Friday, December 9, 2011

The reluctant brownshirts

I loathe that citizens versus law enforcement has become such a focus of this beautiful revolution of the mind that has swept the United States, but because it seems these peace officer . . . armies* are in full force and are only strengthening their position, I suppose it’s appropriate to tie my literary bandana across my face holes, spark the wick of my Molotov cocktail, and wind my arm back.

The nature of state and local police is to “serve and protect” as we’ve all heard so often. It seems almost derisive as I tap out the phrase because anyone who’s spent any time at an Occupy encampment will tell you that under the duress of an impending raid, these servants of the community can be more threatening than anything imaginable. Why? Because they can hurt you, and by law you cannot defend yourself. As we’ve all seen, the police can jab you and crack your bones with dense sticks; they can cut your wrists and turn your hands blue with too tight cuffs and ties; they can burn your eyes and lungs; they can swell your throat or make you vomit; they can stun you with electricity; they can make record of your fingerprints; they can take your picture; they can take off all of your clothes and leave you naked and humiliated; they can beat the living shit out of you, and if no one’s recording you at that exact moment, no matter how morally, ethically, and lawfully wrong they are, you lose. Their ensuing paperwork and records can ruin your life and they can do all of this and more with complete impunity because the government, local, state, and federal, favors them. If you stand up for yourself, you are alone.

Should that be what’s going through my head when I join my countrymen to speak the unthinkable: I don’t like the way we are being governed. It’s taken a long time for me to recognize my right as an individual to say that. I don’t like the way we are being governed, and I’ll be damned if fear is what keeps me from singing it.

I never appreciated lone dissenters who have chained themselves to personal convictions, risking their very freedom out of principle, until I stood arm in arm with dozens of protesters, nervous and dreadful at the prospect of resisting the police. These people protesting aren’t just pot-smoking kids who are rebelling against authority. They are grown men, women, and yes, idealistic young people who are through with scratching by, paycheck to paycheck. They are Americans who have been ejected from their homes or jobs or both and while they might have once crinkled their noses to the homeless person sifting through garbage, they are one and the same now. They are people bankrupted by medical, educational, and a range of other predatory debts. They are people who didn’t irresponsibly have children that they couldn’t afford or take care of. They are people who were not dragging down the economy by leaning on so-called entitlement programs. They are people who were once okay but now they are not and they have absolutely nothing more to lose. That’s when you face rubber bullets and tear gas, not because you’re lazy or because you want to legalize marijuana. Simplifying the conversation to such corporate TV or radio soundbytes is a disappointing show of ignorance and misinformation. Besides, have you ever hurt yourself when you’re stoned? It’s, like, a ten.

In truth, I see no difference in “occupying” a public space and incessantly calling the office of an elected official to air your grievances over the policies he or she is supporting. What do you think? Occupy the phone lines? Do it from a public pay phone and when the police arrive to squirt pepper spray in your face and hog tie you into their squad car, perhaps the point will be made because that is essentially what is happening.

No one is calling to hate the police. There are remarkable men and women who risk their very lives every day, some out of principle, others out of appreciation for their livable wages, reasonable benefits, and comfortable retirement. Either way, they do what they are paid to do and they do it well. But when these (mostly) good people are purchased to guard the sanctity of American corruption at the expense of the very people who pay their livable wages, reasonable benefits, and comfortable retirement, something must be done. And “Stop and frisk”? “Papers, please”? C’mon, go fuck yourself. This is all of society, folks, and as awful as past gender and racial struggles have been (and continue), if this movement is suppressed by the police buffer between the super rich and, well, everyone else, the precedent will be devastating. As a people, we will have lost. It’s as big as Egypt, where the citizens there toppled their government and allowed their military to seize interim power only to find that they can’t get it back. The Egyptian military was wildly approved of before and during their revolution, too. Now they’re maiming and killing their citizens with weapons sold to them straight out of Pennsylvania.

As usual, I don’t have a solution. Who does? I am, however, able to say that I don’t like the way we are being governed. It’s a statement that many citizens in many countries around the world are unable to utter without fear of arrest, but if this moment of dissent is snuffed out by our family and friends who wear police badges, if we join the ranks of peoples who cannot voice their grievances against their government, we as a free society will have lost. So talk to them. Directly engage. Remind them of the great responsibility that by our consent they hold custody over, and to abuse this position of power and authority that we’ve entrusted to them is a violation of our social contract. It’s a violation in all aspects of the word. Remind them that they have a choice. Remind them that bashing out peaceful dissent is decidedly un-American, and ask what would move them to sit down and not stand up when commanded by a person with a shield, helmet, club, and skull dagger. Chances are our family and friends in law enforcement have no idea of the historical parallels they’ve conformed to repeating by unknowingly becoming the next
brownshirts. Show them.

It’s all or nothing now, people, but I’m afraid that individual police officers will never understand why what they are participating in is the takeover of a free society, and I’m demoralized with the worry that nobody cares.

Addendum: Have a look at this petition, please. Thank you, Jillian.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And now, truths

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it . . .

– Right of Revolution, Preamble to the Declaration of Independence - Thomas Jefferson

These are some of the things that have been swirling around my head as of late:

First, and absolutely foremost, the Occupy raids. This week has seen a concerted effort by law enforcers throughout the nation to destroy peaceably assembled people voicing legitimate grievances. Their argument across the board is that activists are posing a public safety concern. Fights are breaking out; local businesses are being stolen from; Occupy kitchens are fire hazards; other citizens can’t play in the park; and apparently, protesters are taking mass dumps on park grounds, flinging said poos at each other like captive chimpanzees and not washing their hands. If that last one were true, I suppose I’d gallop into Zuccotti Park swinging a police baton through a cloud of tear gas myself. But it’s not and I call bullshit on the rest of it, too. The cost of the first Oakland raid was over one million dollars. The second was around half a million. Mercenaries from surrounding jurisdictions are expensive. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to simply up a few more beat cops in the area? Yes. Or hire some of the war profiteer “security” companies who are operating in Iraq or Afghanistan to police the Occupy encampments. That helps out the private sector, yeah? Protesters could at least defend themselves without the fear of life imprisonment or at the very least, felony charges. What we’re seeing is the suppression of a people. Plain and simple, but luxury is such a comfortable pillow that we don’t even see it. Think. Think.

A fine example of the exercise is in The New York Times article I read regarding the raid on the original Occupy Wall Street encampment. An interview with a man who works in the area said this: “[The protest] started out as a cool grassroots movement and then it turned into a big homeless camp.” I found myself automatically nodding my head in conformity, for the Occupy San Francisco and Oakland camps were and are similar, but then my agreement turned to indignation as I really stopped to think about why that was so. Why are so many homeless men, women, and children coming out from under their bridges to squat in these national tent cities? Why is a “big homeless camp” offensive and not alarming? Why? Take a moment to step outside of this American permissiveness and be an individual. Think for yourself and question authority as the late Timothy Leary never stopped saying.

Next. Herman Cain’s fumble over Libya (and I’ll be as brief as possible with this foolishness) is, I declare, not a show of his stupidity. Understand that this clown is completely funded by billionaire economic dictators David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries. He doesn’t even have a campaign staff to raise funds for him, people. He’s utterly dependant on his two patrons. Supporting Obama’s strategy in Libya would have simultaneously massaged his opposition’s shoulders as well as supported a popular uprising against a brother dictator. Yes.

Speaking of Obama. He has lost my vote, and next year’s election will likely see me exercising my right to abstain from participating in this mock democracy. You may remember my enthusiasm for Senator Obama a couple of years ago when I even attended his historic inauguration. “Fool me once . . . shame on . . ” as W. once said, “. . . shame on you. . . . Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.” Obama is a constitutional lawyer and professor for God’s sake. He knows that Guantanamo Bay Prison is in full violation of the Third Geneva Convention which defines treatment of prisoners of war; he knows that transferring prisoners of war to states outside the Conventions is also a violation, and his greenlighting the assassination of two American citizens in Yemen (one of them a teenaged boy) without ANY due process is so far beyond anything I would have expected President Bush to have had balls enough to try that I can’t in good conscience vote for this Nobel Peace Prize laureate again. The implications of the latter abuse are absolutely horrifying, and all hyperbole aside, I see only the precedent for black-bag kidnappings and gulags in subsequent presidencies. Obama’s turned out to be nothing more than a big, fat pulsing corporate pussy with a Reagan-esque gift for political gab. To say I am disappointed is a painful understatement.

So, what does one do in the shadow of an impossible machine? What does one do when he is disillusioned with the process he has pledged allegiance to his whole life? Protest. Assemble. Take to the streets. Pump your fists in the air. Shout. Scream. It is your freedom, your right as a human being to cry out when your tears are being squeezed out of your body.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bananas . . . In Space

Are you ready for bananas? I said, are you ready for bananas?! The Singularity. In a book I’m reading called The Singularity is Near, I’m discovering a topic that has kept my eyes open and staring long after I’ve turned out the lights for bed, a topic that is being taken seriously by some seriously rich people (e.g., the U.S. government, via its proxy the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the billionaire co-founders of Google and PayPal).

The Singularity theorizes the next phase in human evolution as a technological one, where nanotechnology (molecular machines) will seamlessly integrate with human biology, ending illness, aging, and even death. The implications of such a thing are forehead-smackingly profound. Not only will people be able to shed their mortal . . . obligations, such as eating, sleeping, jump kicking, and pooping, but technology could eliminate the need for our very eyes. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, sensation, could become unrecognizable as we understand it and a universe of perception that humanity cannot even begin to conceive of yet could flower for our transcendental insight.

The whole theory is grounded in the advent of artificial intelligence (predicted by some around mid-century and something that Google appears to be silently working on as the rumored “Google Brain”), whose process computation, which exceeds what the limited connections human neurons are capable of by trillions of times, will be complemented by reason. If AIs don’t go terminator on us, we’ll need them to “think” through the potential dangers of nanotech, such as the immediate cancer that nano particles have caused in lab animals. At best, we’ll integrate our biology with the AIs’ exponentially advancing technology and impress human intelligence at a molecular level to all matter and energy until it permeates the entire universe. Biological humanity will be over and we and/or our progeny will reign as a new and immortal . . . entity, moving freely throughout the universe and eventually between theorized multi-dimensions to escape even the eventual end of the universe. Fascinating. I’m simplifying, of course, and the worst case (barring annihilation by a superior intelligence or the self-replicating “grey goo” of nanobots sliming over all matter on Earth and beyond) is based on our current model of society: the rich have and the poor have not. If the Singularity is inaccessible to regular folk, there will be a small class of immortal gods and then the rest of us mortal apes who won’t have a hope in the world of understanding them before we die out, but I suppose humans will, at least, have realized their egomaniacal dream of ubiquity and as a species, we will have survived. I’m banking on people being less douchy after achieving enlightenment.

All this may sound wildly spacey but that’s ‘cause you’re probably looking at the future from a linear perspective, based on what may be perceived as slow progression. But from a logarithmic view, a sight my brain is almost completely blind to, humanity’s current technological pace has been exponential as it nears the event horizon where advancement will have accelerated with such momentum and autonomy that we won’t even be controlling it any longer. Whether the timeframe author Ray Kurzweil has predicted is accurate or not (he expects to be living for another 1000 years or so (he also intends to resurrect his dead father based on the information stored in the author’s DNA, the information stored in his own brain, as well as the information stored in a garage full of his father’s personal possessions (and yes, he nearly lost a little credibility for me with his weird daddy issues))), this is the future of humanity, should we live long enough to see it happen.

I haven’t quite figured out the implications of what consequence distributed and immortal intelligences will be for what I’ve come to consider plausible reincarnation, but I’m thinking on it.

In closing, I recognize that I sound like a space cadet and would like to point out that crazy people do not realize that they are out of touch, so I’m good. Anyway, it beats the shit out of television.


Thought on it, and if I hadn’t already lost you, here’s where I likely will. After describing the topic of The Singularity is Near to a coworker, he slowly walked away in deep thought only to slowly return hours later with that same far-away look. The very basic question he presented was one I had considered as well but without a need for accountability (and for fear of a brain vessel popping in my head) had conveniently put it aside: With an unfathomable amount of habitable planets in the universe, wouldn’t a civilization have already reached a singularity of its own? Yes, and this is where that line of thinking awakened me this morning. If a civilization in this long history of the universe had reached ubiquitous and (excuse the seeming redundancy) universal intelligence, it seems to me that we, their probable direct or indirect creation, would be encoded with the DNA potential of unlocking the pearly gates of their perfection and joining them in omniscience. Still, I haven’t factored in reincarnation because while it seems related, I don’t know how it fits. Perhaps the proverbial soul is simply that permeating intelligence that our Singularity is pulling toward and reincarnation is a mere willingness to rejoin the flesh for the very Buddhist-Bodhisattva purpose of helping others reach Nirvana. It’s all connected, people.

Second-to-lastly, I assure you that my recent completion of the series Battlestar Galactica is entirely coincidental to this techno-mysticism I’ve clearly become interested in.

Lastly, I wonder if you made it through this entire post.

For reals lastly, here’s the Wiki article on nanotechnology if you’re interested and here’s the New York Times piece that first introduced me to the subject of the Singularity. It’s long but it’s a good read.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Police the Police, Protest the Protest

It was hot. It was cold. The swell of bodies heated the sloping hill of California Street as their crush ambled back toward the Financial District with their fists in the air and their voices ringing through the high-rise corridors of concrete and glass, “We are the 99 percent!” Gawkers sat in office and apartment windows several stories up, pressing their heads against the glass. Some stayed inconspicuously at the margins of their portals, holding their elbows and keeping from total visibility. Others leaned out, sleeves rolled and ties flapping in the cold and misty breeze as they waved and shouted in solidarity. A man on a megaphone cried out a complicated rhyme that the crowd mumbled before abandoning. Police on motorcycles and dirt bikes met the protestors at every predetermined intersection, blocking traffic so the crowd of several hundred people could pass without incident. It was very ordered, rehearsed.

ack at the Federal Reserve building of San Francisco, I set off in the direction of my apartment, conflicted by the thoughts and emotions wrestling for governance over my head and heart. On one hand, I was overjoyed to have seen so many people marching and shouting in common discontent. Despondency is a lonely tower and to see dozens of furrowed brows and frowning roars was ironic medicine for my proverbial soul. On the other hand, I was unsatisfied with the complacency of the event. Isn’t a protest a time to rouse the rabble? It’s time for the barbarism of fire hoses, batons, and snarling dogs. “You went down there looking for trouble,” a coworker declared as I voiced my frustration the next day. I suppose I did. Mind you, hurting person or property is not what I hope for, but respectfully moving ten feet off the property of the Federal Reserve Bank in order to appease city ordinance is not my idea of civil disobedience.

There’s a peacefully aggressive mindset of these protests across the country that I am clearly and unfortunately not a part of, however fascinated. I don’t understand this compliant form of dissent that requires patience and resiliency without swinging fists. My hot-headedness blinds me to the larger prize and I want confrontation NOW! I want the police to police, police, police so that the public will see how when questioned, authority adjusts its helmet and taps its bludgeon on its steel-toed boots in defense of not law or order but money; and not just in New York City, where JP Morgan Chase donated over four million dollars to the NYPD as the police force commandeered city buses and arrested over 700 peaceful protestors for unlawfully marching on the Brooklyn bridge (after being diverted there by the police), but on the West Coast, too. The SFPD didn’t disappoint. In fact, their actions later that night proved just as calculating as their New York City counterparts. There was no disorderly conduct at 12:45am when riot police returned and dismantled the protestors’ makeshift camp then blocked off and guarded the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve so they couldn’t return.

Who were they defending? Those cops go home and watch the same shitty reality TV as half the plebeians of the day’s march, yet when called to action, they rush to the aid, compelled by profession or ideology, of their invisible oppressors and become biting teeth for the greediest humans in the world.

I read that several of the San Francisco police officers openly wept as they followed their orders. Perhaps that’s a start. Perhaps once the police are on our side, we can take their goddamned guns away and redirect their attention to the real criminals, whose weight we carry around as though they are living gods, for tiny laws are in place to arrest every single one of them in much the same way such laws were invoked to disassemble and demoralize a peaceful protest still in its infancy.

I don’t have an answer to any of this, but at least I set down my coffee, snapped my laptop closed, and pocketed my phone for a few hours to see what I could see. Today, I’m returning to the bedside of this discontent to once again feel the weak pulse of our feeble democracy before it slips away.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drizzly Areolas and the Ethics of Chivalry: the effects of feminism on men

In a recent social networking debacle, I commented on a morning discomfort I experienced while loitering at a coffee shop directly in front of a breastfeeding woman. As expected, a gaggle of hysterical females angrily squawked over what they perceived as my insensitivity. No idea how that happened. To be clear, I would like to assure every woman reading this that I don’t care at all if you breastfeed in public. I’d much rather see your breasts than hear your screeching baby. Wait, that’s not a good reason. I’d much rather your child receive the vital sustenance he or she requires during such a formative time. Yes, that.

In a subsequent series of emails on feminism to my special ladyfriend, a woman who makes more money than I do, speaks four more languages than I do, is generally a better human being than I am, and for whom I’d be content donning a frilly apron and fluttering about a shared kitchen like Donna Reed, I defended my Facebook martyrdom as follows:

“I react to women’s boobies with wide eyes, puckered baby lips, and a gummy cry, ‘Mama!’ Then, I shit myself and require changing.”

On a spiritual level, that’s what’s going on behind my dull stare when I see sudden and unexpected breasts at 8am.

That’s certainly not a woman’s fault, but is it mine? I was taught social masculinity by a hierarchy of developmentally influential females in my life (e.g., mother, grandmother, various tias, family friends who behaved as surrogate mothers, etc.). They were tyrannical overlords but they wisely tempered my inherent aggression to assure that the physical strength that comes with manhood would never be turned against them. I learned. As a boy, I’d even lead rock-throwing campaigns into the territory of other boys, channeling the husking beast within, for the favor of some maiden waiving atop a playground prison tower; and when I’d affectionately punch and jump-kick my sisters, I assure you, they only ever received 35% power, tops, because I always tried to obey the half-dozen fingers that perpetually wagged their painted nails under my little mouse nose and teary eyes. “You don’t hit girls,” they’d say, commanding I unball my wild fist and release the wad of pink tee shirt clenched tightly in the other. You don’t.

Those same painted fingernails spent years pointing me ahead of them to open doors, squash bugs, carry out stinking bags of garbage, cut thousands of miles of summer-heated grass, and investigate suspicious noises in the middle of the night. If I refused the killing of a cockroach or rat, if I picketed for equal lawn-mowing duties with my sisters, if I expressed a self-preserving reluctance to be murdered by an intruder, those singly pointed fingers would turn into singly, swatting palms or joined by pinching thumbs at the backs of my arms. Operant conditioning at its finest, people, and quite frankly, I’m thankful for it.

That psychology, however, was and is not just extended toward women. I’ll hold a door open for an old man. I’ll hold a door open for a young man. It’s called manners and it has nothing to do with what is or is not dangling between a person’s legs. But therein lies the problem. My problem. See, I’ve actually had women laugh at me (on more than one occasion) for pulling open a door and standing piously aside. Fuck you, jerk. Do you realize how humiliatingly contemptuous that is? Very. What’s worse, my polite, closed-mouthed smile usually turns to an indignant frown and the door that I’m holding open is suddenly regarded as a potential weapon for repeatedly smashing her in the threshold. Think about that kind of crazy the next time you’re an asshole to a stranger who’s being civil for absolutely no other reason that because his mama told him that’s the way things should be.

I’ve never had a man think it odd or emasculating to have a door held open for him. Never. On the contrary, it’s become laughably ridiculous when he responds, “No, after you,” followed by my, “No, after you,” to which he responds with a generous, extended hand, “No, please,” and I bashfully thank him and prance into the building, which essentially means I’ve thanked myself for holding open a door, but the courteous exchange still makes me feel less cynical about people.

I try to be as socially conscious as humanly possible but understand, boys and girls, that men have been pounding their chests for 50,000 years and even today, life histories like mine have been inundated with traditional social norms by the very gender that demands their abolition. It gets confusing. However, empathetically understanding why a person feels so strongly about a subject is, in my opinion, more important than whether or not the impassioned individual understands his or herself. Maybe you can explain it to them once you figure it out.

Why does one person feel I’m being disrespectful by holding open a door? Does it recall, and leave undeniable (subjectively speaking), a sense of perceived inferiority? Does a cavalier smirk slime across my face as I impose my gallantry? Oh yeah, I’m gonna hold this door NASTY! Yeah, walk through that door, baby girl. Do it. You look so fine, girl. You see how strong I am? Yeah, you do. You like it when I hold this door, don’t you girl. That’s what’s going on in my head, anyway. Maybe there’s something dick-like in my rigid stance as she passes by and my very presence offends her. But why does another person regard me as disrespectful when I don’t hold a door open? Does that also recall a sense of perceived inferiority? Perhaps shouldering past a woman to enter a building first indicates that a man was never taught to comprehend his physical potential and his thoughtlessness makes him morally unpredictable, which in turn reminds the offended woman that voluntary social rules are the only barriers keeping brutes like him from total dominion. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, and should just start entering places through windows so I won’t have to deal with the agony of doing the right thing. The lyrics to The Flaming Lips’ wonderful “Fight Test” come to mind as they often do:

I don’t know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins,
It’s aaaaaaaall a mystereeeeeeee.
And I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life,
It’s aaaaaaaall a mystereeeeeeee

So yeah, breastfeeding. Do it. That was never an issue, I guess. Just, please, attempt empathy for the squirming man sitting across the coffee shop, attempting empathy for you because there’s more going on in his head than plotting the best ways of perpetuating the institutionalized sexism that keeps your tits cupped away in their bras. If that doesn’t move you, do it for no other reason than because you are, after all, sharing the same oxygen.

Festering Addendum:

If you’ve ever scoffed at another human being for holding a door open for you (empathy considered and gently set aside), I hope you’re one day beaten with a swinging sack of un-ripened oranges . . . by an orangutan, not because you’re an insolent man or woman without humility, but because you’re a genderless asshole who would benefit from a good ass-kicking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yeah, so?

In case you all thought my newfound reincarnation curio was just a passing interest, here’s another post for reinforcement. Actually, here’s a snap from an email to my special ladyfriend the other morning because I haven’t posted anything for a month but I’m too lazy to create right now. I didn’t ask her permission to reproduce it here, but since they’re my words, I don’t think she’d have a problem.

“Meditation was a wreck for me this morning but I have a good reason. A thought popped into my head and I couldn’t concentrate anymore. See, I’ve totally bought into reincarnation. It makes sense to me and ALL of the major religions have reference to it in their respective books, which gives it a bizarre credence for me. Anyway, if we consider Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, the purpose is to break the cycle of reincarnation by becoming enlightened (as I understand it). What popped in my head was cloning. How does that fuck things up? Maybe not at all. See, if we were cloned and reincarnated into our own bodies, with our discarnate “souls” (for lack of a better word) guiding embryonic development, as they seem to do, then wouldn’t our cloned bodies be the perfect vessels?* Perhaps we’d even hang onto the memories of the previous life instead to them fading by loosely 10 years of age. I used to think all those silly sci-fi books and Hollywood movies that depicted a clone having memories of the first body as stupid and unscientific, but I wonder now if the writers stumbled onto something with their mediocre imagination. Perhaps that’s a way to enlightenment. Shrug. I really don’t know, but the whole cloning thing really messes with my understanding of us. Taking reincarnation seriously like this has opened a VAST frontier of existential thought for me. I wish I had another me who could wax the subject with the same curiosity . . . but that second Carlos would likely be a clone and since I’m still living, and my proverbial soul would still be cozy in my body, I have no idea what he’d be like. Sigh. You see now why concentration quickly became impossible for me this morning.”

Perhaps he’d be a Bizzaro Carlos, my arch nemesis. You never know.

Here, I’d like to reiterate that I haven’t embraced religion or God(s). I still hold firmly that they are all foolish Santa Clauses for politicians and stupid people (which is almost redundant, if you think about it). No offense if that’s you. There’s no mysticism in my understanding of reincarnation and I’m not reading chicken bones or collecting energy stones to plug up my nose or to rest on my bedroom window. This is empirical, people. Oh, and don’t allow any loss of credibility by my reference to meditation. It’s not New Age or hippie just ‘cause I’m in San Francisco now. It’s progressive, you jerks, and I’ve been meaning to do it for years to calm the hurricane antagonism of my mind. Think of it as stretching or equate it to the extra fifteen minutes one might spend sitting on the toilet reading The Economist on an iPhone because family and friends literally cannot reach you in that private and holy place.

Back to cloning. I’m all for it and I think cloning a human (or even a Neanderthal) may very well clear up some serious existential questions I’m suffering right now.

For a series of fascinating Youtube videos on the subject, check out my last post on reincarnation. With any luck, you’ll follow in my footsteps; we can start a cult (with me as the divine figurehead, of course); and then we can road trip it to Beverly Hills and bludgeon Angelina Jolie to death. (Don’t worry, she’ll come back as Jesus or something.)


*Much of what I’ve read suggests an element of decision making in the discarnate phase between lives (e.g., a person declaring his intent to return as the son of a favorite niece, an effeminate boy vocalizing his intent to return as a female and then doing so).

Friday, July 8, 2011

What the people want.

I decided to take a break from belching my largely one-sided opinions of the world and focus in on something that Chrissy of I Shoulda Been a Stripper notoriety inspired a long time ago but which I never acted on for fear of simply being an unoriginal bastardo. Which I am.

Here it is. The following is a list, complete with commentary from yours truly, of some of the most frequent word searches that have landed faceless people from around the globe to this little ol’ blog. Actually the two with “nude” and . . . well, and “fart” in them were only searched once but they resonated in my precious brain.

captain america penny – this one is searched in several forms that often includes the word “shield” in there as well. Here’s the page it lands on. I’m happy to have the opportunity to relink to it ‘cause I drew an awesome picture of Captain America, scaled down to the size of an American penny, that nobody gave a shit about, and quite frankly, I resent you all a little for it.

vestigial sex organs – who would have thought there’d have been so many searches for this? There are. Whether or not they’re people with a vagina and a limp and useless penis, or simply online trolls, I can’t say. What I do know is that they are always linked to this page where I comment on how unimpressed I was with Toy Story 3.

nude pics european women illegal under 18 – this guy meant business, eh? I actually hesitated repeating this phrase for fear of all the other degenerates it’ll attract but then I reasoned that it’ll be fine material for my next post on the subject of word searches. More importantly, I have absolutely no idea where someone will land after googling this particular group. I wasn’t curious enough to attach my IP address to child pornography. I don’t recommend your doing it either. Just trust me when I tell you that if you type “nude pics european women illegal under 18” into a search engine, you’ll find yourself in the familiar embrace of

ABANDON SOCIETY – I’m particularly fond this one because it makes me feel less alienated. There are a lot of people curious about the subject. Unfortunately, they’re only linked to my relatively recent trip to Big Bend but at least my fellow dissidents will learn how easy it is to nearly die in the Texas desert.

fleshlight military – for those of you that didn’t know, a fleshlight is an artificial vagina disguised as a flashlight. It’s apparently popular among our men (and to be totally P.C., women) in uniform. Here's where you'll find my mention of them.

jacques pervert dejeuner du matin meaning – this one’s a little irritating. I wrote a brief analysis on a very simple French poem a couple of years ago and it’s received nonstop attention ever since. That might sound like something to celebrate, but it makes me feel like a hack for not coming up with anything original that produces the same results. In fact, I'm not even linking you to it, so there.

tired of capitalism – this one has diverted lots of traffic to various pages. Most recently, this one, but it’s most frequently taken peeps to the Big Bend posts. Either way, I’m glad to see people searching this phrase because, although civilization will likely collapse under the reigns of ironically unbridled capitalism, I, too, am tired of capitalism, my comrade.

asshole close up mid fart – I have no explanation for this one but it’s haunted me since my eyes first bugged out of my head at its initial reading. What a curious individual! I hope this young man’s quest for knowledge led him to further questions or at least college, for God’s sake. I’m afraid his search most likely turned up nothing, however. See, capturing an asshole, close-up and in mid-flatulence is a holy grail of depraved improbabilities. The image that it birthed in my mind, and which I am now going to plant into yours, is one of a puckered anus bulging outward on one side, but in order to capture that expulsive moment, there’d have to be some cheeky spreadage, no? In doing so you’d negate that flapping bubbly sound that reverberates into hardwood, seat cushions, and the ergonomics of a molded plastic chair. Again, I’m not exactly sure where this search landed our inquisitive googler, but he surely was inundated with just a bunch of boring old pictures of buttholes with fantastic claims of gas passage. We’ll never know.

Happy googling, everyone.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A letter to an illegal immigrant between the ages of 18 and 29

Dear Illegal Immigrant,

I’d like to discuss the DREAM Act with you. Actually, just keep your head down and try to remain anonymous as I dust off the ol’ soapbox, peel my trousers down to my ankles, and thoughtfully describe what you should expect from the piece of legislation should it ever pass, though it won’t because its passage would be perceived as a win for President Obama during an election year, and making a clown out of our first black president has become a part of the Republican ethos.

As you know, the DREAM Act (The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) has been looping for 10 years like a face plant in some hilarious GIF file, failing and changing, failing and changing, until now it’s a warped twist of impossible hoops that is supposed to entice people with legitimate hope for a better life to lift their heads from their shovels, brooms, and fruit baskets long enough for the great government eye to zero in on them and rattle their lives into nervous conformity. Wow. I really didn’t mean to sound so opinionated right out of the gate. Whatever. Change the channel if you like. Oh, and go fuck yourself while you’re at it (Not you, Illegal Immigrant, the assholes who’re listening to us. YOU stay). Anyway, the DREAM Act is designed to allow a path to citizenship for illegal “minors” who have arrived here before the age of 16 and have graduated from an American high school or received a GED.

Is that you? Good. Let’s move forward.

That part is great. I agree with it. Here’s where things get hairy for me and no one seems to be talking about it: The DREAM Act as it stood in its 2010 failed form didn’t give illegal immigrants immediate legal status. We’re talking legal status. Not citizenship. Legal status was only extended after two years in the 2010 bill. Even then, you’d still have to meet very specific conditions (that I’ll get to in a minute) within five years before you could even apply for citizenship. That means people who have already established their lives here are being prodded to identify themselves in a society that not only views their presence as a major factor of our shithole economy, but is openly hostile towards them, so that they can begin a process that won’t have a clear resolution for at least five agonizing years. If not approved, you’d have to pack up your world and move to a country you perhaps know nothing about because you were raised in shit-kickin’, red-neckin’ Dallas or something. Excuse me, Illegal Immigrant, while I address my fellow countrymen: how would you fare in Mexico or El Salvador?

Fine. Let’s ignore all that for a moment. The provisions for citizenship is what really claws my fingers and makes me hiss, anyway. Listen up, Immigrant, if you want to become a citizen, you have to either a) enroll in and be in good standing at a higher education institution and/or b) enlist two years in the military. Now, if you enroll in school, you can’t get any Pell Grants nor are you allowed to pay in-state tuition (A not-so-ironic, “big government” Republican provision). You are, however, eligible for student loans and work study. Let’s hope you’ve kept all your under-the-table pay stubs so that you can show proof of qualification for a loan that you’ll be chained to for a long time to come. Oh, and I hope you can already/still remember how to speak, read, and write in the English language because college is going to be a hell of a lot pricier when you have to take Composition I three times at out-of-state tuition (Cross your fingers that your failing grades don’t hurt your “good standing” status). Ah, all that’s too hard. Let’s just enlist in the military. You’ll fit right in with all the other legal minorities there and it will only be for two years. There’s no way the American government would institute a backdoor draft to capture enlisted men and women at the end of their term of service in order to continue the occupation of, say, two foreign countries. Just know that you might be asked to shoot someone in the face. Oh, oh! And if you come back maimed, remember that you’re still not a legal citizen, you’re not even a legal resident, so don’t go expecting long-term medical help because your case will still be pending. I you die, I’m assuming you’ll get a folded flag at your funeral (probably) but I’d be surprised if you managed any bugles. In fact, the only reason you’ll likely be buried on U.S. soil is ‘cause there’ll be no one to claim your alien corpse because your parents, who don’t qualify for the DREAM Act, will have been deported while you were away.

If you’re still interested, here’s what you need to know:

How To Qualify Under the DREAM Act

Eligibility Requirements:
1) Have good moral character (which according to Homeland Security’s definition
excludes anyone who, and I paraphrase, has been or nailed a prostitute, has a gambling problem, or, and I quote, “[i]s or was a habitual drunkard.” Was? Jesus. That eliminates three quarters of the swinging dicks in my extended family. Oh, and no extramarital affairs and if you hold or once held “[m]embership [or affiliation] in the Communist Party,” forget it.), pass a background check and are not ineligible for criminal or national security reasons.
2) Must have entered the U.S. before turning 16 years of age and been physically present in the U.S. since 2005.
3) Graduated from high school, earned a GED, or admitted to an institution of higher education.
4) Pay a $525 fee.
5) Paid all taxes owed. (Back taxes. Good luck with that.)
6) Be under the age of 30.
7) Learn English and demonstrates an understanding of U.S. history. (To be fair, that’s after the five years of wondering if you’re going to get to stay or not. Feel free to study between wrings of your hands or sweeps for IEDs)

Reasons for Ineligibility:1) Possesses a criminal background
2) Presents a national security or terrorist threat
3) Commits a felony or more than 2 misdemeanors
4) Is likely to become a public charge
5) Engages in voter fraud or unlawful voting
6) Commits marriage fraud
7) Abuses a student visa or
8) Poses a public health risk.

Good luck, Soldier,

Carlos Andres Alderete

P.S. Although I didn’t jab at Democrats, they’re scumbags, too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weiner's ouster, explained; or Phantom PMS

This post was originally going to be a scathing criticism of the United States’ politicians public and theatrical buttfucking* of one another (Not unlike the stars of Jackass sneaking up on each other to buzz a track of hair from unsuspecting heads), but overwhelmed, disgusted, and embarrassed by the thorough enormity of American incompetency, I thought that instead I’d share with you a struggle of equal importance: ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk to be more specific. Every day, on my walk home from work, I pass by my “dealer” resolved to enter his store, reach into the freezer with shaky hands, make my purchase without meeting his eyes, run home to load an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and then berate my ice-cream spattered reflection after I’ve spooned to the bottom of the sugary pint and my space opera is over.** The call of New York Super Fudge Chunk is greatest around the time of what I can only describe as my phantom menstrual cycle and though it’s been five weeks that I’ve managed to resist the commanding whispers of the fiendish Ben & Jerry, every month I pray to Midol for strength.

*This would explain why Idiot Democrat Anthony Weiner was crucified for tweeting his evidently huge wang to some barely legal waitress in conservative America. Tight-assed Republicans across the country clenched in protective alarm as photos of Weiner’s mammoth wiener surfaced and previously molested GOP members emerged from the shadows of humiliation.
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, between nurse-fed spoonfuls of soft food, is blaming illegal immigrants for starting this year’s Arizona wildfires; Mitt Romney is reinventing his image by prancing around in Mormon duds; Newt Gingrich’s dreams of becoming president are over because Jesus told Rick Perry that it’s time to ruin the education system on a national level and not just Texas; Sarah Palin is riding a bus around the country for no reason whatsoever; and Obama’s support for gay marriage is “evolving” just in time for the 2012 election. Oh, and the economy may still collapse. Sigh. I need ice cream.
**I haven’t finished the Battlestar series yet so don’t ruin it for me, you jerks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Carlos' Renaissance

Thank you, Josh and Chuck of Stuff You Should Know, for podcasting on reincarnation, which led me to this silly platform but compelling story, which led me further to philosophy professor Dr. Robert Almeder’s commentary on Dr. Ian Stevenson’s forty-year research on the subject, which led me to Stevenson’s book 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.

This godless heretic now feels quite comfortable saying aloud that some people are, in fact, reincarnating. The implications . . . are staggering, and accepting this truth has been as spiritually revolutionary for me as my teenaged rejection of this ridiculous thing called God. I still think that last part is bullish. God, that is, but my understanding of what it means to be human has flipped onto its face then painfully turned its personified head toward Eastern immateriality, which is apparently centuries progressed past dreidels and burning crosses. That’s a fairly unqualified modifier as I don’t know shit about Hinduism or Buddhism but I have noticed that everything the Old Testament has spawned has been a steaming heap of political horse manure, garnished with earthly blood, corpses, and money.

Digression! What was I talking about? Reincarnation.

It’s absolutely flooring to consider because as you’ll come to understand by Dr. Almeder’s brief interview on Youtube (That’s right, all you have to do is watch and listen, you deadbeats, assuming you’re interested enough to clink on all the links that I’ve painstakingly assembled for your enrichment), for all our social and physical sciences, we just don’t know anything.

For instance, the first link is in regards to a boy, a little boy, with detailed memories of a man whose life ended when he was shot down by Japanese artillery during World War II. The occurrence first manifested with the boy’s intense interest in fighter planes. We all have interests but conventional thinking dictates that there’s a measurable reason for them. Perhaps your grandfather first introduced you to . . . basket weaving at a young age and as an adult you’re the Hugh Hefner of wicker; however, if the influence was never there, where was that first exposure? How did little James Leininger develop his attention for airplanes? How did James Huston, the pilot whose plane was downed, develop his? And how the shit did they end up with the same first name?! Let’s leave the psychological half behind for a moment and question the coincidence of how little Ravi Shankar, born with the memories of a murdered child, could have a birthmark that slit across this throat in the same location as the fatal wound of his supposed previous incarnation? And when superimposed, the images of James Leininger and James Huston bear an undeniable resemblance. This blending of the mind and body is perplexing in a way that I haven’t felt for a long, long time.

Now, you may be thinking that, as usual, I’m suffering an existential crisis, and I am, but I assure you that this time it’s completely justified because what I thought I knew turns out to only be dancing shadows on a cave wall. It reminds me of a comic strip I once saw in which a child picks up a rock and excitedly  presents what he thinks is a dinosaur fossil to the paleontologist-esque adult on the field with him. The pompous instructor patronizingly laughs at the boy, and with his hands, gestures bigger. The final frame reveals the child’s find as the last bone in the tip of a massive dinosaur’s tail, still buried as the pair walk away.

James Leininger meeting Jack Larsen, a pilot who flew with James Huston and believed the boy to be an incarnation of the first James . . . or perhaps the second as the boy always signed his drawings "James 3." Veeeeery interesting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Capitalism saves

A brief disclaimer: If you read this closely, you'll not think I'm a crazy person.

I’ve long been of the mind that civilization as we know it is teetering on some dreadful precipice of which the bottom reflects no light. Why? Consumption, consumption, consumption; greed, greed, greed; me, me, me. That’s why. It sickens me to hear people deliberating over the necessity of some new product. “Why do I need this?” they say. Aloud. It’s not a matter of need, of course. It’s want. They want more and more and more. Why buy one, when I can buy three for the same price? Because you only need one, you asshole. But that’s what we do. Why does a family need two cars? Why does one need three? It might be a convenience but ask human viability in its manifest form (an E. coli tainted McDonald’s “beef” patty) if it’s convenient for us and the answer will be a resounding grumble of starvation.

Deep breath. 180.

I’ve been one of the crazies to suspect that we might have reached peak oil some time ago but after listening to a podcast on oil speculation cornering and inflating the cost of everything, I’ve come to an almost philosophical rest regarding our collapse.

Here it is.

See, with or without oil, we’re going to eat shit. There’s a loooot of dread in the back of a loooot of people’s minds but no one can say exactly why. I guess that’s what dread is, huh? Not being sure what’s around the corner but knowing that it’s either a hoard of brain hungry zombies or just good old fashioned fire and brimstone. Maybe both. Anyway, this collective dread has been fascinating to me for a long time. Collectivity in itself has been fascinating me for a while. Bear with me a moment. Anyone who’s read at least three posts of mine knows that I think American capitalism is just as evil as Soviet communism was. But on a macro level, I’m beginning to think that perhaps the innate greed in people might actually save us from total destruction. Is this unapologetic greed simply a pressure value of some collective human unconsciousness where this foreboding sense of dread resides? It would make sense if Soviet-style communism and American capitalism were reflexive actions by the human race to preserve itself but I guess you could make the same case with war and individually murderous derangement. If oil speculation is driving up prices in everything that uses oil . . . which everything, then people, more specifically the average consumer, won’t be able to buy, buy, buy because everything will become too expensive. Populations (of post-industrial societies) would retract their hedonistic explosions and in two generations, perhaps we’d be sustainable again? Or at least have figured out a way off this cosmic island to exploit another star system.

Hmmm, I think I’m describing social Darwinism.* Blast! I take it all back. But hey, it wouldn’t technically be social Darwinism if it’s a mechanism of the human unconsciousness.** It’d be natural selection on a massive scale! Is everyone following me? I’m not.

In short, greed puts the brakes on oil consumption through highly unethical speculation (Stalinist communism would have done the same by simply withholding and of course, strong-arming). That doesn’t mean I’m going to start wearing a Stars and Bars trucker cap or attend any Tea Party rallies. I’m just saying that it’s happening. Of course that doesn’t mean that speculation won’t cause a total collapse but it’s less abysmal for me to know that we haven’t sucked the earth dry of a resource that is second only to water.

Hi, Julie.

*A quick verification on the definition of Social Darwinism revealed the term, “Darwinist Collectivity” which paradoxically marries the “survival of the fittest” dictum to a collectivist’s recognition that as a species, we have an interdependency on one another and survival of the species trumps individualism. Translation: I’m a goddamned genius.

**A second verification on human unconsciousness revealed Carl Jung and affirmed my previously mentioned autodidactic genius.

Friday, April 8, 2011

You don't know $#*%

This week I’ve received messages from three Austin beauties that I haven’t spoken to in a while, and it occurred to me that I haven’t talked to any Texans (who aren’t my roommates or immediate family) in a long time. This post is for those people . . . mostly. Seven things:

1. I finally found work. It’s at a hardware store. Not ideal, but everyone there is extraordinarily friendly and my 1.7 mile walk every morning ends just past a hilltop that opens to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. The scene never gets old. Even better, I’m not desperately scrambling to figure out a way to pay rent. In addition, I get to wait on rich women who want nothing to do with a hardware store clerk but still wear athletic Spandex and low-cut blouses for me to better enjoy their boobies. It’s twitchy business maintaining eye contact when all I want to do is reach elbow deep into a woman’s bubbly cleavage, then climb in and sit with my head sticking out like a baby kangaroo.

2. My 3.5-ish year relationship ended about two months ago. I only mention that because breaking up after years is big deal. I’ll say no more.

3. I plan to visit Europe when I’ve saved enough money and can take a vacation. I’ve never been. Although, my point of destination isn’t where I thought I’d first be introduced to the continent but when Jesus Lord Commando fires apricots at you from his holy bazooka, you really can’t dodge the collateral splatter of even an indirect hit. That’s what makes it an indirect hit, you dopes. Anyway, I’d like to become more . . . familiar with the area before the world ends in 2012. Folks, don’t try too hard to understand my amazing bazooka adage. You’ll only shit your pants in boggled frustration.

4. My California muscles have been appropriately swollen by the 3-4 day workouts I suffer every week in the Castro. It feels good to not be such a slug. My only complaint is that there aren’t many women in that particular gym to make me add an extra plate or two to my heaving chest presses. They’re good motivation. On the contrary, I’ve never made more accidental eye contact with so many men in my life. Intimidatingly large men with thin moustaches and blonde highlights and arms as thick as my legs. I hope my deliciously swooshing butt cheeks don’t become too overwhelming for anyone as I Jane Fonda the place up.

5. I still want to learn to sail and as soon as I can lay some money down, I’m going to shop around for classes. The ocean will be a good place to be when this earthly paradise turns to hell. San Francisco is pretty much the worst of all possible worlds when the dead begin to rise and tirelessly pursue the living. I’ll pick you up in Amsterdam. Have mamoчka packed and ready and we’ll sail to some uninhabited island in the Pacific. Okay? Okay.

6. With no television or radio, I’ve fallen into a patchy following of current events. Podcasts, streaming, and major online newspapers have become inconsistent sources of information but I’m much less pissed about the world. I feel a little shitty about that because moving to San Francisco was a deliberate means of distracting myself enough to not care about the world around me. It’s worked. You’ve got to pick your battles or just embrace the apeshit and start pipebombing mailboxes as a petty subversive. They hang you for destroying mailboxes in Texas, by your goddamned hippie ponytail.

7. I’m almost a vegetarian now. Almost. My teeth still rip and tear into dead animal flesh but it’s even more infrequent than it was before, which was already pretty occasional. During a phone call with a foxy lady yesterday, I realized a sad, sad . . . sad hypocrisy in my pious selflessness: fish oil. After painstakingly shopping for the most conscientiously bovine-free gelatin capsules, I was promptly reminded that my cow-less pills were still filled with fresh squeezed sardine tears. What an asshole. Me, not you, J-Pie.

That’s it for now. Email me your thoughts and emotions if I didn’t satisfy your insatiable Carlos curiosities.

San Francisco neighborhoods. I'm between Lower Haight and Alamo Square. The place with the boobies is in Cow Hollow. Click for a close-up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eight-Minute Meds

I tried meditating the other night. Lasted eight minutes, which was longer than I thought, so that was special. Maybe I’ll invent a new workout called “8 Minute Meds.” Meds being the abbreviation for meditations. Like “8 Minute Ab . . . ” Abdominals? What’s the “s” for in “Abs”? Abdomens? Well that’s awkward. “8 Minute Meds” will do way better. And I’ll spell it out and hyphenate it like it’s supposed to be “Eight-Minute Meds.” Yeah. I’ll have an infomercial of me and two people sitting on pillows behind me and we’ll just sit quietly for eight minutes. $59.95.

I was pretty focused during my maiden Eight-Minute Meds routine, people. At first, I tried concentrating on my breathing as a center but two problems immediately arose: One, I thought I was going to have a stroke from turning an involuntary action into something forced and unnaturally measured, and two, I kept forgetting that I was supposed to be focusing on not laboring for breath so I gave up and found myself walking on the grassy hills of my thoughts. It was quite relaxing. I was even wearing my old hiking boots. Sigh. I miss them. How primordial is a first person perspective of feet walking through wind swept grass? I think I’ve tapped into prehistoric memory, here. Maybe next time I’ll watch my hands climb an endless tree. In any case, I achieved enlightenment half way through the seventh minute so I think I’m good until my next incarnation but just to be sure, who’s got the tricks on meditation? What do I need to do to levitate and breathe fire or was Dhalsim full of shit? Guide me and I’ll love you until you die from it.


Meditation-related Addendum

At work, I discovered a young coworker sitting quietly on the hard floor. His legs were crossed and the backs of his wrists were resting on his knees. He was perfectly still, eyes downturned and back straight as an arrow. I was impressed by his tranquility but before I could ask (Yes, I was going to interrupt his serenity with my idiot “Are you meditating” question), I noticed his right hand held an upturned iPhone and his thumb moved almost imperceptibly over its face. I burst out laughing and he looked up and stretched a toothy grin. “I’m paying my bills,” he said. Of course. No grassy memories here.

*Artwork ripped-off from this website.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The outside

I’m pretty sure if I stay inside much longer I’ll start to resemble Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, only I won’t have an evil ring to make me feel sexy. If I had a ring that could render me invisible, I’m absolutely certain I wouldn’t remain indoors. I’d prowl the globe with god-like amorality and really, people, am I the only asshole who’d turn directly to the Dark Side?* Shhhh, you don’t have to answer. I’d start out small, of course, with only a handful of vault robberies, but eventually I’d end up in Vatican City to see what the pope does in his spare time. The pope and George Bush, Sr. Those are two people I would intensely watch for secrets and easy blackmail material for obtaining secrets. I wonder if invisibility has an effect on amateur photography. Is exposure even an issue in this digital age? Anyway, the flash probably wouldn't work.

On second thought, maybe not the pope. Benedict is kind of wraith-looking and I don’t want to risk the unnerving feeling that he might actually be able to see me . . . or the Precious. HISSSSS! Maybe not Bush, Sr. either. With my luck, he and the ring would be using me to get to each other and then Jeb would take the White House. I guess I’ll just stick to looking into famous people’s windows/accompanying them to their primary physicians’ office. I don’t know where I was going with this. Oh, yeah. Outside. I haven’t been there in a while.

*Wow. I’ve referenced The Lord of the Rings AND Star Wars in this post. Sigh. I’m ashamed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Briefly, a thought

I soaked my shoes today in the Pacific. Didn’t mean to. My pants as well. There I was standing at the water’s edge watching the surf when it enveloped my feet and splashed up my jeans. I chalk it up to genius preoccupation, or early onset crazy. Time will tell. Anyone watching must have been surprised by my jolted reaction, though. “Wasn’t he looking right at the water? Get the kids. We’re moving down the beach.” I believe Sally Field did something comparable in Sybil, but I wasn’t missing any time so I think we can safely rule out any kind of dissociative disorder. That can only mean genius. Didn’t Einstein forget to wear pants to a dinner party once? Same thing. And on what was I so keenly focused that the ocean could rush upon and remind me of my place? Well that’s the wonderful thing about thoughts, isn’t it? They belong to no one but the thinker.

I. will. not. tell.

You will, however, be happy to know that I rode the bus back home with barrel-chested dignity despite my squelching steps and water sagging jeans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

San Francisco Homeless: Danny L.

I walked up to Danny L. as he hunched over a newspaper dispenser reading the day’s headlines outside of Safeway. He wore a dirty red and white winter cap on his head that held a crinkled elfish shape and reminded me of Santa Claus. The rest of him was equally disheveled and grimy and he squeezed a filthy pillow and comforter tightly against his body. The nerve of asking a homeless person a list of questions I had conceived from a comfortable chair, behind a warm cup of coffee, was something that had been plaguing me for many nights but the idea, once it burrowed into my head, was a constant thorn. It still is. I want to know about that man sleeping on the sidewalk under a pile of blankets. I want to know about that woman with knotted hair and craze in her eyes. My self-righteous intentions were to shine a spotlight on some aspect of vagrancy and passively manipulate you all into feeling guilty for not even acknowledging the presence of extended hands. Ironically, my first attempt has fallen flat on its face, for I am so . . . dejected by our conversation that some defense mechanism in my mind is forcing Danny to the margins of thought where he’s not standing before me, shaking my hand; he’s far, far away. Perhaps I can’t even see him. Perhaps he’s even happy. I don’t even feel like thinking about it. I know that’s a cop out, but you all can bite me. At least I acknowledged another human being today.

Take Two:

Danny L. (that’s all the name he wanted to give) is 53 and has been homeless for three months. So he says. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him but trust me when I say that he looked a little more homeless than just three months. I knew lies were going to be a problem in this endeavor, but something I had not considered were the reasons for deception: pride, embarrassment, shame. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he just didn’t trust me. And really, why should he? Throughout our entire conversation, his eyes shifted with uncertainty to the notepad in which I was scribbling. The man was visibly ashamed of himself for being in need and I am entirely haunted by that.

I could go into the reasons why he was chronically homeless; he alluded to them if not specifically saying “this, this, and this dragged me to the streets,” but that wouldn’t be fair to Danny because it would satisfy the curiosity for a lot of people and make his homelessness falsely understandable. Any answer to that question shouldn’t make another human being’s destitution acceptable. Why should an individual’s actions be solely to blame when that person is only operating within the boundaries of his institution? Our institution. Is it not our moral duty to help someone up when he’s fallen in a society that we have indifferently allowed to be constructed around him? If not our moral duty then what about our sense of decency? And if not decency then what about our rules of faith? Isn’t there a clause in a holy book or scroll or whatever that demands attention to the less fortunate? How about this one:

“Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
Take Three:

Imagine life without all your securities and ask yourself what your plan would be to get out of homelessness. Could you sleep restfully when you’ve been continuously robbed in the night? Where would you drink water? In which part of a large city block would you feel most comfortable defecating? These are the most basic of human needs to which I’d wager not a single person reading this ever gives any serious thought.

To my knowledge, Danny’s not a menace to society. He’s not a rapist or a murderer. He didn’t even strike me as someone who would steal (something you can bet your ass I’d be aggressively doing if I were starving). He’s just a dirty homeless guy that nobody looks at, except when he’s having a thoughtful conversation with someone who’s lucky enough to still be able to wash his clothes with soap. A lot of passersby craned their heads as they scurried into Safeway. I found that to be insulting.

Hmmm, this post isn’t what I wanted it to be. I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’m surprised by my reaction. And that’s what this is, I guess: reflexive. I’ll do better next time, but for now, I’ll surrender to reflection. I have no call to action other than this: Being homeless is miserable. Fucking miserable, and in Danny’s own resigned words, “It’s never ending.” So the next time you’re irritated by someone’s begging for sustenance, try wondering about their humanity. When was the last time life became too overwhelming and they cried into their hands? That bothers me. I hadn't thought of it before.
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