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They Called My Mama Sister

Anyone who’s been hanging in there waiting for more tech and music posts knows that I’ve been going through some sort of metaphysical reconciliation lately.  When you get older, and your younger friends start looking like you imagine your parents would look if they hadn’t smoked themselves to death, you start thinking about what matters and what doesn’t.  It’s hard to tell in any given moment, when your perspective is clouded by the Orwellian fog and awkward interactions that life entails, but over time patterns start to emerge.

Numbers, math, cards, music in a minor key.  Commonly approximated as 3.14159.

Don’t you push me baby, ’cause I’m all alone.
Well I know a little something you won’t ever know.

Speaking of awkward interactions, Ricky, who works for me at the farm sometimes, came by yesterday.  He needed some gas, and another friend’s phone number.  He got the gas, while I looked up the number.  I gave it to him, “Ricky, don’t lose that number. You don’t want to call nobody else.”  He shook his head, and turned and run.  You just can’t pass up those once in a lifetime opportunities.

There was a pattern at play.  He just missed it.  Like almost everyone else.

I think Ryan Adams was channeling primordial patterns when he wrote Dancing with the Women at the Bar.  The up-tempo version from ACL a decade or so ago captured the futility of trying to escape preordained trajectories.  It’s not on YouTube, so this will have to do.

My daddy saw the moon, heard the sound of the strip 
Yeah, it called out his name 
Yeah, it called out his name 
My daddy saw the moon, and heard the sound of the strip 
Yeah, it called out his name 
And it called his son’s name too

I barely remember my dad, but I think he would like that Song.  He took a lot of pictures.  I think he understood patterns.

I spend much of my time identifying and monitoring patterns.  Look out mama, there’s a red boat coming down the river, and all that.  Maybe I’m on the spectrum, like Sharon, or maybe we’re the only ones who see what’s really at stake.  Hard to tell.

But I’ve figured out a few things.

Like that this song reminds me of my mom.  There are reasons why.  I wrote a short story about it.  A time of great sadness.  I’m trying hard to give less shits these days, but that’s a work in progress.  Aren’t we all?

I can’t think of a song, conversation or thought that couldn’t be made better with an accordion.  The G-man and I used to debate the proper use of horns in country music.  Horns can make a song, or destroy it.  Accordions are always accretive.

A hundred thousand Robins landed in my yard the other day.  Someone said they were on their way to Michigan.  Maybe all the way to the big lake they call gitche gumee.

And all that remains is the faces and the names,
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

While taking stock of things, I find myself spending more and more of my time out in the wilderness.  I don’t have accompaniment by accordion, but I have wildlife.  A Kestrel landed on a low branch maybe ten feet away from me yesterday.  Thanks to patterns, I was expecting him.  I think he was expecting me.

I mistakenly tried to tell some friends about that bird.  They were as bored listening as I was in the telling.  Some things can’t be shared verbally.  Most things, actually.  My communist friend Amos would understand what I’m talking about, but not because he’s a communist. Because he’s unfettered, deeply troubled, and curious.

One thing has become clear.  People who lack people need people, and people who have them cast them aside too easily.  Anyone who doubts that has a sticky tribe.  Like anyone who thinks pigs are cute has never suffered feral ones.  Speaking of feral, the next time my kids express interest in hearing what I have to say, I’ll tell them to find the right people and travel through this world with them.  Don’t like the tribe you were born into?  No worries.  Find another one.  Because the trail is uphill when you don’t have compadres.

Kindness and diplomacy are neither weakness nor prison.  At worse, they’re insurance.  Like religion.  It’s a sad reflection on the state of organized religion that anyone cares what Franklin Graham has to say, and that the Pope is now a progressive voice.  I actually dig this Pope, unlike the rest of them.

I think I have a third cousin Named Pope.  That’s a cool name.  If I ever get to name another dog, he/she will be called Hot Diggity.  I once had a cat named Stevens.  I continue to wonder what my dog calls me.  Maybe I’ll remember to ask him next Christmas.

Yeah, there’s a great urge to run away from your herd when you think you’re just over the grown-up line.  Problem is, that line is a mirage that can set you on a course to one imaginary oasis after another.  Like that old man in Kamloops told me one drunken night: when in doubt, sit perfectly still.  I didn’t do that.  I have memories of that sweat lodge.  Some of them are real.

Speaking of oasis, to this day the best hamburger I’ve ever had was served by a dude named Carlisle at the Oasis, a ramshackle bar in my hometown.  The second best is the special at the Bellaire Broiler Burger, in Bellaire, Texas.

My grandparents and my uncles called my mom Sister.  She was the only daughter, with four brothers.  Uncle C.J., the older, stalwart brother.  Who called me Hunkcules and gave me Cokes, lemon pie and two cousins I wish I saw more.  People scattered by time and distance.  Uncle Lollie, who taught me how to shoot pool and how to resist the burden of expectation.  The first time he let me have a sip of his moonshine, I knew two things: it tasted terrible, and he knew I was cool enough not to tell my mom or his wife.

Johnny Law followed me up the road, then he turned off and he let me go.

My friend Diana gave me some Mexican moonshine recently.  it still tastes terrible, but you don’t drink it for the taste.  You drink it because of its pedigree.  An uncle’s still, a friend’s grandmother.  And uncle Ken, the federal agent with a cool job he couldn’t talk about, who I think of tragically and was sort of named for.  His daughters and I were close once.  We played Blind Man’s Bluff.  Now we’re just Facebook friends.

Most of those folks are long gone.  On the days I believe in heaven, I imagine them up there, sitting on some celestial porch.  Amazed at how badly we’re bungling things down here on Earth.

I’ve written a lot of songs about my mama’s tribe.

Georgetown County, about swimming in the Black River.

Rosemary Avenue, about my mom’s family, and a girl named Melissa.

When we all crossed that state line for the last time, we were burning bridges we didn’t even know we had crossed.  The world was expanding then.  I don’t think it is anymore.  I think it’s time to circle the wagons, dry our eyes, and rethink our plans.

If there’s a silver cloud to crossing lines and burning bridges, it’s that I ended up in Texas.  Saw Freddy Fender, Steve Fromholz, Townes Van Zandt, Flaco Jiménez and Doug Sahm before they died.  Made friends with a guy who walked on the moon.

I may lack a tribe, but at least I got lost in the most important state in the union.

That song is so frickin’ good.  Freddy Fender.  I feel like God smiled every time Freddy sang a country song in Spanish.  Oh, yeah, and there’s an accordion, but not just any accordion.  Flaco.

If you’re in the middle of a herd, huddle up.  Life is scary.  There’s safety there.

Filed under: Life, Tech Tagged: pi day

This post first appeared on Newsome.Org – Bringing Truth To The Internet Since 1994, please read the originial post: here

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They Called My Mama Sister


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