September 20th, 2009

~ If you’re looking for race, this isn’t it.

There is something to be said for places and their associated climates that are wet, humid, moist but not really hot as in “hot and dry”.  There is something to be said for living “north”, as in the rainy north woods or the temperate north woods or just the northern plains where there are no woods, but the weather is nonetheless a bit more mild as in not bitten by the constant sun and the ever-beating solar presence.  I could go on.  If I went on I would not be talking about Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is about sun.  The airport is called “The Sunport”; enough said.  Albuquerque is the USA home of hot air ballooning; I repeat the words “hot air”, as if I haven’t already made my point.  I could go on about “hot” red chile or “hot” green chile and the red or green state slogan which never assumes that anyone ever has an option other than “hot”; we’re talking temperature here, not “hotties” as in New Jersey or Miami or Southern California.  Those places aren’t hot – they’re just warm when compared to Albuquerque and New Mexico.

New Mexico is not about wood.  It’s not that there isn’t any wood in New Mexico, it is that wood does not do well here.  Sure there are the latillas (little lats) that are the younger brothers of vigas (tree trunks that serve as beams).  Vigas and corbels are what made New Mexico, well New Mexico and New Spain, New Spain and a lot of other places what they are.  Afghanistan was made of mud bricks piled high and roofed over with vigas and latillas although they used different names for the beams and beam-ettes in Afghanistan.  The principal was the same.  People have been doing it for at least three-thousand years; three-hundred years more or less in “new” Mexico.  But, I was talking about wood.

In Afghanistan (which can also be very hot) they do not let the ends of the vigas hang out.  It is a pointless exercise in economy if not design.  They say it takes any society 1,000 years to learn this; so New Mexico is still new at the game while Afghanistan learned the lesson long ago.  It is about heat and weather and freeze-thaw and snow and rain.  The point is that the wooden ends rot and break away and splinter into nothing in no time when left exposed to the elements.  The “tips” may be good for hanging chilies, but they make no sense as architecture which should at its base be based in practical.

Survivors adapt to their environment, they don’t get “in your face” with it.  Which gets us back to wood.  Adobe houses do OK in New Mexico.  They reflect a tradition, not a science.  The native peoples were more inclined to build with rock, piled stones like in Chaco Canyon and numerous other places not overly influenced by the conquerors traditions.  Rock is good in New Mexico, it stands up to the sun, the solar flares, the solar excess that constitutes almost every day in Southwest living – rainy north woods this isn’t.

It has taken me what seems like a lifetime to learn this.  Rock, stone, fired brick, cement, clay tile, stucco – these are the natural materials of southwest living.  Wood is not on the list unless you’re inside.  It is not that there are no painted ladies – houses or the other kind – in New Mexico.  There are.  But, they require constant care and upkeep and a constant maintenance and repainting that most cannot easily afford.  The paint fails so quickly in New Mexico.  Turquoise is not a southwest color, it is a stone like agate or amethyst, rare and not everyday in use except in jewelry.  The southwest colors are sandstones, faded grays and faded blacks and faded reds and browns and cream colored vistas and hints of purple against the sky.

The color of my slate (Home Depot product) is “multi-colored”.  Home Depot used to sell a black, but now not so much.  There is nothing like the variations of nature in natural stone for bringing out what’s good in life.  A palate of the stuff costs only pennies when compared with the price per pound of corn or melons; chicken or even eggs – and unlike the foodstuffs the rock lasts almost forever and it’s been around for a lot longer than any government or political theory has.

The good news is that you can coat just about anything with rock.  Rock can cover wood, protect it better than any paint; just glue it on or wire it and bind the two with concrete.  There are such good glues available today if you know how to read and where to look.  Look at Home Depot.  Home Depot is where I live when I’m not at home.  I like walking down the empty aisles and watching the falling prices and the ever heightening stacks of unsold stuff.  You thought maybe this was a commercial for Home Depot.  It is not.  It is just a barometer.  And the barometer says, “buy rock”.

It kind of puts a new light on the term “rock and roll”.  In either case I love it; one for the memories, the other for tomorrow.  So, if I’m not writing you know where I will be, on the roof or otherwise outside, laying cement, replacing slate, moving mountains (at least that’s what it feels like at sixty).

So you might ask why if rock is so great, I buy it.  Drive any freeway.  Rock is everywhere and it seems so free.  The ancients built their houses with free rock, warm and comfortable with a little effort.  The water was nearby.  I ask this question myself.  What has gone so wrong that simple rock is now a commodity; something to exchange for cash; something found it stores and not in nature?  This is how removed we are from the planet of our birth.  But then again; maybe the future begins with “rock on”.

[2009.09.20 / Sunday – Multi-colored]

Fat City

September 17th, 2009

~ And then the rains came….

It rained last night in Albuquerque.  It rained hard, not the “hard rain” of which Dylan warned, but a heavy rain nonetheless, at least for Albuquerque.  The rain was also not the “monsoons” of New Mexico, not a “persistent wind”; if the winds were persistent then they would be monsoons; they’re not persistent, they are more erratic and unpredictable; they do not come from the southwest (Texas and the gulf is southeast).  No, the rain is not the monsoons at all.  Words and rain are axiomatic.  You know them both (like water) by their leaks.

My wife made potato-leak soup the other day.  Joy of French Cooking as they say.  The soup was good, very good.  But then leaks beget leaks; which is water mostly and the pot becomes like the roof – one holds the leaks, the other lets them go.  Books wet with water are never the same.  The pages warp and crinkle and the inks run and the glue of the binding comes unglued and one is left with an unholy mess provided that one easily may forget that books themselves are the works of God, rooted in trees, and one knows who is the only one that can make a tree.

In the old days I would weep at the untimely loss of any book.  I have two small books two hundred years old from my great-grandparents or older.  The words are in Swedish, Bible verses, higher thoughts, words to lift the hearts of men and women when it rains.  Rain is a metaphor for rain; for rainy days; for times that are trying and filled with loss and leaking books – ink running across the floor, words left in ruin and even the pages left in ruin from where no one ever again will read them.  Which is worse; the words left forever unwritten or the words once written now left in ink smeared ruin?  It is a quandary for the gods.  For both I weep; meaning for both categories of books.  The gods weep for themselves alone.  And the rain that falls might be best regarded as the tears of God.

There is always great portent written in each rain.  The high pressure lifts, the low pressure falls as measured by barometers – by the barometers of men, rheumatism; rheumatoid arthritis.  It is what makes the joints hurt, reduces flexibility, rain upon the window and no wiper blades to push it off – the metal arms just etch the windshield with ever deeper groves in glass.  “You needed new blades long ago”, someone will one day say.  “I know”, meaning “I knew” will be my answer; but for today the windshield is lost for lack of free money for just the blades, thin strips of rubber too complex and costly to easily replace.  Buy my Saab (born of jets); there is ack-ack in the air.  Are we going down?  Can’t see.

I don’t think a car roof ever leaked.  A convertible roof maybe, but not a real roof, not a hard-top made of metal or Plexiglas or carbon fiber like atop the real (fast) jets.  My first car roof was a fiberglass affair.  It bolted on over my 1952 MG-TD that had a soft-top once; not still around when I owned this car.  For fresh air the roof came off, stored it in the garage on edge (less space) or in the backyard where it served as a sometimes shelter for the dog.  She was not impressed.

For real fresh aire the windscreen folded down.  Two wing nuts on the windows sides, chrome-plated guide bars too, could have the windshield half up if I chose to do so.  That was when there was real choice in America; ones car windshield half up or half down; it makes a statement about who you are.  The government of course did away with all of that.  Riding goggles could no longer be the rage, no flying scarves, no leather jackets like bombardiers to keep one warm and the constant splotch of insects “off”.

My MG had side-curtains.  They bolted on to either door, simple metal frames covered in canvas and a window of yellowing cellophane (think scotch tape, but only thicker).  The canvas was torn and badly worn so I would not use them.  The word was pride.  I was young and it was easier to withstand the bite of cold than the bite of scorn.  I was always an aviator at heart.  MG – born of prop-planes, Spitfires, Red Baron and Blue Max – is that not what it’s all about?  Rugged individualism, individualists – hero or terrorist of the sky, you decide.  But I think both were cold.  I was cold in the winter in my MG, windows always open even when the top was on; but, the top never leaked.  The snow and rain merely blew in each side.

Does one really need a windshield on their Saab?  Mine may be gone soon.  Should I buy another or is the windshield “just fat”.  Fat is what we have gotten used to but do in fact not need.  Fat is the excess.  Fat is the luxuries of life when life without luxury would be so much better; more invigorating; more rewarding.  Fat is what makes an otherwise good story, bad.  The meal is ruined by the vintage of the wine, not the color.  Fat is the fear quotient in every deal; the “drop dead” consequences; the price too high to pay.  Fat is having to say, “I’m sorry” (whether you actually do say the words is not the issue).

I’m 61 now; the flip of when I was 16.  Maybe the windowless society is coming back; windshields unnecessary; the wind is at your back or in your face and maybe the winds blow and the rains come and the snow is blowing as in a gale and it doesn’t really matter because “I am alive” and the world in alive too and the times they are a’changin.  Mary Travers was alive then, too.  Concert at UN (UNR).  I posted about it once.  Drove my MG there and back.  The top was off.  The windshield was down (I think).  Or maybe that’s just how it must have been; it was so long ago.  Can one ever go back, or would one really want to?

This post was going to be about the economy; Part 2 of “Ben”.  It was going to be about getting the fat out of everything, of slimming down, about doing with less and being happy.  America can live a long time off its savings; unemployment hurts, but for most there is a check; food stamps; food pantries and thrift stores and uncle Joe’s garage.  There is always a car around; an untrashed clunker, good roof if nothing else.  We fight for the good life that never comes.  There is always rain.  And the roof will always leak, French soup or no.  We once asked the Japanese people to endure the unendurable.  We felt that the expectation was reasonable under the circumstances.  Maybe we did the islands a favor.  Maybe we need the favor returned.

A Great Austerity never hurt anyone.  It is wealth that’s weakness.  If flood is followed by fire; then next time they will not burn books, but only drown them – plastic bottles of water emptied over curling pages, ink running, glue dissolving, covers rippled by the wet.  It will be a nasty sight as the heralds of text messaging and I-pods and “I read it on the web” mentalities adjust the color of their screens and say, “I told you so, about the sudden demise of books”.

I will be patching my leaks tomorrow.  It may take days or weeks or quite possibly forever.  I think cement roofs may very well be the newest fashion.  The best apartments have them, why not a house.  As I tire in my efforts one question will drive me on.  Are the tears tears of joy, tears of sorrow, or just tears of pain?  Rest in peace Mary Travers.  And Thank You.

[2009.09.17 / Thursday – Fat City]

Bernanke, Ben

September 16th, 2009

~ If it were Ben Franklin, it would have been, “a dollar saved is a dollar lost”.

I try so hard not to be political.  I try not to get embroiled in the affairs of idiots and the idiocy of the economy.  I know that I will live longer if I let the affairs of the world pass without my two bits, four quarters, eight six-pence, or five dollar gold piece worth of thoughts or advice flow from my lips – or the lip of my laptop; which is poetic, but not true (I write on a desktop, on a desktop).

So why should I assume that what Ben Bernanke is saying is true and not just poetic verbiage from a poet wannabe that is instead the Fed Chairman, which wouldn’t mean much if it weren’t for the money; salary and perks, like the perk of causing endless pain to the many millions  under whose “fed watch” pain is dispensed as if it were a health care program gone really (really) bad – which our health care system has already done, but that’s not Ben Bernanke’s watch – but, we’ll save that for another time.

So is Ben living in the past, or in the future, or in a never-never land of perpetual sunshine and temperatures hovering in the seventies and incomes in the high sixties (as in $680,000 per family per year) or how else is it that he can say, “the worst is probably over”.  He must be referring to the worst of it for his buddies and his peer group and his compatriots or co-conspirators or whatever you might want to call the bunch that makes the calls (at the fed) that has killed any hope of interest from savings like saving money in the bank that might make life worth living if one were interested in interest.

There’s no interest in Ben’s world.  A penny saved is just a copper out of circulation.  The copper would be better spent, circulated as a coin, not collected, not saved for a rainy day or sunny day or day of any other kind – it is thrift that is the enemy in Ben’s war of words.  He liked the song, “Hey, Big Spender, spend a little time with me.”  Ben was and is a Wall Street boy, Broadway or no way, bright lights and neon cheese and dinner at the Stork Club or Club 21 or nothing.  Of course the “recession” is over; there never was one in the first place, just read back at what Ben used to say.  He has always been a very slow learner.  And Ben has a lot to learn (yet).

There is (of course) no need to save when money grows on trees, is printed 24/7 with countless presses, is invented in bit streams of electronic dashes by the billions in a billionth of a second.  It’s Ben’s world.  Ben makes all the money, and if not all of it, most of it.  So he don’t need your lousy coppers, your tin pan pennies, your silver certificates, or even your gold bars which you may have scratched and saved to secure a future once known as “the American dream”.  Ben fills his banks with the counterfeit stuff, with federal reserve notes, money made not borrowed – made the old fashioned way, just paper and ink and computer strokes on a keyboard – no real work, certainly no pain – there is no pain in Ben’s world, Stork Club at eight if you please.

Does it really matter.  As you know I don’t believe in money anyway.  If money madness is the fastest way to get rid of it, so be it.  Faster is better.  We are the makers of speed – Carl Sandburg I believe.

But, for those that still believe in money, believe in health care, believe that science will save you from everything that is I have a few questions for you; and for Ben; and for all those who may be teaching economics or have “Bank Vice-President” printed on their business cards.  What does it take to unravel a seven or twelve trillion dollar economy?  Can you do it in just one day?  Can all the wealth that is be evaporated and transformed and transferred into one big vault, one giant super-fast computer guarded by just one man, one board, one planetary reserve of currency that can meet the needs of the millions (even billions) of money-minded folks everywhere just burning to barter a banknote for something better?

Of course the economy really did crash about a year ago.  Tinkle, tinkle – Crystal-nacht; but not just for the Jews – a financial crash for everybody; avoid walking barefoot on the shards, they can cause great pain.  We are living in the economic aftermath, the sitzkreig of the economic war, the phoney war after the war has been declared, but before it really becomes real – before we learn that our lives were long ago changed forever.  Now, like then, the gauntlet has been thrown down, what is past is past; but, we cannot fathom the tomorrow that that gauntlet brings.  We live (like then) in denial; not ready for the future, unreconciled to the past that turned against us, that turned on men as they turned from God.

So, in Ben do we have an answer?  Ben has studied all of this “before” by reading words, but perhaps not with wisdom.  All good Generals always refight the last war; are never ready for the next war, the new war, the “this” war.  Victory at Sea did not culminate in the invasion of Japan; it was one bomb carried on one ship, the (USS) Indianapolis that did the deed – the rest was airpower even if Hiroshima and Nagasaki were technically “ports”.  The Nagasaki bomb was delivered to Tinian by plane; planes of course were faster.  So in our nuclear metaphor what part of Wall Streets “meltdown” do we still not understand?

Most all of the Reichbank notes of the late 1920’s still exist.  When I was young almost everybody it seemed had one.  There was a one, or two, or five followed by many zeros.  You could focus on the ones, or twos, or fives; or you could focus on and count the zeros.  It is the numbers, not the naughts, that I and most others most often remembered.  They were pretty notes as banknotes go.  Gothic lettering, great serifed litigures with a flourish worthy of note, if not to note the note itself.  After thirty years people still saved them (the notes), they were money after all, and money even at its worst is still money (so people said) and so they saved them – saved the notes – still hoping that the money may come back, the value, something so pretty might once again buy something of value.  Hope springs eternal; such is our faith in every central bank.

Why worry?  Alfred E. Newman could not be wrong.  Buy some health care.  Buy a new car.  Buy a Nintendo for the kids.  Buy whatever might make you happy.  You can’t go wrong by spending it, by spending money if that is all you have.  Tangibles are always better.  Nothing is an asset; but sometimes just feeling value is good; touching it; holding something heavier than just paper in your hand (or plastic).
I prefer rock and brick and stone and cement – weight for value, density – do you get my point or is it the science of it all that you still don’t understand?

So Happy Birthday Ben.  It is your birthday is it not?  If not, why not?  Every new day is so glorious, so special, so pregnant with the possibility of learning something.  If this isn’t that special day then let’s pretend that it is.  It could be.  Maybe it should be.

[2009.09.16 / Thursday – Bernanke, Ben]

Buying a home

September 13th, 2009

~ Why the Journal is not worth the price.

Now that you know that I live in Albuquerque you know that the “rag” that I read is the Albuquerque Journal.  It is probably typical of the declining papers of America, no worse and no better than the sad dogs that carry on the mastheads of a once proud journalistic empire that has been shattered into ruinous rubble.  All my friends that started as journalism majors have long since fled to law, or politics, or in one exceptional case inventing a patch for ripening apples (as yet an unproven concept).

To put too fine a point on the relationship between a government that based most of its hope on “freedom of the press” (meaning an actual press) and the reality of the substantial collapse of both journalism and the press and the seemingly simultaneous collapse of the larger empire of government would avoid the more basic reality of the importance of home to both press and government; to say nothing of the people themselves.  “We the people” (it was assumed) lived in homes; not in long-haul trucks, trailers, cars, or under freeway overpasses or half-hidden trees in parks.  If there is any doubt about this assumption you might wish to reread the articles about “quartering of troops” in the homes of America; something once assumed to be bad and wrong and worthy of governmental intervention to prevent.

So yes, we live in different times from times past.  So the Sunday Journal (catchy name) has a real estate section; suggesting a “real” Estate or just espousing a proliferation of a term that has probably lost all meaning – the word “Home” might be so much better, but the real part of real estate is the house, not a home, because a house is not a home to once again borrow book titles from books no longer read.  Are we getting there, yet?

The feature story is the “Gender Gap” (gender GAP).  The story unfolds to reveal that men are from Mars and women are from Venus and that those from earth are probably gender neutral or cross-gender or without gender which gets us back to journalistic styles which favor “I” or don’t favor “I” in favor of the they, or we, or favorite of all terms “personal” (as in choice) – as in its all about personal choice that is based on doing what the media or broadcast media tells you to do which is like having no choice at all.  Are we confused, yet?

In big splashy colors the Mars and Venus people agree on one thing – good schools.  Of course the front page of the paper reports (this same day) that good schools are of interest to only 12% of the electorate; since health care and the economy are stealing the whole show by taking up 100% of the interest; but the whole is about 130% (not 100%) because of “multiple responses” which means that 12% is not a good answer (should be less) and that’s what you get when education has been back-burnered for so long that it has been totally fried as in a microwave oven that doesn’t even have burners and you think I’m confused because all I know is what I read in the newspaper.  I think Will Rogers said that, first.

Under the splashy color Mars and Venus article is one about “Walkable” neighborhoods and the fact that walkable neighborhoods are better.  My neighborhood is not walkable because there isn’t a half-decent grocery (store) within three miles and the theory is that one needs to eat to live and there are no orchards or agricultural spaces or even cattle feed lots or hog farms within the three miles either.  So if Front Page and Real Estate are put together we might imagine that people are interested in a home (house) where one can walk to health care or maybe reaching further, walk to a better economy.  Which the “debt route” generally inherent to buying a home won’t get one to.

Do either men or women care about “affordability” in a home, low utility bills, low property taxes, nearby food or jobs?  No, both men and women want a Home Office; men want a real big garage; women want “updated” appliances.  It’s the cash for clunkers and the new cash for appliances crowd (other articles in this same newspaper).  The cub reporter of today is told to read the newspaper and then write the news; the idea of real world investigation or experience is as old hat as the idea that people permanently ensconced in cubicles in skyscrapers can’t (and shouldn’t) rule the world.

A house near a public park might be nice.  It might be better if the park had a drinking fountain.  But not so good if the drinking fountain was used by the homeless for bathing; or the park was full of graffiti; or the park was full of weeds or trash because the parks department didn’t empty the weeds or pick the trash or use chemicals to eliminate both – which brings up the question of living near chemicals (Bhopal, India comes to mind) but it might also mean living next to the tracks or freeways or buried gaslines or overhead transmission lines or even too near a major sewer artery that is hidden beneath the street (maybe your street) – but I posted about that one before.  Sewer lines like other infrastructure does and will collapse.  But hey guys, “don’t forget about those big closets for your girlfriend or your wife”.

Last week the (Albuquerque) Sunday Journal left off the second half of Barry Stone’s (Syndicated Columnist) blat about the virtue of home inspections.  So, this week the blat has been put first; top of the page; Real Estate page, that is.  Barry writes for the 500th time about the perils of black mold (a truly national threat worthy of Homeland Security) and uninspected room additions (your zoning officials should know).  I know that a five bedroom house with no garage probably has had a garage conversion, but that’s where a good eighth grade education comes in.

What is more important though – a home inspection report or a neighborhood inspection report?  Where are the sewer trunklines; what new transmission lines are planned; where is that half-way house for the criminally insane?  Is there bus service; are there food stores; what is the Ozone level after midnight?  How much have property taxes gone up in the past 10 years as a percentage of current home values?  How many nearby homes are owned by empty nesters wanting to downsize at any price; or owned by those soon to lose their jobs; or too poor to pay the premiums for Obama’s new health insurance company subsidy plan?  Some questions may never get answers, but for others the information in a report might make the answers easy.  Then people might start buying houses for parks and walkability and not because of the cream colored carpets and the size of the kitchen pantry.

If men were from Mars and women from Venus life on earth would be much better.  It is the earth patriots that are the problem; the born here, bred here, die here bunch.  They just “look around”, but don’t look very deeply, don’t think very much; think out of the box, but not off the planet.  The reason why so few believe in extra-terrestrials is that if life existed elsewhere in the universe life on earth would look so lame; the science so primitive; the ways of doing things and approaching problems so feeble and feeble-minded.  Would any one in their right mind buy a home on this planet?  Probably not.

Earth, September 2009 – maybe an interesting place to visit; but who would want to live there?

[2009.09.13 / Sunday – Buying a home]

Eight Years.

September 10th, 2009

~ A pause from water to talk of the fire this time.

In three and a half hours it will be 9/11 again.  It will have been eight years in passing from that date that changed your world and changed my world forever; at least in the forever as it is measured on this planet by the people of this time.  Maybe all Septembers (the 7th month by name) will always be lost because the trade towers were lost, Afghanistan is lost, Iraq was lost and all faith in the future, HOPE in the future, too is lost.  Is it such a philosophical reach to postulate that the only good in HOPE is the hope of NOW?

Man is fond of plans; plans are the downfall of good men and bad men too.  Women are less inclined to plans, they connive but little about the future except in planning affairs of the heart.  The theory is that the heart will out, that love will conquer all, that if the heart is put first – then everything else will be all right.  What could be so wrong?

Two towers.  Two tarots.  Two tarot decks, two cabalas, two ways of looking at the world.  Two theories.
Is 9-1-1 really Bin Laden’s birthday?  Is 9/11 your birthday?  One in 365 people were born on that date, except not so true because of the propensity for June marriages that result in March births.  So September is the month of December plans.  And December is the month of darkness, the longest night, the coldest hour, the ice before the melting caused by greenhouse gases and golden dawns and things that go bump in the night when children hope that the noise is on the roof and not under the bed or in the cellar or hidden even deeper in the souls of men, bad men, men who deal cards and read fortunes and make fortunes from which they read.

I was up early eight years ago.  I used to watch the news and watch the market and be interested in what is of little interest now.  I was attuned (tuned into) MSNBC then, that morning, the morning that the earth stood still and planes flew and then stopped flying and that rockets burst through the air but when it was all over the flag was not there.  There were no real flags, not false flags, just plastic flags on plastic standards and plastic sticks and people in pick-up trucks full of hate ready to die for freedom except that the dying part did not mean them – it meant others – it meant that others should die for “me” so that I can fly my plastic flag and flagellate my bloody breast with only the blood of others.  Try Afghanistan on for size.  Soon the B-52’s would bomb my Daddy’s airport and then the cruise missiles would strike the camps and villages and then war would beget war and nation would rend nation and history and hope beyond one day would pass into the night – the night of 9-1-1 would never come.  The whole day was night.  Day for night, like some film triage, French director, Truffot maybe, how I hate those always empty, always so French, French names.

If you still watch the media you cannot conceive of what it is that I am talking about.  TV will make you mad.  TV will kill you.  TV will steal your soul, steal your mind, steal your consciousness and make you into the robot that you really are.  TV is addictive.  I know.  I watched Gunsmoke once.  I watched it again and again and again.  I watched other programs even more insipid; Lassie, the Lone Ranger, Dragnet, Queen for a Day, Dialing for Dollars.  These monotribes tried to turn my mind to mush.  I have wasted countless lifetimes watching this sap.  Wall Street Week was nothing better, more “grown up” perhaps – but not one bit better.  Upstairs, Downstairs; Duchess of Duke Street; World War II in Color – why was the first mushroom cloud not filmed in color, in Technicolor, in Panavision with Dolby sound and animated special effects by Spielberg and Dreamworks or is it that things don‘t really work that way?

How many died on September 11?  Was it 90,000?  Was it 140,000 like in Hamburg, like in Dresden?  Was it 200,000 like in “bombs over Tokyo” when the incendiary bombs were really dropped, not the Do-little raid; but the Do-much raid.  Do bombs do much to cause peace; or do they just kill for the sake of killing more?

Seven come eleven.  It’s a crapshoot at best.  September is the Roman Gods seventh month.  How could so much be lost?  All those Roman numerals on the TV shows?  Were they there only to confuse the time and not to teach it?  So where is Bin Laden now?  Will he show up on some Taliban six-pence?  Is that the fear you really have?  Do you fear that the only coin worth real money will have the face of Bin Laden on it?  The greenback is dead; dialing for dollars has gone digital; hope beyond the hope of right now is like hoping that George Bush was never President and that 9 one, one, never happened.  It did happen; if only in your mind.

What was it that happened a short eight years ago today (today has already started in London now)?  Did planes hit?  Were there explosives in the stairwells?  Why did Tower 7 go down all by itself?  Is it really just about the oil, about the money, about the biggest bank robbery ever?  And does it really matter?  The anger goes away.  Tears for fears.  You will have a loved one lost in Afghanistan if you are American and if you yourself live long enough.  I know.  I was there before any of the rest of you were ever there.  Afghanistan will bury you; afghanistan will bury you.  And no one from America will ever come to see the graves; no Americans will ever go to Afghanistan to see the graves.  A crescent moon and star will be the grave.

But who will see it?

If one could see the pain caused by one small mind, who knew so little, who cared not much, who thought they understood the world and all that is in it – but were wrong, mostly wrong; but acted as if they were right.  If one could see such things as “self-assertion”, the motivation of greed, the will to power without a will to wisdom first; then one could see all the future pain; the sins of the world in the making; the next war and the last war and the future war to end all wars.  And if one could see, what would they do?  Would one change?  Would one change themselves first; or would one seek to change others first, make wrong from right, make war from peace, unravel every good that is offered to each of us every day with each new morning dawn (even when one has been working graveyard)?

Your world may be coming to an end sometime soon.  Call it Al Queda or Al Gore, call it the market, call it the swine flu, mortgage closing, banks in repossession; call it a currency crash, a market crash, a clash of empires or religions or “just science” as in when world’s do collide.  Put a date on it if you will; tomorrow, December 21, 2012 – 9 and one and one; December 7th is as good a date as any.  November 22 will work for some.  Or 9 and 9 and 9; the flip of 6 and 6 and 6 and what will you be doing next year on October 10, 2010 (or do you know that “Oct” is really “eight” and so there goes that date)?  I guess the difference is that I just don’t have time for TV, been there done that, no interest in any more.  The shows are all reruns mostly.  Who done it’s.  Mass killings and other gunshoot slaughters.  Sit-coms that aren’t so funny.  Quiz shows where all the prizes are really fixed.  And what patriot of what country can’t find a flag to wave especially for the cameras – or on TV.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back talking about water, drinking fountains, or why public parks are good.  But today my mind is mostly on cement, mixed with sand it makes concrete, mixed with rebar it makes for shelters and strong shelters and very strong shelters if the mix is deep enough or thick enough.  Some invest in silver, some in gold.  Fools invest in the stock market or in bonds.  I’m putting my savings where there’s strength – concrete, for the rock hard reality that seems to be tomorrow.

[2009.09.10 / Thursday – Eight Years.]

Sound bites and money bites continued.

September 2nd, 2009

~ Drinking fountains and a short history of water.

If you remember from earlier posts The Nevada State Museum (the original building) was the Carson City Federal Mint where silver dollars and gold eagles and other such coins were minted.  These were coins, not currency.  The “these” referring to the coins, not currency that was made out of almost pure gold and almost pure silver dug mostly by hand with the help of dynamite from the bowels of Sun Mountain not too far from Reno, but Reno wasn’t worth mentioning as a city when most of this digging and minting were going on.  The action was in Virginia City and in Gold Hill and in Silver City, Nevada.

Virginia City had lots of water.  It came up from the mines in torrents, belched from the mouths of the giant Cornish pumps that were designed to belch water faster than any other pumps in the world.  The pumps kept the mines dry, or dry enough, to keep the mines going ever deeper.  If you’re not up on your hydrology and engineering the issue is that water permeates mountains through cracks in the rocks and thus if you make a hole in the rock (hard rock mining) the water seeps in (or gushes in) and the mine floods.  Pumps are the only way to keep such mines dry enough to keep mining.

Actually strategically placed tunnels can keep some mines dry; but I will leave a revisit to Adolph Sutro and his tunnel project to another day.  Anyway, my father was an engineer; he knew a lot about water.  As his son I grew up learning a lot about water.  He built reservoirs, sewer systems, water treatment plants, huge pipelines, dams in Afghanistan and other places.  I tried to get one drinking fountain in one park.  It didn’t work.  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know something about Marlette Lake, a beautiful little lake about 8,500 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Range above Lake Tahoe.

Marlette Lake benefits from just about the coldest, purest mountain spring and snow water that one can find on this planet.  If they could bottle Marlette Lake water they could sell it for about five dollars a quart – it is that good.  The Marlette Lake water is as good as the water pumped from the mines of Sun Mountain was bad.  So before the engineers discovered Marlette Lake everyone in Virginia City took to drinking  bottled water; which was beer and fire water mostly – hard drink, something hard to quench ones thirst, but not as hard on the system (the body) as the putrid water from the mines, spiced with dynamite residue and other things much worse.

The idea was to solve Virginia City’s water supply problem (drinking water, bathing water) by  moving the Marlette Lake water to Virginia City.  Drinking alcohol would go down, bars would be more sober, the murder rate caused by drunken gunfights would go down, more girls and women would move to Virginia City because the men would be cleaner (almost nobody would bathe in the mine water); AND there would be the joys of a simple clean drink of water for the rich and poor alike.

The problem was that Marlette Lake was about 50 miles away.  The second problem was it was on the other side of a valley (Washoe Valley) 2,000 feet below Virginia City.  And then there was the fact that the lake was about 3,500 feet up the Sierras once one got down to Washoe Valley.  The winter snows were deep and treacherous  in the Sierras and hauling water by wagon in such circumstances would mean water only for the rich and even the rich would have to go without for probably six months out of the year.  No, water wagons would not work and moving water 50 miles in distance and 5,500 feet in elevation – well, it would be probably cheaper to bathe in and drink beer.

I hope I’m making my many points here.  But, back to the story.  They really did have metal pipes back in the 1870’s.  They were riveted together, welding had not come along yet.  But making pipe of a decent diameter was difficult.  And to get enough water for a city of say 70,000 souls would take a fairly decent size pipe.  And to make maybe 55 miles of such pipe perfectly would be harder still.  You see, the idea was to build an inverted siphon from the top of the Sierras to near the top of Sun Mountain (near a nearby pass) and “swoosh” the water from below the ice in Marlette Lake would flow smoothly to Virginia City and everyone could bathe, drink water from cups or leaded crystal goblets, or maybe even from a public drinking fountain on ‘C’ Street.

So everybody worked together and it happened.  Not only that; when San Francisco decided to create a public water authority (instead of the private companies that failed the city in the 1906 fire) the city turned to the ingenious and successful Virginia City water supply system for inspiration.  This time the water was moved almost 200 miles from Yosemite (NP) to a holding basin along the San Andreas fault from where it was piped into Baghdad by the Bay – the modern city reborn in 1906; made possible by mountain spring and snow water, a little clear thinking, and a little help from engineers with a little discipline and vision.  And vision.  And vision….   Please unstick this record.  They built a fountain on Market Street to celebrate this remarkable achievement; a drinking fountain for horses.

Fire and water.  The desert sun (fire).  Marlette Lake; Hetch Hetchy – water.  Alcohol – fire water.  Drinking fountains – free public water.  But in the beginning there were community wells.  People gathered at these wells to drink and to bathe or to get water to drink and to bathe.  The water was free.
There was (and is) nothing as basic as free and accessible public water.  Destroy the “free” part, destroy the “public” part, or destroy the “accessible” part and any community will die as certainly as if the well itself were filled or were poisoned.  Fill the well and life ends suddenly.  Poison the well (the water) and life will die slowly and the community (even the civilization itself) will die too.  An outdoor public  drinking fountain is the article of faith which connects us to all our pasts, to each other, to all the village wells that ever were, and to a future that has the rudimentary principals upon which might be built true promise.

It is to court great peril that anyone with any intelligence would either oppose or obstruct or even not encourage a public drinking fountain.  And yet, the most telling tale of our times is that people do.  Tomorrow I will explore the objections to drinking fountains, and you can contemplate what the message is about our world.

[2009.09.02 / Wednesday – Sound bites and money bites continued.]

Sound bites and money bites

September 1st, 2009

~ Two months and I’m back.

So I took a few months off from often daily rants against the Empire to try and do a few good works for my neighborhood and my neighbors under the theory that neighbors are not just those that live on the three sides that constitute “next door” assuming a lot with a house with a front door, a side door, and a back door.  If you live in an apartment and don’t relate to this analysis – that is my exact point.

In my neck of the desert (Albuquerque, New Mexico) the “neighbors” are officially divided up into officially defined neighborhoods with official boundaries that are established and duly mapped by the mappers (AGIS – Albuquerque Geographic Information System) so that one can know where one neighborhood ends and the next one begins and maybe know not to cross the street, or reach out too far, or to not let the guys (and gals) from the next neighborhood cross over.  If this sounds like the fodder for turf wars and gang wars and racist rhetoric and graffiti attacks; you’re right, it is.  It is also the fodder for politics.  And politics is, as we all know, the root of all evil.

Albuquerque was not always a desert.  When Coronado ran into the Rio Grande and followed the river north a bit, four hundred years ago or so, to find (if not to found) what is now known as Santa Fe (which is now celebrating its 400 years since founding) the river was a “Bosque” which like “Basque” means forest which means trees which means woods; which means that my section of Albuquerque was once woods and not desert at all.  Thought you should know.  So I should have said, “My corner of the woods”, but the wood in the “hood” is now mostly dead (coroner of the woods, I guess); so I will be politically correct and call Albuquerque “a desert” which if it wasn’t it soon will be given greenhouse warming and the emphasis on xeriscaping and zero-scaping which means rock and gravel instead of grass which as we know always leads to harder drugs which brings up “Breaking Bad” which is filmed in my Hood, which makes my hood look really bad; so why would you want to move to Albuquerque anyway?

This brings me to the topic of drinking fountains.  I’m talking here about drinking fountains and not water fountains.  Water fountains are for public baths and bathing.  They are good for shooting water into the air and causing it to evaporate; which in Albuquerque means the water will end up lifting to form clouds that will drift over to Texas and in Texas the water will (or may) drop down again as rain which is why Texas is wet and Albuquerque is dry and I guess I forgot to tell you that the Civic Plaza in Albuquerque has this one giant water fountain which is capable of evaporating thousands of gallons of water per month (to help Texas); but there is not one single drinking fountain in Civic Plaza so one can get a drink of water in the hot inhospitable desert in the desert southwest; where it is hot, just to remind you of “hot” as in sun, as in the Zia symbol, as in south of the sunbelt, as in a lot warmer than Maine in the summer if you get my drift.

Did I say that Civic Plaza is officially a “park”; as in under the jurisdiction of Parks and Recreation, as in the Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department, so you can now Google the thing correctly.  Anyway, I had this really crazy idea that there should be drinking fountains in Albuquerque, given the heat, the hot, the desert living thing; and realizing that even in the desert people still go outdoors – ask Coronado.  I sure bet he would have liked a drinking fountain for his troops when he visited New Mexico instead of having to haul all those bottles of bottled water with him when he trekked north toward Santa Fe.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe just drinking the river water was OK, drinking it directly from the river.  Maybe the Rio Grande was a bit cleaner 400 years ago and there were fewer chemicals, and pollutants in the river and I’m not sure when they started dumping the nuclear waste in the tributaries of the Rio Grande, but that was probably after the Manhattan project and the Los Alamos labs – or was it?  Maybe it started with the “big bang” at Trinity; but there I go mixing science and religion and nobody wants to do that now do they?

Gosh, New Mexico really is fascinating.  But this is supposed to be about my two month sojourn in the desert trying to found (or find) a drinking fountain.  Just so we understand each other I am talking about outdoor drinking fountains that are not locked up at 5:00 PM and from which the homeless and other outsiders (from outside the hood) might be locked out from.  I am also talking about public drinking fountains.  This means that I’m not trying to get more private drinking fountains that are off limits to the homeless, to outsiders, maybe even to tourists and travelers and those in the military like Coronado carried with him which is maybe why he drank river water and didn’t just march into buildings and drink from the private water stashed away in the buildings – but maybe I’m wrong and maybe Coronado did smash into buildings and steal water and (since he was already in) women and male slaves; but this is not about history, it is about water.

The idea was to have one drinking fountain in one public park.

Later I will explore the topic of when a park is a park and not a park.  I will explain the esoteric concept of “streetscape”.  I will share my discoveries.  400 years from now people may remember me like they do Coronado; but better perhaps, because I don’t steal women, break into buildings, move forward with armies of armed men at my beck and call.  Which brings me to “Beck bites”, which was written in all the hymnals at the San Rafael Military Academy in 1963 because Beck was the head of all the student cadets and almost all of the student cadets hated Beck who was just enough Gung Ho military that he ended up in Vietnam where he got himself killed, God rest his soul, or is it just “big bang” so it doesn’t really matter?

When I was young I loved drinking fountains.  There was one in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City when I was six or seven; about 1954 or 1956 or somewhere back in time when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Carson City (Nevada) was also an oasis in the desert, trees and a river at the base of mountains that opened to the desert sand and sagebrush which is really a weed from Russia; and there I go talking about drugs again.  Bad, Breaking Bad; this filming thing so close to my house has got me thinking all the wrong thoughts and is making me think about crime and bad guys instead of taking a bite out of crime and enjoying a deep drink of cool morning air which is all you get a drink of if there aren’t any drinking fountains.

Anyway, this could go on forever.  But drinking fountains are such an emotional thing.  I never knew this, really.  I just thought that everybody liked them.  Boy was I wrong.

To be continued tomorrow.

Aren’t you glad that I’m back?

[2009.09.01 / Tuesday – Sound bites and money bites]