Saturday, May 05, 2007

I Left My Car Behind Today

When petrol prices rose above $2 to stay there, Rich left his car behind. Having quit his gruntjob earlier that year, he wasn't about to spend money when he didn't have to. He stuffed a backpack with a book, qahve, bread, hummus, fruit. And the all-important water bottle. Stepping out onto the porch, he paused to smile. Eastside life certainly had its charms. Rich's unjobbers haven, the Chaos House, enjoyed a large yard lush with beautiful and useful weeds, and giant shady trees. His little neighborhood even had its own family grocery store. Traffic on the side streets was slow enough that he could mosey down the street like the school kids getting off the bus. Backwards through the bab he went, striding into the city.

Avoiding the tons of zooming metal and invisible odorless clouds of carbon monoxide on 11th Street, Rich instead went up the alley that would be 11 1/2th Street, or 11.111111111th Street, or something. Eventually his kidneys had filtered enough water and nitrogen out of his blood that he had to pee. It was too bad there were no public restrooms around, but it was OK because he was in an alley, where good Stanizens rarely go. Although he had left the Chaos House, he took his Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone with him pretty much everywhere. So he took a leak in the SPAZ there in the alley. Hearing about this later, Rich's brother thought it could be cool for Alley Rats to maintain open-communal humanure stations scattered around the alleys on the Eastside, piles of sawdust and dumpstered 5-gallon buckets to pee in. These could be maintained at least near Vagabond squats, so some people with more attachment to the location can monitor and maintain the humanure system. This would, of course, properly composted, provide tons of fertility for the Eastside gardens and jungly permaculture weedlots and rooftops that are slowly overgrowing the unused stretches of pavement. The Maya weren't the last ones to abandon their pyramids for wildness.

SuperHiWay 5.6 arcs futuristically over the city, demarcating the Eastside piles of rubble from the sprawling star-shaped bubble city to the west (StanCity). SuperHiWay 5.6 funnels cars from the Fringes to Olde Main Street and its Olde Stan Capitol Experience. It also funnels lots of food and other products from the few remaining productive outlying regions, into the city. Rich has turned west from the 11th Street alley, and he gallivants along in the shadow of the tons of concrete and steel, the whizzing cars and consumers kept in their place by the sail-like silvery wisps of Screen, flashing giant ads to the cars, constantly changing ads selected according to the consumer profiles coming up the road, as read and processed by The Infinite Domain. Rich crosses beneath the SuperHiWay in a drainage ditch. He keeps an eye out for scraps of cloth, chalked or painted graffiti tags, and other subtle signs of the Vagabond underground, which might warn of new Peace Officer activity, or flooding in the drainage ditches, or might lead congregants to a gathering such as the weekly Burgoo Not Bombs.

A funny thing about diy technology is that it's much less susceptible to the surveillance measures put upon us, through our products, by the capitalist state. Rich is not carrying much that would be tagged with those wireless data grains, and he's not going near anything else so tagged, so he doesn't generate a signal in The Infinite Domain. He is effectively invisible to the machine. A random factor.

Later he arrives at the MaD House, a sprawling and layered old house on a busy corner. It attracts no attention from those in the pods in the street who simply wait, staring at the traffic lights, listening to UniCorp spewage, thinking nothing, drinking CleerTM, and maybe chatting with a disembodied voice. Living in the MaD House are various artists, poets, geeks, and freex. They subsist on marginal work, foraging, gardening, and dumpstering, enjoying the tribal wealth of everyone sharing and looking out for each other.

Some believe the MaD House people would be less emotionally stable if it weren't for the water. The city water supply, virtually a closed system, has concentrated the traces of everyone's medications found in everyone's pee, and now, low continual doses of every major medication are found in the drinking water. Everyone is finally perfectly medicated. The MaD people are still too passionate and irritable to be as stable as, say, a good Qb cog, but they do manage to hang together and ferment chaos. The paint fumes probably add to the zaniness. And, thanks to various Vagabonds on the Barrens, and the dervishes who carry the sacraments with them on their pilgrimages, the MaD House has a fairly reliable supply of highly reliable qahve.


werebrock said...

what exactly is qahve? if it's a dervish secret, i guess it's a dumb question, but i honestly can only guess.

Hakim Baker said...

It's from coffee, which is from qahve, which is Arabic for wine, which is forbidden in Islam but is the blood of Christ in Christianity, and for us can be a metaphor for anything sacramental.