Egret and crab

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

I passed a lady in her yard wearing her american flag t-shirt on the way to work. I slowed down but the woman, who seemed to be about my age, perhaps a little younger, refused to make eye contact. Longtime blog readers might remember the photograph of the large billboard that I posted pre election that linked Obama and Marxism. This woman had erected the sign in her yard, a hermetically clean and sterile setting that lacked bushes and trees.  I wondered if we had any common ground to share, and what would happen if we had an opportunity to talk.

It set me to thinking about the many parallel universes and mind sets that exist in this big world of ours.  None necessarily better than the other, but some that seem to gain and lose traction and momentum after reaching a curious cosmic tipping point.

I am a fifties child, reared in the decade of revolution, and raised with a values system that is anathema to many, I am sure. My rough edges and quirks might find few points of congruence and tangency with those that grew up in that "other" land.

I had to go to Escondido last month to pick up some supplies from a metallurgy shop that was located in the industrial section of town. When I entered the office, I saw that the walls were covered with pictures of modern American soldiers with guns. I recognized a portrait of General Petraeus and a couple of others, mostly set in field situations and noticed a photo of Nancy Reagan on the wall.  There was a prim, buxom woman sitting at a desk and I made an offhand comment about the owner being a rather conservative guy with a war fetish.  She laughed and said that she owned the place.

We chatted for a few moments, a bit nervously, and I came away thinking that I had stumbled into a jungian "female obsession with the warrior" archetype.  And that I had truly met a person from the other side. I checked the company website when I got home and noticed a few Ron Paul videos amongst the solvents for sale and made several internal assumptions about how their clocks ticked.  My perception of the world, my associations and choices might make me an enemy in their internal landscape. I don't know.

I have been sleeping in my Rip Van Winkle world of Fallbrook for going on thirty years and wake up to find that the worm has turned and that maybe I am an artifact whose time has passed. I have been remarkably blessed, far beyond my worth, and yet I expect the game to conform to me, expect to land on free parking every time and pick up the five hundred dollars, expect to be kept from the  bumps and bruises of a life that has suddenly gotten much harder for all of us.  I am realizing that in this new world of ours I can't worry about two or three months from now or I will be a total wreck.  We are all grinding it out and many have been left for dead at the side of the road or have had their lives turned upside down. I AM LUCKY AND CAPABLE AND WILL SURVIVE. must repeat...

I sat at the bar of the Moose lodge the other day and nursed a cranberry juice. I am the weird sort of person who tends to only drink hard alcohol or beer when I am depressed. Rarely reach that level of need. Wine with a nice meal, but not to excess. I like to fraternize with people that work hard for a living, plumbers and dirt movers and nurses and such.  Anyway I didn't feel like drinking, just listened in to the inebriated cacophony like a voyeur or an author.

The stupidity index was really flying high that day, alcohol supercharging the mindless lunacy.  Enforced periods of turbofueled intoxication to break the drudgery of the daily grind. I turned to the guy on the barstool next to me, Karl with a K and said, "Karl, are these the people that are going to lead us out of the wilderness? Are you happy with this?" We looked at each other, he slowly shook his head  and shared the unspoken feeling that mankind, at least in our dingy little corner, was somehow strangely doomed. I slinked off my stool and left the bar after only a few minutes.  And don't tell me it's my choice of venues.  I have been to your tony uptown saloons.

I sat in my dirty van at the Shell station the other day and watched a woman in a Lexus spend ten minutes with a chamois cleaning off every fly speck on her immaculate image.  Ditto the guy with the Hummer. I admit I am a slob who shouldn't own a nice car, living miles up a dirt road, I would be cleaning and washing every day. Plus I don't give a shit.  But I grokked on the metaphor of the occasion - we are all polishing the containers, our packaging, our presentation to the world, the eighties teflon mythos, and yet the big joke is that there ain't much inside.  We are sadly lacking in internal content. Too busy on the treadmill to notice our naked emptiness.

I have been reading my friend Roy's facebook offerings of late.  He is really an excellent writer and I think we share many of the same neurosis. He is jewish or half jewish or his father was jewish, or something like that.  I know that we share some genetic material and predisposition. And I sense a kindred alienation. The diaspora wasn't necessary a physical removal. Narcissistic fellows that share my encoding have a need to separate ourselves from this schmutzig world of ours and to be "different" than the rest. Not to luxuriate with the rest of the pigs in the trough. To make an intellectual break, if possible.  But the sad truth is that we are all in the same trough.  We all bail together or die together. That's one thing that the drunks at the bar know that I am still learning. Like Ken Kesey said, there will always be more of those other people around.

I love my country, I love my world, as much as the next guy.  It just seems so easy nowadays to wrap yourself in a flag and create an evil cast of enemies. Saves those critical thinking neurons you might need for some other important task, some other day.

Happy 9/11.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If that doesn't work bomb them back to the stone age.


Anonymous said...

Ron Paul, Ru Paul, Paul Ruebens, Peter Paul Ruebens, Peter Paul and Mary...what's the difference. They're all orbiting in separate electron clouds, but around the same molecule, there must be some common ground and common concerns among the Pauls. Remember about the lady in the Lexus and the guy in the Hummer, they may be just as righteous as you but you will never know unless you live in their skin. Judge not.

I half expected to see a eulogy to Sam Maloof, I only recently learned he passed.

All the best, Doug

Anonymous said...

All the solemness and all the tears from all the people "proud to be American" on this day makes me want to puke.

I watch a single episode of The Reals Housewives Of Orange County, and, I too, want to fly jets into our skyscrapers. Syiid Qutb was wrong, but no less wrong than the Evangelical right.

Have I drifted too far from topic...?

I strive to remember 9/11 on 4/12, 8/16, and 5/21 just as much as I do on this day. Wish OC would do the same. roy

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,

You must have some grumpy readers who are bitching about the stories, but keep them coming. I love them. The hitchiker, the new one about the empath -- great fun, good characters and a kind of nostalgia that I share for another younger, braver (or simply unaware of dangers) self. I have been in chat rooms only a couple of times, but I was apalled by the rudeness and the downright nastiness of the comments. Everybody's a critic, as long as they dont have to look you in the eye.