Sunday, October 26, 2014

Out of Gas; Good Neighbor

He held the little cardboard sign, "Out of Gas", at solar plexus level, a red gas can by his feet.

"So's the economy", I said, handing him a dollar bill.

As the light had just turned red, I asked what was going on for him. He thanked me and smiled a mouthful of rotten brown incisors. Apparently can't afford dental care either; extraction dead ahead.

He lives out across the Rio Grande Gorge in high bleak, unregulated country. Building codes do not apply, the dwellings range from off-grid efficiency and whimsy to dug-in squalor.

The poorest hitch rides into town and live on government dole, an electronic debit card, and food pantry staples.

The volunteer Food Pantries in town are valiant, dogged and working at capacity. The one with which I'm familiar is now serving 500 extended families each week, when societal crisis is still a stalking rumor.

I waved goodbye at the stoplight and then, in case I'd failed to notice, had a surprise rendezvous with a friend who also lives to hell and gone out on the mesa with no utilities and water catchment, if it rains. Otherwise spring water is hauled up switchbacks from the canyon floor.

He lives in the same area as the fellow with no gas and rotten teeth, but my friend is an eccentric retired medical professional and inventor. He lives comfortably and eats well from his hoop house gardens.

Still a steward of health, he looks after his poorer neighbors.

Those few who have solar collectors do not have sufficient an array to cook beans for eight hours, but my friend care-takes a posh solar home in the area with ample electricity.

He takes otherwise un-cookable food pantry beans and crock-pots them at the luxe house for the neighborhood, and then delivers glass jars of meal-ready beans around the community on his bicycle. Neighbors return the jars; he gives them fresh greens from his gardens.

He teaches people skills who are willing to learn any and is quietly preparing with antivirals, bandages, essential oils and stored staples, understanding that many of his neighbors will not prepare.

Meanwhile in another galaxy of experience far away, trader friends debate which stock to short and discuss millions in bonuses given to Wall Street parasites.

An asylum, yes, but it's ours to navigate and somehow retain or gain our humanity.


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