It comes on me like a whiff of bad gas, an effin hole in the hose, while I’m out riding through northern New Jersey, on a premonitory excursion past the shitpiles and shuttered stores, the shimmering parking lots filled with thousands upon thousands of look-alike cars, four-door, four-cylinder silver sedans all designed in the same wind tunnel, their aerodynamic shapes meant to minimize drag. So reliable, so efficient, so boring. Their insides filled with microchips, digital displays, and needless instrumentation. Sometimes it’s too depressing to be living in the last days of the automobile age. Such a waste of time.
I passed three accidents on my way to the city the other day -- one on Route 46 in Little Falls between Long Hill Road and the Route 3 juncture. One on Route 3 at the exit ramp to Route 21 where they’ve been doing construction for the last year-and-a-half. And one where the Lincoln Tunnel lets out onto Dyer Avenue heading south. None of them serious, just crumpled fenders and hoods, broken headlights and cracked glass, but the net effect was to add another forty-five goddamn minutes to the morning commute. Anybody with any sense can see that the car is as outmoded as the rotary phone.
No wonder so many of my fellow citizens are confounded by politics in general and the upcoming election in particular -- they’re too tired, too stressed, too beaten down, to pay attention to policy. They see some well-groomed dude in an expensive suit flash a white-toothed smile and a wad of cash and they’re ready to cast their vote. They sit there in their cars, stuck in traffic, and listen to the pandering talk radio idiots and their blood sets to boiling. They see the world through smeary windshields and everything looks like shite -- the cloudless sky, the NYC skyline, the Passaic River, the Meadowlands, their lives. Effin workday starts two hours before they get to the job and doesn’t end till they get home some twelve hours later. Subtract sleeping, eating, and toilet time and it doesn’t leave them a lot of time to breathe freely or think clearly. Effin wage slaves.
I’m in an air-conditioned bus reading a book called Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt. My arse is sore and the air conditioning is making my nose run. The woman sitting next to me is sleeping. I look around. She’s not alone. Most of the bus is asleep. Human beings with little wires coming out of their ears. The book is fairly witty but it requires a modicum of concentration and my mind is all tangled up.
I look out the window and see a tall skinny guy in a black t-shirt and sweat pants, one leg rolled up to his knee, the other down around his ankles. He walks right in front of the bus against a red light. He’s sporting orange sneakers with holes in ‘em. I think this is the dude I spied once before going through the trash bins behind the apartment complex on Route 94. Hunkered down and twitchy like a bear or a beaten down dog. It's outrageous what these effin homeless people get themselves into. I pulled into the parking lot, blew my horn, and shouted out, “Hey you, what the hell you doing there?”
He jerked his head around, saw that I wasn’t kidding, gave me the finger, and skeddadled back into the woods. I thought to myself, you can’t just fucking secede from this world, this life. I called out after him, “You hungry? I’ll give you some money. Just stay out of the garbage.” I could hear my neighbor warn me about identity theft. "Buy yourself a shredder if you want some peace of mind." Another thing to worry about.
I followed him with my eyes. Maybe it was some other poor feckless sonofabitch I saw. I turned to the last few blank pages of the book and took out my pen. I was glad I still carried one. I began to write:
Imagine the sensibility but not the talent.
Imagine the talent but not the craft.
Imagine the craft but not the work ethic.
Imagine the work ethic but not the inspiration.
Imagine the inspiration but not the luck.
I stared at the words kind of hoping they would yield some meaning. After all, I'd written them. Nada. I looked out the window again. Effin bus hadn't moved five feet forward. The bum with the orange sneakers was nowhere to be seen. Lucky bastard.