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Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.

zeb

This, my friends from around the world, is what Appalachian music is all about.  Not that I don’t love other music.  Just check out my Music page.  (Note to self:  Post some Foo Fighters, man.)  But everything about this video speaks to my world.  Zeb in his ball cap and his very non-millennial, non-hipster, Appalachian beard. The sled leaning against the wall.  The wood-burning stove.  Even the name.  Zeb.

And how can he be so good?  So easy?

The best part is Zeb Snyder and the Snyder Family Band is coming to my little town of St. Albans in June for the first ever YakFest.  Can’t wait.

the long walk

pier for web

There were a few people on the beach, walking slowly, their heads down, scanning the sand for surprises from the deep that always appeared after a storm. A yellow umbrella pitched in the sand near the surf caught her eye and though she couldn’t see, she knew there was an old man underneath, his skin dark and leathery from his years in the sun, his shirt – a short-sleeved button-up, despite the cool weather – bleached a pale blue. There was a tackle box by his side and an always empty creel, though surely he would catch something sometime. Surely. He would sit in his beach chair and smile anyway, as if he knew he were part of the scene, part of what the people from the city expected to see when they came with their pale flesh, soon to be pink flesh, to walk on the hard, grainy sands and evaluate their lives and make big plans that would carry them back to their tedious jobs and their monotonous neighborhoods with a feeling of hope that would last a couple of weeks, maybe three, before comfortable complacency engulfed them once again and relieved them of any responsibility of living a more meaningful life. And it always happened on days like this one, not in the bright of a too hot day where the heat and lotions and kids crying in the distance worked to produce nothing better than a brief nap, followed by a short walk to the water to cool the feet, maybe venture in up to the knees, but never farther. No, the deep contemplation happened on the overcast days where the obligatory roasting in the sun was excused and those with no inclination for inner reflection went to the mall, while those who still had hope went on the long walk to the pier.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird, from the novel Heather Girl.

and the darkness he called night

“I guess I misjudged how quickly the darkness falls.”

— Heather Roth, from the novel Heather Girl


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

i can’t work like this

Adena Springs

Yesterday I drove from Lexington to Louisville along the Bluegrass Parkway.  It was mile after mile of picturesque, bucolic, pastoral scenery, on what had to be the most beautiful day of the year. It is impossible to have gloomy thoughts while making this drive on a day like that.

Utterly impossible.

How can one ponder the human condition when the day is perfect?

How can a writer let his imagination wander to the struggles of mankind when the grass is so green?

Writers need the the grit of the dark alley.

Writers need the longing promise of the empty train platform.

Writers at least need some rain, or run-down barns, or the crusty old farm hand thinking about his past.

There’s another part of Kentucky – eastern Kentucky – that’s ripe for stories.  But not this stretch of highway.

No way.


Photo Credit: Walt Roycraft.  The photo is the property of GRW, my employer.  The architects of GRW design, among other things, equine facilities.  This is the site of one of our projects, the Adena Springs Horse Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Very much like the scenery I passed on my way to Louisville.

how to squander your right to vote

I tried to vote today.

Of course that’s not the story.  I vote in every election, if I’m able.  Last year (I think it was last year) I voted by filling in circles with an ink pen, just like I did on high school tests back in the olden days.

But technology has finally arrived to the backwoods corner of my world.  This morning at 7:15, I arrived at the polling place to find brand new touch screen voting machines.  The poll workers felt obligated to teach me how to use them.  Not that I couldn’t figure it out by myself.

So I slide in the ballot to get things going and start touching away.  I knew some of the candidates, but rather than vote for people I don’t know anything about, I’ll skip to the next office until I see a candidate in which I have some confidence. On these new machines, it meant I touched “Next”.  I did that a lot.

I finally finished and then the machine started making me review all my choices.  I didn’t have time to do that.  I had to drive to Lexington.  More on that in a little bit.  I needed to end the voting exercise.  So I hit “Exit.”

And out came my ballot.

I took it to the next station where it was inserted into the magic vote counting machine. The magic machine spit it back out.  They tried again.  Same result.

“Did you hit Exit?”

“Yes.”

“You weren’t supposed to do that.”

“Oh.”

“You should have hit Print.”

“Oh.”

“Hey, Jimmy.  He hit Exit.  What do we do?”

“He should have hit Print.”

“That’s what I told him.”

“Try it again.”

“We did.  It didn’t work.”

They huddled to consider the options.

“Nevermind.  I have to go.”

“But sir.  We’ll figure it out.”

“I don’t have time.”

They were still huddled when I left.

It’s ok.  The people I vote for never win anyway.

this morning

fog for web

this morning the skies are gray and the air is warm and dry like a mid-summer day.

this morning i stopped at Tim Horton’s and got a cup of oatmeal and a black coffee.

this morning i sit in my office planning for a day of phone calls and emails, and too little design.

this morning when i was young i worked outside tilling the soil and tending the plants and earning callouses on my hands.

this morning the birds call out in the quiet, reminding me of the days i worked the earth and toiled in sweat.

this morning it’s quiet inside, but soon the phone will ring and my day will start and i’ll forget this thought.

this morning i want to go outside and hoe the ground and smell the richness of the compost and eat lunch in the shade.

this morning the train rumbles on the tracks two blocks away and the bus roars by and and a siren wails.

this morning, like any other morning.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

these boys can play

I’ve kind of been viewing Pokey LaFarge as a little bit of a novelty act.  They may be completely quirky, but these guys are incredible musicians.  Don’t believe me, check it out.  That dude on the harp is insane.  The bass player is slapping like it’s nothing.  And yeah, the guitar player is pretty good, too.

let’s go to havana

he comes from the land down under, this Lignum Draco.

and he travels.

and he takes amazing photographs.

he just finished an intriguing series from havana.

you have to see.

one click on the link below and you’ll be transported.

Lignum Draco.

dystopia

kmart for web

what’s that building?

it used to be a store.

a store?

people used to go there to buy things.

what kind of things?

clothes.  paint.  medicine.  watches.  televisions.  tools.

why didn’t they just order it?

it was different then.  people wanted to see what they were getting.

why?

i don’t know.  something about feeling the heft of a hammer in your hands.  seeing how a watch looked on your wrist.  or shoes on your feet.

seems like a lot of trouble.

i guess.  sometimes they’d sell hot dogs out front. or brownies.

why?

cheerleaders raising money for uniforms.  veterans helping veterans.

what’s a veteran?

people who went to war defending our freedom.

war is bad, isn’t it?

yeah.  it can get complicated.

why is there so much pavement in front?

people used to drive cars.

you mean ride in cars?

no.  they actually drove cars.  everybody had a car.  they’d keep it at home and drive it to the store.

no way.

yes. and they’d leave their cars all over the pavement while they went in the store and shopped.

that’s just crazy.

maybe.  but it worked.  i met your grandmother in that store.

was she shopping?

no.  she was a cashier.

what’s that?

we used to buy things with money.  dollar bills.  coins.  we’d pay the cashier before we left with whatever we bought.

grandma was a cashier?

i went to the store a lot.  bought things i really didn’t need just for the chance to talk to her.

why didn’t you use an app?

you can’t flirt with an app.

why do you need to flirt?

you don’t.  it’s just part of the dance.

you danced, grandpa?

oh yeah.  we danced, all right.

so what’s with the rocket?

beats me.  we never did figure that out.

rocket for web


The first photo is the former K-Mart in my small town, closed just a few weeks ago.  It’s unsettling how deserted the parking lot is now.  To the right, just out of the frame, a Kroger store continues to thrive, so it’s not quite the apocalypse.  Not yet.  The sign in the second photo is soliciting tenants for the vacant building.  In the background, across the highway on the riverbank, is the rocket of St. Albans.  I’ve lived here all (most) of my life and have no idea why we have a rocket on the riverbank by the highway.


images and story copyright 2018, joseph e bird

 

 

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