Monday, February 27, 2012

The Hurt Is On!

Candlelight Vigil in memory of Callion Hamblin held Tuesday on the spot where he was pumped full of lead by the cops
State of the Art

It's not like we weren't already having a completely shit week here in the 573 (see previous post); even the cops who shot a still unreported number of bullets into Callion Hamblin killing him dead felt kinda bad about it. Alas, if you were foolish enough to venture out to the “opera” Friday evening looking for solace from recent grisly events, or transport away from the bloody scene of the crime on our main thoroughfare, or respite from the grimness of living in a police state, the joke was decidedly on you.

One wishes to be helpful, so let me just say at the outset that what was presented at MAC by Opera Iowa and the Mineral Area Council on the Arts on Friday night was not The Magic Flute, but rather a severely abridged English-language adaptation of Mozart's opera for piano and voice (no chamber orchestra as one somehow expected, or hoped, not even a single flute!) aimed at an early childhood audience, but marketed (and this is the truly galling part) to adults, as the real thing.

Grown ups who can dress themselves and drive to the MAC theater, park their vehicles, present their tickets, receive a program, and take their reserved seats, have brains sufficiently capacious and developed to enjoy the last major piece of music Mozart composed before his death on its own terms. But we were subjected to a three-year-old girl's fantasy wardrobe of purple and pink galore accessorized with mylar inserts everyplace it could be tucked in the costumes and headgear of the singers. Shutting my eyes against  the abundant glitter, garishly colored everything, flimsy flats of crudely drawn ridiculous scenery, nothing beautiful, everything lurid, nothing subtle, no delicacy, everything ham-fisted and exaggerated didn't help much. Between the hacked up scenes and impoverished production values, I skedaddled at intermission.

Folks here can be a bit too polite even when they're being insulted. Perhaps they're just rundown from being fed a steady diet of boondoggles, rip-offs, and shit sandwiches, such as the Great Central U.S. Shake-Out: "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" earthquake drills conducted in schools earlier this month. On the Lower East Side we would have laughed Opera Iowa off the stage as soon as the musical director unleashed his violence on the score literally poking, slapping, and punching the pages of his sheet music blowing about the piano, ruining the overture. By the time a page turner arrived to assist him, the damage had already been done: we knew in our hearts that he could be no Mozart lover.

As a much-needed corrective to the schlockfest on Friday, may I suggest that at the very least the Arts Council sponsor an entire week of free viewings of Ingmar Bergman’s film of the opera, or some other high-quality breath freshener to rinse the undisguisedly shitty taste out of our mouths.

Art of the State
Kudos to the Park Hills Journal for at least mentioning on their business page online that on February 16th the chairman of the Federal Reserve made a speech concerning the future fate of community banks. Why is this relevant? Because please look around you, see anything that isn't a community bank around here? So even if the article is just a rerun of an AP story with no analysis, insight, or commentary from local bankers or economists, and merely parrots the “good news” as delivered by Bernanke, at least the Journal alerted us to a matter of the utmost importance to our well-being.

Curious to know exactly what was on the Fed's plate, I read the speech in its entirety, and discovered to my absolute horror that what's on the Fed's plate, is us! When you cut through all the euphemistic niceties, here's the takeaway (and read it yourselves, please, and tell me I'm wrong!): The too-big-to-fails have smaller banks—banks like New Era or First State Community Bank— by the short and curlies, right where they want them. They know every pressure point, every spot of vulnerability and potential weakness thanks to the Fed's two-way communication processes described in Bernanke's talk, and they're about to turn the screws. Looks to me like we’re set to enter an epoch of bank on bank violence of Rwandan proportions— big (Hutus) against little (Tutsis) — and the machetes are being sharpened even as you read this.

Furthermore, the Fed (Bernanke tells us plainly) will look the other way while the small bank genocide  happens, focusing its power to redress grievances on cases that arise from its own bullying of community banks via appropriate “examinations.”  In Big banks v. Small banks, it's a foregone conclusion that the lobbyists for the big will beat the small in every contest worth winning, and be assured that we, in the community bank laden countryside, will bear the brunt of the massacre.

Funny, Missouri State Senator Kevin Engler didn’t make mention of this rather significant environmental factor in his recent talk at MAC. I wasn't at the Fourth Friday gathering, but from reading the reporter's account, Engler seems to want us to feel that an errant teacher falling asleep in the classroom is more of a drag on our budget, or perhaps he knows of a way rural areas can "grow our way out" of our financial woes without access to capital. I think I know what's engraved on his paycheck: In Ignorance He Trusts.

Though neither Ben nor Kev will tell you so, we can probably expect a phased-in Walmartization of banks, where the too-big-to-fails have most/all of the consolidated power, control, and therefore profits, and the community banks if they continue to exist at all become niche banks, picking up the odd lots and scraps. If I'm correct, this is a devastating prognosis for our area, for as Bernanke ominously reminds us: “the fortunes of communities and their banks tend to rise and fall together.”

The now fatherless children: Xavier and Keandre. Maybe this Christmas they could Shop With A Cop?
Aw shit, that might be awkward. Never mind!

Monday, February 20, 2012


This man, Callion Hamblin AKA Smoke, was gunned down today by “the law;”
his blood stains our streets.

Tell Us Another One, Park Hills Daily Journal..! 

Who needs AT&T when we've already got Washington U. Professor Stanley Elkin to give us the 411? A dead man speaking up from the grave on behalf of another dead man. This excerpt is from The Bailbondsman, one of three novellas in Searches and Seizures.

“Mr. Main, it's Command Performanceville,” he says softly.
Oh, he's very sinister. “Why didn't you say Command Performanceville in the first place? Command Performanceville's another story. For Command Performanceville my commission is thirty percent.”
“Drinks all around,” he says agreeably. “I'll put you in the picture.”
“I read the book, I seen the picture. Your man downtown calls my man downtown who tells me your lad is under arrest. It's strictly offside vis-a-vis the other bondsmen, but I get to him first, arrange the bail, and he steps out into the sunshine a free man.”
“A hundred percent.”
“That will be sixty-five hundred dollars please.”
“Phoenecian, Mr. Main, I'm a sporty young man. I drive fast cars fast. How would it look I was picked up for speeding and the cops found sixty-five hundred bucks on me? Use your kepeleh. Did we know you drive such a hard bargain.”
“I drive hard bargains hard.”
“Of course, of course. You'll be paid. The handle plus thirty percent. You'll get registered mail. Who's more honest than a syndicate man?”
“Then why do you speed?” I ask gloomily.
But there's reason on the young fellow's side. We shake and he leaves. The little bakery bell jingles behind him. Mr. Crainpool looks at me reproachfully, sorrow in his eyes like the toothache. “Something on your mind, Jiminy Cricket?”
“No, sir.”
“What would happen if I refused? Fetterman would do it, or Klein. Adams would. Does Macy tell Gimbel?”
“It's only fifteen hundred dollars after the forfeit.”
“Oh ho. I see where it is with you. It's alright to finger a man, just make sure you get a good price. Mr. Crainpool, kid, my finger comes cheap. If they ask how I do it, say it's my terrific turnover.”
“Yes, sir.”
“We would rather be a banker in a fine suit. We would rather conduct discreet business over drinks at the club. Heart to heart, man to man, gentlemen's agreements and a handshake between friends. We would prefer silver at our temples and a portrait in oils in the marble lobby. But...”

The human family lost a brother, father, son, and friend today; we are all diminished.
For all of you cannibals out there who prefer dark meat, those of you on Facebook and elsewhere who  have expressed your glee at a “nigger” being bagged, and the rest of you who kept your traps shut while they did; here's a knock-knock joke written by me especially for you:

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Justice who?

Justice many people will laugh their asses off when it's your turn to be bagged as they did today when it happened to Smoke.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Resource for Commonality

Valentine's Day, 2012

To celebrate Validation Day, this week I've turned the steering wheel over to Written Word, Spoken Word first-responder Amanda Carron of Desloge, MO, and a few of her favorite and fabulous friends. 

Much as I'd like to share in the credit I can hardly term this stunning guest-post a collaboration, as Amanda has performed 100% of the creative worktext and portraiturefor which I am forever grateful. 

In the spirit of the openness Amanda lives and breathes, I avow as I've only had one rather limited sexual encounter with a woman, so I'm not sure where exactly I'll fit in the nomenclature of the Gay/Straight Alliance we're hoping to form (probably straddling one of the vowels somewhere to the right side of the slash). It is my experience that most people are not strictly one label or the other, at least in their daydreams and fantasies, whether or not they have the courage to overcome their prejudices and inhibitions and act on their desires. 

But there is no doubt about it, we are making history here in St. Francois County just by being our incredibly sexy, rural Missouri selves. Yet another story you won't see in the Park Hills Journal. Doesn't get better than this. Enjoy!

There is a big closet in the Mineral Area and, whether open or discreetly private about your sexuality, you are expected to reside in it. Don’t be too “in your face” about your preferences and no one will have a problem with you. I don’t know how many times I have heard that particular phrase, in some form or other. 

There is a very prevalent, “not in my backyard” conformist attitude, even though everyone knows someone with different tastes, be it gay or lesbian, transgendered, bisexual,  even something as banal and harmless as cross dressing heterosexuals or S&M participants. We all have a little kink in our corset, admit it or not. So why is it so bad, this open self-expression? Why is it such a taboo that young people have moved out of the area and away from their homes just to be themselves? 

I am disappointed in my community for frowning on boys that hold hands in Wal-Mart. These are our sons, our brothers, our dads! Some have gone as far as committing suicide to end the suffering at the hands of uptight, judgmental haters? This needs to end. We need to live and let live.

 "There are stories to be told, but they may not be the ones you think they are." This may be the statement that started the whole thing. Frances inquired about the gay community or lack thereof in St. Francois County and the surrounding area, prompting this response.

Our discussion ranged from discrimination to dating habits and it brought us around to one conclusion. We need a better sense of community. I want to embark on a project that will help to initiate just such a thing.

There are so many members of the LGBT community in this area. (For those of you possibly unfamiliar with the vernacular, LGBT stands for lesbian, bi, gay and transgendered.)  It would be wonderful to band  together.

Ideally, in the utopia of my mind, I envision a gay/ straight alliance, a gay community center, and eventually a Pride fest in the SFC and surrounding area. We can only benefit from joining like minds together for a central purpose of community.  So how does one go about addressing these issues? 

To begin you would need a group of people with a desire for similar purposes to gather and discuss the basics. I would love to hold mixers to get to know who our "family" is and meet new people. We need involvement! We need people to get passionate about their community and break out of their comfort zone.

There was a small chapter of PFLAG in Farmington. There may still be, and I am just as guilty as anyone else, but I never attended meetings. I had kids and a family, work and school. I let everything else take precedence, and look where I am. No closer to being able to marry my girlfriend than I was 5 years ago, no closer to knowing all of my friends are safe to walk the street holding hands with their significant other without reprisal. 

 I am disappointed in myself and the lackadaisical attitude and complacency I have adopted. I let myself get comfortable and accepting of the closed-minded situation. But if we want change we have to take up the torch, we need to get off the couch, and rally around each other. If we want our local community to accept us openly, we need to be more open. They need to see us as unashamed; otherwise their idea that our alternative lifestyle is bad will continue to be perpetuated.

We need to establish a gay community in the Mineral Area. There are so many other good things that can come of this. We need to foster creativity and self- expression without fear of repercussions. We need a resource for commonality. We need to kick the door off this closet and make it ok to come out.

If anyone is interested in attending a meeting to discuss forming a committee for a gay/straight alliance in our area, please email me at .

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pinkies Up!

An Open Letter to the Editor of the Park Hills Journal from Frances Sexy Madeson

                          Re: A Correction

Recently an article appeared that mentioned an organization that I belong to and hold dear: the Sexy Black Hat Society. Our group's name was cited incorrectly in your paper; instead of the word Sexy, Stunning was substituted. It would be risible if it were not so pandering to the anti-sexuality forces in this community who, thank God, are still vastly outnumbered by the wet and wild among us.

I suppose I could ask why you took it upon yourselves to rename us, and I'd dearly love to hear the official answer, I bet it'd be a hoot. But I too am a writer, and possess a vivid imagination, and I would suspect that our name was altered so that certain censorious church ladies do not have to appear in print with the word “Sexy” within copy-inches of their names. Am I warm?

As a (potentially) scandalously sexy word lover, I apprize all variations on the word s-e-x very much, and would wish to see it appear more not less often in your presses. Not, however, exclusively associated with offense, criminality, sociopathy, and utter perversion, as is your current practice.

As I read the tacit editorial policy of this newspaper, you seem to be invested in using the word's sensation value to reinforce a suffocating atmosphere of unlocalized fear and anxiety, and to deliver some pretty gross and brutal threats of arbitrary and endless punishment from above in order to keep people like me and my friends down, and I'm having none of it. Am I warmer?

You do us no honor by disrespectfully infantalizing and “flattering” us with an alluring adjective not of our choosing. Though we don't (yet) have a Sexyblackhatifesto, and I couldn't reveal its contents if we did (we live and die by our confidentiality and mutual trust), I think it's safe to say that we, in both our words and our deeds, live out all the aspects of the Greek conception of love, especially our love of children, both those who belong to us and to the wider community, which we define very broadly, even across state borders. [If any SBHS sister disagrees with this statement, please avail yourself of the comment section either here on this blog or on our private Facebook page to set me straight.]

So why Park Hills Daily Journal can we not be accepted for who we really and truly are? After all, one of our founders graduated magna cum laude from UMSL, and we number many seriously accomplished women among our ranks. I know from observation, from witness, and participation, just how beautiful many of these women are, inside and out. We say that we are sexy, and you have a problem with this. One wonders why? If we are deluded, may we not keep our delusions as you keep your many abundant delusions even as the evidence of collapse mounts up all around you. And further, speaking of evidence, at least as presented, above and below, would anyone deny it's so?

Furthermore you overestimate our capacity for patience at your unwarranted condescension: we do not suffer fools. We do not suffer, period. We have a blast every single time we get together. So you could not be more wrong in presuming our passivity, in thinking that we would accept your pale version of our robust self-description. As Frederick Douglass said every chance he got, and he got many chances to say it on behalf of his brothers and sisters held in the bondage of chattel (not wage) slavery: Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand.

Now, I know my SBHS sisters want me to be sweet, to be kind, and try to be as nice as they are to each other, and to me. Impossible! Not because I've been "de-niced" from 27 years of living in New York City, but rather because as I say in my Written Word, Spoken Word brochure:

...while kind words are always appreciated, they are not always sufficient. We rely on our words to get us out of life's toughest situations—conflict, stalemate, even abuse.

And this feels like a version of abuse, to me at least. An abuse of our good will, our good faith, that we will give our all, and be our all, and therefore should not have to suffer the indignity of being subject to our "betters" who are, I assure you, wantonly misguided to think they can trick us, or manage us by redefining us, acting like some Taliban cleric who stays up nights spilling his seed while thinking of ways to disempower (repress) women, especially sexually. Am I hot?

In point of fact, though I do not presume to speak for anyone else in the SBHS sisterhood, your outrageous overture to co-opt us into your unjust and never-meant-to-be-just status quo, while attempting to efface our mission, values, and aims, is herein marvelously, collaboratively, and wholeheartedly answered.

All images created for this post by Liziz Photography; models supplied by In-the-Black Modeling Agency (contact me for further information on this blooming enterprise).

In-the-Black Modeling Agency encourages you to shop locally.