Thursday, December 31, 2009

Disco and Cocaine.

Disco and Cocaine.

Wow! It's as if some Skinnerian marketeer in some high-rise office, somewhere IMPORTANT, said one day, "Let's see how goofy we can make 'em look". And the next thing you know, people start looking real stupid all around you. Mind colonies...mining psychic resources... pushing little buttons.

And the suckers were thorough. A totally absurd mediocrity of an environment was crafted in every detail. If 'hippie' was goofy because of an impossible mythos projected, at least it was largely a home spun effort. This was different.

Big box department stores and their pitchers rushed with the zeal of prophets, using unprecedented apparatus of persuasion to round up the young public big time. Moo... Baah. And before you know it legions of the young and restless have dorky blow dry haircuts sculpted to suggest glans of a penis, preposterous platform shoes, horrid polyester 'leisure suits' and they're sore afflicted with Saturday Night Fever.

And just below the shiny surface sat coke, blow, toot or schnoof the perfect skinnerian drug. Rats'll do it 'til they die. Reward reward REWARD REWARD!!!

Porn movie stars, John Holmes in particular, were as representative of the era's cultural hero's as anyone was. The trouble was, once unleashed, these forces are difficult to manipulate precisely and often develop a life of their own. It was quite an attempt though, harness a most compelling psychic force to the bleak mill wheel of consumption.

But, beneath the polyester surface squelching, squelching lay depths unprecedented.

Disco, from a humble milieu of urban blackwaters, decloseted gays and newly assimilated latinos grew to an expansive market blast reaching the furthest edge of the national mind flock. Mind colonies. New exploitations of meta-resources. Dim suburban white people pathetically sought a life, someone else's.

So hapless. So helpless. Why derive ones worth from a heartless market, an empty mechanism? That Skinner's quite a skinner. Look at all those hides hangin' on a corner without a self to call their own. The nation of green grocers notion stretches past snap point to point to a beckoning big chill.

In the Vietnam War aftermath of imperial deflation, magnanimity, (always a matter of surface anyway), withered and voters stood revealed in their naked potbellied selfishness.

And the layers of exploitation, the patterns of exploitation were amazing in their geodesic intricacy. First, scam the downtrodden for their little hope of a lifestyle. Then puff it up to a level of abject bloated ridiculousness and fill the airwaves and department stores with the results and reel in the anxious idiots seeking a roost. Attention K-mart shoppers!

Curious it was, to see 'the Hustle' displace the square dancing of my childhood as the main form of public school dance instruction in a belated pathetic pursuit of social relevance.

Funny it was, to know that, by the time of its introduction it was nearly as hopelessly anachronistic as the allemandes and dosey-do's it supplanted. Way to go!

And the way gone took quite a few turns toward chop line plies on an infinite array of mirror fragments, credit cards, polished stone slabs, desktops, spoons and whatever other smooth flat surface answered utilities cry.

Okay, the question. The trail of inquiry most obviously begs attention. Could this TV screen, magazine, full page ad, sixty second voiceover, billboard, sky written, flyer dropped blast of contrived anxieties about bad breath, dandruff, potbelly terrors have undermined a sense of self worth for large swaths of the public?

And when coupled with an artificially, needlessly grueling work pace in a shifty work place, could it drive unprecedented ingestion of an overpriced crystalline powder ripped from the erosion trashed guts of the defenseless Andes and their fucked over inhabitants?

Set aside the venal brays of hack politicians belaboring the obvious nuisance of drugs run amok. No one seems to ask how life got so distorted and toxic, that a comparatively dull heart race, tooth chew and bowel churn drag of a drug seems like a good time. These sad bag bearers in charge persist in maintaining that a cumbersome and sloppy police state is a viable alternative to the implosive disruption likely from a serious examination of the mechanisms unsound premises.

The economics of cocaine are ridiculous. The mania maker costs between eleven and twenty cents a gram to make and costs its fans fifty to a hundred dollars a gram to take in order to babble drivel, struggle with paranoia, decorate the heart with a lattice work of scar tissue, irritate mucus membranes, crave sex if a woman, fear sex if a man with a weave of jitters, idiocy and pomposity throughout.

In the 'burbs, coke was there to greet folks as they settled into stasis. In most period piece meat markets where coke held its heyday court, the jukeboxes froze.

In the altiplano, parameters of Latifundio exploitation shifted to new hazards for the locals to add to the parade of toxic routines visited upon them since Pizzarro showed up.

In the cities, tendrils of altiplano and suburb intertwine to channel a blow flow into the anxious nostrils of a burgeoning American dream horde an American dream whored.

Dreams of Big Time, Multiple Orgasm, Perpetual Conquests, Life of Parties Wild and Crazy danced in many heads. If you shell out enough dough, you can at least simulate it with substantially less effort and for no extra cost you get delusions of significance, paranoid psychosis, permanent facial tics and an impressive acceleration of the aging process, maybe even a heart attack or a lung freeze.

And, of course, there is the underlying sense of emptiness nipping at the heels as soon as the transient buzz fades away. The promise dangles briefly to be torn away in a blink. Matrices of stress crisscross and lattice like those heart muscle tissue scars begging for analysis.

Well, there are the impoverished Quechua in economically comatose Bolivia with frail altiplano mid slope soil. Bolivia doesn't even much tin left. All the silver left centuries ago to support profligate Bourbon family debts to English banks. It's been said a bridge of silver could have been built from Rio to Bristol with the guts of Potosi alone.

Conquistador's descendents, scrambling for a new way to disembowel the land had to settle for blow. And, being land locked after a war instigated by the UK in the late nineteenth century. Bolivian coquero's ended up arranging for Colombians and Cuban exiles to help with the shipping.

Colombia has its own sordid legacy of messy civil wars and ham-fisted repression. Years of coffee growing further narrow the base of its economy. The soil grows ever more tired. The streets know intermittent bomb blasts, drive-by shootings, kidnapping and threats. The people war with each other over stupid business with us. How many billions of blow dollars flow? What's a President's price these days, anyway?

Cuban exiles are an evil bunch. They often steal half the shipment while making the buyer happy to walk away alive. Memories of Batista's good old days and Pig Bay betrayal linger yet.

Finally, there are the ridiculous flamboyant gun toters who comprise the blow distribution hierarchy here at home.

New rounds of stress, transposition of conflicts to our alleys and sidewalks, tract homes and apartments with retinues of bimbos, soldiers and flash customers filtering money through laundering schemes. Muscle bound minds tiptoe around fringes of lethal psychosis armed to the toenails.

Work a way to the everyday coffee table with its mirror, its razor blade and straw where everyday customers rise to a creed's epitome. Hyperactive glances clamor for a piece of blather, clitoral and nipple swell, a sinking feeling of tale chasing tireds racing around the emptiness 'til self melts to drivel.

Squalid memories linger. Sara wanted to suck me dry while her dying boyfriend slept in the next room. She wondered if I minded the herpes on her lip and hoped it wouldn't discourage me from feeding her my sperm.

Actually, the dying boyfriend was better goad to impotence and I played dumb and walked home despite her eagerness to 'give me a ride'.

Sara's little sister Marcy was a slender blue eyed blonde elf nymph who would happily drive her splendid long tongue up any slobs marginally clean asshole for a night of endless lines.

Leslie and Andy dragged out a stack of Penthouses in their late night apartment wondering if paper muff and tit images might inspire my participation in a messy little heap. Gaah, I thought, and told them I was tired. Why were we looking at these things anyway?

Skeletal Bev wanted to blow me for a five-dollar shortfall on a pot deal. She's bleak. My goofy thug friend laughs. Her daughter was doing homework down the hall and the life she led with mom turned her away from men forever.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sea Birds. Todd Preston.

Sea Birds

That cottage on the marsh
Had a porch built for drinking
And watching the birds:

The Rug Stitcher's turquoise piping
And black mats of kelp

Dennis's Plover that seemed to scold
Each minnow before dashing
Their brains on the barnicled rocks

And the Gilgamesh Wren, with such
weird effigies of vomited mud

The Colander Bird, tailfeathers straining
Those marine tidbits

Shrill chirping chorus
Of Teedlepeets in red swarms each evening
To decimate the Piano Fly hatch
and signaled to me
it was time cut limes

these birds were my only timepiece
that horrible summer
with the phones corroded bell
clicking wetly

the sun mindlessly bleaching
the cottage to the color of bone

African Diaspora Boston.

This is something I've been working on for a while. The story is worthy of some neo Homeric approach if one can invoke its inner music.

Part 1.

When settled, it was an oblong tombolo at the southern edge of a deceptively wide estuary. Its river narrowed quickly upstream and meandered lazily and inconclusively back to its source.

A herd of pound cake drumlins could be seen looking homeward, dipping bases in the harborage to become a string of islands, Lovells, Georges, Nut, Grape, Peddocks, Great Brewster, Little Brewster and Bumpkin.

And a few Africans were there then.

It was a religious state ruled by Puritan mullahs and mujaheddin and the formation of towns was driven by a mandate to assign and build parishes that misery would be fruitful.

Being wary of water, their principle intake was an array of alcoholic beverages from ale and porter to hard cider, imported wine, brandy and spirits.

Oddly, this made them dour and they neither danced nor fucked much. They huddled against Atlantic gusts, bore continental snows and deluges,arctic fronts and dog days and eked a living from the sea and sparse cobble infested soil.

And a few Africans were at hand to help with the heavy lifting.

A rash of villages soon bloomed on the lands frail skin to one day harden into an obstinate eczema of mill towns and suburbs, cities and golf courses,shopping malls and junk yards, six lane highways, high rise condos and jet ports and a ubiquity of abandoned gravel pits.

Burgeoning greed landed like a cow bird to build its nest on top of religions roost and began to stifle old dour eggs with hatchings of its own. A huge vile triangle cast its arcs from St. Botolph's port to West Africa of ships laden with sundry trinkets and trade goods to exchange for a dismal cargo and thence along trade winds West Indie-ward to where the Cargo was swapped for sugar and molasses and left to hoe its dolorous row by an evil alchemy of exchange, human chattel was transformed into rum made in the Bay Colony.

And Africans who didn't enter into Caribbean bondage sometimes found themselves at Bostons quays. There was always heavy lifting to be done and for a lucky few, liveried full dress appointment to sumptuous Brattle homes as Calvinist austerity was elbowed aside by Georgian ostentation.

Greed fire roared as land face consumption quickened. Three little peaks of Tramountaine were reshaped into one to be called Beacon Hill. A relative of John Hancock had the dirt dumped into the Back Bay. More soil carted from Dedham eventually filled the entire area.

The under-laid clays would one day pose colossus problems when the sky began to be scraped.

Wrath rose from greed over dry goods tariff problems until musket balls met agitators on Boston Common. An African named Crispus Attucks was a recipient of the flying shot. Was he thinking of tariffs or of a distant village forever lost?

A cascade of agitations, retaliations and engagements washed over the land until, at last, colonial severance was attained.

Africans became African Americans and some picked up a familiarity with the fifes, drums and fiddles of the master’s race. And preachers from a herd of denominations sowed seed of new mythos to flower into a canon of uniquely sung songs, which would one day be called spirituals.

The millstone of coffled bondage in plantation lands ground inexorably on albeit slowed by laxing impetus. And, in what seemed like the twilight of its days, the forlorn hope was rekindled from light of a Connecticut tinker’s invention. Obstinate cotton bolls could now yield up their treasure and the fiber soon came to be King.

Along the Merrimac, a hedge of huge mills rose at river edge. The regions barons thrived. From soil watered with misery’s plenty, the abundant King held court on high ground overlooking a valleys looming Deus Ex Mechina served by masses of wage slaves. All ranks, from pubescence to senescence contributed their labor. Men and women lived subsistence lives in perilous, toxic conditions. African Americans also participated in this transcendent experience.

Even as this transformation bloated barons, the land grew lean as the Federal boundary raced westward.
The soil was poor here having been scraped by the Wisconsin Glacier. An annual harvest of rocks made their vertical migrations to field surfaces each spring to later lace boundaries with stonewalls. The best soil followed riverbeds and basins of extinct glacial lakes.

Word came of the properties of tall grass prairies and many a weary back turned away from the stubborn soil to replant place names like Weymouth, Newton Falls, Canton, and Sharon along the Ohio Valley and Great Lake shores. Spelling drifted too as Worcester became Wooster and Reading became Redding.

The abandoned fields gave themselves over to a riot of old and new herbaceous plants before passing through momentary canopies of birch and white pine before finally getting back to a robust mélange of oaks and maples.

And, for another time, these abandoned farmsteads left lingering ghosts posing as abandoned cellar holes refuse pits, cart tracks, dooryard lilacs and decrepit raiment of remnant wolf trees that once guarded cornfields.

Dogtown, in Rockport’s uplands, slid beneath forest carpet. A flood of spruce holdfast engulfed Peeling. An early infrastructure of barge canals soon gave way to roads of rails a further time would abandon.

Bondage began to be assailed from legislative and social directions. Bloody handwriting was left on the wall in Hispaniola as Touissant L’Overteur led the enraged to destroy their tormentors and launch a nation.

Prohibitions were imposed against further overseas slave trade. An experiment attempted repatriation to a vague homeland. The struggle to reduce or expand the jurisdiction of bondage, as the King marched up the Red River Valley and recently seized Texas, grew in its intensity in the Halls of Congress.

A wheeling dealing phase brought Maine into the Union as Webster negotiated its borders with Lord Ashburton. The price was paid in Missouri. A further barrier was made at the Ohio Valley and the northern border of Maryland as the awakening behemoths of conflict took on sharper definition.

An ongoing series of probes to fathom the lands true capacities further propelled migrations to places where bondage held little utility. A high febrile greed pitch sent a cascade of aspirants around the perilous tip of Cape Horn in Clippers built and launched along Chelsea Creek and emptied towns with its momentum.
King Cotton was hard pressed to compete with the power of Emperors Gold and Silver.

Interwoven with the bondage jurisdiction quarrel was another between Atlantic Coast financial interests and the increasingly productive commodities interests of the expanding Interior. Each was somewhat at cross-purposes with the other over the nature of the Federal Governments contribution to the growing demands for capitol improvements to infrastructure.

A further disagreement was over the advantages of specie versus bank notes. The national currency was in transition. The fall of Nicholas Biddle provided a demonstration of the Interiors growing clout and a partial repudiation of Hamilton.

The shaping forces of these disagreements came to roost on three contrary sets of shoulders from which minds rose to forge arguments. The South sent a pragmatic advocate of States Rights, befuddled somewhat by lurking paranoia over emerging disparities of wealth between regions.

The West contributed a shifty disingenuous champion of muddled compromise and New England launched a stern dour moralist with vast practical skills, who reflected a returning glimmer of Calvinist bygones reborn with new moral concerns as a midwife.

These three hemmed and hawed through several decades of variable Presidencies and a Supreme Court inclined to favor bondage as Dredd Scott would discover, to his dismay.

The conflicts dynamic centered on antagonism between North and South with West as coy fence sitter waiting to be wooed by whatever suitor threw the biggest bouquet.

Both sides had their propagandists. Douglass earned authority to hasten the end of bondage. Tubman set up safe houses along the Mystic in Medford, near Tufts. Sympathetic locals helped as the Underground Railroad extended its trunks and feeders North. Stowe captured minds with her wrenching evocation circulated by the day's entertainment media. Preachers thundered from their pulpits and fanatics on both sides made gaunt preparations to escalate.

Fosters’ sentimental plantation propaganda songs described pastoral bucollias idyllic simplicity as the slaves’ happy lot and the nations first flirtation with what Dr. Braxton calls “Black Exotica” began with minstrelsy.

What started as self-serving theater grew into a national entertainment trend. It was an early variety package with skits and musical numbers. The performers were usually white and played black roles using burnt cork smears as makeup. The kora of the Sahel became the banjo and joined motley of other instruments in the reviews. Occasionally, a freed African American would find employment in one of these reviews but bowing to convention, would perform with face as fully smeared as everyone else.

And, in the expansive West, African Americans began to find work playing saloon pianos or strumming guitars with the other cowboys. Enduring, persistent voices embroidered the ether with haunted song from The Sea Islands to the Continental Divide.

Austere resurgence of spirituality in Boston stoked fury around the demand to abolish. Transcendentalists steeped in Eastern arcana and resolute moralists on Beacon Hill joined the choir’s clamor for an end.

Transfigured words begot stabbing, shooting, lynching and pillage as rages rose from disputed ground. Transformed words begot a beating on the Senate Floor. Douglas thundered mightily on behalf of Expedience while Lincoln urged a thoughtful examination of the Long Haul.

Rage prevailed and in the Virginia Uplands, a small rebellion expired only to unleash colossal hellhounds to stalk, hunt and devour six hundred thousand or more.

African Americans stood in the maelstroms heart to flee, march, starve or serve ‘til the storms abating brought a new jurisdiction amid the blooming of dooryard lilacs. Uncle Billy gathered a substantial flock as his bummers ate their way through Georgia.

Both Sherman and General Sam happily crafted decisions on the spot to anticipate attenuation of malice. The Emancipator wanted thoughtful reconstructive winds to waft away any lingering hate reek.

But the Radicals would not have it be so. With freedom came African Americans first experience of being market fodder as swarms of hustlers hovered over the wrecked Southland seeking means fair or foul to turn a tidy profit from stunning opportunities. Scalawags from within and carpetbaggers from without were drawn to the easy pickings.

Odd bits of unintended good occasionally surfaced to be met with Ku Klux backlash. The Radicals eventually doddered away until the aftermath of the uncomfortably close Tilden-Hayes election brought reconciliation cemented firmly by the adhesive of class interests.

Both regions regarded the phenomenal growth of the West with increasing anxiety. The Dixiecrat was born and the connived alliance allowed decades of sturdy hegemony. For African Americans it marked a watershed reversal as Jim Crow came to roost on the shoulders of armed white men draped in white sheets.

Two steps back and a painful infant’s cakewalk traversed ninety years and lingers yet. Fed troops left the Southland. Home rule had a robust rebirth and the connivance cured and hardened.

The centuries ongoing flow of giveaways reached a boisterous grabbing flood crest as mineral rights, water rights, grazing rights, timber rights, rights of way bloated the greedy. Rights of wrongs or civil rights would have to wait their decade’s turn. At last, the screws turned a notch too tight.

Populist rumbling in the Plains drove Anarchist and Marxist frenzy to market in Eastern and Great Lakes cities. Sorely squeezed Labor was beyond desperate. Sit-downs, walkouts and riots met billy clubs and bullets of armed company thugs. The National Guard was thrown in on occasion to ensure allegiance to greed. Presidents fell, bombs exploded, innocents were condemned, and writers turned to grotesquerie of disparity and callowness billowing for stunning thematic material. Riis tackled the social conditions. Dreiser got a great run of novels. Veblen examined ‘leisure’. Bryan attracted droves of agitated farmers to the sound of the Cross of Gold. The frontier closed and exploitations focus shifted full gear from land to people.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Solstice. Todd Preston.


The hard dark rubber night
    Is relentless
 And my bikes reflectors
  Like the gibbous moon
mean nothing

 Orange spirals
     For heat and coffee
 And today my alarm clock
             Is a fat naked black man
Dead center in the street
        Howling a version of joy
That I can't condemn

And we ransom the stars
       For baked bean suppers
They decorate the mud
     And simple clouds
Are their baffle

So I carved infinity
     In the side of a potato
Then rolled the root
      In black ink on gift paper

And the one thing
  We can count on
Is that it will
   get dark again.