Elijah Nature Boy and the Rollerblades

walked to work and dude 2 in the santorum hat and blades was taking picture of dude 1 in denim kilt. dc is magical.


The line up


I've been in DC for around two months now. Walking home from work late tonight towards the red-line. Took the escalator down. Slid my metro ticket into the machine. Walked down the stairs towards the tracks.

I was standing waiting for the train and a man was sitting on the marble bench behind me. Hunched-over, sleeping. Or blacked out. Or both.

The most honest thing I've heard so far?

He woke up, coughed and cleared his throat. He stared at me and said: "the world's a scary fucking place".

It's an honor to be here. I don't know what else to say.



This morning I went to an informal discussion to listen to Agnes Kirabo, the National Coordinator for Food Rights Alliance in Uganda. The title of the talk was "Lasting Solutions to End Hunger: a Ugandan Perspective", but again, there wasn't any real structure to the talk. It was just a relaxed "questioning and answering". The round-table listeners dug into their catered cardboard box lunches with falafel-wraps and individually packaged cookies and baked pita-chips.

Each one of the sincerely concerned audience members sat listening--strategizing and synergizing for solutions to world hunger--with their own, hermetically sealed, mass produced, fair-trade certified, plastic entombed, organic, Mediterranean-Mexican infused sandwich wraps. An authoritative Ugandan activist was sitting across the table describing injustices that lead to inequalities that lead to poverty and hunger.

The good looking woman sitting next to me, with dark hair and an "ethnically" designed shoal wrapped over her shoulders was nodding her head rythmically as she listened to Ms. Kirabo--expressing heart-felt empathy and compassion as she slowly wrinkled through her pita-chips bag. Crinkling and crunching and eating loudly.

The other woman in front and to the left of me was doing the same. Rummaging though her waxed-carboard box with hygenic, food-grade tissue paper wrappings to see if any chip or sandwich trailings had escaped her vigilant eye-balls. The more she tried to be quiet, the louder and more awkward and more drawn-out it became. She turned her head, scrunched her shoulders, and pursed her lips saying "sorry" with embarrassment. But she didn't stop.

It was more amusing then annoying. And besides the context is this: today was an absolutely amazing opportunity to sit with representatives from some of the largest humanitarian organizations on earth. Each one of them more knowledgable and experienced than me--by orders of magnitude and light-years and whatnot. Each one of them has sincerely and absolutely dedicated their careers, if not their lives, to help people in dire-straits.

But the irony or contradiction was there nonetheless. And for me, it couldn't be ignored.
My schedule for the next four months largely consists of going to awesomely interesting panel discussions and lectures on the topic of global hunger and food security. Yet it's strange to be in such a wealthy area, speaking with very influential people and receiving free promotional material and lunches, all in the name of hunger.  And it's not guilt or misplaced pity or confused teen-aged angst. The other day I spoke with an older woman who worked for a company promoting technological literacy amongst the elderly. She told me her company needed a blog and so they hired a college-intern...The same itch of irony or contradiction or what-have-you... If I can cross-pollinate: these two instances are similar in that they exemplify or embody a central disconnect that's symptomatic of a larger more noxious problem.

We sat today in the conference room with a passion to make a profound difference in the world. But does any of it matter considering the fundamental rift between myself and--say--a poor, hungry person living in Uganda? How much of my theorizing about land rights and private property laws and climate change mitigation policies and eco-colonialism and community resilience really translates to a more equitable good; to more understanding? And how much of it is just a verbosely veiled acknowledgment that there's an inseparable divide between cultures and human experience--and we can never mind the gap... A profound chasm that can't be crossed, and so on...

We sat today talking about hunger while we were gorging ourselves with food that has been machine-constructed to taste so unnaturally incredible and jam-packed with nutrients that it's actually offensive. My felafel and my coke on ice is a sign of egregious excess. How can we even have a simple conversation with other cultures when our most cursory behaviors are dowsed with obliviousness and arrogance? How can we talk about equality when even my sandwich is contributing to disparity?

Late at night, I typically massage my muscles that are sore from sitting in an ergonomic chair for too long. I wipe my brow of internet-sweat and caress my ego with thoughts of suffering and how it's totally relative. And how we all experience happiness and hardship and how that's the tie that binds humanity. But it's not.

When we talk of world hunger, with droopy eyes, and shaking heads while unabashedly inhaling chips and Cokes, it's clear that even the best of us are the problem. My life, no matter how much I devote it to saving children in Zimbabwe, or helping old blind ladies in Sri Lanka, will always be an impediment for others. And my good deeds won't be marked as altruism but instead as propaganda and aggrandizement. I have this sinister feeling that modern manifestations of hunger and poverty aren't problems on the margins. That is to say, they can't be fixed with minor tweaks to the current system. And so any attempt to address hunger and poverty without acknowledging the systemic and structural inequalities our own lives create is wholly insincere. Without sounding too melodramatic: the central issue is my waking breath and how success and wealth seems to demand subjugation and sorrow.