Suburbia

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Sidewalk Patch

Berkeley has its problems, exemplified best by a recent attempt to score another 12-pack of beer as the evening dragged on. Come ten o’clock most stores, regardless of their wares, are locked up and vacant; liquor stores, not nearly as omnipresent as in most cities, are no exception. It took nearly forty-five minutes in a car to pick up beer, rum and cigarettes. The cigarettes we found in an open store which didn’t sell beer or rum. After our wild success a couple of us took advantage of the warm night and strolled through the streets. A couple blocks up from any major avenues and you may as well have been in small-town USA. Quiet, peaceful, clean. You could walk a couple blocks before passing anyone and no one seemed concerned or uptight about being out. The dog running after thrown sticks probably caused more sound pollution than anything else that night; our open containers and conversation probably presented the neighborhood with its most dramatic criminal incidents of the evening. It was nice, as nice as an evening’s walk can be, and something I’m not normally accustomed to experiencing. Walking down my street after Saturday night you’ll find ample evidence that San Francisco is lacking in small town pleasures such as quiet evening strolls. On any given night there’s a bitter chill blown in off the Pacific which, regardless of your lefts and rights in any neighborhood, cannot be avoided. This doesn’t keep people from the sidewalks, not on a weekend bender. The cement has scars, stains from every bodily fluid ever spilled. The Sunday morning sun alights on drying pools of piss, crusting heaps of puke, hardening piles of shit. The shopkeepers are out with buckets and hoses, washing the remnants of revelry from their doorstep. Thank Christ they are– the number of times I’ve had to step carefully into my own gate are innumerable. The bar next door is shuttered and dim but the woman held hostage by the coin-op downstairs is out in her trademark yellow rubber gloves doing us all a favor.

Sidewalk Cone

I’d swear that I’ve never been much for the weekends. Crowds are not my thing, fun is not my thing, seeing people live their lives in this vapid manner is not my thing. Maybe if I hadn’t spent most of my Friday and Saturday nights working it would have been a habit I’d have fallen into but the time has passed and now I just bob and weave trough the assembled teenagers ten years past their prime. They say that 30 is the new 20 but I’d say this adjustment still lends people too much credit in the maturity department. It’s amazing to see people who’ve never learned the lessons of countless nights leaning against a wall, the trunk of a car, a tree or a lamp-post. The same staggering clusters of twenty-somethings screaming shrilly on Friday night return to work Monday morning in their business casual attire. No more fish on Friday for this era, there’s an art-school graduate spinning rehashed disco down the street and everyone has enough money for another shot, no matter how much they complain about being poor. So I step gingerly over their unwillingness to grow the fuck up. Sunday morning sunlight and the streets are deserted except for the miserable wage-earners who had to be in bed by ten to punch the clock at seven. Trash cans outside of the latest art-show/hair-salon have spilled out into the street but soon the DPW will come along and play mommy for everyone. Someone’s kicked over all the recycling bins the length of the sidewalk but soon people will drag them back into their garages. When we were sixteen we used to bike down Market Street in the middle of the night and kick shit over, stone-cold sober and laughing like Leprechauns. Sixteen seems,

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in so many ways, a very long time ago.

Gutter Boy

That’s Haight Street, of course, where bars and traffic are more exaggerated than most other places. It draws from outside the neighborhood, outside the city even. I mostly walk along Waller when I’m heading towards work– collision of residential and urban. Saturday mornings the Church of Whatever hosts spaghetti meals for the down-and-out so they’re sprawled along the side of the building waiting for room, or waiting for a reason to sprawl somewhere else. I pass late sleepers tucked under blankets that carried small-pox over the Atlantic, shopping carts full of trash, dogs looking bored and hopeful, or bored and hateful. A couple blocks down and the Haight-Ashbury soup kitchen has an even greater audience. People are screaming across the street at one another, someone’s cutting through the intersection wearing no shoes. There’s one guy I see almost every day if I’m up early enough. He sits slumped against the wall rubbing his temples maniacally– his hairline has receded from this constant assault. I pass him and I don’t bother trying to make some sort of compassionate-light eye-contact, to view him as a human being. It never worked. A collection of late-comers pass on their way to the free meal asking what’s being served. I buy coffee and maybe a day-old if there is any on the counter. I like Page Street better because it’s less prone to moments

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of urban interference. There’s a library which doesn’t seem to attract the amount of idlers found downtown. People walk up to front doors and disappear inside without looking like rejects from a studio “indie” film’s open casting call. There’s an ambulance up ahead, paramedics haunched over a frail looking grey-hair. I pass without staring, thinking about how embarrassing it would be to wear her shoes today. A neighbor has called it in and is standing there trying to assure the woman that they know one another. Pass the school for rich kids with their own cross-walk that lights up, pass the stately homes, down the hill, past the grocery. Just watch your step because no one picks up after their dogs. Real dogs, mind you, none of those shivering rats you see on Haight Street. When these fucking people breed I hope their children get a little more rearing then what these show-dogs are forced to endure. No street kids, no trash, no puke, no piss you’d notice. One block down and you’re almost in Berkeley. Trees. Houses. Normal people. You’d guess. More normal than me, probably. One evening on Page after work I found myself behind a sharply-dressed couple walking silent and rigid. They were probably in their late twenties, which seemed like a good time to be an adult when I was sixteen but now… The impression was that I had just interrupted, or perhaps caught the end of, some marital argument which satisfied neither party. No holding hands, but they were too close to one another for anything serious. It was curious to me, something was off. They stopped suddenly and the male removed from his coat a stick which he handed to the female. She silently accepted the stick and, gravely, bent to a fresh patch of cement drying without supervision. I passed as she began her immortalization and I didn’t bother looking for any signs of life happening on the pavement.

Sidewalk Stencil

Stencils, clever little bastards, crawl along the sidewalks throughout town. They’re rebellious in a Betty Crocker fashion. Technically vandalism but the odds of being caught or imperiled pale in comparison to spray-painting a wall. There’s a bit of fission around here, some perplexing cultural divide which accepts sidewalk stencils as intelligent and right, graffiti as stupid and immature. The most popular stencil messages are quips seemingly stolen from some maudlin indie-pop love song, manipulative one-liners that anyone breathing can find some connection to. Basically it’s the same effect as any successful marketing campaign or platinum pop single– the resonance appeals to our common ground. There’s no imagination behind them and no actual craft in their design. You’ll find other stencils on the ground with little pictures and slogans but they’re just billboards– in fact the guerilla art was so menacing even IBM, the granddaddy of white collar business, co-opted the principle. Perhaps this lack of menace is why the sidewalk stencil has been accepted as adult and acceptable while tagging has been snubbed as juvenile. Traces of life on every block. The puke and piss and shit get hosed off, bleached, scrubbed and run out into the gutter. The clever stencils, the mash notes carved in drying cement, remain slowly fading and losing their definition. Another weekend appears on the horizon to begin the cycle again and come Monday everyone takes their work clothes out of the closet and catches the bus downtown. Dead Mac

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Walking down the stone steps running alongside the house from the garage to the lower lawn I find a atripla interaction with cialis deer has wandered into the trees just beyond the backyard. It seems unconcerned at being surrounded by houses, distant cars, hammering and voices; not wanting to push my luck or disturb the animal I carefully continue down navigating the dried fallen leaves as best I can. It doesn’t take long for my clumsiness to announce my presence but still the deer doesn’t care– just looks up at me and evaluates the threat level as laughable. Fine by me, I just didn’t wanna disturb your grazing. I watch from the patio as the deer shuffles through the trees and shrubs, slowly following the gentle grade behind more houses and out of sight. The next time I’m coming down the stairs, this time carrying a box of laundry, I scare the holy bejeezus out of a garter snake by almost stepping on it.

Olympian

Olympia’s a strange place to me– I love it but I’ll never understand how it can exist. Half college town, half Pacific Northwest industry town, indie-rock capital of the world, Washington State capital. Small town with a cosmopolitan heart? The farmer’s market has better facilities than any around San Francisco, complete with a stage and aging jazz quartet, but they still mostly sell apples. A ten minute stroll from Aaron’s house through a mix of winding suburban streets and dusty country lanes will lead you to a bakery (The San Francisco Street Bakery) that sells tofu spreads and imported cheeses. After you’ve clogged some arteries gorging on potato skins, burgers and grease at the Rib-Eye Diner you can walk down to one of the other few 24 hour places in town, Desire Video where they sell the usual sex videos and toys. You know, next to the RV lot and across the street from the Co-Op. There’s an annual downtown art-walk, there’s performance spaces, there’s a hip record store and when do you take viagra an female cialis attached vintage clothing shop, there’s punk-houses and basement recording studios. There’s also the port where military vehicles and personnel embark on the journey to Iraq, the towering steel loading cranes standing in stark contrast to the evergreen Douglas Fir trees and the waters of Puget Sound. Walking down 4th you’ll pass representatives of middle-America standing in front of their bars, a little more round than they should be, a little more loud and a little less aware of how to dress; then you’ll pass anemic looking indie-rockers with their tight jeans

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and cute cotton dresses, dyed hair and dazed faces. There’s a breakfast/brunch cafe that’s closed on Sundays, Japanese and Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, used bookstores and fabric stores where you can take knitting classes. Yoga. Also a lot of empty lots, old abandoned warehouses and drunk transients asking for change. The abortion clinic welcomes a once a week protest that’s so routine now you can, the clinic has begun raising money by having donors sponsor the pro-lifers who wave pictures of fetuses at people. Strange, but again I do love it. It’s relaxing and comforting, removed from the hustle and viagra generico online bustle but with everything you could ever expect or hope for in a city to some degree. Less then forty-five thousand residents and I can still be a non-driving, vegetarian, meandering quasi art-fag pseudo-liberal just like here in SF, except that I would never be able to score a job. Most of the work in Olympia is government office work– there’s a new monolithic structure dedicated entirely to processing child-support checks for the state. This is not something I could sneak into. There’s little shops here and there but retail has never been something I excel at, really. It’s not a very rich town, all in all, and work is hard to come by. Maybe that’s why Olympia hasn’t become bloated with graduates from The Evergreen State College. Four years of la-la land earns them a design it as you go degree in light and sound or basket weaving but once you’re done there’s no where to put these valuable life-skills to work, not around here. All around Olympia change is coming– malls sprawling along the border with Lacey and subdivisions crawling through Tumwater. A housing boom is employing construction workers but with every wall erected a little bit of what the place was dies. Having listened to my parents talk about the areas around Sacramento changing from the open fields and orchards of their childhood Cialis women to the suburban blight it is today I guess I know how it’ll turn out in the end. Can’t wait to visit one day and see the new Walmart. Kinda doubt there’ll be any deer milling about the parking lot, tho. Fuck, change is now. After we’d driven down to Portland and checked into our hotel Aaron got a phone call from his landlady. He occupies the sealed off downstairs of a house and while we were waking up around eight in the morning her half was being robbed. They got in by using a spare key hidden in a deck chair– they’d been casing the place which may explain why his iPod and her satellite radio player were stolen from their cars a couple weeks prior. The next morning Beth got a text message– they came back and stole her car in the middle of the night.

Construction in Portland

Portland is a proper city with tall buildings and five hundred thousand more residents. Change has already come to what the only person we spoke to on the street called, “Little San Francisco”. Every block of downtown is undergoing extreme renovation and half the streets have been dug up. You can get vegan doughnuts twenty-four hours a day now but it looks like soon you’ll have to work a little harder and a little more frequently in order to be able to afford to live there. Ten years ago I was first in town fresh off a train from the midwest. The neighborhood surrounding both the Amtrack and Greyhound stations was a collection of old warehouses, empty streets, crumbling sidewalks, drunks, junkies and pushers. If I hadn’t been stricken with a terrible headache I might have enjoyed wandering around a great deal more– we

found a quiet little deli run by an older Asian woman where you could get a sandwich on one of three breads and it came with a small bag of potato chips, a place where the guys working at the whatever factory down the street would eat everyday. Now they’ve called this the Pearl District and it’s unrecognizable. Design Within Reach. Imported furniture. Expensive fusion restaurants. People wearing Gucci. Paninis. A park with a fountain and kids playing. Every warehouse has been converted or bulldozed to be replaced. Nothing in

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SF compares– you’d have to take the Marina and shove it into SOMA as best as you could. This time around I was feeling sick and, killing time waiting on a plane, was wandering through here baking as the temperature chased 90. Where can I sit for a couple of hours and read for the price of a cup of coffee? I asked a woman smoking in front of her job which sells expensive woolen car seats where to go. She had me leave the neighborhood and cross the freeway: not because she was a lesbian or because I looked too scummy for the district but because she understood. Kinda. I ended up at a place that was Starbucks without the franchise. Oh well, what’re you gonna do? It’s Portland. Audrey Knows.

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office

My peer group – for the most part – is a well-washed mass of royalty. Or, rather, anticipated royalty. Chris Ott at Shallow Rewards puts it best:

Our parents dreamt of doing lots of things and didn’t, dousing their desires to

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better childhood is proving a mistake, if a well-intentioned one. We are a generation embarrassed to have day jobs, embarrassed to work for a living. Embarrassed not to be kings and queens.

Ott acknowledges the myth that this wasn’t basically true of our parents’ generation as well. His implicit solution is to work a tolerable job and save your passion for your free time. Here’s where I disagree. While I appreciate the sentiment and the notion that most kids my age should just get over themselves, I take issue with the one-size-fits-all solution. Some people are legitimately depressed by their 9 to 5 jobs, and it seems like a format for living that better serves fictional economic bodies rather than individuals. I read about a study once that said the average U.S. employee works more hours than anywhere else in

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the world, but the amount of work accomplished with each additional hour was the lowest. In other words, our attitude towards work keeps us at the office longer with the least amount of payoff. When you have an arbitrary standard of 40 hours a week, you get people extending 30 hours of work unnecessarily. And I would wager that the increased employee dissatisfaction plays a role in productivity as well. I can understand why the work week was structured the way it is, but it’s one specific solution to an organizational problem that is perhaps outdated. The drive to maximize one’s earning torque doesn’t work for a lot of people. And for that segment of the population there are socialist pipe dreams. In my view, we should be looking back upon this time a hundred years from now and putting this labor schedule on a level analogous to how we view serfdom now. It’s simply an inefficient system for any civic goals you may have. The only realm in which it makes sense is one driven by bureaucracy rather than populism. And so I think Ott’s solution is flawed. I think that the king syndrome is the product of our fucked up view towards work and leisure, and the problems of polarizing one’s life into those two categories in the first place. We shouldn’t think that we’re special, but we should acknowledge that we are unique. And rather than having a market economy – which is not a level playing field by any stretch of the imagination – create a variety of life paths that so that you can choose how best your talents serve consumers, we should have a system that takes care of economic necessities while allowing for the diversity of human experience. Fruity, I know. But I’m sick of most people getting nothing just so everyone can entertain the illusion that they could have everything.

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Marine reservists are facing the recall, militias battle for influence and territory in the refugee camps of Darfur, the NSA is still spying on you, Iran won’t bend to western pressures, Oakland’s homocide rates are through the roof, the DOW and NASDAQ can’t hold their gains and some guy set up a couple of matresses in front of the coin-op downstairs and is now my neighbor… Two mattresses– how the fuck did you get there here? I didn’t ask him… He was in a bathrobe and I didn’t really want to intrude in his personal affairs… Lots going on around here so I’ve been sitting on the couch with potato chips for some marathon viewing of the Canadian show “Trailer Park Boys”… Sorry if I’m a little late to the party but it’s only now been making the rounds at work… The pay may not be great and there’s no sense of your job being meaningful– no premature babies are nursed to health and amputees don’t suddenly sprout limbs and begin dancing– but burned DVDs of trash humour are readily available and if you can’t enjoy that you’re probably sleeping on the sidewalk in front of my house… The show’s conceit is simple– two recidivists attract the attention of a documentary crew who follow them from imprisonment back to civilian life at the Sunnyvale Trailer Park… There’s no overarching plot vehicles beyond staying out of jail– I don’t even know why there’s a documentary being shot in the first place… The pilot, according to the no-lives posting on IMDB message boards, is about the two main characters acting as pet exterminators silencing loud neighborhood dogs so, perhaps the camera crew is explained therein… It’s a character driven show: a mental midget hothead who can raise pot plants from the dead; a DeNiro wannabe milking rum and cokes trying to score enough the retire from petty crime; a bug-eyed cat-lover living in a shed stealing shopping carts to sell to competing malls; a former cop cum trailer park supervisor; his barechested assistant/lover; bleach blonde former girlfriend; long-haired redneck wheelchair alcoholic father; de-barred hot dog loving vet in a camper; lily-white B-Boy schemer and his black posse; tweedledee and tweedledum pothead Nintendo freaks. You have reservations? Of course you do– it looks idiotic at best, right up there with anything readily available in various dilluted forms all across the television spectrum… While a co-worker slowly explained to me the show, trying to tie me off and turn me on, I was desperately looking for a polite out… The fact that my laptop DVD player couldn’t handle burned discs wasn’t enough– the gospel needed to be spread… And I’m glad because the show really is fucking good in a very strange way… The expected overt acts of potty humour are plentiful but the underlying sarcasm and absurdity are what makes the show better than most comedies… The joke’s not that Ricky can’t perform in a low budget porn being shot at J-Roc’s mom’s trailer but that Ricky honestly is doing this to get money to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring… Everyone can see aspects of people they know, and if they

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look hard enough and they’re in the mood they’ll see aspects of themselves in the characters… Each person is a composite of various stereotypes stretched and pulled and distorted for maximum effect but the stereotypes are true enough to make the characters work… Perhaps the show works best because so many of the people involved, the director and the producers and the cast, have known one another in previous lives… Many are from the Halifax theatre scene, the show’s creator knew the two leads in highschool, and the actors all play off each other really well… The scripts are probably kept loose intentionally and the boom in the show filming suddenly seems less contrived than you thought it would have been… The other night a friend came over and she, my roommate and I sat down to the first disc of MTV’s reality show “Laguna Beach: The Real OC”… Similarly a character driven show except this time they’re all interchangable: spoiled brats snivelling about petty converns closer to your and mine than our friends up in Sunnyvale Trailer Park… No one’s trying to boost lighting equipment for the illegal nightclub because everyone’s concerned about if they’re cute, popular and cool enough… The show has a slicker documentary image more akin to The Real World than TBB’s boom in the shot running down the street look and a soundtrack of today’s (yesterday’s) interchangable pop product… Everything about it is fake except, if you believe MTV, it’s real life drama unfolding before your very

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eyes… This drama seems to be centered on if douche bag will hook up with Stupid Girl A or B today… Could a show about a circle of teenage friends in their last year of highschool be insightful, engaging, amusing, heart-breaking and revealing? Of course, but not with these kids… These real life people are stereotypes themselves but their characters are based on stereotypes readily available on TV and movies, not composites of people you see sleeping in front of your house, the whacky guy at the liqour store, your mom, your neighbor or you… These kids are as real as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Madonna, Britney Spears and that penis she married, Gov. Arnold and President Bush… I’m sure more people would rather know the Laguna Beach future America than the quirky full fleshed creations up in Nova Scotia and that’s a damned shame… -Slept in too late to make the library so thanks for

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Go on, throw it...I’m rarely incited to genuine anger over media biases, at least not the kind that everyone in the media seems to think I should be upset about. Here’s a good example of the kind of bias that actually bothers me.

So, this mom basically can’t take a joke, goes apeshit over her fucked up cars – all in the name of being a rolemodel for her kids – and now some douchey high schoolers are facing felony vandalism charges. The subtext of this article is that this mom’s a hero, and oh my, isn’t it great that Mrs. Housewife took matters into her own hands and found those obviously evil adolescents. By the end of the article, we’re supposed to be jumping up from our seats calling for the blood of these little assholes.

Whoever has TP’d someone’s house in high school raise your hand. Wasn’t

it great? I’m not going to sit here and bemoan the end of a Golden Age of toothless suburban vandalism, but things have taken a turn for the worse.

First, I know this is on par for the immovable ‘slice of life’ category of articles. It will always be around as long as there’s war and suffering to make us look for something a bit lighter from our daily news. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

What really totums my scrotum is the celebration of a vengeful property owner amidst a dirth of publicized civic activism. Where’s the story about a mom investigating where all the money went that used to go to her kids’ music and art programs at school? Is it going towards a media blitz during her kids’ cartoons trying to preen them for future military service? I guess not, since all the recent cuts for student loans won’t really leave them much of a choice. Or whatever the parallel would be for this news turd. (This one’s just for fun)

I know, even I’m bored at the idea of reading that story. But there’s got to be a better way. The pleasure of reading the original article is the American Beauty syndrome, where the routine of not having much to worry about is broken by someone breaking their mold and people feel empowered to do something that’s not expected of them. The image of a regular old mom, or any denizen of normalization, going through security footage at her local grocery store is just too seductive to bear.

This is activist journalism for the economically wronged. It’s condoning vigilanteism as long as a quantifyable crime has been executed against your estate. Most papers try to adopt the neutrality of silence on most boringly relevant issues facing their community, taking a pro-economy stance on everything else. When a civic issue is raised, no matter what the angle, they’re immediately condemned for taking sides.

I think it’s sad that the mom took things to the police and pressed charges. Finding out who the culprits were is one thing, calling for the heads of kids from your community is another. I think these things are possible because no one really thinks of it as a community. Suburbia’s adopted the facelessness of big cities without the excuse of social overload. People are pulling back from the terror of uncontrolled interactions, building castles on the hill, and releasing the boiling oil on anyone who knocks on the door. Meanwhile the anger of isolation just builds and builds, waiting for that first fateful roll of butt-rag to be lobbed through the bare branches of their favorite tree.

Let’s all just get to know our neighbors and try to calm down a little.

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