And The Past Shall Set You Free

It seems, these days, as though the simple act of looking back is a crime. Who in this generation has time for history, has time to look back to what those who came before said and did, to look back and see the way that they lived?

America is at yet another crossroads, a place where we can choose to change or continue on in the same greedy march to oblivion we struck out on so many years ago.

I wont pretend to be some great historian. I know little of the past, even the recent past (like what happened in America beneath the Reagan Administration). But every so often I stumble across the past. At times it seems to call out to me, and anyone else who is willing to listen, with a distant yet familiar voice.

Just before my friend Pete left for Switzerland he told me of a podcast he had recently been listening to. He ranted and raved about how amazing the Bill Moyers Journal was. It took me nearly three weeks to finally give in and check out this mans podcast. And now that I have I am more than glad I did. The people that Moyers has as guests on his show are well-balanced, straightforward people. They speak to the heart of whatever issue they are talking on and do a very good job at not mincing words.

Recently Moyers had a man on his show named Andrew J. Bacevich. Bacevich has written a book called “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”. I’ve yet to read this book but what Bacevich has to say on the show is very applicable to America at this exact point in history. I wont go much into the content of what he has to say here on this post but I will say that Bacevich speaks truth to the many areas I have touched on in the last couple of years: consumerism, sustainability and the sick distortion of what is now meant by the American dream.

I would highly recommend you listen to the show, it just might give you hope and/or change your perspective on how you view life in the States.

In the interview Bacevich refers to a speech given in 1979 by then president Jimmy Carter called the “malaise speech”. I looked up this speech for myself and found it mind boggling to hear a president of the united states actually saying the things he was saying. In effect Carter basically said that if we (Americans) did not stop our addiction to oil and start looking into renewable energy we would be screwed. And boy was he ever right.

But this Carter speech search prompted me to begin looking for speeches given by other past presidents to see what they had to say to the American people. What I found was amazing and disheartening at the same time. I found a speech where JFK is talking about peace, not just peace for Americans or an American version of peace thrust upon the rest of the world but a real, obtainable peace.

I also found a speech delivered by Dwight Eisenhower warning Americans of the growing power of the industrial military complex.

In hearing all of these voices from the past speak words that America not only needed to hear then but so desperately needs to hear now I began to wonder, and not for the first time, how did we get here from there?

Why did those warnings of a military complex go unheeded, why did we not choose peace when it was offered, why did we not look to alternative forms of energy when presented with these alternative solutions?

Why did our now president George Bush tell us shortly after the Trade Towers went down on September 11th to, “go shopping, take your family to Disney world”? Why was this the best advice this man could give us? With leadership like this why do we wonder how we are in a financial crisis?

If you’re not sick at what this country has become then you must not be paying a damn bit of attention.


Don't Tell My Mom...

…but I spent part of the day riding in cars with people I had never met before.

It all started out very simply, you see. I woke up this morning and had to strike out. Had to eat breakfast while checking the weather forecast for Mount Baker. Had to make up my mind as to whether or not I would really do this. Once the decision was made I had to pack my lunch, some extra clothing and then ride my bike to the beginning of Mt. Baker Highway.

I forgot to mention that I also had to make a cardboard sign with my desired destination point scrawled in black permanent maker on one side with the return on the other.

The ride out to Mt. Baker highway was nice, not too many cars on the road on this partly sunny Saturday morn. I found what appeared to be a good spot to stand, locked my bike to a wooden telephone poll and pulled out my sign.

It read, “Mt. Baker. Please.” Best to be direct and get right to the point. That’s the east coaster in me talking. So with right thumb extended in the direction I wanted to go and the sign in my left hand I stood. And stood. And stood. Car after car passed me by without so much as even a glance. It even seemed as though some folks saw me and stepped on the gas as they went by. Could have just been a coincidence, I suppose.

After 20 minutes and 60 or so cars I was starting to get discouraged. But not a lot mind you, just a little. And then my black stallion arrived. Actually it was a 2000 Mustang but at this point I didn’t care if a manure truck stopped to pick me up. As I climbed into my free ride I quickly assessed the situation; a white, well built man sat behind the wheel with a tendril of smoke curling up from the cigarette dangling from his left hand. He looked like a construction worker and a few minutes into the ride my suspicions were confirmed: he built houses for a living.

We raced along the one lane road as he explained to me that he was heading out to a dot on the map called Deming to collect $500 big ones he was owed by a guy who had damaged his car some months back. He said he could drop me off right in front of the casino and I would be sure to find a ride from there.

He pulled off the road and into the parking lot of a small diner. This must be the place they had agreed to meet. Let’s just say I wasn’t sticking around to see what became of this guy and the money he was owed. I said my “goodbyes” and “good lucks” then started walking down the road. I held out my little sign as I walked and, as luck would have it, the first vehicle that drove by me pulled over and waited for me to catch up.

This story could go on for a while, because there is a lot tell. Let’s just say that Dave the hobbyist blacksmith told me about how he had made some money working for Bill (Gates) down in Seattle and had now retired to another dot on the map called Maple Falls.

Dave dropped me off a few miles down the road and then “the realtors” picked me up. They apologized profusely about the lack of adequate seating in the back of their van. They had been pulling up and putting down “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs all morning.

These wonderful folks dropped me in Glacier. Glacier is the last “town” before you reach the Mount Baker Wilderness area. During the winter it is covered over in snow and snowboarders. When I arrived all I saw were a few hung over, off-season boarders lounging on benches and tables in front of Glaciers only general store.

I went inside,
ordered a whole grain bagel (this was a damn good bagel!) and answered the few questions the girl behind the register asked me. “Where are you coming from?” Bellingham, I said.

Back outside and next to the highway I munched on the bagel and held out my sign. A few cars went by as I stood in the early fall sun hoping to be picked up. A guy in a white four runner that was parked in front of the store said he was only going a few miles up the road but as a consolation offered me a bottle of cold water. I thanked him and took the water.

The door to the Italian restaurant across the street opened and a tall, dark haired woman stepped outside and looked my way. She shielded her eyes with her hand in hopes of getting a better look at me and then called out, “Is that you Doobie?”. Nope, I yelled back. She turned around and disappeared back into the blackness of the restaurants interior.

The clerk from the general store, the one who prepared my bagel for me, came over to me and asked why I was going to Mt. Baker. I played the “man of few words” part and replied back, “Just to go, no reason other than that.” Apparently she liked what she heard because she said that if I didn’t have a ride in thirty minutes she would drive me out there.

I thanked her for the offer and the bagel.

Five minutes after her offer a younger couple with two dogs gave me a ride the rest of the way. I kind of wished the thirty minutes would have passed and found me still stranded in front of that store in Glacier. But Baker was calling and I had to be moving along.

The last leg of this long hitchhike was gorgeous. Clear streams ran down the centers of green valleys while the sun hid behind stands of fir and pine. We cruised effortlessly down the road and talked about whatever came to mind. I dug my fingers into one of their two dogs luxuriant (and shedding) fur as the little car chugged up the incline that would eventually take us to our destination.

After 2 and a half hours I finally arrived at my destination. A quick look at their map, a “thank you” and I was off, down the trail and around the bend. I hiked for hours, stopping only to take in the epic views and forage the wild blueberries that grew all along the side of the trail.

Today was a day of rediscovery.
I got outside, overcame some fears and in the process met some nice people and saw some gorgeous country.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring.


Spell Czech

Nick Drakes “Which Will” playing from the shitty little speakers attached to the computer that owns me.

I do not own it, it owns me. This little machine should be called a “Crackintosh”, you get addicted to its little “sleeping” orb that pulses white after you close the lid.

The other night, two nights ago now, I took the machine, put it in its case (it even has it’s own custom case) and forced myself not to open it again until morning. I then proceeded to read words printed in ink on real paper.

Paper made from trees, from forests, from leaves.

Leave me alone, little machine, your world is too cold and impersonal. I need real, flesh and blood interaction, not this disconnected non-reality. I need the imperfections of speech.

I need more than this spell czeched wordl.


Wisdom From The Rubbish Heap?

I am no economist, this I know to be true. I haven’t attended the years of schooling, read through the scores of over priced textbooks nor worked to accrue the accolades of fellow colleagues who “study” in this ever shifting field of social science.

Despite my ignorance I cannot help but wonder about certain statements made in reference to Capitalism's gleaming White City: Wall Street.

But before I go on, a quick history lesson. Some years back the island of Manhattan was, much to many peoples surprise, not owned by white men. Around 1624 the Dutch setup a trading post on one end of the island. The people inhabiting the island at the time, the Lenape, eventually became viewed as a threat to the further establishment of this trading post and in turn a wall was built to “keep the natives out”.

After a series of hostile clashes and takeovers the British eventually tore down the wall and began to establish what is now modern day Wall Street.

I’ve heard, through unconfirmed sources, that the waste generated by this young, Dutch money making venture was thrown over the wall. If that is the case then you could say that Wall Street has its foundations built upon a dump.

Now on to the statements made about this shaky system called Capitalism (and in turn Wall Street).

Just days before the crash of the stock market in 1929 Yale economist Irving Fisher made this statement about Americas financial future, “The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of prosperity.” Five days later the stock market crashed, signaling the worst economic crisis America had ever seen. It seems as though you’d have to be “permanently high” to actually believe Mr. Irving’s statement.

I have heard Capitalism referred to as this entity that will somehow always experience infinite growth. David Korten, author of The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, works from this infinite growth statement by comparing Capitalism to something else that experiences “infinite growth” until all of the resources for it’s “infinite growth” have been exhausted: cancer.

Like Capitalism, cancer preys on the weakness of the body and uses those weaknesses to establish itself in an ever-consuming battle to which the end result is death. Nothing in the natural world is infinite so why are we asked to believe that this man made system can somehow supersede the laws of nature?

It’s almost as if the greed and arrogance that inherently comes with the adoption of this system completely blinds those who buy into it.

And now, some 70 plus years after the last major collapse of this system we are, yet again, on the verge of another.

Guess the “infinite growth” wasn’t so infinite.

The best part in all of this is that the government will be bailing out all of these greedy Wall Street bastards with $700 billion (and more) of your hard earned tax money. Money that won’t be spent on schools, healthcare, paying off the deficit or securing anything stable for future generations to come. Yup, this is a system that truly rewards the greedy.

All of this leads me to ask the following question: Is America a “be greedy or get out” country? If so, where can I go? Are there countries that will take in the economic refugees of a corrupt and enslaved nation state such as mine?

Any takers?


Home (For Now).

It took over a month but I finally found a place to live. Looking for a place in this small college town was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was me and about 8,000 or so other folks all trying to find the same thing: an affordable, efficient space that isn't a dump.

It quickly came to my attention that (and ridiculously popular) Craigslist was the number one spot to check out what was available. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one using Craigslist to find a potential place to live. I went to view a number of apartments and was surprised to see not only me and the person showing the place but a small army of peeps my age and younger crawling around the empty apartment. There were so many responses to the ads that the landlord would just simply set up an open house and let whoever was interested in the unit fill out an application and hope for the best.

While I understood the reasons for these "open house" apartment viewings I must say that I came to utterly despise them. I did not want to be looking at an apartment with 15 other people all foaming at the mouth in hopes of perhaps being "the chosen one". This "free for all" form of apartment hunting did not suit me.

I am not all that competitive and really hate making snap decisions (especially ones that carry quiet a bit of monetary weight) while under undue amounts of pressure. This is why I will always make a very unsuccessful Capitalist.

So after responding to an ad in the local paper (I would get up every morning and pour over the "unfurnished apartments" section of the Herald, just hoping to spot something within my price range that 50 other people hadn't already called about) in the form of a hand written note attached to the office door I finally got the call.

I looked at the place, liked what I saw and quickly determined that this small space would be worth paying the monthly rental price they were asking.

A massive "thank you" goes out to the Day family who not only let me crash in their basement for the last month but made me feel like a member of their wonderfully large family. These people are good folks for sure.

Here are a few photos of the new digs.


(Dangerous) Thinking

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. This is, as I have come to find out, a dangerous act in the country I reside. Actually, it’s more the content of my thoughts that are a danger and threat to a fearful and enslaved culture such as the one I happen to find myself in at this moment in history.

I recently have had, as the tendency in my life seems to be, many good conversations. Conversations that center on the common theme of young Americans trying to find their place in this society. This is something I know much about. I’ve been an outsider in this strange land for the entirety of my life.

Now I understand that there is always some degree of “who am I?” in the young, especially in trying to figure out what they will be doing with their lives. Being a young adult can be scary, especially in a fragmented culture such as this one. We let consumerism and work break us apart. We are forced into roles and for the most part we stay within those roles.

It seems to me that my life is sweetening with age. I enjoy the simple things in life more and more. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case with many of my peers. The pressure to conform overwhelms them on a daily basis and they feel trapped and very dissatisfied with how their lives are turning out. It seems as though the “land of the free” isn’t really that free at all.

Here is what I have observed “freedom” to be defined as in modern day America:

The “freedom” to be in credit card debt.
The “freedom” to live in a house you will have to slave your entire life away to try and own (and even then there are really no guarantees you’ll be able to afford it).
The “freedom” to attend a college or university of your choice for four to eight years only to graduate deep in debt.

Anyone noticing a pattern here? There is an entire life to be had in America but it comes at a price: your own personal freedom.

No one can convince me that the debt system in America is anything but a modern day form of slavery.

And that begs the question I have been asking myself for quite some time now:

How do I live as a free man amongst a nation of slaves?

It’s late and I'm tired. More to come.


Sometime Last Year




Strange Convention

So apparently their was a convention of some sort in St. Paul, Minnesota this past monday. It appears as though a bunch of white people gathered together and listened to other white people give speeches about how great they are and why you should listen to what they have to say.

Then everyone in the big corporately owned convention center cheered as their fearless white leaders told stories of how they would run America if only you would elect them for President.

But really, who cares about what these talking heads (not to be confused with the amazing band from the eighties that share the same name) have to say? It's all just noise.

What I was most interested in was the 50 million in "federal grant money" that was used to pay off the St. Paul police force, turning a service paid by and provided for the average citizen into a thug squad sent out to violently (and illegally) beat down anyone who might be excersising their right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest.

I saw one photo of a dude breaking some glass and the first thing I looked for beneath the photo was the word "anarchist". And sure enough, barely two paragraphs beneath the photo I found what I was looking for, "A mob of 200 anarchists...". Gotta love the corporate media. It's always more concerned with broken storefront windows than broken people and broken systems.

It blows my mind to see the predictability in how the media reports any major protest in America. They try to diminish the intentions of the protest by focusing on the unorthodox actions of a few. The media understands that if they can marginalize the protesters and make them appear to be a bunch of crazed individuals just looking for a fight then you, the reader, the viewer, will find nothing with which to draw any commonality between you and this psychotic mob of raving lunatics.

Which is as far from the truth as can be. Most of the people I have met at protests have been very down to earth and peaceful. Sure there have been the occasional folks just looking for a fight, but that is an exception, not the rule.

Ok, enough about the media. They're a joke and I'm tired. Goodnight.


What's Dead (And What Isn't)

Ok, so I’m a romantic. This is a good thing, a very good thing. While I unfortunately romanticize less now than I did when I was younger (some people call this growing up, I call it growing old. To be a romantic is to stay young in heart, mind and soul. Age is in the mind.) I still have been known to indulge in a good session of purely romantic thinking.

Over the last eight months the Dead, the Grateful Dead, have graced my eardrums on an almost daily basis. This also had been a good thing, a very good thing. I’ll have to thank (blame) Michael Ashley for this jam band extravaganza. One fateful evening over the winter break he uploaded a few random tunes from two recent jam bands, Phish and The String Cheese Incident, onto my computer. I didn’t really give these tunes a good listen until I was stuck out in the rain on a farm in Port Orchard, Washington, digging holes for 15-foot tall fence posts. The posts would eventually be strung up with metal fencing to keep the deer from eating all of the blueberries.

After listening to this very limited selection of good jams I knew I would eventually have to delve into the world of the Dead. I didn’t know much about the Dead. For the most part I associated them and their signature lightning bolt skull symbol with potheads and leftovers from 60’s driving around the country living out of old, rusted out Volkswagen vans. And to a certain degree this is true.

Despite the heavy haze of weed smoke and LSD that surrounded this band and their thirty-year jamming career I can tell you that drugs are not required to truly appreciate their music. Nearly all of my Dead listening experiences have occurred while in a completely sober state. I listen to them when biking, cleaning (working) or just lounging around the house.

I, of course, started off listening to their more mainstream, studio recorded songs. Mostly songs like Box of Rain, Sugar Magnolia and Truckin’ from their American Beauty album. Then I discovered some of their live tracks and haven’t turned back since. There is a massive wealth of live shows in the Internet Archive vault. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent perusing through this amazing online resource.

The Dead were known for never playing a song the same way twice. In turn, every live concert is a new listening venture, you never know what you’re gonna get!

Now to tie in the romantic comment I made at the beginning of this post. When listening to the Dead I can only imagine what was happening on stage, in the crowd and outside the walls of whatever venue they happened to be blowing the roof off of at that moment in time. The Dead played music during the most recent cultural upheaval in this young countries history. They also helped to encapsulate much of what the early hippie movement was grasping for: community.

It’s been said that back in the early days of the band they would make available free food medical care and lodging at their concerts, which looked more like giant block parties than the corporate sponsored crap fests you now find in stadiums and music venues across modern day America.

I can’t help but hear the spirit of the 60’s infused into their beats and rhythms. The peace, the unity, the dramatic naivety and subsequent idealism of an entire generation that really believed, if only for a minute, that life could be lived a different way. I'm not talking about the commercialized version of the 60’s that has been shoved down our throats by the media complex. It wasn’t all drugs, sex and rock and roll.

I find it very interesting that at the time the cultural movement of the 60’s was happening Americans had more, in theory, to be afraid of than we do now. Nuclear war seemed imminent. The government was blatantly spying on and arresting anyone who stepped out of line. The draft was a reality for many young men. Unless you had the money for college it was only a matter of time before your number was called up.

And how did the people of America respond?
They took to the streets, held protests, burned flags and draft cards, held huge concerts and experimented in ways of living outside of the system. And while all of these things still occur in America they happen on a much more subdued level. They are dumbed down by the media. The significance of the 60’s cultural movement is lost on my generation.

Most parents who lived through the 60’s tell their kids cautionary tales of drugged out friends who had “turned on, tuned in and dropped out” one too many times. And that’s about it. It’s almost as if the collective memory of an entire generation was somehow washed away by the years that came afterward. Years of excess, burnout, depression and loneliness.

And then from out of that generation of free love and peace for all came the most security obsessed, consumer driven culture America had ever seen. Did I miss something here?

I suppose Hunter S. Thompson was right when he observed that, “We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Not only did the wave break and roll back, it seems as though the entire ocean damn near dried up leaving us all flopping around gasping for air, looking for something, anything, to send us swimming again.

So am I just a crazed romantic who has the luxury of projecting whatever he likes onto a time in the past or did something revolutionary really happen in America during the 1960’s?