My Hillbilly Heart

Two outlaw legends.

What luck! Two outlaw legends need a ride.

I think I should have been born a hillbilly.  I think that’s been the problem.  I needed to be around people who understood me.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos of outlaw hillbillies on the computer machine these days.  Mostly Jesco White and his clan of kin, raising hell in Boone County.  More bat-shit ballistic, cold-cocked ruthless, knocked-down, chopped-up and snorted party people you won’t find.  Not around these parts.  Really love Jesco.  Really love that whole family.  Hell, I just plain love hillbillies.

I admire how tough they are.  They’ve had more than their fair share of shit dumped on them.  People living in places where having a job mining coal is considered “doing well. ”  In other words, it goes down from there.  Tragic shit.

Jesco White, King of the mountain dancers.

Jesco White, King of the mountain dancers, on the fast track.

Exploited for ages.  Starved thin.  Shot up.  Beat down.  Sold out.  Black-lunged.  And somehow still proud.  If you can endure all that bullshit and still tap out a dance on the front porch, more power to you.  Nobody dances better than the poor.  That’s a historical fact.

As for the outlaw element, I figure they’ve earned a little rule-breaking slack.  Yes, yes.  We all must take personal responsibility for our actions blah blah.  But I see a lot of people not taking personal responsibility for their actions.  They’re farting up their golf pants on a resort island while some great idea of theirs has just ruined the lives of thousands of people.  And nobody setting the hounds on them.

Fuck it.  If you’re coming from such a depressed socioeconomic status, there’s nothing wrong with paying back society.  With a middle finger.  As a salute to it’s magnanimous largesse.

“Somebody say large ass?  C’mere Lulu Lee, an’ let me spank some of that big white!”

Gratitude.

Gratitude.

Hell.  Why not try and do as much as you can get away with?  If you’re basically fucked either way.  Might as well go ape shit.

Create some memories.  Something they can’t take awayI always say.

I’ve created a few memories.  In between all the stuff I can’t remember.  Some good.  Some not so.  But not everything about being bad was bad.  Just like not everything about being good is good.  It’s just better to be good.  So I have to go with that.  Maybe with a little resignation.  Maybe with the thought that I wouldn’t have to do this…if I was born a hillbilly.

Me without make up.

My natural default. Can I still get a ride?

Could be some past life thing.  Maybe because I was conceived in Kentucky, when my dad was stationed at Ft. Knox.  I don’t know.  But I get those people.  I think I’d find a comfortable niche in a community of moon-shining, tap-dancing, porch-swinging, substance-abusing, unlawfully-discharging-of-a-firearms folk.

Something about the lifestyle.

It appeals.

Not all of it.  The abject poverty is a downer.  Not a fan of any racism, xenophobia, or inbreeding either.  Early death due to accident, sickness or murder are also bummers.

But karate-kicking the Jack Daniels mirror my cousin Keith won at the carnival in Brokewood–right out of ol’ boy’s hands?

Well, that sounds like a gas.

Especially if it had his last line of coke on it.

“How do you like that, boy?”

“You done stirred up a hornet’s nest of shit, son.”

Both of us scrambling for a shard of broken glass. “Only Daddy That Will Walk The Line,” playing on the stereophonic record player we stole from the Goodwill.  Granny on the rocker, gumming us a grin from behind her huffin’ rag.  Uncle Willie tapping out The Death Row Shuffle on the curling linoleum in the kitchen.  My hound dog, Boone, howling at an outhouse moon.

I can get into that.

Or going to the gasoline cart races.  Swilling half-gallon cups of beer.  Watching the cars go around the track.  Cheering when someone crashes.  Booing when someone wins.  Karate chopping my cousin Keith in the neck for no reason while stumbling back to parking lot.  Jumping the security guards sent to break up our fight.  Gassing them with their own pepper spray.  Mountain dancing on the hood of their squad car while they cough and vomit.  Then throwing a brick through the rear window before we bolt.

Me and Keith laughing as we roar out of there.

My 1970 Chevelle SS dragging caution tape tied to pylons.

Out to the back-roads.

And sweet freedom.

The money I saved by not fixing my teeth going under the hood of the beast we ride.

Cracking cold beers.  Ripping bong loads while driving with the knees at eighty-seven miles per hour.  The air-blower vacuuming up the white lines in the road.  Shooting at mailboxes with the .410 snake charmer we stole from his uncle, who’s also my dad, who’s now married to his mom, who is a stripper, that’s also good for pills.

That part would be cool, too.

"Hey, I need a ride to my truck."

“Hey, I need a ride to my truck.”

I’d want to cultivate a dangerous drifter look.  When I say “cultivate” I mean “naturally default to.”  Just walk around as the gnarly mess God meant me to be.  Let my hair go greasy.  Grow some stubble.  Let the gut lap.  Don the foam cap.  Start chewing plugs of tobacco tar–the dripping juice staining my red beard with black streaks.

Tattoo “Born too Loose,” on my forearm with a needle wrapped in string.

In Hillbilly Heaven, I’d live off Ramen and roadkill.  Canned beans and beer.  White lightning and black-powdered adrenaline.

I’d shoot empty bottles off my cocktail table.  Torch my tool shed just to watch the sparks fly up into the night sky.  Rock some large pile of woman back and forth in my rickety trailer while listening to Black Oak Arkansas.  Chain-smoke Pall Malls.  Pick at my electric cigar box guitar.  Take long pulls from the jelly jar.  Cough from the burn of liquid fire.  Jump straight out of my Lazy-Boy and knock out another of Keith’s meth-loosened teeth.  This time with a badminton racket I found in the neighbor’s yard.

“Jim Dandy’s not comin’ to your rescue, beeeyahtch!”

SWAP!

All because I could.

Ain't got a squad car? Hop a table.

Ain’t got a squad car? Hop a table.

The freedom.  The liberation.  Just the idea of it gives off some pretty potent vapors to huff on.  Activates the reptilian part of my brain.  The part I try to keep in check now.  So I can be the good citizen.  And stay out of the evening news.

The problem is that after sustaining long periods of good citizenshiphood, even in my doddering middle-age, I find myself hankerin’ for a heapin’ helpin’ of misbehavin’.  I miss courtin’ Miss Mayhem.  It’s the same irrational fond-recollectioning I do for some of the women that had made my life hell.

Or for booze.

You only remember scenes from the highlights reel.  A reel edited with Leni Riefenstahl propaganda wizardry.  Triumph of The Self-Will, if…you will.  All the brutally painful scenes left on the cutting room floor.  Only replaying the fun parts.

I selectively reminisce, then find myself longing for a long-lost self–a part of me that doesn’t get to come out to play anymore.  It’s easy to feel sorry for him.  Miss him.  And wish he wasn’t grounded…for life.

You know you gotta keep him locked in the root cellar.  Feed him under the door.  But that guy doesn’t die-off easily.

Fuck, he’s proved it.

So I better try to deal with him as best as I can.  While he’s still hanging around.

In early sobriety, I had to play a lot of Grand Theft Auto on the video machine.  Just to safely ween myself from some of my real hobbies.  Today, I  like to watch others run amok.  Soccer riots.  Public brawls.  Cage matches.  Russian mafia gunfights.  There’s always something to hold my interest on YouTube.

Basically, to let me live vicariously.

Anyway, it’s just something nice to think of.  Dream about.  Remember.  Whenever my goody-two-shoes start to pinch.  It’s good to remember what not giving a fuck feels like.  Maybe keep a little of it stuck in my sock.  For in case.

It sure helps knowing you already filled up on enough bad.  Earlier.  Really topped off the tank.

Enough to last you through a really long pursuit.

.

Young hillbilly in exile.

Young hillbilly in exile, looking for a ride.

Advertisements

Thugs Like Us: A Book Review

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

I wish I wrote it.  That’s probably the highest compliment another writer can give.  Other than I think God wrote this.  Which maybe with some pantheistic mental gymnastics, I guess I could say.  But why cloud the waters?

When John “Carnage” Carnell sent me his book, I was an easy mark–a drunken tourist stumbling down a dark alley with bills fanning out my bulging wallet.  As a confirmed Anglophile, recovering drunk, semi-reformed nihilistic criminally-inclined maniac, I was a soft-touch for his tale.

“What’s this? A story of a young UK punk’s journey through the world of late 70’s drink, drugs, violence, crime and sex?  Well, that doesn’t sound like something that would interest me.  But, I’ll try to approach it with an open mind.”

Indeed.

I burned through it once quickly.  Then hit it again, this time more slowly–making it last.  I was digging the new friends I was making; Singe, Bill, Flea, Leech, Spiney, Martin, Uggy, Julie, Oily Harry and the Rent-a-riot Crew, Johnny Oldman, Darren the Fat-shit-dog-shagger, Mum and Dad.

It was even better the second time.

A lot of times it is.

And yeah, I’ll hit it again after I recharge a bit.

What makes it so readable?   The clean lines.  Bukowski talked about getting down “the clean line.”  He preferred simple declarative sentences, stripped of all extraneous fluff and frills.  A straight shot to the jaw.  Hemingway, Fante, Vonnegut, a few others, used the simple to capture the complex.  It’s one thing to pull it off in a haiku, but to nail it in the nose, from the speeding car of narrative, takes skill.

And a clean line.

Carnell is a master of the clean line.

For this story he has to be.  As the voice of his protagonist, a working-class “world’s forgotten boy” (the one’s that searching, searching to destroy) with a nagging sensitive side, and even more troublesome fits of visionary insight, Carnell must speak for both beings.  Our hero is a nature boy at heart, who loves birds, and yet can’t help shooting at them with a pellet gun.  He can’t help destroying the things he loves.  Hmm.

The divided self.  The eternal train crash.  The big wave splash.

Jim is a good little boy, one simply overgrown by hooliganistic thughood–a persona required as an adaptation to his environment.  It’s an age-old conflict, hardly unique, but what Carnell does with it is.  His man toils with diverging impulses, surrendering to one or the other, but eventually with a mystic fatalism.  Whether he makes a good decision or a bad decision doesn’t really matter.   Whichever one it was, it was the one required.

How can I explain it?  It’s one thing to ignore certain inner warnings out of drunken foolishness, and it’s another to listen to a deeper voice that says, “Do it.  Things will be bad, but everything will turn out okay anyway.”  It takes a deeper faith not to play hooky from your dharma.  To understand that something from the experience is required.  Regardless of how unpleasant.  As part of a bigger picture.

I know for a fact that if Carnell hadn’t made a shit-load of bad decisions, he wouldn’t have met his wife, and still love of his life, Julie.  Stuff like that really takes the sting out of your fuck-ups.  It does out of mine.  And this one time, I fucked up.

And now things are okay.

Win/win.

Eventually the intuitive mystic and the bat-chain-pulling hell-raiser stop arm-wrestling each other.  And join together in mutual purpose.

But you’re not going to approach that threshold without some internal argument.  Albeit sometimes, a very subtle one–your ultimate decision being made aeons earlier.

Tricky little high-wire act to pull off.  To capture both voices.  And then bring them together.  Synthesize them.  In the written word.

Lolling lapses into purple-trimmed prose are never going to ring true from a lad whose head seems to serve only to break beer glasses and pool cues against.  But in Carnell’s simple, work-a-day blue-collar language, things are described simply as they are, as they happen.  Clouds move across the sky.  The sea sprays.  Birds appear.  People talk.  A fire-extinguisher is thrown through a window.  A pint glass orbits the earth.

There’s beauty everywhere.  No matter what.

He knows how to use words, but he also knows how to use the spaces between those words. In so doing, the mystical and mysterious creep through, unannounced, like flowers through a sidewalk crack. Or the smell of bacon and eggs wafting through a rent-controlled apartment complex.  Without a lot of stress and strain, spiritual beauty is made accessible to every class of citizen, no matter how wretched.

At least to those that take time to pay attention to the spaces.  In between.

It takes a lot of discipline for a writer to leave those spaces.  And trust.  Trust that the reader will meet him on the corner, at the time you both agreed on.  But when that happens, and the deal goes down right, it’s one of the best feelings ever.

I showed up.  I scored.  And it was some good shit.

Thugs Like Us is available through Amazon in “Big Fucking Book” size.  Big enough to smite with, if circumstances warrant, and a masterpiece of sub-culture literature.  Win/win.  http://www.amazon.com/Thugs-Like-Us-John-Carnell/dp/1480203467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363331904&sr=8-1&keywords=thugs+like+us   Strongly suggested.  Cult-classic status.
Also check out, Johnny’s blogula  @ http://wordpress.com/#!/read/blog/id/34992392/  It’s a gas, gas, gas.
Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

Red Ink In My Eye

Relaxing the other night, watching some documentaries about Russian prisons, I found myself being grateful.  Grateful the optical mouse worked on my bed sheets.  So I didn’t have to sit up at the desk to click.  That’s such a pain in the ass.

A Russian prisoner is being walked to a cell by four guards and a dog.  He’s handcuffed behind his back.  His legs are shackled.  He has a black cloth bag over his head.  And they have him walking bent over at the waist.  At a right angle.  The don’t fuck around at The Black Dolphin.  That’s the name of this particular prison.  The White Swan is another.  But that one is not as luxurious as the New Age spa this prisoner is enjoying.

“Come, be pampered in blissful sybaritic abandon.  The Black Dolphin, privately nestled between the jet-set playground cities of Novokuybyshevsk, Samara, and Ufa.”

The prisoners are forced to spend the day standing in silence.  Standing.  With a Russian head on their necks, one that makes them think Russian thoughts.   Keep that part in mind.  What a mental and emotional bludgeoning that in itself would be.  What vast endless steppes of melancholy confront that average traveler.  Now throw him into the worst place in Russia (which has a pretty decent collection) and see what kind of misery you can conjure.

These boys distill a potent brew alright.  And I know a thing about moon-shining a mental nightmare.  But they when they tap into that still, the sorrow just fucking flows.  I always say a Russian with a guitar is good for at least two suicides during any picnic.  So when the camera shows two of their prisoners standing in a cell, I always try to picture what’s going through their heads.  What the interior landscape looks like in there.  How those seconds would tick-tock by.

Time that must really crawl when you’re eagerly awaiting a delicious bowl of cabbage water.  Not to mention the fifteen minutes of luxuriating on the sinful comfort of a wooden stool.  Precious minutes.  Oh yeah.  That part totally rocks.  All that… getting to sit.  While eating water.

Best fifteen minutes of the day.  For sure.

It’s brutal fare.  And I need to see this.  A little reality-check.  To get more gratitudinal.  Which is an important tool in my sobriety toolbox that I hardly open.

I reach up for my can of Hansen’s Diet Ginger Ale.  I have to sit up to get at it.  If I put the can on the floor, I always kick it over.  So I have to set it on top of the dresser.  I’d prefer to just be able to turnstile my arm out at the elbow and have one in reach.  But alas, life is exceeding cruel.

I guess, if I dragged in something like a TV tray I could set up a little temporary nightstand, but I refuse.  You start using a TV tray as an end-table and it’s over.  You’ve officially quit the race.  Start picking out battery-heated booties from the Harriet Carter catalog and await your death.  It’s coming on swift wings.

I’ll keep having to reach up a little.  It’s good for me.  Good for the obliques.

Now there’s some dude showing off his tattoos.  A sullen, nicotine-stained woodcarving of The Eternal Mope, he’s pointing out what each piece of creepy Russian iconography means.  The church domes each represent a full conviction served.  It looks like he’s got pretty crowded Kremlin on his chest.  The black cat a burglar.  A beetle means pickpocket.  Stars on his knees mean he will not kneel before any authority.  Cool.  Spider web denotes drug addiction.  A light bulb means he worked in a Uranium mine.  Sorrowful Madonnas.  Orthodox crosses.  Church bells.  Ships.  Barbed wire rosaries.  Dice.  Diamonds.  Skulls.  Angels.

All of it signifying something sad, bad, or both.  Laid out there.  Bared naked.  For all to see.  Every one of your underworld merit badges.  On proud display.

Think of all the talking it would save.  Instead of trying to catch up a new friend with endless stories.  I could take off my clothes and just rotate like a rotisserie chicken a few times and they’d be up to speed.  Need to refer to a time in my life, just lift my shirt and point.  Let them read the codex.

Fuck yeah.

Okay, now I want some tragic Russian prison tattoos.   I want my own illustrated history tattooed in flesh.  I want to be a living billboard of bummer.

But only if I could design my own.  A bear drinking bees instead of honey from a hive.  An onion dripping  juice into a bloodshot eye.  A babushka mother wringing her hands.  A stack of poker chips on each shoulder.  A rabbit plowing a field.  A skull head hand-cuffed to a chainsaw.  A bullet going through a screen door.  A pair of black Converse with wings.  A wizard bong.  X’s on my eyelids.  A Mexican peso on my palm.  A monkey stealing a peach.  Well, one monkey stealing three peaches total.

I could also get 0.24, 0.26, 0.19, and o.o inked on my forearm–my blood alcohol level during arrests resulting in a conviction.  Maybe the ones that I beat on the other arm.

“This flying mushroom on my shoulder means I’m a skilled pilot.  The gnome bathing in the kitchen sink means I can handle the weird.  The salt shaker on my fist means I fight dirty.”

“What does the stiletto heel through the heart mean?”

Silence.  I break down in sobs.  Big rolling heaves.  Some renting of garments.  Hair pulling.  Really uncomfortable to witness.  Finally, wiping away snot, I manage to blubber out, “It means nothing!”  Then more sobbing.  More shirt tearing.  Hair pulling.  Just over the top shit.

“I shouldn’t have asked.  Sorry.”

That would be fun.

Actually, I always thought that if I were to really get my criminal creep on, I would like to tattoo a monocle over my eye.  With the string coming down from it, like the Planter’s Peanut Man.  Just to really keep ’em guessing.

“They called me ‘Professor,'” I’d  tell the cashier at the drive-thru.  Then drive off before getting my food.  But after paying.

Ah, it’s a pipe dream.  I’ll never do it.  I’m just not that into advertising what a fuck up I was.  Except in this blog, that goes out to the world via internet.

Huh.

The tattoos would’ve actually been a better choice.

Oh well.  Gotta take the bad with the bad.  Which is what these lads on the telly seem to being doing…with style.

They’re marched out at six in the morning for exercises.  That’s right, no cup of mocha espresso is going to wake you up like a few scorching lungfuls of Siberian frost.  The interviewed guard explains that the routine is made up of light movements intended to get blood flow into the limbs.  Just the thing after you’ve spent the night hung up with your arms behind your back, on a meat hook.

Just do some tootsie-tappers and wristy twirls.  Under searchlights.  And snow swirls.

Got to hand it to those Ruskies.  They know how to suffer.  Always have.  I think best of all.  Although Keller and my mom have been reading about North Korean prison camps.  They both tell me the No-Kos can give the Russians a run.  Keller said they have something there called a Three Generation Conviction.  In other words, the conviction is handed down through three generations.  Like a gold watch.  Or alcoholism.

Pretty raw deal, but I don’t know.  The Russians take anguish to an art form.  I really do enjoy their mournful songs of loss and regret.  Real soul-achey stuff.  I just can’t picture the North Koreans being as lyrical.  Maybe because they always do pep squad foot-stamp-and chant-stuff during the talent shows.  Running around with banners.  Spelling letters out of people.  Basic totalitarian regime half-time extravaganza shit.  That’s not going to translate well on the cattle car railing you off to work detail.  While everybody inside is fighting over icicles.

(Soda reach.  Sprinkle some trail mix on the chest to eat from.  Neck kind of hurts from watching sideways.   This pillow sucks.)

Okay, I don’t like this part.  Seen it before.  Always kills me.   The dad coming to visit the son.  See, the dad can’t visit too often since he doesn’t drop by Siberia that much.  He can only make the long journey twice a year, to be with his son– for two hours.

The visits only reignite the flame of pain.  But in this case, it’s clearly a pain endured in the name of love.

(Gulp)

They sit huddled in a small reception room nursing a cup of tea.  The son cradles some sort of beef-stick his dad gave him.  He doesn’t seem to care about the nitrates or high sodium.  They smile bravely.  The father is holding his son’s hands.  He has clearly forgiven him.  You can see it by the love in his eyes.  After all the fuck ups, the father still loves him.  Even though it makes it all hurt more.  It’s that kind of love.

(Hard swallow.  Eye-ball juice forming)

Now it’s time to part.  Time for Dad to catch the 5:15 back 2.300 kilometers into the city.  Time to tell the mother, who will never see him again, about her son.  Again and again.  During long winter nights.  To keep the memory of him from fading like a ghost into the forest.

They hug deeply.  Both men have tears.

(Achhh!  Achhhhh-hah!  Ghrrach!  Ahuuurrr!  Fucking pollen count.)

I move the mouse and click.  That’s enough of that.

I lie there for a while thinking.  I want to write my dad an e-mail.  Just to say “hey” and that I’m okay.  And that I love him.  I’m pretty sure he still loves me.  After everything.  More importantly, I want him to know that I do.  I kind of don’t feel like getting up.  Maybe tomorrow.

No.  Now.

It won’t kill me.  But not doing it might.  I sit up and reach for the keyboard.

Fucking Russians.

"This next number I'm going to play is a sad little song."

“This next number I’m going to play is a sad little song.”