Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Scatter My Ashes Anyplace but Utah

(from "Chronicles, Volume I," by Bob Dylan)

Joe Hill was a Swedish immigrant who fought in the Mexican War. He had led a bare and meager life, was a union organizer out West in about 1910, a Messianic figure who wanted to abolish the wage system of capitalism -- a mechanic, musician and poet. They called him the workingman's Robert Burns.

Joe wrote the song "Pie in the Sky" and was the forerunner of Woody Guthrie. That's all I needed to know. He'd been convicted on circumstantial evidence for a murder crime and shot by a firing squad in Utah. His life story is heavy and deep. He was an organizer for the Wobblies, the fighting section of the American working class. Hill is tried for killing a grocery store owner and his son in a petty holdup and his only defense is to say, "Prove it!" The grocer's son, before he dies, fires off a shot at somebody, but there's no evidence that the bullet ever hits anything. Yet Joe's got a bullet wound and it looks pretty incriminating. Five people on the same night have bullet wounds and are treated in the same hospital, released, and they all disappear. Joe says he was somewhere else at the time of the crime, but he won't say where or with whom. He won't name any names, not even to save his own skin. There's a general belief that a woman was involved, a woman who Joe does not want to shame. It gets weirder and more complicated. Another guy, a good friend of Joe's, disappears the day after.

It's all pretty twisted. Joe's beloved by all workingmen nationwide -- miners and meat cutter, sign painters and blacksmiths, steamfitters, ironworkers -- whoever they were, he united them and he fought for the rights of them all, risked his life to make things better for all the under-classed, the disadvantaged -- the most poorly paid and mistreated workers in the country. If you read his history, his character comes through and you know he's not the type who would rob and a murder a grocery clerk at random. He just wouldn't have it in him. Everything in his life speaks of honor and fairness. He was a drifter and protector and at all times on foot patrol. To the politicians and industrialists who hated him, though, he was a hardened criminal and an enemy to society. For years they waited for an opportunity to get rid of him. Joe was judged guilty even before the trial began.

In 1915 there were marches and rallies on his behalf that filled the streets in all the big American cities -- Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Brooklyn, Detroit, many more -- wherever there were workers and unions. That's how much he was known and loved. Even the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, tried to get Utah officials to look at the case again, but the governor of Utah thumbed his nose at the president. In his final hour, Joe says, "Scatter my ashes anyplace but Utah."

ballet studio

discourse between half-sisters from oklahoma (submitted by carlBOMB! via thom okie) . . .

Emo (sane half-sister): I am wondering if you've left Las Vegas or what your next travel plans are...Did you and Gene take your roadtrip? tired and a little under the weather at work, Emo

Bebe (insane half-sister): I have been so busy working for this oil company in Okc. DON'T Laugh. I am serious. HAHAHAHAHAH. Gene is here too. I am temping here for a while until we go to Montreal. My French is improving slowly. je sous enchante by your entreste. j'et besyon du insouciance.

Emo : I wish I had known you were in OKC! I just returned from there on Saturday night! I was there a week for my (don't laugh) highschool reunion. I hope everything is going OK. The oil business has been booming in OKC from what I can tell. Much love to you and Gene during your adventures. Emo

Bebe : I don't work for Devon or Chespeake, I work for a govornment company called Piper International. The are involved in oil, but what they do is make metal widgets for oil wells. Halliburton is one of Piper's clients. I work in the office doing accounting and formally, receptionist. They want to hire me but my buyout is like $8000, so I don't know if that is something they want to consider.

The owner of a cigar bar suggested I sing for him, and he would then hire me to sing in the piano cigar bar in bricktown. Gene and I have been trying to put a band together, but everyone is working day jobs, so coordinating is impossible. Singing live here requires a band. In Vegas, club entertainers just use a machine like the one we have, with no pianist. Gene and I are a package deal, so they would have to hire both of us or our whole band. It's fun though. We have a ballet studio in our living room, with the hardwood floors, it's nice. LOLOL.

French class, that is nice. Gene says to speak French, take a big breathe before you speak. Also speak with feeling, expression and attitude. Talk soon!