What a weird Thanksgiving. I found this story on the Huffington Post: A dozen wild turkeys crowded a train station in New Jersey, apparently looking to beat their way out of the Garden State on a mainlinin' cannonball. These feathered hobos were looking to jump a line that dead-ends in the town of Suffern, New York, where I lived from aged 10 until I reached escape velocity at 17 or 18.
(I was born in Utica, NY, which distinguished itself by being named 'Sin City USA' by LIFE magazine when I was eight years old or so. We were very proud in my elementary school, but my parents eventually moved us to a more serene environment.)
People blog for the same reason turkeys ride trains: It's in the blood. The question "why blog?' is inseparable from the question "why write?" At least it is for me. For others it's a form of job application or self-promotion. I've never been that canny or premeditated, myself.
Our pal Michael Lally - poet, author, screenwriter, agitator, friend, master listmaker - has started blogging. I've watched other friends become bloggers, too. It's like watching solid citizens turn into pod people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
One of us, one of us, one of us ... Be warned - it's addictive.
Some of my fellow bloggers have used this Thanksgiving as a listmaking exercise, as I've done in years past. Thanksgiving is a time for making 'gratitude lists.' I'm particularly glad to be on Cesca's list, since he's on mine, too.
(The first time someone suggested that I make a 'gratitude list' when I was feeling down my response was - and I believe I'm quoting correctly - "f**k gratitude." I've mellowed considerably since then.)
Humans are list-making animals. The taxonomic act - classifying, listing, distinguishing - is so central to intelligence that computer scientists have tried to mimic the human brain by using list-manipulating software like 'LISP.' I played around with LISP back in the late 80's, along with some obscure languages like FORTH. (I was helping a large insurance conglomerate invest in 'artificial-intelligence' companies, and I wanted to understand the technology a little better.)
People blog for the same reason that they make lists: to distinguish good from bad, to differentiate among events that they might encourage the positive, to engage in the Zoroastrian exercise of knowing the light from the dark that they might dispel the night of the soul.
Or else they're just bored.
Lally caught my eye some years ago, the way many writers, musicians, and others do - with a great title. His was for a poetry collection he called "Rocky Dies Yellow." I recognized it immediately as the banner headline that tells the Dead End Kids that Jimmy Cagney, the gangster/hero who vowed never to succumb to fear, has gone screaming and pleading to the chair in "Angels With Dirty Faces."
Did Rocky really die yellow, or was he only pretending to be afraid in order to discourage his young friends from a life of crime? I was always pretty sure that it was the latter. I should ask somebody who knows.
Rocky sacrificed himself, if you ask me. A spiritual death. A martyrs' death, like the death of the revolutionaries in Blok's poem of the Russian Revolution, "The Twelve."
Twelve dead comrades. Twelve disciples. (Blok's pretty heavy-handed with the symbolism.) Twelve turkeys captured in a New Jersey train station.
Are you a listmaker? How about a list of things that use the number "12" symbolically or artistically? Twelve gates to the city. Twelve steps. Twelfth night. Twelve-tone music.
Lally likes lists. For example, he lists his three favorite prose books by poets. I haven't read his, but here are mine: "Travels," by W. S. Merwin, "The Railroad Earth" by Jack Kerouac (nonfiction prose by a poet/fictionalist - does that count?) and, at the top of the list, "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," a travel recollection by the 19th Century Japanese Zen monk and poet Bashŏ. I reread it every few years, whenever I'm able to get away for a serious holiday vacation.
The book is a great escape, but I need to already have escaped the city to read it (and its companion volume, "Notes of a Travel-Worn Satchel.") I can't read it in a urban setting.
I'm a sucker for blogger challenges, too. These often take list form, like having your music player create "Random 10" song lists (lots of mine are here, in the Night Light music section).
I was in Las Vegas last week. If I were to compile a list of favorite song titles, this one by Vern Gosdin would be on it: "Nobody Calls From Vegas Just to Say Hello."
Lally also has an "A-Z" list challenge, which I've begun but haven't finished. This being a holiday, I feel free to idle my way through some empty hours. And for this rare moment of free time, I'm ... well ... grateful.
As for the turkeys, no word as to their fate. They were homeless turkeys, without insider connections. No presidential pardons for them, so let's hope they keep on running. Now, cue the Jimmie Rodgers train songs and yodel your way though another helping of turkey (or hobo) sandwich.
"There are no roads," said Machado, "roads are made by walking." I'll keep walking this Thanksgiving. It's the thing we flightless birds understand the best.