To Whom Do You Think You’re Speaking?

I want to say something about Terry Frank’s hateful mess of a post, but I’m not sure where to start.

Coble hits on most of the points I want to make.

So, I’ll just say, “Shame on you, Terry Frank.  How heartless and cruel do you have to be to use people’s suffering as a measure of their unworthiness to be called a family?” 

“That’s The America I Came Home To. That’s It.”

I just finished Scott Reynolds Nelson’s Steel Driving Man–John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend.

It’s good, but in one of those ways that nags at you.  He doesn’t address the Alabama evidence.  Instead, he just goes to the Big Bend Tunnel, discovers there weren’t men and steam drills working side by side, looks for another tunnel on that same line where the did, and then looks for who was working on that tunnel–prisoners–and finds one named John Henry.

It seems straight enough forward.

So does John Garst’s evidence

I guess I just wanted to see it addressed, especially because I come to trust Nelson’s take on things and want to believe that his take considers all the evidence.  If Garst’s evidence is shoddy, I’d like to know why.

Still, the book does a wonderful job of really getting at how rough digging these railroad tunnels was and how it could be a death sentence.

The other task the book sets out to do is to show how the legend of John Henry (and the song) have been appropriated by different groups for their own purposes.

Some of these assertions need better back up.  He comes pretty damn close to saying that Superman is just a white version of John Henry based on the fact that Superman’s creators grew up very near where a famous lithographer who made John Henry lithographs lived, so “Steel Drivin’ Man” of course equals “Man of Steel.”

I wanted him to tease that out a little more.

But his section on Sinclair Lewis (“That’s the America I came home to.”) and Carl Sandburg?

It made me start to wonder about who I consider to be my intellectual family.  I think of Walt Whitman like some eccentric uncle who doesn’t love me half as much as I love him.  And there’s Stephen King, the older cousin who should not have spent so much time in our grandma’s basement telling me scary stories.

But I wonder about Lewis and Sandburg.  Reading about Sandburg’s performances of John Henry… God, these folks are so familiar to me.  Sandburg is the kind of Midwesterner I think I was raised to be.  

I don’t think I’d ever really understood that before reading this book, as no one articulated that–but there it all is, the great deep love of America, the socialism, the feeling that the kinds of things Americans do are of value and should be shared with other Americans, the love of history and music and folklore and stories, etc.

I need to remember to ask my parents about Sandburg.

We went to his house in Galesburg, once, which I was thrilled about but remember thinking was strange.

I don’t know.  The past leaves you bits and pieces of things.  It’s hard to tell which are clues and which are not. 

UC Irvine Can Suck My Butt!

I could not hate UC Irvine more if it were made of angry stinging bees.  Who the fuck designs a campus like that?  If he’s still alive, I have half a mind to hunt him down and run him over, though, I suppose, he could just hide in one of his many terrible buildings and be quite safe from me as I have no plans to ever return there.

First, the parking garage.  The elevator is connected to the parking garage by a thin strip of concrete surrounded on three sides by a “guard rail” of four flimsy metal bars.

Then, the fucking campus map looks like fucking Rorschach came up with it.  I got lost and was late to my first appointment (and was late because I was not about to get on that elevator and so had to walk down the whole fucking parking garage) which was in some other kind of monstrous monstrosity with a fucking “open air” hallway way four stories up.

Do you know what it’s like to come off the elevator and feel like you’re going to pass out and throw up and fall over all because fucking architecture and your own fucked up-ness conspire against you?

I hope not, but it fucking sucks.  And so I got there and I was all discombobulated because I didn’t have my equilibrium back yet.

Fine.  Whatever.

Then to get to my next appointment, I would have had to cross this tiny pedestrian bridge two stories up over a busy street and so finally I get to my building after taking the long-cut and the fucking elevator there is also in its own fucking tower way off away from the actual building connected to it by another open air platform.

So, I just took the stairs.

Fuck it.

But I did make the fucking mistake of taking the elevator back up to the top of the parking garage to get my car and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t fucking stuck in it.  Just stuck there like some fucking crazy person and I was all “Okay, get out of the damn elevator.  Move.” and then it started.  The dizzy feeling like the whole world was about to fall away.

So I took off my shoes.

See, this is crazy.  This is what crazy people do.  They do whacked out shit that makes no sense but for some reason feels like some kind of ritualized behavior that allows them to do whatever it is they need to do.

Well, so there you go.  I did it.  I took off my shoes in the grungy shitty elevator and stepped out onto the open platform between me and the fucking parking garage.  And I couldn’t hear and I thought I was going to throw up and the whole world started to tilt away from me and my head was filled with the sounds of crows cawing and I just really wanted more than anything to lay down and maybe roll to the car.

But I walked.  Somehow.  I was shaking so bad I nearly dropped my keys.

And now I’m sitting here crying to tell you about it.

I feel like a freak.  I am completely embarrassed and feel a little crazy about this.  I know it’s crazy.  It makes no sense and yet there it is.

Anyway, I hate that place.  Between that and the San Diego Convention Center, I do believe I’ve been through the landscape of my own personal hell.

It was cool to see crows up that close, though.

So there’s that.