The weather, as most of life, no longer follows the rules we were taught nor appears to follow any course we can describe on all those charts we used to keep as students. The days perhaps remain a constant, an arranged duration, the sidereal motions of our universe in the deep vacuum of space may keep precise action as those old Swiss clocks with the tiny moving bits and those Enlightenment mechanical models that arrange all of life according to known rules but everything else has lost any semblance of rational order. One moment the weather is summer, the next a deep spate of winter. This is true for the body politic of the United States of America.
It was in this deep stage of temporary April winter, a day of freezing temperatures and strong squalls that this writer took to cut some turf for the candidate for president by knocking on doors in the humble hamlet of Fort Mudge.
Once a great land, we moved some direction towards Freedom, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness/Property – at times being the City Upon the Hill and other times stumbling into Peculiar Institutions and Imperial aspirations before finally seeming to plunge headlong into corruption and general crass anusness and asshattery. We were once an economic powerhouse and in the American Century, were moving towards a Great Society and forming a more betterer perfecter Union. Today, the dream of The Market has become a nightmare mutant Capitalism that would even shock Marx himself in its ability to take human form, live eternally, and have an apatite for a constant and metastatic growth – not unlike a certain sulfuric Scratch we may have been warned about as children. Today, corporate entities not only feed on others, they turn on and feed on themselves – in our last several short decades companies of long lasting name and reputation have fallen and closed and stolen out in the dead of night as tenants taking that revenge dump in the kitchen sink and letting off for parts unknown leaving the front door broken an in a heap in the alley.
I knocked on my first door. The house smelled of a gas leak (which I would later report). The door was unlocked and it opened onto a hallway and stairs that once serve only one family and today was a nomansland of dirt and weird smudges on the walls – a rabbit’s warren burrow. Rustling and little muffled taps came from beyond each door as some resident, perhaps as Gregor Samsa having been transformed into a shape they were just now attempting to learn how to control. These weird scratching and scrapings competed for my attention and all manner of smells of food or drugs or ennima-water being brought to a boil commingled with the smell of leaking gas slowly poisoning the minds of the inhabitants. I was unable to identify the location of the name on the list. There were no names or numbers on the doors – I feared waking the unregistered dwellers, and crept out as an uninvited guest coming across a family row.
Once a thriving river town on the Hudson River that was filled with dentists, doctors, millers, deacons, icemen, milkmen, families first sending their children to school, and those yearning to breathe free. Fort Mudge greeted hundreds of thousands of visitors who pushed up from Gotham on boats and then railways to the Catskills and the wonders of the Lost Kingdom. Today yet another sad struggling village with “good bones” awaiting saving by second-home owners, people who have retired early to start bookstores, and find a Victorian that needs fixing up. Certainly, there are plenty of Victorians in need of fixing up.
I knocked yet another broken Home Depot door. I had by then several unsuccessful attempts where I was greeted by the sounds of uncontrollable hounds, or even worse, silence or a short movement of the heavy and dirty window coverings and then silence. A few doors were opened by bewildered youth still in plush pajamas who bashfully said their mother’s were working and not at home.
The village of large single-family homes are lined up in a typical procession as found in much of New York or New England. At one point, there were thousands of these villages of homes, factories, and workshops clustered and arranged on the landscape according to terrain and the drainage of waters. Most of the once-grand dames that line the streets have become forlorn flophouses. Canvasing for the candidate, I was presented a list of members of the party and told to knock on doors and cover basic information – of course, if they were for the candidate, I was to make special note of this, engage them a little, and ensure they would be turning out to vote in the primary for the state. For those of you reading this internationally published weblog, the process of primary elections in the United State of America follows little rational pattern and can be more likened to the contemporary weather or the mathematical formula of the psychotic. In the schools of America, we are not taught the electoral process in any meaningful way, we are not alerted to the important dates, we are not given time off to study the options at hand, or participate in the mechanics of the election, even if that is but to nick a card and make a hanging chad for some greater Knowlingone to study and count accordingly.
One home had a strange pile of mechanical detritus on the porch. Another had a jumble of damp antique speakers and tubes of perhaps broken radios assembled into piles in order to better compost on the porch. Along with the wind chimes and yard decorations, one yard had a pile of large beer cans, packed dirt as a lawn, a few broken lawn chairs and a heavy bag, the sort prize fighters practice with chained to a tree branch. This is a cross section was the party faithful for the village, people who had taken the time to register for a party, to participate in the American system, and this the dilapidated living conditions and arrangements one may have assumed belonged only to the Lumpenproletariat.
Fort Mudge is up from the mighty Hudson River on the Creek named after the mountains that drain down and in flotsam and jetsam flow past the blessed village, under the Black Bridge, a trestle built to carry a miniature train up to the fabled mountain houses of clean air and view of the then Wilderness, dips under the Uncle Sam Bridge, flows past the Creekside bar and the noisy summer cowboy music where Loretta once got so drunk, then flattens out and passes the condos, to tun muddy and leave with the tides by the point with the fresh yet polychlorinated biphenyl-infested waters flowing down from old Beaver Town and the General Electric plants that sipped and spewed waters as they invented blenders and gave Mother back her Sunday nights, is situated in an ideal little niche between mountain and river. Perhaps it did its job and is now obsolete. The mortgage for the building I own on Main Street made sure to mark this property – Mixed Use Commercial and Residential. Obsolete.
Door after door went unanswered. Not a surprise as I was certainly not invited. The houses were the same. Broken shattered houses and perhaps lives to match.
I went to another turf map, the one up on the hill where the houses were those Victorians that had been painstakingly renovated, restored in every detail and rather than chained barking animals with pink skin and slobbering heads cavorting in some chained phallic antics, it was all polite lawns, welcoming entryways, and houses that contained occupants and not tenants. On these streets I was politely turned away or invited in for coffee and conformation about the State of The Union. It was another world, even if it was just a few short streets away.
I marked down the supporters, made note of even more who failed to answer, and made my way back to the campaign operative in order to give back the information I had obtained and discuss the potential for followup and the few short conversations I had had. I wondered about the broken parts of town as well as those streets where the houses were second homes returned and restored to their former glory. But, these thoughts were nothing new since the condition of this and so many villages in the country I have visited are obvious to so many and yet occluded to the Powers That Be (PTB). I will keep working for the candidate and hope that we will prevail, and that we do ultimately have a future to believe in, even in Fort Mudge.