Yesterday in New Jersey I was racing that pissant Toyota Prius down I-95 about as fast as it could go when an incredible thunderstorm broke and lightning went zig-zagging across the sky. The rain began to beat down so bad that I had to take refuge in a truck stop and wait until the whole thing had blown over. It had become really difficult to see the road ahead and the atmosphere was turning black and the sky seemed to be closing in. Thunder was booming like it was Black Sabbath. I turned the stereo up and this is the one thing Toyota do very well: they allow you to escape. The weather kind of reminded me of growing up on Russell Street, Dunedin, where the sky also got pretty black. Back then there was nothing I liked to do better than go and play up in the bush when it was pelting down. I like those kinds of memories. I hold on to them and they guide me.
I had woken up in a feverish state of mind and I was off to put up some poem posters in Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey. I wished I was driving a V8, even a clapped out V8 like I have done so many times before. William Burroughs used to say “an old Ford will never let you down” and I know this to be true. Trenton is only about twenty miles from Princeton and the two are as different as chalk and cheese.
Trenton is an interesting city and if the local newspapers are to be believed it is in almost total disarray and I happen to like cities like this. The mayor has been indicted for something or other and is due to go to trial, every second real estate developer is in jail, the police chief is fighting with everyone and Governor Chris Christie won’t give anyone more cops. He can’t afford to as there is no dosh left for relief. In other words, it is a city abandoned by everyone except the fast food chains and I’d hate to be working the night shift.
In Trenton, there are reports of children wearing bullet-proof vests to play in the streets and a local social welfare reform group is saying that the reason people are becoming obese is that they are too afraid to go outside and exercise. Heroin is priced at an all-time low of $5 a bag and it is being sold on the steps of the local state government with brand names like “Permanent Vacation”. Two bags and you’re gonna blow like Ornette Coleman whether you want to or not. I say there are bad lieutenants in about one of every four cop cars. Hypocrisy rains down like thunder.
I don’t particularly like seeing the excitement of destruction in front of my very eyes, but I do prefer a little more of a Bohemian landscape as opposed to the corporate scenery around Princeton and where nothing particularly real is ever said or done. People in Princeton don’t seem to know how very wealthy they are and it is extremely common to see women climbing into huge Mercedes SUVs the size of Knox church with four or five designer store bags. Sometimes their husbands trail behind with the other three. The store below my small apartment sells cheese and they proudly state that the average American eats 40 lbs of cheese a year. I know.
I find Americans are often so self-absorbed that though they are incredibly well-mannered, they practically never listen to what you say. They haven’t been able to hear the Arab/Muslim world and they won’t hear you either. This creates incredible dissonance if you let it. And I don’t think they have got all this alone in the developing world either. I think the further you go up the scale of wealth and particularly in white, middle-class areas, the more you will see that people are doing very well thank you, that they have completely closed ears, and they may not even fling you a piece of cake. Auckland, New Zealand is very much like this as it becomes more and more of a millionaires’ playground.
I have found the only way to have a decent conversation with a lot of these self-absorbed types is to start jabbering on about Dan Carter right from the get-go and only then you may have a slight chance of coming away feeling refreshed. If you bring Merhts into the conversation it is also uplifting and sometimes even Jonny Wilkinson works. The biggest mistake you can ever make is to think that anyone is ever listening to you and so you must pleasure yourself. I often think of Zinzan’s drop goal and it passes the time of day in a less lonely way. You have to work yourself up to getting manic and then you have to start to jabber. Facebook is a happy hunting ground for this kind of shit.
When the weather cleared a bit and the sky brightened up, I got into Trenton and scattered a few poem posters by Kiwis on lamp posts and I truly whistled while I worked. I didn’t have any trouble and you just never know if the way the media is reporting things is the way it truly is. So what I try and do about most things in life is just keep my mind on rugby, poetry, coffee, dogs, and literature. For a while in Princeton I was streaming the New Zealand news shows on my computer each night, but I noticed that I began to feel a bit touchy and a tad disgusted after a few days. Then I switched off the television and now I feel much better. I don’t watch all those crime watch or crime shows either because they are mostly full of shit. I find shows like ‘Border Patrol’ to be beneath contempt. Sometimes I used to admire the suits of the news presenters but I never wanted them.
I was in another working class city last week, too. I had to go to Flemington, New Jersey to get a toothache fixed. I’m sensible enough to know now that if you travel to a poor part of town or to a poor city then you may get dental care at a much lower price. But in the case of Flemington and at this dental surgery, I was completely wrong. Over these past couple of decades, dentists have become very hungry and they want to sell all these new products and just as quickly as possible. This one dentist was working patients in about six different booths all at once and with about three or four assistants. He may as well have been on roller skates like he was Speedy Gonzales and he was out to drain everyone’s pockets to the maximum. I don’t know what kept him to the feverish pitch he was in, but I didn’t find it attractive. He took a cursory look in my gob and told me that if I didn’t get two teeth capped immediately, then I would need total hip and knee replacement surgery. In the end, I insisted on just the one filling. These people have a power over vulnerable people and they can get them to buy. So I never think the problem is just the corporates, the politicians or the banks, I think the problem is all of us. It’s very destructive.
I walked out and put up some poetry posters.
Thank you for sticking with me, Kemo Sabe.