber Duck, Pig Pen and Sodbuster (and about 85 other truckers).  The song starts dramatically with a CB conversation between truckers Rubber Duck and Pig Pen, a conversation in which we discover that they, mercy sakes alive, have got themselves a convoy…

CB conversation: Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, cmon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure. By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, cmon. Yeah, that big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy...

It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
And a Kenworth pullin' logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin' hogs
We's headin' for bear on Eye-one-O
'bout a mile outta Shakeytown
I says "Pig Pen, this here's Rubber Duck"
"And I'm about to put the hammer down"

('Cause we got a little ole convoy rockin' thru the night.
Yeah, we got a little ole convoy, ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy, ain't nothin' gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy 'cross the USA…Convoy)

CB conversation: Ah, breaker, Pig Pen, this here’s The Duck. And, you wanna back off them hogs? Yeah, 10-4, bout five mile or so. Ten, roger. Them hogs is gettin in-tense up here.

By the time we got into Tulsa-town
We had 85 trucks in all
But there's a roadblock up on the cloverleaf
And them bears 's wall-to-wall
Yeah, them smokeys 's thick as bugs on a bumper
They even had a bear in the air
I says "Callin' all trucks, this here's The Duck"
"We about to go a-huntin' bear"

('Cause we got a great big convoy rockin' thru the night.
Yeah, we got a great big convoy, ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy, ain't nothin' gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy 'cross the USA…Convoy)

CB conversation: Ah, you wanna give me a 10-9 on that, Pig Pen? Negatory, Pig Pen; you’re still too close. Yeah, them hogs is startin to close up my sinuses. Mercy sakes, you better back off another ten.

Well, we rolled up Interstate Forty-Four
Like a rocket-sled on rails
We tore up all of our swindle sheets
And left 'em settin' on the scales
By the time we hit that "Chi-town"
Them bears was a-gettin smart
They brought up some reinforcements
From the "Illinois" National Guard
There's armored cars and tanks and jeeps
'n' rigs of ev'ry size
Yeah, them chicken coops was full of bears
And choppers filled the skies
Well, we shot the line, we went for broke
With a thousand screamin' trucks
And eleven long-haired friends of Jesus
In a chartreuse microbus

CB conversation: Ah, Rubber Duck to Sodbuster, come over. Yeah, 10-4, Sodbuster? Lissen, you wanna put that micra-bus right behind that suicide jockey? Yeah, he’s haulin dynamite, and he needs all the help he can get.

Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey Shore
Prepared to cross the line
I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn't have a doggone dime
I says "Pigpen, this here's the Rubber Duck"
"We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll"
So we crashed the gate doin' ninety-eight
I says "let them truckers roll, ten-four"

('Cause we got a mighty convoy rockin' thru the night.
Yeah, we got a mighty convoy, ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy, ain't nothin' gonna get in our way)
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy 'cross the USA…Convoy )

CB conversation: Ah, 10-4, Pig Pen, what’s your twenty? Omaha? Well, they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there fer shure. Well, mercy sakes, good buddy, we gonna back on outta here, so keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your tail. Well catch you on the flip-flop. This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side. We gone. Bye,bye.

Now, is that not pure trucking poetry?  And am I the only one out there who gets chills when Rubber Duck says to Pig Pen, “Pigpen, this here's the Rubber Duck, we just ain't a-gonna pay no toll” and they “crashed the gate doin’ ninety-eight” and he says, “Let them truckers roll, ten-four?”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes

Irene Latham and I have an ongoing conversation about memory…the unreliability of it, the collectiveness of it, the malleability of it.  We can hammer and add to a memory until it is dented or formed into a totally different shape, but I believe that we cannot break it completely.  Somewhere, the actual truth is out there.  It may not look like the truth we want it to look like, and we may prefer the story truth to the actual truth (dang you, Tim O’Brien!), but it is out there.

This all started back in March when Irene was visiting for our GPL Book Arts Project Writers Residency.  I had a copy of O’Brien’s The Things They Carried on my desk (I am on the committee for Gadsden Reads, Things was our choice this year), which Irene picked up as she came in and sat down.  We began talking about the truth of memories, the truth as it seemed to the person doing the remembering, and the use of the unreliable narrator who is forthcoming in admitting that their memories are not to be trusted…we talked off and on between school visits and lunch and school visits, but we never finished the conversation.  Such is the nature of that type of topic.

But, Irene threw the gauntlet down again last week by sending me an email that contained the following: “Just picked up THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes. Very slim, won the Booker. First page: ‘This last isn't something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.’”

So, I have to give kudos to Irene for knowing exactly which line of text would be the carrot to dangle in front of me.   I immediately found the book on our shelves and checked it out.  And then I read the book in two morning sittings because it was/is indeed a slim volume, and it is an intense and fast read.  It made me think long and hard about how we reshape our memory to fit the way we want our past, or ourselves, to be.  We make it so by telling and retelling certain anecdotes or narratives about ourselves, leaving out the parts that we don’t want others to know, especially the parts that would reveal us in a not so flattering light.  And if there is no one there to contradict us when we are telling/retelling our modified version of our life story, then all the better.  That would explain a lot about why we tear out certain pages of our old journals…or conveniently lose some journals altogether.  

“How often do we tell our own life story?  How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts?  And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life.  Told to others, but-mainly-to ourselves” (Barnes, 2011, page 104).

“My younger self had come back to shock my older self with what that self had been, or was, or was sometimes capable of being.  And only recently I’d been going on about how the witnesses to our lives decrease, and with them our essential corroboration.  Now I had some all too unwelcome corroboration of what I was, or had been” (Barnes, 2011, page 107). 

“For years you survive with the same loops, the same facts and the same emotions…The events reconfirm the emotions-resentment, a sense of injustice, relief-and vice versa.  There seems no way of accessing anything else; the case is closed.  Which is why you seek corroboration, even if it turns out to be contradiction” (Barnes, 2011, page 131).

Well, dang it.  That was not a mirror I was expecting to look into.

So, read Julian Barnes’ The Sense of An Ending.  And, although I failed to reference her in this post but have in past blog posts on memory, read this interview withNatasha Trethewey on the Smartish Pace website.  Natasha has some interesting things to say about collective and contested memory.

Thank you, Irene.