Sunday, August 31, 2008

Jules & a prayer for New Orleans

Julian Stock

Julian Stock, 2003

I'm worried for my buddy Julian Stock down in New Orleans. He's a tough nut, but nobody should have to cope with the kind of shit coming down on New Orleans for the second time in three years. And if I know, Jules, he may opt to stick it out this time. He may choose not to abandon his post which, in its abandonment for Katrina, likely feels now all the more important to stand firm and protect rather than watch helplessly from afar as it molders to ruin.

Jules is an artist, builds Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists in a warehouse near Napoleon and Magazine. Chaos and Hermes are two parades for which Royal builds floats. I had the honor and pleasure of working alongside Jules in the months leading up to the 2002 Mardi Gras season. Those were a couple of the most brilliantly colorful months of my life (click HERE for fun photos posted back then - hint: flip the coins), and I have missed New Orleans ever since. I had a bad premonition of disaster in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) during the final weeks of my Appalachian Trail thruhike in 2004. It took a year for that premonition to catch up. And when it did, I wanted to be there in some way for the friends I'd made there. But I never got there. Like all the aid we as a nation have promised NOLA since leaving them high & damp in 2005, I never got there.

It's hard to give one easy answer to why I didn't return. I don't really know. Life. Other life got in the way. Publishing and promoting Dead Men Hike No Trails. Getting through another suicide in my close circle of friends. Paddling the Mississippi River in my unrequited Dream Catcher Expedition. Losing a best friend to cancer a year later. Obliterating sensation for much of last year to cope with all the loss. Then came a detox to cope with life again.

Now as Hurricane Gustav looms in the Gulf of Mexico, I wish I were there with Jules.

Watch this New Orleans tribute video posted 3 hours ago.

I wish to hell I'd headed down there right after Katrina or anytime since to lend some kind of aid if only in moral support, and if only to Jules in his campaign to survive and rebuild where many didn't or couldn't. Then I would be there now. We could ride it out together.

If I thought they'd let me in down there, if I could get past the National Guard troops, if I had press credentials, hell yeah I'd go. It's just my kind of gig, just the sort of thing for which I trained at the Gonzo School of Hard Knocks. See chaos? Run headlong into it with Crackberry in one hand, bilge pump in the other.

Instead, I can't even reach Jules. Lost track of him during the past year. I hope he makes it through this in one piece.

My heart goes out to Julian and everyone in NOLA, especially those who made my experience there so singularly unique and memorable. To Jules' brother Chris, who was displaced after Katrina destroyed his home, I send out a big hug and well wishes. I miss you both, sons of Robert. (click HERE for my ode to the Stock brothers & their family back in 2002)

I'll be here, on the water across the bay from your birthplace, Jules, holding vigil via the Internet, following events via YouTube and individual blogs like those on Metblog New Orleans. And, as I was during Mardi Gras six months ago and am most every day I'm online at home, I'll be tuned in to the live web stream on WWOZ.

God Bless you, brother.


ps: Duke sends his love, too!

Duke the Art Car

Friday, August 29, 2008

Stricklandia & the freak in the fern headdress

Rick McKinney
photo: Mike Strickland

I plan to one day give Mr. Strickland his due in props. But for now I need to at least point you in the direction of his great travel web log Stricklandia and his late July posts about his trip to my dad's cabin on Moose Pond in Maine. The photos had me rolling this morning. I dunno. Maybe you had to be there. It's a hot day here in San Francisco, third day in a row in the high 80s, low 90s. So if the Moose Pond photos don't do it for ya, it's still a great day to go diving with scuba man Mike via his YouTube dive footage.

Totally Keanu aka Getting Loose with Looci

The cat ate flimsily
passing out on the highway
between the there and the not-there
(ching, ching, ding)
The sign told him so
"I'ma smoka cigarette"
said the pink cashmere cat
to the black smoke typewriter grill
(ringaling, ding)
The bike ate radiator juice
Space island or spice island
either one
Spoon fork copulation on a
polyurethane table top day
The tree crookilly had insects in its nest
I made pieces and then I made tops
"He wouldn't even
give the whore a hairpin."
Purple woman with gypsy silver big ringathing (ding!)
Red trucks zip noisily into the unknown
I knew a guy named dong once
sung Michael Jackson sunset
Irish-Puerto Rican dream
Digesting birds and recovering fast
Half-n-half, whoops, I'm spilling Wow!
Money machines like rats
where Italian vendors once stood
The sky crumbles under the mountain
This is not how I thought I'd be spending
my Monday afternoon
Three torches, 32x on a box
and Doritos, cornflakes
Coca-Cola and BBQ tofu burger
burger burger meister man go
The instrument by making sound
muddles sound flow
No, the chime girl says
Takes her brown bag parcel of when
walks out into the dwindles
of a new year's night.

[Composite poem by Myk Loutzenhiser, Luciano Lenchantin, Chrissie Sarvela & Rick McKinney]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Someday again Matilda

Someday I want a certain still from the Luc Besson film The Professional to hang on the wall of my writing studio. The shot I want is of two pair of shoed feet, those of Leon (Jean Reno) and the young Matilda (Natalie Portman) as the two embrace in the office of bad guy Norm Stansfield (Gary Oldman) in the DEA building in New York. Portman's Matilda is so little against Reno's Leon that her feet as they embrace hang a good foot off the floor. It is endearing to me, this shoes-only disembodied essence of their strange and beautiful love. I have been in love with this Besson film since it came out in the mid-nineties.

I named my beloved pet ferret after Portman's character in 2001 after she came to me from an animal shelter under the most extraordinary circumstances (not unlike those in the film). Just an infant, Matilda the ferret was found by police amid a stockpile of guns in a motel room after her owner, a paranoid schizophrenic, was arrested for wandering armed and delusional down old Route 66 in Albuquerque.

At the time feeling more than a little crazy myself, I remember having a deep empathy for the man who, scared into a gun collection frenzy in a desolate motel, had with him a baby girl ferret to keep the demons at bay. This told me a lot about the man, or so I thought. More than that, it told Matilda's story and gave her a magical glow. When I removed myself from my mentally unhealthy relationship there a few months later, I took Matilda with me to New Orleans. She died of kidney failure just a few months later.

In the Leon-Matilda scenario from which my dearest pet got her name, it should have been me who gave my life for her. Alas, there was little I could do for my much tinier tiny little girl pet after the vet sentenced her to death. That was seven years ago. I haven't had a pet since.

I was about to say I haven't had a girlfriend since, either. But that isn't true. I haven't had one that's lasted longer than Matilda lived, which was less than a year. That much is true. And none have filled little Matilda's shoes. No no. Not one.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

James, soon to go his own way

Just rambling around my bone closet of photos, equally dusty and full of spooks, I found this shot of the bunch of us gathered 'round the trailer home hearth a few months before James departed for foreign shores. I post it here as a reminder. Thou art mortal. Live well. Live now.

And the winged Underlord of Bisbee is watching over us, greatly amused.

This, my latest weird addition to that benevolent brain trust of video in the sky, YouTube. It's a star-studded cast, but is really only worth watching for its last interviewee, who as always, riffed off the top of his head like a pro: James Hull the Late & Great.

R.I.P. Lord Hull

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monsters in the Closet

At the behest of a friend, I have opened the door to a long-ignored closet of poetry and begun digging around in the bone pile. As I review the old stuff, it is with a lot of head-shaking, sighs and a severely critical inward eye. This same critical eye has nearly paralyzed my efforts to promote Dead Men, now not a new book but still the only published product I have. As with the poems, I wrote it, I purged. It's done and over. I struggle to want anything to do with it anymore.

But then, shit happens. And all this shit did happen to me. And my prime coping mechanism over the years has been the pen, especially when wielded without a lot of forethought or attention to structure. Just "the poems" as Bukowski modestly referred to them. The smattering of poetry on my somewhat forlorn web site is anything but a representative sample. There are hundreds and hundreds unpublished.

Having said all that, I just posted one now nearly a decade old. I see some irony in it now so many years hence. For one, it was written just blocks from here, from the marina where I now live yet still feel hardly at home. It was written during my first and perhaps most ardent attempt to call the San Francisco Bay Area home in the early months of 1999. That attempted Bay Area resettlement was a failure, but it was a colorful one.

I find it ironic and not a little sad that as my mental health was headed for a big crash in those months, all around me dotcommers my age and younger were making fortunes. But as we now know they, too, were headed for a crash.

I could have used a few million bucks heading into my Saturn Return(able) Thirties, that decade-long depression now thankfully behind me. Shortly after this poem was written, I scored jobs with two different dotcom companies. Brief but nonetheless fun and exciting, they afforded me an inside look at the magic kingdom before the bubble burst. Never mind that I was spending lunch breaks on Point Emery staring out at the bay and balling my eyes out for no good reason. I have fond memories of my moment in the stock option sun, my psychological deterioration notwithstanding. Haha.

Blah blah blah. Here now is the poem at it's new home on

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gatsby Come Lately

I'm just kidding. Do read.


And don't read just any pulp page turner.

There are countless sources on the web to direct you to good reading, the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list is just one example. And you don't have to spend a lot of money. Heck, most of these great books can be found at your library, ergo, for free.

I almost never buy books at full retail price. The rare exception: when the author is still alive and would benefit by the dollar royalty from my purchase, or more importantly, when the author is standing right in front of me.

Growing up I was a slow reader. My mom invested heavily in helping me excel as a reader including hiring me a reading tutor in high school. And though I conceptually understand to this day how to speed read, I still read only slightly faster than a good typist types. So what? So it takes us slow readers longer. So what if it's taken me my whole life to begin to catch up with what I might have wolfed down in a few semesters of college as an English major. I'm enjoying every little bite.

The language of the Great Gatsby is as amazing as I've often heard tell. I feel gypped that no wise mentor or friend placed it in my hands many years ago. It took being a student of Hunter Thompson, watching Hunter and a slew of others close to me die, and finally climbing out of the anti-depressent fog I'd been in (partially to cope with all this death) to comprehend that this was the work that inspired Hunter. Now I'm getting it. And man, what a treat. Just bask in the language of this descriptive passage that seems to come out of nowhere early in the book, seemingly utterly unnecessary in the context of the story and yet oh so perfect.

Hopefully, most of you are long familiar with Gatsby and will find my belated discovery of Fitzgerald ironically quaint. Fair enough. Here then is the passage, as new and beautiful to me as it is old and exhaustively analyzed (yet still stunning) to academia.

From The Great Gatsby:

"About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Read Therefore I Am

Books, books books. All spring and summer I have had my nose in books. Where a few years ago it would have quite regularly been found in a bush, now it's in books. From topiary to literary. I can't even recall all the titles. Moby Dick, The River Wife, I Was Amelia Earhart, Legends of the American Desert, The Perfect Storm, The Grapes of Wrath, The Iron Rooster, Fahrenheit 451, Immortality, The Great Gatsby. That is what I recall without effort.

And all the while in my travels I have been asked "So, what are you doing these days?" And always, although I could respond with the aforementioned reading list or any number of other interesting and fulfilling activities such as becoming a practiced sailor or even just say "writing," I tighten up inside and squirm out some awkward or defensive answer that is utterly beguiling to me upon later reflection.

For it is work that people want to hear about, or so it seems to me. They want to hear what you're doing to make money. And that's all they want to hear. It was pointed out to me by a close confident recently that I ought by now have a patterned answer to give, especially to relatives. I'm talking about years of being asked the same question, hell, a lifetime! And still I bumble it.

But there is an upside to this folly. And that is this: I do not do the same to others. Instead, I ask people, especially those of whom I have some foreknowledge of their employment status or lack thereof, I ask: so what are you doing that you enjoy? Or if I don't know them at all: so, what's your passion?

And saying that, I am reminded of what my cousin's roommate Dennie would likely to say to such a thing:

"That's gay, Dude."

No doubt he's probably right.

Don't read books, folks. Watch more TV. I stopped long ago and look what it's done for me! Total social retardation. This year marks my 25th anniversary without TV in my life. As I noted recently sitting with a friend in a bar and trying to make conversation with the patrons, without a hearty knowledge of TV, you're in trouble. Add to that an ignorance of all things sports, and you may as well give up and go sail around the world alone.

As some wise writer from this summer's pickings said (I think it was Paul Theroux), people don't talk about anything. Not anything of substance anyway. Children are the exception to this rule.

Where was I? Onward, into the valley of Death...

We're gonna be immortal, kids. Just you wait and see.


ps: click the book cover above to sample some of Jane Mendelsohn's magic

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the bay

photo by Kate

back on the left coast.

rural nh a sweet dream of night now
half forgotten in shock of return.

cruel amnesia.
crude awakening.
big city.
bedazzling beauty of bay as I sail her.
homeless people everywhere, insane and right in my face.
radiohead sings my life below decks, the boat vibrating, delighting my trembling heart.
security guards outside banks, po's, bus stations.
fear is now ubiquitous.

the BB&RB circus comes to town, their mile-long train of dreams crawls past my marina sleepy slow.
the elephants trumpet airborne tb into the crowds, they say.
oh, joy.
tiny waves lick the hull and rock me gently to sleep.
billboards flashing like tvs grab my eyes on the 12-lane interstate back from airport.
snowy white egrets, pelicans, and other rare birds whirl and dive around my boat home.
starfucks where yesterday there was my beloved dunken d's.
hose shower in the heat of sun on my dock in my johns, my long hair fanning sunlight like the jesus figure in penn's pathos-heavy mccandless postscript, his death & masturbation epic.
ambulance and police sirens arrow into my head from street level, helicopters overhead.
peace in the bow berth womb bed, given such a bad rap by me, quiet now below waterline.
solace here.
and terror.
finger food feast for dinner.
hungering for love.
hope in abundance.
a mind constantly checking itself asking "am i broken beyond repair?"
and where?
and where where where is home?
help me god.
help me children of tilton.
remind me of what matters.
focus this maddened mind.
brilliance broken.
scattershot thought.
the smog of two months away settled on deck like soot.
san francisco is a dream to behold.
i behold it from the bay.
i be.
hold it.

the bay.
the bay.
if this keeps up.
i will die here on
the bay.

rsm 2008

Aw! Did I poop on your pinole? We can't have that. Whack this!

I Got The Power! Who will help me focus?

Click My Pic to hear & Feeeeel da Powwa!

Currently accepting proposals from anyone capable of channeling/distributing & managing my personal power before my brain explodes, benefiting no one.

And because Senor Sayulita requested it, a poem from the archives:

Purple desert bed flight

God how I love to fly
Face flat on a purpled desert bed
Chest heaving
Breathing a little softer now
I close my eyes to the music
And set sail on the winds of my mind.

To an earlier time
That first morning of a deliberately sleepless night
That’s me down there walking on the sand
By the Pacific in the dazed light of dawn
Then in a flash
Naked flight in the blink of an eye
To New Hampshire
To Winnesquam.

I am the squall
I am the waterspout whirling
Twirling over the womb-like waters of endless childhood
The boy me in a little boat rowing
On a gold-leafed lake at dawn
The sun blinding as Heaven itself
The adults sleeping off hangovers inside
I’m alone
I’m rowing
Golden, immaculate
The lake simmering
Steaming in the early sun
I fly on.

Diving now
Seeing straight down the path of a train trestle leap
Squatting ecstatic beneath the waters of the damn
Precious in the way small things are
Crouching water kid
Hidden boy beneath the falls
Down river from the cabin on the lake
Our cabin
The cabin that’ll never be sold
Never renovated beyond the point of recognition
Home to that McKinney Dynasty
A century of souls and fire-lit faces
Names carved in hardwood beams
Above that smoked stone fireplace
Old gallant stag leaping out.

God how I love to fly.
In the warm wake of orgasm
That sweet bonus of growing up
That makes bearable
So much loss.

She returns now
Takes me in hand and
We begin again
Led Zeppelin howling haunting
Holding open corridors in the air
Like some stereophonic Moses.

And I'm airborne again
In my head
On our purple-sheeted
Desert bed.

(copyright 1999 McKinney)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gonzo In Lochmere

Once we were warriors.
Justin Alessandro, circa 2002

Making the McKinney Kids Scream: Uncles Ricky & Justin score a hit

Here in Tilton, New Hampshire this week, I had the esteemed pleasure of babysitting my Uncle Bob's four young children while he and wife Holly went out to celebrate their anniversary.

Though the kids call me "uncle" (no doubt owing to our vast age differential) Daniel, David, Toby and Abby at 10, 8, 5 & 3 are in fact my cousins. And they are a delight. Wow, what a delight! I was able to tell them today, as we parted ways after a solid week together, that though I wouldn't be joining them for church tomorrow, it didn't matter. Why? "Because," I told the four of them piled around me on the couch this afternoon, "you children have given me more love and warmth and enthusiam and positive energy in a week than I have felt in years, and THAT is church to me." I thanked them and packed my bags and went on my rolling stone way, never telling them (not wanting to raise their hopes lest I not deliver) how sincerely I wished I could move in down the street from them. And who knows. I might. If I have earned anything in this life, earned and preserved, it is my right to change my environment at a moment's notice. For kids such as these, that right would be well worth all the pain and struggle to have kept it.

But I digress. The point of this pointedly brief posting was to post a video. It's the video that set Daniel, David, Toby and Abby screaming with laughter when I played it for them on the night of their parent's anniversary. It is a video shot and edited by my brother-cousin Justin a few years back during my love affair with the Appalachian Trail. It is a blooper in every sense of the word. A lucky error, lucky that no one was hurt, and lucky that Justin was there to capture it on film. It makes me laugh every time. I was so very pleased that the children found it not only equally funny, but downright belly laugh, doubled-over on the floor hilarious.

So this is to you McKinney kids, ye veritably the future of the McKinney name. I love you and thank you. Your laughter and love made my year. And I dare say Justin got quite a hoot out of hearing your response, too. Perhaps it will inspire him to make more shorts. He is a filmmaker at heart. To you, Justin Alessandro. To us.

I give you.. FLAME OUT!

(Perhaps because this isn't a YouTube selection but comes from Justin's MySpace page, it won't embed as such. But PLEASE take the time to click on the link and watch it. You won't regret it!)