My Grudges Linger

The band Mastodon is coming to Missoula in a couple months. Whenever I encounter a friend or acquaintance from the local heavy rock scene, there is often a moment when they express enthusiasm over the show, and then display befuddlement when I reveal I have no interest in going. When asked why, I say it’s because I hate the band.

This is why I hate Mastodon:

It’s a limited edition “Thanksgiving” t-shirt design they put out in 2013. There was a kerfuffle over it. Of course the band claims they were making a cultural statement. I call bullshit. For a great breakdown of what played out and Mastodon’s response, you can read an excellent piece HERE.

At the time it came out, I had minor interest in the band. I loved their album art, and their noisy kind of prog/metal thing and heavy concept records were interesting at times, but I was on the fence. After this episode I unloaded my CDs and deleted the electronic versions of them and haven’t considered them since. I only think of two words, in fact, whenever they are brought to my attention.

Fuck Mastodon.

Should I be over it? Nah. Soon as pussy hats aren’t necessary, soon as we don’t need a Black Lives Matter movement, soon as places like Standing Rock don’t have to worry about having their cultural values steamrolled, then I’ll think about getting over it. Until then, lines in the sand, people. Lines in the sand.

Bigger Than Law

Sharing this from bit from Patagonia because they lay it out way better than I ever could, and I’m with them 100%:

Today, President Donald Trump took executive action to reverse decisions that halted Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Trump’s order invites TransCanada Corp. to resubmit an application for its Keystone XL project and has directed federal agencies to expedite the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline.

We firmly stand behind the belief that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in the country’s interest, and the Dakota Access Pipeline poses significant threats to the Standing Rock Sioux. We are asking you to join us in asking the President to not put Big Oil first and prioritize the well-being of our people and planet.

The following is a link to an online petition from the Sierra Club. I’m not sure to what degree online activism helps or not, but these days I suppose it can’t hurt.

PLEASE CONSIDER ADDING YOUR VOICE

 

The best article about Standing Rock is in the current issue of Montana Quarterly, my favorite regional magazine. The lead feature is written by my good friend Sterling. The entire piece is available online. I urge you to read it HERE. An excerpt:

On the afternoon of September 9, 2016, an injunction sought by the Standing Rock Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline was denied by Federal District Judge James Boasberg. Within a few hours the Obama administration, the Department of Justice, and the Army had issued a joint statement requesting that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Reservation be halted until further assessment could take place. I was at a rally in Bismarck with hundreds of others when the government’s request went public, standing in the rain on the long, manicured lawn leading up to the North Dakota capitol building, listening to several Lakota girls give speeches on a bullhorn. I had never heard young people speak so eloquently and passionately, and as I listened I began to feel something beautiful and dangerous to the idea of America was happening. Their words were so powerful, in fact, I nearly cried. Luckily for me I’m an Indian man, and we only cry in ceremony.

I feel honored to know Sterling after having read that piece. He’s a good man. And he bought me breakfast when this photo was taken (or maybe I bought him breakfast — that seems far, FAR more likely) back in April at Paul’s Pancake House in Missoula. We all know how big of a deal breakfast is.

I’m also pleased to have a story (and the photographs that accompany it) in the same issue of Montana Quarterly. Mine is about the Dixon Bar. It was a fun piece to write, and I was/am thrilled because MQ was one of the publications I set high importance on placing some work in, because they are the best around here. Now, considering the current cultural climate in this country, it seems a little superfluous to me. But it’s a start. I have another piece with photos coming out in the next issue. I’m excited about that. It’s fun.

And now my final point. I’ve never been one to shy away from my political leanings, though I don’t talk much about politics in these parts. That is going to change. The stakes are too high. Donald Trump is a loathsome human being with zero redeeming qualities. I’ve felt this way long before he bought his way into politics. He represents everything I despise about our culture. Crass, arrogant, and willfully ignorant. A liar. A gigantic con man. It’s one thing in a reality television host. It’s something else in someone who is in position to shit all over everything I hold precious and seems likely to do so. I’m going to do whatever I can to oppose him.

This following image is a little meme someone put together featuring the words of Charles Bowden, a writer from the Southwest I much admired. His words have resonated with me for years; more now since about November 8th. It’s going on the bulletin board by my desk, lest I forget the importance of every moment left to me.

 

Sitting on Logs

With National Poetry Month winding down, I thought I would recognize it. I’ve been meaning to for about 28 days now, as a matter of fact. I’ve read more poetry in the past year than I have in my lifetime prior, I think. I’ve even taken to writing it. Last year, I recognized April with one of my own, the first I’d written in at least a couple decades, directly inspired by one from Jim Harrison.

Considering Harrison left us a month ago, I thought this year I would share one of his, this sort of prose poem from his last collection, Dead Man’s Float, to mark the event. It’s one I love, for its beauty and its sadness. I’ll miss the man’s work, though I suspect there is probably some stashed away we’ve yet to see.

___________________________

Notes on the Sacred Art of Log Sitting
by Jim Harrison

 

To give the surgeon a better view of my interior carcass I was slashed from neck to tailbone. Recovery was slow and the chief neurologist told me, “You can walk your way out of this.” I began walking out by shuffling down a long hallway. It was very hard on my tender empathy to see so many hopeless cases, especially the truly beautiful girl who was paralyzed for life.

I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. Amen.

And I want to bird hunt, which I’ve done with intensity for forty years in a row. Is this even possible? The answer, come to find out, was that I couldn’t keep up. Zilpha would flush some birds then look to me wondering why I hadn’t shot. I was far behind, sitting on an Emory oak log and staring hard at the landscape.

My shuffling mood was always corrected by sitting on an oak log, so I decided to make some notes on the sacred art of log sitting:

  • Approach the log cautiously with proper reverence as if you were entering a French cathedral or the bedroom of your lover.
  • If it’s over 60 degrees, inspect the lower side of the log for Mohave rattlesnakes.
  • Now examine the log closely for the most comfortable place to sit, usually away from the sun.
  • Sit down.
  • Empty your mind of everything except what is in front of you — the natural landscape of the canyon.
  • Dismiss or allow to slide away any aspect of your grand or pathetic life.
  • Breathe softly.
  • Avoid a doze.
  • Internalize what you see in the canyon: the oaks and mesquites, the rumpled and grassy earth, hawks flying by, a few songbirds.
  • Stay put for forty-five minutes to an hour.
  • When you get up bow nine times to the log.
  • Three logs a day is generally my maximum.

When you get in your car it will seem as wretched as it is. A horse would be far better. For hours your mind will still be absorbed in the glory of what you saw rather than mail, emails, cell phones, TV, etc. Hopefully log sitting will allow you to change the contents of your life. You will introduce yourself as a “log sitter” rather than a novelist, detective, or mortician. You will walk more slowly and perhaps your feet will shuffle like mine. I can readily imagine buying a small ranch I’d call “The Log Ranch.” I’d truck in thirty-three logs and arrange them on the property like the Stations of the Cross. This could soothe me during my limited time in the twenty-first century, which has been very coarse indeed. Especially after Zilpha died.

Dirt Worship

Whether there’s proof or not, I think I’ll add this to my belief system. This image crossed my Facebook feed yesterday. It was shared by poet/writer/artist (and Mvskoke Nation member) Joy Harjo. I like it. When measured against some of the religious mumbo jumbo that leads so many other folks to froth at the mouth, hate, and slaughter one another over, this all seems pretty benign to me, particularly since I’ve identified as a tree hugging dirt worshiper for about thirty years now. Feel free to join me.

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Dead Rock Stars

I know what it’s like to lose people whose art, music in particular, I loved. Lemmy’s death sucked, but he was old and sick and few people stiff-arm death like he did for as long as he did. His run was epic. It sucks that the Ramones are all dead. Ronnie James Dio died of illness, but he was old too. That’s probably how I’ll go out, given my family history, and sometimes I feel like I’ll be lucky to make it out of my 50s, frankly, given how shitty I am to myself. I just find this outpouring for people we don’t know to be really weird. We all die. None of these deaths of artists who have lived long lives with decades of work to remember them by are tragedies.

But, man. I literally had no idea David Bowie was such a big deal to so many people. I feel like the only person on the planet who is completely ambivalent to the whole thing. Of course I’m sorry for his family. He had cancer, which sucks. I’m sorry he had to face that. He was 69, which isn’t THAT old but isn’t young either. I suspect he had a lifestyle that means to get to 69, though, he had to fake death out a time or two. Good for him. He had a good run. I don’t know if he was a nice guy or not. People are saying nice things about him. But people said nice things when Nixon died too, and he was an asshole.

I respect Bowie’s place in the pantheon of rock idols, or even using the broader term “artist,” but he was never part of anything I listened to or even cared about. I’m not trying to be that guy who likes to rain all over everyone else’s parade, it’s just weird to experience. A few points:

  1. In all my years of hanging around music and music people, at no point has anyone ever said, “Hey, you wanna listen to some Bowie?” Not one time. Nor have I ever been asked, “So what’s your favorite Bowie record?” Not once. And don’t give me any of that, “Well, you’re just a metalhead!” bullshit. I listen to lots of different kinds of music, and have friends all over the musical map.
  2. I’ve never been inspired to seek out David Bowie on my own.
  3. I totally get though that if you were a “weird” kid in any way, male or female, who didn’t fit in with those around you, Bowie could have been someone pointing you the way. He just wasn’t that for me. And yet his death has me feeling the “odd one out” again, a sense that probably drove a lot of folks to Bowie in the first place. It’s a wonder the world doesn’t explode. Still, “weird kid” cliques were every bit as conformist and brutal as any “mainstream kid” cliques were, they just dressed differently.
  4. Julia​ is a Bowie fan, which I guess I kinda knew, yet in the 13 years or so we’ve known each other, we’ve never listened to Bowie together. We’ve listened to Ralph Stanley. The Carter Family. Skip James. SUNN O))). Ufomammut. The Cramps. But David Bowie? Not once (not counting when he’s come on the radio or something, or in a movie soundtrack, of course).
  5. I probably can’t name 10 of his songs. “Fame” was always cool enough. “Suffragette City” comes to mind. Both have been ruined by classic rock radio overplay, though.
  6. In my formative years as a music listener, Let’s Dance was his big record. I thought then, and still do, that it is essentially unlistenable. “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”? That’s as bad a lyric as anything KISS has ever written. He never did anything since that piqued my interest to investigate deep into his back catalog, unlike someone like, say, Alice Cooper, who was also basically retired before I ever really got interested in music, then made a comeback, of sorts.
  7. His duet on “Dancing in the Streets” with Mick Jagger should go in a time capsule as one of the worst things that happened in that era. I mean, that song is terrible no matter who does it (yes, even Van Halen), but that version in particular, and the video, might be the shittiest.
  8. “Under Pressure” is the worst song on Queen’s Hot Space record, and that isn’t a good record anyway. We would have forgotten the abomination if Vanilla Ice hadn’t resurrected it and turned it into an object of cultural scorn.
  9. So, because of points 5-8, see again #2.
  10. I liked that vampire movie he was in. But Labyrinth? Unwatchable unless you’re a child, or like to revisit your childhood favorites, which is fine. The only good thing about that movie was when my friend Bubba (RIP) used Bowie’s character’s image for a Traveller character he played in 1987/88 or so (Traveller being a sci-fi roleplaying game popular back then; for further reference please purchase and be blown away by the 2004 concept record, Traveller, by the mighty San Francisco band, The Lord Weird Slough Feg​).

It’s entirely possible that tabloids, the internet, tell-all biographies and memoirs, all of that stuff has completely ruined hero worship for me. All of my idols of youth turned out to be raging assholes, and if I’m cynical about anything, it’s successful artists and entertainers. I just don’t get it. But to each their own.

I will admit to being bummed when Lux Interior, right, died
I will admit to being bummed when Lux Interior, right, died