Drive

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I have traveled many a road in my short life. From those invented trails we kids would make in our back yard to some of the storied highways and byways of this green land and foreign glens and vast expanses. When young we had a number of roads named and mapped in the event we got lost. There was Long Trail, a winding cut deep in the woods, Bumpy Road (so named since in a storm we kids took the the road and our heals in the mud led to many bumps), Short Trail that cut past the back of the swing set and in front of the manure pile, Via Road a bramble trail unfit for our junky bikes but on certain adventures we would take this road less traveled. It was amazing then, this network of roads and now as I am older, far older, it is more amazing since the property of my youth but was a postage stamp of 1/4th of an American acre, and the backyard even smaller, and the network of roads but a part of that backyard of suburban America.
I have traveled by Citron across the Atlas Mountains in an electric storm. I have driven all night from Chicago to run out of gas at the Canadian border and push the car back into my Motherland. I have flipped my car on an icy road to crash and turn through the forest and snow, the only thought on my mind, “Did I pay my insurance?”

The Blue Ridge Parkway is accessed only by a few points on the map. It is not a thruway. I have grown up with Parkways, it is part of my early memories of traveling from my suburban home to the far away place of my grandmother, Upstate back when Upstate meant farmlands and wilderness. We would travel along the Palisades Parkway, a still extant road that runs from New York to New Jersey and then returns us to the womb of Bear Mountain and the Mountains of Madness of which Bannerman’s Castle guards but a lonely watch over those various ghost that may or may not infest the Highlands. The Palisades is but today a cut through for the millions of billions of commuters, but here and there the old grand park manifests and all are reminded that this is a strip of wild in an otherwise built upon world.
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There is the Taconic Parkway. A slender ribbon of lands that takes one from the Bronx River up to the Berkshires and the rolling flowing lands of Albany. This is a fun road to drive if by fun you mean thrill-seeking. Many of the twist and gentle pastoral turns have been irons out by the workings of huge machines, but this is because the travelers who take this road do so at high speeds are not there to enjoy the few remaining lookouts and rest stops that have yet to be cut off by guardrails and huge blocking stone but to get home to their flat screen TeeVees, 2.5 children, and medication stashes out in the garage. It is one of the most dangerous roads in New York. From the boundry of the Bronx River up until Red Hook, the road is a road rage road race dotted only by small smashed parts of cars and the sundry police that take to the road in order to gain some modicum of income for towns from Cold Spring to Red Hook after which the traffic subsides, the road takes on a more gentile nature, and the police go haunt the small town movie theater in order to frighten up a few fines from the local teenagers in order to pay the bills of their dying and Walmart-infested town’s bills.

There is nothing, then, in Parkways, to compare or prepare oneself for the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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From Asheville, NC the road has already been meandering for some three hundred miles or so. Unlike the other parkways mentioned, and a few more not enumerated, this parkway does not service villages or settlements but exists only to bring the traveler through the wilderness. It is a pure road of vantage points, vistas, and travel for travel’s sake. It is a forced march, a summer abroad, a walk save that we do so aboard motorcycles, of which there were plenty, classic cars, of which there were several, or whatever manner of transportation we have accessed. For me it was Plain Jane rental car. Nothing memorable about it other than the windows rolled up and down better than anything I currently own for my private use.

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I drove on with little expectation since I have acquired the habit of not using The Googles to delve into every detail of my travels, allowing some manner of discovery in this age of X and Y concordance and Yelp Reviews. This did mean I went the wrong way for some miles. North when I had meant to go south since I had to get to [redacted] for [omitted] and this was but a small diversion along the way. My being in the region also meant that I was not dressed in the attire of the Modern American Hiker. I wore a suit jacket, button down, and dress shoes. Of course I wore pants too. However, this I believe is not optional outside of certain locations, and Key West so is not remarkable nor a matter of illumination when painting a picture with words. When I did get out for a short walk, the others on the path, no matter how paved or level, looked at me with some fear or disdain, I was hard pressed to discern other than I knew I did not match their own sport sneakers, North Face jackets in case the temperature dropped below 70 (F), water packs to ensure proper hydration on the .8 mile hike, or the acres of spandex(tm) that the female hikers wore since they had not gotten the memo that tights aren’t pants and matched in colour the Ray Ban glasses of the men since it seems men’s eyes are apparently quite delicate, even on an overcast day. The Ray Bans also made them look like douchebag. Which, may be intentional.
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The green pressed in on both sides of the road as I drove on this thin tarmac through the still-wild areas and as I drove on the twists and turns and passed through the high peaks with just a touch of the gas peddle. Built over the span of fifty years, and launched as part of the New Deal in order to put Mankind to work, the Blue Ridge Parkway was only completed in 1987. The parkway is our American Cathedral. So rare it is that our society can bear some project that take generations, perhaps this is the last one of our Nation. The Trans Blue Ridge Highway is a feat of roadscaping. Were all our highways so built, perhaps this writer would not be so inclined to not rant and rave against the highways of 17 lanes cutting across the geography of nowhere but praise their grandeur. Above all that, above the strip malls, the interchanges that consume acres and acres of land, above the humdrum life of commuters, the highway takes but the rare few with leisure or the inclination to stop and rest not at one, but every rest stop in order to take in yet another vista and catch one’s breath at the majesty of the world either placed in front of us by accident or built for us to marvel at, depending on our own often individual eschatological inclination.

While unable to traverse the entire length, the little I did reminded me, what has become of us that we do not continue to build roads to inspire and take those Sunday drives with the family as we were meant to. Someday perhaps we will rebuild the geography of nowhere and rebuild our network of highways into something special.
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All the Presidents Drunk’s

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When children are young they are told they could become the next president of the United States. When children become teenagers, the same people warn them that they’ll become cast aside drunks languishing in some no name dive bar rolling about on the floor pissing and puking but not in a romantic way.

It is then, not every day when the universe positions the president of the United States, argued as the Most Powerful Man/Person in the world in tossing distance to a group of merry lads and lasses all of whom are plowed before 9PM as a regular routine.

Indeed, the motorcade came out of nowhere. At once, the door to the establishment was blocked by several men in suits. Were one to have hesitated, to have waited just a moment to use up the entire Happy Hour as the Naive Americans once did, the way indeed blocked and no one could pass. In Gothem the police are about everywhere. They are our internal army in order to keep the population docile and their comings and goings lights flashing and sirens crying has become but the sound of the wind in the trees, something that unless those flashing lights are pulling over your taxi or you are stopped and detained for a simple Quality of Life infraction, the sound and fury is ignored. It was very hard to dismiss this motorcade of police. It was harder to dismiss the serious men in suits who did not appear as our own Men in Blue, these were the Men in Black, the elite among thugs.

In no time at all the positions were taken. This was rehearsed in every detail. The way the cars boxed in the limos, the double lines of police, the barriers set up, the spotters and perhaps snipers on the roof (we did not see the later but imagined them since everyone had seen The West Wing), the way the population at large was pushed out of the way for the night with ease. “I cannot tell you who this is,” said the man in a pressed suit, “but this individual is very important.” “That’s fucking the president of the United fucking States,” said Larry. “Larry! Shush you before you get us all arrested,” the bartender shouted as she pressed to the window. The rest of us, that is, all the bar patrons trapped at the end of Happy Hour were crushed together in on knot in the doorway of perhaps the smallest of the still extant dive bars of the city.

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A last refuge of the scoundrels. Strangers for the most part, except for the regulars. They were known elements. The list was right out of central casting, or central booking. The war veteran sipping his wine brushed his comb-over and complained he wasn’t allowed outside to smoke, “I’m a war veteran!” he demanded or confessed. The self-identified film maker with an Irish accent and straw hat bounced about having the time of his life. Clearly the creative type fallen now upon hard times and living out the last of his puff in a bar or doing research into his next project. The two bartenders, both women of a certain age, perhaps about the same vintage, both had seen too many long shifts and were bored by the stories of hookers with hearts of gold and broken business men with small petty dreams they keep alive in paper sacks. The manager exclaimed to the police blocking the door that he himself had working in bars before he was old enough to legally drink. Twenty years! Twenty years a manager! He was both amused by the situation and rather annoyed by the lack of business calling out, “Will the president reimburse me for the lost business, I have no customers!”

Indeed in a city where anything can happen and does, even the most anointed of our citizens is but an inconvenience to the more pressing routines of rushing about on errands and tasks.
The bartenders had changed shifts, but both of them remained since perhaps in their long lives they had yet to have seen it all and this was an event neither wanted to miss out on even though one belonged elsewhere for the night and the other was loosing out on nightly tips in order to cover, it can be assumed, high rent. The remainder of the patrons were an assortment of passers-by and a younger set unimpressed by meeting the president of the United States of America.

If by “meet” it is but separated by a wall of bricks, a building that had been replaced by a yard of rubble, another brick wall of the restaurant that the president was dinning in, several police barriers and the combined forces of the Secret Service – an ocean of brooks brothers suits and Burberry ties and cheaper Sears suits of the NYPD detective squad and perhaps a few drones just tossed in for good measure.
It was just another autumn afternoon in Gothem and the usual rogue nations, G8ers, and Global Leaders were presenting and otherwise worrying about writing nonbinding treaties and statements at the UN. As Gothemites, we are used to the motorcades and having our trendiest bars closed on short notice so various wealthy political blowhards from the world over can do blow and so it hard. It was still an unusual location, the cusp of SOHO or border of Little Italy or Chinatowncityworld as the case may be. Houston Street is no Savelle Row.

Larry, get out from behind the bar you fool! The bartender yelled at the little man pouring himself a beer having taken full advantage of the distraction by POTUS outside. He laughed and made a cartoonish gesture of being caught and trying to hurry. It was clear these few knew each other very well, it was a working relationship but one nevertheless.
Outside the commotion calmed down. The rushing about, the set up, the securing the area, the what not and so forth of all these important players had turned at once, dull. The Secret Service was replaced by NYPD sergeants and the like. There was the chance to leave. The War Vet had been snoozing in the toilet. Since there was an opportunity to get outside and smoke, he at once left. So did a very worried man was to meet his girlfriend, a little man who kept pacing back and forth and calling on his phone as if perhaps his girlfriend could just up and leave him over this incident, “Henry, you should never be in a bar next to the president, it’s over! But… But… Loretta…” I imagined him saying. Another small group, younger people, seemed even less interested and certainly not wanting to be in the doorway with the regulars, since everyone was crushed together hoping to get some view of someone important. “I kissed the mayor last night,” one of them exclaimed, then started to make sure every sergeant on duty knew. “Was it consensual?” a voice quipped.
As the night drew on, the crowd across the street dissipated and the police started what one said was 90% of the job… just standing around.
Years ago I had been hired for a private-eye type of stakeout. I had to keep eyes on a building and record who entered or exited. It was an all day affair. Boring as hell. Not the type of boredom as tending to an art gallery, where once in a while you look up from War and Peace and ask, “let me know if you have any questions” and make a wincing smile. This is the boredom of not being able to take your eyes off of your target. The boredom where at any moment, anything could happen. A tense state of affairs, I assume as cats feel all the time on their mouse house stakeouts. Waiting, tense and ready to strike, yet knowing one has to conserve energy because one could be here all day and catch nothing. No wonder why cats are assholes.
The bar phone rang several times. It seemed that some patrons wanted to come in. After a discussion with the sergeant in charge, it was negotiated that if names could be provided, these individuals would be searched at the checkpoint and allowed entry to the bar under heavy police escort. I was to meet my companion and entreated her to come to the bar, to have the chance to perhaps see the president if not at least have the honor to be walked down the street arm and arm with the police, in a manner of speaking.
It was perhaps the first, maybe the only time available, to have police escort one to a dive bar as it was the first and only time in the lives of those gathered that they had been prevented from leaving, actually encouraged to drink, by the Secret Service.
New patrons came in small groups to replace those who left, except except for my friend and I, they too were regulars to the establishment. I had never been although I passed by it just about every day and had walked by it my entire life, considering was one of the few bars to pass the hundred year mark or be well on its way.
It was no Sweetwater Tavern. That place on St. Mark’s Place was a large spacious establishment old enough to be well worn and still maintain a telephone booth. Rumor has it that William Boroughs had picked up boys there back in his Junky days. The narrow hall that made the bar reminded me somewhat of McSorley’s however, that spot had long ago become more a tourist attraction than watering hole for locals. Indeed, the space was so narrow that one had to flatten out just to pass those at the bar and the wall across was plexiglass covering all manner of photodocuments and good thing too since I and others were pressed to the wall in passing. I am not sure I have ever, outside of a rush hour subway, pressed up against such a great many people I did not know nor want to touch. But, that was one way to become fast friends, I guess, and as the night went on we did make merry and drank in those stale waters served in tall glasses.
Next door the royal family dinned away in what later would be reported by the press in ever great detail so there was no mistake as to what was on the menu, what was selected, what bites were taken, and in what direction he and the Royal Missus masticated. Even on this was an otherwise nondescript Wednesday night, not even the New Friday everyone talks about, there was a need for these sordid gastronomic details.
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And in time. His nibs and his lovely lady with the arms were finished, I can only assume they paid the bill as again a flurry of activity hit the streets and again the men in suits of various qualities rushed about on a a very choreographed almost dance number and lights again flashed, and doors opened, and people waved, and the drunks squished into the doorway or against the small dirty window and phones went up and snapped away in camera mode and in a moment, just a second, someone said, “Jebsus, I think I see him! Oh no… I don’t.” In the end none of us saw more than a momentary blur, could have been the First Family could have been deer unexpectedly jumping. All this wait, and no wave, no MisterPresidentIvotedforyoutwice, no kisses on top of mayor kisses tonight for anyone. We had camped out all night and this was it.
And the cars pulled out.
And the barriers were tossed onto a waiting truck.
And the police melted into the night.
And the city did what it does best, appear as if nothing had ever happened that today was just like yesterday and will be like tomorrow.
The regulars took their positions.
Everyone on the street left.
Except for the sergeants. They all said after this, they need a good drink. And the men we had been joking and chatting with and who kept a nervous eye on us all night ponied up to the bar and put away their badges, lifted a pint and listened to Larry’s stories, stories I am sure he had been waiting all night, perhaps even longer, to tell.
“It was Dublin, but a time of The Troubles…” I heard him say as I paid my own tab, and took the arm of my companion and asked her, “So…. when are you telling your parents I got you escorted into a dive bar?”
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Juntas and Baksheesh

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“This country is like a perfect garden,” the passenger next to me cupped his hands as if this garden was some kind of a jewel or he approximated much larger and perhaps celestial hands holding this garden. “This garden needs to be constantly tended. I you are born in the garden, it is all you know and perhaps you don’t know the work it takes to tend the plants and flowers. You may make a choice and choose to just sit on your couch, have your beer, not worry about this garden. When you get up, however, you will see that the weeds have taken over, you will see the flowers have wilted and you will say ‘oh my, what happened?’ Or you can choose early on to help tend the garden to learn from those who have done it before you.” The older man looked up for his hands. “When I was done telling this young man – as I said he was a drunk student – he was in tears,” he laughed, “he said, ‘I am such a fool, I am such a fool’ to which I said, yes, yes you are.” This was when the man was new to Chicago and driving a taxi in the early 1980s not long after he had fled Iran. He said so many people then told him to go back to where he came from, but he said, for me, there is no going back.
The flight was going through a horrible storm and jounced and bounced about, but he paid no mind.
He continued his original story.
He was in the middle of telling me a story about a property he bought in a city north of Chicago some years ago. The house had been foreclosed upon and he had picked it up for $50,000. A 5 bedroom house with a two car garage just two blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan. He had meant to get right to work bringing the property up-to-date but the economy worsened, his job was outsourced, for the second time. He had come here from Iran, he said no one knew the story of why he was driven to leave, but he assured me under a dictatorship you know exactly what you are dealing with. Not so much with the American system since we do not admit those areas where our system is under the hand of corruption. After all, four of five Illinois governors were in or had been in jail.
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One day I got a letter from a lawyer saying that I was being sued for damages my property had caused someone else. This was strange, I thought, the house was just sitting there. The daughter of the lawyer, she also was a lawyer, spoke to me on the phone and I told her that I did not understand what this was about. She claimed she was interested in the community, that she wanted to clean it up, and let me know that the fees for the hour would be $150 and that I was already needing to pay $2500 in legal fees. I said, I did not hire you, but she said she worked for a man suing me, and that the fees associated would be mine to cover.
In Illinois there is a law that anyone within 1200 yards of a property can sue the owner for neglecting the property. This makes sense, I mean if there is a house with no door and children walk past it on the way to school… there may be a man taking drugs, maybe a criminal lure a children into the house or the children use the house for play and get hurt or the floor collapses. But, my house was in OK shape, all they found was missing gutters which the thieves had stolen, a missing hand rail someone cut off and took, and a place where a tree had bent the fence. What the lawyers had done was to find a person who would be named in the lawsuit. He pretends to be caused damage by my property but he is just given some money under the table. The lawyers then sue to collect their fees, even to get the property. I researched and saw that they had done this 500 times in the past four years. I think the word for this is extortion.
The man went on to describe his fight with the lawyers, his time spent in filling out responses, taking pictures, making repairs, and the lost sleep over his troubles. He went to sell the house but by this time more houses were going vacant in this town and he placed the house on the market for $36,000 then $24,000 then $18,000. Buyers were frightened away by this ongoing lawsuit that he continued to fight. The lawyers reached out to make a deal. If he donated the house to the non-profit the plaintiff ran, he could just walk away. But he continued to fight and continued to be threatened with higher and higher fees for the lawyers he did not hire, for damages not to property or person such as injury but by those damages allowed by a money-for-nothing culture where we sell hamburgers, trade papers, and sue each other in order to gain some crumb of the American Dream. The Iranian man sighed. “I finally settled with them for $1700 just so I could sell the house and be done, but at the last minute the buyer said not $18,000 but $10,000! I wanted to be done so I said, OK, if you buy it for $11,000 we are finished. Then, at closing, it cost me $8000 for just the title insurance. I walked away with $1300 after all that…..
The plane was buffered about by the winds and jumped up and down, passengers groaned and I clutched hard to the seat – as I that would do anything. The man looked at me and dismissed this goings on and waved his hand, “I look at it this way, either we land… or we don’t.” A violent wind banked the plane a hard right then left tossing the stewardess on to the lap of one passenger then another, someone in the back of the plane yelled out “I’m going to die!”
He was on the flight because he was moving from Chicago after 27 years to Houston, Texas where he had bought a house. He was having a delay in selling his house in Chicago and was already having difficulty with his property in Houston. I could tell by his eyes he was serious, he was ready if need be to go if it was his time. I was not so ready and fear bubbled up from my stomach into my throat.
“This country is becoming mean. It is becoming unfair and corrupt.” I acknowledged that things were indeed getting more difficult and people somewhat meaner if not more suspicious of their neighbors.
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“Have you heard of a Homeowners Association?” he asked me. I admitted I was largely unaware of the particulars.
The plane started a steeper than usual descent and bounced up and down as it hopped from one cloud to another.
Homeowners Associations are all over Houston, not just the fancy communities with gates, he told me. These people send out someone who goes about looking for problems – things to fine you for. They first sent me a letter saying I had to replace a slat on my mail box. This was a house that the bank owned for years, the grass was three feet tall, the house had fallen apart, but I spent months fixing it up and hauling away grass clippings and brush, and now they were saying that a slat was missing on the mail box and they would fine me if I did not replace it?
In Chicago there is corruption, we all know the unions and how they work… but, in Houston the unions are weak, I did not know anything about Homeowners Associations. In Chicago, you have to join a union if you so any service. In Houston you have to join a Homeowners Association, it is mandatory. For $350 a year, but for this you get nothing. They do not pick up the trash. They do not provide police. They do not handle the water when it doesn’t drain from the street. But they pay some guy to drive around and come on your property looking for things to fine you for. If you think about it, each association has maybe 1000 houses, that is a lot of money. So, I fixed the slat on the mail box, but then they send me a new letter that there are weeds growing in the lawn. Then another letter about the pool in the back has frogs in it and is dirty. OK, I know I need to fix the pool, and I make plans to do this but then I get yet another letter about some trash behind the back door and more threats that I will be getting fined. I say, after all I went through in Chicago, I need to just get on a flight to Houston and stay as long as it takes to fix these problems.
Clearly real estate was not this man’s lucky streak. However, from what I saw of Houston, I can believe there are as many pay-to-play schemes as people can come up with. Driving about Houston there area a lot of fences not just about the yard, but in front of the house. A lot of houses are cut off from the street by some barrier, a fence, a fence and hedge, a gate across the driveway with some cloth ziptied in order to keep prying eyes. A great many gates leading into housing developments. I thought this was to keep out some dangerous criminal element, but perhaps it is also to prevent the Homeowners Association from creeping up and finding that you have not sorted your glass from you papers.
The airplane came in for a final landing and touched down without issue. The old Iranian man became silent. He had spoken of a great many things, but his stories of property ownership and the many issues he faced as he learned out ways was especially interesting. We shook hands and parted ways off to make our connecting flights as if nothing had happened.
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Amerikan Moscow

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My first memory of Washington DC is that of passing it by on what I would later learn was the beltway. I must have been 5 or 6 years old and my family was driving down to Florida to visit family see alligators and go on mouse themed rides. This must have been some time around Gerald Ford or perhaps Jimmy Carter since Nixon didn’t do a full term, as I recall. My grandmother and mother were bickering in the front seat and we kids were crashed out in the back. All of us not wearing seat-belts.
I poked up my head from the back of the station wagon and looked in to the distance and there was the lights of various monuments, perhaps I could see the Washington Monument, perhaps I am inventing that memory. It must have been about 1976 since we were traveling about seeing the foundations of This Great Land and I recall visiting Boston and seeing the USS Constitution as well as visiting Philadelphia to see more tall ships and a bell with a crack in it. This was still the age of a Common Culture, and this was my parent’s way of sharing this Common Culture with us and to fill in what School House Rock and a still majority Caucasian Sesame Street didn’t teach us.
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I was not to return to Washington D.C. for decades. While I followed the news quite more than any normal child (I tracked the days of detention for the US hostages in Iran on the wall by my bunkbed), I did not have occasion to visit Washington D.C. It cost money to get down there, money I did not have, time I did not have, and some interest in seeing the home of parties I did not like or elected officials I did not vote for. When I finally drove down to D.C. with a friend, and two (former) strippers to join in the war protest (hey Craigslist ride share was the Uber of my age), I had been to Moscow more times in my life than D.C. The protest was a disaster. The drive down took forever. The two women turned out to not know each other and as the hours passed they both started creating their own factions, which considering it was just myself and a friend, was a very interesting dynamic. We got to the protest late, and the entire shit show had been scattered by the police or leftest bad planning. One of the girls started trying to engage people in the park in some form of political discussion which considering they were hobos or tourists from Asia didn’t go to well. I guess it was her way to salvage the day. Far off we saw some protesters but they seemed some splinter group and not worth the cold and now darkening day to chase after. We stared at a few monuments. Then went home. We stopped off at a bar in Baltimore, another city I had yet to travel to. We managed to find a real nice part of that struggling city. It was cute. Very cute and all the guys were cute and as I looked about I saw it was only cute guys and… we were in a gay bar. My friend was in recovery for various substances including alcohol but he was OK being in a bar – one of the few grounded people I know. I, on the other hand, amn’t a hot mess, but certainly I am not a grounded person and at that time I needed a drink. He offered to drive. He had a Coke. I drank until the day made sense. The girls were now no longer talking to each other. I was in a gay bar with a recovering addict and two former strippers, only one of which was actually a stripper. The other one said she was a film maker but in a private conference with my friend in the bathroom, we decided that she was also a stripper. And did nasty things on film too. “We should just leave them here, sneak out the back,” one of us said. However, in further discussion we understood we could not in good conscience just leave these two girls in Baltimore to fend for themselves, not that they were throwing in gas money or toll money or buying us food (I am not sure why this was the arrangement). But it was tempting to just take off and imagine their faces…
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The worst part of all this though was that nothing we did that day prevented the war. Or the next one.
It was some time before I would again be in our National Capital. The next visit was years later. I had already been to Moscow three times more in my travels. I was to holiday unexpectedly in D.C. with a then current paramour. This was a strange autumn vacation but I thought going there was no worse than anywhere else. It was her treat, and I liked my paramour just fine, and she wanted to go so “D.C. it is.” We stayed in a very lovely bed and breakfast and toured some of the Great Mall until our feet hurt and then for some reason went to the Holocaust Museum. A great way to knock the fun out of the day. After seeing dead people’s articles and various depressing stories writ large, we retired to the district with the canal and did touristy things to wash the sad from our brains. It was autumn and a crisp day. We did not tour the capital but did stand in front of the White House next to the protesters and tourists and police so we could say, we were there. A lot has changed, I imagine, since I first drove on the Beltway past all this mess. Our relationship, despite this and many other very romantic holidays, did not last. My paramour happened to be someone I met on line and while in recovery, I took a chance since I of all people know, no one is perfect. Unfortunately was not ready for a relationship and it ended in a messy night of crashed cars, detox, and rehab. I still have two year coin that was given to me as a peace offering. It’s certainly not mine, but I keep it anyway. It represents those good moments where we had fun.
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I was again in D.C., this time for work. I had no idea why I was selected for the trip but I had to go down there to do a site visit at a [redacted] for [redacted]. We took Amtrak down. As I was leaving the platform I noticed our train had hit a very large goose of some kind. The visit never got better than that. We went to the wrong location, got separated from the rest of the group and managed to have me sent to the other side of the city, the part that exists behind the facade, the shooty and stabby part of town and here I was trying to find a way in to the [redacted] in order to do an observation for unknown reasons. I was told later, we needed to show up in force to prove we had a “deep bench.” My erstwhile bosses (I left the organization having no fewer than four) enjoyed sports and war analogies despite the fact that none of them had played sports and a few of them couldn’t serve openly in the military. When the adults had gone to bed, I sneaked out to the empty and dark city streets like a cat finally finding its freedom from a confining room. I was unattached and ungoverned and set out on foot to see this city, this Moscow of Amerika. What I found surprised me. Not the protests. Nor the Bed and Breakfasts. I did not find the [redacted] I had been sent to witness. In the glimmering lights of the city, large spaces of stone punctuated by homeless and poverty spread in all directions. I became tired with the ground I covered and I dashed into a bar, the Capital Grill or some such fancy chain. It was the right night to do so. There at the bar were several older representatives and some young whelps, a lot of whelps all snapping for attention from the Old Men. The bright-eyed whelps lapped at the feet of the Old Men who were drinking neat that night. I ponied up to the bar and ordered something neat too. I was dressed the part and a person of a certain age like many others in this fine establishment but neither the Old Men nor the Whelps paid any attention to me as my value in this context is somewhere between zero and shit. There was deep political talk, by people making rules, this was like a Monday night in Gothem where the really good bands play. I enjoyed it as a fly on the wall but like most flies, there was nothing more interesting to report than experiencing the moment.
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In the past year I have been to DC quite a few times. Sometimes on assignment but primarily in transit on the rail, renting a car, or catching a flight. I have spent a few hours wandering about and visiting various collections, museums, as well as having toured the more spicy parts of town both intentionally and quite by mistake. I am not sure what to make of the city that hasn’t already been said – that it is out-of-touch, that it is a city of facades, that there is little to recommend beyond the monument alley since the city does not extent the wealth for everyone, a microcosmic speck of our greater society and national financial state. I may continue a deeper relationship as the years progress and perhaps my work or life will take me there more frequently. One thing is certain; I have now been to Washington D.C. more often than I have to Moscow.

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Seawalls, Burms, and Pleasure Piers

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The road to Galveston from Houston is a verdant landscape were all the tall poles with signs atop advertising everything from KentacoHut to Days8InnSuiteBridge trees and not indeed metal poles reaching out in the hopes of distracting drivers speeding at top miles-per-liter down the eleven to fourteen lane highway depending on how one counts crash lanes and turn offs ramps.
The evidence that there are indeed a spirited number of distracted drivers can be seen in the bent guard rails, skid marks, and parts of cars that litter the highway. Frequently traffic is backed up as we witness some crash. The best one to day substantiated by ocular confirmation by this writer was an SUV that plowed through one of those large light up signs that exclaim that a lane is closed or road work will be done between the hours of 7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM to coincide with the “rush hours.” Yes, all those hours the design team met, the daily SCRUMs the blueprints sent back by various agencies upon review, all those late night calls – “Marty, I think I know how to make this signal seen by others!” the orange paint… all of it for naught. The one function that this device serves is to be seen. And… this perhaps now demised – by the look of the car – person or persons did not see it. Darwin works in strange and magical ways.

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If you keep the oil refineries and NASA on the left and the creeping crud of modernity to the right, it is a straight shot to the beach.
“I wanted to buy them all” the lady with the lapdog told me on the plane to Chicago. She was from Harlem parts of Gothem and had relocated to Houston with her German husband after The [last one with Iraq] War. An older lady with a dog named Carlos, a terrier of some sort who wanted to nest under me for some reason. For the price of one apartment, one could have ten homes in Galveston, all of them within walking distance to the beach. “We paid $400,000, for a place in Fucking Valley Stream [Long Island... don't go there it sucks] and we could have had four houses down there.” We discussed the topic in detail, having little to do but ride out the turbulence and calm down Carlos. It is funny, the things we have in common with people when all else does not line up. We came from very different backgrounds, there was an age difference, perhaps even a few political differences, but we agreed on one thing. That is the need to be close to water. “I am ready to go from Houston. Ready!” Our conversation grew unintentionally loud and we laughed at cruel jokes and some other passengers turned about or huffed loudly to protest which considering it was 6AM I understood. We switched to whispers but like two children reprimanded on the play yard, these whispers again grew into louder than socially appropriate laughter. “Fuck that noise,” she exclaimed. “I was like, you are not for real… Wait… you are for real, he told me ‘you people from New York are infiltrating down here trying to change our ways and mess with our children.’ Yes, I leave my house, I walk my dogs, I keep them on a leash, I talk to people I don’t know, if that is strange then I certainly don’t belong here.” I had to agree that things were different that I had seen dogs in the street and assumed they were wild. “I found this little dog just wandering in the street, I thought he was lost, so I stopped my car to pick him up to take him to a shelter or something… I just picked him up and someone from a house yelled, WHAT YOU DOING TAKING MY DOG LADY?!!” I was glad that the small dog I almost ran over, that I had not attempted similar rescue. “People just let their dogs out and go to work. I see dogs on the porches, but never people. I never see people.” This was indeed a strange land.
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Perhaps it is an East Coast thing, we both agreed. We were unsettled about life in Houston. Neither of us understood it, we did not like the downtown and felt the suburbs to be strange patchworks of unfriendly fortresses, the many gated communities. However, we both enjoyed Galveston even though parts of it look just like Houston in the torturous and convoluted roads and strips of commercial loathsome businesses and abandoned or foreclosed malls. It was, we agreed, perhaps because it was on the water and we needed that smell of salt and proximity of seagulls and knowledge that we could if we wanted to, spend time on the beach, not that either of us ever had time to do such an activity.
The reason that she had settled in Houston rather than Galveston was not just the long commute. Unlike other metropolitan areas, Houston is bereft of any meaningful commuter rail services. The impact of the light rail system seems little in crowded Boston or Philadelphia or New York but in Houston there is no way to get from point A to point B without a car. While on a map it may be but an hour from the beach to a gated parking lot downtown, in reality it takes much, much, much longer on any given day and at any given time. “Traffic is getting worse,” another lady told me. “I think it’s the gas and oil boom that’s doing it. Accidents every hour. I think it’s the fly-by-night trucking companies, just the other day a lady was crushed by a semi.” Indeed driving in the Houston area is like something out of Max Max, even had the Ford Bronco with a cow skull on the front almost rear-end me. I never feel safe on the roads about and in Houston. Not when the locals have proven in my mind they cannot or will not see things invented for them to see. “The trucks are not inspected, they don’t background check the drivers, I don’t want to say anything about people I don’t know, but I think there is a criminal element that just flocks to any quick easy money and they don’t care how they get it.” Indeed I had seen the tyres she spoke about littering the highway and little bits of trucks and cars all along the way. The car bumper at the foot of a pylon of an overpass gave me some nightmare food as this large car bit must have dropped down from above since unless carted there I could not see any trajectory it would have flown there from ground level. I imagined the lady crushed by a rig falling from the sky as I drove under the many flyovers that seem to have been built by competing companies or following the plans drawn by the same guy who tied the Gordian Knot. Again, I am a stranger in a strange land but each one of my cultural informants had more experience than I.

The road to Galveston turns at once from a large highway to a surface road with traffic lights and then empties onto a street where here and there some old grand palaces remind the motorists that this once had been the largest city in Texas, if not the wealthiest. The history of Galveston can be summed up by one of the historic markers for a building on the Strand District. It went something like this: The city was not here. Then we built it. Then the top floor was removed by storm A. Then a storm damaged the fourth floor so we stopped using it and it fell into ruin and we took it down in 1961. Then, later in 1961, more shit fell off from another storm. So we took off a lot of the decorative shit and modernized the structure. Then there was an oil boom in the 1980s and the folks who used this building took off and build a huge one on the outside of town. Then the oil boom ended and this, and the other building, were left to rot. Then we are taking down the other building, but this one we painted and it has a teeshirt shop inside with teeshirts that look like they’re form the early 1990s. The store, as do the others, also sells beer. You can drink beer on the streets here.
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We could say the downtown has “good bones” but inexplicably, considering cruse ships, boats of pleasure that people pay money to get on, stop here on purpose to let those people off to wander about a city with houses on the verge of collapse. Not just in one “neighborhood” but all over there are dilapidated houses both grand and modest littering not just the downtown area, but the entire beachfront. Right in walking distance of a fine sand beach, houses are shut up, for sale, slanting into the soil or melting into nothing. On other other side of the island from the Strand District there is a seawall. Funny story about that. In 1900 there was a city full of rich partying people playing on the playa to celebrate the end of summer and return to managing the [formerly enslaved] people who worked for them. A beach-side row of resorts and grand residences lined the beach. Then, all of a sudden, without warning, except for the warnings given by people sending telegraphs warning of impending doom, the sea swept in and drowned between 6000-12000 people (I am wondering if this large range is not some inner dispute among the local historians about the 3/5th rule). When the area dried out, the much maligned Federal Government came in and in the manner of Big Government back then acted as one would expect Big Government back then to act. This was no New Orleans, after all, this was not an issue of the Twenty-First Century with our Modern ways Dear Reader, these were primitive times. There was no FEMA back then. No security with armored trucks to sweep in and shoot looters. No computers to crunch numbers to determine if salvaging a city could be paid for or if it would increase the national debt. Back in the olden days no 24/7 with hard-hitting journalism by journalists from journalism schools with degrees in reporting to shame the government into action as well as report the on the human interest stories from 6000-12000 people drowning.
There was only what was really 19th century technology and 19th century America. The sort of nation that just finished digging the Panama Canal and building the largest railway system in the world.
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Shovels, horses, wagons, maybe a steam shovel or two came to the beach. And the Army Corp of Engineers. Big Government manged, in but a few years, to raise much of Galveston by 17 feet. They also built a sea wall that runs for ten miles. Started this in 1904 and finished much of it by 1911 a few large blocks of stone commemorate the effort.
Again, after The Storm, houses were built and sprung up. Some large palaces, others nothing but shotgun shacks but all behind the sea wall and all in walking distance of the ocean.
“It wasn’t the cost of the house, it was the cost of the insurance, I did research and you had to have three different insurances… it added up to more than the house payment! And, you had to have all three…” She looked up thinking and started counting on her fingers. “There was fire and flood of course, and flood was really expensive, but there was another one…” Carlos, the little dog jumped about and she could not recall this third cost associated. Houses it seemed were being abandoned and left to rot since of late the insurance companies had refused coverage or otherwise raised the price to cover an eventual payout. This explained the Sheriff Had Power of Attorney signs posted on many of the buildings. The beach would go to waste since there was no way for average people to pay that cost and the location had become less attractive to today’s wealthy who can vacation anywhere they goddamn please thankyouvermuch and don’t have to in an area close to where they usually live. Between the lack of connectivity to Houston and the insurance companies, she and her husband settled in Houston in a suburb neither of them care for much in a place where the dogs roam free and the neighbors hide indoors.
Were there another path, were there an other spirit to the city, there may be considerations to cut down on the cost of insurance in some manner in order to allow full use of the city. In the meantime the houses will remain in the Power of Attorney of the sheriff and remain standing until the roofing materials finally give out. Another storm has overtaken the island, one that our current Big Government is powerless to repair. This condition seems not to change, no matter how many secret agents New York sends down there to propagandize the youth.
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Editor’s Note: The writer of this forum received information by reading a few historical markers about town. Please learn more about Galveston on your own and if you have a chance, visit.

Dead Mall Society

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There are some sects that believe – actually entire religions if the writer is not mistaken – that we are not born with a soul, or perhaps believe we come to life with an imperfect soul and it is life and the tests and how we rise to the occasion, handle the challenge, and even how we deal with victory and success that bring us to become “more human” to create for ourselves a soul, or perfect that immature spirit we were first provided with.
Whether this is true or not is a matter for the theologians and reader of certain Gnostic texts.
It is a belief of this author that a city develops a soul and does so over time. This takes place over decades. Often centuries. Once this pathway is set, the way of this soul the character or nature of this soul cannot be changed outside of an enormous effort by man, or nature, or both.
It is fitting that one of the fist zombie films took place in a shopping mall. Early on, one of the characters had to actually explain it to the others at what they were seeing, this huge warehouse, that this was one of those “new covered shopping centers” or some such expression. This was The Mall, and the covered shopping center was a new development before I was born and is the only fixture of civic life my contemporaries and antecedents know. The mall has been an expression of the Modern Landscape for more than a generation, the vast territory of nowhere that we have frantically been building for decades is in just about every town of any note. We have parking lots capping former fields, we have blasted hills to make room for commercial strips to house nail salons, bail bonds, and the TottosUnoPesoUnMas store. Those early strip malls were built on the outside of town or the city and were the ancestor of the Mall. They were meant for those people who could afford cars. Those places we see today used to house the most contemporary and refined stores. As the mall grew from strip to the enclosed zombie-space we all grew up, the strip malls became dull and vacant, as the Main Streets that they worked hard to replace.
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My first memory of a mall was being bit by a goat in the petting zoo on the middle space the mall used for events. This was a sunken pit surrounded by large steps that served as bleachers in the center of the mall where the two wings like a transept intersected. This space was used for performances and I assume the steps down created a natural barrier so us kids did not rush Santa or so small children could fall and hurt themselves since this was an age where no one yet had 1-800 Lawyers to sue for trips and falls. To me the mall was a special place to go and we never knew what circus may be in town, such as the pit served as as close to a town center as we knew then. It formed the center axis to the transepts of the mall’s sacred space hummed to sleep by gentle muzak(tm).
As a kid, I loved going to the mall. But kids also love fire, the yummy blue bottle of poison under the sink, sharp objects that seem made to run and jump with, eating too much powdered pudding and worming medication, biting the kid you are playing with and sundry other little monkey behaviors. There was a store that sold discount stuff. Also had a lunch counter. Perhaps it was a Woolworths perhaps not. Of the two toy stores, we could afford toys in the discount bin of one. It also sold models, parts of space ships and such that you glued to your fingers or sometimes together to the corresponding part as intended in the directions. The other toy store specialized in plush very expensive stuffed animals. Or maybe I am remembering some other place. I know there was a place that sold candles. Boring, unless they were giving a special demonstration of those multiple layer candles popular at the time. Just thinking of that candle shop fills me with boredom and self-loathing. I remember a frightening den of teenagers that sold black light posters, jokes and novelties, and things like Pet Rocks(tm) and Wacky Wall Walkers(sm). It was full of teenagers and as a child I had a healthy mistrust of these beings in Kiss teeshirts. I believe we once went in. I don’t know why but this was the tail end of the sexual revolution and some rather adult toys were on display proudly behind the counter. Not that I remember exactly what they were. Probably something tame like a sexy nurse costume… or batman thong…
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A few little shops that sprung up in the hall, this was a new an exciting addition. A small glass shop in the center of the large enclosed shopping space but apart from the other stores lined up next to one another. It contained Smurfs, Hello Kitty (or whatever the hell she is), and other figures the name and brand of which have been lost to history and found only on the endmost and most distant corners of Ebay or alleyway comic book stores open only at certain nerd equinoxes in the calendar of Thor. We kids would often split a conoli we bought from the bakery. Sometimes this was the only thing we would buy for the entire trip.
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The mall was built on top of potato fields. We knew this since our mother used to ride her horses through those fields on the way to take them to the beach. The Long Island of pastures, beach houses of simple construction, and men fighting for space on the LIRR to get to their offices in New York were a thing of the past long before my arrival on this earth.
The mall has, since, in my lifetime, started to die and in many places is is dead. A better blog (deadmalls.com) documents this transformation of food courts and keystone stores into the new American slum needing revitalization and a new form of urban renewal, which I can only imagine is to take down these ugly structures and spread their ashes over the ocean, or New Jersey or wherever they dump toxic shit. I have been to the Mall of America. I have been to the Edmonton Mall. They are yet too big to fail. The others are starting to fill with zombies. In the city I have been to of late there is a great many malls, and it appears most of them dead or dying. Some are boarded up and grass grows in the cracks of the parking lot. Even in ruin they are ugly and dismal. This demise of the mall, however, does not mean that Main Street or the strip malls are back. No, those too are forever dead. For the most part outside of museum-quality wealthy enclave Main Street USAs and ironic re-purposing of 1950s roadside crap-o-la the way that some motels, diners, and drive-ins have found new life, the center of Amerikan cities and towns are still rotting away as ever.
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The mall seems a doomed affair too. The mall I wandered about in Sparta was dismal. A few zombies wandered by as I walked the halls. Of the keystone stores, both had vacated. One pretended to be “temporarily closed” but it read like the story that “oh, the dog ran away and he’s living with a new family now, dear…” Nope. It was dead. I remember when my first large store died. A place called Grants went out of business. The child me could not imagine such a huge place going out of business, forever. It was frightening. My first taste of the concept of death and mortality. The interior of the mall contained silent halls. Most shops were gone or the sort of places you may see in slums the nation over. Towards the far end, a man was yelling at another who stood behind the counter. The fight echoed throughout the calls and like a small village, the other shop keepers came to the “street” to view. We have reinvented the dead Main Street yet as climate controlled. I moved away from the yelling man. There were carts and little counters in the halls like before, but these were strange offerings and small men and women from distant shores were stationed about as if some agent had tricked them to tending shop in such a silent place. I could not imagine a space being busy. The food court was worse. Each shop, the few still operational, each had a bored individual on their iDevice or starting into space as the oil boiled needlessly. Two young men, both with face tattoos wandered by. A rather large family, and mean volume not numbers, sat at a table. Silently as if the tacos had been filled with some paralyzing agent or made from poison dart frog meat.
The other keystone store had left and in its place a huge Antique mall – supposedly the largest in the state. This huge space was filled with all manner of items from the ages, from collectible to disposable. While this collection was indeed interesting, perhaps more so than whatever former store had been there, there was something indeed strange… not like a museum. Not like an attic one had discovered. But a tomb, as if through the sliding electronic doors I had entered a strange world of pharaoh except pharaoh collected qupee dolls and depression glass.
I left the mall. Yes I bought something. A movie poster from 1971. From Italy, to be exact. I made my purchase from an old woman at what had once been perhaps the service desk for the former store. The other tenders, the keepers of the tomb were also elderly and spoke of how quiet the place had become since as one put it, “the young aren’t into antiques.” Face tattoo guys were nowhere to be seen.
I thought back to the mall of my youth. I wondered what stores yet remained. Was Wicks-n-Sticks, the candle shop still active. Shit, I hope not.
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The City That Wasn’t There

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Most of the cities of the world are ghosts of their former selves. For some there is good reason. Riot. War. General and undefined years of mayhem and wanton murder both individual and mass. I was in Stalingrad long ago, now as was then Volgograd, but for us students of history who can dismiss the million men who perished, the half million more Germans, the unknown quantity of civilians who were told, no ordered, actually, to remain in the fight least they give up a sacred inch of SOVIET soil. I am thinking of those blocks flattened by the war when I think of the city that has ceased to exist. I think of vast cement monuments to the dead. I think of places where people had to quickly fill in. That was a city that survived the worst part, of the worst world and in that city I walked from the ferry terminal to the hotel, to the monument garden, to the cafe, to the restaurant. Albeit, it wasn’t the most picturesque city.
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These cities were reconstructed according to a Modern plan, rational post-war planning central SOVIET or planned Capitalism. Both systems in their extreme produced structures that can only be seen as some extension of fascism as the winner of the last world war. Bucharest was mostly cement avenues and ruined dreams, actually the nightmares of any sane individual. I am thinking of Harbin, People’s Republic of China a former SOVIET city state of Stalin gifted to Chairman Mou but not before having hundreds of cement boxes built for the People and this city was built upon with less and less ideology (fewer?) by the Capitalists with Chinese Faces (their term not mine) using ever more cement and glass and making the city a Blade Runner distopia, minus the hot sexbots. The streets of Frankfort. The lanes of Munich. The not so quaint parts of Europe where the dagger hand of death set down an hundred incendiary bombs.

War flattened the great cities of Europe and in their place bland concept structures at a loss to understand classical society replaced them the bastard children of Buckminster Fuller and Le Corbusier fucked until dawn in the back seat of a Le Car and gave birth to most of London and the fucktarded cement palaces of the Sudetenland and Greater Germany let along the lesser suburbs. There is a reason for each and every one of these disasters of the reinvented cityscape, the abandonment of all those squirrely curry cues that amassed over a few hundred years before being pummeled to dust by modernity and the eternal strife of us Man Apes.
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Even the Third World… ahem.. Developing World has reason to be ugly… Build cement houses or face revolution. However, there is no apparent reason I can find for the condition of the cities of This Great American Land. I am thinking of Albany, New York where the state capital stands as a huge fuck you to the citizens and democracy itself. Same with Boston’s City Hall or Hall of Socialists or Central Police Command, or whatever it may actually be used for. The torn down avenues of Omaha where one could get a full night sleep in the middle of a main road and not worry about being run over by traffic. I am thinking of Birmingham a city that for the cost of unifying a bridge and desegregating a rail station, abandoned the entire endeavour. Just fuck it, limestone and all.
I am thinking of the eternal Detroit, a city rotting away to the point of desiccation. I am not aware of any plague, even London recovered from the Black Death, Civil War, Cholera, Maggie Thatcher, and WWII and here it is that Detroit appears as a mongrel dog starving and shivering in the cold wet dank corner of our nation. Downtown Tampa does no longer exist. It seems that life and good times is a thin veil describing as far as one can get from sniffing blow off of a hooker’s ass on a boat and wandering outside of the dock before needing to return to said boat, to perhaps said hooker, before another bump makes one right. The centers of our cities are lost, the outer rings usually crunching poverty and crime, and it takes some time to reach the areas you want to be… but you are not welcome there.
There is no city here. This could be any place. The rotten core of any middle American city turned to drugs any Southern Bell well past her prime but still slathering on the eyeshadow like a 14 year old girl, any part of the rusty dusty Bible Belt, the inner workings of a Sun Belt City, or just a few miles from where you live.
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There is no city here. Walking about there is a series of parking garages. This is not a city at a human scale. Where most buildings are made for those small people, us little folks, to stand under and gawk, these buildings are meant to be seen from afar. The are the skyline of corporations and you will never interact with them but they will touch your life. If you work here you come in your car, get into an elevator, work, get in the elevator, and go home to hide behind a gate and yell at the TeeVee.

Outside is sweltering hot in the summertide. The homeless, the lost causes, the dead souls wander about. No one looks up. The cars leaving the parking garages each trigger a warning alarm for the scant few pedestrians and one can hear these bells all over. It is a city of bells and cars. Everyone escapes at once and the only sound is from the yucking-it-up junkies and far off police cars rushing to this or that emergency or terrorist plot as they do in all Amerikan cities, but here they are distinct sounds. When they pass, it is again quiet here. One can hear the birds. An acorn falling to the broken pavement is a distinct sound that I can hear. There is no city here. The eateries are closed or never where.
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The sticky icky hot muggy uggy was overwhelming. I knew that outside of this collection of cement monuments to success there were comfortable parts of town, the outer rings. I had also seen places this morning where the wild dogs wandered, where houses collapsed about their occupants and mountains of trash piled up in the streets, with any luck for some future collection. An endless mile of dismal churches and unique sufferings. An elderly woman lay on a rotting plush chair that was clearly in the rain for some time. She stared endlessly, beyond me, beyond the day itself. The Food Store, named “Food Store” had bars on the doors and few windows and it was hard to know if it was open, a store, or a lock up. I stopped short not to hit a dog with blisters on its back.

In the city some of the people had a similar look. A woman wearing just socks walked past muttering to herself, but she still managed a “good day.” Another man, strangely also in socks, also greeted me in an aggressively friendly manner “Howyadoingtodayman?” I sputtered out a hullo, perhaps. The street with the trolly attracted all manner of similar beings, a collection of the lost who were clustered about. It seemed to hot to mug me, I was too hot to be afraid.
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I dipped finally into a complex of some sort. There are complexes all over. Airodomehallcentershotels. This one I fell in to was about sports or such and there were several chain restaurants in the complex, fine establishments above Uncle Parrot’s Taco Monday and just below The Hard Rock Cafe of 1986 before it blew out its New York location and moved to LA and Moscow and the airport you catch your connection. The air conditioner was on hard and fast and I pulled up a stool to get some Corn Syrup with Grain Alcohol and Spun Suite con Monsanto or at least free crazy bread. The establishment was populated by the guys you see on sports TeeVee. They looked at sports TeeVees as they ate. I am sure a few of them are on sports TeeVees as I write this. Outside it sweltered and festered. The cameras hummed. A bird confused by the orange-yellow mercury lights made a call. The security guard watched one of the plasma screens in the window by the Sports Center recording studio. A man with just socks on walked down the street smoking a clipped cigarette that may or may not have been illegal drugs, or just something he found on the street. Is this socks only thing a thing?

There is little reason, given our wealth, that our cities should resemble what they are today, but I guess there are deep reasons, perhaps in a way we too have suffered a war of some sort that has wasted all that stone, all that polished marble, baked terracotta and finely tooled stone. The hardwood floors from thousand year old trees, the iron spikes, the Portland Cement, the brick baked from the finest sand tossed aside due to our war. All of that we have traded away and it is hard to know why. I walk back to the dismal hotel I am currently calling home and wonder at the history the series of choices that led to this and understand that I bring my own culture to this place and my eye, my love of a certain style, and that this place, looks the way it does for one simple reason. Because the people here want it to look this way.

There is no city here, because the people of this place want it that way. Apparently, we have our own way of conducting war. We keep taxes low, so businesses can grow.
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