Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Coming For Us

Can you feel it?

There's tension in the earth. It's not like the immediate sense that it's about to rain. It's more than that. It's been building for a long time. It's hard to know where to start with this. It's hard to know where the line is between just the ebbs and flows of life, and the beginning of something that feels ominous. It's hard to pinpoint when it began, for me anyway. Maybe just knowing what's happening to the oceans is enough to trip my imagination into thinking that we're building up to something really ugly. Even without obvious problems like the death of coral reefs and ocean acidification, I feel tension. It's as though a large bass string is being slowly stretched by a cosmic finger, and when it's finally plucked we're all gonna get it. The trillion pound shithammer will come down and that will be it.

I can only speculate about the US, and really only about what I've seen in California and the West, and a few states back east, but I think we are into a societal case of terminal bloat.

We drive huge vehicles... alone.

We ride huge motorcycles.

We have families with no more than about 2.33 kids living in McMansions that would comfortable hold families of 8.

We eat enormous servings of food that offer next to nothing nutritionally, or at best layer on so much fat and sodium and processed sugar that the vitamins and proteins and needed carbohydrates are drowned in a miasma of ill health on a plate. Make that two plates.

I have to say I'd love to have a British sports car in my garage that I could take out on the weekends and drive through the East Bay Hills. I'd love to have a couple of more rooms in the house, with a bigger yard, and we only have 2 kids. The .33rd kid just ain't gonna happen. It'd be great to have a library to which I can retreat to read or play my pipes. On the other hand, I fear The Bloat. If we had more, we'd have to look after it. If we had more we'd consume more, we'd pollute more, and I am nearly certain I would not experience less tension day to day. I know I would still feel the tension that is building. The Bloat is responsible for the tension. We are becoming a societal Mr. Creosote.

At some point The Explosion will occur. There will be nothing left. The thought makes me want to live as though we are on a small ocean going boat, with minimal gadgets, everything lashed down but ready to use, food supplies and water supplies properly stowed, everything electrical solar powered, and no Irish pennants flapping in the breeze. The urge is to flee, but where would we go?

I suppose I could just be cool and philosophical about it all and drawl knowingly about cycles of existence and so forth, but fuck that. I am in it. I am part of it. I am leaving my footprint too and it's too deep. There are days when I feel calm and cool, days when I get weird and vengeful and annoyed, days when I feel oppressed by all of it. What is it that makes everyone so rabid about having things, having them first, getting there first? Why do drivers on the freeway suddenly step on the gas if they see you are about to change into their lane ahead of them? There's always someone ahead of them? What difference does it make? Why do they tailgate you for miles when they could pass you on either side, whenever they want?

That's the metaphor for what's happened to us. There are so many of us, at least in CA, that we are compelled to chew on each other. We drive each other into the dirt and we don't even know why. Hunter Thompson wrote back in 1971 that Americans go out on the highway and drive themselves to death in huge cars. Our whole style of liviing is that huge car, and we're just stepping on it and the Devil take the hindmost.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My Leg Turns to Hamburger and My Coffee goes South

Two weeks ago I tore my left gastrocnemius, the muscle that forms the calf. Here I was, wandering up and out of the garage, feeling that since it was a pretty Friday morning in Berkeley I had no reason to hurry. No one else was hurrying, why should I? Besides, I was tired and still a little bleary despite having driven 22 miles.

My left foot then became too lazy to properly anchor on the step just below the top of the stairs. Just as I pushed up with my left leg it slipped off right at the moment of greatest stress, and "Pop!" went the lower leg as a zap of pain shot through it. My coffee cup flew out of my hand as I reached out to break my fall. I found myself on the pavement exclaiming, "Ah-! Ah-! Oh shit! Ah-! Gottdammit! Ah-!" and watching my left foot lock at 90 degrees from its leg.

Instead of warming my gizzard, and bringing the next level of awareness, my coffee was coloring the pavement. I had a moment of thinking that I'd be unable to get back my car. It was a moment of thinking I might be helpless, which is something that truly worries me. Guys my size aren't supposed to be helpless. I felt vaguely embarrassed and the tiniest bit of panic fluttered through my gut. I eased into a sitting position on the little curb near the top of the stairs and took a few deep breaths and realized it didn't really hurt. I called the job and told the boss I'd be out that day, got up slowly and let out a yelp of agony as a I put a tiny amount of weight on the ball of my left foot. I somehow descended to the car, drove to the Dr. and found out there was nothing to be done but ice and elevation and NSAIDs. I drove another ten miles to pick up some crutches then another 20 miles back home to follow the Quack's advice, which proved he's no Quack.

So, three weeks later I can't run, I can't kick in the pool, I can't walk quickly up stairs. I can walk, I can swim with my arms only. I can drink coffee. Thanks God!

Don't ever do what I did. It's only an accident, but the timing of it, and the results serve to make me too aware of my age, too aware of what I can't do. Despite how quickly its healing, I am haunted by the experience of my wife's good friend who at my age pulled a hamstring and it took months to heal properly. In my dour moments I can't shake the feeling that this is only the first in a series of nagging injuries that will leave me hobbled in another ten years. At the age of 62 I will look like Jabba the Hutt with a white moustache, licking my lips obscenely as women 40 years my junior walk by with a sidewise glare that tells me to keep away, dammit (eeuuwww! creepy!).

Of course, when its early morning and the day still feels clean, I ignore the stiffness and think that this is merely sneeze, nothing more than the orthopaedic equivalent of a loose eyelash. I will swim that day and climb along that eternal black line. I will walk miles on end. I will eat oatmeal and do pullups and pushups and annoy the hell out of everyone. In ten years I will be tanned, lean and leathery and I will lick my lips obscenely . . . .