Obama had made some announcement or proclamation that wasn’t all that extreme or radical, but the Tea Party types (older white people) went ballistic, declaring it the last straw. Fighting broke out all across the land—fist fights, not guns. I remember witnessing a brawl among customers in a fast food place—some chain. While passing through a school cafeteria, I saw a cook, an older white woman, weeping and packing up her pots and pans. She could no longer do her job under this president. A little later I was in a big gymnasium-type building and there were fights happening all across the floor. High up on the walls near the roof was a long row of windows with heavy maroon curtains. A man I recognized as the leader of a national taxpayers association (a dream character, not someone identifiable in reality) was throwing flaming objects up at the curtains, trying to ignite them. I was outraged because he was always trying to pass himself off in the media as a responsible man, an adult among children, a true patriot, and so on. I thought, “What a fraud!” I became so angry that I knocked him to the ground and started pummeling his face, trying to shatter his cheekbones (completely out of character; I’ve never been in a fight in my life). As I beat him I kept shouting “You’re a fraud and a phony!” He laughed and laughed, exulting, “Yes! But I’m having such a fun time!”
Archive for May, 2012
I started Chapter 31 with the feeling that it was too long. But I couldn’t see in advance where to break it up. Today I found the point. It’s more than a little surprising that I didn’t see it. A murder and a bad election, all at once. It’s strange how the news got delivered to me. It was as if the universe was waving this big flag, trying to get my attention. “Over here! Over here!” I apologize for speaking in code. Someday it should all make sense.
Tomorrow I’ll start another pass through 31—clean it up some—and then it’s on to Chapter 32: a murder, a bad election, and being discovered asleep in my hiding place.
Late one afternoon a couple of weeks ago I went for a casual bike ride along the San Francisco waterfront. During the ride I started thinking how I’d like to get back to this blog. I thought about different subjects I might write about and decided to do something on the economy. I’d already started a post called “Economics 98.6,” which was supposed to mean “economics as though humans mattered.” But someone told me it sounded like the title for a piece on health care. So I thought, “change the title and finish it.”
On my way home I stopped at the Ferry Building and went into a bookstore, where I spotted a sign advertising a reading by the author of a new book The Man Who Quit Money. The subject of the book, Daniel Suelo, was going to speak as well. I first learned about Suelo (as he’s usually called) through a reader of this blog who thought I might be interested in what he’s doing. Suelo’s story is that he became so fed up with the materialism of this country that he decided to stop using money entirely, to see if it was possible. Twelve years later, he’s still doing it. He doesn’t even barter. He accepts only that which is offerred freely—food and goods, but no cash. Mostly he scavenges. His main residence is a cave hidden in the wilderness outside Moab, Utah, although he also house sits for friends in town. I’d read his web site and his blog (which he works on in the public library) and had found both of them interesting enough to bookmark. I wasn’t really in the mood to hang around for a book reading; but I’ve seen that there are people who do good things for flaky reasons, and I wanted to know whether Suelo was the real thing. So I stayed.
When I arrived, the bookstore had set out around 15 chairs, which I thought was optimistic considering the subject matter and how few people read nowadays. But over the next half-hour so many people came in that the store had to keep bringing out more chairs. By the time the reading began, there were at least 75 people in the audience, which, I know from experience, is remarkable. The presentation began with the author, Mark Sundeen, reading from the book and taking questions. Then Suelo joined him.
Suelo is a thin, graying man in his early fifties. He’s quite gentle and clearly intelligent. There’s nothing goofy about him. I doubt there were any questions he hadn’t heard many times before. His answers were immediate and strong. He’s thought a great deal about what he’s doing and he cuts some fine lines. Standing there listening, I felt as though I completely understood what he’s doing. It’s similar to the path that I took nearly forty years ago, the one I’m writing about in my book Street Song. It’s a spiritual path and all spiritual paths contain the same essential features. I often found myself hoping that he’d make a particular point when he was asked certain questions. Most of the points I was eager for him to make, he did end up making.
The great majority of people in the room were supportive of Suelo. But there were a few who nitpicked and looked for contradictions. One of the best points of the evening was made by the author, Mark Sundeen. He said that people often say that since not everybody could live like Suelo, it somehow invalidates what he’s doing. But, as Sundeen says, not everybody can live the way the average American does either. The planet wouldn’t be able to handle it. I was delighted that Sundeen pointed this out. I’ve long believed our standard of living is much too high and that eventually we’re going to have to lower it. That doesn’t mean living in abject poverty. But it does mean a simpler lifestyle. To the people who complain about what Suelo’s doing, I would say that when you have a system as extreme in it’s materialism as this one, you’re bound to get people like him. The system creates him as a reaction or, you might say, an antidote to something that is clearly a disease.
For the nearly six years I’ve been working on Street Song it has been, generally, clear sailing. Day after day I’ve been able to get up and go to work. You need that when writing a book. It’s the only way. The last few weeks have been an exception. Obligation and obstruction have been the rule—the last week in particular when I got only one sentence written. Among other issues, the house has reeked of polyurethane. I’m in the clear now, though. One of the things I had to do was help get Judy ready for a two-week excursion to Baja where she’s going to film several pelican nesting colonies. She left yesterday, and seeing her off was my last outside task.
This morning I resumed work on the book. When I sat down at the computer I felt a lot of resistance within myself. It took me at least an hour to get into it and to remember exactly where I left off. I knew the position on the page and what came next and all that; but when you work on a book you’re juggling a lot of different ideas. If you have to drop those ideas for awhile it takes an effort to get them all back.
Long story short: I’m writing again. I intend to put some work into this blog as well.