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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Letters to Joe Bageant

Have you ever read something with such perfect pitch, you get the spooky sensation there must be music coming out of your ears? That´s what happened when I started reading Joe Bageant´s Blog in 2009. He inspired me to write my first fan letter ever while I was reading his first book Deer Hunting with Jesus. I never expected to hear from Joe in person when I began cyber-stalking him like a besotted groupie. But he called from Mexico and we talked for hours. Huh? I learned that Joe and I were born three days apart. Now that´s some woo woo!

Our relationship ended much too soon when Joe developed cancer and died March 2011. I developed cancer March 2012. So far I´m still here. Rereading this makes my heart ache.

Updated 3/4/2013 to remove references to a reclusive family member.

Fri 2/12/2010 11:07 AM

Dear Joe, 
 
I'm reading Deer Hunting with Jesus. But it’s more important for people
like my brother...a machinist with a worn out body, a good mind, a poor
education, and dyslexia...to read it. Last July, I gave him an iPod loaded
up with Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson, Thomas Frank, Naomi Klein, and many
others, and he's absorbing it all like a dry sponge. His awakening
is a wonderful thing to see. 
 
Many of the people you talk about in your book would do the same if they
could read. I fantasize about starting a movement, Audio Books for Working
Stiffs, to pass out loaded iPods, as a counterweight to the miseducation
they get from Fox News, talk radio, and shopping mall churches. Please
let me know if there are any plans to turn Deer Hunting with Jesus into
an audio book. Heck, I'd be willing to read it myself, but it needs
your voice.
 
Best wishes,
Sharon Dymond

Fri 2/12/2010 12:59 PM

Dear Joe,
 
I've been reading your blog for awhile now and am currently reading your 
book. You speak to me, Joe. I believe we were both born in '46, and we're 
both from working class, white trash, southern roots a/k/a Dogpatch. I'm 
from, Brittany, part way between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA. Started 
first grade barefooted like the others. Growing up Mormon (those 
missionaries do get around), I was culled from the herd of Cajun Catholics
early. I went the only route for a weird girl with cooties, good grades. 
Graduated valedictorian of Gonzales High School and headed off to LSU, 
the only college around, for all I knew. LSU was a nightmare. Fraternities, 
football, fifteen thousand freshmen alone, doubled-up dorm rooms, civil 
rights, Viet Nam, drugs, sex and rock-n-roll. This, plus my own struggle
with Mormonism, consumed my energy and put the kibosh on my academic
career. 
 
Wrestling with the usual crap...bad marriage, single motherhood, making
a living...I re-invented myself often. Sharon Dymond 60.3 is the contract 
software developer version. Life as a contractor means getting flicked off 
like a booger on a routine basis. I've been knocking around since my house 
outside New Orleans was destroyed by Katrina and my insurance company went 
belly-up. Since then, I've worked on contracts in Houston, New Orleans, 
Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Lafayette, LA. I'm in Albuquerque now ...
 
Why am I writing to you? Because I've been out of work for months, have 
exhausted unemployment, and am now eking out a living selling what I 
salvaged from Katrina on eBay. This leaves me with a lot of time on my 
hands and a lot of stress. When I'm stressed, I suffer from acute 
hypergraphia and I need to write to people. (Can’t afford to drink.) I 
spend hours on blogs (where I found you on The Confluence or  maybe Chris 
Floyd) and Facebook, THE vacation destination for The Great Depression 
Redux. Hypergraphia often gets me in a lot of trouble as I'm prone to 
write former employers, executives, CEOs and such to give them the 
benefit of my advice. I need to stop doing that. I don't think I'll 
get in trouble writing to you, and it's why I love you, Joe.
 
Please take better care of yourself. I need you to live a lot longer.
 
Best wishes,
Sharon Dymond 

Sat 2/13/2010 1:29 PM

Sharon,

Your letter made my heart ache for you and the millions of others 
like you and me. I just wrote you a long reply by email, and hit the 
wrong key and lost the damned thing. If you want, send me your phone 
number and I'll call you this weekend. Use this email. It's my 
private email. 

joe

Lo and behold! Joe called and we laughed and chatted like old friends for a couple of hours. I´d been yearning for some time to move to Mexico because I couldn´t afford to retire in the US with any dignity. We discussed the logistics of his move to Ajijic, Mexico where Joe was living comfortably on his Social Security. Another coincidence...our SS checks were the same to the penny. Alas, it was the only time I talked to him, but we (mostly me) continued to email back and forth while I kept him up on my progress packing up my roadshow to move to Mexico.

Sat 2/13/2010 4:05 PM

This is the brother (6 years younger than me) I told you about mesmerized
by an old clock in a shop on Magazine Street in NOLA. C. 1970. (6 of us
I’m the oldest.) When I got this print back, I saw for the first time
how beautiful he is. It took my breath away. A machinist that can make
anything out of any exotic metal, but cannot read. He has a phenomenal
memory that gets him over most hurdles in his work. Like a blind man’s
sense of hearing. He’s thirsty to understand what has happened to him.
 
Love,
Sharon
Young James


Sat 2/13/2010 5:12 PM

Joe,

... Please don’t let me overwhelm you. Just say, “Whoa Nelly!” if you 
feel inclined.

Love,
Sharon

Sat 2/13/2010 7:34 PM

Joe, the story of our lives…

This Was Once a Love Poem 

by Jane Hirshfield
from Given Sugar, Given Salt (Harper Collins)

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

It spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.

When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them-one, then another-
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.

Then...
Now...

Sat 2/13/2010 8:12 PM

Hi Joe,
 
My resume is online at www.sharondymond.com. My Facebook page is under 
Sharon Dymond. I was born Sharon Dunn. Married and became Sharon Dinkins. 
Married again and became Sharon Dymond. (Now single and plan to stay that 
way.) I have some great conversations going on my Facebook page amongst 
my huge, scattered family. (Turning sentimental in my dotage. Aargh!) 
My father was a Welsh coal miner’s son from Pittsburgh who was stationed 
briefly in Louisiana during WWII and spotted my mother riding her 
bicycle on Airline Highway and brought his Jeep to a screeching halt. 
My mother was “Scotch-Irish” with almost white hair. Daddy had never 
seen anything like it. Her father farmed his homesteaded acres and ran 
a little general store and post office that my grandmother, the post 
mistress, named Brittany. I’m having some great conversations with my 
long-lost Pennsylvania cousins. Getting to know my neighbors again via 
Facebook. Wish you would join us as you really are part of the family 
whether you know it or not....
 
Love,
Sharon

Sun 2/14/2010 8:47 AM

pics
Joe on his patio in
Ajijic, Mexico

Lake Chapala, Mexico
Ajijic, Mexico
Ajijic Church
Joe´s wife Barb
in their house in Ajijic

Sun 2/14/2010 10:51 AM

Thanks for the pictures. The Garden of Eden. Your place, a palace compared 
to ours. I love the Mexican sense of color. I’m an artist who hasn’t done 
art in years because I can only do one big thing at a time. Painting, 
reading, writing…whatever it is, it’s total immersion. Pharmaceutical 
science has given us a name for the artist’s condition, OCD, and a drug, 
Prozac, to treat it. When I work, I take Prozac, which makes me 
indifferent, so works like a charm. I’m tired of that shit. I want to 
feel what I feel. Do you know what I mean? I’ve fantasized for years of 
dropping out to paint. I can hardly believe it’s possible…and on social 
security. Thank you, FDR.

I have some stuff to clean up in Louisiana. I’m going down there in a 
couple weeks. Don’t know how long it will take. If all works out, I may 
actually come away with a few thousand bucks, which would be pissed away 
in a year here, but would set me up in Ajijic. My kids are a little 
stunned, but they see the upside. They feel connected to Mexico. 
Their boarding school in AZ sent them on extended field trips there 
to plant beans and work in orphanages and such. They lived with 
humble folks who had no plumbing (the way I grew up until age 12): 
they loved those people; the people loved them. ... We’re hopeful.
 
I was thinking of what you said of the corruption in Mexico. I wonder 
if it’s worse than here or just more primitive and transparent. Our 
politicians are all bribe takers, but they’ve codified, legitimized, 
sanitized it. One of the biggest bribe takers of them all won the Nobel 
Prize. Under the radar, he took the early lead in bribes from Wall 
Street. In politics, it’s the early money that makes the difference. 
Dick Cheney is not the puppetmaster, but we still have a puppet, I fear.
 
For your entertainment, I’m sending you a picture of my Mormon family, 
summer of ’64, standing in front of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
We made the pilgrimage to be “sealed” . All turned out in our 
home-made finery, all shiny and clean. I’m the tall one. What were 
you doing summer of ’64?
The Dunn family in Temple Square 1964

Mon 2/22/2010 4:57 PM

Dear Joe, 
 
I’m seriously jonesing for some new stuff on your blog. I’m going 
through it trying to find the point where you quit Belize and move 
to Ajijic. You were so committed to that community in Belize, I’m 
curious to know why you left. Do you write about that? If so, 
could you point me in that direction? 
 
I’m seriously working on getting my ducks in a row to move to Mexico.
... I assume you’re in Ajijic on a tourist visa since you
come and go so often. That’s probably what I would do since I have 
a dear sister in Houston I cannot live without for any length of time.
 
Love,
Sharon

At this point, Joe quit emailing me back. I don´t know if my intensity spooked him or if it was something else. I do know he did a European book tour during this period. It didn´t matter. I kept right on pouring my heart out. I think this is called emotional incontinence. Aargh!

Fri 2/26/2010 5:36 PM

I’m reading your latest post…and weeping. You’re so hopeless. While 
I was reading Deer Hunting, it occurred to me that maybe minds like 
yours and mine were hard-wired by our fundamentalist upbringing to 
accept and expect End Times even though we’ve rejected Christian 
fundamentalism on every rational conscious level. Sometimes I hope 
against hope that my hopelessness is nothing more than habit of mind. 
I guess that’s hopeful in a cockeyed way. But then I think of the 
handful of Jews who left Germany before the holocaust and of the 
millions who did not. Many, of course, didn’t have the means or 
mobility to leave, but many did and chose to stay, undone by hope.
 
Leaving Sunday or Monday for Brittany, Louisiana…my return to 
Winchester. Trying to get my life organized to move to Mexico…or 
Costa Rica or Ecuador... I promise I won’t show up 
like a stalker on your doorstep.
 
Love,
Sharon

This is Joe's essay that had me blubbering: Round Midnight: Tortillas and the Corporate State

Fri 2/26/2010 6:00 PM

It’s astonishing how much we’re on the same wavelength. I had only 
read a couple paragraphs when I sent you my take on hope and now I’m 
reading your take. It’s eerie.
 
Love,
Sharon

The music must have been coming out of my ears again. Following is the passage in Joe´s essay that made the hair on my neck stand up:
Americans are hope fiends. We always see hope somewhere down every road, chiefly because honestly looking at the present situation would destroy just about everything we hold as reality. Personally, as I often state and catch readership hell for, I do not like hope. When Obama ran it up the flagpole for us to salute, and so many saluted, my blood chilled. Made me feel that we were all in deeper shit than I had supposed. (Nevertheless, I reluctantly voted for Obama. At the time it seemed it was either Obama, or continuing war, debt, and diminishing civil liberties. Ha! Hope is magic thinking, believing that somehow, some larger unknown force is in motion to set things right.

The world is what it is, and its injustices are set right by peoples and nations morally intact enough to challenge its malevolent forces.

Hope is political pabulum for an infantilized nation.

Tue 7/13/2010 10:25 AM

Joe,
 
My sister read and loved Deer Hunting. I’m right now reading it to my 
machinist brother…the one I told you about who can’t read…and he’s 
enjoying the hell out of it. Really speaks to him. I hope you’ll make 
it to some Baton Rouge, New Orleans, or even Houston book store to do 
a book signing when Rainbow Pie comes out. I’ve been reading a lot of 
Kunstler on your recommendation and also stumbled on The Long Descent 
by John Greer at The Oil Drum. Greer loses me in the last chapter, 
but other than that, a valuable book with some really solid advice. 
Also planning to read Vaclav Smil, Tainter (The Collapse of Complex 
Societies), The Limits of Growth, and Overshoot. Phew!
 
Based on study so far, I’ve influenced my daughter to consider going 
to vet school after she completes her biochemistry doctorate next spring. 
I’ve decided to buy the old farm house I grew up in because there’s lots 
of acreage and we can build a sustainable life here. We plan to start a 
livestock vet practice…something sorely needed in the area. Right now 
selling stuff to get the $. She recently talked me through set up on 
Skype (as you suggested) and my sister and I had a blast watching 
chicks hatch in real time. I intend to enjoy these tech riches 
while they last.
 
I’m so glad to see you posting again.
 
Sharon

Sat 1/15/2011 8:56 AM

Joe, 
 
I read the horrible news. I can’t think of anything comforting to say to 
my selfish self, let alone to you. I don’t pray, but I do hope, and I’m 
hoping fervently that you’ll pull through this. I love knowing you and 
your work and I crave much more of you and of it. You’ve helped me so 
much.
 
Love,
Sharon

6 comments:

  1. That is truly amazing. Keep going. R

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, R. Keep those cards and letters coming.

      Delete
  2. I wrote Joe Bageant from time to time. I sent him this song before he got cancer. He said it made him cry. Joe was a kind old soul. I miss him too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FikZwgj89HI

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooo ... I first heard that beautiful song when my sister played it for me several years ago. She and I had the same reaction as you and Joe. I miss Joe too, but I take some comfort that he's past the troubles that haunt the lives of all the superfluous people like you and me. Can you imagine the pain he would have felt after the Newtown massacres? Thanks so much for your comment.

      Delete