As Samhain is the end of the year for me, as it has been for Pagans since before the Romans forced Christ on everyone, I reflect on the past year…
Last year at this time I was picking up the pieces and catching up on work I had missed by being the Volunteer Coordinator for the PA Sustainable Living and Renewable Energy Association. That was my fifth year with the festival, having tabled there for various groups.
This year is the year of the non-volunteer for me. No more trying to help the community through activism. No more lending a hand to non-profit agencies that do not appreciate the work done for them. I kept my position as Keeper of the Gate at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, however. I like it there and have 13 years in so far. Even so, I cut back on my duties to just two weeks a month.
Speaking of Hawk Mountain, last week I had the unusual experience of hitting a vulture in flight with my car. Leaving the mountain after my shift, sneaking home on twisty back roads, I spied two kitties sprawled in the center of a small intersection. They were watching for birdies and catching the heat as the sun hit the macadam beneath them. Not wanting to make a ‘schmutz’ out of any stray kits, I kept it in low gear and continued, watchful for pussies.
Rounding a curve, a large black and grey turkey vulture stood in the center of my lane, picking at some roadkill. Slowing as much as I could, since there is always some annoying ass flying up behind you in order to tailgate, the car moved across the double yellows into the passing lane in order to miss the rapacious creature. I went too slow. The raptor flapped and lifted from the ground, flying in the direction of my car. It happened so fast that I barely saw it bump the windshield. It left a smudge and I thought that was it until a week later, when I noticed the soft, light feathers sticking out from the strip of metal that holds the shield in place. With feathers still stuck to my car a week later, I just hope I didn’t hurt the vulture too much.
Maybe that is why I stick to Hawk Mountain. There is always a surprise from Mother Nature. It will still be very busy there for the remainder of fall and I enjoy every minute.
While volunteering is a good thing, it was cutting into things I need to do for myself. Why I do not have the good sense to put myself first, I’ll never know but I have gotten started on that path.
So, with that said, I still thought that a bit of activism would not hurt me too much. At some point in there, when the state stopped funding to the libraries, I went out to protest at the local library…the first time I ever held a ‘protest’ sign, even though I have been ‘protesting’ since Earth Day 1970.
On December 2, the hearings for PA HB 1393, the house bill for the legalization of medical marijuana, were held and I was there to testify as a cancer survivor. The whole thing was a circus of emotions. Women carried signs with pictures of youths who ‘died from pot’ and silly stuff like that. There was testimony from doctors and experts, but mostly from people giving empassioned stories about other people who died and how pot helped them. Not a single person who had a medical condition and was helped by MJ was allowed to speak. It was mostly a horse and pony show for the Philadelphia NORML group, who are still posting videos of themselves testifying ten months after the fact. So I and my missing rectum became part and parcel of the house bill and PA history…for all the good it did.
Also in December, I threw a stick into the mighty Mississippi River. I had flown over it before but never got that close. I had fallen into a bunch of people I used to know on Facebook and one of them lived in St Louis. It was a chance to drive many miles, like I used to love so much. I was able to cross six states in 12 1/2 hours of non-stop amphetamine-fueled driving and then, five days later, back across those same states five days later in 10 1/2 hours.
When I think back to youth, the roadtrips are always a highlight. I loved breaking land/speed records, like the time I made it from Chester, PA, to Gainseville, FL, in less than twelve hours. I won’t say much about the visit but I will say one thing for Facebook – when you find somebody on there that you haven’t seen for 38 years, there is probably a good reason for it. Facebook lets you relive the things you forgot about doing in high school, while reminding you why you stopped hanging with these people. They are fucking boring!
Face it, if somebody is really your friend, they will call you or see you. If they pop up on FB after decades of non-communication, think twice before you make plans. You may revisit the wrong part of your youth. That is not to say I have not chatted with people I am glad to hear from…just think twice, that’s all.
The wintry winds of the first few months of 2010, along with the piles of snow which came with them, found me stuck in the house, reading a lot and trying to price a bunch of antiques and old books and magazines I want to sell. I picked up a few copies of’ ‘The Outsider,’ which had been nestled in my shelves for years. Printed in 1961 and 1962, they featured works by Bukowski, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc. I had paid two dollars an issue for each issue at a antique/craft shop in Old Forge, NY, twenty years ago. This seemed like a good place to start.
Online, I discovered that ‘The Outsider’ literary journal had been the subject of a recent movie by Hunter S. Thompson cinema-biographer, Wayne Ewing. An article I found said that in issue two (I hold issues two and three) there was a poem by Jack Kerouac that was the focus of some scholarly study. The Outsider was hand printed and collated. Due to this, a certain poem was found to have several versions printed and nobody was sure which one had been what Keroac had written. A professor in England was working on it. The article said that only twenty copies remained in existence. I was happy to report that I held copy number twenty-one.
To reach the professor, I contacted the author of the article, one David S. Wills, founder and publisher of literary journal, Beatdom. I gave David the details of the version of the poem that was in my copy of The Outsider. Somewhere along the line, we fell into e-conversation and I told David about meeting William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. As a younger man, I had corresponded with Ginsberg and I told David about a postcard I got from Ginsberg, where I actually got the peacenick to say ‘fuck you’ to me, twice…yet in a kind, sage way.
Mr. Wills asked if I would be kind enough to write the story up to be used in Beatdom and, happy to do so, I sent it along. It appeared in issue six and Mr. Wills was kind enough to accept submissions of other essays for following Beatdom issues. Now, I still have the two issues of The Outsider and my house keeps filling with more books, including Beatdom.
About this same time, I was still feeling the actvism and went to a meeting of NORML in Philadelphia. Being a member of a group of potsmokers couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? The meeting was hard to deal with. It was unstructured, with people shouting out and ideas popping up like jumping beans. I wanted to do some work. I wanted to help make pot legal. I was told that more got accomplished on the group’s website than at the meetings. I tried the website and will only go as far as to say that potsmokers should not join groups. Nothing gets done. I saw an idea for making t-shirts and selling them, which had been floating around the site for over a year. I offered my services – myself, a six-foot table and a car to table at events in a five county area, if they wanted. Naturally, they said they could not use me since they did not have enough literature to fill a table. A few asinine suggestions later and I was convinced that NORML was not for me…too young, too foolish, too lazy. So much for that scene.
At this point, my blog is much longer than planned, so I shall finish it tomorrow, so as not to rush.