3 February 2013 § 1 Comment
Bar Star District, Portland, 2 am.
We’re standing in front of the Shanghai Tunnel restaurant, which just closed, in search of post-black light party food. We are four, dressed entirely in white, two women, two men. I am wearing a white jalabya and shal. Muslim prayer garments. I am not Muslim, yet I pray.
Across the pedestrianized street, a man with a megaphone insists that everyone present “be somewhere else,” for the bars are shutting down, and it is time to go. Police cars grace every block. Tickets are issued, and drunk people are yelling. To our right, incoherent insults fly over the shoulder of a small man with a beard. On our left, two very large black men turn heads, and then bodies, toward the source. In three steps they have gained enough momentum to not be stopped by streetcar or police lights, let alone small white people. We are leaving now.
I have been the target of such anger, and been projected upon by those who did not know what to do with their feelings.
Fact: there are a greater number of negative feelings in human emotion than positive.
Many people do not know how to articulate negativity. Like sub-genres of music undeserving of the stereotypes associated with their more popular counterparts, feelings like sadness and fear can be translated easily into hate and violence. So can excessive levels of lead in one’s blood.
We walk briskly, brushing by homeless men digging in trash cans and scantily dressed women crying their sorrows on the shoulders of men who do not respect them. I am wearing sunglasses because here, I’d rather be anonymous. I do not recognize the looks I’m receiving from people in the Voodoo Doughnuts line. A police officer holds my gaze for three eternal seconds until somebody in high heels pukes at his feet.
I am impressed by Portland’s ugliness. She is rolling on her back, scarred belly exposed, wanting attention. Begging to be loved, like the woman crying to the man wearing his erection and history of sexual abuse on his sleeve. He’s saying all the right things while his hand on her ass is in the driver’s seat, popping the clutch.
The others in my group decide this place is not a Yes, and that we should go home. Marai, our Egyptian friend, offers to make traditional North African food when we arrive. “This is a yes,” he says when he finds something interesting. “And everything is interesting when you have no expectations, because you cannot be disappointed.”
As my troupe crossed Burnside, a brown-skinned man in an Escalade stuck his head out of the window, looked me directly in the eye, and said “Osama? I didn’t know you were in town, buddy!”
My new friend can teach me much, for my disappointment in humanity is huge right now. I have no trust in it. I expected better, I expected more. It baffles me that people spend as much time, energy, and money on things that make them angry and numb. Alcohol and self-hatred. I am confused by the lack of learning, and by the stagnancy so many live by. If reaching out in a certain direction ends with your hand stuck in the mouth of a hungry shark, why look that way again? And again, and again? Does the Unknown not contain the possibility of Better? Are we all aware that there is Better?
And what is that Better? Holding on to what we have because the good moments are great, though the bad moments hurt like broken bricks and dry ice dropped from a second-story window?
My compassion eclipses my judgement. I do not exclude myself from those who hold their hope over violent flames waiting for it to freeze. I enable suffering in myself and those I love. I manufacture conflict from expectation, and am hurt when others do the same to me. Sometimes, right when I think that I’ve got myself together, someone shows me all the context that I’ve missed, and how I’ve betrayed them. As much as I’d like to think of how I’ve refined myself to get along best with me, the alphabet streets do not ask for my permission to hide beneath misdirection, to express their pain, or to inflict others with it. I simply wish that they wouldn’t.
25 March 2012 § 1 Comment
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, has banned the donation of food to homeless shelters in his city.
He’s enacted the anti-food policy because he, his food task force, and the NYC Department of Health (together dubbed the ‘food police’) want to keep better track of the nutritional needs of homeless in New York. The Department of Health Commissioner Seth Diamond insists that the ban is consistent with a government effort to improve everyone’s health.
The donations are to be turned away because the salt, fat, and fiber contents in them cannot be verified, which defies new regulations which require of all food now served in government-run shelters. The good deeds of local bakers, restaurateurs, and shops who have donated food to the homeless for years, even decades, are now being rejected. Diamond says that the food they donate really isn’t needed.
Naturally, those who donate the food, such as Glenn Richter and his wife Lenore, of Ohab Zedek, a synagogue on the Upper West Side, and those who eat the donated food, such as Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, disagree.
It’s not difficult to understand the aesthetic, well-intentioned nature of such policies. If the true motive is for the homeless to be healthier, there is nobility in the actions of Bloomberg’s so-called Food Police.
Given that New York City is in the United States, however, where people were once free to eat, pray, and love as they pleased, governmental micromanagement to this extent is intolerable, and unacceptable.
Just down the road, in Philadelphia, feedings to the homeless were banned in city parks, supposedly to protect homeless from “foodborne illness.” Family picnics and gatherings around food are still allowed in city parks.
In February, Alaska Rep. Bill Stoltze refused to call a hearing to discuss Senate Bill 3, which would provide 15 cents to lunches and .35 to breakfasts in Alaska public schools. Stoltze’s argument? He wanted to use that money on another bill that would improve the health of the state’s children by providing Alaska-grown and caught foods.
A local Anchorage activist, Kokayi Nosakhere, sat outside the representative’s office in Juneau, on a month-long food strike, trying to get Stoltze to call a hearing on Senate Bill 3. The politician never budged. Neither did his other proposed bill.
These events are not isolated or coincidental, just as the same-day crackdown on Occupy protests across the U.S. last October was not an accidental act of desperation by the threatened Powers That Be.
Now, it’s personal. It’s about food – that most basic resource that we all require, regardless of politics or social standing. If governments control the food supply (i.e. restrict resources) more than they already do, they control the people’s ability to act – to protest, to speak up, to rally, to say that No, We Won’t Have This.
Two months ago, SOPA and PIPA, acts that would have effectively shut down the internet, came dangerously close to being passed. Only what began as a grassroots movement against the bills kept them from passing. For every one law that people stand up against, twenty are passed under the radar.
Notice how the food policies are not beginning in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Just as film production companies screen ‘risky’ films in selected, representative locations (does the line “‘Love Story’ opens in NY and LA August 4th, everywhere August 15th” ring a bell?), the mayoral puppets of Government are trying out these tactics in smaller waves to see how people react to them.
If we don’t say anything, what will come next? If the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square went home after then-president Mubarak told them to, where would have gone the Arab Spring? Libyans had to declare war on their dictator Muammar Gaddafi before he paid any attention to them. How far will America have to go?
The U.S. Constitution is a tourist trap, and means less now than it ever has. Corporations have been considered people for a hundred years. Our presidents are elected not based on their worth or potential, but how much money they pour into advertising. Peaceful protests are made violent by those sworn to protect and serve Us.
Now regional governments are limiting food supplies to children and the homeless, who are instead to be provided by institutional vendors serving genetically modified food that Americans have said with their silence that they didn’t care to have marked as such.
As a result of that silence, kids are hitting puberty earlier than ever, having been raised on hormone-injected meat from animals who grew fat without ever gaining the strength or dexterity to stand. Multinational corporations that control food sources have been in bed with government for years.
Make no mistake: the Democrats and Republicans, no longer a unified America, have created those hormone-injected animals out of the American people, unable (but perhaps not unwilling) to stand and speak against the political atrocities made against them.
The generations who wield control say that it’s too late to change things – that we’re in a downward spiral, and no one’s got the will to throw us out of it. Understand this: that’s what the Powers are counting on. They want submission; they feed off silence like a bad relationship, and direct us in whatever direction they wish.
Control best operates on three basic concepts: fear, greed, and laziness. All are childish virtues to hold, and yet the world’s powers use them in the face of even the largest protests and strikes.
We are capable of moving past them, of taking back our most basic resources. Of protecting and serving ourselves when those ‘sworn’ to battle us. We are capable of feeding our children.
We are the children of the internet. We are supposed to be the Y Generation, the insatiable children who ask Why? Why? Why?
We are the freest, most globalized organization of rebels history has ever known. Our ambition matches those of the corporations and governments who seek to no end our loyalty. So ask yourself, why else is our loyalty so important to them?
It’s not just about money. It’s about something bigger and more drastic than paper currency made by a private company that is employed by a government that we have the power, by our most basic rights, to redesign from the inside, out.
Initiating change takes the will to step outside ignorance, to learn about what’s happening – events that penetrate deep into our lives and homes – and to do something about them. It takes the willingness to stand on anothers’ shoulders to make the mountain less daunting, and the presence of mind to hold our ground when we are threatened. We have been tested before, and have succeeded. It’s time to stand again.
Spread the word: share this, send it to your friends, reblog it, repost it. If you know of a publication which might put it up, please let me know.
2 February 2012 § Leave a comment
In Panama yesterday, the Ngobe shut down the longest motorable road in the world, the Interamericana (Panamerican Highway), in a protest effort to keep international mining companies from invading their lands.
This is not the first time this group of indigenous people have blocked the road to make their point. A year ago around this time, and in 2010 also, they blocked traffic from moving to and from Panama City, which included tourist buses, supply trucks, and private vehicles. In 2011, international travel between Costa Rica and Panama was interrupted for four days. this year, they’re holding out for longer.
Across the country, market owners are not receiving their goods. Vegetable and fruit shelves are virtually empty, and what’s left is rotting at higher prices than before. Fuel is not reaching gas stations – this morning, there were lines of vehicles at every fill-up station in Boquete, and by three o’ clock, all the petrol in town was gone. As I write this, there are far fewer cars cruising through town than usual.
On the news, nearly every story has to do with how pissed off people are, and is full of images of truck drivers eating their transported goods, and selling them to fellow drivers. Tour buses are parked on the side of the road, and gringos with Panama hats and Gregory backpacks stand outside looking confused and slightly constipated. Some locals have taken to walking. Those in Panama City with a need to be elsewhere are reverting to flying. A plane ticket to David, as of this morning, was $125, much more than a tank of gas – for now.
If there’s a distinct difference between the protests around the world which inspired Occupy in the United States to take off and the leaderless brainchild of fed-up twenty-somethings in the land of the free, it’s that in most of those other countries, the movements actually worked – that is, they gained national attention, for better or worse, for success or failure, in their homeland, and at least in Egypt and Panama, a certain group of people know that when they want something, they can occupy Tahrir Square, or the middle of the Panamerican highway, and even if the powers that be do not like their message, at least that message will be acknowledged.
Occupy is supposed to be a peaceful movement. It is based on practicing the rights provided to the people in the Constitution – the right to peaceful assembly, for example – when other rights are being manipulated – corporations being acknowledged as human beings comes to mind. And the numbers seen in this massive, if haphazardly organized protest are impressive. However, the determination of the U.S. Media (seemingly a conglomerate all its own) is great, and easily ignores, if it is the will of those in power, groups of people camping in parks and others marching behind holiday parades with cardboard signs.
Those intentions are noble but ineffective. Asking for permission (i.e. for the permits needed to camp in a public park) from a system one wishes to dismantle is counterproductive. It says that the 99% are still subject to the rules of the 1%. The now-famous photograph of Wall Street employees looking down at the protest from the top of the steps in New York with amused faces is a blatant insult to what needs to be accomplished: they’re saying ‘March all you want, you unemployed vagrants, just wait until the cops come. Meanwhile, we’re going to get a little more rich today – see you at lunch.’
5 June 2011 § 1 Comment
Oh, what an awkward day. Surely it’s worthy of some tragedy to befall it. I need some Calvin and Hobbes perspective.
The UK stepped up to the plate and said that they’re tired of Gaddafi’s bullshit in Libya. Get out, Colonel, said Britain’s foreign secretary from Benghazi, you’re no longer the leader. The writing on the wall says so.
And I’m certain the graffiti decorating the rebel city said it first. English is but an echo in those parts of the world, and the West claims false lordship over them no longer. We cannot handle their history, as we fumble and repeat even our own. Let the drawbridges fall from their welcoming embraces, for they divide neighborhoods and cities into warring nations, and we cannot allow these divisions and call for peace on the same day.
On quite a different note, I’m going to a wedding next weekend. It will be the first one of my generation that I’ve been to, and I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it or not. I imagine it being a ten year reunion of 9th grade, and who wants one of those?
Of all the places I’ve lived, Kenai somehow drew the Home card from my hand, and where I once considered it an honor and a blessing, I feel now that it is some annoying pest that refuses to let go of my pant leg. But I continue to love it, for sometimes I know I’m not quite willing to let it go myself.
Anyway, the wedding. The first girl I had a legitimate crush on (you know, the kind that start innocently and eventually become burdens) is marrying one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met within a thousand miles of that little fishing town in southcentral Alaska. And he’s the mature kind of cool – the person whom you most want to be like for his charm and virtue – both of which are seemingly authentic. I don’t know him particularly well, but I have a feeling that if they ever talked about me, he might call me his friend. Those are the things I’m honored by these days.
And all I keep thinking about is how I don’t have anything to wear.
22 May 2011 § Leave a comment
Sometimes it takes a bit of fun to realize that it takes dedicated work to survive in this world and prosper. We make real the events we participate in, simply by existing and choosing to say something, by directing our energy into a community, however small, that we invent out of interactions and mutual understanding, instead of saying nothing, and letting the moment die, as would an untouched child.
And it’s funny that we find strange connections between us and the nouns we hate. As if the universe is saying hey, now that you’re gone, I just wanted to say that this place isn’t so bad. There are good people there with good energy. You just couldn’t find them.
I’m always writing the things in between what I think I should be writing. When am I going to sit down and write something I can legitimately say I’m proud of? Or rather, something that I’ve put some thought into, some wonder, some organization – work, if you will. There’s always an excuse to not. I don’t have enough stories, or enough plot. Enough time. Focus. And what the hell would I write about?
So I’ll stick with my ramblings here, which sometimes take the form of fictional accounts of real life, or dreams, occasionally a true story with poetic exaggerations (which have exclusively noble intentions) and line here and there about what I think of the business that surrounds me. All in good time, you’ll have the real story. I’ll disappear, and someone will be sharp enough to fit the puzzle together, to find whatever’s missing. Man, I would love that. Just like in the movies. Detective noir extraordinaire. Dick Tracy. He was too good for his own good.
We need a little turbulence to shake us up when we’re content, something to make us wonder why we’re still doing this. And you’ll have your answer on the day you stand on top of the desk instead of hide under it. You can’t see anything from under there – get out. You don’t deserve blindness. Some of us don’t deserve sight.
Tell that to the kid whose deficient eyes will keep him from flying jets. That’s going to cause a mess. Get out the gauze and tourniquet. Watch his silence screaming louder than his words do. They’re in the air, across the desert, in the dry, heaving wind which carries plastic bags in such grace that the sound waves do not bother them. Such was his fate.
No, no it wasn’t. Forget that garbage. What does that garble even mean? I’m just here to tell a story. Like the time we met in Iceland. I was reading the Tommyknockers and it was starting to get creepy, and there you were in front of me, and said something about the book, that you’d read it or not finished it, and I told the truth and said that was the first time I’d read it.
And there you were again. And again.
The more time that passes, the less I remember about those conversations. Perhaps because we have communicated so many ideas since then, we have speculated so heavily on the context of happy monkeys in the worlds of philosophy and literature that I take what I learned from you as inherent knowledge, and put it away, to be used when necessary and cited as needed.
I read lava rocks in London and it didn’t hit me until after I left, when I rode that bus through the English countryside feeling like I was going to visit the set of Wuthering Heights, that I’d become the change I wanted to see in the world.
Heavy, right? But that’s all I wanted – just to know someone is capable of understanding. I didn’t need you to understand, per se, but that you might anyway thrilled me.
And here we are, post-rapture, and who is left? All of us. Doesn’t that say something profound? It’s certainly not proof that God doesn’t exist (though it might imply the fanaticism of one 89-year-old California man who tightens the bible belt of America when he gets up in the morning and spouts off the latest evangelical, modern-day hellfire sermons from the 17th century mixed in with a modern twist of being vague and never quite to-the-point), but he could well just be ignoring us. Like, do they really think I want anything to do with them after the Yankees lost the World Series like that? I’ve got other worlds to lord over, and they appreciate me with gifts of chocolate instead of shame.
See, God’s just a regular guy with a regular job: to regulate and direct all of the energy in the known universe into tangible forms of the things we want to be familiar with. Nothing else.
Anyway, on TV, it seems like they go on and on, reading various scriptures and trying to earn another AMEN from the crowd. The picture is always bad, and there’s always a woman in the congregation crying. I mean, bawling. But getting their attention isn’t so hard. All he has to do is say JESUS or LORD or some other word to which they are debilitatingly subservient like SIN or FEAR and he’s sure to get some sort of emotional reaction from his flock of willing sheep standing in the pews of a multi-million dollar church complex they are slowing paying the church back for, like a weekly mortgage with variable interest. Just in case Aunt Suzie’s not feeling well this Sunday. It’s okay, she’ll make good next week. Because if she doesn’t, we’ll break her legs, make her say four thousand Hail Marys, and turn her crucifix upside down. Who’s to stop the church from this asexual nonsense? Isn’t that what they do?
I’m sorry, I’m getting a little off track here. This old Slipknot album still plays – I’m surprised. Heeth took horrid care of his CDs, and for that reason had two copies of most of those he owned. I talked him into this after he asked me to steal a second copy of Mer de Noms for him from Fred Meyer. He knew he’d fuck up the first one, but what had I become? Thief for hire? But I couldn’t charge more than the disc cost, for he might as well buy it. But fourteen dollars was not nearly enough to cover insurance for getting caught by the over-doughnutted police academy failure that flashed his badge out front when you had something in your pocket you didn’t pay for.
Usually we ran. Always into oncoming traffic. He wouldn’t follow a couple of kids running into the nose of a Mack truck because he thought he was smarter than them. But the driver of the truck was my uncle, and we had planned the whole thing. We got away every time. His office smelled like Old Spice, and no one wanted to go in there a second time.
we learned to not get caught.
6 March 2011 § Leave a comment
Oh, wait. We’re not there yet, are we? We’ve still got to bucket those misunderstood dictators and their kids – equally well-versed in denial tactics – that drop bombs to merely scare the protesters that might overthrow the same regime they were born under. And nevermind the senior Gaddafi’s spectacles – straight out of the 80′s. (I usually have to update mine, lest they blur my sight. A lesson for the old man?)
But that’s not the only thing happening in the world. Apparently, Chinese facebookers are organizing protest rallies for themselves, to create their Jasmine Revolution from the heart of Hong Kong. They are ten or twelve people strong. Elsewhere, police blanketed entire areas rumored to host protests. Big China is vying mostly for stability, so they say. As their economy grows steadily to the top of the world food chain, that little group of pro-democracy protesters hopes to expand, to grow, to take over.
In light of Shi’a protests in Saudi Arabia claiming discrimination by the Sunni state, King Abdullah banned protest rallies entirely. Having just returned to his country from a three-month absence, the monarch did a few interesting things: as a Sunni monarch without a parliament, he denied any discrimination against the Shi’a people (the lesser numbered sect of Islam. Their differences are rarely peacefully resolved).
He also issued 37 billion dollars in benefits to the Saudi people. Then he sent ten thousand police forces to make sure no protests were going to happen. Coincidence? Bribery?
Libya, meanwhile, has turned into an all-out war. Protesters are arming themselves with Kalishnikovs and anti-tank artillery. Gunshots echo over NPR in the sort of unlooped audio clip you’d hope for in a typical pop song, but never hear.
Bahrain, a nation also with an absolute monarchy, is in its fourth week of open protest. Thousands hold down the prime minister’s Manama palace demanding that he step down and that someone take an industrial-size eraser to Bahrain’s 2002 constitution, which gave the king all the power in the land. Thousands of people demanding change don’t just back off, guys. You should know that by now.
Saleh, the Yemeni president, seems to be doing all he can to quell the protests, amid supposed al-Qaeda attacks against his soldiers. The death toll is at 27, and probably rising. Sana’a is heating up by the day, and Saleh, who rose to power in 1978 (right around the time most of the currently-being-overthrown leaders took over their respective countries) thinks he’s still the guy for the job. Of course. They all do.
Meanwhile, the world up in flames, one might think Americans are sitting on their couches, eating ice cream and watching youtube videos of 16-year-olds making fools of themselves. Well, most of us are.
However, a little group of hackers called Anonymous, some of whose members are busy hacking their way into the websites of multi-national corporations – Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal most notably – to help along the idea of free speech and expression: they brought down those websites when the companies moved to keep donations from getting to WikiLeaks.
Anonymous is also, naturally, helping along the Arab World Revolution – they flooded Tunisia’s and Egypt’s government sites with requests, shorting out the sites. This is the dawn of cyberprotest – of our wired generation taking up digital arms to speak up and out, to create change, to make obsolete the laws that govern stagnant societies into the ground.
Brilliant. Keep it up, guys and girls.
21 February 2011 § Leave a comment
Egypt didn’t even react to what Hillary Clinton said in a speech about being pro-democracy, and they didn’t flinch when Obama and others demanded that the ‘violence stop immediately.’
Now Europe is condemning the violence in Libya. Yes, it’s a horrible thing, but did anyone expect this fight to go down without casualties? In our children’s history books, these revolutions will be validated by the number of innocent lives lost, whether run over by vans or bombed by military jets. The simple fact right now: this is their time. They are showing the world what they are capable of, but they don’t care to share their fight with you.
It’s not such a stretch to think that they, as cultures defining themselves as people worth fighting for, don’t give a damn what the West thinks of what they’re doing. They know their society best, and given the multiplying revolutions, they are learning that this is what it takes to topple a regime. This is what it takes to initiate reform. Tunisia was so much more than a simple protest to end the 30-year reign of a corrupt dictator – it was the spark that is changing the modern Arab world, turning it on its head.
This is what happens when people figure out they’re not worthless. They will write their stories now, and tell them later.
13 February 2011 § Leave a comment
While driving Friday night I had two things on my mind, and neither of them was the road. I passed the street I was headed for by forty quick blocks, so I got off the freeway to turn around. 76th Street invited me down its icy surface, and I was not careful to creep along it to the stoplight. When I tried to slow down, nothing happened. Turned the wheel. Nothing. Downshifted. Nothing. Highbeams and car horns and a subtle flash of what was to come, as soon as the read end of the Dodge put a stop to this nonsense sliding. Just before my beloved Nissan’s hood accordioned, before the Dodge’s bumper forcibly raped my headlight at twenty miles an hour – or in total stillness, depending on how you look at it – and something made its way inside my battery, I rolled my eyes and probably said ‘fuck’.
Normality ensued. The other driver was kind and civil, partially because he suffered no injury and virtually no damage, and we talked in the warm cab of his truck while the tow truck and the cop made their way to the empty parking lot we sat in. We talked about music and radio – he was a broadcast engineer, I was an audio engineer. He offered me a possible internship at the place he worked.
The cop was an asshole, didn’t ask me what happened. Told me to stay in my car while he ran our papers and plastic cards through the system. David the Hawaiian came in his tow truck and my car was ready to make its final journey home before the cop handed me the ticket with some bullshit written in the Offense column. It was as if I called 911 and ordered a hundred-dollar-ticket on a silver platter.
This is why I’m indecisive. Very often, when I decide to decide and then decide on something, it has the worst possible outcome. Even more than if I had decided to not decide one way or the other. That way, if I’m passive and let someone else make the decision, the responsibility is not with me, and I didn’t insist on making the wrong decision. I’m forever thinking that I haven’t done or seen all the things normal people have, and thus have no experience or basis on which to make my decisions. And yet I’ve been out in the world and been through quite a lot for the time. But nothing I learned about being homeless or responsible-for-everything or an ambitious-but-hopeless workaholic helps me now, because I tend to avoid them all now, probably so as to not have to show myself that I wouldn’t make any better decisions this time around.
But now things happen. I go into bars without getting nervous. I get into car crashes. I go to the grocery store and have no idea why I’m there (and then spend more time criticizing the society that created this place than shopping). I meet someone new and start the makings of a friendship based on some common interest that I’ve never really indulged in before – and I don’t know what to do. Sure, these feel like new experiences, learning the world and all that. But this is the me that isn’t supposed to fall apart. I don’t fall apart when I’m Out There (well, not that I’d admit, anyway). It’s Here that I have problems.
The next day, knowing that because I didn’t have insurance to cover my damages or the other driver’s, I reinstated my insurance because if I didn’t have it at the time of the accident, and didn’t send in the paper the cop gave me, they would revoke my license in 15 days. Translation: I now have useless and expensive insurance for an undrivable car. Decisions, right? Let’s keep the ball rolling.
Because I had an idea of how much the damages to my car would be, and because this amount is 1) far more than I have to spend and 2) more than the car is currently worth, I decided that looking for a cheap, temporary alternative was a good idea. (Let’s go back to the ‘learning from the past’ subject: this is something that I have done before. Twice. And both times, the cheap and temporary alternative was more temporary than it was cheap. Read on.)
I trolled craigslist, of course, because I’ve found many solutions on craigslist for various situations: jobs, apartments, bicycles,, cameras, instruments, snowboards, rides, and a hundred other things I probably shouldn’t have gotten in the first place. There was a sale post for a 1990 Suzuki Swift – a bare bones engine-and-cab on wheels that doesn’t belong in the American Psyche of driving, let alone in an Alaskan winter. It leaked oil but ran fine, the ad said. Okay. I need something, I decided.
Twice it started without issue. After that, I found that not only was the five-year-old battery dead and that it was nearly out of oil, but the alternator wasn’t passing power back to the battery. The cat I bought it from probably had to jump it all of the four times he drove it.
I made it to Anchorage for our Saturday night musings at the Dessert First café. We wrote and talked and read and argued and forced each other out of denial and confusion. “Do what you’re supposed to be doing,” says Trey. “If you’re not the best you you can possibly be, everyone else is missing out. If I’m not being the realest me I can be, you’re missing something important.”
It goes on like this all the time. We throw philosophy and style around like footballs, and sometimes someone takes a screwdriver and stabs one of them, and offers a perspective that makes the idea into something new and exhilarating. Breathtaking. Fresh. Worthwhile. We toss poems at each other like hot coffee brewed in the most inaccessible crevice of our bodies and minds. “Hey,” we’ll say afterward. “What’d you think of that?”
Trey jumpstarted the Swift for me and we sat in his truck and talked about jumpstarting the poetry scene, too. It’s happening. He knows what he wants – he’s the grandpappy of Anchorage poetry, or will be, at least, when there are grandkids – and I wonder if it’s something I want to be a part of. I didn’t see a place for me in the vision he’s obviously rehearsed in the mirror, as confident in his pitch for grant money and sharing his vision as he is on the mic, indomitable and fierce, and he’s never given a shit what you, the audience, thought.
The Swift accelerated to a very unswift 60 mph on the highway and I was loathe to push it any harder. The sputtering lawnmower motor couldn’t handle the highway life, and by the time I got home an hour or two later, faded and contemplative, I decided that this was not for me.
Three days ago, I had one perfectly good car that I loved and took care of. Two days ago, I had one trashed car that I would likely never drive again. One day ago, I had two trashed cars that will likely never be driven again, especially by me. Today, I’m cutting my losses. Get rid of them both, make out with what you can, and be done with it. Clean slate. Start over with the vehicle business. Or not.
But it’s bigger than just the car. Much bigger. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I haven’t been for a long time. I’ve been making excuses and surviving, sometimes barely, to scratch at the horizon again the next day. My flakiness, as my brother calls it, is not the fact that I’m not willing to take responsibility. It’s that I take responsibility for the wrong things, and then try to fly with them on my back. Inevitably, it fails.
I’m not who I can be. Sometime in the past year or so, I took happiness and told it I didn’t want it, that I could make do without it. I decided to make decisions again. Without the thinking part of making them. It seems I thrive with the seasons – for every lovely winter, the next is my discontent.
“The world is full of people doing what they need to do,” Trey told me, “and no single act is more important than another. What happened in Egypt is no more important than what’s going on with you. The difference is that they’re there and that’s what they wanted, and you’re here. What do you want?”
I’m working on it.