DuBois thought of himself as a monk– all he needed was a mat to sleep on and some space for his books and records. Of course these simple pleasures needed the support of a record player, several bookshelves, a chair in which to read, a lamp which lead to the electric bill… He realized of course that Aspen both wanted and needed more, and mulled over the fact in his mind until he ground it up into bits small enough to forget. Home Despot by Jimmy Jazz
I had an idea that I needed another bookshelf. A problem I addressed in my novel Home Despot. Angela would say that I didn’t really ‘need’ one, or that we don’t have room. So I blame the hairbraned scheme on the books, the ones pushed behind newer books and stacking up on the floor. I found a 10 pine boards leftover from a fence building so decided to make it myself. I wanted something like Charlotte Perriand’s shelf pictured above, made from ash and aluminum in 1960 which was selling at auction for $15,000.00. But of course, I didn’t find any aluminum. I did have 98 coffee cans currently being used as an earthquake detector, so my three year old nephew and I stacked them up to see how they looked according to these plans:
The problem was that the coffee cans being 7″ high only allowed mass market paperbacks to fit on the shelf. By my calculations, with the amount of wood etc, it would have provided space for 640 mass market paperbacks! (where I only own 252.) I thought about the problem for a whole day. I mostly sat there staring at the white empty wall space. Do I want something cool, or something now? Since I would be going to pick up Angela at LAX, I felt the clock running, so in desperation almost, decided to bang together a very conventional bookshelf using the tools borrowed from the neighbor. It took about 1 1/2 hours (3 1/2 if you consider that when I returned the tools at ‘wine o’clock’ I fell gently into drinking red wine with the neighbors and their friends.)
For those who aren’t familiar with the phenomenon known as Critical Mass, it is essentially a bike ride through the city. It happens all around the country every month. In San Diego it takes place the last Friday. Riders meet at sunset near the fountain in Balboa Park. Besides being a lot of fun, the event promotes the use of bikes as transportation and offers an example of a non-hierarchical organization. Whoever happens to be riding in the front is the leader and the ride meanders, rather predictably, through iconic points in the city. It can roll as long as 20-30 miles in a night, though my friend and I peeled off after about 15 miles last night. We rode through Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, Golden Hill and downtown to the Civic Center where we temporarily occupied the streets and square in solidarity with the movement known as Occupy San Diego. The protesters were jubilant to see the swell of their ranks. It’s always good to know that people are with you. One similarity between these two events is how they reveal the violence that is sometimes hidden from middle class people. We see it on tv, but it is alwayspresent– the threat and use of force is a daily phenomenon for many poor people in this country, and around the world. Thursday night, around three am, the SD police tried to disperse the people camped in the civic center. I heard a man Friday morning ask a police officer why they had to “bust our heads” when they raided the camp. The police in San Diego, to their credit, seem to be learning how to cope with a thousand bicyclists using the streets in the way drivers think they are solely entitled (granted Critical Mass doesn’t stop for traffic lights; it imagines a world without traffic lights.) Though most people seem to be delighted by the spectacle of 1000 bikes rolling by (especially on Halloween with many people in costume) Critical Mass can reveal the violence that car culture creates in all of us. Road rage is so common as to be a joke. I witnessed drivers yelling and angrily honking their horns after they were stalled for 5 or 10 minutes by the bike procession. Some people are assholes even when they aren’t in a car; some bike enthusiasts are assholes, but cars, like a cop’s nightstick or rubber bullet gun, make being an asshole dangerous. Drivers feel empowered in their machines. (As previously stated Power Corrupts.) Critical Mass simply asks people to reflect on why you are in a car rather than walking, taking the bus or riding bike.
I talked to my pal Cecil yesterday and he agrees that 54 second poems are the way to go. I should thank D. Boone and Mike Watt. I had so much fun making the video I decided to make a whole series of them. Ha. This is the first time I tinkered around with the “music” making program called Garageband. This is another little poem from Cosmology and Gravitational Collapse. I don’t say little to diminish the poems stature, it’s just not the kind of thing I usually read in public. This one features a few special guests– Gina Kowerko’s pug dogs Giuseppe and Cooper and their puppy pal Pete on the streets of West Hollywood.
If you can’t think like Einstein, try to look like him. My old friend minerva called quoting one possible motto for a collection of poems I made in 2005 called Cosmology and Gravitaional Collapse. I got the title from the SDSU course catalog. The course was never offered while I was there, and so I had to do my own reading about the physics of the universe. I sat down this morning and made a video of the first poem which is called “anthropic principle.”
I started listening to an audiobook version of Wallce Stegner’s Beyond the 100th Meridian, as I drove down the 118th meridian from Los Angeles, which tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed explorer who set out to pencil in a blank area of the map which we now regognize as the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. It’s a well-written adventure story peopled with colorful rogues, risking their lives for their own reasons, though the men paddling the boats through the rapids don’t seem to give a damn about Powell’s quest for science.
An acquaintance with books and learning was not a thing that a frontier boy like Powell could take for granted; he had to seize it as he could. Abe Lincoln said it for every such boy with brains and dreams in his head: “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is a man who’ll get me a book I aint read.”
LA versus Ozark – DAY ONE – I drove Angela and her mom to LAX >>> so they could fly out to her family re-union in Ozark, MO. Talked to her on the phone briefly and she reported that she was walking by the river where her cousin said ‘Look at the frog.’ OK,no big deal. We’ve all seen frogs. Her cousins property butts up against a national park there in the Ozarks, and from what I hear boasts a sublime wooded area. When Angela looked a snake swam up and swallowed the frog whole right in front of her eyes. Wow. I can’t say I saw anything comparably surreal in LA, though I seized the opportunity to hang out with my friend Gina Kowerko. She took me to get some vegan food (no shortage of tasty menus to choose from here) and we hiked up through Runyan Canyon, which on a less hazy day offers a fantastic view of Los Angeles in its uber vastness. We went to a party in a loft downtown later that night with Rich Ferguson. A beautiful live/work space ran by a poet named Tiger Moon. She runs a regular gig there called the POets Perch, though tonight was Tiger’s birthday. A score of musicans and poets including Rich Ferguson and myself ended up taking the stage, but the highlight was an appearance by Redbone, the Native American rock group, who played a beautifully harmonized acoustic version of their 1974 hit “Come and Get Your Love.” The space was absolutly relaxing, mood lit, governed by a rule of silent respect for the performers, smelling of incense and bathed in red light. I’d say between 40-50 people sat at tables, on pillows, couches or stood by the bar. I drank just enough wine to be able to take the stage after the fantastic poet Rich Ferguson.
On Saturday, THe Global Day of Rage, Angela and I decided to occupy Morley Field with a group of radical 2-4 yr olds.
Our Demands: 1) More cake. 2) Sustainable toys. 3) A statue of Dora on the national mall. 4) Shared decision-making. 5) Face painting, a klown, and a piñata!
We will add that the working class in the United States, because of its high standard of living, does not clearly see the contradictions existing in US society. To the US working class, these contradictions, which are blunted, appear incomprehensible and they cannot gain clear consciousness of their own exploitation as long as they continue to get the crumbs that US imperialism tosses to them from the feast – Ernesto Che Guevara
It’s such an interesting problem. My desire to give my kids everything they deserve versus the desire to live in a more just and equitable world. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Kids don’t really need much. Love. Intellectual stimulation (fun). Attention. I’m sure if they could articulate it they would appreciate wholesome food and appropriate shelter. And if they had a sense of history they would be happy not to have to work in the mill. The children’s birthday party might be a good metaphor for the system. You can’t show up at these things without a gift. The culture demands it! The economy depends on you and I to buy things we don’t need. The economy demands that people waste their time doing meaningless work. The parents who throw the party are going to feed you and you want to show that you like their kid so you go to a store and buy something. We almost got the little girl here a Mr. Potato Head. And then we wondered what happened to our Mr. Potato Heads? They have probably already floated up out of the landfill, migrated into the ocean where some poor dolphin choked on the spare funny nose. The world just doesn’t need any more plastic crap. We ended up getting a cloth Dora-the-Explora doll, thinking, at the very least, it would biodegrade. We didn’t check to see if it was made by a less-fortunate kid in a sweatshop in Mexico. We should have. There’s no excuse. How can we change our rituals? How can we change the system? How can we preserve what’s good about children’s birthday parties – enjoying a beautiful day in the park, sharing delicious food, community bonding, watching kids laugh – without screwing up this two-year old’s environment, or forcing some kid half way around the world into slavery? tChe Guevara didn’t have faith that we could change as long as our kids were living the good life. He claimed that we couldn’t see what was going on in Africa, say, as long as we were so well fed. Apparently, we can’t see what’s going on in Detroit or Los Angeles or New York. The people occupying streets and public squares around the country are starting to see. Circumstances are forcing them to see. They seem to have come to the realization that the system has to change. They don’t know how to do it. No one does. They are ordinary people. But a more just world can only be built by ordinary people. We don’t need leaders or scientists or politicians to tell us what is good about a children’s birthday party.
I should have added the caveat that all these food documentaries information should be evaluated by individuals. Yesterday, we watched Food Matters which contained many specious health claims — that you won’t be tired in the afternoon, you won’t get sick, you can reverse cancer– if you drink a liter of water in the morning and megadose vitamins. Bollocks. I think the old adage ‘You Are what you eat,’ contains some truth, but don’t expect miracles.