Saturday, November 3, 2007

My, how time flies . . .

Even as I thought I knew that I wouldn't really maintain any commitment to this silly business, I do get little ideas while tracing the mandala of the roadways on my daily rounds - my own special and personal version of the rat race. And having the blog in the background, as it were, is an excuse to organize the thinking, even if it never leaves that impossible referent: the mind.

So, way over here, beyond every pale that ever gets mentioned, in upstate has-been Empire-land, where I have managed 230,000 miles on my car even before it was paid for - an accomplishment which should at least get me a discount on my next VW if no particular honor - I think I may have standing to comment about driving etiquette. We're all familiar with the internal battles of road-rage, hormones against brains, reason against outrage, and ride that little wagon veering between self righteous pride in our own nobility and terrible shame when we manage, carelessly, genuinely to earn the flipped bird in our own right. The searing honk of correction that you too are guilty and low.

Which leads me (isn't this the point of blogs) to comment on another leftie apostate (hadn't I once expressed dismay at the heterodoxy of Alexander Cockburn - I hardly remember), recently reminded of; Christopher Hitchens. At least he isn't off his rocker wacko with the religionists, but I have this feeling that he abandoned the Nation for lucre and selfish calming of angst. Anyhow, I was alerted to his damn-the-main-currents upstream observations about our culture of self-improvement in Vanity Fair following upon (maybe preceding, but not in the order of my awareness) a genuinely moving piece about a noble young soldier dying, still in my eyes, for a brand name more than an honorable nation, and apparently moved to accept the risk in part by Hitchens' writings. I know it is cruel of me, and reflective more of my own passivity than the truth of our nation's relation to its mythology, but I cannot find any death for this cause in Iraq to be other than wasted. But if I could come close, it would be thanks to Hitchens' take on this particular young man, who might actually, in the manner of his commitment and by that very act, have managed to bring the United States closer to its promise than whole armies of passive objectors such as myself. Admitted. Guilty.

Though that is not why I thought of Hitchens. It had more to do with the similarity of our lifestyles and body types, and the levels of our vigor in correcting them (nil). I know this is a stretch upon a meander, but what I was thinking of is how very Buffalo is the condition of our bodies. There is some perfected self-knowledge here about how buff, beautiful and fit belong in some other place, and here is rusty and has-been, but loving our families, when not convinced that we are somehow doomed by subtle childhood abuse of our never quite budded self-esteem to languish here forever awaiting the never forthcoming but somehow always identified with its only canonical source - familial - approval.

So, here's what happens in these parts when there is construction on the highway. Two lanes combine to one, with advanced warning, and so, innocent of traffic jams, which happen in more prosperous parts, we dutifully move to the open lane way before it becomes necessary. Precisely, in fact, when the traffic starts thickening. This leaves the asshole lane wide open, for the more savvy drivers - we assume they are from Long Island, taking advantage of our superior educational resources at reduced upstate rates - who whiz by and merge at the last minute. Always the expensive cars. Buffalo is all about Chevy Impalas, and anything more is embarrassing grandstanding. Just ask Tim Russert.

It takes no particular mathematical understanding to see that the polite drivers, wanting no advantage for themselves, and in a civilized way knowing how to queue (a sign, I believe, among denizens that other has-been Empire, of true civilization) are screwed forever by these advantage-takers, and so the line slows to a potentially permanent stop.

Sometimes truckers, never from Ontario, genteelly block the asshole lane and generate this shower of positive ions (negative?) among the thereby more relaxed and no longer conflicted obediant. Hmmm, I never have checked to see if these are the Jesus drivers, perhaps since it's hard, for me, to associate that bent with gentility. But these must be truckers from around here.

So, it is after all clear that the overall best thing to do would be for everyone to drive right up to the merge and then zipper together in polite alternating fashion. I understand that this is what happens in the rest of the world, though I have had no occasion to witness it myself, being an undocumented wage-slave (yes, these are primitive parts) without papers to travel beyond my ancestral esteem valley.

I don't know if this self-tortuous behavior is connected to our globally high concentration of church-attending Catholics, but I suspect so. Non-Catholic myself, I have always been outside that particular familiar, and therefore free at least, if not to leave, to raise ridiculous questions.

So the net angst is raised, and we get what we always wanted, our own validating traffic jams. And incredible heart-risking self-righteous glares at those in the asshole lane, where sometimes we must sneak by ourselves, beyond all endurance with fatigue and frustration and somehow concocting an inner story to keep our outward impassivity (if only you knew my story you'd call a police escort). But the ones who know better and drive flashier cars either have the validating experience of real traffic jams or at least know how to get out and improve their lives.

So, this is precisely what happens in the minds of all the Buffalo Bills fans (I'm not one, and can't even begin to understand the fanaticism) when on a recent Monday night the Bills are blessed with an incredible run of good fortune and defensive out-of-place offense. All the plot elements are there. The rookie quarterback moving with poise and precision. The exteme underdog position of the team against the league stars. And every single fan, this time including me, knew with certainty that we were watching a slow moving train wreck. That we could not possibly keep this enormous lead and inevitable victory. We knew even after that really clever dodge which revoked the last-minute field goal that there would have to be another last minute, and that the wide right was reserved only for Buffalo. Huzzah and goddamn! We must love it this way. Even the television announcers were too abashed to ply the obvious, though the 'only in Buffalo' undertone was clear enough.

It might be like the leftie bind, which Hitchens broke free of. It might be like staying home to rescue Dad's old business instead of taking that Harvard degree off to the big times. It might actually be a nicer cut of human being. It might just be patsie-land. But it is at least clear that there is a lot of unnecessary agonizing going on and angst that we, around here, are likely not good enough. By not politely filling the asshole lane, it is certain that we cut ourselves off. I'm an asshole, yodeloo yodeleee, yipee! But I'm still not going to engage in any self-improvement, profit-oriented religion, or flag-waving.