Saturday, May 15, 2010

Enough with the goddamned ash-cloud!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Buddha taught that, having taken the Bodhisattva vow, we are all exiles. A good lesson, perpetually re-learned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Limerick: 5 recitals yesterday, 6 today, 6 tomorrow, meetings Thursday. Gonna wind up with both ears in one socket!!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gone beyond

My mother died in March. At the time, the exigencies of dealing with her deterioration (48 hour trip to New England, return to Lubbock, only to have her decease 2 days later), the memorial service and accompanying family complexities, a hellacious semester with multiple personnel and budgetary melt-downs, and my own crisis-moment tendency to go into emergency-coping mode, meant that I didn't do much conscious mourning.

I was moved by the open sorrow expressed by my siblings, especially by my brothers--two remarkable, admirable men--and their spouses, which quartet had been primarily responsible for her care in the wake of my step-father's death last summer, and her subsequent and very swift descent into Alzheimer's. I could weep for them, and their sorrow--but not so much for her.

But, as I said to another friend at the time, "my relationship with my mother was sort of classically fucked-up", and it was--mostly due to the absolutely horrific legacy of family dysfunction to which both my parents were subjected as children. My mother was too unhappy, too damaged, to be an especially effective parent, despite the fact that she manifestly loved her kids. And she fucked me over, over and over again, in the area of my vocation to music. There are reasons I was in therapy for 12 years, and she--and the legacy of my monstrous grandmother--were two major ones.

Here's my own brief articulation, from eight years ago:

These Wooded Hills

These wooded hills and rocky shores
are the
memory of my childhood;

whipped by salt Atlantic waves,
traced by crumbling dry stone walls;
marked by cowshit and the cry of gulls,

gouged by retreating glaciers of a last Ice Age;
and the faint whispering voices
of old wars, old words, old violence, old victories.

Granite, oak, slate, and pine;
topsoil's topography ripped away,

leaving the bones.
So I was pretty damned grateful when Dharmonia wrote this, which expressed pure, open, Bodhisattva mourning for Bobby Smith Thomas in a way couldn't. And then I could weep for her:
While driving to a funeral

Bobby is gone, gone, gone beyond
Gate gate paragate
Parasamgate bodhi svaha

Her son at the wheel driving east
Rain is lashing at the windshield,
spraying up from the passing trucks
and while thinking of how we pass
from life into death, around us
life continues its circus
in the sheeting rain, driving wind
Massachusetts bumper stickers:
Obama is still President,
My Other Car is still a Broom,
Jesus Saves and the Yankees still suck
This my home state, and now, and now
One last journey to the North Shore
At least for reasons tied to blood
And bone, and the love of this man
And the others who share that blood

And how strangely appropriate
The blinding rain and shrieking wind
To sagas stories and plot lines
To complicated webs of past,
To layers of pride and of doubt
To all the love and the anger
Kneaded into the famous bread
And those who came to adulthood
In the eye of this hurricane
Each making their own peace with her
She was not my mother, and yes
I saw the complicated side
But I loved her for bringing him
Into the world in the first place,
And for what she wanted to be,
And for the things she tried to be,
And was, when clarity could cut
Through what had been handed to her.
A friend of mine once said to me
“One can be a difficult parent
And still be a great friend,” and
She was that to me, and it is
A terrible thing to witness
A heart beating in the shambles
That Alzheimer’s leaves in its wake--
So you will understand, when I
Saw the ashes mixed with earth, why
I spoke the mantra “gone beyond”

Gate gate paragate
Parasamgate bodhi svaha

the doorless doors of the Pure Land
do not require us to bring
All of our Stuff along with us
No eyes no ears no nose no mouth
No junk no faults no garbage, but
Just the cloudless blue sky of mind.
I am grateful that I have such loving people in my life. I need them.


Nostalgic in all the wrong ways: blowout-preventer edition

The Deepwater Horizon spill--probably the most catastrophic environmental disaster of the past 50 years, excepting possibly Chernobyl--was apparently caused by failure of one of these:

This is a blowout-preventer, a massive hydraulic-powered valve used for sealing an oil well and regulating the flow. They are

When I read, two days ago, that the spill was caused by one of these failing, a mile down, I was chilled. I used to repair these, for Cactus Drilling Company in Midland, TX, in 1979-80.

A blowout-preventer is subjected to huge pressures, as well as to highly corrosive acids, salts, and other outflow from a well. It doesn't come up as only crude: there are all kinds of other substances in such a flow. So the blowout-preventer can only be used for a relatively short period of time, before the well has to be temporarily shut down and the preventer replaced.

They used to come into the repair yard where I worked, with the huge rubber gaskets in rags and most of the heavy-duty lead-based sealing paint corroded off (for scale's sake, the BOP pictured above is a "small", and is substantially taller than a man). We'd sand- and water-blast them, paint them with an acid-based paint-remover (which you had to keep off your skin, as it would burn you), break-loose the giant bolts that seal them: bolts as big as my arm, often rusted solid--I still have a big dent on my right shin from where a 12-foot "cheater pipe"--additional lever arm--shattered while we were trying to open a bolt.

Then we'd take them completely apart, wash all the components in an acid bath and discard any that seemed unrepairable, replace the parts and gaskets, re-paint 'em, and stick them on a hydraulic test-bed, where we'd crank up to a pressure as high as 1 ton per square inch (we were supposed to stand outside the steel-reinforced room as we did this, but often didn't). Then, when we'd confirmed that the repairs were complete and safety-secure, we'd call the truckers and they'd come pick up the BOP, to store in the yard until re-used.

When I read, two days ago, that the spill had been caused by a BOP failure, Dharmonia said "yeah, I read that a while ago but I didn't want to tell you"--which was smart, because when I saw it, I nearly fainted.

I would not want to be one of the crew who might have sent that particular piece back out to the platform.

Eleven guys died. BP and Halliburton (Dick Cheney's butt-buddies--the same people who betrayed American soldiers in the Iraq theatre on a daily basis) may well have killed the Gulf Coast--permanently.

Some corporate crime ought to carry capital penalties.

Checkin AM @ NYC for long day til evening SNN flight. Thank Universe for cheap Prez club booze & wireless!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

You miserable racist fucks--GET OUT OF MY HOME TOWN!

NY weekly shows Obamas as 'Sanford and Son' actors

A weekly newspaper photo depicting President Barack Obama and his wife as characters from the TV sitcom "Sanford and Son" was intended as political satire and not a racist commentary, the publisher said Wednesday.

Phillip Sciarello, publisher and part owner of the Smithtown Messenger on New York's Long Island, defended the decision to publish the photo, but added the newspaper would run a retraction in its next edition for anyone who might have been offended.
Phillip Sciarello, you dirty little cowardly punk, my direct patrilineal ancestor founded this town. My great-great-great-great-etc grandfather was an illegal immigrant, a miscegenator, a political radical, and a warrior, and his offspring fathered children with black mothers and, eventually, granted them all their freedom.

And he would have chewed you up and spit you out like the worthless little piece of trash you are. Claudius Smith, the "Terror of the Ramapo," wouldn't have bothered to hang you in your chimney--a waste of good rope--but he would have horsewhipped your gutless little ass on Main Street. I'm only sorry that I'm 2,000 miles away.

Get your racist garbage, and your racist garbage self, out of my town.

Missing my CE guys, a bit. Even missing the 9pm Wed sectional. Gettin' soft in my old age, I reckon.

Spring 2010 Ireland seminar Google map/intinerary: join the band!

IAH en route to NYC & SNN.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My hero, Gary Snyder

I hope, when the time comes for me to die, that I will have lived a life this valuable:


Malcolm/Jean-Paul: "By any means necessary."

Monday, May 03, 2010

BB Tour (with replaceable SIMS card--Ireland hooray!) is pretty awesome; thanks, @glenrhunt!

New BBerry Tour: reminded of Fam Guy episode: Old Guy says of lightbulb: "when I saw this at 1927 World Expo, I almost crapped my pants!"

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Charlie Ives's band

Further to the General's comment, below--it must've sounded something like this:

I R a music major

Dear God, this is painfully accurate:

h/t to the Sarge.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

re/ petition to REMOVE the "Tornado of Ideas" sculpture because it includes non-conservative books, news-flash: CENSORSHIP IS COWARDICE.

Solidarity forever! The people united will never be defeated! One Big Union!