Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frontier Justice

“The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”


How does this work or what would it look like? 
from Wikipedia The Bald Knobbers, an 1880s vigilante group from Missouri, wearing crude "blackface" masks typical of the post-Reconstruction era in the United States -- as portrayed in the 1919 film, The Shepherd of the Hills.
Ku Klux Klan members march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in 1928
another example of citizen justice
one man with a gun saving his town from thugs
George Zimmerman, another man with a gun who invoked the Stand-Your-Ground Law to justify killing Trayvon Martin--an unarmed teen carrying Skittles
Ruby Ridge--from all reports a major cock-up by gov't law officials* also from Wikii: On about August 24, 1992, the fourth day of the siege on the Weaver family, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson wrote a memo: OPR 004477
1. Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit.
Marissa Alexander 31-year-old mother of 2 small children, fired warning shot at abusive husband, hitting wall behind his head, sentenced in Florida to 20 years. A jury found her guilty as charged: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Middle-Aged* warning depressing

This is horrible. Kafkaesque. I woke up with a sudden realization—I’m not a bug. Much worse. I am middle-aged.

I expected to feel this way after my parent’s death early last year. I’ve been feeling slower, not as enthusiastic about exercise—something I never went two days in a row without doing. I wouldn’t get into running shoes for anything less than 5 miles. But I suspect it wasn’t this that nudged me into melancholy.

Perhaps when a friend mentioned he was having cataract surgery. What! No worries, he responded, it’s outpatient! Or when a Facebook friend from highschool announced that he was retiring from teaching at the end of the school year. Congratulations! Or that a good friend, even younger than I, was gifted with their first grandchild. Mazel tov!

These are significant milemarkers. We gauge how far we’ve come and where we might be going next.

Where are we going next?

I think what I’m feeling is a brittleness, a great uncertainty. That what I once thought might not actually happen has happened. My husband and I are finding ourselves often sleepless, fearful of the future. This confession in itself is middle-aged. I can’t remember once worrying about social security when I was 30. Really. Mostly when I was younger, I worried I might not have time for all the things I wanted to do like graduate from high school, college, get married, have kids, go to Europe.  

The sun rose and set, and I graduated, got married, had the daughter I dreamed of, we’ve traveled (See European Schedule).

In my thirties I began to worry about my friends. Would we finish the journey we began together? Then in my forties several of the people I’d gotten closest to moved away. All the promises about raising kids together, being there for one another collapsed under other obligations, other visions. Quite a few divorces, a few have shocked me. The kids have lost touch with each other, finding little in common. A few of those bright beautiful children of my friends have passed away.

Here we are now, middle-aged. We stuck it out. Yet we are wide-awake.

And I suspect we are not alone. There are teachers and firefighters wondering if their pension will evaporate. All of us are concerned that social security will become a bone thrown to placate those wishing for A BALANCED BUDGET. That, along with raising the minimum age for Medicare, we will be toothless and decrepit before eligibility. Brittle and broken.

I see it all around me, safety nets unraveling. The seniors we serve at Friendly Towers ( and the epidemic rise in elderly homeless especially at CCO ( Many of these people lived lives with few expectations anyway, on the margins. But now they are discovering that even the bare basics are not going to be enough. SSI, Social Security, a monthly pension will not magically make affordable housing appear, re-instate food stamps mysteriously revoked, or cover the ever-increasing co-pays. Then there are the constant scams.

God forbid they get really sick.

Jeremy Nicholls has written at his blog Setting Prisoners Free of the disabled and elderly homeless that he has worked with. (

My fear is that I will end up like those I have helped, Les Misérables. God help us.
Graceland Cemetery--down the street from where I live in Uptown, Chicago

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Say Hello, I Say Goodbye

My friend and underground street photographer, Fred Burkhart is having a gallery opening tomorrow, January 18 at Alibi Fine Art here in Chicago (1966 West Montrose Avenue  Chicago, IL 60613). I met Fred a few years ago and I can truly say he has opened my eyes. I see things differently.

Also he wears hats.

Some of Fred’s most controversial subjects has been an intimate portrait of members of the KKK and chronicling Chicago's Gay Pride Parade since its beginning. In addition he is the house photographer for JesusPeople USA a 350-member community on the northside of Chicago. He is one of ours.

Here is a clip from a recent article found in the Examiner.
** Burkhart’s memoir is his art.
**He says decisions about what he photographed never felt deliberate. “Photography is a collaboration, and sometimes it’s not on the surface. When you fall in love with someone, you know it, pow. You’re choosing each other, and there’s a certain trust there. When you photograph them, people hand you their image…”

Now in his 71st year Fred is winding down. He has Stage 4 cancer and this, his first-ever show, might well be his very last. If in the area please come out to the gallery.

ALSO check out this video recently completed about Fred by Heather Momyer, in which I am found testifying as to who Fred is—to me.

Quote from Fred’s Facebook about the video: This video touches on what is so important and life-changing about my evolution as a photographer, how it's brought me at last close to a community that I can identify with -- a community that I can love and share a common thread with: We are born here of God and that's the necessary incentive to tag tag my photos as “Images of God.”
"You say goodbye and I say hello", by Fred Burkhart, a photo from his first-ever gallery show
Fred Burkhart, street photographer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Circa 1984

for Mike

There was a time when we were so poor we had no debit card, no bank account. If we lost our token to ride the L we just jumped the turnstile. More than once we had to walk when the buses stopped running—miles from home. One time we were stranded at Cook County Hospital without a quarter between us to call a friend for a pick up. With our treat money we used to buy a quart of the cheapest ice cream and saw through the carton, splitting it in half. Going out to eat was getting a dollar slice at Uptown. We didn’t do that too often. Usually we shopped at the Freestore and ate donos, donated day-old doughnuts. On our day off we’d go to the No Exit CafĂ© off the Morse L stop for half-price coffee and bad poetry. We’d leave smelling like cigarette smoke. In the cold, crystallized air halos wavered around the street lamps, and we’d hold hands—so happy, so blessed.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Content VS Art

I’ve written quite a bit here at Memoirous about being a content hack. Not really—though that’s how it feels, sometimes.

My last post and this one are about process. An attempt at clarifying or explaining to myself what it is I do. I am honored to once again receive a grant from the Illinois Arts council, but along with awards comes a tandem inferiority complex. Do I actually deserve this? Is it a fluk—an accident—and will be withdrawn once “they” discover I am a charlatan?

These emotions (or is it faulty reasoning? Either way I am convinced), by the way, are NOT helpful to the process.

I’ve been writing since age 7. Even before I acquired reading, I wrote in a code—hoping later to remember what those little symbols stood for. I desperately wanted to write a story. I believe my first poem was about a tree. It was wonderful! I was at the same time delighted to discover that many words rhyme with tree. The symbol for tree was very literal—it was more difficult finding the appropriate sign to represent the “filler” words, the ones that connected the visual ones.

I continue to have problems with those. I have the nut of what I am trying to say. Adding leaves to the tree and making it look, well, like a tree is the hard part.

So since age 7 writing has been my identity. Writing things down helps me to remember, record (journaling), and process life. Writing has helped to nourish me and as I feed it.

I’ve been reading Susan Sontag’s journal/notebook As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh 19640 1980. True much of what she says can be reduced—she seems to take the hard way around a subject. Is that convoluted? But she is very logical, which makes the path easier. She has random riffs on writing—always seeing it as an art form. That’s very encouraging.

Because technology seems to have rendered much of today’s art into content. Content, a word devoid of art. Content sounds so—utilitarian, a means to an end, an end to a mean. As someone who blogs I am constantly aware that I need stuff to make it happen. Often, to enhance a post, I’ll go on-line and “borrow” a photograph or download a video. Some bloggers embed music—a blog soundtrack—borrowed from the WORLD WIDE WORLD. It’s out there, all of it, anything we want. Photos, music, clips, snips, content. And, it has very little value.

Musicians are poorer today than ever before. Who now can actually make it in the arts—when much of the arts is considered FREE. Granted much, much, much more work is getting out there, being seen, going viral.

I love the www, the internet. My question is what’s next? How will the next generation of artists get funding—because even commercial artists are scraping by and mainstream publishers (please God!) are just now realizing that hefty advances to known celebrities are not paying out. Things go away to come back as something else—or they used to. But, maybe with global warming, they will simply go extinct. Exist in a Wii world, inside a game.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

In the Blue-est Hour

Okay, this is by all accounts crazy, like jet propulsion--or in view of the Christian calendar--the opposite of "ordinary" time, sonic time. I submitted a flash and five minutes later it was accepted and within the hour posted here.

The piece was totally spun from my head. I had the idea one EARLY morning (I am a morning cook and am up before EVERYONE) while listening to the radio. I just imagined a woman, I imagined her on her birthday, then I imagined her sorry life and the tenets or cords that hold that fragile life together, the moral of the story. And coupled those thoughts with twilight, or those periods when the sun has not come out all day, like living in a fog or swimming underwater. My thoughts flitted and spun as if turning somersaults--without the heaviness of gravity. This is what I wrote about. Sort of. What came out might not at all have been what I was actually thinking, but the result of eating too much popcorn the night before.

Nevertheless--a flash. I am scheduled to deliver a lecture at OCWW March 14th on writing flash memoir--come join us. If you click on the link my program might not be listed yet, but keep checking back.
photo from The Blue Hour titled

Blue Winter – Bente Haarstad

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

"When big hearts strike together, the concussion is a little stunning."--in a letter from Melville to Hawthorne

That's what I'm about. This next year I want to have a big heart, go bold, be not afraid. I also like the part about striking together. I'm tired of the little jingles, the sound barely heard above the din around me. I want to ring out--and to accomplish this I might have to find similar hearts willing to sound together.

Interestingly enough, Melville penned this letter on the cusp of launching Moby-Dick--a book that would ultimately sink his career. No one knew what to do with that book. It was like none other, and thus fell off the charts.

That's me again--always on the cusp, working on something that leaves editors shaking their heads. It's too micro, too macro, too juvenile (do they mean YA?), too cross-over, too outside, tooooo. What they mean is: Who will read this?

2013 will be the year I find my reader(s). Let's strike together, eh?