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October 18, 2003

Old friends

This has been a summer of reuniting with the long-lost. Last month there was an all-too-brief visit from Jamie Moore and Bill Harris, who kept me sane during my stay in DC from 1984-87, and whom I hadn't seen for 14 years, and with whom I had the sense that no time at all had passed, though we're all a bit grayer. Then there's a bit of correspondence with Mike Ketterer, a classmate of mine when we were both eight years old in Buffalo... Mike's teaching at Northern Arizona, doing research into migration of plutonium from nuclear test sites, and living in the shadow of Mount Elden. Sandy Dumas, a coworker and close pal during my exile in DC, is playing guitar in an "all girl" rock and roll band...

And then there's Steve Gyetko, with whom, 23 or so years ago, I consumed far too many quarts of Genessee Cream Ale, tossing the empties blithely into the rolling Niagara River at two in the morning, then waking up to go attempt to keep ROTC from establishing a chapter on the Buffalo State campus. Steve is one of those authentic rough tough sensitive guys, in the fine 1960s-era sense that prevailed before Robert Bly showed up to make a fool of himself. Steve's now a writer for Biopsy Playhouse, a political satire cable show produced out of the greater NYC area.

An anecdote that illustrates our friendship: In 1980 or so, Steve and I were in a car full of hippie biker geeks heading south from Buffalo to demonstrate against some war or other in Washington. It was mid-winter, and we were all cold. The car had no heat, and we'd had to change a flat in Elmira, in the dead of night in four inches of snow. In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts. Steve and I went inside.

In front of us in line was a fatigue-wearing Marine non-commissioned officer. It was a bit of an interesting contrast. Steve and I resembled bit players in the road production of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: The Musical. Mr. Jarhead was immaculately trimmed and neatly folded. He looked at us, discipline forbidding the emergence of even the slightest sneer, turned to the counter clerk and said

Coffee. Large. Black.

Steve and I - struggling mightily to maintain straight faces - ordered our coffee and donuts, walked briskly to the car parked in the snow, around back, and once out of sight collapsed in gales of laughter. "Coffee! Large! Black!" And thus the official trip in-joke was born.

All this is by way of introduction. Steve sent along a fine, almost completely coherent rant a couple weeks back, which is appended below for your convenience. Nota Bene his remarkable prescience, as this was written before the Red Sox made the playoffs. Ah, friendship.

Dear Chris,

Damn, itís been too long. The showís taking up more time and energy than I ever would have imagined; otherwise I would have responded a lot sooner. There are just not enough hours in the day. I wonít bore you with all the sundry details but sometimes I flash back to something I think was attributed to Santayana: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort after losing sight of the original goal." The galling, niggling, persnickety details are enough to drive you out of your ever-loving mind. But, Iím working myself into a lather already, and, since Iíve already shaved, itís completely superfluous.

Anyway, Iíve been reading your stuff in Faultline. Itís great. No, really, the way you describe the natural world makes me think I can almost dig my toes in the loamy earth and get some of it under my nails. Itís great stuff. Kind of a cross between Thoreau and Ed Abbey.

I was sorry to read about you encounter with the wall. Broken toe, huh. Well, join the club. Iíve had two in the last fifteen years. The first one was the product of blind, dumb rage. I kicked something. It got me back though, a little on the spot Buddhist satori on the futility of rage. Well, my body learned it; sometimes Iím not so sure about my mind. The second was just shy of a month after moving into a new apartment, only the second in eighteen years of marriage. Believe me, the rental market in Westchester county, indeed, the whole of Metro area New York dictates that if youíre paying anywhere near a reasonable amount for rent you stay right where you are until the "deal from heaven" presents itself, then you move fast or someone else will grab it up. Damn, itís so Darwinian. Where was I? Oh yeah, the foot. So, just short of a month in, I thought I was at the point of "I can walk this place blindfolded". Hah! One short trip to the john without benefit of the hall light and "WHAM!" I slammed right into the doorjamb. You know those cartoons when someone gets slammed in the dark? All you see is inky blackness and a profusion of stars, comets and abstract squiggles? Surprise! Thatís exactly what I saw! It would have been a sight worthy of the golden age of Warner Bros. Cartoons. In fact, I could see Daffy Duck playing the part. Heíd be a natural. Yeah.

But what the hell am I going on about? Hell, Iím alive. Sometimes, especially with George W. Bush in the White House, that seems to be the cruelest joke of all. Yeah, weíre all going to miss Johnny Cash. Warren Zevon too. Man, theyíre dropping like flies. I thought Iíd stop counting after Jerry Garcia, but I must bear witness. Just one of the many benefits of not dying young, I suppose. You get to see a whole bunch of good people being followed by a whole lot of their friends, all walking with them, walking very slowly. Itís good that itís that way. That last walk should last a while. After all, youíre coming back alone, and that can be a real downer.

The real problem I have with it is I donít get to see a more deserving class make that long processional. Like some ultra piggie CEOs for a starter. Ah, hell. Maybe I should take it up with the man who lives in the clouds? Yeah, letís show some of these religious zealots (all of them, not just the usual suspects) and their good pals in the business world a little taste of Almighty Judgement. A few well-placed lightning bolts might just do the trick. Hey, you know what? Most of these planet despoiling bastards spend a lot of time on the golf course, closing deals and hatching their nefarious plots to carve up the world just a little bit better for themselves and their rich buddies. I read somewhere that the biggest percentage of people hit by lightning is GOLFERS!

Come on Big Guy, do your part for Mother Earth! SNUFF A FEW OF THE BASTARDS! THEY HAVE IT COMING! Itís happened before. I remember reading of a case where some clown from one of the big utilities out west had just attended a big convention of power company jerks. The whole point was to figure out ways to unsell the public on the reliability of natural power generation (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) He just made this big speech where he said something like "The next thing these hippies will try is to harness lightning. Who can count on that? Itís just not feasible." He jumps in his limo, heís on the golf course and "WHAM"! Not feasible, huh? Har-dee-har-har!

A little bit of Old Testament medicine, huh? Well, somebodyís got to take these bastards down a few pegs and it canít be me. Seriously, Iím allergic to prison. Especially conjugal visits from some big guy named Bubba, Goober, or ĎThe Grand Imperial Wizardí. Well, the way I see it, weíre down to one of three choices as to what can be done to clean this thing up: One, through some miracle the jerks wake up and say, "Gee, maybe I shouldnít be making 250,000 times as much as the lowest paid worker in my company. Maybe I should quit raiding their pension and medical care funds. Maybe I should invest in technologies that actually work with the planet instead of against it." Yeah, when pigs fly. No, wait, thatís not unlikely enough, how about when the Mets, no, letís really up the ante, when the Boston Red Sox win their next World Series (by the way, why is it ĎThe World Seriesí? Outside of the occasional Canadian team itís US all the way. Oh, those wacky Americans, they still think theyíre the whole damn world) So, I guess we can rule out the ĎSatori scenarioí. Two, and historyís on the side of this one, a good old mass uprising. The people have enough of getting shafted and just plain Ďsnapí. Andrew Lloyd Webber get out your notebook, Ďcause if this one gets off the ground thereís "Tony Award" written all over it. Itíll make "Le Miz" look like a grade school pageant. There are two things working against this one. The first is the simple fact that although weíve got a lot of guns out there in this gun-crazy country of ours, an insufficient number of them are of a high enough caliber and magazine capacity to do the job effectively. Like George Carlin said, "The Army has all the flame-throwers." Iíd say weíre fucked if we have to go up against the Army, wouldnít you? I would tend to agree. And letís not even discuss Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams A-1 Tanks. Yes, I know those SUVís you tool around in look like tanks but trust me buddy; the real deal will crack them like eggs. Another factor is the fact that the average citizen is so damn tired from working his two part time jobs (to make up for the one good one that went overseas for about one fiftieth of the going US wage [NAFTA and the WTO be praised] that heís just too damned tired) Then thereís the information/misinformation overload provided by our wonderful media. Despite what the right wing troglodytes on FOX and MSNBC tell you, there is no "liberal media" anymore. The major new outlets in this country have been bought and paid for by the rich and influential and theyíre not about to let them go without a HUGE fight. This information management keeps the heat ratcheting up so slowly that the average person wonít know heís being boiled alive until thereís not a damn thing he can do about it.

Itís a rough parallel to the "frog in a pan of water" urban legend that says if you throw a frog into a pan of boiling water heíll jump out. He knows itís not good for him. But, if, you put him in a pan of tepid water and raise the temperature gradually, heíll just sit there and be boiled. Iím afraid too many of us are like that poor frog. So, I donít see armed struggle happening here (at least not until after sweeps week, too much good stuff on the tube. Wow, look at that! "Ben and J-Lo" are at it again!) So, lacking armed struggle whatís left?

Divine intervention, thatís what. Unless we pull ourselves out of our collective lethargy and vote the bastards out of office. At minimum, theyíve got another year and three months left (if we send them packing in Nov. of í04) the earthís pretty damn resilient, but I donít think it can take much more. Iíve been leaning towards the "Greens" myself, but after last time I keep thinking "Damn, if just ten lousy percent of the Greens went for Gore, we wouldnít be in this mess now. Perhaps we should concentrate on Greens in state and local races until they build up enough push to be taken seriously on a national level. I know itís sort of like history repeating itself (there were those who thought the civil rights struggle should have gone Ďslowerí too) but if we donít get these bastards out now. We might just say goodbye to the whole deal. Once these right wing bastards have two terms back to back we can say goodbye to the constitution (as we knew it) and the same thing goes for the environment. Forget about the ANWR, if these bastards smell oil in the Black Hills, theyíd sink a shaft right through Teddy Rooseveltís head to get to it.

Damn, but Iím rambling. If any of this screed has a place in "Faultline" feel free, youíve got carte blanche

Iíll be in touch,

Steve

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