Archive for November, 2007

Affordable Housing: a case against.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to leave as a legacy 500,000 units of fresh built Affordable Housing.

As you’ll suspect I propose there is nothing wrong with affordable housing. I’m tempted to suspect there’s nothing but good about it. But before we take that flying assumptive leap one must first ask Why.

Why would New York’s billionaire mayor want to build a half million units of Affordable Housing?

Why indeed? Follow The Money.

Affordable housing serves a Corporate Interest; by enabling Them to pay sub standard wages.

Low rent housing is a pricelessly needed tool for those who would keep the wages low. Because the homeless can’t work. Not that a homeless human can’t work; many can and will gladly. Still, it’s near impossible to hold down a job when you’re homeless. The work force must be housed. House it a half million-strong in low rent digs and New York City’s workforce has a Low Wage Mass — built in for generations.

The solution to New York City’s housing crisis is to set the minimum wage to adjust automatically to the cost of living. One good case may be reasonably mounted against my solution: what ill effect a mandatory, potentially steep minimum wage increase will have on struggling businesses?

A reasonable question.  Which must be dealt with because a minimum wage which self adjusts to the cost of living is unequivocally the right & humane thing to do.

I propose the difference between what employers can afford to pay, and what their employees reasonably need, be skimmed off the Top. Set a Maximum Wage — that reflexively self adjusts to meet the minimum wage’s new cost-of-living self adjustment.

I call it the reverse Trickle-Down feedback loop theory.

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Bad Bromine. BAD!!

It was a moment of great hilarity.

“John?” the kid Bobby asked. John was my organic chemistry professor. Back in 1999. Each day at the beginning of class John would entertain questions. Bobby always came prepared with several. Some were good curiosity-driven questions. But this one he asked as a joke.

“John,” Bobby famously asked. “I heard it negates all hallucinogenic effects if you add Bromine to a molecule of LSD!”

The kid sounded pretty excited.

“Ah, Bobby.” John’s eyes filled with suspicion as he looked at his student. “Why would you DO such a thing??”

The girl sitting next to me shit her pants and nostril snarfed her feces.

John Hayes is widely regarded as the best o-chem professor in collegiate history; truly a cult legend in circles where such an accolade matters. His class had a certain atmosphere, a magic rarely experienced in college science departments. It was fun.

Now this kid Bobby was, on paper, the smartest kid in my college o-chem class. Bobby always scored real good on his tests. He father was a medical doctor and Bobby clearly had been groomed from birth to follow in his footsteps.

On paper I — a high school dropout — was the dumbest kid in my whole darned o-chem class.

Our professor, John, taught organic chemistry in the same classroom for 3 decades. Each day he walked into the room. Entertained questions. Then picked up a lone piece of chalk, turned to the board & got down to Business. Amazing. John knew his business.

He taught his year-long class with no text book. John copied his personal notes on to the chalkboard directly from his brain. These we dutifully transcribed to study for exams from. The final exam — in May — was a 6 hour affair which covered material we’d copied into our notebooks the previous September.

On the first day of class John shared with us an insight into the precise nature of his business. Why he was in the business to begin with; on the first day of class John told us why he taught organic chemistry. And I quote — he said he “liked to warp young people’s brains.”

Unquote.

WhoA!!

I was pleased as dosed punch to hear it.

To my mind warping young people’s brains is a solidly exceptional want. I wanted to be like my organic chemistry teacher when I grew up; matter of fact I still do. John took the place immediately as and remains still one of my very few “wanna-be-like you when I grow up” Heroes. And a good one. Good heroes are hard to find. So John, if you read this: thanks for being my hero dude.

I was not there to be groomed for medical school. It did occur to me that once successfully completed the year long class would satisfy the science requirement which, still incomplete after 4 full years of high school, prevented me from being awarded a diploma. But that’s not why I took organic chemistry 10 years after the fact. I was there for my own solidly exceptional reasons.

To figure out about what all those drugs that have slogged benevolently ’round in my brain since way back on Grateful Dead tour — what were they up to these days?

I mean can you scrape them out somehow and you know like smoke ’em dudes?

Way.

Tao Way!

DUFF Custiez!!

The dedicated auditor learns all material presented in the class syllabus. Does the homework. Gets tested & graded. Suffers at times mightily to gain the proffered knowledge. But at the end of the day is rewarded no credits toward matriculation for the effort.

People said I was crazy doing what I was doing. The biology professor oddly suggested that auditing classes was like trying to kiss my sister. I guess he meant like: “What was in it for me?”

Knowledge. To a degree that you can’t get in college.

Moreover it was my smashingly good fortune to learn from John Hayes; a once-ever Welcome To Planet Earth experience. In it for me? Well I got my gad dang brainz warped up good! I got higher than a dosed bowl of punch.

Higher than drugs kiddoz!

I know, I know! I sound like a god damn old lady. But I tell you this: if I (of all people) say it “Got me higher than drugs…” you can bet I mean it as no disrespect to Drugs personally. In fact it maybe did not get me Higher than a particularly excellent drug at its’ experiential peak. But the ochem class “Got Me High.” I felt high from it when I woke up every morning. Plus it was cheaper & lasted longer than any drug you can buy off the street.

For Disclaimer’s Sake: “Higher than” is in no way meant to imply “better than” drugs; in fact higher than drugs veritably begs to be made better still with a giant pot of Alien Turdz tea.

shroomz.jpg

John once saw fit to explain to the entire class that Bobby wasn’t as smart as he looked. Rather, he was very “tenacious with his question asking,” John said. The question-answer process solidifies parcels of information in the mind. When we form our own questions we engage a personal relation with their answers; a deliberate act of internalization.

Anyway that’s what John said Bobby had going for him. He came across as the smartest kid in the O-chem class because he asked a lot of questions. At times it seemed that Bobby hoped to quixotically topple the long-stood notion that “There are no Dumb Questions in a class like organic chemistry.”

No dumb questions, maybe. Sometimes Bobby asked smart-aleck questions he’d contrived to elicit a chuckle. Like the one about what happened when you added a bromine to LSD. But by no means was he the Class Smart Ass. There was only one Class Smart Ass. Was it me? Oh hell no. The class smart ass went by the name professor John Hayes.

So. If John was the Class Smart Ass. And Bobby wasn’t all that — then who was incontestably the smartest kid in the class?

Well first off: how could such a thing be quantified? Who would know?

“You know Mike E.” John assured me once, years after I historically aced his class. “You’re gifted. In fact after 30 years teaching that class…out of ’em all you are my organic chemistry Standout.”

“But I mean like I’m a total fuck up John!” I protested.

“Then you’re the most brilliant fuck up I know.”

Swhoosh.

Hunter S. Thompson himself could not pay me a more giddily meaningful compliment. As meaningful — yes. Like the compliment Jay Herron left me in my comment box yesterday. Such moments of synergy are what keeps the artist categorically addicted to our audience. And the chance that one may see fit to tell me I’m All That — as John did — has long kept me addicted to my many heroes.

It twisted an earlobe to earlobe drug eating grin on to my face for weeks.

And begs the question: What did Bobby the bastion of o chem mediocrity know about a drug we’ll henceforth call Lucy?

By all outward appearances…Nawt Shey-it. As they say with drawls in Memphis TN. Or as it’s put in these parts: Not a damn thang!

In any event he clearly did not know as much as me. I mean I just kind of look like I’ve spent most every minute of my life blasted out of my brain on drugs. Like Wile E Coyote wakes & bakes when he rolls out of bed each afternoon — on a good blast load of TNT.

Bobby most likely never tried Lucy. Definitely he never got high with a little bangin help from Wile E & TNT.

He just said it to be funny. All eyes turned to John. Who smashed the joke pitched him by Bobby so far out of the park it rained 6 packs of 802 Woodchuck hard cider & Chivas Regal in tall rocks-filled glasses. It was the most gigantically funny moment organic chemistry has ever seen.

Yeah & I was so there dudes!

So what’s the big deal? I tell you what the big deal is. What’s the quantifiable difference between Bobby & me? Between folks of at times notably above-average intelligence — and the singularly sharpest mind John Hayes observed over the course of 3 decades of o chem teaching experience? I mean what sets me measurably apart from the Others?

Alien Turdz mostly.

Barracks D

My buddy Jay Herron caught a rude break 37 years ago this New Year’s. He was in the Navy. A blizzard caused him to be inadvertently AWOL. Jay was arrested — by his brother, who was MP on the ship, USS Vulcan, on which they were both stationed.

My friend was locked up in a place called Barracks D.

That’s where the rapes happened.

Occasionally I’ll feel the need to delve, in this blog, into my own past sexual traumas. These, and my life-long Post Traumatic Stress episode that has followed, are at the root of my direst difficulties. The last time I spelled out what happened to me in explicit terms was about a year ago. I did so because I’d begun to find it difficult to write. So that’s the story, right? So write about it.

By the time I was done with that blog post I realized: No one would have an easy time of it, producing heartfelt, even occasionally coherent, written material — typed near dawn into a lap top computer running on, and running out of, battery power with my butt perched on a sidewalk curb. That I have been able to write as much & as well as I have is an feat of human spirit. I am proud of myself.

I wrote the post for entirely personal reasons; to pay myself the respect I am due. I certainly felt vulnerable for having written it. I don’t know…it’s kind of like the way women are when they want to tell a guy about all their problems. You know? The way they don’t want us to “fix it.” They just want to tell us how they feel.

I disabled Reader Comments for that particular post. Because to my mind there wasn’t much about it for anyone to say. And if someone thought there was I probably didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to have to worry about what anyone might say. I just wanted to tell you guys how I feel.

Thanks for listening.

A couple days later I had a hunch that I should re enable reader comments. I don’t know why. Maybe because I felt a bit more confident. Or else because my instincts suggested that somewhere out there was a reader with just the right thing to say.

That’s when I met Jay Herron.

He found my blog through one of the tags I assigned to it; PTSD or perhaps childhood sexual trauma. And I’m powerfully glad he did. Because the lifelong effect of sexual trauma is plumb hard to wrap the brain around. Particularly you do not find many men who speak forthrightly of our plight.

So it helps immensely to know — thanks to the power of blogging — that out there somewhere is a man, a friend, who, from his own oft torturous experience, understands how I feel.

The other day I was visiting some friends who had recently married. They had requested I bring my portfolio of drawings as the wife is an artist too-they both were interested in seeing my work. As she was going through the drawings she came to one page that made her pause for a legnth of time and she looked up at me and said ” I know exactly what this is about”.The drawing she refered to was an image of me-my head only-standing in a room full of snakes and for heads each snake had a hand and in the fingers of each hand was a fang-a poisonous fang. Around the room you can see boxes with men laying in them and above the room you can see eyes peering over the ledge. One of the snakes is coiled around my neck. My friends new wife confided she to had been confined during a DUI arrest-and had been raped…but until then she knew nothing about what happened to me in barracks D.
>>Jay Herron

When Jay reported his rape he was laughed at and told to “Get used to it.”

Get Used To It.

Why was Jay told to do that? In part because rape was an occurrence my friend endured systematically during the two months he was held in Barracks D (a bogus marijuana rap, to which he was forced to confess, was added to his AWOL charge like an insult to his injury).

Why?

I wonder whether rape is as much a part of the military regiment as push ups. It could serve a purpose — where the raped & the rapist can be reliably anticipated to perform unique combat roles.

But that’s a Big Question; one I hope my buddy Jay will answer himself in the pages of a book.

He can talk about the time — that’d be today, Wednesday 11.07.07 — when he took the United States Navy to court. Just him, against the might of the United State’s military. To seek restorative justice — though my friend excusably doubts such a thing exists — for the atrocities inflicted on him in Barracks D.

For Jay victory — unlikely as it seems — is a simple apology. But the very act of walking into that courtroom today is a feat of human spirit; one I wish I was there to see.