Parallel U
pt. I

Number 20–Stuck in a Lodi Again or Treading Water in Eden

First week in August. It's been really hard to settle into writing – getting on to two months since the last email. I either lack the time or physical space or mental clarity to be creative. Sometimes even access to a computer has been a problem. So I'm in a state of suspended endeavor, marking time with all my projects on hold, mostly taking care of family responsibilities.

In fact I'm in suburban Minneapolis–St. Paul visiting mom. At her age (85) there can't be too many more opportunities to connect. And compensate for the many years when there was no contact – I was too far out and she was too far in for meaningful communication. Age mellows, or has the potential at least. Meanwhile, Minneapolis, city of lakes and lakes and more lakes. It's quite spectacular really to be in a city with a lake, almost literally, around every corner. Most come replete with natural wetlands. It's a green, clean, well kept city and one of my favorites.

Seems a little odd to take this narrative all the way back to Thailand but it's already written so here it is.

Never got to hit the beach before leaving Thailand. Killed nearly a week trying to figure out how to get my bass back, what a chore for someone who practically makes a religion out of traveling light. I wound up bundling it up good and taking it on the flight as oversize freight. Considering how much of my life lately is vacation time I can hardly whine, especially since it's the beach scene even more than the warm salt water that draws me.

For a whole week after I returned the old Creedence Clearwater song was in my head. For thirty years I thought the lyrics were, 'Stuck in Old Lodi Again', though the words did seem odd. Lodi, New Jersey?, Lodi, California? But no, according to a friend I wouldn't dare question, Lodi is slang for prison.

Eden as a prison? Cool, clean, lush, green, heavenly garden as the slammer? Cool, hip, with it, advanced, aware, activist, sophisticated and beautiful as a burden? The contrast between my feelings and my surroundings were especially striking for the two weeks it took me to cobble together wheels. Here I was staying at a friend's place in a spectacularly verdant and springtime–flowery urban setting (but in a part of Portland that is borderline suburban in its look and feel) but also nearly immobilized by sketchy bus service and long walking distances. Probably worse than being in Phnom Penh without riding motorbikes.

And here – a veritable crying shame – I barely have time for my hammock. No, here in Eden my fate is to run around scraping and scrambling for sustenance, getting all greasy and bored funking together basic transportation and depending on the goodness of friends for shelter. Whine away, you say, nearly everybody's gotta hustle. Sure but as disheveled and primitive as life is in PP, there my personal life is cushy and independent.

Of course I am taking care of family business and connecting with a 30 year accumulation of precious Oregon friends so being here certainly has it's necessary and good points.

In Cambodia I have a place to get my stuff comfortable in, and good chunks of free time; here I'm in traveling mode. I’m bouncing around between domiciles and it's very hard for me to focus on, have the correct mental space, to pound the keyboard. In some ways Phnom Penh is actually more like home than Portland, though it's difficult for me to imagine that that feeling would carry out very far into the future. There is no dearth of expats who practically never go 'home', but for me, it’s hard to say. Certainly I'm looking forward to going back to be a new and improved teacher, having access to sufficient survival money without stressing over it, and having ample time, finally, to write.

In fact, it’s been three years since the above was written and I’m feeling increasingly at home in Cambodia; wanting to condense my time in the states.

It certainly will be a relief to escape the warmonger zone and its media cheerleaders and the little bush that got the wild notion in its head that it's really a big tree. Equally demoralizing, but not at all surprising, is the roll-over of the so-called opposition sufficiently to avoid any real debate on the issues, but anyway I'm a doomsdayer. Bring on the excitement I say, better to go through the changes and start fresh than think small, incremental improvements can actually make the difference.

No, just as lemmings see nirvana over the cliff, America's cliff is the seas of McMansions sprouting over the countryside and the endless ribbons of macho vehicles stuck in rush hour traffic. (By the way, there'd be no rush hour in the context of a 25 hour work week.) The US is doomed because its people think it's important to burn fossil fuels to create a chilly 66 degrees F (19 C) in its public buses when outside it's a spectacularly comfortable 72 degrees (22 C). We're either clueless thinking the world can support everybody living the way we do or elitest presuming that our profligate lifestyle is OK for the chosen few to enjoy.

Either way it's not sustainable and under any circumstances Americans are doing everything possible to make the transition more difficult, wrenching, chaotic, entropic. I don't expect utter, total, leave-no-prisoners doom, just hard times for all and a lot of casualties left by the wayside. Notwithstanding that dreary prognosis, it's no less important to keep at the good work, for it'll certainly pay off eventually, if not cosmically.