Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'Cops, the Universe, and a Benevolent God'

This morning, at about four am I went down to the corner store for some coffee, wide awake, thinking that I needed to write. The store is only a couple of blocks away, but driving seemed the only viable option, get my coffee and come home with it. I pulled out onto the street for the short drive, and one of Phoenix's finest pulled behind me. I continued to drive to the store and the cop veered off and left. When I got to the store, I found it closed, so I waited a little while and then decided that I would drive home. So, the police officer was waiting for me, and with the stealth of a navy jet, pulled me over.

I said, "Did I do something wrong officer?"

He said, "I ran your plate and your insurance has expired."

I said, "Look, I know it is, I've been very busy and I know that it just lapsed, I live right around the corner, can I just go home?"

Well, you know the end of the story, two tickets and a scolding.

I finally had it with the scolding and said, "I don't need a scolding from you officer, you are young enough to be my son, and you have just proceeded to make my life more difficult than it already is."

He said, "If I wanted to, I could have your truck towed…"

I said, "Bring on the tow truck!"

Now, I normally don't get agitated with law enforcement, (well I do, I just normally don't show it.) But three years ago, the city impounded my truck on a photo ticket that had been paid but the information had not been sent to the DMV. By the time I was through, it cost me about $2500. I called an agency who said I could file a claim and could get all my money back because it was the city's fault. So, after gathering all of the receipts, the filling out of endless forms I filed a claim, only to be denied. When I called this same man to enquire as to why my claim was denied he said,"Oh, all claims are denied the first time around." I said, "Why didn't you tell me that in the first place!"

He said, "It just the procedure."

It's all designed to wear you down, and I'm an example of how this works. I did not re-file my claim. I lost the money, and lost my transportation for almost a month getting it back.

Oh, I left one thing out. I asked the officer who stopped me why he ran my plate.

He said, "Because your vehicle looked suspicious. It's standard procedure."

I said, "Do you see anything suspicious about me?"


"Don't sir me, don't patronize me!" (I couldn't believe it myself!)

That's when he said, "I could have your truck towed…"

This is a small example how our system preys upon the poor. The system gets us so mired in red tape and paper work and procedure and money that it may take years to get it resolved. I can barely buy groceries, and now I have an eight hundred dollar ticket to pay, again, and these are the remnants of that mistake of three years ago. The system we have is no longer designed for class mobility, (at least upward) rather, its designed for everyone to be lowered, except for the wealthy. I know this sounds like a paltry argument, but it really isn't. There are a thousand details I'm not going to write about that go with this story, but let's just say I've lived long enough to experience it first hand. The system is designed to raise money for the city, and most of this money is raised from the pockets of the poor. I remember sitting in criminal court, (because the city said I didn't pay my ticket I was sent there), and I watched as three Scottsdale criminal courts operated from 9am to 5pm, and was astounded as I listened to the people on trial before the judge. I could not believe the fines and the judgments! I watched, (most were poor or working class) as thousands and thousands of dollars were raised from these people.I looked around the opulent court room that is Scottsdale, and thought to myself, "Good God, I don't believe in our justice system anymore!"

I honestly thought in that moment that the system had become the crime, and it was all done in this condescending manner that was designed to shame people. And, this is just a small example of how our system has changed. (By the way, when I went before the judge and gave him proof of my innocence, there was no apology at what I had gone through, in fact, when I brought this up he even inferred that it was still my fault, although he grudgingly dismissed all my charges.)

So, that's my tale of woe, and so here we go with another round of court, money, and condescension, and I want to point out that I really cannot fight the ticket because my insurance had lapsed, (by a week), and so now I go resigned, like a whipped pup and take my punishment and scolding by a judge who is probably close to my own age. But there is never any degree of civility in any of it. These judges are arrogant and jaded. If you try to talk to them they cut you off. This is what our law has become, fundraising.

I'll apologize in advanced for the tone of my writing today, as most of it is mild ranting, but that's just where I am, and quite honestly, I'm just simply astounded and in a certain way, resigned. It seems just as I start making head way to get out of my financial and health plagued mess, the universe comes along and gives me a good kick in the shin, to remind me, I suppose, that I really have no control of my life at all. And that I can put all my well intentions in a potato sack and bury them on the hill that I've been rolling boulders up, and that I should really give up. I suppose I should be writing about art, and the universe and the wonderful opening of Lorca in a Green Dress. But I feel defeated today. I used to think that if I did this art thing long enough, if I had enough experience, if I had my ten thousand hours of mastery that it would be worth something. The sad truth is today, it really will never be good enough. I've had patrons, (which I am grateful for) who have supported me and believed in me, but really not enough to advance to the next level. In this society, money is the only thing that allows you to do this, and I have none, and though inside I really think I am good enough, I don't see someone coming along that could change my life with a shot of cash. After this last play, its clear to me that each play is like a long drinking binge that becomes harder and harder to recover from. My family all thinks I've been on a long vacation trying to make a living off my writing and my art instead of a real job with insurance and benefits.

How do I tell them,"No, its now that I could use a vacation."

The last almost four years has been a push to get to another level artistically, but the facts are that it seems on most days a random pursuit. We are a society that rewards and respects certain attributes, but sadly, the nature of learning an artistic craft is only understood by a few. I'm not advocating that they have to, the truth is that if I had been conditioned the same way I would gladly trade places.

I remember thinking that, "When I made some money, I would take an extra fifty thousand dollars and find a person who was in my position when I was young and struggling the most, and I would try and change their life with infusions of cash." The paradox to this is that perhaps it is the struggle that creates the artist, but there is a tipping point where the artist can either die broke, alone, or suffering, or have someone else understand and change their life. I'm tired of hustling and near begging. I'm tired of singing a song of woe, and I know there are others who are as well, but I will struggle on. (As a side note to this, after I've directed a play and entered into the public eye, I always hear from people unexpectedly, but that's human nature.)

It didn't help yesterday afternoon, when I read the book review of one of my favorite physicist and astrophysicist, Lawrence Kraus who wrote A Universe From Nothing. I can't remember the title of his new book, but it places him right in atheist territory, espousing that the big bang, the universe, all of it seems to be a random happening. Perhaps I should get a physicist who believes in a creator. My passion for the last three years has taken me directly into the universe, and I have time and time been fascinated by his lectures on several topics. Perhaps he has never been sick, however, perhaps he has yet to have a need of a God to heal his tired bones and inspire his body to get up and move. As I watched him give a lecture, (on my computer) to eager young college students, I remember thinking as he subtly worked atheism into his sub-text, that he still has the energy of immortality. Wait until he hurts, clear to the bone, he may change his universal views on creation. Still, his lecture on the big bang theory and the expanding universe was fascinating and understandable to a semi-novice, and I always sleep well after hearing his lectures, knowing that there were as many stars in the universe as single words that had been spoken by the whole history of mankind. Yes, there is comfort in these facts. Does God really know each hair on my head? Perhaps my search into the universe is a direct response in wanting to find out. Science is rapidly becoming a faith that I can try and wrap my mind around, and perhaps after reading this review, as I said, I'll get another scientific hero that has a tendency towards a belief in God. Is he a benevolent one? I hope to God he is. God, grant me some peace today. I hope like hell today that he really does know each hair on my head.

I think that I really do know of the presence of a creator, but in the presence of opening up to science, my scope of a creator makes it hard to wrap my mind around a giant with a long white beard in the face of this vast universe. I'll give you a quick story of where this has taken me. My Aunt Linda and my mother are dreamers in our family. Oddly, as my passion for science grows, so does my dreaming nature. Without going into detail, I've learned to listen to my Aunt's dreams. However, now, I not only listen, I immediately start looking for their meaning. The Tuesday last, right before rehearsal for the play, she called me on the phone and told me she had a dream that I was sitting on some porch steps, with my dog Baby, who was laying before me perhaps dead or hurt. I was slightly annoyed at first because I was just going into rehearsal, but then recovered and remembered the source. She just reminded me to be very careful with her, and make sure that she can't get out of the yard, ect. After rehearsal, I rushed home to make sure that she was alright, and was relieved to see her little dog face at the gate waiting for me. The very next morning, as I brought up the facebook homepage to see the social world, the very first photo was a photo of a soldier, standing between two tables. On each table, there was a deceased dog, the collateral damage of war in Afghanistan. The soldier was crying, as he laid flowers next to these two dogs. Now, there is no one but me who could understand the significance of this photo. I have faith, however, in these dreams my Aunt has, or how could I even make the connection between the two? She had picked up this image from war. She had picked up this image and carried it to me. These are the real workings of faith, when we believe in each other. It didn't take a session of prayer, it didn't take another foray into the universe, it simply took an action of the mind to believe in the gift of someone, and activate it in my life. I realize there are so many things that I can't see, so many elements of gifts and faith in operation that simply pass me by. One of my new mantras has been the activation of faith. Its not so difficult, what's difficult is to find the places where I trust in the act. Remarkable.

Sunday morning, I woke up very sick, I think because of the tremendous stress and emotion of getting a play up. As my mother says, "When I get sick, I really get sick," and always have. When you are sick, its hard to hold onto faith, and there are times now when I get sick that I think, "I hope I don't just up and die."

But then, Baby is right there beside me, urging me to live on. (The reason I say this is because I had uncontrollable chills that turned into shaking that I thought might turn into a seizure).

I remember thinking, "Who should I call? What should I do if this doesn't stop?" And so, I prayed and drifted off into a deep sleep, with Baby pressed inside of the curl.

Who did I pray to? I thought, "I'll pray to a benevolent God, a God who moves through the universe at a speed faster than light, a God without gender, a God who is a creator." I think my search is working, but oh so very different than it used to be. How long can I escape death? I don't know, and I don't know if I can get to either level without help. To the wealthy of this world, you, and you alone have the capacity to change the trajectory of art and the artist, and there are those of us who really do ask in the name of art, for the sake of art, to take us to the next level. And there are times when we asked the benevolent God to take us to the other level. I suppose this is my prayer to the universe, stake me or take me universe, I am so ready, either way.


Doc said...

Your mother mentioned that you had blogged today, so I asked her if she would read your blog to me. Unbeknownst to me this was a blog to the tenth degree.
(Your mother accidentally lost the first comment, she said it was accidental, so now I am doing another one) It alway amazes me how the subconscious can take over the conscious mind. (Mother: the last thing I wanted to do is lose his comment so I had to write another one dictated by him)
Your story about the 4 am episode was quite intriguing to me. I made comments earlier to your mother who was supposed to be typing who said I was nagging. Then we had a big ass argument about nagging. I still don't understand what nag means. It must be a country western thing.
Anyway I hope you are over the flu. Your mom told me you and Gary had the flu. Really glad to hear you guys are still surviving. I am letting your mother take over now and see if she can post this thing.

vooman's voice said...

I was interested to read how that dream took a turn in connection to the play we did of Collateral Damage of dogs on the eve of your new play. The dream works have strange twists sometimes. Still be careful of "Baby." I dreamed since then she was running around with in a field in Boulder, also that I was nursing a baby that I was calling "Baby." This was all around the swamp where Mama's old house is. Carissa was telling me she wanted me to write my childhood book, that she thought would be very interesting to all the young people in the family. I had been thinking of it and walking across the swamps when I was a kid. Maybe that's the new "Baby."

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with dream and message on a wider, war scale. Also, having someone care enough to call about a dream.. As Tom tracks the edge of life, there are moments of depth and I wonder just how long. Our Cat reminds us that food needs to be out, water replaced and HE is living! He tells us loudly as we go out the door. Tom always talks to the cat.
He is on the edge. Camille called to tell him he didn't need to get anything else...he had already won.
Brothers are visiting today.
I could not believe you were having one more incident that was both aggravating and will cost you money. Nothing like the poor needing to pay in $10 payments.
(I said, "OH NO.") I, like Doc, wish you good health and the flu gone. What can I say? Bless you!
Love You! Aunt A.

V said...

Raymond, I had the most visceral experience reading this, frankly of rage and frustration and helplessness. I have had so many similar experiences, and just haven't written about them because little fines and fees and tickets and reprimands each seem so petty. Some feel big at the time, some seem small, but they add up to an almost overwhelming sense that no amount of striving and rule-keeping and talent and hard work is ever going to get me off the gerbil-wheel of poverty. And my art is the one that supposedly pays best! I started architecture school 29 years ago, and have always had a job, and every year I pay my taxes with a credit card, and every year I'm deeper in debt. I just want you to know I read that story of the expired insurance and I just wanted to scream. I am so bloody sick of all the meddlesome little regulations and the heartless enforcers who hide behind a bureaucracy that is so impenetrable and expensive to navigate that we are all, constantly, in a thousand ways, guilty till proven innocent. I'm writing this to express some solidarity. Please don't despair, keep perfecting your craft, and take every oportunity to stick it to the gummint!!! best, Van.