Wednesday, August 22, 2007
A Reposting: An Environmental Lament. Or: A New Cappuccino Bar
Cafe latte. Hold the caffeine. Wait in line. Sit at a postmodern table, take out your high-tech substitute of a newspaper and bury your nose in it. Time flies. Time is money. Money flies. The cups clink, the machines hiss, money changes hands. Nothing here has a simple name. Tall means small, grande a little bigger. The fire in the fireplace is a simulation. The clientele is also a simulation, all young, all affluent, all postmodern, with sharp edges and fuzzy middles. The bathrooms are clean and contain no reminders about the need to wash afterwards.
This place used to be an abandoned lot. Not a beautiful meadow, but a rough patch of ground where weeds battled for survival. In late summer it looked like a dead field. Every day an old man would come with an even older dog and slowly, majestically, the pair would part the reedy stems of the brown grasses to enter the field. Then she, the dowager queen of all dogs, would lower herself, arthritically, majestically, to rain over the parched soil; a goddess of grass being worshipped in an ancient ritual in her honor. Every day.
Now the rituals are different. The lot is sealed with asphalt, the space decorated with yellow lines, arrows and mystical signs worshipping a different god, a god of computers, sunglasses, cash registers and ears pierced seven times. The awkward weeds are gone. In their place stand rows of boxwoods, all perfect spheres.
It is possible to come here without seeing a single weed, a single poor face, a single wrinkled face. The whole world is available here if the world is sanitized, straightened out, converted into electronic impulses. It is possible, here, to pretend that death never comes, that food is born pristine, that life is clear and good. The whole lot is paved with asphalt, anything and everything can be removed from the cappuccino grande and it still remains cappuccino grande. The god of this place is the god of logic and cool goodness, god of clean bathrooms and everlasting life.
The old man is probably dead by now. The old dog certainly is. She has gone away to where old dogs go. The weeds are dead under the asphalt. The new rituals are winning: The lot is full of shining cars, their metal wings momentarily at rest. The tables under the plastic umbrellas are crowded with people who have good skin, expensive watches, silver-colored toenails. No-one uses the door marked "Exit" to enter. The new god is strong.
But at night doubts arise. The moon casts a different light. The parking lot is empty, the outside tables deserted. In the shadows the yellow lines seem to waver, the paving seems to crack, as if pushed from below. And, sometimes, fleetingly, one can see a furry paw, a phosphorescent eye, a glimpse of a slow, majestic movement of something sinking, lowering. Does the new god turn his head when he hears the night rain fall?