I have received a pitch
from Peninsula Open Space, an eminently worthwhile NGO that has systematically
done what the government should have done. Buying up lands in the hills and
along the coastline of the increasingly crowded countryside south of San Francisco. What the
British would call a green belt. Here, the situation being more of a green
scarf, such is the geography. I like everything about the pitch from this
organization. What is there to say except this land is your land, this land is
my land, no man is an island…so give us some money to buy more of it. Land,
that is. Until we build it up and up, this mercantile-free zone in which nature
predominates, and Walmart does not. And they are not fucking around, these
people. Their minimum donation, at least the options available on their mailer,
is $100. Which gives me pause, but not much. No, the only problem with
Peninsula Open Space has to do with space itself. I’m having a hard time
defining one from the other. Where I draw the line. Meaning, faced with the
obvious problem of general disaster all around, a yawning need for worthy
contributions in every imaginable area…. And I feel I am responsible.
Responsible for just about everything. If I don’t help, who will? What will
become of the world, without my assistance and intervention? As I say, I am
having trouble defining space. Mine, versus virtually everyone else’s.
Save the Bay. Save the
Whales. Save the date…any number of dates, actually, for any number of worthy
organizations. Take the World Affairs Council. Somehow, I actually joined this
organization, and now? Well, they host public speakers, run seminars, generally
conduct forums on the global state of things. Eminently worthy, of course. But
their goings-on have a way of going on in the center of San Francisco, not to mention on nights when
the Menlo Park Chorus has other things in mind for me. And can I let down the
bass section? I mean, have I no sense of responsibility? That I have no voice
in the matter, acknowledging the presence of a thin baritone, untrained and
unreliable, seems obvious. I mean, you sign up for a chorus, and you had better
turn up for a chorus, right? Space. Chorus space. MySpace. In your face.
Which brings us to
Facebook. Another source of guilt. People keep trying to friend me, of course.
Which unnerves me on so many levels as to render this person catatonic. Friend,
verb transitive, is acquiring as diverse a set of meanings as ‘fuck.’ Except
that the latter ranges from affectionate intimacy to hostile aggression, and
the Facebook verb spans possibilities as rich as membership in the Safeway
Club. So, the whole area sets my teeth on edge. And yet I keep getting these
notices that someone has done something to my wall. Graffiti. Pissing on it.
Testing it for earthquake safety. I don’t know. And I really wouldn’t care,
except that, well, these communiqués emanate from people such as my cousins in
upstate New York.
I really would like to at least say hello, but do I really have to be up
against the wall? Whatever ‘the wall’ is? And, believe me, I really have tried.
But ‘the wall’ doesn’t make sense. I don’t write things on my walls at home.
Why should I do this on screen? Yes, I know, it is a metaphor. But I don’t like
it, this metaphor. It doesn’t work. Except that some walls are weight-bearing,
and this one isn’t. Which still leaves me where I started, with guilt, or a
throbbing sense of responsibility. For people are trying to contact me, be
friendly. And what am I being, except for churlish, curmudgeonly, not to
mention extremely out of it. Because in truth I do want to share space with
these people. Just not cyberspace. When someone says ‘up against the wall,
mother fucker,’ surely they can’t be thinking pixels.
This problem with
boundaries emanates from my childhood, of course. As soon as my parents started
fighting, they started confiding in, you guessed it, the oldest and most
verbally precocious candidate available. Neither parent seemed to have much
grasp of the fact that I was a kid and could be expected to have anything like
a life. Mine was a 24-hour a day job, mother cheerer, father listener, marriage
saver. Family protector. There wasn’t much space. No wonder I’m a little
confused about what to do about Open Space. Except space out. And, I have
decided, share space with the people I have already given money to at the World
Affairs Council. The Bay? Let someone else save it. The Peninsula?
It will have to save itself. The world? Simple. I have decided to friend it.