This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end.
My last day with The New York Times as my only news source. Tomorrow, I will return to blogging, and presumably, be able to bring myself back up to speed with the various things I have missed lo these past many days.
And, it appears that my last day with The Times will be occupied chiefly with – A Fucking Catastrophe of Biblical proportions, worthy of being taught as a part of the science curriculum at a public school in Kansas.
First, let me start with some housekeeping details. Tomorrow, I intend to be blogging all day. I hope those of you who have stopped by during my experiment will join me. Maybe a diary. Maybe two. Maybe a lot of comments. I don’t know. Someone even suggested I might burn a copy of The Times. I could do it live on line. Though, I’m not really sure. But, I plan on spending about every waking minute, clicking on the refresh button at Booman and Daily Kos, like a rat trying to get his fix of cocaine. Ah, yes.
Second, I suppose I want to touch on a bunch of stories in The Times today. And, then wrap up with some self-observations on this whole experiment. And, on August 31, 2005 – even in the MSM, one must start with looking at New Orleans. Our poor fallen friend. Front page. Huge headlines. Two pretty horrifying photos. The first show New Orleans, in its new pose, as a swamp dotted by rooftops and a skyline backdrop. The second shows a poor woman crying in the foreground, with her dead husband, wrapped in a white sheet, behind her, on a wooden slab, just out of flood waters. He, a cancer patient we are told, died when his oxygen tank ran out. In my family, I know we would have said of him, he is in a better place now. Even though most in my family have little faith there is a better place, and those that do believe in my family, have precious little chance of getting to the better place even if it exists. But, that’s what we would say. To comfort ourselves from the senseless finality of death. I am sorry for the woman. And, her cancer riddled husband. And the untold number of people like them. How can you not bleed? The city of the Blues. The story plays it pretty straight. When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay. The Superdome sure does sound like the setting for a pretty awful horror movie right about now. Funny, The Times seems to have understood the human loss today. There are no front page stories decrying the peril to gas prices. People are dead and dying. And that seems to be the focus now. Hairy Baboon, er, I mean Haley Barbor, says that the gulf coast of Mississippi looks like “Hiroshima.” Leave it to a Republican to make a war simile. Refugees are spread across the South like gypsies, no slander to that fine group of travelers, and are likely to fan out from there. And the side stories. Will football be played at the Superdome soon? Brave rescuers told to go for live bodies, not dead. Sounds rational, if terrifying. Repairs are going to be a bitch. No shit. The good of living in New Orleans always seemed worth this risk, to some. Local print reporters couldn’t put out the paper, but they carried on their mission on the web. Kind of like bloggers, I suppose. Wonders never cease. The Navy is on the way to help. And, disease is a big concern in the days to come. The main editorial calls on the unity provided by these disasters, to trump the inevitable need to blame (Bush, they mention by name). All in all, it is comprehensive coverage. Of course it is a full-day old. New Orleans could have been declared Atlantis by this point, and I wouldn’t know it. Because print news is so last century. And, I am coming home to this century tomorrow. Good vibes to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I know the best of us will pull together and chip in and restore that proud, proud lady of a town.
Third, the War in… Syria. “I heard that we’re in Cambodia right now…” I think that line is from Platoon. Ah, a war before Global Positioning Satellites. I served with those good brothers in the army who were Vietnam vets. What a fucking crazy war that was? And, they were all confidant, as was I, that no one could possibly be stupid enough to do that again. At least not within the living memory of anyone touched by that war. But, we’re back. And, is it getting bigger? Two stories hinting at Syria. God knows Bush has a secret toy room on the second floor, locked away by a retina scan security system where he moves toy soldiers on a Risk board, and he would sure as hell like to have enough little plastic men to push on into a whole fucking continent. “I’m going for broke. I’m going for all of Asia,” says the little yellow-fucker who wouldn’t fight in the real war he had a chance to fight in. Anyway, enough of my ranting. Syria. Two stories. Five senior Lebanese officials with connections to Syria have been detained. Can you say casus belli. Or in Bush speak, “I want a reason to invade that piece a desert over there.” And then, there is this. We are bombing the shit out of a town – or a shack – or a camel stable – near the border of Syria. Trying to stop those damn foreign terrorists from crossing the border. And, are they headed from Iraq to Syria to escape our Army, after we went to Iraq to end terrorism? Fuck no. They are coming in from Syria, to Iraq, to kill us, and anybody else they fucking well please, in the lawless fucking quagmire that should be renamed Bushraq. I don’t even know if I believe terrorists are coming in. I think it could just as well be a cover story to fucking invade Syria. To extend the war on terra. I just don’t fucking know what is real. Because I am living in a world of unreality. Who says what loudest and most? I dunno. I just know I’m coming home to talk with people that at least kind of think like I do, sometimes.
Fourth, poverty up for fifth straight year. Oddly, this tracks with the election of George fucking Bush. Worked for Reagan. Why are we such stupid fucking bastards here? What is wrong with us? Was it all just the Supreme Court and Diebold? Or are we the dumbest people on the fucking planet? I vote that the cause is equal parts of each. But, I know nothing. Until tomorrow.
Fifth, speaking of stupid fucking Americans. This just in. The teaching of creationism is widely supported by Americans in a new survey. 42% of your fellow countrymen believe that “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” A whopping minority of 48% believe humans evolved over time. But of those who have even the most minimal fucking understanding of modern science, 18% of the total respondents who believed in evolution, also believed that evolution was guided by a Supreme being. Only 26% of the population understand that humans evolved through natural selection. And, 14% are just too fucking ignorant to have a real opinion. Fucking help this country. I was going to say, “God, help this country,” but I think that is part of the problem. If I would stop taking the Lord’s name in vain so fucking much, maybe America would not be so fucking stupid. I don’t know. I am ignorant. But, I am coming home tomorrow.
That is a good place to leave The Times. There is a lot more. Everyday. Too much for any person to fully digest I suppose. It is a good paper. It does its best. I am not a hater. Even for all my fucking forty-whatever days of reading nothing but the Gray Lady. But, its time is over. The king is dead, long live the king. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Sneak down about three in the morning, and see presents under the tree in a very dim lite. That kind of can’t wait.
I want to leave my experiment with these thoughts. Random thoughts. Perhaps unread. But, good thoughts. Good to still be thinking. In that really sick way that the world has of allowing fucking horrible things to happen to really good people, I am glad that Katrina hit just before the end of my experiment. Water washing over New Orleans. First the ocean, where fucking life began you ignorant 74% of my fucking fellow citizens, washing over the Big Easy. Like it was trying to reclaim something. Then man’s engineering and social and political failure. Allowing a lake to pour over onto the habitat of – what the fuck is it – like 500,000 people in the city alone and I know the number is so much higher, but unreported to me. We are just small lumps of clay, as my good old mentor, (I don’t know him, but I love him – and I was lucky enough to have a photographer who shot him do the photo for my book – the only class thing about the damn novel) Kurt Vonnegut, once wrote. Some clay got the luck to sit up and look around. And admire the other clay, and the things in the wide, wide world. And when the levee breaks, we just get smashed back down. To where we belong. Insignificance. But, for those moments we can think – and write – and talk – and blog. Oh what a wonderful thing it is, just to discuss it all. In all its absurdity.
I almost died on the water when I was a wee lad. I am sure my that my memory has made the monster waves that broke over our little twelve footer larger than they were. The black clouds and lightning that emerged out of a blue sky like a wolf over the horizon, more menacing than it really was. But, I know that day, I could feel the water trying to reclaim me. Rainwater trying to get down my lungs, to re-unite with its brother molecules inside me. Water from Lake Huron, rolled down from the Saginaw River and into the bay, rolling over us, pulling us down.
We made shelter. A sandy island. And were glad for the decades we were afforded to keep looking around. But, I know one day my ashes, or my mortal body will return to that great lake. I am just glad to be coming home for another day.