So I had been running it through my mind a few times exactly how I was going to get myself & my wife to Chico, and when the time came to execute…well, I would have to say I flubbed it. It ended up being one of those “For Future Reference” kinda things. We waited what seemed like a dog’s age for the very first stop light, just yards from our front door, and after a few minutes of that took a strange and meandering route to the freeway. Then, headed straight into the “Across The Top” project, which annoys me terribly. But not terribly enough for my distracted brain to actually plan around it, evidently.
Now that I’ve demonstrated my ability to take time-consuming side-routes in my driving, allow me to indulge the same in my writing: Sacramento is Seattle’s retarded little brother when it comes to managing traffic. It has recently upgraded itself, to its credit, from “We’re vastly inferior and we have no clue” to “We’re vastly inferior and let’s start doing something about it.” Having shrugged off the burden of Dunning Kruger, its first move out of the chute is to make things much worse. There is a thin ribbon, with no lane changes possible, stretching…I don’t know how many miles. I’m always so aggravated, I make a point of clocking it, then I forget. No lane changes means a stationary parkng lot where a moving avenue should be. Not sure why, it just does. Someone who designs freeways has yet to realize this, but I have no room to come off all cocky about it if I keep forgetting that I should not be going there.
And then I had my brilliant flash of insight.
I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, congratulations to Sacramento for finally figuring out that just because there are high occupancy lanes, doesn’t mean the traffic is being managed well. It doesn’t even mean you’re burning less fuel or being kind to the environment — it can mean the opposite. There has to be a whole system in place, with a quality design involving interrelated parts. I guess there were enough civil engineers going on trips, following my footsteps, driving cars on the freeways in Seattle and then Sacramento, learning what I learned, finally figuring out Something Had To Be Done. Now, progress is being made; but progress made, without a proper sense of direction, might not be a good thing. Just because you’re moving “forward” doesn’t mean you’re headed to a better place. With some learning, we’ll eventually get there. Another thirty years or so.
The flash of insight was crystallized, a bit here and a bit there, in the days that rolled on by afterwards. What did it for me was the dead, shit-colored lawns. Such comments from me, I understand, can cause offense; the new neighbor who lives across the street, still won’t talk to me or make eye contact with me. I learned the awkward way that he’s part of the shit-colored-lawn brigade, guess I spoke my mind a bit too casually. In my defense, I should point out our neighborly conversation began in the first place because he was admiring my lawn and wanted to know what I put on it, so I can easily recall why I assumed he wasn’t part of the shit-colored-lawn brigade — it did seem reasonable and safe at the time. And the passion behind my dislike of this “Golden Brown Lawn” publicity spree, is such that it is difficult to maintain a cover over the geyser.
There is so much feeding into it. Starting with, What ever happened to that idea that…if you want to take your family someplace special, maybe save up some cash for a rainy day fund, or get some elective surgery, whatever…you work hard at your job and show how valuable you are? What ever became of that? Winning prizes by having the shittiest-looking shit-colored lawn? A thousand bucks? How about, a thousand dollar bonus for being really good at the work you do? Did that somehow get eliminated as a possibility? What is all this crap…win with your lottery ticket here, win that contest there. Are we kids, or grown-ups? Can’t we save money anymore?
And don’t hand me that line of bull about conserving. I mean, yeah I get it, small numbers adding up into big numbers. Lots of gallons of water going into each lawn-watering, lots of lawns, hey, let’s just tell the sheeple that it’s cool to have a dead lawn, think of all those gallons that will be saved. Who’d a-thought, right? The cool thing now is to make your house look like the local shopping mall for crystal meth, yippee! Just like Billy Madison convincing all those kids that pissing your pants is the cool thing to do — in fact, exactly like that, just lacking in that adorable but unhygienic nobility. I’m sure the math does back up that there’s some conservation going on here, but let’s be honest. Conservation is not the goal, the goal is laziness. “I’m doing my part! And oh look…I don’t have to get up to cut the grass. Well cool. There’s a Friends marathon on teevee this afternoon anyway.” Yeah, don’t hurt yourselves sacrificing too much, sheeple.
I still owe you an explanation for my brilliant flash of insight, don’t I? It’s coming.
Had an errand to run sometime this week, which means after the debacle with this single-lane Across The Top thing, since that was last weekend. It was after work. Car radio was off, so the gears in my brain were churning away furiously…I took the backroads to a shopping mall, to miss the commute traffic, and ended up going through a tiny knot of suburbia. There it is again, a whole square mile, or more, of dead lawns. Rolling by my car windows as I make my way through the neighborhood…drug dealer’s house, drug dealer’s house, another drug dealer’s house, another another another. Looks like shit, it’s disgusting. And then — the local park. Lush, green, immaculate, trimmed.
While this is all happening, there are these knock-down drag-out discussions with the big-government types on social media, meandering along the tired talking-point of “Without government, who would build the roads?” Ugh, always with those damn roads. Yeah, yeah, roads, sidewalks, park benches, police and fire departments. So bizarre. We start talking about “taxing the rich” and, is it really hiking way out on a limb, to suppose that the cause of the disagreement has something to do with the federal level? Seems kind of self-evident, to me. It’s really about control. Isn’t it? We talk about public spending versus private spending, what we’re really talking about is diverting resources. We’re talking about influence being channeled, away from the people who are closest in proximity to whatever problem is supposed to be solved, toward people who are much further away. Not as likely to solve the problem, but they’re “our leaders” or something.
How come these justifications for continued & greater government spending, are municipal? Seems like avoiding the real issue.
I should have pulled over, parked, and snapped a picture. It captures the psychological malady quite nicely. It’s no different from the fatty on a diet intoning, only half-jokingly, “These calories don’t count because” …it’s a special occasion, her husband isn’t seeing her, she’s not recording it in her app…whatever. This is no different, and it makes no more sense. This money, this carbon, this water, is not really being spent because it’s being spent publicly.
That is the craziness that has lately started to consume us: Not only are our infinitely wise village elders infinitely wise, but it makes sense for us to turn over our resources for them to spend on our behalf, because when they spend the resources the resources aren’t really spent. If I am to upsize my 4-cylinder into a V-8 — provided I can find one nowadays — that is just an appalling offense. But our public officials can fly to faraway places on enormous jets, for no higher goal than a publicity stunt, to rename a mountain, whatever…even, irony of ironies, to give speeches about how we all need to drive smaller cars. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, but there’s something wrong with you if you notice it.
We’re really no better than that fat cow playing her game of “calories don’t count if.” Watering the lawn at City Hall, or the State Capitol building, doesn’t take any water. Doesn’t count.
Kim Davis, the county clerk from someplace in Kentucky who refused to hand out gay marriage licenses, got out of jail the other day, which is a bit bizarre to me because it seems like nothing’s settled. Does her ass belong in jail, or doesn’t it? Now that she’s out, and very likely headed back in again, the thought occurs to me that you can make all the arguments you want to support one answer, or the other, and at the end of it you’ll have done nothing to defend what’s being done — it’s cocked up no matter how you slice it. Those who say she got what she deserved for “not doing her job” are entirely failing to see the issue from the perspective of their opposition — not that that’s going to bother them too much, they like failing at this. The more estranged they are from the thoughts and feelings of their opposition, the happier they are, not that that will intimidate them in any way from having their opinions. That’s what it’s like when you’re punch-drunk on winning arguments, and don’t care about anything but winning the arguments. Somewhere along the line, solving problems just sort of falls off the radar. Ahab has to hunt his whale.
And what an easy problem this was. Drive to the next county and get your fucking license.
What really scares me about it is, not quite so much the so-called “jailable offense” of not recognizing gay marriage, or “not doing her job” as county clerk. What I find truly frightening is we’re dealing with genuine irrationality. The writhing beast that lusts for this sense of vengeance, wants to see Kim Davis in jail, wants to imbibe more and more of the elixir of winning-arguments, does it? Clearly doesn’t care about anything else. Think on this: Imagine the argument-winning power of driving to that other county, getting the license, driving back and waving it in Douglas’ face with a big fat smirk on yours. Just imagine.
She would be reduced, and instantly, to lasting irrelevance. You could write an article for Slate, or Huffington Post, about how this serves her right and then we’d all move on to the next thing. As it is, the writhing, irrational beast sent her to jail, and in doing so made her something of a martyr. There are three possibilities: One, the writhing, irrational beast has become so irrational, it cannot follow even the simplest of strategies to accomplish its goals. Two, the writhing beast is not so irrational, but has goals that are concealed from view — I am misunderstanding what those goals are. Three, the writhing beast, being an aggregate of many individuals, is a composite made up of different people, with different goals.
And this is where it all comes together. All these examples; the local road “improvement” that works so well that it brings freeway traffic to a complete stop; the water conservation movement that pretends to be about sacrifice but really just celebrates laziness; the settling of the gay marriage dustup, ONCE AND FOR ALL, that doesn’t even try to settle it, once, or for all, or anything of the like.
No, it isn’t a conspiracy. What it is, is a very perverse motivation acting upon the elites, to pigeonhole the rest of us into large, growing, all-encompassing groups of people, united into such defined class with as thin a common cause as might possibly be defined, so that the groups can swell to a membership status close to universal…and then, start fucking with us.
The County Clerk thing, that’s supposed to be about freedom and equality. What is that, really, though? It’s targeting someone, ostensibly for “failing to uphold the law” or “not doing her job,” but separating her from other officials objecting conscientiously in similar ways. And then throwing her butt in jail. Equality. Freedom. Mission accomplished?
The road thing is a measurable failure. Zero miles an hour is a measurement, and it’s rather hard to form an argument against it.
Only the water conservation thing holds any merit, since when the water is not being used for a lawn it most certainly is being conserved. But here too, we see a situation in which those among us who are empowered to dictate our directional approach to addressing a problem, are picking a direction quite out of harmony with finding an actual solution to the problem. A golden lawn is the New Cool? Well, you guys go first. Why is there green grass around City Hall?
A week ago I was writing about how the masses who are asses fuck with us, when you get right down to it, destroying things because they’re bored and haven’t got anything better to do. Those are commoners; these are elites. Both enticed, and often, and relatively recently, to habitually fuck with the rest of us. These two forces combine, to bring pressures upon those of us who seek to live life productively, responsibly, and respectfully toward others around us. My “bottom line” point to all this? Something is different; something has changed. The change is not good.
The energy we have to burn to confront these two pressures acting upon us — I wonder if it could be contributing to climate change? — is no longer a tangential expense. Somewhere along the line, and perhaps it is a shift going back years and years, moving along at a glacial pace, that rocket-fire-burn we have to do, to prevail against the fuck-with-you from above & below, has moved into the center, into the limelight. It has become the biggest challenge involved in being an adult, living out one’s adulthood, whereas in our parents’ and grandparents’ time, it was the smallest.
What’s changed? Simplest explanation is the best. People didn’t fuck with our grandparents so much, because there wasn’t much point to it and there wasn’t any available time. People had to be productive in what they did. But also, if you were a public servant there were alternative options available to you to engage in graft. Today, if you want to engage in graft, it seems this has become the first step: Define a large, nearly-universal group of people, then start applying an inconvenience, an agitation, an annoyance, to the group. Start fucking with the people in the group. It can be an annoyance large, or small, but it has to be a frequent one.
If the inconvenience is not applied to a very large number of people, and it isn’t applied easily, and it isn’t applied frequently, graft is harder. If we really are all being treated with respect, and equally, graft is much harder.