No one deserves this.
No matter your faults or strengths,
your side of the scale shoots north like heartburn.
Unsmotherable forces fired by some inner burn.
It wasn’t yours; none of them know where you live anyway.
No reason to feel for any of it.
Yet
Here we are.
Rolling like an unfit whale into spikes thrown without seeming end
a year of spikes to you but a Greenwich group of four minutes,
thrown continuously,
finding their first barbs at 0:23 and 0:44,
thrown from an unfit whale made of bone and earth
Familiar colors on the mast
Fortunes made from draining the oil of this unfamiliar whale
Out of his massive head and into his own fingers in defense of spikes
But light a light on your oil, dumb whale
Carry your spikes that you now own back down to the depths
Where your many battles scar the dark
And flee nothing but your own life,
which forces you up, often, against your will.

The View From The Porch

August 26, 2010

It’s too cold here.
It’s too gray and cold.
Look at that motherfucker
spit on my front lawn.
Hey fuck you, man.
No one respects anything on
this block– not the laws,
not the homes,
not their friends,
and certainly not themselves.
Fuck these bro’s.
You are parked illegally!
Get back in that goddamn
car and move it into a
legal space, you jackass!
You boy, Eli, you BOY!
Last night I took the dog
out and let him shit on
the front steps. I didn’t
even pick it up. What
the hell is the matter with
me? What kind of life is
this? Why is it so fucking COLD?
Somebody fucked up somewhere
and now I have to LIVE
with this goddamn climate.
STOP WIND-ING!
STOP ALL THE WIND-ING
IMMEDIATELY!
God damn it I gotta go
to the store. Fucking wind.
GET A JOB! Go put
out candles in a Mexican
church and make everyone get
scared. Something! Get outta here!
Every day with this fucking
wind. The FOG moves in
this town.
Oh God, now it’s you.
Thank you, person-with-a-nice-car,
for reminding me how poor
I am. Every damn day with
this. I GET IT! Leave me
alone.
God, it’s cold.
Was that a snowflake?
God, damn it. It’s snowing.
It’s fucking snowing again.
It’s goddamn April and here
we are with the snowing again.
God, this town sucks. I have
18,000 things to do right now
that I could get done easily
like a regular person if I could
just get on a goddamn train
and go downtown and do them
and be done with it, but as
it is I’m going to spend all
day walking to get to one of
them, maybe, and now I got
snow on my hands.
I’m moving. Seriously. This is it.
This is my last winter in
this goddamn town. Does it
snow in Brooklyn? Who cares;
at least there’s vegan tacos.
Why can’t I get a good taco?
Now I want a taco.
Damn it.

Leave it to the Buffalo News.

Residents of a several-block area of the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood started noticing something odd appearing on their streets, and around their homes, early Thursday afternoon:

Pink-streaked snow.

Pink champagne it wasn’t, but the mystery grew.

What was it, and where did it come from?

“It’s just weird. You’ve got pink snow,” said Phyllis Wesley from her Orlando Street home.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said mail carrier Mark Reed before continuing his rounds on Peabody Street. “It’s very colorful.”

The state health department said there was no immediate risk that they were aware of.

Still.

Another day, more Ramen, more reflection. I’m reusing the fork from yesterday to lighten the massive load of dishes I need to do before I move out of my apartment. My December rent is only partially paid. The remaining balance will be left with my keys when I leave on Saturday, the day my landlord and I agreed would be my last. My security deposit will remain in his company’s account.

I’m packing most of the rest of my belongings into black trash bags (Irish luggage) between sentences. There’s an Arctic cold front coming through in a few days. My electric bill (which also pays for my heat) is some where in the mid-hundreds; hopefully I’ll be out of here before they cut me off.

My heat doesn’t work as it is: the vent (placed near the ceiling, for maximum efficiency) just blows room temperature air. It’s been running at full blast for three days and the temperature has risen only a few degrees, if at all. It’s hard to tell. I’m in and out so much I don’t remember just where the little clear plastic stick on my temperature gauge was when I checked it last. Somewhere close to sixty. It’s somewhere close to sixty right now, but hope makes me think it’s a bit higher than yesterday. 

Why all the cataloging of the horrors and the kvetching and this worrying, oh, the worrying, and for what? Well, mostly because all we’ve been hearing for weeks is how no one knows what’s going to happen with the economy, but everyone’s scared. Rich people are scared, companies are scared, auto workers who make double or triple my salary are scared they might start making only half again or twice as much as me– what happens to folks like me working 40 hours a week like everyone else, taking home between $150-250 a week? Are we ahead of the game? Will our class of jobs simply get larger? Or will our jobs disappear? Will they be taken by some of the newly underemployed?

When things are at what you believe to be their worst, you tend to tell yourself that they can only get better. Things are pretty rough right now for people like me. Belts are tightened, hands wrung out, brows permanently furrowed. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. And I don’t want handouts, I don’t expect immediate prosperity, I don’t want something I haven’t worked for– but is it too much to ask that things are at least prevented from getting any worse?

Of course it isn’t. Problem is, no one has a clue how to make that happen. Barack Obama was elected president in November and the nation felt a wave of hope. For a little while. One of the unmentioned (at least from what I’ve seen) effects of the Bush hangover will be a tremendous cynicism, worse than post-Watergate, and one that certainly won’t be salved by Reaganesque smiles and speeches that prod our ego.

Amid all the converging catastrophes we’ve heard about so often lately, even if Obama can figure out what to do with his time in office, how will he get any of us to actually believe he’s capable of it? How will he prevent infighting and cynical politics from derailing his plans? How will he do all that while keeping the original spirit of his actions intact? 

These aren’t new questions, but as the chill descends and Buffalo prepares for another hellish week of trial-by-ice, hope and answers seem harder to come by, like that extra $50 late charge for the rent or the few degrees between chilly and cold.

Stay warm.

Tune Deaf

November 19, 2008

Closing time and I can’t sleep, as is custom. My eyes are dry from staring at the screen: a Yahoo chess match, my second victory, making my record something like 2-47. My feet and hands are cold. The apartment temperature is about 65 Fahrenheit, but I worked all day in sweaty socks and I’ve been chain-smoking since I got home. Hence the frozen extremities.

Lately I’ve been trying to stop telling the future. David Foster Wallace said that addicts are forever preparing for something that’s about to happen to them, and that that something is always bad. It’s hard to get my thoughts off of things like the economic and energy and climatic crises, nuclear warfare or terrorism, etc. These are trying times, for sure. But I know for certain that if there was a thunderstorm outside I’d be thinking about getting struck by lightning. If I heard noises in the hallway I’d imagine home invasions and the distance between me and my knives, rooftop escape routes. My girlfriend is here, asleep, so right now I’m not worried about her getting attacked on the street, but I’m envisioning what I would do should a would-be rapist come through the door, reeling and drunk on lust, groping with his eyes half shut, ruining everything he touched.

All this fear. What if Barack Obama is shot and killed, like Kennedy? What if we go to war with China or Russia? What if smaller cities aren’t quite as safe as I’d thought from unrest or nuclear attack? The Niagara Power Project is right down the road, after all. (And I have no idea what the blast/fire/fallout range of your average nuclear device is these days! ! Why don’t I know this?!) What if Buffalo isn’t as friendly as I tell myself it is? What if we never rebuild the old rail lines or extend the Metro and we’re just as fucked as Phoenix and Jacksonville would be in a gas shortage? What then? Should I move? Will I be able to move? Will there be anywhere to move to?

Meanwhile, I’m depriving myself of sleep, sitting in cold socks in a cold apartment, inching towards death and lung cancer.

I watch people. Most don’t seem as afraid. They probably are, but they’ve found a tune to whistle in the dark. Work, family, goals, a valuable enterprise of some sort. I’ve lost my tune. That’s how it feels, at least. (Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. There.) David Foster Wallace also said that the people to be most afraid of are the people that are afraid of everything. There’s a slight instinct here towards “yeah, well, what the fuck did he know” thinking, given recent events, but it is nonetheless true.

To feel lost and tuneless isn’t exactly pleasant, but it’s constructive at least. The knowledge that something has been lost is – at least – that knowledge, and the possibility of remedial action.

I’m not sure what I’m talking about anymore. But I think I can sleep now.

I have a tendency to freak out about peak oil’s worst-case scenarios. It doesn’t happen all the time, but some days catch you on the wrong side of the sun, and my thoughts wander into gloomy territory. As I’ve written before, I nurse an unhealthy, unproductive fear that I will likely die at the makeshift-knife point of a hungry, panicked former Nexium sales rep as we struggle over scraps of food at a monthly rail depot riot. He could be sitting next to me right now at the café, this soon-to-be-once-proud man, harboring his own delusions about the housing market and the back pages of his Five Year-Planner. I can see our ultimate contest now.
Read the rest of this entry »

I started a Post-Carbon Buffalo group on facebook. Anyone on facebook can join, but I’m looking for people who are willing to research specific topics related to peak oil and post-carbon communities and report back to the group about their findings and initiatives that can be pushed for by the group.

To join, go here. If you’d like to be an officer, send me an e-mail, contact me on facebook, or reply to this thread.

I’d like to see this become the first step in a longer process of preparing Buffalo for the inevitable: the peak and depletion of finite, fossil fuel resources – namely, oil and natural gas. I hope to get to the point of actual meetings with officers and defined action plans by the end of the summer. Any suggestions or pledges of solidarity can be posted here or on the facebook club wall.

In other local news, Andrew Galarneau’s Buffalo Buffet has a recent post that links to a Buffalo News guide to local farmer’s markets. Andrew is a staff writer for the News and the staff advisor for Generation, the UB weekly magazine I wrote for when I still wrote for tangible publications. He is – in my biased opinion – one of the most underrated, underutilized local writers, and his site is a great source of recipes and reviews and generally good food talk. Key caption (underneath a pic of mustard greens at a local market):

Half the price of supermarket greens, and they didn’t come from three time zones away.

Think about that the next time you head to Tops or the neighborhood gouge-mart.

I’ll end today on two sources of inspiration I caught on the same front page of the New York Times last week. The first may not be seen as good news to all readers, but it at least gave me some hope that someone, somewhere at the Times is as worried about alerting the public to the oil story as I am. The Times ran a piece last Wednesday that sounded the death knell for the ex-urbs and future destruction (read: “development”) of the nation’s rural hinterlands, specifically in the far flung subdivisions of Denver – quaintly named after the farms they’ve paved over and salted. The Times story doesn’t specifically address peak oil, but it contains some great description of what the death of the suburbs looks like. It’s going down, folks. Peak oil commentators have been writing and blogging and desperately screeding for the past five years that this way of life – suburbia – we Americans view as our birthright will soon come to an end. In Denver, at least, people are starting to realize that it already has.

The Denver story should be particularly enlightening to citizens of the Queen City. Denver is a city of about 600,000 with around 3 million in the total metro area. The city has an expanding light rail system and, as the Times piece highlights, suburban residents are starting to head back downtown because their commutes have become unaffordable. Most of Denver’s population growth is relatively recent, as the city has benefited from the tech boom and all the other fossil-fuel based developments that have made the far West habitable. It’s unclear how an already-big city could conceivably handle the influx of millions of suburban refugees – assuming they don’t decide to stick it out and cling to whatever scraps of modern life are left to them out there where the buses don’t run.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is a city of just under 300,000 with another 800,000 in the metro area. The city was built with streetcar and heavy rail transit in mind and it has the capacity to accommodate a much larger population – about twice current levels at the city’s all-time peak – than the one currently shuffling down its empty streets. If Buffalo begins to revive its mass transit system – not the Metro, but its original, multi-lined, sensible passenger rail system – we can maintain a thriving citizenry and a good quality of life long after the overweight parking lots like Phoenix and Houston crumble into a patchwork of satellite villages.

Of course, everything will have to get smaller as fossil fuels deplete, and a significant population will need to work and live in the rural outlying areas if we’re going to feed ourselves in the coming decades. But it is a bit heartening to think that Buffalo could at least withstand the initial crunch, when gas prices and short-term necessity force people into their urban centers. We need to act today, though, to make sure that: a) our transportation system can accommodate large amounts of city-dwellers that can’t afford cars, and b) that we are still connected to the outlying farmland that will feed and employ us in the years to come.

The second bit of news that brightened my Wednesday was this article about the state of Florida’s land deal with U.S. Sugar:

The dream of a restored Everglades, with water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, moved a giant step closer to reality on Tuesday when the nation’s largest sugarcane producer agreed to sell all of its assets to the state and go out of business.

Under the proposed deal, Florida will pay $1.75 billion for United States Sugar, which would have six years to continue farming before turning over 187,000 acres north of Everglades National Park, along with two sugar refineries, 200 miles of railroad and other assets.

Many have made the point that U.S. Sugar probably would have gone out of business and left the Everglades anyways if it weren’t for the massive government subsidies the industry enjoys. Also, the deal gives U.S. Sugar six years’ of rent-free, possibly even tax-free business operation before they have to pull stumps. That said, this story warmed my heart. It’s easy to see a world without modern conveniences as a kind of societal hell, but the Everglades, and the hope for their return to wild, pre-industrial conditions, are one of the images that will send me on my way – no matter how bad things get – with a merry heart and a mouth full of song.