January 9, 2009

Internet Dream



I think I’m finally getting the hang of this internet thing. Now I can watch CSPAN (briefing on Gaza) after viewing entirely NY Governor David Paterson’s State of the State Address. I open Word and write while watching. Whew, the governor is a strong guy; but please lay off the “hero” stuff, Guv. No more of the “clashing swords” and “enemies” talk; it’s embarrassing. We don't ride horses into battle anymore. It's tanks, planes and integrated weapons systems controlled by satellites not of this world, and Predator killing drones operated by narrow "specialists" with little education in Ethics, Morals or Virtue.

However, Gov. Paterson is a talent for sure. A blind governor with experience and vision. Thank you "Interstate" Spitzer. Paterson's speech was long, complicated, at times passionate, and right on. He spoke extemporaneously or from memory and never missed a beat. We know he wasn't reading a teleprompter. He has the priorities right, according to me: stopping obesity and deteriorating health among the young; expanding education and making colleges more accessible; stopping the freefall of the unemployed and those losing their homes; regulating Wall Street and the banks: ‘If Washington doesn’t do it, the State of New York will.’ I like that: action at last. But Huey Long would have had the legislation passed already. These guys don't move fast-enough for Huey and me.

Paterson told the State Legislature that New York has "shovels in the ground” with road-building, bridge-repairing, and environmental construction projects ready to go, waiting only for Washington to save someone other than bankers and automakers. He stressed the environment and devising alternative energy for the whole state; scrapping the failed Rockefeller drug laws; extending unemployment, attracting outsourcers back as they learn how expensive transportation costs are, and putting New York behind the production of an affordable electric car. Excuse me, but am I beginning to hear good ideas from government?

It makes me feel good to start off the day with something like that. As cynical as I may appear at times, at heart I'm an optimist. I think I told you I won the oratorical contest for the Lake Charles Optimists' Club in 1954. They gave me a 22-caret gold Bulova watch that I had for 24 years until it mysteriously vanished in L.A. Think of the things you've lost in life which meant something to you at the time, suddenly remembered perhaps on seeing it again in an old photograph--like a favorite shirt you'd forgotten soon after turning it into a rag. Suddenly it comes back to you, the emotional connection, whatever it was, from pleasant to not so. You recall a nice gold watch with Roman numerals and your name inscribed on the back: Michael Lee Havenar, Winner Optimist Club Oratorical Contest, 1954. You wonder what happened to it. Is it still out there with your name on the back. Is it working? Or is it at the bottom of a landfill? Did you hear that the highest point in New York City is the Staten Island landfill? More than a thousand feet, higher even than the Empire State Building. Seagulls like flies.

I’’m watching this character Neel Kashkari, who is Interim Asst. Treasury Secretary for Financial Stability. He's the guy who gets to distribute the bailout money. He has a shaved head and a television cosmetics-line reveals a sunburned hue from his face trailing over his forehead to a fleshy pink Caucasian stripe down the middle of his shaved skull. He looks like an Alien. Speaking fast and uninterruptable as if he'd practiced to cover every point and block off every inquiry, to the Brookings Institution over CSPAN, his voice drones and hypnotizes; he talks of rescuing banks, automakers, big guys, little guys, legislation, the Treasury Dept. the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, the Constitution, European banks, possible deals with banks newly-discovered in Antarctica-- and takes only one drink of water during the whole spiel. I lost him somewhere back at the third paragraph. Treasury had to rescue the auto industry, $4 billion to Chrysler, $14.4 billion to GM. More billions coming for the giant (failed) automakers. Japan and Germany whipped their butts. And even more massive deals in the works. We are devising a plan to put all governments into a single holding company, so that every government's growth plans will be coordinated to avoid duplications of replications or unregistered transportation of obsfucations. Only Groucho Marx could do justice to the doubletalk coming out of this guy's trap. An expert, it is said, is one who has learned the jargon of his profession.

This is where the the lack of imagination and cowardice of government accesses my Scoffer and tickles the venom sack under my tongue. I would force the automakers into bankruptcy! The United States of America which makes STEALTH technology and rockets to the moon would buy the factories cheap along with their support apparatus; warehouses, rails, docks, mines, etc. It would fire most of the executives (perhaps hire temporary Japanese managers,) provide full financial support to workers (and some lower management) with their regular salaries during the transition. The President would assign the Army or Air Force to develop a program to standardize the factories and re-tool them for intensive development and production of standardized electric cars and trucks, simultaneously with development and installation of a nationwide-network of electric re-charging stations and battery-exchanges. It would take priority as a National Security measure, and be paid for in its entirety by the taxpayers and bondholders of the United States of America. If sacrifices are to be made, they must be borne equally by the corporations and industries who will benefit most from this social , technological and environmental advance.

Government-owned-and-operated auto and truck factories would provide employment, re-train thousands, stimulate businesses, create support-services and encourage entrepreneurship, and would hopefully result in better air and a cleaner Earth, where we might smell something other than exhaust fumes from oilsmoke. Even the horseshit of the not-too-distant-past smelled better than this toxic soup we hardly notice anymore. America once smelled of flowers and blossoms and can again. The birds and butterflies will return. You can still smell honeysuckle and jasmine near Bourbon Street.

My pet proposal is building tidal energy generators like the one in Holand all over the coasts and rivers. The Dutch did it! Make the whiny coal-driven electric plants clean up their act with clean coal technology from their own extravagant profits or shut down. Tidal energy can produce more and better electricity from the coasts inland. River tides work too. I wonder if the utility companies are doing something to suppress discussion and exploration of tidal energy generation in the United States? We must be the King of Tides on planet Earth. It’s slightly unbelievable to me how little discussion there is of this cleaner, nearly-oil-free technology, this enduring and inexhaustible form of clean energy. I never hear it talked about. Atomic energy? We have more tides than anybody. There's no waste product to be buried beneath a mountain over an earthquake zone. These generators work when the tide comes in and again when it goes out, so they are constant producers of non-polluting energy. Zero pollution. So let's get that underway .

It still blows my mind that Obama won Virginia. Virginia must have changed greatly since I worked there building houses in McLean in 1979. I saw a redneck white carpenter nearly break the rib of another carpenter who he thought had called him a nigger. In fact the other guy had called Charlie a nigger, but not in the way that Charlie took it. Well I don't know how else Charlies could have taken it. The guy who started the argument did it by not keeping his mouth shut, because he was smarter than Charlie and should have known better. He was a Vietnam vet, it hadn't been that long, and it was all still pretty obvious to him. He'd been shot at and he'd done things, and not being a stupid guy he knew the Vietnamese had a legal beef. Now that he was back he could understand it and he sympathized with black people too. Charlie hadn't been there. They were talking about "gooks" and "justice" and all that stuff and getting pretty loud, and there were about 15 guys there watching it get worse.

Charlie I knew from working with him was a pretty tough guy, about 225 lbs. of muscle behind a layer of fat. On top of that he was a Virginia mountain boy, pretty quiet most of the time. I knew this, but my vet friend Paul didn't. I say he was my friend, I mean we were friendly acquaintances. Friends are different to me. So next thing you know redneck but very expert carpenter Charlie is railing about niggers and they are about to come to blows. Did I forget to mention they were standing about three feet apart armed to kill? Paul the vet had a straight-claw 28-oz hammer with the claw forward in his right hand, and Charlie had a 30-inch crosscut saw with the teeth pointing forward in his right hand. Everybody seemed to be waiting for a bloody massacre.

I had just walked up on the scene and was looking over someone's shoulder making sure I had room to jump out of the house if I had to, when I realized there might be blood. So, fool that I am and acting usually on impulse without regard for consequences, I walked into the middle of the scene and said, "Hey, now nobody wants to go to jail for murder here. Come on,"I said to the vet, holding out my hand, "Give me the hammer, Paul;" and he gave it to me. Then I turned and Charlie put his saw down on the floor. I turned away with the hammer feeling lucky, when the vet had to get in the last word: "You're a nigger Charlie."

Well, you know what he meant. He meant we're all niggers, and we are. But Charlie didn't exactly take it that way. He took one step forward and hit the guy so hard in his left ribs that the vet dropped to the floor with a cry of pain and defeat. He couldn't catch his breath. Everybody including myself just looked at him and looked at each other and at Charlie walking off breathing heavily trying to calm down. I gave the guy back his hammer while he was still gasping for breath. I said, "Man, you don't know when to shut up." He agreed. I understood though, because I've always had a hard time shutting up too. The trick if you just have to say it is to be articulate, brief, and gone before they've figured it out. I don't want to get slammed in the ribs by a guy like Charlie, and I'm never going to change him at all. I probably won't shut up either.

Next day I was up on a 30-foot ladder with Charlie on another one, holding some exterior trim while he pounded nails into it (this was before those detestable nail guns,) and we talked about it. "Charlie, " I said, "You're a helluva fighter." That's when he told me how his daddy had made him one. He said that when he was 10 a bully beat him up. His daddy had driven him to the kid's house and instructed: "You go over there and kick that boy's ass or I will kick yours when you get back." Charlie went over and kicked that kid's ass.

"But Charlie," I dared cautiously, "You know what he meant. Not that you yourself are an actual nigger, but that we all are treated like niggers, which in way makes us niggers too. Not that we're boogy-woogying around in dope dens, but just that we aren't in too much better shape than they are, if you think about it. That guy just got back from getting shot at by slant-eyes. But he doesn't hold it against all the slants. He knows they had a legal beef. He feels sorry for the underdog. That's what he meant. "

Charlie stopped pounding and looked at me. "Yeah I knew what he meant. It was the way he said it, and he's an asshole. I don't have anything against the niggers really. I just don't want to be like one or live like one."

I thought about this incident that happened so long ago but had never entirely slipped from my brain registry, probably because it involved a minor act of heroism by yours truly; ahem. I guess the association of Obama winning Virginia brought it back. Charlie at that time never would have voted for Obama. I wonder if Charlie changed in unexpected ways as we all have? How else explain Obama taking Virginia, where, to Virginians, Robert E. Lee only appeared to surrender.

Somewhere about here I finally found the key to making successful uploads of photos into Facebook after a week of effort. I had software glitches, and was clicking the wrong buttons.

I feel life winding down like an old clock. I’m losing energy and feeling less and less like it matters so much. The older I get the more I find myself waiting for other people to move or do something. Now I'm waiting for a phone call. When I get in my van I switch to taxi-mode and take over the streets. Some of these people are still asleep at the wheel. Life has gotten more complicated than I want or am used to. Everything drags by so slowly. I want to speed everything up, get things moving again. I want to be in charge of something. But soon my heart will stop, my brain activity will cease, and my flesh will turn colors, swell up and rot. Dead meat and bones. Feed them to the polar bears and tell them I’m sorry. Add a little cayenne and tell them I’m sorry about that too.

I don’t know why I’m feeling the way I feel. I feel like I'm floating in slop. I barely keep my nose out of it. I know I have something important to say but I'm not sure what it is. My faith tells me it will come if I'm persistent and honest in my quest. But even in this stagnation and forebodings of doom life goes by like a runaway train. I’m sitting in the station highly-disinterested and wondering why it never stops to let me aboard. I think the only way out of this mind trap is by an act of pure creation. I know the roads; I don’t need a map. I just need a phone call, a magic word, and gas-enough for Baltimore. Or, I'll have to learn to fly if I ever expect to get out of here alive. I don't see how anything can be created, because everything already is. About all I can manage is to re-arrange it.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to learn how to upload photos and wish I could stop these infernal Lutheran bells around the corner. I’ve got a thousand pictures I want to get out there to explain it better and share myself more with you, and the bells don't help. To me there is no point in a personal blog without as much honesty as I can dare. It’s either brave or foolish to put oneself out there in outer space where one's life and follies can be forever scrutinized . But I do it because there must be something to be learned from my life. I know I'm a study, because I've been studying myself for nearly 68 years, and still am a mystery. You’ll see. If you read my blog and look at these photos I'm gonna stick on here, perhaps you will think I am fascinating or at least interesting. And perhaps you also will be rich, beautiful, famous and sexy, with a penchant for older men, and will extend a proposal of marriage, and I will have found someone to rub my neck and "keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed." (Lily Tomlin) I know, I'm being silly. I'm silly sometimes.

“Know thyself” is my favorite quotation. But can we really ever? Looking back on the smoking and disappearing collage of dreamlike events, I see life vanishing as it manifested, like campfire smoke in morning haze. The small inconsequential events of the past arrive and depart randomly like short film clips that flick out at me and take on larger proportions: the meeting with John Nance Garner at 3 a.m. in a Uvalde restaurant; running with Micah True on the beach of Padre Island; making love to Suzanne Kellett at a drive-in movie in Houston; stepping off a bus 2 a.m. in 1964 Mexico City, knowing nothing about the place; walking along a row of orange-tinted streetlights in 1962 Oceanside, CA, realizing I would always be as alone as the unforgettable empty street; strolling hand-in-hand with musical-voiced Margareta laughing and teasing on a dark beach in San Juan del Sur; not having a light for Bob Dylan at 6 a.m. in Washington Square; drinking wine by firelight on Padre Island beach with Angelika; rejecting, finally, 40 years later, a boyhood friend for his impossible dishonesty and treachery; somehow foolishly missing an open sexual come-on from an outtrageously beautiful and honest waitress in LA.; regretted forever; standing in a storm on the prow of a ferry to Nova Scotia sailing into the early winter of my life; a knock-down drag-out brawl outside a bar in Seattle; nearly dying of overdose in a Colorado hospital; eulogizing my oldest Marine friend in Las Vegas; indifferently being saved from cancer and stumbling into God; returning to Louisiana as if tempting Fate to do it again; daring to fall into a maelstrom of blind unreasoning love with the most beautiful woman ever to clasp me to her breasts; then daring to extract myself from torturous enchantment with true self-confession of untrammeled and unrequited lust, with humble shameface, accepting like Kerouac "lostness forever," but living with wanting her anyway. Is anybody getting this? Hello? Am I here all alone?

2 comments:

thescoop said...

Black America and the N-word:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2U0jmZjec

Barefoot Ted said...

Gracias.

BFT

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