Monday, April 24, 2006


This morning I finished up a cooler installation and a start up in a trailer park that’s had so many immigrants move in it now looks like a Mexican slum. I was thinking as I threw the pads, full of calcium carbonate, alkalai and minerals, in the dumpster, how the aquifer was lower than it had ever been and trees and rivers are dying all over Arizona because of unplanned growth.

We’re pulling up water that’s thousands of years old out of billions of years old rock to feed swimming pools, farms, fountains, golf courses, and swamp coolers. I’ve looked at this white scale every year since I came out here in the 70s and it’s gotten thicker and heavier every year.

The only thing growing in the trailer park is "the little brown people" as Bush the elder used to call them and a scraggly Oleander and a Chinaberry Bush but they are like miracles springing up out of the dry caked ground. An old man goes around picking up cans.

What is this dirt and squalor? Is it filthier than executives who wear clean clothes every day and rob taxpayers and shareholders? Is it like a patient who can’t take care of himself? Most of my customers are in this boat. Most of me. "Maybe next year...." We say

we’ll get it all cleaned up, economically, ecologically, psychologically. I remember Thoreau looking down on the Irish working a bog near him—looking down. What a stupid thing for genius to do. Language fails an inner smallness, emptiness, helplessness. Turns to hate. Turns to despair. Why do I care?

I need to know what I owe: family, community, and country vs. what I owe myself. Just send me a goddam bill, I say. But that would be too easy. It feels like a crime to be making debt payments that turn the artist inside me into a machine. I’m tired of being an ant, a bee, a good soldier in a bad war. A tenant who has been bugging me to get the install done because he has a baby, thanks me profusely and pats me on the shoulder when I tell him I’ve finished. I say you’re welcome and walk away quickly from this sudden intimacy. But I’m grateful. That brief touch went through a lot of walls, answered a lot of questions.

Then I do coolers on the East side of town and I’m starting to get ground down again. And I think these minerals come from before Mckinley annexed Hawaii after Harrison supported a coup, before the native Americans were slaughtered here, before they slaughtered each other. I have to relocate a float valve because the cooler is rusted out. It’s getting dark. I pick up a Maytag washer in the alley not thinking about the economics of selling it. It’s a good old machine and deserves to live is all I’m thinking. That kind of sentiment has cost me all my life.

Eddie says he doesn’t need it. His Maytag is fine. I know it’s on its last legs but I can’t say anything. Besides he’s drunk. He has a perfect excuse. He’s in a wheelchair from childhood polio. It’s not a good excuse, but it’s good enough to shut me up.

Next door in Berta’s place Bush is on theTV saying, "I’M THE DECIDER!" in a loud, bullying, frightened voice. She says she wonders if he’s evil or stupid. It’s a distinction without a difference. The means of evil are devious, clever and cruel. The ends are stupid. I mention some dirt I’ve been digging into about the Neo Cons: "BUSH’S BRAIN" about Carl Rove; "THE PANAMA DECEPTION" about Bush’s father; "THE FOG OF WAR" about McNamara; "FAHRENHEIT 9/11" about oil based corruption and war; "ECONOMIC HIT MAN" about the link between the CIA, corporations, and coups and assassinations in Latin America.; Wolfowitz’s 2000 manual about the need for "a new Pearl Harbor". She says, "Why do you want to listen to depressing stuff like that?"

I shrug. I can’t explain. Berta has survived the death of her husband and Chemo and she quit smoking. I guess she’s got something to tell me about positive thinking, but we each have to get there our own way. I’m thinking positive about getting good information, which has an IMAGE problem these days. Someone or something I loved was murdered and I need to know the exact details of its death. I think if I can recreate the whole scene, I can let go.

I was told a bunch of lies and half truths in school. When I questioned authority I was slapped down. When I tried to publish I was silenced. I want to know the whole truth of the dirt and muck I’ve been living in, as much of it as I can find, as much as I can stand. I want to know what those dirty, squalid, helpless people in suits did to my world. I want to bear witness to something I can’t name.

A something pulling up thousand year old water out of billion year old rock; and thousand year old ice core samples full of all the precious memories and the cold hard light of billions of days we never knew we had until they were gone.


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