The Opening Rant
Democracy and education should be thought of as synonymous. Because one will never work fully without the other. The stories coming out of my home state, North Carolina, are beyond voter fraud. It is outright villainy. And illegal. It takes a low down thief to come after someone’s voice. To take away their representation in the societal system that dictates the government’s recognition of their needs in administering assistance. We are beyond cruel. We are now afraid. Essentially, campaign representatives went around in certain neighborhoods, preying on the especially elderly, and requested to collect their absentee ballots. Of course, in a perfect world this would never happen. In a world functioning at just less than its very best, at least everyone would know to not hand over their ballot to a solicitor on their doorstep. But here we are, in this world, at the bottom of the barrel scraping for the last drop of something that got us as all wasted years ago.
The frightening thing is there are humans who would win this way. At any cost.
The truly depressing thing, they did. They nearly won. And we’re only just now figuring out how long they’ve been doing it. And by they, I mean Republicans.
Apparent. A visit yesterday. With parents. Assisting a sister in search of an apartment. Roommate named Laura. Had an English class with her. One semester. Me the brother.
Brought along wife. Sat snug in a long curled booth. Tucked in a corner. Been there. Before. Drinking underage with a couple college professors.
Who did not know better. Who did not know all. Yesterday.
Same place, two beers, my Dad and I, he drove one thirty, I drove forty five.
To sit, family and a friend, lunch, a couple hour visit, leave and drive back.
Those slow miles to no smiles and words smiling, talking about one another.
While driving. Flying toward home, led by the feet, seated.
So many similar scenes arise and are quickly defeated.
But none repeat.
Not a one is repeated.
~ Current Journal ~
Shitty movies from the late nineteen nineties.
Dented beer cans with blue ribbons on them bent stacked in crooked towers.
Wet nose dog. Smoke in a layer against the ceiling. Plaster peeling.
But the landlord said I better pick the poop up out of the yard.
Three refrigerators in the stairwell.
Nightmares stumble up South Massey.
Telling strange women they’re beautiful.
Shy rain. Hyper animals.
Sore body. Sour mind.
The baby has his place between breasts. And we have the rest.
To do with what we will, what we have, held up against each Christmas wish.
The rose tint of dreams that don’t stay where we tell them to.
Untrained. Unbroken. Unspoken. Pop. Deep latent rumble.
Thunder. Miles beneath our feet.
There is water from over a thousand years ago.
From rain. And river’s breath. And ocean piss.
Waterproof boots in the corner.
Laces like warnings.
Hunter is a short story I wrote about ten years ago, just after college. I wanted to explore all the different career routes I had been considering throughout pursuing an English degree. Journalism was up there, and this story was inspired by some of the communications and journalism courses I took during this time. I’ll be presenting it in pieces over the next several issues of The Egg. Enjoy!
What else is there like information, like the news. A vital billboard plastered above our lives. What connects us, our common, colorful oppression, modernized hills and mountains forced up and maintained by endless churning cycles of advertising, economics, commercial flows with powerful currents like rivers. Nothing else is so helpful and useful as shared common knowledge. Stories happy and sad stacked in thin pages of black easily smudged ink to make us who we are, and record us there. At some point it dawned on me that the people who search out and patch these articles together were common, anyone willing to be a hunter, a predator, to track, pin down and trap loose leads, wild testimonies, make sense and present. I could volunteer to write even, for the paper at my school, work my way up, and if I have any skill for playing a productive conduit for information, I would become a professional journalist some day.
This path, broadcast communication, through four years of undergraduate into a respected master’s program, taught me cynicism first and foremost. I sprinted blindly, learning along a track intended mostly to invest social skills, the transference of opinions form to form, person to person, the main goal was to convey more, all, everything vital, while actually saying less, and less, fewer words and gimmicks to get the point across. The pursuit has taken five years already, dug me into a daunting pit of debt, and all just to drain the magic from my passion. This cynicism is not an uncommon or unusual occurrence, and I relate it to how a stagehand must feel on the set of a terrific show. No matter how convincing the detailed paint on the fabric wall, the hand that painted, and no matter the thin, almost invisible wire lifting actors smoothly gliding over a gasping audience, someone’s hand pulled the other end, upheld every pound of amazing, entertaining weight, and most of all, knows. People in the audience know, but not like the stagehand, who could not afford to suspend such knowledge long enough to drop a jaw, be taken in by mystery, magic just on the other side of walls that aren’t really there. I know, or at least am learning, the inner workings of news writing. What makes one story worthy of sharing, prime time or not, and another ignored, left to life and the people locally invested. I am going to school, taking classes on media topics daily, but the story of my life might fail to be told, lined beside others, looking dull, diminished. Even I would strike the topic from the pile.
I mean it. I got married modestly young, senior year of college, to a girl just graduated, and we did whatever newlyweds do. Listening to friends, parents, every other person talking about it, we had a baby. By the time I was a graduate, a little girl, Emma, had been born, my god, to so much screaming, from a red-faced, fuming woman, refusing drugs or any distraction to dull the pain. A woman, a mother with purpose, a solid one, I hoped. I had already been accepted into the master’s tract for journalism at the same institution I earned my undergraduate, so the birth was mainly a mother’s first step. The burden would fall far more heavily on my wife, Sara, than I, getting out of changing diapers to study AP formatting already, only a month after getting home from the hospital. A little, brand new family unit isolated in separate rooms because I find the noise of Emma’s bawling highly distracting.
A lot of information is involved in learning how to convey information. Take it from a person once filled with passion, a desire to share, teach, tell stories dependably true, and write them down for posterity and time. I was being remade bland, generic, having opinions wiped clean from me, although not permanently, and the assumption I gathered was that an opinion, if ever I should require one, would be supplied by my employer, the paper, network, whatever future outlet a journalist worked in would come with a personal standard of appropriate. The main goal was to write a story so well no one would know it was you who wrote it. At least that is how I was being taught. And personal touches get criticized heavily. Not barred, but any student could count on having to defend including a casual reaction or opinion, phrasing or touch of humor that might create friction when entering the consciousness of readers, the mass dumbed down generic criticism coming in no matter what, and the question was intentionality.
At this point in my burgeoning career, I did not mind letting go of my hold ups and going with the flow. None of the stories I chose were my own, they were all to fulfill a topic requirement, a particular type of news, editorial on the religion department, political piece on local government and churches working together to address a problem of youth parking lot loitering. They built a skateboard park for them. Practicing sports writing, writing on entertainment, restaurants. Nothing I would truly choose on my own, if the choice were mine. Like the assignment before me now, a historical remembrance piece I can take almost any way I want. But must conclude with a current impact.
Something different today because of it.
Cooking is a unique form of alchemy. A lot of things go into stew you would not want to eat a handful of. I used to say I learned to cook out of necessity. I was always producing food, growing vegetables, milking goats, collecting eggs and processing chickens. A few recipes would always rise up from the fray and answer the question what the hell am I going to do with all this food. First off, I got really good at breakfast. And not just mornings, lunch breakfast, dinner breakfast, breaking fasts with snacks like livermush and eggs chopped up on a bed of grits. Or hard-boiled lunches that come with their own containers. Good, free-range, half wild chicken eggs need no salt or pepper. The worms and crickets in their diet give them that flavor, and a color so orange it yellows the sun. Little burgundy dot in the center says the rooster had his part in it too. Then the vegetables start coming, and they want to drown you in yellow and powder green and shimmering reds beside Cherokee purples. This unlocks a door into worlds of casseroles and canning and really really happy friends. I accomplish my favorite recipe for putting produce to use just setting it out in the break-room at work, watching it walk out the door brimming plastic grocery bags. My all time favorite meal. And chicken, whole chickens, cut into quarters, curing in the fridge three days before rising again crowned by ice, throned in the freezer. Gallon bags full with stomachs and necks and hearts and fat. My preferred recipe for this resource was found making homemade dog food. Chicken organ oatmeal, I call it. And yes, it is just as disgusting as it sounds. Dogs obsess over it. I also learned a great method of making incredibly way too much chicken noodle soup for one. Now I know you can freeze the stock, and with a hen who has laid eggs for around three years, you get a lot. Aged hens used to be a prairie delicacy, along with fertilized eggs. Now it’s a disclaimer. Best just to cook it off the bone, wrap it in aluminum and give it to a fire until it turns it into barbecue. Started off as a chick chirping in a box at the post office, calling me at five in the morning to let me know I have a package and it’s making noise. Started off as exposed worms while I turned over gardens, so many ants and eaten beetles and moths right out of the air.
Started off as an egg. The seed of a chicken.
With a world overlapped and boiling from the fiery recipe of life.
And remember, a lot of things go into a stew
that you do not want to eat by the handful.