Sunday, March 22, 2009

If I had to choose a time in history to be writing, it would be now. This is not a good thing.

I've been out of town for awhile. The city was getting to me. At the bus stop the other day, this Latina woman walked up to me, spit on some poor Mexican guy, and said, "Mexicans. Dirty filthy Mexicans. Disgusting." Then she said to me, "Sir, aren't they filthy?" or something like that, all in a very thick accent, and I said, "No thank you" and got on the bus. Before I could find a place in the bus to stand, the bus driver yelled at some Asian guy, telling him to go back to his own country, and then, once I was lucky enough to get a seat, this self-described "OG," who must have been in his sixties, was giving this 17 year old kid advice on how to make money dealing drugs and robbing people without going to jail. I don't think the advice was very good. I decided to run away for a few days to stay with my friend Corey up in Ukiah. It was amazing.

The first night, we went to this playground by his house and climbed up and slid down these slides that must have been somewhere between one and two stories tall. I cracked my knee pretty good, and I used muscles that have been neglected for a decade, but in all, I haven't had so much fun in a very long time. After the slides, we went to the swings, and I saw this humongous "spaceship" that was actually a climbing contraption for kids. At night, the thing looked magical, like it was out of some bad 60's movie. The insides were made of unpainted stainless steal, and it's red shell had chipped paint. It was made of bars for kids to climb on, bars that were the same width and distance from each other that you'd find in a jail cell. It was twice as tall as me. I yelled "spaceship!" and ran to it, but then I saw this fence around it, and Corey said, "No, we don't like that spaceship." And I looked at him, and he said, "A kid died there."

I'm frustrated, but I'm also happy. I'm happy to be writing. I wrote a lot this weekend. I wrote a lot of fiction, but in between the fiction, I wrote quite a few polemical rants, rants that don't really have any value and would never be publishable but that I want to share somewhere. So here is one of them, with all its levity and humor, for all twelve of you to read, below the ghetto fold made up of six dashes.


I will start by reiterating what has been said by people smarter than me: Our species has one hell of a genetic mutation.Our large foreheads ... our large brains ... allow us to do amazing things. We can remember. We can manipulate our surroundings. We can learn how to solve unbelievably complex problems, at least compared to most other species on earth. And this mutation has made us incredibly successful. Our population has exploded. We went to the moon. We built entirely new surroundings that were more suitable to our needs as a species. But these things will most likely also kill us all because we never understand entirely what we're doing until after it's done, and it has a habit of making our lives unpleasant in the meantime (think cancer and global warming and war). What's worse: this adaptation allows us to be aware of the fact that we're killing ourselves, but we are way too inflexible to do anything about it, so we're all gonna die. The end.

No, not the end. What makes life interesting is watching all the irony in this. It gives me the same sort of sick pleasure I get out of watching Law and Order or CSI. It's totally predictable and there's nothing I can do to change the outcome, no matter how much I want to.

Jesus Christ. I sound like Easy Rawlins or Sam Spade. But it's hard not to. Here are the facts:

We (and I will not say our government because we are all responsible) tortured people, many of them innocent, with beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and abject humiliation. STOP! Don't roll your eyes and say, "Here we go again. More depressing news." Put yourself in their situation. Imagine yourself tied to the rafters for days in a standing position, being kept awake, beaten and fondled, all while you knew that the same type of people who were beating you were bombing your family with depleted uranium, poisoning their drinking water, giving your children and grandchildren horrible disfigurements, and mocking everything you believed in.

Amid all that, we were (and are still) in the midst of a festival of greed, buying things to distract ourselves made from what amounts to slave labor. STOP! It just doesn't seem real, does it? You never see these people. You can go see for yourself, I hear. There are people working in sweatshops under the ground in Chinatown here in San Francisco. If you hang out long enough, you can see them with your own eyes. Every once in a while, an elevator will come up out of the sidewalk. For a split second, you can see the people below, sewing for more than 12 hours a day.

We continue to boil ourselves to death with carbon dioxide. STOP! If you live near an ocean, there's a high likelihood your home won't be there in fifty years. You know? That place you sleep at night, and keep your belongings, and make love. If you don't live near an ocean, guess who's coming to visit?

People keep telling me that writing is a dying profession. If I had to choose a single time in history to write, it would be now.

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