Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Street Oracle


File:Louisiana Avenue NOLA Ill Baby Ill  2.JPG

There are occasions when the physical limitations imposed by circumstance upon the public presentation of messages lend to such messages a useful simplicity; and in usefulness there is beauty.

I do not drive, therefore walk where I must go, and possess, latterly, a defective apparatus, therefore must walk slowly, slowly enough to make the reading of sidewalk graffiti a relatively thoughtful experience.

These graffiti sometimes take on for me a curious character of street oracles. They often address matters of some historical moment, and yet are themselves literally of the moment, for rarely do they go more than a few hours or days before being effaced by the work of weather and/or the steps of passersby.

They tend to appear most commonly around the time of national elections, wars and major disasters.

My memory is no longer what it was, so if I wish to recall the messages of one of these street oracles I must pause and fumble about in my belongings for a pencil stub and scrap of paper upon which to write it down. My fellow pedestrians sail along, impervious. I am a writer; this is what I do; write things down, every once in a while. None of this of course is of any consequence to anyone.

And so it perhaps comes to pass that in this particular evening of the world, as I am out proceeding slowly on the sidewalk along the major business thoroughfare beneath the state university campus, I am offered this concrete text, chalked neatly in large bold pink and green letters:

UC BERKELEY/BP DEAL 500 million $ dollars to cut down the Amazon Rainforest BP OUT OF BERKELEY and the Gulf of Mexico Boycott BP and ARCO STOP DRIVING

And then, later in the evening, perhaps, a light rain may return, and wash this beautiful simplicity away. And perhaps too the world will continue on as before, as if none of this had ever happened. On the slick black street the cars go on whooshing past.

File:Protest against oil company BP and their  still leaking oil in  the Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Should be Pink.jpg

File:Protest against oil company BP and their  still leaking oil in  the Gulf of Mexico BP Bad Pollution.jpg

House on Louisiana Avenue back from St. Charles, New Orleans, with "Ill, Baby, Ill" sign on fence in reference to Republican pro-massive oil drilling slogan "Drill, Baby, Drill" and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, 2 June, 2010: photo by Infrogmation, 2010

People gathered at intersection in Bloomington, Minnesota to protest against the actions of BP, formerly British Petroleum, in response to continuing oil spill from BP drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico, 31 May, 2010 : photos by Fibonacci Blue, 2010


Curtis Roberts said...

Based on my freshly minted June 3, 2010 perspective, having already engaged the world through the lens of the print press and other assorted media, the world will not continue on as before, as if none of this had ever happened. Deception will become more devious (there’s no other way to “re-cover-up” Mineral Management Services’ errors and culpability and heaven knows what shredding is currently occurring at BP and its competitor companies) and discourse will coarsen to an even greater degree than it has already.

Ingrained habits of self-deception will continue as before, of course, and more and more art will intervene as it rolls off art assembly lines.

The price of shrimp will rise and new placards will be painted, especially in university towns.

I wonder how I’ll feel later today after I’ve been outside?

TC said...


More to the point than a rise in the price of shrimp, maybe, would be a rise in the price of gasoline.

That could possibly bring about change.

I haven't seen any placards here, but then I keep my eyes on the ground, hoping not to stumble upon any more information than I have to.

And as it's raining here, that message will by now have, as I predicted, washed away into the past... with the rest of history.

gamefaced said...

and still spilling.



Good to see sidewalk chalk has made it into living color here (maybe such rain as might now be falling won't wash it away?). And yes Curtis, no way to cover MMS "errors and culpability" (hadn't yet thought of all the "shredding currently occurring" over at BP, more than likely they've been working overtime at that. How are you feeling, now that you've been outside?

TC said...

I am hearing that the latest cool thing to do for fun is watch gushercam. Right. Like watching open heart surgery on the dying body of something that was once thought great.

Curtis Roberts said...

Stephen: Going outside felt great. It's a beautiful day here, which means it's difficult to get down to work inside, which I must do. As for shredding, that's a whole "other thing". As you probably know, document retention policies are an important corporate consideration and discipline, subject to all sorts of internal and external rules and factors. In my experience, what makes it difficult to remove all traces of a thing (if that's what you're trying to do) is the tendency of employees to copy vast numbers of people on all manner of correspondence even when they've been instructed not to. But different companies have different cultures and practices. MMS's contribution to this disaster seems (to me) to rise to the level of being a "proximate cause", but making such an observation obviously doesn't solve anything. It's depressing, though.

Tom: Can't watch gushercam at all any more. We avert our eyes or turn off the television. I've had day-mares, nightmares, etc. I think the rise in the price of shrimp is more predictable than changes in oil prices or the ever-baffling "price at the pump", which is affected so much by politics.

TC said...

The words of a mild-mannered, well-educated, relatively sane and calm senior citizen, overheard while blogging:

"Corporations own the country. They own the political system. They own the government. It is an oligarchy."

You heard it here first.

gamefaced said...

capitalism folks. you want it you got it. assume your position consumer.

Anonymous said...

british petroleum
has brought us death
as have other violators
of the earth

but i drive a car
and havnt given up
any real part
of my user lifestyle

so i ask myself
am i a selfish bastard
or will i change
thru thoughtful grateful sacrifice

we all need to ask
and act or accept
being killers and ultimately

shrimp dolphins
and brown pelicans
dont get our choice

Curtis Roberts said...

Tom: Following on your mild-mannered citizen's remarks, it's worth noting that the next three days brings us the annual Bilderberg Society meeting, this year "at the Dolce in Sitges, one of Spain’s most exclusive resorts". The Times (London) link follows. Once again, my invitation appears to have been lost in the mail.

TC said...

Oh, my.

TC said...

Apparently the oracle has staying power. Nor drizzle nor feet proved sufficient to entirely efface the sidewalk legend, which persisted, albeit growing dimmer, for a week. Then of a sudden it was completely erased -- it borders upon "university property", mind you -- and the sidewalk scrubbed clean.

A day later, lo and behold, the words of the oracle mysteriously reappeared. Same colours, but a few small revisions evidently intended to put a fine point on it. (Dog is in the details.)