Friday, September 08, 2006

A Day in the Life of Marta The Nicer Osbourne

Marta The Nicer Osbourne was visibly upset, nah—let me correct that. She’s fuming mad. “I don’t understand these people!” Well, that was supposed to be my role, right? I am the indefatigable, unrelenting, unstoppable ranter/raver here—not Marta The Nicer—but that’s okay. Anger, as long as it emanates from an unexpected swig of street wisdom, is called PASSION, as opposed to hatred. And passion is always cool. So, let it rip, baby! Go on—yell, “Ich liebe sie, damnit!” or “A l’enfer avec eux, paix!” whatever works for you. Then, take a deeeeeep breath, look up the gorgeous blue Appalachian sky, and heave, “Ahhhhhhh—I’m OK, no problemo, it’s just another day in the life, let’s continue rockin’!” Remember, when you rock, you roll (not the other way around). So let’s kick the 5-minute hassle away and then, roll the… whatever.
Marta might be having a bad 10-minute-gig that time, but for me—I was cool. In fact, it was one of my most light-assed and easy-flowing, albeit coal-burning summer afternoons of my Asheville existence. Besides, I was just plain-goofy on that particular “buenas tardes” Wed 4pm. I was bringing it on—doing an Axl Rose snake-dance as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” pummeled the car’s CD player… but as I was about to chug in an ice-cold Coke, Marta hissed like a super-pissed copperhead.
“She said we’re hyprocrites! She’s not gonna support our magazines anymore because she said we were spotted one afternoon drinking Coke at Pritchard Park!”
Um, I sort of paused before I gulped my Coca-Cola with my startled mouth agape, “You mean, we should’ve drank Pepsi, instead?” Uh-oh, Guns N’ Roses—rock’s synthetic booze brothers—were puking hedonist riff drills all over me on that very moment, so I should’ve dropped the snake-dance and ushered in the pure Ani DiFranco, instead? Oh man, can’t we take it easy?
Almost all day, 7/24, all we get are bad news, absurd stuff – terror panic in Frankfurt, London and Paris, “liquid” bombs on Avon products, plane crash in Kentucky, Hurricane Ernesto a-brewing, John Mark Karr, Ray Nagin’s “showbiz” mouth, Charter’s perpetually erratic billing, Nancy Grace’s arched eyebrows, Barry Manilow winning an Emmy as show host (duh!)... So how am I supposed to buck the virulent ray of the August sun? In Brattleboro VT, young souls beat the heat by appearing naked in downtown parking lots, while others rode their bicycles or simply strolled the streets in the nude. Should I do that? Nah. Just give me back my COKE, please! Soda is guilty pleasure, OK—but don’t shoot us, we ain’t the enemy.

“Jeez, why can’t we just loosen up a bit... Coke is bad! So let me do the Dew instead, how’s that?”
“No, you know what I mean, you crazy little man!” Marta The Nicer doesn’t get easily ticked off, mind you. Sure, I know what she meant—but I’m not going to ruin my day now.
But, allow me to try to understand... so let the enlightenment begin!
Should we hike the length of Haywood Street to Lex Av to Broadway to Merrimon – all the way to our humble abode in West Asheville – with our non-biodegradable flip-flops to deliver our little, silly non-organic magazines? Or maybe we could have pedaled our beaten lungs away with a “green” bicycle? No, we can’t possibly drive this obnoxious big business assembly-line gizmo (AKA automobile), right? Tsk, how dare we muster the nerve to swallow corporate oil to get us pass I-240? Gimme my recycled magic carpet, please...
No go, sorry.
What makes a quarter-tank of Amoco premium gasoline lesser evil than a can of Coke? Did they grow microchips on their pesticide-free backyards to keep their PCs and laptops beaming like blessings from a vegan, non-corporate paradise? What makes Michael Dell different from Sam Walton, from Warren Buffett, from Bill Gates, from Johnny Coke, from Vinnie Pepsi, from Joe Wachovia, from Jimmy Exxon, whatever/whoever... Is it because it’s easier to junk a 24-pack of Coke than an iMac or iPod, diss an Ingles pork chop vs a Greenlife tofu? Burn $200 cash at Wal-Mart or run up your AmEx at Best Buy – what’s the difference?
The gruesome truth is – almost every little bit of atomic hiccup and sweatshop-processed chuckle that we clothe with winter heating and summer airconditioning in America passed by the lung cavity and drained esophagus of the poor and underprivileged – whether those beaten entrails are owned by an overworked/underpaid buddy in Canton, China or Canton, Ohio or by a tiny village dude in Matagalpa, Nicaragua or by a small suburb homeboy in Flint, Michigan. The largest chunk of this what I call, the other face of humanity, translated via empty stomachs and emaciated limbs—located somewhere unreachable by “American Idol” or FedEx—would easily devour our shampooed poodles, barbecue our spoiled Pekingese cats, and feast on Mission-issued Spams. These earthlings don’t know what CT-scans or flu shots meant – they simply have to live a day, that’s all, and be thankful that they could still smell flowers and bathe in the rain, forget that these were grown on chemicals and contaminated with acid.
That is the planet Earth where they live in. Yup, that’s for real.

Hokey dokey, let’s get real. Don’t we live in America?
Do I need a car, really? Or do I need to poison my lungs with Starbucks hemlock or melted-plastic Pepsi blood to be able to quench my 3-minute thirst? I should not, I know that... but what choice do I have? Throw $2,000 more so I could install my own crystal-clear, no-chemicals H2O brook right on my basement… and hope that I live 50 more years to savor this Fantasy Island nestled somewhere between the four walls of my shop or condo, blessed with fancy neon beams and AC? Hallelujah!
Two-thousand bucks is 100,000 pesos in the Philippines – more than enough reason for my bro-in-law Jojo Fernandez to reconsider renewing a desert job in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia to be with his four tiny angels and self-sacrificing wife in a Central Luzon barrio. If most of us could save two grand each month – for steady supply of pesticide-free leeks and spinach, write checks made out of recycled paper, allot $75 for chiropractors and massage therapists, or save up $120 for Weightwatchers or Brahma-Rockefeller yoga classes, then our next of kin wouldn’t be risking life and limb in Iraq or Afghanistan trying to kill or not be killed.
A soldier’s tour of duty is a job, that’s all. Don’t you know that Lebanon’s basketball coach is “a small town dude with a big city attitude” tax-paying American, and Gary Busey flashed his bucktooth once-twice-thrice too-many in recent Iranian cinema?
My life’s mathematics is simple. It’s very third-world yucky – I eat whatever I could gobble up on and save my money on... OK, you know what me and Marta The Nicer are up to all through these years. I save a lot of dollars by scoring “poison” food and patronizing “evil” products – so I could guarantee that our “rock journeys and sublime madnesses” stay alive. Our “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” gather a 7-year-old tyke and 70-year-old granny over a 7-minute boogie, and entice drunken hobos and bejeweled tourists to shake their booties, period. That is joy, that is fulfillment – it doesn’t get any better than that. I don’t give a damn whether they gulp in Sprite or inhale Marlboro lights later. I’d like to keep my ambitions simple and reachable, and ensure that I get a good night’s sleep tonight—free of guilt and bum tummy. We ain’t tryin’ to save the world, y’know... we just want to have fun.
So should Marta The Nicer quit delivery of these crazy magazines that get painstakingly printed on non-recycled paper? I wish she simply stops chowing down those deadly Marlboro crap, and I chuck the dirt soda… but why should this be so freakin’ heavy? Why can’t we simply take it easy and enjoy the sweet toxicity of freedom in America? To each his own, enjoy your gig—have the right to dig your own grave or float among/along fluffy organic cloud. Savor the free will to gallivant in and around your own magnificent unrealism, at the same time, dig the cool idiocy of burning your lungs out. That’s the beauty of life that America gifted us, isn’t it so?

But then, I know that you know that we are all “enlightened” and fully informed spirits here. We are very much aware that the other glorious face of “freedom” is out there and that, we can easily enjoy it. That’s the free will to savor the peace and quiet of just having to spend 5 or 6 more hours of unpaid/self-funded community service, no expectations of hours rendered/dollars paid… or the serenity and contentment of just staring at the Blue Ridge Mountain and hope this is 1496 and you are one of The Last of the Mohicans. And then, you declare—”Yeah! I am gonna be crazy and spend my money on something that’s cool and easy. I gotta rock today, bless my soul! I gotta bungee jump down Chimney Rock!”
And what’s that? Of course, you know what I mean...
I still feel the quiet joy of knowing that I have a lot of friends from everywhere who offer me their comfy Jennifer couches, fridge stocked up with Corona, DVD players all-set with my favorite silly horror and comedy flicks, gifts of bracelets and earrings scored at Wal-Mart, and “unhealthy” boiled white rice, and say, “That’s all that I can afford, dude... I’m glad that you’re here. Feel at home!”
Many, many years ago – these wonderful amenities came in the form of creaking bamboo beds, “toxic” coconut gin, duck embryo, goat head’s soup, Peace Corps-issued blanket, World Bank-donated jeepney, red tide messed-up fish... I savored all these “evil, inappropriate, poison” implements on my way to a “bonfire for peace” in barrio plazas and ravaged villages that’ll easily make Pritchard Park look like Madison Square Garden and a Unica sardines taste like a plateful of caviar or Angus beef.
So, okay, we are “hypocrites” because we drink Coke. What’s more hypocritical than have the enlightenment and awareness to know what’s inappropriate and evil and not do anything about it but to exalt one’s self-gratification within the protective comfort of a ConEdison-provided shelter?
I choose to burn my liver with cheap gin or salvaged moonshine with the downtrodden and the outcast, I enjoy eating rattlesnake stew and croc sushi with train-hoppers and Greyhound “losers,” opt to dance with the devil in pursuit of a heavenly madness, and WHY? It’s because that’s all that I could afford, or that’s all that my homeys’ friendships could offer...
More than anything else, these junk and filth make me connect more with the people. I’d rather do something out there, right here right now, than worry whether a corporate hubcap hits my skinny butt as I negotiate a dark street, or a bad food messes up my holy intestines. There’s something out there, out there, that makes us live forever – certainly, not the $65/hr asanas drill or endless meditations or organic cheese or “nice hellos”...

I remember few years ago, when I was editing a Filipino-American newspaper in Manhattan, a towering Barnard College-educated lady adorned with Gucci and Vera Wang, lashed out at me right at the lobby of the Philippine Consulate on Madison Avenue. “Why do you keep on writing these crazy, distorted accusations about your own people, Pasckie? This is New York, this is not Manila—be ashamed to our American benefactors!”
I just looked at him, a-la Robert “Taxi Driver” De Niro or Clint “Outlaw Josey Wales” Eastwood (sans the slim cig and the pistol but with the knockout poncho and a mean glare), and muttered, “Are you talkin’ to me? Are yooooou... talkin’ to me? Why do I write THESE things? It’s because I have 5,000 subscribers who read me, I have a magazine – you don’t. What you have is a Vera Wang and a loud mouth. You can keep them to yourself, nobody cares.”
What’s my point?
Marta The Nicer isn’t Condeleeza Rice, she isn’t even Talullah Greenwood Heep (my neighbor in Dunwell Av). And, do I look like the Filipino-Cherokee grandgrandgrandson of Lamar Hunt? As sis Elton says, “Don’t shoot me, I am only the piano player.”
If these people really do care about corporate sham, environmental bastardization etc etc etc, by all means, march towards I-240 all the way to Washington, DC and fight it out. Or worse, at least, gather your minions, congregate at Pritchard Park or Vance Monument, save extra dough that you’re saving for weed and hummus to pay City Hall for the permit, and say your piece, loud and clear – at least once a month. That’d be cool. I’ll throw my $15 worth of monthly Coke budget in your tip jars.

Twenty years ago, I traveled to Madras, India with two of my high school bestfriends to find peace and quiet. I dabbed turpentine oil all over my hair and pushed it all back up, I chucked my Hanes in favor of the traditional kaupina (y’know, diapers), ate no “dead flesh,” and then I meditated and meditated and meditated and meditated from dusk till dawn – hoping that 1/16th of earth’s population follow my lead and be vegetarians themselves. (I actually believed that that’d happen in year 2000.)
Meantime, in the streets of Manila, farmers and fisherfolk and workers were marching under the punishing midsummer sun towards the presidential palace to fight for food on the table and tiny land space to put up their shanties. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, deadly landslides buried towns as the government’s gung-ho anti-Communist insurgency program bulleted the blue sky... all these while senators and congressmen played golf and escaped Southeast Asian heat and humid with secret rendezvous in Buffalo NY or Brooklyne MA.
How could I ever sleep in peace? How could I enjoy my soya milk and “camote” sprouts, and dance the rhumba with pristine butterflies and frolic on virgin riverbeds in my immaculate neck of the woods? How could I deliver my holy sermons on the mount? How could I liberate my soul and flutter like “jai guru deva om”? My people were starving, weeping, bleeding, dying… I had to go back where the shoutings were coming, where tortured limbs fought over a three-feet wide spot under flyovers, where swollen lips and bum stomachs feasted on soiled sardines and salvaged bread… no Coca Cola, no Toyota Subaru, no “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” no tofu, no Spam, no meditations, no lotus positions.
I had to be with the people… Shouldn’t I worried instead that I may have ruined my kidney with incessant shots of cheap whiskey as temporary relief to soggy spirit? Or that, fish head “kebab” might’ve crushed my liver and gave me Hapa-C? Oh yeah, my old Nikon was made by some wealthy, insensitive, gluttonous tycoon somewhere?
Who gives a damn.
The thing is, do we have to travel to Samar Island in the south of the Philippines, in a Buenos Aires pampas, or in a Zaire village to feel the beating of a wounded humanity? Marta The Nicer came from an unbelievably impoverished town in West Virginia called Welch… just a few hundred miles to a small mining town called Sago. It’s unbelievable that a US town appears exactly like the same dusty, food-to-mouth Mexican sitio or Indonesian hamlet where I’ve spent some time in the past.
Marta The Nicer’s people – as well as my goth homeys in an Oteen trailer park and Barnardsville Highway – go to Wal-Mart and chow down Mickey Dees. These people send their sons and daughters to war so they could be guaranteed a college education, these people work at Starbucks and Wal-Mart and Barnes&Noble so they could pay their bills. These people don’t have enough dough to score a downtown shirt, imported from India or Bangladesh; they can only afford either a secondhand Goodwill Levi’s or Family Dollar pots and pans donated by the rich for tax exemptions.
How do we convince these people, these Americans, to throw their toxic sodas away or boycott Wal-Mart?

They are the people. These are the people who don’t intellectualize whatever zero nutrient they could get from taters and grits, they don’t see television sets as idiot boxes, they see them as devise to amuse a dreary day, they don’t choose between PBR or Busch and the best local brew. They just wanna chill, period.
But if we really want to change the world… by all means, we should go where LIFE is happening for REAL. In places where forests and mountains are stripped naked so we can be continuously supplied with papers to print our gallery posters and matinee show tickets and zines and newspapers, in hellholes where sweatshops inflict torment to kids as young as nine so they could heed a quota for spare change so we can afford and enjoy a couch bed or tennis shoes or winter jackets when we need them…
In those places, we are needed – to stop the pain, to tell the masters of corporate greed to stop it. But how many will venture that kind of “lunacy” – how many of us would send our kids to squatters colonies in Peru or dingy, rat-infested sidetreets in New Delhi so they may understand the world? A cool, awesome “spring break” weekend in Fort Lauderdale sounds safer and more fun, isn’t it so? Okay, don’t forget to remind them kids not to strip naked (at least not afront clandestine handhelds) when smashed as hell, or... uhh, stock up on condoms, please. Yup, who would leave the comforts of the east, west, north and south of America – even for one summer month? Flying to Burma or Laos (plus a month’s chill-time beside white sands) is a lot cheaper than a weekend in Las Vegas or Frisco, so what are we waiting for?
But watch out!
You see, in most of those countries, people eat dogs, cats and rats because they are hungry and starving to death… they don’t dress their pets with baseball jerseys and take them to shrinks or cuddle with them at night. These people don’t have much choices as we do in America… We even have 12 choices for a salad dressing when more than half of the world’s population doesn’t even have clam chowder, Ceasar’s salad, or strawberry mousse to kick off and culminate a sumptuous meal.
While we protest a chopped tree that obstructs traffic as we drive to a vegan eatery, an estimated 20 million people, outside of the First World, are already displaced by problems linked to a damaged environment, ranging from eroded farmland to polluted water supplies. Such upheavals already affected millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Asia. This deterioration could drive about 50 million people from their homes by 2010.
These are the people that we need to help. So let’s be cool and try to be nice to those people around us – who, despite the comforts of America, still strive hard to try to make a dent and end a day with, “Oh yeah, I served coffee at Starbucks and quenched my thirst with Coke but I delivered a free paper to the community and organized a free show at the park last night… and I am sending money to a poor shoeless Adriana in a poor country this Christmas.”
Marta The Nicer came from a deprived American village but she has the nerve to walk the streets of downtown to hand out her free magazine and share something to those who are comfortably lounging in their galleries and office cubicles. These people who profess to have a clean body and non-corporate tact but couldn’t even stand a day to mingle with the drunken homeless at Pritchard Park, yet they have all the time in the world to engage their dachshunds to a “matured” conversation or meditate atop Mt Mitchell for 6 hours each morning.

Marta The Nicer doesn’t have a cat or a dog—like most in the neighborhood—because after bills and contributions to community projects, she couldn’t even afford a new set of Wal-Mart undergarments. She doesn’t drink Highland Ale because PBR is all that her vices-budget could afford. Most of the time, she could only score few pairs of $3.50 shirts at Goodwill...
She works at Starbucks because it’s the first job that she found that could help pay the bills and she will stay there because she had friends there who loaned her a new car (yup, to deliver more of her free magazines) and donated things for our yard sale so she can help raise money for these little publications that we print on minimum print-run, and the $175 park fee for our next free-for-everyone “Bonfires for Peace” shows.
These friends of hers laugh and cry with her over a silly, sappy Lifetime melodrama or daytime soap. They may care about global world trade but I doubt if they’d debate me over import liberalization or cultural imperialism, who cares? I’m sure, however, that we all dig Owen Wilson and Jack Black and would reinstall digital cable or fly to Orlando and pretend to be rich when we win the lotto. They are the people, and I am happier and more fulfilled when I hang out with these souls, they are my kind of people...
Marta The Nicer Osbourne is my kind of people, my kind of friend.
Marta The Nicer didn’t go to UNCA or Warren Wilson, not even at a community colle. She didn’t know what peace movements were all about until she volunteered to co-organize shows for the Traveling Bonfires. She didn’t even know where Manila was – she thought it was a small town in Wyoming. She didn’t know what this madness that I’m so crazy about until she herself battled homelessness, credit woes, court appearances, ramen noodles indigestion, and bitter critics, and kept on surviving them…
She didn’t know what many of us know. She is “unaware, unenlightened and uneducated,” but what’s the big deal? Marta The Nicer has what, probably 65% of my enlightened, aware, and educated acquaintances don’t have... She has the heart to give it all because she feels it. Simple. Most of time, she gives more than she could – and most of the time, she succeeds – because like the downtrodden, the underprivileged and the outcast, she believes in the power of the stubborn will, the unswerving spirit.
Yes, one afternoon, she drank a can of Coke because she was tired and thirsty. So be it. “Let it in and let it out, dude!” That’s all that I could say to my best buddy. “Now, let’s go kick some butt! We still have to drive to Black Mountain to deliver more Indies. Now, bring in Jacko, play `Billie Jean,’ and turn up the volume. Let’s party!”
So, how’s that? Hypocrisy?

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