On the train, a young man, his face prematurely pasty from fast food, no serious exercise, pockets his mobile device, but he can’t keep the resolution to stay away; well, he can, a minute.
And in that minute, he fidgets, looks around before taking his expensive intelligent phone linked to the whole universe, its excellent and meretricious parts, a tribute to W.H. Auden and oceans of porn, God and the Devil, yin and yang, from his pocket.
Again, he sinks in to the hilt, allows the frisson of being connected, which is sexual in nature, somehow.
He’s been absorbed by the Google Empire, the dopamine that kicks in his addled brain when he logs on. His addiction, in the big pic not much diff from swilling vodka, shooting heroin, will cause his future wife to leave after pushing the button, emptying the bank accounts.
In glossy magazines, Flaunt out of LA for instance, one sees ads for luxury products with models, physically perfect, male and female couples, so young a nimbus surrounds them, locked in an embrace, sometimes kissing; homosexuality, once ranked with murder as a capital offense, mainstreamed to sell stuff; exhibit A for how capitalism absorbs everything, makes the sacred a bore.
A poor helpless creature.
A pigeon with its wing broken, bedraggled, its feathers coated in goo. Sits on the sidewalk before a convenience store, with people buying beer, lottery tickets, cigarettes, streaming out the door. Fruitlessly, the bird pecks away at dried up chips; the universe, nature, is merciless, and when it calls your number, you’re done.
Since those planes struck the sky scraping buildings, the halogen climate of fear, the occupation of monster dens overseas, voices whispering report the suspicious, too much metadata for the analysts to analyze, drone operators with PTSD, Trump’s dolled up daughters; they are the fashion.
Alas, the fools wearing flag pins took a bat, hit a hornet’s nest – out came ISIS.
Will it ever be normal again? Probably, it never was, normal.
What Hannah saw in Eichmann looking vaguely respectable in his glass booth, a common mutation among people, persists in a militant strain.
At the Oakland Museum, a show explores attitudes toward a plant that has been a fixture in the human experience for thousands of years as we know from the father of history, Herodotus, who reported on pot smoking parties among the less refined elements then inhabiting the world; men, horse warriors on the frontier of the civilized world, would seal themselves inside their tents and burn cannabis on a pyre until baked, he told his aristocratic readership. Continue reading
In the 17th century, Lydia Wardell crossed the sea in a ship full of syphilitic seamen and rats; when the wind fell, it smelled like shit.
Once on land she found austerely beautiful, she settled in a town, Newburyport, Massachusetts, overrun by people consumed with contemporary ideas of God and the Devil.
In Berkeley, a two hour walk, one can be entertained at the public library, magnificent, as the brass plaque declares, in zigzag moderne style, graze among the periodicals, the latest gossip, trash talk of intellectuals in the New York Review of Books. Continue reading
On the train, a billboard calls West Oakland “the new edge of Silicon Valley.” What’s next, Starbucks, hopefully, not.
To many, Walnut Creek is paradise. Nestled in the rolling hills beside Mount Diablo, the green spaces that have not been paved over or built upon glow in the strong Northern California sunlight, casting off the dream like atmosphere of Tuscany. The climate is Mediterranean; hot and dry in summer; wet and navigable in winter; perfect for growing rare and fickle plants.
And yet, there is an immense fly in the ointment, for Walnut Creek is dominated by the automobile. Highways – roads carrying on two and three lanes in each direction shiny pod like vehicles – the natural component parts to detached houses – are ubiquitous, and during the day the disturbing hum of traffic, of many thousands of wheels turning simultaneously, reaches a feverish pitch.
Not only that, the sort of construction that has the look of rotten egg salad, sprawl architecture, is constant, superimposed over the noise; no wonder millions inhale anti-depressants, blab away to therapists, not knowing why.
Each day, while the sun ascends and the stars and moon retreat, a man, a frail mortal nearing ninety, comes crawling on a motorized go cart down the long avenues, like a caterpillar belligerent with determination.
Mounted in a cage, blending seamlessly with the man sits a dog, sphinx like but for the eyes which though covered in a milky film, the product of ponderous endurance, are always tuned for what’s next.
Sometimes, the man is stopped by a California Black Oak, a tree most marvelous, which appears like spreading punctuation marks on the landscape, digging holes with a stick.
There’s something heroic about the man’s unrelenting interest in the world, the fact he’s not in a warehouse for the aged, the drool running down his chin as a bored attendant fusses over word puzzles.
He’ll die in the saddle, the rocks flying over the ramparts, his great love by his side, a warrior to the end.