Night Lights

After the celebrations had ended came the dark, and eventually the fog. He stood beneath the street lights watching the thick night air swirl around the subdued glow like moths on a warm summers evening.


Help Wanted: No Blue Collar Need Apply

Piece by piece, I watched them tear it down. The concrete and brick walls came down with a mighty crash, the machines playing a dance around this relic of a bygone era.

There were some good reasons for this factory to have ceased production. This plant, that sat for decades overlooking the bay, had it’s own dark secrets. For many a year it spewed it’s toxic waste straight out into the cold waters that lapped it’s concrete embankments. The environmental damage was staggering. It would take decades, if not centuries, for the bay to repair itself.

As I stood on the bridge overlooking the demo site other thoughts came into my mind. Here was yet another small town in America that was losing its blue-collar industry. As the baby boomers traipsed across the American landscape looking for “a nice place to retire” any town that happened to be located near open water and hills that overlooked it (white people love views and open water, they’ll do anything they can to have both at once) was fair game.

White collar America wants views and nice parks by the bay. Places to dine and shop while listening to the seagulls cry overhead. And what white collar wants, white collar gets.

It dawned on me, and not for the last time, that the blue-collar worker in America had been outsourced, underpaid and overworked on a consistent basis since the mid 1970’s. Americans had bought the lie that they were too good to work with their hands (but apparently the hands of ten year olds in sweatshops in India were completely acceptable). They began to believe that life would be better if they just had more schooling, so to school they went. And went, and went, and went until their high school diplomas, bachelors degree’s, associates, masters, PhD’s and doctorates meant nothing more than the pieces of paper they were written on.

When my mother and father graduated high school in ’73 they needed nothing more than a high school diploma and a good work ethic to earn a real living wage. Contrast that with the current working environment where you need at least four years of post high school education to even think of applying for a job that will pay you enough to sustain a somewhat decent living.

I take up serious issue with the validity of the many white-collar jobs that have been created in the last twenty years. What does the white-collar worker actually do for the society around them? What tangible things do they have to show for all the “work” they do (besides money and all the shit they can buy with it)? They aren’t building homes, painting houses, repairing cars, growing food or fixing leaks. They don’t (for the most part) mow their own yards, clean their own homes or raise their own kids. So if they’re not doing any of these things than what the hell are they doing? Oh you can find them pushing paper, filing lawsuits, lobbying government, and many other types of activities that I would deem closer to doing nothing (a.k.a. “looking busy”) than actually doing something to directly benefit the society around them.

And this is what four years or more in a university does for many people. It teaches them how to “look busy” and make lots of money while doing it. It is partly because of the “workless” white-collar workers rise to power that the blue-collar worker has seen a decrease in everything from their paycheck to general societal respect. To be blue collar in “modern” day America is to be looked at as someone who was too stupid or too lazy to get a “real”, white collar job.

My mother and I have had an ongoing conversation over the recent state of our failed nation state. America has come upon a time of great reckoning. It may come to pass in this time of reckoning that the “workless” white collar workers will be exposed as the true drain on society that they are.

When the rubber meets the road and the almighty dollar ain’t worth shit you can bet I’ll be turning to the farmer before the stockbroker for help.

Further processing: Only a few short hours after posting this entry I listened to a Bill Moyers podcast that confirmed much of what I had just written on. Here's the broadcast link for anyone interested: Bill Moyers


Black Friday

“Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death by Customers”

This headline is, tragically, not a joke. There isn’t much too say in response to a headline such as this. In order to “save” (it’s always amused me how the advertising industry will use the word “save” in an effort to try and convince you to spend. You can’t save money by spending it) a few bucks on shit they didn’t need a human life was taken.

The effectiveness with which consumerism has “successfully” brainwashed an entire culture is one of the more frightening psychological developments to come about in the last 100 years.

I often wonder, how did we get here? Where did the devolution process begin?

A few years back the BBC put out a documentary titled “The Century of The Self”. It starts out with Freud’s ideas of human nature and the ability to control societies by preying not on the strengths of humanity, but on its weaknesses.

I firmly believe that capitalism has been the incubator in which the idea of “self above everything else” has not only been nurtured but also been fed a consistent diet of dissatisfaction with everything in life.

The simple act of living is no longer satisfactory. To be “alive” is to be left wanting.

This is not only a horrible way to “live”, but also an equally deplorable way to die.



Upon cruising the Craigslist job board I realize two things: most of the job listings are scams (fake emails directing you to fake companies) and real work is hard to come by. Recently I have seen a lot of posts on the board from people who are not offering work but instead looking for it. The most recent one I read was from a person who has a family and will be out of work for at least a month.

That’s a tough one for me. I mean things aren’t great for me (monetarily speaking) right now, but I'm a single guy with no family and no one depending on me to “bring home the bacon”.

Looks like a lot of folks will be flooding the welfare office if things don’t change soon.

It’s sad to think that the government is bailing out those who need it the least (rich CEO’s and the like) and leaving the rest of society to fend for itself.

I wonder if the government will give me a bailout? I promise I’ll ask real nice like.

Capitalist pricks.


Before The Dawn

I don’t know why 5:45 am. Tim was moving around up stairs. It was hot in my bed. Four covers were not necessary. I walked outside and watched a plane come in to view. The slow moving orange glow of landing lights twinkling in the early morning dawn. Actually dawn had not yet come and the better half of a waning moon still shone quietly behind a thin layer of clouds.

Then the eagles woke up and one started screeching at the other. They have a nest in a tree not but 600 feet from my doorstep.

I went back inside, put the kettle on, ground some beans and washed a few errant dishes leftover from last nights meal.

I should be an explorer of the early morning. Of those fleeting moments before the night gives up all of its ghosts to the coming dawn. I should be one of those ghosts.


My Cup Overfloweth

There have been many subjects, most influenced by media or pod casts I listen to, that have been running through my mind as of late. Living away from the friends I would normally talk with about these subjects has caused me to sit alone with these thoughts. This is sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always useful.

So here’s a brief rundown of a few of the many subjects I have been pondering:

Gay Marriage. Not really sure why the Mormon Church, or any church for that matter, has amassed huge sums of money to “fight” against the right for gay couples to be married. I’ve heard many irrational, unscientific, panic ridden arguments for those opposed to gay marriage but not really anything that strikes me as an informed argument. What is the fear here? Does anyone out there know something I don’t about gay marriage? Will America somehow implode in on itself the day gay marriage is made into law? I encourage you to listen to this pod cast (it’s basically about a Mormon high priest who is so against his churches stance on gay marriage that he is willing to face banishment).

White People and Guns. So America has elected its first black president. I am more than ok with this. But apparently many white folks are so scared of, yet again, god only knows what that they are flocking in droves to gun shops. They are not only buying guns and ammo in record numbers but buying assault weapons, assault weapons people!!! Is this for real? I don’t listen to any of the hate radio jocks so I have no context for where these people might be getting their misinformation from. Misinformation like “Obama is going to take all of our guns away from us.” Do these people know something about Obama that I don’t? Am I missing something here?

Welfare and Wealth Distribution. With at least 12.7 percent of America’s population living below the poverty line you would think this country would recognize the need for a better social welfare system. It hasn’t. If anything, it’s become increasingly harder for those struggling (self included) just to make ends meet over the last 20 years. The cost of everything (food, shelter, energy, healthcare) has gone up while wages for a large number of Americans have remained stagnant. What is this information alerting us to when the richest country in the world also has the highest percentage of those living in poverty amongst any of the other “developed” nations? Guess we’re not as “developed” as we purport to be.

Last rant:

Infinite War. Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Iran. Syria. Russia. North Korea. The list goes on. How much longer will America feel the “need” to be the world police? What does “winning” a war look like? How much longer will the American people continue to watch their tax dollars, dollars that could be spent on welfare reform, public education, healthcare, be made into bullets and bombs which stuff the pockets of “defense contractors” (a.k.a. criminals that should have been imprisoned long ago) with our tax money and destroy the lives, families and communities they are dropped upon?

Agatha Christie said it like this, “One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing: that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.”

Any thoughts?



It’s steamy and sultry,
but this is no romance novel.
There’s no lust in this cup,
just straight black coffee.
Hold the cream, hold the sugar,
a good cup should be able
to hold its own.
I'm awake and addicted,
sipping away in the
dim grey light
of another sunless morning.


Post Point


Out In The County

I wake up in a very “fuck all of this shit” kind of mood. It’s not the rain, the lack of work to be found (and conversely money to be made), the lull in good conversation to be had or the fact that I loathe my camera and have descended into some kind of valley where creativity is no where to be found.

No, it’s none of these things. Or maybe it’s all of them. I'm not really sure yet. At this hour I am only sure of two things; my hands are shaking from the caffeine intake and my stomach is trying to tell me man cannot live on coffee alone.

Then there’s the ten o’clock train. I can hear its whistle in the distance. Steel on steel pushing north through the rain.

Since that’s all I can tell you about today, let me tell you a little about yesterday.

Linda takes me far from home. We drive “out in the county”. This is local speak for any place located more than a couple of miles from downtown Bellingham. “Out in the county” is beautiful. She lives on an old homestead way down Mt. Baker Highway, not too far from the great volcano itself.

Upon arrival I meet Suzy, a somewhat ornery Dalmatian mix that never quite settles upon whether I am friend or foe. After a conversation about Michael Crichton’s recent passing and what it means to Linda (for three glorious years Linda dated Michaels younger brother, Douglas) I meet the amiable yet guarded Don. He is one third of the remaining Mitchell clan that live on 40 acres of land his great grandfather homesteaded back in the mid 1800’s. The signs of what once was a dairy farm are rapidly returning to the earth from whence they sprang. Roofless barns and outbuildings tell the story of a hundred winters past.

Don, his twin brother and their aging father have lived here all their lives. Linda’s told me the story of their mother; it’s a tragic one that has changed the course of the brother’s lives. I dare not ask about this story while talking with Don.

We spend a couple of hours enjoying each others company; eating, laughing, smoking cigarettes on the tiny front porch that shelters us from cool fall rain. This is a very humane interaction, one where the humans and their stories are the main act.

Then it’s time to leave. Linda fills a plastic bag with apples from the tree next to her house. The apples are a gift for me. I am great at receiving gifts, not so much at giving them.

On the way back home the conversation turns toward creative ruts. Linda tells me she’s written a few novels. Their lack of widespread recognition (a.k.a. being published) does not diminish their importance; these manuscripts are brought to life by the writer, not the publishing house. She then tells me it’s been over ten years since she’s written anything.

I am reminded that true creativity, and the manifestation of it, cannot be forced. It does not follow the mandates of a production-obsessed culture. No, it seems to come and go with no regard for the changing seasons that pile up between it’s last visit and the next. It is a good friend, but one that makes no excuse for it’s comings and goings.


Utah Once Again

I am watching the 2008 presidential election votes roll in and can't help but think of one man: Utah Phillips.

Here is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Amy Goodman a couple of years back. These are words that I have wept over many times.

"The long memory is the most radical idea in America. That long memory has been taken away from us. Listen, you young people I’m talking to, that long member has been taken away from you. You haven’t gotten it in your schools. You’re not getting it on your television. You’re not getting it anywhere. You’re being leapfrogged from one crisis to the next. You know, you can’t remember what happened last week, because you’re locked into this week’s crisis.

No, turn that off. You know, walk away from that. Walk out your front door. Go find your elders. Go find your true elders. Go find your people that lived that life, who knew that life and who know that history. And get your hands down into that deep rich stream of our people’s history.

We divided our culture up into a market for youngers, a market for young adults, a market for young marrieds, a market for older people, you know. It’s not that way. And mass media contributed to that by taking the great movements that we’ve been through and trivializing important events. No, our people’s history is like one long river. It flows down from way over there. And everything that those people did and everything they lived flows down to me, and I can reach down and take out what I need, if I have the courage to go out and ask questions. That huge river, you know, it’s like tributaries that flow down into the polluted river and purify it."

Amen, Utah, Amen.


Ridin' On Down The Road...

The bus ticket cost 28 dollars, and that was 28 dollars more than I was willing to pay. The goal was to travel from Bellingham to Seattle, it had been months since I’d moved north and I was jonesing for a good “friend fix”. The rideshare boards on Craigslist were filled with offers for trips in every direction except the one I wanted to go.

So, with my choices narrowed down to spending money I didn’t have or hanging around until the next day when a friend was heading south I made up my mind: I was going to try and hitch my way to the Emerald City.

Immediately after making up my mind I went into action: jumping in the cardboard dumpster outside my door, ripping of a good sized piece, uncapping my fine point sharpie and penning the words “SEATTLE, PLEASE” in big, black letters across the expanse of brown cardboard that would serve as my roadside voice. I dawned my backpack, dropped my plant off with a friend and headed on down the road.

Hitching is a strange thing in America, it’s become an anomaly in a country that is obsessed with the idea of “making it on your own” and “relying on no one”. The simple act of standing on the roadside with your thumb out and a smile on your face has become a radical statement. The average American family owns between two and three cars, and that’s a “conservative” estimate at best. It is with this figure in mind that you would think it completely plausible, hell, maybe even easy, to hitch a ride down any of Americas many paved thoroughfares.

But the simple fact that I am recounting a story based around the act of hitching should alert you to the reality that hitching is not the norm in the U.S. This was not always the case. In the not so distant past millions of young, and old, Americans took to the road via the thumb and a smile. This was apparently a time when Americans were either too stupid, too naïve or simply too trusting of their fellow man (and woman) to understand that hitching a ride meant almost certain death, for the hitcher or the unsuspecting person who gave them a ride. At least that’s what Hollywood would have us believe.

It helps to understand that Americans, like people the world over, love a good story. Hollywood, perhaps better than any other capital endeavor, has grasped the fullness of this love. And like any other business that wishes to succeed they have seized upon the few, and somewhat true, stories of hitches gone wrong. There have been entire movies dedicated to the myth of some serial killing hitchhiker with a lust for blood.

And so it is with this cultural meta-narrative of fear flowing just beneath the surface that I stand at the highway on ramp hoping for a ride from someone who can trust me as much as I am willing to trust them.

Many, many cars pass me by, with some of the occupants using hand gestures to communicate that they are only going a small piece up the road. The hand gestures are an act of kindness that I come to appreciate. These people have no obligation to communicate with this roadside freeloader their reasons for passing him by; their kindness carries me through.

After 15 or 20 minutes of advertising my need for a ride middle-aged man in a luxury SUV stops to pick me up. I climb in as he tells me he is only going a few exits down the highway. I thank him for stopping to pick me up and tell him a few exits down the road is closer to my destination than I was just a minute ago. With hum of the highway beneath us this soft-spoken stranger and I talk about the psychology behind hitching. He says he’s picked up many hitchers over the years and many of them have had apparent psychological issues. Living in America has the potential to drive you crazy, and for many it does. He tells me he has to pick up a friend who wants to walk with him and his dogs around a lake. His friend is an attractive young blond woman who is surprised to see a random man sitting in the front seat of her friend’s vehicle.

After brief introductions we are on our way. The driver says he can drop me off at an exit where a popular casino is located assuring me that it shouldn’t be hard to find a ride from there. I thank him as he drops me off at what appears to be a very desolate off ramp. There is the casino in the distance with its flashing light board promising riches within. I find a “good” spot to stand and resume my silent, cardboard request for a ride further south.

Many potential rides zoom past me with no regard; it’s as if I am invisible. I begin to wonder if I am. And then my most unexpected ride of the day stops to pick me up. A white Isuzu Trooper pulls up beside me and the Hispanic driver asks me where I am going. “Seattle”, I respond. She says they (there is also a man and a baby in the vehicle) are only going to Mount Vernon. I graciously accept the ride and climb in the back next to a car seat containing a baby boy. I only mention the drivers ethnicity because this is the first ever “minority” ride I’ve been given. I make small talk with the young driver (she’s only twenty) and her older male passenger (I try to guess the relationship of the two and finally settle on boyfriend/girlfriend). She tells me if she were alone she wouldn’t pick me up. I tell her I completely understand.

I look at the baby who is nursing a bottle and fighting a losing battle with his heavy, sleep laden eyelids. He has only just stopped crying, a tear resting just beneath his left eye attests to this. We ride for a while in silence. Eventually we exit the highway and I once again thank them for their generosity. I go through the same routine: locate the on ramp, find a safe spot to stand, pull out my sign, my thumb and a smile that hopefully conveys the flimsy presumption that I am harmless and trustworthy.

This time it’s a newish V.W. Passat that pulls over. Another middle aged white man is behind the wheel and I wait for him to shift his things from the front seat to the back before I take my offered seat. We head down the highway while exchanging names and occupations. He is heading to Seattle (finally!) to appraise a few pieces of real estate; he can take me wherever I need to go. We chat about the housing market in between business calls (one of which required my rough secretarial skills of scrawling his verbally dictated details of a potential clients contact info on the back of my cardboard sign).

It’s only a few minutes into this final ride that a steady rain begins to fall on the windshield; I am grateful beyond measure. Steve is a kind soul. He tells me about growing up in Seattle, and about eventually moving north with his wife. He offers to drop me off in Fremont (my final destination) and I begin to refuse his kindness but then think better of it and graciously accept. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect hitch. I step out of his car and onto the cracked city sidewalk only two and a half hours after I began my journey. The 28 dollar bus doesn’t get me here this fast.

It has become more important now, perhaps more than ever, that Americans begin to trust those that surround them. This journey, like so many of my recent journeys, has been a hope restoring and fear dispelling exercise.

I have come to believe that to live in fear is to just stop living altogether.