Monday, January 31, 2011

I Couldn't Resist

Just now, when I should be biting into a sandwich with both hands, instead of operating this silly machine... I got what was coming to me, looking for a list of pertinent info, from my laudable local Building Department.  About ready to give up, a small feeling of guilt, and moral embarrassment came over me: I hadn't looked at the Frequently Asked Questions.  Like most human beings, I'm allergic to instructions and FAQ's.  Especially when I am hungry and even more so at lunch time.  The list begins:

 You'll notice.... Taxes, Drugs, and Death play a significant role when people look to their County Gov't for help.  Perhaps my favorite question is: "Where is my loved one being taken?"  Depending on who's asking the question, and the state of mind, composure, health, ect. of the loved one... it's hard to imagine how to answer such a question.  The way the County handles the question, it becomes obvious that for Monroe County, "Loved One" is a euphemism for dead relative.  Oh well...  How do you add or remove someone from your property (Q12)?  Provided  they aren't a "loved one," that is a wonderful question.  Welcome to Southern Indiana.

Q1.When are taxes due?

Q2.What is Drug Court?

Q3.Why is the Coroner involved in the death of my loved one?

Q4.I'd like to change the mailing address for my tax bill.  Is that possible?

Q5.Where is my loved one being taken?

Q6.I re-financed my mortgage.  I was told that I had to re-file my Homestead deduction.  Is t...

Q7.I just bought a new house. What deductions can I get

Q8.Where do I file my property tax deductions?

Q9.What is the deadline for filing deductions and exemptions?

Q10.What do I need to bring to the Auditor's office with me to file deductions?

Q11.When are Monroe County property taxes due?

Q12.How do I add or remove someone from my property?

Q13.What are your transfer fees?

Q14.How do I find out who owns a specific property?

Q15.Can I pay my property tax by credit card?

Q16.If I call to request information about my property tax what information do I need to provide for you...

Q17.Can I change the name on my tax bill?

Q18.What information do I need to provide to the Treasurer’s office to obtain a mobile home title transf...

Q19.How much were my taxes in previous years?

Q20.Can I find information about taxes, such as payments received, taxes due, etc?

Q21.Who is eligible for Drug Court?

Q22.How does Drug Court work?

Q23.How do I find out more information about Drug Court?

Q24.How do I make changes to my benefits?

Q25.How do I contact PERF?

Q26.How are jurors selected?

Q27.What are the requirements to serve as a juror?

Q28.What are the different types of jury trials?

Q29.What is the difference between “eligible for duty” and serving as a juror?

Q30.If my juror number is read what does that mean?

Q31.How long does a juror have to serve?

Q32.Are there any exemptions from jury service?

Q33.Where do I park if I’m required to report for jury service?

Q34.Do I get paid as a juror?

Q35.How many jurors are required?

Q36.How many jurors must agree on a verdict?

Q37.Does the Court provide lunch for jurors?

Q38.How can my family reach me if there is an emergency at home while I'm on jury service?

Q39.I have additional questions or concerns about jury service.  Who do I ask?

Q40.How can I get a copy of the most recent food inspection report for a particular food establishment?

Q41.Where can  I obtain food manager certification training?

Q42.How do I make a complaint against a food establishment?

Q43.Can I prepare food in my home to sell in a commercial operation?

Q44.What do I need to do when I plan on opening a food establishment, either as a new owner of an existi...

Q45.What records does the Vital Statistics Department have?

Q46.How do I apply for a birth certificate?

Q47.What documentation do I need to obtain a birth or death certificate?

Q48.What documentation can I use if I lost my driver’s license due to theft or fire?

Q49.What kind of payment does the Health Department accept?

Q50.What is the Health Department’s address?

Q51.How soon can I receive the birth or death certificate?  

Q52.How do I apply for a death certificate?

Q53.How do I apply for genealogy certificates?

Q54.How do I amend a birth certificate?

Q55.Are the Public Defenders real attorneys?

Q56.What types of cases are assigned to Public Defenders?

Q57.How do I get a Public Defender to represent me?

Q58.What do I do after a Public Defender is appointed to my case?

Q59.What happens at the appointment?

Q60.Should I hire a private attorney?

Q61.Should I try to hire a private attorney because they will do a better job/the Public Defender is ove...

Q62.Who else can I talk to about my case?

Q63.I forgot the name of my Public Defender.  I forgot my court date.  How can I find out?

Q64.Will the Public Defender represent me if I am a resident of another county/state/country?

Q65.My English is limited/I am Deaf.  Can the Public Defender get an interpreter to assist me?

Q66.Do I have to pay the Public Defender?

Q67.I have limited financial resources, and my case is not criminal.  How do I get representation?

Q68.Why does the gas pump show 3 gallons of gas when my container is only 2.5 gallons?

Q69.Why does the gas pump show more gallons than my vehicle holds according to the manual?

Q70.How can I contact Weights and Measures?

Q71.How often are gas pumps checked?

Q72.Why is the scanned price on some items higher than the advertised price at stores?

Q73.What kinds of diseases can I get from swimming in a pool or spa that does not maintain water quality...

Q74.What is the difference between a Flood and Flash Flooding?

Q75.What should I do if a flood or flash flooding is likely for my area?

Q76.What should I do after the threat of a flood or flash flooding has passed?

Q77.Is there anything I can do to prior to a flood or flash flooding?

Q78.What is flood insurance?

Q79.What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

Q80.What should I do once a tornado warning has been issued or if a tornado is imminent?

Q81.Where do I find a list of job openings?

Q82.Where to I go to get an application for employment?

Q83.How will employees be 'billed' by the Employee Health Clinic?  Will they pay at the time of ser...

Q84.If a specialist orders blood work, and the Employee Health Clinic draws the blood and sends it out, ...

Q85.If I see someone at the Employee Heatlh Clinic and I am need of a referral to a specialist, will the...

Q86.Will Williams Brothers be able to fill non-generic  90-day prescriptions, for maintenance drugs...

Q87.When do I need a building permit?

Q88.What is my Zoning?

Q89.What can I do on my property?

Q90.How do I divide my property?

Q91.How many acres are required to create a buildable lot?

Q92.When do I need a logging permit?

Q93.When do I need a sign permit?

Q94.When do I need a grading permit?

Q95.What are my building setbacks?

Q96.What are the regulations regarding home businesses?

Q97.Can I have a second home on my property?

Q98.What are the regulations regarding outdoor trash and junk vehicles?

Q99.Where can flood plain information be obtained?

Q100.What are the regulations regarding livestock and domestic animals?

Q101.What is the Lake Monroe Watershed area?

Q102.What is the phone number for Legal Services?

Q103.Does Monroe County have a Noise Ordinance?

Q104.What restrictions do we have for open burning?

Q105.Does Monroe County have any regulations concerning fire works?

Q106.Where do I pay my Ordinance Violation?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Joke Over The Line

I've mentioned before on this blog that I got in good natured trouble with a girl awhile back over an affection I feel for Lawrence Welk.  While I perfectly well understand that Lawrence isn't for everyone... I guess I just think he's the best... and any doubts entertained honestly and publicly about him in my presence I've got zero tolerance for.  Sort of stick my finger in my mouth and go pop, you know?

I think the doubt I heard that night, which ended with her looking me right in the eye and kissing me on the cheek or head or something (which felt patronizing... as if I were a puppy or something... which is to say, as a man, it was great.) had something to do with Lawrence's incredible taste in women.  In fact, I'd argue that his taste was so good, that now that  he is dead, the women still come onto Public Television and more or less tear up in his memory (every week!) Which gives even Arab funerals a run for their money.  This is a guy from Minnesota folks!

She thought his taste was bad...very bad.  His depiction of women wearing candy colored dresses instead of Katherine Hepburn trousers... and swinging on swings, instead of speaking with authority into cell phones.. and dreaming wistfully of romance... instead of scheming with their girlfriends at lunch... was too much for a modern sensibility.  And, I'm sympathetic.  However, it's not as if my role models are the fools I watch on TV.  And it's not as if I believed Barbara Mandrell and her sisters bore a passing resemblance to the terminal figure on the evolving Woman picture that shows a woman having just stepped out of a long procession of figures starting with apes and, second to last... housewives. 

I guess I thought Ms. Mandrell et al were superflous... fun.... entertainment.  Like make believe.  Like a Brand of Make Believe... if you would... or will, or could imagine.

Some folks can't.  And that's OK.  But it causes it's own problems.  And being offended... or getting your sensibilities all charged up, can on occasion make you seem like a Godamned fool.  I should know... I've more often than most thought I knew the right answer.  And more often than most allowed society to decide for me.  But that's none of your business.

This evening I was eating dinner with some folks and I asked, given that  these things are always on my mind, what they thought of certain settled cultural questions:  the one that was on my mind this evening was the Jefferson Starship song, "Sara."  A demonstrably awful song.  I remember liking it when I was 11 years old.  If I ever saw the video... with the singer and his love interest sporting matching mullets, and a bracing Great Plains tornado scene (which serves mainly to distract music lovers from the pointlessness of the "instrumental section." The first riff of the song, a harmonica line, sounds like Stevie Wonder stubbing his toe. Though you could say the same about a lot of Willie Nelson songs I love.. so, go figure.)  I've got nothing good to say about Jefferson Starship, except that it is frequently on my mind as one of the warning signs of what ego can do to something fairly great (Jefferson Airplane, for example.)  That said...

I've had some friends over the years, even my adult ones, who basically love the song even today. It's true that they are not from America.... though you can find American's listening to late night syndicated radio and AM Radio who are more than happy to sing along to the song "Sara."  As much as it pains me to admit this, I cannot come to the conclusion they are demented.  And this plays right into my rationalization for torturing self styled hipster, beautiful females with Lawrence Welk:  what's cool isn't just a matter of what the other kids like.  Or what is politically correct (like a woman in a role as boss:  very common trope of modern commercials.. as it should be.)  Or some fairly obvious characteristics which form a recognizable constellation that pleases the senses and heart: you know, like stories of romantic loss... like the song "Sara"? 

My old Korean (not Korean American) roomates oftentimes revealed a taste for things far more technologically advanced then even nerdy Americans.  For example... back in early 2003, I remember  Young Ju, a woman who lived with me, getting on the computer she shared with me and hanging out on this one site... instant messaging people, and looking at little boxes playing constant music, and cartoons popping up... her laughing and seeming for all the world to be highly entertained.  I couldn't understand why anyone would appreciate such an obviously crazy form of computer usage.  I could understsand email, or archive's and forums... or list-serves, or just Wikipedia.... but this Manga like mish-mash seeemed insane to me: what Wired magazine would put on its somewhat tongue in cheek page: Japanese Schoolgirl Alert.  What are those wacky Asians up to now?

What I never would have guessed then.... is that I shared a taste with 600 million others (and really, many more than that) for Young Ju's fix:  and at first it would be called MySpace... but eventually it would just be Facebook.  Just like that, seven years later, I was sorta watching cartoons, looking at pictures (my Korean friends all had Camera/Phone/Walkman/Mp3players... which you could not buy here.)  All of it on one Website all my friends were on.  What had seemed silly now seems not only normal, but somewhat mandatory.  And I do it not alone: but with everyone I've ever done anything with.   Whatever accounting there is for taste: I'm hopping wasn't auditing me in 2003.

My point is that Koreans, and Japanese, and many other countries around the world are not backwards, or behind us... and yet, my Korean roomates.... all of them.... had extremely odd taste in music.  The first example of this I ever heard was at a Chinese Restaurant I used to go to for lunch, where on speakers above your head played "chinese" pop music.  All the songs were super lyrical, and belted out with enormous earnestness... a sort of parody of rock and roll.  One song, completely in Chinese would suddenly end it's ascending and exciting refrain, "Happy Birthday!"  As if the guy were singing "My Way."  And whatever the singer was doing, it's true, he was doing it his and his fans way... but not me, and my country's way... more or less.  Happy Birthday!  Happy Birthday!  Sing it again!  I love that pop song Happy Birthday!  Given that I have no idea what the song is about, I'm hoping it is about a man who dearly loves (somebody) and wants the best for them on their Birthday.

What's this got to do with my Korean friends?  Well... it's the same thing.  They loved music that was Atomically heart felt, earnest, and sugary sweet cornball cool.  If there could be such a thing. Oh wait, that's right, there is!  It's called Jefferson Starship.  And Barbara Mandrell.  And "To All the Girls I've Loved Before/ In and Out of My Backdoor."  Stuff liked by a lot of people who weren't Asian... and who knew the words.  And who sang along.  And sometimes... get this.. were very cool.  Authentically cool.  Mainstream interesting and cool.  And yet... there's "Sara."

So, most of the Korean Americans I've known (only a handful) couldn't really stand, as teenagers, the Korean exchange students I've been friends with.  And from talking to others... and reading... and talking to Asian groups at our local University, it's obvious that there is plenty of animus from the Americanized Asian group toward the, to put it crudely, off the boat group.

A great deal of this seems to be due at least in part to the fact that the Americans know who P Diddy is, and the Koreans might be somewhat less on that page.  Of course, in Seoul, tastes, among the congnescetti are going to be basically the same the world over.  But a cross section of the population will not correlate in such a global manner and this causes prejudice between the Native group and the Non Natives, just as it has since the stone age.

And it isn't as if most of my friends actually don't judge the Koreans as well.  They do.  They think they are cute.  While the Koreans think of themselves, like we all want to, as cool.  The Americans laugh at the Koreans taste, and giggle about their "ignorance."  It is simply a settled fact that Eminem is better than Jessica Simpson, whom, man and woman, every last Korean I have known (from Korea) dearly loves to listen to sing:  especially the song "I'm loving Angels Instead" (of having sex with you--- my explanation for the lucky souls who have no idea what this song is).  Which, as we all know turned out to only be true for a year or so.  Then along came Nick.  Thanks National Enquirer. 

So.... is it possible that we are all wrong... and that there is something to our earnest interest in the human spirit, and the gliding wonder of a song.... any song... which this cultural appropriation, and argument, and prejudice is failing to consider?  Is it possible that Jessica Simpson is really transporting us, with Barbara Mandrell and Jefferson Starship to a place that isn't laughable?  It's not something I am nearly as comfortable answering, as I am in my fandom of Lawrence Welk. 

Am I freaking out here and dodging critical faculty?  Am I saying that we should give every song a pass?  No. 

We  need to signal with a full language of many channels of emotion... so we can achieve efficient communication between many different  groups... confidant that we know something about each other.  Our signals are messy, but on the local level, they require instances of common presumption.  And the media--- music, art, various cultural groupings... really help.  But does this mean Jefferson Starship sucks?

It doesn't make it suck.... though, surely Jefferson Starship objectively sucks, no?

I can't tell you the number of times I have been with a friend.... oftentimes a wealthy person from a different culture... speeding down the road in a sports car, or Mercedes... them, enthralled by sharing my American Road Culture Shared Archetype.  And then, they turn it up:  hey... I know that song... and the windows are down.... and the wind is in your hair... and the low sun lights up the world in it's Golden Hour saturation of hope... 

a corny harmonica plays it's line.

(here's Welk's show doing it's part with an, ah, OLD TIME GOSPEL SONG)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

But Will Jefferson [Jalopy] Ever Play?

"Memory it can't be bought'n, 
it can't be won, the carnivals for free.
It took me years, to get those souvenirs 
And I don't know how they slipped away from me." -John Prine

Among the things I'd like to do, sometime this year, is a retrospective of my writing on this blog and in my music in the last few years, or at least since Brand of Make Believe was begun a few years ago.  It wouldn't be a genuine retrospective... more a capsule form discussion of themes and subject matter.  Post by post.  It won't take terribly long... maybe five or six pages at the most.  I should hope.

What gets me thinking about this is what a wonderful forum for what is on my mind that the blog has turned out to be.  Something like a website of my day to day stuff, it is fun to go back in time, and it's easy to do simply by looking at the table of contents, organized by date!  For you, this holds little excitement.  For me, however, it is a diary and a great deal more.  Pictures, poems, essays, recollections... stories and happenings.  Only by the seamless tricks of our lying minds do we convince ourselves of a memorable past.  The truth, as we all know when asked for details, is that we can't remember, and are mighty surprised when anyone else can.

It wasn't till I was old enough to "know" how lousy I was at many things in life, that I learned from long-term relationships that I sometimes remembered things that other people did not.  It isn't fair, given the biological realities, for me to expect my Mom and Dad to remember as vividly my childhood as I do.  And conversely it isn't fair for my Mom and Dad to expect that I would have as nuanced a memory of the Iran/ Contra affair as they do.  Our memories serve different functions at different times in our lives.  

I have always had a peculiar memory.  I have always found it extremely difficult to memorize rote facts.  This, I know, is a problem for everyone.  And no, I do not think that I could not learn. It was just a fact that without a constant study companion, I could not, on my own, force myself to sit as a very young man and learn rote facts.  If anything, as an adult I find the discipline easier, but the memorization even worse.  I sometimes, even frequently, can't remember my phone number.  Out of seven routine bank accounts I only know three account numbers.  Sometimes, I am mumbling an account number (I go to the bank multiple times a day: as someone who used to constantly have trouble with money, it always seemed impossible for me to ever imagine myself as one of those guys who takes his kid with him to get US savings accounts, like in the Public Service Announcements I would listen to back in my wasted youth.  Well... those PSA's are one of the reasons, I suppose, that I enjoy bank transactions so much.  Besides, you are transacting your money in a manner just as consequential when you buy yourself lunch, or a haircut, or your weekly $200 groceries at Wal-Mart or Kroger.  At the bank the purity of my intentions, and the bizarre ease of access to "products" of the American banking system to which we citizens of my country have access (especially as opposed to some of my Asian, European, and Middle Eastern friends) definitely is on my mind; despite the incredibly crappy, airplane like aesthetics of what passes for a bank in my world.)    I was trying to say above, sometimes I am mumbling an account number correctly, as I pull my wallet out to look it up.  This infuriates me, since when I remember not to look at the number I almost never can remember it!  Only the chafing of the back of my hand, as it reaches into my wallet and the odd strain on my right rotator cuff allows my mind to say, "yes, it's 12345678910."  Oh well... you get the picture; my memory is terrible.

And yet... how often can I remember in exquisite detail, every last breath and supple bend in some landscape and/or emotional arc I've shared with a friend or lover?  Trust me, we all dwell on the past.  Especially the recent sad and lonesome past.  There is nothing so tawdry as the truth off the mouth of a friend who tells you how your suffering is necessary for your future pleasure.  In any case, it isn't unusual for a friend to tell me, between bouts of shock at me not knowing my phone number, ect.  that they are shocked that I remember that day, a few years ago, when they were doing such and such and I was taking them to Nashville.  Trust me... I don't know my phone number, but I know that trip to Nashville in Technicolor.  Even if it wasn't a romantic friend.  Even if it was a favor for someone I didn't even like much at all.  Your stupid beating heart is all my screwed up being needs for its mnemonic needs.

Of course, you might have seen those people on the news, a few months back, who remember everything they've ever done, down to amazing resolutions, back to when they were babies.  These people apparently remember everything!   Obviously,  if I remembered everything, I long ago would have demonstrated this skill to someone who would pay dearly to have a sidekick with such an ability, and retired to my farm, and warehouse full of laboratories and workshops by now.  No... my memory is not extraordinary.  It's only special when placed against my memory problems. 

And yet... certain things seem to interest a writer; in particular where memory and the hilariously inadequate term "living" are on speaking terms.  I wrote a poem in 1994, for example, December of 1994... late at night, perhaps one thirty or two in the morning.  I was living with my parents at Clarkston Rd in Zionsville, my last childhood home.  I was relaxing after work delivering pizza at Papa Johns.  At the time I had been working at the pizza place for only a month or two. I worked at least forty hours a week delivering.  I found it a bit intimidating due to the fact that the delivery area was at least one half riddled with bad neighborhoods, and incredibly neglected instances of commercial effort.  Thirty minutes prior to writing the poem I was sitting in a chair, in the South facing section of my parents living room, beside a large brass chest.  The chest had all over it little dimples with round things, like nail-heads stuck into them.  I always liked that chest.  It actually occasionally needed polish.  Something to look for in brass.  Beware of polyurethane coated metals.  I was sitting beside my families baby grand piano, the big square chest, in a chair looking across the foyer of our house, through a slot above the front door that sometimes, being sheathed in a thin sleeve of metal, vibrated like a reed during certain winter storms.  One of many things in childhood a grown person wouldn't mind hearing.  Perhaps one day I will write a letter to the current occupants (whom my parents knew prior to selling the house to them) and ask after that braying front door, secretly hoping no handyman ever managed to silence it.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and I had decided to sit in this somewhat strange quarter of the house, due to the fact that I had many fine memories, sitting in that chair, reading, and sometimes, lying on the ground, reading as well.  My childhood, I knew, was over.  Hence the gangbangers, and otherwise awful storm clouds of feeling that seemed to surround you ten miles away where I worked everyday.  My childhood was gone... I knew... but for that brass chest, the carpet with its anarchic tassels, and the white oak floors, and braying front door.  The house seemed to remind me of my promise as a human being.  The promise that dropping out of college had marred somewhat.  The promise that failing to function as a normal adult outside my parents home had marred a great deal more.  So, here I was, late at night and abiding beneath the sheltering arms of a house that could not live my life for me: but seemed eerily lucid in its depiction of a life I no longer had.

The night before I had written in a journal, sitting in the same chair, before I went to my Mom's computer to type the poem I'd written.  The poem I wrote that December night, more afraid, nervous and anxious than, self reflective, was called "No Peace."  I have the poem, somewhere.  So do most of my family members, if they kept a sheaf of poems I gave them for Christmas one year.  It wasn't a terrible poem.  But it isn't one I feel anything for.  The poems I like from that collection I sometimes still look upon and wonder "what were you thinking?"  But really, I already know.  I'm not a thinker, really.  I'm a phenomena oriented guy.  A man who is more or less a average thinker, but a decent feeler and processor of experience.  Especially what most folks regard as the spiritual and mystical sides of life.  That's why I have for years preferred all these journeys.  None of them amount to anything concrete, of course... their value to me, is that they are the only ways I have ever, in life, been able to attach meaning to my life.  Long hours in the snow drifts unplowed, beneath the mustard lights of the ghetto delivering pizza.  Sometimes ten and twelve hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, taking a lousy meal to some very excited poor folks.  The kids would be jumping around, and the parents smiling (not for the pizza, but because they love their kids.  It was unmistakable.)  The snow would be deep and relentless in its defacing of easy divisions between the suburbs and the 'hood.  A lazy stream would reach beneath the snow, and lose even this fiery sodium plasma lights embrace, and be, for the evening, the only instance of rebuttal to all the flakes of water..... save the trees.  I'd have a cigarette in my mouth and be driving those snowdrifts, unplowed, at midnight, more miles and miles until the last of the pizza's were gone.  I'd listen to some unabridged book on tape... dreaming of the day when I could have an endless supply of non fiction to listen to.  Dreaming of today, actually.  But it wasn't so, back then.  Listening to James Mitchner, and if I was lucky T.C Boyle, or something.  Listening to everything, like an inmate within the jail library.  This book, or that bunk.  Those books or that car... with the endless madness of the commercial radio between sweet sessions of NPR.  I couldn't listen to classical music all night.  Though eventually, I'd turn everything off.  And skate in my Olds across the silent clouds of snow, back to my parents, where the end of a night often meant a poem or two before bed.  After a minute or two in a chair to stare at the door.

The poem I wrote when I stood up after looking at the bleating reeds of the door, ended,  with a last line, "and a future so like nostalgia."  I suppose I liked that line, and still like it, for all wrong reasons.  It sounds cliched, which, if you are insecure enough, means you belong to a canon of some description, yes? If it must not be good, can you at least say it's cliched?  I hope so.  

"a future so like nostalgia"  I definitely still like it. I've never disliked the line.  The poem itself was never meant to mean something particularly romantic, or deep. It was a poem for the sake of being poetic.  A pretty irritating thing... like the fragrance of hand soap.  Something demonstrably useful, but constructed with no thought to its place on a scale of meaning or time.  So, it was perhaps me fooling myself that I might take myself less seriously than I in fact did.  Something to that effect.  But, looking back, I was miserable, and scared, and I think I knew that as well.  There must have been something to the fact that I was working in this soul killing world of the ghetto, sometimes risking my life to take people food they could not afford that demonstrably kills them: and then writing about "a future so like nostalgia."  Maybe it was my way of saying that when things are much better one day (as they became, eventually) I didn't want to remember myself as some calloused fool.  Somebody pretending things were too terrible... or too good.  I'm not sure... but I do definitely remember liking myself, and my take on the world.  In many ways I loved those crappy neighborhoods where I worked.  The way they punctuated the end of the gifts and innocence of my childhood, and preyed on the very substance of my highest ideals.  The sheer certitude of poverty and disability.  The accelerated lifespan of a people who I shared everything with, but fate [mostly.]  The conversation, the siren like cooing that that fate had with me.  "Just listen to the softness of my voice, Andy," it would say.  "You, son, are here, 'cus you pissed your luck away."  I knew that wasn't true.  I was there for a job, and a chance to be tested in some way I couldn't explain.  Eventually I would leave some of the people I came to love in those neighborhoods behind... many of them have died.  One man in particular, Sheldon, is a character whom I have been trying to write about for fifteen years.  More than once he proved himself a more pure soul than me.  But it only took one night to bring him down.

"and a future so like nostalgia"

Last night, as I was falling asleep I laughed to myself, reading an article in a New Yorker sent to me by my father (the subscription, that is.)  I had to get out of bed and come and write down a passage from an article about the perceptions we have of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue early in the Second Gulf War. Big surprise, great article.  I think it more or less explains itself.

In "The Future of Nostalgia," Boym's book on history and memory, she described Soviet era monuments serving as "messengers of power... onto which anxieties and anger were projected."  The Princeton architectural historian Lucia Allais, who has examined the destruction of monuments during the Second World War, mentioned to me one of the most famous topplings ever-- of the statue of King Louis XV in Paris, in 1792, during the French Revolution.  The action was portrayed by its authors as a liberation from the power of the monarchy, but they put in its spot a symbol of a new sort of power: the guillotine.  These monuments destruction "are usually acts of monumental replacement, which hide continuities of power... behind the image of rupture," Allais wrote to me in an e-mail.

("The Toppling" by Peter Maass, The New Yorker, January 10, 2011; pg. 53, paragraph 2)

'cus she'll offer her charms to the darkness and danger of something that she's never known/ And open her arms at the smile of a stranger who'll love her and leave her alone-- K. Kristofferson The Silver Tongued Devil

"acts... [of magical replacement] which hide [unbroken] power.. behind [apparent change.]"

A recipe, perhaps, for our ideologies, no?

Or, just a liberal artsy version of Arthur C. Clark's definition of magic?

What a strange sort of magic trick being argued here, by this social rearrangement. 
It's strange the sobriety that black words on a white page can claim.  And yet, guilt, in such realms as the rhetorical. is hardly unimaginable:
               Wouldn't you know...
                         We have the motive.
                         And, we have the weapon, too.