The Parking Lot – Part I

Whiskers from palm fronds; cigarette butts; Miller’s deceitful ‘High-Life’ splintered into gleaming flecks among the oil-stained asphalt detritus; almond-sized pigeon scat; someone’s loosed screws, bolts and air-filters; open, shit smeared swaddlings abandoned, face-up, to dry in the sun; cracked and rotted wiper-blades no longer able to free the slightest drop from a windshield; one soiled, New Freedom panty-shield laying interestingly close to a Lifestyle’s spermicidally lubricated, ribbed ‘for her pleasure’ condom envelope; palm kernels, dying, drying, baking on the unfertile, black, cracked expanse of the Navajo Hotel’s cul-de-sac parking lot.

 

My tired Toyota ambled onto the property, came to a stop and coughed that familiar diesel chug eruption that told me there might be less miles remaining in the fraying, stretched-out timing-belt than I had originally thought.  Quiet.  It will be a little harder to start when I want to leave, but it will start; it always does.  It will shortly remove me from this haven of prostitutes and modern-day pirates and drug-runners.  It always has.

Unfolding from the little car, I stretch my legs and take an unhurried account of my surroundings.  While I turn and reach back into the car to collect my badge and notebook, I continue to look around the buildings, checking-out which doors are opened or closed, trying to find one whose number is still affixed or not painted-over, just trying to give myself a point of reference in case any shit happens.  A couple years back, one of my less observant partners stepped into the middle of a pharmaceutical sales meeting.  On the ‘board-room table’ was all of the hardware necessary for maintaining a safe transaction, one in which none of the ‘muthafuckas’ was going to get the best of the ‘otha muthafuckas.’  It is an unconscious voice that tells me to keep my eyes open.

 

Slightly down the road, and across from the recently remodeled Ramada Reservations Center, sits a mid-to-late-twenty-ish-looking businessman type of guy waiting for the bus.  He is constantly looking up and down the street, the famed ‘Van Buren’ of central Phoenix.  His knuckles are near white with holding his briefcase overly tight.  Standing now and taking a tentative step into the road to peer even further, he is searching for what must be a late bus.  His lilly-whiteness is loud and his discomfort would make him a likable target for any less than conscientious street thug who might happen to observe his shuffling feet or hear his overly-loud beating heart.  He is anxious to get onto the tardy bus and make his way out of this part of town. Does he really not belong here or did he do something that he is going to regret later?  Did he just participate in that age-old ‘opportunity of indiscretion?’  What’s up?

 

A few years ago, while taking a sociology class, I imagined what it would be like to approach a complete stranger and request an interview about any particular subject, a little bit of real life ethnography conducted right there at the bus-stop.  I thought it would be a fascinating way to get a glimpse into the mind of the man or woman from the street, projects, barrio, bus-station, or whatever.  What made them into the person that I would now behold?  What would be their reaction to me?  Would they talk?  Would they tell me that they were too busy to be bothered, or would they engage me in a rough hour of banter and miscellaneous bull-shit that wouldn’t amount to a pocket-full of lint?  Of course, there would always be the possibility that they would tell me to ‘fuck-off’ and leave them alone.

 

I know that I am a stranger to you, and I understand that you might feel uncomfortable talking with me, but please, listen to my question and then speak to me, freely.  If you are still uneasy, try to see that you really have nothing to fear.  Since I am a stranger, how will I know what is a lie and what is the truth?  How could I know?  How can I judge you when I don’t know you and don’t know where you’ve been and don’t know what rotten or wonderful things have made you the person that stands before me?  I can’t know these things.  Think about it…you’ll probably never see me again, so it doesn’t matter that you tell the truth.  Revealing to me, a stranger, the innermost part of your soul holds no danger.  Please, won’t you try?

 

Do you see an utter sadness when you behold the face or life of someone who had not been as ‘blessed’ as you have been?  Do you hear the ringing of the unfairness that underlies the most deeply rooted foundation of human existence?  If you searched your soul and came to the point where you could only be honest, how would you respond?  Would it hurt when you looked into their eyes?  Would you ache to the core because you wanted to do something that you know you haven’t the power to do?  I ask you this because I wonder at it myself.  I sense that the entire context is wrong and that there is not one shred of fairness and I don’t know what to do with this feeling; I don’t know where to go with it.  I’m only asking you to share the truth, your truth, that’s all.  What do you think?  How does your inner-soul agonize when considering their un-blessing?

Are we right to assume that there is no Supreme Being?  What level of fairness has He meted out to us?  Is He even there to do something so human-like?  Does the absence of fairness also indicate the absence of His unerring holiness?  Is it wrong to declare that He doesn’t exist just because we can’t see His hand in every single thing and in every facet of life?  Or are we in error to assume that He isn’t there simply because everything isn’t as rosy in the rest of the world as it is in our own little part of it, or vice versa?  I don’t know the answer; I am only familiar with the disparity of the blessing.  I only see the results of what has happened as a consequence of what I’m told is, or was man’s ‘original sin.’  The entirety of humanity is now being held accountable for one man’s errant ways?  Oh, Preacher, speak; answer my longing to know!  Is all of this the result of a bad choice, one wrongly made decision?  Tell me you’re kidding; tell me it’s a joke, an ill-timed revelation of a conjuring from the infantile history of humanity where snake teeth or sheep knuckle-bones were shaken and tossed to predict the future or read the past.  Tell me, Preacher!  Please…!

 

If the child had been butchered ere it breathed, would that have been less cruel than to allow it to live through what he has no choice, now, but to endure?  Is not enacting death sometimes more humane than letting the life continue, or begin?  If I had been given the choice by an All-Knowing Force to choose to have my life so snatched from me before it was even mine to possess, or to live it in a hellish, nightmarish existence, which would I have chosen?

 

Now, behold the child of golden, brown-sugared skin with gelled ringlets bouncing about his crown, clad only in a diaper and bare feet.  Somehow he has become wise, at only two years, to avoid the oil stains in the parking lot.  This tiny man navigates through the broken glass and beer cans to follow his daddy across the parking lot to some other door, some other portal to a ten by twelve hovel called a hotel room.  The hinges concede and allow the many times painted-over door to swing open and release light into the stale air of the over-heated room and thick odor of sleeping bodies.  This shitty life has gone past the comfortable point where we would stick our heads under the covers and smell the warm body of our self or loved one in bed next to us.  The smell of clean sheets and often-bathed bodies’ oils mingling with the scent of slept-in flannel pajamas is a comfort to the soul.  But when it’s mixed with compounding days and weeks worth of wear and scarcity of water, there builds an odor that is at once repelling and engulfing.  You are simply surrounded and taken in to the den of whom or whatever it is that has been hibernating there.  Halt your breath and still the unease in your stomach and experience the life of someone else.  To be continued….

 

 

 

 

10 responses

  1. Nathan

    I can smell this place, I can hear and taste the environment. It’s a dirty world which exists only footsteps away from that other world of opulence and privilege. What an odd paradox. If they share nothing else in common, they share at least the same back yard view of the city, the sounds of the street, and the heat of the afternoon sun. Yet, somehow the trees of that other world are manicured as if ready for an evening ball, the parking lots are swept and power-washed, and amazingly that afternoon sun feels just a little less sweltering under the cool misters that line their shops and pads…..all without so much as a railroad in between…..
    I’m eager to hear the rest of the story.

    September 10, 2009 at 9:40 am

    • seekraz

      You are so right, Nathan, so absolutely right in your assessment, your identification of a paradox that is so haunting as to be unreal in its substance and essence…but unfortunately is more real than we can imagine or begin to describe with simple words in an essay such as this. Thank you for your comments. The rest will follow soon.

      September 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

  2. me

    jesus christ nathan! from whence cometh this sudden brain-heavy child?? so ……the father and the son are alike, more so than i thought . . .

    September 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    • seekraz

      It is just incredible. I told him that he should be writing, too.

      September 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  3. The vileness of humanity, the questioning of deity, and the morality of abortion. Wow Scott, you’re not playing around here. Your thoughts on original sin are fascinating and provide a simple, logical, and fair argument. My question to you is, what would you have chosen…death or a shot at a “hellish, nightmarish existence” – that is capable of freewill…?

    September 12, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    • seekraz

      Yes, Jay, from a story that began on the meditation of finding pennies in a parking lot and wondering at my desire to take the ‘lucky’ one that was lying face up, all of those things, the vileness that infects the vulnerable for whatever reason and through whatever manner, the rightful questioning of fables and bedtime or Sunday school stories from our childhood, and the question over the taking of a life before it really begins…it all fell in there, appropriately, I think. The concept of original sin and everlasting punishment or reward introduced, again, in my childhood when I knew only to trust my parents and the teachings they brought me through the Baptist churches and Christian school I attended. When viewing these notions in the light of open-minded adult inquiry into the origins of religious practices through the eons of humanity, it becomes clear that the afterlife and punishments and rewards were borrowed from much more ancient cults and incorporated into practices that continue to today…through the indoctrination of children, the practice of repetition and ritual, and the seemingly ‘natural’ desire for people to not simply cease to exist at the termination of their biological lives. Maybe this ‘natural’ desire isn’t exactly ‘natural,’ as in occuring without precedent of thought, like it was transmitted biologically from our parents, but it has become ‘natural,’ given the socialization process of our cultures and the implied and understood sadness at someone’s life ending. It’s a ‘meme,’ or a culturally transmitted trait or characteristic that is passed from one generation to another during the socialization process. Anyway, I appreciate the turn-about that you proposed by asking me which I would choose…death or a shot at a ‘hellish, nightmarish existence.” As there is virtually no way of honestly and objectively answering this almost rhetorical question that cannot but demand a subjective response, given that it is so personal, I would like to answer that I would have the courage sufficient to choose the hellish and nightmarish existence over the non-existence. It seems that there would be options (maybe of my own or one’s own making) or at least the possibility of waking from the shitty dream that would compel me to endure the sludge and hell with my free-will. I hope that would be my answer…. Thank you, Jay, for your feedback and input, and for drawing the conversation even further than I had presented it in the article. 🙂

      September 12, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  4. me

    what is the shame of choosing a nonexistence over a “hellish nightmare?” why can some of us not admit that the choice of death or of “nonlife” is not so much a lack of courage (or maybe the ever important testosterone); rather, such a choice may embody a fearlessness and lack of self-righteousness that the other does not. don’t know…just seems to me that there is often honor in that. never would i allow a child, an innocent one, to suffer the atrocities that i have seen. never.

    September 12, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    • seekraz

      I didn’t say that there was shame in choosing non-existence over living a hellish nightmare, but one might imply that that’s what I was suggesting when I said that I hoped I would have the courage to choose to live it, as opposed to choosing to not live it. I don’t believe there’s any shame in being afraid, or even terrorized, of something, given that it’s not an irrational fear – but having said that, one’s fears are personal and real to them, so what I consider irrational should still be respected, and the emotion that it evokes in me should be sadness and not a critical or demeaning response. And about the fearlessness, lack of self-righteousness, and honor, I think those come after one exists and has fought the fight of life, not before it. There can certainly be honor and fearlessness in choosing to end the shitty existence after it was begun and endured, but when we haven’t yet existed we can’t possess any such attributes. In regard to preventing the unborn from having to live a shitty, nightmarish life, is the decision the same? I think that is part of the paradox, the essence of playing ‘god’ and making others’ decisions for them…in which we risk making a mistake in choosing what they might or might not have chosen…but oh, the desire to protect them so, to prevent their sadness because it is crushing to behold.

      September 13, 2009 at 7:16 am

  5. dave_horney

    The image of the little guy carefully avoiding the oil stains in the parking lot collides in my brain with a passage from the book Newjack. An older prisoner points out to a rookie guard that prisons are decades long projects. The prisons were are building today are intended to hold your little man or his brothers as he crosses into adulthood. Rather than help today, we warehouse tomorrow.

    September 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    • seekraz

      Very interesting connection, but appropriate in this context, I think. It seems to parallel my thoughts for the little one, as well, in wondering at what evils or blessings were around the corner in his life…so many possibilities, and generalizing to his existence in his particular surroundings, the possibilities don’t look too promising. Your thoughts remind me of something my wife said years ago about society’s handling of its troubled youth…it’s something to the effect of – “Since you don’t want to do anything to help them now, how will you deserve the right to be protected from them later on?” Good stuff, David. Thank you. 🙂

      September 24, 2009 at 5:09 pm

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