Homeless in Space

Part of research aims at joining a conversation to discover what’s being said or has been said about your topic or ideas, as you develop your own statement about which there’s going to be disagreement, your own claims, your argument. It won’t take much Googling to find out most of your ideas are old hat – someone’s already been there, done that.

So it came as no surprise when I began thinking of the Mars rover “Perseverance,” now roaming the atmosphere of the red planet like a Samuel Beckett character in familiar forlorn surroundings, that when I searched for “Homeless on Mars” and “Homeless in Space,” Google instantly brought me 100,000 or so links to peruse.

What had happened was an old friend had called and our country’s ubiquitous homeless predicament came up, and I think I caught that he thought at least one of the local cause and effect issues might involve theft, that the homeless in his area were thieves, substantiated by his having seen a local police cruiser pulled over at a homeless camp under a bridge. Not adequate backing if one is building a credible causal argument, but I didn’t want to join, so I let it go for the nonce.

But I later found myself wondering, what is homelessness? What is theft? If I live in a tent on a patch of public property, is that not my home? This quickly becomes an argument of definition. What is a home? What characteristics of one’s living situation are necessary to call a dwelling a home? A telephone? An address the mail carrier will be able to locate? Indoor plumbing? A landlord or mortgagee? Bricks and mortar? A deed of some sort? A contract? Neighbors?

And having been somewhat preoccupied with and still thinking about the latest NASA enterprise, I thought it might be possible to consider the rover Perseverance homeless. And it also appears likely that NASA’s plans include stealing a few rocks from the red planet and bringing them back to Earth. Whose rocks are they?

In any case, my research into the idea of a homeless space, a homeless universe, where all housing is ultimately temporary, brought forth two interesting finds: “The Orphan Ship,” a trilogy about homeless children living in poverty in a Mars space station (Sterling R. Walker, 2013), and “The Ethics of Space: Homelessness and Squatting in Urban England” (Steph Grohmann, HAU, 2020). From the the preface to Grohmann’s book, the predicament is clearly laid out:

“Through their struggles for housing, squatters initiate a more fundamental struggle to inhabit and take hold of social space, and thus to make modest but no less daring efforts to remake the world through very localized but determined measures to change their immediate, everyday lived realities. In doing so, they challenge the larger social and political order of neoliberal capitalism, and in working to transform life, they also transform themselves and their relations with the wider society, and engage in new and creative experiments with how we might begin to reorganize all of our collective social life” (Nicholas De Genova, xii).

It’s probable that former local vagrancy laws kept homeless populations from growing in the US (to the extent they exist today), or at least confined to “skid rows.” Most of those laws have been struck down as unconstitutional, often replaced by loitering laws, also mostly struck down. But today’s lack of affordable housing, endemic unemployment and job losses, generational poverty, education detrimental reliance traps, and a growing acceptance of inequality and change – all contribute to our current imbroglio.

Absurdly, as both Buckminster Fuller and Marshall Mcluhan showed, typewriters (or their replacements) asleep under cover for the night in high rise office buildings still fair better than their daytime users commuting home, wherever that might be.

Inventories

Part human, part deity, these working gods are restless. What happens when one wants out? Episodes of a god on the run, “Inventories” is now available in paperback book format. “Inventories” first appeared here, at The Coming of the Toads, near daily installments over several months in 2020, a quarantine exercise. The text was revised for this book publication first edition.

ASIN : B08VM82YRK
Publisher : Independently published (February 2, 2021)
Language : English
Paperback : 190 pages
ISBN-13 : 979-8702891125
Item Weight : 9.4 ounces
Dimensions : 5 x 0.48 x 8 inches

Perseverance

“Houston, we have a problem.” The now cliche hyperbolic understatement comes from the Apollo 13 mission to land on Earth’s moon in 1970. Part of the flight journal, dialog between astronauts Jack Swigert and Jim Lovell and Mission Control Houston can be read on Wiki:

055:55:19 Swigert: Okay, Houston…
055:55:19 Lovell: …Houston…
055:55:20 Swigert: …we’ve had a problem here.
055:55:28 Lousma: This is Houston. Say again, please.
055:55:35 Lovell: Ah, Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a Main B Bus Undervolt.

But they persevered, came up with a plan, called an audible, held on tight, and made it home to a grateful country. Last week, a seemingly ungrateful US senator from Texas, unaware, apparently, of other cliches of crisis, such as, “The Captain goes down with the ship,” and “Women and children first,” lit out for a Cancun resort hotel while his constituents back home faced freezing weather, loss of heat for their homes from frozen gas lines, and loss of electrical power for their homes from damaged equipment left exposed to extreme weather conditions, all while remaining lined up according to protocols made necessary by a limited supply of pandemic vaccine. The New York Times editorial board provided the lessons, though we might doubt if any lessons learned will be put to the test. What seems to persevere the most is political rhetoric aimed at scuttling the facts, the issues, what actually broke and why, in short, the truth. But while Texas was suffering from a statewide major “undervolt,” the third Mars rover, “Perseverance,” landed safely on Mars, close to 300 million miles away.

The irony of another space exploration achievement while the country’s infrastructure, education, medical, work, and political systems continue to spiral out of control, reminds us of the response from the classic news journalist Eric Sevareid, who, for one, was unimpressed with the promise of the first photographs promised of the dark side of the moon, many moons ago. From his short article, “The Dark Side of the Moon”:

“There is, after all, another side — a dark side — to the human spirit, too. Men have hardly begun to explore these regions; and it is going to be a very great pity if we advance upon the bright side of the moon with the dark side of ourselves, if the cargo in the first rockets to reach there consists of fear and chauvinism and suspicion. Surely we ought to have our credentials in order, our hands very clean and perhaps a prayer for forgiveness on our lips as we prepare to open the ancient vault of the shining moon.”

And we continue to advance, to persevere, to and fro, back and forth, a few steps forward, another few backward.

Winter as a Long Vowel

Snow and ice week beats desire, a cold game victory, the spoils spoiled despoiled as even the oils freeze on the street beneath freezing rain, snow, sleet, silver saxophone east three day blow, again with uncertainty freezing rain, then maybe greater snow, the icy home burial, the grave diacritical signal code, the skein stripe heated bellows, below freezing, icicle phase. He’s now showing kinesics of hypothermia, that fellow, up in the trees. Snow shapes blanket the trees, in the wood where wooed we Saint Valentine’s Day, nestling the soft sounds of love, the warmth of feathers. What birds want out, let them fly. Herein we stay with wise advice, waiting for Spring.

6 New Cartoons

The drawings are done using a simple android pre-installed phone application. The number of colors is limited and the colors can’t be mixed: red, yellow, orange, blue, green, purple, black, and grey. White can be achieved by leaving an area blank or using the eraser. Some variation in color and shading can be achieved using the gallery editor. The cartoons are drawn using fingers and thumbs and a disc stylus touch screen device pen. The font sizes are limited to four dots, each about twice as big as another beginning with a small dot like a period. See more drawings and cartoons on the Comics page. Also on Instagram.

but that’s another story

One story, unfinished, a fragment. The writing cools from a weak plot and flat characterization. The story fills the page we are on, but we may not be on the same page as others reading the same story (based on the assumption there can only be one story), and no one can page backward or forward. That other pages even exist is therefore without proof. Our story has grown since the first word, and continues to expand. The distance from the beginning to the end is therefore immeasurable. We will never have the whole story, but that’s another story.

Postcard

You awake to find yourself in a room the size of a postcard. There is a photo of a pier, people out walking, a boardwalk, a sunny day, blue sky. A bit of a breeze apparently, the women holding their hats, summer dresses flapping, legs akimbo like listing masts, offshore sand flurries. In the distance, atop a shoreline cliff, an ivory tower climbs into the sky like a long slender neck. At the top of the tower, a balcony necklace affords rich views of the ocean, a woman in a blue dress at the wrought iron rail studying a sailboat, a small dinghy, its jib open and full of the onshore breeze, coming in.

Working Class Pub

Where no one knows your real name where indeed you have no name but any number of names but no number but you wear your identification it shows is shown in the red dust around your eyes and there’s a glimmer suggests you’re still alive and at the corners of your lips the moisture of bird feathers and your hands are calloused black and blue and your clothes are stained with oil and grease and chalk and shavings of wood, metal, and paint. This pub plays no music, which you wouldn’t be able to hear clearly anyway. No darts. No pool table. No television sets. No chess board, no backgammon, not even caroms. No playing cards. There’s coffee twenty-four hours a day for those just getting going, first cup free, the swing shift, the night shifts, at the factory, in the warehouse. The oil fields behind the houses. The docks on the bay. Molly brings you your pint, with a little cup of salted peanuts in the shell on the house. Will Molly please text home for you, a bit late, might stay for a second pint tonight, being’s it’s Saturday night, and you’re walking, or was when you got here.

Furies

The furies fly in from the desert, weave like wasps from their cool eve nests, disturbed and attracted by bile, envy, and insolence. One lands in the ear canal: “Erinyes, erinyes,” echoes from one side of the head to the other. She stirs the wax and lays her eggs. It’s a cuckoo wasp, emerald and gold. She’s got hold of your thoughts her young will eat away, furious and urbane.

False Start

Darts – birds hitting their marks. Feathers painted in plastic. Flickers, scrub-jays. Black gloss enameled crows. Black capped chickadees. Bushtits. The sorrowful hot guitar trill of a song sparrow. They voice the old songs, their beaks cracked, worn plectrums. A few sit still on a telephone wire while another takes a solo. To-wit. To-hoo. Clack, clack, clack.

Where to Write

We often wax wasted writing what to write, how to write, why write at all. A refreshing sidebar might discuss where to write. We could compose while walking, a kind of no place to write, or allplace, which Wallace Stevens did, composing lines, poems, in his head as he walked from his rather palatial home through local paths through the park to his desk at the Hartford in New Haven where he transfigured from poet Wallace Stevens to Wally, Claims Manager. He wouldn’t forget his words from his morning walk commute. Hemingway said he could write anywhere, though maybe we are not as good writing in some places as others. In Cuba, Papa wrote standing up at a typewriter placed atop a casement or podium. During the war, Jacques Prévert wrote at sidewalk cafe tables in Paris, the leaves falling, one imagines, weather also being a kind of place, or, as Hemingway points out, place being a kind of weather. In any case, we sit down now to write this post in new writing digs. We have three choices of where to write in our current quarantined predicament, apart from the ubiquitous pocket notebook which with pen goes everywhere, for unlike Wally, we are poor at remembering our words, and must write them down or they disappear like birds out of the corner of the eye: the basement, the main floor, the upstairs. Since we write using an electric, we need to be near an outlet, and since the basement in winter is often damp, our choices where to plug-in quickly diminish to two. The living room is comfortable, with couch, no television, much light from windows, with a limited view of the sidewalk and street through the twisted branches of a giant rhododendron Cynthia. The kitchen is nearby, coffee refills within easy reach, and Susan will not have come down yet, and we sometimes gas up imagining what she might be dreaming, fuel for priming the writing carburetor. But we’ve moved to the upstairs back bedroom, now sitting at an old oak desk, three drawers on the right, a wide thin drawer across the sitting space, a pull out board on which in the old days someone might have set a manual typewriter. This desk is quite heavy, solid panelled sides and front, such that it must have been intended to sit in an open space, not against a wall, and it’s difficult to move around. It creaks complaints in various seams when jostled, and probably won’t withstand any more moves down the stairs. We’ve had it, at one time and another, in the basement and in different rooms on the main floor and upstairs. It presently sits at an angle off center toward the middle of the room, affording a view out a wide window facing east-northeast, over roofs and growing trees in the foreground, buildings nestled in trees and streets, lit at night, and, farther out, the opening of the Gorge, the Washington hills tapering down from the north, the Oregon Cascades steeping sharply down from the south. In the distant sky, airplanes can be seen coming in for landings at PDX. Down in the yards, closer in, birds are seen fittering, frittering, flittering, fluttering about: crows in the tops of the firs, flickers and jays lower down, hummingbirds, all sorts of bushtits and the like, flocks of them. The occasional racoon or possum at dawn or dusk, coming or going, though one must get up from the desk and go to the window to see those. This view is a distraction. This is not a good place to write. Back to the living room. One can’t get any writing done upstairs with a such a view that all one wants to do is to go out and fitter with the birds, not sit in and write.