Eatin’ good in the neighborhood

We’ve got mail:

Good afternoon tenants,

Lately we have noticed that people have been leaving food items by the dumpster, and now starting on top of the mail box. We ask that you please stop doing that, as this is adding to the current issues we are having with the homeless coming into the property. For those that may not be aware, we have had recent break-ins into cars as well as items going missing from the property.

I understand you may be doing this to help the ones in need during these difficult times, however if you would like to donate food, clothing items, etc., please take it to the local food bank/charities.

Thank you for your understanding.

I can’t object. I really can’t. To any of it: the letter, the food by the dumpster. The onsite manager who e-mailed us this letter is wonderful. She’s in a bad spot, we’re in a bad spot as her tenants, the neighborhood homeless are in a terrible spot, and one of our city councilors used to go around stealing gear from encampments on vigilante missions back when he was a cop. He bragged about it at a social services working group meeting. He was a Santa Rosa Police Department liaison. Multiple committee members filed official complaints under their own names. Nothing happened.

It doesn’t take much attention to look at the city council during meetings and guess that Ernesto Olivares is the cop. His strain of bumbaiting bourgeois supremacy runs deep around here. He’s far from the worst cop around here, by the way. The SRPD’s rank and file supposedly can’t stand the Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies. The assistant district attorneys are so insane that judges tell them to shut up right now in camera.

Last fall we had the shit show on the Joe Rodota Trail. A veterinarian’s wife told me that the trail was an absolute clusterfuck, totally out of control. /Borat Voice/ My part-time wife told me that it was a self-governing community, with zoning expertly triaged by need and social function. California has Pervert’s Flat in rural Antioch for the Megan’s Law cases; Santa Rosa has the hills above Bennett Valley.

The vet and his wife weren’t the most obnoxious Americans I met in New Zealand. The expat Americans working in the service sector were great. I didn’t encounter any American shitheads in Australia. I don’t remember encountering Americans at all. The security guy at the Hobart Airport, an absolute sweetheart who hugged my mom after she told him that he and his colleagues were nicer than their American counterparts, assumed we were flying home to Adelaide. When my mom described where she and my dad live in the Adirondacks, his eyes lit up. “Noooice!”

Depending. I’m glad my mom came down with the Dread Ailment or whatever she caught in New Zealand, not back home in the States. Yes, that one. She suspects she had it months before the Wuhan lockdown, let alone the Kiwi lockdown. There’s a mayor in New Jersey who thinks he caught it around the same time, although around town, not around Grammers. There were no horseshit marketeering or HR signs on the hospital campuses in Invercargill and Queenstown. My mom received excellent care at Southland and at Lakes District. Both hospitals were modest but reassuring inside. The outdoor energy at Southland was exactly what I needed. My mom loved watching the Air New Zealand A320s take off while she sat in the day room on the ward at Lakes. She likes busy Maori liveries much more than I do.

The veterinarian fumed to us about the wretchedness of Invercargill. I liked the town all right when my dad and I got there. I’m absolutely serious that Southland Hospital was my favorite part. There’s no point to traveling so far afield and not getting a passing idea of what the hell is actually up in the host communities. I guess I’m in the travelers’ minority on that one fml, but shit, doc, Fat Cracka’s got room for another mince pie, in the suitcase if need be.

The vet told us he was the highest rated in the county. I looked him up a few months later, and I think I identified him, although I’m not pawsitive. Good Lord there’s something wrong with me. We met him and his wife at dinner. The guy who’d built the house back in the Gilded Age got into Parliament, got into debt, and fatally shot himself in his office in Wellington. One of our servers that night chuckled when I told him that I’d had classmates fly over to study a broad–as /Borat Voice/ my part-time wife says, “They’re fine from the neck down”–and return stateside complaining about not being able to afford heat for their flats; students are always having trouble getting by, he said. In retrospect, I think I heard the heat quota story from a tradcon chick who’d studied in Dublin. Most of the complaints I heard about foreign bathrooms started, verbatim, “One time when I was in England, and I had to take a shit….”

I would rather have heard these stories from the chick who went to Dublin, but this is not a world that caters to our preferences. We aren’t all veterinarians.

A full week in Queenstown more than convinced me that New Zealand has a tourism problem. I guess it doesn’t so much this year lol, but strange times live through us as much as we live through them. I do, however, think I paid enough attention on our way through drive-through country and on my solo excursions into the working parts of Adelaide and Christchurch to accurately assess some of the shit that any country harboring it tries to sweep behind the curtains, and the impressive thing is that none of it looked really bad. The equivalents in the US are terrible. If I get back to Australia–not ruling it in, but not ruling it out–I’m planning to visit Macquarie Fields. I looked at some satellite and street view images of it, and I couldn’t believe that that, of all neighborhoods, was rumored to be one of the roughest parts of Sydney. It’s like going to 20th and Clement and being told, authoritatively, this is the worst corner in San Francisco.

I saw a handful of homeless in Sydney and I think Adelaide. On equivalent transects of Los Angeles or Sacramento I’d have seen dozens, probably hundreds. I haven’t done a deep or broad survey of Australian housing, but from what I’ve read and seen I get the feeling that there is nothing along the lines of Skid Row or the Tenderloin or Near North Sacramento in the whole country. The only city where I’d expect it is Darwin, and I’ve heard about extreme squalor and poverty in the deep outback, overwhelmingly in Aboriginal communities, but we’ve got the Rez, the Ozarks, the deep Appalachians, the Black Belt. Joe Schillaci will see you on the scene of that 31 in the Pork-n-Beans.

This really is a shithole country. What other conclusion is hanging around for us? What are we supposed to make of Australia’s most dire social problems being concentrated in a territory whose population rivals those of Buffalo and Reno? Australia’s superannuation scheme is a racket, but Statewide Super had free wi-fi in Glenelg when I went out on the tram. I recall getting straight on, with no commercial, and there was definitely no e-mail tracking like the DFW does for passengers who are already paying facility fees through their airfare.

Little things like that, one after another, array themselves to paint a damning picture. We have 24/7 staffing at more of our rural gas stations, but they have a working medical system. These probably aren’t mutually exclusive, this probably isn’t a case of one or the other, no mix-and-match, but we shouldn’t have to deliberate and weigh the tradeoffs. We should be able to come right out and choose.

Guess we chose wrong. Fuck.

Back home we have so, so many places where we get assaulted by the squalor and the dysfunction every time we step outside. We can’t keep it out of the fanciest recreation districts in our cities. The passenger rail terminals in Los Angeles and Chicago officially close down for a few hours overnight, for no credible reason but to ward off the homeless. Rent-a-cops make the rounds at LA Union Station every night to do the bums’ rush. As of a year or two ago the Portland Greyhound terminal had regular DAYTIME closure hours. A quick look outside shows why: skid row. It spreads: Pioneer Square; Pershing Square; Venice and Santa Monica; just about everywhere else in the Los Angeles Basin; all through and around the Gaslamp Quarter and the Convention Center; all over San Francisco; long stretches of El Camino; Midtown Sacramento and downtown Reno; across otherwise well-maintained parts of downtown Seattle like so much maritime moss, a dude lying face-down in the grass on a freeway embankment in his underwear on a near-freezing winter morning, 911 refusing to dispatch an ambulance because the caller reports that he’s breathing.

How many billions of dollars do we have to spend on cops and spooks and naval combat vessels that dent and fighter jets that dissolve in the rain and serial deathtraps like the Osprey whose crews take flight only because they’d be court-martialed otherwise, before we get our shit together on services that we actually need to survive as a society? We’re operating at a level on Maslow’s hierarchy below normal, healthy function and way below prosperity. What does it take to walk out onto the streets from the highrise hotels in the San Francisco Financial District or downtown LA or San Diego, or out of the investment banking towers of Lower Manhattan into the visibly disintegrating subways, and come away unshaken in the assumption that the governments responsible lavish too little on private redevelopment hustlers and too much on social services and public works? What the hell are we using? Grey Goose? Freebase? Xanax? Build-your-own?

The moneyed sorts who do business and leisure in our fancy neighborhoods are short on empaths and long on psychopaths–they are not, regardless of their protestations, liberal–but it’s incomprehensible how they don’t walk through the local hood and straight away see serious problems demanding serious solutions. Most of them aren’t even cutting off the nose to spite the face. They’re in our dynamic, forward-thinking cities with two thirds of the GDP precisely because they want to make bank and live well or cash in what some of what they’ve already amassed to live well. These are, after all, people who have done more than their share of international travel.

It’s bizarre that they don’t expect the same public goods and services that Europeans, Japanese, urban Chinese, and so forth take for granted and demand when not granted: water fountains; well-maintained public restrooms that encourage users to clean up after themselves and have janitors on call in case they don’t; not having to dodge films of piss and piles of shit on the sidewalk left by the desperate, the mentally ill, and the homeless; not having street people lying around semiresponsive and stewing in two weeks’ worth of bodily filth because they have nowhere decent to go; the ability to walk into an intact, fully functioning rapid transit station and promptly board a tolerably clean train that works. It’s bizarre, for that matter, that the horseshit security theater of the TSA and its contractors hasn’t come under sustained and withering attack from travelers who have cleared security at domestic airport terminals in Australia and not gotten into crashes on Qantas. Airport stories out of Mexico include employee cadences of “Please/ do not/ take off/ your shoes.”

Nothing here fucking works. What’s crazy is that things don’t work in cities teeming with affluent professionals whose business takes them to places like Frankfurt, London, and Hong Kong. These same cities teem with foreigners from every corner of the world, many of them from highly developed and well-run cities abroad. It’s surreal to imagine what it must be like to relocate from inner-city Sydney or Adelaide, for example, as an occasional to regular train rider, and to arrive in Manhattan, the nerve center of the international financial system, the biggest and proudest city in the global imperial center, on a filthy, ramshackle train serving a subway station with water pouring in through a gash in the wall.

Let’s assume, again, that the Millennial Business Success Spawn are looking to get rich, the tourists to luxuriate, and the conventioneers to get rich or learn things or hang out. They’re all looking, now or later or both, for a good quality of life. Reconcile this with decades of intensifying threats to the personal safety and welfare of the general public, threats now aggressively spreading into neighborhoods frequented or inhabited by the rich and the powerful. The “revitalization” campaigns proceed apace, in Hudson Yards, Pilsen, the SoMa, the outskirts of the USC campus, and so forth, but everything around them is falling apart.

Deluxe condominiums are sold and occupied in a downtown tower that is somehow, despite one of the most process-oriented city governments on earth and a host state historically home to some of the world’s leading engineering brain trusts, listing from its foundation on up with the floors very noticeably off-level. A new bridge span, a seven- or ten-minute drive away in light traffic, is built with overseas steel that the highway department is concerned has not passed inspection. These edifices are located in a world-renowned earthquake zone.

A few hours away by plane, the mayor for some damn reason, probably soft ethnic cleansing, or maybe just cruelty, arbitrarily closed dozens of neighborhood schools in ways that forced minors to cross through rival gang territory twice a day. In city after city, millions of dollars gush into the guard labor apparatus, billions in the national aggregate, to issue citations and effect bench warrant arrests over shit like $2.75 fare jumps. The NYPD excels at this. It has the same jurisdiction as the elected governments that tried to give Jeff Bezos hundreds of millions of dollars in a single consolidated package to build a megaoffice that would turn the already snarled streets fubar, until their constituents made it clear that the incumbents pushing that crap would have to find new jobs, or hobbies, if they succeeded.

They always could have talked to Matt Lauer.

The retention of violently juiced-up cops who ride around poor minority neighborhoods jumping out of vans and throwing groups of peaceable teenagers up against the nearest wall makes some sense, although not much, in the context of Greek Life business elites who abuse cocaine. It’s fairly common for the same aspiring masters of the universe never to have lived in the real world of laundromats, slumlords, crosstown bus lines through the ghetto, and sometimes even DIY grocery shopping and home laundry. From where you’re sitting right now, there’s sure to be an above above the above.

There’s no reason that sheltered rich assholes with reactionary views they usually keep to themselves or their close friends for business reasons–that’s actually asking quite a bit, as leaks from many of our elite circles regularly show–take the cops for their loyal buddies or mercenaries. American cops get away with shit that neighborhood crew bosses would bring to an immediate stop in the Crips, the Bloods, or the Latin prison gangs, but it’s been said before: lighter shade of blue, no cross, no shield. Norm Stamper, I think it was, divided American police misconduct into three main spheres: corruption, brutality, and incompetence. They’re all wicked valid, Mak; that’s why your awe stayeff sayagent. Between the NOPD’s who dat throw your ass on the floor in a jumble for dissing the jambalaya private details, the Dirty Thirty, the jumpout squads, the Ramparts snort-n-sell ring, Homan Square, the other Mark with the glove on the Westside and without it on 77th Street, Ferguson, the DEA’s cash grab crews, HSI’s inconsistent policies on sex with suspected trafficking victims, Daniel Holtzclaw’s personal off-duty policies, and the widespread anabolic steroid use on police forces across the country, nobody should trust the police a second longer than the nearest cops appear to be holding it together in a non-criminal capacity.

This list is not exhaustive. I omitted other cops.

It’s usually feasible for a portion of a society to live off the avails of its neighbors’ labor. We’re much closer to a scenario in which everybody’s trying to rob, extort, blackmail, bribe, or defraud everybody else for a living. Hilariously, this is why Olivia Jade Gianulli’s parents had to pay Rick Singer to bribe USC. Their daughter, already a socioeconomically successful and connected celebrity, was really looking forward to, like, partying and going to games. Kid: the only reason they’ll try to bar the door against you is because you’re the other OJ. This is the College of Montepuliafito, girl. Chill.

If we look at the top, hardly a soul is doing a thing that’s worthwhile, and few are doing anything interesting. Jeff Bezos is a monster who smiles while his warehouse grunts soil their adult diapers and pee in bottles next to parades of customer packages. Elon Musk is an acutely coked-up megalomaniac who bribed and bullied his way into positions as a named founder and flips his shit at anybody who expresses or shows expertise exceeding his own in any field, notably including the British expatriate caver he called a pedophile for warning that his submarine wouldn’t work to rescue that group of boys and their chaperones from a Thai cave that he knew better than anybody else. The fuck are the Kardashians doing? Dad was a lawyer, at least. Another connection to the Original Juice: how bow dah. Bruce Jenner? Excuse me, Caitlyn? I mean, Brutlin? There are some extremely weird and unhealthy family dynamics in that whole deal.

I often ponder what it means that the Amish are cutting hay, Japanese smallholders with quarter-acre plots in the path of the second runway at Narita are growing rice by hand when they aren’t going at the riot police with pitchforks, Chinese researchers are doing advanced biotherapeutics research (and, uh, chuman work with that Yankee creep), the Germans and the Swiss are still machining ultraprecision gears and measuring devices and shit, and a whole lot of us are over here crashing international financial markets, swindling the poor and the middling out of their houses, and lounging around with our thumbs up our asses while we venerate that troupe of attention-whoring freaks. Or Musk or Bezos or any of our other famous crooks, blowhards, and frauds. We hear, from people claiming great political authority, that Nancy Pelosi is an indispensable member of the center-left. Gavin Newsom is marginal and modestly effectual among elected Democrats for coordinating one of the best responses to the Dread Ailment in the country, while Fancy Nancy is a champion advocate for preemptively capitulating to Mitch McConnell and standing in front of a chest full of $10/lb. artisanal gelati while her Michael Jackson-looking face dribbles off in real time.

That’s cool. It’s great to see that actions inform reputations and that we’re living abundantly in the observable, real world of real lives and real happenings. I meant to mention: I’ve been in bed with multiple Borgia mistresses on the Neapolitan waterfront all night and also colocating to an onsen full of blissfully half-awake capybaras and baboons on the slopes of Mount Fuji, because these are also true things that happened.

The psychosis in this country is unbelievably prolific and pervasive. It’s almost impossible to find anyone in a position of power or wealth who isn’t afflicted. Tom Steyer appears to be one, but his presidential campaign flopped and he threw in the towel after South Carolina. The heir apparent to Her mantle–this is already going just great–is a manifestly brain-damaged bully and phony who was forced out of the running in 1988 for plagiarizing his speeches and who habitually lies about his legislative record, his class background, the extent of his personal wealth, what he earned as a young lawyer in Wilmington, and his scholarship status and class standing in law school. The new rape accusation, because we just knew this guy would be a pervert we’ve covered extensively for putting his hands and nose all over everything that moves, has the ‘liberal” chattering classes in the throes of a normal one. Katha Pollitt would vote for Joe Biden even if he boiled and ate babies. Whoa, bitch: sit the fuck down and take your lorazepam. This is not good, to be saying that just because the incumbent is a loudmouth and a shitposter.

Yes, many less prominent, socially engaged, and influential people have psychotic parasocial relationships with Donald Trump. So what? They may have dysfunctional parasocial relationships over the computer with catfish drones working for the Kremlin in satellite cube farms. So what? We are not a society that visits its shut-ins. Do we sound Amish?

The hope for a better tomorrow rests, amazingly, with the Trump campaign. This is an extremely relative statement. It took rampant corruption and sclerosis to get him into office and more yet to populate his cabinet and staff with its trail mix of relatives, cronies, family retainers, movement conservative creeps, hardline nativist nuts, and evangelical end times Looney Toons. It’s some ridiculously dysfunctional shit, and the more competent it is, the scarier. But the Donald understands communication, not just on a social level but on something like a spiritual, mystical level. Most of it is bullshit, but Biden is an incorrigible bullshitter, too, and he has no spiritual range or depth.

Trump’s campaign has a positive, affirmative vision. For the most part it’s a terrible one, and that old-time Republican nihilism is always boiling just below the surface, but he offers reasons to vote FOR him. Biden and his team are flailing about grasping for reasons to vote AGAINST Trump. If they had so much as a platform they believed in themselves they wouldn’t have the likes of former Nation writers striking child sacrifice and cannibalism as disqualifying factors for the presidency. A normal, well-adjusted voter hearing that the ghost of Jeffrey Dahmer is a respectable Democratic candidate for the presidency, and in fact a crucial one should Joe Biden kick the bucket between now and November, would vote Republican. Nah, lady; Jeff, he ain’t it. Goes for the other pervert with the island and all the rich friends, too.

Take it from a man who prays: thinking informs argumentation, but argumentation absolutely informs thinking. This goes even for prayers as simple as the liturgical Catholic grace (or, as Protestants call it, Oh, it’s over?). I could bog down in a daybreak lay missive about the power of the Rosary, or other spiritual shit that will Men’s Warehouse guarantee to bog me down because that’s exactly what it always does (sample search terms: “intercessor”; “St. Richard Russell”), but [indefinite blank period of the mind, on the night shift (on the night shift)] as one of our best confessors and preachers told us, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” That’s clumsy and off-point for where I’m trying to take this bitch, too reductive and corporeal, somehow, but he’s right. Having a full-blown public mental breakdown over a public official being hella rude (which, as the records of every predecessor through Reagan show, is what drives this nonsense) and reacting by blurting out that cooking and cannibalizing babies would be an improvement over a guy who now draws a federal salary to be a drama queen leads to a greater freakout, which leads to more invitations to insurgent partisan rape, to a more intense freakout, and frankly we’re deep into the realm of the mad by the time we raise the specter of boiling babies.

Let’s pause to reflect on the matter of a well-known, well-established, basically well-respected author going on the record to declare that Donald Trump is worse than a hypothetical baby cannibal. I mentioned Dahmer because Pollitt invited us into his wheelhouse for a voyage none of us wanted but all of us must make. Nah, go back to Dubai Porta Potty or the Levine shit if it’s less disturbing; I don’t mind. I’m done repeating it for a sentence or two, but that statement is not hyperbole. Go to the far side of hyperbole and it’s still beyond the horizon. That’s an utterance that is inevitably, prima facie an effect and a cause of major mental illness. Most people would think about crossing the street if they heard a passerby speaking like that. It’s more troubling as a cause because it aggravates the most destructive ideation and, worse for bystanders, proliferates it into the community. It’s ill-advised to read lines of that nature as an actor with on-demand psychiatric support. This is definitively not the ideation or the language of a person we want interacting with others below the scope of practice of a psych tech at the moment.

Are we still concerned that Grandma thinks Trump is personally looking out for her, like Jesus but also Caesar, and enjoys messaging with her special Russian computer friends? This wack-ass talk is on course to make the Democrats shit the bed with the devout, even with a loud cradle Catholic of some credible pro-life sentiment and background at the head of the ticket. They’re already compromised on matters of religious belief and practice just by virtue (sic) of holding it in such obvious contempt. Their opponent, meanwhile, has made common cause with religious busybodies and has his own inchoate but irrepressible spirtual inclinations. Howdy Modi! I love the Hindu! Can you believe how many gods you could find in the virus? Panpsychism. Phenomenal. You love to see it.

A guy like Trump doesn’t have to seem coherent or even in his right mind to seem human and reachable. He could have a new astral projection every minute with a 50% false positive rate and still be more spiritually grounded than Joe Biden or most of the rest of the Democratic A List. Voters notice. It doesn’t have to be conscious to have a powerful effect. The electorate is maybe 1% Data, 19% Spock, and 80% Captain Kirk. I pulled the numbers out of my ass, but not entirely. I don’t think you want to know about my sleep schedule in this, our time of plague. Heh heh heh heh, I said “ass, but.” Huh huh.

Then again, Biden is leading Trump in the swing state polls, Trump is wearing out his welcome with the flimflamming over the Ailment, and lead poisoning is not confined to the hard right. Biden does convey a probably bogus but oddly cloying emotionality, when he’s lucid enough for emotions at all.

That’s a pile of verbiage about a pile of horseshit that serves greatly to distract American voters from things that actually matter, like homelessness. Again, we are not having a sane one. That’s a national scandal and tragedy that every president starting with Reagan has addressed by sucking his own cock. Reagan released the inpatient insane from the state hospitals without community support as governor, then trashed the economy for working people as president. The Bushes didn’t do much about homelessness, except to tangentially aggravate it in the same fashion as Reagan. Clinton was on the scene for a Twilight Zone incident in which a homeless person froze to death in a bus shelter across the street from the HUD headquarters, emblematic precisely because it was the same shit the federal government and most subsidiary governments had been doing for the homeless for over a decade by that point. Obama contributed generously to homelessness by mouthing insincere platitudes in the face of a foreclosure crisis he strategically allowed.

Biden might be better than Trump on homelessness. He might be worse. He’ll probably just be different. We absolutely have not had a president show meaningful moral or practical leadership on aything pertaining to homelessness since Jimmy Carter. Joe Plagiarism doesn’t look like the guy to break this streak, but nobody cares, or at least not much of anybody who votes.

It’s like it’s a fucking ballgame. The Yankees always play dirty, but we love our Nationals. It’s no coincidence that a guy who reasons like this tried to get me down to Camden Yards for a bachelor party in the midst of the Hot Summer of Freddy Gray and later, upon Trump’s victory, told me, almost despondent, “I guess there are a lot more uneducated people in this country than I realized.”

Trump is the fault of Raiders Nation, in that case. Cool. Are you fucking ready for some. Don’t go looking for money to get people off the trailer park frontage roads along the Nimitz; it’s all gone into the Coliseum.

We unhoused some folks.

Even if we assume that the Bay Area is now governed for worse-than-useless solipsistic narcissists who refer to their own low-key homeless neighbors as “my Uber,” it’s bizarre that they don’t see something really, badly wrong with the scene along the Nimitz or El Camino or all over San Francisco, in a way that a more robust social welfare apparatus is the only thing that can help. What are we trying to replicate here? Sao Paolo? Lagos? Bombay? Possibilities are flicking straight through my mind: probably not Addis Ababa, maybe Manila or Nairobi, definitely not Kigali or Buenos Aires or Santiago, no public escalators so it can’t be Cali or Medellin or wherever they did that. We’re on a chute straight into the midrange Third World, just maybe with worse medical care.

I mailed a donation to Loaves and Fishes about sixteen hours before I opened the e-mail I reproduced at the top, the one about the homeless and what we may and may not do for them. I’m not about to risk trouble, for me or for anyone else, by putting leftovers out by a dumpster in the courtyard of my apartment building. I should do something along those lines, a calling I doubt I’ll answer, but if I do I’ll take it out into the neighborhood a bit.

It doesn’t matter, though; not the charity, but the location. In a narrow sense it may, but word is already out on the streets that my building is a place to look for food. The reputation will attract who it will attract, in ways entirely beyond my influence. I was informed about this situation after the fact. There’s a guy I take for homeless who sits in one of the entry hallways listening to music, and who I think stays with one of the tenants on some basis, but he’s always seemed harmless. I have no idea whether he’s been burgling cars, but mine is probably too messy to attract many people, so I’m not worried. Someone did once get in and throw papers everywhere, but I found nothing important missing. I have it parked in my assigned spot under the carport with the windows partway down, the doors unlocked, and the battery dead oops lol, but the chip keys are getting worn again because either Jones West or the plant fucked something up, so, hey.

That’s no battle I’m about to fight. I live in a pretty nice tenement in a nice neighborhood. The neighbors run the gamut from squirrelly but harmless to wonderful. We have three unguarded, ungated entryways to the building, all from a public street. The neighborhood has mixed zoning. The building next door is fully gated and locked. A couple of weeks ago a cop asked me how to get in there to deal with a noise complaint over a late-night pool party. I told him I thought he’d have to wait for a tenant to let him in. Cool cop, cool neighbors; no idea about the pool until I heard the splashing. Even then I initially thought it was coming from a TV in my building.

The building next door is a gentry fortress. Ours is not. We aren’t hiding out behind the palace walls, quaking in our boots about our safety and (extremely nerds voice) Our Purchases. We aren’t Brazil. The pool building isn’t either, really, but it’s headed there, with the rest of us in tow.

We have homeless in the neighborhood. Most of them are over towards the Safeway, but they’re around. There are board and care homes in the neighborhoods, some with furlough programs. There’s a row of redwood trees fifty or a hundred yards away, across a parking lot, with tarps and cardboard and a sofa and stuff in the underbrush. I saw a guy shitting on one of the redwoods on Memorial Day last year, with a cop making a glacially slow six-point U-turn fifteen feet away across a chain link fence.

It’s bigger than me. Then I hear about assholes like Musk and Gates and especially Bezos, and I remember who needs to foot the bill for this shit: them. It would work true wonders to expropriate Bezos, tax him at 99%, flood his facilities with labor inspectors, and overall grind him back down into the uppermost reaches of the vaguely human upper class. How the hell is a billion dollars not enough? He has $150b or some shit. He’s supposedly on course to become the first trillionaire. Mocha Haole is being celebrated as our first prospective billionaire president emeritus. Harry and Bess Truman moved back into their bungalow or whatever the hell in Independence with the Secret Service in the yard. Carter put his peanut farm into a blind trust. Why aren’t we making Barry pass us more o da kine, yeah? What is wrong with us?

This isn’t a village with a cartwright, a potter, a stingy barber surgeon, a ruined prince, and a hundred mentally retarded field hands. Bezos amounts to a rogue knight who socializes with the town gossip, orders his neighbors to work in his shop for free and sleep in an outdoor pigsty, lounges around in a hammock telling them what to do for him, and gets up with a cat-o-nine-tails in hand and wails when they refuse to approach the whipping post at his command and instead walk off the property. On his own, he’s laughably impotent.

Musk is even worse. an even more useless prick who’s also the town drunk.

Rich assholes like these love talking about the state of nature, the lion and the gazelle both getting up each morning (there aren’t clocks on the savannah, dumbass), and dog-eat-dog, sink-or-swim fights to the death through pure merit. In an actual state of nature, as opposed to their skillful arbitrage of postmodern complexity and plenty, they would likely be assassinated by junta. This is the subject of significant anthropological and zoological study. There are limits to the arrogance primitive societies will tolerate. They can be suprisingly low, enforced with surprising vigor and dispatch.

Of course they can end up with incest and pedophilia and domestic battery, and until around 1700 in Europe and today in parts of Africa, routine cannibalism, but then again, beef: it’s not what’s for Donner. Jeff might have a cookbook to lend.

Before I got distracted a few thousand words ago, I meant to say a bit about a jarringly absurd biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt from 1877 or thereabouts. Some forgettable fuckhead, a total idiot and sycophant, got wound up about the Commodore’s contributions to society, including the steam engine, the railroad, the telegraph, and civilization itself. He invented civilization, just as the Italians had to invent the Fiat 500 in order to have sex and, one imagines, Italians. India has freaks from the engineering faculties (where else?) who dismiss Robert Oppenheimer as a dullard before the Mahabharata, a chronicle not only of nuclear warfare but also of two dozen different models of aircraft. You know, that kind of thing. We can perhaps see Mr. Explodeypants from that vantage point. That suckup Victorian asshole, by contrast, assured his readers that the Commodore was personally responsible for technologies first developed in Georgian to proto-Indo-European times.

It rather evokes Elon Musk braying about how he’s going to show that pedo the business by replicating Alvin from scratch and piloting it into a cave he’d known about for a week. Atrios has that grandiose cokehead pegged: If Elon says something questionable and people are talking it up, replace “Elon Musk” with “my uncle Larry.” “My uncle Larry says that limey cunt in Thailand is a boy-diddling pervert. Uncle Larry’s sending a custom submarine into the cave to rescue those kids, once he’s out of the bathroom and on his way back from Minneapolis.”

Come on. He just wanted us to know he wasn’t a fag. Jealous of a nasty, naughty boy? Goodness, no, just heterosexually outraged. Still, if it sounds crazy coming from a weird as hell rancher, it shouldn’t sound any better coming from a cokehead who looks like he just cleared immigration at Roswell.

Raise the marginal rates.

 

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