ON THE AVENUES: Once more with feeling, because as the notable American philosopher Moe Bandy once sang, “Here I am, drunk again.”
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
October 27 was only five weeks ago, though it seems like a lifetime or two, maybe three. It was just before the invasion of the orange electoral body-snatching tsunami from the black lagoon, on a Thursday, when I dipped into the lengthening NA Confidential archive for a sparsely updated look at my first 12 years of blogging.
In other words, a “best of” rehash, blatant stalling to mark a week’s time, this being what happens when inspiration refuses to strike and perspiration fails to incite.
A regular reader subsequently offered this comment:
I would prefer to see a new, original reflection on the 12 years. It’s 12 years for us, too.
Fair enough, I thought, and so amid the dying embers of a New Democratic Order poised to perform a graceless non-Hubert Humphrey Humpty Dumpty maneuver, I began writing just such an essay.
Then came the election, and BOOM – immediate column obsolescence. I trashed it, because if all we really need to know we learned in kindergarten, then the children have seized the asylum and re-education camps can’t be very far behind.
Fortunately, our recent trip to Sicily proved somewhat restorative. My mood has improved. It’s time again to mutter epithets, emit sighs, shrug shoulders, pull myself up from the barroom floor, shake off the sawdust and spittle, and resume throwing punches.
Although, in the main, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.
I’ve always insisted that the impetus for NA Confidential’s birth in 2004 was my benumbed stupefaction at the reality of a second term for George W. Bush, gradually alchemizing into a fresh resolve to make meaningful shift happen by narrowing my gaze to the interstate-grade streets outside our front steps.
How very quaint this seems today.
Still, the Rise of Mighty Trumpolini and the Fall of the House of Clinton bring the blog full circle. The way forward is all the way back to the past, where I started. Doubling down on localism, grassroots and community is the most rational course available to me, in spite of the eternal complication of my personal identity crisis.
That’s because I’ve rediscovered my inner European, and it’s less of joking matter than ever before. I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in my “own” country. A majority of my countrymen (and women) have never made much sense to me, whether they’re residing in Palm Springs, Key West, Juneau or directly across Spring Street.
Now, whether self-identifying as red, blue or purple, they’ve all become batshit crazy, every last one of them — and no, I’m not exaggerating. Roughly 120 million of them voted for one or the other of the two most disliked political personages in American history. Does this strike you as healthy in any way?
Can’t I escape, and become an expatriate, cozily burrowed inside Sicily’s 33%-of-GDP black economy, living a life of espresso, cannoli and Catanese horse steaks, existing entirely apart from politics, governments and patriotism … reading, studying, learning and enjoying beauty?
Yes, I know. It isn’t possible, and Italy has big problems of its own. Instead, I’m destined to remain a stranger in this increasingly strange land. Accordingly, as my pal Putin’s V.I. Lenin famously asked, “What is to be done?”
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know – at least yet.
My thoughts at the moment are provisional and subject to change, and whether you realize it or not, so are yours. Previous rules will mutate, and we’ll adapt to them. I’m down with the challenges and eager to join the resistance if necessary, but I’m also realistic. The fog of battle is gooey and thick. It’s the hardest thing in the world to wait and see, and yet wisest in the short term, and so I fully intend to sandbag the bigger picture until the battle lines can be discerned.
To reiterate, I propose to stay the course and honor the founding epiphany of this blog.
Local engagement remains a more fruitful use of my available time than being emotionally distracted by matters so far beyond my atrophied reach that self-induced alcoholic paralysis is the only likely result of trying to corral them – and when you’re already drinking copiously to only barely cope with the illustrious likes of our Genius of the Flood Plain, Shyster Shane and Pinocchio Rosenbarger, self-care is absolutely imperative.
Localism does not imply restricting or insulating ourselves from a wider world. It never has. The mantra of “Think Globally, Act Locally” provides a solid foundation for confronting the vicissitudes of the planet by seeking functionality right here at home, as elusive as it continues to be.
Yes, of course: The issues and outcomes of a national election campaign matter, but macro begins with micro, and always has. We must start somewhere, and it might as well be here.
So, how is NA Confidential looking, 12 years later?
I’m avoiding an answer because frankly, I’ve no idea. I don’t know where to begin searching, and moreover, it isn’t clear to me if I’m even in a position to offer an opinion, or to judge any of it.
It is my belief that the weight of future others – call them posterity – ultimately measures the output of the planet’s pamphleteers, agitators, polemicists, rabble-rousers, provocateurs and maybe bloggers, too, and yet depressingly, posterity itself has become conceptually undependable.
As an aside, speaking from a heart three sizes too small, I’ve spent the past 12 years writing the contemporary history of my town, and to be truthful, it has been a chronically undervalued labor of love, not to mention underpaid, although I never expected to profit from it and never will, because artists are supposed to be impoverished and unappreciated in their own lifetimes, but c’mon!
Is it too much to ask for a nice civic plaque? Just bolt it to an immovable object like Warren Nash?
The biggest problem with “In Posterity We Trust” is that from the vantage point of December, 2016, at a time when we’ve all gone pirouetting through the looking glass, it’s no longer certain there’ll be sufficient agreement about the very nature of factual, objective reality, such that my work – my bile, this artistic expression, these labored stanzas – can be properly assessed.
Furthermore, considering the perennially vacant unresponsiveness of our local leadership-pretend caste, which functions primarily as a chronological extension of the NAHS student council without the teens’ vigor and wit, why remain engaged at all?
Over a period of twelve years, we’ve seen the petty, loutish, self-greasing wheels continue to turn. The artist’s mounting despair, frustration and self-doubt can be palpable. Is anyone out there reading? Does anyone even care? Has thinking in Nawbany been outlawed?
I keep writing because of a massive, innate stubbornness. It is a reaction I can control, one remaining within my power assuage, to awaken in the morning and survey the thoughts knocking around in my brain like bouncing baby bingo balls, hammer them into some measure of coherence, and move them down the chute as quickly as possible so other ideas can gestate.
I want my writing to be read, and for the words to matter – to inform, explain, entertain and motivate. However, first and foremost, it’s an itch that must be scratched, and so it goes … and there it is.
This “blogging” must be something worth doing, or I’d choose another pursuit, but the truth is that while I can’t imagine not writing, my sabbatical’s coming to an end.
The time is fast approaching for one of two options: Either get a job, or create one. My preference is for the latter, and after all, whether it’s Pence in ascent or Gahan in decline, we’re going to need a place to congregate, commiserate, drink, eat, conspire and chat our way through it.
I’m working on a few ideas. You’ll be kept posted. Ciao, arrivederci, and damn, that tripe stew at La Terrazza del Patrone was tasty.
November 17 and 24: (BYE WEEKS, literally and figuratively)
November 3: ON THE AVENUES: It’s our big fat Hibbardendum, and Jeff Gahan is carrying the superintendent across the threshold as Metro United Way tosses rice and One Southern Indiana steals all the liquor.