Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Agent of Stinky Justice.

My music buddy was looking at what I thought was the finished version of this and cracked up. "He looks like he's taking a dump!" I added the final touches the next day.

This is the kind of thing I should really put on my other site but fuck it. I'm sick and I'm depressed and it's time for me to relax with a pleasant memory from years past. Let's stop talking about art and writing for a while. Let's talk about something that truly serves the soul.

Let's talk about vigilante justice.

I'm very wary of those motivated by the need to deliver justice to evildoers -- because at least in my case it's more-or-less really a desire to do evil. It's the Batman principal -- acting like a bad guy is fun and if you mix in a little self-righteousness it's emotional freebasing.

And that's the kind of thing that impairs judgment. But every so often circumstances, the tides of my psyche, and general ill-will have all come together and I found myself delivering justice.

It's a bad habit and one that I've hopefully left behind me. I really am trying hard to grow up into a semi-functional human being.

Still, the pleasure of acting like a total asshole and feeling completely justified and getting away with... Oooh. What a rush.

Lemme give you an example.

I live in the San Francisco bay area. We've got a local transit system, a sort of yuppie subway called BART. You got your tracks, you got your trains, you got these seats near the door.

You know the seats. The ones that are reserved for needy -- pregnant, elderly, handicapped -- passengers. If you're sitting in one and someone of that description boards, in a perfect world you get up and graciously yield your place.

It's not a perfect world. When I see someone who needs a seat fail to get one I'll get up and guide them to mine, even if I'm not in one of the designated seats. The first time I did this I yelled at the people next to the doors who had sat there like a fl0ck of gargoyles rather than stand.

This made the woman I'd wanted to help really, really embarrassed. I realized that I was doing her no favor. And it bugged me that there was no way to punish those selfish fucks, no way to balance things. This was a seed-in-the-teeth irritation for years.

Until I got a pick and shovel job in San Francisco. Landscape architecture. Got to work with a garden designer who inadvertently taught me as much about composition as anyone I've studied with.

My worksite was at the end of the line so when I got on BART I was always able to get the seat I preferred, an end seat facing forward. But I almost never kept my seat for more than three stops. The train filled fast with commuters and almost every day there would be someone who really did need my seat more than I did.

The seats next to the doors filled first and the strategy there was for the stereotypical white guys in suits to open their briefcases in their laps -- "Can't move. Important business. Didn't even see her."

I hated those fucks. Using self-importance as a shield from fundamental courtesy is unacceptable. But taking them to task for their behavior was unfair to the other people involved.

Now let's go backwards a little. Like I said, this was a pick and shovel job. There's a particular kind of red clay around here that is dense and sticky -- hit it a lick with the blade of your pick and it would shear off a loaf that would cling until you tapped it off -- it would not fall from the pick.

The dust from that clay would gradually build up on me over the course of the day until by quitting time I looked as though I'd been made from bricks. I looked like The Thing.

And of course what was plastering the dust to me was sweat. I sweat like an athletic pig or a Tennessee Williams character. After eight hours of hustling bags of cement up and downhill, digging trenches, placing rocks, etc? I left a trail of sweat drops on the sidewalk as I walked.

So this is the scene. The BART train is full but there are only one or two people standing. The seats near the door are filled by disturbingly stereotypical white guys in suits, briefcases open and papers in hand.

The door slides open at the next stop. An elderly pregnant handicapped woman gets on and looks in vain for a seat. When it becomes clear that she's being ignored I get up, edge apologetically past the person who was unfortunate enough to have sat next to me, and go offer the open seat to the needy party.

Then I lift my arm and grab the bar over the seat that should have been hers. I lean over the passengers. And into those grails, the open briefcases, those ennobling chalices of commerce...

I crumble, I flake. I drip. I radiate raw stink. And I stare down at the tops of their heads with a feral grin pulling hard at the corners of my mouth. Waiting. Hoping. Wishing for someone to say something so that I could explain my position in a proactive wall-to-wall fashion.

It never happened. I don't recall anyone even making eye contact. But I bet things would have gotten conversational if they'd had laptops back then.

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