Monday, September 04, 2006

comings and goings

when it's ungodly hot here, the powers that be decree a "spare the air day." to further encourage us not to use our cars unecessarily, all public transportation is free. my brothers and i took the BART into the city. it's always so much cooler on the other side of the berkeley hills. the air conditioning doesn't work in my brother's old benz - driving on the freeway to the BART station (kind of defeats the purpose to sparing the air, i know) it felt like we were in an industrial clothes dryer. horrible.

the three of us wandered around the city, ate sandwiches in north beach, and walked down a side street into chinatown. tried to manuver through the chaotic scene on the narrow and crowded sidewalk. they were unloading the fish deliveries to all the little markets. you know, the ones that have several types of fried animals hanging in the windows? the fish are still alive when they get to those stores; they must come straight from the docks. i looked up in time to see a slight chinese woman raise a huge mallet and repeatedly club a snapper that must have been at least 3 feet long. i could see its gills fanning in a vain attempt for oxygen. they fluttered like butterfly wings. and then it didn't move anymore. i scooted down the street faster.

i realized that i don't really know where my food is coming from. how different and visceral to see an animal slaughtered in front of you before dinner, than picking up a saran wrapped package from the row upon row of plastic at the supermarket. when i was house sitting with the chickens, i felt the warmth of freshly laid egg. my dad grew up on a farm. he seems happiest when he's puttering around in the back yard. he and my brothers are building a zen garden. i, on the other hand, have a black thumb.

and another thing, where does my garbage go? we get one large recycling container here, all the paper, plastic, glass, and metal goes into it. that means someone, somewhere has to pick through all of it and sort it all out. i went to the dump in vancouver when we were moving out of our house to get rid of all this junk we had accumulated. it was profoundly disturbing place where all the workers wore gas mask and goggles and your eyes burned from stench in this enormous warehouse. and it wasn't even the final resting place for the city garbage. it was packed into mack trucks and taken god knows where, probably some garbage barge out on the fraser river or some landfill out in the boonies where we wouldn't have to look at it. it's probably the same here in california.

yet i don't think most of the people in blithe suburbia are concerned with these things. food appears on a plate. stuff goes in the garbage and away. it's very clean, very convenient, and very detached from the realities of life and death and decay.