Tag Archives: politics

Presidential debates and a bit more

Ahhh, a night out on the town with Larry Fondation, and it might not be that late but the drinks were certainly flowing this evening. So it feels late. And if anyone felt like arguing the point I might even argue given my current state, but I suppose hard facts would dictate that indeed it is rather early. And I am a sucker for lost causes perhaps, the Irish in me for sure, but I couldn’t in all conscience argue this one. If I were with my brother T at this moment, we’d be in the kitchen making beans on toast with grated cheddar on top and possibly hot sauce, but I’m in America now, and on my own, and the baked beans just don’t taste the same here. So I’m writing instead, and then to bed.

We watched the presidential debate, the dodgers reigned supreme in most downtown bars, it was a bit of a quest, but the bar at the Sheraton turned out to be golden, so we watched it there. My Jack and coke was mostly Jack, so consider yourselves warned. And they were both good in the way that all politicians are good, they spin like little tops and tell you what they want to hear, and it’s only your critical thought and deeper knowledge that separates the two. And given my own critical thought, McCain was incredibly infuriating in his hypocrisy, but he hit the right notes for the American public…less government, I agree. Hope, I agree. Less spending, I agree. If we stopped killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan and escalating our military presence in the rest of the world, well! We could spend half as much, but put it into health care that works and if you scrapped no child left behind and channeled money into education, and housing, well, if you actually funded HUD fully and cut the corruption, what could we not do? Halve our spending while providing proper health care, education, housing…billions on the war machine could be much better spent elsewhere. Of course, that’s not what he’s saying. I don’t know where he plans to cut spending, but it’s not the war, it will be on the backs of working folks of course. And I don’t know how he can say we need a change when it’s his party in office, or that they stand for less government when it’s his government that brought us the patriot act and no child left behind, they’ve invaded two countries and called up every army reserve, hired hundreds of people to tap our phones, and have planned out what every teacher should be teaching for every minute of every day, and they say they’re for less government?

And so I do believe Obama is better…I have a more complex analysis of course, but it’s…er…late. Don’t make me argue. It hurts but I think voting for him is important, because I don’t think he’ll manage to do what should be done, but the alternatives frighten me. Some folks on the left argue that things should be allowed to go to hell and then the people will rise…the ones who argue that are always the ones who know they will not be sleeping in the streets, waiting in lines at the unemployment offices, struggling to feed their kids, I rather dislike those people. I think I’m united with most of the country on this, which is why the left has been so useless for so many years. If the revolution comes you know they’ll end up on the wrong side protecting their interests because they all have money, they’ll deserve what happens to them.  I don’t think fascism is that far away, and they won’t be the ones getting strung up.

That’s a digression though. I actually enjoyed it when McCain claimed that Colombia is our number one ally in South America and we must sign a free trade agreement with them, and Barak riposted that the Colombian government has been busy assassinating labor leaders (and so many others, how on earth could anyone consider them our greatest ally? An utterly corrupt government that employs death squads, torture, assassination and grows richer and richer every day? That’s my own comment, not the candidates). Not many politicians would do that, I must admit. Or promise to insert enforceable labor laws and protections into international trade treaties. I don’t know if he’ll do it, it’s doubtful he’d succeed even if he tried given the machine that is congress, but even introducing that into mainstream debate is good. Ha, makes you reassess your belief in what is good. We should be asking so much more, but a corrupt two party system lowers your expectations.

So. To conclude this rather ranting piece of writing, I think the republicans will be happy with McCain and the democrats happy with Obama, the rest of us rather unhappy with both. Hopefully the rest of us are leaning leftwards, there are a number quite enthused actually. My cynical self, well, don’t get me started on elections, but I rather like watching such enthusiasm. I’m like the jaded star of a good noir novel, sometimes I feel like the femme fatal but I’m probably the poor john…er…johnette. I’m not manipulative so that leaves femme fatal right out, and as I say, I’m a sucker for lost causes. Not that Obama is a lost cause, he’s got a great shot and I think he will likely win. It’s real change and real equality and real distribution of wealth is the lost cause, though I’ll argue it’s not lost any day of the week…life would be hard if I believed it were utterly impossible. People have to take power for real change to happen though (what politician will give the people what they ran for office to get?), and the questions remains, will they?

We didn’t talk about that question the rest of the night really. We talked about bar fights and Boston and hooligans and Flannery O’Conner, I believe my plan to remake LA as the center of the new noir is well on its way, I couldn’t ask for more from a night really. We went to Casey’s Irish Bar and Grill and it was alright, and then a bar on 7th…a hundred class whiskeys on the menu from $7 to $140 a glass, plaid carpeting, dead deer heads on the wall, two pool tables that were being played by amateurs, a crowd we couldn’t quite figure, live jazz, a beautiful bouncer with handcuffs prominently displayed on his belt…I enjoyed it. Not obviously hipster, there was even a guy there with longish blond hair and a white polo shirt tucked into his khakis. Where the hell did he come from? A good mix as far as race went, it was good. And home early, to write a blog and then fall fast asleep…

One degree to Marlon Brando

I wanted mariachis and they came. I have been wanting mariachis for days, life has been too sad and difficult and desperate to hardly think about seems like. Deep currents of tragedy overlaid by swift singing ripples of minor stress…and so even small stupid things lately have felt umanageable and I haven’t managed them, they knock me endways as much as…just today I found out about another death, another family tragedy, another person I love destroyed by grief and…and if I were a little weaker, I should undoubtedly have never left my bed at all for some time now.

So to be drunk and singing

Por tu maldito amor,
No puedo terminar con tanta penas
Quisiera reventarme hasta las venas
Por tu maldito amor, por tu maldito amor

Along with other drunk people, thank fuck the gold room is not yet completely gentrified and there are still plenty of people there who know the words, and even though you’re singing about a cursed love and how you’d like to cut your own wrists, or perhaps because of it, it makes you happy…its own brand of happiness, bitter-sweet, shared pain pouring out of you with the melody and you know everyone else singing along and calling out their heartwringing ah-ha-ha-has during the instrumentals has scraped this bottom along with you.

And funny how in spite of the depths and the bottom I am scraping, I can still manage to enjoy myself. When I stop thinking. L.A. is amazing. Last night I saw the first half of Reds over at Charles’ place, how have I never seen the Hollywood movie that features (though briefly) Emma Goldman, the Wobblies, the Russian revolution? Warren Beatty’s labour of loved filmed, I believe, in 1979. Jack Nicholson, Beatty, Diane Keaton, a young Kevin Spacey…no wait, he was in hear no evil see no evil with Richard Prior and Gene Wilder that I saw earlier in the day while babysitting, also a great movie. I raced back for Reds from Norwalk and baby Jones (and the biggest diaper of shite it has ever been my misfortune to change), But Reds…I’m loving it, I’m even loving the very Hollywoodness of it, as I think that makes the events actually accessible to the American public, it’s very clever. And then meeting up with the Oaxacan folks staying over to promote their book that we are publishing (check it out at https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=47), we all went down to a Fandango in Whittier and the music was still going at 2 am when we left, and every time I hear those folks they sound better. An event today…and then drinks and dinner and drinks and more drinks and open mike night at the Shortstop and then the taco truck then more drinks. I met a Black guy who works in fashion and sings exactly like Morrisey, I met a white guy who was convinced Obama would win in a landslide and wanted to explain exactly how he knew in excruciating depth, and I met an old guy who was in the Wild Ones with Marlon Brando and carries around a photo of the two of them, along with a printout showing the grammy winners for I do not know what year…the year he won that grammy for best instrumental. He did stand up at the open mike, old style quick delivery memorized jokes, you know the one where the three guys walk into a bar…and they were all wildly inappropriate, and most of them quite funny as well, though they made people nervous. He himself was wildly inappropriate and he made me slightly nervous…we didn’t talk about why I am not turned on by porn, or what does turn me on apart from music and good conversation…he said we had both. Luckily the lesbian who had gone on and on about the feel of someone else’s fingers on her thighs walked by and he seemed to like her much better. I did find out that the prostitutes at the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood are the very best…

The other highlights were just the immense courage of everyone who could get up in a bar and perform in front of everyone else, they were all good enough to be quite enjoyable. And the three guys singing Van Morrison with the amazing hair, old school western hipsterized outfits…my fav was the one in the skinny red jeans and white pointy cowboy boots…he had the hip mullet going on. I know it seems like an oxymoron and it really is, but it’s not your red-neck mullet or your lesbian mullet, it’s a new feature in an old familiar style.

But conversation sparkled and I laughed as I haven’t laughed for some time…it was a great evening. And we ended up at the gold room singing por tu maldito amor and I was happy.

The radical thought on the wall

“Put down your weapon and come out with your hands up.”

There is a wailing of sirens. The helicopter circles endlessly, it has been doing so for twenty minutes. The megaphone comes through loud and clear, the house is at most two streets over I think. This is when I hate Los Angeles. Some poor fool holed up in some shit building, and if he’s not smart he’s going to be shot tonight. Or she, I suppose he could be a she, but he almost never is.

It’s sweltering. Hot like Arizona hot during the monsoons, not the white and blinding oven heat that I rather enjoy, but a slightly sticky heat. Nothing as bad as the East Coast though. I’ve worked right through it, got so much editing work done today I’m quite a happy woman though this weekend I have a lot to pull off and I’m not quite sure how well it will go.

Siguen los pinches helicopteros.

So I’m working on a map of radical thought, it lies in different coloured post-its spread across my wall. It is the foundation for my upcoming literary tangle with combining theory and practice. For money, my first paid article. I’ve been mostly a practice girl myself, but I think it really is time to take a good look at where we’ve been, and where it has brought us, and why we are still so fucked. And when people label themselves or others as this ist or that, I’d really like to have a firm handle on what the hell that means…apart from the fact that such labels have been rendered ludicrous over the passing years, and also that maybe they’re not actually working in the trenches. Still, in the trenches you forget to look up, you have no time to think, you’re not always aware of where you’re headed and how exactly you believe you might get there. And so organizing organizations seem to have a tendency to devolve into service because the emergency is always there, and it’s just easier. It’s such a huge weakness. So I’m doing my map and thinking through all this stuff again and it’s been good so far.
More sirens.

So I knew, but never quite…hm, how do I say what I want to say? I knew, but it never ever struck me before that Gandhi was only 1 year older than Lenin. That their struggles were contemporary, along with their philosophies. And I don’t know if they ever commented on each other. Why do I not know that? In my head these movements are entirely compartmentalized…Europe and to a certain extent America together (as so many Europeans fled here until we deported them back), Asia, India, Africa, South and Central America…separate, isolate. They seem like different eras almost, though the separation is philosophical and geographical only. There must have been connections, I shall have to find them. Or perhaps the arrogance of the Western World simply continued supreme…

The helicopter is still circling. They haven’t made demands in a while.

So you look at Europe up through the Russian Revolution, the Spartacist League, the Spanish Civil War, and all the theorists and philosophers have some connection to struggle. There are a number of people who are self-educated and brilliant and came out of the working class. And then it all gets more and more abstract, Marxism moves into the Universities and sits there writing to itself. The people doing stuff are elsewhere, in other countries around the globe. Or perhaps still in Europe, I just haven’t sifted down to them yet. But they aren’t like their forerunners, the heady times after 1848, actually perhaps since always when theorists tended to actually trundle themselves down to the barricades, rouse the masses, spend quality time in prison…is it just that they’ve all been bought out now?

The helicopter is still circling. It’s funny, but after hearing so many refugees unburdening their pain and fear when I worked at Carecen, I’m rather deeply afraid of helicopters, they are the perfect and ultimate killers. You can’t really hide from them. It’s not a surface fear because it’s not rational – in that I am almost certain a helicopter shall never come for me though I never say never; but in that it’s not my own memory. It’s like a nightmare fear that’s more powerful for belonging to a mass of other people and passed on to me slowly slowly through stories and tears and memories of the dead. It hides in my stomach and I don’t even quite realize how much it’s affecting me until my stomach starts hurting, and I can feel my shoulders around my ears. And I wonder that in this country we cannot understand that no one who has been in it truly escapes from war.

The helicopter is still circling.

At any rate, the other thing that seems clear is that a lot of these guys were just assholes. And they all hate each other. And Spanish communists somehow figured that anarchists were a greater threat than fascists, and did Trotsky really tell Martov he belonged in the dustbin of history with the other pitiful isolated individuals? What a dick. Better than shooting him, though he shot his fair share of people as head of the red army didn’t he? Did he have to destroy Makhno? Mao, Stalin, Hoxha (he was shooting his comrades in the resistance to eliminate competition even before the war was over)…all assholes. Some may argue that the revolution needs blood and ruthlessness to succeed. I think that perhaps it’s just that being assholes, these guys had to rise to the top quickly or be forever shut out and outcast because people just didn’t want to have them hanging around. You know they were the kind who went on that same old rant over beers that everyone was so tired of hearing, or perhaps they didn’t even drink, just ranted and were all self-righteous and lacked any ability to listen to others or laugh at themselves. It’s my (rather bitterly flippant) proposal for the asshole theory of…

The helicopter has left! After an hour. No shots. No death. Relief.

So, the asshole theory of failed revolution. Or why we are still fucked. I rather like it, after all, assholes want power, it’s the only way they can keep friends and sleep with attractive people. I saw Kissinger on the Daily Show, and he’s the rightwing version of this, the man has not a humorous bone in his body, he speaks in a monotone, he’s not at all attractive. Not only is he an asshole, but he’s a boring asshole. And yet he kicked it with the rich and famous all because he rose to the top, and power was enough to overcome every other natural deficiency.

Another helicopter, the same helicopter? And it’s fucking circling again. I guess the life and death confrontation continues and the helicopter just had to…refuel? Moonlight for the filming of some new Hollywood smash? Catch a quickie car chase?

Anyways, I’ve written enough now I think…I’ll come back to the delightful eccentricities of some of the older generation of thinkers and doers in another blog. I got the Maltese Falcon in the mail from netflix today, I suppose it will go well with the damn helicopter.

And it’s still circling. I can never fall asleep to helicopters, even after all of this time in L.A., it could be a long night.

Selling books

It’s tough, it’s a tough business. I spent all of Sunday at the West Hollywood Bookfair, and all on my ownsome as well, though it gave me time to think. And resulted in one book being stolen while I was distracted…a cookbook of low-fat vegan deserts, go figure. I hope they choke on their carob brownies of course, as stealing from any independant publisher is a cardinal sin, especially from my broke self! But I still found it funny. At any rate, we did pretty well I think.

I got there way too early since I’m all new at this, didn’t bring enough stuff, and had far too much time on my hands. And I soon realized that I was sitting next to the Ayn Rand folks, ha! They even gave me some good advice on how to make it look like I had brought enough stuff to fill the two very large tables I was given, and were very complimentary on the aesthetics of my display. They were giving a lot of stuff away…you’d think given Miss Rand’s philosophy they’d be busy proving the worth of their wares by selling it for top dollar…it’s the market that decides value after all! Maybe they figure propaganda works like heroin. It finally got better when the show started, a little old lady singing folk songs in russian, followed by readings of russian poetry, I really enjoyed that bit, hugely, though i couldn’t hear too well. Russian poetry is amazing, though not being close enough, I am not sure what they were reading, it looked like books so I imagine Pushkin and maybe just maybe Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and Mandelstam and…I love Russian poets. I love the fact that the marquis was packed full of older russian folks to hear poetry.

The people watching was good, you could spot the well-kept and expensively maintained hollywood types, no one exciting though. The police wandered by. They didn’t think much of my stuff, though i thought about trying to sell them a real cost of prisons comix. A jedi knight walked past, followed by vader. A lot of couples were wandering around, and i thought again to myself, how do so many couples look alike?? Is it that people are just looking for themselves in someone else? I think that must be it, or perhaps their expressions come to match each others over time or…I don’t know. But too me that seems a horrifying fate, I’d rather be with someone very different who is always making me think new thoughts, try new things. And who doesn’t make me feel like I’m looking at myself in a mirror when I stare into his eyes. The absurd was not missing of course, like the woman with the dog carrier in camoflauge olive and pink, and her wee silly dog wearing some frilly dress thing with rosebuds on it. And the old guy who looked at my books with disgust, we had mumia postcards and he snorted and said that that guy would slit my throat if he could. I smiled. Then he asked me if there were any right wing bookstalls there, and I happily sent him along to the Ayn Rand folks next door.

The best folks there were the booth opposite to me and to the left. Smart gals productions. Their booth was freestanding, and they set up cloth to hang down on all sides, they hung little stars from the roof…and I’m thinking snidely to myself, ha! damn hippies. Bet they’re selling tiedye and clothes made from old saris…but no, they took the two tables down, opened up their bags and pulled out a large perfectly fitted booth size mat and lots of pillows. Then they proceeded to loll about on pillows, and read. One of them was reading Vonnegut if I am not mistaken. A couple of people came by, sat down, chatted. And when I say a couple I mean two. All day. And that is all they did. It actually seemed quite agreeable to lie on pillows in the middle of a bookfair on a beautiful sunday and read, so I had quite a lot of respect for them as they packed up. Though I am curious to know just how you make a living at that, I rather imagine they don’t.

Anyways, this is the happy stuff, even apart from the economy life has been sucking, lucky for everyone I don’t write about that shit.

Sheepherders and the CA Minimum Wage

So I’m doing a wee bit of research for a fellowship I’m applying for…money is money, and money paid to do something akin to what I want to do is good money so I’m applying. So I’m trying to explain the abysmal situation that most working folks in LA find themselves in, and from there heading down the ladder to all those who are sometimes with work, out of work, unable to work. And what my writing might be able to do about it…I’m writing a good line to be sure, but it’ll take a hell of a lot more than writing for damn sure.

At any rate, I was looking some stuff up about the California minimum wage and discovered this juicy tidbit from off of the official California Department of Industrial Relations (a misnomer if the below quote is anything to judge by…you can read all about it yourself at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_minimumwage.htm):

Q. What is the minimum wage?

A. Effective January 1, 2008, the minimum wage in California is $8.00 per hour.

For sheepherders, however, effective July 1, 2002, the minimum wage was set at $1,200.00 per month. Effective January 1, 2007 this wage was increased to a minimum monthly salary of $1,333.20. Effective January 1, 2008, the minimum monthly salary for sheepherders will be $1,422.52. Wages paid to sheepherders may not be offset by meals or lodging provided by the employer. Instead, there are provisions in IWC Order 14-2007, Sections 10(F), (G) and (H) that apply to sheepherders with respect to monthly meal and lodging benefits required to be provided by the employer.

Yeah, I thought that was pretty sweet. Sheepherders. I’m glad they’re taken care of, or are they? I suppose a minimum monthly means they can’t be paid less then that for their work…how many hours do sheepherders work anyway? The ones in the bible seemed to be on pretty much 24/7 but it’s been many years since I spent time reading about them…

Actually this minimum wage takes care of no one really. A full time worker will earn $16,640 a year. That means a mom with her two kids is living below the federal poverty limit even though she is working full time. Though I guess she’ll be better off working at Burger King than herding sheep. Perhaps.

It’s really too bad that the Department of Industrial Relations’ Frequently Asked Questions section doesn’t include just how people are expected to live off of under $1,400 a month when the average 2 bedroom apartment in LA is now renting at $2,100. Forget about healthcare, car insurance, clothes, utilities, food…

For general info on just how badly you are fucked on minimum wage look at California Progress Report 2008, of course, the folks earning minimum wage already know all that.

Night

I love the night, there is something about it…and there is something about being out in the darkness, out in the city at night, perhaps because this is LA and there are so few people on the streets, perhaps because I am a woman. But  I wandered Glasgow as well, I love traveling lonely through the darkness. There is something transgressive about it that only adds to the joy of just wandering streets without really being seen, passing houses where life is being lived inside and you remain the outsider, alone, free. It is different on my bike of course, more speed, more focus on getting from here to there, more wind against my skin and less time to think…I like both, but certainly I feel safer on a bike, I feel that I can go more places and stay out later then I might try on my own two feet. I can’t run so fast in chanclas, and I am realistic about my ability to defend myself though i admit to occasional dreams of invincibility. But in the night you feel part of the long tradition of writers who wander sleepless through their cities, who collect images to put onto paper, who make foreign streets live and breathe so that you feel that you have also walked them…I feel utterly alone in the darkness, and yet at the same time part of something, united with others across time and space, it is an extraordinary feeling that I treasure and that keeps me up long past my bedtime.

I have had three nights of brilliance, and I am happily exhausted. Wednesday out with Larry and I drank far too much of course, paid for that the next day but I learned that Thomas Wolfe was 6 foot seven and wrote standing up leaning on his refrigerator and using it as a table, he scribbled a handful of words on each page and let them fall into a crate…and he delivered his manuscript to Scribner like that, in crates upon crates. We talked about what it means to be a writer, what it means to be an editor…as someone that goes over sentences time and time again, who seeks perfection, I can’t really imagine how such a writing process is possible, it fascinates me, and is the finished product, refined and cut down by a third to a half…is it his or the editors? Raymond Carver’s stories as well are lean and spare and terse due in great part to his editor as well…I knew the editor’s names on Wednesday, I will look them up believing them of great importance but not tonight.  Tonight I was filming Gary interview Larry and Denise…talking about writing and politics and then we drank a few bottles of wine and talked about Chandler and where he wrote and how, and we talked about the FBI and the CIA and Guatamalan immigrants and Bukowski and Roman Polanski and the Maltese Falcon and how there were two previous versions of it, and how To Have and Have Not was one of Hemingway’s worst stories and yet such a brilliant film…last night I was out with Chris and Charles and talking about politics and Dark Night, Watchmen, old movies and anarchist politics. In short I am fulfilled, meaningful work done for love alone, work that will change the world, that gives me hope and happiness, that is real and true and good. And good conversation about words, writing, theories, art, movies, conversation that challenges what I think and adds so much eccentric brilliance to what I know…I am so glad it is possible to have both. To me this is what I’m fighting for really.

And I have the night, it is mine to pass through, to exult in.

Living well in L.A.

You doubt it no? Disbelievers…L.A. can sometimes be one of the best cities in the world, and I say that because of everything I have ever written about it, both heartbreaking and heartlifting, who would want only one or the other in their life? You’d cut your wrists with the first and stare at the world through the translucent walls of your bubble in the second without ever truly living. This weekend I remembered once again why I love it so much…again full of writing and struggle and dancing and art and friends and dragon boats and…I can’t even tell you how much fit into this weekend.

Political truth (my own truth with a little ‘t’ though I think it might deserve capitalization): every community should have a central place to gather, to laugh, to eat, to dance…it is the distance between us that makes control so easy, that makes poverty such a burden, that allows each of us to suffer believing that we are alone…the more we come together the stronger we will be, and the better we can plan.

Personal truth: happiness could easily be as simple as live music every weekend, surrounded by friends that are family, and a little bit of dancing, preferably under the sky. And if the music be a mix of jarocho and cumbias and zapoteada and some old mariachi favourites to belt along with…well, so much the better.

Combine those two and you end up with my Saturday between 11 and 2 in the neighborhood I have worked in for years upon years and where we had established the Displacement Free Zone, saje and the land trust threw a little block party and it was small but lovely and we danced, first to jarocho with it’s amazing politics and message and it was a joy

and then to…se me olvide agarrar su tarjeta, I shall have to find out who they were…to the backdrop of Henry’s market. You can buy pretty much anything at Henry’s, and I mean anything. The Harpy’s feel pretty strongly that their tag needs to be covering that clear green wall, which is why it is white down below. I’d like to suggest they add a red stripe and an eagle, there’s no other excuse for such a shade of green…

and here is one of the women I most admire in the world, who danced the entire time and knows how to zapotear like no one, and has more heart and courage and knowledge than almost anyone I know…beauty along with it:

Monic dancing…

So I wasn’t sure the weekend could get much better…but I went over to Bev’s after. The fact I had destroyed my bike’s innertube first thing in the morning made this a bit slower, and it made me a bit sad, but I overcame. And then I was stung by a wasp on the walk over…how many years has it been since that happened? Took me back to the old desert days, I have been stung by almost everything but I shall tell those stories later. Or never. People who didn’t grow up in glorious yet hostile environments where everything can hurt you rarely seem to enjoy those stories. So I hung out happily sorry for myself with some ice in a towel pressed against my shoulder. Wasps hurt a wee bit more than I remember.

Through a strange and complicated turn of events Bev and Samantha were going to be rowing in the Dragon boat races at the lotus festival in Echo Park and had come back from practice, so we all headed over to a BBQ at one of their new team-mates’ houses. Turns out that everyone else rowing had worked for Mayor Bradley back in the day (and I mean back in the day), so the BBQ that we (well, I) had crashed turned out to be a more formal sort of dinner with the most amazing food. And then council member Wendy Gruel turned up with her family. Now this may not seem so exciting to most, but you have probably not done as many delegations to city council members where you sought to speak to them in vain about important issues, or carried out long power analyses where Gruel was invariably one of those that should be on our side but could always go the other way…at any rate, the irony was delicious, as was the wine. Also turns out that the following day’s race was to be a race to the death against Gloria Molina’s office, and in fact Michael (enthusistic team head), had flown in from DC just to paddle in this race and destroy the Molinistas in this rematch (after 15 years or so)…turns out me and those with me were all too young to remember Bradley but a few of us also had some serious beef with Molina (the rest could care less), so we joined together in a toast to the county supervisor’s bitter and inglorious defeat…

You’ll have to wait a bit for the outcome of that, first because I want to see the effect on my readership (cliffhangers seem to work for the networks after all), second because I’m tried, but most importantly because we then had to go see Luke in his play/sketch comedy “Touched in the Head” in a tiny theatre on Santa Monica, and we laughed…there was a fabulous sketch about the horrors of cat rape, and the victims were Tony the Tiger and Garfield and Tom and the Cat in the Hat…every male cat you can imagine in fact. My other favourite was a pyromaniac chola who comes to give a motivational speech to 1st graders about all the things they should set on fire when people talk shit to them. If it hadn’t been the last night I would have recommended it highly!

Still not done, cos it’s almost Laura’s birthday, so it was off to Highland Park to celebrate it with her and a ton of other people…there were cumbias playing in the front room, old soul playing on the back patio, watermelon soaked in vodka and negro modelo and rum mixed with lots of other things, there were friends and family, people I knew and people I didn’t know at all, all of them the kind of people you’d like to know. We left just after midnight, I was tired and Bev was paddling for glory and Jose just went along with it…

A brilliant day yesterday. Today was brilliant too. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow…

Save

Save

Colour and Invisibility

A man came up to me today while I was waiting for the blue train, leaning against my bike and reading. He nodded towards the handful of people who shunned the shade, and launched into friendly conversation – some people just really love the sun, huh? They’re crazy, the sun makes you blind, they’re going to go blind…I thought about skin cancer and freckles and wrinkles and the way I love the Arizona summer where the world is all white light and heat that wraps around you so heavy on the air you can feel its comforting weight. Of course, the only thing I like to do through the Arizona summer is read while drinking long cool glasses of anything with ice, it’s been a hell of a long time since I was able to do that. Amazing how much can go through your mind in a split second. I love the sun.

I was lucky. He required no response to continue: the sun makes you disappear. My mom was upset when I moved out here, I’m from the East coast and when I went home they thought I was ugly, I was light skinned there but here you stand in the sun and you turn the colour of charcoal, no one can see you at night, you become invisible. He lifted his arms and they were a dark dark brown, and the wiry hair on them a very bright white.

I thought about this means of becoming invisible. You become the colour of darkness, you walk along unperceived and hidden against the backdrop of night, I thought about what it means to disappear. An arcane power of sorts, the ability to become one with the dark, to travel unseen…who has never dreamed of that? With the power of flight, invisibility is pretty high on my list of unfulfilled desires. The train came then and I shall probably never see him again. I wanted to ask him if he had read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I wanted to ask him if invisibility were really a function of colour and camouflage, or of politics. I wanted to ask him about the invisibility of South Central and all the people in it, the invisibility of the poor to those with wealth, the invisibility that comes with a skin colour approaching the night. The invisibility you endure when you wear an apron or a janitor’s uniform or a name tag proclaiming your willingness to serve. The way that so many people I have known and loved have disappeared. It was not the sun that disappeared them, and I rage that they could have left this world with so small of a ripple. I wanted to reconcile the challenge, and the promise, of the gulf between invisibility in the world of my imagination, and invisibility in the imagination of the world.

I have lost much of my substance behind the name tag and pinned smile of the service employee, the painfully unfashionable clothes and bad haircut of that embarassingly poor kid who really wants nothing more than to disappear (luckily I’ve grown and fought my way out of both for the most part)…but my experience is limited as someone who will only find camouflage if the night becomes the colour of pale sand. I yet sit uncomfortably poised between several worlds none of which seem to be visible to the others, and I could not imagine myself anywhere else…and so this problem of how and what people can see seems to be one of the keys to resolving the injustices that have pushed these worlds apart. And so a blessing on the old charcoal gentleman who disturbed my reading today and set my mind spinning, may he find beauty in his skin…