24/7 coverage of this event. Minnesota. The heartland. Like a ruptured artery in the complex cardiac structure of America. Like any arterial rupture: this brings death. We are fascinated, we are sad, we are horrified. We are glued to our TVs and the networks are competing for our attention. What new horror can they air that will cause us to tune in? Extra footage on Youtube, the internet. The horror, the statistics. What is it with the American fascination with carnage, with tragedy, with the spectacle. Network analysts know well, aside from celebrities falling from grace, nothing boosts their audience like a disaster. On the internet, little competed with the numbers who watched the hanging of Saddam…over and over. Move over, Barry Bonds—our 9/11—6 years later, still holds the record. A little bit of the sadistic in us, a little bit of—let’s see that again and then we can thank God our pathetic lives aren’t that painful, our debts and sorrows aren’t that catastrophic. We are lucky bastards, sitting here with the summertime blues, dreaming of a vacation we can’t afford.
While my kids watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre XXX and Hostel II without a quickened pulse, I find myself cringing even at primetime violence—hospital shows. Fictional disaster, fake blood capsules. I gasp when a basketball player falls--- what is wrong with me? In a world of novocained viewers, I can’t seem to desensitize. In fact, I might be getting worse. Emotional hypochondria? Acute motherhood? Like every victim is potentially my child? I don’t know. Loser—my kids call me. I’m a loser. I pick up garbage, I help people across the street. I feel guilty when I don’t put money in a cup even though half the panhandlers hand me back my change, these days. They have pride. If you can’t put in a bill, keep your goddam bleeding-heart-liberal cheap hand in your pocket.
But The Bridge. I couldn’t sleep. Ever since I was a kid I dream about bridges—in the dark—graceful long suspension bridges. I am somehow at the top with the wind in my hair, and the bridge is moving, swinging as it is meant to..and there is the hardening fist of panic in my gut—hang on…jump…whatever…
Sure, I’ve read Jung and Freud, but I still have the dream… no matter how many times in and out of sleep I reassure myself—I am alive, this is a dream. The dream is a SYMBOL. I am safe but sensing the precarious balance of life, suspending myself between realities, experiencing the ‘void’, the choice—life vs. death, space vs. matter, darkness vs. light…my own limits. Bla bla.
For me it is the feeling that is important. I wonder if other people dream this stuff, if there is anyone else that can’t sleep after watching the Discovery Health network, who reaches into nearly-empty pockets every time that St. Jude’s Hospital appeal comes on.
But I read on the internet—the QVC network is taking in record sums from overweight Americans in the heartland who are ordering shoes and jewelry and theme-quilts in mind-boggling numbers. Collecting exercise systems—DVDs now so they can replace their unopened VHS cassettes. Tae Bo and Hip Hop Abs, Colonics and detox systems—hair restorers and acne medication— magical makeup-- while they eat bag after bag of transfat-free snacks and exercise their fingers on the remote and their iphones. They don’t have to get up to order more; they don’t have to move or even lick a stamp. QVC doesn’t show the bridge tragedy.
Today there is the mine in Utah. Worse. A place I've never been. The claustrophobia…the airless world underground… the dark. A catastrophe so intense the technology perceived it as an earthquake. The grave beneath the graves. My bridge is swinging.
My children are spending half a night’s pay at the movies where they will watch extreme fighting, human carnage, torture and sex in a comfortably airconditioned theatre. They can’t take the heat. I am working on a dark slide-guitar version of the old Beegees Mining Disaster song which will sound more like When the Levee Breaks. I am worrying about the miners, replaying the terror of people in sinking cars filling with river-water who were unable to think clearly about seatbelts and windshields…people who might have been waiting for their QVC DVD on safety and disaster protocol and will no longer be there to receive it. People who will have bad feedback on Ebay because they never paid for the Nikes they just purchased from their car iphone, seconds before the bridge collapsed.
I will play this song and not say anything, because I hate bleeding-heart liberals like myself. Pathetic losers, we are. I will dream about bridge disasters and mine collapses in the thick pre-dawn of this August heatwave, listen for the rain that will come and destroy our subway system this morning, thank God I only suffer from a toothache because I can’t afford a root canal. I will get up, sweaty and still sensitized, and write a song.