I’ve seen it all…

Well, it’s Ninth and Hennepin

All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes

And the moon’s teeth marks are on the sky

Like a tarp thrown all over this

And the broken umbrellas like dead birds

And the steam comes out of the grill like the whole goddamn town’s ready to blow

And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos

And everyone is behaving like dogs

And the horses are coming down Violin Road and Dutch is dead on his feet

And all the rooms they smell like diesel

And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here

And I’m lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway

And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat

And no one brings anything small into a bar around here

They all started out with bad directions

And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear

One for every year he’s away, she said

Such a crumbling beauty

Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won’t fix

She has that razor sadness that only gets worse

With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by

And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet

Till you’re full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin

And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen

And I’ve seen it all

I’ve seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train

– Tom Waits, “9th & Hennepin,” one of my favorite poems, which came to mind today when I crossed 9th Street, while driving down Hennepin, in downtown Minneapolis.

To be pursued but never attained

…until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned…until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation…until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes…until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race…until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.

– Halie Selassie, in an address to the United Nations, 1963.

I thought we could all use the reminder.

Small Towns

Overheard from a lone-lamp lit open window, while walking past, a tired voice, on the phone, “hey, are you still driving?” leaks into the dusk, carried along with the scent of grass clippings in the street, and it’s a plea and a demand and an admission of defeat all at …

The Eclipse

This morning I’ve noticed that many accounts of yesterday’s total eclipse contain a statement along the lines of “I was not prepared for how beautiful/spiritual/amazing it was,” with which, having been fortunate enough to witness totality first-hand yesterday, I wholeheartedly agree. Why is this reaction so apparently universal? I don’t …

Scenario

What if this eclipse somehow just didn’t happen? It would be even more terrifying for us than the eclipse was to people a thousand years ago. Suddenly, some very hard questions would need to be asked. Unrest; scientists, facing an incredulous public, desperately search for the moon, finally discovering that 60 years ago a researcher (the fourth of five listed authors of a widely-cited paper on the computer modeling of lunar orbital mechanics) incorrectly translated a punch-card into COBOL, because the process is mind-numbing, nothing like the life of the astronaut he wants to be, but anyway, in his distraction, he introduced a small, but compounding error. In the mean time we’ve burned down all the universities for nothing, all the scientists are in hiding, we’re all chain smoking and using computers to bludgeon livestock. The pope’s army is marching on the space station, and the caliph’s call echoes through Valles Marineris…