Earth Day: Eppur si muove

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“How do you want to celebrate Earth Day?” I was asked on the train this morning.  Already in a sullen and pessimistic mood I reflected upon seeing this legend on a Jeep window some days ago… My Jeep burns the gas your Prius saves.  It is true.  For every little thing you do, someone is doing some much larger thing, and that larger thing will ultimately end the environment as we know it.  The subway heaved, people pressed against one another and I dreamed of the multitude of highways I had seen these past three years of traveling, and all the huge machines driving single passengers to work.  I won’t have to worry about what comes next because life is finite.

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“Perhaps you don’t care about the future because you don’t have children” I was reminded.  It is true, people with children may think about the future as an abstract, but with their piles of disposable diapers, plastic toys, SUV running to soccer camp, SAT test prep, CCSS test prep, LSAT test prep, dance class it seems they don’t understand that for every bouncing baby boy/girl, someone somewhere is cutting down a rain forest or digging in mud for rare-earth so Mindy and Jose can all have computers and iSomethings and networks and switches and The Future of Knowledge Economy(sm) and the Digital Ruling Class/es can sell them Birds of Anger, Fruits of Ninja, and Crushes of Candy.
People have and uncanny knack for not understanding that 7 billion people cannot just learn to adapt to a limited space, buy hemp oil, and leave nothing put footprints.  Americans cannot do math… and neither can the teaming uneducated pissing masses of the world leaving more than footprints and taking more than selfies.

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The Earth is life and are finite.  The earth is round.  The materialists are proud to exclaim their victory over Mother Church/Temple/Mosque/Stone Carin in decrying the values of the Old Believers and just how round the earth is and how not in the center of the universe it is, and then they act as if the earth grows ever expanding to their needs and that they are at the center of the universe.  They believe in an infinite bounty, endless consumption, limitless growth.  All else or to otherwise believe is heretical.  Pessimistic.  Not a sign of a LEADER or Entrepreneur.

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The rational materialists are devout at believing in Man/Human’s potential and ability to solve the warming and acidifying oceans and expanding deserts.  They believe that the earth can contain so many more Cloes and Damiens as it can support the endless supply of Kawanis, Jamilis and Yumis.  It is amazing that the educated among us are so proud of their science and rationalism but cannot see that those particulates of plastic coating the world’s oceans, the radiation humming away in cool green barrels and laying under still heavy water pools, those contrails of DDT, LSD, or spent jet fuel, Roundup, Monsanto seeds, the waste waters and dead zones where even the creatures of Lovecraft would suffocate and die… these gifts to our future, to those children we are all so worried about.. these are all from science, from the halls of rationalism.

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Except for the carbon footprint, perhaps we should have burned more Galileos were we to know that Eppur si muove would, by the connections and contacts throughout the ages, one day produce a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and … perhaps somewhere yet to be named in the annals of Mankind since many Great Nations, including the one of my birth, have plenty more where Big and Little Boy came from.
So this is Earth Day.

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We celebrate it by thinking about these children running about who will not know forests.  Little ones who will not know that the sky was once blue.  Small greedy children descended from apes and these little monkeys unknowingly contributed to this mess before they are even adults, that their Baby Gap clothes made by wage slaves, their iThingamigiggies made by Chinese prisoners, their Apps made by immigrants from India living in Detroit on a T1 visas unable to work for more than just above minimum wage, their comfort and the warmth from coal, their toys made from oil, natural gas fracked out of the earth cooks their Monsanto “organic.”  Before they are even adults we will give them a world that is not even Mad Max interesting…. It will be less interesting.  Wild areas managed by Disney.  Zoos sponsored by Chase or Bank of America where the remaining species of large mammals are maintained.  A crowded existence plugged up with screens, buzzed and blitzed on clickbait and fed strange foods grown in laboratories.

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I am trapped here too.  Burning energy all day as I access “the network.”  Every checked email burning energy.  Every post on the Book of Face contributing to global warming/climate change/carbon taxes.  Another ancient city is blown up in the name of Allah.  Another boat sinks in the name of economic freedom.  Another war is fought for oil.  Another company dumps toxic waste in a lake in the People’s Republic of China to build magnets for Green Energy(tm) in The West.  Another migrant is hacked to death in South Africa.  Another immigrant is jailed in Mexico for fleeing the drug war.  Another thousand acres of rain forest were cut down by people who look at their day’s murder as a happy accomplishment.

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In my travels I have seen only two beautiful things.  Those things humans have built for God.  And those things created by God.  I will celebrate, then, those things created by God.  Knowing that all life, mine included, is finite.  And that is the natural order of things, scientific and secular or Holy and Divine, all things will to come one day, to an end whether I reuse my plastic bag, drive a Prius, or take public transportation to work every day.
Somewhere, someone’s Jeep is burning your children’s future.  Maybe it’s even you driving it.

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On Bikes

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The snow has melted and the city streets are once again open and clear.  As the winter retreated it revealed those things captured in ice, the flotsam and detritus of humanity, the many little wrappers and leavings of our modern age and our ancient an untamed monkey-like passions.  The blunt-wrappers a plenty, little sippy drinks too small to quench thirst but that require thick packages with clever plastic drinking apparatuses, crisp bags, cigarette ends, and plastic containers that perhaps only held other plastic containers.  Then there is the biomass, the produce, the dog leavings, the dead and vile creatures.

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All is revealed as the world is one filthy stage.  In time, at least in the more wealthy municipalities, these things are gathered and moved to other areas, dumped afar or collected and sorted and then dumped, or burned, or tossed into the ocean way beyond any international date line.

Then there are the bicycles.  All manner of bent and wrecked machines tied to trees, to posts, to signs, to guardrails, gates, subway rails right next to the sign proclaiming it will be removed, to other bicycles and dotting the city, each one with some story to tell.

What is it about these lost machines that is so ever-present in our Great City, and other urban areas, that is also overlooked.  These blasted artifacts remain week after week, month upon month.

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This blogger often imagines a story for each one.  That night where she rode to his apartment, things worked out, she stayed the night, she moved in and never rode again.  Or things didn’t work out… and she was never heard from again.  That time we rode our bikes to the bar but Steve was way to drunk to ride home so he jumped in a cab, never to visit that neighborhood again.  Some bikes are abandoned.  Perhaps out of malice.  They take up too much room in the apartment so one night, he just took it outside, went a few blocks from home, just enough so the contraption couldn’t follow him home, and tied it to a pole.  Free at last, she thought happily as she was now able to put her Ikea shelf full out of the way of the door so it could close and she could finally afford some privacy.

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Other bikes were clearly the trophy of someone’s Worst Night Out.  That time we got something quick to eat but not so quick that someone didn’t make off with your front tyre, seat, chain, handlebars, bike lamps making it unrideable home. So many of these left objects must be the result of some damaging night, perhaps the night someone saw their violates bike, just one more insult from the city and said “that’s it I’m fucking moving back to Ohio!”  Having a bike in a major city starts in motion that counter that ever ever ever ticks on until it is stolen or destroyed.
I had a bike carefully tied to a post only to return later that day to see that it had somehow fallen close enough to the street to be run over by some car with fat tyres. It was an inexplicable wound since I proposed the car had to ride up on the sidewalk in order to crush my bike tyre such.  I angrily threw the damaged wheel into the street only to be yelled at by some old guy tending a shop, well, where the fuck were you when they ran over my bike buddy?  I sheepishly picked up the wheel and walked the distance back to my place with the bike tucked under one arm and the bent wheel under the other ashamed at my outburst and equally shame-filled at allowing The City to have its way with me.

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There was a time I forgot my bike for a few hours only to find it stolen.  I loved that bike, it had a fine bell and was some old vintage clunker popular with the Hipsters of the time.  The police came to take a report but it was clear they gave between 0 – 2 shits about my bike.  “You’ll never find it!” They encouraged me.

However, in a bike shop a few weeks later, I found it.  There it was!  There was my bell!  And the junky rat bastards were willing to sell it back to me because I threatened them that my bike had a serial number however, I was short $25 from the reduced price they were still demanding. I had to get home to borrow some money from my roommate.  When I went to deliver the money for my bike the junky bike dealers they had changed their minds, they discovered my lie about the serial number and now they no longer had the bike and they won’t sell me shit and they impolitely requested I never go in their shop again.  I made it a mission to dump just the right amount of dog shit at their door night after night, sometimes even painting their locks with the stuff if possible when I didn’t glue their locks shut. It was more for me that it was for them.  My way of dealing with loss and the Unfair of the world.

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Owning a bike in the city is perhaps not such a good idea.  After they started placing White Bicycles about the city I was impressed (some more) on how dangerous it is to ride.  Story after story abounds of some transplant to the city, a well meaning girl who drinks sun tea out of old peanut butter jars and reuses her bag when she shops for organic food at the farmer’s market and she rides her bike to reduce her carbon footprint and one day she is pulverized into chum by a oil-smoking van in yet another hit-and-run on Flushing Avenue.  Riding a bicycle in the city is a blood sport.  One has to watch out for cars, trucks, pot holes, sand piles, water of unknown chemical composition, delivery guys with their cigarette hanging from their lips and dull expression on their face as some looped code of a Commodore 64 locked in perpetual non-existence speeding on an electronic bike, pedestrians who seem to think you will just pass through them since they’ve seen Ghost far too many times, and of course, other cyclists.  The serious ones.

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Serious cyclists are dangerous to themselves and others.  They are the ones that yell, BIKE on the Brooklyn bridge and then peddle full-tilt towards some Asian tourists taking selfies.  I encountered these aggressive pulsing hormone-injected riders when I commuted to work for a time on a bike.  ON YOUR LEFT!  They would yell.  I never could go fast enough for their pumping meaty legs or their swinging testicles.  PASSING! I was riding counter to the crowd and had several close calls as riders would attempt to out do themselves in some contest to pass.  I would ring my bell constantly – also to the derision of those heading straight for me “DING DING DING ASSHOLE” one yelled as he flew by.  I put on a number of bells on my bike that would ring out with each pot hole I struck until I sounded like a Chuck Wagon from some Olde Tyme film of the Gun Smoke vintage.

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There are so many ways to die by bike in The City.  By the wrecked bones being picked clean of so many more unlucky bikes, there are so many ways for these clever inventions to just up and evaporate.  It seems that perhaps this is a sport left for the truly courageous and those that live on the first floor and need not hump their precious ride up and down the stairs every bloody day and that one day, all of us, will slip up and leave our ride outside, yes tied up with locks that cost more than the bike but still this will do nothing but give the thieves something to laugh about later at what I imagine are weekly Meetups where they swap war stories and funny anecdotes like this one asshole who bought a $75 lock only to learn it could be popped open using the shaft of a Bic Pen.

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I look about the city and still read the dead bikes for signs of their former lives.  The BMX, the Sport, the Vintage all meet the same sad fate at the hands of the Mean Streets.  The locked parts remain, but in time, everything else is stripped or carefully broken off and taken away.  And then… after a year or so… depending on the wealth and influence of the neighborhood… the rest is removed by the city or hidden hands of the keepers of these tortured and forgotten things.
Who can know what story is behind each and every one of these leavings.

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Ski Arkham

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Do you believe in fire or ice?  Too hot or too cold like two out of three bears mauling an eternal supply of gullible blonds out there depending on where in the world you have been lough these many months either hiding within some chamber waiting for warmer weather or outside in the tundra wearing nothing but a thong covering whatever you have.  

The deep intense cold of the Northeast of the United States of America or languishing in the now warm and clammy climate of the Canadian wilderness or wherever there is a purge of that arctic air and lack of places for polar bears to stand other than open water.  Hot dry Brazil formerly of the “rain forests,” or California where our nuts come from (Hollywood and actual nuts), or in the Northeast, that is the bitter galleries of stone and Eldridge families lurking in the Mountains of Madness (which so many propose are the Catskills and not the Presidential range) so described by H. P. Lovecraft, the Old Ones have unleashed the Ice Giants and the cold of a thousand graves you get to sample one-at-a-time.  A stinging cold that hurts the lungs, the air fucking hurts my face, if outside my fingers turned at once to wooden pegs having little to do with me…  Like Edward Scissorhands…  It was a cursed and cold time that in other ages, at other times in the history of our race, many of us, perhaps myself, would – or should, if you take that view of Mr. Lovecraft and his euthenical predilections, have perished.  Frozen, but now unlike the film, but quiet and blue as the grave.

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Happily, we are part of a Petro-Chemical Age and all I needed to to to survive, that is to mimmic those African planes my ancestors the monkeys grew up on, was to but turn a dial and feel that warmth of those tropics, or savannas or Whereeverthefucks we sprang from.

Unhappily, this age is fast coming to an end.

While I, and a goodly majority of humanity, has been enjoying the comforts of the carbon footprint, have forgotten the Great Crash of 2008, the Long War, the Forgotten War, the Crash of 29, the various wars in between, and sundry other highlights of the Industrial Age, we perhaps are about to wake up from our slumber…  To see those spirits we refuse to look at.  Those forces greater than we can know and so, we invent a world in front of us, a close and safe world as a child pretends she is safe under the blanket from so many wolves or bears…. or actual monsters.

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This blogger has enjoyed a break from thinking about the economy, the rot of our society and the political expressions of this rot, about the loss of environment and the missing vigor of the earth, and I have diverted my mind and writing to clearer happy thoughts.  I stay travel this Great And Storied Land – for pleasure during my spates of Funemployment and for work as part of the professional life I have attempted to resurrect since the Great Crash of 2008 and breathe life into… I have traveled to look and see and reflect on life and art and just try to forget those frightening things that appear under the surface.  I am not sure I have learned anything.  I don’t think I could even write a few pages of On The Road or Motorcycle Diaries (Fight Club… that’s another story, but I can’t talk about it here).

Bethatasitmay, it has been a fun ride, to state hop and Jet Set about until I now have a favorite airport (Key West) and hub (Charlotte) and least favorite flight patterns (Chicago to Dallas or anything heading into the wind).  I have burned up many an acre of what we still call “rain forest” and delved deep into the tar sands to maintain the life I have grown accustomed to in order to see the points on the American globe, toss out sporks and paper towels in areas and highways I have never seen and may never see again.  I always prioritized seeing other lands first, to see the jungles and farmlands and forgotten villages and I am glad I did that… but I am also sad that I never saw this country until it was almost too late…

If you believe in the hot… or the cold of this winter.

Soon, it won’t matter what you believe.  The mention of the bitter cold has become political, radically so.  You can’t say it is sunny without being far right or left, weather can’t be just fucking weather anymore, it must make you belong to a camp, a stupid and angry camp that believes in such-and-such and hates so-and-so.  However, soon, it won’t matter what you believe.  Human agency or G/g/_/o/d/s/es/ses W/w/ill we will have our winter be whatever is a-comin’ since we cannot stop that rain and neither can we quicken or slow the Long Emergency and those things we have avoided long enough that live in frightening places.

In winter I have taken up a sport.  I ski.  After 30/40/50 years or whatever it has been, I have learned to ski down steep hills and glaciers of ice and fun powder tops.  I have learned to enjoy the challenge, the fear, and the fun of this activity.  Will I again brave the snow and ice and the air that hurts, or will next year be warm and will I see mosquitoes in winter?

This is no longer politics.  H.P. Lovecraft wrote about monsters the like that roamed outside of our understanding.  They rules lands and dimensions we did not know existed.  They sat outside of our Left/Right, Up/Down Flatlander mentalities.  They were horror unexplainable and unmentionable.  We enter the time of the Old Ones.  These forces are today around us, in our faces, and like some colour out of time, we cannot see them… cannot know them, taste them, live them… But they will loom into view at this pace of the snail and the Chrism vial has been broken open and we cannot place these bitter and now profane fluids back where they belong.

For me, I will go ski the mountains of New England, a vacation in Arkham for as long as it is polite to do so.

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Brazenhead Books

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Gotham while dwindling in surprises or vestigial remnants of the Old Days, yet has a few interesting things remaining.  Of these is Brazenhead Books, a store run as a salon out of a very tight apartment on the Upper East Side, a region of Gothem that hasn’t been interesting for decades.

There was a time when gatherings and happenings and art openings occurred in apartments and closed shops and all manner of unsanctioned areas of the city.  Little by little, these places winked out, closed down, or the building inspector forced the occupants to vacate. Activities became sanctioned, the locations became the same back room of the bar on a Tuesday night, the same cafe with pretensions of art and culture on the walls, a set of places that were safe and contained.  This author was not part of those heady days but came in the tail end, when those old counter cultural spaces were giving way to development, refinement, and rules.  The punk rock food collectives, the anarchist book stores, the script readings, poetry slams, and underground music festivals were fast closing down.  There remained still an energy in some of the new places.  The reimagined art houses, secret theater shows, after hours gatherings.  Yet, more often the places were in the news and one of the free newspapers or some other weekly rag covering trends would lift the curtain and invite all the groupers, that level of bottom feeder that exists in all cities and everywhere for the sole purpose of attending places en masse in order to “blow up the spot” and ruin it for everyone.

The rapid rise of the New Gotham pushed out a great deal of the creative places and they fled to Brooklyn.  First to Williamsburg for which the Golden Age was roughly 1994-2001 and then Bushwick (which by some reports was over by 2005) the events and art gatherings, parties and bad bands continued for a time in unsanctioned spaces.  Lofts, apartments, abandoned coolers and lots.  

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That is why it was so special to find a space in the city still hidden in plain sight.  Brought to my attention by a good friend, it took some digging to find the relevant information.  Now we can rely on the w.w.w. rather than scant information in the back of a discount Village Voice or some Flavour Pill email, but still it took a little digging to find the address.  Also, in this was the information that this space was also soon to end, the landlords having started eviction proceedings and it seems that by July all those books and the little community that surrounds them will have to move on.

I met my friend who had already found her way inside and was set up in conversation with an older gentleman.  The apartment is on the second floor of a nondescript Upper (yawn) East Side apartment building of PREWAR Hardwood Floors vintage chalk full of families who send Zoe and Cloe to Village and Farm Day School or Brown Early College Day School (the term “Day” in a school is a secret code as the term “academy” is code for Inner City). The muffled sounds of discussions led us to the right door and inside was fast to enter another world.  Books of all vintage, but primarily first editions or rare books, were stacked about as they were set on shelves built to cover each and every wall from floor to ceiling.  The erstwhile proprietor was holding court behind a makeshift bar discussing the collections and matters of the salon to some much younger adherents.  

Along with the stacks of books that muffled the sounds and various conversations of those gathered, there was that smell, the smell of books that I have not smelled in a very long time, perhaps as long as when I worked in a seminary library cataloging medieval tomes… but that is another story…

The smell of books is unique.  I wonder in our digital future what the smell of knowledge will be, other than burning cadmium batteries….

photo (3)Opening the wine we brought to have a sip, I caught up with my friend and moved from room to room perusing this collection.  Other than one room was reserved as the First Edition Room, I am uncertain as to the organization of these wares or the degree these works represented items for sale or those leftovers one keeps or skims from a lifetime of trading books.  It is said that most drug dealers sell to supply their own personal habit, I would think that of certain book mongers, at least this one, that same iron rule also applied.  

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And so while this place yet exists, it soon will join the list of other shuttered unsanctioned places in Gothem.  I am sure the host will continue in some format or another, will find another location to call home and keep peddling books and hosting salons but it will perhaps not be a cramped and well worn apartment.  

Perhaps he will push north further.  Perhaps The Bronx will be the new East Village. Perhaps it already is, but we just don’t know about it because we, you and I at least, are older and no longer able to hang out with the cool people and those free weekly newspapers have long since stopped being published.

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Wine, Women, and Winnie’s

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While the old trope “the city never sleeps” has much truthiness, it is also a truism that the city is pushing ever harder at sacred institutions these past few years so that but fewer and fewer distinct establishments of the city remain.
And by this, Dear Reader, this author means dive bars.

Yeah, gentrification, yea the tale of two cities, wist the moment of trustifarians and Moscow royals, and Euroweenies, and sundry other reasons that come to pass that the city is fast changing more than ever before, reached a tipping point of commercialism and consumerism that is ironing flat the landscape.

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This process is better documented in Vanishing New York and other blogs as a societal trend with commentary and statistics about income inequality and all that.  Nevertheless, it has come to the attention of this blogger since in h/i/er/its lived experience there are fewer locations of one’s youth (10 years ago) and more storied and established places winking out, the darkening of a hundred lamps of welcome.  Even if these lamps also were the firelights of harpies and selkies and pirates luring lads and lasses and those inbetwixt into a life of drink and rapine and all manner of nondenominational prodigal behaviour.  These dive bars were filled with low characters, Andy Wharhaol castoffs, criminals and Tina, that girl who just moved to the city with her friends and ohmygawdIamsototallydrunk and her bro equivalent Dave or Harry or Steve who were soinabandandliketotally.   They were, however, unique markers upon the city and to a one with the worst bathrooms imaginable so pee now… or hold it for the night.

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One thing the dive bar had was accessible drinks.  Simple menus, no mixologists, one never had to ask, oh my what’s in a Ruby NAFTA Billy XY? as one never needed to know more than vodka and whatever mixer or whisky and mixer.  The ice never was in strange cubes of perfect clarity nor was anything topped with herbs slapped against the wrist of the bartender.  If anything the ice cubes tasted like old fridge and if anything slapped against the wrist of the bar tender you either tossed it out or washed it before putting it in your mother [errata, that word “mother” was “mouth” before autocorrect… but it works in a way].
Prices at these places were always in the budget of a graduate student, or actor, or artist, or douche bag, attempting to both get drunk off one’s proverbial or actual asshole and make the rent so that a night out did end up in a days homelessness.  Not that some of the kids in the bar weren’t homeless….

These places were spots to gather with friends since the cramped conditions at home did not allow (nor the 70 room mates one had to have permission from in order to have more than one house guest) and who wanted to clean up after your friends anyway?

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And now, Kidsthesedays know less and less (or is it fewer?) about the distinct locals that made New York, New York. As the chain stores and condos, condos and chain stores  have taken over more and more, so too has the libatious landscape become ever bleaker along those streets and avenues.  Yeah, there are cocktail establishments serving clever drinks, sports bars, and TGIFs, but these are either out of reach for the average drinker or make one feel like one is quaffing a dram in Edmonton or Charlotte airport or anywhere in-between.  While Alphabet City fell long ago, even Williamsburg, the center of Lost Youthddom has seen a mass closing of music venues and well-worn drinking holes.  This darkness is even now falling on Bushwick, even as so many mixologist $10 drink spots are coming online.
Perhaps in time these places will mellow and a patina will take off the brash accents, however, with the cost of real estate and the quickening of changing tastes, it seems unlikely that the local Fudruckers will become a storied establishment filled with history and lore a hundred years hence.

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All great stories have an ark.  A rise and fall.  Gotham is not immune.  The bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s were the good old days for rock bands and creatives. It seems that every day another distinct place shutters and is replaced by condos.  It seems that those who wish to rock, must look elsewhere to do so.

It is yet another establishment that has fallen, Winnie’s in Chinatown.  Once an Irish bar then an Italian bar then a Chinese karaoke bar it has with so many others been set aside for history to judge.  I will not bore you, Dear Reader, with some hackneyed recounting of my personal story there or at any of these other now closed establishments, I am sure you have great stories of your own.  But, let us at least raise a glass and toast the ever slipping of time and the new improved city that may not be as much fun as we remember…. even if now we must toast with water in our glass… but that’s a different story.

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The Brooklyn Stove

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“I can’t wait for the apocalypse,” he said.  Strangely, the thought that Doomers are correct, that this whole fabricated society built on the spindly legs of fake commerce, idiotic trending articles, and environmental destruction cannot last and that perhaps in my lifetime we will see a true “back to basics” is tantalizing and exciting.  It is the thought of the child trapped in school waiting for those long summer days off and the imagined adventures with pretend friends.  An ideal, and as an ideal, I do not smell this future, I do not have the hot ashes and dust in my mouth of this future, I do not feel the cold of this future after the change, after we are stripped by all the accouterments of Late Stage Capitalism and returned to the primal world of the elements.  That night, the elements were cold.  This could be what had been decades ago normal for the Northeast (the ONLY place it was cold this winter IN THE WORLD) since it was technically spring but at 3000 or so feet, it was winter and it was below freezing by about 20 degrees and we were camping.
As troglodytes our merry group had gathered in a rock overhang so deep it almost seemed a cave.  The ice piles describing the edges pushing up burms and closing in the sides into white and gray walls.  Those hugging arms of snow gave our hangout the cosy safe feeling of the cave, minus the typical cosy that means warm and comforting, and safe meaning you can’t just slip off the cliff whist taking a pee.  The surfaces in this campsite were hella hard to deal with: slippery nasty ice, hard piles of snice (ice/snow), stones, stones coated in ice and fuck you warm blooded animal.  I imagined that we were a long lost hunting party.  I thought to all those Vice documentaries about the Syrian refugees and I thought, this is the cold and ice of the lost, the Donner Parties, the displaced… except that we had ample food, sleeping bags for the cold (at least to 25 degrees Fahrenheit/ -3.88 Celsius), and a wondrous camp stove** that can cook food fueled by a handful of twigs and charge your iWhateverthefuck too (retails for $250 and was imagined in Brooklyn but made in perhaps the same place children make iThingies).  So, we were unlike any lost flesh-eating land claim whatzit or refugee whoseamajig.  We were still locked into the system in so many ways.

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However, it wasn’t for lack of trying to detach.  Winter camping (technically spring but with the snow and ice I give bonus/metal points as winter) separates those who like to camp from those who wish to die from camping.  The air hurts.  A normally steep incline can provide a slick slippery slidely to the death adventure.  Simple trails are snow coated ankle breakers.
It is the time of the hungry ghosts.  The lone wolves.  The rabid bears with glowing eyes. The snow that twinkles and reflects light making the known world – that directly in front a few feet – seem magical but not in a “magic of childhood” way but a Grimm Brothers before they cleaned up their stories to make them “happy” (by 1811 standards which by today’s nneo-Puratanical politburo-correct standards means from XXX 1970s hirsute love to NC17 with just a touch of side boob) kind’a way.  Walking to join the rest of the party, I was unable to set out before nightfall, and cursed the decision wishing that I could have been able to be part of a group to ensure I would find this camping spot, that if something happened I would be recovered and given a Christian burial.  The sound of the snow crunching under my feet, my heavy breath as I strained under the brand new Alpine pack I had yet to read the directions for, and my imagination was all i heard…. except for those trees that clunk together…. and branches groaning…. and the fluttering of a moth.  What is a moth doing out in winter?  There actually was a moth flying about… was that the Mothman?
After a lot of sliding on my ass, I made it to our cavesque campsite that the others had cleared of snice (a mix of snow and ice) and provisioned with beer, vodka, and firewood.  It had taken hours to clear the camp of snice with a machete.  We made merry into the night slipping and sipping and tending the fire.  We were without Mother Signal, the pervasive connectivity to our modern world and had to make due to live in the moment with out broadcast nor ability to “look shit up” the later being hard to live with, even for a moment since my aged and spongiform brain cannot remember who that guy was ….  That guy on the TeeVee show… the one who did that funny thing with his mouth where he made the words in order to communicate a humor of an idea and another idea …
It was to an early hour, exhausted by the lack of connectivity, that I took to “bed” – a mixture of rocks and leafs on a slender line upon where there was no snice, unwrap my bedding, and to sleep to go.
Which lasted until the evil and crepuscular hours of the early morning where the dank lasting darkness gave way to a creeping sickness of morning.  My head was pounding, which is to be expected from a night’s cavort, however, parts of me hurt from the cold that was seeping through the zipper, through every break in the fabric in shocking ways.  My hand had tucked out of the bag by mistake and it almost cost my my fingers.  My hand was as a stone, numb and cold.  The air had become ever colder in the night and the fun bracing chill was replaced by arctic dangers where breathing hurt, the air hurt, the rocks beneath me stuck into my shoulder and also froze the wound.  There was no comfort.  I wrapped up in everything I owned and tossed and turned as the sky turned from gray to that first yellow ray of the sun, but that did not warm our cave.  The snice pile laughed at me.  I hopped over the snice on the ground to a rock set up as a seat next to the long dead campfire and the seemingly lifeless companion who had chosen a spot by the fire but in the night those lights extinguished and he was exposed and covered in snow.  Would we have to bury him here?  His sleeping bag was worse than mine.  He seemed lifeless.

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My feet hurt.  My nose hurt.  My fingers hurt.  My soul ached for hot water on demand. My boots laughed at me.  There was no way I would be able to slip them on.  My gloves had been wet the night before.  Even by the fire that night they had frozen into blocks and stuck together.  I hopped in my sleeping bag over the snice to where my Brooklyn Stove sat as some R2 unit or lost piece of equipment from a Moisture Farm and looked to make coffee.  The water was frozen solid.  My fingers stung to be out of my now double sleeping bags even for a moment.  My friends rose with the sound of my stirring.  They were miserable.  I was tossed a lighter, but it was too cold to work or my fingers too numb to operate this simple tool.  Another lighter was tossed to me.  This one had been kept inside the sleeping bag so it worked, yet, even with Brooklyn Stove, it was hard to light up the fire to thaw the water to then make coffee, impossible with frozen fingers to break the twigs small enough to fit in properly, and deleterious to brave the icy cliffs to gather more fuel.

In time, hours actually, we made coffee from frozen water.   We really put the Brooklyn Stove through its paces.  We made bacon sandwiches from a block of frosty bacon and the algific dehydrated bread, and boiled eggs hardened by the weather in water harvested from the snice and turned all this into food, into warm and comforting reminders that we were still yet part of today’s world   Just holding those hot eggs gave me hope.  By then the sun had risen to a respectable zenith and we had moved about making fire in the fire pit, keeping the Brooklyn Stove charging our iThingies and boiling eggs, and moved about enough to warm up, strap on boots, pile up the gear, and pick up the litter from the night before (we weren’t good “neighbears” [if you’re from that region you know what I mean]).  We left the rocky camp and returned to the trail and to the parking lot.
I still hope for The Change.  That time when we can again return to a more balanced world.  I just hope I have a better sleeping bag before that happens.

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**The Brooklyn Stove Company did not compensate this author nor does this represent a product review, advertisement, nor field test of this silly yet fun invention.

Ozymandiasum

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In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone… – Smith

The spring has arrived but not a moment too soon.  The ice and snow remain, the land of the Frost Giants and those blue dark ferrie that have glomming and glowering faces.  The pocket of cold has held strong in this region despite that much the rest of the world burns ever hotter.  The storms hit the coast and deep in the woods upstate, in the Lost Kingdom, the Northeast Kingdom, and New England the deep cold is met by a winter that is deceptively dry.

There are still places that grow ever silent, ever colder, ever housing only the ghost and specters of long lost tribes.  The byways, the highways forgotten by any hand of progress or repair, such as our infrastructure is. Dotted in the landscape is the growing number of zombies.  Not the face eaters of Meth-Florida, not the TeeVee show variety, but those living dead of this age, the dead malls.

Once modern establishments of taste, Wicks N’Sticks and all manner of Court d’Food, these places are but becoming as dead as the Main Streets the malls replaced.  

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I remember going to the mall as a kid.  On Lawn Guy Land, way back in The Day.  I was a kid, so what did I know, but I enjoyed the petting zoo, Santa, the many activities and wonders of the shops (there were no food courts in those days).  Then, as an older youth, I learned to hate the mall.  The place of mall rats and boring mercy, stupid movies I spent too much money on and all manner of bad memories.  I hated the mall with great interest and vigor, almost to an unhealthy degree.

So it is with no less than that German word that intellectuals use to describe a joy brought from some other’s misfortune that I enjoy, revile, and celebrate the End of Mall America.

It is fitting that a 7th Century terrorist group, ISIS, would threaten this already dead establishment.  Their out-dated and mis-guided ways, not knowing that America has moved on, we have built more structures, ever larger than the malls that today house our villages of commerce and file through the great rich pageant of Chinese-made plastic wonder-nasties on their way to be filtered and broken in a thousand households to wind up in the dump buried in the dirt and excreta of a modern society and civilized beings.

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And as I wander this great and wide open sky under the land circumscribed by our forebears, it is no wonder that I stumble upon ever more dead malls littering the endless highways and commercial areas considering the progression of our Nation, the Pilgrims Progress that seems to have culminated in 99 cent socks and three foot tall Star Wars figures.

The parking lots are cleft with frost heaves and coated in dust.  The pall of death was upon this centre.  There was no mistaking that the Keystone shopes had fled and the rest were put withering away on the vine of The Free Market.  This was even deader than the malls I had seen in Texas just a few weeks prior.  The silence of a dead or dying mall is frightening.  The building was not built for hush.  One end, where once there was a Keystone Shope, now a barrier of plastic and plywood attempted to stave off the bitter cold that seeped through all corners and cracks in the tundra of central Vermont.  A little happy noise came from the bounce castles in the center of what had once been a grand food court but now was only home to a squalid Chinese food establishment, the lost Han people of Central Vermont who choose the most incorrect location with with to achieve the American Dream.

Walking the halls, the stores one after another were blank, empty, and chilled.  From the former book store to the obsolete electronics store, they all were gated and with the memorial stone, the For Rent placard balefully hanging from the links of the riot gate.

The few people shuffled between the few remaining stores.  While Main Street remains dead, the playground of Herion addicts and upper middle class foodies, this mall is now joining that trail of broken civic structures in a society intent on ever building more and more until the entire land is send under parking lots, neon signs, and the next shopping Mecca we all but must turn to the East to pray to.

After a little wandering, I realized that only death and tears would be found at this mall.  Oh… and an antique shop, which gave me some hope until I realized it was one of those auction places that look like an antique shope.  Fucking auctions houses…

Perhaps main street will one day revive.  Perhaps one day there will be an Urban Renewal of malls.  May we see artists and creatives flock to them for the neo-Bushwick, the new Woodstock, the bold new collectives of makers?  Will preservation societies offer to rebuild Wicks N’ Sticks, Radio Shack, and Caldors with mismanaged grants and tax sheltered facade monies?

I think not.  I hope not.  I want to see these places burn.  Not in a terroristic way.  In the way of Father time.  To slowly burn all all energy decays, entropy and the jungle envelopes this ill sickening temple as it had so many palaces and thrones of so many Ozymandias.  Or is it Ozymandiasum? 

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