The question at the end of the headline

“…They don’t believe that they are able to tell the truth without a question mark.” – Jon Lovett

I started my liberal indoctrination listening to Pod Save America a few months ago.

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Rubatosis

I have always enjoyed visiting new places and, more or less, living life by the seat of my pants, but I’m happy to to stop, breathe and take in the sights… for once.

I drove through Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California last month, enroute to Washington after three years in Baton Rouge.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I can feel my heartbeat coming through my t shirt. It is soft and rhythmic. The feeling is unsettling. My own mortality is gently beating under a thin piece of cloth, wrapped in a couple layers of flesh, cruising across state lines at 80 mph as semi trucks and other death mobiles weave in and out of traffic for 3,000 miles.

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Learning Español and looking like an absolute psychotic while doing so

OK, so here’s the deal.

I haven’t been writing nearly enough on my website and I feel hella guilty about that. I won’t apologize because I pay way too much money for this domain and it’s just not worth the humiliation. Buuuuuut, I do intend to start writing a little more, because lol CONTENT #amirite.

Maybe this is a new leaf.

Speaking of new leaves, I stepped outside the other day and the weather was cool for Louisiana (yes I’m still living in the South). It was below 80 degrees at noon. When I came back home from a light day of work, I decided to do my usual 5-mile run around the Louisiana State University Lakes and found that I shaved more than five minutes off of my last 5-miler. (This is about learning new languages, just bear with me.)

Exciting things are in the air, for better or worse…

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Leia: The only death that hurts

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Among the many celebrity deaths that overwhelmed us in 2016, Carrie Fisher’s passing is the only one that truly hurt me.

Muhammad Ali and David Bowie’s deaths, while sad, didn’t throw me off. People die. Some people die sooner than others. And when you spend your years indulging in copious amounts of cocaine (such as Bowie) or having your skull hammered by world-renown heavy weights (such as Ali), it’s a wonder some of these people lived as long as they did.

My only remaining grandparent died in 2016 as well. Marion Kokoska died at the age of 95 alongside family members in Augusta, Maine. I was upset, but I could keep the lump in my throat at bay. I knew it was coming. So did my family.

Death and taxes,” as the saying goes.

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Patriarchs and equestrians

IMG_2334This summer I had the opportunity to follow a trail ride in Louisiana. Being a native-born Washingtonian who’s only lived in the South for a little more than a year, the experience was one of the most uniquely Southern things I’ve ever done.

I pitched this story to the editor of Country Roads Magazine earlier this fall and had my piece published, alongside the images of a local photographer who has also been documenting the trail riders, Jeremiah Ariaz. 

There is so much to say about the trail riders, especially from my own personal perspective, but alas, there is only so much room to write in a magazine. My piece details the history and culture of the trail ride, how it has modernized over time, and how it is, at its core, a family tradition.

Traveling in the dead of July in South Louisiana (easily 110 fahrenheit or higher), I rode in between convoy of horses, golf carts and pickups, taking photos and chatting up some of the riders. The thing that got me about the event was how paternal the tradition was. As I saw fathers, young and old, riding alongside their sons, I was reminded me of going to “fish camp” with my dad back in Washington state.

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So this is what the crossroads looks like

The blues and writing about the genre; filling the hole in my life; my early musical ambitions; revelations in Louisiana; acceptance and understanding

A personal break through for me as a journalist (I think) came after recently speaking with blues musician Chris Thomas King, the Louisiana native and so-called King of New Orleans Blues.

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Chris Thomas King

I’ve known of King since he starred in “O Brother Where Art Thou” as Tommy Johnson, an early blues musician from the Mississippi Delta. His eerie and reflective rendition of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” always intrigued me as a kid. When I was learning how to play the guitar, and when I was acquainting myself with the blues, I often did my best to imitate King’s sound. I never thought that one day I’d speak to the man.
Then again, I never thought I’d live in Louisiana, the heartland of the blues.

My interview with King comes at an interesting point in my life: I am 26; trying to establish myself as a writer; managing a newspaper in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana; displaced from my home state (Washington); in a committed relationship with someone for the first time; and yet I am still somehow lacking in some aspect. What it is, I can’t say.

I have a good life, but the things I once found fulfilling – even just a few years ago – seem forgotten to me. My “lust for life” seems like a forlorn quest, or just another unremarkable path to self-acceptance. Perhaps that’s not such a terrible ending, but I have a hard time imaging how I will ever reach that ending happily and at peace.

As a kid, the answer to happiness – or at least self-respect – was an easy one: music.

Since taking up the guitar at 12, I took the phrase “play till your fingers bleed” to heart. Although I never actually cut my fingers on the strings I damn sure tried. I loved my guitar. It was actually my dad’s guitar that he owned since he was about 19; an ember-colored Applause, similar in design to the Ovation guitars. I wasn’t very sentimental at the time, but I enjoyed the fact that my father was passing down the skill to his son with the very guitar that he learned on.

The guitar was huge for my size, but it was a point of pride for me. My friends’ parents bought them nylon-stringed guitars and cheap-o electric ones, but not me. I was determined to learn the hard way. As my friends quit after just a few months of playing, I stuck with it and I got better.

Music, and certainly the blues, taught me so many things about myself when I was growing up. My guitar was my therapist, my friend, and – as corny as it sounds – my first love. I could consult it when I was angry, lonely, happy, etc. I was constantly pushing myself to experiment with it.

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Permanent shadow

“[George McGovern] is still naïve enough to assume that anybody  who is honest and intelligent – with a good enough voting record on “the issues” – is a natural man for the White House. But this is stone bullshit. There are only two ways to make it in big-time politics today: One is to come on like a mean dinosaur, with a high-powered machine that scares the shit out of your entrenched opposition…. And the other is to tap the massive, frustrated enemies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to immediately choose between a Ford and a Chevy.”

I just picked up “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.” It’s been on my shelf for five years and it’s about damn time I finished the thing.

I’ve never been able to totally immerse myself in politics the way so many hard-boiled reporters do. But it is somewhat of a personal goal, and if I’ll ever understand it, I may as well start here.

So much of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing resonates with today’s political landscape. Especially the above passage. It makes me wonder how much has really changed. On the surface, we have these great technological and social achievements, but beneath it’s business as usual.

Thompson was writing in the shadow of these incredible conflicts, like WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I like to believe that my generation has evolved from such things. But maybe I’m dead wrong. Maybe that shadow is permanent.