From dreams to reality and back again

I woke up this morning to the cry of a screech owl. They have such a distinct, baffling call. It was dark out, and a mist covers the morning, so when I hear the whinnying, yes, a shrill whinny coming from the trees, I picture a miniature flying horse. He’s been my alarm clock a number of days this summer, making all kinds of racket before the sun comes up. I don’t have a rooster, I have a screech owl. It’s not a terrible way to greet the morning. The bird flies off and the crickets take over, chirping and strumming their little legs like cellos and banjos. 

Before waking up, I dreamt of a house full of people. Everyone was working. It went from work to a meeting. I kept getting critiqued for my DIY style and non-professionalism, but it wasn’t harsh or lasting. I think the critics realized that’s exactly what gives my work character. I split with the gathering, and walked with a couple co-workers along a concrete pier into a large expanse of earth and nowhere. The scenery, quite fantastic & Dalian, distracted us. After turning a corner into a completely different dream, I fell into a creek. I thought it must have been a mirage, this new dream, but when I looked back to see where I came from, the old dream was gone. The only thing that looked familiar was right where I stood. All around me, a beautiful ever-changing scattering of matrices.

I rolled off my couch where I often sleep, and stretched and breathed under the burn of incense. My grandfather always poked fun at my sleeping habits. Whenever I slept at his house, I chose the couch instead of a bed. He thought this was ludicrous. He always gave me a little kick too whenever I fell asleep on his floor. He grew up in a generation when naps were lazy. What can I say, I’m a cat.

As I sit and breathe and continue to wake up, memories from Planned Parenthood start rising up. The first time I went into one was in Center City. I was re-hanging the poster art, calendars, and medical charts after a paint job and doing touch up work on the walls. I remember the place was so drab and clinical. Machines and swivel chairs, white walls and desks. It was so normal. It made no sense to me this was a place for health.

It occurred to me, what a sharp contrast it was to my own view of life and well-being. From the time I smoked my first bowl, my body started rejecting things like fast food and meat. It wasn’t out of angry rebellion, I simply didn’t want it. I didn’t want to work in an office, I didn’t want to find myself in mechanistic, tiny boxes. I didn’t like white walls. I found it all boring, gross, and full of poison. As I grew older, I started seeing my health in terms of spirit. I always imagined a good doctor’s office would be a shaman’s hut, filled with bones and feathers and dried herbs, crafted leather and carved sticks. Spirit materials found around the house or gifted by nature and life. That’s how I imagine it.

Now, just to clear things up, I understand the chemical implications of the physical world, how it is part and parcel to our well-being. I am not rejecting the reality of human sciences. In fact, I find it fascinating what vitamins, exercise, herbs, and food can do for the inner-workings of the mind and body. Furthermore, I understand that Planned Parenthood provides very real life services for people. I’m not about to ask their facilities to go through a burning transformation into the world of witch doctors. What I am interested in, is what Planned Parenthood would look like if it expanded itself from where it is now. In other words, I’m curious what it would look like if they linked up with, let’s say, the marijuana field, all the research that is going on there, all the money that is being generated by that business, all the boost marijuana gives to the imagination. How would our health change? Like I said, it’s a stretch, and really just an exercise in brainstorming, but the thing is, Planned Parenthood has been put in a position where creativity may be necessary, whether it be through striking and protesting, or finding other sources of funding.

What’s more, and I’ll say it time and again, the government needs to quit behaving in such an authoritarian way. Your job should not be self-stylized with concern to religion and belief. Just because you made it to Congress, doesn’t make you all that much different than Kim Davis. You are a civil servant. Do your job. Workers of the government have a duty to serve people, all people, not just the ones who fall within their realm of fantasy.

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I remember learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in high school, and did some of my own reading in college. I knew he was a leader of the Civil Rights movement, a powerful speaker and organizer. But I didn’t realize the extent to which he practiced civil disobedience. In a way, at least for me, his legacy was kind of whitewashed.

Now, I’m about 3/4 of the way through reading a book he wrote called “Why We Can’t Wait,” and I’m struck by the number of quotable gems dispersed throughout his writing. I shouldn’t be all that surprised because I see so many memes spreading his words around the internet… I guess what I find interesting, those gems that people quote, they kind of miss what he’s actually talking about. Don’t get me wrong, the quotes are good, but they don’t really drive home the fact that he was waging a crusade for freedom. The man was militant. He spoke of revolution and sparking radical transformation in society by uplifting the spirits of the oppressed and downtrodden. And he didn’t just speak about it, he did it. He made an army of nonviolent protesters. I’m not being hyperbolic. This is the kind of language he used.

What’s more, he had his fingers on the pulse of oppression; he knew its history so well. The way in which he described the lingering effects of slavery, it’s not all that much different than what I hear about the prison industrial complex today. We hear it all too often, “If people only obeyed, they wouldn’t get put in their place.” It recalls a slave/master mentality.

He also writes poignantly about tokenism. To boil it down, he describes a token as a way to keep people under the illusion that change is occurring. For instance, when people say, “There’s no racism, look, we have a black president.” That’s a token, or a small offering to placate the restless masses. It’s an attempt to convince people that equality exists across the board. It doesn’t amount to sweeping transformation though, it’s only a symbol that says, “Look, we gave you this, so calm down and be happy.”

The title of the book is worth repeating here “Why We Can’t Wait.”

Right wing propaganda jumps on tokenism very quickly. So be wary. Any time there is a black person who says something, for instance, to derail Black Lives Matter, they jump on it right away. This is dangerous, because it is exploitative, divisive, and creates a sense of complacency for those who still subconsciously support oppression. It says, “Look, this black person agrees with us, why don’t you?”

I’m also curious if this book is taught in high school? I imagine it would create tension, but King Jr. speaks to that too, that tension, especially within a community is ultimately necessary, because it so often serves as a catalyst for constructive thinking, conversation, and most importantly, a breaking point for direct action.

In the past, I wanted to be a leader in some way, shape, or form. I’m not so sure I have it in me in the same way that so many prominent leaders do. Rather, I’m convinced that I don’t. I think that’s why I’m drawn to reading books about rebellion & revolt, whether it be the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the student-led protests in China. It’s an important history to keep alive. All too often, we forget how radical change really is. It always happens at the root, and we usually only catch it on a second or third wave, when it’s been somewhat diluted and regurgitated for the faint of heart. We have that privilege, to sit in our ivory towers and be critical of those who are fighting tooth and nail for progress and basic civil rights, without realizing that change looks exactly like that- radically different, and maybe even offensive, because it’s so new to our senses.

Just some impressions.

One last thing, MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is brilliant in its own right. Another piece of writing everyone in our country ought to read, and it’s framed out so well in “Why We Can’t Wait.” The context provided helps to bolster and illuminate his words. Same goes with all those quotes and memes. They’re important, and for those who are interested, a little research helps them truly come alive.

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Sometimes I romanticize the proletariat revolution. Folks waking up whistling slinging a shovel over the shoulder digging and building. I imagine people working with the earth, closely, sometimes with machines, but mostly with hands & tools. Shovels, axes, picks, hammers, saws. Constructing the world majestically, with the utmost patience & craft, slowly cultivating strength, resistance, and local food-producing gardens. It’s a dream. I know. Maybe that’s what the commies had in mind. Marx, Mao, Castro. But they got corrupted like any man in power. What does it mean – Workers of the world unite? I would love for people to wake up voluntarily to build schools, sturdy housing, without argument or shootings. Feed the starving. Teachers teaching without such constraints on curriculum, doctors healing, billionaires donating, and the government doing its job aka humanely handling authority aka cease & desist warring on the people. We are on the hustle & grind every damn day. We even got something on the side. Whether it be two jobs three jobs going to college serving food or in an office. It can be sickening. Where is the trickle down? There is none. It’s all bull shit coming from above. Nothing real is happening in the politics of this country. It’s all symbols. A flag got taken down. Great. A relic of the past spitting in the flames. What about the homeless? And PTSD veterans? A mountain gets its name reinstated. Great. Honor the slaughtered. I’m not trying to minimize it. Denali is monstrous. Our apologies should be equally as large. What about the southern portion of the USA that once belonged to Mexico? Should we really expect fictional borders drawn on flimsy paper to withstand culture & time? The Mayan prophecy of 2012 swept through the consciousness of people like a great tide flooding biblical earth, destroying old thoughts and out-moded paradigms. When the Europeans invaded South America, the indigenous quite literally absorbed the customs & language of white people only to spit it back out with their own flair & anger. Guerrilla warfare. Che. The Sandinistas. The Zapatistas. Picking up spare shovels, hoisting up their guns, shaking raging fists at warhawks & imperialist pigs. Where is our common ground? Y’all want 2nd amendment rights, quit using it against your neighbor and fight the tyrants ruling over the land. That bastard over at Nestle is stealing our water and selling it back to us for a price. And corporate welfare is taking our money one tax season at a time. We need Unity woven through the hearts of people, siding with one another to fight the maelstrom of media trying to divide us at the seams. We are the real change. No promise from politicians is going to work unless people can see eye to eye. We need to acknowledge, now more than ever, we live in a global mind, and working all of us simple folks with many cultures is the daily routine.

Full Moon in Pisces

Current Events in Brief

People are still being abused by police, and one state in particular, North Dakota, has actually instituted the use of taser & pepper spray drones. It’s madness. This year is on record to be, by far, the most murders by police. It’s both enfuriating and sad. I’d venture to say, it is important to shed light on police brutality, but, it’s a catch-22: Does sharing videos of police violence proliferate it in both our imaginations and reality too?

Trump is an ass hole. Hands down. It has to be said in vulgar terms because it’s true. It’s hard to believe so many people support his old-school, racist agenda. Again, not to perpetuate the idiocy of our times, but it’s worth repeating- the man is a disgrace to earnest Americans. He’s giving his supporters hope, like so many casinos, only to take them for all they’re worth in the end. He’s a business owner. Not a politician. No president wields that kind of power. The one hopeful thing I can say, he’s destroying the conservative party. It needs to happen. Because here’s the thing, I’m not against Republicans. I get where they come from. Many people want tradition and values and freedom. That’s all good. But so many minds have been twisted & fucked by Fox News and Christianity, it’s hard to bring people back to reality.  

 

There are many positive stories in the media. I’ve been seeing a number of young (mostly black, African, and Muslim) entrepreneurs making headlines. Teens who are gifted with a business mind AND a drive to help out their community. Instead of simply stacking dollars, they are creating scholarship programs to help others succeed. In the coming years, I see this as a shocking wave of transition and change. So shocking that people have a hard time believing we are on an upward swing.

A number of people I’ve been chatting with have aired out their disillusionment with our current times. I think what’s happening, the zeitgeist if you will, we are truly entering a new world order, wherein, those places and people we habitually looked down upon are making a hefty contribution and rise in the collectivity of consciousness. Their ontologies, or world views, are bursting our individualistic, privileged bubbles. Even those of us who are “liberal” “independent” and “progressive” have a lot of work to do on who we think we are. And because our lives are getting rocked, we see people fighting back, freaking out, and clinging to what they used to hold true. All those fearful people, like the woman in Kentucky who won’t issue gay marriage licenses, are getting swallowed up by the massive tide of transitions occurring. 

All I can say is, let go into the future, because it’s already here, right before our eyes.

For the past two years, I have lived without a refrigerator. In its place, there is a wardrobe stock full of tools. A palm sander. A heat gun. Caulk. A caulk gun. Steel wool. Scrapers. The list goes on. This little experiment in living has taught me a couple of things, notably, I have to eat what I buy or compost it. There’s another crazy rationalization I attribute to this. I have to keep my carbon footprint down (is that still a thing?) because, at this point in my life, I fly on airplanes a few times a year. I know a refrigerator doesn’t equal an airplane, but all the same, I haven’t owned a car in years. Trains, buses, bikes & walking are my preferred means of travel. On the flip side, road trips certainly come at their own costs, and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed a number of those. So, to be clear, I’m no saint, in fact, many of the stories & poems I’ve written will attest to the kind of dirty, rotten scoundrel I can be. It all has me questioning how committed I truly am to making this plot of land inhabitable for future generations. That being said, I’m curious, if we are all super heroes, what high powered, energy sucking modern luxury would you seriously give up in order to save the fate of our dearly beloved Planet Earth? (Cutting back on the consumption of meat, I would think, is a small, yet viable response to climate change.)

Travel Log: Day ??

We wound up in Pagosa Springs, a small city situated in the heights of the Rockies. 

When we first arrived, we wandered around and happened upon a group of bath houses and inns. Two women were coming out of one, walking down the steps & chatting briskly. “Well, that’s not really a hot spring.” “What do you mean? The water was warm enough.” “It wasn’t a spring, it was a bath house.” Meanwhile, standing at the entrance of one establishment, a man twirled his mustache, and with a sly grin, counted his money. It was feverish and maniacal… 

Honestly, I’m not sure if it happened exactly like that. I may be embellishing from the heat or the high. Maybe too many dusty roads.

“What are we doing here?” Paige and I asked ourselves. “Let’s get out of here.”

We found a place with live music, ate our meal, and on a whim, decided to stay at a motel instead of camping out. We welcomed a comfortable bed and the short walk to the springs in the morning.

We woke with the rising sun and sleepily made our way to the middle of town. Along the way, we crossed paths with a vagabond. He carried a hiking stick and laughed at a nearby dumpster overturned, of which, nothing fell out besides a crumpled piece of paper. Apparently, when no one is looking, curious bears wander the city and create all kinds of mischief. To avoid unnecessary cleanup, businesses strap their dumpsters shut. “Folks sure been talking a lot about bears!” exclaimed the vagabond.

We made it to the creek, scampering like little critters excited to jump in the water. A number of people fished, but other than that, no one occupied the pools. 

I’m not sure who constructed them, whether travelers or public works or groups of volunteers, but the pools were made of small rocks & big rocks arranged in circles along the creek. It felt like an oasis. It was hard to believe we didn’t have to pay a single dime for the experience, nor was a permit required. Because, America. It felt strangely real, like hyper-real; the creek was pure and natural yet very much influenced by humans. There was a tent pitched right on the banks too. 

We soaked for a while, dipping into the creek when the heat became too much, then back again when we became too cold. Although the water was incredibly clear and refreshing, it stunk to the high hells of sulphur. Without us noticing, the smell disappeared, replaced by the sweetness of dawn.

When Memories Supersede Landscapes

As we long haul it across the country, I’m reminded of a man I met on a bus maybe 3 years ago. We met in Atlanta.

He was an educated man. In his late 50s. He was interested in poetry and philosophy. I can’t remember if he was a lawyer, a real estate agent, or a psychologist. Regardless, we talked about everything from consciousness to entropy. The way the world is simultaneously falling apart and evolving. He told me about his passion for collecting tribal art and his interest in drum circles and spirit animals. He was a bear. He looked like one. He told me about his grandmother and the Native American blood running through his veins.

After chatting for a short time, he came around to telling me he had just gotten out of jail. He kind of slipped it in there. I guess he wasn’t sure how I would take it. On the one hand, I wasn’t surprised. It’s a strange thing that happens to me. I don’t know why, but it’s not the first, second, or third person I met on a bus or a train who had just been released from jail. Often times, the characters are rough, rambling, and unapologetic. One guy I talked with told me he was more or less a lifer. I asked him what he meant by that, and he said, pointing at his watch, earrings, and tattoos, “I like expensive things. I like to dress good and eat good. I love to party. I make easy money, and sooner or later, I get picked up, spend 3-5 in the pen, get out and live it up until I’m back in again.” He had a gleam in his eye, a kind of cackling madness. He lived side-by-side with danger and didn’t give a shit about death. It made me smile.

But the man I was riding with from Atlanta, he was different. He wasn’t a jailbird. He was completely broken. His skin was flaky and dry. His arms were full of sores. His eyes, heavy with bags. He described the terrible conditions he experienced- the hard plank of a bed, sleepless nights, the meager portions of fake, processed meals, the lack of sunlight & cramped space, “And to think, I was only there for two weeks! I’m just grateful to be out. The one guard felt bad for me and started slipping me some of his food.”

He split with his wife about a year prior. She was full of spite and bent on making his life a living hell. She took all his money, all his possessions, and remarried very soon after their official divorce. As a kicker, and because she had high-power friends, he was thrown behind bars. After all that, he was left with a duffle bag that he clutched close to his body, as if it was the only thing protecting him and his heart from final ruin.

I wanted to lean over and give him a hug, but didn’t. I imagined how awkward it would be reaching over to him in our cramped little seats on the bus. Instead, we continued to talk. He was still wearing the spare clothes he was given in jail: a raggedy white t-shirt and grey sweatpants. His eyes were bloodshot. They looked perpetually on the verge of tears.

He told me his plans. He was going to stay with his daughter in Texas. “She and her husband need help fixing things around the house. Fences, doors, a shed out back. And now I can spend time with my granddaughter. I have the chance to watch her grow, to tell her stories, and even teach her grandfatherly things…” He paused, and looked off for a moment, “You know, it’s odd. I feel light. Like there’s a new beginning. I have nothing really except my family.”

I didn’t know what to say right away, so I just looked at him. I could see weight slowly lift from his weary body. He came out of his self-reflection and asked me about my life. I told him I was a writer. I shared some of my work with him, and read for a while before returning to conversation.

“How old are you?” he asked. “25.” “So young. A rambling poet just wandering the country. Talking to people along the way and writing stories. Folks like you still exist, huh… Where are you going?” “To Dallas for a full moon celebration.” “Go on…” I related more of my story, how I traveled from South America to Philly to Central America to Oakland to Colorado, Chicago…

“I don’t how it happened. I just tapped into something. Got lucky. Struck gold. Met great people. And kept on creating. I feel like it’s happening to a lot of us. I mean, everyone’s experiencing it differently, you know, the zeitgeist. The apocalypse. This grand transformation of life is occurring, whether we’re forced into it by outside circumstances or maybe we accept it willingly and engage it.”

He looked at me with one of those questioning looks people give me when I slip into ideas like that. Then a kind of half smile breached his lips. “Yeah, I get it. Consciousness is evolving whether we like it or not.”