Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kerb Your Enthusiasm

Some mornings I wake up to a strangely un-urban quiet and I wonder, ever since 9/11, has 'it' happened... has my city been wiped out and I am a lone survivor... and I look over at my old clock radio, and there is still electricity... and my phone works... and I can hear the birds now... but I step out into the day with this sense of being newly baptized or finding out no, it is not cancer... and I vow to keep this attitude--- of grace and awe and innocence-- despite the nasty/smelly/greedy meanness I am bound to encounter on my daily route.

I have caught myself several times this week muttering expletives under my breath when someone shoves me aside to get on the bus first or runs a red light and clips my guitar case as I jump back onto the kerb.  When did I become this impatient old crank and how far will it go?  My friends have been leaking bad language, sneering and frowning and growling more than usual.  Is it the humidity?  The Republicans? When does cynicism become malevolence?  In an election year when name-calling and one-downmanhip seem to be the standards of our leadership?

Wasn't there a 'luxury tax' in our old Monopoly games?  We paid it, if the dice brought us there; we went to jail and paid our fines.  We paid extra for houses and hotels on expensive blocks, as I recall.  Have they changed the game to parallel the Bush-era tax cuts?  Not that I know, but I no longer care about games.  After a brief 1981 flirtation with Space Invaders I checked out.  I hate computer games and God knows I still don't have a cell phone.

But some nights I feel I am a stranger in a strange land.  I don't 'fit in' the way I used to... I am eavesdropping more than participating, but in a way I am mentally participating while my fellow urban occupants seem to be mutually eavesdropping.  I see things in three dimensions--- not just as they are, but with their history, framed by time-shadows of meaning.  My life is vintage now-- which for me doesn't mean just aged, but suffused with long-simmered flavor.

I watched an episode of Gallery Girls.  Yes, I confess... okay, I was writing and multi-tasking while I watched--- there was not nearly enough 'meat' to warrant just sitting there-- but there it was, unlike any version of the actual art world I have known, but like most reality TV, styled and watered down with some kind of Kool-Aid-like silly additive.

But Jane Holzer was there, looking substantial and vintage-y, and a little kind.  She was always kind, I think.  And I suppose Bravo shows are a viable variation of Warhol-lite.  Andy might have approved.
At 6 AM after a night of musical drama (I mean the kind that happens among band members), I turned on a TCM film called 'Pressure Point'-- one of those low-budget black and white tough early 60's pieces that resemble theatre more than cinema.  The direction was sparse and brilliant, the acting was breathtaking and razor-sharp.  Bobby Darin--- wasn't he a pop-star? He was like verbal spitfire, and Sidney Poitier's portrayal of a prison psychiatrist treating a bigoted Nazi psychotic prisoner-- was not just heroic but godlike.  There was a story, with political 'weight'... and there was a soliloquy.  There was passion and meaning and a message.  So what happened to our culture?  And why are these micro-talents on TV and in music and film so massively wealthy and poorly iconic to our under-informed young people?

I suppose if one is brought up on an exclusive diet of boxed breakfast cereal, Rice Krispies begins to resemble a healthy choice.  Watching Bill Clinton speak tonight, I grew nostalgic for the 1990's.  Jesus, next to the lame pickings at the conventions (Michelle Obama aside--- you are a sister!), he was oratorial and convincing.  I'd follow the guy to any local bar not to mention the polling booth.  I do like Obama, but liking the man and putting him at the helm of a 300,000,000 passenger ship are different.  And Romney--- this guy couldn't get himself on a decent ballot in any past but now, with the lack of viable competition, he's a contender.  A Mormon president.  Who's next?  Tom Cruise?  These are dangerous thoughts.

Has anyone read Paul Krugman's column this week?  The question should be 'has EVERYONE' read this?  Are people informed at all?  Are they listening and/or thinking or just chilling and watching another political reality show?   Because the lack of enthusiasm is contagious.  Thank the south for Bill Clinton tonight... he had a little of last night's Poitier passion and he got the crowd on their feet.  But will anyone get this country on its feet?  Are we too lazy to stand up and walk, to do more than hit the remote buttons a few times... ?   Of course I love Tom Petty but is this song really the energizing anthem we need?  Am I willing to give something up for my political cause?  Do I have anything left to give?  Is there anyone out there or is it all just television?

My first really vivid Presidential memory was of course Kennedy.  In that era we needed to see family portraits and outings; there was serious dealmaking going on behind the scenes-- international manipulations and villainous politicos.  There was sex and bourbon and blood and foreign intrigue.
Now we don't need to see nice family footage.  We need some rolled up sleeves and some tough talk and bone-breaking conviction and some fight.  Not nasty quips and accusatory twitters and assinine exaggerations about fish-catching and marathon running.  I feel like people are placing bets rather than voting their beliefs.  Is this an election or a Superbowl?  I'd hate to base the outcome on the ratings, but I'll wager the football audience exceeds the voter count. Come on, my fellow Democrats... let's play some Offense before it's too late.

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