The boss at the new place gave us a couple of days off this week, with our Saturday on a Wednesday (we Americans really do work ourselves sic), so I took the train into Portland to watch that bitchin’ Delta Eurotrash big metal cruise in smoother than a Leon Bridges girlfriend and a she-tweaker thrash around in front of the Greyhound depot, throwing possessions from her cart onto the sidewalk in a fit of rage while a steady-as-she-goes middle-aged black lady with a limp walked over and tried in vain to calm her. That sentence was rather like my quasi-girlfriend freshman year, the one with the devout Catholic parents, the sister with Down’s Syndrome, the psychiatrist, and the atheistic Jew of an official boyfriend whom she’d met because she’d been babysitting for the DA and he’d been working on a documentary about Charlie “Murder is the Charge” Robertson: an absolutely irresistible mess.
Murder was, in fact, the charge; I’d spoil the ending, but we’re already about as much on track as Amtrak 501 coming round the restricted approach off the Point Defiance Bypass. We’ve already met two characters who are fit for the RCMP: Robertson and the she-tweaker. Everybody else is too normal and/or self-controlled. *Righteous Christian Jonathan Josey Voice* How was that thing able to hit the road without me? Speaking of OnTrak, though, this whole thing is about to get even worse. Amtrak has some rather curious priorities, not including any way to pick up or buy a ticket at the Albany station for the early morning rush hour run to Salem and Portland, and certainly not including a stop in Woodburn, but definitely including a regionally oriented, albeit not hispanically oriented, onboard magazine solely for its Cascades trains. There’s nothing discriminatory about any of this; in America there’s no such thing as discrimination on the basis of class, which we don’t have. Duh. Amtrak wants, like, Maria Hinojosa on its passenger manifests, not some loser who picks fruit all summer.
Yo doggies. Fat Cracka in da house. Not technically, but whatever. We’ve already got too much detail and specificity.
Let’s have some more. One of my goals for this trip is to get a bit closer to renewing Select status for 2019, and that I can even imagine doing that is surreal on its own, but more importantly, trains are fly as shit. The sightseeing was mediocre due to morning fog and haze, and I wasn’t quite exhausted enough to fall asleep, so I picked up that fucking magazine. There’s something badly wrong with some combination of Amtrak’s passenger base, marketers’ perceptions of Amtrak’s passenger base, and without a doubt every fucking asshole with a job in marketing. Literate Christian old-timers have said that Guideposts was once a reputable, thoughtful, well-written magazine, but then it started running ads and slipping slowly but inexorably into a sentimental hell. But at least that rag, bad as it may be, holds out promises of something better on the other side. OnTrak is devoted to the celebration of the most insipid bougie regimens of endurance sports and excessive self-care. It calls to mind stories of overfed lab mice who devote every non-feeding waking hour to their own grooming, interspersed with Tough Mudder bullshit.
The most ridiculous article in the current issue was a quick-hit promotional for several WPA-era mountain resorts, including one at Sol Duc Hot Springs, which is, I swear I’m not making this up or misremembering it by more than a preposition or so, “nestled under towering pines and in a quiet peace of mind.” Oh, is that how it is? Let’s look around at that latitude at the local weather and all the Scandinavians, Japanese, and Rez Indians. Within sight of mental health? Geez, Soren, I don’t fuckin’ think so.
Sprinkle your snow on my cedar, bitch. Words used to have meanings. We must be far enough past modern times not to have to keep worrying about anything like that. Keeping track of the differences between physical architecture and mental states of mind is, like, hard and stuff. No, I’m not editing that, either. Modernism must have been getting porked by one’s strapping thick Swedish husband in the shower because one’s high school boyfriend had to go Manzanar, the Army, and the county courthouse for his murder trial. That isn’t exactly normal, but it isn’t the current dispensation, either, because it doesn’t involve uploading one’s mind into a nice forest lodge half an hour up the hill from Port Angeles.
That’s what the magazine fuckhead wrote. If he/she/shit didn’t want it to be construed as an exercise in runaway amateur Gnostic philosophy and where the hell is the nearest locked ward, someone could have read it and thought over how it came across, i.e., crazy enough to track down Wesley Willis for emergency help getting reoriented in reality. On the other hand, copy editors are expensive.
An even worse possibility is that this horseshit was in fact edited. In that case, copy editors are expensive and retarded. As a graduate of a pricey East Coast liberal arts college with more than its fair share of cokeheads and business majors, I have no idea how that could ever have happened. I understand that we send some real winners into government, too. This shit isn’t just bad writing. It’s a comprehensive failure of thought. #TeshTips: If your writing is so surreally atrocious, your thinking sucks, too.
Now, think about people agreeing to have their names bylined for that sort of psychotic marketeering drivel. I know, I know, I’m the Dubai Porta Potty guy. But that was a mostly-okay hot take on something disgusting. These assholes are writing about decent subjects–architecture, food, travel–and they sound like they’d get fired from a sidewalk repair crew because the foreman had finally landed Psychotarp and Mixups in my Mind, the go-to pothole dudes. Being publicly associated with a magazine that runs such brain-scrambled garbage under other writers’ bylines would embarrass any self-respecting writer. Everything about that is disgraceful. It’s possible to publish good marketing copy, not particularly easy (the industry narcotizes many a mind), but there are writers and editors who have what it takes to produce mercenary work that’s perfectly readable. They work for outlets that don’t publish freelancers’ thoughts on how a wilderness lodge is gracious enough to live in your fucking head.
OnTrak’s literary production value and sophistication of thought are both awful. The Sol Duc blurb is its own kind of special, but it isn’t the only floater to drift by in this wastewater stream. The literary return on investment has to be out-of-this-world bad. It’s clear that an ungodly amount of money goes into this rag, since the layout is professional and the photography is better than average for a free magazine, and it figures that it’s a big-money operation just on account of how many businessmen are butting in for their payola. The scandal is that they all have shit to show for their investment in the writing. The other scandal, I assume, is that they don’t fucking care. These aren’t ones to pride themselves on being able to accurately comprehend a single middle-school level sentence in their native tongue, or tell when it’s so fucked up that it has to go straight back to the drawing board.
Look at who runs shit in the Northwest, though. In BC, which OnTrak helpfully informs us has some dim sum joints, it’s filthy rich overseas Chinese whose failspawn get their Maseratis impounded for driving across the Lions Gate Bridge at four times the speed limit. In Seattle, it’s Jeff Bezos and his toadies.
Seattle can be either a powerfully encouraging example or a powerfully discouraging one, depending on the historical context. It was founded by psychopathic robber barons, guys who sound even worse than Bezos in some regards, but then enough wobblies and fellow travelers showed up to put a real fear into the shysters about being beaten to shit, dunked in the Sound, fished out, beaten again, and at some point left for dead, assuming some faint mercy on the part of their captors. That’s how it ended up with a middle class. The sight of Jeff Bezos flooding the zone with chronically hazed techbros and every possible rank of paid apologist to dispossess a city of fishermen and machinists is still gross and frightening, but at least there’s some local historical basis for putting all these thievish, totalitarian creeps in their place.
Going back into territorial days, Oregon has kept its own robber barons and wannabes on a somewhat tighter leash, but as they say about sex in Maine, these things aren’t absolute, just relative. Nothing but respect for my President and his popularity in the Second Congressional District. The prevailing culture in Oregon demands something at least vaguely along the lines of respect and fellow-feeling for normal people, a public rectitude tending to get in the way of Shoko Asahara godliness.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Oregon has an upper middle class. Oops. This shit never goes right. The best-case scenario for the losers and rejects is Wilsonville having a rest area but no laundromat, forcing the downwardly mobile to drive to Canby or Tualatin. There is no worst-case scenario; something can always go worse.
The small mercies of high-end politics in Oregon are puny indeed. In subtle and probably not too fucking meaningful contrast to many other states, rentier politics in Oregon are driven by people who insist that they aspire only to be well-compensated knights, not manorial lords or dukes or kings. The historical ignorance needed to maintain this conceit should be embarrassing, but these aren’t the only high-turnout voters to be beyond embarrassment. There’s a certain disingenuous nerve to these manipulative leeches acting like they stayed in or moved to Oregon so that they would not have to hustle, skim, and steal.
Then again, the bottle bill was doubled to a dime and then extended to cover pretty much everything that California’s does, Chaka Can, Chaka Can, and there’s still no sales tax outside a handful of tiny tax-and-spend showoff cities, a situation for which I can also easily feel. That is, it isn’t all terrible. It’s just really fucking terrible from many perspectives, most of which might as well be impossible to escape from a position of indigence. It can be hard enough just to maneuver one’s power chair off the bus in East Portland without rolling over a pile of trash that someone dumped out of an overturned can all over the sidewalk.
It’s fair enough to complain that I just used an uncalled-for four-letter word rhyming with “feast.” Keep in mind, though, that deep skid row isn’t a block and a half up 82nd from the Global Friends Mandarin immersion childcare program. Additional commercial-free #TeshTips: You are not placing your preschool brats there to make friends. That shit is about training children to take their places as masters of the universe when they may or may not be out of diapers. Great, ni shi wo de fa ken hao pengyou. Groovy shit right there, white girl.
These diverse flavors of horseshit blend together all too coherently. This crap makes sense. Its analysis doesn’t require a desperate search for meaning and pattern in a meaningless, chaotic universe. It demands no quixotic hunt for substance in the great void. Mandarin is the language for making lots of cool cracker money in far China. Cantonese monolingualism must be for dead-enders these days, and everyone knows that Fujianese is for losers from peasant families who work in sneaker factories. No one needs to consort with the dirt people. The local fixers can interpret for the shack trash if it comes to that, so cheer up, old boy, you’ll get by all right with the Empress’s Mandarin in Cathay.
The domestic caveat to this, of course, is our peasant lingua franca. Having the brats watch Mr. Rogers reruns and learn how to deal effectively and graciously with different kinds of people in different situations in English won’t teach them how to condescend to the gardener. Dora will. If Mexicans in fact speak better English than they let on, I can’t exactly blame them. English fluency was how I got into that disgusting argument in Elko with that bitch in the Pacific Grove marathon T-shirt over whether or not I was homeless. Come to think of it, I probably could have gotten her to storm off by switching into Russian and pretending to have forgotten English. It must be horrifying to come to a new country to work, evade the most obnoxious locals by pretending to no comprende, and then watch the same assholes study enough Spanish to worm their way in with linguistically broken, self-satisfied blather about their own goodness.
There’s no need to go abroad to be an ugly American. *Ivan Illich voice of responsible cultural exchange* Don’t even think about coming here without a full handle of vodka specifically for my own immediate consumption. There is nothing healthy about White People’s relationship to Spanish in the United States. If Mexicans were as fluent in English as Quebeckers, they could come up here and tell us, you know what, this job fucking sucks, man, and you’re a fucking asshole to act like you’re doing us a favor. At the same time, we want them (“we”) to be able to navigate the transit system smoothly enough to get to work on time, and we, or, again, “we,” want their children to grow up speaking fluent Spanish as birthright Americans for reasons certainly not having to do with any interest in shooing them into prole jobs by ethnic attainder, because we’d never do anything like that in, say, antebellum Alabama. It’s a bit foily to ask, but maybe we’re dealing with ruling-class whites and honorary honkies who realize on some level that teaching the blacks English didn’t work out so well. After all, it’s how Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, and I, Crackaberto El Gordo Menchu, all managed to talk back.
This ruling class needs the wetbacks, who tested Chavez’s patience more than they test mine, to tend the fields so that they can keep up the high fancy that the Pacific Northwest is their playground. I’m a hiker myself (I was about to write “avid hiker,” but I’m sitting on ass in a Starbucks again), so I’m not about to get up in anyone’s face and be all like pick fruit white bitch. Recreation has its place. What these preening assholes don’t get is that this place isn’t big enough for an entire fucking magazine devoted to nothing but the celebration of highbrow outdoorsy shit and feasting. That’s every bit as unbalanced as Mexicans doing nothing but work in their waking hours and Yanqui expecting them to be so industrious with utmost good cheer.
By the way, there is a LOT of bourgeois-supremacist white Americans who are chronically sore about African-Americans being indolent. This bigotry does much to explain all the Permit Patty 911 calls over black people napping, barbecuing, and the like, as well as that clinically paranoid Starbucks manager in Philadelphia. This is the underbelly of gushing about how hard Mexicans work. Bougie Americans welcome them because they put off the need to engage with the native working classes–mostly white and black, but far from entirely so–as civic equals with a legitimate stake in our nation. It’s ugly as hell.
Another fun tidbit on this subject: I paged through OnTrak, looking for the, uh, local color, and found awfully little of it. Blacks seemed to be underrepresented in the photography. I’m not talking about corporate diversity initiative bullshit, where there’s always miraculously a stock photo negro in business attire to complement the white models in a conference room that’s too tidy for anyone to be doing any work. What I mean is that some of these photos are from neighborhoods where I’d expect to see blacks on the street pretty frequently, and none are in sight. The most egregious version of this that I’ve ever seen was a promotional poster for Prince George’s County, Maryland, showing a white family in Burberry scarfs and overcoats. Yeah, we’re definitely doing that in PG for reasons not having to do with encouraging any sort of voluntary ethnic cleansing pursuant to the Song, Song of the South, Millington for Sheriff and I shut my mouth.
If you see me walking by, and the smirk is in my eye, look away, Mr. Secessions, look away. I shouldn’t be on topic, but I am. There was a poster in Portland Union Station, for either the Empire Builder or the California Zephyr, promoting Chicago’s “diverse and harmonious neighborhoods.” Why do we even have language? Original sin isn’t a function of knowledge or curiosity. Original sin is being able to put arrant bullshit on that fucking poster. I’m not going to stay out of safe parts of Chicago because other parts are unsafe; I’m not even tempted to stay away from the South Shore Line because Millennium Station is a dump; but large swathes of Chicago are a goddamn war zone. Harmonious neighborhoods? That’s like a slim and sober mayor campaign in Toronto.
I guess token black people were, like, SO 2005 or something. Maybe it’s a Trump thing. Maybe the 911 calls to police up black people minding their own business are, too. It could just be more thorough reporting, or situations in which, for example, Proud Boys are allowed to mount low-level armed insurrections on public streets with impunity. Back in the day, even noted Westwood demographics observer Mark “77th Street Lie Detector” Fuhrman pointed out that some of his best friends were black detectives who played in the 0500 pickup basketball games.
The fundamental mistake that we keep making as a nation, so repeatedly and deliberately that it can hardly be called a mistake, is to assume that we can will into existence and action someone or something else to do all our grunt work so that we can move, pursuant to the natural law of upward mobility, into marketing jobs. This helps explain all the happy horseshit about robots. OnTrak’s target audience probably thinks it would make sense to put serious R&D money into robotic harvesters to pick raspberries for the fresh market. As a working fruitboy, I can say from personal experience that that is a batshit crazy waste of money, time, and talent, but I’m a fruitboy, so they don’t ask me.
Another thing they don’t encourage anyone to do is to ask what exactly is so awful about picking fruit. I don’t mean piece rates that can’t possibly let a childless adult without debt make ends meet or shithead bosses or emotionally draining crew drama or poor onsite facilities; I mean the actual work. Most working-age Americans and quite a few seniors could manage twenty or thirty hours a week doing what I do for about 25 hours a week at the new gig. Why the hell do we need a couple million Mexicans to spend 60-70 hours a week doing that and still living in poverty in spite of it all?
We don’t actually respect hard work in this country. What we actually believe is that the white working class should be grateful not to be replaced by black slaves, their emancipated descendants grateful not to be replaced by Mexicans, and the Mexicans grateful not to be replaced by Somali refugees. This is objectively the revealed belief of our national cultural mainstream. We are all indoctrinated to despise actual work and those who do it. It takes an affirmative deprogramming campaign to transcend this sleazy, intellectually dishonest indoctrination and replace it with anything wholesome or edifying.
And so here we are in this land of contrasts, the State of Blunder. Teaching barely pottytrained rug rats Mandarin by immersion isn’t about giving them the skills they’ll need to function adequately in society; it’s about lining them up to go skimming off the productive economy with rich Chinamen twenty years down the line. I’m bloody fucking well able and willing to be a productive member of society, but I guess I don’t have what it takes to be Jack Ma’s crony.
What I can do is ask what Friend from what part of our Global world dumped the half-eaten Cup Noodles container on the sidewalk by the bus shelter, over a yard away from the consolidated pile of recently canned trash. China could always close down its mental hospitals and release into its streets behavioral health gems who have what it takes to do any of that, but it has gulags and facial recognition software to monitor restrooms for toilet paper theft instead, and we, God bless us, have Uber. We oughtn’t dwell on such small details, though, since doing so would get in the way of admiring the Chinks for being a smart master race of technocrats with jobs for us and the wetbacks for being Untermenschen who mercifully take our jobs. It would get in the way of the comprehensive reordering of every society on earth as a helpless component of one gigantic bee colony.
I still have half an hour before I can tune in live to Marco Werman’s thoughts on matters such as these. How bow dah. Now that’s a motherfucker who doesn’t spend enough time beyond cell coverage in Sol Duc Hot Springs.