Sunday, April 5, 2009

the stink of urine

the other day i saw an old man in stop and shop with dark spots down his pant legs. his hair was stringy and unkempt. he moved doggedly, putting food in his basket. in the express line he stood behind me, and the stink was shocking. it was not that the smell of piss is unfamiliar or worse than other smells (have you ever got a whiff of pig slops being cooked? ugh). it is that the smell signifies a person disintegrating physically and socially. and to smell it in stop and shop, in this rich town, unnerves far more than to smell it where homeless people are more common.

was i seeing a sign of the Depression? was this man like the ominous black-robed figure in Poe's Masque of the Red Death, frightening the nobility who had walled themselves in their castle against the Plague? or was he just a man down and out, signifying nothing but his own decrepitude?

it was sad and unsettling. he was not mad. i saw him reach out for the plastic bar and place it behind his groceries, a laconic act of courtesy around here. he must have smelled his own stench. but he didn't care. and it wafted through the sparkling aisles of a fantasy store.

the fantasy is this: that we can live off of nature just by reaching out our hands and plucking food off shelves, and that we can keep on doing this forever.

but our system of global dominance, on which our high incomes and our commodity markets rest, is crumbling.

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