May 6, 2016 Friday
I never expected to be journaling again.
To be sure, I had entertained the idea a few times. Most recently when I began teaching in my own classroom, in August of 2014. It was a small door with a hair-spring lock: I knew either I had to commit fully, or the inconsistent tales, and those lost would drain my desire for the project. And nothing was ever heard of it again, until now.
But I wanted to–kind of, sort of, yet completely. The main resistance to taking up regular writing was 1) so much had already missed. If I were to be generous it was a gap of quality and detail stretching from 2007 to present, with only 2012 very well documented. 2) I often felt I was not living a life of robust, sustained interest with a solid plot and broad enough cast to not primarily be a self-conversation.
Now that I look back, even over the last year and a half living in New England, I am deeply dismayed that nothing has been recorded about the move from St. Louis on February 10, 2015, the somewhat awkward but kind taking in of May and I by her parents for two months in Rhode Island, while she began for new job at Electric Goat in near-by New London, Connecticut during February and March. And my first, amazed impressions of beautiful Mystic, a jewel of a colonial village. Then there was my initial struggle to be more active, and the spark at the end of May to endlessly tour the neighboring townships roads every day, normally hitting 30 miles, and racking up 1,500 miles over the months. The effort to remake myself, in first long walks to distant villages like Stonington, followed by the daytime living in the saddle for hours at a time, was very gratifying. May began to gape at my legs, and I eventually joined the Y across town, choosing to walk there and back every other day. I also set aside technology over the summer, taking the battery out of my computer. I came to rely on the New York Times thrown onto our driveway every weekday, a large stack of books I had always meant to read, and the overheard conversations of a morning coffee clutch of old men at nearby Bartleby’s. My internal frets and rilings about employment–givin up to move with May at the beginning of the year–came and went and came again, along with my general, sometimes wavering conception of myself, and my place in it all. I couldn’t shake that I felt like a visitor to Mystic, without ownership of my location, or a stake in it.
A general collapse of this prolonged stamina occurred on October 4th. And few events are of note, besides a Ringo Starr concert at Foxwoods at the end of the month, for the remainder of 2015.
So, why write now? Again, there was no design, with little want to type again, and honestly even less daily material to draw inspiration from.
There are three factors brought me to this point:
First, I was completely hooked on the presidential campaign, going back to mid-June of last year, when I happened to sit down on my couch one morning and notice Donald Trump was about to give some kind of address in front of flags. “No, it can’t be,” I told my disbelieving brain,”It’s not actually going to happen, after so many years of teases.” And had to heard the words pass from his mouth before I accepted what I was seeing was true. But I am still trying to process now, that it has been reality. Anyway, for the purposes of this entry, I following very closely, especially watching almost all of his rallies from November though the first primaries in February. While I was a regular, bewildered, fascinated follower of the now-presumptive Republican nominee, my interest (often adied by whatever YouTube channel was carrying his very-off-the-cuff remarks, with May often watching wide-eyed as well), no matter now routine and derivative each near-nightly performance was, I felt compelled to observe this event, to take note of the historical moment. I hope this answers the questions being raised about why I would subject myself, questions like “Why?” and also “Huh?.” “Oh no!” isn’t a question, but you get the idea. This odd elixir of hopeful charisma his supporters responded to, yet tinged with a dark, cruel showmanship and impossible promises his supporters ignored, was hypnotic.
I had to see for myself this traveling show of venom and brash ego, in late January, when I attended a Trump rally in Farmington, New Hampshire. Sadly, I lost May as a faithful co-pilot the night Trump opened a televised March debate by referencing the size of his penis to the nation. I watched more, she went to bed.
So I had this compelling, baffling question in my head, and as the primaries commenced, I increasingly felt I needed to reach out to someone, for her opinion. This is the second part of beginning to write again. If you look over my musings so far in 2016, you will understand. I am now, and have for a very long time, been grappling with the Republican party, and modern conservatism, in a personal sense. Through it I can better understand my mother. She has been a Republican as long as I can remember, scowling at Bill Clinton in the 1990s as a slick con artist, and later readily coming to George W. Bush’s defense, through many of our conversations last decade. She is a large part of why I wrote my historical studies’ senior thesis at SIUE, on the evolution of conservative thought. it stretched from the American First crowd of the 1930s, to the anti-New Dealers of the 1940s, through to Barry Goldwater’s National Review-infused platform of the 1960s, all in the context of in the initial Republican rejection and then acceptance of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. (For their parts, mom and dad both hold that Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary, as my World War II veteran Grandpa Conners also explicitly told me one day in the summer of 1999.) When I think of my mom, she either in her small 5th grade classroom, or in her bedroom in the back of the house, with Fox News on. Fox News is always on. I have come to believe it keeps her company in a way, and its personalities and discussions are a personal, familiar space for her; its a place to find agreement and comfort in a scary world. This is my view now, which helps. At the same time, you can begin to see that, in some ways, I view Fox News et al, as a highly-defined wall between my family and I. My dad is okay, and doesn’t buy into all of it, and sees it for the entertainment it also tries hard to be. My dad is kooky, and rustily old-fashioned, and will call himself a Republican in an instant, but looks on a lot of the cable chatter as a bunch of noise. My mom, though, is a true believer. I have come, over the years, to finally respect her (is “devotion” too strong a word?) loyalty to it. As a person that has devoted my own time to a serious study of presidents, I have a long view of all the administrations, and don’t have much of an answer that is at all helpful to comments like “Obama is the worst president ever.” You’re out of the doghouse, I guess, James Buchanan. Even when the passion of her certainly steadfast view of current events (“Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi.) it can still take me aback, yet she can also very effectively argue conservative policy (the need for a strong military, less spending on waste, and the ineffective aspects of Obamacare). All of that stuff. After all of his backstory, I can finally get to my point in bringing this up: she is my Republican resource, my straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth of a small-town conservative woman in her 60’s, help me bridge a Trump-sized gap of understanding.
These twin ideas led me first to see Donald Trump in the flesh. I wrote a brief essay on the trip. From there, I began to send future thoughts to my hometown of Elmwood, Illinois as the primaries began. This was not to be confrontational. I see too much unneeded jostling in the Trump rally crowd and on websites already. Rather, I see it as an opportunity, to discuss a topic we both care about very much, in our own ways. I have wanted to find an avenue of communication home, and this way a good path. To be sure, Mom would also be just as happy with any simple greeting and well wishes. So this is probably more about me, needing something of more substance, to propel a sustained, long-range conversation. This has been successful this spring. With the crack created following a series of political thoughts, I then began to send a home a collection of photographs the villages of Mystic and Old Mystic I pass though on my rides, which fostered more conversation. It is now suggested the come out some time during the summer to see my Connecticut home. And while travel remains the key pin of “How?” I hope it can occur. I recognize their prime travels days are past, and it gets harder, no matter the transportation. They had some problems getting around St. Louis at times, just a few hours away and back in 2012, let alone hopping over to the Atlantic Ocean in 2016.
My very long aside to this question of “why am I writing now?” besides, the third reason I began to write again also because of my job at Turning Point. The experiences were enough to string together a few quality pieces together, that I was pleased with enough to warrant continuing.
Today I am trying to pull together past scraps of writing, along with an abbreviated journal of this spring to see what I have in total. On the face of it, not much. The effort, therefore, has meant digging to the lowest levels of massive reserves of emails for forgotten memories. What I have found is promising, yet the gap I have mentioned remains daunting. The good news is that I can attach my newest 2016 entries to past writings, such as in 2012, an being to cull together an at-times sketchy by roughly cohesive narrative stretching back years.
At first it appeared 2016 would simply be joined, in time, to 2012’s sustained effort, with a chasm of 2013-2015 to be later filled with focused memory and CGI. Yet my achieves hinted that I could extend this journal back to 2008, or even 2007. If this could be realized, if would be a solid account of my life, post-Navy.
But let me delve into the specifics, as I see them. The journal, in my mind, resembles the Roman Coliseum: lots of foundation documentation for half of the covered time, with profound open-air silences at rather key eras. This is a problem.
I still possess several journal entries from May 2007, while at home in Elmwood, following my first semester at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. It should be included because it offers a window into my family, who are otherwise often shabbily absent for long stretches. The Will of that exact moment is rather insightful, which does not register much in my memory, when I consider the whole of 2007-2008, to be a rather Utopian time. And that is a strike against straining for this epoch. It is otherwise completely silent, I for one reason or another choosing not to write at my rooming with Andy on Prickett Avenue and Esic Drive, my time at Ashley Furniture with fantastic co-workers, and my educational forays at SIUE. Emails exist from the spring of 2008, but this was at the twilight of the first Edwardsville arc.
To be honest, even the handful of emails and schoolwork do not flesh out the following four years in Edwardsville. What was written are the barest of bones, that have to nevertheless by relied upon. Through this time at college there are two broad bookends: 2008-2010, as I attained an historical studies degree, hanging out with a bunch a Anthropology friends, and then 2010-2012, wherein I move to a pursuit of secondary education certification, while slowly moving my eye to St. Louis by the end. There are many buried stories to tell–if I can remember them.
“Buried” does not describe 2012, thankfully. At least I have that island. Although a bit more still might be able to come out. 2013 opens in, of all places, New England,. That I would eventually end up here requires me to get down some measure of late December-early January trip away from St. Louis. The year 2013 itself beginnings rather sleepily, still subbing at Collinsvile, Illinois, with a summer interlude with May at her house in the Dutchtown neighborhood. Once we moved together in August 2013 to a beautiful old apartment, back in Tower Grove East again, life finally picked up. I focused on my artistic side that I had ignored for a long time, entering and showing pieces throughout the following months in galleries across St. Louis.