Friday, April 30, 2010

The Said And The Unsaid

I once heard that we actually talk for a mere seven minutes a day on average. It's hard to imagine someone going around with a stopwatch to come up with this. That makes 1,433 minutes in silence; a long stretch to think great thoughts or more likely to just go blank in passive mode.

Some of us have a hard time being still in conversation. How much are we really receiving the other person and how much politely waiting our turn? Now there's something I don't want to talk or even think about.

I am now regarding my silence....there goes a dog across the street asserting himself in the only voice he has....and there's a motorcycle revving up its throat. The wind is strong and probably whirring to the dance of trees.

Peggy and I seem to have a lot to talk about yet we can also go for minutes at a time wordlessly. Many people get uncomfortable when the words stop as if its time to say goodbye. Yet what is music but the marriage of interval and instrument in a discernible pattern?

The genius of Jack Benny was his timing. He wasn't afraid to elongate that pause. Your money or your life, the thief said at gunpoint.............................I'm thinking, I'm thinking.

Silence is the dread in the room that chatter muffles. The Sidney Greenstreet character in The Maltese Falcon says to Bogie how he likes to talk to a man who likes to talk and then lets out his elephantine guffaw. He had plenty to hide and the body to hide it.

The vacuum created by silence is much like the visual space of this white page I'm smudging with words. We usually don't see the negative space in a painting but we're missing something as we fix only on the strokes. The subtext is what is not written or represented; the vivid unsaid or unseen.

Imagine a family gathering around the table. The unspoken agenda is the chair of the absent patriarch, upstairs in his final hour. An agreed upon hush.

How often do we divert ourselves with a meaningless image when the painter wants us to turn toward the vacated space? In our rush for something to chew on we can be like the watchdog munching on a piece of meat thrown by the burgler as he ransacks the house.

Look, I just filled up this page and haven't said much of anything. On the other hand never believe what I say when I say I have nothing to say.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

May 2, 1921

Peggy says it's her 89th birthday on Sunday. Anyone who has met her knows otherwise. My theory is that we may be the same age our whole lives; or at least get stuck at one or two places and live our lives "as if."

I was probably 37 during my teen years; too earnest, too politicized, too inner for my own good. I skipped puberty and went straight into early onset senility where I am now.Peggy, on the other hand, stopped in her late thirties and never left. So this will be her 50th year at 39.

If she likes announcing her age to friends it's because she can't quite get over it herself. She gives the finger to the calendar. There must be another way to measure the spirit of a person, the vivacity, creative impulse and embrace of the wonderment. Or maybe such a life force is beyond measure.

The disparity in our ages is in her youth that runs me ragged. The best I can do is get out of her way as her imaginative energy pokes and prowls across a broad terrain. Peggy possesses a remarkable enthusiasm for life. Let me stop at that word, enthusiasm....... originally, a rapturous inspiration by the gods. Inspiration literally means, the breath of. She breathes a rarefied air.

Even as the body takes its winter insults her creative reach remains in its ripe summer juice. Her poetry, now, is at the height of its astonishing power.

There is nothing weary in the way she receives people. Even strangers are fully met. I watch in awe as she connects with the soup-maker at the Soup Plantation. He barely speaks English but Peggy writes a poem for him and has it translated into Spanish.

She struck a similar relationship with a checker at the market. When the woman suddenly died Peggy was the only white person at her memorial service.

As witness to all this.... an elongation of youth, an ageless presence, a life fully lived, irrepressible, I look ahead to many more May 2nds at her side, amazed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The 4,000 Year Old Lie

Cancel my calendar. Tear up the contract. Don't buy that toaster oven. Send no email. Someone stole the remote. It's happening again. Mercury is in retrograde.

Or so they say. Actually it's an optical illusion and it occurs about three times a year for a few weeks. Mercury appears to be moving backwards from Earth's perspective. But planets don't really back up any more than a slow train, observed from a faster parallel train, is going in the opposite direction. Furthermore , if you see it at all you're one of the fortunate few. It never really escapes the red glow of the sun.

As far as I'm concerned Mercury could spend the rest of its orbital life in retrograde as long as the moon is in the House Of Pancakes. It's not likely to budge even if Busby Berkeley were around to choreograph the cosmos anew.

Astrology is, plain and simple, bad science; bad astronomy in particular. Excusable in 2000 B.C but only an amusement today. At worse it panders to the gullible, at best it's a parlor game...a way of meeting people at a single's bar.

It's also an industry that shows no sign of slowing down. This is the social phenomenon that interests me. Readers of horoscopes are not the drop-outs of the world. They are of both political persuasions. They read, they write and are otherwise thinking people.

The main problem with astrology is not so much in a misreading of the movement of constellations but the attributes it assigns to them. We don’t need Shakespeare to remind us that the fault lies in ourselves, dear Brutus, not in our stars.

What is the impulse that drives people to connect dots that aren't there? As a pharmacist I spent many hours talking patients out of vitamins or other nostrums for their sniffles or doldrums etc... Folks like to think they've hit upon a quick panacea or explanation for events that are random or unknown, as if every question mark has a corresponding exclamation point.

Maybe the larger issue is whether we have free will or if our fate is pre-determined. Certainly our beliefs are shaped, more or less, by accident of birth, geography, religious heritage, gender and DNA........but not entirely. We also have choices and can sometimes reject, transform or transcend the givens of our lives.

By looking to the stars we are abdicating responsibility for our own acts as autonomous and sentient individuals. My Taurus wife is no more or less stubborn than my Sagittarius daughter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Matter Of Attribution

Sometimes life seems so opaque, absurd and random one can feel adrift. Thank God(s) we have inspirational leaders in our midst to un-riddle it.

How else, but with an evangelical preacher here and an Ayatollah there, to explain the true meaning of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and other cataclysmic burps. Only they know to whom we can attribute these signals from beyond. These are the holy men who, in their infinite wisdom, can teach us about blame and punishment, which country to invade and whom to hate.

Leviticus lives! Isn't it obvious we have offended that early God who never learned how to control his tantrums. God forbid he should go to a temper management program or get on a mood stabilizer.

The ash cloud over Europe is clearly Allah's way of dispensing his displeasure over an excess of female flesh revealed, so says Ahmadinejad and his spiritual guides.Who can argue with that?;certainly not Pat Robertson or the late great Jerry Falwell. It's all about flesh and fornicators. Particularly Gay fornicators who were responsible for Katrina or was it 9/11?

I propose that their Ayatollahs and ours meet on some infidel island where their joint messianic urges can be satisfied. An agenda might be agreed upon for future acts of God. They can be introduced to their counterparts and join together in mutual scorn for the godless world. I suggest a chorus of rage against science, a shared vehemence toward “deviant” behavior and finally a pact for punitive measures. We know what devilish deeds we’ve done. A global scolding is now called for. The fundamentalist things of life, as time goes by.

Our men of God can interpret the floods and fires and they can have the quakes. Why not prepare an advanced list so they won't be caught speechless for future calamities? I can hardly wait for the next meteorological act of God, assassination or pandemic and why not power failure or Sig Alert....so we can feel secure in our alignment the Almighty(s).

It's such a comfort for us, the congregation of the lost, to be shepherded through these times of upheaval by men with a direct line to the great puppeteers in the sky.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Red Afterthoughts

After every blog I post, a few add-ons pop into my head the same way I often think of something I wish I'd said (or didn't say) on my way home after being with friends.

One such afterthought on red.... I picture a scene and even hear it, in which the Lone Ranger is galloping off to William Tell with his Hi Ho Silver, townfolks are scratching their collective heads wondering who that masked man was.........and there is Tonto in the corner of my vision with his red bandana.

All of which led me to wonder about this guy behind the mask who never hung around to strut and swagger after setting the world right. His humble heroics belonged to the same class as Superman and Batman with their hidden identities; a model which seems to have vanished in our times.

And then there was Tonto, of the side-kick school, a mystery of another sort. He was to the Lone Ranger as Robin was to Batman or Kato to the Green Hornet. The essential second fiddle.

Tonto...the name alone sounds suspiciously like the Yiddish word for Aunt. Could he be of that famous lost tribe of Israelites who had no sense of direction ?

And what are we to make of Kim-O-Sabe, aka Kimosahbe? Scholars have pondered this for decades. PhDs have been written....... or should be. Some say it was simply the name of a boys' camp in Michigan in the family of the radio show's director. Other archivists trace it back to the Ojibwa Indian word kee moh sah be meaning he who peeks as in scout. My favorite is an unknown tribe's term for stupid white man.

More important is the relationship between our two heroes. Just as Charlie Chan's Number One Son routinely came up with the clue that nailed the evildoer so too, did Tonto do the deed that undid the usually mustachioed villain. And he did it without even a hi-ho-silver. My kind of guy.

It occurs to me that the name, Lone Ranger, is itself a put-down to Tonto. What was he, chopped liver?

One witty moment which has stuck in my head since I heard it 40 years ago is the quip from Paul Lind on Hollywood Squares. The question posed was, Is sex better when wearing a mask? Lind's answer, Absolutely, that's why Tonto was always sweating. There's that red bandana again.

There's another story going around which illustrates their relationship (or does it?)

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are camping out in the desert having set up their tent for the night. After a few hours he wakes Tonto and says, Look, up at the sky and tell me what you see.Tonto replies, Me see millions of stars, Kimosabe.

What does that tell you?, asks the Lone Ranger.

Tonto ponders for a minute. Astrologically, speaking it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies. Chronologically, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident that the Lord is all powerful and we are insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it ell you Kimosabe?

The Lone Ranger is silent a moment, then says, Tonto, you dumb ass, someone has stolen our tent.

I doubt the masked man could find his way out of a corral without his buddy with the red bandana.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Seeing Red

Staring out the window into increments of green there is a red interruption from across the street in bristles of bottle brush plant. In the foreground outside my patio a hummingbird feeder matches the coral tree blooming red lanterns and I am suddenly aware how red splatters the width of my canvas as accessories to the fact.

Above the couch where I am sitting, an abstract construction of blues and white resin under cut glass is punctuated by a corner drunk with red. It’s a voluptuous touch like a smear of lipstick …. or blood.

A hemorrhagic sun splashes into the Pacific exhausted from the day’s smog. Blood rare, my friend tells the waitress and he sends the burger back. What accounts for that uncontrollable blush? There’s a freeway system of arteries inside me with overpasses and cloverleafs. No Sig alerts, I hope.

Larry King’s suspenders meet Sarah Palin’s jacket. The Mao Tse Tung T-shirt brought back from China ran all over the whites in the washing machine like some sort of revolutionary army.

I hear before I see the fire engine barreling down Lincoln Blvd. Peggy imagines angels following the truck. The red light on my dashboard gets my attention and the stop sign I sometimes obey. If I make this light I’ll have the next five….and then what?

Red is with us from Christmas through Valentine’s Day then drowns in red ink but returns in a summery way, hot and ripe and busting out all over. Firecracker red and freckles, Van Gogh’s beard and Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.

When I hear Red Diaper baby I get no image but I’m one of them. Headline: Red army meets G.I.s at the Elbe and then there was the Red Army Chorus which could hold its own against the Mormon Tabernacle Choir except they probably didn’t know Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Did Donner and Blitzen have noses of a different hue?

What are you rambling on about? Wake me up when you’re finished.
I will if I don’t have a clot.
It could be worse. You could start listing baseball players.
I would never abuse the page that way..

But who could forget Red Ryder, Red Skelton and Red Barber off on those red sails in the sunset? When Spencer Tracy had red hair all his movies were in black and white. Jefferson was not our only redheaded president; some say Washington was, under his wig and Grover Cleveland. And don’t forget Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth, Churchill, Woody Allen and Vivaldi. Was there anyone who wasn’t?

The cardinal we saw in Washington DC was ho-hum for our hosts but I never forgot it nor will I forget the buds on the ocotillo or Roger’s red sweater he wore till, I suppose, it unraveled back to yarn. There’s something about red. Expected in Chinese restaurants; unexpected on a grey day with marine air rolling in like some bearded prophet, an offering in his hand of a long stem sweaty rose.

About forty years ago I suggested to my daughter she might like to travel inside a watermelon. Part of her has been there ever since and sometimes I join her sailing this ruddy-luscious sea, black pits and all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Any Food Dislikes? No, but.....

As long as you asked I have no taste for road kill. I heard Zbigniew Brzezinski's daughter, Mika. speak about how her mother would have diplomats over for dinner and serve whatever she found on the highway. Yummy, they might remark, what is it?

I understand that rattlesnake tastes like chicken. I'm unwilling to verify that report. It may not be fully unalive. My preference is for the fork to do all the moving on my plate.

As a dyslexic atheist I don't believe in dog, even in the best Beijing restaurant.

Maybe my mother was scared by a coconut or I got traumatized by the Marx Bros. movie but I do hate coconuts. I suppose if I were stranded on a desert island with a lone coconut tree it would become my favorite dish. Until then.....

I never met a fruit or vegetable I didn't salivate over. Come to think of it I'm not fond of figs or dates. I don't know why. Does anyone ever know why they push away anything?


While I’m at it, why would anyone contaminate a perfectly fine salad with the addition of walnuts? I ask you. However I must confess that in recent years I rather enjoy a drizzle of walnuts providing they are caramelized. I offer this as exhibit A demonstrating my willingness to be flexible.

Lamb isn't my all-time favorite meat nor is trout something I would order but I don't hate them the way I hate goat cheese or stilton. I know I need to get over this before I start losing friends. There must be something in my mouth that chemically reacts with certain cheeses producing a taste similar to........... No, I can't even say it.

No one could call me a fussy man but I do like a bit of butter to my bread. Though many people, nowadays, eat marmalade instead.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Name Of The Thing

As kids, weary of Parcheesi or Chinese checkers, my friends and I played a game we called naming things. In turn we listed magazines, soaps, car models etc… I could hold my own in naming names but when it came to identifying the actual thing I ran into trouble.

My friends could look at the sky, listen to the motor and tell if it was a Lockheed, Douglas or Grumman. I’d lookup and admire the clouds. They knew a De Soto from a La Salle from a Chevy…blindfolded. Seriously. They could feel the fins or grille and Bingo.

To me a car was a car. They all had four wheels and a running board and got us from A to B. I had no shame in my ignorance as I remember. To this day I can barely find my car in a parking lot. Thank God for bumper stickers.

However my deficiency hasn’t served me well as a poet. In his Instructions To a Poet, Confucius said to First Know The Names Of Trees.

As a big city street urchin I couldn’t tell a chestnut tree from any other until a chestnut bopped me on the head. I identified them as the goal line which in six months became second base. The most Important feature of a tree was whether it had good elbows for climbing. Once I snapped off a branch and went fishing for a nickel in the sewer.

I wish I were a better noticer early on. It’s taken me a lifetime to say, Joshua tree or Jacaranda, with authority. Now I often stop and stare at trees; the architecture of the branch system, the coloration and shape of the leaves down to their slithering roots.

And while I’m at it I might list bird-watcher as yet another one of those avocations I wish I could claim. In my urban somnolence I didn’t know a sparrow from a swallow. To think of all the orioles and cardinals I consigned to baseball uniforms and left it at that.

Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…..There is no generic bird visual enough to grow wings on the reader the way a hawk can or even a hummingbird. They all deserve a page in the Audubon book even if they never looked as good.

As for poetry I follow the injunction, Write what you know or at least what your imagination can reach. And what I know is that vacancy in my life, the loss that the birders don’t.

I recall an exchange between Zorba the Greek and the narrator in which Zorba says to the writer, What the hell good are your damn books if they can’t answer to life. Come out with me tonight, we’ll get drunk, dance and sing. The writer says, I write about the agony of not being like you, to which Zorba says I spit on your agony.

I won’t go so far as to call mine an agony; only a regret it has taken me this long to even confront all the doors I haven’t opened, the walls of my limitations.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

1688

If I said to you, 1688, would you think of:

1- The number of cheeseburgers sold by the new McDonalds in Kabul?
2- The combined I.Q. of any hundred tea-baggers?
3- The price of Smirnoff's Vodka at Costco marked down from $20?

Let's not always see the same hands. For all I know they're all true ..... but the combined intelligence of the Palinoids is probably lower than that.

The answer is: 1688 is the year Holland invaded England with 400 ships including a new King and Queen and 20,000 of their close friends. Strong winds sped their journey across the Channel while the British fleet was stuck in the Thames estuary by that same gust. William & Mary deposed James II and that ended the Papist rule in England forever.

The Brits don't like to talk about it; in fact they spin the whole takeover as The Glorious Revolution. To be sure the new monarchs were welcomed by some but not all. There were battles waged in England, Scotland and Ireland.

William of Orange brought significant changes into Britain. He invigorated the parliamentary system, initiated new finances (stock market), made innovations in horticulture, encouraged scientific inquiry (optics and astronomy), philosophy and the Arts. The reign of William and Mary triggered the Age of Enlightenment which led to our Democracy.

The Dutch had recently lost several wars to England including their New World colony. What was "New" changed from Amsterdam to York but their footprint had already been laid down.

A case could be made that governments then (as now) are instruments of business interests. The British East India Co. swapped with the Dutch East India Co. In one of the great swindles of history the Dutch traded Manhattan for Suriname in South America.

Among the club of West European imperialists (Spain, Portugal, France and England), Holland did the least nibbling at the Americas. Their time came and went yet it was not without a trace.

There are currently five million Americans at least partially descended from the Netherlands. They bequeathed to us some heavy hitters including five presidents, Van Buren, the two Roosevelts and the two Bushes. Also of Dutch descent were Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Walter Cronkite, Marlon Brando and Meryl Streep.; the first voice of America, foremost inventor, first tycoon, respected TV journalist and our finest actors.

We have also kept some of their place names like, Brooklyn (Breukelen), Coney Island, Harlem, Staten Island, and Schenectady.

Look how much more you know now than you did five minutes ago. No need to thank me, just pass a slice of Dutch apple pie and a Heineken.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fandom

It would be a stretch to imagine a group of fans rooting for a particular lion in the Coliseum 2000 years ago or even a coterie of serfs cheering on their favorite knight in a jousting match 1000 years later.

Sport fans, as we know them, are a recent phenomena. It took a village to create a spectator class and mass media to whip up a subset of avid followers into a frenzy over the fortunes of a team. How infantile. These people are suffering from arrested development. They need to get a life. I know, I'm one of them.

How could the outcome of a ballgame affect my life? Only if I subsume my identity in theirs. I would never quite admit to that. But I must confess when the Dodgers win I feel just an imperceptible inch better about the world and when they lose I push them into the background. How else to cope with a universe gone awry?

For some of us the child is still alive with a memory of bubblegum cards under crossed rubber bands bulging in our back pocket. That's when it all started. I was probably so dumb I saved the gum and chewed on the cards.

Someone should do longitudinal research to measure the effect on one's life being a Yankee fan as opposed to a Cub fan. The last time Chicago won the World Series Mark Twain was still alive. Do Yankee fans live their lives with a swagger?

A form of mysticism known only to sport fans is the effect our acts have on the game. If I put my hand on the chair the next batter will get a base hit. After all, we have to feel that our presence is not for naught. What's a fan for?

Real fans are descendants of pagans, idolaters who converse with the gods and know the power of a sacrificial act. If it takes closing their eyes to win they're ready to miss the play. They are zealots who move their bodies into others to do battle, once removed, against the forces of darkness. Not to be confused with mere spectators, they suit up for the game in a different skin, grow fangs and fur and have found the clearing in the forest where they can lay down and die. This is high drama, living theater. In the end mere players enact the ritual but it is these possessed fans who control the fate.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It Happens Every Spring

Passover has passed, taxes not quite due and the voice of the turtle can be heard throughout the land ...along with the crack of the bat. Play ball.

Obama threw out the first ball yesterday. It was high and wide. He didn't want to bounce it to home plate like some past presidents. The custom started with William Howard Taft who would have made a better fullback. Obama is arguably our most athletic chef executive and even he had some trouble.

Nothing about baseball comes naturally. I would have to train for a month before I felt comfortable throwing overhand those 20 yards. Yet batters are expected to hit a ball, the size of an apple with a branch, traveling 50% faster than a car going at the speed limit. It’s like hitting a marble with a backscratcher and not just making contact but hitting it where they ain't.

It's all about eye-hand coordination, bat speed, powerful wrists, picking up sight of the ball in a nanosecond and making adjustments as it is coming at you. I would have to start my swing before the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.

The great Ted Williams had eyes that could count the stitches on a fastball. Some said he could spot the pitcher's fingerprints. He saw what we were not meant to see. The way Mozart heard music of the spheres he could reverse the sphere, launch planetary bodies and baseballs into new orbits and reconfigure the night sky.

When DiMaggio swung it was poetry, even if he missed. So Greco-Roman was his body he seemed to be yearning for marble. As a kid I imagined myself, broomstick in hand, sending that tennis ball over the fence even if it came at me faster than a bright idea. The moment of contact has never left me; that conjunction of wood meeting hurled object; the trajectory of an extended arm colliding with life itself. You strike the dark air and listen for a sound that could be music.

Baseball seems to be the game of choice for intellectuals. Its symmetry, stats, dimensions and pace all appeal to the literary set. Yet many of these voices have, in recent years, turned against the sport as if they've been betrayed. They cite the tarnished image steroids have left along with the usual charges of baseball's degradation by spoiled player millionaires and greedy owner billionaires, or do I have that backwards?

I don't want to hear any of this. My interest in baseball is extra-rational and therefore beyond all analysis and critical judgment. It exists in some precinct of my mind not subject to scrutiny. I go into the same zone of non-thinking that a hitter enters when he steps into the batter's box, knocks dirt that isn't there from his cleats, fiddles with the Velcro of his batting glove, then spits and scratches just to allow his muscle memory to take over from his brain. I always runs the risk of not having a return ticket but it's worth it the trip.

As for the statistics one must study the game assiduously in a monastic cell and then un-learn almost everything. Hunches are our delight, as five out of four fans will tell you ...when they work. Otherwise we live by the numbers and curse the manager for not playing by the book. So I go slumming in this underworld of inarticulate jocks, handicapped by early adoration and managers who live by the seat of their pants. My rational side goes on sabbatical until October.

Baseball, as some ancient sage remarked, is what makes life coherent. I've always subscribed to eternal verities.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Conflation

A portmanteau is one those valises or doctor’s case carried for house calls. The two sides closed in the middle. From that came the word brunch and Spanglish and even this new fangled thing called blog (web log)….the formation of a new term from two others.

We live in an age marked by the coming together of variants. It must be a hard on those who think in categories. Column A has merged with Column B. You can now have the Moo Shu and the Sweet & Sour. Life isn’t vanilla and chocolate anymore. I’ll have the tutti-frutti praline parfait black mountain jamoica fudge ripple.

Borders are porous and blurring. It all spells woe for those sentinels at the gate (suffering succotash) who think this has nothing in common with that. Sorry, purists, sit down and get over it. It’s both sunny and raining. The music is fusion. Corn and cars are hybrid. The census form has a place for mixed race. Tangelo, anyone?

Tear down that wall, Mr Gorbachev, said Ronald Reagan. The smartest words that ever came out of his mouth. I wonder who wrote them. We have no more use for partitions in geo-politics than we do in literature

Don’t fret when the autobiography is part fiction because most fiction is really autobiographical. Everyone has a narrative……..or two…. and if certain events don’t quite fit that is easily remedied. Maybe we’re all living our docudrama.

Some of my blogs are plagiarized………from myself. Scraps of my poems have been folded into paragraphs. I’m thinking of having my poet self sue my blogger self and settle out of court for a quarter of a million bucks.

Most poetry I come across is carefully ruined prose (Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase) anyway. Who really cares, as long as the language is fresh, authentic and transforming? On the other hand true poetry, like Peggy’s, is in the realm of music. Not because it rhymes or sets your toe tapping but rather because it is transporting, cannot be articulated in any other words and warrants many return visits.

Read Homer. But Homer was blind and didn’t write. He told the history. But that was myth. And besides, there really was no Homer. Need we be reminded that the Old Testament and its sequel are historical and literary fiction? Relax, good poetry should leave us unsettled. And being an allegory makes it no less profound.

Here’s another radical thought. Open up the borders. Migratory birds are all undocumented. We came here uninvited, killed our hosts and never left. How will baby boomers received their Social Security in a shrinking work force? The answer may lie with our immigrant population. Israel faces a similar fate. Without the labor of orthodox Jews and Arabs, pensions cannot be met. North Africans pay for the French and Turks for Germans.

Eventually the world population will conflate into one undifferentiated race. Everyone will be beautifully mocha without losing our individuated Self. Who we are is less a function of skin than it is of what shirt we may be wearing. At least our clothes are a matter of choice and make a statement. It won’t happen by next Thursday or the week after that.

In retirement, the days of the week are also merging into something like a seven-day weekend. I do love history; even the past that never happened. The future is just about as opaque as the present. Maybe they have also joined as our working script.

I know life is hard…but not that hard. It is natural to resist change. We cling to the safe and familiar. I like a Gershwin tune, how about you? Some of us feel invalidated as the old order withers away. There’s much to explore pushing back against new forms and a good deal of energy bursting through as well. Centripetal and centrifugal forces create great sparks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Artifacts

A few years ago I read a Sci-Fi story set in the next millennium about a paleontologist who sifts through the rubble of what was once said to be New York City. He stumbles upon a pay toilet and from that single artifact reconstructs our entire civilization.

Even residue from the stomachs of ancient humans offers sufficient evidence of life style and bone structure so that a face can be re-imagined. We can spot a devout vegan when we see one.

This got me thinking about a few relics in our midst and how they might reveal our society to future scientists.Suppose they discovered a couple of bowling balls and a basketball court. What could they possibly make of this?

How could they reconcile hunger and obesity? What would they think of Rush, Sarah and other Palinoids alongside an issue of Scientific American? Did these people in the early 21st century live in the Dark Ages or a rather advanced culture? Very vexing.

Don't get me started.

Ok, I promise not to go there.

Consider how the corner has changed in our brief passage of years. First there was the empty lot which became a three week forest of Christmas trees. When that was cleared kids met new kids over boulders and purees or looked for pennies in the broken glass.

Soon a Gulf sign went up with pumps selling gas for 20 cents a gallon. I only went there for air to blow up my football. In came the corner drugstore with its pharmacy breath. An intersection deeply inhaled by two people spooning a strawberry sundae.

Turn around and the corner was a bank, and fast-food chain after that; life on-the-go. They're all gone now. Even Jiffy Lube has slipped away. Starbucks has taken over the lot. Same small change, plenty of mugs and strangers waiting behind newspapers, alone, with their nutmeg dusted frappaccinos.

How will we be seen in the natural history museum of the distant future? Coffee-worshippers with shards of marbles, a few coins, particles of crude drugs embedded in marshmallow, DNA of ketchup and an oil slick. What strange people we must have been.