Eggs Chimayo

October 31st, 2008

~ The most foreign place in America.

I first visited Chimayo in the year 1974, it was in the spring, blossoms were in the air, the scent of log fires drifted where even no smoke could be seen.  Chimayo is north of Santa Fe, in New Mexico, where the USA really began if one counts areas that began before the USA began, but are now in the USA as they are considered a part of the USA by the USA, whatever that means.  Chimayo is such a place, old, very old by US standards, which is not very old by Afghan standards, but I’ve made that point before.

Chimayo is a small place, and a strange place.  How small?  I could look it up on the web, give the government figures, quote the returns from state tax returns and head-counts perhaps.  But that would tell you nothing about Chimayo where many do not return the returns, do not speak the language of the head-counters, do not worry much about facts or figures or the written word much less written numbers, never have, and probably never will.  But lets just say 500 folks for sake of argument, and there will always be argument about Chimayo.

New Mexico is where people (in the USA) go to leave America, to find a strange and foreign land, to become lost or to maybe find themselves in “The City Different”, or in “The Land of Enchantment”.  It is so foreign and remote that New Mexico is where the USA went to build the bomb, the atom bomb, in secret, finding a place so secret that the Germans would never know, even if the Russians did.  New Mexico is so lost that even space travelers get lost there, and the records of them being lost get lost.  It is a quiet place, quiet valleys, quiet mountaintops, quiet labs quietly creating or recreating things that might make a lot of noise, a big bang, nuclear detonations never heard in Roswell, nor Socorro, nor even places nearby, at least according to the press, a free press, no story.

There of course has been only one nuclear explosion in New Mexico (to date), the first one, the one that has divided the world between the past and now, between before the bomb, and after the bomb, on the day when the entire atmosphere would ignite and burn away all the sins of the world in one gigantic flash of light and burning holocaust, world-wide and instant.

It did not happen that way (yet), the scientists were wrong, the ones that quoted Tesla, or the ones that quoted Chimayo perhaps.  Chimayo is a bit west of Los Alamos, lower hills, higher valley – depending on what one thinks of high.  It was an easy place to visit, even then, by car or motorcar, a good long walk if one must.  Which is what they do, in the spring, each spring in Chimayo, people walk, up a sacred hill, carrying sacred relics, crosses sometimes, big ones while blood gushes from the head or hands or other places on the body, not nuclear sores but older, the sins of sacrifice or penance or the efforts to escape the fires of hell, a burning atmosphere, consuming the whole world.

Chimayo goes back forever, in the minds of New Mexicans, it was always there, the “Sanctorio”, the sand, the sacred earth that heals all, puts things back to their proper place, brings wealth, heals ills, straightens legs, restores the vision of the blind.  The chapel is a small place, old, hand-carved and painted beams atop adobe walls where pigeons live and roost and coo and coo – no pictures please, it is a sanctuary, holy ground, no pictures to steal the souls of the living or the dead.

Chimayo is a spooky place, a very scary place with no McDonald’s, no Burger King, no Holiday Inn Express, no TV’s blaring, no internet cafe’s that I ever saw, not now even, not even cell towers atop the sandy hills.  There are crosses there, on each and every hill, some visible, some only in the mind, sometimes they stretch for miles, beacons to Chimayo, silent testimonials to a primitive faith in God, an ancient Catholic faith long abandoned and neglected in the parishes of New York and Massachusetts and places like where the Kennedy’s might go, or McCain if he were Catholic, and old, and lived in the Southwest part of the USA or Northwest Mexico or a land somewhere in-between.

There is a Statute of Liberty in Chimayo, draped with Christmas lights, white lights of welcome, artificial candles down the metal gown, wrapped around the torch before moving on to plastic saints and Santas and Virgin Marys (not the drink) and plastic garlands of plastic flowers and devotional glass jars with even more candles burning, this time real.  Add stone grottos, pictures of the Gods and Goddesses and all the pantheon of Roman religions renamed each day, each saint, one at a time until one has one church, universal, the only real one, now forgotten in an orthodoxy now so unorthodox.

There should be chickens on the street in Chimayo, one for eggs, one more for sacrifice not unlike in Haiti or New Orleans, lost in time before the Hurricanes hit, washing all sins away, leaving shacks of people with little faith left, if at all.  Chimayo is isolated, very far away from far away, from far away Mexico City in the days when it was founded, established, discovered to be so holy, a religious shrine, the healing dirt or dust just blowing in the wind, not yet sanctified, not yet blessed, not yet carried in bags to the far cities of America to bring one hope, when hope was not just a sign, a yard sign, and a word on a teleprompter on some TV.

New Mexico is a complicated place, the old and new, science and superstition, faith and belief and a science to deny it all.  There are 600 nukes (or more, or not more) stored on the outskirts of Albuquerque, rotting, waiting, some with new triggers, some with old, some tested, some not so much.  The nukes are sitting silently, waiting, as America is waiting in secret places and not so secret places.  Some have faith, some do not – sometimes faith is a complicated thing, misunderstood, and sometimes best not understood, not like in Chimayo, or in Los Alamos, or in Roswell as we await the golden dawn, an Obama sign, or just something one might Goggle.  I might be wrong.

If one is wishing to explore New Mexico, northern New Mexico or the south even, the place to stay is the La Fonda, in Santa Fe, the word means “inn”, there are other fonda’s, there is only one La Fonda, a Harvey House operation once, on the Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, but not on the route (per se) of the Santa Fe.  The hotel is old, quite old, though not as old as Chimayo, updated from time to time (the hotel), not Chimayo.  There are ghosts within the walls and halls of the La Fonda, secret stories and stories of secrets and the vibrations and energies of those who have stayed there (within), as they sought refuge from the world without, outside Santa Fe and outside New Mexico.  The walls are thick, adobe and steel and plaster and cement, poured concrete even, terracotta tiles upon the floors glistening with age or Ajax or some compound made to quench the dust, which it does.

A meal at the La Fonda will never leave you, the food one digests, the atmosphere is more electric, changes the orbits of electrons, makes an impression that stays there (atomically speaking) or maybe just seems to, as in an urban myth or in faith, or it is just in my belief.  For breakfast I had Eggs Benedict, a traitorous concoction if one is a vegetarian or if one thinks of “Arnold”, but I was thinking more of “Benedictine”, more of monks, more of Chimayo and how grateful I was for the distance and the walls, the sanctuary that the La Fonda is, a safe-ground distance from Los Alamos and Chimayo and Albuquerque even.

If America were to end, the whole world with it, skies afire, politicians falling, failing – the world come undone – I can think of few places I would rather be to watch it all, to savor every last remaining minute, to appreciate the past and the future still in store.  It did not happen this night, nor last night, nor yesterday a week before – but it may happen, may happen still, the nukes in old Albuquerque are waiting, in Chimayo they’re still watching, at the labs they’re still building for tomorrow as they’ve always done before, day for night, not a movie now.

It is not the bad times that should scare you, it’s the good times, the party, the wiz-bang when money rolls and champagne is free and everything seems so possible, life is not about that, it is more real.  For most people in America real life is real foreign, a place far away, a place like Chimayo or Roswell or some other place that no one knew, but is there, waiting…. waiting.  May all the Saints be with you.

[2008.10.31 / Friday – Eggs Chimayo]

Poncy Shops

October 30th, 2008

~ Westfield is Number 1.

A new mall opened today in Europe, the biggest urban shopping center there it’s said, in the hype and there’s always hype when it comes to shopping centers.  I can’t wait to go, to buy something, to see it – isn’t that what every mall is all about, bigger, better, more stuff.  And of course that is what every western oriented person needs is more stuff, to stuff in more houses and bigger ones and now you know why the market is soaring across the pond, a scant five hours away from shopping mania in Britain, I guess they’ll even bring the Concorde back so Wall Streeters can get there faster.

Each shop cost a scant $10,000,000, on average, to build.  The whole thing, built with economy in mind, involves less than $3.5 billion, for the economy, lots of jobs to build it, lots of jobs to keep it open, good jobs as a shop girl or shop boy making 3 pounds an hour, six or seven bucks even in dollars, the press release wasn’t that specific, not too informative.  The mall has 700 surveillance cameras, about 1 for every 30 customers that showed up on opening day, in the morning maybe.  Shoppers like to be watched, conspicuous consumption is cool, DVD’s of ones single parent shopping, a cool Christmas gift for anyone courtesy of the mall, check it out.

I guess people are a bit richer in jolly old England, each new customer at the mall spending $100 on each purchase, no slackers, every person buying something, spending their 50 pounds or so to float the $100,000 per month in sales (per shop) that it will take to keep the whole place open.  They built a new transit tube to serve the place, to bring in the required customers, the equivalent of one full busload every minute, coming and going, 24/7 or at least for a good ten hours every day 8 – 6, 7 days a week.  Exact calculations are difficult, each economist has her own perspective, ask Greenspan, and then there’s then and now to muck things up.

I have a few concerns though.  With 20,000 shoppers it would leave only 2 minutes per shop, not enough time to ring up the required quid, so one needs more than 20,000 (for the mall to work).  Twenty minutes per shop is always nice, time to see everything, get around, bring in 200,000 folks each day that way.  But then it would be 10 buses every minute, a whole transit train, moving along the tracks, 600 trains a day, pretty impressive for one mall, 6 million folks a month, everybody always coming back for more, each person spending a little less I guess, $5, but time to see each shop, to shop, which is why they call it shopping I guess.

There are evidently two larger malls just in Britain, seems they are suburban, not just urban.  Maybe a few inner-city shops as well, like downtown London, think the London Mall, a bit old in spots, but far more shops.  How many super-malls in all of the Isles?  Probably a hundred or more I would guess, then a lot of smaller shops and the web and the Chunnel to France when one gets bored, bored shopping on the west side of the big bore.

I wish Westfield my best, I know they thought it through, figured out the incomes, the finances, had better figures than mine about costs and projections.  Calpers, the California retirement fund for state employees has lost $67 billion in the past twelve months, enough money to build 23 Westfield Malls, what have been called Poncy Shops, the word is not in my dictionary.  Make a list of 23 California cities, give each one a new 3 billion dollar mall, assume that there are 120 million new customers to buy things there, folks new to California so that those already there keep buying in the existing shops and malls, so business doesn’t get worse in those old ones.

On NPR the other day I heard an announcer say that a billion might as well be a zillion, nobody knows what such numbers mean.  I am not alone.  A billion here, a billion there, a billion or three for Pakistan, several more for Hungary, AGI is larger than half of Europe I suppose, at least in its needs.  The Feds will bailout Calpers of course and Westfield too is too big to fail, it’s all too big to fail because it’s all too big, too oversized, too over the top to comprehend, to be meaningful, to be sensical.

The market is of course going crazy, up and down maybe 20 per cent in a day or three, so much for patient industry, for investing, for doing any real work when all real money is made by gamboling.  It was when the shoeshine boy told Rockefeller he was soon to be rich by buying stocks that Rockefeller sold all his.  It’s just an urban myth probably, but it gets the point across.

I don’t know who is full of more gibberish these days, the MSM MainStream Media or the Conspiranuts or just the ordinary bloggers sixteen to sixty.  Chatter is at a crescendo, screaming heads, fright night every night and not just on Halloween.  All of America now celebrates the day of the dead, like Mexico, or has signed onto skull and bones, the Yale club with Bushies, the signs may say Obama, but the bones say Bush, not like the Halloweens of old, a diversity of costumes, a bit of color, not just red for blood, black for darkness, white for bare bones and empty skulls, not thinking.

It was once a part of the Century now past to ask will the world end with a bang or a whimper.  I think it will end with neither, though end it seems it must.  No, the world will end in screaming, not from the pain, not from the horror of it all, not from the horrors of hell – but from just the madness, the madness of it all, and the madness that it takes to keep up and maintain the madness.  The solution?  Just step away, step back, take your hands off the card.  Also, don’t vote, eschew stocks and bonds, turn off the media and check out Wikipedia for the real meaning of “poncy” because I don’t know.

Post Script:  What I do know is that there’s great new stuff going on in the 1930 Sidebar, to the left of your screen.  It’s just one click away, no shopping, just browsing, a way away from the madness, including the election and Halloween and market and mall madness.

[2008.10.30 / Wednesday – Poncy Shops]

Wholesale Banking

October 29th, 2008

~ 1 per cent loans, but the workers loan for free.

My wife suggested that I try a new non-quote style – I guess she means writing style.  I’m not so sure.  I feel that writing should reflect life.  My experience in life is that words often have many meanings, phrases are often just clichés, often not respected, held in good contempt – which is the opposite of high regard.  A few days back I would of put high regard in quotes, but not today.

I learned to read about the time that I was also learning about money, first and second grade, Dick and Jane, Spot and Sally, the “one-way” road to learning circa 1954 in the USA.  Fluff was the cat, Spot never knew what a leash was in his life, no leash laws then for dogs, at least dogs owned by white people and the Dick and Jane family was very white, with white neighbors, parents married, Mom at home, I don’t think anybody ever knew what Dick’s father did, he was mystery meat but America hadn’t coined that term yet, more like “shit on a shingle” which was a term that all the GI Dad’s taught their sons (their own versions of Dick) to get a rise, and to introduce them to swearing, meaning cussing and vulgarity and not court oaths.  Now you understand my point about quotes, maybe.

Chipped beef was the shit, the shingle was a piece of toast, and this attitude about a fairly palatable food came from the poor starving survivors of the Great Depression.  Today the beef would be considered a topping, I really want to use quotes on that one, but I will resist.  It was banks that used words so differently than what was taught in my Dick and Janes, I think Dick had an interest in Spot and Sally an interest in Fluff.  The local bank had an interest in my money, in making me into a saver, think quotes, and therefore offered to pay me interest, think more quotes.  Quotes in writing reflect words that send off alarm bells in the mind when one hears them, words that one knows have different meanings that if one gets it wrong one will have hell to pay, which should be in quotes, because I’m not talking about punishment after death here.

I guess you have probably figured out my point by now.  The word interest is really lame as a money word, there is nothing interesting about money, really.  Capital might be interesting, one might have an interest in capital, meaning money type capital and not government type capital unless the government and money are both the same and then why not just call them Washingtons and not Dollars and one can say, I have an interest in Washington and everything will be perfectly clear, Washington the currency, Washington the capital, Washington the other capital, all roads lead to Washington and politics and those that are interested in going to Washington for politics.  I digress.

Since money is capital where does money come from?  Nobody seems to think about this anymore, since it all comes from Washington now, big bills, which doesn’t mean the size of the national notes, but does mean the size of the national debt, the borrowing, the borrowed money, the borrowed Washingtons that Washington prints up as giant T-bills, giant only in zeros, not big in size at all.  But there was a question on the table, one about money, the value of labor, the want of work in a capitalist system where people work for money and not for joy, not to make anything except to make money.

So people start working, work for free mostly in America, get a job, start working away at something they probably don’t believe in, don’t like, don’t really want to do, is not their heart’s desire, at least not deep down.  One leaves their family, their friends, Spot and Fluff and Puff and whatever they call their horse, their hamster, their rabbit maybe and go off to work, to make new friends, maybe, to make up with the boss, maybe and to make capitalism work.  Each worker must begin each job by making an investment in their job, they must work for free for about two weeks and then work for free for maybe another week or two before getting paid.  Each worker in America has invested about a months free labor, free work in each job, no interest paid, no dividends, no interest due – just free money for the company, for the capitalist, for the would be capitalist.

If a company like GM has say 50,000 workers, paying about $4,000 each per month, then the workers have given GM over $200,000,000 in interest free money, not even earning the 1 per cent that Washington wants, I guess it’s hard to make a buck in banking when it’s so easy to get free money from the workers, from everyone who has a job, from you and from me.  The me should be in quotes, written because the word has poetry, not written because I have a job and would be contributing to all this free money if I did.

The bad thing, really bad thing, about laying off workers is that that is the only time that a company ever really has to pay back the worker for the interest free loan, the free month of unpaid labor, and this assumes that there is no severance pay, which there usually is no severance pay – let’s be real about what capitalism is all about, no golden parachutes for the workers of America, no parachutes at all, just jump, out you go, say goodbye, jump.

I believe that my bank, my bank in Carson City circa 1954 called their plan the Junior Savers Club, maybe it was the Dick & Jane Cooperative, maybe it was Save Spot and Fluff, the name does not matter, did not matter, words have so many meanings.  What did matter was the idea that great things grew out of savings, not borrowings.  The idea was that investment came from work, not interest.  No profitable enterprise or even company, well run, ever needs a loan, or ever needs to borrow money from their workers for that matter, they can pay daily, pay hourly if they need to, and each worker paid fairly at a job they like will stay each hour, each day and probably work a lifetime if needs be.

Every loan in America is designed to destroy this system, the work-place reality outlined just above.  Loans are designed to destroy well run businesses in favor of mismanaged ones, destroy prudent decisions in favor of reckless growth, destroy temperance in favor of greed.  Insurance is designed to cover emergencies, unexpected perils, unforeseen economic downturns, a good business is always self-insured, reserves built up in good years to cover bad ones – only the unwise ever need a loan, or those bought in to an unwise system.

Russia was first into space, Sputnik blinking, ping – ping around the world overhead, small orb of silver, earth’s second moon as it was called at the time.  It was a Russian craft, not US, not American, Russia was first into space.  Now Russia is first out of space, out of cyber-space, away from cyber-space banking, first to say no to the bit-stream currency, to the swipe of the magnetic strips called credit cards, no to ATM machines, no to the culture of something for nothing.   How many moons ago was Sputnik?  How many moons will pass before this simple new idea gains momentum, spreads around the world, can be seen where you live overhead or underground?  We followed Russia into space, we will follow her out again.  Will the change be hard?  Chipped beef anyone?  Maybe the cat was called “Puff”.

[2008.10.29 / Wednesday – Wholesale Banking]

Eight Days

October 27th, 2008

~ Fiat politics.

A lot has been written lately about “fiat” currency.  The word in Latin literally means let there be, as an order usually, as in fiat lux, let there be light, the motto that hangs above the Sather Gate as one enters the original campus of the University of California in Berkeley, being the original University of California.

But things have changed, now there are UCs almost everywhere, like Wal-Mart’s, superstores of learning, a ready place to buy a degree, to get into debt, to mortgage your future time in exchange for the lure of fiat money, money based on law not metals.

The old UC was a different place, South Hall, North Hall, a simple quad, the Hearst Mining Building, built to teach the trade of mining to those that might value metals, Hearst was not a coal miner.  my grandmother Hemme went to school there for awhile, summer school, she took astronomy and other courses, the class always took a field trip to Mount Hamilton, world famous telescopes, the eye of science to the universe, looking for canals on Mars perhaps, real science for real scientists in the making.  Her class was the first not to ride in horse-drawn buggies to the top of Hamilton to see the Lick Observatory.

They took cars her year, that first year, for the first time – open roadsters, touring cars to be precise, all convertibles with great cloth tops rolled back to let in the California sun and the California dust of the dusty road up Mt. Hamilton, no gold below inside the mountain but light above, from the heavens, stars at night, let there be light.

The trip began and ended badly, it was a scandal, made all the papers – tickets, accidents, breakdowns, a rollover even, banging cars to see the big bang or something, the latest in scientific machines gone wrong in an effort only to reach the mountaintop.

By the 1930’s, we’ve been writing about the depression lately, good old Berkeley had changed a bit.  The school had gotten new angles on admissions, required photographs to be taken, full frontal nudes of all incoming students, cameras clicking to see what they could see and record it all, it was the law, an order – fiat.  My father went to UC then, and later my mother too, one in Science, the other in History, neither in law unless there are really laws of science, laws of history even.

There are eight days before America votes, on “election day” which is no longer what it once was with all the early voting now Vote – early and often, always the mantra of machine politics, the big boys and girls smoking long cigars, puffing in the backrooms, making deals, things all decided long before the ballots went in the ballot boxes, who would win and who would lose and who would make the laws.  I guess nothing has changed much, don’t be fooled again, lyrics from a 60’s song.

I gave politics a good run once, then gave it up, don’t vote now, not a comment, more the suggestion.  I am freer when I just watch, politics are for the amateurs, Tuesday will be amateur night, like New Years night for drinkers, it’s not a night for real power, just for politics, the pageantry on parade, a fiat politics like fiat money, an operation of law, not science, nothing more, nothing really behind it except whoever is really behind the curtain.  We are not in Kansas anymore, no, definitely not Kansas.

What are the odds in the real world that both national party candidates may not be by law qualified to be President?  So many choices, so few qualified.  The Constitution of the USA, for those that care, supposedly the law of laws of the land, I don‘t think so anymore, supposedly determines who is qualified to be President, not the electorate, not the party, not the great machines on the way to the mountaintop.  The way it is supposed to work is that from those qualified according to the Constitution the voters select, choose, make a choice, decide who they might prefer.  It’s a simple system, or was, once.

The Constitution really does not expect a lot from the President, mostly just loyalty to the law, to the Constitution, an oath is required to that effect.  The law requires that the President be of a certain age, about 35 as I remember, a male, that part was changed, a land-owner, that part was also changed, and oh yes, a natural born citizen of the USA, meaning born in the USA and not in some spot of land owned by some foreign dirt-devil of a nation-state type thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Kenya, I like Panama too – good countries, nice places to visit, interesting places to live in even, ask McCain, ask Obama – they know, they’ve been there, done that.

Back in 1964, when another gentleman from Arizona was running against a personage from the great state of Texas I was still in High School and there were so many things going on about the Constitution like Vietnam and Congress “declaring war”, like “gun control”, like “states rights” – and a few other fairly important things – that people started to talk about the need for a new Constitutional Convention as the old Constitution was pretty much in tatters and wasn’t really written too good to last this long.  We, maybe, needed a new Constitution, a new law, a new founding document fit for a new land, changed and larger than the old land cramped up against the Atlantic shore in the age of pedestrians, sailboats, white wigs, and weird black hats.

It didn’t happen.  The Constitutional Convention, the new one, did not happen.  Congress kept on passing laws though, and the president kept on signing laws, and the courts kept on interpreting laws, and the number of self-canceling, contradictory, ever-opposite laws and legislation kept mounding up into the greatest pile of laws and legal rubbish the world has ever seen; lawyers became liars in everybody’s mind and most elected to office just about everywhere were the educated of this ilk, law school graduates who thought of the law as ever malleable, ever changing, having no real meaning, just whatever you might get somebody to believe for a day or two until you used it to make a buck or two in salary, contingency, or commission.

Friday, or some such time, Obama flew to the newest state, Hawaii to visit the last person on earth who could be brought to testify about where Barack was born, his grandmother is said to be near death’s bed.  On that same day it seems the Republican woman who is the Governor of Hawaii sealed the Obama birth registration certificate from public view, the certificate that confirms a birth from any land, but “registers” the birth as an Hawaii legal document, probably used by the military to document the foreign born in 1942, both Japanese and Filipino mostly I imagine, useful law perhaps or I imagine some thought so at the time.  But who really needs historians to set the facts straight, write articles, appear on talk shows, interrupt the evening news now 24/7?

On this same fateful day, 79 years after the market crash of ‘29, the Federal Court threw out the Berg lawsuit asking for one small favor, for a public review of the original Obama birth documents, like with the name of a hospital, the doctor, an address or two – easy stuff, like the law and Constitution do demand.  The court said no, Berg, a democrat, had no right to know, no right to say he might be harmed by Obama being President, there is no injury, there is nothing wrong or done wrong.  He cited the case against McCain, the court said the same thing, the Constitution does not matter to the common man, common person, common child in America, a violation is not a hurt, not an injury, not yet.

Obama does deny he was born in Kenya, how would he remember, how would he even know?  McCain knows he was born in Panama, admits it, can prove it, does not worry about things like leases, occupied, flagships, territories or US property.  A good case can now be made for a million Germans in the US Zone to be OK to run for US President, Green Zone births in Iraq, births at bases all over the world and in APC’s, in Embassies, in aircraft, life begins at conception, as you know and who knows where conception occurred, except like what the mother says.  Maybe McCain wasn’t born in Panama at all, maybe Obama was born-conceived in Kansas, maybe it’s all a lie, maybe nobody really knows anything anymore?

So all the world is now born in the USA as the majority seems to say, it is, or was, all occupied territory or was at war or in a state where law can be spun, twisted, changed, concealed to create a birth or no birth or seal a record soon enough to open possibilities or to close them.  Homeland Security wants to seal, control, the borders, but I think we are all Americans now, so vote early, vote often, vote wherever you are or be ready to complain that you weren’t allowed to vote in Georgia, in Paraguay, in Moscow maybe, or Tokyo even.  But rest assured, no Federal Court will be there to sort it all out, Case Dismissed, no standing, no power, no need for an election anyway, what eight days, what law?

One final thought though.  If fiat money is based only upon law, and nobody believes in law anymore, then where’s the money?

Note:  If all this 21st Century madness is getting to you too, take a trip back, to 1929, located through our  Qala Bist sidebar and follow along with Hemme on her journey of how we got here, if you‘ve been reading carefully you will know that she’s about to ride into the Great Depression in a Hupmobile, which as a car company will not make it through.  But then again, what car are you driving?  Are you listening?

[2008.10.27 / Monday – Eight Days]

Post Out, Read Up

October 26th, 2008

~ The Hemme Martin letters.

Apparently my post of Friday was a bit cryptic, not clear enough about the “new” posts on an old blog or the “old” posts on this “new” blog.  I should explain.  First, look to the left of this post and you (one) will see a selection of “Years” and specific months for which ‘posts’ are available.  Specifically, you might notice “1929”.  This is where the latest that this blog has to offer is “continuing”.  To follow along sequentially (in time) start with “1929 – January” and read up from the earliest date to the latest, then move on to the next available month.

I know that “October of 1929” is not an intuitive place to read about “today’s events”, maybe that’s the point.  We are all fairly convinced that the path of time moves ever onward, but we might remember (as Halloween approaches) that it was said that Merlin (the magician associated with King Arthur) moved backwards in time, his years went from 2008 to 2007, or perhaps in one leap to 1929. 

I am not Merlin, no need to turn lead into gold by the use of electron peeling (read modern science) or fast forward to modern chemistry or flash back, to various alchemists in caves.  The world is like that, and time too, it bounces around a bit, the difference between “space-time” and “time-space” as the theoretical foundation.  Either way, “there is nothing new under the sun”, so I guess the collective “we” has certainly been “here” before – in time, in space.

That is perhaps the main point of these new posts, new in 1929, and new to you in 2008 without a doubt.  The letters begin with those of my grandmother, Hemme Martin, writing (posting) from the past today, tomorrow, each day or so another post, asking if our days are so different, letting “us” decide – letting us decide if what we have lost is worth what we have gained (as a people) as neighbors, as one who “lived down the street” along that great (street), “Main Street USA”.

The street begins in San Diego, where America began (in the neo-European sense of things, “neo” meaning an ignoring of the Nordic rush, landing and exploring before the Spanish, before Columbus too, assuming that he really was “Italian” at the time, didn’t Spain own the northern ‘boot’ before there was an “Italy” nation-state?).

I digress.  But the ships of Spain did first pass by Balboa Island and see what Hemme saw, or much of what she must have seen while living ‘there’ in 1929, as was seen before in 1542.  Different ships perhaps, more houses, better buildings, perhaps not so much better now (in 2008).  From Coronado Island, and Florence Street, Main Street moves west, through Kansas (and Coronado in his route), a little further to Lasita and Manhattan (Kansas) named after a bigger Manhattan not near Riley, which was near Fort Riley, which was where the “Spanish Flu” (not Spanish at all) all began, in 1918, or 1917, and perhaps a mile or two south of Lasita, history will never know for sure, unless it digs (up) the graves, unmarked cemeteries now, buried beneath the farms where now the corn does grow, buried but somehow not forgotten.

Hemme almost died in 1918, and Lloydine certainly did too, in Phoenix, in Arizona, war was raging (against all of man, and woman, and child too), not just in Europe but “around the world”, like the plague but worse it seems, bodies too deep (along the streets of Phoenix) to bury, most too sick to bury them, dying too fast, a sobering sight for those not too sick to see.  There are things much worse than “Great Depressions”, many alive in ’29 knew that, had seen worse before, perhaps at first therefore did not notice, did not anticipate the crash, knew that they might live thru it, not like in 1918, during the war, the real war, the influenza then.

No life really has a beginning, not in the “lives of nations”, not in Hemme’s life, nor mine.  Each is built on what came before, and before, and even then before.  We stop in time, make a mark in time, measure each day as if it meant something (with a different name, then circle back with each new week).  “I have been where you are going,” headlights in the night, upon the road, upon Mainstreet USA, opposing traffic, “keep to the right” it is said.  So how does it happen when ‘we’ meet history “head-on”, car to car, king of the road when there are really more, more “Kings” and only one road, one lane, like all the early roads.
“We didn’t know.”  But really you did.

If we forget our past we forget ourselves and we can have no future.  This nation has many pasts, many people, each with their own story, there are no “lives of famous men”, there are only some stories written earlier, some more often, and that will change – for things to change, that “earlier” reality must change, or at least the stories, the stories held to be important must change, must be different, must be made to be different.

Tomorrow I may be back to writing of the crash, the meltdown, 100 ways to “leave your lover” (which means leaving a life or reckless spending far behind) somehow.  But with each new post, as they may come, in the days ahead, remember to “look back”, to visit 1929, Or 1930, Or 1931 or any other date that may appear, because they’re all connected, it’s the calendar thing, like life, like life itself.

What might have Hemme done differently, had she known then what we know now, on that ‘each day’ back those almost eighty years ago?  Not much I suspect, she lived life mainly to the right, mainly right, mainly as it perhaps should be lived, each day to the fullest, planting (flowers), growing older, picking up some wisdom, some insight, along the way.  Did she really lose nothing in the crash?  You’ll see, read on.

[2008.10.26 / Sunday – Post Out, Read Up]

Kansas Rain

October 24th, 2008

~ The Kingston (Trio) Four.

John Stewart was not of course a member of the original Kingston Trio. He came later, more information than I’ll ever know is on the web (about the group, about the changes). But John Stewart’s “Phoenix Concerts” album is remarkable, and remarkably timeless. I looked for the various tracks (the original albums) for years after I had sold my copy of these John Stewart songs back in 1974 or somewhere about that time.

By 1997 Rod Stewart would show up in the “Stewart Racks” in the CD stores, never John, tastes had changed and the times. California Bloodlines no longer went back as far as they once did, or seemed to, nor did “Mother Country”.

It would probably be impossible to explain all the correlations that are connected with my life and this album, or the resonance, or the relevance – not everything of course, but much. Much of the album is about Kansas of course, the land of promise where my great grandparents settled “Unto A Good Land”. The rest of the album is about California and about Oregon and about America and politics (in the 60’s) and about today and a yesterday that is gone, quite forever gone, but might be quietly remembered.

My grandmother grew up in Kansas, taught school there when she was fifteen and then returned to do it again when she was nearly sixty-five while running the family farm, or what was left of it after a reasonably good run of 80 years. Kansas farms are (or were) not designed to last forever, not the ones the government “sold” (160 acres of difficult prairie, of prairie sod turned to cattle wheat and corn). The “pioneers” of course told a different story, a story of triumph, a story only half finished (then, when they wrote their stories in the 1970’s), but mostly finished now as the great American prairie slowly returns to being the great American plains of prairie sod, buffalo (bison, again), and the wild and ever golden “sunflowers”.

She left for California when she turned 21, the age of emancipation then and “never went back” except to say goodbye and long enough to remember from where she had come. There were many trips. From California she went to Arizona, a life centered around “Phoenix” and everything that that might mean, including mining towns, and water, and the desert and the rain upon the desert.

It would be comforting to imagine my grandmother going through “life” at a comfortable distance from America, safe, removed from the mechanics of a country and a society that had far too much effect and impact on her life, she might have grown up in Sweden after all, it was her parents that decided otherwise. But she did the best with what she was dealt, her life as a trip through America, literally and literally. Her letters are a chronicle of that journey.

Today they begin, beginning in 1929, a time of transition for the nation and the world (it is said). They are “presented” as a blog, as an extension in time of this blog-site, going “back” (to the future) in the hope that we all might learn a little more about who we are and who we might become – or who we have become.

Blogs are “set up” for “today”, one ‘blogging’ is nor prepared for a past that might “sneak up on you”. Each new post I write will appear front and center on the Qala Bist website, but to the side is a menu of months and years (past), 1929 even, now there, the dust blown away, a “living ruin” not unlike the ruins of Qala Bist itself, or maybe a Kansas Ruin, or a “living rain” or a Kansas Rain. Plant a seed, may the prairie bloom.

[2008.10.24 / Friday – Kansas Rain]

Flight or Fight

October 23rd, 2008

~ Duality is as American as Motherhood and Apple Pie.

The Wall Street mantra is said to be the continual struggle between “fear” and “greed”, a sane person might perceive “investing” as involving neither, but Wall Street has long been divorced from investing (in America) (or in anywhere else for that matter). Fear too has two choices – fight or flight, violence or “taking wing”, as in “colors that run” as some would say, deprecating “Rit dye” in favor of “Rit die”, forgetting (too easily) that the only color that “runs” is usually red (in color) which apparently is the color all Americans are (inside) or at least inside “Bush World” where there’s constant war and where those with the greatest greed get the greatest “feed” (to paraphrase Karl Marx but poorly).

I guess the next election will be red states versus green states, those broke versus those solvent, those with a need of bailouts and those who must do the bail outing which brings one (us) back to the “fight or flight” decision, let me explain.

The states that have been improvident naturally want the more frugal states to pay for their excesses, they will probably “fight” for the money, cite the “union”, cite the “national need”. NYC did this in 1974, lived far too large and then wanted the rest of the nation to “pay homage” by paying the bills for the city’s reckless and careless financial behavior. Cat Stevens wrote a song about it, “Poor New York”. Nobody listened evidently (to the song) but they did listen to the “ka-ching” of the money rolling in from Washington (and from solvent cities) to “save Manhattan”. No wonder everyone who lives there assumed that Washington would always save Wall Street (regardless of the cost), even if it took the whole nation down to do it.

So who will just say “no” (as Nancy Reagan said to do, money and debt really is a drug)? What “green” states will say no to the “red” states (like New York, like California, like Florida). Will the green states get “share certificates” for a percentage ownership of the red states? Will Kansas end up owning Central Park and Midtown as their “share” for bailing out the “big apple”, naming rights maybe for Yankee Stadium “Sunflower Pavilion” sounds right, maybe really appropriate.

But probably not, New York (and other debtor “bad states”) feel “entitled” to the money, to federal bailouts, to money coming “in” and never any real “share” going out. I even think that New York will fight for it, use every hook and crook and every lie and cheat and “stolen base” to get the loot (the cash) and never give up a share of anything to no one, to nobody. So how can Kansas fight (New York, or others), there’s only one way – be worse off, need money more, be so broke that New York (or California) can’t get a red cent because there aren’t any red cents to get. Greenspan never thought of this, smart guy, but stupid, no imagination, no real (world) experience, never lived where it mattered, where thrift was good and debt was bad – that simple. (His name was “green”, but he was really “red”).

Kansas of course cannot “flee”, cannot take flight (to Oz), be whisked away in a swirling wind, get blown in a “dust bowl” down to South America or Mexico or elsewhere to start over. States can’t do that, only people can.

People have a choice about debt two times. The first choice is individual – credit cards and credit ratings. The second choice is about where they live, what they allow their government to do, or if in disagreement how long they are willingly to stay, to pay another’s debt, someone else’s obligation. And also, if the debt is greater than what one will ever have, does one pass it along to their children, an endless tax for an endless debt contracted several endless generations gone before?

Germany was a democracy, but there never was a referendum on the war (World War I), on ending the war that is. November 11th was an “armistice”, only an armistice, a “temporary” end to the fighting. How long is “a temporary”, less than a “permanent”. Enough said, but perhaps enough to make the point that there was only one “World War”, one “Great War” with two parts perhaps, a lull between the fighting, separated by nothing more than an armistice. It’s not an entirely new perspective.

For those that do not know, the Europeans who fought Germany wanted vengeance, wanted Germany to “pay and pay”, incur a debt that might last “a thousand years”, would humble Germans and Germany “forever” (or a bit longer if one were lucky). “Leaders” signed various documents (“for the people”), but there never was a vote, not on the debt, not on the “reparation” debt payments. Soon the nation began to die financially (1920’s), a fantastic inflation occurred, fantastic sums were “printed” to keep banks afloat and money moving and to keep the older debts repaid (in a sense). The US of course realized the danger and that the plan (of European vengeance) could not work, so it loaned and gave (through US banks and the US treasury) billions upon billions to Germany to keep the economy going, keep the people from leaving Germany, keep a little hope alive.

The money of course was not invested in Germany, not used to rebuild the economy, not used to stabilize anything. All this new “smart” money was “invested” where it mattered most, best returns, highest hope – in the US stock market. Billions and billions of US dollars (taxpayer money) was sent to “save Germany” but was sent right back (from Germany) to send the US market soaring (in the 20’s), so everyone else (American little people) “bought in” (not knowing where the “pump priming” really came from).

By 1928 or so it became evident that the plan (to save Germany) was not working, the money was “disappearing” and things were not improving. The US cut off the flow. You know what happened next.

I love “old books”, things bought at library sales for a quarter, sometimes a buck. What you have just read was contained in a very scholarly book written in the US and in the 1930’s, when memories were fresh, time was plentiful, and the world did not yet anticipate a further war. I don’t think Bernanke ever read this book, ever factored in this “cause” of the market crash and of the Great Depression. He was taught, as I was taught, other theories, other thoughts, was given other “cites” into the matter, leading to certainly other “greatly wrong” (perhaps) conclusions.

Germany (of course) repudiated all her debt, the “treaties” not withstanding, only “paper” in a time of “blood and steel”. A new generation arose in Germany (debt free) financed in no small part by the Wall Street shares (now worth but a dime on a dollar stock, but it was a strong dime worth every penny) of “free money” given so freely by the USA (a few years back). So it was America (that largely) financed the German Reich, primed the pump, got things into motion – no wonder we now read a different “history”, written after the war (and not before), nicely sanitized after so much death and blood.

It was Moses who said, “Let my people go”. Perhaps this was (is) a message for all people, for all time. I can still see Charlatan Heston watching all the “slaves” working to build the edifices of the Egyptian Empire, it was Hollywood of course, we were told that they were “Egyptians”, each one was really an American, each an American “slave” working to build an American Empire, foundations on the sand. “Let the people go!”, to be free, to be debt free, no debt owed to any Pharaoh, to building any pyramid, or pile of pyramids (as on the dollar bills).

So we have duality (in America), flight or fight. The religious right likes “fight” it seems, but maybe it was Moses that was really right, he chose “flight”, an “exodus” like there would have been from Germany
(in the 1920’s) had the banks not intervened. Life is never easy, but remember, you always really have a choice.

Uruguay or Paraguay, that is the question.

[2008.10.23 / Thursday – Flight or Fight]

Know Nothings

October 21st, 2008

~ It is not what you know that’s important, it’s what you don’t know.

When I was in fourth grade I attended Janey School in Washington D.C.. For some reason it is one of the better know elementary schools in America, not the Cathedral School mind you, but a “better” school in Washington D.C., a “public” school (after all) and located appropriately in the NW quadrant of a city that at some points found disfavor in the three other quadrants.

My parents decided to move from the Broadmore Apartments where we had lived for a few months to a house on Harrison Street (a duplex actually) that was a block or two (now just a parking lot away) from Chevy Chase and the Maryland border. The house was not far from a streetcar line and even closer to the streetcar barn where various cleaning and maintenance activities were conducted in the days of “DC Transit” when there were still rails on the streets of Washington.

The Broadmore was located not far from the National Zoo, most famous then as the home of Smokey the Bear (Smokey T. Bear as some now call him, now that he has been renamed to have a surname that he never really had). The Zoo (owned by the Smithsonian) sold postcards of Smokey, a New Mexico orphan boxed up and crated to the humid treeless confines of a national Gitmo in DC, iron bars, peanuts and peanut shells thrown by Jersey tourists on their first visit to the capital (of the United States) – it was a sorry site.

The “real” Smokey was much better, a healthy bear, solid gaze, shovel in hand, ranger hat (park ranger uniform), spoke English, “Only You”….. I walked to the zoo within the first week that I was in Washington, saw Smokey, soon knew that I was in a different world (not Nevada anymore, not even California, not the West). Just about everything was different, very different, the stores, the names, the people, the way they dressed, the way they acted. The only thing familiar about DC was that there were “Safeways” there, like in the west, in Nevada. Safeway is a grocery store, like the A&P in the east (Atlantic and Pacific), except there are no stores anywhere near the Pacific.

I guess you get my drift by now, there was a lot to learn, new stuff if one was not to be considered an “idiot”, an “ignoramus”, a victim of “poor schools and poor schooling”, not like At Janey, at Janey School (pride of the District, the District of Columbia, circa 1957). The students at Janey were cliquish mostly, even in fourth grade. The administration was overwhelmed, indifferent. The teachers were aloof and mostly arrogant, each had their “pets” based mostly on the wealth of a students parents.

In Carson City Fremont Elementary was new and modern, tinted glass, acoustical tile ceilings, checkered linoleum floors, good lighting, modern desks, new textbooks – world class. At Janey everything was old, broken asphalt on the playground, splinters in the teeter-totter, unwashed windows, high ceilings to compensate for a lack of air-conditioning in the Districts hot southern air. The paint was drab, the desks were old and mismatched, there was no cafeteria and no school lunch worth eating, nothing “hot”, just cold lunch in sacks or the Peoples Drug across the street (where all the cool and “rich” students ate).

My teacher almost “hated” me, from the West and all, the “heathen” state of Nevada, where everyone was illiterate (or close to it), like cowboys by a campfire, nothing to say but “Whoopee ki ya, ki yah”. In Carson we swung, we played marbles, we played tag, we played tetherball, everyone was welcome (mostly) in each activity, the teachers made sure that things were fairly fair. At Janey recess was more about “hooking up”, about the cool kids romancing, talking about their parties and weekend outings and “going to the hop”. I didn’t know this, I just wandered along the chainlink fence waiting for a welcoming smile (that never seemed to come). I wasn’t fast enough, or rich enough for Janey, though I finally found the hotdogs at the Peoples Drugstore lunch counter and ate a few.

I never was on television in Washington DC like some at Janey School were, doing the “bop”, swinging to the music, pairing up or off in (just) fourth grade. I really knew nothing of the school (then), could not appreciate the history, was not “well-rounded” in the name, or in the game. I have posted earlier about how things did not end well (for me, for my teacher) at Janey. It doesn’t matter, the school knew nothing of me (either). It (the Janey “thing”) is perhaps a metaphor for life, the power and the loss of “knowing nothing”.

Is Knowledge Power? Does it matter if one owns all the “Great Books”, owns an Encyclopedia, factchecks on the web? Are some schools really better, Janey or Fremont, Harvard or Chico State?

The current world situation is not caused by “knowing”, it is caused by the reality of people that don’t know, but think they do, that think that they can do better thinking, that they have a better education, that they come from a better background. This attitude has fatal flaws, in that “it cannot end well” (nor will it).

When I was young each day was an opportunity to learn more, to know more, to grow both in “getting bigger” and “getting smarter”. Now (at my age) it is a little different, each day I know a little less, am a little less sure, sometimes a little less sure of my memory. But it is not just “memories” that may be fleeting, but it is the core of memories, the sorting of what matters and what did not, and where I spent my time. “Regrets, I have a few, but i did it ‘My Way'” (a Frank Sinatra hit) was never my favorite song, it seemed self-indulgent, trite, vapid even. The song (lyrics) miss the whole point of life, of society as opposed just to “self”.

As one prepares to leave one world it is fair to assume that one must “let go” (slowly) of the world that they are to leave behind, the “old” ways and attitudes cannot be carried to the “new” without causing conflict, without diluting the new reality, the new potential. This is not to say that nothing (in any given situation) is worth saving, what is worth saving is a valid approach (to a problem), not the (specifics of the) problem.

We are all leaving the present world (you have probably noticed). There is clearly a struggle for what will endure and what will be left behind, one persons scaffolding is often another persons cherished “art”, the real “art” however is to know the difference between scaffolding and art. There are no degrees that get one into “Heaven”.

Post Script: Some people are more responsive to the “material” realities of life, others to the “spiritual”. The spiritual side is as diverse as the differences between K-Mart and the street arcades of Cairo in the “material” shopping realm, it is a reality much larger than the Catholic, Baptist, or Pagan “superstores”.
American society has not embraced the spiritual side of things (much) in the past 100 years or so, reaching a “crisis” (of faith) somewhere in the 1950’s. Since then the nation has been a “collapsing market”, almost literally “hell-bent” on materialism and nearly exclusive materialistic solutions.

If Einstein had of been born (an illegitimate) in a Jesuit Monastery of 1560 or so, and raised there, and kept there he might have had a different life, might not have been remembered as he is. Today there are a million “Einstein’s” of (the) faith that have been forced to live in an equally confined and confining world of a narrow science and of a false materialism. An unknowing science is as much an oppressive dogma as any religion ever was (or is).

We will now know where this “science” and this “materialism” will lead us. Few will leave (them) laurels by the grave when it is over. What is most distressing about the 20th Century is the loss, the waste, the waste of time and energy and resources and human resources. Brilliant minds and people were “locked up” in assembly plants, in factories, as cashiers in department stores; others warped by war machines, or murdered by the same; many more repressed and oppressed by a needless world poverty. It was 100 years of catastrophe not worth repeating – quoth the Raven, “Nevermore”.

[2008.10.21 / Tuesday – Know Nothings]

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum

October 20th, 2008

~ The Depression post blues.

I moved to Carson City (Nevada) in August of 1953, I was five. Within a week or too there was a fire on Main Street (actually on “Carson Street”, which was of course “Main Street”). The two or three story hotel next to the Nevada State Museum Building burned, it was a “mattress fire”, smoking in bed and falling asleep and “burning down the house” and those guests living next to you that you probably never knew.

There was a lot of smoke at first, visible for blocks if not miles (away). Then came the shrill whine of the siren atop the Carson City Volunteer firehouse, then eventually the sirens of the trucks, the fire trucks as they sped down Carson Street to the hotel, to raise ladders, to save burning people from the burning bedrooms. The details would appear in the next days news (paper), names of the injured, the name of the “bum” that had caused the fire, that had smoked in bed, that had no common sense and no common decency, no regard for human life (at all).

The hotel did (as it turned out) house “transients”, those without a better home, those without “proper” ties to the community, home owners, or at least “renters” good for a months worth of savings to obtain a house that might at least pretend to be a home. “Transients” were of course really “bums”, as they were called during the Great Depression, a nasty term made nastier by the way that the police and railroad goons and various “strong arms” everywhere felt justified in treating this human refuse tossed (by tempest and by Wall Street) across the nations floor.

Today we might call them “the homeless”, give them a nod of respect, donate a meal or two, thank those that feed them. In the depression (Depression) there was not so much respect, they were just “drifters”, “neer-do-wells”, lazy scofflaws to lazy to even work, “drinkers”, “womanizers”, probably gamblers even or thieves or both or worse. It would take time to learn compassion for the poor (in America, by America) – to admit that the Republicans had it wrong, that the system was broken, that it wasn’t just bad manners that opened one to the post of poverty.

It was probably that October (of 1953) that I first heard my father sing. His voice resounded through the floorboards and through the walls of our great (tall, but small) 1905 built house on the edge of town, at the edge of the sagebrush, east of the tracks where now no trains would ever pass again, the vagrants of the rails forever stopped by the stoppage of steam and of steam engines.

He was making pancakes, it was a Saturday perhaps, most probably, but not certainly. “He” was (of course) my father, not only “bringing home the bacon” but cooking it up too, in the form of pancakes, of “griddle cakes” fresh from an iron frying pan like “hobo’s” might have had, might have used to prepare a simple meal, buckwheat at best, cheaper and more filling – good eatin’s under the morning sky on a crispy type morning fresh out of a bedroll and not a bed, no real home, not in the “new” America.

My mother usually cooked (in the morning) at noon, at night, or whenever we ate at home, so the song and the sight were new (to me), my father back in the home again, a new job, paychecks coming in good enough to live on, to buy a house, to buy food for the whole family and new clothes too (perhaps). I was though a bit embarrassed by the lyrics, not my image of my father, not what I thought he might sing, if he were to sing. “Hallelujah, I’m a bum; Hallelujah, I’m a bum; and then some lines about “bum again” and more “Hallelujah, I’m a bum”. This was certainly not what one might expect from the newest appointee to the Public Service Commission, appointed by the Governor (of Nevada) himself, the honorable Charles Russell, respectable citizen, familyman – appointing “bums” to high places in the State’s high government.

My father died (many years ago) without me ever knowing the history behind the song. I guessed it was from the Depression (years), maybe a college ballad, maybe a real hobo song, I did not know. I saw many movies over the years, watched many newsreels, read many a newspaper and magazines. There was never any mention of this tune, nothing ever good to be said of “bums”, no animation, just parody and putdown mostly. Nothing to speak of a nation on the move, of the dignity of “bums”, of a fairness meting out of failure, a failure not ones own but a “national failure” and a “failure of banks” and a failure of money to do what money was meant to do – keep people from being homeless and of starving. (if money cannot do something as simple as that, what good could it ever do?)

Joel Stein (apparently) writes for the Los Angeles Times (at least occasionally). His latest piece was picked up by my local rag (more worthless every day). Joel writes about his great wealth and privilege (his life at the top of LA, in LA) and paradoxically about the Great Depression. He was “clueless” evidently about what such really means, he called his Grandmother (still alive at 87, born in 1921, or thereabouts).
He wanted “depression tips”, a “how to” tale, as in, “How to Get Thru the End of America by Following Ten Simple Steps”. His narrative seemed pointless, out of touch, too much of a reach toward humor as if all a depression is is another night at a comedy club, bad jokes, bad time, bad liquor, bad memories unless one laughs.

What he did offer though was an answer to a prayer, my prayer to know what my father knew, the origin of the lyrics, from whence they came, the song, “Hallelujah, I’m a bum.” It was a Jolson musical (movie) from 1933, a Hollywood hit that was never really shown after the war, never “a classic”, not fit for a new generation that would never need to know poverty or suffering or suffer in a “GREAT” depression (or so this was how we, my generation and the next, were raised). My son thinks I have seen just about every movie ever made (in America, before 1980), I haven’t, but it is significant that I’ve never seen, do not remember, this Jolson “hit”, so important in my father’s life and thus to mine. Now I can search (through movie files) catch it on a DVD perhaps, learn all the lyrics, pass them on to a new generation, “it’s a depression thing” in America I guess, let’s laugh (or not), but “thanks for the memories” Mr. Stein, Joel.

I don’t recall the depression ever being a topic of mirth, at the time or even long after, at least not in my family or in my extended family, or with any living member of even my wife’s family. Each person who lived it, lived through the great depression, had of course each their own story. Some were oblivious, some suffered greatly, some did not (particularly suffer). The media did not do a good job of reporting the event, it sensationalized certain events and failed to come to grips with others. Most of America’s recollection (“memory”) of the depression comes from the journalist accounts and a few select writers and the endless political opportunists that sought to politicize the event to “spin” reality and suffering in order to shirk responsibility on one hand and gain power on the other.

The reason why we are in the “financial crisis” we are now in is because the lessons of the last (great) depression were never learned. Simply put, it is the tale of the gambler that lost everything at the casino, but credits the loss to his not coming up with “a better system” (of winning), and not realizing that the problem is gambling itself. All Bush, Bernanke, and Paulson want (at best) is a new gambling hall and a new deck of cards, they are addicted to the basics of the affliction itself, they are diseased persons who cannot hope to heal themselves. They have little self-awareness, they do not know how sick they are.

My impression of the Great Depression is a bit like that, unlike now, few were aware of “the cards upon the table”, what was at stake, what it all might mean. Generally, (my theory is) that most Americans just carried on, did what they had always done, unless and until doing those things were no longer possible. Even then the depression always remained remarkably personal, not national, not regional. Only the politicians saw a national potential, an opportunity for mass movements, for revolutions, for massive change. The majority just sought “normalcy”, a life with the patterns of before to be left undisturbed or preferably by coax or cajole “to return”.

I have a few letters from this period, from my family, from those that lived “back then”. I have always thought that they might be important someday (in some small way), a guide to understanding, a different voice upon the past, from the past. Blogs should be timeless, letters once, but all is writing – words, paragraphs, the thoughts of now. I’ve put it off, but I think now may be the time, a voice, voices from “just people” so that one might know what a depression really is, the Great Depression, not as history nor drama, but just another day by day.

For some it might be boring stuff, not like textbooks, news headlines, breaking news – not like this time, not like a bigger, badder, meaner fall; not like “the end” and not just “a bump, a blip, a “little” crash”. Time will tell of course, but first we must go back and revisit those days long past, read the words, compare and then decide. I invite you to join me (and my grandmother). She was a bit older than Joel’s, a different city I suspect, a bit more aware (an advantage of age). She was a journalist then (a bit like Joel) but of a different school and with a far lesser pay, but for a better paper. I digress, she can tell her own story, in her own words.

Stay tuned.

[2008.10.20 / Monday – Hallelujah, I’m a Bum]

October Song

October 19th, 2008

~ Two worlds.

The term “world” is not often used to really mean “world”. More often it (the term) is used to conjugate a subset of worlds, or at least an “alternative” world. The implication is that “the one” is really not “the one”, it is two or three or even many, simply put, “what one thought was one, isn’t”.

I think that I, in another post, explored the issue of “first world”, second world, and third world “realities”. Today I suggest another distinction, the world of denial versus the world “of tomorrow”.

Walt Disney of course was one of the early proponents of “the world of tomorrow” (at least among the “boomer” generation). The idea was that “tomorrow” was lurking in the world of today, just out of reach, just beyond conventional eyesight, but within the eyesight of scientists, and imagineers, and futurists that were already alive, living among us, creating now what most could not yet see, but what we all soon would know. Walt even set aside a whole section of Disneyland dedicated to this concept. He called it “Tomorrowland”.

Tomorrowland was full of wonder, everything always better, today’s worries were washed away as easily as Tide (soap) in a basin of dirty clothes. In tomorrowland things “just were”, they never evolved, never were characterized by “plans gone astray”, nothing ever went wrong in tomorrowland – nothing ever went wrong anywhere in “Disneyland”, in the “wonderful world of Disney”, in the Disney subset “world” within a world (the real world).

The fortunate people on this planet have never been to Disneyland nor Disney World, at any of the many locations of this “fantasy theme park”. The fortunate people of this world (the real world) are not under the sway, the “majic” of the Majickingdom. For the fortunate people there is no need to brake a spell, wave a wand, crash through a mirror of broken glass to get back to reality, reality has been there all the time. But in America we are not so fortunate, we have loved the lies, we have loved being lied to, enjoying the “fantasies”, the belief in “magic”, the promise of a “never, neverland type tomorrowland”.

When I was running for ASUN President (University of Nevada – 1969) I rolled out (the day before the election, which was on a Wednesday) a new campaign slogan, “The future starts Wednesday”. I printed thousands of small round dayglow dots with my name and this slogan and spread them everywhere around the campus. The multicolored dots would attract attention, the small print would force one to stop and read the text carefully. Even my opponents campaign chairs admitted “the dots” were brilliant.

I lost the election of course, I was an Independent running against a Greek in a Greek (controlled) world. But the lesson of the dots was what I remember most. My opponents closest supporters insisted that I was wrong, the future did not begin “Wednesday”, in fact the “future” began a long, long time ago, many years back when I and he were only Freshmen, just pledges at the same Fraternity house. That’s when (they said) they future “started”, not this year, not with this campaign, not with this election.

There was truth in those words, he remained “a Greek”, I did not. He planned over the years, each year, I did not. He would be President (or die), I could live with alternatives, with setbacks, with defeats, with a Wednesday that would never come, a tomorrow (land) of disappointment. It is not tomorrow that will kill you, it is ones own expectations of tomorrow, when and if that tomorrow never comes.

There was a great (circa 1950’s artists) spaceship that towered above Disneyland (in Anaheim) in 1957. It was red and white in color, the colors of TWA, of Howard Hughes (perhaps), of the airline and the man that sponsored it, paid Walt some money, identified both names with the stars. The rocketship was said to go to the moon, with passengers, with “you” aboard, blastoff and return, all safe, nothing to fear but fear itself. In reality one just entered a theater “in the round”, circles of seats on every side, a telescreen located in the center, just a movie (virtual reality) bound and fastened to earth and not the moon, nobody was going anywhere (in reality).

In reality we did not all go to the moon (as promised), no “honeymoon” on the moon for anyone. Howard Hughes died as a “national nut” (case), TWA (it was an airline, thought you should know) has long been dead, no wings, not flying. Disney and Hughes (both) were wrong, though they planned the future, the future turned out a bit differently, a bit more disappointing, not quite as expected.

The “World of Denial” is the new national hope, the greatest show on earth, the biggest “theatre in the round”. It’s premise is that “the future starts tomorrow”, with a new election, a new President, a nice new Congress, a new financial system, all “getting better all the time”. It’s like Disney and the Beatles, all backed by the richest man on earth – Howard Hughes. It might work for an ageing Boomer (like George Bush, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, or Bill & Hillary Clinton), but it doesn’t work for me, no majic, the spin and the spinsters are dead, no more webs, no spells, no Sunday Night specials “brought to you in living color” – no magic in America the “Magic Kingdom” (anymore).

For many in America the next week or two will seem a shock, will seem unreal, almost impossible, certainly unexpected, unpredicted or unpredictable. I disagree. The “future” (in reality) started long, long ago, the summer of 1964 perhaps, perhaps even before then. All that does not matter now, what matters is not “yesterday” or how we got here or what we thought might happen, or “hoped” might happen. Everything (before) has been but preparation, planning, preparedness. (you are prepared of course, aren’t you?) Everything before this day, this week has “been a drill” (just practice, if you will, easy time, forgiving). Now it is for real, really real, the “real” real thing.

The “old” world is passing away, and with it (in time) the “new order” which of course is not really new and is not really “order”. Also “passing” are a lot of expectations, assumptions, false images of an “America the elite”, and a “first among nations” mentality. We will probably never reach the moon again (assuming that we did so once before), soon perhaps seldom will we even fly. America will be grounded (and better for it), repentant (and better for it), humbled from it’s insufferable arrogance (of power, of intrigue). The land will be predictable in its poverty, in its lack of imagination, in its lack of resources and resilience, its future will be of little note, not unlike Rome (after the fall), sheep grazing perhaps where Congress might have met, the capitol of a land now much forgotten and (in time) far far away.

It is hubris that suggests that a great land makes great citizens, great in money, great in power. Great people (wherever they are, whatever they face) will make a great land, history knows this, it is the forever changing course of history – bless these people first, then these, then those, moving round the world “as the world turns” (and the world does turn). Great nations matter little, it is only the greatness in little things of little people that truly matters, and the little things that make them great – have you learned nothing? Has “history” learned nothing?

I would probably rather write a post about the garden, about sweeping walks, about the squirrel coming back. I can’t. Not today. Today the sweep of history is far too large, the times too momentous, the need too great. I “sing out” warning, “danger”, the need for love and patience and faith (not fear).

It is an October Song.

[2008.10.19 / Sunday – October Song]

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