Green Fascism

February 27th, 2009

~ Even at Auschwitz the sky was blue and the grass was green.

Hitler did not take over Germany.  He ran for office, observed the election rules.  He won the vote and the election fair and square; it was the democracy thing in action.  There is no need to blame the Germans.  Some voted for Hitler and his party based on what they knew.  Others voted against him based on what they knew.  The issue is what people know as opposed to what they don’t know.

In 1933 those in Germany that voted for “Herr Hitler” did not vote for a world war, for concentration camps, for a V-2 rocket program.  They voted their hearts and minds, for an economic stability, for a new government with better ideas about the future than the last government seemed to have.  It was all quite innocent mostly; a new flag to rally ‘round; new marching orders backed by the exuberance of youth.  The song (you may remember) if you ever saw the movie Cabaret was about trees (the Linden) and youth – “the future belongs to me”.  It is a compelling movie with this very compelling scene; one singer, one song.  And soon there was a rousing chorus….

Today the new flag is Green, a green banner.  Salute the flag or die, or wish you did.  The “green” bandwagon is as big as a band-wagon ever gets.  If you aren’t green your political future is over, your nation is out of touch, your business needs to get a new life in the new order.  There are ten thousand young people descending upon Washington (today or soon) to “Demand” the greening of America.  To “Demand” that Congress (like the Reichstag) do it there way, “go green”, make way for the future “Happy Germany” directed by the zeal of youth and the realization that, “the future does belong to me”.  Their speech patterns are different, assertive, unconscious of the subtleties of life, of broader implications, of the care for others that maturity sometimes brings.  “Green” is enough.  “Green” is a rallying cry; you are with us or against us.  “We know”, you DON’T (end of discussion).  Every “good German” that recycles backs these beer hall singers; supports their songs; says “yes” to the new ways.  Will vote for even Hitler (perhaps), or did.

In the early days there were the glider competitions; green hills, gentle flights of technology and fancy, nature on the wind and wing.  Then there were the youth brigades, the summer camps, the happy boys and girls getting close to nature (and each other).  In time there were new babies for the Reich, but first everything was campfires, swimming, au natural, the stars and stories – all fun and modern and certainly the best way to go.  Then their were the new roadways, new freeways, new cars.  There was the “people’s car”, more efficient and economical than anything before.  “Every one should have one”.  Trains are so passé.  The future belongs to cement and steel and better cars and the new ways of life and energy in the Reich.  “We will make Germany green again.”

At what point did Germany go wrong?  At what point did the youthful zeal cross over to being just an appealing ploy of a puppeteer unseen?  When did the gliders launched from green hilltops on a Sunday afternoon become V-2’s raining down on London?  When did the summer camps become concentration camps; are not all camps good (and fun, the word ‘camp’ acceptable and pleasant to the mind)?

I was among the first in 1970 to embrace the notion of ecology; the green thing, “Green Peace”.  It was just a sticker then, peace sticker only green.  The rumor was that it was the industrialists trying to put an end to anti-war.  Move the youth to “thinking green”, not being against the war machine.  Green is “politics in action”, protect your back, looking forward.  I was anti-war, but I wanted a simpler life.  I wanted a future with fewer chemicals, less mercury, no solar panels made with a complex chemical soup to fill up landfills in twenty years or less.  I wanted trains back, not cars.  All cars were too expensive, too dirty, too “the people’s thing” with Hitler and his bug (VW’s in the 70’s were still alive).

I was for hydro, not nuclear, not coal, not gas.  I hated strip mines, nuclear leaking and nuclear bond loans, endless miles of galvanized pipes (not green at all).  But I also hated the power lines, the energy lost, the radiation radiating from every wire, every transformer, every radio tower and TV tower everywhere.  My world was not green.  Even electric cars need asphalt, insurance, banks to make the loans.  “Green” was not supposed to be about the “greenback-dollar”.  Green was living with less, downsizing, Jerry Brown as in “Less is More”.  Jerry drove an old Plymouth, not a nice new battery car; batteries are not good, can’t be recycled yet, ask your laptop (are you already lost?).

Earth Day triumphed.  The anti-war movement has never been the same.  The most green thing anyone could ever do would be to put an end to the military and to war.  Green will not happen.  The flag was stolen.  Germany will not make you happy.  Spending money, converting natural things to products; that is not what green is all about.  There are no “millions of green jobs”.  They are just the jobs of Empire, the old ways, Germany and England and America getting bigger while the little people lose more of the little that they had.  We’ve been here before.  The youth of Germany was so hopeful, so idealistic.

There is a new mantra.  Energy efficiency defined as GDP.  The theory is that people who live without power do not count; making things is everything.  The only catch is the “efficiency” of therms and kilowatts used in the transformation.  The mantra is about the bankers; “green” as making things and making money; capitalism reinvented for the next gen, “green is good, so capitalism is OK”.  This too is just a road to poverty and to war.  Get a life.  Compare the costs of one B-1 bomber to a billion incandescent bulbs.  Does a nuclear explosion leave a carbon imprint?  It’s about changing your awareness and mind-set, not just the light (bulb).  Learn a little history first, then get involved; but carefully.  There are proper limits to the enthusiasm of youth.  Or there should be limits.  Ask the Gypsies and the Jews.  They too have been in this place before.

[2009.02.27 / Friday – Green Fascism]

Without a View

February 26th, 2009

~ View rhymes with Clue.

The first time I ever played Clue was with Mark Vestridge in Afghanistan.  It was in the late winter or early spring of 1960.  Mark may have been the only person with a game of Clue in Kabul.  Clue was a game of strategy; it required thinking, deduction, intuition.  It also required a bit of luck.  It helped if one was in the right place at the right time, were dealt the right cards, were playing with losers (not winners).
As I remember it there were no losers in Afghanistan then, just players, playing the game for every inch of life (and death) that “the game” might call for.  But games in Afghanistan were always like that; “killer Monopoly”, “cold dead Finance (another Parker Brother’s game)”,  and the best game ever “Pit”.  There was no television so we had to create our own action.

Bill Gates though is a loser, Balmer too.  They were Geeks so they never played Clue or Pit, never learned what every child needs to know about the world and business and how things that go down seldom stay down and that things that go up never stay up for long.  These guys were born with golden spoons in their mouths, plated silver for the effect; conflated good luck with genius; took the laurels and coin quickly to the bank.  Their greed knew no bounds.  They fought and played dirty.  They smashed the games that they couldn’t win.  They were uncool to be with, play with.  Spoiled misfits; that’s why they called themselves the geeks.

The word Geek is not associated with true intelligence; that conflate came later.  The term was akin to the concept of obsession; it usually revolved around electronics.  2-Way radio was a Geek hang-out, and short-wave (Ham) radio too.  One would put up a huge mast antennae above ones house, cover the roof with lofty bar-etts of aluminum, destroy the visual beauty of every house for blocks around.  It would confound the neighbors, destroy housing values, wipe out the savings of a lifetime.  “It’s for defense”, the Geeks would say, “America needs the radio connections”, “in an emergency short-wave saves lives”.  The gun-nuts would support the Geeks rights to freedom, electronic bullets not just metal for their guns.  Every towering mast was a miniature Voice of America broadcasting freedom, receiving postcards with call letters from abroad – oh what fun!

CB scanners were second best.  Their range was a bit more local.  These were the days before cell phones made the Geek Thing a girl’s sport, open to girls with a buck or two of Daddy’s money to talk on-line at a dime a minute.  Every pick-up truck with four-wheel drive (no SUV’s then) worth their weight in salt had a CB radio; chase the fires, find out about plane crashes as in “first to know”, car crashes, burglaries in progress.  It was all there on the secret world of CB (Citizens Band radio); cops and robbers, fire heroes, first responders digging bodies from the mess-ups of life.  It was Geek stuff.  Radio electronics, electronics magazines, science and satellites, no computers yet except for Univac and those were left for engineers (not Geeks).

The girls did not like the Geeky stuff.  CB radios crackled and popped and screeched so loud that one might loose their hearing.  Signals drifted, newcomers were rude.  Jokes were often off-color, the FCC was not really watching.  The Geeks liked the amplified electricity better than the girls; “what a rush”.  Some might say they were gay; some just suggested that they were “Clueless”.

I drift.  The “Geek Squad” is dead.  Circuit City is bankrupt, stores closed and closing.  Sony and HP and the other computer hardware manufacturers will not get paid.  The Geeks were bad for business.  The hardware (good) needed software (bad) that only a Geek could understand, read the magazines each day, follow each little tweak of changes; feel important and powerful as you explained it to some “consumer creep” that just wanted to buy a product and not really understand it.  It was all so simple for the Geeks, “mystery in, mystery out” (but we will take the money), next years product might be better.

The Geek mentality (from Microsoft) was that the whole world should spend its time learning like the Geeks.  It was the Geek Revenge.  The concept suggested that there should be no time for girlfriends or family, no time for parks or outings, no time for history or philosophy (just science).  Every American and others needed to “learn” 3.1, 3.8, Windows 98, Millennium, XC, XP, VISTA (what a view!).  Spending money was not enough.  One had to follow “bad money” with “bad time”.  Each new operating system was always “bigger, better” than the one just two years (or a few years) before.  Science will make you free.  Not.  It was just about the money, greed, revenge.

There is no view in Vista.  Balmer has lost it.  Bill Gates too.  The well is empty.  Nobody stays stupid forever.  Some folks have a clue, figured out the who done it, see the body on the floor.  It wasn’t Scarlet with the knife.  Nobody is buying much, certainly nobody with any brains is buying Vista.  Apple’s sales are surging not that Apple is so great; it’s just not Vista, a no-brainer.  Sony, HP, and Dell are held captive though.  Microsoft will kill them with their Vista knife wedged firmly in their back.  Computers might sell a little with the Geeks gone, with Vista gone, with XP now and forever released and re-released and Vista and the next new thing buried in the grave of greed (forever).  Times need to change.  MS had a good run, but now it’s over, like Montgomery Ward, clothes for Geeks just don’t make it anymore.

Who needs short-wave when there is the internet?  Each blogger, twitter, is a massive mast to and from the world; without the looming mast, the ugliness, the Geeky greed.  Nobody does CB now.  Even the cops use cell phones – faster, better (you can hear me now!).  Computers for Geeks will be the next to go, ask Circuit City, Comp USA, Best Buy in time.  America wants not just its money back.  America wants its time back.  Time for friends, for family, for the great outdoors.  Virtual reality may have its place; but the real reality is so much better.  It’s just outside your door, the nearest hill, a walk will make you free.

There is a new genius out there somewhere.  She has her eyes on software.  She’s writing up a storm.  Sony might find her, or Best Buy, or Dell, or HP even; even before it’s too late.  She’ll be the next new thing, software for the masses, a heroine to make us free; wasn’t MS a disease after-all?  I believe in the future because I’ve learned so much from the past.  This too will pass.  Good luck girl (wherever you are) I am waiting, and my next computer is waiting on you.

[2009.02.26 / Thursday – Without a View]

The Jupiter Effect

February 25th, 2009

~ It’s all in your mind.

We have a visitor.  It’s a comet.  It’s a very big comet; the size of Jupiter.  It’s green in color, has two tails, was last seen somewhere over your house, or a neighbors house, or a house where the residents have binoculars or a transit or a telescope if they’re rich.  I used to watch stars through a transit, the planets and the moon.  My father was an engineer and a surveyor, he owned a transit; but did not own a telescope.  On the clear cobalt blue night skies of Carson City he would sometimes “set up the transit” and we would watch the stars transit the skies.  My father loved his puns.

I still have my father’s last transit.  I still watch the sky with it on occasion; better perhaps than transiting the earth, making surveys, finding that Google was already there first.  Life has changed.  Who needs a map when an aerial photograph can make a better point, can show all the buildings and fences, can prove a corner better than a tree, a rock, or another’s metes and bounds.  What are the metes and bounds of space?

Science has not located the center of the universe.  There are no decimal or metric co-ordinates for a seven dimensional universe.  Even with science on our side we are “lost in space”.  Expect surprises.  That’s what they said, “you might expect surprises” from the comet; passing in the night, the night skies where everything is dark except for the light.  A transit magnifies the light, makes it brighter, makes the stars or planets or even the moon bigger than they really are (as seen with the naked eye, buy clothes).

They say the comet is as big as Jupiter, not too close; will pass as far away as Mars.  “As Mars”, I say.  If Jupiter were as close as Mars it would be an astronomical event, very very big; my Weekly Reader would mention it, or my Chronicle (SF), or any good newspaper worth reading.  Alas, there are no papers left worth reading, and on the day of such big news, “Jupiter visits Earth”, “Green Guy”, no bump in the night anticipated.

When I was young the night sky filled me with wonder.  In Nevada one could see a thousand million stars; each one so close that it had a number, suggested one start counting.  I did, I would; I would count to a hundred, or fifty, or five hundred in my dreams.  I was young.  Numbers had little or no meaning.  Anything beyond the price of a movie, a popcorn, a candy or a Dairy Queen, or gum – numbers from 1 to 25, nothing higher mattered, except that a dollar was four twenty-fives – four of the best of anything.

On the year 1054 the people of the Mimbres Valley looked up and saw something new in the dark night sky.  It was bright.  Even in the day one could see it, a second sun.  There was only light at first, then the light faded and all that was left was dust; cosmic dust.  We call it the Crab Nebula today; although there were no crabs in the Mimbres Valley, just watchers, watching the stars at night – maybe looking for a sign.  Comets are a sign.  Science thinks not so much, no earthly connection, no pull of gravity worth noting, no subtle balance in the Cosmos just bangs and bigger bangs.  Are scientists just “Gang-Bangers” when they share their theories; have a convention?

The Haley Comet left me in the dust.  Great Expectations.  Every scientist had me ready for its return, bring light in the night (sky); event of a lifetime, really.  My time came, the one pass in my generation.  The comet was a dud.  Very faint.  No excitement.  Nobody watched, nobody listened, nobody even cared.  A satellite is brighter, Sputnik maybe, beep-beep; Sputnik got people out at night, listening, looking.  Since then all the stars are in Vegas, or Hollywood, or in New Jersey at Atlantic City.  Or maybe they are all closer than that – TV, they’re on TV.  No sky is necessary, no naked eye, they wear clothes or maybe not so much.  Don’t look up, high definition will get you there.

The winds are blowing this afternoon.  Strong winds.  Not predicted, unexpected.  Maybe the same at your house.  I would like to think that it’s the planet passing, Jupiter (in size), the Jupiter Effect.  I would like to think that there are some things that are really bigger than life, more foreign than “illegal immigrants”, of a greater size than any Wall Street Bailout.  I would like to return to those days of wonder, 1 to 25 numbers big enough, each night a time of mystery – a transit the miracle of science – and God in the heavens with a plan that is his and hers alone.  Do I ask too much?

In 1945 the newspapers would have charts and diagrams about the comet’s passing.  One would know if it were to go closer to the sun.  Scientists would be quoted as to the possibility of the comet exploding; plunging into the sun; passing peacefully out and onward.  “It won’t strike earth”, “there is little mass”, “Catholic Mass will have no effect” – quotes like scientists make, like newspapers were made to carry.  The SF Chronicle is dead, killed by Hearst, a dying wish waiting for the days of the comet.  But who reads HG Wells anymore, who has real hope, comet’s are now just a lie.  Comets are now incapable of creating change or mystery or the anticipation of hope.  We’re too scientific now.  There are no newspapers now.

And watching the TV from within we would not even know the wind was blowing, the stars were dancing, and God is in the Heavens; watching, waiting.  Is it a press release, or just another sign?

[2009.02.25 / Wednesday – The Jupiter Effect]

Mud People

February 22nd, 2009

~ In quest of the grail.

Thank god for Jonathan Pontell.  He has set ‘us’ free, free at last, free at last.  The “us” is of course the Boomers, the real Boomers; not the “hanger-oner” Boomers born after 1954 – the Boomers that every Boomer always knew were not Boomers.  It seems that there has been a generational secession, a war between the states, if ones sees years as the geography of time.  The whole concept of “generations” is based on seeing years as “time geography”; a system of lines and borders that divide and separate and demark one group of people from another.  One system uses place names, the other uses dates.

So the “South” has seceded.  I always saw it coming.  About 1985 I came to the realization that, “you couldn’t trust anyone UNDER thirty.”  Something had changed about 1955, maybe before; these up and coming younger folks saw and did things differently; they lacked the ideals and the drive.  They were mud people maybe.  Mr. Pontell calls them “Jonesers”, but Jonathan is a mud person himself so it doesn’t matter.  He can call himself Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee for all I care.  The happy point is that the separation has occurred, the Jones-Mud People have seceded, people can talk ad nauseaum about what’s wrong with them (as a generation) now.

Of course nobody wants to be a “Boomer”.  I’ve written before about how the generation was really the “War Babies”, born in war, of war – generational or otherwise.  The generation was about World War II; the born and the unborn.  Many people were appalled by the condition of the planet, many waited to have the babies that they felt entitled to.  Children that should have been born in 1941 or ’43 were postponed to ’45 or later, when peace came.  August 14, 1945 was the date, VJ Day (for America); the world was at peace day.  Everybody celebrated.  No more napalm bombing, no more nukes.  Peace lasted (pretty much) until June 25, 1950 when Korean Unification troops moved across the 38th parallel.  It wasn’t a war really, just a “police action”, for the first time the United Nations would fight, not the US.  No wonder those that fought this war call it “forgotten”.

For five years less 50 days America was at peace.  A generation was born during this period, “Peace Babies”.  It was before Eisenhower, before the Cold War, before the Berlin Wall.  America was confronting dramatic changes; demobilization, high unemployment, a housing shortage, rampant inflation.  There was no “post-war prosperity” yet, that would come after 1954 with babies born into bounty.  Peace Babies were generally born pretty poor.

The “Cusp Boomers” were born during the Korean War (police action).  From June 25, 1950 through July 27, 1953 the war raged with “no winners”.  However, the Cold war was now firmly established.  The world and all those born into it would never be the same.  Is it valid to segregate people by when and where they were born?  If it matters to whom someone might be born is it fair to ask if people change, their lives, their inspirations and motivations?  Were Boomers like the Brahmins, the descendants of the Mayflower, the DAR’s?  Is it caste that really matters?  Are Boomers really the chosen race, the chosen people that are both loved and hated for being so?  Does this dialogue really matter?

So not unlike the collapse of the USSR, the Boomer Generation breaks apart and fragments into ever smaller pieces.  No one claims the name “USSR”, no one wants it; it was always bad, misconceived, undefined and misunderstood.  So too “Boomers”, the wall is down, the Empire over, we can just be Ukrainians or Uzbeks once again.  The Jonesers can be the Russians; they’re really a lot like the Russians as a generation.  But I’m a Peace Baby, I can live with that – The Boom is over, gone.  There is no Boom left, nothing to boom about, no boom to fear because you’re left out.  Let’s put the word to rest.

No Peace Baby has ever lived to be the ripe old age of 65, but many probably will.  There is little known about us, few statistics have been compiled, but Disneyland did open when we were five or ten – a Dairy Queen cost a nickel, ice milk not cream.  But not all Peace Babies are the same.  Some liked war.  Some preferred cars to trains.  Some were born with silver spoons.  It’s like with the South, not everyone owned slaves, some were slaves, some did not see slavery as the answer.  If you’re “tech savvy” you know that all cell phones are not the same.

What is fascinating is the history.  What happened each year.  What happened in 1945, in ’47, in ’49 or ’50?  Roller Coasters were still the rage, Space and Magic Mountain did not exist.  Couples lived in 120 square foot plywood trailers, had the GI bill, wanted to give peace a chance.  They were glad the war was over.  Forty-five was so different than sixty-five.  By 1965 the world was all but over, freeways everywhere, television taken for granted.  Lyndon, Nixon, Reagan were the next new thing.  What does any of this have to do with peace?

I have been reading lately about Project Paperclip.  It was centered on the time (1945 – 1950).  The US wanted the German scientists, Nazi or not, just so the Russians didn’t get them.  We made deals, we broke laws, we let any old immigrant in with or without the proper papers; thousands of those in the SA or SS or still carrying cards were OK so long as they were also carrying briefcases.  The V-2’s were launched from New Mexico; hit Mexico, we didn’t care.  The Nazi’s got us to the moon, built the science that we love today – brought us Tang for a breakfast drink, and Tel-Star, Cell Phones, and Dish TV.  How “tech-savvy” are you really are?

We might have gotten there without them (the Germans).  Perhaps it might have been better if they were punished and not rewarded.  It might have slowed us down a bit; given us time to think, to save, to plan ahead for all that science.  Then the Jonesers would not have been so “tech savvy” after all, maybe would have given trains a chance, lived in smaller houses, grown up with fewer cars, fewer bills, fewer expectations.  Less hubris.  Then the Gen-X too would be different, not so much the Brady Bunch, the grunge, the cynical separation.  There would have been the budding technology, but not the salaries; less freedom and more discipline, not so many drugs, fewer dogs.

So the quest for science changed the world.  It accelerated time.  We can thank the Germans, and those that loved the Germans, and those that wanted Germany over all.  Like do you remember Bush?  Do you know the family history?  Think about Ford.  It’s so easy not to know.  Even Kennedy had his role, first the father then the son, then the other son.  But who cares about right and wrong?  Thank science.

History is still living.  It grows, it changes.  There are new facts, new revelations every day.  Each image of the past is changed by the blowing sand, sometimes the sand conceals; sometimes it uncovers more than one could ever imagine.  The underlying truth is always there.  Dig deeper.  Dust, not mud (people).

[2009.02.22 / Sunday – Mud People]

Just Folks

February 19th, 2009

~ Are Boomers flaky or just diverse?

Boomers are dropping like flies.  I’ve said this before.  Boomers are the first real “Toxic Generation”, as in real meaning ‘very’ as in very toxic; illustrated by the theory that each generation has become a bit more toxic with the passage of time, but the Silent Generation isn’t really as toxic as the Boomers; hence not ‘really’ toxic.

This discussion is brought up by the fact that there has been an unfortunate resurrection of the generational stereotyping brought into vogue by Arthur Schlesinger and his group and then reinvestigated by the very ponderous book “Generations” and then re-rehashed in “The Fourth Turning”.  Tom Brokaw got his crack at the thing with “The Greatest Generation”, then turned on (his own) Boomers in his follow-up boomer book about the boomers, but let me say it isn’t all about the Boomers.

Stereotypes, another word for generalizations (profiling), is that the stereotypes are often wrong.  They are always wrong in each individual case.  Nobody matches the mold, because nobody was made in a mold; uniformity is just a dream.  Each human being is unique.  The GI Generation inherited a world of stereotypes.  Hitler and the Jews each saw themselves as different, as a Master Race, sought support for such ideas.  The Brits still saw themselves as different, as the great white hope for Africa, for Asia.  In Japan there was a sense of separateness, of a closeness to divinity; the Emperor and all.  America too had its hubris, fountainhead of freedom, democracy uber alles.

Then there were the inner divisions; Catholic, Jewish, Mason, Rotarian or Knight of Columbus.  The Indians were different, as were the Blacks, as were the Irish, the Italians.  The lists go on.  Were Mormons really better?  What about the Boston Brahmins?  There was Texas hubris, east coast hubris, even in the West we thought ourselves a bit better; “course of Empire”, of course it’s true.  Fourth Turning makes the point that the GI’s were such good joiners; clubs, organizations, armies on the march.  Each fraternal organization, each woman’s club, each old dames society expected the entry fee of “identity”.  Each member and each prospective member felt ‘different, but the same’.  Each special group and club was the “in crowd”, a separate state from all the “outies” out there.  Life drifted on in a haze of stereotypes, identities; a constant comparing of me to you and who is ahead, who behind, and all the outside world is the Joneses.  Keeping up, keeping down; survival of the fittest.  Was Darwin really right?

Boomers saw things differently.  Jocks were good or jocks were bad, either way the jocks were just a pain; cheerleaders were too privileged and too prissy.  Jewish, Catholic or Gentile; it didn’t matter.  It was Mods versus the Rockers, Greasers versus the Hip, Hippies versus Straights, GI sons and daughters versus the GI rebels.  In each and every case boomers were not so good at joining; Mouseketeer today, Sorority sister tomorrow, Acid head a bit later; everything changes.  I’m a vegetarian now, or maybe not.  How can anyone be a Republican for life, or a Democrat, or how Catholic are you really if you see the Pope so often wrong?  GI’s sought to open doors for the next generation.  The boomers unhinged these doors, took them away, blasted holes right through the walls.  But some did not.  Some Boomers were just like they were supposed to be; little GI’s following in the forms and opening and closing all the doors behind them, like the way that they were raised to do.

What every generation must face is that in time everything passes; all things pass away.  The IOOF halls are now but a relic of the Gold Rush, the Masonic Auditoriums are but unnoticed shells, few see Rotary as a man’s club, graduation is not about Lions anymore.  The Indians have their casinos now, the Blacks the presidency, the Jews their nation state, the Catholics their dignity; but nobody is really black, or native, or Catholic, or Jew now.  We’re all just folks; Boomers or not boomers – the boom is at an end.  We’re just folks now, sinking, swimming, looking for a lifeboat or no boat or just a sandwich to make us free.  There’s still hunger in America.  Freedom has not made us free.  Freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.  We know it now.  We’re there.

But these old bones are toxic.  This old skull is toxic too.  Chemicals have crept in, eaten away at things, carted away the cartilage, the calcium, the whiteness of it all.  White flag, black bones; the old order is over, lost in a soup of chemicals and chemical pollution.  It was all toxic, the way we lived.  Things were cleaned up a bit as we grew older, the GI’s got a life; but first they got the bomb and the radiation was everywhere, fallout – toxic clouds on each horizon of our youth.  Finally they banned the lead, “got the lead out”, but too late for us – sucking up the muscle cars, sucking gas.  The list goes on (and on and on).
The GI’s were a paradigm of health; clear blue skies, crisp cold air, sunshine in the summer, no greenhouse warming – not then.  The Silent Generation saw the transition, blue skies turning grey, a wisp upon the wind, the old order passing, nothing new.

But the Boomers ARE different.  They’re toxic.  They’re poison and they’ve been poisoned every day of their whole lives.  It’s not just the old and new ideas my friend, it’s the chemicals; chemical soup, like ABC’s, right out of the can or bowl, wonder bread not really so wonderful.  Can you hear me now?  Even when they look the same, they’re different.  They are not their father’s Oldsmobile; they’re not an Oldsmobile at all.  They may be getting old, but not so mobile.  As a generation the boomers will not be so long in life, not endless days in retirement homes or retirement communities locked away from younger generations, “spending my children’s inheritance” (like the bumper stickers used to say).  The money is already gone, nothing to inherit mostly, little even to get by on – not me maybe, but “a whole new generation with a whole new explanation” and maybe a little explaining left to do.  “Just folks, getting old and older, lived a little once and then when we’re ready, we die.”  “We do it the Boomer Way, independent, different, ordinary like in the times before – our choice.”

There is a suit to get the skull and bones of Geronimo back, Apache warrior, leader of men not comic artifact to be used by clowns.  Yale and the Yalies, bonesmen, “bonespeople” might be better; stuck in some outmoded past of privilege totally irrelevant in the world of today.  The relatives (of Geronimo) want the bones back, let him be, put the past to rest.  Return to the real owners what was stolen.  Return to the real owner what was stolen.  There’s a freedom wind a’blowin’.  And the wind will make you free.

[2009.02.19 / Thursday – Just Folks]

Saab for Sale

February 18th, 2009

~ Will trade for Studebaker Avanti.

In the best of all worlds I would not own a car.  If this country were in good economic shape there would be passenger trains, lots of them, and streetcars.  People would live in neighborhoods and communities where people could walk to work, to the grocery store, to the hardware store.  Maybe people would take a bicycle instead, or ride a horse.  In extreme cases an entrepreneurial jitney or even highly individualized “art bus” might be available, like if one’s too old or too arthritic for walking.

The point is that the land would be used for the living and not for the use of cars; which really are not horses and are not really powered by horse power.  Cars are dead.  Even when still rolling cars are dead.  They may live on oil, but they are dead things that suck up oil and need oil pathways so they can suck up ones income and convert energy to insurance payments, automobile registration fees, and car payments that are also known as bank loans.  I don’t think anyone ever got a bank loan to buy a horse or a bicycle.

Perhaps as much as 30% of urban and suburban America is paved over to accommodate the car.  Actually the word ‘car’ refers to a host of moveable type compartments, the real word is automobile.  Automobile is a cumbersome word, most people prefer to call their cars by their brand names.  You can tell much about a horse by looking at the teeth.  All that someone needs to know about a car is the name, the year, the mileage.  The color and model are quite secondary.  In that, they are very much like a horse.

I have a map of Boston made and revised during the war (World War II).  People rode the MTA and walked in Boston then.  They took trains in and out from the North Station and the South Station.  They took trains to go off to war, to training camps, to fight for America and the America that looked like Boston; birthplace of liberty, land of the Pilgrim’s Pride, home of the patriot’s dream.  Every Bostonian knew their history, loved their city, would willingly die for it.

Boston died first.  It was killed by the cars.  The post-war city fathers drove a freeway down the middle, split the old city in two, wrenched the heart out of the old place and let it hang and dry in the wind like some old rotten canvas sail from Old Ironsides used as more landfill for the Boston Bay.  There’s just a wharf there now, no quay.  There’s just a few waterfront walks and parks, no ships.  Old Ironsides is but a museum, 95% of her timbers are new, like Old Boston; nothing real really left.  But I like museums, same names, nice reproductions.

But I do own a car, a Saab.  It’s a 1998 Saab; color red if you need to know.  It’s worth about $4,000 today; maybe $2,000 tomorrow.  After all it is a Saab.  GM is failing as a business just like it failed America, like it failed as a car manufacturer; and like it failed Saab.  Saab (a part of GM) may go bust by the first of March, bad GM car, no buyers.  Saab is a bust.  Even Sweden doesn’t want the old name back, tarnished reputation, soiled cars, spoiled as a fine name of automotive engineering.  It’s not a jet anymore.  GM never made jets.  GM wouldn’t know how.  GM is more about pedestrians, about people walking; people walking as their cars break down and the parts prices go up and there’s nowhere to turn but to a train, a horse, life like with Paul Revere in the glory days of Boston.

GM took over Saab in 1997, my 1998 car was the cross-over car; a half-breed.  It was half GM and half Saab, as in Saab of Sweden.  The front forward hood was gone, too complicated for the GM mechanics, the union guys couldn’t find the latch.  GM always liked lids and hoods that could catch the wind; blow up, not down.  It was not good, as GM knew, that the driver could see the mechanic in the shop (through the windshield); no questions could be asked, no reasonable interface between car and driver.  GM was the “expert”.  The driver just a mole, driving blindly into a new car and greater debt.

GM invented “wearable parts”.  This was the idea of making things that were once made of metal, made out of plastic.  The plastic wears out faster; the real word is “breaks”.  Breaks are good for GM, helps the dealers make a bundle on maintenance, replacement parts, the whole car swindle thing.  It looks like new, but it’s just a reproduction – buy the car for the name, Body by Fischer, parts by plastic, but, “It’s a Saab”.

I bought the car almost new.  Three thousand miles maybe, “not a demonstrator”, “never sold”, just a dealer perk car, a reward for salesman of the month to take home now and then.  It‘s new and has never been registered, we‘ll sell it to you “New”, we’ll write it in the contract, mark it on all the forms we send the state, “New Car”.  Not used, you can count on the reputation of this dealership and the reputation of GM, on Saab even, “It’s a Saab”.  They lied, of course they lied.  GM always lies, you can count on their real reputation.  The car (the Saab) had been sold before, the “in-service date” was of record, Saab had it in their secret computers; the ones used to invalidate a warranty.  Saab lied, they knew their dealerships lie, they didn’t care.  “New car warranty” meant nothing.  I paid an attorney real money.

The car has only 50,000 miles, model ‘S’, great leather interior (black).  No damage.  Body totally clean.  One owner.  (Saab lies, or Saab tells the truth, maybe nobody ever owned the car,; just banks).  Who knows how the car thing really works?  The car is made, it’s shipped, the dealer takes possession, it’s handed off to a “buyer” who takes it home and finds a bank, the bank sells the note, the state sells a title, the insurance company gets involved.  The car is registered (or not); goes back, nothing ever happened.  Now it’s my turn to take a crack.  Then you’re up next.  It’s more like basketball than selling automobiles.  The pea is never under the shell until you’ve lost all your money.

I think the car cost $500 per month, 40% of take-home pay.  I was foolish to have bought it.  But then another lawsuit made me foolish, angry, left us with nothing and nothing to lose.  Why not own a Saab?  Why not go down with jet fuel in your lungs, a jet mechanic (not cheap) at you beck and call?  Buy my Saab.  I use the car to haul cement.  Home Depot lot attendants break them open as they throw them into the back, dust fills the car, the smell of jets, the sound of freedom.  I use the car for sheetrock.  I use it to haul manure, bags with bark and plant food – America calls it soil, three bucks a bag, Home Depot.  The car squeaks in winter, too cold in America unlike Sweden.  The air conditioner never worked.  Sweden doesn’t get hot, fighter jets don’t have air-conditioning (it’s in the pilots suits).  Born of jets?  Don’t ask, don’t tell; but you’ll find it’s a lonely ride, air-to-air combat; be prepared for war.

I remember when Rambler and Studebaker went bust.  About 1965 as I recall.  Good names gone under.  The best car that Studebaker ever built was like the last one.  They called it the Avanti, fiberglass like a Corvette (but better, faster even).  It had beautiful Italian lines.  It was a concept car available in the here and now – 5 or 7 thousand bucks in showrooms everywhere.  Sold everywhere that Studebakers are sold, at least.  The locations once so plentiful were now not so many.  I was too young to drive in 1963.  Anyway, I could not afford the car.  And who would buy a Studebaker when everyone knew that the company was in such deep financial trouble?

In 1966 there was an ad for an Avanti.  Clean car, 12,000 miles, perfect body, $1,500.  It ran for weeks, no takers.  I was about $500 short, no banks, no student loans.  Maybe my Saab will be like the Avanti, a gem at the end of time, only half a washout car, half the pride of Sweden.  I’ll sell it to you cheap.  Maybe not cheap enough, no banks, no student or adult loans, no buyers.  Everybody is a bit short now.  Take my car; or a take on my car.  I’d rather take the train.

[2009.02.18 / Wednesday – Saab for Sale]

On Thin Ice

February 13th, 2009

~ It’s about zero degrees centigrade.

Sometimes things are not just a metaphor.  There’s no turn of fancy phrase.  There’s no pirouette of turning, spinning, of dancing (on the ice).  Sometimes things are just fairly simple; like standing up on ice, or falling down on ice; or on just avoiding all the ice altogether.  The Brits were never big on ice, no pictures of the Queen and King on skates, no jousting on the ice with horses, even Washington took a boat pushing the ice aside – he didn’t just skate across the Delaware with his troops on that cold, cold Christmas Eve.

But it’s getting warmer now, a vindication of the Brits.  I guess the “ice thing” came from the Dutch, from Hans Brinker stories and his magic skates before the Dutch were sent their slippery way and sent skating out of Manhattan.  But they left their mark upon Manhattan, on Rockefeller Center, the place where they have the pond, thin ice, its just artificial; but it’s thick enough to skate.  I’ve skated there, rented other peoples shoes for 35 cents or a buck – fifties prices then, or was it in the sixties, maybe everybody owns their own shoes now (for skating).

Kurt Vonnegut I guess was wrong, no Ice Nine, the world will end its days with warming.  It’s science.  It might make sense (therefore) for the scientists to revise the calorie scale, the measure for our heat.  Make “zero” the point of boiling, minus temperatures to remind us of how lucky we really are, plus temperatures to remind us of our future.  Richard Wright (and others), it really will be the fire – next time.  He thought that time was ‘now’.  Or maybe we could just have two scales for awhile, two temperature scales; in winter we could spring forward, in summer “spring back”.  But wait, we really do have two scales – 32 degrees Fahrenheit, not enough to burn the books, just right for ice.

The Brits like to read in winter, cozy up to the fire, settle in, watch the snow fall on the outside while being snuggly warm on the inside.  Norwegians like to ski, the Dutch to skate, the Irish are just content to starve – or is it the “pub go” to make you warm.  I can say this, I’m a quarter Irish and Saint Patrick will have his day – but he never went skating, chased snakes but not the ice, both they say are slippery.

They used to sell “Dry Ice” in Carson City.  They sold it at the same place that blocks of ice were sold.  The old refrigerators needed these blocks, put in the ice, the cold circulates, food stays fresh.  It’s very green.  Of course refrigerators were smaller then, less food to perish, more to “can” in the days when most all the canning was done at home, boiling water, old glass jars and sealing wax (or wax paper), almost as fresh as a summers garden even when the ice slowed things down a bit.  Everyone had a cellar then, cool place to hide in summer, from the warming, from the heat.  The canned goods kept cool in the basements during summer.  In case you missed it, the point is that most snakes are dry, not wet.  Like my humor, Dry.

I never skated on dry ice.  Not the real stuff.  My skating really started in Carson City, on a small pond where all skating should be done, not in buildings or in Rockefeller Square.  The “pond” was made by the building up of berms, dirt walls to better hold the water, to sit on, to crash into instead of crashing into the street.  Yes, they did have streets in Carson – smallest Capital, smallest State (in population), in the smallness and the lostness of the west (as most easterners thought way back then).  But I owned no skates so maybe they were right.

I began my forays into the pond by walking, not on water, but on the ice.  It got cold in Carson in October, colder still with the passing of November days.  Each day the ice grew thicker.  Each day we children (on our way home from school) would test the ice, see how thick, know that it was always weakest and thinnest around the edges.  It was the center that was strong, above the deeper water, out further than our boards would reach.  Our boards only broke away the edges, floating planks upon the water, not big enough to be rafts that could carry us to the land of ice.  The ‘land’ part is a contradiction.  But we were young, unschooled in such things.  They taught other things in school.

My friends in time lost interest.  They (like me) only got wet feet from the escapades.  The pond might never freeze (some said) and it was there only for the cattle, summer stockyards or summer herds just passing through and they do have rights to passage and to water – “says so in the law”.  I was more interested in ice than law.  I kept returning.  Everyday.  I put my foot out toward the ice and water, tested it, watched the freezing grow.  Each day the ice grew thicker, closer, closer to the shore.

Then one great day it happened.  The thin ice was actually building up and touching the embankment.  I tested it.  It seemed thick.  I walked a little, but soon fell in.  Water up to my ankles, maybe above my socks – six or eight inches anyway, cold and wet.  But I was mad now, it was the ice or me.  It was about my friends were right or I was right and I had to know the difference, to prove that they were wrong or maybe more to just slide around, slip on the slippery surface, not fall in.  I searched around and got a plank and this plank seemed bigger than any used before.  I floated one end out to the edge of solid ice.  The ice broke free.  I set the edge out further but I could not get it up upon the ice.

Then a brainstorm struck.  Place the plank at the edge of the water, arrange the angle (straight up) and then let it fall (straight down) to the ice.  If it were solid the ice would hold, survive the impact, I would know or win.  I walked across the plank, solid ice, I was sure and sure right that I was right and so I began to walk and slide and walk where the water was deep and the ice was thick and you know what was about to happen.  I fell through.  Deep water.  Deeper than my waist, maybe my arms.  My winter coat constrained me, my mittens slid away when grabbing for the ice.  I was crying, thrashing, and it seemed like going down.  No one was around.  No one was there to hear my shouts, my cries for help.  Everyone else was home by the fire.

I think I grabbed the plank, flotsam or was it jetsam on the water?  Soon I was safe, wet and cold but safe upon the shore.  I knew then the pond would never freeze, I had dreams of raising cattle, herding herds down Carson Street or Stewart Street, cows drinking up the water just west of Roop.

On Thanksgiving Eve my parents had a surprise.  We were going to the rink.  “Carson had a community pond you know,” (I knew).  “It’s frozen now, there are fires by the side, it sounds like fun.”  “I have no skates”, I said.  “We do,” they said, and “your mother has a pair of hers from when she was a child that might fit you.”  They’re white though, “How much do you really want to skate?”

The pond was bustling with people.  I was not alone.  The ice was thick to the very edge, no one was wet, no one was wading, no cries of help or anguish; and no cattle with their tongues.  White skates, white snow, white ice shaved off with slippery blades doing pirouettes on the feet of others.  But that day I learned to skate a bit, to appreciate a pond side fire and I have never ever wanted to own a cow from that day since.

[2009.02.13 / Friday (all Day long) – On Thin Ice]

No pictures please

February 12th, 2009

~ Exposing yourself or not.

Tomorrow is the 64th anniversary of the ‘fire bombing of Dresden’, of the holocaust, of mass death by suffocation and by fire.  In a firestorm all the oxygen is consumed by the fire, it rushes in great winds of fury toward the flames, there is no air for humans left to breath.  And there are few pictures left of the carnage.  There are few if any pictures of the buildings being blasted, burning like they had of London where there never was a firestorm.  In London one had time and air for cameras, pictures of the Blitz, heroic firefighters fighting blazes or the gunners blazing fire toward the skies downing the aircraft of the enemy.

Dresden was defenseless.  There were no anti-aircraft guns in Dresden.  There was no military there.  There were no military targets, no factories making bombs, no factories making bandages for the war.  Dresden had only civilians, mostly mothers and children and the elderly and old.  And Dresden had a ‘double-dose’ for she had a heaping portion of refugees from Breslau mostly, but other cities too, fleeing for their lives to Dresden, capital of culture, capital of dignity and charm from an old world order where architecture and civility were the norm, not like modern Germany with the bureaucratic buildings and Reich-ministries reflecting the stripped down (and cold) efficiencies of war.

Were there ever hearts and flowers in Germany?  Did anyone ever send a Valentine’s card?  Did a lover ever want a bite of chocolate, a kiss, a smile with the words, “I love you”?  Never, not in Germany of course, not in the land of the hated Hun, sub-human beings so one might not be bothered by the thought of burning, crispy critters, shattered buildings, an inferno so hot and savage that it might make Dante blush.  But no pictures please.

The blitz-krieg aircraft flew out from their bases in Britain, American and British bombers with their silver wings on high, buxom babes of cheesecake painted below the pilots doors, puffing up his drawers.  War is really about sex and hard-ons and not the populace at all.  “We’ll be glad when this run is over, when this war is over, when the killings done, but meanwhile let’s have some fun.”  These are the words that the warriors have always thought when entering the doors of war.  Why was Dresden any different?  Just a target from above.  You can’t see them actually dieing from a mile high, no aircraft windows downward, just the bomb-bay doors, open as the bombs fall.  Just let them fall.  Just let them fall – but no pictures please.

I would like to show you pictures.  I would like to compile a photographic essay on Dresden in the days of old, before the bombing and before the war – before that fateful one day, one day before the day of hearts and flowers, of hope and love, of a smile before the tears.  But Doubleday doesn’t write books about the facts of Dresden, the fate of Dresden, with pictures of the way it was.  Nor does New York, nor London, nor the centers of power and publishing where all the press is free.  Is the press really free?  Why so many pictures of London, or of another holocaust where no one really died of burning?  Why are there are not a raft of movies about Dresden, 250,000 dead and about the holocaust deniers that lie and say “only 135,000” or 53 or 35 as if 35,000 were not so much and the other 215 thousand lives never mattered.

A quarter million dead, no pictures; maybe one or two.  Two pictures of the days after.  Broken walls in a broken city with bricks and rubble on the ground.  No signs of burning, just destruction, just the ordinary destruction always caused by war, not unlike at the siege of Vicksburg.  Don’t the pictures seem the same, like Vicksburg?  Let the dead count the dead, but who really counts and who’s counting anyway?  Was there a firestorm over the town of Vicksburg?  No pictures please.

They destroyed a hundred cities in every corner of Germany.  They fire-bombed a hundred more in Japan.  All of North Korea was totally leveled by the napalm, two million dead or maybe more.  And we’ll read some pathetic story of some lone “suicide bomber” and the damage that he or she may have done, “killed twenty-five people”, “oh shit”, we’ve got to kill to put an end to war, to stop the bombers, to “stop the slaughter of the innocents” according to the hypocrites of war, the apologists of war, the stinking whores of war.

Before Spielberg dies I would like him to make the movie.  Make a movie about Dresden and the aftermath.  Certainly six million dead, all civilians, Jews gentiles and Japanese, a few Koreans too.  Make a movie about the sadists, about Curtis, last name LeMay.  Make a movie about the plans for the nuclear annihilation of Russia, of China, of the US, Europe, the Middle East and of Japan.  Put in the footage about Obama, dodging the question about the nukes in the middle east.  Does not the US and the US President “know” that Israel is a nuclear power, 250 nuclear warheads at the least, missiles that target even London to say nothing of Rome and Istanbul too.  Maybe they can even reach Washington if Congress misbehaves.
And then everyone left can remember Dresden.  No pictures please.

America is still officially in a state of war.  You may not remember that, in two days, on the day of hearts and flowers – chocolate too, maybe just a card this year.  But America still spends billions on the bombers and billions more for all the bombs.  Some are static, some are old, and some are new and being used in Afghanistan and in the land of Gaza, burning people and their homes, an ongoing holocaust like Dresden – haven’t I learned that the body count doesn’t really matter.  It is just more slaughter of the innocents, it’s really not just about the money for and from the war.  I want more pictures please.

When I was young there was no word about the “holocaust”.  I just saw the movie-tone clips of Auschwitz, the dead and dying from the camps.  I saw scenes about the bombers over Dresden, the “Battle of Dresden”, killing all those “Japs”.  It was all just a blur for some, smoke and mirrors and fires far below, but I was not the one that was there.  I did not fly the planes, drop the bombs, support these suicide bombers (twenty missions and you’re dead, the statistics tell you so).  But in my life I’ve known men that did.  I’ve talked to them (on the rare occasions that they would talk).  I’ve heard their stories and their anguish and about the fact that they, “would never forget” what they had done.  In their hearts they knew what they had done.

Some say “The Holocaust” story was invented, the figures ramped up to cover for the numbers infiltrated into Zion, to overwhelm the Arabs, to create the Jewish State, to justify the birth of Israel.  In part I disagree.  I think the image of the holocaust was created to ameliorate the pain of war, to still the guilt of bombers, to quiet the remorse of Molly (the riveter) and Philip “the guy who made fuses”, (and bomb packs too).  Maybe there are no pictures left of Dresden, but there are the memories, each Valentine Day brings them back.

Each year the story of the holocaust would have to grow, the numbers, the tragedy of all those dead, the senseless way in which they died, new reminders about the story, new pictures too, the inhumanity of it all.  It was not really a “Jewish” story.  It was about a justification (in the mind), a justification to make “us” feel better about what “we” wrought, bigger numbers of “us” dead as opposed to them.  America still loves less the victor, more the victim. There really is a little humility left in us all.  But who really are the victims, who really are the innocents?  Who really is wronged, or did the wrong?  I need and want more pictures please, more memories, more revisiting of the past.

Post Script:
Dresden is not forgotten.  The dead may still have their day.  Even Vonnegut could never forget, not that even Slaughterhouse Five made enough of a difference.  War should never be a thing to make you happy.  There are never any victors in any war, only hell, like Sherman said, only hell.  And in war there are only victims, even the warriors and the self imagined victors become the victims.  It is perhaps best that our hearts go out to the victims, Valentines for the victims, let’s not ever forget the victims in and with our hearts.  Flowers too, and more pictures please, and where have all the flowers really gone?  Stop the War.

[2009.02.12 / Thor is the God of lightning and thunder Day, and Thor is also the name for a medium range nuclear tipped guided ballistic missile (Day) – No pictures please]

Sharon House

February 11th, 2009

~ A walk down memories lane.

William Sharon was a banker.  He worked for the Bank of California in the days when Wells Fargo was mostly an Express Company and a real bank had real money.  The Bank of California worked mostly in gold, in silver, in the coin of the gold rush and more recently of the Comstock Lode which had turned into a bit more than the Washoe Excitement.  By 1869 1859 was a long time in the past.  Virginia City had grown a bit, maybe not to the 40,000 people that would make it one of the largest cities in the West, but the city was getting there.

In 1864 the Nevada gold and silver had been used to back up Lincoln’s excessive paper currency that had been so rapidly running off the presses, to finance the war, as to almost become worthless in the eyes of bankers and the world.  It was thought that gold in the ground was as safe as any vault and since everyone knew the gold (and silver) was really there it made sense to “buy the vault” and bring Nevada into the Union and thus (by implication) back up the worthless paper currency with God’s own real money which was silver like from the moon and gold like from the sun and wasn’t that what everyone had ever known from King David to the Aztecs, from the Templars to the Conquistadors.  Why did it take Lincoln so long to learn?

The problem of course was that Nevada did not have the legal population to become a state.  Nevada was even willing to count the Indians and the Mexicans and any slaves and anyone else that could walk or breath.  The problem was that Nevada had no slaves, few Mexicans, and not enough Indians to matter.  The “mattering” part was of course the head count and Nevada still came up short.  So Congress winked and did a nod, like it always does, and the territory became a state and the currency was backed, not bounced; and everyone was happy, even Lincoln now that he had learned about the real price of money.

In time Virginia City would finance and build San Francisco as her financial denizens and benefactees moved off of the Mountain of the Sun, away from the desert climes and sought solace and other more material comforts near a greater preponderance of water with a climate not as brisk.  The key to all this great transfer of wealth was Sharon, working for the bank previously mentioned.  Sharon’s job was to consolidate the mines and thereby consolidate the wealth.  Bluntly put he was to eliminate the little guy because the big guys could do it better, make more money, make bigger mines, afford to finance the things that needed financing, and would stash their cash (which was really coin or more frequently real bullion) in banks rather under the mattresses which were really too often just the glory holes of Nevada dirt.

Of course William Sharon was vilified for doing this.  His reputation suffered.  He wasn’t so often invited out to go drinking with the boys, but then again there were soon bigger boys to play with – people like Hearst and Mackey and even Mills, Baron Rothschild even came to visit, rode up on Sharon’s train, on Sharon’s own railroad, but so did Grant, the President, so what difference did it all really make.  Rich or poor your name will be forgotten, left in books; maybe not making it to the web, can you imagine a “William Sharon facebook” with all its members?

In case you don’t already know the history, Sharon did leave a legacy.  The railroad that he built with Bank of California money was the V&T, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad which was about as close as the planet will ever get to the perfect shortline with such a romantic history that even the most audacious valentine would blush.  If I mix my metaphors it might be remembered that Valentine’s Day is the 14th and the 18th was (exactly 140 years ago next week) the day the first shovel full of earth was turned to build the V and T.  But the V&T was not just a railroad, it was also about moving money, literally and figuratively and in a banking sense and yes it was infrastructure and maybe that makes it a little interesting then as it is today.

Virginia City (and the whole area known as the Comstock Lode) was perched upon a mountain (Sun Mountain to some, Mount Davidson to others, either way its about the wealth).  There was no water.  It was a hard way up.  The soil grew no food; a few pine nuts (pinons) maybe, but no climate no soil no water to make possible any real food.  And there was no fuel.  And there were no logs to build things with, no timber for the hardrock mines, the shafts the tunnels the squaresets.  In short, everything had to be imported.  Much had to come from “far away”.

In the first few years, the decade before the train, horses were used, and mules.  Stuff went up the hill by the wagon load and in wagon loads down came the rock, to be crushed in mills down by the old mill stream which was called the Carson (which really was a river, but generally a very nice one).  They tried camels (to get up and down the hills).  But the camels scared the horses, startled the stages, spit at the pedestrians passing by and probably got too drunk and took up too must space in the saloons.  The point is that most people didn’t like the camels so they outlawed them and sent them out to die in places like the Dead Camel Mountains and I don’t make these things up.  Anyway, my great-grandfather owned some of these camels, suffered with their fate, but still respected Sharon (latecomer that he was).  The point is, the railroad made sense.

And the railroad made money, and made everybody else money (except the teamsters, but they moved on and elsewhere) and things were so much cheaper when moved by rail and the city grew and the mines grew and the wealth grew and Sharon made enough to move down to San Francisco and open the Palace Hotel which was the only hotel to survive the earthquake and fire of 1906 and it still stands today, same location, new management.

If Sharon had not redeemed his reputation by building the V&T he certainly did so by building the Palace Hotel.  The Palace was his, his money, not the banks and not built with some stupid bank loan.  He had earned every dime that he ever used to build the place, and what a place it was and what a place it still is.  Hilton to this day could learn, did learn, about what makes a great hotel from Sharon.  Anyway, go there and eat a meal in the Palm Court atrium as I think they call the courtyard now and you’ll see my point.

My grandmother (Clayton side) was in love with the Manager of the Palace Hotel in about the 1890’s, and he loved her.  But soon her sister died and her sister’s small children lived and they didn’t have a mother and their father proposed and all and in too short a time she was married (to him, not ‘Him!’) and my father was born and as they say, “the rest is history.”

My father always loved the Palace (Hotel), he respected Sharon, never met him, respected him though and also loved the V&T, an engineering wonder; and he was an engineer.  In Virginia City there was a small restaurant, inconspicuous (not like the Palace), hidden up a side street and then almost hidden up the stairs.  It was an old restaurant, in an older building – from the days of yore when ‘Virginia’ ruled the mountains and Virginia ruled the oceans, or at least built the cables across the oceans with her wealth, and then my father would begin his stories about Mackey (the miner), benefactor of the UN, which was the University of Nevada then, and I would sit and listen, at the table, eating dinner or waiting for dinner at the Sharon House where the waitresses were always slow and after the long drive up the hill from Carson City I was always hungry.   You couldn’t take the train up anymore.

[2009.02.11 / Mercury is also known as Quicksilver Day – Sharon House]

Hope Revisted

February 10th, 2009

~ Deconstructing reconstruction.

When the Great Depression hit Hoover did not immediately perceive that it was more about a crisis of consciousness than one of cash.  FDR penetrated the vale and conflated all the conversations about ‘old ways’ and ‘new directions’ into the catch-phrase of “fear”.  And he put an end to the discussion by vilifying even the thought of conversation in his famous “nothing to fear but fear itself” characterization of the times.  He wanted people to walk freely and willingly away from the past, the way things were.  Not to walk away was “fear”.  He wanted people to freely embrace his vision of the New World and what the new world would be like.  To not embrace was “fear”.  In reality things were not so simple.

History as we know it, as we have been taught it, is too often colored by the perceptions of politics and economics and the self-deception of too fondly embracing our own (false) created myths about ourselves, our values, and who we really are.  Upon reflection one might reasonably assume that everything, every premise that we know and once were taught about the Great Depression is wrong – fundamentally wrong.  Let’s explore this hypothesis, investigate the merits of the argument, reflect on what was really going on.  The conclusions may certainly have a relevance for today.

Lincoln never lived to oversee the ‘reconstruction’.  If he had it well might have had a different shape, a different form, a very different outcome.  This point is worth remembering; ‘history’ is never fixed (unless the ‘fix’ is in – we remember the assassination, the plot, the investigation and the cover-up).  The point of “reconstruction” was to reinvent the south, like the later reConstitution of Japan (after the second world war); to dispose of the institutions and attitudes and economic ways and byways, the customs and the practices that had made the whole enterprise of The South possible, plausible, and to many “downright pathetic”.  Like with Caesar, let any good (of Southern ways and culture) be interred with the bones, the ashes, the nostalgic players with their Stars and Bars (or in irony do I somewhat jest?).

The twenties in America was too a time of conflict, convulsion, and revolution.  The merits of the old ways and old days were being greatly challenged by a new Industrial Revolution, a new consolidation of industries and power, a new science bringing with it revolutionary things.  The change had started a decade earlier, but the changes had been misperceived, the misgivings of the revolution put aside, most if all change had been integrated and embraced.  But by the twenties there was a new vision of the future, Mussolini and the Italians perhaps saw it first.  Japan saw it too, a bit differently, but clearly a break from the old order of the past.  And then of course came Hitler, and Stalin with their visions of the “super-state”, and the super-man and super-girl and super-mom that in their careful conforming could make it all possible, happen, happen now.

The new models were dissected, discussed, symbolized and propagandized.  Propaganda of course was what made it all possible; the new radio, loudspeakers, amplified sound, the talkies.  There were too many newspapers, too local, too ‘old style’, too many points of view.  The new style was the ‘Fuhrer-prince’ (the leadership principle), the theory of ‘top down’ oligarchy and the theory of the oligarchy’s ownership of the state – “One nation, one God, one leader, one people”.  And the new medium for the new leaders to spread their propaganda of this new age uniformity was the radio address, the “fireside chat”, the venue of the mix of program; speeches, talks, commentary, patriotic music, patriotic patter, the constant drone of paternalistic and materialistic and enticingly spiritualistic pose and prose.

It is not new to propose that FDR was our own Nationalistic Leader.  But what we do forget is the message, the agenda, the transformation of everything under his administration of ‘hope’ and what hope brought us, and what we lost from “hope” and why it is once again so important to us today.  The uniform rallying cry was of course “infrastructure”.  Mussolini first made the trains run on time, then he started new work on the Rome centric roads, then he moved on to the monuments, the public plazas, the reconstruction and realignment of everything basic and central to everything that everyone ever knew.  The fascia was the symbol; like on the FDR dime, like in the Senate reconstruction under FDR, like on the Lincoln throne of FDR’s Lincoln Memorial.  Like a thousand other places and public places where the new symbol was engraved, took hold, replaced the old symbols of the age before.  We live with them still, everywhere like the Swastika, like on the building friezes, like on the Senate seats, like they all came with such a zeal and abandon in America, in FDR’s America, as if they were the universal symbol of ‘change and hope’.   These “thirties buildings” were still everywhere till recently, many still exist, walk the streets and see – you will see them.

In America we had a hundred times more trains than Italy, a thousand times the miles in track.  The nation was run by rail and not by roads and cars and the oil companies and oil.  Hitler changed all that.  With Ford he invented the autobahn, the super highway, the “peoples car”.  He put an end to rail, rail was for cattle, cattle cars, boxcars and freight.  The future would move by car, as in ‘automobile’.  Millions of marks went to building the new infrastructure.  Templehof was the great new airport, FDR built National (now known as Reagan).  There were many others, the future would be the plane.  New Deal artists repainted all the nations theaters for free, better to go see the talkies, the “newsreels”, the clips of each new presidential speech and address.  No one spent a dime on saving papers, every day a new one folded, mostly those too critical of FDR.

Another new symbol was that of power, of electricity, of the swift transformation of lightning and lightning bolts and lightning warfare and the SS symbol of the surveillance that will make you free.  FDR (in lockstep) built his dams; Boulder, Shasta, TVA, Grand Coulee, a hundred others.  The idea was to electrify America, electrify the skies, make radio and even TV happen, a propaganda box in every home
and a central power authority as metaphor for central power.  Who ‘threw the switch’ from Washington to light a thousand homes in Tennessee?  America soon learned from where came the face and force of power, literal and figurative, the FAA, the FDA, the FCC, the FBI; the Federal controlled it all and the power was in Washington and FDR was the head.

In the thirties everyone wanting a job fled to Washington, or to Sacramento and the other sub-Capitals of power, the places that Washington (FDR) favored.  The places to where the money flowed.  (Right) Government everywhere was rapidly expanding, new buildings, new places, new land cleared of simple homes and houses (uncooperative businesses), old things in the way.  He planned the Pentagon (of power).  He built the new Golden Gate (Bridge), the Bay Bridge, maybe a thousand more.  All for cars, not really for walkers, for pedestrians, for people who might want to see the sea (or travel on it).  The ferry boats soon were gone, the simple pleasures, the things that kept people from their cars equipped with radios (too far from the propaganda, too many minutes spent all alone in thought, thinking for oneself).  Did you know that the early planes in the thirties were all equipped with a radio, the stewardess would turn it on so you might really “enjoy your flight”, might listen and might not read (poor light, too many bad vibrations).

I grew up taking this new world for granted.  I never knew another.  My images of Lincoln were the Monument, the throne, the symbols of FDR.  I marveled at the Golden Gate Bridge, was proud to visit Hoover (not Boulder anymore) Dam.  The new Capitol in Sacramento was anybody’s dream.  National Airport and so many others were so interesting, so full of symbols, so much like I’d always seen in all the movies.  I had thoroughly memorized the script.  I knew what to see and what to think and how to feel about it all.  What a great country in 1954 or 56’ or 60’ – One Nation, one God, one Leader, one People.  All it took was one look at one dime and a dime would buy a Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen and wasn’t that enough?

Of course there were a few scratches on the record.  I had a grandmother or two.  People to set me straight, who had known a different world and a different life and were not so easily taken in by all the images.  Sure, they watched TV, but they didn’t think that I should.  Maybe they were right.  “A little maybe, but too much will do a child no good,”  one heard it everywhere from those now so obsolete, not a part of the new order, not content to buy a pie when one could easily make one; wood stove with sagebrush or cedar burning, no oil, no need for oil or electricity or permission from the president.  Didn’t like FDR, Ike wasn’t too much better; but then don’t talk about politics – too much for the kids, they will figure it all out in time.  “Our children may have gotten conned, but the grandchildren will turn out all right.”  That was their ‘hope’.

Ageing has its purpose.  To wish for childhood, to seek only youth is folly.  Age gracefully.  Age gracefully whether you are two or twelve or twenty; age more gracefully if you’re 29 or more.  The nation depends upon it; and if not the nation, the world; and if not the world then your friends or family.  Life is more about the simple things; not electricity, not power – though a little in moderation might be OK, local power, the electric current from the sun (wind is from the sun).  It’s not about the money, land and water will get you by – grow your own and trade a bit and you’ll always be surprised by what the neighbors bring.  There are marble monuments in Rome, in Berlin, in the old USSR, in Washington and in Japan.  But there are also monumental trees and monumental forests and monumental deserts, Death Valley is a monument not a park.  I think I make my point.

Work will not make you free.  It’s not about the paycheck.  It’s about the taxes that the paycheck brings, about the cars, about the oil, about the wars that all the oil and cars and taxes bring.  About the wars, both foreign and domestic.  Just walk away.  Don’t drive, just walk, or maybe take the train, or maybe find a ferryboat across the water, the river of our lives.  Find one somewhere, and experience for a few quiet minutes what we’ve lost; coastal steamers, riverboats, streetcars rolling down the street and out to the country with orchards passing by – clean laundry flapping in the wind hand washed in simple houses.  “Simple” did get them by.

Don’t ever say that this nation never sent the “old” off to war.  The Boomers are really ageing, fast and furious, and many really are rather furious.  We did not choose or make this war, it was thrust upon us.  We have no choice but to rally to the fight.  We will fight for what they’ve taken, we will fight for what’s been lost.  We will fight for our families and the memories of our families and for the lives that our families lived, or might have lived had the enemy not stormed the gates.   We have been isolated and codified and bar-coded into near oblivion; co-opted, opted-in and opted-out until we have screamed or were made ready and left to die.  We have been toxified.  We have been poisoned both in body and in mind.  But one word of warning.  We will not take it anymore.  We will not take it anymore!

If you pretend to be a soldier don’t pretend to fight for me, or for my freedom.  You are more the enemy, you fight for my oblivion, you do not fight to make me free.  You were never born with any real freedom, you don’t know what freedom is.  You do not sing a freedom song.  You do not fight with freedoms weapons.  You are but a weapon of the war.  You are in it only for the paycheck, the monetary benefits, the free housing for your spouse – just a mercenary soldier.  Real patriots fight for free.  Do I make myself perfectly clear?  Real patriots fight for free.  Will you please join the fight for “free”.

When I was young I was taught that a nation, a world could not endure with one half slave and one half free.  The message was right, the dividing lines were wrong.  I do not know if one half the world still is free, I do hope for a new birth of freedom though; freedom from war and modern warriors; freedom from bureaucrats and bureaucracies; freedom from the false hopes of politicians and other despots; free from big business, banks, and media.  I am not afraid of ‘want’, I do not need freedom from want; I want to be free.  And one day I hope that this country will not be half slave, half free.  And I hope to live among the truly free.

[2009.02.10 / Martian (chronicles) day – Hope Revisited]

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