Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Civilization

Dear Civilization,

I'm making a complaint. I've been part of civilization for 28 years and I've noticed that you haven't lived up to what "civilized" means. According to Webster's Dictionary:

Main Entry:

: characteristic of a state of civilization ; especially : characterized by taste, refinement, or restraint

It's come to my attention that as a part of this loose organization of peoples that you have strayed off course of what it means to be civilized. I understand that there have been many sacrifices made to ensure the preservence of states, religions, dogmas, ideals, pride, constitutions, liberties and all of those other things but in the process, we have become no more civilized than the native people of conquered lands, Visigoths, Vandals, Saxons, Ostrogoths or the Franks of which the Roman Empire used as heels until their eventual collapse.

It seems in order to become civilized we've had to plunder, steal, kill, pursue, rape and pillage each other into submission until a state is weakened enough to invite them into an empire without much prodding. In fact, they may even ask for it. "If you join us, we'll make sure nothing happens to you." This is called extortion and people go to prison for that. Governments for the people, by the people are immune to punishment. Go figure!

I like democracy. I've always believed that it is the method to band people together and create consensus to achieve personal liberties and strive for a state run by it's people for the people. Most countries like to show how generous they are to mankind. They'll show you a magic trick to wow you of their compassion meanwhile in the other hand, which is behind their back, there is a little person with their mouths taped shut and their hands and feet bound together. Other countries are more show-y of their force. Burma, Russia, North Korea and China are way into peace. So much that protesters and disidents in their countries disappear in order to thwart a revolution. Peaceful or otherwise.

Dear Civilization, I'd like to bring up a story to you:
A long time ago, there was a newborn country that fought for independence so that they could pursue capitalist ventures without a monarchist hand to guide their economy from far away. This independence inspired people from all over the world to revolt against their oppressors. Haiti, France, India, China, the Bolivarian revolution of South America, Central America, Cuba and on and on and on and on. Then in forementioned country, corporations realized that politicians can be bought off. The guise of a one world economy is the path to peace and brotherly relations with one another. Peace, Love Unity and Respect. Wars have been fought and people have been murdered or disappeared, global warming, slavery, oppression has become the guiding hand for constitutions exploiting freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Blah blah blah...

Dear Civilization... *sigh* false false false.

Disgruntled member,


Friday, September 21, 2007

Washington Square: Winter 2007

A black man happily mumbles obscenities to himself while the other people awkwardly move away from him.

"Shit! Fuck! Whore!" he yells while wearing a dumb grin. I've seen this man before. It was two months ago while on an aimless walk through New York. My thoughts, like steam, rose to the very top of my mind. The brain cells that carried memory were bespeckeled with goosebumps. The day was glossed over by the throes of anxiety. My bladder was past full and I hurriedly walked to the stinkhouse bathroom that was on the edge of Fourth Street.

I saw the man in front of me. The same one that just yelled, "Finnish cocksucker." I sensed his bad news or maybe it was his arms shaking as if joining in on the Saint Vitus Dance. As now and as he did back then, his muttering and strange squeels escaped his languid mouth. His skin was etched with blisters and scars while the flesh on his bones hung like threaded beef. Seeing something like this converts your innocence into fine steel adulthood. I wanted someone to put him out to pasture with other strange horses to gallop with.

Of course, the paths we took would intersect with the bevy of urinals that formed like Stonehenge inside that shit-stink bathroom. I stepped in front of one urinal. He took the one on the opposite side. I heard a groan of relief come out of him, which I agreed with. I'd been walking around with a full bladder for at least a half hour but lacked the depravity to let out such a noise.

There was a man for every urinal and I noticed the man's shoulders next to me tense up. Every one knew the token looney had entered. It was difficult to miss the trail of vibrations ending leading straight to him. Some sort of primitive mechanism developed by living beside saber tooth tigers in ancient days caught on to sensations which manifested.

"Jame's Brown is dead," the looney declared. "White people: Elvis is second to James Brown. No one could do a split like him. He died at 73. It's a crime to die at that age."

I all ready sensed the conspiracy theory he attempted to offer in that sick brain of his. The one in which the white man assasinated the leg-splitting great.

"Happy New Year's, New York!"

The man beside me looked around the bathroom. He was panicked. I'm sure he was a tourist but lacked the skin to experience the New York fantasies he had set out to see. I bet he thought he could take it on. Because of our sick friend, I became part of the tourist's story without intending it. Christ, I just came in to piss.

The looney left the bathrooms without causing much more disturbance. He apologized to the garbage can he just ran into and went on his way.

I walked to the train station and found this man again slobbering and yelling out silly things. Absurd sentences. Laughing to himself. Perhaps it is the optomist in me that thinks he's really happy. There's all those characters in his head the he speaks to. I wish I had that kind of imagination to draw real and breathing characters to talk to.

The man was like a stow away bird unable to fly out of Home Depot. They flutter and panic until they discover a unique method of survival. They build nests from sawdust and branches of plants that are on sale for $9.99, which might be stronger than the ones in the outside world made by free birds.

There is a way to adapt to strange scenes. This looney knows his sick mind better than any shrink. He's built a nest out of cultural comforts in the pseudo woods of New York City. Built it from newspapers, cups, boxes. Our sawdust from capitalist feats; the things we know longer need.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Search of Peace: The Night of 9/11/2007 (a photographic exploration)

I am sitting in the White Horse Tavern somewhere deep in Lower Manhattan sipping a three dollar glass of Yuengling and waiting for an order of rubbery chicken fingers to arrive. This is the kind of place in which you never say hello or goodbye to the bartender. "Thank you" is out of the question. Ten bucks for a whole meal - tip included.

The pictures of firefighters on the wall and union stickers everywhere suggest a haven for the blue collared man but instead there's a few scattered suits too lonely in their big jobs and big homes to sit in front of the TV on a night like this one. A teddy bear is pinned to a wall. A man alone scans the drunks hoping to make eye contact with a fellow to talk to. On the bear's shirt, it says, "Somebody in New York Loves You" but it's hard to believe in a bar named after a scotch.

The rubber chicken meal arrives, overcooked and crusty with ash. If I ask for a different batch it will come out exactly the same but with a token of revenge riding in the mustard while the scheming cook glances around the corner waiting for me to dip my chicken finger into the mustard. This day is a solemn one but it isn't sacred. Giuliani told the citizens of New York to get back to work on 9/12 and that was exactly what we did. Plates of revenge and all. People went back to work.

It's six years today and life moves on but according to a poll recently released, most of us still think of 9/11 and often. Here in the heart of the Financial District, there isn't a reminder of imploding buildings, planes, tears or death anywhere even though Ground Zero is a 1/4 of a mile away. Both TVs are tuned to baseball games. Mets losing on one and Giambi running the bases after a Yankee home run on the other. A woman is yelling to a co-worker about unfair treatment at her job while the poor muck stares blankly at the wall and drinking the conversation into the toilet.

My camera's memory card is full with photos from tonight. Pictures from 9/11 have left indelible scars in our minds. It's difficult to believe that six years have all ready passed. I can still recall every minute of that day; pieced together like a photo album. Recently, I watched a documentary about a picture of a man who jumped out of the North tower. A couple of journalists tried to construct this man's life from that photograph. Although the results proved inconclusive, the search for the identity of the man was as arduous and poignant as the search for the Titanic. The search itself was an exploration of every one who lost their life that day. Pictures are important and I wanted to come to Lower Manhattan and photograph the night six years later.

My first stop, of course, was the invisible shadow that used to be the Twin Towers. It's sits like a magnetic imprint in the universe. The impact zone of Ground Zero tears through Manhattan like a black hole tears through the fabric of the universe. The gravitational pull of the tragedy pulls you closer toward the footprints of the Twin Towers. And the joy, like light to a black hole is sucked into the sink of the fallen towers. The gravity comes in a hierarchy of degrees of emotion. One can feel the solemnity and reverence of the site so much that multitudes of people are silent as they approach the basin.

There was a post-apocalyptic peace that at times was unsettling. I walked down these Dutch paved streets and snapped photos from many locations in the Financial District, which show the tribute lights behind Manhattan landmarks. This area has been a major financial center for at least three centuries. Crowning the modern capitalist democracy is the pride of Wall Street - The New York Stock Exchange. I had a difficult time taking photos of this without a political slant. My goal was to achieve a look of peace and not a foreboding picture illustrating private feelings. Regardless, it can be viewed as hopeful. One can only imagine.

George Washington went to mass at the original Trinity Church. This one was built in the mid 1800's to replace the flawed design of the second incarnation. There is a famous photo of a flaming tower behind the church from 9/11. It didn't come out in this photo but there were white birds that were attracted to the blue lights. They flew higher and higher in circular motions. I couldn't help but think of the debris that fell out of the buildings. How much they looked the same.

In October of 2001, people were allowed to walk south past Canal Street again. On some Saturday that year, I ventured toward the World Trade Center and saw this parking garage (pictured on left) with cars still left in their lots covered in soot and debris. I always assumed that the owners never came back to claim their cars. Tonight, the roof was used to place the tens of little lights that create the illusion of two ghostly towers which paint two smaller moons in the sky.

There are only two days every year in which the name of the date represents a moment of rememberance in American history: The Fourth of July and 9/11. Down the street from Ground zero is Fraunces Tavern where The Sons of Liberty held secret meetings prior to the outbreak of Revolutionary War. It is also the same place where Washington famously bid farewell to his commanders before becoming president. The first capital of the United States of America was on 26 Broadway. George Washington's presidency was inaugurated at Federal Hall, which is on the same block as the New York Stock Exchange. A half mile south is where immigrants came through after being processed at Ellis Island. New York once boasted one of the best harbors in the world and that was right down the street. Somewhere intertwined is the history of the Twin Towers and the Revolutionary War. The histories are linked. The disaster is linked. They are actually one and the same.

The world has been affected by the history of New York. Everything from art to revolution has inspired movements around the world. This is the only place in America where a mayor can run for president and have a good chance to win (I hope he doesn't though) and that's because this city has that much influence in all areas of society. To govern it is to govern a capital of the world as New York is often referred as.

When the towers collapsed, it collapsed like a star and like a collapsing star it sucks in all the light. The echo of that act has resounded all over the world. It has plagued world affairs for six years. What I wanted tonight was to find a semblence of peace somewhere in the center of the world's affairs. At the pit of this tragedy, are restaurants with people smiling and laughing. More people are moving into this neighborhood than ever. The soot has been cleaned up and there are sites of construction everywhere. Kids are being born. People are dying. It is life as usual with people coping.

The Yankees won the game 9-2. The Mets lost. The woman eventually closed her yapping mouth and her co-worker relieved himself in the bathroom. I close my journal to take the W train back home. I give the bartender money for my drink. He nods and takes my money. No "thank you". No "goodbye".

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Our Survival Depends on Compassion

The through-string which binds us all is compassion. Think of it like this:

Without compassion, our species would have never survived the Savannah out there in Africa. Our bodies have not developed a special armor to repel attacks from wild animals such as the saber tooth tiger. If you can imagine what the African landscape contained way back when then it isn't difficult to surmise the development of the human mind to become this vast center of information processing. This includes defense mechanisms and any other survival traits - qualities which are imperative to the survival of the human species.

Our existance includes emotional and physical needs that are tended to by our will to survive. In our fragile physical state, we are susceptible to extinction, however the human mind has developed in a way to combat the evolutionary strife and survive in a vicious climate.

In order for our race to survive we must depend on each other as we have for the last 'x' thousands of years. Without this we are doomed to extinction. The simple key for our longevity is compassion. Again, without each other we can not survive as individuals, therefore every one must care for the other in order to survive. This has been written into a mulitude of dogmas all across the world. It is ingrained within all of us the moral basis to continue. For what purpose, one can only speculate. There are many theories from around the world as to what it means to strive toward existance.

Care for others as we care for ourselves - A simple rule that pertains to every religion, race and creed.

Plain and simple: We must all depend on each other to survive. There is no such thing as existance within individuality; Only as a group.