May, 2000, Volume 7 Nr.
9, Issue 81,
It is 5 a.m. I have a wicked headache. A lightning storm with sophisticated bass notes is raging outside. It, or the dream I was having, or the need to relieve my bladder, or all three woke me up. Upon hearing my own water, tinkle we called it as kids, I recalled the details of the dream.
I was in Boston. Having taken public transportation from the Green Mountains, I found myself at a bus station, something akin to New York's Grand Central Station. From the outside, box-shaped and rectangular, National Guard armory-like, of minimalist construction, it serves its purpose. Inside (looking more like a mall than a transportation center), I approached a counter looking at I'm not sure what, when in between people appeared, first one, then two, then many dark-blue uniformed ATF police, or were they SWAT members, darting in-and-out, looking not for someone particular, but, rather, a victim, the next person to make an example out of. Every town should have at least one SWAT team no matter how big or small. Someone casually announced the building was surrounded by police. We all knew telepathically, en masse, that it was time to get out. I left.
Walking up a wide street amidst the Bostonian sea of humanity, I entered a counseling center. I spoke to one of many randomly available agents of do-gooding in an open hectic environment of mass desks and chairs surrounded by similarly seeking souls. I told the male counselor I was searching for an apartment, that I only had so much money available in the quest for new employment in this, a juncture in my career, life and road to increased happiness and satisfaction. Near the the end of the session I admitted that the life situation I was describing was not my own. I confessed that it was, in fact that of our 14-year old son, Dylan. I told him that our daughter, Guinnevere, (whom I did not mention by name) was already living with five other people in an apartment that had a hardwood floor near Harvard Square, Cambridge, home of Tom and Ray Magliozzi, better known through National Petroleum Radio (NPR) "High Brow" circles as Click and Clack. I don't remember the counselor acknowledging anything. He never said a single word, not offering even a nod. He was the antithesis of Baba Ram Das' "Being There."
When the oxymoronic 50-minute hour was over I stood up and joined the hundreds if not thousands milling about, some sitting down, and others like me finishing their sessions. Did their counselors, too, say nothing? Were they there just to listen? A woman walking by perpetually circumnavigating the periphery of clients and hosts reminded me that it was usual and customary to pay for services when rendered. I took out my checkbook, that cheap substitute for money, thinking, "I could do this." I could go back to Vermont and open up a similar counseling center, an academic and educational center and have people come to me. I would then just listen. It is, after all, the main reason why people go to counselors. No one else wants to hear, No one wants to just be there, not parents nor children, not colleagues at work, not members of the community, not extended family... Neither, does the counselor. Five hour fathers, tree hail Mary's and four acts of contribution will set you free.
I never wrote the check being distracted by faces hauntingly and comfortably familiar. They had aged, like me, reflections of time passing by. They all appeared healthy and well, but tired and without any permanent connection to anything nor anyone. Age had brought them to the place where only the young and the chronologically arrogant refuse to believe they are going. Wanting to pay my fee, never getting around to it, I went back outside.
Losing track from whence I came and not caring I kept walking. Humanity was everywhere. If I stopped, stooping to tie my shoe, I would create a people jam of great music, a grid-lock of Homo sapiens dammed up and ready to proceed over the top, flowing over pounding my being into oblivion by the hooves of non-caring genetically engineered cattle habitually on their herded way to another all-too- familiar and predictable set of Ground Hog Day events, just like yesterday and ever more like tomorrow. I didn't tie my shoe.
Some people walked slower than me. I passed them up. Some people walked faster, passing me up. An old, gray African-American policeman stumbled as he went by. Dramatically dropping to the sidewalk he curled up, lying on the cold concrete ground needing help and attention. No one offered it. As if he did not exist, everyone went by. As if the Earth would recycle this body of blood, flesh and bones like unserviced road kill, the overpopulated system would swallow him up, the normalcy of life's defeat by, or is it, salvation from death. He was left there again as an unrecognized but conscious reminder of what is to come to all of us. Only the methods differ. I could not just leave him there and walk away. I went over, bending down asking, "What happened? What can I do to help?" He faintly, but calmly whispered that his leg was broken. There was blood soaking through the dark blue pants where a thin knee would have been reminding me that the color purple like him, like all of us, is not primary. At that moment of spectral introspection, a police car went by, a black and white patrol car, which in my childhood was referred to as a "Mickey Mouse" - often called by the English language challenged new Polish immigrants of Jersey City, as the "Mickey Mao." The Mickey Mouse was thusly named being black and white like the dichotomous non-colors of Disney's asinine rodent character and the bilateral only thinking of modern America's "citizenry", rather, America's consumers. The Mickey Mao turned around. Wanting to save time bringing the officer to help sooner, I lifted him up and carried him toward the oncoming help. I dropped him off, one in thousands, doing just another job in the United States, the City, and World, quickly realizing that there are too many of us in number growing too rapidly. What wonders religion had wrought! For all I know, that officer was recycled, replaced by another dark blue clad apparatchik programmed to protect the ruling class and most importantly, its property and wealth, a member of Billy Bragg's Covert Battalion. The policeman, like the rest of the wealth producing class, mere Soylent Green for the rich. As the patrol car leisurely sped away I noticed, hanging from the rear view mirror in 1950's fashion, a pair of dice, a stuff mouse reading the chairman's Little Red Book.
Once again I hit the pavement, certain that I would get to where I was going never knowing what or where that was. Walking up a hill, across the street, a large Greek edifice with columns and short steps attracted my attention. I guessed it could be a museum, a tribute to people and their accomplishments, snapshots of who they are within the bigger framework of life in these United States. Yellow, hand-painted signs with black lettering affixed to the columns announced a People's March and Rally supporting the oppressed. I went inside. The People were everywhere. Few open spaces were to be found between individuals milling about bumping into each other, washing their laundry in a Laundromat in the open, in public, though inside. Suddenly, the beginning of the People's March appeared. Again, talking, laughing, yet silent, indistinguishable humanity from the rest of us, even me, who, self-propelled for no apparent reason, was heading in the opposite direction toward them. All of the marchers without exception were wearing yellow T-shirts with a black clenched fist though there were no black people in the massive group that went on as far as the eye could see. All their hands were chained together with heavy iron links easily help up high, not nylon ties, not props, the real thing. They appeared happy. Not knowing whether their bondage was an expression of what is or if their expression of bondage was a result of the need to do something about it, I moved forward past them. Perhaps, it was bonding rather than bondage? Perhaps, both. As I moved, desirous of an exit, my right foot caught something big and hard. I struggled to free my appendage. Looking down I saw a commoner, a working class Bostonian in the midst of political activism, an accessory to my dream, doing his laundry. My leg was pressed against the open door of his cherished and fleetingly prized commercial front-loading, triple-load, super-high-spin, money-saving washing machine for which he waited in line for hours to use. Could this be how the injured "peace" officer broke his leg?
Outside, still proceeding to some driven destination, I entered the section of the city where The People live. Here, the buildings were much closer together. Some even had people living in the them. Some even spoke to one another. The streets were dirtier. The store fronts were small mom-and-pop type shops with windows that could benefit from a cycle or two through the triple-load washer so diligently guarded in the open Laundromat that had tried to clean my leg. On the corner, there was a tiny T-shirt shop filled, stuffed with clothing. There was just enough room inside for the proprietor of the store to sit, to look out and entice passersby likely to take notice, but not go inside. As I walked by, he said, "F-7." I gave back and incredulous look. He said, "H-40" followed by "The Phoenix Project - right? I can always tell when one of them goes by", he added. T-shirt man wasn't selling T-shirts. He was keeping track of Big Brother wondering whether Intel was inside. He was keeping the nayborhood, his home in the Big City safe from them and, perhaps, from time-to-time, when necessary, breaking a knee or two inside a dark blue trouser regardless of the color of the skin outside. I noticed all his T-shirts were yellow with a large black fist.
This is the invisible side of America. This is the most common side of a nation, poor, struggling, trapped within the castle walls of Kapitalism, like the African-American policeman, cogs in a giant machine constantly running toward and on profit. The working people are the oil that keep it humming, at least as long as they have their health. The poor, the sick, the infirm, the old, the dying, the no longer useful, all, no longer profitable, are not just marginalized, they are not there. Unless you are poor you do not see the poor. Unless you are sick you do not see the sick. Unless you are informed you do not see the infirm. Unless you are old you do not see the old. Unless you are dying you do not see the dying. Unless you are no longer useful you do not see the no longer useful. Unless you are profitable you are unworthy and have no value. We are, all of us, those with credit cards, 401K plans and Mutual Fund stock options with a social conscience (hah!), in need of a Siddhartha-like walk through the real world of life on this planet. We need to shake the hand and greet, get to know the poor, the sick, the infirm, the old, the dying, the no longer useful and non-profitable. I looked into the eye of the People's spy sitting in his supposed T-shirt shop and said, "Project Smokey." He replied, "Ah! Thought so. Project Smokey." We winked at each other and I moved on.
I entered a subway or what Bostonians and similar world travelers around the world call Metro, soon finding myself coming up from the underground though having taken no train. A young long-haired man and a young long-haired woman came out into the open with me where a sailing ship and water immersed in a light fog greeted us. We walked together away from the water toward the city. I asked for directions back to the bus station. The attractive woman told me not to worry, that my belongings were still there and are safe. The man mentioned that they were in need of a night's sleep in a good two-bit motel, quickly disappearing in the first one that came along offering tattoo service as an incentive. I continued walking toward the bus depot never having been given the directions. When I awoke I had a wicked headache. I went downstairs in a lightning storm to relieve myself. I sat down and wrote about a dream I had. When I had finished, me headache was gone.
© 2000 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski