You can’t sleep here

The old woman is sleeping. Her eyes are closed and her chin sits on the top of her bundle of possessions. Her hands dangle in her lap, arms rest on her thighs. She sits heavily on the blue metal bench. Her gray hair is neatly fashioned in a tight bun on the top of her head. The woman wears no makeup on her pale, slightly ruddy face. Her clothes have that washed-out no particular color look and fit loosely over her large body.

The green plastic chair is the first thing I see as I approach the transit station. It is overturned and tied to the top of her cart. Everything and nothing gives her away as someone who has nowhere to go. But mostly it is the cart or rather the possessions in the cart, which I can’t actually see. I can see several full plastic bags and something large and dark blue. It could be a blanket or a sleeping bag folded up. Everything in the cart is as tidy as her hair. The cart is not a grocery store cart. It is the kind of two-wheeled cart one can buy to tote groceries from the store.

This is what I see as I pass. I think how hard it is to just get enough sleep when you are homeless. You sleep in small frames of time never having enough to really recharge, to really give your body and your mind, particularly your mind, what it so needs to survive. Thriving is a wistful dream. Sleep deprivation kills. Even this kind of sleep deprivation shortens your life even if you have a place to live and plenty of nutritional food and exercise and love. If you don’t have these things, there is no reserve and sleep deprivation is more lethal.

While housed people are thinking about how to have healthier longer lives, the old woman just wants to sleep. And Christ, is that too much to ask? Apparantly so. As I board the train, I see two police, one on each side of her. I see her outstretched hand holds something. An identification? The train begins to move slowly out of the station and the woman stands up, begins pushing her cart, moves away from the bench, from sleep. Weariness in her every lumbering step.

Age of Delightenment

The Age of Delightenment, as it is now so named, began as the 20th century entered its mid-point. After the second of wars considered world wars in that century, there was a hunger to put aside the darkness and sadness and horror born of these wars. Most of the world, Europe, Great Britain, Northern Africa, parts of Asia, Japan and certain of the Pacific Island nations would not so easily shed the memories of war because these were living wounds in the landscape, scars too visible and too deep to turn away from. But America, that enchanted place between the Atlantic and Pacific, in that place the scars were mostly hidden in the men who returned, or visible where limbs were lost or eyes gone blind, but it was easy enough to shunt these off where they would not be troublesome reminders of unpleasantness.

The Age of Delightenment, as it is now so named, began as the 20th century entered its mid-point. After the second of wars considered world wars in that century, there was a hunger to put aside the darkness and sadness and horror born of these wars. Most of the world, Europe, Great Britain, Northern Africa, parts of Asia, Japan and certain of the Pacific Island nations would not so easily shed the memories of war because these were living wounds in the landscape, scars too visible and too deep to turn away from. But America, that enchanted place between the Atlantic and Pacific, in that place the scars were mostly hidden in the men who returned, or visible where limbs were lost or eyes gone blind, but it was easy enough to shunt these off where they would not be troublesome reminders of unpleasantness.

The main thing was that the depression was over, thank God! The men were home from the war. Things could get back to a normal that never was. A normal that was carefully constructed to assuage the hunger of the people for the fruit of the pursuit of happiness. And not so incidentally to continue to provide wealth to those hungry gods who profited so enormously from the wars.

Thus did the Age of Delightenment begin. Aided so magically by the invention of television and household machinery. Life of ease, careless. An age where science really was the religion, though the old religion stood guard over the practice of ritual so that the common thought was: Science, God willing, would cure everything. Perhaps even death could be vanquished. We are rightly stunned by such hubris from our vantage point in the future. But imagine living in that time when terrible diseases like polio, syphilis, smallpox, anthrax, tuberculosis were beaten back, beaten down, cured to such an extent that most of them existed only as specimens in rigidly guarded containment. Our scientists smugly declared these viruses to be eradicated. Though some of them still pestered what was regarded as the Third World. Anyone traveling there had to be sure to be inoculated against them, especially tuberculosis.

And such wonderful things were on the horizon. A cure for cancer could be out there, graspable. Cryogenics–all you had to have was enough money and you could be suspended in a tank waiting for the cure of whatever killed you in the first place. Revivication, frankenstein nation. You could live forever.

Medicine had advanced so much and advertised itself as having advanced so much further than it had that people were absolutely indignant, actually outraged, when their loved ones died, when a baby died, when a child died, when a man in his prime, a woman in her glory, died. Sue the doctors, the hospital, sue them, someone must pay.

We lived in a world of euphemism. People didn’t die, they passed as if they were just walking by you on the street into some other country from which they would not return. That was the juncture of the old religion and the new.

It is easy for us to look back and shake our heads in disbelief. How was it possible? How could our predecessors have been so blind, such idiots? As we pick our way through the ruins, through the thin strata of soil covering the armature of their architecture, we have the vantage point of time and knowledge. We have the history between them and us. We know what happened. Who are we to say we are any different? Would we not pick the fruits and eat them, choosing the best for ourselves because it is within reach. Delightenment. The roots of the word come from the ancient, ancient world. Delectare: to select from.

Science was ever-changing, ever evolving, reaching out to the future and back to the beginnings. Describing the origins of the universe and the end of time. Science had its own priesthood. Men and women in laboratory uniform spent their days cloistered in clean rooms protected by airlocks, speaking their incantations over strands of DNA. They constructed massive particle accelerators seeking subatomic particles to prove their theories of quantum physics.

Wasn’t it a wonderful world? I see you shaking your head, filled with sorrow and sympathetic remorse. You say if science was building with one hand, it was tearing down with the other. Science in the employ of destruction, tool of greed.

If we know anything now, I think we know that no one stands on the top of the hill forever. If nothing else, the hill itself will come down. The earth shrugged, stretched and swatted at the vermin on its skin. And science could not save them. Science could not win. And God was already dead, being just an image as frozen as the head of Rupert Murdoch.

The Age of Delightenment is remarkable for having been so short-lived among the annals of ages. However, like other paradigmatic shifts the defining characteristics, such as prodigious self-indulgence, were confined to a narrow geography. The era is regarded as important solely because the dominant culture was wallowing in it. As history is written by members of the dominant culture it follows that what is recorded is their own history. The conditions of existence, the accomplishments and disappointments, the day-to-day struggles of the rest of the world disappear into the ground, like worm-castings, underfoot. Their richness and the enigma of their existence left to be uncovered centuries later by archeologists.

(next article in series: Enlitenment)

Botox & Bull Semen

Or should that be bull seamen? Or just bull. How rich do you have to be to have poison injected into your face and bull jizm massaged into your hair? How rich do you have to be for it not to matter? The future is full of new and exciting products. Can it be a far step from mud pie / mud mask to cow pie / cow pie mask? The bovine beauty mask–not for cows only. Because there is bullshit and there is cow shit. Or as the French might say: Bovin merde masque or the BM Masque–Masque d’Merde.

We all do this don’t we? have those moments where we wonder how people first put some tool to use like a sharp stick, or how they developed cream sauce, or how to control a horse by contolling its head. That sort of, who was the first person to do this and what were they thinking, line of musing. Cooking for instance–picking up the meat that accidentally fell in the fire and eating it.

What were the circumstances where someone got bull semen in their hair and decided it had never been so shiny? How did the bull semen get in the hair to begin with? I’m trying to imagine this. Did a semen extractor come home one day with an extra jar of semen as a gift for his wife and say “Honey, why don’t you put this on your hair?” Is there a by-product to artificial insemination? Is there a sell-by, pull date on frozen bull semen initiating a frantic search for a way to sell it? Why would you even think about it as a hair care product? I expect the answer to this is rather more mundane than I’d like to imagine.

Since dull, lackluster hair is such a global issue with far-reaching ramifications, there are no doubt minions of lab techs working on the problem. Perhaps (what do I know about it) there is an ingredient in semen that makes hair shine–possibly protein. Maybe bull semen has more of it than other sources.

In my heart of hearts I’d like to think that it is part of an elaborate satirical scheme to entertain the masses by making the rich look ridiculous. Leave me with my illusions.

sack

There is a paper sack on the bench outside of Peet’s Coffee on 15th & Broadway. Should I call the police, a fireman, someone in the store? Report packages left unattended. There are terrorists hiding underground who come to the surface just long enough to leave packages on benches and train station platforms. Should I call someone? What should I say? There is a suspicious package on the bench. I should have to describe it. Yes, officer it is a brown paper sack. It’s an in-between size brown sack and the top is rolled down. It looks like there is something soft in there, like bread rolls, or socks, or underwear, or shit. It doesn’t smell so it probably isn’t shit. It could be a bomb, but wouldn’t a bomb be hard? Is it soft just because it looks soft? There could be something hidden down in it, something hard, plastique or plastic. What is plastique, anyway? And what is the difference between plastique and plastic. Plastique blows up. But plastic can blow up, too. Isn’t a balloon made from some kind of flexible, elastic plastic? And what about those dolls you can buy in a box and take home and blow up and make love to or put in your car so you can drive in the carpool lane until you get caught. And that can blow up in your face, let me tell you. Though I’ve never done it and never will. Someone could be trying to blow us up. To blow up the people on the sidewalk, to blow up the people in the coffee shop and the restaurant across 15th and the two across Broadway and the beauty salon and the wine shop and the Starbucks over there under McMenamin’s. Someone may be trying to blow up the kind citizens of this city, the neighbors in this neighborhood, the people playing pool and smoking cigarettes in the poolroom upstairs. Someone might have forgotten their lunch, or some kid left it there on purpose, or there is a change of clothing that a lover was bringing back to the person he doesn’t want to see anymore and she didn’t ever want to touch those clothes again. Whatever it is, it is very small. But small things can be devastating. Small bombs can blow up big things and I don’t know if we should take the chance. But it is very cold out tonight and dark and it is probably just a sack with nothing in it that anyone wants that isn’t likely to hurt anyone and I am not going to call anyone’s attention to it.

The Red Book — Mass Transit Journal

Entry 2

My friend Fred says that a world with fewer men would be more peaceful and he tells me that Harper’s has an article about baboons and what happens when the aggressive baboons are suddenly gone. He says that the aggressive males had all gotten poisoned eating at a human dump. The females in the group began to groom and care for the surviving non-aggressive males who had not been eating at the dump. These became the fathers of a new generation of baboons and each succeeding generation was passive and as the passive males split off and formed new family groups in these the new generations of males were also passive so that a large area of Kenya is now populated with non-aggressive baboons.

Nature or Nurture? The question is not entirely answered. Baboons do pass on culture. But what happens to the aggressive ones if any are born? Do they conform to the group culture? If aggression is genetically encoded then is it the dominant gene and so is eliminated by the deaths of the aggressors before they can pass on their genes? Do none of the females have that aggressive gene? Or are we talking culture and baboons doing what appears expedient for not just survival of self, but survival of species and the attention of the female. Sex. In the natural world it is all about sex.

My friend Anais tells me about the damselfish changing sexes when the need arises. Anais speculates about the Y chromosome, as have many of us. Y is unlike any other chromosome. It is missing something, a leg. It is aberrant among chromosomes. Is it necessarily defective? No, it is mutant, necessarily mutant. If we, if all beings, if all plant, animal, virus, whatever needed only itself to reproduce then we would be a world of clones with no motivation to move. Stationary, planted, still. All movement within. Sexual reproduction creates variation and necessitates movement. Even plants, even asexual plants, must find some method of obtaining fertilization for seed. Usually this is accomplished through the movement of birds or bees, or other insects, sometimes it is just the wind.

Imagine being dependent on the wind for your children.

But I have to come back to the argument posited by Fred. Maybe it would be a more peaceful world with fewer men. It would depend upon the nature of the remaining men and the response of the women to them. If all the men left were peaceful and the women were favored toward them then the result might be a culture which preferred pacific men and thereby a more peaceful world comes into existence.

Anyway, it is not a world in which I will take part–it is a future world.

(What about a world without children altogether? Read P.D. James novel The Children of Men. See review.)

The Red Book — Mass Transit Journal

Entry 1

(you see his image everywhere now. Ernesto “Ché” Guevara is hip. his face is on the little red journal i bought at Powell’s. i write in this book as i commute around portland on the trimet system.)

Having purchased this empty book, this potential journal, I find it isn’t blank. There is already a stain on the pages, a dictum inherent in the cover. Judge a book, even an unwritten one, by its cover. Ché demands something. Ché is a guiding spiritual force, a string plucked in a certain way sending out a note, underscoring my thoughts. There is a tune here. I won’t be able to be frivolous. I think Ché demands a certain concentration on the injustices of the world.

Think about this: the degradation of the environment contaminated with dioxins through human action is limiting the number of male births. Sometimes drastically. In Canada near Niagra there is a small reservation completely surrounded by a plastics, chemical industrial plant and the birth rate of male babies in that dioxin intoxicated place is 35%.

Male to female births are normally 106 to 100. A small percentage more males than females to make up for the life lost in hunting, fighting, machismo.

If all the women and all the men stay on this res and none of them are gay and none of them die and all of them want mates and choose to mate only with their contemporaries on the res, then only 35% of the girls will find a mate. If 10% of the boys are gay and none of the girls are then only 31.5% of the girls will find mates.

A certain number of those girls may be undifferentiated males.

Here’s a bit of irony. Niagara Falls used to be the honeymoon mecca of Northeastern United States. Marriages were consummated, babies conceived in hotels with heart-shaped beds. The roar of the falls, the “Maid of the Mist”, cheap power for Buffalo, cheap power for the petro-chemical plants–Niagara is a symbol of what is wrong, of what has gone deadly wrong with our relationship with the environment.

Love Canal is in the town of Niagara Falls, New York. It is where Hooker Chemical buried toxic chemicals beginning in 1942 and the City of Niagara Falls had been using the site since 1920 to dispose of its chemical waste. Ultimately, it is estimated that Hooker dumped 21,800 tons of toxic waste in Love Canal. In 1952, the company backfilled the dump because it had reached capacity.

Not long afterward an elementary school was built on the site and a subdivision for low-income families. The families who bought homes there were not warned that beneath their yards was a petro-chemical waste dump.

I saw the Love Canal neighborhood in the early 1980s after families had been relocated and the houses were boarded up. It was winter, cold, desolate, brown grass, leafless trees and it didn’t take much to imagine Rachel Carson’s, Silent Spring.

Love Canal is still resonating. It was a watershed moment wherein Occidental Chemical (formerly Hooker Chemical) learned that you can’t dump dioxin in potential suburban neighborhoods. If you want to contaminate you have to make sure you do it where people have no power. The poorest of neighborhoods, the least powerful of people.

But back to baby boys. Diminishing numbers of baby boys is a phenomena that occurs where PCB’s and Dioxin contaminate the environment. It occurs in animal species, as well as humans.

What would a predominately female world look like? Women are not necessarily more peaceful than men. We may appear to be so because we tend to bear the brunt of war. All the rape and torture–no glory. Such is true for those parts of the world where battles are fought. The point of rape is ownership and genocide–seed supplanting, creating children of the conqueror. Kill the men and boys, rape the women and in a generation there is no enemy. In theory, anyway.

So if most of the world were composed of women, if women made up 3/4’s of earth’s population, how would that change the world? More killing, less rape?

But women do suffer this other thing–love for their children. Not that men don’t suffer it as well, but somehow it is different in its manifestation. Men protect their children’s psyche or believe they are protecting their children’s psyche by testing them and allowing hem to be tested. Men will also physically protect their children against invasion and harm, but honor is big with men. LIfe is big with women. We’ll deal with the whole honor thing after we’ve saved our children’s lives. And for the most part we are unwilling to send those children to do battle. We want a really good reason.

Oil ain’t it for most of us. Liars ain’t it either.

But women can be very controlling. We can be harsh with each other and greedy and the evils of the world aren’t gender-based. They are greed-based. I’ve got mine, I’m getting more, and you can’t have any–greed-creed.

highway island

I’m in this unaccountable place, an island in the center of the tollway. A free space. A no-toll free space. Cars and trucks bomble past. Bomble, I say, hurtle, they reply, we hurtle by-bye. No, you bomb, you explode, you disappear. You bomble past and between your bombling passing in the gaps of your roar, I see the other side of the road, the banks of the asphalt stream rising toward the huddling city, a periphery to your vision of eternal highway. I am stranded on this deserted island. Slag of the highway. Concrete blocks, dumps of cement trucks done with their work dump here. But I can feel the earth shudder, I can feel it cracking, opening, I can see exiled green coming back. Illegal immigrant from the banks tunneled under, blew over, buried here, unearthing itself. Cower you fools, cower before a blade of grass, the first false leaf of a wild plant making reclamation of this earth.

Bus #9

(This was written before the Indonesian earchquake toll went up to 6,000)

So, 2,700, no 4,000, people died in an earthquake in Indonesia. And besides that there’s a volcano.

Lady on the bus says she was born in 1932. Makes her 73. I wonder if she has been speaking her mind all this time.

I wonder why the tweaker keeps looking back, looking back, craning his neck all the way round to look at me.

Marines killed 24 civilians. Among them women and children because a car bomb–a ”line of sight“ bomb–was detonated and killed one of their number.

Tweaker is getting off at 39th. Goodbye. Lady says she’s been married 51 years to a wonderful man. Good for her. He must be deaf. Another tweaker sits in front of me, nodding his head. Lady says her name is Carol.

A marine, a soldier might expect to be killed, who has at least put himself in the path of danger. Gone to battle, gone to war.

These who were killed in retaliation were people put in the path of danger by an enemy force. A force which claimed to be rescuing them from the evil ruler who put his foot on their necks.

The #9 is rolling side to side. A couple of guys are talking about dope in Ryder trucks and meth labs in semi-sleeper cabs. Prison sentences.

Once upon a time in a land far away young men moved from tree to tree, eyes scanning all the jungle for sight of the enemy who would try to kill them. Sometimes children were sent with bombs. Sometimes children were killed because they might have bombs. Sometimes whole villages of people were killed because someone there might have killed someone.

A volcano in Indonesia draws fire up its throat.

Myth Making & the Great American Cover-up

There is a yearning in America. Actually there are myriad yearnings. But I think they are all based in a yearning to be everybody’s best everything. Best form of government, democracy. Most powerful military. Best economic system, capitalism. Most powerful military. Best religion, christianity. Most powerful military. Most generous people. Most powerful military. Best athletes. Most powerful military. Best rocket scientist, one small step for mankind. . .Most powerful military. Richest nation. Most powerful military. Largest per capita prison populaton (in the first world–which is the only world). Most powerful military.

Losing at anything is a deep blow to Americans. It shakes the faith. Viet Nam shook the faith, but did not destroy the myth and the myth grew new stories to explain the problem. This is what Americans are really good at–myth creation. Is there a pesky reality we don’t want to acknowledge? Can’t bear to look at? Doesn’t fit in with our need to see ourselves as the best people on earth? We can cover that up. We can spin a tale to cover that up. We can make the bad things disappear.

Not always and not forever.

We think we’ve smoothed it out, covered it up and then someone lifts a corner, or the wind blows the wrong way or someone digs too deep and damn if something ugly doesn’t just pop up and hit us in the face.

We’ve been trying to re-imagine Viet Nam ever since the last planeload of Americans escaped the fall of Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City rose up behind them. We imagined that it was all Jane Fonda’s fault. If she hadn’t gone to Hanoi, America would have won. We imagined that it was the fault of all the peaceniks, of all the hippies and yippies. We could not imagine that the Vietnamese people won because they persevered, because they were fighting for freedom too long denied them, because they were fighting against colonialism and oppression. They took up with the communists because the communists were on their side. We couldn’t grasp that because democracy is best. It must be best. It’s our system.

So we had to say that we gave up too soon. We had to say the peaceniks broke the will of the people. We had to say the fault was with the media showing too much death and destruction. We buried the truth and taught our children lies.

This is the American way. It has always been the American way.

How we do revere those lovely pilgrims in their white bonnets and buckled shoes carrying bibles and muskets unfairly persecuted by the mean old English. There was that nasty little scene there with the witch trials. Sorry to keep bringing it up, but it really is important. The pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution so goes the myth. The English, whose general behavior I don’t mean to excuse, were appalled at the intolerance of these protestants. The pilgrims may not have employed the horrific torture tools of the inquisition, but their methods of persecuting those who did not profess their faith in a manner such that satisfied the elders were no less abominable. These were not nice people. They were cultish and they destroyed everything they did not understand.

They certainly did not understand the people who were there on the shores of this continent before them. These they did not consider people. Our pious forefathers and foremothers stole everything from the first people. Stole their food, stole their land, murdered their children, murdered their mothers, murdered their fathers and drove whomever remained away from the land which had been the home of their people for thousands of years. After the pious managed this they made many myths about the first people. Many of these were contradictory, but that didn’t stop the European Christians from spinning them and covering up those ugly moments, those pesky massacres.

Every day, we Americans perpetuate these myths in some form or another. At the heart of the myth is the need to believe that we have a right to be here on this continent pursuing our lives and our happiness, our American dream. We really have no legal right to be here on this stolen land. Every massacre and every broken treaty is a testament to our criminality. It is a monumental irony that we would call the descendants of the first people illegal immigrants, that we would call them criminals. For them there should be no borders.

My Hell

Militant Vegans, PETA Members
Circle I Limbo

Trixies
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Hipsters
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Bill Gates
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Libertarians
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

The Pope
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Creationists
Circle VII Burning Sands

Scientologists
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

George Bush
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell