(And How Could We Tell If It Did?)
From the roof of the Arizona Hotel the market forces
On every horizon sheer cliffs of glass unscalable
by any lone messenger
around the abandoned meter base, the aliens
have landed, they walk among us in business
suits, we should just leave, but we’re invested
and have to rebuild another wrecked air conditioning system,
Something is wrong but nobody will listen to me
a lonely truth
is an unforgiven thing
people who need people
trust the judgment of crowds and the values
and so we are all gathered together again in beautiful downtown Tucson
to once again trust that a coalition of art and business
will not result in self conscious touristy art
that pop culture will not become the society of the spectacle
that it won’t be déjà vu all over again
and nobody will come here because it’s too crowded
because we believe
that consciousness is inherent in numbers,
and only occurs in certain
locations, locations, locations, but what if your sculpture
is only a foot across the line does it lose
gravitas all at once or gradually?
People who need people
Say money talks but like talk
Radio does it ever
Money just does what it wants
Money has value
but does it have any values
beyond growth for growth’s sake?
The Martin Luther King apartments
that loom over me coming home
from late night service calls at restaurants
miles east of here block
the Catalinas, microwave, radio, and television
the need to reach out and touch
someone this is
dense shit we’re in, my friend, this thick
sick slick sad gross
of an impossible exchange all men being
created unequal, there being
a hell in any truth held to
evident any thing held to too
long, nothing stays without becoming
every atom and molecule in our bodies came from the stars
and they all formed as if an intelligence inhered in their
organization so I believe in community and so
like an ant or bee or cog in a clockwork
orange or blue or green I have to serve but why
does the course of human evens have to be so unbearably
and self destructively stupid over and
over fixing up a place to leave
for moneybags to sit on. Why?
do we do this shit? Because people who need people
can’t think about it, because disturbed people disturb
the natural balance until the air we breathe
the water we drink, the food
we eat, set us on a track to addiction and
mental illness, abandoned children making more
abandoned children, where is the love?
where only the grossest of truths can be
communicated across chasms between sheer cliffs
of mis under
standings, chasms we think we cross and
fall into and still no
supremely wise counselor, mediator, or friend
to reconcile all these years of struggle we
ARE the aliens we worshipped and feared we bring ourselves
of money because we are
the injustice of money
we are the aliens
and we come
from the stars
As a child grows its knowledge of the world outside expands and its awareness of other people and their concerns deepens. It learns boundaries, rules, social norms, egos and how to manipulate them, laws and how to break them, lies and how to tell them and within the limits set by love and money, how to sort out truth from fiction. Beyond this hard journey outward another dimension of growth obtains which could be summed up by one word, service. As an individual, a couple or a community grows it recognizes that, at some point beyond our understanding, self service is ultimately self defeating, that its health is tied to service to and the health of the greater community.
If this service is done blindly, the way love is blind, the way good soldiers serve in bad wars, as busy work like driving nails to prove you’re a carpenter, then we’re no better and probably a lot worse for the disservice to our so called brains, than ants or bees or lemmings. So part of growth is learning to dedicate time and energy to goals that reach out beyond unenlightened self interest and finally beyond human concerns to the natural community. And we get payback for that. Big time. We get our health, a connection to our real roots, something to give ourselves to that will outlast our bodies, and an understanding that life is more than bread and the body is more than meat and the life of the mind and the adventure of consciousness don’t have to be measured by money.
O no doubt we gotta have money, but if it’s the end all and be all we’re stuck in a perpetual adolescence, kind of like the local talk show, “The Business of Business” whose thesis seems to be: the business of business is business and doesn’t have to be concerned about service. If you just wouldn’t tax us, and let us locate where we want, and get rid of all these narrow minded environmental protection laws, why then everybody would make money and everything would be fine. If we poison the inner city and build out beyond the infrastructure we’ll make water out of money and air out of cement dust and we’ll grow food in nice, fresh asphalt. Give us a cross town highway, make all city planning, planning for a city of cars, tear down the old buildings, give us a tunnel and we’ll give you a vision.
But does urban growth necessarily mean growing up? “Does your job depend on growth?” The sly Socratic announcer asks, AH HA! GOTCHA! well then you have to vote for these aimless subdivisions with architecture from here & there & everywhere wandering the desert between here and Phoenix looking for an identity. It’s either that or starve……o alright then, you seem to have me over a barrel but, as Jack Benny used to say to “Your money or your life!”
“I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”
I’m thinking there’s a couple other seemingly contradictory things we usually get as we grow up, an awareness that we don’t have to be the center of attention, and a self image, a (mostly vague) idea of who we are and what we’re about. Unless, of course, you’re like me, a jack of all trades so you screw everything up. SOOO? What does Tucson DO? An air force base, missile technology, a university, open pit mining, a rock show, look at its navel and study its past, build houses for people who come here to get away from winter, bring all their pollen and live in upscale little barrios and rabbit warrens? Those are noble enough goals for any toddling town to hang its hat on, but I think we can do better.
We could exploit our most plentiful and underutilized resource: what one Spanish visitor in the seventeenth century called in his journal, "the most merciless of suns".
Concentrating (pun intended) on the sun would just enhance the crowd draw we now have. Who are Tucson? Tucson are a city who give good roof gardens, gardened walls for growing plants, PVs, water heating, hydrogen production, smokestack/algae biofuel production (http://web.mit.edu/erc/spotlights/alg-all.html). You come here to get away from winter, we also sell you solar heat, solar air conditioning, solar electricity and fuel for your vehicle. AND in the process, we MAKE
(our most valuable anti-resource) SHADE! Have you noticed how plants here love it? Shade our gardens so they’ll grow mo better. Shade our streets to counteract the heat island effect, make more cooling towers such as those at The Ronstadt Bus Depot. Plant more trees. A French Johnny Appleseed planted so many trees it increased the local rainfall. Install inflatable rubber dams and shade the Santa Cruz to make a river walk like they have in San Antonio (and at least one rose I'm told) www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/
Maybe we could have our own private photo voltaic dirigible(s) which could be moved around to make SHADE where and when it was needed….what an example to the arctic about how to fight the loss of albedo, and to Montana and Colorado about about how not to lose their Aspens, and how to go from local to global in the fight against other climate change feedback loops.
And if we’re about hosting a university and utilizing the sun we should revisit the U of A's Rainbow Bridge Science Center. It wasn't a bridge to nowhere, it went OUTWARD (like people do when they grow up) to the rest of the known world where there may be monsters and MONEY. It would have built on and expanded the
Biosphere and The Environmental Research Lab at the airport. The Rainbow Bridge had IMAGE and as even the stupidest advertising people (including Dr. Bong in Howard The Duck) can tell you, "IMAGE IS EVERYTHING!" Build a Rainbow Bridge, and they will come. We might even get a little rain. A little rain would be nice.
It might even enhance our self image. And how, the nagging question repeats and repeats in this A.M. Radio the CIA implanted in my brain, would that make more money and be good for business? Well we HAD an International Arts Center and it DIED for lack of image. People came in there and asked,
“What IS this place? You got kick boxing and fencing….OK those are martial arts…and you got jewelry making and pottery, those are artsy craftsy…and you got gay dancing….that’s the art of dance….and you got a church…..I’m still confused.” The mission statement said it was to be a center for the exchange of international art and artists. And nobody on the city council could see that as being a crowd draw. A little town like Bisbee could host an international poetry festival, a little city like Cleveland, the butt of stand-up jokes with a river so polluted it burned one night, could become the host of the biggest performance art festival in the world, but Tucson? Tucson don’t know who it are yet, so it cain’t do nothin, much less take advantage of the 10x multiplier effect of art events on business. Awww poor baby! So through a series of crooked deals the historic old Y got torn down to make way for condos whose owner said he’d “GIVE” us a sculpture garden. Once demolition was finished he decided the market for condos wasn’t there and the International Arts Center became a hole in the ground for five years with an empty sign towering over it seeming to say everything
and nothing. And then? And then? Along came the university to make it into underground parking and student housing. So THAT’S the kind of city Tucson are? OK by me, let’s go with the flow and make mo dough. If we’re a university town let’s learn our children something. I think the rock show, Rio Nuevo and the wandering developments and even businesses that are all about business and nothing else could fit right in to an image of Tucson as a city of the sun whose university makes missiles and space exploration projects and solar technology.
On the other hand we do have local businesses that understand the principle that they’re not just producing or selling a product. These businesses say they’re about (and some actually are about) being a hub for community interaction from local to global: Whole Foods, Bookman’s, The Book Stop, The Food Conspiracy, Rillito Mortgage, and you can probably think of many others. They GET one of the primary principles of good salesmanship: that it’s not about them, it’s not about the medium of exchange, and it’s not about the product, it’s about the short and long term relationships and ultimately the sense of community that you form in the process of moving goods and money from one place and one person to another. And on the OTHER other hand, how many examples do you need that when the business of business is business it goes down in flames? G.M., The Keating Five, A.I.G., the crash of ’29 and the slippery slide and Not So Great Depression of ’09, and speaking of speculation, how about the real estate market….oh OK I give up, just keep on doing what you’re doing….listening to Rush Limbaugh and all those other champions of laissez faire capitalism as long as it makes them the center of attention. The reason they call them talk shows is the hosts have mouths that completely cover their ears. And there’s a reason, as Lincoln Steffens said, they go hand in glove with people who just wanna make money. And we gotta love ‘em: John Dillinger, Al Capone, Don Corleone, Joe and Bill Bonano, Willie Sutton, Bugsy Siegel. Love to play them on TV, love to have them as neighbors, city council members, family members….uh….wait a minute…..
Meanwhile back at the ranch the blood feud between the bitter conservative gasbags (“We’re totally self made people and we’re not giving you any of our hard earned money.”) and the whitebread liberals (“OK then we’ll just spend the pennies we have on feel good environmental projects and public art that nobody is really very passionate about”) goes on. (And on.)
All of which reminds me of one of the few things on which I agree with Henry Kissinger:
"The infighting is so bitter because the stakes are so small." (out of the mouths of Machiavellians)
but you know, speaking of people who don’t know how to listen, I haven't been asked to consult with the mayor and council in at least a month and it's been the longest since I was invited up to the White House to give Obama some advice on global warming & Afghanistan....
They’re probably just worried I'm not as big a fan as I used to be.