Sunday, July 15, 2007

the equilibrium of the whole rests in all it's parts

So where you been upsidedownhouse?

After the June work day... I've been too tired. The baby goats at the farm next door ate my notebook. I became an etymologist, specializing in blue-eyed sicatas. It's my car, my girlfriend, my nephew, it's been too hot, I was lost in a dream of music, I've only been writing poems, I was was picking berries out in the yard, I've been drunk, I had to cut the grass! Dick Cheney made me stop. I swear, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to give up blogging!!

Anyway, trying to be funny because humor in hard times is healthy and that is where I've been, "curling up like smoke above my shoulder" -Cohen. Blogger, greater detroit helped ease my concerns about dropping out though, suggesting it's more of a winter activity anyway. Yea, like painting houses is more of a summer activity, true enough. And that's another activity I've had taking up my time since the work day months ago, hard at work someplace or another, mostly painting and trying to spend Saturdays upsidedown and dirty.

Since then though I've discovered The Signal on CBC radio 2, for me replacing Liz Copeland's WDET late night show. It's really good radio, and has helped me feel inspired again, check it out. Also,Detroit Today on WDET I hate to admit has been pretty cool.

Should be another post soon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's On! WORK DAY June 3rd

calling all cars, no. Comanchees? no.
friends! pleaz come over Sunday June 3rdto a workday & bbq @ the "upsidedown house". I could use your help and will repay with food and booze the day of & the night before!! RSVP
Saturday night partay
Sunday get down and dirty 10-6

I've had a month to consider the changes at WDET and the state of the city, and currently I say, fuck it. IT's stupid and not what I am fighting for, and I'm certainly not going to give up what "I am for" to fight against right now. Be it the the city nor the Wayne State board of governors. It truly is not the end of the world, at least not immediately.

I will not worry so much. There is good and there is not so good and sometimes one is acutely aware of how stupid people are and that is usually bad. I just have to feed my drive and keep going. If you leave our city, please be well. I think I can handle it again. If you stay, pace yourself, but commit, so not to be a distraction. There is a lot of fun but also work to be done! Having said that after years of invovlment I quit my collective projects for an indefinite period, am going to the woods for 2 weeks(Porcupine mountains)and upon return recommitting to the house and my love of life! I feel excited again, even though I still see the city as crazy ruins and the same old top down decision making strong as ever, as ever.

How can one live stuck in a rut though, that's more like survival (if that)and I still want to live. Who knows what this new time will allow for, beyond making sure I am consistently working on the house. I know I have many street art ideas, miss playing music like mad and would like to help here and there with booking shows, so it will no doubt be a challenge to really focus on the house, but that is the plan. I hope to be a better writer, which means I have to write more and in the future I plan on reworking this blog and maybe moving the site plus dividing it into 3 categories: poetry, politics, the project (the house). Maybe by the time I have been writing here for a year I will assess and make the necessary changes and shift my priority to writing? Who knows? That is what I will leave you with...who knows?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Fear, Compromise, Capitalism, and WDET -Pt.2

Fed to the wolves.

I know I am not the only one upset by what's happening at WDET lately, and it might appear of little consequence compared to what's happening in the city as a whole:more school closures, the constant stories of violence(and my own encounters), more suspicious fires and the continued destruction of green space. All that has got me down lately, but I consider this a serious blow. I've said it before, music is what keeps me going, it's the thing nearest to my heart's beat, so with local dj's music programming so seriously attacked last week, I took it hard. Listening to CJAM now, that is when I can get it in, makes me want to move to Canada, seriously.

I am not even sure what it's about since no notice or information was provided on the DET website last week, when it mattered, and I have yet to check out the MT to see if they have the scoop. It appears obvious enough though, the music(locals) goes and national programming stays. Whatever the station has done, it has certainly validated those who protested a year or so ago when our only Detroit NPR station fired so many dj's and apparently left the other half til now. To me WDET's turning it's back on the community, again, and the attack on the music is akin to the developers who bulldoze the green spaces so the can build-they take from us irrespective of what we need, because they can and that is how they will survive. Acres of old dense trees stands, the ones bordering Rosa Parks from MLK to Grand River I am specifically thinking of, will never be ridden through again, just like I will not hear Liz Copeland, W. Kim Heron, Mick Collins, Ralph Valdez, Michael Julian, Chuck Horn, nor Robert Jones again. Though, to be accurate Reverend Jones has survived this round of cutbacks, but I'll not be hearing him either; his new slot is Sundays 6 am to 8 am as of today. Happy Easter Reverend Jones...

Fucked over.

Up until February when I got electricity in my place, especially alone at night, it was the local DET dj's on my shitty battery powered radio that kept me company. There was no listening to cd's, old tapes, and vinyl and reading by candle light was too much, so it was just the radio and my thoughts on long dark and often bitter cold nights, and I was thankful. SO, just like when I rode through, even drove by those stands of trees feeling like there is hope and this is what makes Detroit a healthy place to live, sometimes I would listen to a show and know that the culture and history of our city's music is still alive. Of course it was not perfect, but I listened and gave it props because the dj's gave me hope.

Getting rid of most of the local dj's reminds me of what's been happening somewhere else too, in NOLA lately. In Detroit we said it, (acknowledging the differences too), but Detroit has had our Katrina happening for decades now. I can not see any other explanation other than they want us out. The people who are trying to rebuild and survive in the neighborhoods are a problem when it comes to making large profits. The things that are good for the long time residents and the ones who have a sense of what we need to feel whole must go. IF you believe me wrong, PLEASE respond, because I am happy to state my case.

Offered scraps and told it's the only thing, while you see the lavish meal layed out before your very eyes.

The other reason this pisses me off so much is not that a station challenged financially has chosen to go the way of more national programming as it is supposedly less expensive, but the way they have upped their spots to give them money ahead of the upcoming fundraiser. They knew we would be pissed and are trying to manipulate us with spots that talk about how much we learn on WDET and should value this...service. Excuse me, I need to appreciate what? Never owning up to what they have done. It's so obvious. It's so devious and manipulative. It's so...corporate.

I got an idea. How about rather than give everyone the boot there is some discussion in the community as to what some of the possible solutions to the problems are? It's advertised as a community station right? Why not go the way of a volunteer army of local DJ's (even if just from WSU) that are not paid, and slim down on the paid management while you're at it. Too late. And, PLEASE, just to mention regarding some of the new programming, take that new money and finance show off before someone gets hurt, seriously. It's local, but it will not touch the issue of class with a ten foot poll, so I'd call that one a program for the new Detroiters and an insult to boot.

"one fine day, when i'm strong enough, i'll stand up out of this chair and walk away"nomeansno

While the weather last week indicated that it is indeed Spring, regardless of cold nights, how quickly the tables turn. I shaved my beard and head ready to meet the change head on (no pun intended)rather than wait for it to get to me first, ah burned again. I was so wrong, and now so confused. Am I less ready for changes this drastic than I previously had been? I feel like I used to be ready to adapt and flex like a long piece of bamboo. One piece in a clump of bamboo born to grow like grass and be more useful, inspiring and full of mystery than most humans will ever realize. Regardless of all that, as the song goes "if you ain't ready, you betta git ready", but i'm thinkin', no,how about a change of scenery and weather altogether...

My last blog entry ended with a cry to stay in Detroit and build a good life here, but just like the weather's harsh return, lately I have rather suddenly felt like the opposite and more like quitting Detroit. Quitting my collective projects, quitting this city, quitting the life I have been living for nearly 10 years here and beyond that. When I lived in Arcata it was really just to prepare myself for what I wanted to do here. I apologize for this fit, but I am dumbfounded at the amount of harsh reality that is hurled somewhere in my general direction lately, but seems to always end up right on my lap. Indeed it seems to be saying "it's going to get worse before it gets better". All I know is I need a break.

This city gets fucked over and over and in turn the people end up learning that's the way it's done and do it to others, how American. A bunch of sweet talk and than nothing but abuse. No, how just like the USA, not America. The Americas are not the home to Capitalism, but this country is, no matter how global it gets. The gears of the machine continue to turn, cycle after cycle. Detroit, the true "American" city, then and now. When will it end?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fear, Compromise,Capitalism, WDET-Pt . I

My ability to endure is being tested, and though it feels good to reflect here, it seems like a Sisyphian task to contain myself and present a coherent rant even. The sun is bright today, but to leave now is to favor illusion rather than confront the darkness I feel. In the end that only begets a greater unhappiness. There are many
issues that have me feeling so, but most of all in no uncertain terms, I am especially upset at Detroit.

I feel like I am only human and to reveal so much calamity is too much for me to bear.

Backing up a bit. See, I espouse an idea distilled from anarchism which somewhat insists on a "no compromise" notion of how I, and to some degree, others should live. A good example is "you don't bomb the people", period. Personally, I insist on living for a culture of togetherness that actually works for community, ie. the public... and I do not feel this is a radical or even utopian notion, but it is very different than the notion of what our NPR affiliate apparently feels about the P in it's acronym. We'll get to that little jab later on, for they are the true inspiration behind this rant.

Some days I wish to close my eyes and go away, while previously that has not been my disposition.

Even though, to advocate folks be open minded and willing to explore our creative ability to transform our own lives and the institutions (in the face of capitalism) is considered unrealistic, it is a rather sane viewpoint. To me, it appears in the world as a whole-fear is kicking the crap out of love and the dominant capitalist institutions of our times bears the brunt of the blame for this violence. How is it not seen that it is a failure and that the fear that it promotes is no way to go on in life. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think our survival actually depends on fighting this aspect of what is. Though I have issue with his ideas of power, for sure Che said it best when he said "revolution, i act out of love", or something like that.

"Sometimes I dream about reality, sometimes I feel so down" Mr. Bobby by Manu Chao

So, what is all this mean Mr. Upsidedown? It means the changes that have been announced lately in this city have made me question my loyalty to it and all I am involved with. I feel like my ability to survive here is wearing thin and that's not good, because you need a good thick skin to endure the truth of what it means to live here. Not the 'I live in newly developed areas with security or in close proximity to areas where the police protect me' truth, but the truth that it's a desperate place to grow up in and perhaps even harder for some to try to stay here as an adult. Even having said that, how it is now I think is better than how it is going to be.

I have been considering leaving the city I love because of what is going on, and that would indeed be a huge compromise.

This place as of late makes me sick with fear, which is something I usually deal pretty well with. I fear the city will survive and transform itself, but it will be unrecognizable as a a place of potential and hope for something better, and recognizable as another terrible version of a place that converts the energy to believe in change, for the passive acceptance of what products are here for you; the lie that builds off the idea that if you want to go anywhere in life you better get in line. I thought we were better than that, but I am beginning to doubt that is what Detroit spirit is/was about. It feels like capitalism is being reembraced and the once suspicious face of privelege that is by and large white, is fading from our memory. "Embraced", perhaps not, more like we're on our knees and begging to appease the master.

Idealism has it's ups, but when you get depressed at the state of things, look out.

In general, I am involved with people who are engaged and doing and that helps, usually. And right now, while I feel my hope and excitement is being ripped from me, I am on the cusp of realizing that Detroit potential with two projects I have been involved with for years. They are of great inspiration to many, one regarding the intersection of urban land use in education and the other using popular education in creating new media models, both for raising up the voices of our youth, our future. With Detroit Summer, collective members embarked just yesterday on a tour of 5 cities with 10 passionate youth, who seem to have the vision and courage to take on the problems we face. I feel like I am betraying them writing like this, but I am wondering what new problems will we all face and why would we put that on them?

"New York City, maybe you remind me of myself"- Gil Scott Heron

It's madness, destroying green space here to build and building for the sake of building so that the economic imperative is satisfied. It's certainly not helping to keep me here. It's like human sacrifice and I can only bear witness so long before the upsurge in hope I felt just 2 weeks ago is stricken down by the forces that manage our affairs. So, if my hope turns to a callous pessimism and then disregard for my word, and words like "no compromise" for my vision, like working with youth turns to hoping that this place burns finally and for good, please escort me out of this city because I will be of no help any longer.

Friday, March 16, 2007

my first community meeting

It says "weekly updates" in the description of my blog (yea right), anyway here's a good one from a few days ago, finally.

IF i ignore the ruthless militarism and other death machine called globalization, ever present in the outer world, on a more personal level, today was one of the good ones. There are good ones, bad ones and to be fair some that I just can't make up my mind about.

Today was particularly good because after work I walked 1 block, just 1 block, to a community meeting. Which means that it is literally my community and that's sort of a big deal for me. As a radical type I go to some meetings, as a matter of fact, I'd say often. Considering it's possible I may just live the rest of my life here, a meeting in that context could be a deal breaker. As it turns out it was just the opposite. My first community meeting felt like the most real thing in the world and made me feel like 'I belong here'.

Like I said, I go to some meetings, as do many of my good friends because those are the types of people I like to be around (actively engaging in solutions to our problems), and I've probably seen in my days some of the best, worst, hardest, most boring, baffling, infuriating and informative meetings as it gets, so coming into this one it was not so much I was prepared for the worst, but was wondering how it was going to be. Will it be organized or kinda all over the place? How long would it last? Who would be dominating the conversation? These were all thoughts I had in my short walk over. Never the less, I went in feeling relaxed, but left wholly energized.

In the beginning the facilitator spoke a lot, but before I could grow concerned she acknowledged her time on the mic, while refusing to apologize? She was making a call out to rally our community and make things happen-refuse, resist and come together. With such sincerity and passion her enthusiasm broke through walls of caution and skepticism so that I immediately wanted to work with her, no, everyone. Not unlike a skilled politician she spoke, but really it was an activist that I heard. She used her power for much needed purposes. To bring us closer together as one of the other participants said, "that's why we're here right". I suppose you could call her a natural leader.

Until recently "leader" was a word I associated with master (aka boss of me, aka fuck that), so it was seldom that I used that word in a positive manner. To be a good orator and to share convictions for sure is a healthy activity, it's just when people expect the payment of power for their ideas and voice (like in politics, religion, family or business) that is when the title "leader" comes out with contempt from my mouth. Indeed they are leading people, right into a mess. In a lost society such as ours though, one or many, who are able to light up a room with their enthusiasm is appreciated, because I am for "us" and would like to find my way out of this place together. That place is called a healthy community, not the "afterworld", as Prince calls it.

The organizers of this meeting were the pastor and the CDC that works out of the church and they were on it. There was a brief agenda passed out to all, plus snacks and time for the 12 attendees to bring up what we wanted, along with our comments and questions as to the updates on the work that the CDC has been engaged in. Even the prayer at the end was short and interesting, and I'm not one for religion period. Rather than give an "amen" I said "thanks". The whole thing lasted just over an hour, they were shooting for just 45 minutes. Impressive.

It was announced that after an amazing effort they had tracked down the current owner of a Brownfield almost directly across from the church. With two severely damaged and dangerous buildings on it, I've often dreamed of what good could be made out of them. We were told the current title holders were found in Chicago and had agreed to sign over the property so that the CDC could build a community center! Not just agreed, like sure, but that it was really in the works. Aware of what it meant to take this on, all the site cleanup and studies excitedly she asked that we be all be as involved as we would like. A community center kitty corner from the art park next to my house, I repeat, not some ugly new apartment building, or worse condo, but something I personally considered prior to this... how sweet is that.

Out of that conversation we talked in general about the quality of our soil and the possibility of a nearby former Superfund site as an area we're not really certain to be safe and something to research. One of the folks said she had collected a massive amount of primary source material and other info. from back when all this was going down and was asked to lend it to a class, but was told later that is was not to be found. Sorry, it's just disappeared. Hmm. This was all by way of an organization I'll not name right now. Anyway, I personally will be looking into soil testing done by a friend and some students at CFA 4 or 5 years ago and perhaps do more of the same, maybe with help from the Garden Resource Program. If we are going for a healthy and safe community I think it is wise for us to start with what is actually in our soil.

Another interesting conversation that was had concerned the scrappers who frequent our neighborhood and who apparently have created a smelter here. Oh great. This means the stolen aluminum, copper pipes or wire and whatever else can be had locally, has been going there where they get paid cash in hand! rather than making their way to a scrap yard across town. The person paying then can more easily transport it in a melted down form and I'm sure make more money too. I have seen fires on several occasions where they were just burning the coating off the wire, but to actually smelt it down sounds to me like someone is getting organized.

The church had been hit pretty hard this winter and cost them at least a thousand dollars not to mention it cost me a few hours of frustrating labor as I repaired a part of the school's fence the scrappers had cut through for some reason. Rather than view these folks stealing from us and in reality plaguing the city as a whole, through a single dimensional viewpoint ala "arrest em", we talked about the possibility of employing them in some of our clean up efforts and that if we want to truly deal with any issues of crime in our community that most importantly we need to be out, active and together so that it is harder for scrappers and others to come in unnoticed and feel like no one cares enough here to do anything.

We also talked about the potential for the police to both be helpful or oppressive. One woman told of a terrifying account which happened about a month ago where a black van with masked men jumped out of it while she was walking home. They questioned and searched her while their badges were turned around, a drug enforcement unit. She said "yea I am skinny and might look like I do drugs, which I do not, but it's not right for them to treat anyone this way". YEA! Immediately another woman handed her right then and there a district complaint form and our facilitator urged her to make a report because this is not something that we should stand for and we need to send that message. Also, it was mentioned on what days we could go to the local precinct meeting if we want to and that it is possible to get a top cop to attend one of our meetings too. Hell yea. A few minutes prior, we talked about how quickly they responded to an abandoned vehicle that turned up over night. It was gone in hours of making the call.

There were 12 of us and one child and nearly everyone spoke. Some of us talked afterwards outside about organic gardening, medical marijuana, chemtrails, the school farm and the suspicious nature of the fires last summer, mentioned in an early blog. I think these folks might just be down with my crazy City Repair visions for the hood along with orchards, fish ponds, jobs, community policing, festivals and being there for youth. It's sorta all too unbelievable. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Many people had lived their entire lives here, raised children and want to stay here for the kids now and make this a place they experience in a positive way. "Don't leave it, build it" is what some of us dare say about this city we love and struggle for.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Riddles, for real

This is my favorite riddle. Do you get it?

If in panic I forget it, in despair I need it, in my mind I save it, in death I have it?

Even better, where did I hear this riddle?

I was just listening to This American Life and it had a puzzle theme, so here's my puzzle. Also, here's something from the show I heard, it's an anagram for " a dream within a dream"-What am I, a mind reader? I kinda liked that too.

And something else for those folks into radio stories. A while back I actually taped a special show from this festival out of Chicago, the stories were awesome, so here's a link to the homepage.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Passionate and Dangerous

I hesitate and a thought flickers forward. What if I start crying here in the library? I let it pass. That is not an issue now, I will certainly tear up and besides, grief is good. Then I consider for a moment if, or why, I need to share such personal experiences? Yes, I am sure. It's why I got tattooed "passionate and dangerous", which will forever lie acrosss the top of my back. So, I take in and release a deep breath, even if it hurts. I am as committed to what has been as much as what could be.

Today we honor and celebrate the lives of our amazing friends, Emma and Oona who died together on this day February 12th, 5 years ago already. They were coming home from a wonderful adventure and died suddenly in a car accident. They were both 21 and part of the Trumbullplex Collective where we lived. I never want to forget and always remain inspired by them. In a way I feel like this is what you do when you are touched by humans with such spirit, it's barely a choice, we have to keep their spirits alive because it rests inside us all now. They were so amazing, I could swear it's impossible that not one of us saw them while their wings were visible.

I know that sounds so cheesy, regardless they do make me think of angels. Not flawless perfect beings that wear white dresses in heaven, but humans who on earth tore it up! They had spirits that soared higher than Icarus had. While here they touched so many more people than any of us even know. They were angels that were anarchists and bouncers, artists and gardeners. They skipped classes but knew volumes: from linguistics to welding to breathing fire to geology to what friendship and community should mean too. The list goes on and on. Angels that liked to be loud and party, dream and experiment, think, work, feel, and live to the fullest, the best kind.

I really miss them. I miss them all the time and in my own way. They were family to me, as is the rest of the Plex from that time. Some of this extended family will get together tonight as has been the tradition, to remember them as a community, as well as how we individually each do. For me they have settled into a precious and deep place within. It may sound selfish, but they are always there for me, so I hope I can repay them for this. I hope we can let them out of the recesses of our hearts when we are together more often and share with each other what they and the experience of their death means to us now.

This year I tried to imagine how they would have physically changed and where they would be. The way they looked may have changed is not as hard as what they would be up to. At this point they could have done and been anything. They were both uniquely beautiful and gifted, I had such crushes on them. On that note since I had no intentions previously to write about them today I'll try to just share a little more about how I felt about them and maybe some day you can ask me more about what they did and who they were.

One time I was trying to find a quiet place and ended up on the second floor living room near Oona's room (which I have to mention was painted a bright blue with stars too), I don't think I was even reading, just sitting and resting. Suddenly Oona's door opened and she came out of her room totally naked. She turned to face me and said "oh, hey what's up" and I said "just sitting here" and then she smiled and walked into the bathroom. I didn't know she was in there with her lover. She was so cool about it, while my jaw was still sitting on the floor.

We all had a lot of fun. One time in the theatre after a FIASCO, drinking beer and whiskey and Emma being plenty drunk started to hit on me. We didn't know each other very well yet, but it was clear that she was hardcore and probably more than I could handle. Emma was pierced, had most of one arm tattooed in the most beautiful and twisted tree I can ever recall seeing, then and since. She was a traveller punk and truly defined artist-activist. She could play a saw, wore masses of shiny silver jewelery (this is where my thumb ring comes from), and like Oona had a perfect smile.

For as fierce as they were they were the sweetest pirates I have ever met and I will love them always. Appreciate and love one another because you never know