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Diary of a Billsticker – Baltimore, USA

I think Baltimore is the favourite city of a lot of people these days and this has a lot to do with a certain television show. I think that the show in question probably depicts ‘true’ things in a very real and earthy manner. It brings forward a lot of matters we all knew were going on, but which no one had stated quite so clearly before. Of course, when someone manages to do this simple thing (bring forth the undercurrents) then people are endlessly refreshed and fascinated. It’s that sense of the ‘naked lunch,’ where we can clearly see what is on the end of every knife, fork, and spoon. Sometimes it’s just not pretty and it’s easier to live with it all by ignoring it. Wittgenstein did say something like the best way to deal with a problem in life is to live like it doesn’t exist, but the ‘problems’ in cities like Baltimore have cried so loudly and for so long now that they will be addressed no matter what. It’s a big train that’s coming and there is a payload. However, some people would try and take the word ‘problem’ and soften it back to a ‘situation’….. But whichever word you choose, it’s a big one. That train is hundreds of carriages long and it is pure poetry in motion. Bob Dylan (who also wrote about Baltimore in a fine song) has been saying this stuff, sometimes indirectly, for many years.

Then, Omar Little himself chimed in with that it was all a game anyway and it was either play or be played. I think Omar’s way will win every time because Wittgenstein never slung dope on a street corner and so what did he really know about life? Slinging dope on a street corner is what hundreds of thousands of people do these days, whether they do it from behind a computer screen, from out of a doctor’s office, or whilst working for a major pharmaceutical company in some polite business park. They’re all corners when you think about it and I imagine the language is much the same when all the veneer comes off. So, somehow, doing it on down on an actual street corner with deep and intimate connections to Colombia seems a long way more honest. The whole idea is to keep the public satisfied and people do need more of everything, that has become obvious. There are also a lot of ‘folk’ who have to be paid.

I had printed off fresh supplies of posters before this run. I was carrying poems by Tusiata Avia, Marty Smith, Pat Connors, Elizabeth Smither, Brett Lupton, Dylan Kemp, Roger Hickin, Frankie McMillan, Jeffery McCaleb, Gary Langford, Chris Price, James K. Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Janet Frame, Jody lloyd, Sandra Bell and Keri Hulme.

Some of our poets have actual real connections to Baltimore, Janet Frame being one, and some have merely watched ‘The Wire’ and enjoyed it and been fascinated by it to the utmost. I also think that many other people have what feels like ‘real connections’ to Baltimore these days. These ‘ties’ are often being built via Facebook and through cellphones and on the world wide web and in all kinds of ways that no-one can interrupt. If the government can’t keep Heroin and Cocaine (I deliberately capitalised both to annoy the creative writers) out of the Projects (and they can’t), then what hope do they have in trying to stop the population talking to each other like they do these days?  It’s all very random, but the truth will be out. I guess it must, but we do seem to be waiting a very long time, and, you know, Congress will vote to lift the debt ceiling…. I always have the feeling we are pouring more coal into a runaway train. Not that I am a Republican sympathiser either (heavens no)…. It’s just that I don’t think the problem anymore is either the Democrats or the Republicans, the problem is that people obstruct each other and cut each other down for strange reasons. It’s easier to dig the garden (or put up poetry posters) than to have ‘viewpoints’ because you end up getting feedback from someone who has a different viewpoint and cherishes being louder.

I believe Janet Frame lived in Baltimore for a while and possibly at the home of Dr John Money. I can google this subject if I want and no doubt come up with the answer, but instead I shall dredge through memories of what I’ve read some way back down the track. When I think about Janet Frame for long enough, I begin to think of her working at the Occidental Hotel in Christchurch which is now long gone, but which did have some good gigs in days gone by. There’s a line someplace where she writes about the area I grew up in… I think she either mentions Serpentine Avenue or McLaggan Street in old Dunedin and let me tell you this area would drop very nicely into Baltimore and everyone would get on really fine. When I was a kid, there were ‘corners’ of one kind or another all the way up Serpentine Avenue and McLaggan Street and I was fascinated by those corners.

You can see why it was a absolute pleasure to be bringing Janet Frame back to Baltimore, a city that she really ‘liked’ and not just in a Facebook way. It is her birthday on August 28th and probably a day of which all Kiwis should take note. If she were still alive, I guess she would have been around ninety years of age. She has always moved me and has been one of those writers who helped set the ‘Kiwi Character’ down on the page. That setting the Kiwi character and not just waffling around the exterior has been pure gold for New Zealand. Very few have done that and some have sold tons of books in the not doing of it.

Anyway, lots of famous people came from Baltimore or lived here for a while. H.L. Mencken did most of his work here and I like to think that David Simon (originator of ‘The Wire’) is just carrying on that sort of work for the television age. Old H.L. said some very pointed things, whilst David Simon shows them in a way that everyone can understand. I think one of the basic premises of what they both say or have said is that many things ‘suck.’ And not to put too fine a point on it, they do. It was never going to be fair and I leant that way back in Dunedin or perhaps somewhere out near Seacliff on the Otago Coastline.

Frank Zappa came from Baltimore and gave the world some of its finest music. When I think about New Zealand, I remember people in little towns who too were inspired by Frank. Frank was one to cut right through to the truth, musically and otherwise. He famously (well to me anyway) said “if you want to get laid, go to college, if you want to get an education, go to the library.” Now that’s the truth and the writer Colin Wilson (‘The Outsider’) knew that full well. I think everyone knows that at some level. You will learn more by being down on your luck in a prison cell somewhere for three months, than you ever could possibly learn in a some hallowed halls for fifteen years. But to each his own and there are many ideas on which I have no wisdom.

I’ve always relished being a billsticker, it really has a touch of the old Charles Dickens about it. It is always about the dark and pasting up a wall by car headlights and then the timely hit and run and the don’t look back credo. In recent days it too has become ‘modernised’ and I’ve not always liked that…. I just enjoy helping people to get their voice out there and so this has compensated to some extent for the way that it has all become (and everything has become). But I remember one time back in Christchurch, when I was pasting up a ‘strip’ down by the Farmers’ Department Store on Colombo Street. A band was playing a gig the next day and they needed something high profile and I had to do this run when a lot of people were about and I had to act like I wasn’t embarrassed. It was about 1982 and it was at about 6pm, I was with Harry Sparkle and he’s not afraid of this sort of thing… I mean everyone kicks you so you have to be ‘armoured’…. Someone walking by and said to me ‘why don’t you do that in the daylight?’ (it was winter and it was cold…) and I replied, very quickly I might add, that if I did it in the daylight then it’s possible someone from social welfare might see me and cut my dole.

Anyway, long story short… I did a truly gratifying poster run in Baltimore and got the real word out there for a lot of people. It can be done and it’s very satisfying.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

 

Jim Wilson

50a 50c

Diary of a Billsticker – New York City, USA

This was a poster run that took place over the July 4th weekend in New York City and once again I was a man possessed by the idea of getting some poetry into the streets. I usually feel that if mankind were restored to its natural state, then it would be one of putting up posters somewhere with a broom…. A place on the outskirts of town in the dark and in the dust…. But that each poster would shine. I believe Harry Sparkle (one of the great all-time posterers) is still out there with a paste bucket and glue in his hair.

I didn’t have a chance to re-up my supplies of posters before I left, so these were the same poets as featured in the Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts run: David Eggleton, Serie Barford, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Sonja Yelich, James K. Baxter, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Stephen Oliver, Hone Tuwhare, Jay Clarkson, Hinemoana Baker, Bill Direen, Becky Woodall and Aroha Harris. Or maybe they were the run before this. After a while of putting up posters (and particularly poetry posters), you just give way to the feeling and you dream about posters and then you tend to single out particular meter boxes and lamp-posts in your dreams.

So you just go into flow and each poster that you put up pulsates in your body. You are trying your utmost to have each poster ‘connect’ with a viewer. Then, before long you’re thinking about using a hydraulic drill to place them as if you could just make one huge statement that would be heard everywhere. But of course, no one can do that. So the poetry thing just kind of alerts people at odd angles that things could be different and yet you know it’s not going to be anytime soon. It’s all kind of gentle movements and with a quiet and peaceful motive force, and we must keep that in mind. I always see people reading the posters as I go and I’m happy with that and it keeps my feet on the ground. I know the Phantom Billstickers poetry project is touching people in their hearts. It’s not CNN, but it’s not bad. It’s all incremental and should go on for years.

I remember I had a competitor postering against me in Auckland once and it has been said that he would go out on thirty-six-hour poster runs. Then, years ago, I met the guys who do the posters in the UK. There had been some kind of poster fight for the city of Manchester where so much of the world’s great music has come from. In that fight, someone had a hand hacked off with a machette. The ‘Music Industry’ used to depend on breaking bands in either London or Manchester and vast numbers of posters were put up. If a band ‘broke’ in London say, they’d break around the world, they’d be heard everywhere and the band could then record their next record in Palm Springs. Now there’s a good chance that if a band breaks in Spreydon they will be unknown in Sydenham, so hands don’t seem to be cut off anymore. Fair enough, there’s still plenty of venom and  sarcasm on the internet, but so what? It’s the people who front up that I like.

Anyway, I love New York and who couldn’t? It’s got plenty of meter boxes where people put posters and lots of telephone boxes seemingly built for that purpose. Then there are many notice-boards in cafes and a real sense of community (at a very street level) comes about. I just think the city is so old that it has lost any sense of pretense that it may have once had synthetic ‘town planners’ that can’t get it by the short and curlies and turn the whole place into some huge Riccarton Mall. It’s a wild and extremely passionate place and it’s where creativity is a cherished notion. It swings every which way on a very big axis.

I don’t have a hell of a lot else to say really. I consider that I put up the posters in really great sites. I remember a couple of poem posters (Bill Direen’s and David Eggleton’s) where I got them on meter boxes and was so stoked by the whole thing that I stood at a distance for a long time and watched people reading them. I felt the same yearning as I wanted to think the viewer felt. It all slowed down my pulse rate and made me feel good.

 

On ya!

Keep the Faith,

Jim Wilson

 

49a  49c 49d 49e

Diary of a Billsticker – Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

This was an entirely agreeable poster run which took place over three or four days and featured a dozen Kiwi poets: Hinemoana Baker, Stephen Oliver, David Eggleton, Jay Clarkson, Aroha Harris, Becky Woodall, James K. Baxter, Bill Direen, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Serie Barford, Sonja Yelich and Selina Tusitala Marsh.

I put most of the posters up in the quiet of the early morning so as to get a full day’s ‘showing’ in. But, for all of this, I then felt compelled during the day to go around the place topping the existing posters up. I thought about the grids of each of these cities and how I could poster them from every different angle… But in the end, I settled for a small section of each place, because I have now obtained some little measure of ‘respectability’ in my life.

These days I’m only a wanted man down at the local Lion’s Club where they wish me to talk about being an entrepreneur and also about the ‘Art’ of positive thinking. It would be a shame to blow it all now by trying to hang a poetry poster on to a statue of Paul Revere. But when it comes to hanging a few posters, I do have something that closely resembles Tourette’s Syndrome and I can’t be told. There’s no “Higher Power” for that and I don’t get on my knees for anyone…. Not anymore anyway.

Massachusetts has fairly strict laws against postering and this did excite me to go out time and again. Honestly, it was like my Dad was in the room and I wanted to bust against everything and I must admit that I do like those words that I used to get to hear so often:

“Hey, what do you think you are doing?”

It was the negative comments that once kept me alive, made my blood flow, and defined me.  Besides, I’ve never understood how people could get so upset about a few posters on a wall. Now, having sat under the Bodhi Tree for a good long time, I’m a ‘success’ and I have to train myself to that end. But… Well hell, screw that. So, I put up poetry posters because it’s a good thing to do, it helps others, and it clears my head. I can bury whatever negative sentiments I have in the beauty of poetry. I think that’s a widespread use of poetry.

But, they can’t get me this time.  I’m going to play the game and I’m going to work inside the grooves and even though I may be thinking of a Tony Fomison painting all the time (‘What Shall We Tell Them?’) or even Keith Moon’s drumming… I’m just going to do what everyone else does and play along with the absurdity. I’m never going to become a Bore-a-Holic and I do try and put the posters exactly where they are allowed which in Boston and Cambridge is mainly nowhere. It’s all a perfect trap for people and I think expression and being heard is what people mainly want in this life. This is why poetry is so perfect and I’m working with some great poets here. If only everyone could express themselves is what I think.

I postered around the student accommodation area of Cambridge and this area is unusually tidy and well kept as you might think the minds therein must be. Both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are near, but the area is so clean (sterile in fact) that I think they’d be well served to have the university accommodation area from Dunedin (maybe Castle Street) dropped into the place and then everyone could maybe let it all hang out and probably feel much better for it all as well.

I’d throw in a ton of Speights Beer and open up a Cosmic Corner for them and then put on an Androidss gig. I’d also remove every bar of soap that I could. Sure I would do all of this…. Because I believe it. But you know, you can’t judge a book by its cover and I just hazard a guess that there is really plenty of bizarre thinking going on in these places and maybe even some jazz music as well…. It’s just the streets that wear these button-down collar shirts these days and it’s bad for people.

I know there must be a lot of anti-depressants prescribed here because in America there is. I even think there’s a new anti-depressant being marketed soon as the one you take when you miss your exit on the interstate. There’s another for people who want to take their clothes off at the airport security checks and exclaim ‘hey, I’m not a terrorist, you can quite easily tell that.’

I missed that one myself.

Anyway, it’s a shame to think that William S. Burroughs went to Harvard University. A real shame, because people like William Burroughs opened up the world for free expression.

Boston? Hell of a city. Just beautiful. Not many posters here either for the place that markets itself as the birthplace of American Freedom and Independence. But there is plenty of crime and really interesting crime at that.

It’s probably the place where the Irish Mob married the Italian Mob and gave the world the Heroin Trade (‘HT’) decades ago. I think the poppy growers in Afghanistan probably get down on their hands and knees each morning and thank their dear Lord that there is good old fashioned American crime and hypocrisy and that anything can be purchased on any street corner in the USA where Heroin is cheaper than buying a Paracetemol (Tylenol) for a headache and no doubt works better too.

The really interesting area in Boston where you can buy anything you want at any time is known as ‘The Combat Zone’. I walked through it many times because it’s just so interesting to see what people who don’t care and who are not afraid of jail will do. They should put a statue of Jean Genet right in the middle of it and I’d poster it. Society flares up in many different ways because superficiality is the order of the day.

Whitey Bulger was arrested a few weeks back. He was an old time South Boston crook (the American Trevor Edward Nash and then some) who had been on the lam for about fifteen years. He was second on the FBI’s ten most wanted listed listing after Osama Bin Laden who is at the bottom of some ocean these days. Whitey Bulger comes from another era in crime and probably a more honest one… If you can use the word ‘honest’ and ‘crime’ in the same sentence. He was an old time hood and was openly brutal instead of the way brutality is often measured out these days from behind a computer screen. I’d take Whitey Bulger any day. To me, these kinds of criminals (the Whitey Bulgers) are costing the country maybe tens of millions of dollars but there are criminals who are burning down the world and being idolised. Too much to think about…. And I pass. Where is my staple gun anyway?

In the end it’s all about poetry (which expresses so much) and I really enjoy my time in America just drifting around the place putting up posters as I go. It’s the best use of my time that I can think of.

It was a great poster run in these cities and I know it affected people because I received an email from a local reporter at a major newspaper who wanted to do a story.

On ya!

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

48a 48c

Diary of a Billsticker – Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

A Word to the Wise Guy

Lowell is about thirty miles out of Boston and is apparently ahead of that city (‘Beantown’) in all the crime stats. Lowell has a population of around 100,000 people and many of them are immigrants. These immigrants are the very best thing about America in that there is always a big churn of ideas and many different things are going on. Immigrants always (always!) aspire to a better life and, not having health insurance, they try harder and complain less.

They also make better music in that there is mostly not a pre-existing musical-business structure that sucks all the life out of the sound before it goes anywhere… So give me a wild-cat Mexican band any day. You never see them on television and that’s a good thing and Mexican music in America is firmly ‘of the street.’ I don’t really care who plays well or not, I like to see energy.

Street life in America is a very exciting thing and before the words ‘upwardly mobile’ became unfashionable, you could use them to describe immigrants to America and be right on the money at the same time. I reckon everything bubbles upwards from the footpath and is mostly good. The exception would be the liquefaction in Christchurch of course. This is a very painful thing. But all ‘true’ things come from the street and mostly cannot be stopped. In their growth upwards many things become synthetic and that is harmful to people on a level along with aspartame and high fructose corn syrup.

The ‘things’ that immigrants bring to America draw from many different cultures, and it’s not like living in Mosgiel, though, of course, I have nothing against Mosgiel appreciating that some people enjoy that kind of thing. I don’t know what the deal is with Gore, but that’s for greater minds than mine.

Lowell then is a city wide open, but we have to consider that Mr. Obama has sat at the wheel whilst 800,000 people have been deported from America over these last two years. So I think liberal notions about this government are largely fanciful. The number one thing people want to do against other people is to build walls and all politicians play with the putty. Everything that is not nailed down in America is owned by someone or other and it seems everyone’s got to pay.

Lowell, Massachusetts, is where Jack Kerouac was born and also where the movie ‘The Fighter’ was filmed a couple of years back. That movie features local legend Micky Ward and shows the whole working class nature of Lowell and some of these old industrial Massachusetts cities. It shows that the little guy (the ‘underdog’) can do anything if he/she tries hard enough. As a Russian tour guide once said to me: “Look, the facts speak for themselves, the proletariat is fully capable of doing everything the aristocracy can do.”

I know that and I believe that nearly all aristocrats know really nothing about the street below them. But it’s the promises that are made that keeps the wheels turning in exactly the same way. People go a long way on promises.

Lowell was an industrial revolution ‘miracle’ as a mill town in the 1800s and was then dependent on cotton grown in the South and cheap labour (mainly immigrants) from the North. This whole thing did an about face in the 1920s as cheap labour was followed down into the Southern states of America. By the 1930s about half the people in the town were on government ‘relief packages’ and the town was a mess. I think it’s still recovering.

Now of course ‘cheap labour’ is offshore and the inability of people to work at satisfying jobs is a very harrowing matter for America and large parts of the world. America is now a country of the banks, for the banks, and by the banks (and other financial organisations). These financial institutions are full of people picking money like it was candy and one day it will all come unstuck. It must.

In Lowell, I was carrying poster poems by: David Eggleton, Serie Barford, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Sonja Yelich, James K. Baxter, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Stephen Oliver, Hone Tuwhare, Jay Clarkson, Hinemoana Baker, Bill Direen, Becky Woodall, and Aroha Harris. These are all a good bunch and I had a really great time putting the posters about. It all calmed my mind and had me focusing on the next poster and not Mr. Obama. I am trying my best to go upwards and like most people some days there is a wind against me.

But, the first thing that happened to me in Lowell was that a guy on a street corner (with a strange and tense cocaine look in his eyes) offered to sell me a boa constrictor for $20. It’s a hell of a thing to keep in a yard and he wouldn’t trade posters for it either. I am always happy to meet these guys who are playing a wild game that is out of the box and he obviously didn’t trust the banks.

Massachusetts has some very strict laws about putting posters on lamp-posts and I toed the line as much as a could and then something got the better of me and I did the reverse. That’s how Phantom Billstickers was built and the devil take the hindmost which the same devil has and often. But I’ve always managed to stumble up again and punch-drunk too. And I’ve carried on. It’s human nature to fight back and people do.

Jack Kerouac wrote a book that personally liberated me (and millions of others). I read ‘On the Road’ first when I was about sixteen and then I took Abbie Hofman’s advice and stole his book. If I had a conviction for that (stealing a book in the 1970s), I’m sure I would now be having trouble down at Homeland Security. These things follow people around like pernicious anaemia and the only doctor available is usually some kind of swept up immigration attorney working out of a Ringling Brothers type tent. She will tell you she has a direct line to the judge and it’s always that there’s “room for one more inside, sir!”

After reading these two mind expanding books (‘On the Road’ and ‘Steal This Book’), I then picked up George Jackson’s ‘Soledad Brother’ which probably had the biggest affect on me of all three. In fact ‘Soledad Brother’ saved my life, but that’s a tale for another day. George Jackson’s words are among the most powerful I have ever read and they changed me.

But, Jack Kerouac invented a whole new kind of writing at a time when writing was pretty damn boring and complacent and he started something that hasn’t stopped to this day. He famously said something that meant to ignore how other people wrote and to forget ‘literary syntax’ (whatever the hell that means) and to break all the rules. So, given Jack Kerouac’s result, we might think that in the breaking of the rules we actually make progress and I remember a fine piece of graffiti I once spotted that said ‘Tradition Kills.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Jack Kerouac was lucky to meet a bunch of like-minded individuals in the 1940s and 1950s and they supported each other as they each put a toe in the literary water. Some of these people were Allen Ginsberg, Neil Cassady, William S. Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, and Lawrence Ferlenghetti. On first meeting some of them he wrote that they were: “the most evil and intelligent buncha shits.” I feel like I’ve met them too as I met many similar people in Christchurch, New Zealand, back in the 1970s.

They were all ‘good sticks.’

Aye, aye, sir… Mr Kerouac’s bunch was a group that helped to change the world. Maybe they actually set up that change more than any others out there at the time. What existed in their imaginations was what a lot of people obviously wanted. I don’t get that feeling from Jonathan Franzen. I hate sitting around committee tables too.

For me, the first thing about ‘On the Road’ was that it had energy. Then Abbie Hoffman also had energy and George Jackson had more energy than he knew what to do with in that prison cell. What was it, ten years or more for robbing a gas station of $30?

So I think I have the most ideal life in this world. I think the current round of Phantom Billstickers poetry posters are outstanding and it’s the most enjoyable thing going to be driving or walking around putting up posters. I think it’s so damn simple and yet says so much and takes me far away from the endless debate (over stupid things) that seems to be the earmark of modern life.

Mr. Kerouac, having helped to open up the world, died an early and depressed death.

On my last day in Lowell, I stopped by Mr. Kerouac’s grave and cried. I’m sure thousands have.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

47a

Diary of a Billsticker – Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania, USA

How to Put Up a Poster

This was a little run I did each morning starting the week after Gil Scott-Heron’s death. It was also around the time that Errol Hincksman died back in old New Zealand. The two were not related, but they may well have been – white powders drew them together.

Mr Scott-Heron was a crack cocaine addict and a very fine musician and poet. They say he invented rap music, but to me, he just embedded the words in the groove deeper than probably anyone ever has. For his part Mr Hincksman was involved in the ‘Mr Asia’ drug ring of the 1970s in New Zealand (and around the world) and was apparently, at once, a rascal and a top bloke. I never met either of them and I’m going on media portraits and the words of close friends. Plus, I’m introducing my own feelings into these topics. That’s the lay of the land.

I was having some problems with American Immigration and decided to go out and put up a few posters to clear my head. I always think it’s a good way to start the day and particularly if you don’t take it all too seriously. I was running low on poetry posters and yet had some Janet Frame, Tusiata Avia, and Roy Smith poems to put up. Thank god for that.

I always thought that when life gets complicated, the best thing to do is just to whack a poster on a lamp-post with a JT-21 heavy industrial stapler. If you start with one poster, before you know it you’ve forgotten yourself and you’ve put up two hundred, then you look back and you feel good. Then other people read the poems and they feel good too. Then, if you think about it, you’re alive and Gil Scott-Heron isn’t and nor is Errol Hincksman. But…. Aaah, I don’t know… The good get to die.

It was forty years ago on June 17th that Richard Nixon declared the US ‘War on Drugs.’ This is a war that has seen forty million arrests and no visible results except that it has ruined the lives of millions of people in too many ways to list. So, as they often say about these kinds of things: the War on Drugs actually does more damage than the situation which it purports to cure. There just aren’t enough prisons to lock everyone up and there’s a whole new type of hypocrisy crawling the streets these days. I think Mr Scott-Heron knew this hypocrisy quite well. He did at least two terms on Riker’s Island and prisons are always where you get to witness hypocrisy first hand. You see people doing life sentences for stealing a thousand bucks and you wonder where are the bankers/politicians /media barons who created the world wide debacle that everyone is suffering from these days. You wonder why these people are not in jail for all the destruction they have bought about. In fact, the next time you see a photo of one of them they are wearing a new suit. You might turn on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and forget it all or Oprah may seduce you into thinking that things aren’t really that bad at all. But they are worse… And you know it, so you put up a poster. Just one.

Here’s what Gil Scott-Heron said about addiction:

“You keep sayin’ kick it, quit it, kick it, quit it! God, did you ever try to turn your sick soul inside out so that the world could watch you die?”

And as a good doctor might say: “Moving right along….”

Here’s how to put up a poem poster in another way: walk into a Starbucks or a Borders Books or any one of a number of places that have notice boards and whack one on said notice board. Don’t ask a staff member, in these places no one has authority to do much at all and you may be trapped into waiting for forty-five minutes whilst the store manager calls the regional manager who then calls someone in Sioux Falls who does have some sort of authority but is most probably away on holiday… Then someone else calls someone in Utah who is out at church and suggests you call in again tomorrow. Then you thank them for their input and they say “You’re welcome” and you remember that you are in America.

It’s because of those sentiments that I love Gil Scott-Heron and also Errol Hincksman. I think they were both probably real people who weren’t particularly afraid of cutting their own pathway and neither was franchised. No one called Sioux Falls, nor had to. So to me, they lead meaningful lives.

Phantom Billstickers was built, quite unashamedly, on going against the tide. That’s what I prefer to think it still stands for. For me, it is some kind of gnarled first against the forces of mediocrity and bureaucracy. It has now survived several earthquakes and so many strange occurrences that it would take me all day to write about them and possibly all year. It has survived many plagues of locusts, do-gooders, hanger-ons, and huge egos split so many ways that they made/make the Southern Cross seem small. I’m dead proud of it and I’m dead proud of the team currently working to take poetry to the world and gigs and music to the streets of New Zealand.

So I start the day by putting up a simple poster.  And I keep my feet on the ground.

RIP Errol Hincksman and Gil Scott-Heron.

 

Keep the Faith,

 

Jim Wilson

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