the big toughie

Sometime in the mid 1970s I came across, in the Wellington Public Library, Karl Kraus' The Last Days of Mankind, published in Vienna between the wars: a play to be performed on Mars was how Kraus described the 800 page dramatic work which was recently (April, 2004) read in New York. I couldn't make much sense of it so I handed it on to my mentor and friend, Alan Brunton, who must have returned it to the library after he read it, because I never got an overdue notice for it. That was the era of the Red Mole cabarets at Carmen's Balcony so I guess the text was apposite. A few years later we were driving across the United States on a three day speed binge on our way to the Theatre for the New City in Manhattan, where a Red Mole show of the same name was about to open. I say we: a band of musicians travelling as Red Alert; they were music for the Last Daze and I was the lights. Somewhere past Kansas we learned that a major crisis was unfolding at Harrisburg, PA, the nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island was melting down. There was talk of evacuating the Tri-State Area and I recall clearly a voice on the radio saying: It is not possible to evacuate 11 million people, there is nowhere to evacuate them to ... Well, it didn't happen, not then, but it has happened now. Once more we are seeing the future unfold before our eyes. Tautologically again. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean was one thing, this is another; they are harbingers, there is more and worse to come. After that season of the Last Days in New York there was a power blackout in the city that lasted not very long but long enough for a lizard sense of survival of the meanest to slither abroad on Broadway. What is going on on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico is in one sense unimaginable but in another has been over-imagined. We know what is happening. We know our agency in all this. We know the consequences, have known for a long time. What we don't know is ... how to stop. Perhaps we can't stop until we are stopped ... ? So strange to walk outside and see Venus and Jupiter on a pas-de-deux in the Prussian blue sky, to smell the sweet scent of the night sweet rising, hear the voices of friends in the street calling Thanks and Goodnight ... the magnolia ... now I think of these lines:

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying: This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem ...

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