Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wakey Wakey

Just before 7 am this Saturday morning, I sat in bed drifting my way through the New York Times online (long ago I lost the ability to sleep late, but I might as well be asleep for all I get done between 6 am and noon most weekends). I grew dimly aware of the level of voices leaking across my 6th floor balcony. Not the usual decibel from the street. I glanced out, saw this:
There is something that does not belong in this picture- can you spot it? Good for you - you are not as blind as me! Let's get something on and go for a closer look, shall we?

The exterior paint job begun last week had reached my floor. 
I'm not sure who got the bigger kick out of our encounter. The look on these guys' faces is the best thing about living here. Unadulterated sweetness. If I had more damn Khmer I would have told them about my painting days- hell I might have put on my flip flops and joined them because they made it look like a relaxing way to spend the morning.

You can see that safety is job # 1 here in Kampuchea and that OSHA is all over it.
Can someone explain why his presence, there in flip flops, minus goggles and helmet and harness, is so marvelous? I am aware- a false step and he falls to his death. That his appearance thus is a result of poverty and a lack of societal protections and civil governance. Yet it is why I am here, why I love so many moments of every day. I don't believe the attraction lies simply in the exotic nature of the sights- the impossible gutted-pig load flopping on the back of a decrepit moto, the dark-skinned beauty in her pajamas selecting greens at a roadside market, the clownish traffic policemen rushing after my moped- rather it is the lack of polish and veneer. 

It is like this: when I was a kid I loved the Olympics- Jim Mckay and his gang, earnest and genuine, working without irony or slickness. Of course, I wasn't the only one who loved it. What ABC did worked, so they tweaked it and smoothed it and sanded it, until it looked the way it does now on NBC. It is process perfected to the point of being perfectly awful- The shitty sob story background milked dry, the patter, the nationalism. Everyone knows it, yet to say so is to echo every old timer bemoaning progress. To open myself to the Pfister Anti-Americanism accusation.
But that is not the point. Black and white may not be better than color, analog may not be better than digital, silents may not be better than talkies- or they may be. But that is not the point.
And it has nothing to do with the USA.
The point is this: when all the wrinkles are ironed out- all the legislation passed to protect against any contingency, all products perfectly targeted to every desire, when a child is mothered from cradle to grave, by the state, by the schools, by their mothers and fathers- there is no room for the possible and the impossible.
What I love about Kampuchea is that there is still the sense that every day, any moment, something- anything- could fucking HAPPEN!
That guy could fall off and die. The pig could slip off that seat, under my front tire. That fat policeman might actually block my path.

John Dewey once said We only think when we are confronted with problems. 
Now there is a digression I did not see coming. I only meant to tell you about a funny way to wake up.

But waking up wasn't the end of my exciting day. I tried to make do with the wicker furniture that came with my apartment.  I used all of my anti-materialistic training and I held out as long as I could. Then Benita called from her design shop. Uh oh. A deal... The flesh is weak...

Today my COUCH arrived.
Yes I want all this adventure and newness but I also truly need a very comfortable couch in which to plant my ass to watch my gigantic television.
I was absolutely sure this burnt orange monstrosity was not going to fit up the six flights of stairs.  For several moments it was touch and go. I would have taken photos, but I was helping the truck guys and my apartment super get it up here.
A lovely woman who came with them put it back together, laughing at us huffing, puffing, and sweating.
 Voila! I was broke until September 30, and happy.

I expect blogging will increase markedly now that I have a nest within my nest. Neil Young, featured in a great piece in the NYT recently, once sang that A man needs a maid.  I would add that he also needs a couch and a large TV, and now I have all three.

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