Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Handmade Blade

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying - from "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", Bob Dylan, 1965

New York, late September 2001
"Isn't that ISIL stuff terrible," I asked rhetorically of an old friend the other night.

It was during a phone call. I was talking to an ex-ex in Australia. Catching up. I knew him well. But that was in another country ...

An intelligent man. A peace-loving man. An educated man. A grew-up-in-the-sixties-sort-of man.

ISIL had just been reported as having beheaded around twenty one Coptic Christians in Egypt. Exactly how many? Not sure. Did we even know the victims' names? Did we care? Well, speaking for myself, I care. But not enough.

And then came the spiel.

 I should have know better. I should have not even raised the subject.

"Yeah, well, it is all America's fault," my old friend intoned. Like a broken record.

"What?" I answered, holding my ground. "The United States didn't behead anyone..." "Yeah but," he answered.  "If America hadn't elected Bush and gone into Iraq..." and so on and so forth.... I changed the subject. Trying to find some neutral ground. After all, this was/is an old friend.

But in the back of my mind, the logical me, was thinking, "Why is he saying this? After all, I am an American. How insulting. He can think what he likes, but a little diplomacy could perhaps be in order? Not to mention logic."

I was asking too much.

For Christ's sake, when are these people going to stop blaming what they call "America" for all the ills in this world? At least get the geography right. Don't lump Chile, Brazil and Argentina, let alone Canada in with the USA. At least get the the country right.

When will it ever end? Why not blame England? George III - the mad English king who lost the American colonies? Surely, if he'd had a grip on reality, he might have kept them ... the colonies - "New England" that is.

No "United States", no "America" no "ISIL". Surely in this man's mind, and the minds of so many like him, this follows as night follows day. We can't blame "America" - the name given so lightly, so incorrectly, to the United States of America - if it didn't exist.

And it - the country, my second country, only exists as a geo-political entity because of (gasp!) "colonialism". Like Vietnam, Rwanda, Nigeria, India, white Australia. The political-geographical state of the world in 2015 is not the fault of the current citizens of the USA. Certainly not of mine. And yet ...

I put up with it when Al-Qaeda murdered 3,000 people on 9-11. Not wanting to argue, and rendered fragile when my city was attacked, I remained silent when the phone lines were restored and I heard people tell me it was all "America's fault".

Now 14 years later I have had enough. We can blame history. We can blame Bush, G W Bush,, Clinton, Carter, Washington. We can blame King George III of England, or the Quakers before him. We can blame Henry 8th. We can blame the Puritans. The Vikings maybe? We can blame ourselves.

To my old friend - and he is just one of many - can we please dare to get over it.

And blame ISIL.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Old Person in the Room

We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game - from "The Circle Game", Joni Mitchell, 1968

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma - from "Guantanamera", José Fernández, long time ago

Bus Stop, Third Avenue, Winter 2014
I looked up. Three pairs of hands were stretching toward me. New York hands. Different shades of color human.

I'd slipped on some ice on the curb as I was about to cross the road. I'd gone flying and my left leg was half-twisted beneath me,

New Yorkers, being New Yorkers were quick to help. I staggered into an upright position and thanked them. "Yes I was OK," I answered their concern.

As I walked away it occurred to me that the concern was perhaps because I looked old. Frail even! Was this the beginning of the end? Could I expect more falls? I started thinking with alarm of those TV advertisement about old people needing to wear medical bracelets that send out help signals should they fall over alone in their homes.

"She's had a fall," I remember hearing old people say to other old people when I wasn't an old person.

It can't be. Baby boomers don't get old.

On the bus. It's freezing. The bus door stays wide open while "seniors" clamber on board maneuvering their walkers. God, don't let it ever be me.

The bus lurches forward. The people-with-walkers watch them spin around wildly. It's chaos. It's hell. I'm in a bus full of wet New Yorkers.

"Stop the bus!" one of them yells.

The bus lurches backwards and the driver and all the rest of the passengers peer anxiously out the fogged-up windows. Had someone been hit by a car? Fallen? A child perhaps.

The yelling-out person gets to her feet. "It's my friend Miriam," she explains to all of us wet people. "She left her hat on the bus." Those wet people who were young enough to hear rolled their eyes. The bus driver, a seasoned New York bus driver, patiently opened the door so that the yelling-out-person could call to her friend. The cold air streamed in.

Through the windows we can see a blur of a woman with a walker. She's looking puzzled. "Your hat, Miriam!" screams Yelling-Out-Person. "Your favorite hat." And eventually Miriam understands, and ever so slowly pushes her walker through the snow to the open bus door.

The hat handed over, Yelling-Out-Person turns in triumph to address us. "It is hard enough to find a decent hat these days," she announces. With a Dame Everage smile and New York chutzpah.

It takes me forever to get home. The less time we have left on this earth, the more value it has. Time is becoming a scarce commodity. It is precious. When you are three years old a year is a third of your life and it takes forever. Those long summer holidays when we were children. Those long years at university, and later when our children were infants.

Then suddenly a year is nothing. The equivalent of an infant's minute.

Time is no longer on your side, Mr Jagger.

I watch the news on my iPad. Some CNN crap. I click on the video link and there's an ad for a car I couldn't care less about. A car! More likely I'll be in the market for a walker already!

What's this? "You can skip this ad in five seconds" in tiny writing on the video screen. Five, four, three seconds ... My life is ticking away before my very eyes. Bastards!

I stomp on the "x" with my mouse.

Killing Time.