One Last Taste of Freedom

What kind of world are we living in ? For eight months of the year I live in a hamlet of some forty registered voters and some fifteen kids. As far as I know, there are three farmers, a mason, a nurse’s aide, an electrician, a teacher, a leather worker, two social workers of some sort, the family who rents the upstairs of city hall (job(s) unknown), a young divorcée, and four retirees, five, including me. Or six, if you include the asshole who lives just to the east of us across the road, who has, even though he’s an asshole, a beautiful garden. He showed it to me maybe six or seven years ago before I started taking care of his cat who he more or less abandoned and then got all pissed off when I told him his cat (who had more or less taken up residence with us) had come down with an infection and did he have the number of a veterinarian, did he even know that his cat was not well ? He told me to fuck off, to mind my own business.

One of the interesting things about that incident, now that I think about it, is that it represents, in a scaled down kind of way, the capitalist ethic. He acquires a cat (somehow, we don’t know) most probably to try and control the mouse problem that is so common in an agricultural setting where everything is built of stones and certainly not hermetic. Kind of like the factory owner who hires workers, and then, when they become ill or disabled, fires them and puts the care of the worker in the hands of the public who may or may not give a shit. In any case, the cat owner, like the factory owner, feels no responsibility or social conscience for someone who was providing him a) with an income, or b) with a service. Privatized profit, socialized costs.

We, of course, assumed the responsibility of seeing that the cat got the care he needed. It’s a long story (even kind of funny), but he ended up being sent to Paris to be treated for a cancerous tumor on his right flank. So, there are still some good people in this world.

And that brings me back to the original question. The small, incidental world that took care of Croc (my name for him because he tended to bite and scratch if you bothered him too much, although he was in the process of claming down), exists. It’s a matter of generalizing that ethic, that sense of uninterested care and community that, somehow, needs to be developed. Or rediscovered.

A lot of people are claiming that « social media » is somehow going to bring us together, to save us from the calamities of continuous war, environmental destruction. Two of the biggest questions of our times. I don’t see that happening.

What I see happening is the infantalization of way too many people via all the electronic diversions now available. They’re not talking to one another directly, they’re somewhere else, comforting themselves in some narcissistic nether world, or in anguish because someone didn’t « like » them on some social media channel. And all of this done at distance, as if some electronic god was giving each of them a thumb up or down. Rather than having a real conversation with the person sitting beside you on the train or the Metro, for example.

Electricity, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. There are many ways of producing it and many ways of using it. It’s just that the ends to which it being put to use these days may not be in our overall interests.

It’s not that I’m against « spreading the word » that something is going down. But what is the hurry ? The problems we’re facing today are not new, nor are they « news » for anyone who has a sense of history. This shit’s been going probably since before the wheel was invented.

Or maybe it’s just that I never believed in the corporate way of looking at things. I could have, since our family had a booming construction materials business. Maybe it was because my degree was in the liberal arts rather than business administration that I was considered somehow inept or subversive because I pleaded for organic development, self-sustaining communities (we were into real estate, as well), rather than those anonymous subdivisions that have destroyed the landscape, the environment, and the long term economy of the US. Plus, I thought two weeks of vacation was criminally not enough, since my father took off when he felt like it.

I lasted maybe six months, turned my back on all that and ended up working ranches in Wyoming and Montana, just to get all the frustration out of my system, to get out into the clean air of the Rockies, bend my body to the exigencies of the seasons, the lazy days of irrigation, the intense efforts of harvest, the celebratory end of season, the slow, steady winter fencing. Working with people who, to me, were mythical and monosyllabic. Who had more humor in the wink of an eye or a simple glance than a year’s worth of Comedy Central (as I was later to learn). And more authentic. More heartfelt. Less denigrating.

The last time around, at shipping season, Jackson plead my case for joining the crew up mountain, on the Continental Divide, where we herded and fed beef and sheep before loading them up for the west coast. The boss decided otherwise, and I decided to tarp over the back of my ’49 Chevy pickup and head back to my books, banging the steering wheel all the way down our branch of the Ruby to Alder, where I spent a few weeks drinking and supposedly hunting with my brand new 30-06 with the guy who talked me into buying the rifle down in Twin Bridges in the first place. First day out, I got a good sized deer from a decent distance, called it quits, refusing to shoot anything but inanimate shit. We ate the deer with the regulars at the bar just before I left, with a crushing hangover, and no idea where my rifle was. Couldn’t have cared less. I was heading east and had an uneasy feeling about going that way. My only comfort being the little straight six sitting right in front of me, clicking away like a clock, and the bottle of Jim Beam on the seat next to me, and the immensity of the slow slide down to the Missouri, where I bathed one early morning, amongst tree trunks and large stones, oblivious to the cold, giving my body one last taste of freedom.


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