Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bodies Obtained

Stroll through the cheap wine aisle. Stare at cheaper refrigerated brands. Where's Cold Duck? Boone's Farm? Paul Masson? Orson Welles drunkenly endorsed Paul Masson. Genius reduced to wino shill. Showbiz and the second law of thermodynamics share many features. For Welles, cheap wine lubricated the process.

Feels like a large truck rolling in. A semi in the store. Bottles rattle. Walls shake. The floor rises like a wave. I'm jarred but keep my balance. The aisle lights go out. A few bottles fall and break. Some mild shaking then quiet.

Everyone looks at each other. Two women race down the aisle toward the exit. A security guard runs by. Store managers appear shocked. A few people joke about earthquakes. They don't think this is one. How can Washington DC have an earthquake? Must be something else. Terrorist attack? All are left guessing.

I've never been in an earthquake. But what else could this be? Cashiers offer shaky smiles. No one really knows how to act. It's almost like a Matrix program. I move past people frozen in place. Go outside. The sidewalk's jammed.

I'm near the federal government's epicenter. State buildings everywhere. Evacuation was swift. I cut through the throng. Everybody's trying to get a cell signal. Nothing. Their toys are useless. A lovely sight. They keep trying. Still nothing. Confused expressions. The beauty deepens.

Walk back to the neighborhood where I'm staying. Cars blast news stations. Pedestrians compare notes. An old brownstone lost some bricks. The only damage I see. The neighborhood appears unscathed. But people there are rattled.

One guy rails about the End Times. A father holds tight his baby girl. A young Black man in a white tank top yells, "I'm at peace! But I'm a freak!" Several older women pray. Worried looks all around.

The quake ripple wasn't that bad. Unexpected, but not earth shattering. There's no Potomac tsunami. No rubble. No fire in the streets. It doesn't take much to frighten Americans. Those with no political or economic power seem more vulnerable to fear.

There's a certain DC vibe that I've yet to fully discern. A weird tangible mix. Living in the shadow of the Capitol Building reinforces class divisions. Imperial reality is in your face.

Here come the sirens. Cops. Ambulances. Dark vans with flashing lights. Every form of authority thrust into action. Where they're going I don't know. Whom they're saving is a mystery.

I go upstairs to the apartment. A few knick knacks on the floor. Nothing serious. Gas and electricity fine. Fix a drink, go online. Everyone's talking earthquake. Libya's there too, but a secondary concern. America comes first. We always come first.