Friday, March 28, 2008

What Would We Give Up?

Today I was traveling. I spent the day in Connecticut -- and while there is a pretty big breaking story on the oil front, I'll have to write about it tomorrow. I spent more time in the car and less on the computer...

I was driving through Hartford -- the smell is really bad. So I thought I'd see if I could find out what it was -- I realized I don't take those smells for granted anymore -- what used to just seem like a nuisance now seems like evidence. I found a website that I don't understand that lists Hartford and its varying types of emissions. I don't understand or trust it, but I thought I'd share that it seems to say Hartford's Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide, PM 2.5, PM 10 and Volatile Organic Compound Emissions seem to be 90-100% of the worst in the country.

Also I read an amazing poem today. It's by one of my favorite poets, Marie Howe -- it made me think very much about some of this I have been wondering about here -- her new book just came out from Norton: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. I highly recommend you go buy the book! I have to print it small so as not to mess up the formatting.

"What We Would Give Up"

One morning in Orlando Florida, I asked a group of college students -- What
would we be willing to give up to equalize the wealth in the world? Malls, a
red-haired young woman said right away. Supermarkets, the young man in
a black T-shirt said -- where you go to buy bread, and there's a hundred and
fifty loaves on the shelf. Imported fruit, the young woman sitting next to him
said -- berries in winter. A car, the guy with the nose ring said. I don't have a
car anyway.

Travel? Jet fuel? Well, we'd all be together, someone said. TV, said the guy
without a car, I don't watch TV anyway. What about coffee, I said, looking
down at my double tall half-
caf soy latte. Ok, everyone said, but I wondered
about that one. Ten pairs of shoes? Yes. Movies? Maybe.

That week my phone was out of order. When the company tried to connect
my line to a split line that would allow me fast cable access to the Internet
everything went dead. When I called the phone company I was put on hold
and had to listen to a tinny version of
Vivaldi's Four Seasons pitched at what
seemed a much faster than usual speed.
This call may be monitored.

I was told to punch my number in five times during that first phone call, and
every time I was transferred to a person who asked for my number again.

Eight calls that first day. We'll send a technician out, the central office would
say. The technician, when he arrived would say, The problem is in the central
office. When I called the central office, someone would say, We have to send
a technician out. When I said, a technician has already been there, the central
office person would say, All I can do is put in an order Ma'am. Vivaldi.

After seven days, I began to suspect that at the center of the central office is
a room empty of all furniture but a table. On the table, a ringing telephone.
Somewhere way down a long corridor, one guy in a broken chair in front of
an empty desk. Every once in a while he cranes his neck towards the door and
yells to no one in particular -- is anyone gonna answer that?

If you don't want music, the phone company says, please hold through the

When I came home from Orlando, the phone started working again. The
Gap? Someone said. Everybody said, I don't go to the Gap.

Would I give up the telephone? Would I give up hot water? Would I give up
makeup? Would I give up dying my hair? That was a hard one. If I stopped
dying my hair everyone would know that my golden hair is actually gray, and
my long American youth would be over -- and then what?

Thank you, Marie. Yes.

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