SPIRIT WARRIOR: I had been prepared to talk up Suh as the Lions’ Spirit Warrior, not wanting to disrespect the great epics my friend Neil had written at Armchair Linebacker about The Great Willie Young. But in recent months I’ve become more active in my community, on two sides. One, I’d like to get more Occupy Wall Street type activities going, just maybe without the douchey youth of it all. There are some very obvious flaws in the way things have gone in America the past 30 years, and they need to be addressed. I think the naivete of youth can sometimes try to do so without a realistic attitude, not understanding that a group of twelve-hour shift weary actual workingmen are not going to understand doing jazz hands in unison to approve of motions. But I’ve also become involved with the homeless community in the city I work at, walking along the Rivanna Trail near Pantops, where these people are tucked away. Honestly, I was born to a pair of high school drop-outs, the both of them 17 the day I was born, so these homeless white underclass people, they are my people. If not for my mother’s ambition and a number of lucky breaks and bullets narrowly dodged (literally one time), I would not even be the lower middle class financial failure with unlimited psychic potential that I am. But I’d been spending time walking the Rivanna Trail, and sitting amongst these people, just to hear their story, and hopefully share parts of it in my next book I hope to have finished later this fall.
Well, there’s this one couple and their teenage son that live down there I’d hung out with a couple times. The kid seems to be about 18, kind of dimwitted, but quiet, as if he’s waiting for something more. The dad’s kinda sickly, so perhaps the kid hangs around to help keep things taken care of – I don’t know, because the kid doesn’t talk much. The folks call him Juney but I’ve heard another younger kid in one of the camps refer to him as Marty.
The older guy of this trio, he is called Whirlybird, which drew me to him because my own father had a friend he used to buy weed from called Whirlybird. It’s not the same guy, for clarification, but I fondly remember sitting on the edge of a pullout sofa couch at Whirlybird’s while he and my dad smoked reefer, and I’d watch TV. Usually it was just stupid TV, but one time we were there, Whirlybird had The Dukes of Hazzard on, which was my favorite show as a kid, so that particular memory is thick in my mind. And it also drew me to want to know more about this Whirlybird, because outside of a anthropomorphic helicopter in a children’s book we own, I’ve never run across anyone else called Whirlybird.
Whirlybird’s wife was always quiet, and had knotted hair that she pulled back in a ponytail, but it frizzled off her head like she was a Tesla coil. She’d always sit on a milk crate nearby, listening to me and Whirlybird talk, and never say a word. One time I was there after Whirly had caught some fish to fry for dinner over their pallet fire, and I was bullshitting about fishing, when the lady said to Whirly, “Tell him about The Great Willie Young.”
I was shocked, and pretty taken aback by it, figuring I’d just misheard her. “Do what?” I asked.
“The Great Willie Young. Go on Whirly, tell him about The Great Willie Young.”
I couldn’t even talk really, freaked the fuck out that this crazy lady who had never talked in the fifteen or so times I’d hung out at their homeless camp, finally spoke up and babbled what she did. I just looked at Whirly, who looked up from poking the fire with a pallet scrap before looking back over at his ol’ lady, then back down.
“Well Raven, you seem like one of us, though you ain’t a river person. I heard you said you had a daughter what was named River, and she’s always thought that made you one of us more than having a house and job and shit would make you not one of us. And you’ve always been right with us and one good by us and ain’t told nobody we down here. But river people, which is what we are, we ain’t just here. River people is everywhere. And a lot of times, like around here, looks just like whitefolks, but that’s just how things break sometimes. We been a couple places, over in Richmond on the east end for sure, where the river people is not just whitefolks. And even here, you go the other side of the train tracks by where that old coal plant stands, there’s a bunch of Mexican river people over there, kids and all. River people is river people, black or white or Mexican, and we recognize each other. In fact, that’s part of why you’re one of us, ‘cause you got that look. I don’t know if you’s bound to live down here in a couple years – I wouldn’t wish that on you at all, bro, or you’ve been it in the past, or what. But you look like river people in the eyes.
Anyways, the reason river people is river people is because the river is the arteries of all this shit. I mean, you hear the highway over there, and there’s folks that think the interstates is the arteries of everything, because they zip along like nothing between exit A and exit B and think it’s the lifeline. But that ain’t life at all. The rivers is where life come from, where people stopped and built towns and towns grew to cities and cities grew into cultures and shit. That happened by the river, every fuckin’ time, Raven. Every fuckin’ time.”
He stood up and busted another pallet with his boot, and started chunking the cheap white pine scraps into the fire.
“It’s funny too, because along them highways, they chase you off if you a river people. We go up there and try to panhandle a few dollars, they call the cops and run us off. But down here, ain’t nobody care by the river, we can throw up a tarp and build a quiet fire back in the edges of all this bullshit, and won’t nobody fuck with us. In fact, they afraid to come down here. That’s why you seem like one of us, too, because you ain’t afraid to sit here, around a fire, by the goddamned river, Raven. This shit is real. That highway up there, that shit is fake, a bunch of bullshit sliding sideways into hell.”
The lady spoke up again. “Settle down Whirly. Tell him about goddamn The Great Willie Young. Tell him.” Whirlybird looked over at his ol’ lady, then back down at the fire.
“The Great Willie Young. Raven, you know I ain’t just talkin’ drunken bullshit, right? Like the origins of man was born along a riverbank, whatever them rivers in Iraq was called, the Tiger and the You-phraties, that’s where man first stopped being a fucking animal running wild around the madness that’s inside us all. He tried to make something calm of it for himself, so he stopped running around mad and threw him up a tarp and built a little fire and that was civilization. When that first happened, amongst us river people, it’s always been thought there was a dude named The Great Willie Young who was walking along with all the rest, being wild men, and he saw the bullshit in it all, threw down his pack, and said ‘Fuck it, I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I’m gonna sit right here and catch a goddamn fish and fuck my woman and we gonna make a thousand babies and stack up some of these rocks and live inside it and y’all can keep running around if you want, but I’m staying right he fuck here.’
And that’s what he did, Raven. And that was a good thing, because even in our poor state, you can sit here amongst us and see there’s a good feeling to sitting here, tending the fire on the ground, and tending the fire within. When you’re running around all goddamn day long, chasing a lying ass carrot that ain’t nothing but a piece of shit lie painted orange in the first place, you don’t get to tend them fires like you should. The Great Willie Young knew that.
But all throughout history, these towns spread and new places grew, and with the building of taller stacks of rocks came the inflated ego of those who told the others what to do. It ain’t nothing new; it’s been happening since the beginning, Raven. Y’all can bitch about a Romney or Obama, but they ain’t nothing new man. Same ol’ shit, since the fucking beginning of a man throwing down his pack and saying he ain’t want to wander no more. But these rivers, they the artery to all our life, all our civilizations. It’s where we caught fish for eating and learned to put plants in rows so we could have the plants we liked to nibble on in the places we liked to sit our asses down and tend our fires in one place. But it gets perverted and twisted the longer it sits there. It ain’t s’posed to be complicated, where we got to chase that shitty carrot all goddamn day long, all our lives, til we end up dead more broke than we were when we was born.
But the thing is, we ain’t broke. You can’t break river people. Throughout history, we’ve become beaten, but never broke, because that first dude, The Great Willie Young, he comes back, and leads the river people to a new place where won’t no one fuck with us, and we can catch a fish and grow a tomato plant and live in peace, and tend those fires inside us all, that make us know that all that bullshit up there by the highway, all along the interstate, that that is all bullshit. We know it. We try to tell ourselves it ain’t, and it’s good and right and rah rah rah motherfuckin’ America. But we know inside, where that little bit of fire is still there in all of us, untended by most of these people, but it’s there, we know that all that is bullshit. And we know that sittin’ right here by the fuckin’ river is right.
You ever been to the ocean, Raven?” He had looked up at me for once.
“Yeah, a couple times, with the family.”
“You know why people go to the ocean, Raven? Because of the water. It cleans us. I don’t mean like dirty ass in the gas station sink cleaning either, I mean it cleans us on the inside. That’s why them old Baptist preachers dunk you under the water. That’s why rich folks still don’t want nothing more than a week down at the beach, sitting there looking at the water, sucking on a Corona. We’s all river people inside, we’s all got that fire. But shit’s done pushed us away from it. But The Great Willie Young, he always comes along, one way or another. Ain’t sure if he can’t die or he does die and the spirt from that body just floats around like a tornado on top the earth until the right new little body comes along and it flies down in that new one and rolls on like ain’t nothing ever happened. But that’s The Great Willie Young. We all huddled up along this river here, and it’s like this all over. We done rode some trains, Raven, I can tell you, it’s like this all over. You go down there and ask them boys by the bridge that Juney drinks with, because they done been all the way out west to the other ocean out there, fuckin’ California and shit, and they said it’s like this all over, people camped up along the rivers, where it’s the only place they don’t get fucked with by them that’s up there thinking the bullshit ain’t bullshit. We everywhere. And I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but you might be here too, Raven. That might be why you seem like us, you and your little girl River sitting right around the corner, huddled under a strong of dollar store tarps just like us. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with it, Raven. We do what we gotta do. And we is river people, so we’ll get by. We’ll survive. And one day, The Great Willie Young’s gonna come along again, and we all gonna walk up the rivers together, all of us meet up somewhere, thousands of us, millions of us, an army of people who know what’s real and what ain’t, and they’ll be dangling them shitty carrots in front of the whole lot of us, saying, ‘Why don’t y’all come get you some of this carrot, it’s what everybody wants.’ But The Great Willie Young gonna throw down his pack and say, ‘Y’all motherfuckers is crazy, running around chasing nothing all goddamn day. We gonna sit right here, and we gonna catch some fish, and we gonna make some babies, and we ain’t gonna do a goddamn thing more than that.’
And it’s gonna be a beautiful thing, Raven. It’s gonna be a right and beautiful thing.” And Whirlybird started poking the fire again. I thought about mentioning the football player Willie Young, but these river people, these hardscrabble whitefolks in the middle of Virginia, they wouldn’t know what that even meant, and they’d think I wasn’t one of them at all. So I kept it to myself. But I went to sleep that night, on a Sam’s Club mattress in a solid bedroom in a solid house that I struggle to keep up payments on, and I thought to myself, “This IS all bullshit. But that’s okay, because that fire’s still in us all. And it’ll change. It’s all gonna change, whether they want it to or not.” And I slept the best sleep I’d had in years.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Spirit Warrior excerpt from Football Metaphysics for Enlightened Degenerates
In the hopes of appeasing Armchair Linebacker's built-in Lions fanbase, as well as sharing a part of what the Football Metaphysics for Enlightened Degenerates preview 2012 book is all about, here is the part for Spirit Warrior of the Detroit Lions, which is the first (and only) non-Neil Tale of The Great Willie Young, done with his blessing, but rest assured if anybody tries to bite our ACLB styles, we will rain down on you with the fury of a million hallucinating brown buffaloes. Football Metaphysics can be obtained for all your robot devices at Amazon and Smashwords, and by clicking the cover image along the right side over there.