Didn’t We Used to Be Who We Are?

Greetings from the Lone Star State,

Air Travel

Air Travel

Last Monday, I flew down to Texas to spend the holidays with my family.  Flying always feels a bit strange to me, as if I’ve been “beamed” somewhere – magically, like in Star Trek.  In the morning, I stepped into the high anxiety chamber that is LaGuardia Airport amongst so many long faces and frumpy winter coats, then was magically transported to San Antonio International, where people walk slow and easy, wearing t-shirts.  I didn’t feel the miles in between, and feel like I missed so much of America along the way.  But hey, at least I got there quicker.  Zoom.

Courthouse in Jourdanton, Texas.

Them rascals may have stolen the county seat, but they sure built a fancy courthouse.

The other day, my mom and I were driving back to Jourdanton – 35 miles south of San Antonio – where my mother lives.  Jourdanton has a population of around 4,000.  It is the county seat of Atascosa County in the heart of cowboy country.  The earth rises and falls in waves and is covered with brush and giant squirming live-oak trees.  A lot of cattle were driven through the area in the olden times.  Many people here still live like cowboys, even if they don’t ride horses anymore.  Some still do ride, however, and will until the day they die.

However, one can’t say Jourdanton is the birthplace of the cowboy.  Citizens of Pleasanton – Jourdanton’s sister city 5 miles away – will tell you that.  In fact, the town’s official motto is Birthplace of the Cowboy.  It’s impossible to find the exact location (probably Mexico) where the first man (probably Mexican) that could be called a cowboy (vaquero, in Spanish) stood, but citizens of Pleasanton hold to the belief that the Great Stork dropped the first cowboy off on their turf.  So much so that it is a part of their identity.  Or, their previous identity.



Pleasanton was founded first, in the mid 1800’s, and was the county seat for many years.  Jourdanton wasn’t founded until 1909.  However, in 1910, the county seat was switched from Pleasanton to Jourdanton.  There are two different takes on the switch, according to who you speak to, and what wikipedia page you read.  But it’s basically like this:  Jourdantonians say a legal vote was held in favor to switch, and Pleasantonians claim the county seat was stolen from them, the county records being removed from their courthouse by a covert group of Jourdantonians in the dead of night.  As with the actual birthplace of the cowboy, it’s probably impossible to find out for sure which story is true.  But it’s probably like all Old West tales – both versions are false and both are true, the real answer being somewhere in the middle.In the century that has passed since the switch, the two towns have found a way to co-exist.  Jourdanton still has the county seat, along with the jail, and most of the feed stores.  Pleasanton has the newspaper, the movie theatre, and most of the churches.  They seem to serve each other well, while holding on to their individual identities.  Or, they used to.

Cattle used to graze here.

Cattle used to graze here.

The two towns are connected by State Highway 97 and the distance in between the towns used to be noticeable.  However, Jourdanton and Pleasanton are situated smack dab in the heart of the oil and gas fracking boom in South Texas, and everybody’s cashing in.  The once 7 to 10 minute drive of silence amid the magestic live oak trees has been replaced with the noisy shine of capitalism.  Business after business has popped up along every inch of the highway.  Streetlights have been added, and a countless stream of cars and trucks motor down the way – pull in and out of the shopping centers and fast food joints.  Work-out gyms, money lending and title offices, pawnshops, oilfield supply companies, and a ridiculous number of hotels have been built, too.  And, of course, at the heart of all the industry is the gargantuan Castle Wal-Mart – open 24 hours because King Walton knows the peasants don’t sleep.

Peasants' View.

Peasants’ View.

The space between Jourdanton and Pleasanton has been obliterated.  But most people down don’t seem to mind.   In fact, most are excited.  The economy is going like gangbusters.  The oil and gas industry has breathed new life in the two communities, they say.  They say it’s progress and prosperity.  But if this is progress and prosperity, then my own understanding of the terms has been grossly off the mark.  But what do I know?  People down here have seen lean times, and it is a fact that, in America, that healthy life is a wealthy life.  If someone down here chooses to cash in on the oil and gas boom, they can get an insurance policy and go to the hospital that is situated in between the two towns and get treated for the cancer they got in return for living that good life.

The old gunslinging rivalry between Jourdanton and Pleasanton is mostly held only by the older folks of the towns – some still truly and royally pissed off about the theft of the county seat.  But those old folks are pleasantly out of the way of all the joint commerce, tucked away in one of the area’s many nursing homes that have sprung up in the last few years.  But there is no new rivalry – or new form of the old one – for the younger generations to pick up.  There seems to be no identity at all for each town anymore, just something more like the mild amnesia brought about by suburbia.  And how can anyone – or community – fight if they don’t know who their opponent is, or more so, if they don’t know who they are?


Texas Live Oak Tree.

Oil booms mean fast money, and nothing has the time to take root around here.  Everything’s moving along like tumble weeds while the venerable live-oaks are dying.  And as more and more drilling companies clear huge swaths of the Brush Country to set up sprawling oil fields and truck yards – changing the landscape forever – soon it won’t even look like the Old West anymore.  No one will know who they are, or where they are.  And as we hobble about like toddlers, trying to find something sturdy to hold onto, The Old West – that place where misfits could find themselves and call a place home – continues to grow into an indiscernable wasteland, inhabited by Hell monsters nashing their coprorate teeth at you as you drive to something you used to call home but can’t anymore.My mom and I pulled into her driveway around sunset.  As soon as I got out of the car I could smell the fuel from the snake of vehicles on the highway.  The sky was a combination of orange, pink, purple and indigo blue – absolutely mesmerizing, save for the skeleton of a hotel being built.  But I could hear the evening coyotes yelping in the distance.  I pray they always will.

Shrinkng Freedom

Shrinkng Freedom

People are speculating that the current oil and gas boom will last 20 years.  It’s hard to think that far ahead, but I can easily think back, to when I was a boy growing up in Jim Wells County, 2 hours south of Jourdanton.  The county seat was Alice, and it was boom times back then.  One store after another shot up.  There was even a mall, and the two movie theatres usually had lines of people wrapped around them before showtime.  A Wal-Mart sprung up, and it was a high falutin time.  Then the boom busted, simple as that.  Alice whithered in no time.  The businesses went under, and the many empty buildings gave Alice the appearance of a ghost town.  The Fat Cats made their millions and left, but all the working men who took out loans and got mortgages, got married and had babies all went into debt and were left to wander about the emptiness like ghosts.I don’t know if Jourdanton, or Pleasanton – or the mutant creature they have morphed together to form – will face the same fate as Alice.  But people around here are acting like 20 years is gonna last forever, and that’s dangerous, for the Cosmos has no mercy for such folley.  But new ghost towns have always be on the horizon in America…each generation creating a newer Old West, as it gets harder to remember who we are, and easier to forget we’ve been here many, many times before.

Nameless child in an unknown land.

Nameless child in an unknown land.

Be well….

The Angle of the Sun

Merle Haggard - American Poet

Merle Haggard – American Poet

“If we make it through December,
Everythings gonna be all right I know,
It’s the coldest time of winter,
And I shivver when I see the fallin snow.”        –from Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”

The days are getting shorter up here in New York City, as they are everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.  The winter solstice will be here on December 21st, which will be the shortest day of the year.  Or, if you’re into the Mayan thing, it will simply be The Last Day.  But if the world doesn’t end on December 21st, the days will begin to grow longer and the flowers and trees and allergies will be flourishing before we know it.

December definitely got here before I knew it.  It’s hard to get up in the mornings on my days off, when I don’t set my alarm.  The low winter sun can’t seem to find its way in my apartment.  It gets real easy to lie under my warm blanket and stare at the wall and simply think about what I have to do that day, instead of actually doing it.  I hear various alarms go off.  I hear the neighbors – to my left, right, above and below me – shuffling around across the creaking floors, preparing for the work day.  On my workdays, I’m sure they hear my alarm, hear me creaking the old wooden floors.  I’m sure they hear me when I drop a pot, or coffee cup, or stub my toe.  Let’s just say that if I had to sell the apartment – not that I own it – I would describe it as “cozy and intimate.”


My Cozy and Intimate Studio.

But I shouldn’t cause too much noise for my neighbors when I get up for work, because I only work two days a week right now.  My friend threw me a bone and hired me in his warehouse.  It’s not much, but it’s something, and something – hell, anything – can make the short and foreboding December days move along without too many dark nights of the soul.



“I got laid off down at the factory,
And there timings not the greatest in the world,
Heaven knows I been workin’ hard,
I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my loose schedule.  It offers me a lot of time to write.  I’ve actually heard that some people make money writing.  I’m not sure where I heard that, but I’ve Googled, Binged and Asked Jeeves yet there seems to be a membership or club to join, or blood ritual one has to partake in to get these paid writing jobs.  So, I spend some of the time on my free mornings applying to jobbie-jobs – anywhere from office administration or construction work.  FEMA announced they were hiring workers to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.   I applied.  Hold on a minute….nope…no email from them, yet.

Professional Writer.

Professional Writer.

The other day – after a morning of drinking coffee and listening to the foghorns blow from the ships in the bay – I decided to make a public appearance in Bay Ridge, my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  I stepped out around 1pm.  The fog had lifted and the day was beautiful, clear.  To the southwest was the giant Verrazano Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island.  Just above one of it’s towering supports was the sun, hanging low in the sky.  It was midday, and the sun was at such a low angle the light came in through the brown leaves of the trees to lay an amber glow over everything.  It was quite beautiful, then a bit depressing, for that was as high as the sun would get that day.  But I enjoyed the beauty while it was there.  I put one foot in front of another and joined the rest of humanity.

Over coffee, I heard a guy named Joe say:

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do.  When I turned fifty, the Army sent me a letter sayin’ they wanted to give me money to get trained in computers.  So, I left my job and did it.  Now, I’m trained in computers and can’t get a job.”

Then I heard Mary Ann say:

“I’m scared to death ’cause I’m unemployed.  I’m sending out for jobs and stuff and I’m gettin’ interviews.  But then all that fear goes into the next interview and I blow it.  I’m just scared all the time.”

Finally, I heard Dennis say:

“You know, I’m lucky. I got the job.  But I’m workin’ all the the time, man.  I’m tired all the time.  My little girls are asleep when I’m home and I know they miss me.  But I gotta work what I’m workin just so’s they get what they need.”


The Verrazano Bridge

I decided to quit eaves dropping and headed home.  It was about 4pm and the day already looked done.  In the gathering darkness on 3rd Avenue, it was much easier to see the gutted storefronts where stores  – open for business just a few short weeks earlier – had gone out of business.  I turned down a street toward my apartment, lined with houses with American Flags flying in the yard.  The lights on the giant Verrazano were on – a giant strand of Christmas lights.

Actual Christmas lights draped on various houses began to light up as I neared my apartment.  There was something perverted about seeing the electric snowmen, elves, and reindeer enshrouded in red, green, blue and white strands of lights at a little after 4pm in the afternoon.  They’re much better to see in the dead of night.  One can almost believe the Candyland Chrsitmas World really does exist when it’s dark, freezing and a girl has her arm tucked under yours.  The lights pop out, magestic, as if they’re the only things in existence in the entire cosmos.


The Glowing Christmas Light of America.

In the glow of those lights, one can feel like a child again, one can feel the world is welcoming and just, one can believe their self-worth is not determined by their job or if they have a job.  Further into the glowing Christmas Light of America, one starts to believe there is a welcoming spot for everyone, and young, twenty-something white men from the suburbs who can’t – for whatever reason – fit into the mold of the Ideal American Male do not take assault rifles to an elementary school and murder 20 children who still believe in Santa Claus.  In the glowing Christmas Light of America, one can almost believe a world like that exists.  A block away from my apartment, I felt high on hope that that world really exists somewhere out there.  I continued to ride that high as I treaded even lighter through a crosswalk.  However, I was shaken from my stupor by a dude who ran the stop sign – in his BMW, on his cell phone.  He looked as if I was a mere annoyance on his way to something he badly needed – something he would even kill for – that lay somewhere beyond the lighted universe.

“Now I don’t mean to hate December,
It’s meant to be the happy time of year,
And why my little girl don’t understand,
Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here.”

I got back to my apartment and checked my emails.  Nothing from FEMA, not yet.  I put a can of something on the stove and took off my shoes.  I really wasn’t that bummed.  I’m going to Texas, afterall, and it’s probably better that I get a job after I come back in January.  So, I’ll be blogging from Texas next week.  They fly American Flags and drape Christmas lights all over the place down there, too.  Things are pretty much the same down there as they are up here, I have found.  The only exceptions being the sun shines at a hotter angle and people are a little more spread out down there than they are up here.  Both factors cause people to think differently.

It gets easy to think the sun itself is even smaller than Texas.  But it's not, however.

It gets easy to think the sun itself can be completely covered by Texas. But it’s only a trick of perception.

But there’s plenty of overworked and unemployed people down there, too.  Come to think of it, just about everybody I know is overworked or unemployed.  Come to think of it, everybody was overworked or unemployed when I was growing up.  It didn’t seem to matter who was president or if the TV told us times were prosperous or tough.  The people I knew where always over overworked or unemployed.  Like it’s always been that way.  Like it’s supposed to be that way.  Like it will never change.  But that’s just me going down the rabbit hole, which is easy to do with so much time on my hands – if I stay under the covers and in the dark for too long.  Nope, though it’s cold and dark now, the weather will most assuredly change.

“If we make it through December,
I got plans of bein’ in a warmer town come summer time,
Maybe even California,
If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”

Will we?

Will we?

Happy Holidays…

Are We Here, or Somewhere Else?

“Thank you for your trust,” said The Coffee Dude.


Next to bacon, the closest thing to heaven in the morning.

I looked at The Coffee Dude for some time after he spoke, trying to figure out what he meant.  He calmly looked down at me – smiling – from his position inside his little metal coffee cart on the corner of 40th Street and 7th Avenue.  I’d just paid $2 for a coffee AND a donut.  At a high falutin coffee chain across the street the same would cost about $4.50, and they don’t thank you for you trust over there.  After looking at The Coffee Dude smile at me for a few more seconds, I shook my head, thanked him, and accepted the compliment for what it was.  The Coffee Dude thought I trusted him.  Maybe I did.  I grabbed the coffee and the donut from him.

“Have a blessed day, my friend,”  he said with a thick Middle Eastern accent.  He rolled the “r” in “friend” which widened his smile even more.

It was hard not to smile back, so I grinned and thanked him through my less than pearly whites.  Then I turned from The Coffee Dude and faced the fast New York City morning.  The corner of 40th Street and 7th Avenue is at the heart of Midtown Manhattan.  For those of you who haven’t been to New York, close your eyes and imagine Manhattan Island as a really big bathtub, Midtown being the drain.  Then imagine the Statue of Liberty taking a bath in the tub.  Next, imagine Lady Liberty’s sexy french form slipping out of the tub and pulling the stopper.   Finally, imagine the water swirling down that drain, along with all the little bits of human she scrubbed off during her bath.  That is a street corner in Midtown Manhattan in the morning.  People rushing in and out of tall buildings along the cavernous avenues.  People rushing up out of and down into the subway station.  People rushing, rushing, rushing – helplessly going down the drain.


Yes, I googled “Statue of Liberty bathtub” and got this.

But it’s not like that around little sardine can that is The Coffee Dude’s coffee cart.  It’s total stillness there.  As I walked away, the lady who waited behind behind me said hello to him.

“Yes,” he replied, “is good to see you.  You want the same thing today, miss?”

“Yeah, the same,” said the lady.

I pointed my feet to my warehouse-job-of-the-month.  As I crossed the street, I realized I was still smiling.  I glanced behind me.  A blur of humanity crossed between me and The Coffee Dude’s cart.  But I’d taken a bit of his humanity with me.  And, though it’s been a few days, I’m pretty sure I had a blessed day.  Go figure.

On Friday morning, I caught the R train in Bay Ridge, like I usually do.  The train was filled with the usual types – Irish folks, Italian folks, or Irish-Italian folks – heading into Manhattan to work.  Bay Ridge out on the edge of the city, so the train was not packed and everybody had a seat.  Then I got off at 36th Street in Brooklyn to transfer to the D train.  There, I joined the swarming hoard of Latinos waiting for the next train.  The D train was coming from Brooklyn’s Chinatown, and was already shoulder to shoulder with Asian passengers when the Latinos and I boarded.  But we all got in, each of us contorting our bodies to fit in whatever empty spaces were left.  I found a metal bar to hold onto just before the train jerked into motion.  But others weren’t so lucky, ramming into other commuters to create a scene not unlike – I imagine – a particle accelerator.


Giant human sausage.

A White middle-aged woman pushed her way through the crowd.  Her hair covered most of her face – a hulking black coat hunched over her bent frame.  Dark sunglasses shielded her eyes against the rest of the world.  She  bumped and barged her way deeper into the car and MIRACULOUSLY found the only emtpy seat on the whole damn train, pushing a Latino lady out of the way in the process.  It was a coveted seat on the edge of the bench, so she only had to sit by one other person.  Eyes hidden, face hidden, body hidden, she sat, holding her invisible trophy.  Her isolation was complete, for then, she was safe and seperate from all of us.

The one person she had to sit next to was a young Asian girl who didn’t care who sat next to her.  Her head was pointed straight down at her smart phone as she played a video game.  She probably couldn’t even see the middle-aged woman.  The young girl’s hair fell all around her face like a curtain – her own shield from the world.  Her tiny fingertips danced obsessively across the screen of her smart phone – tap, tap, tap…tap…slide…tap, tap, tap…slide…

At the Atlantic/Pacific stop, the White hipsters and Hassidic Jews piled in.  When the doors finally shut, there was nowhere to move.  We were crammed tight – didn’t even need to hold on to anything.  This is the case, most mornings, on the D train.  You’re going to feel the heat of other people.  You’re going to know who did and didn’t brush their teeth.  You’re going to know who wore deodorant, who didn’t, and who’s religion forbade them from using deodorant.

The metal links of human sausage rocketed toward Manhattan.  As we crossed over the Manhattan Bridge – offering a clear view of the Statue of Liberty – everybody seemed to jerk and sway to the motions of the train with acceptance.  Packed train ride, 8 to 10 hours of work, packed ride home, then the weekend.  All seemed fine and no different than any other day.  Until someone farted.  Badly.


Cardinal sin of subway rush-hour travel.

At first, I looked around to see if anyone suspected me of the cardinal sin of subway rush-hour travel.  I was prepared to defend myself against anybody.  When certain that no one suspected me, I set out to find the culprit.  I looked for That Guy – or Girl (hey, it could’ve been) looking down, frozen, desperately trying to disappear.

But I couldn’t find That Guy…or Girl.  Because 7 out of 10 passengers were looking down.  7 out of 10 passengers were frozen.  7 out of 10 passengers, though maybe not trying to disappear, were far from the reality of the train.  Why?  Because 7 out of 10 passengers held a smart phone connected to earbuds that pumped a song, video game, or movie straight into their head – an electric blanket offering immeasurable seperation from the Latino, Asian, Jew, Irishman, Italian, Ironic White Hipster, Russian or Persian that pressed against their body.  Body heat can’t compete with such narcotic warmth.  I looked at the 3 out of 10 without a smart phone.  They just wiggled their nose and grimmaced, while staring vacantly out the window – possibly at Lady Liberty as she got out of the bath tub.

And 7 out of 10 is the number.  I’ve counted many times – on packed trains and on trains with barely 10 passengers.  In fact, I’ve counted a consistent run of 8 out of 10, here and there.  7 out of 10, no matter who’s on the train…and no matter what train.


The Post-Human Era.

I don’t mean to judge.  I really don’t.  I am far from a judge.  On paper, I’m nothing more than a semi-employed day laborer.  That means I’m unemployed semi of the time.  In between jumping from one warehouse lilly pad to another, I have a lot of time to count.  The people on the D train work hard and I’m willing to bet most want nothing more than to get through the day with as little surprise and heartache as possible.  If a smart phone helps them to do that, then why would I want them to put it away?  Why would I want to break their heart?  And, I confess, I always feel an immediate urge – as the D train pops above ground and ascends up the bridge – to pull my Samsung Galaxy III out and swipe my fingers all over the Facebook.  But I don’t and that’s my own decision.  But what I do, though, when I’m cramped in the train, is try to feel the energy of other passengers in contact with me – their warmth.  I try not to jerk away.  I try to accept the connection and play my little part in the bigger moment called Here and Now.  When I can put my fear aside and feel my fellow passengers, my shoulders don’t sag so much and the world isn’t so heavy, and loneliness becomes the most ridiculous concept.  But, hey – another confession – sometimes even I can get pissed off with having an armpit in my face, so I pull out my hand robot and veg over the pictures of your drunken birthday party the night before.

When I got out of the D train, I went straight to The Coffee Dude.  A lady was ordering.

“How are you today?”  she asked The Coffee Dude.

“Oh, I am the same,” replied The Coffee Dude, smiling.

Such a statement combined with such a smile must have confused the lady.

“The same?”

“Yes.  Everyday I am the same.  Whether day is good or day is bad.  No matter what happens, I am the same.”

She thanked him and left.  I walked up to the cart.



“Ah, one coffee, one donut?” asked The Coffee Dude, smiling, remembering.

Be well…

Refugees in the Court of Fortune

Hello Everybody,

At once, the Universe, and only a tiny part of it.

At once, the entire Universe, and only a tiny part of it.

I sat across from a bum on the D-train the other day.  The two seats next to him were vacant because nobody wanted to sit by him.  Everytime the train stopped at a station, the morning New Yorkers would rush in to find a seat.  They’d rush to the two seats next to The Bum, only to turn away once they noticed him, as if repelled from a magnet.  They’d bounce away, contented to stand as the train moved closer to the great paycheck that made everything fine and worth the struggle.

The Bum sat like a statue with far away eyes that most institutional bums possess.  He wasn’t trying to see the future, I was sure he’d already been there.  Nope, I’m certain he was looking through reality itself.  When people scurried away from him and his ripe odor, he weathered the breeze created from their desperate shuffle, never moving.

The Bum, moments after he put his companion away.

The Bum, moments after he put his companion away.

Then suddenly, as if an alarm clock went off in his belly, he jerked and the look of sudden rememberance came upon his face.  He rifled through his duffle bag, finally pulling out a pink, plastic squeeze toy the shape of a pig.  The little toy pig fit in the palm of his hand.  The pink, plastic, innocent thing looked so clean and fragile.  However, The Bum held the toy in his big dirty hand as if it were a child, totally dependent on him.  He gazed upon it with an affection so pure that I had to turn away from the scene for a moment.  It was his moment and I did not want to soil it.  When I finally looked again, he’d set the pig on the empty seat ahead of him, and like a child he pushed the pig along the seat, pretending it was walking.  His was talking to the pig very softly.  I could not here what he said but his smile and lightened eyes said it all.  And the pig showed total trust, confident that it was being taken care of by someone who loved it.  When we came to the next stop and more people rushed into the train car, he gently picked up the pig and held it to his chest.  Then he discreetly placed the pink toy pig back in his duffle bag – eyes careful, untrusting of all the unrealness around him.  When the train began to move again, he resumed the endless stare into that place called Truth.

At 34th Street, The Bum picked up his bag and exited the train.  He passed through the boarding hoard of Data Enterers like a ghost.  A young man came in and sat where The Bum sat, replacing that tiny beautiful moment where a bum played with his toy pig and both were happy, safe and free.  The young man just moved to the beat pumping into his head from his smart phone – in the same seat, but at a totally different location in Spacetime.

Nobody acknowledged The Bum as he walked through the crowd on the platform but he wasn’t asking for attention.  He looked to prefer invisibility as he set down his duffle bag and proceeded to rummage through a trash can.  He nearly had his head completely inside the oracle of filth as he pulled out newspapers, half-eaten muffins, emptied containers of yogurt.  No, he wasn’t asking for an audience.  He looked like he didn’t need to ask anybody for anything.  In fact, he looked like he’d stopped asking them a long time ago.

That night I walked down Broadway from Midtown to Union Square.  Christmas Consumerism was in full swing in the Big Apple.  Macy’s famous Christmas windows were illuminated in the night, displaying various tableau of all things Christmas.  Elves, reindeer, snowflakes – each window looked like its little electric world of wonder.  One window really caught my eye, however, and that was of a dancing Christmas elf holding a gift in each hand.  He sported the soulless thin smile of a wooden dummy.  He moved up and down on one leg, his hands lifting the gifts up and down.  I was stunned with fascination by the mechanical elf and drifted far away from New York as the rush-hour crowd bounced and frowned all around me.

Jester at the Court of Fortune.

Jester at the Court of Fortune.

At some point in my stupor, the elf transformed into the mighty Jester at the Court of Fortune.  As I watched, The Jester danced, bearing his gifts to some while denying others simply at whim.  I stood, dumb, hoping – almost begging – for the Jester to gift me when a hulking day-jobber lumbered into me.  I never got a good look at the guy – just saw his overcoat and briefcase swinging in the night.  I looked back at the Jester of the Court of Fortune but he was gone.  Just that unreal, untrue Christmas elf was there…up and down, up and down.

At Union Square, I saw a young woman begging for change by the subway.  She was cute, wore makeup on and her hair was nice.  Her clothes were hip and she looked put together.  She smiled at people as she pointed to her handmade sign that read:

“Homeless Girl – Need $$$”

I would have taken her picture, but also written on her sign was:

“No Photographs Without My Expressed Consent”

Spaced out dummy in Bergdorff-Goodman window.  Substitute photo for "homeless" girl at Union Square.

Spaced out dummy in Bergdorf-Goodman window. Substitute photo for “homeless” girl at Union Square.

I didn’t know the girl, but she looked to be slumming it.  I doubted she was really homeless.  Her eyes were clear and gazed upon this world, and they looked to know this world – understood this world.  She was still asking, and she was not shamed to ask.  She wanted the “$$$” that the Data Enterers slave 8 hours a day for.  She wanted the “$$$” that is one’s ticket for a seat in this world.  She was not a bum.  She knew how to look good.  More so, she rememered how to look good, perky – knew how to put herself on display.  Her nail polish proved she didn’t have trash can hands.  The fingers on her hands could still dial the number to Home, and someone from Home would still answer her call.  She had a long way to go before she would need a pink plastic toy pig.  But just how far does one have to go before one does?

On Saturday, I talked with an old Black man who’d fallen on hard times.

“I’m 63 years old and I just got outta Riker’s Island.  Again.  All ‘dem young people in there callin’ me pops and original gangsta’, while I’m sittin’ there wonderin’ how I got there.  Again.  What did I do to get there.  Again.  Police said I broke a car window.  Wanted me to cop a 2 year deal but thank god my public defender got it down to 90 days.  So I’m sittin’ in jail.  Again.  But I’m old now, see?.  And I get upset at those young people in there.  They crazy, like they don’t care who they hurtin’.  Then I think, when I was young, all the old people thought I’s crazy.  So I guess maybe things is the same as they always was.  But today, everybody’s livin’ like they’s refugees.”

Later, I walked down 5th Avenue from the Plaza Hotel to Rockefeller Center.  If you’ve ever been in that part of New York in December you know that it is packed shoulder to shoulder with Middle Americans who made the Pilgrimage to the Mecca of American Christmas.  The buildings were decorated with beautiful Christmas lights.  The store windows – such as Bergdorf-Goodman’s – were decked out with immaculate tableau – some were real works of art.  However, looking up to see the lights, looking to the side to see the windows, or looking inside yourself to smell the roses could be detrimental to one’s health, because the crowd had become one entity – a throbbing creature – and a body could get trampled if he or she stopped moving their feet.

The Dummies in the windows at Bergdorff-Goodman have grown rather tiresome of the Trobbing American Monster.

The Dummies in the windows at Bergdorf-Goodman have grown rather tiresome of the Trobbing American Monster.

Thousands of us moved in unison, southward toward Rockefeller Center and it’s giant Christmas tree.  After a while, I stopped wanting to do with any of it and desperately wanted out of the scene.  But I couldn’t escape.  I had to go with the crowd.  I was a mindless, rather irritable part of that Throbbing American Creature by the time we made it to the tree.  However, when finally in the presence of the giant green electric monolith, the child awoke in me.  I was happy to see the big Christmas tree.  I remembered how excited I was when I was a kid in Texas on Christmas morning.  I would wake up and run to our plastic tree and stare at the presents.  I remembered seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center on TV.  New York City –  and the rest of the world for that matter – seemed so far away.  I remembered being a child, carefree and unaware that the world will trample you if you can’t keep up with it.  But I didn’t remember any of that for long, because some angry father rammed me with his child’s stroller.  So I moved along.

Mecca of The American Christmas.

Mecca of The American Christmas.

We all moved along and soon we’d ceased to be the Throbbing American Creature and were little individual humans again.  We were from all over the country – even South Texas.  The cops strung ropes at the crosswalks, corraling us until it was time to cross the street.  We didn’t care.  We were all very tired, as if we’d all completed ardous journeys from far away lands.  Besides, the police knew what was best for us – sending us across this street, across that street.  Go over here.  Wait over there until further instruction.  Halt!  Until we tell you where to go.  Now, go!

We did as we were told…just like refugees.

Be well…