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New York

Posted 4/8/2011 1:45pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Even when it's not raining upstate one must wear a coat outdoors for all but a few hours in the early afternoon—it's still that chilly and  it feels colder when wet. This is the time of year of mud.  The  Spring rain makes a boot sucking mud of the recently thawed soil,

April is the cruellest month, breeding    
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing    
Memory and desire, stirring    
Dull roots with spring rain.

The Wasteland T. S. Eliot, 1922

It was Saturday. New Yorkers do not know mud; the city is paved and there are cement sidewalks to stroll upon. Before driving to Manhattan, I put on my Blundstones and looked down to see semi-dried mud caked on them. It was 5:30 AM, it was too late to wash my boots: my feet would be wet during the cold morning hours.  Instead I would take the farm with me to the city on the soles of my boots.  I was going there to sell, to see and not to be seen, I told myself.

And I should do something other than hang out  at the stand in Union Square as I usually do.  I have competent sales help at market; they really don't need me there.  Maybe I should take in a Chelsea gallery or two, see an exposition at one of the uptown museums or even go to a downtown movie, one that will never play upstate...I brought The New Yorker along to see with what kind of city idyll "Goings On About Town" could tempt me. 

Posted 3/11/2010 4:41am by Eugene Wyatt.

According to Zygmunt Bauman, all ideologues, especially the most worthy, hate. 

"We need someone to hate because we need someone to blame for our abominable and unendurable condition and the defeats we suffer when trying to improve it and make it more secure. We need that someone in order to unload (and so hopefully mitigate) the devastating sense of our own unworthiness. For that unloading to be successful, the whole operation needs however to thoroughly cover up all traces of a personal vendetta. The intimate link between the perception of the loathsomeness and hatefulness of the chosen target, and our frustration seeking an outlet, must be kept secret. In whatever way hatred was conceived, we would rather tend to explain its presence, to the others around and to ourselves, by our will to defend good and noble things which they, those malicious and despicable people, denigrate and conspire against; we would struggle to prove that the reason to hate them, and our determination to get rid of them, have been caused (and justified) by our wish to make sure that an orderly, civilized society survives. We would insist that we hate because we want the world to be free of hatred."

Zygmunt Bauman, from a recent essay for the prospectus of the new Munich production of Alan Berg’s opera, Wozzeck.

I puff on my Groucho Marx cigar, wagging my bushy eyebrows, outside the private club that I refuse to enter because I've been invited to become a member.

Tags: New York
Posted 2/7/2010 11:30pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I belong to SHEEP-L, a discussion list.  Unfortunately, over the years, the sheep discussions there have become impoverished; many early members have left for other sheep forums where subscribers don't carp over sheep. I skim the list email daily and post every couple of months when something strikes a funny bone.  So struck on Sunday, I posted in jest likening Australia's 2 main exports—lamb and coal—from the POV of an imagined New York customer.  Ron, a list member living in Sweden who'd read what I'd written, posted to the group and asked me,

"Are all your customers air heads?"

You insulting bastard, I thought, you're not  even amusing.  I replied with a trope of classical rhetoric;  where, by my agreeing with him, he includes himself in his own damnation,

"Yes, many of them Ron, particularly those who take themselves seriously."

He whimpered before going quiet.  Rhetorical blows like this win dharma combat in alt.zen.  What? You don't know that newsgroup in the 90's, then you know little of the wonder of invective and how wit sharpens it to enlighten the perceptive.

Then John, an Australian list member knowing I have sheep upstate and a farm stand in Manhattan, posted about how horrible New York was, but he added that the city had been cleaned up since he was there last.  "Cleaned up?Now that really got my hackles up having lived here for decades and having watched it change, mostly for the worse.

John wrote:

> My first visit to NY was in the 60's I decided to take a walk and left my hotel...(subscribe to SHEEP-L & search the archives to read his tale of woe.)

I replied:

Your story touched me John, you sounded like a lamb lost in the streets of Gotham.
 
But then you did experience New York as it distinctly and uniquely was; now after Guliani and gentrification,  it's become a Disneylandish mall.

In the 60's there was a reason to go to New York City: the people were different, the language was fresh,  the shops sold things you could only buy there;  now New York has a sallow corporate homogeneity to it with a  Best Buy, a Home Depot, a Starbucks, a Gap on every corner.  The  city was the last bastion of  mental health permitting all people, even marginal lunatics, to roam freely.  Now this incidental deliriousness has been replaced by something larger, something more frightening, something global, something more dangerous: There is a common craziness here that those afflicted call normalcy;
for example, it manifests itself in a radical desire to be someone else like Michael Jackson's plastic surgery or minimally to be different from who you are, e.g. thinner, etc.  

Part of this plague of self disatisfaction comes from, and exhibits, a lack of hetrosis.   It is a desire to be different, but different by being the same but better.  It is fashion, ever changing, ever needing and we are the homongenized, those who think we have chosen markets but in reality we have been assigned to them by our desires which were given to us in a process of elimination by others.  It's how the mind works.  A word in the dictionary tells you what it is by telling you what it is not. Words discriminate.  Or looking at it another way, you are what you are not.  You cannot desire what you already have, and so on.  Another's celebrity or treasure comes from us, from out attention; don't you love to look at celebrities on the covers of Star, Us & the Enquirer when you're in line at Shop Rite to buy food.  This is  voyeuristic social nutrition; that we feed on them, is them feeding on us.

Manhattan was once the capital of heterogeneity, but no longer; it had to go underground; it is the gleam in a revolutionary poet's eye and I am talking about love here.

Look closely John, you'll see that those people you mentioned on the streets of New York talking to themselves about the end of the world are more right than you thought back then (in fact you realize how incredibly prescient they've become); at a minimum, your world has been replaced by a younger person's world, but these New York street talkers were seeing the bigger picture, that is easily confused with your minimal and personal view of  old age and change, they were  talking about social and financial collapse.  And where are we now, John? 

Are not we Americans (and our institutions) somewhat more imploded than we used to be.  Are our children to become bigamists marrying Chinese  doctors and Indian physicists thinking of their matrimonial bonds as hedge funds.  I wonder how long before emmigration begins here. Will this be the moon that turns globalization like the tide.  But what an ugly sea it will be: the only way jobs can come back is when wages are lower here than in Indonesia or Haiti.  We've handed our children more than debt haven't we.  That tremor wasn't an earthquake, it was Karl Marx chuckling in his grave.

I like having my sheep an hour from the city and going into Manhattan one day a week, not as a banker, but as a farmer.  How lucky I am to be there and not be there at once.