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This morning finds me almost back home from our excursion, our toodle, into the DeepSouth. I left with no more than beliefs about what I might find there and I return with some of those beliefs intact, but with many of them thrown into uneasy question. The world doesn’t seem to much care what I believe about it and my perceptions of the world might twist whatever I think I’m seeing. I am confident as I return that I did not see The Deep South, but I might have caught fresh glimpses of me perceiving there. To look at something different, even something I expect to be different, qualifies as an act of discovery; not so much discovery of that object, but of my own act of perceiving.

Back home, my anticipation and perception mostly seamlessly integrate, so there’s little gradient for me to experience perception, or, indeed, for me to really see whatever I’m looking at. The world convincingly appears just as I expect it to appear. This can be a dreary state, a numbing where the vitality characteristic of discovering seems absent. Leave that familiarity, and more than the landscape changes. I might become more alive. Slip over here for more ...



Nobody talks much about the genuinely awful aspects of creating. It seems at root a form of compulsion, sometimes obsession. It might be most satisfying when completed, but by then, of course, it’s no longer there, but past. It’s mostly lonely work, done under the most isolating imaginable conditions. Anticipating a new project can quite understandably seize up even the most previously productive creator.

When my friend Franklin first mentioned his brilliant distinction between talents and gifts, I quite naturally believed that it might be useful, perhaps necessary, to enumerate exactly what my gifts might be, to nail down the source of my talent. He pointed out that talents are merely the mediums within which gifts manifest themselves, rather like the canvas a painter might gift with paint or a cello gifted with a player’s inspiration. So I began decomposing toward a toward a presumed essence, believing that if I could name that tune, I’d be better able to play it. Slip over here for more ...



N-Awl’ns wakes with a thud muffled by a sweet, persistent haze. Nights stretch into next days here; reveling lasts until it flames out, regaining only a cinder of consciousness at first light. The early streets are empty save for the dedicated joggers and the service and construction workers. Everyone else seems to sleep in, or to have just not regained consciousness yet.

I’m out early continuing a quest to find one order of hash brown potatoes, which seem to have slipped out of the American morning into myth or legend. I find a small deli whose menu promises reward, but delivers the modern compromise I call SmashBrowns: outsized Tater Tots® smashed flat. These represent compromise because nobody seems to win anything in the transaction. The customer loses texture, taste, and satisfaction while the proprietor loses another could-have-been satisfied customer. Contrivance (or connivance) takes another hand. Slip over here for more ...



I never had a bucket list. I went to Paris and avoided long lines of tourists by not visiting the Louve. In London, I succeeded in somehow utterly avoiding the queen. When I visit anywhere, I’m more interested in experiencing what living there might feel like, so I go find a laundromat or a grocery store and see. I ride the bus rather than hail that cab, or I walk. No better way to get to know anywhere than by hoof. I despise wax museums, salt water taffy factories, cute crap shops, and every imaginable kind of guided tour. I am not a tourist.

Tourists, in my humble opinion, give visiting a bad reputation. Towns and cities around the world encourage tourists, though, building intricate traps to lure them in, and managing to attract people who seem perfectly satisfied forking over sixty bucks to clop along in a carriage behind a weary dray horse to look at throngs of less fortunate tourists on foot. Slip over here for more ...



Legend claims that Robert Leroy Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads to become a legendary bluesman. The Muse insisted as only The Muse can insist that as long as we’d gone to all the trouble of driving to Mississippi, we should cross it on third tier backroads so that we might actually see the country we were passing through. I was in no disposition to argue, since her insistence exactly mirrored my intention. We stuck to the slow roads all the way to the Pontchartrain causeway.

Wisteria was blooming in the woodlands we passed, and azaleas and dogwoods, too; April all dressed up like the middle of May. I expected blistering poverty, and the typical shotgun house might look like a shack anywhere else, but they’re common here; an old tradition, a familiar adaptation to the climate and the land. It all looked alluring on this Spring afternoon. Slip over here for more ...



When I entered first grade, I was assigned to a special class for people who didn’t speak right. I might have inherited my Missouri drawl from my great grandparents, who, being the children of Oregon pioneers, spoke funny. Nobody in the DeepSouth could have unnerstood ‘em either.

That special class apparently broke me of my infirmity because I now quite convincingly pass as a TV Newscaster American, which means I affect little regional accent at all. The Muse complains that nobody here understands anything she says and she has to ask a couple of times for a repeat before even a crude understanding emerges. Me, too. Slip over here for more ...



Charleston, West Virginia might be the best example of what Mr. Potter was aiming to do in It’s A Wonderful Life. It seems at least one George Bailey short of a wonderful place. The Muse said it looks like an Orc village, and seemed particularly terrifying after our quick zoot down through spring snow-covered mountains. We’d abandoned our earlier notion of wending through the lower intestinal tract of Appalachian coal country in favor of better traveled roads once we’d surveyed the depth of the slush remaining after winter’s overnight surprise revisit.

Our first rule of roading insists that no earlier idea ever metastasize into an obligatory plan. We shift as the spirit or the Gods move us to shift, and these shifts happen without remorse or regret. We live only in the moment, more or less. We retain some vague memory of where we intend to end up without shackling ourselves to any particular means.

We high-tailed our threatened vestigial tails out of that sour Charleston valley before the air bourne chemicals could get us too much, heading for Kentucky’s bluegrass country. Kentucky seems civilized compared to West Virginia; perhaps gentrified. The grass is disappointingly not even the faintest hint of blue, but brown nearer the eastern border this time of year and increasingly green in the ever lowering elevations as we cruise west. Gilded horse farms dominate, each surrounded by what seems like miles of white rail fences in perfect condition. Manor houses by the score. Slip over here for more ...



The South mystifies me, and the Deep South terrifies me. I’ve successfully avoided visiting it until now. Since we relocated into the still mysterious northern reaches of the region five years ago, The Muse has been lobbying for a drive through that situation I’d shunned. I suppose this goosing passes as one of the primary responsibilities of any halfway decent muse, to encourage exploration of nether regions.

The map situates it below, though I know that’s merely convention speaking. On a globe, there can only ever be over; any other representation materially misrepresents and can impart a curiously certain Northern sense of lordly superiority, a malady I recognize in myself. I know my birthplace was an accidental artifact of birth, and that others were similarly situated then imprinted upon their birthplace as home. We can’t escape this. My ancestors trudged across The Carolinas, Virginia, and Kentucky, each identifying with places I never believed I could relate with. I am curious whether I might find vestigial familiarity in this land I’ve for so long shunned. Slip over here for more ...


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