Friday, April 20, 2018

Liars and In-no-cents

The US attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities last Saturday garnered little viewership from the American public.  Certainly the Stormy Daniels interview had better ratings; television in general has lost its centrality in our lives.  I couldn't help thinking back to the Desert Storm airstrikes we watched from our sofas with a bit of nervousness and yet the detachment you feel watching someone else's video game.

It was a small maybe calculated distraction from the smeary smutty onslaught of the latest Trumpery-- an executive wielding of power from our clown-at-the-helm who spent the earlier part of the day bashing James Comey in characteristic unpresidential  excrement-slinging-- his usual weapon-of-choice.  Comey... with a quasi-presidential-scale faux-pas on his permanent conscience, or whatever the political version of poor judgement might be called... will have the last laugh in massive book-sales; there will surely be a seven-figure job for him out there...

Then there was the Zuckerberg testimony... the wide-eyed, studious false sincerity of a billionaire who sold out our privacy, claiming his innocence with every sycophantic reply, sugared over with
an overdose of courtesy and those huge, bloodshot deer-eyes dripping with candor, watery from his contact lenses.  It rivaled the Steve Cohen testimony... he didn't remember, he didn't know... who was actually less culpable than these Facebook thieves.  Nothing in this world can be undone.  The sins of the billionaires have shifted the axis of our political and social morality.  Nothing is free; everything is bait... and we like fish have hook-holes in our palates.  Nothing will ever be the same.  The end of the innocence, what little there was in the well-trod sites and pages of New York before the 70's, the 90's my friends visit frequently... anything but this.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the vast majority of medical and drug trials are not reproducible... that data is manipulated, cooked... so we are given medications and treatments to benefit manufacturers, and do little for our health which is nothing but a vague platform for massive financial gain.  We are the poor guinea pigs, obediently swallowing things, following instructions like schoolchildren... led down useless paths in our quest to cope with pain and the sicknesses that are byproducts of our culture.  There will be a small slap on the wrist.. and then we will go on... Zuckerberg's net worth will dip and then re-surge, as he promises vigilance, having thrown us all under the bus irrevocably.

An eight-year-old this week brought a knife to school and slashed his fellow students.  Sort of a flip-side to the story of the pre-school teacher who threatened a toddler with a slashing.  As I read the online version of the eight-year-old article, a huge pop-up ad accompanied the text-- some new state-of-the-art men's underwear in my face, eclipsing the news... like some kind of obscene big-brother shout-out-- the incongruities of this life-- the disconnects and random juxtapositions, the senseless acts of violence which seem to stem from some underlying emotional seismic rumbling-- the discontent, the warped and confusing version of democracy that is America.  How does anyone process, prioritize these disproportionate images, the flash-like brainwashing of Instagram-style imagery... pop Goddesses and queens with very little content but huge coverage-- Beyonce and her untouchable Coachella moment... the new Statue of Liberty? And it is as though she believes her own legend.  The Midas ass.

Where is compassion, where is humanity when the great God of money seems to have cast a golden shadow over us all, like the looming sky-touching penthouses which shadow and obscure our values and connections?  What is truth when lies dominate.. and win?  No longer does the tortoise come out on top.... they are choking on bad meds... while the hares are full-speed ahead with Ritalin and fat purses.  I see fewer and fewer real faces--- features altered and tweaked, bodies re-shaped-- even our most beautiful actors and actresses are compelled to make themselves more beautiful...  Television ads baffle me-- everyone is being urged to change their emotional state, their skin, their hair... Some days I feel as though I'm conducting a social experiment... trying to maintain a truthful commitment to my values, my modest goal to leave something behind in this world-- not a giant monument or a building facade, but a few songs or lines or poetry that might somehow find their way into a heart and sit there, like a tired passenger-- like company.  I am left behind... no seat for me on this bullet train of the culture which lies to me, which poses and manipulates and convinces... we must all be beautiful, we must all be young.. we must all watch this and that and have this and that... and those that cannot are angry and bitter and desperate.  All of us unhealthy... and there is contagion.

Yesterday on Lenox Avenue I collected 41 pennies between 110th and 126th... lying there on sidewalks like a trail left by some lost angel, like tiny sentries of some lost currency-- little copper discs that somehow made sense although very little cents... in 2018 terms... no one else wanted them... and I collected them.. from the damp street.. like tiny rescues... I tried to make some meaning of the small weight they became, of the cumulative purchase power... of the fact that they were free, they were gifts.. outside the Dollar store where people were hoarding bargains they mostly don't need-- piling packages of cookies and chips and frozen dinners into huge sacks... I wanted to stop them... to tell them something... but no one is going to listen to an aging woman who seems poor and powerless and maybe a bit mad.  I am mad.... I am angry-- not slasher-angry but beating-heart upset.  A penny for my thoughts here? No, actually, not even that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You Can Leave Your Socks On

Late-Mondays Times Square underground platforms are a kind of reality stage for a cross-section of New York City not everyone gets to sample.  Recently there is a sprinkling of track workers because
there is always post-midnight repair activity and endless delays... so you have more time to settle into the drama. By 2 AM there is little musical entertainment, but plenty of hustlers and salesmen of a variety of wares-- stolen cheap watches, re-wrapped candy, articles of clothing and discarded earbuds...  talkers, lonely displaced people with nowhere else to spend the night... shuffling old women often close to your own age...dragging their shopping bags, hunched over and unwashed... the squishy stenchy hardcore car-sleepers... rats taking their time doing a sluggish diagonal dance on the tracks because train traffic is sparse; there is a kind of rare silence.

Last week a nice-looking guy with sideburns sat down on one of the wooden seats and took off his boot.... he had clean white sport-socks on, and he started in scratching.  Minutes later he'd scratched so hard the ground was littered with dancing clumps of white fuzz from the cotton... and still he went at it; I tried not to look.  After a time, a sick yellow-green ooze started to penetrate his socks; my stomach turned over...  he stopped-- as though the liquid seepage was the antidote to the itch.  He shook out his boot, stuck his foot in and walked to the north staircase of the uptown 1/2.  Just like that.

Not even a minute later, a drunk young couple sat down where he'd been working his foot... I tried to warn them, but they were too busy groping each other.  I'm no germaphobe but I felt a little tense in my seat on the train;  I started to reconsider trying on shoes in thrift stores.  In every car, the late-shift was working the crowd--- asking for handouts-- food, old gloves, a smile...  the same girl I've seen nearly every week gets on looking for enough money to buy a room for the night.   Her eyes are glazed, her feet are filthy and bare, her skin is pocked with needle-marks and infected sites.  It's more than sad.  You squirm and don't give her money to get high... but you feel ashamed of the C-note in your pocket even though you can barely come up with your month's expenses, even with the care packages from the kitchen at your gig.  A man gets on and sits across from you-- bloodshot eyes, a wedding ring-- he looks guilty and somehow sated.

All the stories in New York City-- the lit and unlit windows, the drawn shades, the silhouettes.  My friend's boyfriend has been seeing another woman; I know this and don't say anything.  It's not my role to hurt her, to bust him... I'm caught.  Another woman just ended her marriage when she found her husband hopelessly addicted to porn and heroin.  She must have been the last to know, or the last to want to know until it was in and on her face.

My best friend in the world is an ex-- one of those men who comes in and out of your life between disastrous relationships and marriages. You figure one day you'll marry him, but you're not quite ready to surrender to yesterday's clothes that have lost their style and no longer really fit.  Still, he's there.... or is he?  You walk by his place one random night; he always comes to yours-- his is essentially a mattress on the floor, some piles of books, dingy walls and permanently shut blinds.  You buzz up... and a woman answers... it seems he no longer lives there... has he forgotten to mention to you that he's moved?  Who are you, you text.  You get home late-late and he's been calling..  and the tales begin to unravel like a committee of scriptwriters batting around a scene.  On the third night your lawyer friend looks up his court records and it seems he's secretly married.  He's living with some Asian waitress--- sublet his place and moved to Queens.  You are stunned... not exactly hurt, because it's not like that-- but stunned.  Like your security blanket has been ripped away... like a betrayal.  He cries... how could he have lied to you?  Every day-- every FaceTime, every call, every joke-- because he sees you nearly every day-- tells you everything... except this.  Day 4, he claims he's miserable, he hates his life-- he hates the lies, he's always loved you-- well, sort of, because it never really worked out between you...  but he has been your health-care proxy, your emergency contact.  Who is this man?  The Asian woman is a bitch and is showing her age-- not a nice comment, because she is like twenty years younger than you are.  I guess this happens once the green card is inked.  The double life thing...

When I was a teenager I saw my best friend's father making out with a young woman in a restaurant.  It wasn't him, my Mom assured me... but it was.  Or it wasn't 'him' but it was my friend's father.  Itch.  The oozy, itchy leaking feet underneath those clean white socks.  Like a metaphor.  Who are these people?  I remember when we were young kids--- underneath our clothes we were beautiful and innocent... still honest enough in our free-love practice not to really hurt anyone... clean, even when we were bad.... but life goes on-- our scars and wounds and complications besiege us with small disappointments and failures... and we escape-- some of us have music and art-- fantasy... but others confuse their life opportunities with an emotional vacation... they create these webs of deceit and they knot themselves up so there is no way out without ripping off an arm or leg.

I don't love the guy.  No, but I expected loyalty-- honesty?  Some version of this... after all, what did he have to lose?  Me?  If you watch someone scratch long enough you start to itch.  I don't want to see what's underneath most people anymore.... we use our imagination.  This is why people love their pets-- their babies...  with humans it's complicated.  Needs... secrets-- stuff we hide that festers into addictions and lethal diseases... syndromes and mental illness.  So what now?  Amputate the guy?  You would never have known-- what were you missing?  Not  much?  You didn't need so much from him-- just trust, faith-- the phone calls and facetimes-- the seat next to you at your Mom's funeral.... It's a quandary.  The truth is more complicated than it should be.  It's a dirty fork in your road, here.

At the end of the 2 train ride, you get out.. you've got a couple of bucks to buy vegetables at the fruit stand; the same panhandler always there to greet you at 3 AM.  Hey, Baby, he says, like a question.  You wind up with 17 cents.  You tell him... 17 cents.  That's it.  That's not it, he says-- that's a fucking blessing.  He thumbs-up you as you drop the coins into his cup and he looks happy.  Clean.  Simple.  The truth.  He's a damned angel, this guy.  Somehow you feel better.