Monday, June 29, 2009
Take this little piece for example. Straight from one of the most respected papers in the union, we have nothing, fluff. The real story is health care reform. You say those words anywhere and you're likely to start a debate. Yet, the news only covers what is not being done. The entire story is covering how Obama is taking the debate to the states. Well, what is the debate? Does anyone really know? Is single payer on the desk? Who are the factions they speak of, and what are they doing?
No, you won't find answers to these questions, but you will learn that the president is planning on going to Virginia to host a meeting and will be taking questions from such public forums as Twitter and Facebook. Of all the things covered in the article, this is probably the most important. Yeah, I know you all thought I was going to point fun.
Think about it. When was the last time we had a president, or any elected official, who was trying to decentralize power? He is taking the debate to the states, to the grassroots, to the people, to us. When I read the following:
With Democrats deeply divided over health legislation, President Obama is trying to enlist the nation’s governors and his own army of grass-roots supporters in a bid to increase pressure on lawmakers without getting himself mired in the messy battle playing out on Capitol Hill.I had hope for the world.
I've found that power in the hands of a few is dangerous and never beneficial for the masses, the environment, or anything. While taking the wealth and power and spreading it to the masses is beneficial for all. Except of course those who are desperately trying to centralize their power and funnel the wealth upwards to their pocket books.
But I digress, where is the researched story addressing the questions? Good luck finding one.
What a wonderful world...
Peace. Love. and Revolution.
I'm actually kind of excited to start over. The old site had a lot of restrictions and really old wordpress software, probably part of the reason it died.
Anyways, if you have any thoughts let me know....
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Moco staring across the meadow. The dogs just couldn't get enough of the rock chucks. Luckily, they weren't fast enough to catch any of them. All three dogs comletely wore themselves out chasing them. They didn't sit still the whole time we were there.
I'm tired, I'll post pics later.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Yeah I know this happened a while back, but I haven't really had much of a chance to write about it so it's still sitting in the system.
KB and I flew out to Seattle for her nephew's wedding. We were hoping to be able to get out and see a few things, but as most family get-togethers end up, we didn't get to do much more than walk about a mile to see this waterfall. Which I have to admit was quite beautiful, even if it lacked any sign of solitude.
To be able to see the falls, entailed nothing more than getting out of your car and walking over to the look out. The walk was about 40 yards. If you wanted to be real adventurous you could hike down to the bottom of the falls via a wide unpaved path. The path down was, if I remember right, about a 1/2 mile.
This whole scenario made me think about journeys and destinations. More importantly it made me realize that our society, in many ways, is focused on the destination. Everything we do has been to ease the journey, to eliminate the journey, to get to the destination with no work or suffering.
I admit, most people would never see these falls if they had to bushwack through five miles of thick forest. But if they did don't you think they would enjoy it that much more?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Just a couple of shots I captured with my phone a couple of weeks ago. KB and I were down by the Santa Clara River with the dogs.
It's sure been a strange "summer" for us so far. It seems the closer we get to July the cooler it gets. Very strange in deed. It just dropped a few splatters of rain outside my window.
Living in the trailer makes the rain sound awesome.
The everyday life of the bicycle commuter consists of being hammered down. Every morning cyclists arise with idealism broiling in their blood. As they enter the jungle of the world they become aware of the pressures of modern society. They stick up all around the globe, two wheels and no windshield is our revolution.
I say we applaud those who are out there fighting against the beast. There should be a society committed to bicycle commuters, a system that supports those who are willing to give the middle finger to our current transportation crisis. What better way to bring about serious change in this fucked up world?
My opinion may be a bit jaded, as I am a commuter. The fact still remains, life is better when more people pedal instead of drive. The sky is bluer. We all breathe easier. Children smile faster and puppies run freely. The world could be beautiful if we just got out of our four-wheeled pollution spewing coffins and traveled by our own power. Driving a car is like being a crack whore. The first few times it’s enjoyable and exciting but the longer you do it the more it consumes you.
I guess there still is hope out there. Every morning I awake with idealism broiling in my blood and I pedal my way to work. The way is littered with nails that have been hammered down, but most importantly there are still some that are sticking up.
Peace. Love. And Revolution, or something similar.
My simple question tumbled out of my mouth and fell on awkward silence. Her smile disturbed the glassy water of her face. Contentment glowed from the inner workings of her soul and broke through my question. I could tell her answer was not going to be what I was expecting, but not far from what I already knew. All the same, I braced myself for impact.
“My name is the irony that has made me who I am,” she replied. “I spent years fleeing from it, and then years desperately throwing significance at it. As hard as I try, there is nothing that I can do or change to influence its ambiguity.” Her face glazed, “Through my adolescence and early adult life I refused to allow my name to be used and was known as Meri. People who knew me and later re-met me, were in awe that that was not my real name. I hope to think that they could understand my name more clearly in me than they could in its pronunciation.”
To hear her words float from her tongue was a gift that I had searched for. Studying her from the outside only brought contradictions and uncertain conclusions. Her story was so familiar to me that even if she were to change it, I would not believe her own words. My fathers had indoctrinated me with her story. Although they may have left out minor details that were unclear, her story must be the same. Her face was truly beautiful.
“How did you first begin to use your real name again after so many years as Meri?” My words startled me, but she was ready to strike at whatever I could offer.
“I was 33,” she began, “working as Senior Vice President of Finances at the First National Bank. The day was rather dreary, not one for changes. On the surface, everything was normal. Success and a meaningful life were mine. Even if I lost my job, I was set. A week prior, however, had brought strange, awful feelings. I began to question the identity I had created for myself. The desire to have a quest had sunk deep into my yearnings for the first time in my life. I had no idea what my quest was but I knew that I must have one, why else would I be where I was. Lunch had arrived. I waited until all my colleagues had left and then I went downstairs. But instead of going to a restaurant I simply started walking.”
Her face clouded, maybe it was the lighting, but wrinkles distorted her into a bent old woman, completely foreign to the woman I saw five minutes before.
“I laugh to myself every time I think about that walk, how ridiculous I must have looked to passing cars. In high heels, hitchhiking my way out of town, most had to have thought I had just lost my job or was addicted to drugs. Five hours, I had walked, the sun blared down on me. My brain was scrambled eggs. I abruptly realized that my sweat had moistened my blouse. I broke out laughing, one of those laughs that weighs so much that you feel as if it were to crush you. I laughed because it dawned on me that I had no reason to be dressed the way I was. I took my blouse off, freeing my breasts from their cages. My designer heels fled in horror as my revolution turned its fury towards them. I felt ready now to begin my quest.”
She continued, as did the wrinkles in her face. Meri was pruning up right in front of me.
“With my new found freedom, I kept right on strolling. Cars passed, men honked, women scowled, but nobody cared to give me a ride. I felt that they should, they owed it to me, if they only knew who I was. Then reality flowed in and I realized how many times I hadn’t picked up people in need of a ride. So I just kept walking. My thoughts wandered, everything I knew to be real I forced myself to question and review in the light of being half naked on the side of a road. I desperately tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. I realized my education was of little importance on the open road, no one who was passing cared that I had studied at Harvard, or that I had managed a Fortune 500 company. They just saw me.”
An odd irritation came over me, I felt that I couldn’t interrupt her but that I should. Her story was becoming boring and I wanted to get to the meat of her life. Somehow, I had to get to my next question, but her words just kept rolling off her tongue, I felt uselessly engaged in something utterly nonsensical. The only reason I was there was to get the story. What story? She was a hippy, no one could be sad after smoking that much weed. Funny she didn’t smell of marijuana. Anyways, I had to get to the next question.
I came to the conclusion, that it was my duty to interrupt her, regardless of how rude it seemed. My question jolted out of me, “Could you tell me the bit about you defending yourself against the biker bitch?” Ooops! Maybe not the question I was looking for, but there was no way of getting it back.
She looked at me, surprisingly with little surprise. She immediately began the story as if nothing had happened. I was relieved. The wrinkles in her face had retreated under the attack of olive oil flowing into its wake.
Struggling, she commenced the tale, “It was probably a week or two into my journey that I was finally picked up by a female biker. She offered to take me as far as Barstow, where she needed to be by nightfall. Samantha Nepon explained that her two young children were waiting with a babysitter and she had to get there. I thought it seemed like an opportunity to make some time and climbed on without much thought. We conversed about everything, arriving just on time.”
“We entered her house, she had offered to let me stay as long as I wanted. She introduced me to her two children. Shima was the oldest, having been born on August 6th, and Saki, born the 9th of the same month. Samantha explained that her ex-husband was Japanese, hence the rare names. She payed the babysitter and put the children down for the night.”
Her face was black as night, she was expelling the story from the deepest confines of her soul. Meri had locked it in the strongest vault she could find, and I in a moment of idiotic despair had obliged her to regurgitate it.
Softness filtered out of her mouth, a softness I could barely feel. “It was almost midnight, we had a couple of beers together, and she got up to check on the children. When Samantha returned her face burned with the flames of adrenaline, anger was broiling deep in her mind. The thud that her fist made against my skull rattled through my body and was left un-interpreted by my brain. Blades coming towards me rendered me useless to my body, every time I tried to defend it she was already attacking from another side. She accosted me for hours. Then I was left to accompany silence as she vaulted me into a bedroom and left me to plan my offensive. The next thud that registered that night was her falling exhausted into bed. I liberated silence from my presence, creeping out into her doorway. Samantha’s breathing paralyzed my limbs, I stood as death at her doorway, but my lead extremities fused themselves to the floor. Turning I left her for dead as she slept. The two children flickered into the darkness of my mind becoming the target of my aggression.”
She broke, water splashed out of her sullen eyes, flash flooded down the crevices of her face and exploded against the ground. Nothing. There was nothing for me to say. Her words had pierced me. The story was hers, but not the same one filed in the voids of my mind. Then it switched on, she was adding dramatic elements to the story, it couldn’t have been like that.
Jumping from behind her waterfall, Meri lurched into speech. “My stealth bomber swung in low, bringing the children into perspective. I lunged. The sound was nothing, it wasn’t like smashing a watermelon, nor like hitting a baseball. I thought at one time that it sounded as complicated as the screech of metal bending and breaking in a train crash, but it wasn’t that either. It was nothing. I found myself on the floor hours later, the children were dead. Samantha had fled, too violated by my genocide to stay. Her retreat was eternal.”
The cave in my face gaped open waiting for something to come fleeing out. Her anticipation of my next question rose into my awareness like the sun on a spring morning. I fumbled around in my mind, digging for something to throw at her. I finally tripped onto a headline I had once read about the story. I half thought the question at her. “How did you escape the police?” Finally, something to relieve the burn I was getting from her waiting.
“I told the truth, then ran as far from it as I could.”
Simple, I thought. She attacked me with her own question. “Why are you here?”
I puzzled over the question for a moment, looking deep into her face to find what it was she had catapulted in my direction. She had missed her mark. That I knew for sure.
“I’m here, because they sent me. I don’t want to be here, nor truly care what you have to say. My story about you is already written and ready to go, there isn’t anything you can tell me to change what I know.”
She stared. Her mouth moved to begin a sentence but nothing came out. I had left an impression. Then her face softened, taking on the texture of granite. She smiled, but nothing else shifted. Her gaze pierced my thoughts, she was reading my mind, or so it seemed.
Finally she spoke.
“What does your story say?”
“It talks about your life. It covers everything you’ve told me so far, and a lot more.”
Questions covered her face like swarming bees, but no honey could be found.
“Tell me,” she said, “Have you covered my friendship with Fulgencio?”
Once again, she was trying to dramatize her life into something I had never heard before. He was obviously some communist she had spent time with and had little importance to my readers.
I answered her by raising my eyebrows.
“He was a friend of mine, a CEO of a Latin sugar cane business, bringing in millions. Mostly he simply exploited the local labor on his land, allowing his wealthy friends to import sugar to the States. He built an empire out of it. The local labor didn’t do very well, but he made a lot of money.”
“No, I guess I haven’t covered him. What happened?” I asked mostly because I knew she expected me to. I lacked real interest.
“Horrible end. On the 26th of July, an insignificant force of rebels attacked his guards. All but 12 of the attackers were killed. However, they were joined by other local laborers until the mighty Fulgencio Batista was forced to give up his land. The locals took it over. Stealing his profits and those of his investors, all of which were partners of mine.”
I hadn’t heard that story. I found it irrelevant. Why should I include her friend’s tragedy, in a place no one cares about? The question sounded in my head, thundering from one side to the other and created another. Why was she telling me this?
The contentment I had seen when I arrived, was once again illuminating her face. An ease of excitement of what she had uttered permeated her complexion. Her eyes beamed insecurity into my mind. I struggled to breathe, her simple comments drove me into a blank place that I had never imagined existed. She had provided me with a meaningless detail that was heavy with significance. I could not find my breath.
She laughed, then smiled, then sighed, and then continued. “I have another friend that had a contrasting story. Augustus had been commissioned by me to buy up large portions of land that I could use to sell fruit to the neighboring cities. The hook came when we learned that the land was being homesteaded, and that the homesteaders had organized, nominated a voice, and were dividing the land to begin their own production. They called their leader Salvador. The homesteaders forced my man into a bloody battle. Luckily, he was able to get rid of Mr. Salvador and clear the land. I nor my fellow investors ever asked how many had been killed, but we trusted Augustus to do what was right. Those eliminated were fighting against freedom and democracy.”
After being shipwrecked at sea for years my mind finally made landfall. How could Meri be confessing these things to me? The hippy culture icon of the decade, with her “I left everything to find peace” story, is telling me, with pride, how she made her money in the most unethical ways.
“Meri,” I asked, “how did you become you, after killing, plundering, and stealing? I mean,” trying to clarify my question to myself, “where does it end and you become you?”
It was a flicker, maybe something that I really never saw, but her face flashed every conceivable shade. In an instant I saw everything she had been plaster itself onto her face and then retreat under the glow of her repentance.
Her eyes grew into an intense blue. The white around them swirled like a snowflake in a winter breeze. She blushed a red hue into her face. Then she simply laughed.
“You arrived on time. Asked me the questions you already knew, expecting me to tell you everything you had no need of hearing. Your first question was the only one that had any substance to it. You know who I am, but you do not know what I’ve done. I sit in front of you as an old woman, burdened with the message of peace from a past spent attempting to sell it. My life speaks for itself. I only hope you can truly understand what my name means. I often ask people to repeat it for me, I can tell what they’ve learned from my story when they pronounce it for me. Would you mind doing that for me? Please just say it once before you go.”
one, two, three,
One in my hand
two on the floor
three in the fridge.
My sanity held together
by little bottles
glass tinted brown.
no possibilities radio
every morning to inform
to depress and misrepresent
those who it was meant for.
I find the bottles
of elixir left
from the deppression
of the night before
I wish for something
Being 8,000 miles away from the United States gave me a slightly different view of what transpired on Sept. 11, 2001. I was in South America, in a country that annually celebrates a U.S. backed coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973. I fondly referred to Sept. 11 as riot day, because riot they do. Living in Chile opened my mind to a different side of American politics that I hadn’t been taught in school. As the day progressed the events of that day became clearer to me. My “patria” had been attacked.
After watching the towers fall time after time, I began to wonder what was to be done. I have always been a bit of a catastrophist and things of this nature have been permanent residents in the emptiness of my head. I knew what was going to be done, but I also knew what should be done.
I knew the President of the United States would stand in front of the press and give a speech. I knew vengeance would be called for and would be promised to the American people. I considered it a given that the U.S. would soon be invading foreign shores in search of those responsible. The speech would be what most wanted and what was expected, for we are the United States of America.
The “should be done” list reads a bit differently. The president should have stood in front of journalists and announce to the world the country’s resolve to withstand terrorism and defeat it on every continent. He should have proceeded to declare to the world our intention to outstretch our hands to those who hate, in hopes that they would learn. “Our strength,” he should have argued, “lies not in weapons or armies, but within our ability to peacefully maintain our way of life.” The American people should have applauded when he said, “We will not kill to prove killing is wrong. We, the people of this great democracy, will stand up to terrorism by spreading peace and knowledge to every inch of the globe, until it has penetrated every country and made the terrorists afraid to preach their hatred.” He could then declare, “We are the United States of America.”
My compatriots we as a nation failed that day. We resolved not to spread peace but to continue to wage war, to fight terror with terror. We decided to kill to prove killing is wrong. We are no different than those who made the plans, and stated the orders. We chose to kill.
The American way of life provides its citizens with many luxuries. Along with these riches our society is riddled with problems. Some of the major problems we face as a country can be linked directly to our current transportation system. The automobile creates cancer causing pollution, clogs our roadways costing billions of dollars, and promotes obesity. Upon analyzing the facts, one must agree that cars need to be replaced by mass transit and human powered transportation.
The most obvious problem caused by automobiles is traffic congestion. One need only venture into any mid-size to large city to be an eye witness of this phenomenon. Our national roads have become grid locked with motorists commuting to and from work.
Rush hour in many cities now lasts practically all morning and afternoon and reaches far into the suburbs. State and local officials are being urged to build new roads and expand existing highways, but environmentalists and preservationists are filing lawsuits across the country to stop major highway projects. They’re concerned about the effects of greater traffic on air pollution (Hosansky).
With such far reaching effects, it is no wonder the costs are so enormous.
One of these costs is measured in lost time. Anyone who has driven in the United States has most likely experienced the frustration of waiting in bottlenecks or grid locked roads. The cost of this waiting effects millions of Americans everyday. A secondary cost hits drivers’ wallets in terms of gas consumption. Vehicles waiting to traverse traffic jams, sit idling, wasting gasoline and spewing out toxic fumes. “In a recent study of 68 urban areas, it was estimate that the cost of traffic congestion- measured in lost time and wasted fuel-rose from $21 billion in 1982 to $78 billion in 1999″ (Fickes).
Every year more motorists are using the current roadways. According to the Federal Highway Administration, “Highway travel increased 80 percent, and the number of drivers increased 30 percent, from 1980 to 2000″(Fickes). A trend that has worsened current conditions and darkens the future. Can you imagine traffic in 2010 if it increases another 80 percent?
Another concern is the gargantuan budgets needed by governments to maintain and improve roadways. The current capacity has been exceeded, millions of dollars are spent maintaining the roads that already exist. To build the roads needed to improve traffic flow, billions if not trillions of dollars would have to be spent. This money will continue being spent as the current trends continue into the future. An alternative, self-sustaining system, would allow this money to be used for more worth while ends. National healthcare and education could be reformed and improved to truly meet our needs.
All these cars caught in traffic jams are spewing toxic gases into our skies. When one looks to see blue skies, one will instead see a brown cloud, the aesthetics of our cities are effected. I have spent a considerable amount of time in Santiago, Chile. I can recall numerous times when, in hoping to see the Andes, I could see nothing more than smog. The smog is only cleared after a rainstorm, but it only stays clear for a couple of hours until the haze returns. Even in a small town such as St. George one can see the haze when looking to the horizon. Many say compliance with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards will remove this eye sore, but if we look to Denver the contrary is found.
A city official in Denver stated, “Despite compliance with the EPA’s health rules, the metro area routinely fails the state issued haze guidelines designed to track how well-or poorly- we can see across the skies”(Hartman). The EPA is not so concerned with aesthetics as they are for health. Despite their concerns “some 1.5 billion people are exposed every day to levels of pollution well in excess of World Health Organization recommended levels”(Whitelegg). One can see current standards and regulations have failed to correct the effects of pollution expelled from our cars.
Some of these effects are detrimental to the health of our nation. “Tens of thousands of people are dying from breathing in vehicle emissions”(Emissions). This drastic fact is reinforced by European researchers, “Researchers studied deaths in Austria, France, and Switzerland and found that 6 percent- more than 40,000 a year- were caused by air pollution, of these 20,000 were blamed on the microscopic particulates found in vehicle exhausts”(Emissions). Much progress has been made in the last couple of decades, but in response to current trends and concerns over pollution caused premature deaths, an environmentalist stated, “Tens of thousand of Americans will die prematurely this year, in part because of the air they breath, but efforts to eliminate the toxins poisoning that air are proving elusive and costly”(Miller).
Besides shortening our lives, air pollution effects our daily health, causing cancer and chronic diseases. “Among the more common, wide spread air toxins are benzene, a cancer-causing agent found in tail pipe exhaust”(Hartman). No wonder every one has cancer. Another toxic chemical is known as PM 10. Speaking of these toxins research shows, “PM 10 emissions from diesel fuel can lead to chronic lung disease”(Emissions). Lung disease and cancer are serious health risks that affect our lives, and we as citizens contribute to these diseases every time we drive. Researchers have also found that “traffic fumes accounted for 25,000 new cases of chronic Bronchitis in adults, 240,000 cases of Bronchitis in children and more than half a million Asthma attacks”(Emissions).
Many argue that these health problems do not warrant spending the money to change our current transportation system. But these health problems have economic consequences as well, as explained by John Whitelegg, “Particulate pollution and levels of cancer-causing pollutants have already damaged the health of millions of children. This will follow them through to later life and directly affect their economic potential and the health budgets of already strained national administrations” (Online). The world’s beauty and our own health are slowly being destroyed by the automobile.
Vehicles are also destroying the environment. “It is estimated that about 14 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport, with road transport responsible for three-quarters of that”(Emissions). It seems that some catastrophic event will eventually wake us from our complacency if we chose to continue in our current direction.
“The world’s transport crisis has reached such catastrophic proportions that road traffic accidents now kill more people each year than Malaria”(Whitelegg). These accidents include motorists killing motorists, and even more tragic, motorists killing pedestrians and cyclists, these numbers are even more drastic in developing countries. The vehicle owners, usually wealthy professionals, are killing thousands of poverty stricken people. The poor are forced to walk or bike everywhere they go, facing dangerous roadways with no protection provided for them. “By 2030, it is predicted, 2.5 million people will be killed on the roads of developing countries each year and 60 million people will be injured. Even now 3,000 people are killed and 30,000 seriously injured on the world’s roads every day”(Whitelegg).
The budgets of developing countries are strained by roadway maintenance and improvement, while the poor receive no benefit from this money. At the same time, pedestrian and other alternative transportation desperately needed to improve the economic welfare of the poor, is being passed over by governments in favor of auto transportation. These improvements are being promoted by politicians who drive and are motivated by their own needs and wants, improving their lives and oppressing the poor (Whitelegg).
In the United States, people are growing, but not in a good way. Obesity rates have reached epidemic standards. Researchers working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict, “that about 40 percent of Americans, or 68 million will be obese by 2010 if bellies keep expanding at current rates”(Deardorff). Obesity supports a multi-million dollar weight loss industry and causes chronic diseases. Between these two problems alone the cost of our fatness is extreme as noted by Adriel Bettelheim, “Numerous studies conclude that excess fat makes it more likely that a person will develop chronic disorders, such as Diabetes, High Blood pressure, Arthritis and elevated levels of blood cholesterol. The NIH (National Institute for Health) estimates that total costs attributed to obesity-related disease now approach $100 billion annually”(Online). The enormous quantity of money hits consumers and governments alike, but the costs have failed to motivate people to abandon their laziness. Even impending death has failed to promote a more active society, “The death rate from Obesity is probably equal to the premature deaths from smoking”(Bettelheim).
There are many factors that contribute to Obesity, the nation’s lack of activity is one of the principal causes. Bad eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, and even larger portions of food have conspired to make the United States the fattest nation on Earth. The NIH estimates that 97 million American adults- 58 percent of the adult population- now are overweight or obese. Public health officials say that weight problems often lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and contribute to as many as 300,000 deaths annually (Bettelheim).
Or in other words, 300,000 people die annually in part due to our laziness. This inactivity is only promoted and amplified by the transportation system. “Food intake is only part of the problem. Americans also are less physically active than ever, choosing to drive short distances instead of walking and to ride elevators or escalators rather than climb stairs”(Bettelheim). If we abandon our vehicles for just the short drives, we could lower the national rate of obesity.
Many people claim, as do some researchers, that obesity is caused by a genetic flaw that Americans have caught. Adriel Bettelheim disagrees with the “obesity-as-disease model, arguing obesity appears to be more of a symptom in many people”(Online). It seems that obesity is a symptom, the United States has the largest proportion of car owners, and it is almost impossible to find a building without an elevator or some form of automated lift to climb or descend from one floor to another. Our luxury has turned us soft, our laziness is slowly killing us.
Death and chronic disease are not the only externalities of our laziness. Most overweight people suffer in many psychological and societal ways also. “Though obesity is, first and foremost, a medical issue, it has strong emotional and societal consequences, as well. Various studies suggest fat people lack self esteem and are less likely to marry and achieve professional success”(Bettelheim). Obesity is retarding the growth of our nation. Fat people are not any less intelligent than physically fit people, but fall behind when contributing to society. Most people feel life without a spouse or partner is not worth living, but as we see here many obese persons never marry, most likely due to their lack of self esteem. “In general Americans probably don’t like their bodies as much today as they did 20 years ago, and that’s a sad commentary”(Bettelheim).
Upon analyzation of these facts, one can see the effects of the automobile in modern society. These effects are far reaching, permeating through almost all aspects of life. The nation’s health has been obliterated, efficiency in travel does not exist, and even the aesthetics of our cities and natural places is affected negatively. The only benefit the car affords us is allowing us to continue in our laziness, removing ourselves almost entirely from the need for self mobilization. I propose that this does not need to be the case, that in fact our cities’ beauty can be restored, our health can be better and we can improve our quality of life by becoming independent of the car.
The first step is to provide and promote mass transit, such as, light rail, subways, and efficient bus systems. These systems allow citizens to commute inexpensively and pollute less than personal automobiles. This first step is essential to remove the existing strain on public roadways, less vehicles equates to less traffic congestion and in turn less pollution. Another important factor to step one is the psychological consequences. As people commute via alternative transportation, they realize they are not naturally dependent on motorized vehicles, thus allowing the population to think outside the cage which is motorized transport.
The conglomeration of benefits from step one culminate in the process of the second step. The public realization of independence paves the way to truly reform our system of transportation. Mass transit has already been implemented, we must therefore install car free roadways. To prevent mass hysteria, this must be done in a systematic, logical process, incorporating time and reformation of existing roads. The linking of residential areas to shopping centers and schools is the first step, followed by a de-motorization of downtown areas. This approach targets the filthy air in central areas of business, and allows current cyclists and pedestrians to access jobs and other essentials of life without fearing for their personal safety. As aforementioned pollution is worsened by congestion, freeing downtown areas of vehicles reduces pollutants in the hardest hit area of metropolises. These efforts also promote a society where physical fitness is a requirement instead of a luxury, cutting down the size of our bellies.
New found energy earned by self mobilization will incur a trend of growing popularity of commuting via bicycles and or by foot. Our bodies and cities will appear in their splendid beauty. As people convert to human powered transportation, the automobile will be abolished as a form of short travel. Vehicles will be utilized only for going to other cities or longer travel, which carries us to the last step of my solution.
To put the icing on our cake, we need a fast and efficient system to travel from city to city and country to country. Although a system does not currently exist, I feel confident that when the need arises, American ingenuity will rise to the occasion and such a system will be readily available at the time of need.
A system such as the one described would eliminate our society from the problems presented earlier. A city free of cars would also be free of pollution, doing away with the brown cloud that has covered our beautiful skies for so long. The activity needed to exist in such a system would develop a base of physically fit citizens, more apt to deal with life and able to enjoy every aspect of it.
Some might find this idea absurd and completely irrelevant in our fast paced, globalized world. However, there is an existing model of the said system. Enrique Penalosa, mayor of Bogota, has revolutionized the way Colombians view transportation, reallocating transportation money to promote the movement of the cities oppressed. John Whitelegg explains,
In Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Penalosa the mayor from 1998-2001, held a referendum and reallocated transport budgets to improve the quality of life for the poorest. The results were staggering. The city embarked on an intensive programme of building cycling and pedestrian only routes, including a car free route, 17 km long, connecting some of the poorest parts of the city with facilities they need to access, including jobs. On one weekday in 2000, a car free day was set up and 7 million people went to work without a car. In a subsequent poll, 82% supported the concept (Online).
The mayor’s programs have been a success, fomenting economic growth and cleaning up the environment.
The money used was already budgeted for transportation, eliminating further strain on his government. The results of his referendum are explained, “Parks were built on derelict land, canals cleaned up and car free days implemented. In October 2000, the citizens of Bogota voted in favor of excluding cars from the city in the morning and afternoon peaks from 2005″ (Whitelegg). An entire city will rid itself of cars, not by the tyranny of the few environmentalist but by the consensus of the population. “Bogota’s approach is based on creating an equal and vibrant city where no one need fear the oppression that pervades so many countries’ transport system” (Whitelegg).
Brown clouds, lung disease, obesity, and economics problems have all been addressed. The solution is set forth and reconfirmed by examples of current successes. The fact is, we are living in a crisis and something drastic needs to be done, save the world, blow up your car.
Not literally, I wrench on bikes.
I’m blue collar, I don’t make a lot of money and there is little respect for what I do.
But I love what I do.
It’s days like today that are part of a reoccurring epiphany in my life. I have consistently taken less money so that I can have a job that I enjoy. It is my plan to be a starving journalist and wrench for the rest of my life. And that’s it. I do what I am and it makes me happy.
I came to work today knowing I would be the only one here. I got things going and grabbed a bike for service. And that’s when it hit me like a pedal wrench upside the head, that I love working on bikes. There is something magical about trueing a wheel, rebalancing the tension without thinking about it. To be able to complete a tune-up while taking phone calls, helping customers and eating lunch (yes, I consume a lot of grease), because I’ve done it so many times.
It hit me.
I also love bikes. They are simple, efficient, perfect. In our fast changing world there are few things that exist that haven’t changed. The bicycle is one. Sure it has been refined, we use carbon now, but frankly it is the same safety bike that has been around for over a century. The concepts and principles are the same. It is a constant.
There exists this link between me and the bicycle whether it’s riding up mountain singletrack while the sun breaks through grey sky to backlight yellow leaves in 65 degrees or taking a bike and making it work with grease on my hands, I love every minute.
That’s life inspired. That’s my revolution.
It’s August 31. It’s hot. A tingle starting in my shoulders shoots down my spine and then back up again in an uncontrollable shiver. It’s 100 degrees and I have the cold chills. I’m supposed to be sad, but my forelorn face is nothing more than a fasaud covering the releif that awaits at the end of this drive. I’m headed to the airport. I kiss her. I say I’ll see you later. I turn and walk away.
In my grandparents’ basement, in the room that is always cold, I sit, I write, as is my custom, the words flow throw my pen, the eruption of words is short-lived, I feel strange, I stop, I think, my thoughts wander from present to past to future to present, I know, tomorrow, it ends.
This feels like a waste. All this time that I spent. All this energy I exerted. I don’t understand this need. This never-satisfying need to love. And of course, to be loved. This search. This life. This wasted sense of never knowing what comes next. This emptiness that fills me when this ends and that only ends when this begins again.
She touches me. You know the feeling. At the end of her touch is a smile that awakens in me something that has been dead for too long. I wonder, could it be? She talks to me and I listen with true interest. It feels new. It feels like I’ve never felt like this before. I forget the months of hell, the waiting for it, the darkness that surrounds her face, the yelling, the misunderstanding, the weeping, the clouds that form in my face, the frustration. I forget. I walk hand in hers towards whatever is waiting.
I’m getting old, too old for this to end again. I sit in the sunset enjoying a beer. It seems that certain things are too far away to be truth. I choose to leave them where they are, buried deep in the recesses of my childhood, buried deep within the pages that I write, the ones that make me feel better, the ones that give me reason. She sits beside me, talking. I know that after all these years one of us is going to leave. The flower of our life is wilting and soon the petals will have all fallen, at least for one of us.
It’s May 2. And spring is leaving.