Writing in the Raw: The “End” Will Be The Beginning

(10pm – promoted by Turing Test)

On my walk to the train early Tuesday morning, I realized that my apartment building has a new resident.  Or at least the property does…

He sleeps wrapped up in a blanket in the 18 inches or so between our building’s far northwestern corner and the bush that runs along the edge of the sidewalk.  At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the man for an abandoned pile of clothing.  I’m sure that’s by design, and frankly I doubt even I would have noticed him at all if I hadn’t dropped my keys in my early morning stupor.

And now that I’ve gotten my personal matters straightened out again; and I will finally leave this miserable neighborhood for good in 6 weeks to single-handedly multiply the Coolness Factor of SE Hawthorne by a factor of 10…I wonder where this man will go from here?  Will he stay out this way for long?  Will anybody else “catch him”?  Does he even care?  Does he have anything to lose?

I wonder about this man’s life…but I’m never going to wake him.  Does anybody ever think about him?  Now, or in the recent past?  Besides me, of course…

A wife?  Kids?  Parents, brothers, sisters…nieces, nephews?

Does he know that somebody’s writing about him right now?

Nasty case of writer’s block this week.  Every time I sit down to do one of these, I start out with ten or fifteen ideas.  I write thousands of original words on about a dozen different topics, just to see which one I’m “feeling” most.  Then I choose that one.  And then without fail, I change my mind a day later…and then I start writing about something else.  Tuesday comes, and I stare at a blank screen and get nothing done.  On Wednesday at around lunchtime, I realize that I have to write something tonight!  Because I won’t have time to do it after work on Thursday, since I’ve gotta put it up at 7 PM Pacific Time.  Fortunately for me, every one of those Wednesdays I find that “hook” that I’m looking for, the thing that will tie up all of my random ramblings and miscellaneous rants, and form one (relatively…) coherent piece.  That “thing” on this particular Wednesday was stopping at Powell’s on Hawthorne after work yesterday, and picking up James Howard Kunstler’s new novel “World Made By Hand” –

In his previous book, celebrated social commentator James Howard Kunstler explored how the age of globalization and mankind’s explosive progress over the last two hundred years was based on the availability of cheap fossil fuels. He observed that the terminal decline of oil production, combined with the perils of climate change, had the potential to put industrial civilization out of business. Offering a shocking vision for the coming trauma of our post-oil future, The Long Emergency was a tremendous success and a best seller, selling over 100,000 copies. With World Made by Hand, an astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler makes an imaginative leap into the future, a few decades hence, and shows us what life may be like following the long emergency. For the townspeople of Union Grove, New York, the future is not what they thought it would be. After the catastrophes converged–the end of oil, climate change, global pandemics, and resource wars–they are doing whatever they can to get by. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy, and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. As the heat of summer intensifies our narrator, Robert Earle, former marketing executive turned carpenter, and his fellow residents of Union Grove struggle with the new way of life. Their challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers replenished with fish. Driven by realistic conflicts and peopled with relatable, engaging characters, World Made by Hand is a novel full of love and loss, violence and power, sex and drugs, depression and desperation, but also plenty of hope.

My epiphany came while reading the last sentence on the book’s jacket –

“The future is not what you expect.  But it is not necessarily something to fear.”

A lot of people probably know me mainly for two things, besides being incredibly handsome – lengthy personal (probably too personal…) comments, and also long rants on matters related to the situation we find ourselves in these days inre: the unbelievably stupid way that we’ve set up our living arrangements in this country since the end of World War II.

This article by Christopher Leinberger in this month’s The Atlantic is worth a read as well, although he’s just documenting what us “crazy folk” and “elitists” have been saying for years and years…the Great American Suburban Project was the single worst idea in the history of mankind, and is now an obvious and complete failure…

We never planned ahead for the day when “warehouse-on-wheels” distribution schemes are no longer feasible.  Will we be ready when “food” just stops magically appearing on the shelves of chain supermarkets…and for when centralized healthcare systems break down and we no longer have access to manufactured pharmaceuticals, and we once again start to experience epidemics wiping out entire populations?   We can certainly live without any more cheap made-by-slave-labor-in-China plastic crap…but can large parts of our country grow enough food to feed themselves?  Especially when so much of our best agricultural land is now occupied by parking lots and strip malls?  And since we let most of our rail infrastructure rot away, how will we transport goods anywhere when the cost of whatever fuel still available would make the cost of doing so prohibitive?  In a vacuum, many places would be able to survive…mainly small towns in regions that have managed to remain mostly rural, and cities in ideal locations that have been mostly intelligent about their development – places like Portland, Seattle, maybe Denver…but there will certainly be problems when these regions are flooded with American refugees from places that never should have grown to anywhere near their current sizes to begin with…

I am stumped…and I don’t think things will be pretty, or even remotely orderly, during the early stages of what just might be coming not too far down the road…

But after the initial stages, I do see some hope.  Real hope, not the pre-packaged kind sold to us by phony politicians who will never even begin to attempt to even consider to undertake what needs to be done in order to bring about better lives for all of us…although they might consider appointing a ‘panel’, to ‘study’ something for a few years…

I’m imagining all of the possibilities if we could just start all over again from scratch, though.  Clean slate, we could build a better world for everybody.  We could build real communities again, we could rely upon our neighbors, we could slow our lives down and enjoy the little things again.  We could all eat better…real food directly from the ground or the animal, instead of chemical concoctions created in laboratories…

Why can’t we think like this now, though?  Why can’t we plan ahead for once, and begin to consider the possibility that circumstances might seriously change one day, and possibly very soon?  These questions are rhetorical, of course; I think we all know the reason is that our worthless political system has put us on a full-speed course to disaster.  It’s just too bad that so many of us might be taken down with it…

This is the part where I guess I should propose some suggestions as to what we can do right now – Live locally.  Get involved.  Support local independent businesses wherever and whenever possible to keep your community viable.  Try to grow some of your own food if you can, and maybe even take a neighbor or friend along with you to your Farmers Market who otherwise wouldn’t do so on their own.  Write that letter to the editor, go to that Town Hall or Transportation Board meeting…or best of all, maybe even run for that office that’s now open!  I’d be lying if I said that I’m not planning to run for something one day soon myself…

But unfortunately, in the meantime?  The suburban “home”builders and their affiliated Asphalt Cabal are humming right along; and our media and politicians are whistling through the graveyard, pretending not to notice – they’re too busy focusing on steroids in baseball and introducing legislation against Pop Stars’ breasts…

Let’s let them know what we think.

And in a few hours from now, that man will come back from wherever it is that he goes during the day; and he will wrap himself up in his blanket again and try to get some sleep in the dirt behind the bushes up against my apartment building.  Hoping it doesn’t rain…


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    • H2D on February 29, 2008 at 04:24

    Sorry this went up a few minutes late, but I just got in…

    I spent most of today doing battle with a nasty chemical spill.

    I will have nightmares of that popping, curdling, bubbling, foaming green-shit for the rest of the week now…


    Here’s a happy picture, though –



    • RiaD on February 29, 2008 at 04:43

    with everything you’ve said….

    a feeling began in me last fall…i had to get back to the land, get the garden in, start the organic/sustainable farm…

    we’ve never been too far from the old ways, most people would be appalled at how little pills & such we take~ asprin is a Big Deal… I plan to start making some things i hadn’t for awhile: violet cough syrup; drying herbs for teas and tisanes….

    i’m rereading the foxfire books, euell gibbons, and been ordering self sustaining type books from ebay

    i don’t know why~ its just the correct thing to do now.

    • RiaD on February 29, 2008 at 04:53

    • robodd on February 29, 2008 at 04:56

    to convince him to be willing to sleep alone in the gutter.

    How I would like to him, tell myself, tell you, get up and fight the people who do this to you.

  1. I’m glad it all came together for you H2D & I hope we talk about this some more on DD.  I am very interested in reading Kunstler’s book.  

    One of my family members has been seriously into the Peak Oil/ global collapse scenario for the past 7 or 8 years, maybe more.  It gets kind of old listening to the gloom and doom every time I see her, but there’s no denying we’re in deep doodoo.  She has been avidly learning permaculture techniques and soil science so she can grow her own food and she goes to local Peak Oil meetings where they get involved with community and political issues.    Meanwhile, I’m not doing much myself in the way of preparing or cutting back consumption.  That’s why I think it would be a good topic to focus on here.  Everyone needs to start dealing with it more proactively.  

    Here are a couple good resources for making preparations and finding solutions:

    Post Carbon Institute

    The Community Solution  

  2. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    I mentioned last week to Dharmasyd that I would put up a piece on despair.

    That will be coming up.

    First a little something light to thrill the flower people. This is a stereoscopic

    cross-over image.

    To view it, one must look between the two images & cross ones eyes . An image in 3D will form between the two. This one should be viewed at about 2 1/2 from your screen. I would appreciate if anyone sees the 3D image to comment on it, &

    if those who don`t see it, I can add a little note explaining how to view it.

    I do believe you`ll be thrilled.  

  3. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    This is a composite I created a few years ago on the “Despair in Darfur”.

    I had sent it to Lew Rockwell, along with this note. I had just finished reading “The Glory Of War”, & wanted to thank him.

    I will be looking for more of your writing & will read “SPEAKING of

    LIBERTY”. I`m including a photo-montage I created depicting the result

    of power & greed over humanism. It shows a future Sudanese, mangled back

    to the stone age, but with the blue eyes of the aid worker who raped his

    mother. His despair is that, because of his eyes, he is a pariah among

    his people, who have chosen to forget he is their brother.

    Thank You,

    ps Those are my eyes I used in the photo so I could never be blind to

    all my brothers.

    • pfiore8 on February 29, 2008 at 19:49

    further, i think if we start thinking this now and creating an emotional framework for dealing with various scenarios, we will have some way to deal with any of them.

    i want to take a scouting course. learn to make fire and build a lean-to and what plants are safe to eat.

    knowing i can take care of myself and others::: knowing we have OPTIONS is essential in being able to deal with the future. Having options is an essential component of hopefulness.

    great essay, H2D. always love reading your ideas and seeing your pictures.

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