Friday, October 21, 2011

life goes at a feverish pitch, as we hurtle toward the holiday season: halloween, saints day, guy fawkes day, maybe even sadie hawkins day or whatever else. this year, on the third, will be siuc strike day, if it gets that far; this will be stressful, already has been stressful, but will be a holiday of sorts if it comes to pass. i myself try to avoid even thinking about the strike, so i troll occupy sites, and do africahub, mess with various blogs, and in general practice escapism.

my big discovery from trolling the occupy sites was that the clown figure is actually guy fawkes, and came from a modern scary movie; i've become fascinated with this clown figure (see the occupy pop art) at least for the time being as he has a lot of contrast and really sets the other stuff up. he also is a bigger figure on the world stage, for whatever reason, than here; they've also taken in the 99% idea and, in some places, tend to gather quite large audiences for a good long time. the cold weather is already chasing them here, though, sadly, and i doubt they even recovered, locally, from having their tents removed the other night, though this is a weekend in october, and the campus, and town, tend to get pretty lively in their own right, giving the police more to do than just make a bunch of protestors unpitch their tents. the history of this town says: the whole month belongs to the wild crowd. the police will have to guess exactly where the party has moved, and i obviously am the wrong one to ask.

a little guy in our house got sick, and this set us back a little, and sent me home today to make pop art while he slept it off. i keep thinking of the rainbow people as i see these massive encampments, tents, sleeping bags, people hanging out on the streets, class-war signs, and i'm sure there are rainbow people among them, but these protestors, compared to the rainbow people, are much less clever about getting in the police's bad graces, learning the ordinances, etc. the rainbows were also egalitarian, also somewhat averse to having a coherent political message. also a bit fly-by-night, here one day, gone tomorrow. one would bring greetings from the far corners of the continent, and tell what was happening in some encampment on the opposite coast, and you'd learn far more than you do by, say, reading about it in the mnainstream press. i'm hoping to collect a number of occupy sites; i find them mostly trolling for images, but it's a pretty active community online, strong, united at least for the moment. perhaps able to exert some pressure, and get something done politically.

when i found out that the clown dude was guy fawkes i got a little start, as i've always taken guy fawkes quite seriously though i've never lived in england or really understood what the whole holiday is about. apparently people still burn fires on his behalf, and even light firecrackers, though it's mostly against him, as he was a catholic seeking to overthrow a protestant government. so, are the fires anti-catholic? divisive at all? just hooliganism? and what about this clown dude - does he inspire anything besides the feeling, as one person pointed out, that high drama is involved, with the sharply visible black-and white dramatic mask. i don't know. i've started to use him in the art, hoping i'll figure it out as i work with the image.

i taught an extra class this week, and that has made me more tired than usual and also somewhat spinning from the high exposure to both entirely new people (there are many) and a parade of others passing through, with their various complaints and comments. so many of the new ones are saudi, and i've become quite familiar with that culture (though not the language), and many others are chinese; this is an interesting and baffling contrast and keeps us hopping. we have so little time to worry about the strike, or the tent encampment, much less the cardinals who are in the series, or even the field trips out to six flags. things are hopping.

i call it show your colors month, because, in my view, the bright display of nature around us stirs in us, fears of winter, and at the same time, desire to show the world our best, our true self. a leaf is its true self all its life, but at that one moment, when it is its brightest color, and it lets go of its little hold there, and drifts down to the ground where it becomes part of an orange pastel that slowly turns to brown; that is its moment, at that moment you see it perhaps most clearly for what it is. i used to notice this when i moved people (in an old truck)...surrounded by boxes of possessions cast asunder, where they couldn't get at them, being between one apartment and another, they'd show more of their personality, out there on the edge like that, than ordinarily. maybe these encampments have experienced some of this intensity.

which then, again, brings us back to the rainbow people, who of course would bathe in this intensity though they'd often (by reputation at least) bathe in nothing else. i myself always loved camping, had no problem with a group of people sleeping in tents for a day or a week, getting that wood-smoke smell in their whiskers, and the being in the woods, of course, would relax you, make you healthier, make you sleep better (tonight, by the way, is supposed to be a meteor shower, but i, in my usual habit, am unlikely to be awake at the pre-dawn darkness and may miss it altogether) any case, the intensity of their lives, being between homes, between jobs, between any poles of permanence whatsoever, would sometimes impress you in such a way that you'd want to go home (to any home), get warm, curl up by some fire, and eat a store-boughten fig bar. their campfires would be wild, and social, and musical, and would carry on well into the morning for all who were up to it, and the dreams of the next place up the road would come tumbling out, usually someplace warmer, since, as i mentioned, i generally associate rainbows in this area with october...then i'd wonder, is key west really that much better? at the moment it would seem that way.

then, in this town, october was always known also as the big drinking month. it would culminate on halloween with a blowout party that happened every year but through the nineties became steadily more violent until the city and university moved aggressively to wipe it out sometime in the early oughts, 2003 maybe. people would fill the so-called "strip" with drunkenness and lewdness, yelling and shouting and basically getting drunker and drunker, and not going anywhere. an old couple passed through town and made a connection at our house, since they were friends of my parents, and were involved in some bicycle trip down the river that required them to take the train back up the river into the heart of the strip of our fair town. but this train, city of new orleans, arrived at this bar area at about 1:30 or 2, and this being october, this place was hopping, and everyone was drunk. at this time of night, one sees everything, drunkenness, drunken driving, people saying all kinds of things, urinating on the tracks in front of the train, etc. the poor folks were shocked. but hey, it's show your colors month, these kids are doing what kids do.

so the drinkers are out drinking, the cards fans are all wearing their birds, and their red, and their s-t-l hats, and saluki fans are out there doing their saluki thing, and the poor police, of course, are trying to maintain some kind of order, and not look too bad beating up people. i myself am making a lot of pop art, and playing african music again as i drive through town. the pop art is somehow soothing, seeing these faces, millions, all kinds, with urban architecture as background; this clown dude, of course, is like waldo, appearing all over the place. but the wall streets of various towns, around the world and around the us, are kind of like the next place up the road, it's a permanent road tour. i shrink from a political statement of any kind; i find guy fawkes all over, some places with a dollar bill on his mouth, but again, i don't take sides in a 1600 political battle, except maybe quaker sides. tonight i was out there, near the strip, printing wal-mart books, and saw some young lads hitting the sidewalks going for a drink, yet it was only about three; they were in for a long evening i'm sure. i'm long gone, long home, by the time it gets started down there, about eleven or twelve, but i know enough about it to stay away, and, like i said, i'm shrinking up by a fire with a warm glass of milk, usually. so when the old folks came around that one year, in october, and pointed out what a wild town i lived in, that the train would stop in the center of it at two in the morning and it would be full of wild and shouting young people, and i'd forgotten all about it, didn't even remember how wild it could get. studying africa is kind of like that. here's kenya, sick and tired of wild militants sneaking in and kidnapping tourists, sends an army across the border to clear out the militants, and everyone gets caught in deep mud & muck and things get worse before they get better. the militants, like the rainbow people, are more likely to say, we live like this, we're used to it, a little bad weather isn't going to clear us out of our forest or send us to shelter. but for the rest of us, seeing that kind of instability as a way of life is a little rattling, and reminds us, how good it is, to have a place to raise a kid, for a decade or two.

this one rainbow guy i met, was hitchhiking to alaska one summer, with his little kid, when the rains came down and washed out the highway, and we were all stuck in this far northern canadian town for about a week while they put the road back together. it boggled my mind, how you'd manage to do something like this with a kid, yet he kept it all together, made a little money while we were stuck there, got back on the road like we did, and off to the next place up the road...we'd sit on our backs, and watch the northern lights swirling above us. i never asked, for whatever reason, what happened to the mother, or whether they were on the lam or what; obviously, if you're hitchhiking, you'd expect to be checked once in a while. among this community there was a maxim: of course it's possible. they could have hitchhiked to the southern tip of south america, and that would have been possible too, lots of people did it. but as a way of life? i'm not sure it was, for him, a way of life, or for his kid; he was probably just going from one place to another. sometimes i'd like to get out there again, see those stars in different sets, maybe see the ones south of the equator; maybe i've spent a little too long under the usual orion. but i'm also grateful; you see those old guys, some of them hard drinkers, some thrown in jail in spite of their best efforts, or just worn out but needing another hike out of the woods, as they are constantly pulled back to town by their need for warm food, a little money, the earthly pleasures. i'm grateful, because i'm home, and hope i can stay this way. the clouds are looming above, and you always wonder, you go to bed sometimes, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. but, the fact that i've made it this far, and am home again, that i'm grateful for. and with that, i'll throw you some pop art, and go to bed. to see the whole exhibit go here...


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