24 Aug 2010

Diary of a Billsticker – Tennessee/Kentucky, USA Poster Run

24 Aug 2010

A Hillbilly Fight Club


Delta Airlines mistakenly sent my luggage all the way to Tallahassee, Florida, whereas I was flying into Music City, USA (Nashville, Tennessee). So, my guitar case with broom and paste was no longer available and I felt lost without my heavy-duty industrial lamp-post poster stapler. In fact, I only had about fifteen Mariana Isara poetry posters on me so I set about trying to introduce these to as many people as possible.

One makes what one can of difficult situations and one always looks up to and desires what might and could be. That’s what they’d say in the Blessed South of the USA. In other words, I was as happy as a bird with a French fry; my glass was half full, and in fact, overflowing in a very Anthony Robbins way. Dude (a motivationalist) thinks he can fly and probably also thinks that all banks should be deregulated because that’s freedom! Little does he know how many rats work in banks.

The opposite of this view is that August 20th (last Friday) was the anniversary of the day in 1968 when 500,000 Warsaw Pact Troops (we used to call them “Com Block”) flooded into the Czech Republic when they got wind of the fact that someone was trying to get ahead. Then, you might notice that right now (it’s in the New York Times today), a number of writers in South Africa are jumping up and down as the government (the writers say) is censoring the news. You think?

So, whom to believe?

Don’t tell me: one meets the new boss and he’s exactly the same as the old boss?

In Tennessee, what I did about all of this is I went about the area talking to people about New Zealand poetry and art. This is what I’ve decided to do in life. I try to no longer debate the point (any point) and I just try to commit to some form of action.

There’s just too much loose talk in this old world and Facebook is like the main street of Deadwood. We all know this. As someone once said to Al Swearenge, “First you have the emotion, Al, and then you look around for a reason to be having it.” Well, your emotions are in your blood, Al! They are in John Key’s blood as well. Though hell. I do feel sad for old Aotearoa. God’s own Country, I swear. Today I miss the West Coast of the South Island.

But a month back I was lucky enough to be travelling around Tennessee and Kentucky for a few days, mainly off the beaten track, in the hills. You have to really respect this area because it gave the world so much good music. There’s nothing clearer than that.

It has been my experience that most politicians want to be rock stars. I’ve met a few. Then most rock stars want to be politicians. I’ve listened to them too. But it wouldn’t have been just anybody who could do what Hank Williams did, nor Dwight Yoakam, nor Miss Patsy Cline.  These were people who were not (and are not in Dwight’s case) mediocre.

I have a friend in Tennessee, let’s call him ‘J.P.’ I like J.P. Damn I do. I’ve been lucky enough to know him since he was three or four years old.  I had the best year of my life in Tennessee in 1990 when I worked hauling rocks out of a mountain and J.P. did this with me. Small as he was then. He was tough. They are tough in the South (they’ve had some shit and, as you know, they’ve given it too) and they’re vulnerable too (think Hank Williams). But mostly they are just upfront and they are people of action. They’ve had some stuff in their own behaviour to come to terms with.

In the South, the beauty is that people often think in very simple ways and few of them are “yoga experts”. The whole place is not given over to academics, politicians, and “spin”.  Down there, people more often just say and do what they think. They keep it simple. There’s a lot less discussion, and people are quite up-front, though with incredibly good manners (there are exceptions to every rule). I’d paste up posters with these guys any day. Political Correctness is kept in the outhouse. That’s where it should be as it is the most stifling element of life today. Let’s see action. That’s an old Who song and the lyrics are outstanding and have you ever seen a joker play drums like Keith Moon?

I haven’t.

Mariana’s poem (‘Self-portrait as Anything from the Album: Your Body Above Me’) is excellent by the way. I’m very proud to have her onboard for the Phantom Billstickers Poetry Project. We just try and win over one person at a time with poetry and it’s all one brick on top of the other. Next year we have bigger plans providing the glass is still overflowing. We’d like it to be.

J.P. is a good fighter. He’s a man of action, see. Sometime last year he was at home hoovering and cleaning his house one night. He got a call. J.P.’s a sweet kid. Still is. There was a dude down at a local hillbilly night club (they have these in Tennessee) who slapped $500 on the table and said he’d fight anyone.  J.P.’s mate told him to come down, J.P. said he would. I think he finished his hoovering first. I like J.P. because he puts first things first. He’s not the biggest guy in the world (but he’s not small either), and he said afterwards that if he knew what the guy at the night club looked like, then he wouldn’t have gone down. But he didn’t know and so he went, awfully primal this. J.P. is fast. This is all beginning to remind me of the Clash album “Cut the Crap.” Man, there’s heaps around, crap that is. I put up posters. Other people express these things in different ways, some are pacifists. There’s no point to war, we all know this, but man there’s plenty of wars. Sad that is.

Poetry is uplifting.

You know the end of the story: J.P. went down and blitzed the dude and got the $500. J.P. and the other bloke are friends now and there’s some respect there. They both know where each other is “coming from.” William Burroughs famously talked about the Naked Lunch being where everyone could see what was on the end of the fork. Wouldn’t you like to see it all clearly if you could? But you turn on TV and you see Charlie Sheen and then you see Lindsay Lohan and then it’s followed by some politician ripping off the world and getting away with it.

So I managed to introduce a few people to New Zealand poetry and I really enjoyed it. That’s the kicks and my kicks and hopefully your kicks too, and that’s what makes a difference to me. Hope it does for you too.


Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson

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