Thursday, May 18, 2023

Welcome To Your Locked In Third-Class Thursday

 No One Is Coming To Put Out This Fire
A Short Howl

... he decided that.. he didn't want to leave [a false] passport in his apartment. .. So he opened an account... using the passport for identification, at a Banque du Nord office on the Boulevard Haussmann, then rented a safe deposit box for the passport itself. Three days later he returned... and put an envelope holding twelve thousand Francs on top of the passport. What are you doing? he asked himself. But he didn't really know; he only knew that he was uncomfortable, in some not very definable way ... Somewhere, something was warning him... Hide money, something told him. Arm yourself, said the same voice, a few nights later. But that... he did not do.
          -- "Alan Furst, "Dark Star" (1991)

It all feels inexorable. 

Down in Third Class, we hear and sense a commotion building on decks above us; the liner is slowing down. Something doesn't feel right. The passenger line has provided a few musical instruments, a few board games like Anchor and Crown to keep us occupied; they turn a blind eye to a bit of gambling. They even gave us a tot of Rum - the good kind, nearly like molasses. Something doesn't feel right, but we keep smiling; let's have more music. Don't spoil the party for others.

And when our concertinas and fiddles pause and the laughter stops: faintly and far above us the ship's orchestra is playing. We can feel the liner has stopped. Then, we hear a series of scraping rattles, like blind curses, as gates to the gangways going up to Second Class and the Boat Decks are pulled out, and locked. 

Or: From the Salon windows of the passenger gondola, we look out over the plains of New Jersey, all muted mauve greys and purples at sunset, rain clouds dimpling on the horizon in the fading light. We hear ropes uncoiling to slide out of the nose of the airship as we gently make for the mooring mast. There's another low sigh of noise, like a breath, like acceptance or resignation, as water ballast is released.

The Zeppelin company provides complimentary champagne -- a toast; we've crossed the Atlantic! We're all upper- and upper-middle class, highly-paid chroniclers and technicians (passage to America on a Zep in 1937 cost $450 -- almost $10,000 in 2023 USD). The long moment keeps uncoiling, poised between heaven and earth, as in a dream -- when you think you feel the Zeppelin's airframe jolt, just perceptibly, once, like something trying to get your attention.

With our Planet, our shared climate; our politics (willed helplessness or vicious cruelty); our arts and culture (expressions of existential fear and loathing, and 'christian' mania) ... in almost every expression of human behavior, signs of something rising keep getting louder.  It takes more energy and effort to block it out. My personal lot here in America is better than most, less than some.

Outside America, things are more elemental: I listen to the BBC for a time most mornings, and followed reports made by journalists on scene of the effects of a pointless war between the egos of two Sudanese generals. "I'm looking at video from downtown, central Khartoum," one reporter noted, "and can see a large, modern building. It's the National Bank of Sudan, and it's burning. 

"The remarkable thing," he continued, "is that it's absolutely silent. We can hear gunfire, but otherwise, there are no sirens, no fire trucks, no ambulances. No one is coming to put out this fire."

Obligatory Photo Of Overly Familiar Cute Dog
In Middle Of Blog Rant

And no matter what you think about the war in Ukraine, it is brutal, and it has gone on for over 450 days. The damage is generational: that's how bad it is -- and you could use much the same language to describe events of the past decade in Yemen, Somalia, Syria; Lebanon. 

In Gaza, the endless cycle of repression and revenge and counter-revenge goes on without letup or pity. And, Israelis turned out in tens of thousands to protest a government of malicious ego and religious arrogance, but it made no difference: the Malignant narcissist wins again. I suspect this will become the norm in countries like Israel, Hungary... and eventually France, Austria, America. 

On the weekend, I looked up from doing another sort of writing and saw, through my living room window, a woman standing at the curb across the street, having an animated conversation with someone on her cell phone. She appeared in her early twenties, and I wondered what her experience of living was like -- prejudices, desires, expectations -- and what her future would look like in another fifty years, when she is as old as I am now. If she lives that long.

I have two degrees in History but have never been good at being a Futurist, at prognostication. That takes a completely different kind of intellect than I possess. Mostly, I bark at what I see, and consider a possible future -- and bark and bark. Few people listen, and that's just how it is.

I don't know what it's going to be like. I only know that two things I keep thinking are absolutely true: The current situation[s] cannot continue, and This cannot end well.

MEHR, MIT EIN RÜCKBLICK: Much of what I've written since starting this Blog in 2008 has been an extended complaint about living in an absurd, oft-times shabby, and incomprehensible universe. Occasionally it's produced something profound in a minor-key way, or funny, but principally it's just been an extension of that Dog in the neighborhood who barks, and Why Can't His Owners Shut Him The Fuck Up.

This post could have been written at any time during the past two decades and still have seemed relevant. That's both sad ( gosh, Slothrop; you're stuck in a rut, seems to me) and representative of the times we currently live in: All this same shit has been going on at least that long, and what does that tell you?


CHOOK:  Fuck's sake, Mate; fuckin' Bollocks; this is -- I shouldn't have to fuckin' do this shit, Mate; I'm the King --  an' what the fuck is this 'ere?? Can you just fuckin' move this out the way??  Fuckin' 'ell, Mate; bein' King is Bollocks, I'm fuckin' done with this shit!"



  1. Laugh, I was thinking it was time to plant more moribund in the blogotary and then looked last night and you were eligible then, serendipity be blessed

    1. I share the "why I do this?" but partly out of cussedness, spitting in the eye of The Whosis High Atop The Thing, and partly because there are some things in this blog that are adding to the sum of The Human Whatever.