Friday, July 22, 2016


Riding the Princeton train
each day, wearisome as it
got, occasionally did put
me in touch with new
experiences and new people.
Not all the same, by any
means. There were things I
found that I abhorred. I
pretty much just kept it all
to myself, and just watched
people in action. Here's one
instance : It was the Summer
of the Obama convention and
nomination. Late August, as
I recall  - they were both held
late that year. At this particular
time of my own awareness, I
was not involved nor concerned
either way with any of the usual
crackpots running for or set up
as Presidential candidacies,
thinking, just as I do now,
that all politics is complete
crap, a meaningless, criminal
sideshow by which Americans
allow themselves to be
quadrennially fleeced and
made further fools of. Some
guy named Sean, from New
Brunswick, one day got my
ear as we began chatting (the
waiting-room stuff is often
the very worst part of travel;
sometimes the best too). He
was, by his own definition, a
'community organizer' in the
burg of New Brunswick.
There were two things here
-  I'd heard only of people
like the late Saul Lewinsky,
in Chicago, I think, and,
in NYCity, one Allard
Lowenstein, both who
called themselves and
were credited as 'community
orgainizers.' Many others
called them 'rabble rousers,'
'buttinskys,' and worse. Allard
Lowenstein, to my recolllection,
was eventually shot to death
by someone, in his own office.
Probably a Robert Kennedy
assassination apologist. But,
whatever. This Obama person,
as well, was billing himself as,
first and foremost, a 'community
organizer.' It's a bogus designation.
It's one that out-of-work people
use to go around and stir up
other people into manufactured
concerns about things in their
own neighborhoods and areas
that  -  in most ways  -  have been
inconsequential and not really
important to their everyday
getting-by and having-kids-and
-family lives. These organizers
are usually outsiders anyway,
and drawing a salary of some
sort from the very people they're
claiming to help  -  through some
neighborhood organization or
group set-up. They 'determine'
things for others  -  usually lower
class others and poorly educated
immigrant classes -  and live then
by mooching off them thorough
manufactured issues. In its own
way, it's racist. Called 'streetwork',
called 'pounding the pavement,'
and it's illicit too. I must add,
however, that it is just the sort
of stylish, rogue-correct thing
for leftist operatives to undertake.
This Sean guy was no exception.
Day after day I had to hear of all
this  - his going home each night,
getting his bicycle out, going door
to door and along the streets of
Mexican-area New Brunswick,
or attending clamorous council
meetings where he and his
cohorts would cause scenes a
and make battles. The issue
here was, in opposition to the
both the Mayor and Council, the
introduction of  -  the return
to, actually  -  the 'ward' system,
in New Brunswick. You live in
the Third Ward, or the Fourth
Ward, and you have a Ward
Leader, to whom you go for a
job, or when you need a sidewalk
fixed or a rundown building
repaired or windows replaced
or snow plowed or any of that.
Like the old Boss Tweed stuff,
and Tammany Hall, in NYC, it
was ripe for corruption and
payoffs, money stolen and
things bought monies on the
side and all of the usual graft
and corruption already running
everywhere anyway. So I guess
maybe it didn't matter. But to
this white-slacker, interloper,
know-it-all, it was a life and
a living. That's what I disliked.
At that very time, too, my daily
train-ride and morning reading
material Barack Obama's rather
tritely solicitous 'Dreams From
My Father', which had a great
many scenes from Obama's own
community organizing twiddle-
twaddle in Chicago. Not much
from his father though, no matter
the silly title, 'Dad' have been long
ago gone and screwed up. His
mother didn't help him much either.
In Sean's local New Brunswick
streets and neighborhoods, however,
going door to door, no one really
knew or gave a damn much about
whatever he was talking about  -
some version of weird old-style
American politics they couldn't
be concerned with just wishing to
be left alone, keep their status hid,
and not deal with authorities in
any way. Young college kids,
pestering. Doors in their faces,
plus the authorities and cops
after them to beat it and keep it
moving. That was his story,
day to day, accumulated. It got
pretty boring. But, upcoming
soon, the biggest thing in his
life was a drive to Colorado
and street-attendance at the
Democrat Convention, for the
Obama nomination. Big deal,
overwhelming to him, and his
girlfriend too. He'd be telling
me what bands were going to
be playing, plaza here, or plaza
there, activist demonstrations,
confabs, and all. He went. I didn't
see him for about a month, as
all went down. The convention,
The nomination, the whole
thing. Eventually, he returned
and said  they'd gone, he and
his girlfriend, it was all good,
etc. The only drawback to
the trip, and a real problem
from which he was still trying
to extricate himself, was that
the new Austin Mini-Cooper
car which his girlfriend's
parents had let them use had
gotten stolen from somewhere
on the streets of Boulder, one
convention night. It was all
pretty ugly. The parents were
angry, they had to get other
means by which to return
themselves to NJ, and the
entire trip was fairly tarnished
by that occurrence. Ward
system, Schmord system,
I thought it was pretty
funny. But that's 'local
activism' for you.
As I saw it, and as I saw a lot
of things, it was the naivete
that was really stupid. In reality
Sean was nothing much more than
a college kid who wanted a local
skateboard park, that's about it.
No broader characterizations of
empowerment, no civic concerns
about some larger picture  -   just
screwing the guys already in power
and somehow enfranchising the
local idiots who'd ended up there
and didn't have a clue anyway. No
sense of history or place, no idea
of 'being' in New Brunswick, a
once-proud hellhole now, reduced
to Hispanic Hell. Little short guys
in ten-gallon hats and leather boots,
strutting around the impolitic streets
shucking and grinning as best they
might, to find another illegal job
landscaping or setting bricks and
cinderblocks for some scammy,
day-labor contractor keeping them
off the books and hiring per-diem.
Ridiculous abuse, everywhere.
To Sean and his gang, Politics
meant nothing more than making
noise, knowing nothing, and
getting what you'd decided
you wanted. Funny, I saw him
and his girlfriend, another
evening one time, headed up
to NYC, on my train. They
were all dolled up and headed
up to see a Broadway play, in fact,
'Cats,' as I recall. Just like any
dumb, stupid, suburban couple.
I've always hated when people
split their worlds, compromise
their crap away, can't determine
one way or the other. Here they
were, trying to split the difference  -
big-wig 'community disruptor'
going off to see a smack-dab
middle-brow bullshit thing like
'Cats' on Broadway.  'Where'd you
park that comfort button, honey?'
The train platforms of Princeton 
and Princeton Junction each were 
always full of surprises. This one 
time I sat next to Elizabeth Stribling,
the owner and Manager of Stribling
Real Estate  -  one of Manhattan's
power-brokers, multi-million dollar
homes and condos and apartment 
to the stars, rock royalty, barons,
kings and other potentates. Most of
the time she was on the telephone,
talking wildly about deals and
dollars, enough to crease my 
underwear, to be sure. We had 
a few pleasantries between us,
nice stuff. She looked like a
billion bucks herself, probably 
about 60 or 65 years old, swank,
solid, and self-possessed. I was
tempted to ask her if she had a
listing for about 60 bucks a
month still open at 509 
e11th Street. I let it go.

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