Posts Tagged ‘Wheeling’

Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

20 Jun


Wheeling Man


I always thought that one of the reasons why a painter likes especially to have other painters look at his or her work is the shared experience of having pushed paint around.

-Chuck Close

Best of times, worst of times. Who can turn down the opportunity to slap those famous opening lines from the Dickens story Tale Of Two Cities into the bush leagues every once in a blue moon. Of course it's never easy to harvest or improve the sums of the differences in a social climate where the past is all make-believe and the future is sheer mortal doom. Like a whistle in the dark, life streaks through the conscious mind and even on the brightest day on the fanciest calendar, no one gets a free shot at handling the lightning without consequences. But there are certain habits one notices, certain patterns occupying the people that slowly begin to creep into the register from which the artist takes his cut, much like that quickening recognition of a muted thud wrapped with solemnity as it nails the proud cold pavement with best intentions as most of the sentinel hurry forth with no intentions at all. This muted thud I seek to hear with my own two ears involves two cities, the large scrambling feral city of Washington, DC, the national capital, the international bullseye, its inverted thin skin tokenism masquerading as the beltway bulge, home sweet home to hardcore right along side equally limp dhimmicants and republicratz with two hands wrestling for a single jellybean, spitting images, split tickets, and enough black-bellied potholes of rumor and wreckage to make Stephen Hawking, now all hooked up to a robust afternoon, cry into his—shudder—box of joys.

Then there's Wheeling, West Virginia, a five hour drive northwest of DC. Sitting plumply on the east bank flood plains of the once mighty Ohio River, kindred parts of this sprawling echo from a rare past are pitted into the gnawing Alleghany foot mountains and yesterday's mail where tremendous energies once pumped life into and out of teh long striking surgeon of steel mills, nail factories, unique spanning bridges, and the winnowed glass-blowing strength hurling the holy ghost of cobbled workers into what was once a rather picturesque little city of its own, historic and dignified, polished and craggy, a special glint in the eye of the Industrial Revolutionaries, muscular, charming, artistic and stern.

To answer with a simple pleasantry, a couple of minutes tops, while I continue to be deluged by invitations to gigs and art openings, all of which require hours of time to oblige, and can I even count the number of times I DO oblige my friendly neighborhood culture vultures in my midst, oh yes, dear friends ALL, usually with a stiff penalty at the wallet level, but not always. In fact, most of my rocker friends and foes have obliged me with copies of their great rock record over the years. Show up fresh to gaggle for the night at one of my art shows? Insert laugh track now.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark once slept in Wheeling, packing supplies in a big haul sent down the Ohio from Pittsburgh, before heading out on their own historic expedition through America, the far west, and common fates of the uncommonly famous, while the city along with the steel industry grew.

Washington is experiencing a growth spurt not felt in many decades, a growth that is manifestly transforming the old city from the sleepy southern town role quite fond and accustomed to its own harsh summers and even harsher winters which had kept the natives to a pace recognized by its own heritage as a pace best suited for quiet relaxation, the very meaning of hip for generations straight back to its marshland founding. The protocols of laws, a spell of business, and then more relaxation.

Squealing Wheeling is gripped by the devastation of an antiquated industry. Don't get the wrong impression. The citizens of the OV stand bold against a double whacking by the same old enemies of an aging infrastruction, an tired unhealthy population, and foul weather. But whatever fondness I hold for this old city, and I am there in spades, there is no escaping the realization that Wheeling is bleeding from the inside out, rusting old factories now long dormant salute the sun-soaked orange evening skies in silence, rotting buildings periodically claimed by the river's raging high waters grow more dank with each passing season a child goes to school, or a college grad begins the long hunt for a decent job and place to live in an area trapped in a downward spiral with no way to outsource nature's repeated assault, hemorraging its population, its tax base, and its future shares of the American dream. Wheeling's local economy and general charm do not lack potential, but problems persist, accrue with every passing pledge, despite heavy doses of encouragement and optimism issuing forth from the astute mouths of those straddling the ambitions and aspirations of those dreamers, dangling by both thumbs along the watchtowers—both inside and outside the northern panhandle and area code 304.

Here's the rub. Wheeling Youth is a MySpace hub. And these kids in their 20s and 30s, despite exhibiting the very same human traits and foibles when up close and personal that we do here in Washington, DC, possess a very special gift. That is the gift of reciprocity. Of good manners. And more specifically, excellent Internet etiquette. When I write to one of my Wheeling acquaintences, remembering I spent only four months among them as I painted the Wheeling Wailing Wall at Yesterday's, they respond in kind. They actually return my mail, and usually answer my question if I post one.

Not so, with this tribe of so-called Washington DC pals, most of whom I have known 10, 15, 20 years or so. Of course they are also ALL artists, rockers, painters, or heavy in mantle of some other wishbang prima donna act. Too busy? To answer with a simple pleasantry, a couple of minutes tops, while I continue to be deluged by invitations to gigs and art openings, all of which require hours of time to oblige, and can I even count the number of times I DO oblige my friendly neighborhood culture vultures in my midst, oh yes, dear friends ALL, usually with a stiff penalty at the wallet level, but not always. In fact, most of my rocker friends and foes have obliged me with copies of their great rock record over the years. Show up fresh to gaggle for the night at one of my art shows? Insert laugh track now.

Isn't this why I left the promises of DC for the reality of Wheeling in the first place? To probe for myself, one fair smile at a time, whether or not DC is as friggin' all-consuming self-important as I perceived it to be, or had the whole snatch a niche world gone completely hardwired, baked to a crude narcissistic core in the course of my own single unexemplary lifetime?

Raised root-first in a very small town myself, I guess I'm just not a big city capo when all the votes are in the bag, although had I hit my stride just a weebit earlier I just might have taken this town. Square peg, trapezoid hole. Can't find the rulebook. Couldn't read it if I did. That's fine by me. Like the poet said, "They can talk about me plenty when I'm gone."

Or not. Doesn't really make a difference, now does it? And now my health plays tricks on me. Gotta love it...



11 Apr

With little idea of how emphatically alert
the carrion forces of irony would approach me
in this odd doohickey state of mine,
I was celebrating with moving trucks
and farewell glimpses like signals from another frontier
that I, yes, the royal roving eye
had finally escaped the nation's capital after twenty-two
hostile years of stifled scream, fish tales, and orgasm,
my formidable punk rock years frothing and frosted beneath me,
punishment enough I had hoped for choosing the prophetic muses
of blathering fifth angel guitar heaps over the deadly aims
of the finely papered greed and arrogance creeps
the city of Washington breeds, imports, and exports
across its continental colonies and beyond, far beyond,
gesture control, this leering lawmaking
jeering jawbreaking city's major industry,
and by that I mean ONLY industry...

but obviously I had miscalculated the odds—
the shady odds not even a straw hat hombre from south of the imaginary
Mendoza line as legal as lint, can beat. Flattened by repeated failure,
and by failure, I mean absolute and uncompromised failure,
I had become nothing more than an aching suburb of my former self.
I had gone west by God. In smutty nutty wisecracking Wheeling
                      West Virginia
I soon found myself smack dab in the middle
of the next pygmalion effect.

Allow me to elaborate my first full week
here on Main Street in Victorian Old Town, I saw,
and by that I mean O-L-D, the flaking, rotting, stinking carcass
of a former glory gone desperately poor, I saw myself
perched eighty feet on a bluff above the historical
but now quaint yet periodically swelling, raging,
bank-defying Ohio River down below.

First week here POTUS came to town,
a speech at the Capitol Music Hall,

Floods in Wheeling, nope, in DC.
Presidential motorcade.
punk city, nope, wheeling, massive tats & nose rings—
few hicks, lots of itching though.

[ 2006, Wheeling, WV ]

Speaking Of Ambitions, Wheeling WV

06 Apr


Up Against The Wall


Calling all Wheeling area rockers, playas, and art phreaks to drop me a line detailing any thoughtful insights and blowhard opinions you might have on the local scene. Serious word. Chumps and other 'tards can penetrate themselves. No tolerance for silly lads with a yen for tragedy in this survey.

As stated elsewhere, I have recently immigrated to Wheeling WV from Washington, DC for the primary purpose of setting myself up with cheap (cheaper than DC) studio space in which to paint, write, edit loads of club video I shot in the Eighties, et cetera. However, given the special plight of downtown Wheeling's urban blight offering an enormous opportunity for some local entrepreneur to invest in an alternative gallery space with music and eats to help draw in the nightlife, I am interested in knowing from eager young 20-and-30-somethings just how desirable and/or feasible this idea for innovative nightspace would be considered by the local establishment, the area's youth culture, YOU IN PARTICULAR, et cetera.

Check this, ain't rocket science here, just taking the pulse of Wheeling area heartbeats. Let me know. Check out the Live365 radio station I operate. If your interest in something more that you've already got, is triggered, then sign up as a friend on MySpace, and start feeding me those opinions. I'm not promising anything in stone at this point in my rather off the cuff feasibility study, but in six months to a year, perhaps, if encouragement is strong and red tape not prohibitive, who knows what a bit of maverick teamwork can pull off...

The Wheeling Year

02 Mar

Plunging into the proud once bold steel spokes of Wheeling
on a boast, leaving self-identified low-brow intellectuals
thick on their heels, disciples of mediaplex back home
to guzzle odd beers, to call forth warm meals,
shutter fashion clues and scatter candle wicks,
cascading ambitions, creeping years and shell-soaked
beltway snobberies if not outright fears
only the duty-stoked people of paper bountiful
& class swearing beautiful can celebrate or poke
without laughing out loud
(Must calibrate gross weight or reluctantly take a dive...),
to increase their distance from the nothingness crowd
lost to brutal calories and raw educations
that rarely matter. Sometimes freedom
of choice is just a cigar.

The boy scout giving good turn a bad name
squats two seats away from the shadow's flame. To this end
I am greeted by
icy gray broken asphalt gristle patched with frosted gray cloud cover,
stuff of gray twigged mountain peaks and frisky billboards, soaking up
mere strands the soot life left to the rights of man in sixty year exodus,
sealed in a book mapping tough cookie Norwegian painter Edvard Munch,
(recently purchased in Washington and also found in local library, with lime)
to his destiny of soul-watching inched in regional nee personal strife,
the contact spy, the imperfected feeling magus,
the mystic's eye bent to March Madness
and the gnat gusts of George Mason's run
smack past the heavily brokered UCONN largess
predicted here on this page at patriotic halftime
with the same breath as "Pop Mike, Pop Mike" fun
veers the seer from Connecticut Avenue to Main Street
invoking play by play off the curve, via broadband, the long hike,
the voice of God dead or alive voting one sorry syllable at a time
with these heavy feet, with these heavy heavy feet
chanting "Long live the Mountaineers!"

Early thoughts among leafless trees recall jobs lost on a dime,
mantles of black gold from ancient burial grounds that fed
the former veracity, stolen with a few strokes of ink and power
of law but that's sparing a crime, spoiling the climb (social)
more shame in responding to a coal miner's lament
however sublime. Ignorance is egregiously polled,
and tallied like a certain hour where uncertainty takes hold
but will never sop these wet K Street cement trucks
with an exchange value that will surpass the damage of
wasted years looking for evidence of American life elsewhere
among the stark solar systems and pigeonholes of our enemies.

This rambunctious exile with single wave of arms deal
might have dropped anchor in Cumberland, M-D
some many miles franker (with escalating gas prices) still to the east,
instead, in exit from the nation's capital in the land of Nod,
brave hardly but where art thou hididen in tattered cards,
revealing seven maybe eight convalescing spirits,
as thy wholesome West Virginia Left Bank energies
emerge among fading old mills and abandoned
century old cigar warehouses,
nail factories and one fairly new hockey arena
skimming along the once mighty Ohio River
banks and bards, shanks and shards
like some Indian giver (that old tale)
ignorant of industrial bed safeguards
perfectly, perfectly American...

and I too, have come to recapture Victorian Wheeling metaphor,
ripped from ancient headlines in the days of Zane and Fort Patrick Henry
speaking the spectacular language of oldest and largest...
magnificient suspension bridge still in use, American Legion Post #1
recalling the 1940s, the unvarnished glories of the Capitol Music Hall,
where thy current president "Bush II" delivered another Iraqi hoot
hosted by the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce such as it is,
(commerce by all indications is not the city's strong suit)
before whizzing past in the familiar ironclad motorcade
black to the gills, in tight with street throngs of mere dozens
confused but supportive of Orwellian nation-building doubletalk
(a mere handful of detractors showed up with predictable signs)
hurrying to greet proven Pittsburgh past any sad assassins
hiding in the vacant ruins of the stunted and the shade
just two short days after my own arrival,
recalling former feasts of this harsh Steeler Nation
now in fester.

Victory to explore this old house of Wheeling,
home of some thirty thousand souls nested in the airy hills
to examine the lost fortunes of free elections and free speech,
to score on the fading linebackers godwilling for minimum of one year,
axiom by axiom in a tutelege of the expatriate, I am after all, a city boy—
saith the tainted poet, painteth the awkward painter...
Drawing upon the strength of history wanting a chance,
success and sure loss of dead weight left in the District of Columbia
where special populations prove numbers are anything but...
(absence of voting rights, questioning the dance)

But just as the petty thief draws near,
there is visionary hope in new places, new perspectives, new choices.
Infrastructure—civic, civil, and yearning awaits.

[ 2006, Wheeling, WV }


"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""