Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

Those Three ConeSpun Mills

December 31, 2019

2020 rings in another hyped-up year,

as traffic rumbles o’er this city’s streets.

The people slog through their habitual gears

as nights pass by and days repeat.

ConeMillsWO

My stopping by this mill’s ancient smokestack tower

drums up crumbling dreams of 120 years ago

When rev-upped steam drove industrial power

as workers toiled to make America go.

ConeFactry

Except for this site’s massive piled-up, silent heaps

no remnant’s here of their past incredible productivity

We hear no rumbling of gears, no wheeling peeps

Nothing but our clueless, wizzing auto-driven activity.

But down beneath those obsolete smokestack towers

under jagged rebar heaps and brickish piles

behind walls of long gone, humming industrial power

rolled miles and miles of denim ‘n flannel styles.

TextilMachn

’T’was there and then through toiling sweat and flowing tears

workers spun off vast bolts of denim cloth;

in feats of toiling ’20’s roar, then Depression fears,

cranking textile miles, yet with no thread of slouching sloth.

 A shrill whistling of the factory call is no longer heard at all,

just a sunny breeze in unseasonably warm December.

These three landmark chimneys stand so stubbornly, so tall

commanding us by their stature, to remember.

As if we could remember, but no; this legacy is lost to us.

For we, so enamored, or ensnared, by electronic spell,

cannot attain to the fierce pace of their spinning, weaving opus.

Now we demolish their wornout legacy, no more to tell.

But massive was their output–their product so dearly spun;

‘though its flannel flappings waiver yet in this, our age’s fatal breeze.

Soon our bulldozing might will render this heritage undone

as fiberoptic spinning of our  sorcery now weaves.

ConeRevStak

Glass half-Full

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

December 20, 2019

Driving in bright, brisk December sunshine, winding slowly along a Blue Ridge mountain holler road, I arrived yesterday afternoon at the house address that I had earlier noted.

Turning off the car engine silenced radio reportage about the impending impeachment, which is neither here nor there. I am looking for an old fella that I recently read about in a locally written book.

The house is small, light green, near the side of the road, very neat and compact, meticulously maintained.I  This home is the kind of modest dwelling that was being built around these parts in the 1950’s, but it has been recently updated with vinyl siding. My carpenter eye notices the perfectly installed exterior. Nice job.

An attractive, low stone wall just a few steps from the roadway affords a stairway down to a welcoming front porch.  The front door is absolutely white, six-paneled proper in sunshine. It begs knocking, and so I do.

The lady who opens it is thin, with gray hair. She has a classic Scotch-looking mountain face, pleasantly aged with complimentary wrinkles. I forget now what she said, but it was some kind of greeting. I offered her my concise explanation for my visit this afternoon.

“Hi. My name is Carey Rowland. I’ve been doing some historical research—for a novel I am writing— about the Cone estate, and the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway through it back in the 1940’s or ’50’s.  I recently read an interview, published in 1997, with Mr. Paul Moody, who, I understand used to work for Bertha Cone.”

“I’m his wife.” she said

Well, gollee, I’ve come to the right place.

This was a pleasant surprise. I’m still new at this historical research stuff. The last few doors I had recently knocked on were run-down abandoned places with nobody home. A little confused about exactly what my next question should be, I blurted:

“Is he alive?”

“He’s right in here. You wanta talk to him?”

“Yes ma-am!”

“Come on in. I’ll get him.”

And so I did, and she did.  Next thing you know, I’m looking around in this smallish, comfortably lived-in den or living room. A few seconds later, Paul walks in, smiling.

Well gollee.

“Well, what can I do for ye?” he says, pleasantly.

And so I explained a little— that I had been living around here since the early ’80’s, raising a family with my wife, and the first job I had up here was working on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is, as you know, the missing link, in the middle of a 469-mile parkway that took fifty years to build—

And, as the old shake and bake commercial says. . . “and I helped!”

“Well, sit down,” said Paul.

Not in that chair, I thought, noticing the easy chair. That’s obviously his chair, with visual evidence of Paul’s accustomed comfort, possibly reading comfort, over years of sitting.  No sign of a TV in the room.

So I took my seat on the couch. “Thank you, sir!”

Long story short. Paul began talking about the Moses Cone Estate, on which he had been born in 1933, and thereby born into the hired help. His grandfather had been superintendent of the place back in the day— since before 1908 when Moses had died, and his father had been foreman of the apple orchard.

Paul proceeded to answer just about every question about the place that had been on my mind these last few weeks. This was becoming a very productive day, from a writerly standpoint.

He is a very pleasant fellow, full of history, and willing to talk about it. A historical fiction-writer’s dream informant. After awhile he took me back in the other rooms. He showed me the kitchen cabinets he had built, with frame-and-panel cherry doors on cherry face-frame, then took me back into the expansive laundry room, which was sunshine bright and entirely paneled with whitish, wormy pine, milled from trees that he himself had cut down.

A true mountain man, this Paul. The 16-gauge shotgun mounted over the doorway had been bequeathed to Paul from the Cone estate when Bertha died in 1947.

BRPaulmoody

Here’s Paul with his life-long wife, Margaret, who also came from a family of the hired help of the Cone estate, now the Moses Cone Memorial Park. They’re standing in front of another piece of his handiwork, filled with a lifetime of precious family mementos.

BRPMoody

After more friendly conversation and explanation, he took me out to his shop, where he had built the cabinets and the furniture and God-knows-what else.

BRmoodysaws

as far as ole folks from the Old School go, they don’t make ‘em like Paul any more.

BRmoody

And the rest is history, which you may read about in two or three years when I finish the novel . . .

Search for Blue

Winter Daydream

December 4, 2019

Having grown up in Louisiana, I moved to the Blue Ridge mountains while in my mid-20’s.

Ever since that time—the late 1970’s—I have lived, married, parented and grown steadily older in an Appalachian culture.

Truthfully though, the two cities I have lived in reflect a post-Appalachian culture.

Ole long-bearded Zeb with overalls—you don’t notice him so much anymore; he’s probably running a landscape business to service the manicured lawns of well-heeled snowbirds.  And barefoot Ellymae in threadbare calico on the front porch—she’s more likely now to be monitoring the  gas-pumps from behind a convenience store checkout.

To some extent, mountain culture has become homogenized with the dominant American obsession with superficial style and commercialism.

But not totally.

One thing that is nevertheless still quite different  from living down the mountain is the temperature. We typically see a 7-12 degree lower thermo up here.

We actually have four seasons here!

In the Deep South . . . not so much.

When this southern boy first arrived in the high country, I cultivated some romantic notions about the cold weather. I suppose this is because—in spite of the painful nipping in fingers and toes —it was such a refreshing experience after growing up in twenty-four blistering deep south summers.

The immanent—and in some ways, dreaded— arrival of our 2019-20 winter comes as no surprise.

WinterComin

This morning I woke up remembering an old song that I had written and recorded, many years ago, shortly after becoming a mountain man myself. The song is, on one level, about the coming of winter.

On another level, it is about a very noticeable shift in our American culture that has happened in my 68-year lifetime—single parenthood.

I am not one of them. But being a man married, thankfully, for forty years, and a grandfather. . . now provokes rumination about the many challenges  young parents must face in this age of temporary partnerships.

We have many more single parents in 2019 than we did back in the 1950’s-60’s when I was growing up. My old song that crept into my imagination this morning presents a romanticized image of a single mother as she contemplates past and future. In her foreground is the upcoming winter outside her window on a cold, crisp early-winter day.

Since memory of  the song seems to have popped out of nowhere this morning in my awakening dream-state, I thought sharing it with you might be something to do.

      Portrait of a Lady

Glass half-Full

Wisdom?

November 25, 2019

Perhaps my 68 years of dealing with this life’s challenges has enabled me to render a helpful opinion on an important question: what is wisdom?

Wisdom is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.

Wisdom is throwing away whatever is not useful, but disposing it in such a way that you do not make a mess for someone else to clean up.

. . . unless they are being rewarded for cleaning it up.

Wisdom is knowing what to accept, what to reject.

. . . and knowing when to wait until you’ve decided which of those two categories is appropriate in any given situation.

. . . and knowing that sometimes we don’t have time to decide . . .

good luck with that!

Wisdom is using what you have acquired to improve your own life and the life of those with whom you are in community.

Wisdom is listening;

it is also discerning, when the appropriate time comes, to suspend listening and speak.

Wisdom comes in noticing that the world is not a perfect place—there is something wrong with it.

So wisdom then requires discerning the good from evil.

. . . while understanding that there is a purpose for the presence of both in this life.

Wisdom calls us to identify what it wrong, and resist it.

And even to defeat evil when that is necessary.

Wisdom may be conceding that different persons, different people groups, have different definitions for what is good or evil.

And so therefore, in some cases, the grace to forgive wrongness may be more appropriate than judging evil with punishment,

Sometimes even defining what is really good  should be re-evaluated.

Wisdom is realizing that the complexity of this world is largely—though not totally—unexplainable, and there may be—there just may be— a God who operates at a level that is beyond our power to comprehend or measure.

. . . a God Who, at the very least, set it all in motion, as the ancient purveyors of wisdom have insisted.

There will always be someone who knows more than you do. Get used to it.

Wisdom is finding people to love.

Wisdom requires responsibility for those we love.

‘. . . and sometimes accepting responsibility for those we are unable to properly love.

Lighten

Without love we are lost forever.

Love requires sacrifice.

Wisdom means being thankful when someone has made sacrifice for you, because you have not done all this on your own.

You were getting help even when you didn’t know it.

PS. It’s not all about you.

Glass half-Full

Getting old

October 10, 2019

Are you booting up a brave new world

or slogging in a new slave world?

You who would be brave or slave—

snickery snob or clueless knave?

Catching the new wave

or just trying to behave?

You filling your Capitalist bag,

or flying the Socialist flag?

Working for wages, or plotting for profits?

You dumbing down, or heeding the prophets?

Will you work as selective

or labor in a collective?

With more .gov or less?

destined for worst or best.

You protesting in public space,

or praying in private grace?

All things being equal,

are you satisfied or freakful?

Living as privileged  elite

or just dancing to the rabble beat?

Striving for the common or the proprietary?

will you eat fattening or dietary?

Or maybe you be in shadowland like me

wishing for what was instead of what will be.

Winds of change blow hot and cold;

Will you stay young, or like me, grow old?

Winds of change blow foul and fair;

Are you ready to turn to dust or air?

Winds of change are hard to read;

Can you face them without a creed?

Day of death casts us in the hole;

Will you fall to dust, or rise in soul?

Hollowc

Smoke

Got Education?

September 16, 2019

You’ll have to smarten up to find a productive place in today’s economy.

The old 20th-century way of doing things that my baby boomer generation grew up in has gone the way of the buffalo.

You already know this, right?

I came across an instigating article on Seeking Alpha a few days ago. As I read John N. Mason’s piece about the “New” corporation, it struck me that he had put together some pretty important observations and statistics about this 21st-century economy and where we are headed with it.

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4290762-amazon-needs-workers-new-modern-corporation?

My take on his presentation is that he is, obviously, writing about a 21st-century work environment in which using your brain will be more important than ever before, more important than acquiring the old hands-on skills that enabled folks to get ahead in times past.

Oh, the developing digital work of our present work scenario is still “hands-on.” But it seems the hands will be mostly on keyboards that electronically deliver commands and programs that will run, automatically, the nuts and bolts, the widgets and equipment that will perform most of the tasks that we humans used to do, back in the day.

This whole progression got seriously cranked up about 170 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. There was a time, for instance, when a man could get on a horse, start riding westward, and eventually make it from Boston to San Francisco.

Then along came the railroads and changed all that.

Then along came the automobiles and changed all that even more.

And then there was a time when a person would mail a letter from Boston to San Francisco. The Pony Express or Wells Fargo or somesuch would deliver the letter cross-country, and yes it would get to the west coast, but it took a while.

A long while.

Then along came the trains, to make that delivery happen in just a week or so.

Then came the planes to make the airmail delivery in a day or two.

Now the message, or an order, is delivered with the push of a few buttons on your computer, or a scan on barcode, along the way.

You know that’s a “hands-on” technology that is fundamentally, quicker, easier and better than the old way of many different sets of hands that set themselves to crank up machinery and maintain it and oil it and fuel it and guide it all the way to some faraway delivery point.

As those technology changes revolutionized transportation, so shall the coming tech changes revolutionize manufacturing and wholesaling and retailing and every other industry or business you can think of, including knowledge itself.

So if you want to prosper in this 21st-century, if you want to find a place in the scheme of things, if you want to “get ahead”. . .

Get with the program.

Literally, the programming.

And this is what, in my opinion, John Mason is hitting on when he elucidates the workings of intellectual capital, which is a high-falootin’ way of saying:

Education is, and will be, worth more than ever before. Get one. Learn how to think outside the old box.

Smarts

If not, hey, we’ll always need somebody to clean up the place, flip the burgers, run the cash registers  while everybody else is booting up the world.

Back in the day we used to say money makes the world go around.

Not so any more. Now electrons make our developed world go around. Learn how to direct them, how to make them do whatever has to be done for profit, or for improving the world we inhabit.

Don’t just vegetate as a consumer. . . eating, drinking, watching shows, fake news and social media.

Be a producer. Make things happen for you and for those you love. Get out there and do it, make things happen. Life will be better.

Glass half-Full

Update: A day in the Life

September 12, 2019

I read a tweet today oh boy

  about a cocky man with a rant parade.

And though the news was really bad

  well I just had to laugh one more time.

I saw the comment thread online.

He blew our minds out with a rant:

  he hadn’t noticed that the Climate Changed.

A crowd of people seethed and stared

  they’d seen the bee ess before

Nobody was really sure if it was from the 1% core.

I saw a video oh boy

  the 1%ers have just scored some more;

A crowd of trollers  were abhorred;

  but I just stole some looks,

  having once read books.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . n.

  SgtPeprs

I woke up, gotta outa bed,

  found a mem, inside my head,

  made my way downstairs and tweeted it,

  and twittering, knew I was a twit.

I made this up, but grabbed my phone;

I posted face,  still felt alone,

Found my way upstairs and caught a streaming;

  somebody spoke and I went into a dreaming, ohhhhhh……

   etcetera etcetera, etcetera, you’ve read the news

I read the web today oh boy:

  four million holes inside our atmosphere.

And though the holes were rather small,

  they had to stop them all.

  Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the global ball.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . on.

           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbZ15JpxPg   

Glass Chimera

Bridge across Time

July 9, 2019

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.

Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.

Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.

This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.

Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid ‘crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.

Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o’er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.

Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.

Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”

The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors–whether by profession or by blood– of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.

Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity.

Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there’s an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980’s– the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It’s a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special–not for the classic stonework–but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up!

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.

Search for Blue

California!

April 18, 2019

there’s gold in them thar hills,

somewhere up near sutter’s mill:

them’s words that sparked the great gold rush,

and set us up us for the great golden push

Gold

California be the place you gotta go

so we loaded up our siri for sausalito

cruisin’ somewhere o’er the rainbow

where gentle dwellers come and go

speaking what makes their property ’ssesments grow

them gatlins said all the gold that’s there

be locked in some bank in beverly here where

somebody else will that precious stuff share

but hey

this is what i say

whatever stuff upon your dreams do thrive

whatever you do to keep that dream alive

whether you track with ferlinghetti

or train your sights on images of getty

keep that california dreamin alive

lest u get waylaid in some hotel california dive

where some say there’s alchemic gold

in that stuff that owsley sold

cuz when you wish upon a star

makes no difference where you are

whether u b goin’ to surf city surf city

or lookin for dem hollywood pretty

maybe try to hawk you little ditty

in tinsel town jez be twitty

cuz it be a factory town you know

they crankin up th’dream factory fo’ show

and when you wish to sight a star

makes no diff’n where you are

Cal the place you oughta go

so we loaded up the boat for sausalito

where weather underground stars did go

then caught light of day in law’n’order show

while light falls apart in a little room

like Alice with some kind of ‘shroom

on stanyan street

if you catch by beat,

where gentle dwellers come n go

speaking softly of how property ’ssesments grow

yeah demmie residents come and go

speak’n of what makes dem property ‘ssessments grow

but this i know

it may be all for show

okie from muskogee said

California or bust or ’til i’m dead

but whether u  b muskogee okie

yes i know i b get’n lit’bit hokey

or if’n  you b some smart silicon geek

u got to admit dat state is pretty sleek

been California dreamin’ all this week!

though you know i aint no freak

oh what fools’gold these mortals seek

u gotta believe it I know

and i be tellin you fo’ sho’

as so i been told

dem streets be wired wit gold

Citygold

though i now be gettn’ somewhat old:

all that glitters is not gold

what stuff our dreams are made of, or so i’m told

may the bird of paradise eclipse  your deepest woes

in the land of gold’n dreams and shows

here in California.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

King of Soul

Talking to the Device

March 23, 2019

I usually enjoy talking too people but I don’t like talking to a phone. To tell you the truth, I really do not even like talking to people on the phone. I’d rather do it face-to-face.

I don’t like talking to a car, a computer or a “device” of any kind.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Lately my phone has been urging me to talk to it, and even call it by its name.

Siriusly though, I’m not into it.

I really don’t mind doing the alphabet thing with my fingers. That’s the way I was taught to communicate with the world, back in the ’60’s when I was baby boomer high school kid. Maybe it’s because, back in the day, I went to see Stanley Kubrick’s space movie, 2001, and the astronaut guy in the movie got into an argument with the onboard computer because the computer, as I recall, wouldn’t let him do something that he needed to do to avoid dying, or something like that..

The computer’s name was Hal.

In the last ten years or so, I have written and published four novels, using my fingers on a keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, I do like the newer version, you know, the computer keyboard, which is so easy to punch. These slick new ones are really the bees’ knees, and they beat the heck out those old Underwood’s and Smith-Coronas, etcetera etcetera.

So yeah, maybe I’m old fashioned. Imagine that—a guy who grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s being old-fashioned. We were the generation raised with a TV in the living room, which had never happened before in the history of the world. And we thought our parents were old-fashioned because they listened to Glenn Miller LPs and drank bourbon, while we preferred Jefferson Airplane and maryjane, and they insisted on running Ho’s insurgents out of south Vietnam, which didn’t turn out the way we planned.

Now our kids and grandkids probably think we’re old-fashioned because we don’t know how to talk properly  to a phone or any other device, and we still don’t know to make the icons wiggle around so you can move them around or delete them or whatever.

Delete them all, I say! Delete them all!

Ha! Just kidding of course. Where would be nowadays without our “ mobile device?”

Maybe stuck in Hotel California with some woman of ill repute with mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice and she says we are just prisoners here, of our own device.

Don’t wanna go there.

Life has actually turned out better than that, thank God.

Yesterday, I was watching an online video with two very smart guys talking about the state of the world, how it has changed so much and is still changing very fast.

    https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/thomas-l-friedman-and-james-manyika-the-worlds-gone-from-flat-to-fast-to-deep?

FacetoFace

In their conversation, Thomas was telling James that he travels around the world and notices that there are a lot of folks who are falling behind the crowd in their use of technology in this here 21st-century. He sees people who suffer under the pressure of these technological accelerations, and who feel that the world is leaving them behind.

Great idea! Leave it behind. Or let it leave you behind, whichever comes first. Tell your phone to go to hell if you want to. Tell netflix to go jump in the lake, and command your digital flatscreen to take a hike!

I mean, Thomas has some good points in this exchange. He says that we old geezers, and generally everybody else too, would do well to be self-motivated instead of, I suppose, expecting that the world owes me a a living, and he says we should keep learning all through our lifetime instead of just, you know, developing one skill—cranking out widgets or whatever—and then spend old age, maybe even middle age, crying in yer beer over all these changes that conspire to overtake us and render our mid-20th-century skills obsolete.

  Ha! “Conspire.” I didn’t mean to use that word. One thing I have learned is that it does not profit a man to build his world view around some conspiracy theory of history or politics or whatever the forces that be, are.

Because in the end, what really matters is not what the world did or did not do to you, but what you manage to do in spite of the possibility that the deck may or may not be stacked against you.

Every man a king. That’s what Huey said back in my grandfather’s day. Be the king of your own life, or queen, as the case may be.

And you have to understand that, as Ringo said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

It’s best to, as Thomas pointed out, “amplify anything that is good and decent.”

I’ll second that motion.

Trust, ownership, lifelong education, true leadership, good community—these are the best attributes of “the good life”, which is not necessarily the same good life that Sinatra sang about.

Now, to close by reiterating my opening parry. . . the good life does not necessarily consist of knowing how to talk to your phone, or any of your other damned devices for that matter. But it does help to learn how to talk to people, and to get along with them in your community. And to build good community wherever you find yourself stationed at this stage of life, before the jig is up.

And one more thing. Do not ever neglect to, as Jordan B.P. says, Clean your room! Even if its in a nursing home. Don’t wait for the attendants do everything. Pull your own weight for as long as you possibly can, and pull somebody else’s weight, too, if you’re able to do it, for as long as you can.

As for the phones, etc—they can go to hell for all I care.

I won’t be there, because the Lord wrote me a good fire insurance policy back in 1979.

Glass half-Full