Let’s name some of them, bearing in mind the local and factional caveats and other stipulations, but nevertheless, let us name a few, just from memory:
–Crosstown bus fare;
–Sitting in a tollbooth all the live-long day;
–3-1-1 quart Ziploc horseshit at TSA checkpoints;
–Business air travel;
–Winery tasting rooms;
–Tendentious objections to zero-barrier immediate rehousing of the homeless;
–Going to school;
–The sacrosanct quadrennial in-person voting pilgrimage;
–Constantly jumping through hoops for medical care;
–Moral hazard whining about UBI disbursements.
Yang Gang, you up?
It makes a constituent wonder whether any of these things were ever necessary, and of course they weren’t. We discover, to the surprise of our worst public intellectuals, that there are still a number of very necessary things: hospitals, groceries, auto supply stores, gas stations, farms. Our radio stations are still on the air; some of us still listen to them entirely too much, but Fat Cracka ain’t even tryna resist DJ Beth Holland Huizenga. The radio: why yes, Mr. Osgood, I will see you on it.
If you’re paying attention, you noticed that the examples just listed are not like those listed at the top. It hardly takes any attention to know, on some level or other, that the former list covers much of what is officially misconstrued as the American economy. Dear God, I fucking thought the last half of that sentence in the Kai Ryssdal voice. Remember what I said about too much radio, kids? That’s fine; I don’t exactly myself. All the same, NPR is like the Tenderloin: you can learn interesting things there. For one, this new dispensation has at once home-confined and spatially liberated Brian Wattttt. For another, it has freed up seats on BARTTTT.
Cut me a break; I’m not listening to Randol White People these days. Watt’s going on with that, Devin. We ought to wonder, though, what it means that traffic and ridership are down 80-90% through multiple notorious bottlenecks, with maybe a 10% drop in total capacity for immediate provisioning of necessities and a stark, sudden improvement in provisioning for certain chronically vulnerable demographics.
There’s an old unholy trinity to describe what went away, old in the same sense as prestressed jeans: waste, fraud, and inefficiency. This term of art is traditionally deployed, in the ancient and venerable connservative tradition of making shit up, as a slur against the government. Mainly it’s used against the parts that work well, such as Amtrak and the Post Office, and withheld to spare those that don’t, such as the armed forces and what we fancy the criminal justice system.
In our current state of emergency, this trinity transforms from scurrilous agitprop to helpful descriptor. Safeway is still operating, frantically. The dense archipelago of cube farms whose inmates were free to sit around repeating what she said as variable combinations of personal entertainment, foreplay, and sexual harassment mostly are not. I keep shouting it into the void: it speaks volumes that The Office is so prominent and popular as an eminently relatable satire of our lives (Who the hell is us? What is this? Bethel Park my fat white Lebanese ass) and not as a serialized work of transfixing Faulknerian estapism, a story in the same broad genre as novels about unemployable paranoiacs who hoard trash.
None of that is what a reasonable observer would call a workplace. I once chatted with a barely solvent flimflammer with a drinking problem who was theoretically selling insurance by day and less theoretically dating a dentist’s widow and the same dentist’s daughter by night. To his gushing amazement, he and I knew the same community-trust retard from Plymouth-Whitemarsh, a smelly fat fiftysomething who liked to go poolside and clumsily hit on thots. The guy was better at storytelling and getting that dentist’s sloppy seconds than he was at sales, but he was way too well-behaved and well-meaning to keep Jim, Pam, or for fuck’s sake Michael company. Meanwhile I hear nine-to-five normies saying shit like, oh my goodness, anyone who’s worked in an office can relate to that show. Huh? Good God, y’all, it’s no wonder we leave the getting shit done to China.
Git ‘er done. Say, I believe that’s what Mr. Jefferson barked at his fellow Virginians.
Emergency or not, we’re inevitably stuck on a timeline in which the toxic racialization of work and play pervades our lives. I get my fix through–what the hell else?–NPR. A fruit grower in Smithsburg, Maryland is the latest whiny landowner to go on the record with his grievances about how he had to charter a van to drive an eight-man beaner crew all the way up from Monterrey with the same focus a caravanner would need to get across the Nullarbor Plain and through the quarantine station at the state line on fumes by 1:30 pm sharp. Smithsburg is just across Camp David from Thurmont, where I insist on a drive-by pilgrimage to a community of some of my favorite peach trees whenever I’m solo and mobile in Maryland.
One ridge over from the Catoctin Furnaces and that son of a bitch was on the radio to piss and moan about how Yanqui never does him a damn thing. These sob stories always seem to feature enrolled members of the Wypipo Nation complaining about their fellow tribesmen. The lib owners of our great land love to titter about this hypocrisy and self-loathing, but it is categorically little to nothing of the sort. Lazy Americans, in these cases (Many Such!), are Americans who don’t own land. This landless refuse is commonly denigrated as white trash, explicitly or more often implicitly, or alternately as the coddled affluent, to distinguish this shitcannable mass from the farm owners defaming them, who are in no way proudly living off the avails of disposible Mexican reserve army labor.
This is at first blush a downhome pastime down at the corner of movement conservatism and liberal wokescolding, but it’s more than that. Complaining about lazy Americans under a whitening gloss, as opposed to the OJ-ready darkening gloss so cherished by Cliven Bundy on his trips to North Las Vegas, is a great way to ward off the idpol scolds on the cultural left, but it’s also a great way to avoid drawing unwanted direct attention from, say, Baltimore City’s unemployed. Too much frankness might cause them to notice that they’re in the same deplorable basket as the average Great Value Catoctin Cracker, and that would be way too reminiscent of an integrated Depression-era crab cannery union on the Eastern Shore. For God’s sake, boys, you don’t tell them that the steelworkers had an integrated local in Birmingham years before anyone out of state had heard of Edmund Pettis. We put the Ashokan Farewell fiddle track on the turntable and reenact Antietam, but we don’t do any of that nostalgic shit for Bacon’s Rebellion: insufficiently recent, perhaps, but certainly too unpleasant.
Speaking of the panda bear poor, guess who’s stuck manning the groceries this month. Asian-Americans are reported to have the highest rate of work-from-home capability, albeit still under 40%, much lower than the American press corps today assumes, and we aren’t talking about Camobians or Laotians here lol. The Onion ran an article years ago about how more and more Asians were defying stereotypes by being lazy and poor, just to show that outfits of its class don’t hire writers out of Fresno or Elk Grove. Any of these insipidly inspirational ethnic narratives is prone to run violently aground, and those who have the stomach to watch are in for some reliable entertainment, but the navelgazing, inflammatory multicultural horseshit is a red herring as much as it is a direct outburst of culture. The ethnic festival genre is a useful veal pen for the less competent and ruthless surplus elites our diseased apparatus of social reproduction keeps shitting out into the job market. The money and prestige aren’t what’s on offer in “consulting” or in i-banking, as a rule, but they’re adequate to forestall the working-class agitation that the wingnut welfare cases across the aisle conflate with Joseph Stalin and Ebonics, under the categorical umbrella of The Left.
It’s worth reiterating here, for the vast majority of pundits and think tank sinecurists who can’t fathom anything so self-evident, that American academia is NOT part of the left. Oberlin is a fucking sideshow. That shithead dean from Tisch who livestreamed herself dancing to REM in front of hundreds of highly educated, downwardly mobile witnesses studying under her authority, by way of refusing to refund their prorated tuition and fees for the cancelled balance of the semester, is the actual revealed moral center of the postmodern American academy. Larry, Jerry, Joe, and Jim worked at right-wing juggernauts. So many states, so few coaching methods! All we have to do is compare how many Americans watch NCAA football or–good riddance for once–March Madness to the audience for the published works of the academic divisions of the academy.
Think about that: we have to fucking specify that these academic institutions have academic operations somewhere in the back of the house. Our young people aren’t being brainwashed by this cabal of hopelessly tweedy dorks. Maybe it in fact exists as a movement. Who fucking cares? Nebraska Coeds exerts more cultural influence.
We may not have sports in our time, but, as always, it’s time for #SPORTS! Hollywood shysters like Harvey, Woody, and Roman notwithstanding, and assuming that the arts scene is credibly liberal (i.e., ignoring most of the blockbuster filth it releases), the lion’s share of institutionally facilitated abuse in the United States seems to arise on the right: churches, jails, Jungleland, organized athletics, Scouting. Chesterfield my leg, but usually not in the theater!
Or the theatre! Even assuming that repertory theat[e]r[e] is run exclusively by sex pests, there just aren’t that many theater kids. Nobody watches that stuff. A couple of years ago I dropped a ten spot, I think it was, on a repertory production of Oklahoma at Lebanon High School. A buddy from the berry patch was in the pit orchestra. It fucking whipped. This is the same institution of what we’re encouraged to call education where, if you go out back under the bleachers, they’re not gay, but $20 is $20. I could have brought a date, or I could have bought a date. As my late Kansas State alumni dependent grandmother always said, as a business school graduate herself, shucks.
It’s truly providential that the 2020 Summer Olympic Games have been cancelled. Postponed, delayed: I don’t give a shit; we’ve got a reprieve for a minute. As bullshit economic models go, wholesale intercontinental air travel for the aggrandizement of Bob Costas’s sense of purpose in our world is a whopper. Like every other skybox grandstander you or I could name from the boob tube, only more so, that pompous gasbag has netted more than enough ad revenue distributions to retire to a poolside bar or a squash court or whatever. These are the same games under whose auspices Matt Lauer committed a forcible rape while on assignment in Russia. NBC paid that guy meaninglessly huge amounts of money, he still worked himself like an Amish plowhorse, and he still raped subordinates instead of hiring his pick of working girls. This is of course the same international celebration of athletic greatness that hosted and served as the blessed channel of Bela, Marta, and Lawrence of the Labia. It’s the premier international excuse for eminent domain overreach, construction cost overruns, and white elephant featherbedding. Governments fight each other for this excuse to waste their constituents’ tax payments on lavish receptions for objectively useless foreign entertainers.
This is a beast I don’t mind seeing starved. Whatever national government is the most slickly, aggressively crooked and self-promoting wins the honor of dropping billions of dollars on theoretically reusable flagship venues built expressly to reconvene a quadrennial international exposition on the premise that any given sovereign nation is home to up to a hundred citizens whose accomplishments are remarkable enough to celebrate, but that certainly most of these elite athletes and their teams will fly home officially judged losers, duly humiliated before the world’s television spectators, in the short due course of time.
The cancellation of this spectacle is traditionally inspired by war, but pestilence will do. The Japanese Olympic Committee rode that wave all the way into the Fukushima seawall. I’m just saying, they know construction; they keep it safe. National pride was on the line. A couple thousand of the most pathologically competitive freaks on the face of the earth, earnest young things who had scheduled years of intensive training to optimize their competition performance down to the hour, stood to be heartbroken by, say, the organizers over in the sweet home of New Chernobyl noticing with rising alarm that their country was most prominently in the interational news for having a death ship quarantined in Yokohama Harbor. It took weeks of bitterly tenacious optimism in the face of a proliferating global health crisis for these fools to finally Christopher cross over from pigheaded boosterism to the minimal prudence of, you know, not going through with that.
The international camaraderie of sport can, in fact, wait until a safer time. How bow dah. This whole story is a sensible one to tell me, the slow-moving widebody from the no-cut high school cross-country team; surely these are all well-adjusted young women and men with good reasons for subordinating themselves to the likes of Nassar and the Karolyis. These are the role models we need for our impressionable children. These ceremonies and competitions are a prudent and compelling use of public funds.
I’m General Stroganoff, and you won’t believe what’s for dinner. Hint: it’s a lil sumpin I’ve got with the IOC. Honestly, there is no suitable time to get back up on that earnest bullshit, but as I said, we’ve currently got ourselves a breather, a grace for which we should all, in these contagious times, give thanks.
It gets even worse than the waste and public corruption of the Olympics. Qatar is Shanghaiing slaves to build its World Cup stadia. On the sunny side, though, and you’ll like this one, Chester, football is a sport whose players are constantly getting “injured.” That is precisely the respect international competitive sports deserve. Sepp Blatter is just what happens when the simulation overheats.
Different football, Hernandez.
Some of us are never ready for some. It’s past time, then, for there to be less of the worst of that crap. We are actually, if haltingly, getting back to basics. We’re honest to God cutting hunks of bullshit out of our lives and our societies. At long last we’re moving beyond the shady, questioable minimalist preening of Marie Kondo and all the #VanLife and tiny home influencer asshats. A drive-in storage unit around the bend from the clapboard church gun shop in Yelm stacked to the ceiling with old clothes and blankets was never our true clutter. That old soldier living in the woods out past Fort Wainwright with a barn whose second floor was on the verge of structural collapse from all the junk–the ornery shut-in sourdough who totally had a buddy lined up to buy this truck here, and another guy he knew lined up to buy that truck over there, just gimme another day or two–that gentleman, our broadcast entertainment, led a mentally clearer life than many Americans. Most of the people gawking at him from Outside (your facility carry that show, Rollins?) weren’t living any more purposefully than that. Why else were we watching Hoarders? That crusty geezer, at least his clutter had some resale value.
I said SOME, now.
New contagions emerge from Fort Detrick–goodness, I mean from the wet markets of Wuhan. New heroes rise up unexpectedly from the dust, flawed heroes and yet real ones. Nevada supported itself for decades through what came to be known, quite charitably, as gaming. The authorities did not a thing to regulate it, save some underage decoy stings and weights-and-measures checks. Then Steve Sisolak decreed the new economy. Like, hey, guys, we’re making some changes. You can move into the no economy, and many of you in Goldfield already have, but casinos? Game over, Lansky. We’re whole-ass Doctrines and Covenants quitting that shit, cold turkey, right here, right now.
That was it. Decades of cultural inertia and public corruption straight down the Thomas Crapper, in the name of public health. Tens of thousands of Nevadans woke up with the fresh opportunity to do something honest for a living, in many cases by honestly doing nothing. The hell else were they gonna do? This is the state where an active gold mine on the outskirts of town wasn’t enough to prevent Armpit Days. This isn’t a population chomping at the bit for an honest mode of living.
It’s the kind of bold move that gets the constituents antsy, and there’s bad karma to be had in gloating about thousands of line workers losing their means of support and the daily structure of their lives upon the sudden closure of the crooked business until this month employing them. The serendipity of Sisolak’s order, however, had nothing to do with trashing the keystone of Nevada’s formal economy and moving its workers’ cheese. The governor’s master stroke, rather, was to dramatically wash away all the cultural detritus surrounding Nevada’s storied place in American gaming, like so much winter trash at last floating inexorably down to the Indian fishing grounds with the alpine spring thaw, and humble the Chamber of Commerce boosters for the first time in their lives. These, you see, are the cheese movers, not the cheese chasers. Shoe don’t fit so great on the other foot.
It’s a new day in a brave new world indeed for this seedy cast of characters. Their firewall of horseshit about what makes Nevada Nevada is gone, and they aren’t the one with the authority to invite it back home. They aren’t used to not calling the shots. A teeming scrum of shysters is moping around the Chamber offices, impotently moaning, buh buh buh Governor, this is our folkway! We already have the Reed Rez out in Searchlight. We have our Napoleonclaves for the hardliners. Besides, we all know why we get visitors from Utah. If they wanted to enjoy a plate of jello salad and an invigorating glass of milk, they’d stay in American Fork. Oscar Goodman is our spirit animal! We’re, like, culturally Italian Catholic, like Mr. Martini from that retarded Frank Capra Christmas flick!
It’s a cool story. So is the one about what the working girl said to her client back in Ol’ Virginia City: “No, Father, you’re taking a bath first.”
Don’t look at me. Our popular fiction is about wizards and shit.
This new dispensation is, alas, only a partial cleasing, an incomplete Releasing of the Bullshit. Government, that name for the things we choose to do together, continues to do much to and awfully little for the homeless. Perhaps we aren’t together with them, however we choose to define any of that. There are now social distancing bums’ squares painted on a parking lot in Las Vegas, beneath empty hotel rooms with windows illuminated in a heart. #VegasStrong, you shitty loser. The poor in general, it seems, aren’t exactly part of us, either, especially for the Democrats. Chuck and Nancy are means-testing pissants, and Josh Hawley is a welfare liberal now: truly a horseshoe theory in which the horseshoe goes straight into the political observer’s head. Shh, don’t tell the Washington press corps; they’ll have strokes. As I keep saying, Trump hardly even has to try to be left-liberal; all he has to do is get bored and own the libs.
Mainstream American culture, politics, and policy are so hostile to the poor that these weak, partial, still slow reforms are watershed moments. Gavin Newsom and London Breed talking about not just talking about doing something for the homeless is, by the standards prevailing prior to this crisis, active. Decisive. Effective. I understand Nob Hill Dreamboat and Garcetti and the gang are actually kind of doing something here, fitfully and ever more belatedly. It might be, as ever, the hour to show another month of patience for the failure of one of the wealthiest societies in history to get one’s sorry ass into a decent budget apartment. Alternately, it might be an outrage that it took a discreetly homeless Panera employee five minutes to correct one’s modestly botched rush order.
We have things to do and places to be and grievances to air, unless, of course, we don’t. We see California’s officials, all in all a reputable and responsible lot compared to the domestic alternatives, only timidly dipping their toes into the water of eminent domain. Granted, we’re talking about basic constituent services here, and this is no time to build a ballpark, but, say, that’s the whole fucking point: we have a plague on, and this is no time to build a ballpark.
That’s the damn rub. Even in crisis old habits don’t die easy. Process-oriented stakeholder-responsive processes respond to the stakeholders. If that sounds solipsistic, it’s because it’s solipsistic. If you don’t like holding your own stake, ask Beavis if he’d mind. Hehheh hehheh. The process responds to those who force their way to the table and lay it right out there, just like LBJ.
That is, property owners. Garcetti, Breed, Nob Hill Dreamboat: these characters are too bashful not to ask the owners for permission and then wait for it, and wait, and wait. Asking permission of the tens of thousands of constituents they continue to abandon to chaos, squalor, and mortal danger would be a bridge too far.
It might, then, be time to rock straight over London’s head. Shit, I like her and mostly trust her, and it’s a surreal thing to say, but one of the few ways out of this mess is the Wesleyan tradition. Scream like a wild animal at Wynn and the Hiltons and the Marriotts and the ghouls at Blackstone and all the other cocksuckers until they hand over the keys, pending an official determination that the crisis has abated sufficiently to allow a return to normal business. Does this look like an art store?
Besides, eminent domain takings usually include fair market compensation. Again, this is no time to build a ballpark, and since that isn’t what we’re building, we can rest confident that the owners will tolerate nothing less than fair market. It’d be like Trump suddenly “having to” rent rooms to his Secret Service detail. (The Clintons must resent him, having inherited from Mr. Lincoln and the nation only one spare bedroom.) Hey, I don’t have a problem with this. Not at all. I’d like the government to get a bulk discount, but lawyers also clean up large details, and I haven’t been innocent in decades.
Refusing to be an elected accomplice to homicidally antisocial gangland rentier thugs is a process of its own. Cool. We’re definitely being mature and responsible and responsive in these not at all urgent matters. But it’s Saturday night. Let’s get this fucking party started.