Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Pizza Crust of History

Seems like the days I really don't want to run I do my best. Other days, eager to get out, I can just sandbag it. Working today (noon-10p Sun thru Wed), weather is over 40 at least. Been running around like crazy Wednesday (I took it off), Thurs, Fri and Sat; by the time I get back to work I am just bushed!

Took another trip out to Golden, for another load of horse-pucky. You always think you have enough, but .... a lot of horse manure don't go too far. I grabbed another 100 lbs, which is sitting in my car, ripening, till I can offload tomorrow. One thing is certain, these horses sure get enough fiber. They all look at me on the way over to the mound, as if to say "who IS this yutz?"

Been reading NYT's Lori Berenson article in the Magazine section. Quite a tale. Makes my life seem so ... unaccomplished. Its a good read for anybody familiar with those times. A couple of months ago I took in the 5 hour movie "Carlos" (think I mentioned it in my last post). Few people I know here in Denver (well, I do know a few, but you know you've been somewhere a while when prior relationships circumscribe where you are welcome) really followed this story over time, as in, the past 45 years.  As a child, in a household where the absolute power of a resentful step-mother backed up against my anger at being bounced around, the Weather Underground seemed attractive to me.  To even engage people on the topic is difficult; it’s akin to questioning whether Sartre and Ferlinghetti can mean anything anymore; the weltanschauung and language, the tapestry of life I (and others my age) came from is just so alien, relative to today's 'Reality TV" culture, banal beyond belief.

But, I do believe there is an underlying thread to our lives, no matter what the times. It becomes a question of language, and each generation sprechts its own lingo; and where we fall is trying to understand each other. Ginger and I saw "True Grit" the other night, and both were moved by how precise language was. Folk spoke plainly, and language made use of nuance, hue and shade. Very precise, and very revealing. Makes me want to speak in that vernacular, but my experience is language is becoming sparer and less evocative. I don't think this is a good thing, but I'm also not so dense as to not see how it is. Back in Aspen I knew an architect, whose PC I used to work on (in the days of config.sys and autoexec.bat), and he had this sign on his wall: "if they didn't hear you, you haven't said anything". That annoyed the hell out of me, and it was only years later I GOT IT.

I seem to have digressed. Back to "Carlos" the movie, and the psychedelic ragamuffin 11-year-old buying Black Panther Paper, and wishing the Weather Underground would come and scoop me up, and get me the hell away from my miserable life. Maureen, my step-mother, increasingly was losing patience with me, and the more she cracked down, the harder I pushed back. Eventually it devolved to all out war, and frankly, she was bigger.

This was the tableaux in which I began to understand struggle. The Vietnam War resistance was in full swing; I had just read Catch-22. The Red Army Faction and The Weather Underground made sense to me. It didn't hurt that I was well-read for an 11-year-old. Anybody in NYC between 1968 and 1980 (at the outside; 1969 thru 1977 was the hey-day. Then, it became hello Ronald Reagan) will recall pamphleteers, left-wing newspapers, and of course the pre-Internet mainstay, bookstores, were everywhere. I got lucky that way, and reading everything I could get my hands on wasn't the chore it is today. Part of me grimaces writing this; does the world need one more blogger?

"Carlos" the movie was a delicious treat, and an endurance test all at once. If you haven't seen it, and any of this rings a bell culturally, I will say the movie goes fast. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to catch "The Baader-Meinhof Faction", which was just such a good movie. There is exactly one guy here at Qwest who has actually seen the thing, and he is a bit of an enigma to me: he came out of the military, and he's under 35. I don't get to chat with him much, he's with another group now but .... amazed he saw it. Not surprisingly, "Carlos" has tight similarities w/ Baader-Meinhof, if just by dint of timeliness. Carlos, Baader-Meinhof, Japanese Red Army, all linked, and borne of American post-WWII imperialism, spasms of which we're seeing today in Egypt, Libya, and Algeria ...

Without thru prism of history to break out the spectrum, the colors we see in all this, from the 60's to today, I can see where this appears as just white noise to the kids I work with, which is why I raise the historical roots of it all, and to them, I'm just a crashing bore. Back to "if they didn't hear you, you haven't said anything". Almost. The guys I work with are in a special kind of denial; virtually all military, and working in telecom after that. Lots of Tea Party rhetoric, with "Political language ..... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind" taking on a life of its own. Not a lot of well-read historians in my little group ....

But, I guess it is true: the more things change, the more they remain the same. The history hasn't changed, but its context will necessarily evolve. I do think our post-consumer society is a wasteland (disclosure: I adore Ad Busters), and mourn the corrosiveness of the new politics,
and the dilution of context by the advertising-industrial complex (apologies to Ike). To be sure, recently I'm ranging out of my comfort zone more and more, and (like our little seed exchange yesterday) meeting some fairly principled kids doing some out-of-the-box stuff. I am humbled, and yet it takes a real effort to get off my horse, however high or low, and just LISTEN.

I think myself classically diabolical (dia + bolical, L. 'to tear apart'), which works for and against me. Mark Maron on the WTF show called himself " [sic] ... a relationship terrorist; as soon as anybody gets too close, I blow it all up". This is a bad habit of mine, borne from inquisitiveness, which goes awry if unchecked. Playing Devil's Advocate with everything is great, but relationship-wise, I'm really trying to leave THAT one at the door where intimacy is involved. Especially w/ folks from different countries, like northern Illinois.

Makes me almost hopeful.