Warming the Globe

 

Chapter 12 of Love and War includes: You Load Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get?, Late for the Sky, and Paint It Bright.

You Load Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get?

I know what it’s like to depend upon coal to feed a family. Many years ago I worked at a steel mill in Ohio. My job was at the coke plant where West Virginia coal was turned into coking coal for the blast furnace. The top of the coke ovens was an area the size of a football field where monstrous machines funneled coal into the ovens. It was my job to put the heavy oven lids back on nice and tight.  It was literally as hot as hell up there. It felt like walking barefoot on hot coals. The air we breathed was truly foul but to us it was the sweet smell of something like success. We called it the smell of money because it paid the bills.

 

Yet as soon as I got a chance to escape the coke ovens, I took it. I got a job bid on a crew at the blast furnace. But I couldn’t escape the coal. Like the devil or a bad check, coal will find you. It followed me to the blast furnace...

Late for the Sky

The music industry is going green. Typical is the environmental organization Reverb, founded by guitarist Adam Gardner of Guster, which has sent out “greening coordinators” on tours by Alanis Morisette, the Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Fray, and Phish. Under Reverb’s watch, artists eat locally grown organic food with biodegradable forks and plates, travel in buses powered by biodiesel, and even recycle broken guitar strings. Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews, and Willie Nelson also travel by biodiesel, Coldplay hopes to offset the carbon expenditure of tours and CD manufacturing by planting trees in Third World countries, and Universal Music Group now uses recycled stock on all packaging.

 

On the 2008 TV show Battleground Earth, rapper Ludicris and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee did “battle against the toxic forces destroying Mother Earth” while will.i.am, John Legend, and Michael Franti performed at Barack Obama’s 2009 Green Inaugural Ball...

Paint It Bright

In almost any café or other artist hangout in America, you can guess what the groups of two or five or ten are talking about without even hearing them. Day jobs. The need to get one, the need to survive one.

 

Tiffany Gholar, a Chicago painter and writer, explores this in her book Post-Consumerism: Paintings, 2007-2010 (tiffanygholar.com), which features prose as much as paint.

 

In this retail environment, I was disposable and replaceable, not unlike the cardboard boxes that the merchandise was shipped in, or the plastic bags that the customers carried out of the store. It was a brutal existence, yet all these things were made necessary by consumerism. I felt as though we were all being judged on our ability to sell people things that they did not need...