Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

28 August 2012

Garbage Bin Women (Living in the 3rd World America)

~ ~

My cat Pişi
(who has her own blog, by the way)
came home from me when I returned to the States
after living for four years in Turkey.
Pişi was born in the streets of Ankara.
While I did not remove her from the streets,
I adopted her when the people who snatched her out of the streets
moved on.  As you can see, Pişi moved on with me, and now,
at the ripe old age of fourteen, lives comfortably
in the U.S.A.
She's pretty, eh?  The thing with Pişi, though, is that
she's deaf.  I won't tell that story here, but you can go elsewhere
and read it.  She's also a little bipolar.  She can turn on you when you least expect it,
and when she turns on you, she turns into the wild cat she was born to be.
She's downright nasty, and fights to kill. 
She's the kind of cat who has a little skull and bones drawn on her file
at the Vet's office.  The last time we had her there, even the vet
was afraid of her.  They covered her with a heavy towel, and gave her
her rabies shot, and she was like a wild cat.  They told me never to bring her back.

I believe Pişi is going blind.  I'm really afraid that if she goes blind, she will become wild again.
Not because she wants to hurt me, but because she will feel her  power is gone,
and all she can do to protect herself, when she has lost the control of her major senses,
will be to attack.  It will be her last attempt to control and have power.
She is a very powerful presence.   She is the dominant cat in my house.
I treat her with love and respect, and hope that when she reaches
a point where she can't see, she remembers that, and gives that
back to me.


from: gpbtelevision

As I said in my last entry, I believe
we are living in Post-First World America;
we are living in America in decline.
It's not that we are being replaced by 
another greater power.  We are being replaced
by our own child:
a global, profit-driven economy
that at its best emulates 
the values America has represented 
for several centuries:
freedom of speech (via the internet)
freedom of belief
equality of gender and race
and a basic belief 
in the goodness of humanity.

In the meantime, though,
our power has waned,
our workforce has been emasculated,
our trust in authority, evaporated.
My students are so scarred from the abuse
they have suffered at the hands
of frustrated, equally scarred parents,
of a misguided education system,
of an entertainment world
that promotes instant gratification.

. . . .

from: unrealitymag 

This nation is ill,
and every now and then something happens
that is a glaring symptom of the depth of our illness:

Yesterday, in Niagara Falls, New York,
a five year old girl was found dead, in a garbage bag.
She was murdered by a teenaged boy,
who killed her with his bare hands,
then got a friend to help him dispose
of her body.

And dispose they did,
just like, in 2008, in a young woman was found,
folded in half, stuffed in a garbage bag
and then put out in the trash.
At first, the police ruled her death "accidental,"
the result of an overdose.  They claimed that
she had turned to prostitution to maintain her very
expensive drug habit, and put the the story away.
But everyone knows (and I've written of this before)
that no one who dies accidentally then climbs into
a garbage bag and puts themselves in a garbage bin.
A more recent autopsy has found this woman was strangled,
in a violent rape.
Her murderer has yet to be found.

I do not mean to claim that the same person
is responsible for both of these sad, sad, sad murders.
They have the guilty young boy who committed this week's
crime.  The look in his eyes chills me.

I cannot help but feel that there is a tragic
similarity between these crimes
that ends up being a glaring symptom
of the sickness that permeates America today.

Whoever put these women into garbage bags,
then into garbage cans clearly had no feeling
towards their fellow humans.  They treated them
like something to use,
then throw away.
Those killers
are not human either -- for one reason or another,
they have been led to a point where they
are like cornered animals, like my cat
trapped in a bag, and they are killing
irrationally.  Like wounded wild animals,
they practice whatever potential for power or strength
they have left, and they tend to take it out
against the powerless, the weak, those who
make them feel stronger than they really feel.

No, they should not be forgiven,
but when something like this happens
more than once, I think it's time
for us to consider what this says about us,
the U.S. of A.

Land of the Free.
Home of the Brave.

I'm not sure what the answer is,
though I heard a good idea
at a meeting I went to last week:

it's time for us to create an Adult Culture
in America and in the world
that is kind, compassionate,
wise, human --
true role models for our young,
as we move from a stratified globe
of multiple worlds,
to a single globe
where every individual is respected,
and no one
is put out
in the trash.

from artinwetlands

27 August 2012

Surviving Third World America, Part One: Grain Elevators

Now, before I get started, I have to admit:
I have never read Arianna Huffington's book
on Third World America, though perhaps I should.

It's just my own private, personal interpretation
that I now impart: 

The U.S.A. is rapidly becoming 
a former First World Country.
I really believe that.
And as we plummet, we're becoming
the 21st Century Wild West,
most recently embodied by the armed laid-off worker
who killed his former boss in broad daylight.

It used to be, if there was to be
a dual, that both parties got a weapon.
But no, not in Third World, Wild West America.

Why are so many people going crazy?
Because so many of us have experienced so much wealth 
that we really don't know how to handle it
when it's suddenly gone.

That is, unless you live in an American city
that's been suffering recession longer than the rest of the country.

And that's where the title of this entry comes in,
I do.

O.K., I'll finally admit it:
I live in #2:
Buffalo, New York.
No, I wasn't born here,
(remember, I was born over 400 years ago,
in Greece, and have lived in countless places
since then) but right now,
I live in Buffalo.

And like so many other places, Buffalo
is a state of mind,
and for several years after I moved here
it was a state 
of mind
that I desperately wanted to leave.

But, unlike many Buffalonians,
I happen to have a job here, in a field
that it's hard to find a job in.

And it just so happens that Buffalo, NY
is a pretty good place to live
if you happen to have a job. 
There's lots of reasons for that, but perhaps
one of the most intriguing reasons is because,
only 100 years ago,
Buffalo was a very desirable city to live in,
and plenty of people did,
and  because of that, plenty of very famous architects did work here.
Much of it still stands:

Indeed, it's very easy to find a very nice house in Buffalo,
and live very frugally.

Now, I'm not here to convince you to move to Buffalo,
but I will say, it has grown on me.
I've learned to cross country ski
and bike, both of which
are very good ways to get around this city.

And I've been discovering that many of the secrets
of surviving, and living in
Third World America
might be answered right here.

Rather than blast you with a ton of stuff right away,
I'm going to focus on one feature at a time,
and tonight I'm slightly in awe of this:

Buffalo has plenty of abandoned grain elevators,
because they were actually invented here, in 1843,
by a fellow named Joseph Dart.
At that time, Buffalo was centrally located 
between the midwest
and the water ways that could bring products to the east.
This produced a need for a place to store grain, in particular,
while it was waiting to be shipped; thus, this behemoth.
And they were used continually, as the city grew, thanks 
to the Erie Canal, 
and continued to be used, a little beyond that thoroughfare's demise.

But when I moved here, I found, they just stood empty,
as they had been standing for years:

huge, hulking structures,
ghosts of an industry long gone, like the mines of 
Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, 
the work these monsters housed,
and the workers too,
are gone, long gone, and the buildings left to rot.

~ ~
Now, one of the many admirable qualities Buffalonians have
at a level much higher than the residents of other dead cities,
is a strong sense of historical pride,
and some very bull-headed local grass roots preservation organizations.
I'll write later about some of the preservation work they're doing in this town,
because it's quite remarkable.  Remember,
I've lived in lots of places, and the way this city rallies to restore itself
is pretty admirable.  Well, one of the historical fascinations among
Buffalonians is these grain elevators.  Some of them (the one above, in fact,
photographed by me about a year ago) have been destroyed,
but several have become sites of exploration.  Tours go through them now, 
and last night I witnessed an amazing thing:
a performance in a grain elevator.

My admiration was won a few years ago by an innovative theatre group called
Torn Space, and they got the job of mounting this show,
which included dancers pirouetting above from wires in the high, 
echoing, empty storage chambers,

to Beckettian monologues

to classical minimalism

(all photos from The Buffalo News )

It was, quite simply, transformative.  And when we all walked out,
to watch videos by different artists projected on the largest screen I've ever experienced,

nearly everyone there was seeing this structure
no longer as an eyesore, but rather
as a place of potential.
Knowing Buffalo, they'll keep using the grain elevators this way,
making them another exclusive hang-out spot 
for their abundance of gritty artists and performers and musicians
and cool wanna-be's from the suburbs.

This is, I would say, one of the coolest ways to 
survive Third World America:

turn it into an avant-garde art venue.

Oh, and by the way, did I tell you admission was free?
Maybe it won't be the next time,
but the flame has been lit
and there will be
a next time.

26 August 2012

Natalie Merchant, remedy for madness

. . . as I pass through my days,
that float by in a haze
I wonder who's truly crazy --
is it the man with the coal black eyes
who can see into my heart and 
tear it in two
or is it the politicians
and the businessmen
and the generals
and the mediamen
who don't give me credit
for having a heart?
If your heart, too,
is hurting with the pain
of our planet so ravaged,
and with the pain of the farce
of our current electoral charades,
and with the pain of people gone mad
in Syria, Afghanistan, and Manhattan,
I've found something that may help ease it:
listen on, listen on ---


18 August 2012


. . . and so, you see
I have been researching
my family tree, and when
you've lived as long as I, that can take
an eternity --
                    or thereabouts.
And that is one of the reasons you haven't seen 
too much of me.

My family tree is long and strong;
it goes back centuries.
On looking, I see a pattern
emerge, a story that is only marginally
about me.
It's about humanity.

I am, after all, just one tiny shoot
off this ambling oak, and one that bore
no progeny --
at least not in this lifetime,
so my place on the tree is like
earth in our galaxy.

Still, I'm part of the pattern, but
not without duty, or responsibility
to the health of tree.
At this particular point
in this particular generation,
without me, the tree
would not be.

This is the pattern I've drawn:
there is a long, strong base
that documentably links my family
to history.
It's full of soldiers, war heros, pioneers,
Admiral Perry,
and a questionable link to the wife
of our first president George.   Notably,
it's my mother's mother's ancestry.

But within that long noble trunk
it appears
every fifty or one hundred years,
someone stumbles,
drinks too much,
and looks askance
at the teaming world.  Smitten
by the beauty there,
that person beds, then weds
one who their own Society would label
An Irishman, a German, or
godforbid, a Pole,
an Indian, a Turk, or even Negro:
the whole clan mutates 
into a jumbled hybridity
that all adds up to me.

Accidental, incidental,
those periodic lusty embraces
between two so mismatched social faces
have produced a tangle of branches
that links cultures,
to the point that I can say,
with fair certainty,
that, dear reader, you and me
are kin, if only 

via viz


07 August 2012

OK Go "All is Not Lost"

I lost track of this band for a little while.

They're worth paying attention to.

This is a year old, but the sentiment is, 

04 August 2012

Cooked Meat

Why is my cat Pisi saying
when she follows me around,
even after she has eaten?

Is she asking me to feed her again?

I beg to differ; she's actually asking me to feed
myself.  She is, after all,
domesticated.  And
in the cat world, "domesticated" means
to prefer ones meat
especially over an open fire.

Because that's how it was cooked
aeons ago when
the first brave feline took the step -- 
or should I say,
the first hungry feline took that step 
into that huddle of men,
that circle of fire,
and chose to not attack
but rather accepted
                                          the rules, and in accepting
                             the rules, received
Cooked Meat.  

Cooked Meat? the first brave cat or two meowed
and then ate some more
and liked it.
And once into cooked
meat, there was no
turning back.

My cat, Pisi, might I note, is a 
frontier cat, a border 
not content with mice 
or just one street corner.
That's why she's with me.

Now, that primitive connoisseur cat invited other cats
like itself to dine with her, and gradually,
they all joined the human coterie,
and in joining
-- and surviving -- 
developed an innate sense memory to find
Cooked Meat.  Smell
sense and sound sense and 
sight sense and sixth sense, the cat 
knows the meat is cooking and awaits
its arrival, patiently.  Obediently.  After
a few generations, the cats become
programmed to believe that
Cooked Meat is the only ticket
to survival.  So

my meowing evening cat, following me
from every task to every task except 
cooking meat, is not demanding more
cat food, but rather expects that since I give her
meat even when she doesn't ask for
Meat, she'd much prefer I just
Cook Meat.   Cook Meat! is what she says, not
"cat food."  She wants
Cooked Meat.  And once I
Cook Meat, and Share Meat,
she is replete, and if I'm 
good, she might even let me
pet her,
brush her,
tame her.

My cat Pisi, plucked early in life
from Ankara's cat-killing streets,
learned fast.  Domestication appealed
when she knew the wild would 
turn her into
Raw Meat.  So she said, pass the
Cooked Meat, and keep it coming!  And she has traveled for miles
with me because I give it
to her,
even when she doesn't ask.

The domestic cat, like any
domesticated creature
requires consistency.  She
wants the meat everyday,  or else
she'll eat your ankle.

Take heed:
the cats