Thursday, April 28, 2011


Monday morning I took the train downtown to City Hall, and the Mayor's office. There was a bizarre episode walking into that monolithic building of red quarry stone, a woman holding the door open for me, waiting while I covered the stairs to the door. Like a besieged public servant trying to display her devotion to service, but really just breaking the bounds of normal social expectations, awkwardly. I felt weirdly obligated then to hold the door for the woman with the young son, climbing the stairs behind me, though it made her more uncomfortable than it had me.

Outside the Mayors office I paused awhile to send an email. It was a business email, somewhat important, which I sent then not because I had to, but because I found I was afraid. What could I be afraid of? It's only the Mayor's office. Thinking about it, I realized it was only a generalized fear of my government, which made me angry.

I walked into the office, and stood there awhile before I realized the young woman behind the bullet-proof glass wasn't going to help me unless I pushed the buzzer. She came to the glass, and I realized she was afraid as well. I explained my situation, as she grew increasingly uncomfortable. She offered to retrieve someone else.

I sat down, and the young woman came out from behind the glass, to fill her water bottle, on her way out. I asked her if she liked working in the mayor's office. She replied that she did, and that she had only been there a year, while everyone else had been with the mayor from the beginning. I was thinking, you've been accepted then, that's great, because I know it's no easy thing to be accepted by a tight group of people, anywhere. What came out of my mouth was, "So you've been accepted by the clique then?"

It's about the meanest thing I've said to someone, in a long time. What do I know about Mayor Rybak and his staff? He's been mayor for years, and I've heard very few vociferous complaints against him, in this time of widespread rage against government. He seems to be a good mayor, as mayors go. What did I know about this woman? Nothing. She bristled, and explained that the Mayor has a staff of eleven, while the previous Mayor had 18. 'More work for everybody,' I thought, meanly. She hustled out the door, while I floundered in my stupidity. I tried to say something nice, but I was beyond redemption.

Another woman came to the bullet-proof glass. She explained to me that the city only condemns for a lack of water service. I corrected her, she looked up my address, and confirmed that in fact, there is an Intent to Condemn order. She explained that I needed to go to the Planning Department. She gave no sign if she thought it strange that the city would condemn my house for not having natural gas service in the summer. I was quite happy to get out of there.

At the office of Planning and Inspections, I found myself talking to an attractive, intelligent blonde. It's like they saw me coming. "Oh, he's angry, send in *****." We had a pleasant conversation, though it was clear to me it was more odd to her that I could function without natural gas service, than it was that the city was condemning my house for it. She let me file an appeal, and I left the office feeling like they would recognize the absurdity of the situation, and cancel the order. I called and left a voicemail with the issuing inspector, like I was told to. When I got home I found the letter of Intent to Condemn, in the mail.

Tuesday I heard nothing, so Wednesday morning I called the inspector and the Planning office, leaving voicemails. (While I made the calls I watched a white city vehicle drive by the house, turn south on the avenue, turn around half way down the block, and park in the middle of the avenue facing my house, before speeding to the intersection and turning east on the street. Lurking, seemingly.) I received two voicemails shortly after. In the first, Sandy in a very stern voice told me "this is not an appealable offense," twice, and that I would have to address the problem with Harold the inspector, who already told me he doesn't make the rules. What kind of law in America is unappealable, I thought? That sounds more like the law of kings, which is absolutism, which is tyranny. The second voicemail was from Dawn, informing me that there was a hearing May 19, but giving me no other information about the hearing. Is it for me and my case, or is it a general hearing? I still don't know.

I called the number Dawn gave me. A woman answered, and it took some time before I was able to ascertain that the woman I was talking with was in fact, neither Sandy or Dawn, but Bonnie. Bonnie could find no record of a "con", in my case. A con? Is that what this is? She used the word three times, evidently preferable to saying condemnation, though I can't imagine how. She said I needed to talk to Harold, but I informed her that I had left two voicemails with Harold and had heard nothing. She said she would be sure to have Harold call me.

He did. He told me I needed to turn the gas back on, or the city would condemn. "You realize," I said, "that the city is effectively saying it's a crime to conserve natural gas, to use the sun to heat my water instead of natural gas, and that I don't have enough money to pay my bill."

"I'm not going to get into that with you," he said, because he is only following the rules apparently no one makes, which no one can appeal, which can't be considered in the light of logic, reason or simple sense. He said he could give me until Friday to restore the service, or the city will condemn, and if I persist in the house, "the police will remove you."

Which is where it stands. If things continue as they are, I could be in jail this time next week. I've never been to jail. Perhaps it's time. I have, after all, said I do not recognize my government as legitimate. More to the point in this case, I do not recognize laws that are "unappealable." I do not recognize laws that make no logical sense. I do not acquiesce to extortion.

I spent much of yesterday sending emails to local media, and a few national outlets. No one has responded. More people have read this blog the last three days than at any time in the history of this blog, yet there has been no response but from one faithful reader, and two old friends. Reading through the last post again, I had to ask myself, who is going to support me in this? A radical anarchist gorilla gardener, in service to the Goddess, calling for revolution?

Anarchy is a word mostly used by people who don't have any idea what it actually means. In my case, it means I govern myself, and I don't need any government to tell me what's in the best interest of my "health, safety and welfare". It means I believe everyone is capable of governing themselves, though few know it, and many who think they do, govern themselves as if no one else matters.

A guy on HuffPost recently mocked me, as if I don't know the difference between Gorilla and Guerrilla. I didn't get a chance to respond that I am considerably more gorilla than guerrilla. One of the guiding principles of my life is that violent revolution has never brought us anything but a different kind to tyranny. Another is, there is more than this life, hence my service to the Goddess, though I don't claim to know any more about Her than I do about God.

I do what I feel called to do. I write what I feel called to write.

Finally, by revolution, I mean a broad evolutionary transformation in consciousness. What that looks like, I don't know, but I believe. We are better than what we have become, as a species, as a people, as a nation. Many believe we are beyond hope. I like to think we are all unique, astonishing and utterly beautiful manifestations of the spirit, divine beings, children of the earth, children of the sun, Homo sapien sapien, sacred, and so there is always hope.

I had a moment the other day, returning to my house from the Planning Department, when I felt that in that moment, I could meet my maker and not be afraid or ashamed. That feeling has passed, but I hold onto the memory, thinking about what seems to be coming from my civil government. I am an American. I love my family, friends, community, and the Earth. I am in service.

I think I'll return to the city Planning Department Friday, and see if I can figure out who makes these rules that cannot be appealed. After that, I think I'll go to the police department, and warn them what the city is going to ask of them. Though I expect to hear much the same from the police, as I've heard from the people in Planning and Inspections, which is much the same as I hear from many in public and private institutions: "I'm just doing what I've been told," and, "I don't make the rules."

But according to our founders, we do, by our consent.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Intent to Condemn II

Thursday morning I was awakened by a knock at my door. Through the window I saw a white car, with the Minneapolis Inspections Department insignia in blue. Now what? I thought.

"Hello." I said, leaning out the door.

"Hi. Do you live here?"

"I do."

"I'm here to inform you that the city is going to condemn your house."

"The city is going to condemn my house? Why?"

"We were informed by CenterPoint Energy that your gas service was shut off, about a week ago."

"Yeah, it was. I don't have the money to pay the bill, and I don't need gas in the summer anyway. I'll take care of the bill in the fall, when I need the gas to heat the house."

"You have to have all your utilities hooked up."

"But I don't need gas in the summer."

"It doesn't matter. It's city code." He started to walk down the steps, returning to his car. He had given me no documentation, not a business card, not a letter. I asked him his name.


"Harold, how much time do I have to turn the service back on, before my house is condemned?"

"Five days." He turned and walked away, but stopped and turned back. "No, three days."

"Three days?"

"Yeah." He stood there, looking at me, without much expression. If he was uncomfortable, he was masking it well. Turning away again, he walked through my wildflowers.

"It's alright Harold," I said. "I know you don't make the rules."

"You're right, I don't," and he sat down in his government issued car and drove away.

Last week, I paid $14.75 in extraneous fees to Netspend Mastercard and NCO Financial Services, paying Xcel Energy $60 to keep my electricity on, expending three hours over two days in the effort. Tuesday, I received a letter from the city informing me that I had been charged $133, to remove brush obstructing the sidewalk last October. As I reported in a post at that time, I had been ordered to remove several black cap raspberry vines that had looped themselves over the edge of the sidewalk. I complied with that order, and I'm pretty sure I called Inspections and told them. If the charge isn't for that, the only thing I can think it would be, is the golden rod. A flower head had been tilting over the edge of the sidewalk. It was a big flowerhead, but it could have been removed by the inspector who issued the order, when he wrote it, if he had only grabbed hold, toward the base of the stem, and turned his wrist instead. Instead I presume, a crew was called to handle it.

At that time, the city was threatening to condemn my house, because they had shut off the water service I wasn't using, charging me $3100 for a new stop box.* I've been paying the consequent $360 monthly water and sewer bill, since, on threat of condemnation if I don't pay. The mortgage is up to date. This house sat empty without gas service for much of 2009 and 2010, and the city did nothing. I'm guessing this new pressure is a response from the city to the foreclosure problem, opportunity masked as civic duty. If the house is condemned, I'll be issued a $6500 vacant house fee. City Inspectors will have the run of the house, to make the list of upgrades required to lift the condemnation order; in this house, likely $10,000 - $30,000 in materials and city permits and inspection fees, and only that and not considerably more, because I'm capable of doing most of the work myself.

Not having natural gas in my house in the summer means I can't take long, luxuriously hot showers. I can still heat water on the electric stove. I can heat water in the sun, using my 2.5 gallon solar camp shower. I might even be able to construct a solar water heater with scrap I have in the garage. If I manage to do that, I could take the long, hot, luxurious showers I don't generally like to take in the summer, which are apparently necessary for my house not to be condemned. Except the water has to be heated by natural gas in my house, and not by the sun, or the natural gas that CenterPoint uses to generate electricity, apparently. I didn't have natural gas service all last summer, and my house was no threat to the public's health and welfare, nor mine. No damage of any kind was done because I did not have natural gas service, except perhaps to CenterPoint's bottom line.

Meanwhile, oil and gas companies have been pumping billions of gallons of water and sand, often laden with toxic chemicals and known carcinogens, into the earth and aquifers, in an effort to force more natural gas to the surface. Our government has not been regulating this, because the mix of water, sand, toxic chemicals and known carcinogens is considered a trade secret. Water flowing from some taps near these "fracking" wells, can be ignited - set on fire. If you set a fracking well on fire you would be jailed as a terrorist. The government of Minnesota is talking about allowing sand mining along the Mississippi river, in the southeast corner of the state, precisely for use in natural gas extraction and the poisoning of aquifers.

I read in Time magazine this week that inflation has been stabilized the last several years, due to the actions of the Federal Reserve. I saw a video of former Goldman Sachs Executive and current head of the New York Fed, William Dudley, laughing about food price inflation, because the iPad is for sale with lots of amazing features.** The Government does not consider the price of food or energy when calculating inflation, because if they did they would have to acknowledge that trickle down faith in the free-market is bullshit. I hear the way GDP is calculated is a lie too, meant to hide the fact that true economic growth has been stagnant, even declining the past three decades, because so much of GDP is the issuance and exchange of credit. Our national debt is roughly equivalent to GDP. We now seem to have a choice between a Democratic party that would spend us into oblivion with services they promise us but don't require us to pay for, and a Republican party that would end entitlements for every person, but corporations and the most fortunate plutocrats and oligarchs. Neither party questioning endless war, or the government's wars against Americans.

I haven't contacted the city yet. Monday morning, I intend to go to the Mayor's office. I will visit my council member's office. Perhaps I will leave with a feeling that my government has responded well to the absurdity of my situation. Perhaps I will be told "Sorry, there's nothing we can do." Either way, I'm inclined to call for Revolution. When life in America has achieved this level of absurdity, it's time to rebel, whatever that means. I've been contemplating a revision, an update of the founder's Declaration, their response to the tyranny of the British Crown. My response to the government that no longer functions as a surrogate of the people, but as an entity unto itself, in collusion with domestic and international conglomerates, to establish and maintain inequality among the people.

Mostly I think we Americans have abdicated our authority as sovereign men and women created equal. We have little sense of what the founders meant, when they said government derives its power from the consent of the governed. We act instead as if we derive our freedoms from government. A government that has come to exist for government's sake, acting to enshrine corporations as persons, without a charter to be revoked, both government and corporations essentially unaccountable, for actions that have contributed to the weakening of the Republic, and Americans generally.

I no longer consider my government legitimate. Curiously, my gentle but radical mother led me to information this Easter, that suggests our Federal and State governments have in effect been operating outside the Constitution, since the beginning of the Civil War. Whether or not this is true, I have begun to ask what it would mean to "alter or abolish" my nation's governments. I don't know if that is treason, but I can assure you, this American would rather die at the hand of my government, than be extorted by it.

I'm inclined to let the city condemn my house, if my request to rescind the order is denied. I will move right back in if they kick me out. If they board up my house, I will remove the boards as soon as they leave. If they take me to jail, I will go peaceably. When they let me out, I will return to my house. I will not pay a $6500 vacant house fee for a house I have no intention to vacate, that my government forces me to vacate for a reason that makes no logical sense. I will not abide by inspectors demands, to change anything in my house I see no reason to change.

I hope it doesn't come to that. It can't, can it? Probably not. But we will see.


** See the video, "Inflation Explained." It's fun.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The View From My Bed

April 20, 4/20, international pot day, or something like that. I moved my vegetable starts from the kitchen to the bedroom, as the bedroom is the only portion of the house heated, at the moment (notice the electric oil heater). I didn't think much about it, when the guy from CenterPoint Energy came to shut off the gas. It was about 65 degrees outside at the time. The snow has already melted, though the temp won't climb much above forty-five degrees today.

Mostly what you see are tomato and peppers. There are eggplant, various brassica, hollyhock, heavenly blue morning glory, moon flower and cardinal vine, and Nicotiana sylvestris, a South American tobacco plant with an extraordinary scent in the evenings and at night. The latter don't seem to want to germinate, though. I haven't really been able to recreate jungle like conditions (the white-boy that I am without a real greenhouse). The Cannabis seeds didn't take either. I'm not surprised; twelve seeds from a plant I grew in my yard last year, right outside that window, which I can only imagine was an unsuccessful attempt by that female plant to pollinate itself.

When I took the pictures this morning I was listening to public radio. Apparently, a significant number of Americans are against raising the national debt limit, something like 70%. Clearly, Obama's debt speech didn't carry; his numbers are down. Even as everywhere there is news that American corporations are continuing to hire more in other nations than they are here in America, even as the people who lead those corporations are calling for greater tax cuts. Obama essentially called for a shared sacrifice, but America didn't really hear it. It seems we have come to a watershed moment.

Not raising the debt ceiling, by all accounts, is a kind of financial apocalypse. Norm Ornstein, comparing shutting down the government to a "really bad stomach ache," called breaching the debt ceiling "a heart attack." Which can be survived, obviously, but not something you want to court, necessarily. Plenty do, but it doesn't seem like good national policy. Throwing the international bond market into upheaval, on the heels of the deepest recession in eighty years, doesn't seem like a great idea to me, but ok. I think we don't really have any conception of how bad it could get, so far removed so many of us are from hunger, from real need, but alright.

I think our desire not to raise the debt ceiling, at the same time we want to pay less taxes, wanting not to cut any of the major government programs, is grounded in naivete', stemming from our hyper-individuality, and our conception of household finances compared to that required to maintain civilization. It seems like a good idea to refuse to extend the ability of Government to spend more money than it currently spends, until one gets into the consequences, which will certainly not entail job creators creating jobs. More likely it will mean less jobs all-around, as a fortressing affect begins to take place around CEOs and their interests. There's hardly any conception of the greater good left, evident in the momentum across the nation to roll back environmental protections, in the lack of much of any conversation about what kind of country we would like to have, what kind of people we would like to be.

It seems like a better plan, to raise the debt ceiling, and then give ourselves a time-line to resolve our spending and tax issues. I highly doubt we are going to resolve the issue by mid-May. Or, we can not raise the ceiling, default, and then commence to blaming each other, as the global economy goes into free fall. Maybe that's what we need? It's not like the way we live is sustainable. Maybe it's time for collapse? Maybe it's time for us to question everything we believe? The world is currently ruled by men who believe in a God who sanctions violence, or in a neo-darwinian social order that justifies whatever they do, or in both. We don't seem to be questioning the market ethic that allows us to pollute recklessly, to destroy the ecological balance on which everything depends. We seem only to care about maintaining whatever standard of living we have grown accustomed to, without any disruption in whatever social progress we have come to expect. Which is understandable, but not recommended.

I've long known the global economy would collapse in my lifetime. I've even longed for it. Now that we seem to be on the cusp, I'm not so sure. Part of me thinks, "Hell, bring it on," the part of me that knows I'll be fine whatever happens. Mostly, I'm thinking about the children I know, and their families. Some of whom the vegetables in those trays are destined for. All of whom I care about very much.

In the short term I hope it warms up. I'm happy to have the company in my bedroom, but as vibrant and beautiful as these heirloom tomatoes are, they're tomatoes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Bitter cold today, snow on the ground in the morning and a stiff, relentless wind. I'm caved up in my room with the electric space heater, though I spent the morning antiquing at the state fairgrounds, with my friends Keith and Steve. I wandered around the tightly packed Grandstand, thinking for a while that I just don't care that much about things. That was, until I came across a booth with Kuan Yin in a striking pose, Siddhartha in the lotus position, several other curious figures impressively postured, three exceptionally well done African masks, one from Ivory Coast, and a first-century Roman Legion arrowhead. That last put me there, for a moment. Later I came across a remarkably well balanced Penobscot war club made from a root, a fearsome weapon, which I could make for nothing but an afternoon outside, which was offered to me for $700. In that same booth I nearly knocked over a not so authentic cradleboard, picking up a hatchet.

Knives, and toy and real guns, all over the place. Keith was pawing through the antique toy handguns in one booth, and the old man who owned the booth worked himself up to the point that he accused Keith afterward of stealing one of a set of replica six-gun revolvers, cap guns. When I asked his partner about it, a woman with the grayest eyes I have ever seen, she said, "This place hasn't been bad, but we were just in Chicago, and oh my god..." I noticed that wherever guns or knives were sold, the booth owners were the most suspicious, the least open and friendly. I don't think they were suspicious of people using the weapons, moreso of people stealing them. In fact, the mood wasn't very friendly generally, but that may be because it was so damn cold and breezy in that concrete, unheated indoor space.

At least half the vendors opted for the cheaper freedom of the outside venue, which would have been great, last weekend when it was sixty-five and sunny. We asked one guy about his lawn art, but he didn't seem to care about the price any more than he cared about where the art came from. Steve was lucky, finding his twentieth copy of a 1970's Six-Million Dollar Man board game, a Bionic Woman board game, a Milwaukee Brewers mug (for the woman he has some interest in) and a Mattell electronic soccer game from the early eighties, still in the box. These things remind him of what seems to have been a happy childhood, with a good father who sometimes took him to baseball card shows at the Thunderbird Motel, out by the old Met Stadium (where the retail vortex of the Americas, Mall of America, is now), before baseball cards were mass produced, and trading in memorabilia became a viable living for many people, and the price of everything soared.

My veggie starts are inside, in their trays in the kitchen; the temporary greenhouse I built for them isn't much good when it's forty degrees and windy. It has held up well though, which I wasn't sure it would, as the sides are covered by one-mil poly. It was all I had, and I was sure it would rip out with a wind, but it's been windy several days and nights and it hasn't. It has stayed about 85 degrees inside, on sunny days the last two weeks, which have been many, and the tomato starts doubled in size one warm day last week. They are practically dormant now.

I was at my sisters the other day, where I was fortunate to watch a PBS companion piece to Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire. Four short histories, on the apple, the tulip, the potato, and Cannabis sativa; it's one of the more enjoyable books I've read in recent years. Watching the film, I was struck once again by modern potato production, and the monocultures favored by the industrial method. Monocultures, which are exquisitely vulnerable, which our food supply is almost entirely dependent upon. Thinking about the children sleeping in the house at the time, I couldn't help but be reminded how entirely unprepared we are for the collapse of the potato, corn or soybean crop, and how my nation at this point seems more concerned about giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans than it cares about feeding people.

There is a debate going on in America related to the debt, about lowering Health Care costs. The single greatest cost-cutting option, being the one that we will not even consider. Namely, ending agricultural subsidies, and especially those to the likes of Cargill, one of the most secretive, largest privately held companies in America, its headquarters near here in a Minneapolis suburb. Cargill's profit has soared to almost ridiculous heights this last year, in large part due to tens of billions of dollars of government subsidies for corn and soybeans, and directly to Cargill. We are not ever likely to cut those subsidies: one, because they're incredibly lucrative for big agri-business; two, because cheap corn keeps people fat and sickly and mal-content, which is incredibly lucrative for the Health Care industry; and three, because cutting subsidies would raise prices for nearly all processed food in America, and that is the one thing the people are most likely to revolt about. So we will likely continue monocultural industrial agriculture, with the use of vast amounts of poisons, and the dramatic soil loss inherent to it, until monocultural industrial agriculture crashes, and famine ensues. Even then, I wonder if our government will cut weapons spending.

Yesterday I tried to pay my electric bill online. I was at the coffee shop, and I had forgotten to bring my phone. This was after I put $38 on my Netspend Master card, which cost me $3.95, which pissed me off because I put $28 on the card earlier this week, for the internet, which also cost me $3.95. I use a Netspend Mastercard because I can't have a checking or savings account because US Bank charged my $800 on $80 of overdrafts, and sold the debt to a creditor. Xcel energy uses a financial services company, NCO, for its online bill pay service. I assumed I would be able to access my account with my address, or my phone number, and the last four digits of my social security number (what will happen to our social security number when they gut social security?), but I needed my account number, which was in the same place as my phone. It was suggested, condescendingly, on the NCO website, that "if you don't have your Xcel Energy account number available, please try back when you do." I'm sorry, I thought, if I'm being irresponsible. I only wanted to pay my ****ing bill!

Back home, where I didn't really want to be because it was 50 degrees in my house because I let the gas bill lapse, I called Xcel. I was informed that the minimum payment, which I had been told, earlier this week, would be $52.xx, was in fact $53.xx, which, with the $2 Netspend Mastercard transaction fee, and the $4.85 NCO financial services convenience fee that I didn't know about, would be more than the $56 and change I had on the Netspend Mastercard. Thankfully, Xcel is not going to shut off my electrical, as long as I pay $60, plus the $2 and $4.85 fees, on Monday. I hope to make a few dollars this weekend helping Keith with a fence in his backyard.

Rudolf Steiner suggests that this situation I'm confronted with is related to a lesson I'm meant to learn in this life, which I chose, or was chosen for me, in the time between this and my last life. I have no question, I have brought this on myself, with the choices I have made in this life. I tend to think of this world as a wonderful and beautiful and mysterious place, and yet nearly every time I have to deal with corporate or government institutional energy, I want to tear the world to pieces. Everything is backward, upside down, where even the ending of a corporate subsidy is deemed a tax increase; when we are laying off teachers and giving 0% interest loans and tax cuts and outright free cash to the wealthiest among us; when we rage at each other about $38 billion in reductions to services for the poor, while the $78 billion in suggested military cuts by the Secretary of Defense are completely ignored; when we act as if people are better people, the more material and financial wealth they gather and horde.

I think about the little boy I was, growing up on the shore of a lake, across the road from a woods, down the road from a creek where I hunted frogs and snakes and turtles, mostly alone. How that little boy has become a man, living in the city alone, with a big garden, plans to gather much food, plans to build greenhouses and cisterns and plant fruit trees, hanging on to this life by pocket change, by the good grace of family, friends and neighbors, and faith, that this is a spiritual life, and another life will follow this.

What lesson are we to learn, hanging on as we are by our monocultures, by our faith in industrial processes and an economic model entirely contrary to nature, our faith in men like sky gods, to lead us, to treat us well?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


As I mentioned last week, I was working on the soil in my yard biodynamically. I've mentioned that to several people, and each time they've looked at me like I just said I was building a rocket to travel to Mars, in my garage, out of scraps I pulled out of the alley. Working the soil in any way, in this culture, is perceived something like that, as in, "Plant a garden? Why not build a rocket..."

By biodynamically, I mean that I'm digging the first twelve inches of soil out of each garden bed. I then fill the trench with an inch or two of leaves and wood chips (the leaves I pull in bags out of the attic, where they spent the winter holding heat in my house). The next step, I step into the trench with a garden fork, pulling up another ten or twelve inches of soil and breaking it by bouncing it on the tines. In this way, the wood chips and leaves are worked in, to hold water, and provide nourishment for the vegetables as they break down.

Careful not to step in the trench, I cover the pile of soil I pulled out of the trench with a thin layer of leaves, and push and pull the soil back in with a rigid garden rake, creating a sloping mound eight or ten inches taller than the surrounding soil. After, I cart away the remaining soil with the wheelbarrow, to make compost. Eventually, I'll cover each bed with compost, an inch or two of nitrogen rich compost, from the piles I made when I dug up the sod last summer, to make the beds I'm working now. Because I raked in so much dry carbon -the leaves and wood chips - I'm also spreading red clover seed, because clover in a nitrogen fixer, which means it pulls nitrogen out of the air and emits it out of the roots into the soil. The carbon needs nitrogen to break down. If too much nitrogen is used breaking down the carbon, there won't be enough for the veggies. The clover I can cut again and again, and each time, the nitrogen clinging to the roots will fall away. The bacteria in the soil will regulate the nitrogen, so there won't be too much.

This method is one I pulled and revised from a book by John Jeavons, with the grammatically challenged title How to Grow More Vegetables* *than you ever though possible on less land than you can imagine. Understanding the science he alludes to is considerably more of a challenge than the title, but I understood intuitively the soil preparation part. Biodynamic is a method originated by the philosopher seer Rudolf Steiner, early in the 20th century. According to Jeavons, this fall I could have as much as a thousand pounds of potatoes instead of the 250 lbs I had last year. We shall see.

One thing is certain, one has to be biodynamic to garden this way. I hit a wall, so-to-speak, yesterday. I ran out of money last week, and I've been subsisting on free bread from Trinity Lutheran down the street, dandelion greens, potatoes, and bean sprouts. I tore up much of my driveway too, which I hope to be the orchard. I've turned the soil in about 600 sq ft of garden. I was working on a bed near the back door when I simply ran out of motivation. Very sore, poorly nourished, looking at the 1600 sq ft of garden remaining, with at the time nothing but bread and potatoes in the house, I had to let it go. I got paid today. Paid all my bills, bought a few minimal groceries, with about sixty dollars left, to last till...? Bought a six pack too, of which I've had two, about to get another, celebrating my good fortune. It's only early April. Plenty of time to work the soil before planting.

And soon, the Earth will provide. I'm actually leading an ideal life, for me. Dreaming, waking, writing for several hours, working in the yard through the day, reading in the evening. Working the soil this way is like a meditation (focus on the breath, switch sides regularly when using the garden tool, quiet the mind). I picked up five works by Rudolf Steiner at the library today. I'm finding few writers who speak to what I'm feeling of late. Steiner has much to say about the spiritual life. There are few such exemplars of the method of exploring the interior life to make the world a better place for others; I'm eager to indulge. And maybe tomorrow, biodynamically work more soil. Or maybe put it off for another day of rest and recovery. I have at least eight to ten days of soil preparation remaining. I could do it in three, but there is no hurry.

There is a tremendous satisfaction, I am discovering, knowing that given a few seeds and a few simple tools, I could grow and forage and hunt my way through the rest of my life quite nicely. I heard Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan got himself a 19 million dollar raise recently. He's one of those who thinks being a plutocrat is the pinnacle of human existence. Put the two of us on a thousand acres, with nothing but said seed and tools and the clothes on our back, and we'll see who's biodynamic. I'd show him everything I know; but his kind would prefer to wait until I grew, foraged and hunted enough to survive the winter, and then kill me, or get someone else to do it. Try to, anyway.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Friday night, after a day turning soil biodynamically, preparing for the spring planting. More on that in a future post (I'm sure you'll be dreaming about it, waiting for the day). First, I want to address some issues with a recent post, about Imenz -The Black Rockstar, Troy, my nephew's father and my sister's partner.

He took issue with three things. First, my calling me his mentor; second, my use of the words Homo sapien sapien; third, my calling us part of a rainbow tribe. I will address the third issue first.

Some years ago, I watched a film about Josephine Baker, the American singer/dancer/actor/freedom fighter, who as a performer was simply too much for the America of her time; I have her Ja'i deux amours on the FrenchySpanishyPortuguese playlist I've been listening to every day the past several months. In the film, the name of which I can't remember, she calls her family, and the twelve multi-ethnic children she adopted, her rainbow tribe. I am of Celtic/Germanic extraction, my niece is half Hispanic, and my nephew, Troy's son, is part African-American. Growing up in central Minnesota, with about two black persons in the entire county, and maybe a few dozen non-whites, I consider us a rainbow tribe. Which I'm tickled about.

Which leads to the second issue, my use of the phrase Homo sapien sapien. I make much of that phrase in my first book. It is of course the scientific designation, the genus name followed by the species. Just as the white tailed deer is called Odocoileous virginianus, we are called Homo sapien sapien. Most people familiar with the phrase use instead Homo sapien, which is accurate. The additional sapien is used by some to designate the post-Neolithic, or post-Paleolithic human, though there really is no reason to make a distinction. We are physiologically no different than we were 200,000 years ago (if less capable and less skilled, generally), when we are said to have evolved into our current state. I say Homo sapien sapien because I like the way it sounds when I say it.

I am exceptionally proud to be an inheritor of the 200,000 year story of my species. The Black Rockstar, by comparison, comes from the inner-city black community, and has little familiarity with the term other then the use of the word homo as a pejorative, like faggot. A faggot is in fact a bundle of sticks, and we are all Homo sapien sapien, but aside from linguistic ignorance, the idiot who uses such words in the pejorative is betraying his discomfort with his own feminine aspects, which we all have, as we all have masculine traits, one or the other more prominent.

The black community is not entirely on the bus when it comes to equal rights for the LGBT community. In addition, the phrase Homo sapien sapien implies evolution, which implies monkey, which, just as homo and faggot is used to disparage gays, monkey is a pejorative some white Homo spaien sapien use against black folk. Of course, in the timeline of Hominid, we are all about equally removed from Africa (with the exception of African-Americans). It's not at all surprising that Imenz, The Black Rockstar, who is young, and whose contemporaries are generally less versed in the story of our species than he is, bristles at the use of the phrases Homo sapien sapien, and rainbow tribe. It is sad, nonetheless, as we are all from the same source, and it is generally in the interest of those who abuse power in this world, that we quibble amongst ourselves about little things that don't separate us as much as we think they do.

As for mentor, this too is a word long neglected, almost without meaning in a world when the old increasingly have little knowledge worth imparting, or the ability to impart the knowledge we do possess. He bristled at the word because it sounds to him as if I'm saying I'm the sole reason he is the man he is, that I am the puppet master behind his music. He grew up without a father, there were hookers and pushers on the next corner, he was entirely on his own at seventeen. He doesn't want to hear anybody talk like they are the artist, like they are the reason he is a strong, thoughtful young man, a good father.

I took umbrage with the fact that he had a problem with me suggesting I was mentoring him. "Who the hell else is talking to you about mercurial energies!" I shouted good-naturedly, in the kitchen, over drinks. I tried to explain, lamely, that a mentor is someone older who teaches you something. More to the point, a mentor is anyone who offers you knowledge, who teaches you how to do or be something, who leads you to a greater understanding of yourself. In my own experience, I have had several powerful mentors, generally but not exclusively older men, who modeled characteristics or talents I wished to have for myself, who were willing to spend time with me. Under this description anyone could be a mentor, even a child.

Which led me to the realization that it is not for me to call myself Troy's mentor, nor to call myself mentor to anyone. It is only for me to act; I cannot be a mentor unless another recognizes me as such. And even should Troy, or anyone, call me a mentor, I can only be a model. Troy, The Black Rockstar, Imenz, is his own man. And based on my experience, a powerful one, impressive.

Monday, April 4, 2011


This past Friday I worked in a coffee shop arranging a purchase order, for Halloween merchandise from Disguise, one of the largest vendors in the Halloween business. I started the session by knocking my coffee cup, and the coffee I hadn't yet tasted, onto the floor, with the 2x4-thick catalog. Through the day, I grew increasingly frustrated, as the .xls order sheet I was filling out was embedded with so much information, my five year-old computer worked like the year was 1994, not 2011 (it was my computer, or the google docs platform I was working on). By the end of the session, I realized that Disguise does not carry Superman merchandise, as I implied with the last post. That would be Rubies, the proverbial eight hundred-pound gorilla of Halloween vendors.

In the evening, I went through a singing and dancing routine I'm working on. By the end, I was contemplating sleep, though it was only nine o'clock. I hadn't eaten more than a few hundred calories that day, and none in very high quality form. I remembered then, my sister was working downtown, at Insomnia, a dance club. I'm not accustomed to going downtown late on the weekends, and I had no real expectation that I would dance. Check the place out, go home and go to bed, I told myself.

Looking through my clothes, which all look tired, as I haven't made more than $20,000 the past two and a half years, I questioned my judgement. My sister had said to me one night, "If you're going to go, you have to dress nice," as she looked at my feet, " in something other than grubby jeans and your homeless shoes," which is what she calls the boots I wear sometimes, which have gaping holes where the leather has separated from the sole, which I like to wear because they feel like moccasins. I put on my second best jeans, because they were cleaner and they're a bit more stylish than the best pair, acceptable even (I think) with the purple paint near the right calf, from a night spent painting the walls last year at the Halloween store. My only nightclub-worthy shirt, a navy blue Hugo Boss, was a little dusty but otherwise in decent shape. And under the bed I found the golden shoes my friend Stephan gave me last November, which I have never worn.*

Riding the train in my golden shoes, I thought about a story from Daniel Pinchbeck, about Rudolf Steiner, the seer, who left us among many things, the Waldorf schools and biodynamic agriculture. Steiner apparently believed that the planets are in fact conscious entities, with a spiritual essence. Humanity has long considered Mars to have an influence on war and war-like behavior. Steiner said the Buddha, after leaving this planet, received a kind of spiritual promotion, his spirit embedded inside the red planet. Pinchbeck had a dream, which he relates in 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, of the Buddha, in lotus posture, with his grin, descending into the red planet, a roiling mass of "frenzied spirits, like angry paramecium, rushing through him as if he were a hologram. Their agitation slowly began to subside, absorbing the influence of the Buddha's calming vibration." Quoting Steiner from Pinchbeck's book, "it is now the Buddha's task gradually to transform these warlike traits in such a way that they become the foundation of the sense for freedom and independence needed in the present age."

I started thinking about my anger from earlier that day, working on the Disguise order. Each of the planets has a magnetosphere. Humans too emit an electromagnetic field. How many people were within my sphere, in that crowded coffee shop? Did I affect anyone, with my brief descent into my own personal darkness, with my thoughts about death?

Sitting on the train listening to two unattractive, over-weight, exceptionally articulate, intelligent and confident young black women**, I thought about the Buddha's smile. What would people think in these troubled times, about a buddha? What about a bodhisattva, the awakened one, who chooses to return to this Earth again and again, until all sentient beings are awake?

The club was about two-thirds capacity when I arrived. I bought a gin-and-tonic from my sister, and walked back to the dance floor. I was the only white guy, one of three white folk. But this was no gangsta crowd, mostly middle-class, most dressed much nicer than I was. I walked front to back, and back to front, a few times, sipping my drink, before I stopped in the back and started to let go into the music. A young man named Solomon approached me to tell me he liked my shoes. I had been dancing, but on the edge of the floor. Solomon encouraged me to step out. "It seems like everybody's shy," he said. So I did.

I danced repeatedly for the next hour, through another gin and tonic. I was on the big screen in the front of the bar. I danced in a circle with five women, a few others wanted to grind. A few more guys gave me some positive words. A few times I simply closed my eyes, lifted my face to the ceiling with a smile, and grooved, alone. If I have a magnetosphere, I wanted to project humble, non-threatening power, grace, and joy. No one projected onto me anything negative. After awhile, people got more drunk, couples started to grind, and I walked to the front and grabbed my coat from my sister.

Near the train station there was a young man selling his soundtrack, while his uncle played a five-gallon bucket. I asked for a beat. The old man just sat there. I talked with the younger man about his music, and then asked the old man again, "So, are you gonna give me a beat?"

"You gonna drop a dollar?"

I put a $2 bill in his empty bucket, and stepped back. He gave me a short, difficult, funky riff. When he stopped he looked at me, dropping his head slightly to the side, nodding, "Hunh." He gave me a less complex beat then, and I worked with him awhile on the sidewalk next to the tracks. Blackie Brown is the name he gave me. His nephew, DJ Touch.

On the train, I was standing by the door for several stations, really wishing I had my iPod. Wondering about dancing without music, but not wanting to get arrested, I sat down instead, suddenly very tired, and very sore. Across the aisle next to me, I realized, were two exceptionally attractive suburban white women. The one closest to me had violet painted toenails. 'Hey. I'm wearing a violet bandana', I thought, and smiled. I caught her checking out my golden shoes. But she didn't ask, and I don't really stand out if I'm not dancing; and these weren't the sort of women who spend time with men who have little money (or so I judged), and I don't really remember anything about their conversation (which may also have been about how tired I was).


**"I thought I was the only one in the world who didn't care about that Kanye West/Taylor Swift thing."

"No girl, I didn't have any real problem with it either."

"Really? Right, like everybody thought Taylor Swift was like, fifteen. That girl was eighteen years-old."

"She could have stood up to him."

"Right. Like 'Hey, I won this award, get off my stage!'"