Death, Power and Escape in the Morning

city skyline during night time

It never ceases to amaze me how mankind glorifies the process of law and government. So many people are always looking for Kings and Queens to bow down to, to perpetuate the pomp and circumstance of putting some people above others, giving some the power the glory, the special consideration, and others are left disenfranchised and powerless in any meaningful way. Walking into the City Hall, with its ornate plasterwork, domed ceilings in some rip off renaissance style, its artifice and guilded lillies and its attempt to look important and as if it holds more weight than any other building, walking up to the marble steps, the ranks of assembled phalanxes – the little cops all in a row row row, me playing Quite Contrary, those headed to court, or the clerk, or the justice of the peace or the mayor’s office, all assembled in the machinery and machinations of government, I suddenly felt sick. “Pretty impressive building, isn’t it?” murmured the ‘advocate’ from the women’s group. I smiled and nodded, smiled and nodded, but inside I felt sick. Power never impressed me much. I hate phoney shit.

The powers that be have to sell us the illusion that they are in control, that their rulings and policies and decisions and fury or mercy all mean something, all have weight: the weight of fake beaux arts plastercast nudes and sickly gold leaf, of marble and domes and architecture. Sell it with popcorn, or else with impressive buildings.

Arthur Brown Jr., the architect of City Hall also designed the Federal office building at 50 United Nations Plaza , and other buildings that need to say something to the people they oppress. While a human being is sleeping in the street, and the pristine floors of the courts and the opera houses, the plazas and the Cathedrals there is no justice, there is no propriety, there is no sense of humanity. It is all a scam, all a big illusion that we are asked to buy into and help to continue. Meaningless bricks and mortar of the oppression of mankind. Materials that make The Man, the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, appear unassailable impressive and real.

The reality is the very few who rule over us have very little power at all, if the 99 percent rose up there would be nothing that could be done. If the machinery of government was not pulling some wizard of ox trickery of curtains and smoke and mirrors, we would simply walk away saying, “fuck this. This is meaningless. This isn’t fair. We don’t accept it.” No the weight of impressions, of buildings, of organizations, of pomposity, of plaster and statues and arches and domes is what weighs down the little person and keeps us earning, keeps us poor, keeps us working for bread and water and a few crumbs of shelter and existence. Play the game and live comfortable. Break the rules and sit behind the bars and four tall walls of the Great TIme Out Trap. We all know the drill: people locked for for multiple decades for a little weed, people locked up for crimes of poverty, people locked up and the key thrown away, lives ruined. I spoke to a man who used to be a prison guard – he had three generations of one family behind his jail’s bars. He was sick of it. He left to try and help people. He ain’t doing very well, but hobbled by rules and regulations, I suppose he is doing the best he can. It is a case of pleasing nobody at all by trying to please or appease everyone.

Clerks and bureaucracy. Told to stay. Ordered to leave. Yesterday carried on like some 1970s comedy farce show. I half expected a fat man to start chasing bikinied women round the Corridors of Power wielding cigars from Bill Clinton’s humidor, chasing around the long legged beauties to a jaunty little ditty involving slide whistles and banjos. I was asked questions that I had no power over, and no involvement in. I smiled and shrugged, and smiled and shrugged and at one point had to put my head on my son’s shoulder and remind myself why I was biting my tongue so hard it bled.

People were getting married. There was a whole gaggle of brides and nervous grooms, mothers and fathers and beaming officiants, dressed in finery from a multitude of the cultures that make up San Francisco. One couple caught my eye. She was wearing a sari, he was in a suit. I have rarely seem two people more in love. He was overjoyed, she was devoted. He was protective and full of vitality. She was holding onto him like a drowning woman. They needed each other.

After we made it safely out, standing on the steps of the grand building, next to a hippy preacher playing guitar, making a few phone calls to update the people that care about that I made it out of the situation, I caught a glimpse of the happy couple. They were taking a few photos outside. The happiness radiated from them and their loved ones. All of a sudden the groom grabbed his chest. He took two steps, grabbed his chest and fell to the ground. Dropped like he had exited consciousness. The world slowed. A bride stood there not comprehending. A man started shouting to call 911. The cops were not moving. I heard myself shouting at the cops just inside to call an ambulance. Someone started to pump the man’s chest. Seeing that other people were helping, me and the boy melted away. Too many cops. It was not safe, and besides there was nothing we could do to help.

“He was just married ma! They looked so happy! It was the best day of his life and he dead? Ma? How can someone be alive and then…Ma! Ma!”

I turned around and looked the kid in the face. “It didn’t look good, did it, slugger.”

“He wasn’t even fat ma! He wasn’t even OLD! Ma, he was alive right?”

“I don’t know. He dropped pretty fast, kiddo. You want a milkshake? How about jamba juice?”

And my son turned round to me, grabbed my arm, wound his hand around it and started to cry.

“If they had taken you away, ma, I don’t think I could have coped. I don’t think I could have survived. I need you , Ma. Don’t leave me, Mom. You can’t die. How do you even know if someone is going to die like that?”

“You don’t. Looked like sudden cardiac death, at least a massive heart attack, no one knows. If people knew, they would rush to a hospital. No one is assured tomorrow, but you can’t live thinking about it. I promise I’m fighting kiddo. I’m not going to just roll over. I haven’t so far, right? You can trust me, and if I don’t you gotta pick yourself up, and you gotta carry on and be happy. You do it for me, and remember me and that I loved you and was proud of you.”

A bride standing on the steps of City Hall. Not all the power and the happiness, the glory of the rule of The Man could save her day. I just hope they had got an AED machine amongst all those useless statutes of law, and statues of women, alabaster breasts thrust towards the power of the average white man in charge. A vital fit young man dropping down on the concrete of San Francisco, so much in love, so much future ahead of him. An escaped hanging for me. A tough lesson for a Boy.

The only thing real is life and death and the continuation of love. The rules we buy into, the rules forced upon us, the rules and the laws and the war on those who don’t play the game, or are forced into refusing by Accident or Fate or Chance or the modern day Kings, thus forced and forged into the attitude of desperate men and women. The day was cool and windy. Next to a great escape was a small victory. Next to great happiness was grief. Next to power was disbelief. Next to nothing of it mattered besides life and death in the morning in San Francisco in a plague August.


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