“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


The day has barely begun, and I already feel as though I am behind the eight ball.  I want to shelter in place.  I do not want to go outside, to get lunch at St. Anthony’s, to apply for a room at the Potter Hotel, or to renew my health coverage with the city.  The day is hot.  I am tired.  The way forward confuses me.

For three weeks I have been trying to write something to post here about people using drugs in my neighborhood and elsewhere.  I have covered pages (well, OK, screens maybe?) with well crafted sentences in well developed paragraphs.  None of it is good enough.

I had to appear in court last Friday, the 4th, and must again this coming Friday, the 11th.  The D.A. may drop the case, which my attorney expects, but if not, the trial will begin.  I will be on trial for allegedly approaching MRM in a park and slapping him across the face, causing him to fall and hurt his wrist., none of which happened.  Still, it is a he said/she said case, and the maximum sentence for me would be 180 days in Bruno.  I go to bed tired and then lie awake for three or four hours.

The world, meanwhile, races on.  Last night I watched Bill Moyers interview Wendell Berry.  For the first time in a long time I heard a voice that is both as certain of the darkness falling on us and as faithful to the future as I try to be.  I felt the same affinity for Berry that I feel for Leonard Cohen:  “I’ve seen the future, baby/It is murder.”

The willows can no longer live on the banks of the Kentucky river.  The smog is so thick in Beijing that major freeways have been shut down.  Spectators at the China Open tennis matches yesterday wore face masks covering their noses and mouths to protect them from the smog, but the players did not have that luxury.  The gladiators brave death for the entertainment of the plebeians.

Berry says that whatever the solution is, it will not come from above and be imposed on the farmer and the worker.  He says that what we need are people who see a problem and start doing something about it.  Joan Baez says, ‘I believe in big defeats and small victories.”

President Obama has missed the conference of the Asian Pacific Economic Council in Bali, Indonesia, because our government cannot function.  Each side blames the other and still does not use up all the blame there is to go around, more than enough of it.  In the wake of the global financial collapse of 2008, the U.S. poured -- and continues to pour -- money into the system to keep it afloat.  It thinks it is pouring water on a fire, but these are buckets of gasoline.  Watch what happens when the U.S. defaults.  Identify local sources of food and clean water as quickly as you can.  And plan to live without electricity.

At the APEC conference, President Xi gave the keynote address.  The Chinese economy grew at an annual rate of 7.6% in the first half of the year, on track to double in size between 2010 and 2020.  Free trade zones are opening between China and the ASEAN nations and between China and APEC countries as well. The smog is so thick in Beijing that major freeways have been shut down.  Whatever the solution is, it will not come from above and be imposed on the farmer and the worker.

This house is on fire.


Natalie Merchant finished recording sessions for the album on which this song appeared on September 10, 2001.