Thursday, September 3, 2009

Philosophical Musing #1: Modern Life is a Total Hurns.

This tour is many things at once, an art project, an experiment in alternative economics, a political action, and a major life transition. We're moving from a life in Milwaukee's greatest neighborhood, to a life on the road. We are homless until November, and after that, we plan on touring as much as possible. Going from a stable job and home with cheap rent and roomates in a beautiful disaster area of half-finished art projects and dirty dishes, to transient adventures and focus on the development and execution of just one project. Kate and I welcome this transition, we long for it, we accepted the risks and prepared as much as possible. What we didn't realize was how much of this transition would involve jumping through the hoop of fire that is mainstream life, or just how unpleasant that hoop of fire is. In the last few days I've had a bigger dose of "normal american life" than I have in a long time, and I honestly don't know how we as a nation can handle it. I offer three examples.

First, the car. This is the first car I've really purchased in my life. I've owned cars before, but they've always been hand-me-down beaters from family members expected to burn out within a year or two. This car, after purchase, repairs, and DMV fees will suck up about $5000. This makes the years I spent living frugally and saving my meager paychecks to build a nest egg for artistic adventures like these seem absolutely trivial. Half that nest egg is gone on a modern contraption that most people consider an absolute necessity. I now think about traffic in terms of hours of invested labor power and driving through Chicago yesterday was like watching a staggering tradgedy. How can so many people value these smelly, loud, dangerous chunks of metal more than their life's work?

Second, the DMV. After spending Monday night moving out of the house and Tuesday morning working on remaining booking and accounting issues, we headed down to the DMV service center in Bayview to officially transfer the car title on our way to our first show. I'm not going to give the typical complaints about waiting, I didn't mind the crowded waiting room (witnessed some interesting case studies in parenting, which make me glad that I'm a new owner of a car and not of a child) the workers were patient, efficient and friendly. No, my problem at the DMV is completely my fault. I'm bad at bureaucracy. First, I got my number, sat down, read, waited, mentally transformed "I171" into "I177" in my memory, sat through my number being called, waited for 6 numbers after me to be called, then got to the counter and realized that I'm an idiot. Rather than doing the rational thing and asking the attendant if she could take me after the real I177, since I'd been already been waiting for about 2 hours, i got flustered and went back to the beginning of the entire process. I got a new number, waited another hour, and thought about how I am trying to do way too many things at one time.

Third, the suburbs. We had a great show at messhall, crashed with our friend Ryan (which invovled parking at around midnight in bridgeport, a 40 minute ordeal) and then headed down to show #2. Before we left we made plans to stop somewhere once we got out of the city to take care of a few things. We needed a fabric store (busted fly on costume pants), an auto-parts store (manual for the car), and a small electronics store (rechargable batteries for the camera and components of a solar generator). We used google maps to find all three in close proximity in the suburban strip malls of South Holland. Once we got off the interstate, we soon realized that 2 of the three stores (Jo-Anne Fabrics and Auto Zone) had closed. We did find a Radio Shack surrounded by empty buildings that used to hold other chain stores. I remember in high school everyone complaining about empty storefronts in downtown areas with a sense nostalgia for lost community. Now the chain stores and stripmalls that forced those small family operations out of business are closing, but we don't feel nostalgia, instead we regret the green spaces and wilderness paved to make way for these cookie cutter boxes surrounding our cities. In the past, corporate types and businessmen disregarded our complaints with aphorisms like "you can't stop progress" and "adapt or die". We should be mashing these motherfuckers' faces into the asphalt and fake brick facades of the stripmalls the way dog owners scold their puppy when it shits on the floor. Instead, we're devising bail outs and stimulus packages to turn the economy around for them. What is wrong with us?

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