Sunday, September 13, 2009

Holy mother of Jesus!

It’s harvest time. The grapes are falling off the vines. The local streets are black and slick with spilling juice. Tractors, trucks, harvesting machines. Hands black and back brown. Tired, sticky, happy in my fashion.

The work takes up the entire day. Sunrise, sunset, just like the song goes, in the meantime the life moves on. Day by day, one step closer to the grave, it’s a long march though not without its pleasures. When you are busted from work, one of those pleasures is your day off. It’s just one day, but a day non the less.

But what to do when you are broken in body, if not in spirit. You push on, against all reason. It was like that I found myself aboard the big red lake salagou last night after work watching a theater piece and trying to stay awake. Ha-ha, it’s not really any good, but the setting was fantastic. The cool night after the hot day, the stars giving way to a moon that rose behind a ancient volcano that sits in the lake. And always the fact of no alarm in the morning giving rise to waves of lux.

Sunday in france, bells from the church, sweet sleepy love, warm bread, fresh cigarettes, coffee, another sunny 80 degree day. A short walk to a long lunch on the plaza in the shade. A nap, some sugar and another coffee. Woody Allen at the cinema in V.O. A walk home. Fresh soup for a chilly night. Bed. Sleep. 6 a.m. Grapes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It was hot again in the vines.

It was hot again in the vines. We followed the machine from the get-go at 7 a.m. The sun came up later, and was soon beating down. The machine is loud and dirty. The day was without romance or relief. It continued after work when I lit up my computer.

The quotes which follow are taken from the lead story on Yahoo/news which concerned the health care ‘debate’.

When I am slapped by these widgets of ‘information’ it makes me feel good to be away from the empire. Speech like this makes it seem as if the only way is down, and when things are falling it just seems safer to be out of the way. It also helps me feel correct as I am stooped over in the hot sun doing migrant field work. In the developed world, universal health care is considered a primary need. In my french back water town I feel good to live in a underdeveloped part of a civilized country, rather than living in a developed part of an uncivilized country.

In america, for all it’s good godly religious stridency, it seems any thought towards ‘the least of His brothers’ has been forgotten. I will leave it to you to decide what has happened to critical thinking and/or debate.

"That's the cart before the horse, as they say in Maine," said Sen. Olympia Snowe,

Sen. Charles Grassley, said talks were ongoing and included "some things that are very central."

"Clearly failure is not an option here," said Rep. Xavier Becerra,

"The status quo is unacceptable" said Mitch McConnell

"I hope he will call for a pragmatic, bipartisan approach," said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin...

Forget the sides, left and right, back down or fight; me or you, red and blue. Can anyone who talks meaningless, canned words, (without the tongue firmly implanted in their cheek) be of any value at discussing solutions to structural problems in the systems that we are operating in.

All that above mealy-mouthed, dribble-drabble just displays how pathetic, sad and just silly the popular discourse of our ‘learned and important’ men, and women, is. This paplum that they spew out as sage word and which is then fed out in never ending doses for mass consumption. It is part and parcel of a power structure that maintains, at all cause, it’s being. It’s their job, dammit! It’s what empires, viruses and man all try to do - continue on no matter what.

In the meantime Diogenes is still roaming, looking for his one good man. How many say no to a free case of booze. But all that is the problem of any falling empire. No one is out for anyone but themselves. I find it literally insane how the funding can be instantly found to carry on far flung wars of geo-political game-playing but health care for folk living in the richest country in the world is a boondoggle of unimaginable folly.

Everyone should have to work in the hot sun for a few years growing food for people they don’t know. It would give another perspective on whether the meager really will inherit the earth. In the meantime listen to your president from the same story.

"We do intend to get something done this year" "If you have a better idea, put it on the table." "I'm open to new ideas," "We're not being rigid and ideological about this thing."

I like Obama for his choice of language. As my father said, perhaps as a vestige of his running days, or residue of his water flow solutions, “lead or get out of the way”. But that is engineer thinking, not political, which is a different regard on systems and their functions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

It begins again

In the vignes early on a crisp september morning that will turn into a perfect september day. Blue, blue, cloudless sky will come and last throughout the day. Softer light arrives with the sunny days now, it has begun to lose it’s scorching quality. The temperature is 80 degrees, give or take a few. It is the kind of day that makes the myth of the south of france continue.

For a couple of hours it was all the sentiments of the beautiful day beginning and more. I was happy to see the souches again. See how they fared during the summer. While I was frittering about here and there, they were working everyday. The new shoots I left have born fruit again. It’s really quite amazing that food (and in this case, drink) can grow.

I was in the vines to work, and though the grape harvest can conjure up romantic images, which do still exist, the overall reality of it is much different. The fact of the vendage in the time of mass production is that it is all day, low paying, stoop labor in unrelenting sun. I mean that how it is from my side. If you happened to be slowly passing by on the rising, sinewy country road that borders the vine we were in on the beautiful day that was today and saw the colorful peasants working in the fields, it may invoke a whole different feeling than the one I was having today. It was at least a different feeling than the one I was having after the first few hours of the day had past.

For me it was the first day picking this year, my vigneron started without me. He had begun last week. He is trying to save a few rubles by cutting back on the salary hours, even low paid workers add up to un-affordable when you already are on the financial edge.

For the first couple of hours today I was ecstatic to be in the vine again. Then we continued working, the sun came out. My hands and arms got sticky with grape juice. Wasps are all about the sweet juice, and consequently me too. The vines are low, I am tall, my back makes up the difference. The afternoon was beautiful, if you were sitting in a shaded cafe, in the field it was baking (which is admittedly different from scorching).

But the first few moments, cool just breaking morning, the grapes sweet with the summer sun and concentrated from lack of rain. Fresh, fresh, fresh in the morning. I had the heat on while heading to work, the boulanger at 6:30 am with a “hi, how you doing” and a good sandwich too. Yes, the vines in the morning for a few hours - fantastic, mythic, romantic. Then the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just a little thing

- Will you look at this, Hank practically shouted.
Sev looked at him and then dropped her gaze
- It’s just a small thing, you shouldn’t worry about it. It doesn’t really matter that much.
She was trying to be consoling but it didn’t quite come out the way she wanted and Hank (the consistently falling hero of our story) was becoming even more agitated.
He glared at her, then at it, the source of his agitation.
She didn’t get it, couldn’t get it. Sev had came from elsewhere, she had witnessed, but never lived in the belly of the relentlessly turning machine. She had seen it, but never felt it roll over her, without consideration or compassion, like it rolled over anything and everything else in it’s path. It left no safe haven, no refuge. It was, if nothing else, unceasingly efficient.
- look at it, they don’t miss a beat, he declared.
They had been working out the dates and schedules of his kids, her kids, the back to school, back to work, end of summer crunch time. Hank had gone to get the calendar that he had hanging up by his desk, he had picked it up on the counter of the neighborhood deli his last time through the states. As he walked into the kitchen he had flipped the calendar to the month of september and there it was, just below and to the right of the stock photo of autumn foliage.

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- look at this, he cried to her.
He threw down the calendar he held in his hand. She saw it but didn’t know why it caused him such consternation. What she couldn’t see was that another small, innocent space of his childhood had been thrown into the maw of the machine. Another formerly public space had gotten confiscated for the never ending production of consumption.

Hank knew it was just a small thing. On it’s face, it was innocuous. A little block of text. A simple plug for a product on a free calender where once an aphorism or poem, an idea or reflection, engendered by the changing month or season had sat.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

-Emily Dickinson

- it’s all over.
- what, she asked softly
- the remembering when the merchants were locals and every single viewable space wasn’t calculated to engender a desire for consumption. When the bludgeoning was frowned upon and brutality was vulgar.

But our hero is doomed (it is this that makes him a hero) to remember the time when spaces existed which weren’t always ‘available for purchase’. When thoughts and discourse could exist without becoming products and brands. When silence wasn’t wasted space.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Broke, Broken.

The concrete is almost all broken up. It’s like the cash in my bank account, there is just a little more to go. In the meantime the rubble, like my debt is growing. It’s a metaphor that often springs to mind when working for free.

It’s good to have a job, it’s not good to have no money. Those are two lessons I learned in my qmerican youth that have stuck with me. It seemed implied at the time that the one came with the other. It’s another example of a lesson where I failed to fully grasp the details. Perhaps it is simply a case of cultural attention deficit disorder, and I should have been consuming ridalin instead of experience. In any case I am once again looking forward to physically draining, minimum wage work. Mind you I am not complaining, simply explaining - how you get to this state of impoverished paradise.

For a week or so I made rubble. Perhaps several tons of broken concrete are evidence of my travails. It's size runs the gamut from just lift-able with one hand, to dust. The rubble was of my own making, and it’s disposal also falls in my domain. It's a benefit of my vertically integrated lifestyle. The later part started today.

A borrowed trailer, a shovel, a pair of gloves, nothing else is needed, except time. Pick up the big pieces, shovel the rest into buckets, carry it to the trailer, drive it to the dump, shovel it out. Repeat until the dump closes. Do it again the next day. In this brute world, does it make sense to talk of the fluffy couscous, tender baby lamb chop, fresh vegetables, cheese coffee and wine the neighbor invited me to lunch on.

The vines start next week. Mmmigrant wages, physical fatigue. Paradise.