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October 6, 2010

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Wednesday. Awoke at 5:30 deciding this is much too early, so I turned off the alarm thinking I'll get in a little more sleep. Awake later at a more sensible seven instead of six, realizing as I got up this was my morning to check the dumpster set out on the sidewalk on my way to breakfast to see if it had room for more crap, the crap in my car trunk ready to take up any available space. Dumb. I've done this twice now in four attempts. There are other ways to take care of this, maybe it really is time to get my act together and take care of it.

I watched a Daniel Ellsberg documentary on PBS last night followed by a recent interview with Ellsberg and three members of the New York Times staff who'd had a part in publishing the Pentagon Papers. I admire Ellsberg, both he and Muhammad Ali, my examples of people of my time who took enormous and inexplicable chances doing something they could have easily avoided without personal upset or disgrace.

Ellsberg for the release of the Pentagon Papers, documentation of the lies told to the American people by five Presidential administrations starting with Truman and ending with Nixon in the ramping up and conduct of the Vietnam war, an act on his part that could have resulted in his spending the rest of his life in prison. The approbation he would face by his solitary act was underlined, I thought, by his statement there were probably a thousand people in the administration at that time with access to documents as potent as the Pentagon Papers, who knew quite well it was a war that was lost and the administration was lying through its teeth as to the reasons we were there, what we'd been doing to kick it off and the lack of options we had in getting out. Yet he was the only one who acted.

Psychiatrists hired by his defense team warned in jury selection to avoid empaneling middle aged white men who'd undoubtedly found themselves by that point in their lives in similar situations where they'd had to betray moral positions and participate in actions hurtful to the wider nation, but necessary to their incomes and their comfortable lives. And they'd be bitter at someone like Ellsberg who'd not made that same by then much rationalized choice.

Well, it's more complicated than that, an act of conscience in the face of the enmity of the pack, but it's a dilemma faced at one time or another by most everyone sooner than later. They don't mention this particular conundrum in school. At least not in any of my schools, but it's a subject you often find reading fiction. I reminisced yesterday about the “searchers” I've met, what they were looking for, and finished rather lamely with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Well, yes, those as metaphors, but more looking for a niche, a space, a place where they could fit and find fulfilling lives. That can be hard, really hard, and few I fear meet with success.

Ali for similar reasons, both for refusing to submit to the draft and for becoming a Muslim (Who knew what any of that was about? Muslim? What's a Muslim?) and speaking out boldly against the Vietnam war and American racism at a time when he'd made it, at a time when he as a black man had become through his own effort and struggle both rich and respected, had landed the veritable American Dream on a platter, all of which could have been flushed by his behavior in an instant. All he had to do, all that was ever expected, was to not rock the boat, stay safe and intact with not a word, leave his conscience and experience in the trash.

Anyway, turbulent times, it brought back memories, conflicted memories of those two years in the army, time I would never have imagined without the draft; questions of duty to Constitution and country, as opposed to duty to the prevalent attitudes of the time and my particular social class; the demonstrations, the divisions, the utter waste of people's energy and lives, all of which paled against the great loss of real lives in a miserable country called Vietnam.

Those deaths that for whatever reason didn't really impinge on our moral compass here at home as they seemed to impinge on Ellsworth's - two million Vietnamese dead, fifty-eight thousand Americans dead - as now it seems today in Iraq. They say there could be a million civilians dead, close to five thousand Americans. I'm not sure why these numbers don't get through, a question for psychologists and even geneticists perhaps, the small original tribes that began human kind didn't survive if one of their number stood up and fought their actions or direction.

Hearing these numbers is like reading a chapter in a history book. Words on paper, dead as dust. Images on a screen, less dead, but ultimately sterile when it comes to getting us off our butts. Good for survival of those small original tribes you'd suspect, but how about now? The big interconnected tribes of the nation? Of nations? Hard to say. Hard to know. Lends itself to babble.

But that's old news, many if perhaps most have no memory of the Pentagon Papers or of Vietnam, for that matter, as I at my age have no real memory of a World War raging when I was born, or of Korea, the forgotten war, something that happened before my teens. For some reason there's been a number of old documentaries recently on public television, I've been seeing some of the old WWII black and white film recently during their pledge hours, skipping over them, of course, remembering watching them as a kid, no damned interest whatsoever in stirring up any of those cold ashes now.

Anyway, you begin to see why I was up somewhat later last night and slept in this morning, oblivious to my one weekly chance to dump more stuff. Still, on to breakfast before eight (that dumpster sitting there nice and clean and empty when I checked), home now at nine, a sunny day ahead. I'd do the litany of aches and pains, but basically things seem middle of the week reasonably good. No complaints.

Later. A bus downtown, a walk then to Jack London Square, a picture or two. Deserted as the last time I was there about the same time on a Wednesday too, I think. A picture of the palm trees between Scott's and Miss Pearl's Jam House, just their tops. I like it but wonder if I should get rid of the small ship masts and such at the very bottom, almost invisible. I think not.

A walk then down the way, another ship at dock, bigger than the one I photographed last week I'm guessing the big covered section is used for transporting cars. Lunch at Ben & Jerry's out at one of their sidewalk tables. Whoever wrote that warm and fuzzy table message should probably go back to warm and fuzzy school for a refresh. Enjoy your sit at our table, brother, but you'd better be eating our fucking ice cream. A message for the weekends, no doubt, when all the tables are full.

Back to the City Center, a slow ambling walk. Another picture or two. A bus then back to the apartment. I'm just paddling in place here, have been now for three years. Need to find something else, make some changes. Find that niche I mentioned. Start searching.

The photograph was taken on Broadway in Oakland with a Nikon D3s mounted with a 85mm f 1.4 Nikkor AF lens.