Be here now — We’re not

Six degrees of separation is about connectivity. The theory is that you know A who knows B who knows C who knows D who knows E who knows F. Though at the time it was postulated at five degrees, the theory was first developed in 1929 in response to the observation that telephonic communication and faster modes of travel were shrinking the social world making distance less relevant in the structuring of our social webs. The closer we are bound together by our technology, the less constrained we are by time and distance. Crossing the ocean can be physically accomplished in a matter of hours for those with the necessary resources. Almost anyone can cross that same distance with their voice in the time it takes to establish the connection. Speed dial shortens this time to a press of one button, and if the call is answered immediately, then maybe one or two seconds have elapsed.

Six degrees of separation may or may not be an accurate theory. It is of mathematical design, tested by mathematicians at universities. It makes a good round for the internet and everyone tries to reach Kevin Bacon, which runs his name through everyone’s mind and ups his famosity meter. Now Bacon is using the concept to raise money for charities.

As we draw closer together, separation from our physical world is increasing. We have accomplished six degrees of separation from being present in the world. Here I define the world as the natural world. Earth, sky, water, time. Soil, stream, air, this moment, last moment, next moment.

Separation level one–asphalt or concrete path between our feet and the soil;

Separation level two–vehicle traffic drowns out the sounds of nature of things that live in the sky;

Separation level three–ipod music, separates us from the sounds of traffic;

Separation level four–cell phone separates us from our spatial environment by placing us with the other person in a kind of telephonic space;

Separation level five–cell phone texting separates us from the sound of another person’s voice into the more abstract and symbolic world of cyberspace;

Separation level six–cell phone with camera which interprets the visual world while we text so that we do not see directly where we are, but only through the filter of the camera lens.

Sharks, guppies & puppies

Evening, Gresham Central Transit Station. Max is stopped, the gate is down, no way I’m going to catch it. I run with my bike because I don’t want to get a ticket for riding on the platform. I can’t believe it. I’m going to catch it . . . right up to the doors and I’m lifting my bike to take the stairs . . . the door closes in front of me.

It’s not raining. I won’t get pissy about it. I make the call home. Just missed the train. A courtesy guy gives me a strobe light for signaling buses in the dark. He talks about bus drivers who won’t stop, how the city has grown and isn’t friendly. People from other places, he says, from harder places bring their meanness. His accent is south of the border, but he’s a Portlander, looking at the strangers who are making this place hard.

Over Courtesy Guy’s shoulder Guardian Angel approaches, belly hanging over his large winged silver belt buckle. Bright yellow nunchucks dangle from his belt. He holds up his cell phone/camera and snaps the inside of the shelter. Seeing something there invisible to me. A police cruiser slips up to the curb. I can see it through the etched and frosted leaves, idling there, watching the Angel. Or watching for gangstas, or watching for kids on skateboards, for maniacs in wheelchairs who stop on the tracks and refuse to move, watching for ticket sharing scofflaws. Society’s delicate balance at risk. The cruiser moves on. The Angel flips through the pictures he took. A not-in-service train comes, stops impotently, goes, and finally, the westbound to Hillsboro train.

I call my friend whose brother can’t find his way. He’s living in his truck, smells of diesel and decay. He’s calling shelters, getting that TB test next week. She can’t let him stay, can’t lose her housing. She can’t take care of her brother. It’s so hard to live in a world about money and property, not people.

I hear cards shuffling and watch a boy in a hoodie. Young card shark, shuffles his deck. Says to the boy across the aisle, “Hey dude. Hey dude. Hey dude, pick a card.”

The boy shakes his head, but finally takes a card. Shark says, “Remember your card. Remember your card.” He places the card on the top of the deck and says, “Tell me when to stop cutting.” Cuts the deck three or four times, the boy says stop. Shark starts tossing the cards, one by one, on an empty seat. He goes fast. Only hesitates once. Then he stops, says, “I guarantee. I guarantee. The next card is yours. If it’s not yours, I pay you $5 dollars, if it is yours, you pay me $1. Are you in?”

I can see the boy’s been drawn in, but doesn’t want to be. He shrugs. The shark flips the card. “Is that your card?”


“Damn, I lost five bucks.” The shark gathers up his cards. Some new people get on the train and he tries to pull them in to his game. Finally starts a rap about all the kinds of dope he has on himself. ”I’ve got weed, meth, you name it. I got all kinds of dope.” No takers. He changes his patter. Says, “This is Oregon it’s green up here. Not California. This ain’t California.” Then he goes on about Miss California and marriage between men and women and those democrats complaining about Miss California and at 60th, he gets off the train.

Dogs on the train start barking at each other.

It’s Portland.

We’ll end this thing one swine at a time

Egypt is killing all its pigs. A swineless country on the Nile. That’s just crazy, but if we can’t blame it on the pigs then who? Conspiracy theories. This morning I woke up thinking why haven’t I heard any good conspiracy theories about swine flu. I thought, must be somebody who thinks the drug cartels in Mexico are behind it, must be somebody who thinks a secret government lab in the US has infiltrated Mexico and spread the virus in order to test a new biological weapon delivery system, must be someone who belives that Mexican immigrants are being used by Al-Qaida to weaken the infidel with flu so that they can swoop down upon us with scimitars and mullahs and veil all our women and carry off our children, there has to be a chem-trail conspiracist somewhere who is absolutely certain that the virus fell from the sky. And damn me, if I didn’t find almost everyone of these theories whipping around the internet like eggwhites in a cuisinart.