Growing Old In Riverfront Park

Walking in the park, I saw an old man sitting at a park bench. He watched the birds on the other side of the pond. His stare was heavy, as if connected with such a powerful emotion to what he saw. The memory struck with such force that it left him sitting here, comforted by no one, breathless, without life.

I would walk through the park each day and see him staring at new people feeding the birds. After about a week, I managed to sit down, but I’m terrible at starting conversations, especially with strangers.My point is, I sat by this man, with a million questions I could ask, and asked not one. I lost that opportunity. I was an ass-cheek away and couldn’t manage to make a friend. No matter how curious, I failed to ask the questions that would solve this riddle.

I thought it out instead. What could cause an old man such pain? What could he see in these people? He could’ve come here with his wife, maybe fed the birds together for years, before he lost her. He could be all alone. His only release of pent-up emotion could be sitting here and letting the memory drift from his mind. Maybe he came here with his father or his son. Maybe this was the point in space and time where he had such a perfect moment he just couldn’t bear to leave. We all have that point in time that we go to when we feel the world crushing down. It’s a happy little place in our minds that allows us to escape. He went there. I don’t think he’ll ever go back.

Why would you want to return when you have nothing to return to? By the time I summoned the courage to spark a conversation, the man was gone. He never came back. I was left with nothing, except the mystery. I sat and watched from afar, the beautiful birds that came back every day, all covered in a glimmering glaze, bright blues and reds. The people changed, but never the birds. Always beautiful. Always here.

I stretched my arm out over the back of the park bench, sliding my hand down, not paying attention until my fingers felt something etched into the space between the back and front of the wood. I looked over and saw ‘Lily Bird’ etched into the wood. Something about connectivity. I could draw my own conclusions, but there was just something beautiful about this point in time and space.

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Epidemic Infrastructure

Not about my town, but more about every town in this country. There’s a widespread epidemic of abandoned buildings that have no use and in this new age is the opportunity to change the purpose behind them. It’s time to get creative.

The epidemic in this country is the infrastructure and it’s about time we found a cure.

 

Ghost Boxes: Reusing Abandoned Big-Box Superstores Across America

No Fracking In The Wasteland

Empire Generating Co.

Empire Generating Co.

#NoFrackingInTheWasteland

Controversial 178-mile-long parallel pipelines proposed for NY’s Hudson Valley/Northern NJ

Background Details

Ever since I was young, I knew that Somalia was a shit-hole. I’ve never been there and its existence has no bearing on my life, but I knew it. It was something that stuck in my mind, although I couldn’t explain my reasoning. I just knew, without any idea of the history or culture of this far away place. I was young and it was easier to plant ideas in my head, even stupid ideas, which I would politely accept. I had a lot of questions, because at that same time I was only curious about the place because the United States had to intervene in the area. When that intervention turned ugly we left. That’s about the breadth of my knowledge.

Aid still filters into most countries that we helped destroy. Money is one of the great Band-Aids of our history. I never knew that either as a boy.

Why am I discussing a third-world country in reference to a small town that nobody knows within the United States? Because it’s a prime example of what happens once those in power have what they want. This isn’t a Somali problem. This is happening in our backyards… MY backyard… LITERALLY. They come, like conquistadors, as in the Spanish to the Aztecs, who claimed to be ‘blessing’ the heathen indigenous cultures with Christianity, before they perpetrated the most extensive genocide in history. They’ll claim to be ‘providing opportunities’, but their “opportunities” are akin to those that a shark brings to the Pilot Fish. They’ll enter your town, like a virus infecting a healthy cell. They’ll devour everything vital and leave your town as a hollowed-out husk. Somalia is a reminder that some corporations will do anything to maintain profit-margins, justifying their means, but for surrounding areas it means stealing and corrupting everything that makes you vital.

In North Dakota, (where the link at the top opens) the expeditions for Bakken oil have led to the expulsion of 275,000 tons of methane per year.. http://www.noaa.gov/north-dakota%E2%80%99s-bakken-oil-and-gas-field-leaking-275000-tons-methane-year  For those who don’t know, methane is bad. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060829-methane-warming_2.html

In Hoosick Falls, New York just a few months ago Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International perpetrated the same injustice and the city hasn’t been able to use their water without the fear of infecting themselves with harmful carcinogens. https://www.epa.gov/ny/hoosick-falls-water-contamination  The company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International, manufactured plastic in the region. The same chemicals to manufacture plastic went into their water. It’s troubling, because we assume we’re safe and don’t suspect that those putting chemical agents into our water are our own corporations and government! I could put another link for Flint, Michigan, where the government and corporations were culpable in poisoning their people, but we should all know by now… and I’ve put too many links already…. and really… there are just so many links that deserve to be shared.

Walking Columbia Turnpike, you see two steam towers behind a red-brick building with busted windows and graffiti painting some of its walls. The building is still functional, but doesn’t look like much. It belongs to B.A.S.F., one of the few companies remaining in our city. Behind it is Empire Generating Co, where they use natural gas to generate energy between Rensselaer, East Greenbush, Albany and Troy. Before today, I didn’t know much about them. They were just there, in the back of the city and in the back of my mind. It’s too quiet in this place. Traffic is mostly tankers and eighteen-wheelers. They carry over another bridge into what remains of our ‘industrial park’, where the remnants of once great monoliths still stand.

When I think of Somalia now, ages from where I was when the United States first intervened, I think of desperation. You can look now to the facts: 13th worldwide in death rate per year, 3rd in maternal mortality rate and infant mortality, male life expectancy at 50.Around the same time that I learned about Somalia, I also learned about the glorious history of the Hudson River. General Electric poisoned that years ago, dumping polychlorinated biphenyl, which was once used in most coolants, for which the dredging has only just begun. Corporations tried to kill us years ago and have been tirelessly trying to kill our species for years. In a new effort to put the final nail in the coffin of our fair city, the ‘Pilgrim Company’, has proposed constructing a 178 mile long pipeline from New Jersey and up through New York state.

Background Details

Then, again… maybe this is too desperate a thing for a simple-minded person like myself to understand. There’s so much information to sort through. I just heard about this pipeline and my mind went wild. I don’t even know HOW I got on the subject of Somalia. I’d hate to judge it from the outside… I’m sure it’s GREAT. Then again, experience is the greatest teacher. But… if that’s the case… when do we learn to stop treating the world like a toilet? Maybe that’s the lesson… the world is your toilet!

http://www.banadir.com/a.htm

Stewarts vs. a Market Place in Cairo

Stewart's ShopCulture, transmigration and imitation in all forms. These are lesser, yet still very important points to the spectrum of human evolution. We bump into each other on the way to making our empires and the story unfolds. Kill or be killed; fight or flee; enslave, destroy, learn from one another, remain ignorant and rot with the weeds of history. I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.I’m sitting in the closest thing to a cafe in this town, my local Stewart’s Shop. It’s the one point I’m able to identify where everyone meets. Imagine Damascus in antiquity, where traders, warriors and prophets from all races, for this brief moment in time, crossed paths. They’d hear foreign tongues, but in this place THEY were the foreigners. How powerful and humbling it must be to see yourself in the light of ‘the outsider’… powerful, humbling and terrifying.

I don’t come here often, but feel the need to come this time in an effort to ‘count the forms’. How many forms of transmigration can I find in this simple town? So much hope and possibility went with these wanderers and it was all because of this one place. The Stewart’s in Rensselaer epitomizes this principle to the smallest degree. It’s a microcosm of Damascus. In a small town it’s the same ideas every day. It’s the same people talking about the same shit with the same view point.

Behind the counter, I see a beautiful young girl, most likely in her early twenties, with light brown hair. Three people wait in line. She makes eye-contact with them all, but it’s such an impersonal coercion of something  intimate. I stare, like a creep, from the corner. I see the weight of something almost sinister. It’s hard to believe, but it makes more sense why she can’t seem to offer them the courtesy of a fake smile. Her eyes flutter from one person to the next, impatiently seeking release from this false intimacy with people she’d rather not get to know. She blinks from them to the register, closing her eyes for the longest second I can count and back to them, to the money, to the bags, have a nice day, end of story. I note a mark in pen on her right hand between the thumb and index finger. It looks like this   ;   and I know it’s something that those with something dark in their past are meant to share. It symbolizes a pain them that has gone unspoken for so long that they express it, as in a Scarlet Letter. It’s such a personal request done in such an impersonal way. It seems so desperate. It seems like suffering is hard to count.

Count the forms… right

An old man sips his coffee and offers her the propriety of idle chatter. She fake smiles. I feel a cold terror wash over me, the same terror I felt as a boy when the monster finally lept out of the water to claim its final victim. By this point, I couldn’t tell which of them was the monster. The way her face moves into the ajar, ghastly grin of fake approval and joy is horrid and disgusting and I wish him gone for forcing her to do it. He sips his coffee and offers her a compliment on preparing it. Their coffee is greasy, but I’m not a devout coffee drinker. He wears an old, beat-up baseball cap and white shirt that’s covered in dirt and torn under his right armpit. His blue jeans are the same, dirty and torn at the knee.

He’s there talking to her for so long even I feel her discomfort. It ends when a few of his friends walk up to the picnic table outside. They wave to him, bearing their treasured cigarettes already burning. He offers a polite tip of his baseball cap and goes outside. The girl shows no signs of relief. She goes about working, straightening loose cigarette packs from the container and walking to the back.

Outside, I see three old men and one woman. One is our friend from before, while the others are regulars who come to enjoy their coffee, along with a few dozen cigarettes. They meet to discuss the business of the city, as well as old memories that might’ve come to mind. One of the men scrapes together change for another coffee, pulling it from his pockets, one piece at a time. They discuss the weather and how warm it was yesterday, claiming it’s only going to get hotter today. For some reason, this is neither proof for or against ‘global warming’, nor is it proof of ‘end-times’ or the coming resurrection. One of the men claims to have stopped going to church years ago, while the others shout at him in good fun to condemn him as a ‘blasphemer’.

Another old man approaches, providing more idle chatter for the group to digest, before heading inside for his coffee. He takes a seat in one of the booths. He spends fifty dollars on ‘scratch-offs’, of which he wins back ten. One step closer. You lose for now, but the trick is to keep playing in the same losing way, until that lucky moment when you win it all. The mind of a gambler is not so hard to understand. It’s the same with those who pray for world peace. Keep moving in the same wrong direction until it becomes the right. Always reach towards that impossible future.

In between all of these forms are those unremembered. People come in and out in such a flash, a brief moment in time that they hardly seem worth mentioning. They buy gas, grab a soda, a pack of cigarettes and are gone. They hold no other significance, but to catch the eye, like a glimmer of light flashing before my eyes. They offer no conversation, just off to do their business. They aren’t rude… some of them are, but not all. They’re just people moving through the forms of the cosmic dance, being led by whatever force that might govern this world. From my seat in Stewart’s I cannot dare label such a force… but to give it a name… just sounds hollow.

Trade is what made Damascus great. It was the center of everything. You couldn’t get where you were going without going through Damascus. I wish I could’ve gone before our corporate overlords destroyed it. Just another great city I’ll never get to see. I think of cities far away. I think of Stewart’s shops in distant worlds, like a Stewart’s in Hong Kong, with different old people gathering, like animals to a watering hole in the Sahara. All forms of life, proof of it… bringing them together… and all I can do is count.

The Adventures of Black Jesus I

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Blasphemy to worship the image of Black Jesus… or I  couldn’t find him… you decide!

He rolled into town on his rusted bike, pedaling alongside the passing cars that honked for him to get out of the way. Everyone knew to stay away from him, not because he’d ever done us wrong, but he was just unpredictable. His mind had been warped by something that none of us could understand. It made him particularly erratic and none of us wanted to deal with it.

He pulls up to the side of the store, setting his bike against the wall and rummaging through a coffee tin full of cigarette butts. He smokes them. Not cigarettes. He opts for the moldy remnants that someone else has enjoyed. A stranger had their disgusting lips on these wasted sticks of nicotine and poison and he rummages through the tin, which is half full of rancid rain water and picks out one that’s dry enough for him to enjoy. It’s relatively dry. He puts it in his out and acts as if he’s smoking, like a little kid would do with his crayons. He pulls a white Bic lighter out of his coat pocket. His coat is ratty, disgusting; I feel like if I touched him my fingers would never be clean. Unclean. Vile. Filthy, rancid death of the world. He lights up the gnarled cigarette remains. He takes little puffs, staring down the long straight-away that leads out of the plaza. I try to look in the same fashion, but I see nothing. He seems to stare with such a long, empty gaze. I can’t imagine what he sees, but for some morbid fascination in my mind I feel the need to understand. All I see is a long road, pavement, with grass lining its sides and trees that are parallel to each other on both sides.

He’s around six feet tall thin, although you can’t tell from his buttoned-up shirt and denim jacket with the cuffs folded. He does the same to his jean pants, folding them slightly above his ankles so you can see his white socks stained to a pale grey. He wears a brown winter cap. His cheeks are sunken and hollow, with freckles dotting erratically on his face. We nicknamed him ‘Black Jesus’, because he’s black and because whenever the automatic doors opened as he walked in he would raise his hands, as if saying ‘Hallelujah!’. He never spoke, except for the one time he said “Why would anyone wanna shit on angels?” in reference to a toilet seat with angels on the cover. He smelled terrible. Nobody wanted to get too close.

He’d come in every so often and for that time everyone braced themselves for anything. He never did much, except for talk. We couldn’t understand him. He formed sentences that didn’t fit and we would nod along. We did anything to get him out. Now, I wonder where he went. He’s gone forever and I couldn’t even find him to get a picture for this story. It’s as if the world swallowed him. He disappeared without a trace.I could never imagine the trouble he’d be getting himself into, riding his bike through an eternal nightmare without a mind that wants to help. All the fighting and struggle to end up sleeping behind a dumpster. Cold, alone, finding comfort in burned-out cigarette butts. For what does a man like that hope for? Something none of us could ever imagine. We speculate, but that’s nothing. I’m left with absolutely nothing. I have no idea who he really is. In the end, no matter how long I think about this, about seeing him and not, about where he’s gone. In the end, I have nothing.

Question of the Day: What is this country doing to care for the doomed?

The Ruins of Ashland Chemical

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The Ruins of Ashland Chemical

For a moment, as I make my way down South Street, I have to marvel at the six foot tall chain link fence with white slats that follows the entire length of the road. Barbed wire lines the top of the fence to persuade anyone from trying to climb it, not that anyone would, as there’s nothing inside except an abandoned industrial complex. A relic of the old ways once stood behind this fence, until the Ancients tore it down. Ashland Chemical. Their ruins stood behind the barbed wire, chain link, white slats, until they renovated and left us behind. Now, we’re left with just a fence, just some cracked pavement and iron-wrought tubs built into the ground. The concrete remains, but has been warped and broken by years of neglect.

If you walk down the road to the point where the fence ends, looking back, you’ll notice the delicate breeze carrying a noise, like a delicate hum reverberating against the chains. If you stare for long enough, you’ll see the fence moving ever so slightly, never to break, but stretching out. You think, if only for a second, that perhaps it will break. You think, let it break and let whatever bile that’s hiding inside there be set free. You think of tribal elders performing purification rituals to cleanse the land. Cars pass you by, beeping, because you’re the asshole on the side of the narrow road who doesn’t seem to be paying attention. In truth, it feels like you’re the only one paying attention. You feel a pulse in your heart that is relative to the beat. It’s an ancestral fear, akin to when a child’s afraid of the dark. The wind whirls passed you, riding along the fence to create the hum. The fence shakes, never to break, but to breathe. It’s breathing in the air and breathing something out. The tribal elders want to purify the land, because ancient spirits have grown angry. I picture lungs polluted with tar and nicotine, breathing in smoke for generations. The smoker felt joy for those few moments; he became addicted to feeling this way. Now, we’re left with the rotted lung that for some reason continues to breathe.

My first thought is of Chernobyl… I don’t know why. I imagine an entire town abandoned

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Chain link fence with white slats, our sacred protector.

because of the most devastating disaster of its time. I wonder why I’m not allowed back there and what they might be hiding. You can see from above that there’s nothing left to the site, but still there’s something. I couldn’t go inside and plant trees. I wonder if I’d come back with webbed feet! I wonder if I plant a bunch of trees how many would grow. I imagine one massive tree that managed to bulk up on chemical waste and learned to thrive. I imagine it rising high above us, above the chain link fence with white slats. Towering over us, the tree brings forth life. Birds flock to the tree, finding new homes within its gnarled bark and branches. Bugs flutter along to chew on the leaves, some glowing from either radiation or something natural that makes them essential to our ecosystem. They’ll chew through leaves and pull forth seeds and the breeze will take them away. They’ll float onward, throughout the town, taking root to grow something more. What will come of us? I wonder if the fallout will ever be clear enough for us to build some kind of park. I imagine, if only for this moment, children playing under the great and wonderful tree. The trains goes by in the background, as it does throughout the town. So does the tree now, as its seed has made its way to our greatest recesses. I imagine tables set into the concrete of the former site of ‘Ashland Chemical’. Massive tankers of God knows what used to sit in the same place as the tree. People gather around the tree of life, instead of an empty landfill of chemicals rotting into the center of our city.

It’s at least an attempt to make things better. Instead, at this moment, there’s so much noise. Most people probably wouldn’t bring their children here to play. Most people look at the ruins of this chemical compound and don’t even know it’s past, so probably couldn’t perceive its future. It’s ruins. It’s a relic of the past that stands, because either we jsdojaperupadfasdon’t know what to do with it or we don’t care. It’s a perception long since shared by many in the city and all around the world. We carry our pasts into the future, with monuments dedicated to our ancestors; things they could use, but to us, they serve no purpose. We keep them around as a comfort of a glorious time. A few still believe there’s something salvagable, as if the company will come back and the jobs will return. We hope and it keeps us in Limbo. We want something better to leave future generations. No matter how hard you hope, these ruins will do us no good.

I pass along the chain link fence with white slats, stretching down the length of the road. When it ends, you can see inside the complex. Life grows between the cracks, seeping up from the busted concrete, overflowing between shattered remains of pavement. Best wishes to the future site of the ‘Blessed Tree of Life’. A creek flows between the ruins and the railroad, which is just beyond the site. I wonder what chemicals have leaked out and are poisoning the world. Fallout. Chernobyl. It happens in places far away. We don’t have webbed feet, but still, we have something. Or maybe we have nothing.

https://www3.epa.gov/region02/waste/fsashland.html

Business & Community Service: Good for Everyone! — Philanthropy 518

We loved this “Ask the Expert” feature on business and community service from our friends at the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce: George E. LaMarche III, Esq. is an attorney and founding member of LaMarche Safranko Law, PLLC. His legal practice is focused on personal injury litigation and criminal defense. An exercise enthusiast, he has developed […]

via Business & Community Service: Good for Everyone! — Philanthropy 518