Getting Off (The Grid)

Sadly Erecting BaldSometimes I feel like there are too many things running freely around in my brain. It’s likely, if I were a control freak, I’d be insane. Still, I’m not ruling out the possibility.

Take, for example, the commercial currently on TV, turned to a very low volume, but playing into the right corner of my eye. The commercial is showing the sad faces of men, rotating in circles, which suddenly change instead to happy faces of men with a fuller hair. I have no idea how big the market is for men wanting more hair than they have. Judging by the number of commercials I would guess it must be comparable to the market for men who want their erections to be firmer and last longer. I’d also hazard a guess that both of these markets combined are dwarfed in comparison to how much people are willing to spend on pills which cause them to be less unhappy. Which makes me wonder, can a man with an erection ever be unhappy, even if he is balding?

But interestingly, the power has gone out and the house is in darkness while I type this using the chemically stored energy within my laptop. So, I can’t really access the answers I need out there in the interconnected ether which is bringing this to you in my future. I’ll leave it to you, to research on your own, if you have similar curiosities.

But before the sad, flaccid, bald men came to mind, I had some less inspiring thoughts about squirrels. Not just any squirrels. Troublesome squirrels. Secret agents of Chaos squirrels, actually. We have them here. They run along the power lines, exploding, causing blackouts. Sometimes you can find their charred, burnt orange carcusses lying contorted on the ground. I don’t think they’re very smart. Nevertheless, they are agents of Chaos. When they’re alive, before they’re recruited, you can often find them running fast in aimless directions. They will stop suddenly for a while, looking around quickly, chewing, then, for no reason, bolt off on some wild, seemingly random course. I was thinking of them earlier, just before I returned home to write this. Now I’m in darkness, with a limited charge. The squirrels are crafty and swift.

Which is why, if you are like me, you are interested in power, and the lack of it. Being at the mercy of squirrels can be problematic. You would imagine, when paying huge wads of money each month for power, squirrels would be unable to thwart you. But they do, and not just myself. There are other people who depend upon my having power and they become cranky when I don’t. So I’ve had to think a few steps ahead of the squirrels, along the lines of natural philosophers like Michael Faraday, to metal and magnetic fields, and the burning of long-dead organisms. Or, rather, a data cash card at Costco to purchase a generator.

So now, when the squirrels strike, we’re ready. We have contingency plans. We fire up the beast and it shrieks unbelievably loud, reverberating far into the distances, sending the dog fleeing and cowering into the house. But that’s power, baby, and we’ve got it now. Everyone for miles around knows it, too. And there is nothing the feeble little squirrels can do about it.

Dad’s Generator MufflerBut, being modest, there is no reason for vulgar displays; best we conceal the power, drawing as little attention as possible. This is a time when having a life-long devotion to the military industrial complex comes in handy: unique and insanely over-blow gadgets to get the job done. If you might be wondering what this picture is, it’s my father with his newly-made muffler for the generator. It may look like a giant wooden box, but once it was finished and closed up, it had become a veritable circus inside. And irritatingly to me, once again, his madness actually works.

Unfortunately, as always, more certain power comes at a cost to some of the pleasantries in life. The squirrels, and people who crash head-long into posts have forced us to string thick wire throughout the house, which I leave in place at all times, ready for those incessant moments of powerlessness. Ironically, I mostly enjoy being without power. I find candlelight soothing and centering. Stillness, and quiet. The warm aesthetic of a book, full of pages with printed words, held in the hand, being read in a dim, flickering light. The mystery of a world without power, almost primal. With no gunshots outside, no screaming, and no soldiers bursting in. Only those damnable helicopters.

We’ve recently decided to leave the grid. No more paying for transient power that leaves us dependent, especially when the cost is so high, and will only get higher. It will be power from the movement of air, the cast-offs from the sun, and the creation of water. The process will be gradual. My dad has more crazy ideas surrounding the exploitation of air and I have some knowledge of the characteristics of matter, energy and the associated forces. Photo voltaic cells that can exploit a larger spectrum of light are becoming practicable. Water from either the stream or the well is practically limitless. It will be an interesting experiment, finding this kind of independence from the machinations of the squirrels. Let me know if you have similar inclinations.

Sylvia’s Holiday Halloween Party

Under the couch, a candy, crispy strawberry
the bathroom smell gleams fresh with ammonia
rubber fingers twiddling like aprons from the 50's
where June and the pleated pants pressed flatly
covering the hard line from inside to out, made
presentable the clean bleach we speak happily

You see, underneath couches, beds and any space
where little gaps rise debris begins mingling in
wild cast-off clutters of filth that hide resisting
discovery and may appear as nothing to unwary eyes
but as they look I know what lurks so I suck them up
in a vacuum bag even in the gaps between, even in
the crevices of carpet threads, deep, steam clean

The little girls are visiting where spider webs
will not do, in the corners of the ceiling where
dangling webs might grip their pony tails and send
them screeching down the halls with little bugs dancing
as they fling about their curls to be free of species
invading the pristine haven of the bleached and pleated genes

And the witches in the wardrobe who ignore the vacuum's pull
giggling gingerly for their time alone with these fleeing skulls
cast candy in the couches to appease the parent's call
and twitter in the shrieking lass to wind the web anon
then send her forth a huddled mass to fear no more of trees
nor dancing with the brooms and beasts, nor pleating for the knees

And candy in the couches sat the guests all well and pleased
with ginger boys and girls resounding kiddy coos and leaves
moving shadows on the crystal glass from breezes in the moon
and doggie growls from nicely fed the meat steaks cross the room

Yes it's pleased to see you here relax and have your fill
such clean and tidy warmth you bring to compliment my will
a cookie for the cookie heart that's sweetness bound to taste
bitter in the dregs of wine that spoiled in your haste
search the dream that fills the sky at night, in wonder of all lies
and chew the meat of cabal fish to join your soul to mine
then wings will send us far to rest on truer shores of bliss
where dining hot on other's chests your secret comes to rest

At last we see the sparkled hand that bound you here to me
with power made of gummy drops and plastic heads and beams
these lovely children like my songs and heed them on their knees
and screeching though they go anon, it's far too late for please

For the Love of God

Fall Coming

Fall is arriving. The first hints came some time ago, subtle, and commingled with clear skies. Little silver dollars turning red, fall to the largely domesticated earth. Slugs grown swollen in their abundance, slow even more as cold comes. The many still green tomatoes soon, in the frost of night, will cease their ripening. The harvest moon, just last night, shone like a dim silver myth, illuminating the ghostly shapes of high clouds, the outlines of towering trees, and smaller shrubs gathered in the masses below.

There is something to the clouds in the Pacific Northwest that is not easily explained. Our crazed Alaskan neighbors understand this. But their clouds also hold menace. Our clouds are more subtle. Sometimes people move here because they hear things, and feel that change should happen in their lives. They hear, nice people, smart people, beautiful land, nature-friendly, open-minded, clean, high-tech, etc., etc., etc. Or whatever happens to capture their interest, making them believe that where they are, if they were to stay, would not be as good. Nobody tells them about the clouds.

Jake has taken to being covered completely with a blanket. At first, he couldn’t stand having his head covered, unable to see the things around him. He would grip the blanket in his teeth, scratch at it until he was free, then shake it violently back and forth as if killing it, until he knew it would not bother him again. It became a game we play. He brings me the blanket, so I can cover him. Now, he stays under it, happily chewing on a stick or bone, free to leave at any time, yet content in his cocoon. Sometimes he will hear something and become still. Suddenly, he’ll flail and claw his way out from under the blanket to investigate. Then, when he’s satisfied, he’ll find you with the blanket dragging behind him, in tow, waiting to be covered again.

As a child, I always had the woods outside. But on long, heavily rainy days, I was sometimes known to drape a bed spread between chairs, creating an enveloping canopy. Whatever world there was, was within that enveloping isolation. This is what people who come here, are never told, about the clouds. How could you tell them? You just watch, what it does to them, as each begins living under their unique canopy, with all the many things normally in view, hidden away outside.

I know many people who have come, then returned to their places. We have no straight roads. Lines that should be straight, curve. Flat land rises and falls instead, in hills of earth. Raccoons spill your garbage at night, and stare. Visiting black men from Chicago can be heard to say with contempt, “these niggers here don’t know what it means to be black.” The one thing about the clouds, if you can remain, is that we’re all under them.

Many years ago I was befriended by some Arabic men who frequented a cafe I worked in while I was in and out of university, and between stays in England. The majority of them were Palestinian, but as Palestinians seem to get along well with the rest of the Arab countries, there was also a splattering of other nationalities. One man, physically the largest, walked with a great limp, using a hand crutch. He had been injured in war, and was gruff, cranky, and had the meanest, hardest look I’ve ever seen from another person. I knew nothing about what had happened to Palestine at the time. For some reason, this gruff man took to my honestly ignorant, straight-forward, pressing, and difficult questions. He grew tolerant of me, which was enough, I think, for the others to let down their guard.

I learned many things about the Arab world from these men. The first thing I learned is that they do not offer trust lightly, and offer friendship rarely. I learned also that their notions of these things, and many others, are much different from our own. Friendship is a very serious thing to these men. It runs very deep, very passionately, and very intimately. So much so, in fact, that the intensity of it sometimes made me uncomfortable, and made me feel emotionally inadequate. I remember one night, while I and one of them were alone, being given a little white ceramic pendant with two gold-inlaid goldfish swimming, on a thin gold necklace chain. This incredibly masculine man who exhibited mostly machismo, had tears in his eyes as he put it into my hand, telling me to take this gift so that I will remember him even if time separates us. It surprised me so much, and I did not know what to do, or to say, which is basically what I told him. I told him, too, I have nothing to give him that could be its equal. Then his kissed me on the lips, and holding my face between his hands looked me in the eyes, himself teary-eyed, and told me “you are a good friend.” No, he hadn’t been drinking, nor was he on any drugs. He hadn’t just broken up with his girlfriend, and he expected nothing from me. Later, as I brought coffee to his table, where several of them were gathered, he grabbed my hand between both of his and announced to the table that I was his good friend. From that point forward, they all treated me like an old friend, and made sure that any newcomer was aware of my “status”.

So, in this light, when I heard the Iranian President’s much-reviled remark that Iran has no homosexuals, I heard something much different. I had never seen such passion and love exist between men before, as I did between these Arabic men. Genuine passion and love, through and through. I know, through the undertones, and through personal experience, that this love is sometimes expressed sexually, too. But in their culture, that does not make them homosexual, or even bisexual. They are just men, living their lives, passionately. So, in a sense, I can understand why the Iranian President said that homosexuality does not exist in Iran. Saying that it did would bring far too many deeply-rooted cultural norms into question.

In a way, if an Arab man says he is a homosexual, it can create chaos and doubt. In Iran, a homosexual can be executed, tortured and imprisoned. Often times while they are under arrest, they are raped. But this does not seem to be a homosexual act, even though the officer is having an orgasm with a member of his same sex, and he will not be accused of homosexuality because of it.

Much like that Senator here, who wants to have sex with other men, but is not gay. Or the married man who has sex on the side with a man, but is not gay or bisexual. Or even the man who wants to have sex with another man, but never does. It seems that the word, or the label, holds more significance than the reality.

But is that really so surprising in any culture dominated by a religious perspective? Do we believe that it would be much different here, if Christian fundamentalists ran our government completely? I have heard some very scary things from them. I am certainly not trying to lessen the significance of people being executed for their sexuality. I’m just trying to shed a little more light upon a people who are having to cope with a lot of change and hardships, who come from an ancient culture, and who are currently under attack through politically-motivated media campaigns — under attack just in the media, at least for now.

I don’t see of those men any more, in case someone reading this finds out that one of them might have said or done something suspicious, and in turn thinks it best to torture the will out of me to find out something nobody knows, or just for the hell of it. But every once in a while I’ll run into one of them while I’m walking on the street. Still, it remains intensely emotional, even though the events of our lives have drawn us elsewhere. I feel guilt, like I’ve abandoned someone. And yes, I have even worried, in a cowardly way that makes me feel shame, what might happen to me if one of them is ever discovered to have possibly done something against American interests, since all this crazy stuff has been happening. I don’t like feeling shame. I don’t deserve to be forgiven. Maybe they will. If I ever seek their forgiveness, that is. Which causes even more shame.

So here I am, in the canopy of clouds, where what is within, comes out, and what is without, comes in. The place that drives newcomers into depression, and those accustomed, a strangely warm sense of commonality and comfort. The dog upstairs is barking because he has to pee. When he’s done, he’ll insist on being lifted into bed instead of jumping up, which he is more than capable of doing. Me, I’m just out of a hot shower, using scented soaps that Persephone made, which I just recently found again, buried under a suitcase. After the dog pees, I’ll be heading to the store, under that nearly full moon, doing my business while all but a few are fast, warm and asleep, in dreams that they, perhaps, only know.

Night Moon

A Tree on the Street

I stand accused of being a worrier. It seems I may need to let my hair down, uncross my hairy legs while wearing that tight skirt, relax, and focus on the “simple things”. I won’t be letting anyone down. I don’t have anything to prove. I might as well enjoy.

So here’s a little thing. I listen to music on headphones while I’m at the computer. I use an office chair with wheels. It doesn’t matter how careful I am, how far I keep the cord from the chair’s wheels — the cord has unique powers to entwine itself impossibly around wheels, legs and armrests, completely and instantly, randomly, at any time, ripping the headphones off my ears. I pay close attention. I check methodically before I stand up, or uncross a leg, or wheel backward or sideways. It doesn’t matter. Somehow, when I actually move, the cord is fastened in elaborate ways around just the right things to rip the headphones from ears. I curse. I laugh. I buy different headphones, particularly when I’ve ripped the wired connections enough to cause problems. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, or what I do. The music will be pulled violently off my ears.

Like when I was walking down third avenue today after getting my spine and neck snapped around to release so much stuff we never realize. Jazz music was floating through the twilight air along with the spicy smell of shrimp from an Asian bistro. A young guy with a white baseball cap was walking a dog on the sidewalk, heading toward me. He was looking me straight in the eye, expressionless. I stopped in front of him, and he stopped in front of me. He was handsome. The right side of his mouth was badly scarred, and his right cheek was indented enough to be called grotesque. His right eye drooped lower. I asked him what had happened to him, because I try my best to be honest. He blinked a couple times quickly, and his face seemed to relax a little. He said he was riding in a truck in Iraq and something outside had blown up. Without thinking, I told him I was sorry. He asked me, what for — I hadn’t done anything to him. I petted the head of his dog then, who I think must have smelled Jake on my pants.

Later, when I was in the cafe, in line to order coffee for the drive home, I overheard two guys in business suits talking at their table nearby. They were discussing the reasons we needed to stay in Iraq, and how disastrous it would be if we left now. They were not discussing Afghanistan. They did not mention Iraqi people. They thought that Iran was not a threat to us now, but would be soon. I ordered a double americano to go, with a snickerdoodle. On my way out, I stopped at their table, sat down my coffee, and the little sack with my cookie, and squatted down to the ground with my hands on the back of the one empty chair for support, well below their eye level, looking up. They both looked about the same age, slightly older than the guy with the dog, and younger than myself. Hi, sorry to bother you, I said, but I was wondering. If you believe so strongly we should be doing what we’re doing, why are you not over there doing it? The guy laughed, I can’t just leave my job. And I just got married a few months ago. It sounded like he thought of it as an extra long vacation. I turned to the other guy, who had a little more time to think. That’s the job of the military, he said. Ah, I said, as I stood up, gathered my coffee and cookie, and walked back in the chilly evening toward the car.

It’s funny how accustomed you get, hearing your own car’s engine running, as you sit there, idling. I was just sitting inside, listening to it, staring at a tree up ahead, its leaves lit by the strange orange glow of a street light buried within the branches. The coffee was still too hot to drink. The cookie tasted good. And six people, during that time, walked by on my left.

Not Really So Enlightening

I made a mistake. At least, I think I did. Whenever you’re being facetious, you run the risk of people not hearing what you really mean. The same risk happens when you’re trying to be ironic. I’m going to be impersonal for a moment, to you.

Unless you are someone who has just happened upon this archive of what I write, then you are someone I know in a way that is more intimate, receiving this in email. You are part of a group of people that has been defined by a force external from yourself. You are part of an extraordinarily diverse group. Some of you are hard-core intellectuals in the traditional sense. The rest of you are pretty damn smart. All of you have good hearts. That, more than anything, is what defines you, in this collection of people. Other than that, most of you have more “liberal” leanings in your politics and ideals, while some few of you are more “conservative”. Everyone I am aware of here has at least somewhat of a mix. A few of you are in fairly significant positions of power, while others of you, like me, live your lives doing what you do. Liberal or conservative, you all have open minds, for the most part. I think you must have an open mind, to have a good heart. You’re all nice to me, at least, listening to me blather on.

I’ve heard back from more than the usual number of you after what I last wrote. It is clear to me, that I was not clear. Normally I don’t mind that, because people can often find, in a lack of clarity, at least some clarity for themselves, that is devoid of biases or agendas I might hold. Maybe like a song that reminds of you of something completely different, or a smell that evokes some lost memory. In the last piece, I touched upon some academic things in a very sloppy, hurried, and incomplete way which was, in all likelihood, irresponsible. To make matters worse, I blended this with the more blurred-like quality of prose in a hasty attempt to keep the more cold intellectualism tied to the heart. This is always an issue for me, and one that deserves more effort invested on my part, before sending something out to you, and to you other unknown people who happen by. I don’t think there’s anything to apologize about, but I did want to offer a little clarification, since some of the issues related to issues that require clarity, if you are to invoke them.

First, Capitalist Positivism is not a term within the canon of academia, so far as I am aware. It is something I made up, and attempted to explain what it meant. Positivism is a philosophy that emerged in the industrial era when rational, scientific thinking was taking root on the societal scale. It did not like the metaphysical world and focused upon the measurable. It was based upon rationality. It said that people, if left to these trends, will eventually be able to govern themselves without any imposed controls. In the socio-political arena, this thinking played into such notions as Socialism, where people would rule their own lives as much as possible, and wealth would be distributed more evenly to everyone, without giant clusters of it developing for the few, while the many had to do without. Economic, and some philosophical proponents of Capitalism and the “free market” did not like this and went to great lengths to discredit Positivism. Some of these great thinkers, like the influential Ludwig von Misus even said, in his work “The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science”

What pushes the masses into the camp of socialism is, even more than the illusion that socialism will make them richer, the expectation that it will curb all those who are better than they themselves are. The characteristic feature of all utopian plans from that of Plato down to that of Marx is the rigid petrification of all human conditions. Once the “perfect” state of social affairs is attained, no further changes ought to be tolerated. There will no longer be any room left for innovators and reformers.

In the intellectual sphere the advocacy of this intolerant tyranny is represented by positivism. Its champion, Auguste Comte, did not contribute anything to the advancement of knowledge. He merely drafted the scheme of a social order under which, in the name of progress, science, and humanity, any deviation from his own ideas was to be prohibited.

The interesting thing, however, is that these same people who railed against Positivism as a socio-political system very much desired to embrace Positivism for businesses and the “free market” on which Capitalism depends. Businesses needed Positivism, to be left to their own devices, self-regulating and not interfered with by external forces. People did not.

So instead of just Positivism, which has never really come about for people fully, I think we can say we have Capitalistic Positivism that applies to businesses, and most truly, those businesses that can be said to be multi-national organizations — organizations that operate outside of the framework of any one political system, whether Democracy, Totalitarian State, Monarchy, etc.

This was the general thrust of the academic portion of my little piece. One of the less academic thrusts was confronting our predisposition to equate Capitalism with individual freedoms and liberty, and trying to show that they are very distinct, very different, things. Economic thought continues to be dominated by the “Neo-classicists”, hugely influenced by Milton Friedman, who argues that Capitalism and free markets are necessary for we, as people, to be free. He believes, similarly to the Positivists, that businesses and economies left alone without government interference, will regulate themselves.

You must take into account that businesses are self-interested. They are mandated to maximize profit. Less academic people, which is by far the majority, who blindly believe in Capitalistic Positivism somehow seem to attribute to these “free markets” a moral sense of knowing what is the right thing to do. We should not be able to sue a company for poisoning us. We should trust that the corporations are knowledgeable and ethical enough that they would not bring down upon us any affliction of global warming. We can trust that corporations, having their own heavily-armed military forces will always do the right and honorable thing for us. After all, the candidate Ron Paul, who actually sounds pretty neat, believes that the free market is “compassionate” and takes care of people. Maybe that’s why poor Katrina victims are still without housing. Maybe that’s why after the hurricane’s devastation, all New Orleans school employees were fired and the state subsequently turned over control of the schools to private companies, and Bush kindly authorized nearly $500 million in school vouchers for residents. Maybe because this free market is compassionate, that is why we’re overseas killing so many people, and letting so many of our own people die. Maybe I don’t understand what compassion is.

I also used a term Extreme Capitalism. This also, as far as I know, is not part of the canon. However, it is a term I have been hearing. I first heard it used by Naomi Klein in an interview about her new book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” In it, she describes many of the tactics Capitalistic Positivism once matured into Extreme Capitalism uses to achieve its socio-political ends. We see a good example of this in school vouchers replacing public schools after the disaster of Katrina. She has many such examples, including much on the war, interrogation/torture in the context of population subjugation, the purposeful neglect of our country’s infrastructure and subsequent handoff to private sector businesses, etc., etc. Also, it’s probably good to note that we are not even so much dominated by free market Capitalism any more, but rather oligopoly.

And finally, I tried to show how we, in our daily lives, participate actively in the perpetuation of these ideals, even by doing nothing. I tried to give an excuse for us, by using the term enlightened self-interest. However, if I am to be completely honest, I would drop the “enlightened” part, replacing it with “thoughtful”. We still have a ways to go in this before we get the shiny gold star of “enlightenment”.

I didn’t realize I was being as confusing as I was, in that last piece. As you’ve probably noticed, I am very bad about going over what I’ve written, after I’m finished. Often I will days later, after I get some distance, then make changes or corrections. I’m afraid that last piece is beyond easy modification, though. So this bit here will have to remain affixed to it, hopefully to make it at least sound like I might have a little sense going on, behind me.

By the way, thank you for the kind words, the bitch slaps, and even the patronization. Wicked bitches that you are. 😉 It really does mean a lot to me.