22 February, 2019

Reading the Grounds


Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
Embrace the break in weather where you can. True, there are months when the last time you saw the sun feels like a dream; but when the rain break and there is a clear path, take advantage of it the best you can. [from Field Notes]

Even though I'm not bound to foot travel -- there is the bus, of course, and most recently, Mule -- I still like to walk. True, I could start up Mule and drive to a park and walk around a pre-designated track. I see merit in it, certainly for other people, because it's difficult enough to get exercise in a society that depends on us sitting in front of a computer, or staring at our phones, buying things. True, if you look long enough, nearly every aspect of the constructed reality we experience every day depends on commerce of some kind: whether it's the cappuccino I bought at the coffee shop today or the smiles my wife and I exchanged this morning before she left for work. But when I am not in motion in the world, there are fewer opportunities to see the world as it truly is instead of the filtered commodity that trickles in through my phone or my computer. When I am not in motion in the world, I'm not even certain the world exists.

Living as I do along the Ohio River, a once major artery of commerce of all kinds from coal, to slaves, to settlers, in a city whose very existence depended on commerce and The Falls that created a natural choke point for people to have to slow down and walk their boats through (Once Upon a Time), the metaphor and myth of commerce are a foundation upon which many myths have been  built.

But it's easy to let that take over... which is to say, it's easy to let that constructed reality dictate our
Mick Parsons #rubbertramp
Mule
our entire lives. And if the materialists are correct -- both the Capitalists and the Communists -- and we are simply matter in motion, then really, this constructed reality is nothing more than an increasingly complex maze we spend our days and nights in until one day, we stop moving and the maze moves on without us.

Unless there's something more. And when I walk around my neighborhood, or anywhere, and take in the sounds, the feel of broken cement underfoot, the vibrations of the coolish February air here in the grand divot that is the Ohio River Valley, I end up thinking of commerce as something more than buying and selling, more than money for sweat and blood, more than blood and bone in the name of man's most majestic and dangerous machination -- Contemporary American Society. 

This is why, I think, I am bound to travel whether I think I want it or not. A warm wind kicks up, the currents shift, and nothing is set right until I feel this world moving under foot. Because it's only in motion that this constructed reality shakes loose and the world opens itself wide for eyes willing to see, for ears willing to listen, and for hands willing to embrace it on its own terms. 


As old mystics read tea leaves
I flip my empty cup
open the heart, examining
the dark grounds and find
one more map towards
the river mouth and the sea.

Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
The past is gone, the future is full.



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15 February, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots: Be Safe Out There [a brief ethnography]


The middle-aged black man was wearing a blue suit coat that was too big for him, worn around the cuffs, and missing a couple of buttons. It was October, and after dark, which meant it was a little chilly. His clothes under the blue coat were rattier than the coat. Tired flipflops left his feet exposed. In his hands, he held an empty baby bottle. He approached me after I finished pumping gas. Debit cards weren't a thing in those days, and neither were card readers on gas pumps. But in that part of the city, near the university and Short Vine -- another area I ended up spending a lot of time -- you walked in and paid before you pumped. And I've always preferred cash transactions, anyway --chalk that up to my small towniness. 

The town where I'm from isn't remote or isolated in a geographic sense, but I learned early there are other kinds of distance, other types of geography that are difficult to cross -- especially when it's crossed under duress. And truthfully, crossing the distance between where I'm from and where I have ended up wasn't so much a problem for me. But it took me a long time to figure out that there's no going back. Not really.

Cincinnati was the first place I escaped to when I got my driver's license. It was the closest city, and the nearest place of any size. And though I didn't mean to end up there, necessarily, I ended up in a part of town that I would, and do, return to: Over the Rhine. In those days, Vine Street was still an open market for pretty much any illicit thing you could want. Not that I tried any of it; I still had a healthy dose of small town naivete that, for good or bad, managed to save me. But I did witness my first drug deal and accidentally walk up on a sex trade transaction. All the parties involved were amused by my small town whiteness -- amused and too busy to punish me for it. Because while Cincinnati was a dangerous place, and while OTR was probably the place furthest from where I lived -- for a whole host of reasons -- it never once occurred to me that I might have been in danger. I explored it with an anthropologist's curiosity -- and detachment -- that has served me well over the years, no matter how deep I dived or how close to the bottom I got.

He started in by telling me he wasn't just panhandling. He was passing through, he said, pointing directionlessly towards the interstate. His car broke down and his wife and baby daughter stayed with the car because it was chilly out. He waved the baby bottle at me as proof that his story was true. In the moment it didn't occur to me that he might just be hustling for drug money; it did occur to me that he sounded too practiced to be in moment. Growing up as I did around a few truly ineffective liars, I had started to pick up an ear for that sort of thing.  But also, in that moment, I didn't care. I don't know if it was the dedication to his story, or the flip flops. But I gave him a few dollars, wished him luck.

- Be safe out there, I said. And then I got in my car and left, traversing the various geographies back to my hometown, where panhandlers were prime time television extras, where the poverty was just as palpable, but somehow different. A place I would not be able to look at in the same way, or ever really be able to stay -- though at the time I wasn't aware that anything in me had shifted.

I think about him often and wonder whatever happened to him. I see him in every face I've met doing outreach. I've revisited that moment hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the years. And while I don't know if that was when it all changed or when it first occured to me that something had, I'm forever grateful that he crossed my path.


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11 February, 2019

From Field Notes: I don't like Mondays (Tell me why)

Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe 
The Telex machine is kept so clean /As it types to a waiting world - Bob Geldof

There isn't an American alive who doesn't contend with clocks. They organize our lives: tell us when to wake up, when to eat lunch, what time we need to start our workouts, what time we have to make that meeting that would suffice as a well written email. My wife sets no fewer than 3 alarms to wake up in the morning. In addition to giving her  a sense of very much needed control over what is essentially beyond our control --she has to wake up, get moving, and be out the door to her place of work by 6:30 -- it also imbues the whole thing with a sense of ceremony. When she is on vacation and is  able to shut all three of them off, we do so with revelry and relief. When it's time to turn them back on, we do so solemnly and with as much stoicism as we can dig out of our unwilling amygdalas. 

I have a wind up alarm clock by my side of the bed that  I keep mainly for the sound. There's something in the tick tock of a clock that makes me feel like I'm closer to the mystical machinations of the universe -- a notion born out of the thoroughly Newtonian core of my brain that sometimes allows me to see the connections and tendrils and crystalline cogs that keep everything going. 

One of the blessings of my life is that I've been able to excise myself from the gravitational center of the time clock. I work project to project, which has deadlines. But those are more or less self-prescribed, or at least agreed upon. I'm bound to a clock when I travel, but that's really only dipping in to a world that is far more interested in schedules than I am. I tend to think of my life more in terms of rhythm than time. Time moves in whatever fashion it does and there's very little I can do about that, other than acknowledge it, imbue it with a certain amount of ceremony, and keep onward. But rhythm... that's something different all together. 

I like to think I live my life in Common Time. For those of you out there who don't catch the musical reference, Common Time is 4/4 or four beats per measure of music. (A measure is a marking of musical phrasing... but let's not get bound up here.) Most music you hear is in 4/4. It's the easiest and most commonly used... hence why it is called Common Time. You can play it fast (allegro). You can play it slow (andante).  All that matters is that the music goes on. 

Mondays are like time clocks. They tend to monopolize our lives because we've allowed them to. We obsess over Mondays ( and Fridays) like alcoholics obsess over booze and we've decided it normal because that's the song we were handed to play. We obsess over time to the point that our entire civilization has become a tug-of-war between trying to turn back time and trying to figure out how to spend it meaningfully -- or at least, giving ourselves plenty of time to binge Netflix. We're never really alone thanks to social media, but somehow people still manage to feel more lonely. We obsess. We mark time. We dread Monday. We pray for Friday... or maybe more specifically payday. We live for the weekends. Instead of rapture as the untenable and impossible to gauge end, we have retirement, which is just as untenable. But then Monday. And then Friday. And again. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Maybe it's time to smash the clock and get a new one. Maybe it's time to find rhythm and put away our Mondays and Fridays and all our somedays and retirement fantasies. 

But like anyone in the program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.



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01 February, 2019

Your Eight Cups Runneth Over - The Annual Count


It is this - that everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified. That's what I want to say. Don't you forget that. Whatever happens, don't you dare let yourself forget. ~ Sherwood Anderson

Eight of Cups
In my 20's and through most of my 30's the tarot card I associated myself with the most was the Eight of Cups. It cropped up a lot in readings, though in different contexts, which -- if you put any credence in that sort of thing -- can change the meaning. It's a card full of disappointments, abandonments, desertions, and disappointments. Cups, as a suit, are associated with water, and, being a Pisces (the most waterful of all the water signs), this appealed to me on multiple levels. Not that I ascribe any particular magic to the cards; if nothing else, I think they tend to reflect the energy of the person that uses them and can sometimes provide murky, if not downright fortune cookie-like guidance to wrangling questions that are probably better answered by detachment rather than focus.

Lately, though, The Hanged Man is more in my thoughts. And while I haven't indulged in tarot in more than 20 years, I still find the metaphors meaningful in a sort meta-psychological way. Like many literature majors in recovery, I am a symbol junkie. and because I'm a symbol junkie I know symbolism can be found anywhere, and nowhere -- other than literature, tarot decks, and The Freemasons -- can more symbolism be found than in government. The same is true of the annual count.

The annual count is an exercise in futility; for any number of reasons the count is always inaccurate, and generally used as a PR device by the city to trumpet their "responsible" stewardship of city resources. But like most forms of futility, it must be carried out anyway. Local media often frames it as a huge undertaking done by the Coalition to better assess and provide resources to the homeless community. The Coalition doesn't necessarily discourage this view, though it doesn't endorse it, either. At the Wednesday night training, for example, the facilitator stated that the reason for the count was so that the Coalition could have up-to-date numbers for it's annual grant application. This annual grant is worth $10 million.

So, basically, as a volunteer for the count, I was there basically as an unpaid census worker.  Unpaid... but they WERE going to provide breakfast after it was finished.

I went out on a team of 4 with Amanda and two other very nice ladies, one of whom is a regular volunteer with the outreach organization I also volunteer with -- an organization that DOES NOT see any of that $10 million.  Our route was a short one, maybe a little over a mile of Bardstown Road. This was an advantage. We would be able o scour a relatively small area pretty thoroughly. This was also an advantage, because it's a route Amanda and I went out on often on weekly outreach... so it's one we already knew. This would help not only because of time -- we pretty much had from 4am to 6am -- but because the overnight/early morning temperature was -5.

Amanda and I decided it was best to leapfrog the area. Park, walk a few blocks and look for people, then circle back to the car and drive up to the furthest point we walked. This would keep up near the car, and allow us to keep warm. Our partners appreciated our plan, though initially thought we were being a little silly since our route was  "only about mile."

We made our way up and back, up and back, and up and back. Walking in the cold reminded me of my time on the street in Chicago -- which makes me both love and fear that city with a symbolic and mystical equity. Other than the 4am staff at Cafe 360 and one guy who was couch surfing (so, by definition of the grant, not technically homeless) we didn't run into anyone. I was glad, too. And so was Amanda. It was too cold and that stretch of Bardstown Road is too far from resources to be there in that weather. But we also knew that if anyone was on Bardstown Road, it was not going to be in that area, which is all business and residential. Our section from Bonnycastle to Winter Ave was a high traffic area during the day and prime panhandling real estate; but even the homeless don't always live where they work.

We are, after all, a nation of commuters.

After we finished and went back to the hotel, we checked in and left our partners to the provided breakfast -- which, we had already heard, included some very suspect eggs.  Before Amanda took me home and went to work, we had time to grab breakfast at Waffle House where the eggs were not at all questionable and the hash browns were smothered and peppered.

And here I come back to The Hanged Man. Often portrayed as a willing sacrifice, occasionally
portrayed as Judas, The Hanged Man is also associated with Christ and with Odin, both of whom, according to the stories, hung themselves on trees -- one as a sacrifice for all mankind and the other to gain all knowledge and wisdom. I think of The Hanged Man as maybe the most overlooked, most misunderstood card in the tarot deck that, along with the Death Card, have been woefully abused by movie and television scribblers for years. I think of The Hanged Man and I wonder, as the numbers are compiled and fed into the Public Relations machine with the same efficiency that they'll be plugged into the Coalition's annual grant application, who is being betrayed, who is being sacrificed and what wisdom is being gained.





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22 January, 2019

from Field Notes, 22 Jan 2019: Dreaming of Thora Birch

Nobody becomes depraved overnight. - Juvenal

After a long movie dream involving a caravan trapped in a collapsed cavern, an insane amount of stolen money, a sacred pool, an ancient evil, and Thora Birch, I woke up with this thought echoing in my head:

Things happen to people all the time that defy empirical explanation, and whether people believe the thing happened or not, it passes into our Collective Memory, our Collective Consciousness, and lives there.

To explain, a little: Miracles and horrors happen every day that resist empirical understanding. Not all things can be replicated in a laboratory and studied. Not every truth is extrapolated by being placed under a microscope. Some things are understood only by faith.  A tree falling in a forest does make a sound whether a pair of ready ears is there to hear it or not. The fact of the tree falling doesn't change, just our understanding of what that event means. 

Going Further:

I've read a great deal of discussion about the Covington Catholic incident from various sides of the issue ... and by sides I mean people or organizations with an emotional or personal stake in the outcome of how this event is interpreted, understood, and remembered. As a Catholic, I am saddened by the choice the boys made to wear MAGA hats, but that is their right. Throughout history, Catholics have, collectively and individually, both helped to support and helped to supplant tyrants. As a Catholic, I distance myself from the "Pro-Life" movement, especially the Northern Kentucky faction (which is so problematic that the national "Pro-Lifers" distance themselves from it). The politics of the issue are so divisive and so rhetorically charged on both sides that I find myself unable to have a reasonable discussion with anyone on any side. And for the record, so no one is confused -- I believe in the sanctity of all life. But I also believe the so-called "Pro-Life" movement is more politically than spiritually motivated. The same is true of the "Pro-Choice" movement. No political action will solve the heart of the problem. The problem is a spiritual one and so is the solution. I've seen enough in homeless outreach to tell you that our culture, in general, does not respect life. Only humanism, love, and compassion with a deep spiritual underpinning will solve any of this. 

Please note, I did not say "Christianity." I don't have the need to make everyone believe like me. But I also believe it's possible to come together on basic spiritual precepts that view humanity as fundamentally tied together in spiritual sense. It's got to do with that Collective Memory. It's got to do with the commonness of our experience that makes us all human. We are all born. We all breathe. We all die. What we do with and between those markers defines everything else about us individually and collectively.

Of course, the thing we're fighting ultimately is the nature we're born with. Evolutionarily speaking, we are monkeys with bigger brains. We're tribal critters by nature, clannish by inclination, and provincial by habit. The more religious among you might call this sin. The more empirically minded might simply call it nature. I tend towards thinking of it as nature, but in the presence of a supernatural possibility -- the possibility to transcend and be an inheritor of God's love -- I believe that nothing in our nature is necessarily written in stone. And even if it is, there is no stone that can stand unchanged against time, the wind, and the river. 

Now, back to this Covington Catholic issue, briefly. Regardless of what really happened... and please, spare me your interpretations because I've seen and read every possible permutation and believe me, there is nothing new under sun... the forces at work on all sides of this have a vested interest in keeping us fighting. I don't believe Nathan Phillips went to start a fight. I believe the fight was already there.  I don't believe the Catholic students went to start a fight, either, though they were probably riled up emotionally because of the "Pro-Life" march. That fight, too, was already there. The lines were already drawn. And in the end, there are only two people who really know what happened and the everyone else will believe what they want.

I read an interesting response to the Covington Catholic situation that addressed another truth about evolution: we do a lot of what we do because of social acceptance. And people on Facebook, isolated as most people are because of digital ideological segmentation, tend to post what they because it's accepted by their social in-group, which causes the brain to release dopamine.  The blackmarket marketeers have keyed into this and use it to sell us everything from political saviors to suppositories. Dopamine elects tyrants and lifts up heroes. This is buried in our nature and we are obliged by, if nothing else, the transcendence of the Collective Memory, to try and grow beyond it.

At the end of my movie dream, I'm standing in front of this monument to all those who have died in unknown tragedies, and so is Thora Birch. She turns to me and tells me that sometimes things happen to people, and whether everyone else believes it or not, the thing that happened is still a part of our Collective Memory whether we want it to be or not. Then I woke up.


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16 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots -- Anticipation

I was traveling when my wife and got together. Our courtship was one of distance and of patience: letters, emails, phone calls when a charged battery and available cell towers permitted. The pattern of my leavings started even before that, though, back when we were still just friends, still in our 20's, both of us, I think, still searching, though for very different things. I remember going to tell her I was going to drop out of college. It was a deliberate trip out to see her. I went alone because anything I said I only wanted to say to her. She greeted me in a gorgeous sun dress and when I told her I was leaving, the light left her face like the sun disappears behind a storm cloud.  

But because our courtship probably would not have existed without my leavings, they have been a part of our relationship from the start. 

She knows I have to go from time to time because the ticky-tock thing in my gut won't stop long enough for me to stay home like normal people do. I call that behavior normal because it is the most common, and for those who choose it I say have at it. I love my wife and I love my home -- Louisville, Kentucky breaks my heart like no other place I have ever lived. But still, when the wind kicks up, the current shifts, and urge to go sweeps up upon me, it's bad business to ignore it. And though I've written about it before, I feel like I need to reiterate: traveling as I do is not the same as a vacation. It's true that I often visits friends when I travel. But a vacation is, by definition and practice a respite from normal living to go and do something outside of the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine for the purposes of being able to reintegrate back into that same routine with renewed vigor.

I decided that was bullshit 20 years ago, and life has done nothing to change my mind.

And while it's true that I love being home when I am home, I always feel like I'm in between trips. No matter how present I try to be, no matter the fact that I love my life, my wife, our home, and the grand art we are creating in building our life together, the fact is I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to better perfect my pack so that when I go, I'm as streamlined and prepared as possible. I buy clothes based on durability and utility (pockets).  It's not even an active thing on my part. It's just how my brain is wired.

So when the wind kicks up... I go.

But I always know the way home, even if it's the long way.
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04 January, 2019

from Field Notes: 3 Jan 2019 - Those Isaiah Moments

I did it to myself. I should know better than to not ask more questions. When a last minute metro council meeting to talk about the city's half million dollar PR band aid came up, I should have known better. No one tossed me under a bus. No one tried to surprise me. No one but me, anyway. Me and my Isaiah moments. Me and my  "Here am I - send me" arrogance that put me on a dais with the mayor, two councilpeople and the usual suspects for a grand public circle jerk featuring Mayor Greg Fischer and Wayside Mission's Dominatrix-in-Chief, Nina Moseley
.
Though to be fair, it may be not appropriate to call it a circle jerk. The Victorians had a name for it. The medical cure was  "Hysterical Paroxysm" - or, an orgasm achieved when a (male) doctor administered a "pelvic massage" to a female patient suffering from "hysteria" (being human.)

It was my Isaiah moment, my urge to Do Something that did this to me.

I was mentally prepared for a committee meeting. This is a scenario in which I am very comfortable speaking. Public meetings, metro council, committee, open mics, performances -- I'm very comfortable. The easiest place to hide is in front and up on a stage, because no one actually looks at you when you're in the spotlight. People see all the things they carry with them, all the things they expect. The most invisible spot in any room is in the spotlight.

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is where I thrive, most of the time. In the land of ghosts.

But it was my vanity, my ego, and --more importantly -- my sense of Rightitude that suffered when, at the behest of a councilwoman who is acting like she wants to be mayor, I took to the dais in a show of "solidarity" for the city's new half-million dollar band aid to the homeless situation here in River City.

I was planning for a committee meeting.  What I walked into was one of the mayor's political dog and pony shows.  He spent a good deal of time talking about what great mayor he is and all the good he's done and to make some unnamed (well-deserved, I have to add) digs at Bevin and Trump. Then one well-meaning bureaucrat got up and laid out the details of where the cash is going and two more politicians talked about how much this is going to help. 

There were two of us on the dais who were not, in some way or another, directly employed by the city. The other guy was the head of another small homeless outreach organization. When the press asked for one of us to speak to some of the issues, I stepped up... I guess, because, you know. Ego. Vanity. Urge to Do. Whatever. And all of my Isaiah moments came crashing down because I spent the whole time, listening to everyone pat themselves and Nina Moseley, whose homeless shelter is as overrun with abuse of power as it is bedbugs. And when I was done stuttering through an answer to some question about there's absolutely no way the city or any outreach organization can convince people to go inside when they're more afraid of the mold and bedbugs and questionable administration practices than they are the cold.

I said it more diplomatically. Which is to say, stilted. And I was ushered off by the mayor who always knows he knows me but isn't sure how so that Nina Moseley could do her best humble brag because Wayside, (not) inexplicably, is getting the lion's share of the money.

So I there I was, on the dais, trying to be diplomatic, trying to show "solidarity", when, in fact, all I was there for was window dressing so the mayor could try (again) to seal his political legacy, so a councilwoman could gain a little political capital, and so the Queen of Bedbugs could be hand massaged by the Mayor of Louisville.

And yes, it will, as a by-product, help some of the city's homeless community. And what will we have to show for it? Some good programming, a bit more outreach, and a big PR band aid for a boondoggle of what is supposed to be a homeless shelter. 

And what will I have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing but the difficulty I'm having forgiving myself for standing on the dais in some bullshit "show of solidarity" when the offense against my sense of Rightitude was so palpable that at least two different people on the dais noticed. 

What I will I have? My inability to forgive myself because when I did have the opportunity to speak, I did not call for oversight and accountability.

May God forgive me, because I don't know that I can.

All the words in the world
matter nothing if they echo,
fade and forget their own meaning.


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01 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots - On (Not) Finding Los Angeles

[16 December 2018: Eastbound, somewhere home side of Winslow]

The train passed into mountain time overnight. Now we're in the high desert part of Arizona, rolling towards New Mexico, closer to home. 

People are starting to wake up and file into the observation car. The view is gorgeous; the sun started to just peak out, a little west of Winslow. I've been awake off and on since about 3:30, which means I slept pretty well for train travel. I travel coach because while the idea of a sleeper car appeals, the cost ends up being the same as flying and is more difficult to justify. The cheapskate in my skull gets in my way more and more as I age, but it's really only for large amounts. He's perfectly willing to nickel and dime all day, especially when it involves books. And since I stopped drinking, the cheap bastard in my skull is willing to embrace the odd and more than occasional cappuccino. But I can't seem to get the idea of a sleeper car, even though my primary argument for train travel is that it's more civilized than air and more genteel than the grey dog over long distances.

I qualify that, of course.  I take the bus from Louisville to Cincinnati on the regular. But if there was a train, I'd probably take that, even if it costs a bit more and tell the cheap bastard in my head to go to hell.

Although I made my goal of being more open and social during my time in LA, I did not really get to find the bones of Los Angeles. I understand that this ontological distinction probably marks me as a rube, or, at the very least, an provincial hack. But it does seem to be a city where there is so much of everything that finding the real Los Angeles is a bit challenging. 

All great cities operate on a philosophy like 3 Card Monte. It's not about finding what's real; it's about never really finding it. Louisville isn't any different. The basic idea of a Tourist Economy is a simple one: distract them with glitter so no one sees the gloom. GPS makes this easier, as entire neighborhoods can be erased without having to start one bulldozer. After all, the powers-that-be don't want total strangers to go and see where the old bones show through.

But that's not what I want to see when I'm out in LA. I want to see the old bones of Los Angeles. I think I catch glimpses of it, in the same way you catch glimpses of nipple during a burlesque show. It's difficult to tell, though, if what I see are the bones or the statistically acceptable brutality of a city that is so expensive to live in that it's losing 100 people a week.

I stopped trying to count the number of homeless folks and camps I saw, just riding around between class and my motel in Culver City. In most cases, they are tucked away, or on public land that has no other use -- which is a good thing, because if it did have use, those people would be pushed off. The camps one block from the train station right on the sidewalk, are probably the most brazen. An entire litle corner just on Alameda had a small community of three tents, and a man was flying nearby. Just far enough away from Union Station not to make it in any of the brochures or website or prime time television show. The homeless in LA are like the palm trees. They're like the excessive number of cars on the 405. They're like random movie star sightings at restaurants that are all ambience and with no street parking.  They're like these small towns rolling outside the windows of the observation car -- a passing curiosity quickly forgotten when the next scene is pulled in our vision.

Barreling through the sunrise
desert dust perma-frost in all directions
like the rolling empty corn fields
stretched ahead on the other side of the river.





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