Jim Trainer

Archive for 2019|Yearly archive page

Shrieks from Paradise#20, Dear Charlie O’Hay

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2019 at 11:53 pm

The Office of Jim Trainer
Eastern European Division
c/o Eco Initiative
Varzulitsa, BG

Charlie O’Hay
Hostile City, USA

7/14/18, 1:16PM

Brother Charlie

Ahoy from the territory.  My partner and I pulled in the day before yesterday, making the nut on 5,800 miles—2 flights, 1 bus, 1 train, 1 metro, 1 cab and 118 miles in a white Citreon 4-door.  The last leg we caravanned in, from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, taking up the rear behind the Blues Bus—6 roadworn folkies from the Big Easy in a Volkswagen with no AC and a big bull fiddle.  They stopped twice on the way—once to “frolic” in the endless fields of sunflowers here, and once for Raki (pronounced “rock yeah”), a whisky made from grapes that smells like West Philly corn liquor to me.  It was time wasted but they’re young.

I don’t know about you but the most important thing in my life is a good night’s sleep—no matter the country or continent.  Hell, I didn’t even mind the Old House in Obedinenie, as long’s I got some solid hours horizontal, and that place was gross!  The bathrooms stunk of sewage and the shower was a hole in the floor full of grease and hair.  My partner lumbered in at daybreak and woke me with his horrible drowning bear-like snoring.  I put in my earbuds and let him have it.  He’d had a rough night drinking Bulgarian whisky and I don’t like confrontation.  Sadly this tendency has resulted in days of me biting my tongue in the close quarters of taxi cabs and commuter trains, buses and airplanes.

All’s well now, I suppose.  My room at the Eco Initiative has the Internet and stereo, though.  He’s in the garden and outdoor kitchen making Jambalaya but steps in occasionally to check his phone for real estate offers.  He found one for 25k, a 3-bedroom place with a barn and freshly renovated.  Last night, at the “shop” doing Kareoke, I overheard him discussing a place with Clive (UK) for 3 grand about 3 hours from where we’re staying.  Whatever, I’m only here to write about it, sitting on the fold up bed drinking instant coffee and listening to Cory Branan.   I’ve snapped a bunch of photos in the hills—got shots of sunflowers, plum trees, still brown lakes and rolling green hills on a $900 Nokia mirrorless.  He says he’ll pay me for the shots, he says he’ll foot the bill for the trip, but—he’s a good talker, it’s why we’re here.

He wants somewhere in EUR that’s cheap enough for him to post up, ideally get some grant money and import culture and talent from around the world who are seeking residencies and time to work on their craft.  (Our flights from Brussels were $88!). Bulgaria came to him by chance, in conversation working sound at DBA on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.  Then he met Boyanna, of Blato Zlato—touring Europe in July.  That’s why we traveled all this way, touching down just after noon and sipping iced Coca Cola in the U.S. Ambassador’s garden by 7.  We spent a few days in the city before making the trek out here to the village.  I did A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock&Roll at Kareoke last night, and Daniel by Elton John (by request).  Life is simple here, and dirty, but the only hard sell for me is the plumbing.  Read:  toilet.  I guess I’ll have to keep stakes in the America if only to have a clean, peaceful place to shit.  A half block up from “the store” (bar, convenience store and general hangout here) was a connex, a stall behind a metal door, with no light inside and smelling direly of the business you do in there.  No thanks.  I waited til we got back to the Eco Village but even the toilet here isn’t bolted down and leaks some.

I wanted to write you back properly (off Facebook) because your distress dignifies a response and I opt to let whomever reads my gmail to read this, and not Zuckerberg and the whores at Facebook Inc.  Take your time getting me something.  When I’m blocked, I can always write a letter, and if you find yourself doing that I’ll print it.  I don’t know if you’ve read any of The Coarse Grind (link below), but, politics are making their slow way into my work.  It’s mostly about creation and most specifically, How will I write?  It started when I was hauling freight for a buck forty a day in Austin, brutal work, di riguer of the New Century and dangerously keeping me from the writing desk.  It’s morphed into something else but the thread winds through it.  Now, of course, the question is How will I write while I blow all my savings in a country with no toilets on a 3g?  Point is I can relate—it’s getting harder and harder to make it in the America.  My answer was to temporarily expatriate and see how they do over here.  Writing a letter is only a suggestion.  I can always write a letter and often do it just to get the juices flowing.  Of course I’d love it and love to print it, especially if that would be your intention with it, but—whatever and whenever you can.  I appreciate the letter and I love the poem.  I will find a place for it, if not the column, and soon.  I made the call for writers and artists I admire (basically you and Don) because I wasn’t sure how below the radar I would have to fly.

I’m a purveyor of creative nonfiction and personal journalism, I only write from where it’s at.  At this point I feel like my readers rely on me for it.  The state took my Unemployment Compensation away weeks before I left the mainland so there’s no longer a need to keep my location under wraps is there?  Not that I’m not working out here.  Writing all day has got to be the hardest gig, even if the most pleasurable.  I’ll be flying in to Newark late July, hope to do a reading and would love to have you, of course.  I’ll have a book for you, too.  Write something, if you can, but only because it will make you feel better.  (You know it will.) I’m learning that lesson out here.  As hard and haggard as it is on the road if I don’t devote an hour to the Work every day then my Father was right and I should’ve stayed in school.  That’s the script although I’m going to have to reason that out—a benefit of this trip I is that I can’t go on hating myself for not being the Artist I already am. That’s a great revelation to have and information I can use to steel myself working labor when I get back to Texas.  It’s also good to know that I shouldn’t live in New Orleans, but for months at a time and probably not June.  I’m thinking October but I should have a lady with me and be shacked up in an AirB&B on Elysian with plenty of money gigs booked.

Anything you need, you let me know, and I mean that.  You’ll also find my phone number below, but I’ll be out of pocket until July 25.  Have heart braving the America and thank your lucky toilet.  Freedom isn’t free.

Your Friend,

The Coarse Grind



In Uncategorized on January 17, 2019 at 8:36 am

by Charlie O’Hay

Imagine a thunderstorm
that went from one day
into the next. And on
day after day after that.

At first you’d try to function
normally. Maybe
buy an extra umbrella,
or at night leave the radio playing low.

But after a month
you’d find yourself naked
seated before your open oven
and crying at videos of the sun.

Then it would all become routine:
the swim to work
the snorkel resting on the bedside table.
You’d adapt until numb.

And if at last the sun returned
you’d greet it with rage.



Charlie’s poems have appeared in over 100 journals, including Mudfish, West Branch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Cortland Review, Gargoyle and The New York Quarterly.  He is the recipient of a 1995 Fellowship in Poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  Far from Luck (2011, Lucky Bat Books) is his first collection of poems and photographs. His second book, Smoking In Elevators was published by Lucky Bat in December 2014.  Since 2010, Charlie’s ongoing photo series Everyone Has a Name has shared images and stories of the homeless in Center City Philadelphia to promote understanding, dignity, and an end to homelessness in America.


Grim Jim Rides Again

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2019 at 10:04 am

If you are eating, stop; if you are having a drink, stop; if you are sleeping, wake up. Wake up your neighbors, in all the provinces, all the cities, all the villages — rise up as one and take control of the street.
Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang

If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles, then this is the year
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year…
-Martín Espada

…How’d we ever stay together love?
-Lou Barlow

When anger coexists with compassion, truth unfolds.
-Jenny Hughes Eaton

Welcome.  This is the life you always wanted, or settled for and anyway the life you have.  The fact you have one at all could glean you some gratitude, depending on where you are on the misery wheel, so let me just say I’m glad and leave that thought for later, if at all.  I’m a dreamer.  The usefulness of my dreams is in their intention.  When I was young I dreamt as a way of being.  I was innocent until I wasn’t.  Then I started dreaming to escape.  I’m probably about halfway between these two, I mean, you can’t ever go back, at least not all the way, but if you dream long enough and shake the dust you’ll find your dreams are not that far off and you can shape your life and your reality with their manifestation.  Or not.  The other end is that we’re just coping, white-knuckling it through the bare minimum until we can make it back to the cocoon, the liquor, the pill and porn.  Like I said I’m about halfway back to innocent, but would hate to find out I’m deluded.  I’d rather live in truth than with comfort and I know that hasn’t made me easy to be around.  I’ve had a hard enough time hanging with myself so I can only imagine.  I hated myself for decades and I hated you even more.  I was insufferable and not fun and I smoked and drank and raged obtusely and bit the wind down the bright avenues of youth until I hit a dead end.  Christ I’ve gone off the rails already, 283 words in–oh well, I like to circle before I land, and I throw these words down from the heart which means write first and understand later, if at all.

I’ll do any number of things before I write.  Without walls I wouldn’t write at all so I’ve at least bought in that much.  I live in a garage.  My rent is all bills.  It’s quiet as a tomb here in the afternoon and in the daytime there’s a wash of traffic out there always streaming by.  I find both to be conducive and necessary.  My fight against American comfort is well documented.  As is my impulse toward sloth due to the emotional drain of a world I seek refuge from.  It’s between these poles, Good Reader, I strive to maintain by writing every day, but hope to break out of, get off day labor or at least get out there more.  I just ended a months-long relationship with an enchanted woman.  She sees me as unparalleled, or, actualized and anyway–everything I dream up for myself is real, in her eyes.  She knows I should be breaking through and out there and part of the world as a performer and speaker, storyteller and troubadour, self-publisher, personal journalist and actor–and you know what?  She’s absolutely right.  I spent too much time hiding from the world when we were together, which sadly meant, at times, I was hiding from her.  Such is the blues and much is the damage.  Of course it’s a balance and all the other pithy adages I’d do wise as a columnist to use and wrap this awful screed on writing and depression.  But I’m not going to.  I hate being cute and if you’re like me you hate being told, so–what the Hell?

I’ve seen the light, Good Reader, and me and Lindsey are never going back again.  I don’t know how to succinctly explain it–it’s the difference between seeing and having vision.  Know what I mean?  For years my heroes have shown me that depression could be like a channel on the TV of the mind.  I’m not saying that depression is a choice.  I’m saying I am better able to discern now and at least more willing.  Simply feeling tired on Friday can result in a cheap and slovenly fast forward to Tuesday, if I give in.  That’s how it goes living under the spell and sway of darkness.  I’m inspired by my dreams now though, like never before.  My dreams have flown me down below the Tropic of Cancer, to sell books and perform.  My dreams will put me under the hot lights this month, doing a piece called Love&Wages for Frontera Fest.  It’s great work if you can find it.  For the fallow times, well, I don’t have to be militant against comfort but I know that feeling tired is a feeling, dig me?  The more naps I take, the longer I’ll be punching a clock and I won’t be getting out there, in the territory, or at least seeing about getting out there–with emails and letters, grant apps and gigs.  This is it.  The life I always dreamed of.  It’s here.  I must resist the life I’ve settled for and had to, at times–let’s be honest.  It behooved me being a jerkoff and the village idiot for a while, but I’m too old for the usual nonsense that comes from feeble minds and shitheeled bosses who settled and gave up, themselves.  You’ve spoken, you called out and you need me out there, in the hungry land with a valise full of volumes and a wild mouth full of reverie and woe.  ’19 is it, Jack.  Send me your address and I’ll write you and come to your town and see you on your street, motherfucker.

Ab irato,

Jim Trainer
P.O. Box 49921
Austin TX 78765



What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression by Jamal Khashoggi

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2019 at 3:01 pm

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.
Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor, Washington Post

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.

As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

There are a few oases that continue to embody the spirit of the Arab Spring. Qatar’s government continues to support international news coverage, in contrast to its neighbors’ efforts to uphold the control of information to support the “old Arab order.” Even in Tunisia and Kuwait, where the press is considered at least “partly free,” the media focuses on domestic issues but not issues faced by the greater Arab world. They are hesitant to provide a platform for journalists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Even Lebanon, the Arab world’s crown jewel when it comes to press freedom, has fallen victim to the polarization and influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah.

The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, the New York Times and The Post took joint ownership of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, which went on to become a platform for voices from around the world.

My publication, The Post, has taken the initiative to translate many of my pieces and publish them in Arabic. For that, I am grateful. Arabs need to read in their own language so they can understand and discuss the various aspects and complications of democracy in the United States and the West. If an Egyptian reads an article exposing the actual cost of a construction project in Washington, then he or she would be able to better understand the implications of similar projects in his or her community.

The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.