Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness ~ Power & Powerlessness

Dedicated to Marshall Slade Agresto Smith, who killed himself the day after his 22nd birthday. His family includes French, Spanish, Native American and Lebanese blood. The blood of his life is on all of our hands.

suicide, cultural ills, guns, Marshall Smith

Marshall Slade Agresto Smith candlelight vigil dedicated to his life, which he ended with suicide with his own gun.

He was an acquaintance whom i met at the bar where I asked to dj and incorporate my own music with the set. He hung out there from time to time, when he wasn’t working as a chef. Cooking was his passion.

Mashall Slade Agresto Smith

Mashall Slade Agresto Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke to him, commenting that the way he dressed, he looked like the carpenter apprentices in Germany who wear a particular uniform and only walk between their apprenticeships, Zimmerman. I couldn’t remember the name, and intended to tell Marshall the next time i saw him.

Zimmerman is a tradition that is hundreds of years old, still practiced in Germany and parts of France.

Zimmerman is a tradition that is hundreds of years old, still practiced in Germany and parts of France.

A Zimmerman is basically a journeyman.

I noticed the last time I saw him to my astonishment that he had a real gun in a holster carried on his belt, hanging at his stomach. He said “yeah, it’s legal here in New Mexico”. Bout a week later, i was swinging by the plaza of Santa Fe coming into town at dusk and saw all these people standing holding candles and ‘CANDELARIOS’ lined up around the center.

Candlelight vigil for Marshall Smith

Candlelight vigil for Marshall Smith

I thought to myself, which tragedy happened now around the world, a new bombing or flight disaster? I approached and tried to see in the darkness the picture setting there. I soon learned that it was a vigil for Marshall, who killed himself several days earlier. The day after his 22nd birthday he shot himself with his won gun. His family stated in the announcement of his obituary, to not let people who drink be near guns, and not let people with guns near alcohol.

I came across this article a few days ago and sensed it that it’s appropriate to the current zeitgeist.

Broken Open, Heidi Barr, grief

Broken Open Heidi Barr on grief

“Politics.  Human decency.  Disrespect for women.  Self hatred.  Governmental control.  Fear. Complacency.  Planetary destruction.  Stealing.   Dishonoring sacred sites.  Destroying nations.  The despair of the poor.   The despair of the rich.  Outrage.  Ignorance.  Brushing it under the rug.  Dishonesty.  Hope.  Hopelessness. Wondering.  Paying the bills.  Running away.  Feeling stuck.

So I don’t think we need more guilt, or rage, or powerlessness.  We surely don’t need more entitlement, self hatred, or shame.   But we do need to grieve that which has been lost, that which has died, that which we or our children will never have, and that which is at this very moment fading away.  Stephen Jenkins says, “Grief requires us to know the time we are in.  We don’t require hope to proceed.  We require grief to proceed.”

Marshall’s one grandfather had been president of a local college, St. Johns. The other, a Native American who’s a fantastic chef, bringing the family together through this ritual and art, which his grandson Marshall adopted with a passion.

I feel that this is representative of a sickness of our culture.

We’re all ‘expected’ – by whom – cultural norms and habitual responses – to conform; i.e. in our economic incentives, the way we dress, the appendages and material possessions we obtain, through the work we do, the way we express ourselves and how we view and even interpret reality. It’s a structural conformity, that filters down to our routines and habits, the ‘weekend’ celebration, the time allotted from our economic machine to gather… otherwise – put your head down and don’t question. French, Ukrainians…question. Americans are severely brainwashed. Noam Chomsky communicated how the media contribute to this structural conformity in Manufacturing Consent. “proposing that the mass communication media of the U.S. are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion, by means of the propaganda model of communication.”

Suicides, drug addiction are all representative of cultural ills. War is a condoned, anticipated and enculturated norm which is uncanny. War and artillery, weapons and the military industrial complex are viewed through the cloak of nationalism. It is your duty, and is equated with loyalty and honor to your country. I become so disgusted with this that I often feel just disappointment with my fellow man, and have more affection, adoration & praise for other animal & life forms, including plants.

This young man was not a conformist by any means>>>>and our culture screams for conformity. Consumerism overpowers the urge for genuine communication and cooperation. We all quickly assess and judge by clothes. How do you dress? What kind of automobile do you drive? What are these things broadcasting about you? What is your job or profession? How do you make your way in the world to pay for your housing and clothes…so that you have a place to sleep when your weekend respite arrives to spend some time at home enjoying these? We drive by one another insulated in our automobiles or interact while attending an entertainment event which we usually need to pay for. The entertainment standard is something we passively ‘watch’, rather than interactively participate in. I have been viscerally thinking about this and wrote while waiting to attend the ‘visitation’…that I’m disgusted with Marshall’s suicide, feel it is representative of cultural ills – not merely family.

fiery orange sunset

fiery orange sunset

The same day that I walked out of the visitation for Marshal and caught a glimpse of this fiery orange sunset which lingered pink on the horizon as I rode away, I later communicated the circumstances to a friend living in New Mexico who also saw this sunset. She said that just that day she had been reading about the Bridgend suicides, which were this sudden increase in suicides among mostly teenagers and young adults in the last few years in Wales. I found this article about it. The Mystery Suicides of Bridgend county

“The author talks to “cluster suicide” experts…Outbreaks like this are rare but not new…They have happened in Germany, Australia, Japan, the U.S., Canada, and Micronesia…Psychologists familiar with the phenomenon are saying that what’s going on in Wales is a classic case of the Werther effect, named for Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a young man who puts a gun to his head to end the agony of unrequited love and because he can’t find his place in the provincial bourgeois society of the day. The novel’s publication, in 1774, prompted young men all over Europe to dress like Werther and take their lives. It’s also called the contagion effect and copycat suicide: one person does it, and that lowers the threshold, making it easier and more permissible for the next…”

“These suicides are a symptom of a deeper societal malaise.”

This was just one individual, yet it prompted me to wonder how common suicides have been in history. It’s something I’ve never really wondered aboutinternational suicide rates. It appeared from my search that this has been on the rise in a number of different countries. I can’t imagine that this was common hundreds of years ago somehow.

International suicide statistics

International suicide statistics

About the same time that this occurred, George Monbiot – an environmental, social, economic and political writer – wrote this blog. “There Is Such a Thing As Society

Why should plagues of mental illness surprise us, in a world being ripped apart?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 12th October 2016

“What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis…There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same. Human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology.”

“Though our well-being is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.”

Another article and preview of the film which it refers to also presented itself during these same last few days.
From Brexit to Donald Trump: welcome to the age of hypernormalisation in London

“No one talks about power these days. We are encouraged to see ourselves as free, independent individuals not controlled by anybody, and we despise politicians as corrupt and empty of all ideas…But power is all around us. It’s just that it has shifted and mutated into a massive system of management and control, whose tentacles reach into all parts of our lives. But we can’t see it because we still think of power in the old terms—of politicians telling us what to do.”

Hyper normalization Living in an Unreal World

Hyper normalization Living in an Unreal World

Hyper normalization, film, Adam Curtis

Still from trailer of Hypernormalization film by Adam Curtis

“The aim of the film I have made — HyperNormalisation — is to bring that new power into focus, and show its true dimensions. It ranges from a giant computer high up in the mountains of northeast America that manages and controls over 7 percent of the worlds total wealth, to the complex algorithms that constantly monitor every move and choice you make online- giant computer constantly compares events happening around the world to events in the past. If it sees a dangerous pattern, it immediately adjusts its trillions of dollars to keep things stable. That is real power. The algorithms on social media constantly look at the patterns of what you like and then feed you more of that—so you enter into an echo chamber that constantly feeds you back to you. So again nothing changes—and you learn nothing new that would contradict how you feel. That too is real power.”

In the meantime, Native Americans and a handful of white people are in North Dakota trying to defend their land.

In North Dakota, Dakota Pipeline, protestors, Water Protectors

In North Dakota, the Dakota Pipeline protestors are actually Water Protectors

By the way, I learned the other day from a man I met who had been adopted by a Native American family who is a Native American Literature professor, that in contributing to the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was inspired by the Iroquois. The Six Nations: the Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

“The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House… The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history.”

Iroquois, 6-nations, Participatory Democracy

Iroquois 6-nations Oldest Living Participatory-Democracy on Earth

Karl Marx was also influenced by the Iroquois in his political philosophy.

In fact, every kid in school is indoctrinated into this with the daily pledge of allegiance.

United States Declaration of Independence

Second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence

And yet, I don’t particularly feel that we are all created equal, especially when those who inspired the declaration are the very people who live in sacrifice zones – A sacrifice zone is a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment. These zones are most commonly found in low-income and minority communities.

Speaking of Democracy, wikileaks now reveals that it is not ‘we the people’ in a Democracy who vote for our representatives, but in fact just before the last election it was Citibank who were already planning even before Obama was elected, who were going to be taking the top posts in the Federal government. This New Republic describes The Most Important WikiLeaks Revelation Isn’t About Hillary Clinton

What John Podesta’s emails from 2008 reveal about the way power works in the Democratic Party.
BY DAVID DAYEN October 14, 201

“Michael Froman, who is now U.S. trade representative but at the time was an executive at Citigroup, wrote an email to Podesta on October 6, 2008, with the subject “Lists.”

This was October 6. The election was November 4. And yet Froman, an executive at Citigroup, which would ultimately become the recipient of the largest bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis, had mapped out virtually the entire Obama cabinet, a month before votes were counted. And according to the Froman/Podesta emails, lists were floating around even before that.”

 Is Compassion the Antidote to Neoliberalism

Is Compassion the Antidote to Neoliberalism

Meanwhile in his article addressing climate change and the disasters and devastation of the petroleum industries’, Monbiot writes in his blog “What Lies Beneath” – a nice play on words – is as biting and bold as his honest assessments always are.

“All this nonsense is a substitute for a simple proposition: stop digging. There is only one form of carbon capture and storage that is scientifically proven and can be deployed immediately: leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

“Their (governments in the pocket of the oil industry) choices are as follows. 1. a gradual, managed decline of existing production and its replacement with renewable energy and low-carbon infrastructure, which offer great potential for employment. 2. allowing fossil fuel production to continue at current rates for a while longer, followed by a sudden and severe termination of the sector, with dire consequences for both jobs and economies. 3. continuing to produce fossil fuels as we do today, followed by climate breakdown. Why is this a hard choice to make?”

In the meantime,

Great Barrier Reef officially declared Dead after 25 million years

Great Barrier Reef officially declared Dead after 25 million years

The Great Barrier Reef is officially dead: http://www.theearthchild.co.za/great-barrier-reef-officially-declared-dead-25-million-years/

I am in the library with my laptop, the only place to come to, not having residual cash to pay at a cafe to sit and linger in communication with the rest of the world. I’m here among library patrons along with a regular homeless population, of which, I guess i’m sort of one. In Tucson, at the grandiose university student library, there were a lot of homeless people too. There are no places to congregate really, unless you have money to spend. I wish to continue writing blogs and doing the research to complete my book, wish to continue playing bass guitar and piano and composing music with computer programs. I am lost as to how to find an artist residency.

… I entertain myself through learning and reading and doing various creative projects, which except for the tools – is free – all the time and effort put in to it have returns in the delivery of delight and joy gained through doing something. It is empowerment through action, not through consumption.

I have been kicked out of numerous places over the last year; parent’s home in PA, the workaway on a ferry in Brooklyn, my friend’s house in PA, the WWOOF i had arranged in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, and then voluntarily from the place i could no longer afford by paying rent with my credit card…and a few other places among familiar people, because people need their space. In fact there are a lot of quite large homes here in Santa Fe and people with homes left vacant while they live in their other homes….and I now have even more stuff that I’ve aggregated to my side; a suitcase of clothes, my laptop, bass guitar, favorite piano book, camera, now a few more frisbees since I’ve joined in on local ultimate frisbee pickup games in each towns I’ve lived in…and yet am almost homeless again, as I’m living so far up into the hills – literally encroaching on the animal habitats of the animals that have no more space for their own territory to live and survive – that my back is started to feel the weight of carrying everything with me down the hill and then trekking back.

I’m going to attend the debates tonight again in a public forum, just to exchange with people around me in their loathing. I had found a place and exchanged a friendly conversation for almost two hours with the woman with whom i thought we had a lot in common, and she said she had to sleep on it, and then never bothered to call me to say she didn’t want me as a housemate. then i moved to this mountain home guest of a man living alone there whose dog I walk, and the other woman who i was going to move in with and had to wait 2 weeks + to move in, called it off at the last moment, after i’d taken down all my signs, stopped looking for housing. a day before move-in i received an email in blue ink, very comforting looking, saying that she wasn’t moving in. then i had my first day at a job substitute teaching and instead of the principal telling me that it wasn’t going to work while I talked to her about potentially exchanging positions with the music teacher substitute who didn’t know how to read music…didn’t bother to tell me to my face that the job was off, but i found a ‘system response’ later that night. Had i not seen it, i would have gotten up again at 5:30 am to get there. then last night, i went to practice bass with a band, and neither of the guys bothered to phone to tell me that this was off, in fact they were playing earlier together with another guy on bass, when the day before i was trying to arrange an alternative night to accommodate the one guys’ new job.

It appears to me that gay men control the fashion and the art industry and then a small percentage of people control everything else. I’ve put out housing ads, and there have been a few people who randomly contact me with obscure cryptic texts, and then there have been a few men who send me pics, practically sexting, to their abs in pictures.

In the meantime, An eye-opening flight over California’s dying forests
By Kurtis Alexander Updated: August 6, 2016 8:00pm

Dead trees sweeping across the Sierras, California's dying forests

Dead trees sweeping across the Sierras – California’s dying forests

The four crew members were halfway through two weeks of flights over landscapes shifting ominously from green to brown, and already they’d begun to draw their conclusion: The mind-boggling number of trees that have died in California due to drought — an estimated 66 million over five years — is only the beginning.

It’s creeping farther north, and to higher elevations, not only providing tinder for wildfires, but also obstructing the forests’ fundamental ability to provide clean water and absorb carbon dioxide.

All i want is an artist residency where I can physically contribute to learning about and maintaining sustainable living, while also helping to ensure animal habitat conservation. My dream; a community of people contributing this, who are also committed to completing new works on an ongoing basis, the work which blends into education and awareness of the fragile planet and interrelationships that need to be sustained. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHRE THESE EXIST? WITHOUT A WAITING LIST?

guess i'm going to have to adjust the sails

guess i’m going to have to adjust the sails

Le plus dur n’est pas de rêver, mais de ce réveiller

….the most difficult is not to dream, but to wake up…..

Carol Keiter, blogger

Carol Keiter the blogger

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Carol Keiter aka nomadbeatz welcomes donations for her writing, photography, illustrations, eBook & music performance and composition

another hitch-about | Berlin > Zurich

Yet another hitch-about, albeit with specific destinations in mind. From Berlin I would go to Mössingen in southern Germany to visit my beau, then to Zürich – a small hop away relatively speaking – to meet a person for the first time who had responded to my ad as a ‘bass guitarist looking for musicians’ on craigslist. We had had a number of email correspondences and telephone conversations regarding the possibility of forming a band together. Craigslist is more typically used by Americans, Germans and probably many Europeans haven’t quite caught on. http://zurich.fr.craigslist.ch/ The timing was right to go to Zürich following my first stop, since it was a mere 191 km, as opposed to close to about 693 km from Berlin to Mössingen.

It was the morning of the 17th of August, 2010. I set my alarm and woke up at 7am, anticipating being on the road at 9. That was without considering the fact that I still hadn’t thoroughly packed. It was 11:30 when I was approaching the location of my starting point – one which I’ve used several times, adjacent to the Messe/Exhibition center in Berlin. There, at the entrance to the road that leads to the A9, people have less than a minute pause for a traffic light signal to: see me, decide if they want to bother to stop and whether they can negotiate around the other traffic to do so, with not much of a shoulder on the road to pull over.

My first ride appeared without me even noticing, I heard a honk and turned around to see this big white van had pulled over. I opened the door, scanned the surprisingly young and handsome guy, and hopped in while there was a wake of no cars. Within 40 seconds or so, he distinguished my English accent in the German I was speaking, and blurted out, “I’m American”! He was in fact a dual citizen – US & European passport. His American father had been stationed in Germany during the 1st Gulf War, where he met his German mother. They had lived for a while in the States until he was six or so, and the rest of the time he has lived with his family in various towns in Germany.

Currently he lives in Berlin, and works as a body guard, and on this particular occasion – a driver and escort. He was on his way to Nürnberg to pick up a Japanese film crew from the airport there, who were attending a film festival. He was going to be their personal chauffeur for a week. He spoke of having been the personal bodyguard for a year for Kate Winslett, while she was shooting the film “The Reader” in Berlin. He dropped names of various different film stars, and had stories to tell about a number of them. He also mentioned that Kate had requested him personally when she had returned to Berlin to attend the Berlinale film festival.

http://www.berlinale.de/en/das_festival/festivalprofil/profil_der_berlinale/index.html

We slid into the topic of what it must be like to be famous, and barely ever having the chance to just openly walk in public, or go anywhere with freedom. He mentioned that one time during an event at the Berlinale, he and Kate and her entourage had managed to walk out the front door of Hotel Adlon, adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate (where Michael Jackson had dangled his infant child out the window to receive lots of bad press), without any press or paparazzi hovering at the door recognizing who they were. They wandered to the Brandenburg Tor/Gate, where she commented on how wonderful it was to be so liberated to just walk out the door.

He had done some training with a Police academy in Berlin, and had started out in leadership positions pretty young, getting ‘boy scout’ points for good behavior and responsibilities he took on. He explained that being a body guard also require being able to use a weapon, so it was relevant to the skills he had already been developing. I was again and again amazed that I was sitting there speaking English with this guy, and delighted that he was so communicative, fun to talk to and quite attractive. I enjoyed his company, and discovered upon asking, that he lives with a girlfriend, and has a great cat. Ahhh, the endless glimpses into other peoples lives and comparisons – between healthy, happy relationships, and the one that I’ve been in. What I hadn’t realized as I was first getting in the van, is that he was going to be driving three quarters of the length of my trip – wow! I hadn’t realized just how far south Nürnberg actually is.

In the interim, after being left off at the last Autobahnraststätte/highway rest-stop before my driver was heading off towards his destination, I walked around, approaching people to ask If they’re going in the direction of the sign I was gesturing to in my hand. It was there that this little mini antique camper truck with a round man inside, said he was going my way. He was a jolly old guy – like an incarnation of Santa Claus – with long white hair, minus the beard. Wolfgang was his name. He was putzing along in comparison to the majority of traffic, which isn’t to say that it was that slow. He was traveling around on a big loop through different areas, as he does several times during the warmer months. Just stops where he feels like it, and enjoys nature. Said he has a wife at home who won’t travel further than a 14 km radius from her home, if she goes out at all. He doesn’t make his trips in the winter months. He was so jolly that I felt very warm and comfortable in his presence, in the passenger seat. We chatted in German about languages and their various roots and evolution & movement to different cultures. He spoke a remarkably clear German, with seemingly no particularly strong accent or dialect. He explained to me that he had been raised in a rural area where the various local villages had no schools, and he was a student at a boarding school, where the only solution to all the different dialects was for the students to learn high German, to have a common ground. He was going further along in my direction, but I had to step out at one point because I wasn’t making good time.

The next driver who came after quite a pause, was an outdoorsy, cowboy type guy, now that I think about it. Without ceremony, he answered that he could take me as far as Heilbrunn. He was driving a sleek, black automobile. He had a quiet, serious demeanor. As we drove, I learned that he was coming from a horse show in Nürnberg, that was still going to be taking place till that Sunday. People who work for him would be transporting the horses in trailers back to his ranch after the show. http://www.silvernugget-ranch.de/ He wasn’t riding this time, but selling paraphernalia, among them handmade cowboy hats and saddles, which he showed to me in his trunk when I was leaving his company. These leather saddles were beautifully crafted with hand sown chamois interiors. He buys these hand-made goods at horse ranches several times a year; primarily in Idaho, Oklahoma and Montana. He’s been many times to Texas and California, and has visited both Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico numerous times. I had mentioned to him that I’ve lived in both of these towns. And when I mentioned that I’d also lived in San Francisco, he lit up, saying that his favorite restaurant there is “the Stinking Rose“. I love garlic too, I commented ‘-) He said he loves Lake Tahoe in California, particularly in the summer. He has had a ranch for years where he teaches riding and has 3 stallions which he breeds. People bring their mares and he trains the offspring, not before they reach 3 years old. These young colts have already been bought upon their inception.

The restaurant where he left me off, was a bit remote and felt more like a place where locals were hitting a sandwich shop. After asking a few people which way was the entrance to the road towards Stuttgart, I proceeded to walk to it. The first place was the wrong entrance, and no sooner had I walked back to the other yielding turn lane, did someone almost immediately stop to give me a lift. Most of the other traffic appeared to be local, but Michael was a chauffeur with his own car service, on his way to the Stuttgart airport. Ironic that I was getting rides with professional drivers! He says he drives mostly politicians and managers! Ha, high-end driving, don’t mess around with the small stuff 😉 At one point he was on the phone with someone, and when he got off, explained that this conversation just assured him a big amount of cash for later in the winter. He had just received confirmation that two ski trips for December in Austria had been booked, in which he would be driving the German local skiers on a bus to the ski resort, stay there and have the chance to ski himself and have free lodging. Booking this early, in August, gave the people much better rates. He said he has a lot of connections with hotels….

It was still light outside when my last driver gave saw my sign and offered a lift to close to my destination. I had practically reached my ending point. This was a young guy, Jens, who’s an architect and musician. He said he has several projects presently, two Kindergarten schools and a ‘mobile’ church. huh? I didn’t quite get it, sounds like something you’d find in Texas or Alabama, a rolling Baptist church on wheels that shows up at the rodeo on Sundays ‘-) Jens also is a drummer who plays in one cover band and another who play their own music and also percussion in a local orchestra. Wow, busy guy! He said he’d been stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours, within the short distance of commuting home after his work day. I discovered that his live-in girlfriend also plays in the orchestra, so I guess they have a lot of time together with their various extracurricular activities.

These were just the rides that brought me to Mössingen, in the South of Germany, in about 9 hours. Driving oneself, one could make this trip in 6.

I can’t find my notes at the moment to even remember all the rides I had when I departed from Mössingen to go to Zürich, but I made quite good timing, and as most of the time, had pleasant rides with people whom I enjoyed talking to. I often ask a lot of questions and offer information. Here in Germany I like to point out that where I’m from in Pennsylvania, there’s such a resemblance in the land and climate, that many Germans had immigrated there 200 years ago, and stayed. And that there are a lot of family and town names in Pennsylvania which are German.

I always find it interesting to learn about a person and his/her life, and often the people who have picked me up give a lot of information about historical or relevant insights into the locality I’m in…

The rides to Zürich over a period of several hours were also informative and pleasant. Each were comfortable. The last ride was with a couple who were Spanish speaking, from South America. That was funny. I started to speak with them in Spanish and they got a kick out of it. They were a couple who live in the suburbs of Zürich. The woman passenger gave me their phone number and said I was welcome to visit them if I’d get the chance.

I felt slightly uncomfortable only once, when I’d accepted an offer to take a ‘return’ ride from Zürich over the border to Germany, with the same businessman, who has houses both in Switzerland and Germany, by Bodensee. That was the first time I’ve ever arranged to have an additional ride with someone, and I guess that I should have had my antenna up. He mentioned that he would be in Zürich the following Wednesday, and that he could drive me on this first leg of my trip back, that he has a house near this lovely town Konstance, by this large lake Bodensee….Well, he phoned me as promised, and I decided to take him up on his offer. However, within minutes of him picking me up, I started to think that maybe he had anticipated or expected something more from me, ’cause I saw in my peripheral vision him scanning my body. At that point, I made it as clear as I could without blurting out something rude, that this was not my intention. He wound up dropping me off at a place on the outskirts of this town Constance (English spelling) that I thought wasn’t such a great starting point, but hey, I made it all the way back to the middle of Germany. At one point, I was still on my way back to Berlin, but then received a call from my beau who was now in the North of Germany, and I made the decision within minutes of the conversation to just continue to where he was, rather than returning to Berlin, because I was equidistant at that point from both regions. I’m sure that the guy who overheard the conversation and observed this spontaneous change of plans, was pretty amused.

I have even received a facebook event invitation from one of the other drivers on my return trip, to attend his birthday party in Köln/Cologne in October. And with another driver who’s a lawyer, I discussed the economic melt-down in the United States. He assured me that by no means were the US investment banks the exclusive culprits in this scandal, but that various European and other international entities also contributed to this incident as they also invested in the surge and with the aim of milking large profits.

Here are the mileage details:

Berlin to Mössingen is approx = 693 km

Mössingen, Germany to Zürich, Switzerland is approx = 191 km

Zürich Swiss to Lubeck De, approx = 953 km

Lubeck to Berlin germany approx = 313 km

2150 km total = 1335.95 miles

I have to say at this point that I have too much happening presently to embellish any more details about the hitch back.

I can say that I found Zürich to be charming. First of all, the New Yorker who I went there to meet, asked me via sms, when exACTly I would be arriving at the Haupt Bahn Hof/ Main train station? Huh, I reiterated via sms, I am hitchhiking, and I can guestimate, that I’ll be there by no later than 1:30pm. I did arrive in time. It was lovely weather, and I asked if in between the meeting of musicians and the festival that we’d all be going to that day “Zürcher Theater Spektakel”, if there would be anywhere near there to swim. http://www.theaterspektakel.ch/ Wow, was I naive! As we got off the tram and entered the grounds where the festival was taking place, looming out before me was this immense lake. It was rather ridiculous, and I think that I felt a bit embarrassed for even having asked the question, not having realized that the most obvious association to Zürich, is the fact that the city is nestled around this huge banana shaped lake that is visible from many points. ha! So, as it was a warm, lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon with loads of people out on the grass and sand, I was in the water swimming within minutes. Ahhh, was that fantastic, out beyond the docked sailboats and looking along the coastlines.

I had had some nice conversations over the next days with different locals. One man whom I spoke to, when I saw a Jewish man across the street dressed in fundamental attire, told me that there was a significant population of Jewish people living here, four separate groups in fact. I was thinking about the large numbers I’d seen in Brooklyn, and then was wondering about what other cities in the world are populated by the Jewish Diaspora. This same man also informed me about the general location of the spread of the different Swiss populations, the German, French, Italian and Romansh. Romansh descended from a form of Latin from Roman era occupiers of that region, and is spoken by residents of the canton of Graubünden. Someone told me about Julia Pass, named after Julias Caesar, as we talked about the Alps. Around 221 BC Hannibel, a Carthaginian military leader, crossed it with elephants. I was told that the water that runs down the south side of the pass goes to the Danube, and from the north, flows into the Rhine. I’m not exactly sure why we got onto that topic, but it’s a good story!

The one thing I wanted to say also, is my delight in strolling up this narrow street to a park that the architect friend of the New Yorker, who became my second host, pointed out. I arrived at this park on a high perch, and then glanced along one side wondering why these two men were standing there with such a peculiar posture, facing one another, their legs spread apart and their elbows out and hands on their hips. I moved closer to get a shot, and then realized that there in between their stances, were inlaid chess boards! I then wandered over to find a corner busy with activity, banter, discussion where at least a dozen men were seated at the periphery of this corner chess board. They were for the most part, well-dressed, active observers. After about 20 minutes, when the two who I originally noticed had finished their game, I approached this group and asked in German if anyone was interested in playing? I’m sure that most were bewildered with the fact that I even had the audacity to ask them, or with my German…but one younger guy sitting there perked up and said, sure, he’d play.

I couldn’t have found a better chess opponent, because he was so keen on the game, that he started from the beginning to inform and educate me about different strategies, that there are a number of different ‘first moves’ that have certain names. He said that a person needs to move the pieces to occupy and control the center, and basically just gave me a lot of education throughout our play. I actually held my game and played a good match that was fairly equal. He said at the end, that what was more impressive than my chess playing, is that I had the courage to approach these strangers and even ask to play. And he said that he was sure that most of these men wouldn’t have the courage to play with a woman opponent, because if they would lose, they’d lose face among their group, and would have a difficult time playing that down! That was encouraging that he pointed that out to me. In fact, last evening, I just had a young kid say to me after I had gone over and jokingly said to him that it must be a good book that he’s reading, if he’s so absorbed in it in the middle of a crowd … He wound up joining and talking to me and an Irish guy for a bit about different things, until his friend arrived. He said that it was refreshing to know that people could still approach ‘strangers’ and converse, and not be just isolated in their separate groups, and that he really appreciated it!

Back to Zürich, the only other things to add, is the picture I took of this elderly woman in her leopard dress suit which was uncanny, in the luxury department store, Jelmolí. http://www.jelmoli.ch/ It was a nice salesperson in this music store who helped me decipher where I needed to go to meet people there. http://www.upbeat.ch/ And not far away in the same neighborhood, I discovered a cool internet cafe, that is, restaurant/cafe with WiFi internet access. It was called “Z am park”. http://www.dailytonic.com/z-am-park-in-zurich-switzerland-by-aekae/ I glanced out the window from my seat and saw why it was named this, from the street sign. One street was named Zypressen and the other Zurlinden Strasse – both referring to trees – Cypress and Linden. The street the cafe was on dead-ended at the gate of a huge cemetery, before the low wooded hills on the periphery of the city. Oh yeah, among the pictures is also a local community place called the Xenix, by the Kanzlei neighborhood. http://www.xenix.ch/0_home/index.php There’s an old school house, still a grade school during the school hours, and then the place transforms to a huge community bocce playing area, with different groups spread all over the pebbled area playing this ball game. There are also ping-pong tables, which I played briefly. This is all takes place on the school grounds, next to the Xenix Cafe and Theater. The place has a good community feel.

Now frankly, I have to attend to some other pressing things…such as whether I’m going to leave my residence within two weeks to join in on a hitch-hiking ‘race’.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=102402513154057&ref=mf

And if so, I can’t afford to pay my rent and not be present living in the house. So, I need to investigate storage units, the top 5 ski resorts in Switzerland to apply for work to potentially live there over the winter – just found one that catches my interest in particular http://www.verbier.ch/ and also put in some bids for an artist residency following the winter months, such as this one that DJ Spooky, aka Paul Miller is setting up http://www.djspooky.com/vanuatu/ so that I can completely dive into writing, illustrating and composing the music for the children’s e-book that I wish to write for example, through a host site like this one http://issuu.com/nomadbeatz
…. yeah, lots going on, lots of planning and casting out the wide net for all the different things that I’d like to accomplish, all of which require a lot of administrative details; applications within certain time deadlines and so forth…and still somehow remain afloat financially.

The neat thing is that the hitch-hiking race, is much more planned out than I’d thought. I received an email back from the guy organizing it, saying that he needed contact details, because he’s organizing insurance for all of the participants. And then he corresponded that he’s also investigating accommodation for the various pairs of hitchers (male/female) in all of the cities en route: Belgrade, Sofia, Skopje, Thessaloniki, Xanthi to Istanbul.

I’ve been intrigued with Istanbul for a while now, and an emphatic MUST for me, is to research and get my head around more of the history – over the ages – of this town which was Constantinople during the Greek and then Ottoman empire – before it was then named Istanbul, within an area later defined as the country Turkey. I have a lot to research, and also have notes that I’ve gathered from people about neighborhoods to visit, an underwater cistern that looks magical and one of the oldest church’s ever built. Hey, I’m sure that my naiveté about the history is already becoming apparent, just by the way I’ve phrased my sentence. I just wikied Constantinople and found this: the imperial capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe’s largest and wealthiest city. Okay, so, I’ve only got several thousand years of history to read up on ‘-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantinople

carol