Thursday, July 26, 2007

Heat and Jesus

Today I am a coffee shop philanthropist, donating my dollars to the continuation of bad local art and strong coffee that comes in white dime store mugs. For my money I get motorcycle exhaust, skateboards and panhandlers. On my feet, one of two new pairs of shoes from the flea market, a brand new, pre-used, me.

The East Village streets are empty, but the parks have become campgrounds for dredlocked lovers and the air has a hint of ash and mj. The summer belongs to the real New Yorkers. The ones that can't or don't want to leave the city. The ones that are satisfied to sweat. The summer sufferers get New York's real Gambian Gold; dollar gelato in the Italian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, trapeze lessons on the west side pier, out door movies and naked homeless, odd pets, methadone freaks, junk fairs and fresh fish at 4am and music and Puerto Ricans and lusty humid nights where you can try every bar cause its warm enough to walk and the strawberry smoke from hidden hookah gardens tints the glossy eyes of thin, beautiful women. The subways under the ice-cold movie theatres make the seats vibrate. Standing on first avenue you can see up and down the entire city. There is love and sex and sweat and food everywhere, except in my apartment where there is only sweat.

A white pigeon waddled into a café. It took a stroll around, studied the dessert case, checked out the scene and finding it lacking, strolled out with the haughty indifference of any East Villager.

The pigeon came back later; it couldn't find any place better I guess. It spent a little time at each table, picking up crumbs and gossip, clearly a busy body and a moocher. Since it was a nonpaying customer, the management eventually picked it up and escorted it out.

Lots of Christians visit New York in the summer. It's on the missionary route, like Sodom. Next stop Manhattan. They come with their gray, Champion tee-shirts, their Umbros and high-waisted khakis, blonde hair in soccer mom bobs, huge smiles. I watched a group set up a play area at the park for the local kids. I just knew they weren't from New York. They were too…happy. And it occurred to me, they must be Christian and Christians from out of town no less, because I'm not sure even New York Christians are as happy as Midwestern Christians. Maybe New Yorkers are just unhappy, but more likely they are unhappy because they are heathens. I have never considered New Yorkers to be a depressed people, but compared to these radiating, middle state Christians, we all look like we should be on wilbrutran.

All the Christians I meet are happy. I met some in line for a Broadway show, the woman's son had just been in a devastating car accident and was terribly maimed, her mother was an out of work, alcoholic, diabetic with no legs, but God saved her, and they're all totally thrilled. My cousins in Iowa, the kindest people you could meet, Born Again Christians and they're happy, and so nice even to Jews and gay people who they think are going to hell.

This group in the park, it turns out, were from Atlanta. They had pizza and were handing out tracts and had organized games. The local kids, mostly Blacks and Hispanics, really participated and enjoyed themselves. So here they were proselytizing, but also feeding kids and showing them a good time. I did wonder if the soccer moms, behind their sincerity and smiles, looked down at the ethnic city mothers with thongs peeping half moon-like from their low riders. Christians might be happy, but they don't wear thongs. Ah! Maybe that's why they're so happy.

So I see all these happy Christians, most of the Christians I meet, all of them radiantly happy, that I've started to wonder if maybe Jesus really is behind it all. Does accepting Jesus as your personal savior make you a happier person? Is that what this is all about? Do they know something I don't? It's not impossible. A friend who was once a bible thumper told me that Jesus, or rather the way he played out in her youth groups and bible study, gave her low self esteem and a nagging sense that she was supposed to be happy but wasn't. She's an atheist now so maybe she hadn't really accepted Jesus whole-heartedly after all. She wasn't a true believer, and that's why she wasn't happy. I have considered converting. I would have to get my teeth whitened if I'm going to start smiling like they do. With this new Christian pop, even the music is not so horribly bad.

But I think these Christians are happy not because of Jesus, but because they are blonde. Something in that blonde beingess, that celestial Midwestern blondness makes them happier. They made Jesus blonde, all the angles are blonde (ever seen a red head angel, even brunette angels are very rare). Who came up with the phrase "blondes have more fun"? Jesus did. It's in the New Testament. Maybe I don't have to convert to Christianity to be impossibly happy, I just have to convert to Clairol.

Also, I think this idea of Jesus as your "personal savior" sounds very 1990's. Has that always been the company line? It's so me-oriented. Personal Savior, Personal Trainer, Personal Dietician. Who is Jesus in the 2000s? Does he mind that I'm paying too much for rent? Who is he kidding with that 'I died for your sins?' There are men and women dying in Iraq all the time for our sins. Do you think Jesus would get his long golden locks Japanese straightened like I have? Would Jesus spare a dime, or a cigarette for those homeless by choice kids in Thompkins Park? Wouldn't he know better?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disaster Film Live

When a pipe exploded in New York City’s midtown, sending a national park sized scalding geyser of steam, rusted silt and rocks hundreds of feet into air, trains below Grand Central station sped past the 42nd street stop, and the shuttle between Central and Times Square halted mid-ride and back peddled to where it came. Passengers were herded out in an emergency evacuation.

On the crowded subway platforms people were panicked. Even the businessmen looked harried and uncertain. Mothers frantically tugged at their children. There was no information, just a tired, nervous, stampede.

Outside the station, steam billowed into the sky like smoke and people burst into tears at the sight of it. On their commute only moments earlier, passengers flipped through AM New York where an article discussed the government analysis that the threat of terror is higher now then ever. When trains jerked in unplanned stops and passengers rushed out to find a column of steam skyscraper high, there could be no other conclusion - the terrorists had struck.

So much so is terrorism in the public zeitgeist that young adult books these days discuss dirty bombs, nuclear bombs, suicide bombs – publishers must consider these relevant topics for a demographic coming of age Post 9/11. A few years ago, I was struck by an art exhibit that showed the crayon drawings of children in Palestinian refugee camps – stick figures with guns, clouds of smoke – that was their playground - and it surprised me that children could intuit so much. Even in the states, where the daily threat is considerably less severe, children are not left unaware.

A.O. Scott’s review of the frothy Hairspray remake, suggests that the triumph of youth culture, the optimistic, belief that the future will improve on the present, is possibly outdated. What do you think, do we really no longer believe that the future will be a better place – or are we just passing through a morbid phase like sixteen year old goths?

And let me just freaky is it that you could be walking along and the street would erupt beneath you - more grist for the diaster film genre.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Politics in the year 2032

From Buffoon to Bureaucrat, looking back to the MySpace years.

High school Model United Nations students and college poly-sci majors scurrying importantly to and fro their Capital Hill internships, will retreat to their dorms this weekend to upload pics of themselves naked, lock-jawed faces rigid with ecstasy, you tubing what will next Monday seem like subversively funny sketch comedy but may in twenty years ruin their run for public office. Or will it?

One might imagine that as less and less is private, the standards of propriety we hold for our public officials will have to come down. Already we’ve got Obama, the hipster’s Kennedy, hoping that his coke and marijuana days, ‘yes I inhaled, that was kind of the point,” reaches young voters who are at this minute doping, uploading, and bemoaning Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

On the flip side, we might in the near future have a bevy of candidates too boring and prurient to have considered posting a lewd joke, who’s pals never hired them a hooker, and to whom 'going down' means a drop in the polls. Should possible candidates, now in grade school, start restricting their Internet shenanigans? Then again, the candidates for the coming election are jumping off the wagon to admit they were once users of illegal substances. Does the public want a candidate, smarter, tougher, classier, more ethical than we or is it okay to vote for that guy who video tapes himself stun-gunning his friends on you tube? He’s sort of funny.

Also interesting – While there are thousands of intelligent, dedicated soldiers in the armed forces, it’s widely known that to a large degree, the army draws its ranks from young men and women serving in lieu of being able to afford higher education, kids desperate to flee poor home situations and returning from extended tours in greater and greater trauma. Will military service be a point gainer in future elections, and what kind of candidates can we expect to come out of today’s war – the exhausted, oft demoralized forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the WWIII that is hot on our heels?

This is all assuming the Mayan prophesy of Apocalypse of 2012 - much disscussed on the radio show Coast to Coast AM with George Noory and in the New York Times Magazine's fabulous feature 'Final Days'- doesn't end the world or destroy the Internet. Disaster scenarios for 2012, include hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by solar storms, cracks forming in the earth’s magnetic field and mass extinctions brought on by nuclear winter.

However, José Arguelles organizer of the Harmonic Convergence in 1992 and the author of a number of esoteric books about the Mayan cosmos believes that: “The post-2012 world will be a world of universal telepathy.” In 1993, he claims to have received a new prophecy in Hawaii, and has been calling himself Valum Votan, Closer of the Cycle. “We’ll be literally living in a new time,” Arguelles said, “by a 13-month, 28-day synchronometer that will facilitate our telepathy by keeping us in harmony with everything all the time. There will be a lot fewer of us, with simple lifestyles, solar technology, garden culture and lots of telepathic communication.”

As for the many who “have not evolved spiritually enough to know that there are other dimensions of reality,” Arguelles predicts they will be taken away in “silver ships.”


I wonder if telepathy will be better than You Tube.

Scaredy Cat