The Joplin MO gigs, unlike those in St Joseph, were raucous, lively, as are most of Val Kyrie's performances. Not too surprising. Joplin is no economic mecca, but it's in better shape that St Joseph, which is an excellent example of the mis-allocation of resources, and the absence of restraint of outside economic entities that have no interest in the health and well-being of community. A terribly eroded downtown, and vast sprawling landscapes empty of trees, full with corporate retail. It would be hard to grow up in a place like St Joseph and maintain any kind of traditional American Dream.
Which must be why the image and name of Jesus is everywhere down here. If you can't really believe in the Market, the next best thing is Jesus, though it seems to me, from what I hear on the radio, and the nature of the signage, Jesus is held up more as a threat, a kind of King with apocalyptic proclivities, i.e. you better follow him or else. The message, whether it's about the Market or Jesus, is bow down.
We needed a spare tire, having blown one recently. We were directed to Grande Tire, where we dropped the name Grandpa Pat, from the KOA. Grande Tire didn't have what we needed, used. To save us some money, in good-ole-boy southern fashion, the man-in-charge sent us to his competitor, the Tire Center. Three of the men working at the Tire Center were grimy, sweating in the hideous heat and humidity, smoking; they were also the most impressive physical examples of Homo sapien sapien I have met in some time. I can't vouch for the state of their minds, but one at least caught me off guard with a little wit. Pulling the thoroughly shredded tire from under the van, he looked at me coolly and said, "What are you doing here. All you need is a little duct tape." I told him I tried to glue it.
So many of the men I meet these days are physically inflated. Whether by high fructose corn syrup or dead weights, it's inflation that has behind it a kind of uselessness. No wonder, so many men using so much energy in service to an Institutional way, in air conditioned stasis. The paradigm after fossil fuels will require men to come fully into their bodies, to let the full power of their manhood flow outward from the core, their physicality attached to some skill or set of skills in service to a community. That won't be easy, for men who are conditioned to bow down in service to Government, Corporations, or the men who speak of God. Men will have to learn to give themselves permission to rise up and expand outward in every direction, in service to the Earth.
We left Missouri, passing through Iowa and its vast mono-crop corruption. Encouragingly, Iwegians have planted the ditches with wildflowers, which will quickly spread outward when there are no fossil fuels to maintain industrial agriculture. Des Moines, it turns out, is very cosmopolitan in an exceptionally white bread sort of way. Iowa rest-stops are pristine, very welcoming.
Passing into Minnesota, my home state, the smell of cow shit predominant all along the southern I-35 corridor. We were locked in MN-DOT gridlock outside Owatonna for three hours, on a three mile stretch, on a hot afternoon. We stopped at a rest stop, plywood siding rotting off the walls, the area infested with a swarming plague of Asian Tiger Mosquitos, even in the ninety-five degree air, in the sun. Non-natives, another permanent gift of the Pro tempore Global Free Market.
On to another Val Kyrie gig, in my hometown, in a land that is the intertwining of three major North American ecosystems - Prairie, Deciduous Forest and Coniferous Forest. An art fair fundraiser, we got yelled at for setting up the merchandise in the wrong place, which was more or less where they told us to set it up (I failed Val, not using the hometown argument and demanding that they let us leave the merch exactly where it was.) Then we had to listen to a candyman musician/magician, handing out high fructose corn syrup to his slavish audience, babbling inanely for two hours, talented but without anything meaningful to say. Heyokah in shadow.
Everywhere the signs of EXCESS, turkey legs like lollipops and waistlines broader than any tree in the park. Not a single food vendor selling anything local, all of it industrial food-product to satisfy addictions, to make people ill. Here, it isn't Jesus held up as the thing to bow down to, so much as the American Flag. I was wearing a cat hat, in service to Val (she makes them herself, even puts little bells in the ears). A man with his young granddaughter walked up to the merchandise. He looked at me scornfully, a baseball cap shading his eyes, TEAM USA embroidered on the front panel.
"You call yourself a man, wearing a hat like that?" He said.
I laughed at him. "Got manhood all figured out, do ya?"
"You look like a sissy."
"It is because I am a man I can wear this hat and not be embarrassed by macho knot-heads like yourself."
He didn't buy a cat hat for his granddaughter, or for himself.
Driving back to Minneapolis, I-94W in lock down (shortly after seeing a USA Today cover story holding up the Twin Cities as a model of traffic management. Today's USA TODAY cover seems to be an advertisement for JEEP), we took a long meander through suburbiana. Everything so big, so shiny, so very impressive. Houses like castles, a new aristocracy in the ubiquitous mini-mansion, peasants all grown up, self-satisfied, fully ensconced in American materialism and the assumption that it will continue this way, indefinitely. A mythology reinforced by media, transparent as a light mist and equally lasting.
Americans. So many of us fat, self-satisfied, full of prejudice, genuflecting before the Market, subservient and practically useless. So much of the message, so much information, designed to prevent us from giving ourselves permission to wake up to our origins, to rise up fully in the heritage of our species, to be wholly ourselves in the full meaning of Homo sapien sapien, balanced and awake to the beauty that is this Earth. So much potential, the full story of our species available to us, one hundred thousand years of Homo sapien evolution to fall back on. We are going to need it.