Saturday, April 21, 2007

Afghanistan speed history

If you think your country had it bad, there's one that's got you beat:
Afghanistan's a land that's had a lion share of heat.
First were those crazy Aryans, till Persia came around,
They hung out till Alexander and his army came to town.

Alexander was just passing through, but his Hellenists set up shop;
Buddhists tried to gain some ground, but the Hellenists made them stop.
The Kushans, Sassanids and Huns I s'pose deserve their due,
But then we'd have to stop and talk about all the warlords too.

During our middle ages, though, the Afghans did alright,
Some impressive Muslim kingdoms, whose brilliance parred their might.
But Ghengis Khan had plans to conquer all the world one day
And as before, I know you're sure, Afghanistan was on the way.

The next 500 years are marked by muddied Mughal rule,
A couple civil wars or so, all centred in Kabul.
And so Zaman Shah Durrani found himself in charge of all,
When up showed British redcoats armed with lots of guns and gall.

It took a century for the Afghans to drive the British out,
And even now it's hard to wash the taste out of their mouths.
A king or two named Shah took charge and made the Afghans glad,
Till the commies offed their family and things went from good to bad.

We're almost to the present day in case you didn't know,
When Bin Laden joined the Mujahideen to make the commies go.
And Jimmy Carter gave the Mujahideen the proverbial Yankee buck,
And anyway, by '89, the commies were totally fucked.

Inside the vacuum of yet another ideological collapse,
The warlords starting warlording in a familiar relapse.
Finally, the Taliban gained control of sufficient land
To proclaim themselves the sovereigns of the whole Afghanistan.

But where once a Muslim kingdom made poverty quickly flee,
The Taliban were Koran thumpers to the zillionth degree.
They covered up their women and threw progress to the wind,
And protected ol' Bin Laden as a hero, lord and kin.

So to no one's real surprise or awe, the Yankees came in waves
To catch Bin Laden alive or dead, but he fled to the mountain caves.
And so quite by accident it seems, the Yankees were in charge,
But too few soldiers stayed behind in a country much too large.

While the Afghans held elections and became a democracy for real,
The Taliban regrouped and started fighting back with zeal.
And now the Afghans fight each other and fight foreigners as well,
It's a close approximation if you've never been to Hell.

That's where we'll leave off for now, this history with speed.
I do hope you can appreciate the Afghan's present need.
About the same as yesterday, just different names and guns
and all those fucking land mines ...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Listen up. A quick scratch on Joseph of Arimathaea

People of earth: listen up. I think you've got the wrong impression here. I am not in love with my new job. I'm still the same fucked-up Morton. Yeah, I wrote a poem about mopping. Big whoopty woo bob! I'm missing pieces of time here, people! Do you have any idea how terrifying that is?!? Also, Diane still won't give me back my jacket and I'm a fucking grave-yard shift janitor! What else could possibly happen? Have you ever dared existence to kick you when you're down? Me neither.

Isaac, Jon and Carl aren't the only cleaners I work with. You should see this fucking guy named Ron. He claims to be hosting the spirit of Joseph of Arimathaea. That just blew me away when he first told me. Man. Maaaaaannnnnnnnn. You know, I looked into his eyes and saw absolute belief. Just for kicks, I've read the Wikipedia article and plan on testing his knowledge of Joseph next shift. He comes out and watches us smoke dope behind the bleachers sometimes. I figure being outrageously baked is the perfect setting.

Joseph of Arimathaea, as you may know, was obsessed with making sure Jesus had a proper burial, fit for a man of high stature. He was a man of some importance himself and ipso facto was revealing himself as a follower of Jesus. Yes, Wikipedia says that. My line of questioning will follow that vein. Should be a humdinging good time, yeah!

Carl's meeting in the lunch room was entertaining for all the wrong reasons, but I'll get into that later. I'm going outside to stand in an open field and see if I can't get struck by lightning. Ok, you're right. I'm actually going to get high.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mop Mop Mop

Swimming lazily on the hallway gleam,
The fresh wax hurls my sneakers in mod;
My damp mop a magic, pivoting rod,
Balanced and swirling in a sanitized dream.

Swish. Swish. Swish. My mop glides over the freshly waxed tile so freely. The subtle flicks of my wrists, feet and hips remind me of dancing. Suddenly I back into my bucket. Stop. Dip. Squeeze. Kick the bucket further down the hall. A bad wheel causes it to veer into the lockers with a loud Bang! and water splashes over the sides. No damage. Swish. Swish. Swish. I'm rather pleased with my hall mopping method. Everyone has their own and mine is particularly satisfying. Isaac would not teach me how to mop a hall. He said I had to find my own way. When I have a good bucket that I'm used to (someone stole mine last week), I can kick it down the hall the correct distance to ensure an even rinse (there's no describing the sense of accomplishment. It is the blue-collar equivalent of wastepaper basketball). I've compensated today my kicking the bucket a bit harder to cause it to veer and crash in that vicinity. Admittedly, kicking a bucket of water into lockers has its own rewards.

Carl has called a meeting during first break. Although this will be my first one, I've been informed by several lifers that this has become an almost weekly occurrence, and furthermore, that each one is more bizarre than the last. "Flaming Hitler" Jon named him recently. Even Isaac laughed at that one, and he doesn't seem the type to go for jokes about national socialism and homosexuals. Jon's wit is infectious. And his dope is killer, man. Fucking killer. Whoever said custodial work is boring had the wrong boss and coworkers. Gun nut Billy would fit right in here. Shit, I wonder how ol' Billy is doing? Maybe I'll look him up later. For now, though, Swish. Swish. Swish.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Iranian crisis and the scuff mark trick

Isaac never ceases to amaze me with his breadth of knowledge. He seems to be a dabbler in all facets of existence, but to what end I do not know. Today he is discussing the current Iranian crisis (how many have their been in all of history, I wonder?), when he suddenly stoops in front of a scuff mark. "Black soles are a real bitch, but if you did your waxing properly, they are pretty easy to clean."

Isaac whips out a gold-painted metal pocket scraper and with a deft sweep of his arm, peels the scuff mark away from the wax. The entire mark comes up as one impossibly thin sliver of rubber, which Isaac casually tosses in the garbage can. The wax is flawless where he scraped. "You know, some cleaners actually use a floor buffer to do that. Imagine grinding at a harmless little scuff mark for 2 minutes and ruining your wax because you were too lazy to bend over."

"Not to mention that you had to haul the buffer out of the closet." I chime in.

Isaac turns and points at me. "Good point."

Back to Iran. "Right, so where was I?" mutters Isaac, eyes fixed on the ceiling in intense recollection as we stroll down the corridoor.

"You were saying that the Iranians aren't as nuts as everyone thinks they are."

"Right, right, right. You see, they captured British sailors instead of Americans. That wasn't just happenstance. The capture's got nothing to do with who crossed whose water lines. The Iranians are making a clear diplomatic statement, and they are making it to the Americans, don't you know? Kind of like a rival slaps your buddy in the face instead of you: clearly offensive, but not quite confrontational enough to make you want to strike back just yet, and your friend, smaller and weaker than you, waits for you to make the first move. The Iranians are saying 'We are still here. This problem isn't going away. We know you can't afford to fight us right now. We want something in exchange for peace.'"

I'm not convinced. "but what if they aren't that sophisticated? What about that whole multiple governments and multiple chains of command thing the Iranians have going on? What if this capture of British soldiers is just the work of some religious nutjobs who just like poking the West with a stick to see what we'll do?"

"I'm not sure I buy the whole multiple government thing. We'd like to think that the order might have come from some fractured lower level and not Ayatollah Kohmeini himself, but that's just wishful thinking. He at least gave his blessing to this escalation with the understanding that Americans were not to be involved. Structures of power always lead back to one individual. You know one of the State's top naval officers publicly stated that if the Iranians had tried that stunt on one of his crews, they would have opened fire? No one in the White House is denying that bold statement; in the crazy universe of diplomacy, no denial is the same as a confirmation of policy. The States in very clear terms have just said to the Iranians, 'You do that to me, and I'll hit back.' That's war! Diplomacy is over. There'd be air strikes on Tehran right now!

"No, Iran knows what it is doing and there is relative consensus in its highest levels of government. It knows that the British are a conservative nation when it comes to an escalating crisis. There is no chivalry, just calculation and patience and diplomacy until some bitter end forces itself onto the table. It also knows that the States is now being led by men who are just the opposite: rash, stupid and short-sighted. That's sophisticated understanding of the way the world works right now in this political climate. It might be a dangerous game to play with the Americans, but it's a game they can win!"

"Shit Isaac, then what does Iran want that makes it play this dangerous game?"

Isaac just smiles. "Well, this is where we separate. I want you to know that I don't begrudge you getting the shop wing section. Carl is doing this on purpose to turn us against each other. He is a vindictive and manipulating man, and he has reason to hate me especially."

He cuts me off before I can ask. "Another time, Mort. I'm on a tight schedule right now!" And Isaac is marching away, whistling some thoughtless tune as he disappears around the next corner.