by Justin Patrick Moore
Their bodies entwined together as the rain from the latest thunderstorm pelted the leaking roof of the squat. The smell of old wet carpet, and the cardboard they’d lain over top of it was heavy in the air, as were other scents, their skin, their sweat. The smell of damp soil from underneath the understory of honeysuckle in the patch of woods where they had suckled each other on the herb gathering trip earlier in the day still clung to them, and they were making the room ripe with their perfumes once again.
Theirs was a new love and a young love and they were enthusiastic in sharing their passions with each other.
“I’m gonna miss this tomorrer,” he whispered in the aftermath, after he had taken her a second time.
His fingers interlaced with his girlfriend’s fingers. She laid her head on his chest, placed her hand along the outline of his scrawny ribs and sunken stomach. They sat up and rolled cigarettes out of butts they’d scrounged from the ashtrays outside the restaurants on Ludlow Hill where the bougie ate. They scavenged as much as they could, and hitting up ashtrays was part of the routine when they made a dumpster diving run as part of their work in the Sprout House Collective.
Wyatt rested in the memory of the first run they had made together, soon after Magdalena had showed up on their doorstep, looking for shelter and protection. They were rooting for anything edible in the slop buckets behind the Lamplight Tavern and they’d filled up a bag of used rib bones to boil down into pork broth and gravy. When the kitchen boy came out with another haul of scraps, he’d caught them and started shooting rocks at them with his slingshot. He saw her smile as they started to run and noticed how her hips moved as they hopped over the fence and started to fall in love. When they were far enough away, when they recovered their breath, they shared their breath, and their spit, and their lips as they leaned against the columns of Unity Lodge. They held hands in quiet night as they walked back down to Camp Washington, the tough neighborhood wedged between the rail yard, the Mill creek and the remains of I-75.
“You don’t gotta go.” She exhaled the smoke into the air. It mingled with the steam from their love making and the steam from the ramen soup they’d brought up from the kitchen. Syd had been able to trade some seeds for forty-eight packs of stale dehydrated noodle soup.
“I do gotta go. I need to do this, I gotta at least try to find my brother and make amends, otherwise it’s gonna be like Marvin says, I’m gonna be haunted by what I shoulda of done, and that’s gonna make it harder for me to keep clean.”
She turned her head and met his eyes in what remained of the LED lights glow. The batteries had started to fade and would have to be put back on the solar trickle charge again tomorrow, which wouldn’t do much good if the sun didn’t come out. “Then will ya take me with ya? I know I ain’t supposed to ask, that this is your bidness more than mine and all, but, it’s just that…” she wanted to say, I’m afraid, to lose ya because I lost too many damn people already, I need ya and I can’t bear to risk ya. She did say it with her brown eyes, with a look of loss that spoke without speaking. Everyone they knew had lost someone, and since neither of them knew anyone bougie neither of them knew a family who had been spared the tragic blows dealt by drugs, tornadoes, influenza.
“You’ll be alright,” he tried to reassure her. “I won’t take long. Juss a day, two at most. You can hang with Syd and Iz, and Marv. There’s always’s work to do, specially with spring here. And when I gets myself back we’ll keep trying to make that baby, start our family.” Since they’d first made love it had been a possibility, one they both accepted. It’s not like they’d ever used protection. Condoms had become a high ticket item during the trade wars, and medical procedures were only available to the bougie, or to those who saved enough to pay up at a clinic. For most folks being broke meant it was too expensive to not have kids.
She pulled her bottom lip up between her teeth. “If it’s a girl I wanna name her Polly.”
“After my sister?”
Her smile was his answer, and he couldn’t find it within himself to argue. He would give her anything she desired. Their pit bull Ziggy got up and moved in closer with them, laid down in a heap. Wyatt soaked in the feeling of safety and warmth. He had lived on the memory of how soft her skin felt against his, of the fullness of her lips.
“Then, we name him Alejandro if it’s a boy.”
Magdalena had protested. “No. Any old thing but that.”
“Why not? If you’d use my sis’s name for a girl ain’t it a bit hippiecrit to not use your brother’s for a boy?”
“I don’t wanna get into it right now.”
There were still so many things about her he didn’t know, so much about her he desired to learn. He needed to know every inch of her, her whole story, leading up to the time when she first stumbled into the squat two months ago.
“Still, I’m going with ya,” she said, “Whether ya like it or no and no matter what we name the bay, if and when it comes.”
He sighed in defeat unable to make comeback. He knew it was pointless trying to get her to change her mind once she’d made a decision. Her stubborn persistence was one of the things he admired about her.
“Besides, I wanna see the hood ya grew up in.”
“Okay,” he said, “It ain’t much, but okay. It ain’t safe over there for me now, that’s kinda why I didn’t want ya to go. Lil Dem and the Ratboy’s don’t take kindly to deserters. I can’t ken what they’ll do when I show up on their turf. There’s a reason I ain’t been back, and I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“But you’ll protect me right?” She squeezed his biceps. For a nineteen year old who didn’t always get enough to eat he was strong. He had gotten stronger since Marvin had helped sober him up, since he’d started doing some meaningful work with the Sprout House crew.
“Sure will, Maggie.”
She buried her head into his chest and pulled the covers up over the frayed sleeping bag. They snuggled together in a tight knot until dawn. Ziggy kept their feet warm.
He woke up hard in the morning, and he woke her up with his kisses, as he pressed his hardness against her thigh.
“You’re mine, Wyatt. For real and for true. Promise?”
As he ravished her body with his, he had never felt so sure of anything else in his life.
The next morning Wyatt went back to his own room to put some things in his leather hip pack. They still hadn’t moved into the same room together, but he thought they would, soon. They were getting serious. Space was at a premium in the squat and the collective could always use more hands to make light work. If he knocked her up as they both hoped, they’d be sharing a lot more. He hoped to borrow a ladder somehow so he could climb up on the roof and patch the leak, so their digs wouldn’t be so damp.
After they ate some more ramen with a couple scrambled eggs from the chickens out back and asked Joan if she would mind the dog while they were gone. Syd and Iz were out fishing in the Mill Creek, Marvin was on one of his mysterious jaunts looking for the useful kit he always seemed to find and bring back, and the rest of the crew were about some chore or other.
“No problem,” Joan said. “I’ll be working out back getting the beds ready for the seeds we started. I hope y’all can make it back for the gig. Terpsi-Core is in town from Cleveland, and it’s sure to be a full house.”
“Damn, I forgot about that.” Wyatt muttered.
The Sprout House served as one of many homes around the region for the ad hoc folk-punk music circuit. The gigs often doubled as a potlatch between squat houses and sometimes after the shows Marvin would hole up in the second floor library with other members of what he called the Arachnet or sometimes the League. Wyatt wasn’t sure if they were the same thing or different, all he was able to gather so far is that they were a secretive group who were organizing around several agendas. Politics had never been his thing and he was only now learning to read a little better, with the help of Joan and some of the others. Marvin had promised he’d learn more in time, but his first task was staying sober, and that meant attempting to heal the rift with his brother.
“If we get back tonight it’ll be late. I ain’t know how long things’ll take with Brett. We might be out overnight.”
“It’s all good,” Joan said. “There’ll be other shows. Terpsi-Core usually comes down at least once a year. May the gods bless and keep you both, and your brother.”
They were about to head out when Wyatt had a funny feeling in his gut. “Hold on, I feel like I’m leaving something behind. Back in a sec.” He ran up to his room and grabbed the banjo from the wall where it hung.
“Yer lookin’ like a regler old troubadour,” Magdalena said when he returned, pointing to the way the instrument was strapped over his back.
“That’s what I was thinkin’. It might help to have some tunes on the way”
“Well be careful you bring it back in one piece,” Joan said. Marvin had given it to him as a first year sobriety present.
He tapped the back of the banjo with his thumb. It had a painting of a turtle shell on the back. “Having this makes me feel better already.”
Going from Camp Washington to River Rat Row was a six mile slog across town, up the hill from the valley, then back down the other side to the community on the river. The city was bustling and alive, but within the throng and crush of moving people, they felt a sense of privacy sometimes absent in Sprout House and they talked over the course of the three hour walk.
“What was growing up in the Row like?” she asked.
“It weren’t all bad,” he said. Each hood had its gang, but the Ratboy’s were known as some of the fiercest, with intimate connections to the drug trade along the inland waterways due to their turf along the docks. The Row had a reputation for hard living, fighting, and dying.
“We used to play tag around the houseboats at Mariner’s Landing, or we’d sneak onto Branson’s farm to steal some veg or whatevs. One time he caught me and Brett and put us to work. But there weren’t nothing to be done. It was either work or take the belt, so we worked. Then he sent us home with a basket. After that I’d go sometimes go over there to help out and he’d give us some food. His farm used to be a park. Mom said her old man played baseball on them fields. Branson’s farm was extra ripe cause the floods during the winter rain put down new soil every year.”
“Furreal?” she said. “I used to help out the nun’s up at St. Theresa’s up in Westwood. They used an old baseball field for their garden too, and fed a lot of the church.”
“The church down here got taken out by a landslide.”
Wyatt wasn’t prepared for her next question. “So, did you have any girlfriends?”
He thought it was a no brainer. He was good looking and had been a member of the gang, so had his pick of the Ratgirl’s; but girl’s whether Rat’s or not, always seemed to want to know these things.
“Yeah, I had a girl. Carly. We grew up together. She was friend’s with Polly.” He was hoping they wouldn’t run in to her. Or Lil Dem.
“What was she like?”
“She’s a redhead. About five feet tall. Liked looking at comic books when she could get em.”
Magdalena frowned, got quiet. Wyatt felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. Had he just said the wrong thing? he wondered. Surely she hadn’t expected him to not have been with anybody else before her.
She ran her fingers through her braided black hair with all their beads, bolts, shells and feathers tied in. “I thought you liked Latina’s?!”
“I do. I like you!”
“I never heard of a Latina girl with red hair. Not unless she died it. So was it like the color of a beet or a rose?”
Wyatt did’n’t know what to say. He hadn’t encountered this side of her before. All he could think of was, “You must’a had a boyfriend too. It’s ain’t like you were inexperienced.”
Uh oh, he thought. I done blown it now.
They kept walking in an oppressive silence. After awhile he started to pick a tune on the banjo to try to lighten the mood. She glared at him. His playing wasn’t the best. He’d only just started to learn a few months ago. He tried playing a song they’d both heard at a gig at the Phoenix Asch House Collective. It was a simple number, and he had been working on playing the tune himself, though he still didn’t have the chords down quite right.
“Our house, in the middle of our street… our house. I remember way back then when everything was true and when, we would have such a very good time, such a fine time, such a happy time, and I remember how we'd play, simply waste the day away, then we'd say nothing would come between us…two dreamers. Our house…”
“Yeah, I had a beau,” she conceded, lightening up the mood.
Magdalena told him about Max. He’d been a member of the Westworld Loco’s, succumbed to the drug nepenthe as so many had, and after two years on it, no longer recognized her anymore. Her trust in him had disintegrated just as Max’s memory had. Not that she’d been drug free. Just nepenthe free.
He told her how he snuck Carly into the upper floors of old brick homes in the intertidal, whose first floors were underwater, parking a borrowed canoe in the living.
They were quiet again until they reached the top of the hill and could see the Ohio river stretched below them, the docks of River Rat Row on its banks, and the hustle and bustle of vessels in the brown water.
“I hope Brett’s down there,” he said. “He probably still works for Lil Dem. I did too. We all did. Anyone who was a Ratboy worked for him. I don’t wanna run into Carly or them. That was my old life. But I’ve kicked nepenthe and am getting my memory back, getting my life back. That was my old life, I don’t wanna shut the door on it, but I want you to know I ain’t gonna re-embrace it neither. You the only thing I’m gonna embrace now.”
Up on the top of Walnut Hill the city lay sprawled all around them, from what remained of the skyscrapers downtown to the redlight district in Kentucky on the other side of the river, Cincinnati’s Southside. They took in the view. They took each other all in, their past lives, loves and whatever future lay ahead. He brought her close into him and kissed her in the cold spring sun as the wind blew through his blonde hair.
Holding hands they descended down the potted and crumbled asphalt gravel road to the valley below.
Back in the day River Rat Row had once been known as the East End. Except for a brief splurge by the bougie when it poshed out and money flowed in and condos were built in a rebranding effort, it had always been a working class hood. It had slid back down to its original status as a place for the stiffs when a series of landslides from the constant rain spilled onto the condos that had been built on the bottom of the hill. At the same time the banks of the Ohio started creeping up over the roads, and anyone who still had a dime to their name bolted for higher ground. It was a pattern replicated all across the seven hills of the Queen City. Those who could afford it moved to the top and those who couldn’t slid into the many valleys and hollers of the region.
Coming back down to the grounds he had stomped as a child and young man, after being gone for almost two years, filled Wyatt with fear and a sudden riotous longing for his old way of life. The excitement of the violence and the oblivion of the drugs and the interpersonal drama within the gang all called out to him as the ramshackle collection of houses, sheds, shacks, chicken coops, garages, tents, yurts and junk cabins came into view. All of these were built up around the long warehouses close to the docks where goods flowed into and out of the city.
Magdalena could tell Wyatt was agitated. “Take a deep breath,” she said.
He inhaled through his nose and imagined a spark of fire within him, radiating stillness and serenity as Marvin had taught him.
When they stepped over Columbia Parkway they became trespassers on the Ratboy’s turf.
“Just cause I quit the game ain’t mean the Rat’s will see it ataways. Far as they care I ain’t rat no more, but a mouse.”
“You’r no mouse to me. It’ll work out, you’ll see. Will ya show me the house you grew up in?”
He sighed and said, “Might as well.”
As they walked he saw a group of ten year old boys and girls headed down to the river with their fishing poles and pails. “On the happy days, that’s what it was like” he told her, pointing to the kids. “I do miss livin’ by the river. Fishin’ the Mill Creek ain’t near enough the same as fishin’ the Ohio. Sure, you got mostly carp in either stream, but down here there’s something ‘bout watching the barges, sailboats and canoes on the big water that juss set’s me right. Even if there’s a bunch drama going down, or whatever, standing at the docks in the morning or at night, or down at some of the other holes, it’s just peaceful.”
“You good at fishing? Round Westwood people spent more time trying to shoot geese or hunt deer.”
Wyatt looked at her. “You kiddin’? I can fish the hell out of this river. Give me a gun or a slingshot and I’ll get a goose from Christmas dinner, you juss wait ‘n see. You won’t starve with me. Not if I can help it.”
They passed the five and dime on the corner of his old street. Tobe was still sitting out front under the awning with his peg leg, courtesy of a barge accident, propped up on a plastic bucket. Mothers and their broods were hanging laundry on the lines that crisscrossed between the buildings and shacks. Wyatt recognized some of them and felt a trickle of adrenaline, and the uptick of his heart. It was only a matter of time before he ran into a banger.
They came to the house he’d grown up in. Smoke wisps blew out the chimney, and shouting, just as it ever had, drifted out the windows sheeted by plastic and duct tape. Fading graffiti spoke in rude idioms across the brick.
“There it is,” he said. “I can’t say I miss it. It ain’t like a whole lotta good ever happened there.”
She could tell his mood had slumped. “Hey Wy, it’s all good. If we were up in my hood looking at all the different camps and flops my padre dragged us through, I’d feel about the same. But I do like you showin’ me.”
“I know ya like it when I show ya,” a small smile cracked his lips. “But yeah, this house, it don’t hold any memories I like to dwell on. A few weeks after I got jumped into the Ratter’s, Polly ran away and I ain’t seen her since. Mom lost it bad after that. I came home after a run on a warehouse for Lil Dem and found her dead. Empty nep baggies were all over the bed.”
"Hell, I’m sorry, I shoulda known better than to ask you take me to this place, stirring things up.”
“Don’t worry bay, we got this.” Wyatt squeezed Magdalena’s hand.
“My padre done got himself hanged because of nep,” Magdalena said. “He shot a man in the back for a fix, and then the Loco’s came down on him, ‘cause the man he killed was one of them. So they caught him, and noosed him up in a tree for everyone to see. I wanted to cut him down and bury him but Max wouldn’t let me. After that, I hated Max, and Max started losing his memory from the drug, and I couldn’t deal with all that drama. Then my drinking got worse.”
Nobody knew who’d brewed up the first batch of nepenthe. Some speculated it was the Chinese, or the Russians adding fuel to the fentanyl flames in a plan to further deteriorate and demoralize the American republic. People in politics still blamed Islamic terrorist cells, or on the troops who’d brought it home from the Middle East and formed gangs to distribute it when they couldn’t adapt to realities at home in the fading empire. Others said it came from a big pharma lab up in Canada, that it had been part of an Alzheimer’s cure when the recipe got leaked onto what remained of the dark net.
After an intense bout of pain numbing euphoria, nepenthe reworked the memory circuits of the brain resetting the short term, so the person who took it couldn’t recall they had taken it. It pulled the blackout curtain down over what they’d done while under its influence. The fact that it was highly addictive made it a royal pain to get off of because they hardly remembered taking it in the first place. For those who got hooked long term memories disintegrated over time into nothing until they ambled around the world like someone with dementia.
“We stopped staying here after mom died and went to live in the Rathaus. Brett’s a bit schizo, has these super hyper moods, and then he can’t get out of bed for days. It got worse when he got jumped in. He got tight with some of the upper crew and didn’t listen to me much after that.
“It weren’t long after that when I caught Carly sneakin’ behind my back with Lil Dem. I got so jealous I couldn’t take orders from the bastard. Brett didn’t need me, and I hated myself for giving him his first dose of nep so I took myself down to the tracks hoping to end it all.”
“And that’s when Marvin found you?”
“Yup. He jumped off a box car and tackled me when he saw what I was gonna do. Talked to me all night, then convinced to go to the Sprout House, get clean. I’m finally starting to get my memory back. Seems like I’m only now kennin’ who and what I am. Maybe if I’d never taken nep or joined the Rats I’d be workin’ on the river now.”
“So where do we go now? The Rathaus?”
Wyatt was nervous and wanted to stall. “We could go to the biergarten first. Can I buy ya lunch?” The walk had burned off the ramen and he had a bit of coin from doing odd jobs Marvin found for him.
The biergarten was next to the docks and served the men and stout, butch women who were unloading goods from the boats, zipping two-wheelers loaded with boxes down the gangplanks and into large warehouses.
Long rows of picnic tables under an open shelter made up the biergarten. Food shacks were set up between towering cottonwoods and sycamores, serving up gumbo and chili potatoes. It was a Saturday and people were getting off work early, and the boats-men were starting in on the beer.
He got a large bowl of carp, catfish, and mussel gumbo with chunks of cornbread from one of the stands and they sat down at table as far away as they could get from the others who were chowing down.
“Ya know what?” she asked. He shook his head. “This is our first date.”
He laughed. “Some kind of date I’ve taken you on,” and then then spooned a scoop into her open mouth.
He remembered Marvin’s advice on eating regular meals when they could be had. They were an antidote against slipping back into old patterns, and if he wasn’t hungry, he’d be less irritable, discontent, better able to do what he had to do. The meal took the edge off of his nerves.
As they ate a man wearing a frayed seersucker suit jumped up on a table and began to address the gathered crowd with a bullhorn. He rattled off a scurrilous screed marking him as a member of the New American Syndicate. Members of the Waterways Union were starting to salute the speaker with sloshing steins of ale.
“Let’s get outta here before these folks get all riled up.”
They slipped past the tables and the warehouses and were almost in among the rowbo shacks and drug dens that huddled around the protection of the Rathaus when he spotted Carly walking towards them. She was wearing the blue bandanna of the gang tight around her tangled red hair. Carly saw Wyatt at the same time and he could feel tension in the air rippling off of Magdalena who already had her hand clenched in a fist.
As Carly walked up to them he saw she had a fresh black eye and a bruise on her cheek. Lil Dem, he thought. He’d seen the chief lose his temper before. It could’ve been a fight with another gang, but it was probably Lil Dem. Wyatt never could kill his conscience enough to treat the women the way some of the other guys in the gang did.
He could tell she was seething from the way she hot-boxed her cigarette. Some drama must have just gone down and he found himself relieved he didn’t have to live like that anymore.
“You come back to get your ass killed?” she said, flicking the cig onto the dirt trail.
“’Course not. I came to talk to Brett. Is he around?”
She huffed and looked over her shoulder. Then she nodded her head over to a side trail through the brush along the river where they went to be out of view.
Carly sized Magdalena up. “I’m guessing you with him?”
“That’s right. He’s my beau and I’m his girl.”
“Well ain’t you lucky. Me and him had some fun together, but in the end, he wouldn’t ever been able to take care of me, or my needs. I hope it’s better for you.”
Magdalena and Wyatt both knew her hardness was a front, but it didn’t make them any less uncomfortable. Magdalena had her guard up, but was trying to stay cool, reasonable.
“He’d doing just fine. I’m lucky to have him.”
“We heard you was living in some kind of hippie-punk commune, is that so?”
Before she knew what she had done Magdalena let it slip, “yeah, the Sprout House Collective.” Wyatt glared at her, and Carly’s lip curled in a slight grimace of a smile.
“Carly, I’m not here to stir up any other shit,” Wyatt said. “I’m not in any other gang. I just need to talk to my brother, Brett.”
“Yer brother ain’t yer brother anymore, he belongs to the Rats, just like your ass does if any of ‘em spot ya out here. Me I’m givin’ you a pass because yer sister was my girl, and I know how it is to lose the only blood you got left.”
Carly’s brother, her last blood family, had been in the gang. Now he was on the bottom of the river. He’d had an unfortunate run in with the 100 Proofers.
“So where is he?”
“He’s across the river. He ain’t been around for two days. We sent him over to Bobbie’s Honky-Tonk on a job and he ain’t made it back. Lil Dem’s startin’ to worry.”
“Why’d you send him there!?”
“Bidness, just like usual.”
“You sure that’s where he went?”
Carly lit another cigarette and nodded.
“Come on Maggie, we gotta go.”
Running to the ferry landing Wyatt felt even more guilt for his brother’s fate than he had before.
The ferry ride across the Ohio to Southside Cincy’s redlight district was quick. Dirty biodiesel fumes spilled into the air. A worried grandma in her forties with a couple of scared toddler’s in tow looked over the rails into water chopped by the wind. The ferry passed between the columns of an exhausted bridge. Wyatt and Magdalena held hands as they looked up through the gaps where concrete had fallen away from the rebar. The sun was in the west and the clouds glowed with pink phosphorescence.
Wyatt rubbed the coarse stubble above his lip. “You’ve heard the rumors about Bobbie’s, right?”
“Never even heard of the place.”
“Really? I thought everyone kenned the honky-tank. People tell all these stories ‘bout it, ‘bout how the owner Bobbie never ages but looks the same year after year. But what’s more, supposedly down in the basement, there’s a gateway to the underworld. To the land of the dead, or the fairies, some say both. They say that’s where Bobbie comes from and gets her power from.”
Magdalena had been raised on tales of miracles performed by the saints, and honored the dead on Dios de los Muertos, but even with all her Catholic folk belief it still sounded preposterous. “You juss messin’ right?”
“Naw, I’m furreal. At least that’s what the stories say. I only went once before, Lil Dem dragged me up there with him, and I never saw Bobbie, so I don’t know. But the place felt weird. I felt real tired after leaving, like something’d been sapped from me.”
As they traveled downriver they passed a long stretch of rowbo jungles along both banks. A grizzled old man tended a cauldron of mulligan stew over a fire, and others passed around mugs of dandelion coffee and jars of moonshine. Cincinnati had some of the biggest rowbo camps outside Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio met the Mississippi as itinerant workers canoed, kayaked, and rowed up and down the rivers of the country looking for work. The one along Cincy’s Southside was a real popular jungle due to its proximity to the brothels, hookah lounges and nep dens.
“My mom told me my dad was rowbo,” Wyatt said. “Maybe he’s in that camp now. Or some other camp down on the Mississippi. If he ain’t dead, if he ain’t drowned himself in liquor or the river itself.”
Magdalena raised her eyebrow, gave him a look. Wyatt went on.
“He was working down on the docks when they met. He spent a couple years with us. I still remember his mustache. They was always partying and always fighting, but then they had a real big fight. Mom said he’d grown restless for the rowbo life, so he left and went to stick his rod somewhere else. I kinda wonder how many other bro’s and sis’s I got out there.”
“It’ll be different for our kids,” Magdalena said. “They’ll know the both of us and know each other.”
“It’d be good if they ken their uncle. I wish Polly’d stuck around too.”
The ferry docked on the other side of the city and they started to walk towards the Licking River, a north flowing tributary that wound its way through the hills and hollers of Kentucky until it bisected the Southside of Cincinnati and poured into the Ohio.
“Bobbie’s Honky Tonk is a couple more miles up the Licking. Let’s get walkin’.”
The streets were jammed with pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, horses and buggies. Beer and bourbon flowed in the bars, money was being lost and won in the gambling holes, and male and female prostitutes of every stripe and persuasion plied their ancient trade. There was something to be had for whatever price point fit the budget. The wealth that flowed into the district kept the streets and buildings there in better repair than some of the other neighborhoods, but underneath it all was a sense of something of rotting.
An hour later they were at the entrance of Bobbie’s Honky-Tonk. Surrounding the building proper was a small compound of shipping containers serving as hookup pads for the customers who came looking to pay for sex. Men and women ranging from their teens to their thirties stood outside or milled about on the patio, smoking cigarettes, drinking, flaunting their wares. Magdalena kept her eye on Wyatt’s eye, making sure he didn’t look overlong at any of the women who were dressed to sell.
Wyatt looked her in the eye, “None of these have anything on you, girl. Besides, life’s best things are free.”
Hanging electric lights flickered above the patio as the sun set lending the place a touch of class. The power came from a generator in the watercourse. The entire area the nightclub was situated on was verdant and full of life. Having stepped onto the property they both felt a sense that the rest of world was dull. There was a sense of being more alive and it made them both wary, as if something had been overlaid on top of them.
Inside the clientele was a mix. Not just dockworkers, buggy drivers, and hard labor, but wealthy farmers in fancy duds, bourbon and horse barons entertaining potential business partners, and some bespectacled clerks and suited newspapermen who milled about the bar ordering drinks. A crowd gathered in front of the stage where a real live electric billyrap band was tuning up to play. Lots of women mingled, and not just Bobbie’s employees. They’d come to slake their thirst for whisky, music, men, or women. Bobbie’s had a reputation, not just for the strange stories, but as a place anybody could come to forget their cares. The one thing the visitors all had in common was an enchanted sparkle in their eyes.
The smell of the battered fish and chips wasn’t bad either. Servers carried platters to the tables. Wyatt’s stomach rumbled. All through the winter he’d struggled to get enough calories.
There were upstairs rooms for various entertainments and rumors of other pleasures downstairs below.
“You see your brother?”
“No. Let’s ask.” He waved down a waiter, and slipped him all but the remaining coins he’d need to get back over the river. The band had started to play and he had to shout into the guy’s ear.
Magdalena noticed another room off the main hall. A taxidermied deer head and large snake were mounted above the entrance and a leather clad bouncer guarded the door.
“He’s in there,” Wyatt said. “VIP only. I don’t ken how we’ll get past him.”
They felt odd standing around, without drinks, the only two sober people in the place, so they sauntered up to the bar, ordered ginger sodas, and formulated a plan. The house band started in on a version of the Knoxville Girl. Wyatt knew the murder ballad and it filled him with a sense of dread.
“I took her by her golden curls and I drug her round and around, throwing her into the river that flows through Knoxville town” the band rapped.
Magdalena got up and walked over to the bouncer. She gave him a distressed look and then started raging at him, then pointed at an unsuspecting man watching the band. The bouncer went over to talk to the guy, thinking he’d done something to her, and she dipped out the door to a meeting place down the road.
Wyatt slipped into the vacated door and headed down the stairs to the basement, and into another world.
The smell of the river permeated the porous rock of the basement. Another smell of honey, milk, and the nectar of fresh cut flowers floated on top of it. There was an orange oscillating light coming in from the room, low voices, giggles, and sighs.
Wyatt stepped into a love nest. Soft pillows covered the floor and silk hangings adorned the walls. Vases with exotic flowers were set on stands and oil lamps scented with fragrant perfumes intoxicated the air. A multi-stemmed hookah was in the center of the room, it’s drifting smoke adding to the haze of unreality he started to feel. Underneath it all was a slick smell of sex, a throbbing heat, and the wetness of the previous night’s rain seeping through the foundations.
Brett was there and the elfin Bobbie tangled up with him, her cream white buttocks bare in the glow, covering Brett’s more private parts. She was as young looking as the stories told, a lady in her early twenties. Yet how could it be she looked so young when she had owned the honky-tonk for over fifty years? Some said she’d owned it longer. Her jet black hair fell to her shoulders. She turned to look at the interloper and the room grew cold with her gaze, the lighting dimmed, shivers ran up Wyatt’s spine.
In the corner of the room he noticed a cellar door with a heavy lock. A skeleton key
hung around Bobbie’s neck. She held one hand on the key and another clutched Brett’s neck. “How did you get past my guard?”
“I didn’t see nobody.” He looked at his pale, spent brother. “I didn’t mean to interrupt yer fun, but Brett, I gotta talk to ya!” Bobbie kept her long green painted fingernails wrapped around his neck.
“What the hell..?” His brother looked as if he was coming up for air after a deep dive.
“You always said I had bad timing.” Wyatt adjusted the banjo strapped to his back.
“You can put that down,” she said in a commanding hypnotic voice. “I can see you’ve been carrying it awhile and the burden must be getting to you.”
No one stood between Wyatt and his banjo. All he could do was shake his head.
Brett tried to talk but he was so high and sexed up all he could do was a mumble.
“Maybe you’d like to join us, then” she said with a greedy hunger and bewitching resonance in her voice. “Come sit down here and smoke and play with us. You don’t mind sharing me do you Brett? You never did before.”
A strong arousal started building in Wyatt’s blood despite the fact that Bobbie wasn’t his type. She was way too pale for his taste, but he got the feeling that his response wasn’t of his own volition. It took every effort of his will to resist the urges she was casting into him.
Images of the girl he loved ran through his mind.
“Come on, Magdalena won’t mind.”
“How’d you know…” The stories must be true. He shuddered.
His brother sat up. His hazel eyes were bloodshot and rheumy. He wiped his nose on his arm, reached for the stem of the hookah and took a long puff, then directed the stem towards his brother. He could smell hash interlaced with nepenthe. Wyatt noticed Bobbie wasn’t smoking the stuff herself.
“Naw, brother. I gave it up. That’s why I’ve come looking for you. I need to tell you I’m sorry.”
His brother fell into a coughing fit. “For what?”
“For giving you the stuff in the first place. And for all that’s happened between us since mom died.”
Brett looked dislocated, as if some memory had just dropped into his skull offering a new temporal view. A small tear, glistened in the corner of his eye, close to the tattooed tear from the Rats he wore so proud.
“I got this girl Brett, and me and her are bound to have some kids soon, from the way were going at it. I want you to meet her, you could come live with us, and we could help get you clean.”
“You’re a grown man,” Bobbie said to Brett before he could reply. “You don’t need a big brother to baby you. Look how long it’s taken him to come back to you anyway.”
“ Bobbie, shut up! Aren’t you getting enough of me? What’s the harm in talking? ”
“I missed you bro, all our adventures, the good times, the craziness…”
“Why’d you ditch me, man?”
“I lost my fracking head.” Wyatt said. “I was going to kill myself, and then I was stopped by this man. Then I was saved again when I met Maggie. I been meaning to come see you, but…it’s been hard to come back, I didn’t wanna risk what I’m starting to build, but I got to this point where I couldn’t go on unless I came back…”
“I apprish ya coming back Wy. I do. But down here,” he looked at Bobbie, “I never felt so good in my life.”
“I ken ya do right now. But there’s so much more than the game. And after a few months off the drugs, life does get better.”
“I don’t ken man. I think this the best it’ll ever get for me.”
Wyatt’s heart was breaking. Then he heard an old tune they’d both known calling in his soul. Something mom had sung to them all those years ago. He thought maybe if he could play it, he’d have a chance of getting through to him.
He started banging out the tune, clawhammer style, rapping the words in an incantatory cadence that came from a secret place he hadn’t kenned was inside him.
As he played the milk and honey and nectar which had covered Brett’s eyes started to dissipate and Bobbie’s heart softened for a moment from the sound of Wyatt’s playing and she let go of the clutch and glamour she held on her boy toy. The light was coming back into Brett. He rose unsteadily to his feet and shambled towards his brother.
Now was his chance.
“Let’s go” Wyatt turned to go upstairs, in a hurry to get his brother back to the land of the living. It felt like he was climbing up a mountain. Each step was an effort to take and when he reached the top he looked back down to see if Brett was still with him. To his dismay Brett was once again entangled in Bobbie’s lair.
Brett called up to his brother, “Give my love to the bay when you have one, and please, name her Polly.”
“Are you crazy Brett?”
“Maybe I am, maybe I am. Be seeing you bro.”
Wyatt let out a horrified moan of despair and he ran to find Magdalena, letting his brother go.
Wyatt kept to the shadows on his way to the docks where Magdalena was waiting for them, the ferryman ready to take them back across the Ohio. This time they were dropped off downtown, closer to Camp Washington.
It was still a long walk back and Wyatt was lead-footed in silence on the way home. He didn’t want to let her see him cry, and he didn’t want her to see him fly off into a rage. He craved the false comfort of nepenthe, and he craved anything that would obliterate the pain of loss that burned inside. He tried to recapture the divine spark of the void, the stillness within him, but it was elusive.
Then he looked at Maggie and knew she was enough.
As they got closer to their block the smell of fire lay heavy on the air. It wasn’t just
cook fires, trash fires, bon fires, or stove fires. This was house fire, plastic fire, burning furniture and timber down to the foundations fire. Both were all too familiar with the smell. They could hear it too, the cries, the crackle, the chaos.
“Come one,” she yelled, and they mustered a third wind of energy in the late night to
make a final mad dash to the grand old building that had once been Sprout House. Flames spit out the window that had once been their room. Marvin, Syd, Iz and a crowd of people they didn’t ken were doing their best to fight the conflagration. It was to no avail.
Joan came up to them crying with Ziggy was in tow. Joan leaned into Magdalena.
“What happened?” Magdalena asked.
“Don’t worry Wy,” Joan said. “It’s not your fault. At the gig tonight… some different folks than usual came in. We thought they were bangers and had our people check them out, but we couldn’t be sure, so they came in. The girl, she was all bruised up, and we thought she needed shelter, and in the middle of the gig between songs, she lit a Molotov, and said ‘this is for harboring a Rat’ and threw it into a bookshelf. Another was with her and threw one in the stairwell.”
Wyatt looked at Maggie who was pulling her hair in anguish. She had mentioned the Sprout House to Carly. “It’s my fault… I let slip where we live.”
“It ain’t your fault bay,” Wyatt said, taking her in his arms. “I take the blame, look at all this trouble I brought on us all. It was too risky going back. I shoulda let my brother go a long time ago.”
“No, you did what you needed to do,” Joan said through tears. “You can’t be responsible for her actions. All we can do now is try and rebuild. And it’s a good thing you took that banjo with you, otherwise it’d be up there burning.”
2 MONTHS LATER
The members of the Phoneix Asch House had helped put some of the Sprouts up as they began the process of scouting out a new squat, but their space was cramped and some folks decided to build a temporary camp in a field along the banks of the Mill Creek.
Wyatt was putting the last nail into a shack he’d improvised and Ziggy was already sacked out inside when Magdalena came over to him and said. “It looks awesome! And I’ve got something to tell ya.”
He grinned. “What, you pregnant already?”
She nodded. “I am. I ain’t had a period since just about a week after the fire.”
“I guess now that you’s knocked up, think it’s time we shacked up?!”
“You ken it! Only promise me one thing.”
“That you’ll be mine, forever.”
“I will girl, I will. Always and forever. For real and for true.”
--Justin Patrick Moore
April 24, 2019
Daniel Jerome Moore passed away on Friday, June 8th in the early hours of the morning. He was just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday.
The life he lived was filled with times of joy and times of difficulty, as is any well lived life. Running through it all was what you might call a bit of a crazy streak. As someone who suffered from the mental illness of schizophrenia he faced a number of tribulations. But he was able to overcome the obstacles he faced with his incredible gift of laughter and his willingness to be helpful to his family.
I first got close to my Uncle Dan as a teenage cigarette smoker. He was one of the only smokers in the family, and he was always willing to share from his pack, as at the time I couldn’t really buy my own cigarettes. Dan said that he smoked his first cigarette when he was five years old. He said that he got some old leaves and wrapped them up in paper and smoked them. It was a habit he was uncompromising about until his stroke last summer prevented him from enjoying tobacco anymore. But he was much more than a smoker or a Pepsi drinker. His natural ability to share what he had with others was one of his enduring traits.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories about my Uncle’s life and I’ve held them all very close to my heart. He came of age during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s when beatniks and hippies were rebelling against the establishment, making love and psychedelic rock music. When he turned 18 Dan got something in the mail that a lot of young men feared. He had been drafted into the Vietnam War. In the face of one of the most controversial conflicts our country has been involved in Dan showed bravery as a soldier in the U.S. Army. He showed up, went to boot camp, was sent to the other side of the world, and was in the middle of events that are hard to imagine for most of us. Some of what he did and saw there haunted his memories for the rest of his life. When he talked of the War, he may have had regrets, but he never seemed bitter or resentful about it. When the country called him to duty he answered the call with courage.
When he came home the 60’s were over but there was still a lot of fun to be had. In the summer of 1970, at the age of twenty-two Dan took my still underage dad up to the Goose Lake International Music Festival in Michigan for a weekend of good times. They got to see acts like Rod Stewart, Jethro Tull, the James Gang, Bob Seeger, MC5 and even the Stooges. The two of them partied with the 200,000 other rock and roll revelers who were there. The memories they had of this event were understandably blurry, but somehow they made it back alive.
It was in the early seventies that Daniel started showing signs of change in his psychology. A lot of veterans had been changed forever by the conflicts they been a part of. When he started building booby traps around the house, and doing other odd things, his parents, brothers and sisters begin to suspect something was wrong. The schizophrenia he had been born with was starting to make itself known.
This didn’t mean Dan stopped having fun or that he didn’t have good days. Only that he started having episodes. These were later brought under control after the doctors were able to diagnose him and give him proper treatment and medication. But he still had some adventures, girlfriends, and lots of fun. And the whole time he kept his smile and laughed through it all.
One of his adventures happened on a trip to Maine where his oldest brother, the late Jerome Moore had settled. At the time Jerome had opened a nightclub and bar in the town of Brunswick and Dan was doing some work for him there. As Dan and Jerome set up shop for the evening, putting the ashtrays out and making sure the kegs of beer were full, a group came in the middle of the day before the club was even open. They weren’t senior citizens on a tour bus but a group of bikers known as the Iron Horseman. Dan enjoyed riding a motorcycle himself. He had owned a Harley Davidson and a Yamaha 650. But he wasn’t an outlaw or member of any gang. The biker’s pretty much had the run of the place. Dan and his brother served up the Horseman beer after beer and drink after drink. By the time they were finished his brother’s stocks had been emptied out before the place was even open. They rode off into the sunset, leaving them both alive but shaken.
Around 1974 Dan got the idea to re-enlist in the service, this time the Marines. He owed Jerome some money, so he thought if he could get the signing bonus he’d be able to pay his brother back. By this time Dan had already made a few visits to the psych ward for his erratic behavior, but the Marines either didn’t mind or looked the other way. Dan still had a bit of the wild man in him when he got into boot camp and changed his mind about being a Marine altogether. Perhaps, when he went AWOL, he was inspired by the outlaw bikers he met in Maine because ended up stealing a taxi because he needed to get home. But Dan, being a friendly and generous man, ran into problems when he started picking up passengers. When he got caught, it ended his second short run in the military. Perhaps he missed a calling as a cab driver.
Dan did like to drive and go on joy rides. One time while he was at the VA hospital in Cincinnati he didn’t think he was being treated right. So he snuck into an ambulance and took it out for a spin. He didn’t just go around the block though. He got onto I-75 and headed for the VA hospital in Lexington, Kentucky where he hoped to get the treatment he deserved. He made it pretty far but was apprehended before he could get there. This was his last escapade as an outlaw.
For most of 80’s, 90’s and last two decades of this new millennium Dan’s life was pretty calm and serene. He lived at home with his parents. He became something of a chauffeur for Grandma and Grandpa as they eased into their golden years. As they continued to grow old he would run errands for them and pick up the groceries. For many years he helped Judy and Jess with their side gig delivering the weekly Door Store ads on the route they had. And he would also go over to my Dad’s house while he was working on a car or a home improvement project and help him out. Often this just meant that Dan was sitting in a lawn chair, smoking his cigarettes and drinking his diet pepsi while my Dad worked. This just meant that Dan was a good supervisor.
It took me a little longer to get my driver’s license than most of the guys in our family. When I was a teenager Dan would often drive me to places I needed to go. And when I finally did get my license he let me take the test in his car. A little bit later I started doing radio shows at WAIF, Cincinnati. Though I had my license I didn’t have my own car yet and Dan started going with me up the radio station in Walnut Hills a couple times of month. He really liked being there and listening to the music, and every once awhile getting on the microphone to say something. I started making him tapes and CDs of all kinds of music to listen to at home. And then he started going to concerts and shows with me at the Southgate House, the Northside Tavern, and other small venues. Dan got to know some of my friends in the local music scene. We bonded over the music and he enjoyed getting out of the house. If I went out to a see a band without Dan my friend’s would ask me where Dan was and wonder he wasn’t there. Long after I had my own set of wheels Dan continued come over to my house and drive me, my cousin Douglas and some of my friends up to the radio station on Thursday nights. He did this until the last year or two Grandma Moore was alive. When she was very frail he gave up these outings to stay home and make sure she was safe and do what he could to be a caregiver to her.
Dan was often more comfortable hanging out on the edge of things at gatherings or holidays. Yet his presence was always felt, even if he was sitting in the other room or out on the back deck when the rest of the family was inside. Now that he has returned home to God we can be assured that all the obstacles that blocked him in life have been removed. The stone has rolled away. And now he can be at ease, his full sanity and clarity of mind restored. He is now in loving communion with his father, mother, sister Joyce and brother Jerome and all the other family members and friends who have gone home before him.
–Justin Patrick Moore, June 11, 2018
This past July I was fortunate to be able to visit the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii. My step-daughter Ilia left home for Oahu in the spring of 2016 to join her husband who at the Pearl Harbor base where he is serving with the Navy. My YL and I started saving for a chance to go visit not long after. Moving to Hawaii was especially exciting for the young couple as Ilia is part Hawaiian on her father’s side. She had visited twice before, and now gets to live in a place where she can really connect to her Polynesian heritage. Most of our time on the island was spent hanging out with the kids, meeting their friends in the military, hiking, swimming, checking out sites, and learning more about Hawaii’s rich history. I also kept my perked for anything I might learn about radio while I was there.
While thinking about different trails to hike my son-in-law told me about a spectacular hike and what was once the amazing site of a Naval radio station. That hike, called the Ha’iku stairs, or the Stairway to Heaven. Unfortunately that hike is currently illegal to go on. Folks who sneak on it early in the morning before the guards arrive may be rewarded on the way back down with an arrest or heavy fine, and I wasn’t willing to pay those prices, as it might have put a cramp in our vacation. While not being allowed to take in the views at the top of the 3,922 stairs saved my legs from cramping, it did give me a research project for back home. I did get to see Pu’ukeahiakahoe mountain and drive through the Hai’ku valley a number of times. The fact that there had once been a center fed dipole antenna strung between two mountains with the transmitting station nestled in the valley below filled me with wonder. The Stairway to Heaven trail took hikers, when they were allowed to go, up to the top of the 2,000 foot mountain where one side of the 7,500 foot long antenna was anchored.
In 1942, as WWII raged in the Pacific, the U. S. Navy needed to communicate with fleet members active in distant theaters of operation. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor the existing station had proved to be highly vulnerable. The main radio station was only 4,000 yards from the shoreline with power supplied from overhead lines. Nor was the 600 foot tower at Lualualei deemed high enough to reach the desired destinations. A giant VLF sending station had to be built that could reach the waters of Australia, the Indian Ocean, and most crucially every submerged Allied submarine, especially those lurking in the bottom of Tokyo harbor.
Antenna-anchor-sitesSo began construction of a top-secret high-powered experimental radio facility in the Ha‘ikü valley. The natural amphitheater surrounded by 2000-foot-high ridges was considered an optimal spot. To gain access to the spot where the antenna was anchored a ladder-like stairway was constructed with much grueling and painstaking effort. Other anchors were also placed on cliff ridges, with wires running to the transmitter. A copper grid system was installed on the floor of the valley to help conduct signals. After more than a year of this work, the station was commissioned in 1943 where it served as the primary long-range communication system to the end of the war.
Even with a badass antenna system the Navy needed a similarly capable transmitter to get their signals to the destination. They needed something that was more powerful than the vacuum tube technology of the time was able to give. What they decided on was a bit of older tech in the form of the Alexanderson alternator a rotating machine that generates high frequency alternating current invented in 1904. It was one of the first devices capable of creating the continuous radio waves needed for amplitude modulation. At the beginning of WWII the Navy had taken control of the of RCA’s American Marconi Station at Marion, Massachusetts, where there were two Alexanderson alternators. One of these was purchased and shipped to the Hawaii.
With everything in place the Ha’iku VLF station operated at a frequency of 22.3 kHz and wavelength of 13,443 meters. It’s powerful signal was capable of long distance travel and could penetrate obstacles such as mountains and water. The site continued to be of use in military communications until 1958. Besides the anchor to the antenna a Communications Control Link was used there by the military for VHF communications on the island, and the Air Force had a microwave relay station there until 1963.
After five years of dormancy the site was eventually repurposed as part of the Omega navigation system. Following on the heels of other radio navigation systems such as LORAN, Omega was the first truly global-range radio navigation system. It was operated by the U.S. with six partner nations. Ships and aircraft were able to determine their position using VLF signals in the range of 10 to 14 kHz that were transmitted by a network of beacons to onboard receiver units. The Ha’iku valley station was reopened and retooled by the Coast Guard in 1968. The whole system became operational around 1971 until it was shut down in 1997 with the advent of GPS. (For satellite buffs the U.S. Air Force Space Command operates a satellite tracking station on another side of the island. I saw some dishes and domes while hiking along the coast in that area. Having no clearances I didn’t try to go up through the guarded gate!)
The closing of the Stairway to Heaven to the public seems to be mostly a matter of funding, politics, and environmental concern. Posted on the friends of Hai’ku website (haiku.org) was the folliowing: “April 23rd 2017 that the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) announced in an Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice (EISPN) that it plans to tear out the Haʻikū Stairs. This notice (see link) triggers a 30-day comment period, during which time the public can express their opinions on the project. Of particular importance is identifying issues not mentioned in the EISPN that you feel should be discussed in the EIS. The BWS is required to address in the EIS all relevant issues brought up during this comment period.” etc. etc.
While the access to this historic radio site remains uncertain a good deal of further information about the operations have been preserved. Much of the preserved information is thanks to silent key Thorn Mayes who worked under the following call signs W6AX, W9AX, 6BDQ, 6AX, K6BI, K2CE, and W1CX on the west coast in the early days of our hobby. After retiring from his a manage position with GE, Mayes became an avid collector of antique electronic gear (prior to 1922), books and magazines, as well as recording the history of early wireless in the United States. Before his death he had compiled a good deal of information about the Hai’ku stairs, some of which can be The Perham Collection of Early Electronics at History San José, and also in the following article on radio ops in Hawaii: http://www.navy-radio.com/commsta/todd-hawaii-01.pdf
History is all around us. We just have to pay attention and keep the aerials of optimism raised and ready to receive the signal.
This article was originally published in the August 2017 issue of the Q-Fiver.
Last November I got my ticket to the world of Amateur Radio in the form of my Technician’s class license and call sign KE8COY. It’s been an absorbing few months since I started studying in Septemeber and making my first forays onto the local VHF and UHF airwaves, December and getting my first DX contact on a digital station during OH-KY-IN‘s Winter Field Day.
When I canceled “On the Way to the Peak of Normal” back at the beginning of 2014 I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the world of radio. And I’d always had it in the back of my mind, since around 2002, to go and get my Amateur Radio license. Yet it was one of those things that remained in the back of my mind for quite awhile. I had done little towards achieving the vision of becoming a ham, besides taking a one-day class at Hive 13. I didn’t pass the multiple choice test at the end of the day.
Like many projects it remained on the back burner and perhaps would have done so indefinitely if fate hadn’t arranged a chance meeting with Brent, KK4HMR at the lunch counter at Shanghai Mamma’s in mid-to-late August.
I knew KK4HMR as a member of the Hive and someone I talked to on the metro when we ran into each other, but that was about it. I also knew he had his ticket to the airwaves, and so Amateur Radio had often been a topic of discussion for us on the commute home. He told me about Oh-Ky-In which he had joined, and also about some classes they offered to get people licensed. I looked them up, went to some meetings, the classes, took my exam, got my call sign and license and am now back on the air, though in quite a different capacity than when I was doing broadcast community radio. Radio has not left my life path, rather it is just changing octaves, moving to a different frequency.
There are many hobbies within the hobby of Amateur Radio and I’m not quite sure exactly which of those I’ll be exploring. I know I’d like to do some tinkering and homebrewing. I’m taking some tenative steps towards getting my General class license, and hope to dig in deeper in March. Yet one thing that has really struck me has been how much I have learned about magic by studying radio theory.
As a technology radio is pretty magical. The fact that they can receive and distinguish signals by grabbing them out of the air with an antenna is in itself amazing. People in the hobby talk a lot about “the magic of radio” -when under difficult conditions and with pieced together rigs someone in Ohio could communicate with someone in Australia, on the International Space Station, or bounce signals off the moon.
Ham radio is a contact sport -and so is magic. The whole point in radio is to make “contacts” to transmit and receive.
Tuning & Frequency: In magic we spend a lot of time tuning ourselves and the place we live/do magic. Through stillness meditation, music, incense, and other methods the magician or mystic changes their baseline frequency and filters out the “noise” of daily life. Once the basic tuning is done a magician can then work on establishing new patterns, or modulating the basic carrier wave. Modulation is adding any sort of information to a radio wave -either in the form of voice, data, or on broadcast stations, music. In magic the frequency is modulated through contacts, sigils, utterance, ritual patterns, etc.
Filters: In radio filters are used to either accept or reject certain signals. In magic we use filters when dressing an altar with a deity image, a card from the LXXXI deck, or putting a tool in a certain place. This seems to act as a limiter for the non-desired signal or contact, and open the space up to the desired influence.
Resonance: Resonance allows inner knowledge and ability to pass from one person, being or place to another person being or place. (Or object.) From wiki: “In physics, resonance occurs when a system is able to store and easily transfer energy between two or more different storage modes. However, there are some losses from cycle to cycle, called damping. When damping is small, the resonant frequency is approximately equal to the natural frequency of the system, which is a frequency of unforced vibrations. Some systems have multiple, distinct, resonant frequencies.” Resonance allows magic to pass from inner to outer, from being to being, place to person.
Harmonics and Octaves: Those of us studying Quareia have read over and over again that magic works in octaves. This principle is important in radio work as well. For a definition: A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple (2, 3, 4 etc) of some fundamental frequency, and an octave is double the fundamental.Radios naturally put out harmonics of the frequency they are operating on. This can cause intereference in some cases or can be beneficial in others.
Consider a magical working, say the pentagram ritual. When fully contacted it not only enacts the pentagram harmonic pattern, but brings in other frequencies from the inner worlds. The magician lets go (transmits) and receives. Then in life the magician continues to “radiate” the influences mediated to him and though him in various octaves.
Working with the weather: Another exciting aspect of radio for me is that it is giving me the motivation to learn more about the weather. I think this will carry over to my magical work as well. I would like to attend a “weather spotter” SKYWARN training at some point to learn how to identify certain types of storms etc. to be able to report to the national weather service, if needed. Besides that there is the way certain weather patterns effect the propagation of radio signals, in ways desirable and undersired.
Hams pay a lot of attention to space weather as well: solar cycles and sunspot activity. As well as effecting communication these have harmonics in magic as well.
There is also something called “gray line propagation” and this is where a signal can receive greater strength and distance during twilight times (dawn and dusk) and also at the equinoxes. Just as a magician might time a working to the natural phases and seasons, these timings have a bearing on radio work as well.
Then there is the whole science of waves in radio and nature. Radio just seems to be a rabbit hole I can jump down forever -as is the study and practice of magic. The study of both seems to be complimentary for me.
73 & 93,
“To create is divine. To reproduce is human.” -Man Ray
GRAVE ROBBING THE MASTERS
Much of humanities best work did not come into being from passion and inspiration alone. Rather, it came into the chamber of a mind prepared and ripened on the emulation of others. The works produced by previous generations of writers and artists are a part of our heritage waiting to be hacked into. All you need to do is enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and choose one to become as your own. Take an author, any author, but preferably one you like, one who is a master of the craft, and copy out a passage of their work into a special book you keep just for this purpose. This book in time will become a compilation of favorite scenes and passages, a land of literary booty, treasures from the tomb.
STEAL TO BECOME AN AUTODIDACTATOR
If intellectual property is theft, stealing helps you in the quest of becoming an autodidactator. By pumping primary sources for a share of the gold your own mental gears will be slicked. Wheels will turn where before they sticked. It’s like spraying WD-40 into the cobwebs of the mind, or dripping some three-in-one oil on the rusty hinges of neural pathways.
COPYING IS A MANTIC ART
The suffix -mancy is found at the end of words relating to divination, such as cartomancy, and kleptomancy –the subject of this article. If it was just about taking a joy ride on the shoulders of giants, literary, artistic and intellectual appropriation would remain merely another form of kleptomania. Yet there is something portentous about the brazen act of the rip off, a phrase that can be translated in this context as: to rip up and riff off of.
William S. Burroughs showed how the future leaked out of his cut-up texts. Boundaries or zones are fundamental to both the self and its discourse but they are also passable both in the imaginary and the real. The real and imaginary intermingle of course. In stealing we step over one boundary. In cutting it up we throw it inside a matrix of possibility. In rewriting it fresh we fuse the I-for-myself with its viewpoint or experience. It is natural that prophecy is quoted in art. Copying the work of others establishes a landing strip for the Muse.
Even if you are just forging someone else’s name on a readymade off the assembly line, at least you have a pot to piss in. Sometimes you have to nevermind the bollocks and take a leak where you stand until the vapor clears. It has come down to us in legend that the Sex Pistols stole amplifiers and other music equipment from the Rolling Stones. This could have been a lie, which over time transformed into truth, and is thus an exemplar of propagande par le fait or, propaganda of the deed.
AN EXERCISE IN KLEPTOMANCY
This is only one permutation of a possible practice for cultural detritivores. It can also serve as a memory strengthening exercise, reinforcing key turns of phrase, words and choice rhetoric into your personal memory palace -itself just an antechamber of the vast Inner Library.
1. First pick a poet to plunder.
2. Copy a poem word for word.
3. Now put aside this sheet of paper and attempt to put the sentiment and as many words of the original as you can remember into your own piece of prose.
4. Once this task of necromantic or vampiric plagiarism has been achieved let this draft wither in the compost for a few days, until it becomes musty, and you have to bat away the fruit flies hovering over it. Move on to another project for a time.
5. Return to the article and make a new version of it, jumbling the collection of hints into confusion, and disarrange them into another perversion of the natural order. In this way you begin to act as a decomposer of cultured reality.
6. Set aside and let it rot for the space of one week to two months.
7. In the interim phase of this process repeat steps 1-6, using a different source author, preferably on a subject you feel to be incompatible with the first. Now you should have two pieces of writing obtained by kleptomantic reduction. Put them side be side together.
8. Through the art of recombination seek to weave the two disparate narratives into a single thread.
9. Edit at your will. This method is primarily one of decomposition, and is one way for artists to add to the cultural soil of the future.
Those who work in the plastic arts will need to use whatever inherent ingenium is available in them to devise an analogous method.
HOMAGE CVG of the Cincinnati Royals Collective just dropped this kleptomanic masterpiece.
Parts of this article have been inspired by the works by Negativland and People Like Us.
I recently picked up a copy of Harry G. Frankfurt’s 2005 essay “On Bullshit” at one of my favorite used bookstores. I had read this not long after it came out, but it was good to spend some time revisiting the theme he addresses -the bullshit our culture finds itself mucking about in, and what exactly bullshit is from a philosophical perspective. Nine years later the essay is just as pertinent. There seems to be no shortage of the stuff, whether its just your average poop, or grand politcal crap slinging.
Harry asks the important question, “Why is there so much bullshit?“, and answers, “Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great.
“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated by whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinion’s and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.”
Certainly the proliferation of blogs -such as this one, laden with my own BS- and the lower barriers to publishing created by the widespread utilization of computer technology up the ante on the crap quotient. Add to this the fact that the world population now has a higher rate of literacy, more people reading, more people writing, and the amount of printed bullshit, aside from that discharged out the mouth, is sure to see an increase.
Could it be though, that within the fecal matter which most abhor, is a hidden resource? At a time when the soul of the west is barren, when our inner landscape has eroded, when the things which bind us together are under assault from materialist nihilism, absurd reductionism, and the corrosion of conformity, what we flush down the collective crapper may very well be what is actually needed to restore the inner and outer landscapes from their current state of gross misuse and waste.
To see how this might be so we must first check in with some deities and myths related to cattle. Bullshit, might after all, have a divine providence.
“Don’t plug the Cow-a-bunghole, dude.” -Bart Simpson
Instead, let it rip.
Cattle have long been part of the sacred terrain of humanities shared mythopoetic landscape. From the caves of Lascaux where our ancestors traced images of bison onto the walls, to the earliest written mention of cows being sacred in the Rig Veda, the cow has been seen as a symbol of wealth and fertility since ancient times. The Irish based their national epic around the favorite past times of cattle raiding as documented in the Tain Bo Cuailnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley.
It is not surprising that there have also been a number of cow and bull related deities. Kamadehenu is a Hindu bovine-goddess, not worshiped independently as such, but honored in the general reverence for cows within Hinduism. In ancient Egypt there is Hathor, who is depicted with cow horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus serpent. Isis is also at times depicted with cow horns. Apis is another Egyptian deity who took on the form of Bull. Mithra is the guardian of cattle, and in his later Roman form was shown as slaughtering a bull to bring to a banquet with Sol. Let us not forget the Golden Calf made by Aaron for the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai communing with Jehovah. The bull was sacred in Crete, in Cypress, the list goes on and on.
The life giving status appointed to the cow and related cattle species is not only from the flesh and dairy they provide, but from the from the foliage they graze upon being digested in the four separate chambers of their stomach, and being pooped out as a powerful manure to keep the soil healthy. This prima materia is rich in minerals. Besides being spread on the fields to ensure a bountiful harvest, while simultaneously providing food for other animal and fungals species, cow dung is also used as a source of fuel, the dried patties and cakes being burned. Buffalo chips and meadow muffins must surely be another form of manna.
Not only is bullshit sustainable, but holy.
In my own personal lexicon of symbolism shit represents the nigredo phase of alchemy. The time when everything is decomposed and putrefied. Depth psychologists have equated this with the dark night of the soul. Yet within all this mushy-stinky matter, this shit, is the very stuff of life, fertile and if composted, gives life and strength. This concept of taking crap material, and making into something that is good was explored in music by post-industrial group Coil on their 1984 album Scatology.
One reviewer said Coil made “good music, from shitty sounds“. The cover of the album shows an ass framed inside an inverted cross. The inside shows pictures of John Balance and Peter Christopherson lurking around a sewage treatment plant, “Sleazy” Peter’s hand covered in liquified filth. To me this picture shows the musicians as having something more powerful than the Midas touch. It confronted the biophobia so prevalent in society today, and showed the glory that can be found in the study of shit. The album had emerged out of the inspiration the couple found in their bondage and S&M practice, Sleazy often tying John up to the toilet. This approach, which revels in the by-products and wastes of our humanity, is one way to go about revitalizing culture in an age when it has all gone to shit. This is the work of the bullshit artist. It is the special province of those who would call them self a commissioner of the sewer.
A BRIEF DETOUR TO THE PISSOIR
As an antidote to purely visual art, Marcel Duchamp pioneered the field of readymade art. According to Andre Breton and Paul Eluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” The practice of choosing an object was part of the aesthetic decision. In his quest to get away from himself by choosing prefabricated items, we see both influence and similarity to the working methods of John Cage, who also strove to take himself out of the art, through the use of chance operations.
The readymade’s of Duchamp show cleverness and humor and open the viewers eyes to seeing everyday things in new ways. By placing his piece Fountain, a urinal signed with the moniker R. Mutt, in a gallery show he questioned the idea of art itself, and showed that it isn’t always about what you make with your hands, but with how you frame an object, or assign meaning. Playing with meaning, reframing events, words, or whatever media you are working in, is part of the job of the bullshit artist.
(The work of Marcel Duchamp will continue to receive coverage inside the pages of the avant-garde grimoire.)
THE ART OF BULLSHIT
The urban dictionary says a bullshit artist is “a deceptive fuck that gets off on selling people worthless info as if it were fact.” This is why, as an artist, you have to know your shit, and be able to bullshit. Knowing your shit helps you put power into your work. Being able to bullshit might get your work into a gallery, or some other forum advantageous to for you to float a piece. If you want to be able to roll like banker, double-count and inflate the net value of what you think a piece of art, performance or what have you is worth. Distort the measurement of supply and demand, to create a speculative bubble around your creation. Reel people in and baffle them with bullshit. They’ll thank you for it later.
COMMISSIONER OF SEWERS
I got My Education in dreams. For years I had dreams of looking for something in sewers. I later realize the sewers were manifesting as part of an Underworld initiation experience. The Archangel Gabriel appeared in the guise of my high school friend Gabe Moses, and helped me find a piece of myself that was lost in the sewers. This was a bit of spontaneous soul recovery. Sewers are places we might lose a bit of ourselves to, if we’re not careful about what we are flushing away. It is good to get to know the guardians of these inner places. William S. Burroughs set himself up in the sewers as a commissioner.
This little essay has humbled my question on how freedom is expressed in a democracy. It is the spokesman of how to use sewers as a place for piping-in power. The crooked stink of ambition is smelled on the shirtsleeves of our presidents. The Sultan’s have ruptured the intestines of America, all for the price of an orgy. The personal sewage of opinion is a condition of democracy. It is best to secure dirt on the governor, to get pictures of him smoking the sheriff’s reefer with the Sultan’s. In the afternoon we stop by the majesties house to make friendly deals. It is time to blow the virtues of Richard Nixon, a vital folk hero who revered the skepticism of the United States public. We will no longer cover up under-the-counter deals, but give free reign to bourbon snorting, cigar swilling, fat ass politicians. No skill is required.
The Arachnist Manifesto
I. Everything is connected by threads, both visible and invisible, forming a web.
II. Vibrations on even one strand of silken thread effect the entirety of the web.
III. The web is also a net and can be used to catch morsels of food. Thus the web sustains life through the mystery of the Eucharist and the transmutation of life into death into life. This is the Supper of the Fates.
IV. Webs are also used as a form of protection, to watch over the entrance of dwelling spaces and to encase the egg sacs of the thousand young.
V. The web is also a gate. The spaces between the strands can be used to travel instantly to any other point in the web.
VI. The strength of a web is dependent on the strength of the spun silk, but also on the web’s design. Arachnists, keep fast to your health and be cunning in the orchestration of your skein! As a weaver, flawed designs can be rewoven on newspun thread.
VII. Webs are spun at night. Spinning is a nocturnal activity connected to the Moon and dreams.
VIII. Spider webs can be used to stop bleeding. In a world rife with wounds, weavers are needed to restitch those bolts of cloth which have become frayed.
When did distinctions between art and craft first arise? Did this separation of utility and beauty come in the heady days of the 19th century when creators were rebelling against those who thought the sole value of art was to serve didactic and moral purposes? How will l‘art pour l’art fare in a time when resources will need to be allocated according to concerns more pressing than the aesthetic?
A lot to think about. and I don’t know that I will be able to answer every question I have raised for myself to the fullest degree, which is why this avant-garde grimoire for art school drop outs is an ongoing affair, nibbled on and chewed away at in chunks, not all of them digestible.
For most of history the skilled handyman was also considered an artist or artisan. They made work to serve a purpose other than the conceptual, the shocking, or just for arts sake (or Pete’s). Making art does have value in and of itself, at least for the person making the art. Whether or not it serves another purpose can only be decided by the experience of the people the work impacts -or fails to impact. Although the term “art for arts sake” was used to help separate the judgment of a pieces aesthetic value from the themes the work might touch on, the spirit of this phrase, has gone on to influence several generations of artists, who still working under romanticized notions about their particular trade, “create just to create” and perhaps because they can’t do anything else.
The glamorized image of the inspired artist working under immense pressure, subject to the whims of the muse -or the availability of mind altering drugs- has come down to us as gospel. The tortured, frenetic artist, oscillating between states of gloomy despair and wild eyed ecstasy is set at odds with the craftsman who steadily drums up water from the inner wells of creativity. The person who makes tools or objects of everyday use is contrasted with the composer whose genius requires a battery of other musicians to play according to his own scored requirements. The music may be moving. It may touch the soul. Will the social cohesion and sense of status provided by an orchestra be necessary once the funding is gone? The first chair violin player may find herself as a fiddler instead at a campfire with a bluegrass band playing for an extra sip of moonshine. Maybe at home though, she will keep a collection of scores by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, and Terry Riley. She might play in a noise ensemble as well. Yet she will have in place some other skills to keep herself fed when l’art pour l’art is no longer a paying gig -not that it has ever paid exceedingly well by the standards of bankers, or been available in the same level to the astounding number of people who count themselves as artists in the world of today.
Art for arts sake, was very much product of a time when the amount of surplus energy available for pursuing these types of creations allowed larger numbers of individuals to move away from having to occupy themselves with subsistence alone. The wealth of nations as a whole allowed them, even if not “rich” themselves to live off the relative fat and table scraps thrown their way.
Why should I buy your ink splattered canvas hanging on an otherwise perfect coffee house wall when I can go home and create my own? Art as a commodity will lean towards those who can also be artisans and create objects of both aesthetic and utilitarian value. There will always be room for painters, illustrators, sculptors and musicians in the collective economy of the future, but during the interim between the end of the industrial age and the rise of a new civilization most folks will be living in third world conditions -whether or not they arrive slowly in a soft crash or come abruptly from a hard crash. Getting a job as a set designer for the local metropolitan opera might not be feasible. It’s best to have some alternatives -while working to keep low budget community theater a going concern.
There are many potential areas to work at as an artisan. Some of these can be done on the side as hobbies rewarding in their own right but that would also give the practitioner skills and products they could trade for other commodities or services.
The beginning list looks something like this. These are areas where artists may want to get a hand at working in now, developing those skills, building a culture of craftsmanship and putting down roots in between the cracks of current society.
The Book Arts: inlcuding bookbinding, calligraphy, papermaking, inkmaking, letterpress printing. These skills will be of use to all those who need to keep records. This is a personal area of craft I want to make further headway in.
Furniture Makers/Woodworking/Carpentry: Access to cut and seasoned wood may at times be wanting. The ability to use salvaged and reclaimed materials will be a boon. Think of reupholstering/refinishing the stuff you picked out of the garbage and trading it for a good knife or pipe wrench. Folks are still going to need things like tables, chairs, cutting boards, butcher blocks, shelves, cabinets. As mass produced pressed boards get burned to keep warm during the long winters, strong pieces which could be come new heirlooms will need to be made.
Leatherwork: The skins of beasts killed by cars are there for your taking. If the power goes out you will need to stay warm, and in the summer a belt is nice to keep the loincloth up. Which leads to…
Fashion: Tailors, hatmakers, and shoemakers all had a skill useful for fiat currency or trade. And they could make a man dandy or a fop, a woman a trendsetter fit to scandalize society with the latest thing. Getting nimble with a thread and thimble and other arts of the cloth can be a way to transform an entire thrift store while staying stylish.
Glassblowing: This is already being practiced by the folks who keep head shops supplied. I know of one homesteading farmer who does glasswork on the side. He is able to sell sake sets, pipes, and other commissioned pieces at the same stand he sells his collard greens at in the neighborhood farmers market.
Jewelers: Most everyone likes pretty shiny stuff. When the banks go down jewelers are often de facto banks. Even-if-not, being able to make baubles out of bits of wire, metal, glass and bone will give you an edge. Gifts become valuable and things like rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. will still be given and exchanged by people to mark special occasions.
Locksmiths: keeping your hoard or stash safe from bands of raiding warlords or petty thieves might be something you want to be able to do. Jewelers may be able to moonlight as locksmith, as could others who work with metal.
Potters: New bowls, cups plates etc. will need to be made for when the plastic ones become brittle with age and break.
Instrument Makers: While electronic detritus remains, and batteries are still available, the fine art of Circuit Bending may help to keep electronic noise music alive for another couple of decades. Otherwise it will be nice to learn how to grow gourds and turn them into string, percussion, and wind instruments. Luthiers will remain in demand, while those who work with metal may get a chance to specialize in crafting and repairing the brass instruments so important to jazz music, which has a good chance of remaining part of Americas cultural legacy.
Tattoist/Piercer: This one is for all you post-postmodern primitives out there. Tattooing, piercing and other forms of body modification have been around for a long time and will be here to stay. This is a useful sideline for groups of squatters living in the margins between rural and city-life. Its a good skill for anyone employeed as a gangster. Even for those still struggling to uphold white middle-class values the occasional marker of some quasi-initiatory rite of passage is still in order.
These are just a few areas of artisanal trade a person could become a practitioner of, all the while working on the magnum opus during a lunch break where no carryout will be ordered. It is also true that the avant-garde techniques that were pioneered during the late 19th to early 21st century can potentially be applied to artisinal trades. John Cage’s I Ching informed chance operations have been used in printing, for instance. Perhaps there would be ways to use them in glassblowing, to determine the colors used. Cut-ups and collage will be apparent simply from working with an array of salvaged materials.
Some of these arts can be practiced in a spare corner of a home. Others require a bit more of a set up. Outfitting your Reality Studio with the tools needed for the Work is a part of the game, as is being able to improvise with the things already around you.
The artist who wishes to prosper during the unraveling of empire and into the coming dark ages will have a need to wear many hats. Developing facility with different materials will increase your chances of doing something that has personal and collective meaning.
Artifacts of our cultural ancestors surround us, whether they be in the form of books, paintings, sculpture, or audio-visual recordings. The media is not as important as the transmission, though the medium might determine what is transmitted. Sometimes a pilgrimage must be made to visit the holy relics of the mighty dead. Whether it is to a museum in Cleveland or Chicago, to a Cathedral, or to a library to pick up a history of the Lettrist movement, the recordings made by the artists who have gone before us are available for us to interact with. their minds are waiting to be renewed through contact with our own. When we are touched by the work another artists it becomes another ingredient ready to be transmuted in the cauldron of our own art.
In this bridging between the zones of time the individual may become fearful of the crisis of collusion. This is but one of many initiations. For the scribe is in many ways both copyist and originator, when she is not playing the game of outright theft (see KLEPTOMANCY). Under the auspices of influence we may often come into our own, receiving just the right nudge, crack of the whip, or insight necessary to allow us to tread further along our own path. Before the block of marble can be carved the light within it must emerge. And this light is often called forth from the resonance of being in the presence of an ancoestor or elder whose own shimmering of the secret fire awakens further that flame which is within the heart of the artist.
Our cultural ancestors -like our living circle of guides and friends- is often great for giving introductions to others. Was not Allen Ginsberg influenced by William Blake, Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams? Was not William Blake under the celestial wing of both Emmanuel Swedenborg and the many eyed angels of the heavens? Thus the chain of inspiration may be followed back. Did not William S. Burroughs glean from the writings of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene? And was not Graham Greene a dream journalist of excellence who sat down every morning to transfer the memories of sleep to the waking page?
We need not be dominated by the lives of our cultural ancestors. They often have achievements which seem to tower above our own. Besides, it is not for us to merely emulate, but to create new patchworks out of the total materials available to us. This is not just our interaction with the mediated forms all around us, but from the stuff of our life, from the tragedies we have all been witness to, from the joys which have sprung out of our heart. We can learn not only the techniques and disciplines which propelled any given artist forward from the study of biography, but we can also learn from the wreckage of their lives what behaviors we can attempt to avoid. We can also learn resilience from the study of the Saints of Art. In our own lives there will be wreckage, pain, suffering, heartache and privation. These are the trials of human life. The cauldron of inspiration cannot be filled unless their has been some schism. Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.
The skilled artist knows how to open and close the crack at will to bathe in the effulgence of the Void. He or she becomes a skilled mediator bringing the gifts of the ancestors through in her or his own mature work.