Friday, August 20, 2010


I can feel my time in this apartment winding down in the way that a deadline bears down. There is work to be done that will not be much fun, but it will feel good to reach the end and move on. Ok, it won't feel good, because it would be an understatement to say that glenville has been an important part of my formative years. It will feel complete, finished, like when you close the cover of a long and arduous and great book.

I love my brother very much, and I realize more and more how much I want our lives to stay in close proximity, geographically and more importantly emotionally. He is Ore-gone tomorrow, and I am jealous of him, and of Papa who is already out there. I am missing the annual pilgrimage once again, as I have done several times in the past. It is not cliche to say that family is terribly important in so many ways, something that cannot be expressed enough.

The cooperative life starts for me in less than two weeeks, and it is something that I have been thinking about a lot. Talking with Mommy's colleague at her Editshare party last weekend about his experiences as a member of cooperative houses made me excited and more aware of the potential benefits and challenges. Delivering compost fodder every now and then to the compost orb in the backyard of my future home makes me excited. A backyard!!! I want a hammock, and a lounge chair to read in, and to have grill potlucks with friends. In my mind this next year will be an upgrade in many ways. It will take some work and communication and love and elbow grease to keep things running smoothly, but I have faith in the crew of BU students that we have assembled. Just think, in the coming spring we can plant a garden fertilized with the food waste that is in the process of breaking down now! The cycle will turn and turn full circle, the loop will finally be closed in some small way. We must start with small steps, and my ambitions of self-reliance must start somewhere, right!?

Self-reliance. What an interesting and appealing concept! I want to learn how to repair my bike, and can and pickle vegetables that I have harvested from my garden, and cut my hair, and repair appliances and machines and I could go on...I feel that I have already achieved some proficiency in the preparation of my food, so the next step will be to master its production. It's like the business model of vertical integration, except I am not a robber baron oil tycoon who gobbles up every step of the production of oil from extraction to refinement to distribution. No, no, I don't have such grand and greedy aspirations. I am one person who wants control over his life, and I think that the source of my nourishment is a good place to start.

I love weaving through traffic on my dear Maeve, sailing past cars stuck in traffic on the wind provided by two legs and a simple two-wheeled machine. That is self-reliance, right? Making cole slaw on my day off (this past wednesday) better than I have ever tasted, or even just bringing food to work every day. No, I don't want to order takeout, thank you very much!

Some quotes from Emerson's essay 'Self-Reliance,' as noted here.
"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other."
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."
"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."

ps- the New Yorker is great! I know many people have already come to this conclusion, but it has taken me a while to reach it. Two very note-able articles in the May 17, 2010 issue that I very much enjoyed today were:
"The Inventor's Dilemma," by David Owen
"The Poverty Lab," by Ian Parker
The first is a profile of an 'eco-minded engineer'/inventor, Saul Griffith, his work and many projects and ideas. The second is a piece on Esther Duflo, a young french development economist who focuses on randomized statistical trials and experiments designed to alleviate poverty. check them out!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Le dimanche matin tombe

"Did you see the words?...
You dress yourself out tonight
Getting tangled up in arms and legs
It's comfortable
Someone grabs ahold of you go "Ooo-oo-oooh!"
Should you go ho-o-ome?
There's something starting don't know why
In a house so cozy
Few words are spoken
Let's take our shoes off
And unwind
And there's minuets off in the background drownin' out
Eyes off ears off test the kiss goodnight.goodni-i-ight
Don't keep my loving on my mind
'Cause it's messy yes this mess is mine
Well mine is mess yours is maybe nine
Look we have similar stitches
Look we have similar frowns
Do the eldery couples still
Kiss and hug and grab their big wrinkly skin so tough wrinkly wrink-wrink-wrinkly rough?"

Perusing the blog of a family friend, Sylvia, I became aware of a recent tragedy in Afghanistan. Sylvia, living and working with her husband Axel in Kabul, is fine, but shaken. I don't blame her, and I am sending them both safe and positive energy.

Of course, Kabul is a much safer place than the border provinces where the killings took place. Without discounting the tragedy of this individual event, it is merely one violent incident among many others, too many to count or comprehend, perpetrated by those on every side of this conflict. After the details at the beginning of the article, these bits near the end caught my attention:

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since US-led and Afghan armed groups overthrew the Taliban in 2001. June was the bloodiest month for foreign forces in Afghanistan since then, with more than 100 killed...
Despite a record number of foreign forces in Afghanistan, standing at some 140,000 backed by tens of thousands of Afghan forces, the Taliban have extended their campaign out of traditional power bases in the south and east into the north and elsewhere in recent years.

The endless cycle of violence grinds on throughout the world, in some places more than others. With no end of the foreign invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in sight, we now have the highest number of foreign boots on the ground in 9 years. June was the bloodiest month in terms of foreign casualties, and July was the bloodiest for civilians.

Our 'mission' aside, lets just consider those statistics. Contemplate, if you will for just a moment, the death of one of your closest friends. Let that sink in for a second.

Now, think about the death of two thousand people, the number of U.S.-led foreign troops who have died in Afghanistan over the past 9 years....What if one by one every person you have ever met, in your entire life, dropped dead over the course of the next nine years?

The story of the civilian casualties of the war in Afghanistan is also grim. What if 830 of your acquaintances and classmates were killed or injured over the next month? That is how many Afghani civilians our war on terror claimed during July, 2010.

What if our 'mission' in the Middle East and elsewhere cannot be accomplished? What victory does the war on terror claim to pursue? The eradication of terror on this earth? The absurdity of such a goal would be laughable if it hadn't already claimed thousands and thousands of lives, and counting.

I am no political or military strategist, but I do like to think I am possessed of some logic and common sense. It seems to me that the more men with guns we send over to Afghanistan and Iraq the more graves, both there and at home, we will have to dig. Violence and hatred breed more roadside bombs, more attacks in the night, more death and destruction, no matter how much that violence is gussied up with the rags of democratizing press releases about order and nation-building. I want my country to face the truth, to acknowledge their failures past and present, and to get the fuck out. Plain and simple, we don't belong, at least not in our current capacity armed with bullets, bombs, and flags. The US of A is the biggest perpetrator of war, the grandest purveyor of terror, in the world today. We sell terror, in the form of weapons and tactics, to the highest bidders. We spread ideas about the ability of violence to solve problems with every deployment of peace keeping missions armed with rifles and camouflage.

Temporary solutions to complex situations do not last. "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold," mere democracy is loosed upon the world. I hope you feel safer when you sleep at night. Would you feel safe in your bed in Afghanistan or Iraq? Think about that the next time you wave your flag and toast your ideals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"You're just as guilty as them"

Who is anthony green talking to? In the original song, I am not sure, but he could be talking about The Giving Pledge.

40 billionaires giving at least half of their fortunes, that's a lot of money. hip, hip, hooray! I guess I should be appreciative of this pledge deal and the philanthropic efforts of Bill Buffet. I mean Warren Gates. Wait, uhh...nevermind.

I am just hesitant to get excited about it because I am not sure how all those billions will be put to use. Throwing money at a problem behind your 800-thread-count-egyptian-cotton-blindfold is, in addition to being an inefficient use of said cash, a good way to breed corruption and turn good things sour. The funneling of western aid money into Africa over the past 50 years, as explored by Dambisa Moyo, is a prime example of the destructive corrosive power of too much free money.

Hopefully the giving pledge is more than just a publicity stunt. I don't know, can we really even pretend to know or trust or understand these people? We will see eventually whether the intentions of Warren n' Bill are as good as they seem from the press releases and photo shoots. My reality is just so far removed from theirs that it makes me very skeptical. For an example of the relative proximity of Me versus Bill Buffet: Every cent of the ten dollars I spent on a delicious and much needed breakfast, for two, was begrudingly relinquished!

Ok not quite. So I paid a visit to Mike and Patty's (still up there on Yelp!) today on a whim, and I spent ten whole dollars cash. I had not been since last fall, almost a year ago, when I visited in September with a broken collarbone. In the end it was very much worth it. Good to see the old faces of Mike and Heather, still sweating and smiling and making amazing food in that tiny bacon-perfumed box, plus two new employees (mine and Patty's replacements you could say). Patty is taking a more backseat administrative role in the operation and thus works less in-store. One of the new girls (not very new, both have long outlasted me) only charged me for one 5 dollar sandich. My bill should have been 10.50; 5 plus 3.50 for the other, plus 2 for coffee. But I stuffed the whole 5 into the corn meal tip box without a second thought.

My north south classic was a hot creamy crunchy salty chewy mess of joy. Toasted english muffin with over medium egg, cheddar cheese, peameal bacon (cured, unsmoked, pork loin rolled in cornmeal, the "real" Canadian bacon), bacon, and garlic sauteed greens (collards n' spinach), mmm I want another. And the coffee is as good as it ever was, meaning it's still better than the coffee at Licks-I'm sorry guys, but check out M & P's.

This breakfast, mind you, was the perfect start to an otherwise beautiful day only slightly tainted by the effects of last night's Peabody party on my body. Just need to rehydrate, ok...And I was able to deliver an egg, cheese, n' tomato muffin, plus coffee, to Jill as she started her shift at Emack n' Bolio's on Newbury Street. I think it will help her get through the day. Me, I have the day off. Tomorrow too! I am thinking about poking around JP tomorrow, including stops at JP licks and BNB. Anyone have other recommendations?

Back to the billion-heirs for one moment. The most interesting part of the article I referred to above, for me, was this bit near the end:

"If the individuals on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans pledged half their net worth to charity, that would amount to $600 billion, according to Fortune magazine.
The United States has roughly 400 billionaires, about 40 percent of the world's total, according to Forbes."

Maybe we should call it the Billionaire List, because thats what it sounds exactly like. 400 people in this country hold sway over at least one billion dollars, and their total worth is approximately 1.2 trillion dollars, probably give or take a few billion. By comparison, the total GDP of the US in 2009 was 14.26 trillion according to the CIA World Factbook. That's a lot of money for 800 hands.

How about the fact that 40 percent of the world's billionaires are from the US of A? Does that strike you in any way? It makes sense, for we are clearly the best at amassing great amounts of wealth into as few hands as possible. And if we consume about 25 percent of the world's resources, we better have a long Forb-illion-heir list to show for it! These people have so much filthy stinking money they don't know what to do with it, and now they are trying to make up for the devious destructive means with which they amassed said wealth by giving it all away.

Well let me tell you this guys, the damage is done. In the end, you're just as guilty as them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


“Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

-Susan Ertz

Lazy sunday, wake up in the hour of 11 snooze. Fry eggs, coffee percolates, Lou Reed transforms. Fingertips stained blue from frozen midnight snacking. Fruit flies settle on dirty dish perches. To wash, or not to wash?

Delta flight number 141, arrives 4:44. "Is she red, is she white?" Today begins the month of August 2010, the last month of Glenville Manor...

or is it glenvile?
The roaches, the rent,
disgusting habits formed finished forgotten, Eugene Finkelstein and
Gateway Realty visits,
think freezing and frying, living and dying, loving and trying
inside the beautiful walls of this shitty apartment.

Inquisitive animals we are, these cats, mice, and men seeking shelter.
Some lodge for nights and weekends, others months and years we stay.
A place to ball home after life; I, one of 9, called it home.
My little box, attached to a box, one of 6 little boxes behind airlock glass doors.
Four windows open me to the world, four curtains cloister my world against yours.

the poetic nostalgia is already setting in. wait, we still have August! right?
but it is inevitably winding down, as summer does every summer. all we can do is listen to say anything, putz, go for a bike ride, cook, read, maybe wash myself or some dishes. the point is that summer will be back around in no time, and in the mean time we have 3 whole seasons to enjoy. I thought you should be warned, or rather reminded.

something to do on a sunday afternoon? how about building a bamboo bike?

going to pick up my father and his sweetie Lois from the airport in a couple of hours. Inchallah they will arrive at 4:44 in the pm, and then will call me from the cell phone lot where I will be waiting, snoozing or reading. I am excited to spend some time with Papa again, as in tonight! They are coming from Conakry, by way of a flight to Dakar, a flight to NYC, and finally a flight to Boston. He has been working and travelling since early June, and Lois joined him in Dakar for the last two weeks of said trip. Here's to safe travels on their final leg.

sometimes all we need are plans for sleeping in on a lazy sunday.