While this blogger does not often give h/er/i/t/s coordinates, there are a few places stumbled upon in my travels that require proper identification least the object lesson contained is considered the thing of fantasy, another stop on the route through Le citta invisibili or other voyage fantistique. There is no mistaking that such places more fantastic exist than in our 102 second semester Literature studies would ever dream up. Many of those places are right off of interstates and intersections close to home. They require a tank of gas, a transfer between trains, or just a concentrated look.
As the nation rocked from heat waves and came to terms with a drought and the remaining wildfires, another exhibition of murder in keeping with our cult of war and Darwinistic reality shows, this humble author found some escape in the Rockaways, a peninsula of Queens New York so segmented that it offered up such complete different realities as to bring to life Dis and Shangri La sharing the same sand and water the same sun, ocean and bay. This is not so surprising in range, this range exists everywhere from the hushed palaces of Bombay/Mumbai to the gated entrances of despots of Africa there exist those who are living in overabundance and those who sift through shit looking for undigested corn (this is not a metaphor, this was told to me by a survivor of a WWII camp – so forgive me it I again return to the scatological). What is impressive about this experience is that it is so geographically compressed as to ask the question, when the change comes will those poor disenfranchised throngs actually make the effort to march into greener pastures pressed by their conditions? Will this death march be even greater if TSHTF or TEOTWAWKI suddenly makes splifs and ice pops spike in cost?
Perhaps it is a silly thought experiment to have on a summer with oh so many other important things to consider. The various scandals of this or that bank. The willful disagreement with reality our stock market has. The ever pressing Euro Crisis that drags on in anticipation and plot twists that never resolve quickly and involve so many petty characters and buxom actors that it may qualify more as Telenovela and less “financial crisis” threatening us As The World Turns. We have strange heat waves ushering in a heat index of 107 in NYC that the plummets to a chilly 68 degrees by the Edge of Night. The ticking of this or that scandal makes many of us wish for Another World, however, we continue to be distracted by this or that statement from Obaromneya against Robamneya. Meanwhile, people ask what will become of All My Children out there who cannot pass certain exams or who have and cannot find work, are moving back in with mom/dad/caregiver/guardian. This as the Summer Of Sam comes to life on and off the silver screen. Our love of violent action films takes a Lovecraftian shape as D Box motion effects seats go postal and a real life Joker comes off the screen and through the exit doors to bring action and violence to the theater…. 12 lay dead in this Lustmorder fueled by turbo dogs and prescription pop rocks, but this murder is but one of the day in a nation that has lost 257 troops in The Afghanistan and 336 civilians killed in The Iraq, as of July 2012. Not that each American isn’t worth 5 civilians of other nations.
In this swirling world of shit, I lay beside the Somerville Bay and did not weep, but drank a goodly amount of rum and considered my vantage point. The high water mark, no longer the metaphor, but the line on the shore where the Four Loco cans and snack wrappers were deposited in an almost perfect arrangement.
These beaches and bays make it strange to think that this whole house of cards is pitched towards the dealer’s drawer…. or at least each summer lists our ship of state towards Lusitania alignment. Sitting on top of an older un-seaworthy boat to just soak up the sounds of the waves, the traffic, and the DHL transport planes landing at the JFK, I considered how this island, isthmus, peninsula or whatever it was encapsulated a spectrum of society as it did raise questions about our current condition as well as so-called Long Emergencies.
The peninsula of the Rockaways spans from wealthy to impoverished all in within a few miles, walkable in an afternoon. At the one end live in a gated community in Breezy Point. I am not even going to bother waking up The Googles for the history, but I imagined as I drove through that this space may have become a breakaway republic back in the Bad Old Days or may yet turn up a fence and declare itself sovereign… allowing no tax on tobacco products….. No public parking, no buses, no train. It’s a hike even for the middle class whelps who wish to take advantage of the public parks at that end of the point but who are willing to walk there to take their bikes so they can pin that medal on their chest, I Beached At Fort Tilden. Close to the Surf Club, the ultimate point in the road where the unwelcome need turn around, in front of a rather nothing house, a Rolls Royce of recent make was parked. As if there needed to be a few pink flamingos, perhaps a statue of the boy peeing for further proof to proclaim further and without a doubt that neuvo riche lived there, there was a BMW convertible parked next to it. This section stretches on for a bit, but before one can get used to the idea of such a private enclave of the posh surrounded by the dirty waters of the old N Y of the C, the houses stop, the private security give over to the NYPD, and a grid again appears populated by homes that in this country are mansions and in other nations are castles. Far from being beach homes, this middle section displays such proper respect for moneyed architecture as to place it among Mira Flores (take your pick, Peru, Equator, etc) and Antigua or Andrassy Street in Old Europe. The homes end in the beaches and boardwalk of the same coast as Breezy Point, except punctuated by high rise buildings that look similar to the Projects save for their terraces and Chemlawn landscaping, Irish flags marking where current or future skin cancer victims lived (we Irish and Northern Europeans were never made for this Mr Sun). This idyllic dreamscape is now punctuated by hipsters who have shed their fixies, skateboards, and hangovers to surf the waves of the cruel ocean and then retire to what is now referred to as Williamsburg by The Sea. The dilapidated “town centre” of Rockaways is a mixture of 1984 Boogie Down, Chinese Food, and Strip Malls. Whatevers abound on beach and boardwalk in male and female form, surfboards, beach gear, and a vintage holiday attitude that makes fun of happy motoring and long distance trips to Miami while still keeping those options on the table. They smile and meet their neighbors in Brooklyn as so many generations have said of the Catskills of the 40s and Montauk of the 50s. This Catskills On The Beach crashes into a section of newly-built structures, planned along crooked private streets and manicured lawns, the best in the design of the New Urbanists yet oh so creepy. As if Mickey Mouse or The Blob or Nazi youth will creep out at some point and demand your papers. Walking down the street I was told it resembled something out of the Truman Show. I had to agree, having never seen that film.
The walk from the middle class Farm to Processing Plant to Box Store to Table shopping centre to the ghetto is roughly 6 minutes, if you are carrying groceries. Leaving behind Guido and McNally, Goldfarb and Kleptowiz, Kevon and Zora, Mickey and Minnie, we enter the last form of American society…. The ghetto.
This ghetto is a mixture of torn down blocks that have revered to weeds since cleared for some dumbass idea or urban renewal idiocy and the Projects. While calm when this blogger was out there this time, I have seen these streets come alive in the usual goings on one would expect or if of another political persuasion, shock that it appears an episode of Cops is unfolding right in front of one’s face. In the store next to the marina an older woman, a lit cigar dangling out of her time-worn face inquired as to the price of malt beverages and if indeed Old English was more expensive than Crazy Horse, and though a few cents different, exchanged the one for the other. This is the same land, the same short distance I had driven to see a Rolls Royce and a drunkard grandmother who shared the same sky, save that the airplane landing pattern was over her set of sky and ocean.
Again, marvel that this is such a surprise? Riddle me this, asshole. Ah, you should know this exists everywhere. How old are you? This is nothing new. We called it the other side of the tracks in the day. OK, sorry. I forgot how the world works. I think what I am trying to capture is that I don’t marvel that this exists, but what this may mean. Welfare checks and Subsidized housing aside, the impoverished of this nation are similar to those of other nations. Those piggies living in cardboardtenttrash cities continue to live and breed there generation after generation. Malnutrition, lack of drinking water, shitting in paper cups, molesting and buggering away, the Great Unwashed is exactly what Uncle Karl warned us they were…. useless in the class struggle(tm). These who most need to rise up, just walk a few blocks, take a few hours to storm Breezy Point are less likely to rise up and demand clean beaches and a sky uncluttered by air traffic as they are to demand bankers are held accountable or resources not squandered on war and happy motoring. Those dwelling in shanties of pallets and plastic bags don’t storm the many Mira Flores. The hungry are led by a few bags of rice. The uneducated distracted by plastic tits and ass. Drug addicts and drunkards are hard to organize, mobilize, and focus to political end, let alone to benefit themselves. When you have those people finally assembled, you don’t have an activist army, you have a detox unit or an episode of SVU. Pull the plug on so many poor services, and they will compare malt beverages and petty grievances. When TSHTF so many doomers will be unable to use all their stockpiled ammo on anything other than squirrel and rat hunting since the imagined hords of [your disliked group here] may not arrive. They may not have the energy, focus, or will. That munching sound you may hear, is them turning upon each other.
It has, and will remain, to the middle class to hold the ends of the spectrum to task. Those successful revolutions have not been People’s Revolutions but a revolt of the petty nations of shopkeepers. It is, then, no wonder the ruling class of this nation has turned so hard to dismantling this Middle Class. We are, it seems, more dangerous and capable than those who most need a safety net. The Rockaways seem to hold some greater lessons perhaps, but between pondering current events financial and Batman, many of us just watched the trash float in and out on the tide and enjoyed the sun, the bay, and that we were behind razor wire.