Category: Restless Spirit

Do You Know This Man?

Do You Know This Man?

No? I knew him, not so well, some forty years ago…he was a habitue, a devotee, of the Phoenix neon night life, searching for parts of himself he lost along the emotional road from Appalachia: lost in an abusive and disoriented childhood; lost in a flawed and impetuous marriage; lost in the glittering promise of booze and women. Yes, I knew him, not so well, as he made all his stumbles along the way, losing not only himself but the connections to family and friends, to the people who loved him.

Yes, of course, I’m the man in the photo, and there’s a lot more to the story…hope you’ll read THE CRACKED MIRROR, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, by Billy Ray Chitwood.

Excerpts from “The Cracked Mirror…”

***

In the end, my story must be like so many others, a story of a simple kid who grew up eating emotional soup and spending a lifetime trying to digest it. There are no spectacular or heroic moments. I’ve been in the United States Navy, but I’ve never fought a war—except the one I’ve declared within myself. So I know not the pain of holding a bleeding comrade to my bosom as he or she gasps the final breaths. I know not the anguish of a parent losing a child in an accident, or, in war—unless losing a child to drugs can be comparable. I’ve loved and been in love, but I’ve never stepped far enough from myself to know the true and natural profundity of its happiness and joy. I’ve been born but never died—unless the demon of the past is segmented death. The prospect of dying scares the hell out of me—not so much the prospect itself, but the pitiful legacy that is left behind. I’ve known insecurity and fear, along with self-confidence, loyalty, and pride. There have been the sins, small enough, I hope, to keep me at least somewhere in the thoughts of those I’ve loved. At times I’ve longed for ‘Nepenthe,’ the drug mentioned in ‘The Odyssey’ as a remedy for grief, the potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain and sorrow. But, then, without some pain, can the soul truly seek refuge when the long journey is over?

***

The jail cell brought back sobriety and a stark reality. Sitting on a hard dirty ‘bed thing’ in the dimly lit, tiny barred enclosure, the demon thoughts came and possessed me. My world was disintegrating around me! The claustrophobic cell was my coffin of contriteness, a veritable symbol of my languishing life. There again was the ‘dark closet’ feeling within me, an anxious and suffocating hell! Grabbing at the bars I pitifully called out to the jailer, but no one came. Within the limited space I paced, stopped at the ugly stained wall, splayed my body against it, and tapped my forehead against its roughness. The jailer eventually came. He showed me a smile of compassion and told me that morning would come soon; then, I would be arraigned. The fitful night would pass.

***

It is Time that wears down the acts and deeds of man into something forgettable, mundane, heroic, noble, historical, and unforgettable. It is Time that leads us warily toward the greatest secret of all: That which lies beyond the dark veil!

***

“…There are men like you in the world, Prentice, through whatever kind of intervention, divine or otherwise, who must make us cry and laugh, who record for us the stirrings of the soul which we might otherwise never know.”

*

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Okay, here I am today, no longer chasing those windmills, still trying to figure out this ‘one foot in front of the other’ thing. There are times when it seems I’m pretty close to figuring out this grand production, but those times are little teaser moments to stir something in the soul…sort of like a dreaded visit to a doctor or dentist, getting the car repaired – feels great when you find out the blood pressure is normal (thanks to a little round pill), the teeth cleaning and exam present no new cavities, and the car now carries no shameful dent.

All in all, the rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky, a good wife, an aging, lovable cat, great daughters and sons, have given me happiness and joy. The past still gets in my way at times in inscrutable ways…a misty longing or something valuable I’ve left behind. I’ve never abandoned my faith, though fragile it might be, and there are many more good days than bad,

With all this said, I’m still writing, still searching…guess that only stops when mortal time gives up on me…

Billy Ray Chitwood – September 14, 2019 ( From archives, May 22, 2015)

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Who Am I?

Photo art by Henk van de Goor (Unsplash)

 

Who Am I?

A mere presence of blood, bone and flesh,

Collecting restless moments of time and

Memories in a swirl of delusion and desire…

A damaged derelict recording with all the

Misspent nights of neon lights and wonder,

In Bacchus search of some nebulous Nirvana.

A casual fool of vacuous vector shaping images

Fraught with a dilettante’s dribble and dash

For a delectable dalliance in Delilah’s domain.

Who Am I?

A Mockery to the wise and worldly. A clown

Dressed in gaudy colors, shouting his foolery

To all who would listen in the Devil’s Den.

Who Am I?

Surely by now you must know me!

Who Am I?

Come, sweet damsel,

 join me in a drink,

 and I shall tell you all!

 

-Billy Ray Chitwood – August 12, 2019-

 

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A Private Session at the Way Station

A Private Session At ‘The Way Station’

Guess I write quite a bit about my feelings, about my life and times. Thought I

would allow a small portion from one of my books to do the ‘talking’ in this

post… The following is a section from ‘The Way Station’ (a euphemism for a Care

Facility) in my book, “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections From An Appalachian

Son.”Prentice Paul Hiller is recovering from a complicated hip surgery, meets and

bonds with a former Clinical Psychologist, Greta Fogel. Over the weeks of teasing and

mental jousting, Greta has encouraged Prentice to write about his life and times,

suggesting that it might be not only good therapy for him but that the end product

should be a great read.

 

It should be noted this memoir is 90% true, and I am Prentice Paul Hiller — but I have never been in a ‘care facility’ (other than hospital stays for hernia and appendectomy operations). The remainder is pretty much true except for names and some places… I might be a bit generous to myself regarding the 90% – but too far off.

Also, this memoir is written on ‘two tracks’ – one chapter for ‘The Way Station’ followed by chapters from periods in my (Prentice Paul’s) life. The section noted below has followed a chapter regarding Greta’s reading of one of my personal chapters.

***

EXCERPT – from “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections Of An Appalachian Son” by Billy Ray Chitwood:

Having just settled in with my laptop, Greta came into the sun room. Without too much preamble, I moved the laptop to her lap, with the cursor set to start on the last two sections. “See what you think of these two sections,” I said with a doubtful expression, “I’m ambivalent! Don’t know if I went too overboard.”

It took some time for her to read the sections. She paused time and again in very thoughtful poses.

When she was finished, she asked: “You want to talk now or later? Want me to leave you so you can write?”

“No, let’s talk! First, Dorie seems really nice,” I said.

“She’s a really good lady. I’m very impressed. You’re going to like her.” She sat on the wicker chair near the window. Greta was wearing a lovely lavender sweater and beige pants outfit plus a new hairdo. Her eyes glowed with the combination.

“I already do. We had a chance to visit when she got here. She’s a version of you, really!”

Don’t know about that, but I like her and I’m glad you do…” She paused for a second. “Shall we talk about these last two sections?”

“Really! You want to talk about the last two sections? Why do you think I shoved the laptop on your lap? Of course, sweet lady, let’s talk about these sections…you read it and acted like you wanted to leave. You don’t like the sections, do you?”

“Of course, I like the sections! You know I like your writing. You raised my eyebrows a bit, that’s all. You surprised me!” She said with a slight nod and a wry smile.

“Bet I know why!” with a nod and smile of my own. “The ‘Vickie’ sex snapshot?”

“Well, certainly, that raised my eyebrows! And we won’t dwell too long on that bit of memorabilia! However, it might surprise you to know that that kind of experience is not so uncommon, particularly when you consider the environment in which you lived, notwithstanding the criminal implications of Vickie’s complicity in the seduction. No, it is not a pretty snapshot, and  it does surprise me somewhat that you would make it part of your ‘reflections,’ although your penchant for honesty and ridiculing yourself would preclude your leaving it out.” She was about to say more when I interrupted.

“It was such a vivid recall, Greta, like the earlier sex encounter with my pre-puberty aunt. It was somehow important for me to put it in, even knowing that is was highlighting depraved behavior…”

“I understand, Prentice. You need not justify it to me. You want the writing to portray the ultimate true picture of who you were then. It couldn’t be any other way for you.” She paused again, then went on.

“The ‘Vickie snapshot’ is not necessarily what I meant by ‘raising’ my eyebrows.”

“Of what then do you speak, dear lady?” using my chivalrous tongue.

“I speak of your ‘isms’ section, EST and ‘Tao Te Ching,’ and your ‘political views’ section to the larger extent. What raised my brows and surprised me a bit was the length to which you’ve gone to find yourself, your belief system as it relates to your political morality. In other words, you’re a man who strives so hard to find integrity in yourself and in others. You fight in your mind the battles of our times, wanting desperately to find a Utopia which you know does not exist. In some ways, you are an incurable romantic, a Don Quixote chasing ‘windmills’ you think are giants to be slain. You know your sins, Prentice! You know your faults, your errant ways! Your missed opportunities! And you’re trying to make up for it all with the pages of your book.” She paused, eyed me carefully with a fondness she would not hide. “And, you’re doing a damned good job!”

“Whoa, wait a minute! There’s something else you want to say. ‘A damned good job’ doesn’t quite say it all, Greta. Come on, I can take it. It might hurt, a lot, but I can take it. I might never speak to you again, but take it, I shall!” She could see the last bit as mock and tease.

“Yes, a damned good job! I say what I mean, Mr. Hiller. And, yes, Mr. Hiller, there is something else to say…” Again, she paused, looked out the window at the lovely blue sky day. “What you put down is well written. You would be aware that some of your reading audience might not share your views. That, I know you know! Incidentally, I’m not one of those ‘really smart people’ to whom you refer, but I am non-partisan. What you want, I believe most people want. You write about it passionately and sincerely. How could I fault you? The chivalrous battles you fight with your writing are noble, patriotic, and good…” She paused yet again, then wistfully continued.

“Why, I’m not completely sure, but I’m thinking of those two great volumes of Spanish literature.” She waited, pursed her lips in that cute little habitual way she had, and went on. “His neighbors thought him mad for all his dedicated reading of chivalry, but Alonso Quixano gave himself a new name, ‘Don Quixote,’ put on a suit of old armor and went off on his chivalrous quests with wild imaginings. He was at times beaten, ridiculed, and ultimately unintentionally betrayed by his dull-witted squire and neighbor, Sancho Panza. His quests, his imaginings, ended in a great melancholy. Alonso would put away his armor. The melancholy worsened with his age, and Sancho in the end tried to restore his faith. But Alonso Quixano died a broken man, and, with him, his alter ego, ‘Don Quixote.’

“What does ‘Don Quixote’ have to do with what you’re writing? The chivalry part, mostly. Though, at times, you do seem daft and wildlyimaginative!” A pause for chuckles. “You write about many differnet things in yur life. You bemoan at times the sad states of your existence, your life style, your ‘images’ of the good life, your moods, your legacy. And, to repeat myself, you do a damned good job of it. If I have any concern, it comes from my fondness for you. I don’t wish you to become ‘melancholy and broken,’ Prentice.

“Don’t try so hard to make up for your life! This writing business, the process, is good for you. Use it for all the right reasons: the legacy thing, the self-ablution, as it were, the process itself. You are who you are. You will try too hard. You will continue to beat yourself. It’s too late for the couch, not that you really ever needed it, but, if I could push but one button for you, it would be the button that makes you believe in yourself and makes you have more faith in the God who made you and accept whatever it is He intends for you. You are really a dear, dear man, and I don’t wish to see you hurt so much.”

She stopped talking and looked again out the big window, her face creased with a sadness beyond the mere interpretations she had rendered on the sections of my book. That sadness held me for a moment. Then, I decided to revert to my easy tactic of light patter. 

“Well, Greta, you’ve totally blind-sided me! What the hell am I supposed to do with Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and you?” smiling, with raised eyebrows. “Okay, methinks I get it. You’re a sweetheart!” I closed the laptop and got up. “Come on, let’s break out of this joint and find a Big Mac, fries, and coke.”

Actually, ‘Don Quixote’ and I likely had a lot more in common than I might be willing to admit. Then, again, there might be more Sancho Panza in me than I might be willing to admit.

[End of Excerpt…]

Billy Ray Chitwood – January, 2019

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The Restless Spirit

The Restless Spirit

(Written in 2012 while on The Sea of Cortez – TN & KY Since!)

Under a pale blue morning sky a long plume of white misty cloud softly touches the Sea of Cortez, and I ponder the spirit of the restless.

In fact, it is my own restless spirit that dictates this post, given energy by the ghosts from an Appalachian youth of mobility and uncertainty, by my own selfish need to describe the nature of my beast. This restless spirit is not something that embarrasses me or shames me in my eyes. It is a constant companion which I have nourished all my life with impulsive, spontaneous acts. It is something I accept as I do the color of my hair, my skin, the whole DNA networking inside my body walls. It is likely not so distinctive as one might expect. This restless spirit, this wanderlust component, must reside in legions of us.

This post began with a description of the beautiful sea that displays its gaudy deep green beauty outside my windows. This sea, this constant sun, this life style is the stuff of dreams. How could anyone be restless watching the sail boats, the ski jets, the parasailers high above the crystalline water, the people frolicking along the long stretch of sandy beach? Grab a Corona, a Tequila Sunrise, and live your dream, right? Well, that great big sea reaches out to a far horizon, and, after a few Coronas and Tequila Sunrises, the restless spirit can start its gnawing litany of thought… What’s beyond that horizon? Where have I not yet been? What have I not yet done? I’ve been here for a few years now. Is it not time to go? Even Paradise has its limits!

Okay, here’s the deal! I buy a new car. In a year I tire of the car and want another make and model. The same with living quarters! After a few years I want new quarters. It does not matter to the restless spirit that it is contemplating giving up ‘heaven’, its life style of which other people can only dream. In this case, it is a stunning, luxurious two-level penthouse where the host of the restless spirit has come to retire, where the only really pressing decisions to make daily are food selections, social media caretaking, and the book-writing periods. There are people who live in the same house in the same town in the same state all their lives. Not me! In the past thirty years, I’ve lived in twelve different places. You do the math! I’ve probably lost count.

Yes, I’ve still got a lovely wife who is a polar opposite. She is calm, patient, puts up with me, would have been happy to live our lives out in that first place thirty years back. Guess she loves me to keep uprooting her the way I do. Is this crazy, or, what?!

So, anyone interested in a 3600 square foot penthouse? I’ll buy yours. You buy mine. I’ll be fair, even leave all the furniture, utensils, everything, totally turnkey — just bring your clothes and a toothbrush. You will have constant sun, constant sea, constant beauty. The only catch is, you need to have something equally as nice, something that turns on my restless spirit, and your place has to be free and clear like my place. Any takers?

Worried about Mexico and all the media hype? Been coming here from Arizona for over forty years. I’ve felt safer here than any place I’ve ever lived. The people of Mexico are friendly, helpful, kind, and appreciative of our US dollars. Crime, drug cartels? I’m sure they’re around somewhere in the country, killing off themselves, mostly. One could be reminded that my great country, the US, has its share of drug cartels and crime…

But back to this restless spirit thing… Do I wish that it was not there? ‘Yes’ is the honest answer, but there is an honest qualifier. The books I’ve written, the poems, the songs, the posts, all the penning? Are they worthy? Of course, I think so, but the true judges are the readers and the lovers of poetry and song. But ‘worthy’ is not the point I’m making here. The point is, maybe all my words would not have been out there in print and Cyberspace had I not had the restless spirit — not that one cannot write without it. But, me, could I have ‘done all that’ in ‘my way’ without that restless spirit.

I’m just saying…

Billy Ray Chitwood – October 8, 2018

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