Individuals part 2

It is good to remember that individuals, while generally better than members of an enraged mob stomping off to do something atrocious, are still individuals, subject to immense variation.  I was reminded of this two or three times after I wrote yesterday’s feel good piece.  

The sympathetic woman who took my initial call about a brusque postal supervisor who gave me a polite “tough, fucking shit, sir” when I complained my rent check had been inexplicably returned to me, and the equally nice woman, a Ms. Linton, I was later informed, who fielded my follow-up five business days later, were two very decent individuals.   The first, whose name I did not get, was not, as it turned out D. McNeil, the woman who was out to lunch when I spoke to the second kind individual at the Postal Inspector’s.

Ms. McNeil knew nothing of my complaint, her name had simply been on the automatically generated email that had been sent to me confirming that my complaint was being seriously investigated.  She confirmed that it was being investigated at the local level, by the person best suited to evaluate it, the brusque postal supervisor in question, who now had my confidential complaint in his hands, with my name and address.  

Ms. McNeil knew nothing of the case, put me on hold to read the case notes.  Five minutes later she was back, still not sure why I had wanted a return call from her.  The case had been ‘escalated’ to the individual post office level.  I asked her what the sense was to have my complaint in the hands of the man who had created the problem when, instead of being helpful, gave his tour de force of super-cool tough guy customer service.  She sort of agreed there was only a limited point to him investigating himself.

Unlike the others, Ms. McNeil didn’t bother to apologize on behalf of the Post Office for this Clint Eastwood-like customer relations specialist, though she did agree that it would have been better customer service to have told the customer holding the mistakenly, inexplicably returned rent check, “this should not have happened.  I will put it on the truck now and your landlord will have it in two or three days.”   She said it would have been better if he’d said something like that, instead of handing me a fake complaint number to call, instead of crossing out the barcode so the idiotic mistake would not be repeated.  She agreed that had he said that an apology of any kind would have been unnecessary.   She asked me wearily what I expected her to do at this point.

“For starters, I still want the Post Office to deliver the rent check they’ve returned to me twice,” I told her.  She explained again about the bar code, how it had to be crossed out and covered with a label.  Sadly, there was no guarantee it would be delivered this time either.   She then mentioned the original idea I’d had– have the post office put the thing in another envelope, readdress it and send it again.   Ms. McNeil liked this idea.  Eventually she told me she would ‘escalate’ the complaint, sending it to the area supervisor, the person to whom all branch supervisors answer. I asked for the email address to send my photos of the twice returned envelope.  She placed me on hold.   While holding I was treated to an endless stream of upbeat ads about the many unbeatable services offered by the Postal Service.   I listened, for as long as my patience lasted, which was about three minutes.  I hung up and dialed the number I had for D. McNeil.  

A pleasant recorded voice told me the person at this number had not set up their voicemail and then announced I would be transferred to a representative to assist me.  There was a beep, then another recording.  It said “your session cannot be continued at this time.  Goodbye.”

Twenty minutes later Ms. McNeil called me back with a fax number where I could fax all the photos I wanted.  I told Ms. McNeil I’d gotten rid of my fax machine years ago.  I asked again for an email address.  She sighed, having no idea why I was being so difficult about these simple things.  She was sure they probably had an email address, would I like to hold while she searched for it again?

I thanked her and walked over to the local post office.  The two Chinese American clerks there had always been very nice.  But all the one I spoke to told me is that she could cover the bar code, send it out for sorting again and hope for the best.  “But,” she told me in strongly accented English, “some Postal employees do not do what they’re supposed to.  You can never tell.”   As for putting it in another envelope, they had no such envelope, I had to go to the main post office for that service.   She agreed it wasn’t fair to make me pay more postage for another envelope, the only option available.  Then she looked at me with intensity and said “But if I give you envelope I have to pay, nobody pay me for the postage.  You think that’s fair?”    I didn’t.  They had no supervisor available at their little Utopia Branch (heavenly though the place otherwise is.)   The two Asian-American clerks regarded me seriously until I agreed it wasn’t fair that one of them should be forced to pay.

I had a sudden thought that none of this was fair.  Our fucking world is off the fucking rails, every business we encounter here in America, with rare, beautiful exceptions, is managed from the style book for psychopaths.  I bought the envelope, it cost me 63 cents.  I paid in cash.  I  addressed the blank envelope and re-mailed the twice returned rent check to my landlord.  I apologized to the wide eyed clerk, who had begun staring at me, seeming truly hurt by how I seemed to be making such unfair demands of her.  When I handed her back the envelope I said “thank you, ma’am.”   She smiled.  I walked back into the sunshine trying to get over the feeling that I had been successfully pissed on, for more than a week.


“Greeked” for posting on this website.  The envelope was addressed as neatly as circumstances yesterday allowed. 

Peace be with you.


Short version

Wrote this as part of a futile letter I am working on, an exercise in trying to digest something that is indigestible, addressed to the chef and server of the unpalatable dish.  I don’t know if it has any interest, but it’s a much quicker telling of the encounter laid out in the previous post, and I will most likely delete it from the letter I wrote it in:


I wrote this letter right after an encounter at my local post office. The encounter illustrates a personality type, all too common, that gives no quarter in defending why they are right and you, whatever the facts, are actually the asshole.

My rent check, in the landlord’s mailer, was returned to me, the stamp cancelled and no other explanation. Went to the post office to have it delivered.  The monkeylike clerk wordlessly studied it for a long time before telling me I needed to talk to the supervisor. The supervisor also studied the envelope for a moment.

“Must not have read the address,” he said, pointing to the address printed on the business envelope. “Machines, we use machines, sometimes they make mistakes.” I asked him to expedite delivery of the check, since it was now a week late. He told me he couldn’t expedite anything, only “overstamp” it and put it back into regular mail, unless I wanted to pay for overnight delivery.  He apparently thought I was being a dick, because he’d already admitted a machine had made a mistake, that it was nobody’s fault, and yet I was still demanding something from him. “Haven’t you ever made a mistake?” he asked me.

At this point, the guy who should have simply said “this shouldn’t have happened, I’m sorry for the hassle. I’ll hand cancel this, put it on the truck and make sure it gets delivered tomorrow, the address is only five miles from here” was staring at me like I’d just taken a piss at his window.  He slid a paper with a number he said was for complaints through the window, told me his name. He refused to give me a receipt or any proof I’d re-mailed my returned envelope to my landlord. Told me he could only give me a receipt if I paid for it.

The number on the form turned out not to have an option for “complaints” and the waiting time was 40 to 50 minutes to speak to a human. I have no idea if this dickhead gave me his actual name, whether he put my letter in the bin to be sorted and delivered or into the garbage bin. How would I know how much of a vicious psycho this guy potentially is, particularly after I finally told him to fuck himself after he told me he could only give me a receipt if I paid him? He’d certainly showed me a nice snappy catalogue of politely sociopathic traits.

With a stranger who is an asshole, this is standard behavior: never sympathize, or admit any wrongdoing, give a reason that sounds reasonable enough, deny any obligation to fix the mistake, put the complaining consumer on the spot by blaming him for being a hypocrite, and a complainer, tell him to fuck off, politely, give him a fake number to file his fake complaint and make up a name for yourself.

A loved one who does this is in a different category, no?  Do you want the lesson your kids get to take with them in life to be that trust is a delicate, transactional illusion, that to live you have to learn to tell yourself, and others, any lie that makes it possible to conceal shame and manipulation?


Anger Update

Be reluctant to declare victory in the war on difficult emotions, my friends.   It is important to remember that battling our powerful lowest impulses is a constant wrestling match.   I had a nice reminder of the hubris of claiming victory yesterday, and the letdown in vigilance such hubris often causes, when I momentarily lost my verbal shit in the post office yesterday.   This came a day after delivering learned comments about recognizing the signs that you are about to get angry, taking a breath and pulling yourself back from the explosion.

My rent check, in the printed mailer provided by my landlord, was returned to me several days after I mailed it.  It was postmarked and returned with no reason for its return anywhere on the envelope. I brought it to the Post Office today to have its delivery expedited.   The woman at the window studied it for a long time, turning it over and over in her hands, peeling back the stamp, turning it again, her lower lip hanging down pensively. After a few minutes of this, and before she could reach for a magnifying glass, I pointed out that she was not going to find any further information.  I told her it was a rent check, returned to me in error, and that I needed it delivered as soon as possible.   She asked what day I had mailed it, when it had been returned to me.  She looked blankly as I told her “I mailed it Tuesday,  it was returned Saturday” then consulted her phone, presumably for a calendar.   After a long pause she looked up at me without expression, slid the envelope back to me and sent me over to her supervisor.

The supervisor looked at the postmarked envelope, turned it in his hands, shrugged and told me maybe the printed address had not been read through the window.  I pointed out that it was quite legible, printed in caps, in fact, and in the place where every business correspondence is addressed.  He countered with “machines, these are read by machines, which sometimes make mistakes.”  

He told me he could not expedite delivery of this erroneously returned mailing, then, when I appeared dissatisfied with this answer, asked me if I had never made a mistake.  I told him, of course, we all do, but that in the case of this properly addressed, properly posted letter I hadn’t made a mistake, the Post Office and its sorting machines had.   I was asking him to correct this mistake.  He said all he could do was send it again, by regular mail, and that hopefully it would go through this time.  He told me he would draw arrows directing the machine’s attention to the place where the address is on the business envelope, that hopefully it would be properly routed by the machine this time.

“Arrows,” I said, “directing the machines to the ordinary place for an address.  Presumably these arrows will get a postal machine to remove its head from its mechanical ass and sort the envelope properly this time.”

“Those are your words,” he said, unnecessarily.

 When I  still appeared unsatisfied, realizing he was dealing with an angry, implacable dick, he slid a postal form, PS Form 3849, under the glass and told me if I had a complaint, to call the number on the form.  The move removed any doubt I had about being in a conversation with an immovable asshole, in this case one named Umar, but I managed, for a time, to maintain a grim cool.   

This was the time, as I urged my friend the other day, to notice the signs that this was going badly, not going to end well, the physical signs that fight or flight chemicals were flowing, the familiar, climbing feeling that generally happens when I find myself confronted by a robotic attitude, by some insistent jerk sitting behind bullet proof glass who won’t back down no matter what.  This was the time to walk away, there was clearly nothing to gain in this interaction.

All he could do, he told me again, was “overstamp” it and draw arrows on the envelope pointing the machine to the address, and hopefully it would get there, by regular mail, in a few days.  Unless I paid extra, there was no other option available to me, nor anything else the post office would do, or had any obligation to do.  “Feel free to make a complaint,” Umar told me, giving me his name.    I told him to overstamp it and send it again.  He did.  I thanked him for his time, through gritted teeth.

Walking out of the post office I was steamed.  After walking about a block I realized I should have gotten a receipt of some kind of the re-mailing, in case of future trouble with the landlord (and to avoid a $25 fee to stop the original check, in the event the letter didn’t make it the several miles to my landlord’s office).  

As I turned to go back to the Post Office I passed the ongoing standoff over a parking spot.  On my original trip to the Post Office, fifteen minutes earlier, I’d seen one car backing in to parallel park as another nipped in quickly from the other direction.   Neither car could get into the spot now, and neither driver was willing to concede an inch to the other.   The two drivers were locked in their positions, neither one backing down, while a traffic jam built up behind them, a bus trying to make a turn was now blocking all traffic on Broadway.   Horns were blaring.   “The human condition,” I thought, as I entered the Post Office again, to enact my part.

Umar would not come to the window, though he saw me standing at the window.  I called him and pounded on the bulletproof glass with my fist as he disappeared around the wall.  I continued calling his name in a loud belligerent voice.  When he returned, affecting the unflappability of the perfect asshole, he refused to give me any kind of receipt.  Impossible, he said, unless I paid for it.  I then exploded.

“This place is fucked up and you are the fucking supervisor of it!” I snarled idiotically, if also accurately, and stormed out, banging the door hard enough to break it.   A moment later it occurred to me that his next move would be to reach into the bin, retrieve my letter with the rent check, rip it neatly in half, ball it up and toss it into the garbage.

The “complaint” number he gave me had no option for complaints.  It was not a complaint number.  The wait to speak to a human was “40 to 50 minutes”.   I found myself flooded with fight or flight chemicals as I searched the web for how to make a complaint against customer-relations challenged civil servant Umar, to protect myself if he did the angry thing and destroyed my payment to the landlord.  He could also simply have left it on a shelf, to sit for a few weeks.

I called the federal agency that oversees the Post Office, spoke to a very sympathetic woman (whose name I foolishly did not take, though she gave me my case #) who assured me this will be investigated and an email would come back to me within 3 business days.  She told me it was a good move on my part to have photographed the returned envelope, and that I should hold on to the photo.

Odds are Umar didn’t rip it up, the landlord will have it the day after tomorrow, cash it by 3/20 and done and done.  In the odd event that he did ‘go postal’ on my check to the landlord, there is at least a record, a complaint with the federal office that investigates alleged improprieties by postal workers.  For whatever that might be worth.  

But if that impenetrable wall of glass hadn’t been between us, and Umar had stepped toward me, I can’t say for sure, in spite of not being a fighter, in spite of my conscious attempt to remain peaceful, that I would have been able to resist what nature would have been imploring me to do.  I’d had fair warning as things went from fartlike to actual shit, but it was no help in this instance.

This is one reason anger is such a dangerous thing.  It is waiting, always, particularly for those of us who were victimized by angry adults when we were children, and anger can almost always convince you that you are 100% correct in your reaction.  Umar had probably had a shitty day himself, didn’t feel like being reprimanded by some snotty, disgruntled customer for a simple mistake he had nothing to do with.   When the customer poured salt on his shit-sandwich of day by telling him “if you had said ‘this shouldn’t have happened, I’m sorry for the hassle, we’ll get this over to your landlord ASAP,” Umar could only claim he had said that.  “I told you I was sorry,” he said sullenly, then slid the fake complaint number under the glass by way of saying “lick my unwashed, crusty asshole, sir.” 

There is no winner in this kind of transaction.  It is best to keep them short and to the point, though that is far more easily said than done.   Remain humble, do not proclaim that you have surmounted the ugly thing that will soon be ready to bite you in the ass again, hard, and with very sharp teeth.

Moral Dilemma

I have gone on at length here about the damage done by concealing crucial information, in pubic and private life both.   It is impossible to make sense of a situation when the underlying events are secretly redacted, classified, above your need-to-know pay grade.    This obfuscation of what actually happened, what used to be quaintly called “the facts”, can be found in virtually every situation where somebody is brutally, or even gently, fucking somebody else over.   Withholding key information is necessary for the proper functioning of every abusive situation,  every betrayal and scandal, personal, political, environmental, what have you.

Removal of transparency has been institutionalized by the powerful corporate players who sponsor candidates for the legislature, it is now also the rule in the government unlimited free speech money has largely purchased.   It would not do, for example, to have the facts known about the effects of the toxic waste being produced by a fabulous company employing thousands and making billions.   Public relations firms are employed to humanistically spin the work the friendly corporation does, to direct people’s fleeting attention away from the murderous externalities the corporation seeks to conceal. 

An energetic public relations firm has been at work for Koch Industries in recent years, showing actors playing women, black people, minorities of every kind, happily employed in important jobs by beneficent, forward looking Koch Industries– making a better tomorrow today and shit.   

There is obviously no hint in these feel good Koch pieces that the toxic sludge they are piping from the Alberta tar sands they own, across the entire width of the U.S., to refineries in Houston, is the most toxic form of fossil fuel left on earth.  Or that it’s flowing sluggishly (with at least one massive spill so far) across more than a thousand miles of the American watershed.   Forget, for a moment, the raped wasteland the ‘harvesting’ of this toxic prehistoric sludge leaves behind on the Canadian lands owned by the Kochs.  The Americans who are protesting the pipeline are beaten up by privately hired goons, set upon by dogs, by Trump, strip searched and imprisoned for carrying signs stating their case about protecting the water supply.  Nothing to see here.  Koch, making the future bright, for winners.  Whatever else you can say about piping this toxic sludge, the profits it will generate for the two Koch boys will double their already incalculable fortune.

Or as you will immediately learn by googling Keystone XL: 

The Keystone XL oil pipeline will be the safest and most advanced pipeline in North America, providing U.S. jobs, energy security and economic benefits.

Wealthy criminals who are actually prosecuted can avoid admissions of guilt by signing lawyerly agreements where they pay a sum of money without an admission of guilt.  Trump and his dad did that, thanks to the rabid genius of the unscrupulous Roy Cohn, who countersued the government for defamation when the government prosecuted the Trumps under The Fair Housing Act.   Trump Inc. who had been systematically violating the Fair Housing Act long before it became law, admitted no wrong-doing and agreed to have its rental policies and practices monitored to ensure no future violations, but the government blinked.  Trump never had to admit their policy and longtime practice of not renting to brown skinned low-life motherfuckers, no matter how respectable they appeared to be.  Nothing to see here, bitches.  You didn’t prove shit and we didn’t admit jack.  Fuck you!

Political and business obfuscation is ubiquitous, too common to even talk about.   Rule one: never admit shit.  Rule two: when accused of violence, punch the accusers as hard as you can in the face, repeatedly, while kicking them in the balls.   Rule three: no disclosure.  Make me.  I know you are, but what am I?

“Yeah, we violated all 371 treaties we made with Native Americans, so?  They were fucking Stone Age savages who thought the earth itself was a god.  Fucking losers, they didn’t even know how to smelt metal.  Plus, a handful of the survivors became very, very rich, filthy rich, with those tax free casinos.  What are they bitching about?   You can’t bring back the dead.  Fucking losers….”

The moral dilemma I referred to above is in the personal arena.  It is an almost daily torment to me.   Hitler did a nice job trimming my family tree back in 1942 and 1943.  Of what would have been dozens of relatives today, from a once large family, I am left with a tiny handful, most of whom I haven’t seen in years.   The work that Hitler wasn’t able to complete, well, there are other ways to do it, yo.

“There you go again with the hyperbole, Elie,” said the skeleton of my father, popping up randomly, as he often does.  “You’re going to lose a lot of readers with this Hitler shit.  Hitler, yeah, not a nice man.  Mass murderer, twisted fuck, fine, most people know Hitler was no goddamned good.   You’re not shedding any light here by dragging his hideous face into this conversation.  My suggestion: leave fucking Hitler out of it.”

After a long pause, that included a shower, lunch and checking on the progress of Aaron Judge’s recovery from shoulder surgery, I agreed with my father’s skeleton that the best way to explore this moral dilemma was with a piece of fiction.  A lie, as Picasso put it, that reveals the truth.  And remember, total darkness is the best cover for abuse and shame.

The first time Jim met the man, the man said that Jim was a pussy, a man who lacked the balls to “confront” his girlfriend’s father.  “Confront the bastard!” he told Jim militantly as Jim’s girlfriend smiled and slightly cringed.  Jim felt no need to confront the girl’s father. He’d had dinner at his table, the man didn’t particularly like Jim, and as the father of a young woman who had middle class expectations, Jim thought the man was well within his rights to be wary of him.   Jim was idiosyncratic, disconnected from the general ambitions of the world, though smart.   Jim and his girlfriend’s father got along as well as they needed to, and the romance between his daughter and Jim was going along very amicably, in Jim’s opinion.  Jim told the man he always kept his word to the girl’s father, had her home by the hour he promised, and that preserved the peace and made everything much easier.

The guy who was lecturing Jim about having no balls was trying to convince Jim’s sister, who he’d met weeks earlier, to quit her excellent job, pack her things and run away with him to Arizona.   He was fleeing a failed marriage, it was complicated, he was deeply, deeply in love and he had no intention of meeting the parents of the pretty young woman he was trying to abscond with.

“Phew… that’s some ripe, eh, fiction,” said the skeleton.   

You can’t make this shit up, dad.   From that twisted exchange, an unneeded moral lecture to Jim about something he himself was incapable of doing, the rest followed in a straight line.   A long con game.  Soon he’d lost his job, asked Jim with a smile if he could borrow some money, just for a short time, a couple of months.  Jim was generous, Jim was foolish.   The man took advantage.  Jim became the subject of mounting anger on visits to his sister.  He was cursed as the “fucking Jew” who, years later, still came every month, driving a six hour round trip, just to collect the monthly payment they never mailed to Jim.  

The man was always more comfortable blaming others than taking responsibility for his frequent mistakes.  It is only human to make mistakes, it is inhuman not to forgive, preached the man who did many bad things without ever once apologizing to anyone.

The skeleton of my father nodded from his grave, very satisfied. 

“Nicely turned, Elie,” he said.  “I love that you didn’t even mention the many old friends he ‘borrowed’ money from who eventually abandoned the lying fuck, the several times, that we know of, that he embezzled from a boss who loved and trusted him, the year or more that he pretended to go to work every day while he was fraudulently drawing his ‘pay’ from his dead father’s credit cards.  The $10,000 he borrowed from mom and me towards the downpayment on a home he was pretending they were going to buy, two or three days before he declared bankruptcy.  Particularly heroic, on your part, not to mention the time he threatened to murder his children, his wife, me and mom, and then himself.  Like all desperate, murder and suicide threatening cowards, he could have saved everyone a lot of grief by just snuffing himself first.  So I salute you for not going there.”

Why would I go there, dad?  You know I always take the fucking high road. 

“Just one more reason you sometimes feel so fucking alone, Elie,” said the skeleton, wanly.  “I’m just sayin’… Try not to brood on lost nieces and nephews, eh?”

Anger Makes You Mad

Neuroscience has identified the part of the brain that lights up when we are angry — the insula, deep in the cerebral cortex.   When the insula is aglow fight or flight chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol are released and the mind is literally disabled from making fine, or even gross, distinctions.  

A truly angry parent may actually be physically incapable of seeing the harm in venting against a young kid who has provoked them to rage.  Incapable of seeing the damage done by slapping the kid, or locking the kid in a dark closet and turning the music up to drown her screams or raging wildly against the child’s sense of self. 

This shut off of the moral faculty when rage is upon us seems like an obvious point, but it really isn’t.  Angry and “mad” are synonyms, but even that is only a hint of the obvious.  

The other side of being angry is that we instantly justify our anger, even though these deeply-held justifications often don’t bear much scrutiny.  All available evidence, when we are mad, points to our being absolutely right to be angry.   The urgent reason we feel angry couldn’t be more obvious, to us.   It’s telling, and very human, that the only non-physical faculty that continues to work when we are enraged is our homo sapiens ability to justify ourselves.

This trait, rage making one resolute and incapable of seeing another person’s point of view, is what makes war possible.  It explains mob lynching and every other atrocity.   Rage makes people support deadly policies of all kinds.   We don’t see the victims of war, lynching or deadly policies as humans with souls as unique and precious as those of the people we love.   We see them as irredeemable fucking assholes who deserve what they fucking get.   If Donald Trump had a massive stroke during a nationally broadcast speech, many Americans would feel no empathy for him, some would even laugh.   Reminds me of a great line of Trump’s, from early in the presidential campaign when he was picking off his Republican opponents one after another.

 I think it was Ted Cruz, right before he was voted off the island, who introduced a woman, I think it was Carly Fiorino, as his running mate (turns out Carly introduced “our next president” Ted Cruz — ed.).   The woman turned on stage and seemed to fall into a manhole.   She stepped forward and just went down.  Trump showed the great clip to his crowd at a rally.  The crowd loved it.  He pointed out that nobody on stage had gone to help her.  “Even I would have helped her,” Trump said with a smile and a little shrug.  “Even I!”   Cracked me up.    

My grandmother, no stranger to anger, liked to calmly say, after she’d provoked me with some harsh comment about my work ethic, “I know, I know… the truth hurts, I know…”   I’d sputter on in defense of the thing she had just attacked and she’d smile, and nod, and sympathetically tell me that the truth hurts, that she knew, she knew.   I loved her, but that was some hard to come back from shit.  

There is this, though: the things that will make us most angry are things that attack us where we are most vulnerable.   A shameful secret, dangled sadistically.  Noting a particular weakness we know we have.   Bringing up something painful in a way that seems unfair.   Making an issue of our greatest fear.  

I’m no expert on anger, but I have studied it for many years, since it played a terrible role in my life going back to my earliest days.   It turns out there are ways to avoid an angry confrontation, methods to defuse anger rather than escalate it.  

The intellectual part is hard enough, recognizing the maddening principle at work, the exact, familiar thing that pisses you off, before the anger takes over, and then learning what you need to say and do next to avoid escalation.   That intellectual understanding is crucial for de-escalating the situation.  It’s hard, but over time we can get better at recognizing the signs that we are about to get mad and take the steps that have worked in the past to calm our reactions.

The emotional component of anger is the truly hard part to master.   The overwhelming feeling of injustice hits us hard out of nowhere.  Suddenly we are under attack, the stress chemicals flowing, the insula lit up, the justifications for our anger mounting aggravatingly.  That, my friends, is the fucking hard part.   Something to think about while you consider how you feel about the idea that anger, even rage, is inevitable in human affairs.   I would not concede that in my own relations.



“The Record”

For the record, I should note that generally, except for a few technical, crucial, implacable details set forth in the official record, for the general public there is really no official “going on the record”.   The exact content of the official record is something for very well-paid lawyers to argue about with the government’s lawyers.  The general public is often allowed a single participatory session to express its opinions on the matters under debate/ They speak “on the record”, but strictly speaking, their contributions to the record do not include any direct input into the debate, except through the votes of their elected officials (all of whom, in this case, appear to weaselishly favor a secretive economic development plan their constituents hate in overwhelming majorities). 

I spent a few hours today writing a statement for the record on that matter of urgent public concern, written comments had to be in within a few days of last night’s public meeting.   Good day’s work for a Friday.   In one way writing a statement for the record was a gesture of futility and, at best, a symbolic protest.  In another sense, and the way I thought of it, it was my clear duty as a citizen and neighbor to write on our mutual behalf.   I’m always happy to use my writing to try to convince someone to do the right thing.  This writing is partly sad, and partly also, writing it is a very helpful meditation exercise — feeling my way toward the connections to make this story more personal, a story to move an emotional individual toward mercy and away from a knee jerk to violence.

Anyway, I sent a copy of my previous post out to several friends and to my sister.  I wanted to let them know what I found myself up against, what I learned, how clearly I hopefully was able to describe it, and to eventually get a pat on the head or two from even one or two of them.

To my lawyer colleague and friend of almost half a century I offered the link:
Check this shit out, for a short busman’s holiday.   Anonymous frontmen for some Jareds and Donalds have their beady eyes on my neighborhood, and they spent $1,000,000 in public funds laying out a radical rezoning plan.   We’re all about to be fucked, so I went on “the record” the day after the sole “Public Hearing” into this matter of public concern the public had no other input into.

To my sister, who had recently compared me to her husband, a man she described as sitting in his easy chair and yelling at the TV, I wrote:

You can either yell at the TV or take action of some kind.  The most recent action I’m taking is to put my opposition to the planned sale of my neighborhood “on the record”.  I was encouraged that the public hearing last night was packed.  I think the facts I set out below speak for themselves, as did many of the community residents who spoke very well last night in opposition to this boondoggle for rapacious wealthy fucks.  150 neighborhood people signed up to speak, I heard about the first 40, then went home to start putting this together as my public comment.

The fucks will probably ram this corrupt rezoning plan through, because that’s what the lawyers who work for the Jareds and the Donalds get paid to do.  These types are allowed to ram rezoning plans down the throats of local opposition because their poop emits no foul odor and so forth.  The sweetness of their excretions does nothing to relieve the rest of us of our duty as democratic citizens to oppose their foul, if odorless, plans.

>Anyway, read on for the sickening/encouraging details.

To a thirty-two year old neighbor, an ecologist and an idealistic environmentalist, son of two of my oldest and dearest friends, I wrote:

Don’t know if you made it to the meeting last night about the proposed rezoning of Inwood.  To my surprise there was a raucous, standing room only crowd in the auditorium of the school across from the 9 cent store on Broadway and Academy.   150 people signed up to speak (I made it through the first 40 or so), so I contented myself with submitting this comment for the record.   You have until the end of February to submit a written comment, if you are so inspired.