Moving Through Time

The world has changed so much since I was born. Sometimes it feels as if there’s an evil force moving against us to keep us from improving the world. We know better but we act as if we don’t.

This is the hottest year on record so far since we’ve been keeping time. We used to talk about global warming and claim that we were going to do something about it, but nothing changes. The governments of the world act as if we can keep on building machines that emit fumes into the atmosphere and it won’t affect us.

I can’t imagine how many cars there are in the world. If we took all the exhaust pipes of every car in the world and fused them all together, how big would that pipe be? It’s actually beyond our imagination to picture the size of it, and it’s pumping, pumping, pumping, foul stuff into our atmosphere.

Oh, maybe you doubt that? Why don’t you stick your nose into the exhaust pipe of a running automobile and breathe it for a while? Oh, in some places, kids do that to get high, don’t they? When I was young, the dumber kids sniffed glue, and the smarter kids drank codeine-based cough syrup.

But that’s not too intelligent either way. Now we have a massive heroin illness that’s spreading all over the world. Everyone knows someone who has a family member using drugs in our world.

What force is it that keeps us from working together to make this world a better place? I’m stymied. I just can’t figure it out. It seems like every time someone has an idea to change the world for the better, someone shoots them.

There was John F. Kennedy. Bang. There was Robert Kennedy. Bang. There was Dr. Martin Luther King. Bang. There was Malcolm X. Bang. There was Gandhi. Bang. I could go on and on, couldn’t I?

What brought this on was watching a movie about someone who goes back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. The name of the book the movie was based on is “11/22/63,” written by Stephen King.

One of the things that struck me was how beautiful the old cars looked. You could actually tell the difference between a Chevrolet and a Ford and a Plymouth, just to name a few. The cars had class and there weren’t as many cars on the road then as there are now.

I remember when my father was driving his Buick and someone drove past him going the other way with the same model car and they tooted at each other and waved. It was a friendly world.

Of course, there were exceptions. If you were gay, forget about it. If you were black, forget about it. In Germany, the ovens were busy burning Jews, gays, gypsies and anyone else who didn’t fit in. What kind of power makes humans act like that?

I really believe there is some Force that works on us, tries to get us to do the wrong thing, hurt other people and continue to damage the only environment we’re going to get. Or is it just that humans are all on the verge of insanity?

I don’t believe in the devil. But there’s something out there that doesn’t want us to succeed. It makes some people so greedy that, even if they have billions of dollars in the bank, they want more, while others don’t even have enough money to buy food or pay for medical care.

I’ll be 71 years old in about five months, and I really miss my youth. I know, I know, I sound like I’m whining, and maybe I am, looking at the world through a fractured prism. But I remember when I ran up a flight of stairs without skipping a beat, and now I trudge up them, one by one, and sometimes I’m out of breath at the top. My doctor is on the seventh floor of a building, and once, the elevator broke, and I had to climb all seven flights. I can’t begin to tell you how weary I was when I hit the top. When I was 10 years old, I could fly up seven flights.

No, I’m not a smoker. Yes, I was a smoker, but I quit, and I feel a whole lot better since I did. I had my last cigarette on April 24, 1999, and sometimes I still miss them. But I know that one leads to another and so on.

Of course, when I started smoking, I could stick a quarter into a cigarette machine and a pack would come out with two pennies taped onto it. That was a long time ago.

I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss my youth. I surely do. I miss the fancy cars, and now I can’t tell one car from another. But who needs those cookie cutter cars that still spit poison into the atmosphere?

Who would have believed that a man with the values of Donald Trump could run for president in the United States and that it would be possible, of all things, for him to win? The world is changing; solutions slip away from us; it’s getting worse all the time.

I mean, we have computers and cellphones and people take “selfies,” pictures of their food and videos of their cats and dogs, but what else is happening? Cops are still killing black kids, black men go to jail and the mentally ill, the homeless and the addicted still don’t have the services they need. Meanwhile, corporate CEOs’ salaries and benefits are in eight or nine figures and growing all the time. There is no middle class; there’s the 1% and everybody else.

But then again, I’m just one grumpy old guy who isn’t particularly sad that he doesn’t feel like he fits in anymore. I probably don’t have many years left. I didn’t particularly take care of myself when I was young. I’m hoping though that some of you young folks have some ideas to stop the depressing trends in our politics and our economy. I’m just putting in my time these days, hoping that my grandchildren will know some of the good things in life that I enjoyed when I was young.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

Top