My fundraising campaign at Hatchfund (where all donations are tax-deductable):
Paul Haeder at Dissident Voice, 4/12/14:
seismic blast tests
babies brown from soot
of corporate fornicators
the tides bring arms, frozen eyes
a thousand rubber ducks
she screams at the military
court, generals puffed up
fruit salad on chests, grins
of drone Caesars, golf bags
stuffed with Iraqi gold
rape culture a game
the boy dances for data
divas, total K12 years of subjugation
white ladies hailing stop
and frisk history, pushing
pencils to bubble in
school to prison questionnaires
old men at fifty, fodder for effetes
the gamers smile at twenty-three
culture, art, revolution
their memes are “do less with
more software” 24/7
beware, danger, eyes are watching
don’t say shit at the mall
and, cross those eyes brother,
then feel the heat of five python
Taser teeth and boots to the face
US of Annihilation
lawyers, MBAs, softies
on the city-county-federal dole
private scum counting court dates
missed fines, incarceration, code
violations, levies, these ticks
suck even bed bugs
grandma needs fresh air
dogs lapping up mashed potatoes
wants sun or a place to read
desires nothing near one-millionth
hedge-funders lust for
yet she’s tapped out
thanks to Goldman Sachs
one foot in front of other
boy, that’s $5.99 a meter
if you desire non-metric conversion
costs fifty cents a foot
just look down, covered
by CCTV, the boys and girls
went to school for algorithms
the fist and stiff arm salute
all in one
mishmash of Twinkie
the puffy chemicalized layer
like decapitated lady finger
the mulch of chem trails
pushed inside, phallic
even bacteria in the raw
gets Homeland Security purview
what do you say to offspring
halo of satellites and laser beams
like a new nursery rhyme of
what little white man-girl-boy-woman
woes the capacity to learn free
from neoliberalism, hipster Suburu-ism?
Tio Taco-Oreo Cookie
plague of Zionist radar-launched
drones, the world is their oyster
the killing fields on Main Street
downtown, near and far
their magic carpet ride
woven from fetal cords
dried inside warehouses
of acidic peeling tomatoes
this ketchup America
never sleeps, never wakes up
just a constant conveyor belt
onward, the Mall of America
now Amazon dot com
selva, jungle, species kaleidoscope
appropriated by Ayn Rand
Princeton boy hired on CIA
strumming robotic guitar
one-hundred strings strummed
neutrinos awakening lumbering
fascists, romanticizing and valorizing
the very scum they call scum
us, even whales flipped over
from blasting low frequency sonar
reality TV tears
mice caged, cockroaches
recombinant genes, Rhesus
monkeys slopping up the swill
of Wall Street, multinational
groceries, shipped from China
peeled by Bangladesh
pushed onto containers by Pakistanis
towed into open waters by Greeks
unloaded by Somali
trucked to hubs by heavies
locked boxes in Swiss Zion
sheiks Skyping derivatives
futures orders to New York
City, yet blasts go unheard
by pimple species, 100,000
times louder than jet engines
right whales heaving bloody
sonic boom cries, the magnificence
of oil-gas Titans, flooding
billions into defective offspring’s
coffers, while porpoises and tides
of seals wash up
like those 28,000 yellow rubber ducks
lost at sea 22 years ago
launching a million tears
As published at Dissident Voice, 4/9/14:
I was born on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Christmas,
And my last name, Matusheski, means “God
Is with you,” something like that. Look across
The street, and what do you see? Take your time.
You say “Crown Chicken, Angelo’s Pizza and King
Gyro”? No, buddy, it says “Crown Angel King,” and
That’s no coincidence, because this city of Camden
Knew I was coming. Before this, I was in Skid Row,
In Los Angeles. You been there? No, it’s no mess!
It may be aesthetically unsound, but not for long,
For the meek will inherit the earth, and that’s why
I leave my vault of gold and my castles unclaimed.
I don’t even know where they are. Doesn’t matter!
I lack nothing. I’ve eaten today. I’m not hungry.
I’m really a Rothschild, but I’ve disowned them.
This morning, while shaving, I saw Jesus
In the mirror, and though He said nothing,
I understand a 15.0 earthquake is coming
That will swallow everything up, for this
Is utterly unacceptable! Prepare yourself.
As published at Dissident Voice, 4/7/14:
As a young man, I loved to fight.
Even sober, I’d fight. Though I’m not big,
I know how to throw a punch and mean it.
I never fought dirty, though. I don’t like
These mixed martial arts queers on TV.
A man should always fight standing up,
Not on top of each other, on the ground.
Sometimes, though, I’d get beaten, even
Knocked out. Three times I was arrested
And locked up for ten days, each time.
That was my only jail experience,
Before I got hooked on heroin.
I was born on a farm in West Deptford.
My dad and granddad were both farmers.
We even raised cattle, Black Angus, but
None of my family is in farming anymore.
I learnt cement work, and for thirty years,
I was a contractor. I had three trucks, a nice,
Three-bedroom house and five guys working.
There was so much work, I was running around
Like a headless chicken, putting out fires,
But after the housing crash, everything stopped.
I laid off my guys, sold my trucks then lost my home.
Looking back, I know I should have saved, but
Who knew it would turn out that way? Actually,
Irv Homer did. You know him? He was on radio.
In 2002, Irv started to talk about the housing crash,
And everyone thought he was crazy. He wasn’t!
I used to listen to Irv and think, Shut the fuck up!
I’ve never been married, but my girlfriend, Jenn,
Was practically my wife. I treated her twins,
A boy and a girl, like my own children.
We went to the shore often, and I still talk
To her kids. I have another son, though. You see,
I’ve been with lots of women. Women like me.
I’m not like Wilt Chamberlain, with his 20,000,
But I’ve slept with, I don’t know, over 300 women,
Ain’t it funny, though, I’ve been with so many,
But I have no one now. I have a cousin
Who’s afraid of pussies, yet he’s married.
He’s such a nice guy, it takes him an hour
To walk fifty yards down the street, because
Every three steps or so, he must stop and
Shoot the shit with one of his neighbors.
At 53, I may have blown my chance at love.
Plus, I have COPD, meaning I can barely
Breathe during sex. The last three times
I had sex, I couldn’t make her orgasm.
I had to take a long break in the middle
To catch my friggin’ breath, then afterwards,
It took me, like, God, forever to recover.
As you can imagine, she wasn’t too happy.
Her name’s Heather. She’s a hairdresser.
We were together, off and on, for 12 years,
And I didn’t cheat on her once! I was good.
Here, read this text, “I don’t kno what u want….
Been waitin for u way to long!!!!.....” She wanted
To get married, but I couldn’t commit, so
Heather has a new man. Last Valentine’s Day,
She gave me a card that could have been picked
By my grandmother! I had just gotten out of jail,
But I spent three hours in the Hallmark Store
To get her the perfect card. Now it’s over.
I didn’t try heroin until I was 49, and
Last year, I was clean from May ‘till Christmas.
Now, I need three bags a day, one as a
Wake me up, one for fun, then one as a nightcap.
That’s 30 bucks I must make each day, panhandling.
Food, I can get for free, and Medicaid pays
For my medicines. I take eight pills a day.
I’m not sure any of them works. I’m certified
As bipolar, paranoid and I have panic attacks,
But do you see how calm and lucid I am?
That’s because of heroin. Heroin works.
Many days, though, I can’t afford three bags,
So I must find used ones from the streets, but
You need at least 15 of these scrapies to get
Even a bit high, and once, I was locked up
Forty days for having six empty bags on me.
If you’re arrested, they take $35 for the nurse fee,
But once I came in with 85 and left with nothing
Because the cops had stolen my other 50.
They had taken my glasses so I couldn’t see
What I was signing when I was processed.
What’s worse are the fines. If you’re charged
With loitering in a drug zone, they fine you $500,
But all of Camden is a drug zone! They can also
Fine you for panhandling and obstructing traffic,
Then they’ll charge you for the court cost too, so
You can easily owe them over a thousand from
A single arrest, and you’re a homeless person!
The judge will put you on a payment plan
Of only $25 a month, but sooner or later
You’ll miss a payment. That’ll give them
Another reason to lock your ass up.
At least I haven’t been killed out here.
One time a guy hit me with a steel pipe
Out of the blue. When I saw him coming
I thought he was just walking up to say hi.
I’ve been robbed several times, and a friend
Put a gun to my head because I couldn’t pay
Money I owed him. I was thinking, Is this
How it’s going to end? I wasn’t scared,
I was just sad I hadn’t spent more time
With my family. I’m talking about my kids,
And brothers and sisters, even the ones
Who don’t like me very much. I said, “Al,
You don’t need to do this. It’s not worth it.”
He took a deep breath and lowered his gun,
But then he said, “Put out your leg, Jackson.
I want to shoot you in the leg.” “Fuck you!”
I said. “You’re not shooting me in no leg!”
Al ended up not shooting me at all, and
I actually paid him back every single dime.
Three days later, I was walking on Linden
When I just started sobbing. I was so sad
I hadn’t spent more time with my family.
At least I haven’t died from an OD.
If you see an ambulance in Camden,
It’s nearly always a heroin overdose,
Dealers do have a sense of humor, though.
Check out what they call heroin: Lights Out,
Dead On Arrival, Slave Master, Body Master,
Angry Bird, Death Row, Jersey Devil, Punisher.
Iran's Press TV, 4/5/14:
As published at Dissident Voice, CounterCurrents, Intrepid Report and Information Clearing House, 4/3/14:
I was in Columbus all of ten hours. Even downtown, some of the sidewalks were clogged by snow, and as I crossed the Sciotto into Franklinton, my trudging became even more laborious. Mostly I walked on the side of the street, and on side streets, right in the middle. From an attic window, a torn American flag hung, and on a garage, there was a crudely drawn handgun, accompanied by “BEWARE I WILL SHOOT.” I passed a house that was for sale for $15,000, cash, and saw portraits of Lincoln and Washington in the windows of Dr. Edward A. Cutler’s office. The peeled paint and exposed wood of the second floor made me think his business was no more? Online, there’s this 2007 testimony about Dr. Cutler, “He is the ‘Mother Teresa’ of Columbus, serving the poorest population with kindness and love. Dr. Cutler is passionate about the practice of medicine. He provides the highest quality of service, going beyond what anyone would expect.”
Most of Franklinton is in fairly good shape, though forlorn, a series of Charles Burchfield watercolors come to life. The first white settlement in Columbus, it was founded in 1797 by Lucas Sullivant, and thanks to its low status topographically and economically, Franklinton is also known as the Bottoms. In the beginning, no one wanted to come, so Sullivant had to give lots away, on a street he called Gift. There is also a Sullivant Street, naturally.
Like George Washington, Sullivant was a land surveyor, that is, his job was to map out territories that had been claimed and parceled by the United States government, vast tracts of land long-inhabited by natives who would have to be chased out, or killed. For his service, Sullivant was awarded 6,000 acres, roughly 6,000 football fields that were, naturally, teeming with Injuns. In Columbus’ Genoa Park, there is a statue of Sullivant as pioneer, with his left hand holding an American flag that’s tilted forward. His right shades his surveying eyes.
In the same park, there’s also a bronze of Sullivant’s wife, Sarah, holding up an infant. Done in a sort of jivey essentialism that’s Modernism many years and miles removed from its original blossoming, it’s a celebration of Sarah’s adoption and rearing of Arthur Boke, a son of one of her slaves. Boke spent his entire life with the Sullivants and is even buried in their family plot, so his inclusion in that household is indeed remarkable, but there’s a dark side to this that has gone strangely unexamined, for why ruin a feel good story? First of, Arthur Boke is named, exactly, after a close friend of Lucas Sullivant, and this white man just happened to be a house guest of the Sullivants when Boke’s mom got pregnant, so if she gave him up right after birth, it can only mean she wanted nothing to do with a child born of rape. What else do you think happened? History is replete with whitewashing, so this is just another example. In some accounts of Boke, his birth mother’s inhumane status has also been lifted to “servant,” and since there are huge differences between servants and slaves, this ain’t similar to, say, calling a fast food worker a “sandwich artist.” In Columbus, there is also a two-lane bridge named after Boke.
Of course, this city’s namesake is an endless source of debate, with radically different verdicts from opposite camps. Had Columbus been sunk at sea, however, or eaten as tapas by Caribs, so that we would have a different history, one without Columbus, Ohio or Washington, DC, bane of the world, though boasting of lovely landscaping, fine museums and two poppin’ jazz clubs, it’s fair to assume that other European ships would have arrived soon enough, to begin a similar scramble for conquests, with their attendant decimation of native Americans.
As Americans now, we are the beneficiaries of each American state crime past and present, though depending on how low on the totem pole we are, we can also be America’s victims, though the biggest victims, by far, are the ones on the receiving ends of America’s serial destruction of nations and peoples. Dodging American bombs, depleted uranium tank munitions, drone missiles and/or economic dismantling of their societies, many have decided it’s best to flee to the belly of the beast. Ending up in places like Columbus, Ohio, they sell Slurpees or drive cabs, etc. For years, Americans have already been going to Ukraine for sex vacations, so with its further impoverishment through Yankee meddling, our paunchy creeps can expect an even better value while in Kiev.
It was getting cold wandering like that, so I was ready to duck into the nearest beer pit. I had to pass on the charmingly named Rehab Tavern, however, since it simply looked too bright, cheery and spacious for my svelte wallet. On the edge of Franklinton, it’s spearheading a gentrification push from downtown. I asked a man on the street and was pointed to Charley’s Place, but after a ten-minute walk, I discovered that it was closed. A nearby bar was also lightless, and it was already late afternoon. Holy Sheila-na-Gig, if bars are shuttered left and right in an Irish neighborhood, the sky must be falling! A Kafka line voiced itself, “Slowly, like old men, we crawled through the snowy wastes,” but there was no we, just me, and against terrible odds, I managed to crawl to the door of The Patio, where inside, new friends were waiting to save me.
“What would you have?”
“What do you have?”
“Bud, Miller, Schlitz, Pabts.”
“Schlitz, I guess.”
It was clearly a neighborhood hangout, for almost every stool was taken, and folks were chattering, bantering and laughing with each other. The two guys to my right were merely muttering, however.
“You ever been charged with a felony?”
“Well, not really, but yeah! It was Stephany. She told the cops I had hit her, but I only swung at her once! I’m not even a fighter, man. I hate fighting. I don’t even know how to fight.”
“How long were you two together?”
“Twelve years, man, and I only swung at her once!”
On the wall, there was a large picture of the Fightin’ Irish, the Notre Dame logo, and next to it, a framed photo of some bald dude wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’m too sexy for this T-shirt.” Behind the bar, a large banner announced, “THE PATIO. THE BOTTOMS.” I was getting hungry, too, so seeing a sign advertising hoagies for $5.50, I asked the man next to me, the swinging non-fighter, “Is the food here any good?”
“Yeah, it’s good, very good!”
“Thanks, man,” and so I ordered the Italian hoagie. The other choice was ham and cheese. My sandwich did turn out excellent. Wider than a Philly hoagie, it was also heated, and came with slices of hot Italian peppers. I was still working on my first can of beer when a middle-aged man named Sandy bought a round for the whole bar, and so I had another one coming. In Irish dives across this country, such generosity is hardly unusual, I’ve come to learn. That evening, I also bought beers for others, but not for the entire bar, unfortunately, since I simply couldn’t afford it.
After the two dudes to my right left, an old man showed up. Over 70, he wore an OSU jacket and seemed quite delighted to listen to the juke box while sipping, very slowly, his can of Bud. When the Eagles growled “Witchy woman, she got the moon in her eye,” grandpa ad-libbed, “She got crabs, ha ha,” and with “Mr. Sandman,” he would scat along to the “bung bung bung bung” refrain. “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream. Bung, bung, bung, bung!”
When I told him I had just gotten off the bus from Philly, Bob said he had lived in Lancaster and Harrisburg, PA. He had also spent time in Germany and France while in the military, “I didn’t like the Army at all, but I’m glad I did it. It’s just something you have to do, you know what I mean? We had a captain who was a real asshole. He would make us do all kinds of stupid things, just for the hell of it. One time he made us polish rocks.”
“Just for the hell of it! Because he was an asshole! You’ve never been in the Army, have you? I got back at this guy, though, I trashed his living quarters, and though I was punished for it, he never bothered me again.”
Retired, Bob no longer had to take crap from anyone, except, of course, the iron dictates of his increasingly capricious, cruel and worn out body. For the moment, though, all was well as he sang along to yet another oldie.
“A man who looks forward to Spring is looking forward to his own death,” da Vinci wrote in a notebook, but in the US today, there are millions who can’t wait until they’re close enough to death, literally, so as to collect Social Security, because that’s the only lifeline they have left. If you’re laid off in middle age, you’re practically unemployable in this economy, so you must scrounge whatever together to get by day-to-day, for we have morphed from a nation of tradesmen and professionals to a ragged society of temps, desperate improvisers, odd-jobbers and hustlers.
In The Patio, I met one such jack of all trades. Forty-three-years-old, Monroe was a carpenter, housepainter, bartender and valet, “I work at Colombini. You know where that is?”
“Yeah, I saw it on the way here. It looks nice.”
“It is nice, and pretty cheap too.”
Monroe wore his salt and pepper hair and beard long and unkempt, and wouldn’t look out of place in a raccoon hat, but instead, he had on a baseball cap that advertised Winticket.com, the horse race betting outfit. Two front teeth were missing and his speech was slurry when not whiny, so I had to strain just to comprehend him. Though extremely personable, he wouldn’t make an ideal bartender in any establishment with pretensions to class, and so it’s no surprise he’s only an emergency beer slinger.
“You say you also paint houses,” I said. “That’s not bad money. How come you’re not doing that?”
“No one’s hiring. For four years I worked for the guy who owns the Hollywood Casino. You know about that?”
“Yeah, I saw a billboard.”
“He paid us good, man. Me and this guy, we were paid $200,000 for five years’ worth of work.”
“Yeah, man, it was great.”
“I’ve made that kind of money for maybe two years in my life, and I’m fifty.”
“I’m counting on this guy to hire me again. It beats parking cars. Hey, have you heard of Dave Kingman?”
“Dave Kingman, baseball player.”
“Yeah. When I was a kid, I caught a Dave Kingman baseball, then he signed it. It’s worth about $200,000.”
“No fuckin’ way!”
“Yes fuckin’ way! It’s worth $200,000, easy.”
“For a Dave Kingman baseball?!”
“Yeah, man. I’ve done the research. The only problem is, I don’t have it right now. My aunt has that baseball.”
“Why did you give it to her?”
“I didn’t. She just has it, but I’m thinking I’ll get it back when she dies, you know. I did catch it, and it even changed the shape of my palm,” and to prove it, Monroe held up his hand.
“I don’t see anything.”
To give me basis for comparison, Monroe then raised both of his hands, palms out, so that he looked like a surrendering soldier.
“Seriously, man, I don’t see any difference.”
He let it drop, brooded briefly, then, “Hey, you want to see my girlfriend?”
He took out his cell phone, flipped it open, and on the tiny screen, I could see a thin woman in a black tank top making some kind of a face.
“Hey, she’s hot!” I blurted.
Glad that I had come round to seeing life his way, Monroe smiled.
By this point, I was feeling pretty fine in The Patio, and would have stayed longer if I didn’t have to head back to the Greyhound to continue my journey. That night, I would sleep on the bus, as I had the previous night. Before I left, though, the two dudes who had discussed felonies returned, and Trevor, the one who claimed to hate fighting, got into an altercation with a man named Henry, and though older, Henry promptly knocked Trevor to the ground. As he got up, half of the bar surrounded him and told him to beat it, and though smartened by Henry’s right hook, Trevor pretended he still wanted to rumble. The bar owner, though, was right there, and with a hand on Trevor’s shoulder, said to him in an avuncular tone, “Just go home and come back tomorrow, OK?”
Before he finally left, Trevor even asked the bar owner for a $20 loan, and without hesitation, the older man gave it to him. It’s all family here.
“He’s on something,” a woman said as people laughed, then Sandy patted me on the back as he walked by, “You didn’t expect this much excitement, did you!”
Hey, people will occasionally fight in bars, but it’s good that they are socializing face-to-face, for without this direct mixing, what you find in this culture is not meditative solitude but a noise, chat and porn-filled solipsism. The benefit of being left alone is that you can hear yourself and your conscience more clearly, but this is not possible if Gwar is blasting in the background, the television is never off, and on the computer screen, a torrent of upskirt photos shares space with the Dow Jones Index ticker. Mingling is good, is all I’m saying, and I’m certainly not advocating mass, compulsory or compulsive alcoholism, for we’re not that spiritually distilled yet. We’re not that southern comforted.
Now that I’ve brought up solipsism, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Columbus is James Thurber’s hometown. Before our current age of militant illiteracy, Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was known to every American by 10th grade or so, and in this 1939 story, a henpecked wuss imagines himself to be an ace pilot war hero, famed surgeon then cool, gangsterish killer who’s also a lady magnet. Mitty is basically Don Quixote removed to small city America, and though there are dark and violent strains to his fantasies, he’s viewed as charming and harmless. America’s priapric dreams, however, are nothing to be chuckled at. Increasingly vehement and bloody, they’re on course to blow up this Columbus experiment, if not the rest of the world also.
As published at Dissident Voice, 3/30/14:
Illness forces a sharpening
Of self-definition, and so can
Argument. Some fights, though,
Are so stupid that the only solution
Is to walk away. Vietnamese proverb:
“Argue with a smart man, can’t win.
Argue with a stupid man, can’t stop.”
Dick Seeth, let’s just call him that, derives
Enormous pleasure from conflict, which
Empowers him. Without constant war,
He’s bloodless and limp, a loser, which
He is, frankly, for there’s no art or,
More importantly, love in his music.
Hiding behind posts, he shoots bile.
There are Dick Seeths all over, but the world
Is not, in fact, overrun by them, so yesterday,
I went up to Kensington to connect with a
Saner and sweeter humanity, and besides,
A pitcher of Yuengling at Jack’s Famous Bar
Is only $3.75, and a cheesesteak four bucks.
With prices like that, the place was packed,
As usual, but I managed to find a stool, so
Let’s listen to Moe, to my right, “I’m 73.
When I was 17, I got my first and only job,
Working at Globe Dye Works. They gave me
Tasks no one else wanted to do, and for that,
They paid me $6 an hour, which was excellent
Money way back then. I stayed for 18 ½ years.
What have I done since? Nothing! I survived on
Welfare and odd jobs. Now I’m on Social Security.
I get a grand each month. My landlord takes 400,
I have a room, with my own TV and ice box, but
I never cook, really. I eat here. One cheesesteak
Is usually enough for an entire day. I spend more
On beer,” Moe laughed, “but if I’m out of cash,
I can borrow or I just don’t drink. I stay home
To watch TV or listen to my radio. It’s no big deal.
Yes, I’ve been married, but that was so long ago.
It only lasted six months! I was a virgin,
And she was pregnant, but I was pretty sure
It wasn’t my child. We only did it once or twice,
But my mom and dad said, ‘If you slept with her,
You should marry her,’ so I did, but we argued
All the time. In the beginning, I gave her half
Of each paycheck, then I stopped. I didn’t care.
I don’t even know the kid’s name. He wasn’t mine.
I never remarried, never even came close.
The love of my life is in heaven,” and Moe pointed
To the copper ceiling. Fully expecting him
To answer, “Mary. The Virgin Mary,” I asked
For her name. “Bobbie,” Moe said. “She died
At thirty-five, in her sleep. I still don’t know why.
We were only together two years. It was love
At first sight, but she was married, you know.
In fact, it’s her husband who knocked my door
To tell me Bobbie had died. He knew about us.
Everybody did. He didn’t mind. Maybe he also
Had a lover. Bobbie and I loved each other, but
It wasn’t about sex. I was much older, you know.
How old? Let’s see, she only died four years ago,
So I was 67 when I met her. It wasn’t about sex.
In fact, we only did it maybe once or twice.
Sex is not that important to me. I’ve been
To a prostitute once or twice, also, and
I didn’t really care for it. I was really drunk.
You don’t have to do what everybody’s doing.
I don’t vote either. Don’t believe in it. They always
Promise you this and that, then do whatever. I’ve
Only voted once. I voted for Kennedy, and that’s
Mostly because he was Irish.” Moe laughed.
By this point, I was on my second pitcher.
Behind the bar, beadworks by a bartender.
Of flowers, they cost 20 or 30 bucks.
On television, the Sixers were trying to
Not lose 27 consecutive games. I’m serious.
To my left, a woman of about 65, wearing a
Lidded knit cap, two coats, purple nail polish and
Chowing on cheese fries from Crown Chicken.
“Don’t ever get fish sticks there,” she advised.
“They’re the size of French fries. I remember
Ordering them when Madonna was singing
During the Super Bowl. These are all right.”
She kept talking to herself when not draining
Her empty mug. “Hey, you’re drinking nothing!”
Without turning to me, she replied, “I know.”
It was pouring when I left Jack’s, but I was already
Feeling much cleaner, and so far removed from
The stench of those whose rage obscures.
As published at Dissident Voice, 3/28/14:
He is a brilliant chemist,
is devoted family man,
displays Christmas wreaths,
is a Boy Scout leader.
Clean-cut, he’s sickened by porn,
knows all about solar system,
vitamins, apes, dinosaur extinction.
He recognizes every plant in forest,
can explain away budget deficits,
he studied Sondercommando
& Erik Prince’s Blackwater services.
The kapo believes in protestant god,
is registered independent,
he can repair carburetors,
hot water heaters and copy machines.
He commands corporate adulation,
collects hefty paychecks,
experiences 401-K growth,
has lots of sick-days, gets drunk often,
he’s the corporation’s bright future,
the kapo experiences the Power,
will sensitively help certain workers,
has nautical experience,
he watches others go down,
kapo understands he might be next.
As published at OpEd News, Dissident Voice, CounterCurrents, Information Clearing House and Intrepid Report, 3/27/14:
The first lesson, and it’s a very old one, is that violent protest does work, and also sinister tricks such as having your own snipers shoot at police and fellow protesters. Without this ramping up of mayhem and bloodshed, the Ukrainian government would not have been discredited, destabilized and finally overthrown.
The shock troops for this violence, the masked thugs at the frontline, didn’t come out of nowhere. Primarily made up of young men from the Right Sector, they had been preparing for a long time for this confrontation with the government. For years, they had been honing their skills at marksmanship, urban warfare and hand-to-hand combat. In this, they are not unlike American militias, though more mature in development. By clearly becoming outlaws, they had reached the point of no return, so it was victory or else, for had they lost, savage retribution from their enemy would be their lot.
For a while, the world was treated to the strange spectacle of Israel’s greatest lackey, the United States, supporting Neo-Nazi thugs, but when Viktor Yanukovych had been shoved out of the way, who came to power but Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who may or may not be a Jew, though widely believed to be so, especially in Ukraine itself, where he’s regularly a target of anti-Semitic slurs. Yatsenyuk had also been endorsed by the American Jewish diplomat, Victoria Nuland, she of the “fuck the EU” fame. In the bugged phone conversation, Nuland said, “I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience.” What Nuland means is Yats, a central banker, will help to implode the Ukraine for the Western banks. Lending fiat money farted out of their asses, they will enslave Ukrainians for generations. Two weeks after being installed, Yats was already in DC to confer with the IMF and World Bank, and, coincidentally, to pose for photos with our White House buffoon. The new governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine’s industrial center, also happens to be Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a citizen of Israel!
The Right Sector’s hero and guiding light is Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator whose followers nearly wiped out all of Ukraine’s Jewry, so it is odd, to say the least, that these Neo-Nazi Banderites provided the muscles to bring a (purported, at least) Jewish banker to power. Another direct result of the Ukrainian putsch is the loss of Crimea to Russia, a country ruled by Putin, an ex KGB colonel, while Bandera himself was killed by the KGB while living in Germany. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for Neo-Nazis, but it’s pretty clear these heavy metal-listening schmucks got a pretty raw deal out of all this, and as soon as their job was done, too, the new order turned on them, for this marriage could not last.
The Right Sector’s second in command, Aleksandr Muzychko, had just been gunned down. While eating dinner in The Three Crucians, Muzychko was cornered by the police, then shot as he tried to escape through a window. In death, Muzychko didn’t resemble a carp so much as a blow fish, with his huge, naked belly exposed through his torn Oakland Raiders jacket. During his brief moment on the world stage, Muzychko came off a blustering, violent lout. In a widely seen video, he’s smacking a government functionary upside the head, then yanking the man’s tie. Though grossly outnumbered and violated, Muzychko’s victim managed to maintain his composure and dignity, while Muzychko, in baseball cap and black jacket, came off as a crazed barbarian, but it is precisely this frothing rage and viciousness, of Muzychko and rest of his gang, that had been so valuable to the coup managers, operating behind the scene.
The hysterical nationalism of many Ukrainians may be hard for Americans to fathom, since they live in a near-continent sized country that, for most of its history, has kicked sand in other people’s faces. Unlike the Ukrainians and, in fact, most other peoples, Americans don’t fear obliteration, but perhaps they should, for the same people who have hollowed out Ukraine, Iraq and Libya, etc., are doing a pretty damn good job here.
Not wanting to be accused of killing his own people, Yanukovych left his police unarmed during most of the protest against his regime, and this decision cost him everything in the end. Now, the same restraint is being shown by the Venezuelan government as it is being roiled by a series of violent, American-funded and orchestrated protests that also includes sniper fires. The CIA’s well-worn playbook should be all-too-familiar by now, but since Americans are always being transfixed by the latest celebrity ass or asshole, they never notice the blood on their hands.
Soon, however, there will also be blood on their faces, if not gushing from their bloated bellies, for this American government will not be so gun-shy when faced with the sort of civil disturbances it is so prolific at fomenting worldwide. As the world’s most promiscuous employer of violence in all its forms, micro, massive, generational, bank-enabled, smirkingly personal or drone-fired, invisibly, from the sky, Uncle Sam will not hesitate to puncture or crush anyone’s helpless body, and he won’t give a rat’s ass for world opinions.
Iran's Press TV, 3/23/14:
Hello, this is very random. For about 12 years I kept a month day/book
journal and I never look at them. I just picked one up today and
opened to this. It's a sketch by you in my book. I love it. Hope you
do to. Hope you are good Linh.
a talk I gave at Chapman University in 2009, but just now uploaded onto YouTube:
Iran's Press TV, 3/18/14:
As published at Dissident Voice:
I don’t want to shovel snow anymore,
I don’t want to cleanup fuel spills anymore.
I want all bosses, present & past, to suck my hiney,
for tonight, I must shovel snow again.
I’d rather stay at home, confined in bed,
listen while snow strains worn rooftop,
assume N.S.A’s too occupied by Wikileaks
than to worry about crash come down upon me.
I don’t care about spilled gasoline on highways,
the environment cares not for me.
I cannot afford Marcellus Shale natural gas,
I don’t have money for my funeral,
I don’t even have money for rock salt.
Come morning, I scrape car windshield,
I don’t want to shovel any more snow,
so I admonish wife Carol to take her turn,
I really do not want to get on her ass,
I am too old for such leapfrog stuff.
More snow, a mailman falls upon sidewalk,
I pretend not to notice her wriggle in pain.
My boss demands I get a haircut, “or else,”
I want to feed him yellow snow,
strike him with ergonomic shovel,
let Taylor D.P.W. uncover the remains.
I want to live & bitch about faraway Ukraine,
sand shoveled upon Chernobyl reactor # 4,
Hagel’s 82nd Airborne cuts, California drought,
Gerrity’s Market ground beef on sale @ $2.99/ lb. –
I do not want to shovel red meat when August ’14 comes.
Sam’s Blood Work
Remarkably fit at 238,
Sam remembered signing London Contract,
he foraged for timber in Adirondacks,
filched Original Peoples’ food and land,
rallied against Confederates disloyal to Union,
built Liberty ships, crossed English Channel,
trotted in tanks through Mogadishu dirt streets,
tossed irreverent Iraq back into Stone age.
Sam had no reason to worry about lipid profile,
elevated sugar level, high PSA,
only scabrous junkies & “backsliders”
had reason to fear bad blood work results.
An R.N. tightened rubber cord
around Sam’s right bicep.
Felt for worthy vein, told Sam relax,
he’ll soon feel cold pinch, vial of drawn blood,
a flow faster than Prohibition Rumrunners.
Calm as Chicago pit bull,
Sam watched Good Morning America,
“two Arizona teens found dead,
for shame, Russia challenges US domination.”
Sam lacked nothing,
had Happy Family Health Insurance,
backing of International Community Babel;
his Blue Cross/Double Cross status secure.
Plantation cotton ball
delicately placed upon Sam’s purple vein –
He had no reason to fear lung cancer,
US smokestack industry disappeared,
Splenda sweetener profits where they should be.
As advised by Doctor Kildare,
Sam swore-off candy bars & tobacco;
no need for worry, he fasted over 12-hours,
made Santa Maria odyssey to McDonald’s.
Soon… another egg, bacon, cheese biscuit
circulated through Sam’s bloodstream,
come March 2014, for exercise,
he climbed Washington’s obelisk…
Blood, blood, blood,
I long for innocent blood to pour over me.
At play, Taylor Borough boys slit wrists,
pressed together blood-on-blood, made bond.
Children grown old, they go to clinics in droves,
blood health monitored for toxins.
There are no A.M.A. approved tests for vices & sin,
& Sam’s healthy liver continues to volatilize U.S. toxins,
which there are plenty, I am one infected.
A bulbous “brown vein spotted… its time had come,”1
tourniquet applied, cold needle entry into my arm,
a pinch, saccharine blood entered vial, clenched fist.
Bloodstained cotton, pale-faced health care,
I will never let go redskin medicine.
• Author’s note: This past Tuesday, March 4th, considered “Employed at Will,” I lost my job. In our times, the bond which money forges between people and work is undergoing designed demolition. Saturday morning, I went for perhaps a final blood work profile while still covered by a Company health insurance plan. Later, of course, final paycheck in electric account, unemployed, and trying to come to terms with the general national sickness, I wrote this poem about moral health maintenance & blood testing.
From the late-Senator Eugene McCarthy’s poem “The Maple Tree.”
That Sense of Union within Mandatory Long Division
22 years old, Wyatt Walker had to be good.
Nine more days to go on company “Probation,”
before joining International Brotherhood of Teamsters,
Wyatt had to stay productive, obedient.
One morning, he certified to operate a tow motor,
equipped with a long metal pole,
he successfully moved a 25 foot roll of carpet
from one trailer to another.
Wyatt felt good, knew he could do it.
At loading dock edge, Wyatt saw a foreman
with clipboard, watching every move.
Wyatt broke the aluminum seal of assigned trailer door,
recorded seal # 031714PA upon company “Production Card.”
he opened trailer door,
cartons of freight toppled upon cold concrete floor,
Wyatt remembered how easy a best friend
said he had it working at Trader Joe’s.
The foreman hollered,
“Your lucky day, Wyatt, looks like you don’t have
much heavy stuff to hump around.”
Only nine more shifts needed to join Teamsters!
All Wyatt had to do was empty a 42′ trailer before Noon.
He remembered days in Riverside H.S. “Special Education.”
How kids laughed while he struggled to read aloud
a paragraph from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
With one shot, Wyatt knew MLK’s shift ended,
maybe joined union beyond, & laughter went underground.
One quarter of way inside trailer,
Wyatt encountered sacks of Miracle-Gro potting soil.
All he had to do was discern “consignee” addresses
listed on each sack,
take care each arrived at proper dock door,
the NYC borough where potting soil was bound.
Wyatt’s stack of Bills of Lading indicated 250-sacks,
foreman advised, “You better pick up the pace. Walker.”
Five years ago,
Wyatt recalled placing handful of soil
upon his mother’s pine wood casket.
Reverend Zajac proclaimed Ann went to better place,
had joined a union where life would be better.
He sensed things might work out better for Mom than
years spent sewing in Lennie Lee’s Manufacturing Co.,
a member, International Ladies Garment Union.
Nine more days, nine more days to go.
Sacks of Miracle-Gro potting soil challenged Wyatt,
he imagined all the NYC flowers counting on him.
The foreman secretly considered Wyatt
a valuable entity for increased production.
Six foot tall, silver earring, shaved head, amazing vigor,
having failed badly at S.A.T.’s could not hurt him anymore,
Wyatt stacked potting soil upon a wood pallet,
climbed upon tow motor seat,
tilted and raised pallet, blew horn for worker safety,
abided by Company speed limit to Queens door # 19…,
Only nine more days to go, he had no memory
who his teacher said popped Mr. King and why.
As published at Dissident Voice, 3/18/14:
People who don’t know South Asians think
We’re all the same, more or less Indians,
But Pakistanis are Muslims, mostly,
While Indians are mostly Hindus and
Bangladeshis are much poorer than
Both Pakistanis and Indians. Although
A Bangladeshi, I was not poor at home.
Far from it. Back in Dhaka, I’d never, ever,
Eat lunch without meat, like today, with this
Ridiculous pretzel, with its smear of mustard.
Yesterday, though, Tumpa and I split
A Subway hoagie, on sale for five bucks.
Sometimes we also buy McDonald’s, from
Their Dollar Menu, although it’s not really
A buck anymore. This is bullshit, I’d think.
Why did I leave my decent life in Dhaka?
Back home, I would shop at Bashundhara City,
A mall ten times nicer than this Gallery bullshit.
This place is dying. It’s, what, 3 o’clock already?
We’ve sold two necklaces all day. Imagine!
And customers also haggle with you now,
Just like in Bangladesh. When I first came,
Americans didn’t haggle, didn’t even know how.
Now they’ll shoot off their mouths for 15 minutes
If they think it will save them a buck or a penny.
If this sucks so much, then why did I come?
But how was I supposed to know? Back home,
America appears as Paradise. You know, lots
Of money and everyone dancing and singing
All day long, and having sex, lots of wild sex!
Speaking of which, Tumpa and I barely do it.
You know, I never really loved her. In fact,
I don’t even like her. I only married Tumpa
To come here. I mean, just look at Tumpa!
And it’s not like we can even talk, because
She either makes no sense or she lies.
She lies to everybody. She’d tell people
We’re about to travel to Niagara Falls,
The Grand Canyon or even Dubai, that
Last night we had dinner at Olive Garden.
All my girlfriends back home were gorgeous.
They didn’t even look Bangladeshi, but Indian.
I know it’s bad to talk like this, but it’s the truth.
I wish I had never married Tumpa or come here,
But now, I can’t return, for people back home
Would laugh at me for being a failure in America.
Yesterday, one of the security guards gave me
Two tickets for the flower show. “Your wife, Tumpa,
Will really like it!” He said. What a nice man, but
There’s no way we’re going, because I can’t stand
To do anything with Tumpa. In fact, I can’t stand
To even be seen with her in public. Oh wait,
Here comes Tumpa now, so goodbye, eh!
I’ll talk to you some other time, buddy!
As published at Dissident Voice, 3/16/14:
Not even nineteen, Boo Boo peddles fancy
Pretzels at Philly’s saddest mall, The Gallery,
While her fiance, Doll, has a classier job,
Complete with health insurance, at Starbucks.
Even as she wears the same dull outfits, Doll
Buys Boo Boo lots of brand name clothes, belts,
Purses and shoes, plus flowers, but when jealous,
She also smacks Boo Boo good, though Boo Boo
Also claws herself bloody and even yanks
Her hair while screaming, when boiled over.
Afterwards, her voice would be raspy, and for weeks,
Her face and neck would show these red marks. (Look
Closely, you can also see traces of a fixed cleft lip.)
It’s not clear whence this coiled anger, despair
Or anxiety, for Boo Boo’s life growing up wasn’t
All that turbulent. Granted, the boys she dated
Were nasty enough, and sex sucked, so after
Enough grappling, she realized she didn’t care
For any dick, whether micro or Holy Jesus.
Now she has Doll, and soon they will legalize it
In New York State, where it’s allowed, then save
Until they have six grand for some guy’s sperm,
Preferably of the X kind, to be named Jewel,
Though by the time they have that kind of dough,
It might cost, she has often joked, a million bucks.
Of course it’s odd to have an unknown’s sticky cloud
Pumped into her, but this child will be meaning itself,
And absolutely perfect, even after birth.
Work done, they would walk hand in hand, but lately,
You can spot one without the other, and sometimes,
Even Doll strolling with a brand new female, and
Boo Boo bantering with some security guy.
Boyish looking yet 40, he lives with his mom
But fancies himself a player. Looking at him,
Boo Boo smiles her prettiest smile, even as
That familiar nastiness surges from below.
As published at Dissident Voice, CounterCurrents, Information Clearing House, Intrepid Report and Daily Dissident, 3/10/14:
I’ve been coming to Chicago forever, but always just for a day or two. The first time was when I was only a teenager and visiting an aunt in St Louis. Another time, it was to take a physical exam for now-defunct Midway Airlines. I was trying to get a job as a baggage handler. The day before, though, I had been at a Philly party where someone handed me a joint. Never one to refuse heartfelt hospitality, I inhaled, but somehow this didn’t prevent me from being hired by Midway. Perhaps they used the same urinalyst, piss parser or golden shower technician as Major Leagues Baseball, you know, the one that kept clearing Sammy Sosa even as he hit, like, 600 home runs in one season. In any case, I never took that Midway job, for I had found another while waiting for their decision. Back in the late 80’s, it was that easy to find work, so even a no-skill, no-degreed, beer swilling and, occasionally, very occasionally, actually, pot smoking, coke inhaling or acid dropping bum like me could pick and choose. If you could lift stuff, no matter how awkwardly, you were hired.
In recent years, I had mostly come to Chicago to do poetry readings. Though my 15 minutes as a fringe poet is rapidly flaming out, there’s still a bit of kerosene left in the guttering lamp. Gone are the days when I could be paid nicely to squeak, squawk and bloviate to a full Santa Fe theater as a guest of the Lannan Foundation, or be flown to Paris, Berlin or Reykjavik to make people wish they had stayed at home instead, but invitations to read still trickle in. Shoot straight, though, and doors will slam in your face, buddy, if not worse, much worse. When I could hardly think and write, I was being published in the Guardian, New York Times and being interviewed on the BBC, but now, I can barely give my seasoned blathering away.
So an invitation to read at Roosevelt University brought me to Chicago this time, and since I wanted to linger a while, I wiggled my way into an additional reading at Wilbur Wright, a community college. Through an informal arrangement with a poet friend, Daniel Borzutzky, I ended up talking to his students after they had discussed Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, a play about political torture. To give this work more context, Borzutzky’s also showed us a YouTube video of an escrache demonstration in Buenos Aires.
Started in Argentina, escrache has spread to other Latin American countries as a popular movement to oust, shame and ostracize retired generals, politicians and other powerful figures who have committed unpunished crimes. After locating the criminal in question, the organizers would inform his neighbors that here lives a state-sanctioned mass murderer or torturer, or a looter of public funds. Later, thousands of people would converge on this man’s house to publicly indict the blood-drenched fat cat. Though this Latin American version of a Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush or Obama is never physically attacked, the monster will be shunned by many of his neighbors, with local businesses even refusing to sell him a meal or a newspaper.
Critics of escrache have denounced it as a form of vigilante justice and, as the outburst of an angry mob, should be declared illegal, but the protesters are only reacting to acts that are themselves clearly illegal, not to mention outrageously immoral. The protester’s public harassment does not compare to their targets’ torturing and/or raping, then throwing their victims from airplanes into the ocean, or kidnapping their children and erasing their identities.
Too often, the state will use the legality argument to bind its opponents, while doing whatever it pleases, legal or not. Not satisfied with a monopoly on violence, the state also wants to be the sole interpreter of what’s right and wrong, as implied by the often bandied about legality question, and the more criminal this state is, the more illegal, the more it will shriek about the need for everyone else to walk the straight and narrow, according it its own power-drunk markings. Talking to Borzutsky’s class, I asked the students to consider escrache in the North American context. Who are our criminals in high places and what should we do about them? Unlike our southern neighbors, we have neither the clarity to identify our enemies from within, nor the courage or unity to confront them. To be fair, though, our top criminals don’t move among us, with many never even mentioned by our obfuscating media, as great a killer of brain cells as any, and worst than any glue. Even when not anonymous, however, the most malignant Americans are hidden behind guarded gates, bullet proof glass or acres of real estate, so that it would take considerable enterprise to target them.
When faced with an illegal and ultra violent enemy, we must resort to any and all tricks, be extra clever and strike hard, for real, but most of us are too tightly bound to our bifurcated harness to do more than jiggle, every once in a while, an electronic voting machine. Geez, I wonder who they’ll let us pretend to vote for the next time, if there’s a next time?
On one of my three days in Chicago, I wandered around West Town. I began in Wicker Park, a Polish neighborhood and Nelson Algren’s old haunt turned barrio Boricua turned hipster haven turned, finally, into the yuppy bastion it is today, but not before considerable acrimony and even vandalism from the retreating hep cats. Lawdy, I know it’s awfully silly to regurgitate black slang from nearly a century ago, but hep cats are no more hooey than the hipster tag. On snowy, icy or slushy sidewalks, I then trudged into Humboldt Park, Chicago’s current San Juan. There, I spotted New Life Covenant, with its large banners announcing that it is a “CHURCH FOR THE HURTING.” Aren’t we all, my fellow collateral damages or direct hits? Finally, I found myself in what’s left of the Ukrainian Village. At the corner of Western and Chicago, there was a man of about 40-years-old walking with a cardboard sign in the middle of the street, between cars. Increasingly common across America, this sight will be ubiquitous soon enough. I got close enough to read, “PLEASE SPARE SOME CHANGE?!? HOMELESS, HUNGRY, BROKE & COLD.”
Chris was his name, and he told me had been homeless for 14 months, and usually made about $20 a day, panhandling. Wanting to hear more, I offered to buy Chris lunch. Bacci was nearby, but Chris said, “I can’t eat pizza. I have no front teeth.” To prove it, Chris flashed his nude gums. Across from Bacci, there was Village Pizza, and since it also served submarines, we went there instead. Needing something hot, I ordered a modest heap of ravioli that turned out God-awful, while Chris went for Italian beef with French fries. They looked much tastier than my red slop, that’s for sure.
“So, man, what did you use to do?”
“I was a bike courier. That’s how I lost my front teeth. Someone rear-ended me!”
“Holy shit! So did you get, ah, compensation from your employer?”
“No way, man!”
“But you were at work. You were working!”
“No, no, that’s not how they saw it. This is how it works. If I had a package on me, then they would count it as me being on the job, but I was between deliveries, so I wasn’t technically working for them.”
“But you were only out on the streets to do deliveries. You weren’t just riding your bike around!”
“I know, but that’s not how they saw it.”
“OK, OK, so they hired you as a contractor, and not as a regular employee on the clock?”
“Yeah, that’s basically it.”
“Man, that’s ridiculous!”
“Yeah, so one second I’m on the bike, then suddenly I’m in an ambulance, and since I had no health insurance, I still owe the hospital all this money.”
“So what did you do when you got out?”
“I didn’t feel like being a bike courier any more, so I got a job with Allied, the moving company. That lasted for a few years. Then I got a job at another moving company, but business was so slow, they had to let me go eventually. That was my last job. The accident, though, wasn’t the only reason I quit being a bike courier. I really got out because the money wasn’t as good any more.”
“What do you mean?”
“I used to make about 750 a week, for only four days of work, but then it got down to only 225, and I had to work all five days. Everything changed after 9/11.”
“Hmmm, how did that affect your job?”
“The security, man! Before 9/11, I could go into an elevator and take my package directly to the office, so I would be out of there in two minutes, but after 9/11, I had to go through all these people, from the front desk to the mail room, just to deliver my stupid package, and I had to fill out all of these forms, too, so what used to take me two minutes to do now took me 15 or even 20, so at the end of the day, I couldn’t deliver as many packages, and I was being paid by the package.”
“And it’s not like terrorists are itching to send package bombs!”
“Yeah, but people were so scared then. Plus, you have the internet now, and that has hurt also. Before, companies had to hire bike couriers to deliver everything, but now, they can send all these images and documents through the internet.”
“So what’s the plan now? What are you going to do?”
“I’m on three waiting lists to get into these recovery houses. I’m hoping it won’t be more than another month.”
“Are you an addict?”
“I’m in AA, but I haven’t drank in a while.”
“So the recovery house is just a way to go inside.”
“Yeah, and to have an address, because you can’t even get a job without an address.”
“Are you from Chicago originally?”
“Yeah, born and raised here, in McHenry, and I have never left except for when I was a roadie for these bands.”
“Oh, yeah? Which bands?”
“You ever heard of Alkaline Trio? No? Well, that’s the most famous one, but I’ve also worked for Sidekick Kato and Apocalypse Hoboken.”
As this civilization goes into serious decline, even its band names get really uninspired and stupid. We can’t even do nihilism right. Around 1990, I was the road manager for indie-folk Baby Flameheads, but I only lasted for half a tour. Night after night, we’d hit another bar, and there was nothing for me to do but get juiced up, through two or three sets, but then I was expected to safely drive the van away after last call. Yes, curse me all of you who are blame-free! As a young man, I made many sapling mistakes, but now that I’m older, I’m blundering as a middle-aged fool.
“Chris, don’t you have family that can help you out? Where are your parents?”
“My mom’s still alive, but she’s remarried, and my stepfather hates my guts. He gets really pissed off if he thinks she’s giving me money, so I don’t want to bother her.”
“What does he do?”
“He was laying concrete until he was laid off about five years ago, but he’s about to retire anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. He’s saved a lot of money.”
“How much money did this guy make?”
“A lot, man! He was making $38 an hour at the end.”
“Yeah, and he’d put half of each paycheck into the bank, but with what’s left, he still bought whatever he wanted. He’s not hurting. He’s loaded!”
“$38 an hour! You’re lucky to make 10 these days.”
“And how about your mom? What does she do?”
“She works in a bar in McHenry.” Immediately cheered by this thought, Chris beamed his pink smile. “If I was still drinking, I could get drunk for free each time I go see my mom!”
“Hey, it’s very good you don’t miss drinking. How much did you drink?”
“Oh, man, I can’t even tell you. I’m half Slovak and half Bulgarian. Both sides of my family are drinkers. You ever heard of rakia? It’s a Bulgarian brandy. Try it sometime. It will knock you out!”
By this time, I had managed to ingest my ravioli, plus the equally bad accompanying salad. Chris, however, had only eaten half of his sandwich and fries. If I had less manners, I would have grabbed at least a few of his fries to chase away the bad taste in my mouth. Chris ended up throwing half of his lunch away.
Unlike what his sign said, Chris wasn’t that hungry after all, but this penchant for wasting food and everything else is very indicative of our culture. Coming from Vietnam to the States as an 11-year-old, I was immediately struck by how much food was wasted each day in the school cafeteria. Quite casually, my classmates would toss away even unopened cartons of orange juice or milk. Later, a girlfriend would laugh when she saw me struggling to finish my dinner, “You don’t have to eat it all, you know!” She thought it was cute. To this day, I won’t throw away anything that may have a milligram of nutrient on it, and that includes fast food ketchup packet. It’s not just that I will eat absolutely everything I’ve paid for, but that a bunch of people have gone through a tremendous amount of trouble and coordination to make and deliver, for example, this roll of bread, red onion, string bean or slice of (sorta) cheese to (sorta) nourish me, so I won’t insult them by throwing even a speck of it into the trash can, though those ravioli surely deserved to be flung from the top of the Sears Tower.
Among the minor quirks of an empire in decline is its gross celebration of gluttony, hence our huge restaurant portions and thousands of eating contests, with some of these revolting spectacles even shown on television. We also have celebrity chefs, just like the Romans in decadence, but before this American Century, however, before this epoch of oil-fueled prosperity and endless war, people were also fascinated by the spectacle of not eating. They would pay to see Starving Artists and Living Skeletons. Soon enough, though, these types will reappear in ballooning numbers among us, and we won’t even need tickets to gawk. Too feeble to mount even an escrache, we deserve nothing less.
All over Chicago, there are these posters that plead for donations to food banks, with “1 in 5 kids faces hunger,” and I’ve seen enough homeless Americans rummaging through dumpsters for bits of meat and limp French fries to know that hunger has become a serious issue in this greatest of nations, the indispensible one and global beacon, but too many of us will keep squandering all resources as if the worst is not coming, for even as we sink into Third World status, we can’t or won’t shake imperial habits.
Perhaps we’re only mirroring our obscene leaders, for they routinely issue pompous pronouncements and threats as the rest of the world laugh in incredulity or contempt. Even as we support Neo-Nazis in the Ukraine, for example, Hillary Clinton sees fit to compare Vladimir Putin to Hitler, and Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, huffs that “Europe is not where they need to be right now. I think they are willing to give Putin a much longer leash than we are.” Nice word choice, eh? I wonder how “leash” translates back in Moscow. Personally, I think we should apply the tightest of leashes to Obama, Kerry, Hagel, Holder, Pelosi, McCain and the rest of our psychotic leadership, for only after we’ve roped them all in, then away, very far away, can this increasingly sad country be rediscovered and rebuilt.
I was supposed to have a debate with Taras Kuzio, but Kuzio was so offended by the first question from our Iranian hostess that he terminated the studio feed right after his answer, and even before I had chance to respond. Among Kuzio's titles is Head of Mission of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kiev, and Marzieh Hashemi had asked him if Russia had a right to enter the Crimea. Do watch if you want to see this odd exchange, and much more. Iran's Press TV, 3/8/14:
Georgia, a little while ago, the US also instigated a war to encircle and provoke Russia. This is part of the grander scheme of the United States to encircle, isolate Russia, and to place missiles right next to its border.