asking KK about life, where he was, how he got here, where his past intersects with his insanity and sanity . . . philosophical, and archetypical
“If we allow the pieces of our culture to lie scattered in the dust of history, trampled on by racism and grief, then yes, we are irreparably damaged. But if we pick up the pieces and use them in new ways that honor their integrity, their colors, textures, stories—then we do those pieces justice, no matter how sharp they are, no matter how much handling them slices our fingers and makes us bleed.”
—Deborah A. Miranda
This is Devil’s Churn, just down the road from my home, Waldport, Oregon. In and out, in and out. King tides attract the tourists and photographers. A grandpa, 62, tried jumping over the rocks, but fell in and the Coast Guard found his body a few miles out to sea.
Kelly K told me about a tornado that came crashing through Merrill a few years ago. Some fellow found himself pulled up and trafficked hundreds of yards away, deposited, unhurt, one hell of a trip.
In some sense, Kelly is that tornado, the tsunami, that king tide, or at least a product of so much turbulence that his story, and all the intersections of his life and his friends and family’s lives, tie into the story of a dream deferred and Requiem for a Nightmare.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
– Langston Hughes
More of the dream:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
― Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems
1. How would you define your life say to a granddaughter. Keep it simple.
Ivy, Jayda, Damien, Braden, Jacob, Chelsey, Courtney, Cassidy, Kyle, Hailey, grampa would define his life in the terms of the biblical parable of the talents. My talents have been wasted. I was the best, and the brightest, since before I hit skool. Straight A’s without effort. Musically gifted, and obsessed. But, the educational system raped me, the legal system raped me, just as bad as a perverted old man. But, talents don’t just disappear.
They manifest themselves no matter where you are. So, my talents were directed, not towards fame, and fortune, and “success”. They were directed at my partner, my progeny, my parents, my community, not writ large, but in the fine print.
I have no regrets. I don’t want my legacy on the big screen. I look for in in the faces, and the words, of each fellow traveler that I have the opportunity to introduce myself to.
I love all you kids.I just want you to be truly happy.
2. Booze did you in, in many ways. Talk about the power of booze in a man’s life, yours.
Booze. Alcohol. Adult beverages. Drink. I can only speak intelligently about the effects of alcoholic beverages upon THIS man’s life.
I have made many observations of “alcoholics” in the course of a lifelong battle with alcohol. Many treatments. Many AA meetings. No meaningful relationships were found in all of those years in the AA sober society.
It’s a god damn cult, people. I have been around beer for as long as I can remember.
Running around at gramma’s with all the cousins, when we got thirsty it was a swig of dad’s beer, or a pull off the garden hose. No Pepsi for the kids. Beer for the adults though.
Anyway’s I always chose the hose.Didn’t like Old Style. After I was molested, all my childhood mates evaporated. I was a solo act. Until Rod Messerschmidt, appeared at my tennis court, by Franklin skool, and I had my first friend.
He was trash. From the wrong side of the tracks. So people said. Turned out his dad was a pedophile. Rod introduced me to alcohol in a party setting, with people my own age, and miraculously, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I could laugh again.
I was drinking with the dregs of Merrill youth, and I felt like I was home. But, first the boy took the drink, they the drink took the boy, and the man, and everyone, and everything that loved him. I learned to hate what I had become. And, I fought it.
But, I always ended up losing the fight. Sometimes by early knockout. Sometimes I’d get all the way to the 15th round. But, I always went down.
I resorted to Antabuse to stop from getting drunk. It works, until I stop taking the pills.
I’ve read everything that I could find about alcoholism, to no avail.
Then, in Waupun prison, Cheri sent me a book that I had requested, by Dr. Lance Dodes, and the control that alcohol had over me, began to slip away. I came face to face with the rape that I had memory holed for over forty years. I explored it, and studied on it, alone, for the remainder of my prison sentence.
Then, I came home, and shared my revelation with Cheri. And, she became my therapist, my friend, my confidant, the one who held me when I would cry about the wasted life. The best friend anyone ever had.
Alcohol, what is it good for? We used to give geriatric patients a beer at night, cause it was supposed to be good for them. But, it you find a kid who prefers beer and whiskey, to Pepsi, or juice, or water, there’s a kid that needs some lovin’.
And, if you find an adult who says beer tastes better than a glass of cranberry juice, they’re straight up, full of shit. I’m good with a little pot smoking. A little mushrooms now and then, for mind expansion, and music appreciation purposes.
The rest of that shit, legal, or otherwise, is poison. And, it will rob you of your happiness, and your oh so precious time. Do I have an occasional beer, or shot of tequila, or glass of chocolate milk (Bailiey’s)? Yes.
Self-medication. No longer compulsion. I am a blessed human being for having received this reprieve.
3. What legacy would you like to give a friend, say, me, any friend?
Legacy for a friend? For my friend. With the exception of Beth, you are the only friend that I’ve got, according to my calculations. Seven months ago, I lost the best friend I have ever known.
A severed finger tickles, compared to the pain of losing Cheri. Since she went “interstellar”, and even before, you have been the rock, upon which I have built my foundation. Admire is a word that I have thrown around. Venerate is another excellent selection.
A talk-walker. I thought that they went extinct. You have conducted your life, at least what I know of it, in a fashion that I would be proud to claim as my own history.
My legacy, in tribute to you, and to Fishbone, would be, for me to be, that medic, that man, who dresses the worlds, who brings nourishment, both for the body, and for the spirit, of my brothers, and my sisters, and all of the children, my children, all of them, my grandkids.
Not a butler to the well heeled. A servant, to those who have been trod upon, and had the audacity, and the wherewithal, to keep on surviving. Those are my people. The red people, the brown people, even some of the white people.
I want to be lovable because of my works, not because of my wealth. I want a sick baby, and a frightened mother, to smile because I had a hand in doing something decent.
I want that to be my legacy. I’ve been flailing around, trying. But, I know that I can do better.
4. What are some of the happy memories growing up before booze?
Happy memories before booze: Playing tennis against my parents, two against one, at Stange’s park, in Merrill. Playing cards, with my mom, and dad, and splitting some Pepsi’s, and pretzels, and chips, or Fritos. Shooting hoops, at my friend, Billy Utech’s house, in my Keds, that I took a beating for.
All alone. Refining my long jumper. Moving like Jerry West. Hair slicked back.
Used some of dad’s Vitalis.
And, snowmobiling. Me, and mom, and dad, and all the rural folk, and their kids. Farm kids, and me, the kid whose eyes blow up, and starts sneezing at a picture of a farm.
And, dad’s summer slow pitch games. Same kids. Shooting pool for a dime a game.
And, Captain Kangaroo. And, Mr. Magoo. And, Red Skelton. And, the Beatles. And, my little record players. I wore one out with my 45s. And, Stevie Loos. An adopted kid.
One of two. The disappointment. A true friend. I was never good enough as a kid. I knew that I was ugly.
Always. Small kid. Not big enough to be Gale Sayers. Maybe I could be the Incredible Hulk. He was a good guy. A soft heart. Just like Sonny Liston. Then I could be big and strong, like what was desired, and approved of, and fawned over. Not a kid who read books, and played tennis.
I was the man on a snowmobile though. Size didn’t matter. Pretty badass on the courts too. I have a secret weapon that no one has adopted yet, that I know of. And, I’m not sharing, just in case. I salvaged my Prince racquet, from the garbage truck. Is that enough? I can probably come up with a little more, if I dig real deep.
5. What were happy memories with booze?
I have no happy memories with booze. Maybe some comradely with juveniles over some rock and roll records, but I sensed, early on that I shouldn’t be drinking this stuff.
It was making me someone I didn’t like anymore.
7. Do you have a philosophy life? Expand.
My philosophy of life? Time, is the most precious asset that we have. And, we never know when our time account is about to be overdrawn. Some folks gets decades deposited. Some get minutes. Spend as much of that currency doing thinks that make you happy.
Laugh. For god’s sake laugh. And, sing. Sing out loud. Learn the words. Or, make up your own. Don’t hum. At least not for long. Sing out loud. Share your voice. Be a legend.
A legend whose legacy is kindness.
6. Why is Wisconsin the way it is – tough individuals, racist, in denial, very hard-edged American?
8. What’s wrong with America? Keep it simple, I know it’s a book length response.
What is wrong with America? What is wrong with Wisconsin? Big stuff there Paul.
A lot is not going to be detailed. Brainwashing. The screens. The bombardment of lies, and manipulations.
The boxes that we hide in. I never feel more alive, than when I am outside. I am a part of nature. Not, apart from nature. That’s why WE loved camping so much. Why is america, and whizz-con-sin, so ugly, so mean, so filthy? The Anglo culture that poisoned this continent. When the red man prevailed here, this place was a paradise.
Now, it is a toxic landfill.
Once there was harmony between man, and his environment. Now, there is abuse, for the green. The dirty green. God damn money. Money over your brother. Your sister.
Your dog. The bison. The bear. The wolf. The cow. The chicken. The pig.
And, there needs to be more music. Not celebrity. Not pop, rock, country, star. Music.
And, irony. And, satire. Let’s laugh at ourselves, and then get about the business of not doing that stupid shit again. And medicine. Nurture, and heal our sick and wounded fellow travelers. And, nurture, and heal ourselves, in the process.
9. The power of letter writing to your wife. Explain.
10. The power of books coming to you and you reading them in prison. Explain.
Letter writing to Cheri. I dove a heavy dose of that, during every incarnation. And, a lighter dose of that, even when I’m not incarcerated. Letters are my way of speaking to you, when you are not in the room with me, and I have something to say to you. And, letters are precise.
There’s no playing a game of telephone when you’re writin’ letters.As partners for over forty years, Cheri, and I, talked at length every day. Iron bars, and cement walls aren’t going to stop that. Yeah, cellmates of mine used to marvel as I would crank out 14, 28, 42 pages. Day in, and day out. Lots of pens. Lots of legal pads. Lots of stamped envelopes.
It’s who I am. Same with the books. Twenty, twenty-five books at a clip. Heavy laundry bag, walking from the property office, back to the cell block. Those books saved my life. I was dying in there. Wrongly accused, and convicted. I was going insane. I wanted to kill people. Not shoot them either. I wanted to beat them with a roofing hammer. To some guys in the joint, my nickname was “the hammer”.
So fucking angry. So fucking enraged. The hundreds of books were an escape from my reality.
Then, Cheri sent me the book that tamped down all of that hate. Clarence Darrow. “Resist Not Evil.” That book gave me a new outlook, that permitted me to endure a nightmare.
Books have always been important to me. I bet that they always will.
Sanford and son threw out a few books, that were in a grey igloo bag, that I really want back.
I want Rachel Carson back, too. Instead, I’m going to join the confederacy of dunces, and finish the journey the Cheri and I began talking, together.
11. What does family mean to you?
Family? Family is who I am supposed to look out for. I’m the patriarch of this family, and dads, and grampas, and brothers, have wisdom to impart, and scuffed knees to attend to. They have explanations to share, and misunderstandings to resolve. As it was, when I had my spine operation, almost eleven years ago, so it is today, in the aftermath of my hand surgery.
Not a word from those who I identify as my family. It’s a hurtful thing. I do the opposite.
Maybe I am crazy. But, I’ll never stop. Doing otherwise would feel wrong. Even thinking about doing otherwise feels wrong.
Family is loneliness.
12. What will be the next iteration of your life, 65 onward?
The next iteration of my life? I don’t know. But, I better figure it out soon, cause I’m dying over here.I’m going down, if I continue like this.
13. Three lessons you would impart your granddaughter Ivy now and/or if and when she stops using?
Three lessons for Ivy. Always a number with you people. Rate your pain, on a scale of one to ten. Rate your satisfaction, one to ten. How about, it hurts like a motherfucker, and your customer service sucks!!!
Ivy, you are poisoning yourself for a reason. What is that reason(s)? Dig deep. Explore.
Go all the way back. Find that injury. Then, go to people, that you trust. That want to help you, and are equipped to do so. And, spill your guts. Put it all out there.
Shake your fist, at the unfairness of it all.
And, then go about loving yourself. Be loving to Ivy. Be with those for whom loving Ivy is automatic. Go back. Find that child. The one who is still innocent. Remember what made that little girl smile, laugh, sing You’ll know when it is, because you will have felt safe then. Before the sick people got their hands on you.
Then, pursue the dreams of that small child, and you’re on your way. And, always call on your grampa. He’s the best friend that you’ve got. And, he’s pretty smart. You’ll probably have to change playgrounds, and playmates. If you hang around in the barbershop, sooner or later, you’re going to get a haircut. And, don’t believe anything that the government tells you.
Same with TV.
Find things out for yourself.
Or, ask grampa. We can find out together.
I love you Ivy.
Is that three?
******************************************end of the Q & A*******************************************
Note: I went to Wisconsin to meet a friend. Yeah, there were things on the agenda: get his camper-pick-up truck looked at for hail damage. Get him out and about. Get to wMerrill, from River Falls, his place of residence. Get some handle on the unbelievable hoarding situation he was in. Get up to Merrill to help with some honoring of the deceased wife-friend-soulmate. Friendship. My wife encouraged me to head up there too, so I had a calm and smart person help with my decision.
The hoarding deal turned into more chaos as we hired on a small outfit out of Minneapolis to do the bagging and hauling. That was a disaster. The Moores self-referenced themselves as Sanford and Son, as both the son, running the outfit, and the dad, as a helper, are African American.
The shit show was precipitated by K’s incapacitation, the un-and-dis-organized stuff packed in all the rooms, and then our own absences for some of the days, and of course the inability of the hired on crew to get their shit together, i.e. being on time (hours delayed) and listening and reading our directs for what not to take, as well as what to take.
It was hard getting those books taken away to some dump. Books Kelly read in prison, sent to him from his wife. Books that the prisons he was locked up in refused to take. Even the chapels refused to take the books. Every sort of book tied to enlightenment — Rachel Carson, Howard Zinn, and Gore Vidal, to name only a few of hundreds.
The letters — sometimes three a day — he sent to his wife and for which she saved. All gone. He has no need to keep them. Hundreds of them, in the clutter, the mess, with mice running all around.
Also note that we are in the process of contacting his graddaughter to see if her story is something she is okay with being in a small blog. You never know what will come back to haunt her.
The trauma in the family is tough. I look at this as a memoir. Anti-memoir. Kelly’s. Through me, the conduit. All is kosher for me, now, put into writing.
Here’s even the local rag printing my memoir writing class informaiton:
“The art of remaking-retelling a story”
The last few years on planet Earth have been pregnant ones: People facing existential crises and a world seemingly going to hell in a hand basket. SARS-CoV2 and lockdowns are SELCE’s in all our lives: significant emotional life-changing events!
As a writer on the coast, I’ve found subjects for a column, “Deep Dive – Go Beneath the Surface with Paul Haeder” (Oregon Coast Today) endless. We have deeply interesting people.
That’s my wiring. A young journalist of 17 who “hard-scrabbled” into desert haunts in Arizona and throughout Mexico, discovering people’s narratives — wherever they are in their proverbial walkabouts — highly compelling.
It’s a form of biographical parachuting, and a kind of thievery — entering people’s worlds, getting to know them fast and furiously, and then capturing those facts and memories in creative nonfiction.
I’ve been doing this stealing for almost 50 years. With that eclectic pedigree, I hope to see a few interested writers here in Lincoln County signing up for my community education class, Memoir Writing, at OCCC’s Waldport campus.
The title is just one stone in the cairn of stories I hope we as a class can share.
My first gig teaching the art of creative memoir writing occurred when I was young, 29, with the Center for Lifelong Learning at UT-El Paso. In that community/continuing education class, I helped shepherd amazing life forces of 15 students in the first session:
• a Dachau survivor who ended up in El Paso as a doctor;
• a former colonel in the Army who was in the Bataan Death March;
• a criminal defense attorney who defended rough dudes, including narcotraficantes along the U.S.-Mexico border;
• a female truck driver of over 50 years who saw all of the U.S., Canada and some of Mexico as a long-hauler;
• a young guy who won $1.5 million in a state lottery but ended up opening up two clinics in Juarez to treat the poor;
• a doctor who worked in Guatemala and El Salvador performing cleft palette operations pro bono.
We came together as survivors, and some of the better memoir and anti-memoir pieces flowed from regular folk: a farmer of chilies, a lady who raised seven kids who all went onto college, a construction company owner who learned how to read after he made his first million, at age 50.
For this Tuesday, 2 to 3:30 p.m. class, we will explore how people in this neck of the woods got here at the edge of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. I believe in the Mission Impossible opener as a frame for this laid-back class: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to uncover some of the layers of your spiritual-intellectual-emotional-historical life onion.
I like what Lidia Yyuknavitch says about the process of writing self: “I think our identities — the ones we live in the real world — are really made partly from stories that we build up around ourselves, necessary fictions, so that we can bear the weight of our own lives. We like to call these ‘truths’ or ‘facts’ or ‘selves,’ but I maintain that they are fictions. Fictions for instance called ‘mother’ or ‘wife’ or ‘lover’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘writer.’”
For my premiere long-form column, Deep Dive, I went into the life and aspirations of a great white shark scientist who did open water research of these sharks in waters off South Africa, Dyer Island. Then, the column took off because, a) I was open to any sort of human being living in Lincoln County who had a story to tell. The stories came at me like a tsunami. Not all were of made-for-TV-movie intensity. However, the common theme in these more than 35 pieces is “perseverance under adversity.”
And, b), it takes time to listen in order to uncover. Carol Van Strum is another gem I wrote about — she fought the aerial spraying of herbicides in her Five Rivers’ area and wrote a book, “A Bitter Fog,” to capture this battle.
We will work on each student’s individual projects — some will want book length tell-alls, and others will want a life compressed into a few dozen pages. The best part of this memoir writing course is we will experiment.
There are other ways to skin a cat, so to speak. We can resist the universal desire to uncover a dirty pile of secrets. We can write with a level of frankness, and candidness.
That sort of writing can “welcome talk, but not cover all the personal details.”
The “I” in this form of expression is fluid: we have to discover ways to bring in the reader, and deliver the reader a conversation. Some in the class will want to capture a life SELCE. That’s fine. Others will want to explore the meaning of life through their own eyes.
This includes how we all “get through” by deploying universal truths. For some of us, we need to get that down on paper: an essay, fiction story, an entire book? The goal is the same — writing “self.”
Our mission is to share and wordsmith, so the class gets down to brass tacks — writing ourselves into something others might respond to positively and with a keen sense of their own lives.
For information, go to https://oregoncoast.edu/communityed
Paul K. Haeder is a novelist, journalist, educator and author of “Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam,” Cirque Press.
*******************************************end of memoir writing story****************************
Blitzed with Blatz:
The ten states with the highest alcohol consumption per capita (in gallons) per year are:
- New Hampshire – 4.67 gallons
- District of Columbia – 3.77 gallons
- Delaware – 3.52 gallons
- Nevada – 3.42 gallons
- North Dakota – 3.16 gallons
- Montana – 3.1 gallons
- Vermont – 3.06 gallons
- Idaho – 2.94 gallons
- Wisconsin – 2.93 gallons
- Colorado – 2.88 gallons
TOP 15 COUNTRIES ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
- Seychelles: 20.50 litres
- Uganda: 15.09 litres
- Czech Republic: 14.45 litres
- Lithuania: 13.22 litres
- Luxembourg: 12.94 litres
- Germany: 12.91 litres
- Ireland: 12.88 litres
- Latvia: 12.77 litres
- Spain: 12.72 litres
- Bulgaria: 12.65 litres
- France: 12.33 litres
- Burkina Faso: 12.03 litres
- Portugal: 12.03 litres
- Austria: 11.96 litres
- Slovenia: 11.90 litres
It’s USA Today, more fake-faux-fucked up news (sic) but a broken grandfather clock is correct twice a day: “These are America’s drunkest states”
- Adults drinking excessively: 24.5%
- Alcohol-related driving deaths: 36.9% (8th highest)
- Adults in fair or poor health: 14.0% (13th lowest)
- Drunkest metro area: Green Bay, WI
Some 24.5% of adults in Wisconsin report binge or heavy drinking — the second largest share of any state and well above the comparable national share of 18%. Drinking alcohol regularly over long periods of time can lead to many serious ailments later in life such as liver cancer and even dementia. Despite high rates of excessive drinking, Wisconsin has a relatively low premature death rate. For every 100,000 residents, about 300 will die before the age of 75, less deaths than in most other states.
I don’t buy the floundering statistics, and alas, Wisconsin has some synergy, really, with the cheese and dairies and the cold and the drug use and the MS and ALS frequency and the aging population, the other aspects of life and death in a Chlamydia Capitalist world.
Wisconsin and Meth:
According to the Rusk County, Wisconsin, Department of Health and Human Services, drug-related child abuse and neglect investigations have increased dramatically over the past four years.
“County health services is dealing with cases where there are children in these homes, they have removed some children from the homes,” Wallace said. “cases are pending with them. But it does affect the whole county in a whole because everyone who lives here has to deal with that issue.”
Looking at some of those numbers from the Rusk County Department of Health and Human Services: of the current open child protective services cases, 67% are open due to safety concerns related to drugs. The current out-of-home care placements where children have been removed due to concerns around drugs is 92%
And with all things in Chlamydia Capitalism, contradctions, grant retardation, lack of funding, pissing contests, territorial stupidity, and more, keeps everything in reverse gear.
Due to grant guidelines, more than $60 million in state and federal dollars that have been released to combat opioid misuse cannot be used to mitigate this new crisis.
Health care providers say they should be granted flexibility in how they use these funds.
“It should be the providers who are in the trenches every day that should have a voice in determining what the needs are,” says Saima Chauhan, clinical team manager at Journey Mental Health Center in Madison. “We’re the ones every day … seeing individuals and families that are suffering so tremendously from the effects of addiction.”
Morrison says widespread addiction to pain pills and heroin prompted Congress to direct a “historic investment” to combat the opioid epidemic. According to federal budget figures, Congress has appropriated at least $6 billion in the past five years for prevention, treatment and research.
Wisconsin has received $63 million in federal grants specifically targeted to opioid prevention and medication-assisted treatment, according to the state Department of Health Services. (source)
All part of the narrative of each and every family, home, neighborhood, school, place of work, marriage, and hospital. Addiction is right there in the Homo Retailopithecus DNA.
Kelly’s story is sort of Mary Karr’s story, or hell, how many others in the business of memoir writing? The True Story Behind Wild
Memoirs. A hell of an adventure:
“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”
―Mary Karr,The Liars’ Club
“My goal in high school was to stay out of the penitentiary, so if I can go from there to here, you guys can all be gainfully employed. Yeah, your parents are clapping.’ — Commencement address.