The Zen Buddhist Carwash

Expanded from the 2-20-2005 Daily Sparks Tribune
2-25-2005 Comstock Chronicle

If ever we doubted that the Great Depression could come again, look no further than Central Park in New York City. Gonzo Christo and his weird significant otheress have blown $21 million to warn us that there's a bad moon on the rise.

They have placed miles of arches hung with saffron orange draperies throughout the Big Apple's urban forest. Wags have likened "The Gates" project to a series of carwash entrances.

Artsy types will of course assert that this fleeting flirtation with the shredded robes of Buddhist monks qualifies as great art because it lends itself to so many interpretations. I think it the equivalent of the recurring giant domino in "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock recognized it as a "McGuffin," a term moviemakers use to describe the injection of a mysterious symbol as a dramatic device.)

Christo's McGuffin of the golden arches both tells us something about ourselves and allows us to predict the future. Perhaps historians will someday look back upon this moment as the road marker where we turned down the path of national decline.

Comeuppance follows the extravagance spawned of arrogance. It's time to pay for our sins. Eastern mystics call it karma, Americans simply say that what goes around, comes around. Followers of Sir Isaac Newton might note that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We certainly have sinned and the price of our penance is already steep. Our nation's capital is a walled-in medieval boomtown where the rich get richer while the rabble in the streets kill each other while scrounging for scraps.

To escape the mayhem of a fear-besotted homeland, the lower classes are offered a sporting proposition: gamble your children's lives in foreign wars. (Bring your own bake-sale body armor.) If they come back whole, we'll throw confetti on them. If they come back alive but in pieces, we might give them medical care, we might not. If they return in a body bag in the dead of night, we'll up the ante and cash your kid for $100,000 — if the bill passes.

Everything and everyone is now reduced to a number on the bottom line. Feasting on pie charts, we have grown fat, dumb and numb.

Only our national willingness to plunge ourselves further and further into public and private debt has kept our wall of cards from collapse. Now comes His Royal Accidency Pope George I to tout the virtue of placing bets with public money in Wall Street's national cathedral and casino.

Soul-less speculation during the sinful and amoral Roaring 20's spawned the Great Depression. The 1930's brought the fabled Golden Age of Hollywood, wherein the beleaguered masses eagerly sought a few hours of 35-millimeter escape for a nickel.

As a nation, we hemorrhage both figuratively with our wallets and literally with our children. The masses once again seek escape in the fantasyland of comic book-inspired superhero movies and videogames. Superman, the first superhero, was born of the Great Depression when people needed to fantasize about a miraculous solution to their very real problems.

Superman died last year.

The Gates of Christo and Jean-Claude may be the gates of the new Yankee hell, made in America and exported to the world. Why should we pay for our peccadillos when we can foist some of the suffering onto everyone else?

We are big, fat and rich but allow so many others to starve. Our foreign aid budget is the stingiest among First World countries while our foreign war budget dwarfs all others.

A majority of our people place blind faith in our faithless leaders who march us to slaughter through flowing saffron gates, flags a'waving.

We've been warned in extravagant orange. Beware the next color down the spectrum.

Be well. Raise hell. | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 1982, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of He sits on the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee.

Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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