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Entries in suburbs (19)

Wednesday
Oct242007

Keeping The Home Fires Burning

Mercifully, from my Bay Park section of San Diego, we have it good. Unlike the last fire of 2003, when we were holed up for days and the air was pumpkin orange on the first morning after the fire began in Ramona, this week has not been that intolerable at my house. We've been able to get out some and leave the windows open to some degree. The lack of humidity has been a bummer though as it has that dehydrating effect. So far the worst part for me has been the all day TV watching, and remaining awake through the night, not really getting any sleep till about 6 am on Tuesday. While neither of the primary fires actually are a direct threat, the unpredictable nature of the winds, and the ever growing evacuation zones have been nerve wracking to contemplate. Mercifully again, the winds on Tuesday started to blow their proper way from west to east, at least in part. Looking at the wind trends throughout the county has been interesting though, because it just is so wild, and certain places are blowing one direction in keeping with the east-west Santa Ana pattern, and other areas have the opposite. What is unnerving is how the fires are generally converging, and how we can be in this safe pod, buffered by maybe 15 and more miles of city and highly built out land, but the county around us is on fire, forming something of a C-shaped wall. We have three freeways out of here. I hope they all don't get shut down at once or too close to one another!

So, we're fine here in actual terms. No direct threat. An offer was made to stay at the intentional community/monastery where Kelli stays while at school (125 miles or so), but it seems better still to remain here with all our stuff instead of gambling on leaving and not having certainty that we could come back easily to get more stuff, or whatever the moment required. At this point, she and other commuter students seem to have abandoned school for this week, so they could keep on task at home. At least thinking ahead, we made our list of priority items, and in general, we doubt we should have to go, but it has been sobering to actually entertain how little we could really move given our little Noah's Arks. We also have Suzanne to think about (uses a wheel chair), as well as Buber the Dog.

Some friends or work contacts live up in the mandatory evacuation zones, and a couple are in the worst areas. One seems like he couldn't be but blocks from the RB fire. I can't help but wonder about any of my senior clients I once served in Poway, Scripps Ranch, RB, Penasquitos, and some of those places. I have no idea who is alive since 2003, but can you imagine dodging that year's bullet and living to see this?

All this makes it hard to carry on a job search. Who knows, maybe this might make it easier to find something? Damn irony. Won't place my bets on it though.

Monday
Oct222007

Dangerous Vu

ed and eda on a sunny day in the back yardStepmom Eda and me on the day before the massive fires in October 2003Well damn. I'm gonna have to stop seeing my stepmom in the last part of October. This is the second time I've done this on a nice bright sunny day, only to wake up to news the next day that my whole damned county is on fire! No shit! It happened in 2003, and here we go again. So far today the sky is not as filled with ash as it was four years ago. I also happen to be just a few miles away from there, and at this point, maybe that helps. But we shall see how long that lasts because in 2003 the whole place was overtaken for days. Grrr. At this point, I don't have any fear of the closest fire, which is still about 25 miles out. In 2003, the fires got to about five to seven miles out and that actually got a little scary considering how fast they spread and how they jumped freeways and seemed to be able to work across the vast Miramar air base. I actually began to make ready.

One man who I work for lives about a mile or two from the Rancho Bernardo fire. I hope he is okay. In 2003 Kelli lived up in that area in Poway and she had to evacuate down to my house in Clairemont but had to go north to go west to go south because the logical 15 freeway was in the firestorm. The fire back then came within about a mile from her apartment. Our friend Cindy has a house on the outer reaches of the developed part of Poway. Kelli used to live with her shortly before the fires. In 2003, Cindy also was in the process of becoming a grandmother just as the fires ripped through, and while Cindy was at the hospital with daughter Trinity and new granddaughter Natasha, Kelli and another friend-roommate clandestinely (sort of—the area was closed and she needed to show some evidence she lived there—an envelope with her name and the address did the trick) went and rescued the dogs and gathered pictures for Cindy. Welcome to this world, Natasha.

same yard, different sky---filled with soot and ash and the sun is filtered to an unearthly colorThe sky on the very next day, shot in the exact same position in the yard, facing 90 degrees leftAnd again, here is an illustration of the folly of the way we build across the landscape. Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Penasquitos are giant exurbs that are low density, and sit on the edges of canyons and other wild areas. It was exactly the same in 2003; Poway and Scripps Ranch are neighboring communities. I actually used to deliver meals to seniors up there in all those communities, and the whole exurban build-out was an eyesore and a pain to navigate as a driver. Each of these areas to greater or lesser extent has some faux-forested areas where the houses are meant to seem deployed in the wilds. As Scripps Ranch found out, that was its biggest fault, with explosive eucalyptus trees surrounding houses with wooden roofing. The place had large areas that were decimated. A debate followed about all that and codes were changed so that wooden roofed houses would need to be re-roofed with tile or other fire resistant material.

What else can San Diego expect if we have these exurban tracts which flirt with disaster by design? Maybe people will come to their senses with this second firestorm. But I don't think so. All around, invariably there is a chorus of "We'll just rebuild. We aint going anywhere!" Have it your way, people. It is a recipe for disaster. Do these people need their "space" more than the city needs to be safe? The low density development and twisty roads terminating in cul-de-sacs make it harder to navigate emergency vehicles, and the sheer sprawl of places makes it harder to get control over such fires. Our local canyons and hills make it hard to fight fires when the fire begins to shape the weather itself. Exurban houses are just in the way and are shown no mercy except in seemingly random instances where there will be an occasional house standing among other lots with nothing but destruction.

This is our Katrina; what will we do in the face of it? You think maybe Mother Nature is tapping us on the shoulder a bit more in all these recent disasters? Is Al Gore just making this stuff up? What do we have to gain by repeating the same patterns of building where we should never build?

Monday
Oct082007

Gma

grandmother virginia lucas at age 90 in her favorite chair in the dining room by the giant windowToday is my late grandmother's birthday. Virginia would have been 98 today. Even her actual 91 years were a mighty feat of endurance through a century that so drastically reinvented the world and life in it. She saw many things come and go in that time. Some were regarded as great progress (she lauded science and inspired my curiosity about the lunar landings and so forth), and some were huge steps back (Elvis pretty much was the end of music for her). Some things never really wavered for her (she was always devoted to church life on the lay ministerial, social, and charitable levels). I know there were things that she was not willing to adapt to because they flew in the face of tradition. Our church was among those that began to use gender inclusive language, and she was not hip to that at all. 'Why can't they just let God be a HE like he has always been?' This trend really messed with her traditional Christmas favorites. I don't know if it is that she actively supported patriarchal systems, or only knew that the fight was so great as to not really feel it worth the effort to change things, certainly not in her late 70s or so.

Of all the things that came and went, I have a feeling though she would come unglued if she knew what happened to her family in the wake of her passing in early 2001. I think she saw visions of it before she died; she wanted it not to be this way. She had many reasons to think it would turn out bad. And it has. In some ways, while the worst of it happened after she died, even the five years before that saw a lot of division and fracturing in the wake of my grandfather's death in 1996. I think his death was like pulling the king pin out of a complex mechanism, and all the pieces fell away into a scattered heap. I know the ensuing drama between she and my father and I was something that never let her grieve her partner's loss—after over 61 years of marriage. We had the added complexity of a certain fellow named Bill Francis who was ostensibly going to help her out for room and board in return. And that was a colossal mistake that I unfortunately endorsed in the early days of the arrangement, based on what had been, to that point, a friendship. I later came to regret that, as it ended up having some wild unforeseen things happen. All of which, coupled with losing my grandfather, turned into a giant nightmare of a family meltdown.

My father made no secret about his ideas for how to commandeer their house after they were gone, and his influence was not wanted while only my grandmother remained. Yet, for a long time after that bitter summer of 1996, she and I were at odds too, which at the time was just the way things were, but on reflection, was a tragedy for me, and a great disservice to her. Not long after this Bill Francis guy was finally sent out of the house after a year and a half, I moved in, though I did not kid anyone that I would help out. I was very selfish then. I also worked a real erratic schedule in the music industry which really was not the sort that would let me be of service to someone who needed regular attention. (She did have regular care for about four years thanks to the neighbors and their extended family and church friends.) I paid bills or rent or both. But we did not have much of an emotional relationship. That had been pushed aside for years, and the woman I once went to with all my concerns just became a stodgy old roommate who passed judgment on my lifestyle and whom I avoided willfully. Really sad, and I may have to deal with that for years. There were a few instances of crossing that chasm, but they were exceptions and occurred nowhere near as often as when I was a kid and teen.

There were times when I overstepped my verbal rental agreement and got her irate at that, but I never had designs on her whole house. I just wanted my room and the studio space, and by sake of the reality of the situation, other space would be available because she could not possibly use it all. On the other hand, my father always had designs for how to make it into a split residence where she or he could live in half the place and rent out the other half. It became his project since he likes to tinker with stuff like that. But both his folks shrugged him off during their lives, and nothing really changed there. Until of course they were both gone and he would be free to do what he wanted. It happened that the peak of the housing market coincided with the few years after Virginia died. The part I don't think my father anticipated (in his earlier schemes) was that I would be living in the house when she died. I was there almost three years before she died, and continued for a few more after that under the new regime. He had always promised me that my studio would be subject to being dismantled on event of her death. That it lasted four more years was remarkable to me. He and I, after her death, had a huge blowout that ended up setting up the patterns of the next few years. The terms were agreed upon that he'd rent out a couple rooms that I would care for, and the rent rate would be just a little more than two rooms could fetch, therefore snookering me into that nominal rent that would still make me indebted to him. It served as an irritating reminder of what only five years before I had left when I stormed out of his house in two hours, taking everything that would fit into two cars.

Oh, the story is long and tedious. But suffice to say, he got ownership of it because Virginia was not able to alter her legal plans for the house before she died. She wanted me to have at least a share, and some near her said that she was talking about the entire place. She had asked me if I wanted it, and my answer deferred to her wisdom, but this conversation was had after she had a stroke and was not herself. It also happened shortly after my father realized a closet full of skeletons was about to be opened, and he was helpless to do anything about it, except to punish the curiosity that I had to relate to my mother and siblings. He had a nasty secret to keep regarding some sexual misconduct and a minor, and he knew that it would totally fuck everything up. And it did. In a preemptive strike against my curiosity, he assured me in a letter [image] that we would have hard times ahead if I followed this path of curiosity. And we did. Once he owned "my" house, he did as he wanted. His work was tasteless, inconsiderate of actual need, and illegal. I called him directly on the first two; the latter I turned over to the city because I knew there was no way to rein in his work but to call the city (who promised me anonymity but fucked up some administrative details that had exactly the opposite effect). At the end of a depressing summer of watching him enact all his lame work upon the place, I had it. I had it with life as well. So what if the city bust his balls? He had no respect for me, and I was checking out, for all I was concerned.

He never understood anything of my suicidal ideation. He never understood emotional pain moving a person to act like I was acting. Eventually, he figured out that I turned him in, and that began a process that led to my being evicted (along with Kelli and our roommate and dog). After we left, he rented the place for nine months or so, but about a year ago, it was emptied out for the last time, and I went and collected all my remaining items in a clean sweep—appliances, light fixtures, blinds, and stainless steel AC outlet cover plates! He was livid, and came to my current house to make some fuss about how I put this stuff before him, yadda yadda. Perhaps he got a clue how I felt? That property is more important than his one remaining family member?

It took me until June this year to see where it actually was leading to. I found out by a fucking Google search that my house was sold in April. At least it was far less than the nearly $560k he wanted. It looks like it went for $515k and even that is far too great a reward for his behavior from the last several years, particularly with me, but over a lifetime of manipulation and arrogance. He had no need to sell it. If all he wanted was money, he could have collected a rent check with me living there. He did that for a few years while I was there. But he had to jerk me around to make his point that I should not have contacted my mother. So he had to pull the house out from under me, undermining my stability that he and my grandfather had spent all my lifetime promising would be mine.

So back to grandmother. She perfectly well knew stuff like this would happen. Even my grandfather did. I think it is a dreadful shame how it all fell apart. Everything they worked for fell into my father's hands and has been sold off so as to benefit himself. I have furniture, a truck, some gear from various inherited money, some personal artifacts, and memories. But I have lots of pain as I realize that I never really grieved the loss of either of my grandparents. Both instances drove wedges between my father and me. There has never been any family effort to mourn properly, and now there is no family anyway. The extent of any ritualistic closing of their books of life was limited to their memorials; my grandfather's on Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetary with an 18 gun salute; and grandmother's being sort of a thrown-together affair at the church which both my father and I attended but did not have any hand in organizing. I did deliver an impromptu message of thanks that was phrased in such a way to irk my father and shake him up some in front of my grandmother's biggest fans. But that was all. After that, it was 'we now return to our regularly scheduled family meltdown.'

The only way I can emerge victorious from all this is that while the old man was able to wrangle the house and get it on the market and sell it for an unconscionable sum, I was the one who got the home. He got the stucco and wood; I got the home life which he abandoned years ago because his agenda was more important. Without the home life, a place is just a box devoid of meaning. I have no idea what he will do with $515k but he won't ever be able to piece together the family again, and it will be a long road to ever reminding me what I should remember him for other than systematically destroying my family from before I was born, and seeing to it that his agenda comes out ahead of anyone else's. At this point, from whatever scraps available to me, I try to put something back together. Kelli is an invaluable help in that regard. She is an ally in seeing that life does not devolve into an empty pursuit of materialism and power. We live modestly, but we are so in love in a way my father could only ever be jealous of, no matter how many houses he has ever held titles to at once, or how many wives and girlfriends he's screwed over.

As for Virginia, I know she'd be heartbroken to see this. This isn't what she toiled for. This isn't why she stayed married for 61 years. Not to see the family dissolve not in the midst of poverty and hardship, but at the peak of the market when the house was supposedly at its peak. All her traditional Christian upbringing and activism was not to lead to this—a house divided. No, I know in my heart she would never have signed her name to this. But I know she's out and about somehow, her spirit informing Kelli and me on how to be together, how to seek out divine guidance in bewildering times. She and my grandfather got married—an optimistic move—in 1935, in the thick of the Great Depression when cooperation was the ticket out of the hard life into something more bearable. My father happened into exactly the opposite. He came of age in the age of explosive materialism, hard men standing their ground on the world stage, and coincident with the rise of the party of greed (GOP, backwards). But I see it another way. After my father's generation has forgotten what a struggle is, and has reshaped the world in a way that trivializes the values that prior generations held, there will have to be a return to more durable values not based on exploiting each other, especially inside the family. I don't share a lot of the particular values that my grandmother held dear, though through Christianity, I know there is a wellspring there to draw from, and to formulate something based on what I now see is wrong. My father dropped the ball in this regard. He has nothing to teach me about family values because he has labored for years to undermine them to this day. The only family value he could reliably be counted to hold up is 'father knows best.' But even that is bullshit, because no father in his right mind wants the family to fall apart.

So, happy birthday, G-ma. The only present I have to give is for you to know that I want to pick up your thread and make something again, after some distractions kept me occupied. The house is gone, so we can't meet there. I did what I could. I know you understand and did what you could. But I kept the home, with your help. Some is in the garage, some in my heart, and some is between Kelli and I (and Buber, our pup who would have been a great buddy for you those last few years). Shalom.

Thursday
Feb012007

Life Is All A Cruel Joke

So here I am, Mr. Peak Oil Boy who usually has been down on car culture for a few years now, and has been quite critical of self and other in regards to senseless use of fuel for needless transport. I've also uttered a harsh word or two about the failings of the suburban landscape, ala my hero James Kunstler. And I really do feel that way about a lot of things. But I am only human, not above hypocrisy or contradiction. While in 2006 I did do a good job of living some of the stuff I talk about here in this journal, some of that was done on borrowed time while I lived in a favorable situation. But that is coming to its anticipated end before the next few months are out, and it will be time to go out and get a new place to live, and by all estimation, it will be at "real" rent prices for this town, which has me downright depressed because it pretty much means my quality of life will fall because of the work that it will require to pay for a shack that is bound to be way overpriced. So the month of January was spent whoring myself out for some interviews and doing the banner hanging work that I have done on three short seasonal bursts since this time last year.

So then whattaya know but that my leading prospects (and the job I actually did score) were driving jobs? I crafted a few types of resume to whore myself out for various types of work—driving was one, audio tech boy another, social services and volunteers yet another, and some required a combination of the above. The two leading jobs that had favorable interviews were for printing shops, and their work spanned countywide. The shifts were both full time, with only a small wage differential (I got the lower one, grrrrr). Both were reasonably close to home, both within about 7 miles, and I scored the one that was only a bit more than four miles out and actually may be bikeable. I was holding out to the end for the better job, only troubled by the fact that it started two hours earlier at 7:30. They had a day they were going to start someone and the other place let me call my start day, so I set it to be after the first place, should I get that one and their better offer.

But anyway, back to the sad irony of economics, and that is that Peak Oil Boy is out there hitting the streets for about 130 miles a day, trip after trip, all day long. (At least the car is a very efficient one.) And, the other "gotcha" of it all? The primary clients tend to be architectural firms that design all this suburban garbage that I love to hate! One after another, I get to firms of all sizes, all designing a lot of the same shit, cookie cutter style. Many of them have slick offices with these sassy looking 20 something chicks who front the office but who all appear to be too good to be true, too phony for me. Many offices have that slick stainless steel/glass/birch look that everyone in that industry seems to like at once. But no matter what the details, Peak Oil Boy is driving around the county for these fucks, helping them do what they do best. Or worst, as I see it.

Man, I really ate it on this one, didn't I?

But seriously, it does actually depress me to think of it that way. This is, in its own way, worse than what I was dealing with at AV Concepts where at least I was admittedly linked to the industry somewhat from past experience. I have no interest in architecture, printing out their documents, or driving. It's just economics, man. Just that I need something, and despite combing the Craigslist ads for a month, nothing else seemed to be reasonable enough to just have me start, without having a huge list of some sort of credentials. The fact is, I really hate the prospects of most types of work out there. I wish I didn't have to get the one that puts me so at odds with myself.

This internal dilemma is heightened by the fact that I am "fighting" a losing battle at my church to reject a parking lot renewal project, and I know it's doomed. But I have other points to make with regards to how the church spends its money, and who it serves. But I am losing interest in all that since there is less and less there to do as a person who just wants to be in the "church" space to get out of the world. But my activities there of late have all led me into the "real" world while doing things for the church, making it so that the worship and educational experiences, the transcendent stuff, have been pushed aside.

So getting a job in a field that ostensibly I am opposed to just adds to the conflict within. It is depressing. And for my church situation to be in a state of meltdown over the course of the last several months adds to the strife, because there is little it seems beyond the business of doing the work I do there. So I am worried about just being able to do my job to get the money to move house this spring, and hope to sustain it, but also while realizing that what has been a long term support system is now a liability, it being a central part of my current conflict with myself. It just aint happymaking the way things add up.

Sunday
Dec172006

Evil Men On The March

the realtor's sign that I wrote a protest message on. The realtor's sign with my protest statement upon it for all to seeBad men steal home—
Makes life harder than it is
What more do they want?

Calsur eat my shit
Soulless absentee landlords
Thick as wicked thieve!

Assholes, pricks, landlords
Hard to discern the diff'rence
Landlords most worthless!

Suburbia's dead
Greed has met its match fine'ly
Manage this, fuckers!

Property value
Kills the family values
Family dead now!

Mike can fuck himself
Then he can count his bucks out
Get rich off mis'ry!

Broken family
Piece by piece by piece by piece
Property trumps all

I don't hate you dad
You will just die lonely, man
You stole my dear home

Tuesday
Jul042006

In(ter)dependence Day

In an urban society everything connects, each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric, but the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable. —Threads, 1984

Last month I read Rabbi Michael Lerner's book, The Left Hand of God. His vision for America is that we should do better than we have been doing in the current milieu of greed, fear, and inequality. He has been adamant that the bottom line thinking we now share in is morally bankrupt and needs redress. Near the end of the book, he encourages us to examine our national mythology, and the holidays we celebrate. He offers that maybe Independence Day needs to be recast as Interdependence Day so that we begin to gather around the profound understanding that we are not islands, either apart from one another nor from other events in the world or in history itself.

Long before I started taking this stuff seriously, I posited that America's love affair with independence and individualism was going to get the better of us. About six years ago, when I wrote my song Suburban Silhouette, I noticed that our housing and land development "plan" was a manifestation of our love affair with independence and solitary living, but was also a major player in our social decay. Living outside of community is not a human way of life. We will realize this soon enough, as one of those painful lessons that history periodically teaches. Community living is not a hallmark of our current mode of living. Our lives today more resemble industrial artifacts, or maybe a live-by-numbers sort of existence. It's a lie that industry and advertising would like us to swallow that we are individuals if we buy this good or that, or patronize this service or that. We fabricate our "individuality" from an established and mostly widely available collection of pre-made artifacts that are for sale to those who can afford them. The self-made citizen is no more. However, that does not lead us to community, only undue dependence on a fuel-fed industrial process for delivering goods and services. Just because we are in a web of interdependence does not mean we live in community. Sorry, but a web of franchise fast food outlets and big box retailers and mortgage lenders and Amazon.com does not constitute an organic community of people who work to share in the profits of their own work and those of the people around them.

Living face-to-face communities are not founded by land speculators and developers. They are not founded by Wal Mart in Bentonville. They are not founded by Ray Kroc. They are not founded by Ford and GM. They are not created by transportation authorities. They are not the creation of oil companies. They are not created by abstract expressionist or postmodern artists. They are not founded by investors from overseas. They are not created by defense contractors or government agencies. They are not created by eBay. They are not created by philanthropic institutions. All these institutions may be able to create infrastructure and establish some sort of networking across hitherto unbreachable boundaries, but communities do not exist solely because of these institutions and their technologies or design cleverness.

I don't know what the prospects are for real human community in America. It has been killed in large part by greed. Greed has been a wolf in sheep's clothing. It has been smuggled into our land like a Trojan horse that was presented to us as a gift from industry and capitalist corporations. The old rhetoric of "what's good for corporations is good for America" is bankrupt. What is good for a corporation is good only for a corporation—to a point. It's bad for the nation, it's bad for the world, and ultimately, it's bad for the corporation in the long run. What will these hallowed corporations and industries have to provide us when the resource base is depleted? Or when we are all put out of work that would allow us to even buy things? Or when the population crashes due to overshoot/famine/disease/war?

A century of indulgence is a hard addiction to break. Addiction to leisure, individualism, and selfishness is not particularly a natural thing. Advertising-propaganda was designed to help deconstruct conventions of human life that leaned toward community welfare (not an entitlement program, you know). After all, a company with a good to sell can only sell so many of those widgets to a family if four or six people are using one widget. The way to sell a few more widgets is to condition people to own their own. What was once the "family TV" is now "one TV in each room and a DVD player in the Suburban." Same with cars themselves. By intentionally cultivating a culture that does not need to share, we not only lose the virtue of sharing, but we lose the benefits too. Sharing something like a TV, or a car, or other things that many people can use at once also kept people in proximity to each other which is conducive to talking and maintaining a life together. A TV show or movie, no matter how bad, is at least a shared experience to enter dialog that one hopes could lead to some understanding among the parties involved, and some exposures to other world views. With a shared car, people who need to cooperate to get places also need to cooperate more to be home together. More shared home time is the wellspring from which community comes in other areas of life. Relating to one's own kin is the cornerstone of society, and unfortunately, a lot of what passes for life now is geared toward diminishing or demolishing that web of relationships. We are at the third generation or so that is being raised in a world like this; those born today, the sons and daughters of people who themselves were born to the Baby Boomers who were the first generation born into a world of consumerism, are going to be that much more removed from the central familial relations that foster community. My dad's generation was the first to really grow up in a world of great material excess and unbridled consumptive habits and the distancing from community richness that seems to go hand in hand with that access to goods. I was born just as that way of life was coming of age, and it's all I have lived. People around my age who have children are giving another generation to this way of life. Who or what will keep a community ethic alive in their lives?

Nature just might be able to help, but it's the sort of help we wouldn't ask for. Eventually our energy-lavish consumption-based lifestyle will crumble a little at a time, and it will be helped along by irresponsible, self-interested politicians who believe that war and greater consumption (by those who still can do so) is the answer to our fading empire of consumption. Eventually, work and play will have to happen nearer to home. We might be confronted with the unthinkable of today: actually cooperating with people we've been told are our enemies—family, neighbors, people of color, poor people, and others. There will be holdouts of course. Some people in America just can't get out of their Antebellum mindset. But, I think for the majority of people, the trend will be clear. Either we inter-depend, or we die.

People aren't as scary up close as when they are wrapped in a ton-and-a-half of steel that goes 80 miles per hour. They're not as scary when they stand before you and aren't just objectified in the news or by other media. I keep saying it, but I don't have enemies in Iraq. Or in Afghanistan. The people I fear are not the poor people of the world outside of America who are lashing out against the injustice we bring. If anything, I am more scared of a nation of addicts in America who forgot how to share, who forgot how to be civil, who forgot how to be humble and generous, who forgot to appreciate beauty and natural complexity, who forgot how to live outside of technology. Maybe Roosevelt's statement about only having to fear is fear itself rings true. I fear Americans who fear loss. I'm more worried about people who will do anything to retain the last shards of entitlements long after they are clearly unsustainable. I fear Americans with what I call "cranial-rectal displacement disorder" (head-up-the-ass complex) in the face of global climate change, shifting alliances, fascism, and a host of other nightmares of our time. Instead of being on the same page with regards to key issues, the off-kilterness of society now will make it hard to get people to put down the pursuit of more material wealth and land and get on board with some real progress toward rebuilding shattered community life that has been replaced by computers and mass media which is essentially not able to connect with real people at the local level. There is no substitute for people in real contact.

Saturday
Jul092005

Suburban Savior

Today Kelli and I were out and about looking at apartments around town, and after the last one we stopped at a nearby park to sit in the shade and catch the breeze. We had to discuss all the stuff we’ve been discussing ad nauseum for the last few weeks. While we sat and talked, we spotted this group of seven suburban teenage skate rats around a picnic table under a tree up near the playground. These punks were digging up the grass and taking patches of it and moving it around to the playground as if they were gonna lay sod over it. Most of them were doing this, using some sharp items to tear into the turf, and just hand pulling it out. So we watched for a bit to be sure we were seeing what we thought we were seeing, and sure enough, wanton destruction was what we saw. So I whipped out my camera phone and snapped a pic of these guys. It was a little hard to see anything of use, and they didn’t seem to be tearing it up anymore. So we sat a few minutes. Finally, I called the police and dropped a tip. We watched these punks break some stuff over the barbecue fire pit, and waited. Finally, Kelli suggested we just go walk by these kids and look like we have somewhere else to be within the park. So we walk by, my phone is open and ready to shoot. As we walk by, I just obviously lift it and take a picture of the bunch of them collected around the table. We just kept walking, and as we passed and I folded up the camera after a good shot, one of them yelled out “hey, he’s taking our picture! Did you just take our picture???” To which I said, “yeah, right after I called the cops on you, don’t worry about it!” We just walked on to the other side of the park to investigate something for no reason but to give us the excuse to walk as close to these punks as we did. As we turned around, there was an officer who had arrived from the other side and had already gathered them together to chew them out! He told them that he could have them charged as felons, but let them off by having them put all the sod back in place. BUSTED! So now that there was a cop there, we walked back past these punks and still with camera open and ready to shoot, I took a pic of them as the cop stood by and made them put all that grass back. Then we got in the car and drove off. The cop had gotten back to his car as we turned the corner. We thanked him for coming out, and he said he had dealt with these “knuckleheads” before, and that if he wanted to, he could have nabbed them pretty hard, but let them go with what would be about a $400 piece of work to get the crew out there to fix. He noted that a park of this size would be a half million dollar piece of work to replace entirely. Yow. Then we drove off laughing our heads off.

Saturday
Jul092005

Dilemma

Kelli and I have been ousted from our home. It has been my home for seven years as a real resident, and before that for all my life, it was my grandparent’s house. So all my life, it has at least been my second home, if not my first. It was the place where Kelli and I started our relationship, then our marriage. For most of that time we thought we’d be basing all our life together on this place, at least until the suburban collapse led us to other places that were more livable. Aside from our personal connections, we aren’t really too happy with San Diego. But our personal connections are like family to us, and indeed they are most of the family we have. Most of it is directly or closely tied to our church, and since we both have a few roles we play in the church, as trustee, director of Christian Ed, or my roles as web designer and audio guy, we are hard pressed to leave San Diego, but Kelli’s school is in Claremont near Ontario, east of Los Angeles.

We are faced with a move no matter what, but the challenge is that neither of us are working now, and it has been a big slog trying to find work, either here or in the LA area. It's so much harder to find work in a place where you can’t go to interviews on the spot, or a place where you can’t just carpet bomb the shops on every street. And in SD, things aren’t much better. Kelli’s had some responses and interviews after her blast emails with resumes attached, but nothing so far. We have one calendar month before we are supposed to be out of here, but no dice. We have a basically assured housing situation in Claremont at the school, but no job there to continue paying on it once we do get there. And down here, if we can afford anything like a decent one bedroom place, we are still left with the cost of storing things, and her commute cost, plus her commuter housing cost, which piles another $420 or so onto whatever we pay for here in SD. The main charm of staying in SD is to be near people we know and love, and our social/church world, but Kelli would have to commute each week and stay three nights at the school. We don’t have work in either town, so it really comes down to which town we get work in.

Having lived in SD all my life, and venturing only a few miles from where I was born, it is an odd idea to move somewhere else. Claremont is a charming town in its core, and a sweet college town with lots of liberal minds and a generally nice vibe about it. Of course, it's in the greater LA area, so it's laden with smog and traffic. We went up recently and scoped the place out and got a good feeling about it, but it's still 115 miles away, making it hard to imagine how we can live there and keep up with our SD lives, without being total schmucks driving two hours each way. It smacks of hypocrisy to do that when I am a huge peak oil activist.

After years of getting a family discount or renting the cheap ass apartment I had for a year-point-five, I am not too accustomed to needing to pay real rent, and storage, and all that. Or I am not accustomed to needing to sell stuff to downsize. I have been selling some minor stuff from my musical collection, and we are looking at putting on our first yard sale to further trim the fat. I hate the idea of selling my furniture, because much of it makes a set, and most of that was stuff that my grandparents had for years, and kept well. I’ve tried to keep the stuff in comparable condition. Kelli and I have some of the usual crappy particle board crap that we can sell or burn or leave by the side of the road, but after that, there is still most of a house’s worth of stuff that I’d prefer to not sell, because it is sufficiently good that I would get use out of it for years, but also would not sell for a huge amount, at least not enough to matter. I just feel I’d be better off keeping it as some of the last heirlooms I’ll ever have.

So right now we are both at each other’s necks ready to remind the other who’s fault it is that we are in this bind, or ready to remind the other who needs to flex more to make this work. I just think it's a shitty time to be out of work and housing at once, and for a totally nonsensical reason. For a guy who is bracing mentally for the end of American life as we know it, the last thing I need to have on my plate is the worry about how to get by while my wife is at school, at the same time facing a mediocre economy, and one I have no wish to support with my slave labor. I amuse myself with ideas of joining some co-op community of some sort, at least to get some custom housing deal that isn’t oppressive, but here I am, looking at joining the real world at the age of nearly 32, racked with fear of economic wipeout, and the only safe option being the not-so-desireable return to my father’s house for what would be a 3rd spell. On one hand, I’d like to go off and live in some arrangement where money is not a defining criterion. But hardly any such groups exist in southern California, and I am just not ready, though it does seem such groups would have some advantages as the world-at-large experiences increasing dysfunction.

So it's a terrible bind. We spend our time deepening our relations with people here, but the reality is looking more like a move to Claremont, while we fret over the lack of jobs in either place. Grrrrrrrrrr.

Thursday
Jun022005

Diving In

Well, today I took the baby step on my way toward political greatness. In fact it started with a rise from my chair in a slightly graceless fashion as I stepped up to use my allotted two minutes of off-topic announcement time in front of the Clairemont Town Council. Of course, I was there to promote my little DVD showing on Sunday. I haven’t been to any such meeting before so I don’t know if it was received well or laughed out of the park. I did start off with the announcement that I have lived in Clairemont all my life and have gone to five schools in the area.

I sat through the various reports of local representatives, and those up to the state assembly level. The police lamented to say that the little community storefront location would be closed in all likelihood. The lady who represented our current mayor said this was her last meeting as his assistant, and she listed a few things that were on the chopping block in the city. Donna Frye’s rep said that one thing or another was going to be closed down. The woman who represented our assemblyperson on the state level said something about a bill to encourage gas conservation.

A HA! Now we’re getting somewhere.

Everyone was lamenting one thing breaking down, being closed, being deemed too expensive, or whatever. Then there was little old me who came up with the headline article in the San Diego U-T called “Crude Awakening.” At least it was current and to my surprise, it was a pretty good article for any of the mainstream stuff I have seen. I read it while I waited for the meeting to begin, and there was clearly a mention of peak oil, and there was at least baby steps that implied some hard times ahead. I was surprised. So it was good that this three-article SDUT came out this weekend, one week before I get on my soapbox and show The End of Suburbia and give a speech about the issue and my hopes for forming a group to meet the challenge.

Prior to going to the meeting though, I had precisely mixed luck in two attempts to win people over to my showing. The first was my old man, to whom I had to pay the rent today. He is a stubborn old fuck. He just loves to go his ooooowwwwwnnnnn way. He has some sense in him, and in some regards he is ahead of the pack, but he thinks he can go it alone. Twelve years ago he did in fact convert a crappy used car with a combustion engine to a crappy electric car, and had hoped to sell it for $waytoofuckingmuchforwhatitlookedlike. It went to his head, as all his inventions do. He swore he would do back yard car conversions to make money, maybe one a month. He thought, in 1993, that people would see the light and start to bring him their cars to be converted. He linked up with others who had equally informed delusions, but were possibly at least using better cars to start with. But these cars invariably were mutants. They would have waytoofuckingmuch weight in the battery compartment, which ruined the feel and handling. The times I drove the old man’s Ford Escort was a pretty fair indication of how the rest of them might fare. It drove like ass. After sitting in the garage or the back yard of his house for ten years, he eventually ended up cutting the whole car apart for parts, reusing or reselling the electric components and batteries. He went on to make a motorcycle/car hybrid (trike). I laughed at him all the way.

Anyhow, he was proclaiming independence from the system at large, saying he’d fish out of the ocean, drive a hydrogen powered (converted) vehicle, and so forth. He said he wasn’t worried, and that there are other things that can be done, and no need to worry about the future problems because they wouldn’t affect us because we own our houses and are doingjustfinethankyouverymuch. He’s not as dumb as the garden variety conservative Republican when confronted with these matters, but he has his own sort of go-it-alone mentality that is maddening. So I challenged him to have my house taken off the energy grid and put on full solar. It’ll probably never happen because he is sure there can’t be much of a change. He loves to cite the fact that California’s energy “crisis” was a hoax, which we all know it was, but I tell him, hey, that northeastern USA blackout in 2003 was not, and that is something we much acknowlege. We’ll see if he can suspend his confidence long enough to come to my presentation.

The other pitch I made was whilst flyering cars at Clairemont High school before the CTC meeting. I was bombing the SUVs and minivans with full page ads for my meeting on Sunday and at one car, I noticed a guy was in it and as I walked around the car, I saw a range of lefty bumper stickers. So I did what I never planned to do: went up and started talking to him straightaway. “Excuse me, I saw the Kerry sticker on your car and you look like you have an open mind.” Well, sure enough, he did. He got out and we talked on the spot for about 15 minutes, and he sounded like he would not only be a good target for coming to the showing, but possibly for actually working on the project too. Funny. You know a guy for 31 years and he doesn’t want to help for shit, and you walk up to a stranger and he is right there on your wavelength. Wacky.

Monday
May162005

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Today on my way in to school, I put up a fistful of flyers for my upcoming peak oil event. I didn't do terribly much because my stock was a little light and I wanted to be sure to hit a few key points on the campus. I was walking by my old speech class where the instructor is a man named Harry Steinmetz. I have had his classes on a few occasions. The first was in ninth grade at Madison when he taught speech. I allowed myself to fail the first semester, but got up to a B when I finally applied myself. The next class was in my senior year when I took his government, US history, and economics class. I seem to remember doing well in there, getting an A, IIRC. I really dug that class. It was one of those that I was able to not just get a decent grade, but I also had this friendly competition with the best of them, one of which has become a restaurant manager who now manages the Seau's sports bar in San Diego. Anyhow, that class was had in exactly the period of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations. I was introduced to finer nuances of historical and political analysis in that class, among other things like NPR, and whatever else. It was a rich experience.

The fall of 2003 was when I took one of his classes again, but this time at Mesa where he has taught for a couple decades anyway. I knew he had retired from the city schools, but that he was still at Mesa, so I was sure to take another class. And, as ever, it was far more than just a speech class. His classes are just delightful experiences in education. Even in ninth grade as I sat and failed his class by sheer force of will, I was in awe of how he taught and got things out of people. His speech class in 2003 was the first class I took after a ten year hiatus. It was a great experience for me, and a nice way to work back into the academic realm after a long time off. I ended up getting not just an "A" but at the end of the semester, he wrote a nice send off to us all and entered our grade, and presumably for the ones that wouldn't be embarrassed by their grades, he also included where we fit in among all his students that semester. His message to me was that I ranked "101 out of 103" students of his that semester. I can live with that.

So now you know how this could happen:

I stopped by the room really tentatively hoping that I could give him some of my flyers to pass out. He has this bold manner about him which pretty much commands action from whoever he is talking to. Part of his exercises is to get people to get up on a minute's notice and give a three minute impromptu speech. So what should I have expected as I poked my head into the doorway? Sure enough, he called me up like I was in the class to give a speech on the spot!

So I did.

It went on for probably ten minutes, and was interspersed with a few promptings of his, and a question or two from the class. He is one of the most informed people I know, so he was able to know exactly what people would be wanting to know next, and he would lead it there. It was a lot of fun, and frankly, some practice for the things I plan to take on now with my peak oil work. I did give something of a speech at another showing of The End of Suburbia back in October. It was to a room of total strangers (but for about three people), and was not rehearsed in any way. It's hard to believe that was six months ago. Shit, I was new at peak oil then. But this time I actually felt like I knew my shit, at least to be a guide for others who have hardly any knowledge of the stuff.

Hey, as long as I have you here, why not see a trailer for the movie?