Our computer has now been broken for almost two weeks (did you miss us?). The Apple store say we’ve lost everything from our hard drive. On Thursday our neighbor Cassidy, whose house we have been using to cook in, got his water shut off for non payment of bills, so for the moment our one little Oasis has temporarily dried up, adding an extra, tangible air of dying-in-the-desert-hopelessness to our already vulnerable and squalid existence. To top things off we ran out of money yesterday and owing to an impromptu screaming fit courtesy of ‘Harper Communications’ I am now walking around with half a hair cut. All of these things, combined of course with the ever-inescapable sweltering heat and the revelation that Sam’s mother thinks I am a dead beat Dad have compacted my mood of late into a dry pancake of heartlessness. Something had to give, so while Sam and the kids went for a meal at a friends house – I felt I could not sit still – I decided to kill and eat a rooster that’s been hanging around the neighborhood.
It all happened really quickly. About a week ago, Cassidy and his friend Nathan and I coerced the cockerel into our coop in an effort to make more chickens, but after pecking the hens and stealing all their food we decided he was useless for breeding and we let him go. Since then he’s been sniffing around, crowing, and since Cassidy’s Haitian neighbor didn’t get him yet we thought we’d have a go. I was sat in Cassidy’s garden grumbling over the post I will put up shortly after this one when we realized that the light was fading and that if we wanted to eat we had better get this thing going on. We walked up and down the street, but couldn’t see him. Then, just as I was saying it wasn’t meant to be and that I wish he would just strut out right infront of us, we turned a corner and there he was, perched ontop of an old couch on the other side of the fence with skirts the field that runs aong the West side of the railway tracks. I ran back to the bus to grab and sharpen my knife. Having never done this before I was apprehensive, more so when I realized people were watching and an acute sense of guilt – the kind that feels like you’re going to get caught for murder – took hold.
Cassidy had the idea of chasing the bird up to the bus and letting Richard’s dogs do the killing for us. I was still contemplating taking a life and although death-by-dogs seemed like a horrible way to go I absently agreed – at the very least we would be away from any kind of audience. The bird complied initially, running north along the fence, but after Cassidy accidentally hit it in the face with a mop it became frantic and we feared our advantage was lost. Just as I was about to make a plea on its behalf and call it a day it ran behind the couch and in a moment I pushed the couch back against the fence, trapping it.
Encircling the fence, knife in shaking hand, I came upon him. Quiet now, submissive. Kneeling on him through the fence I placed the mop end behind his head with my left hand, with my right I slid the knife up to his throat. Time seemed to stop as a powerful moment of communion twixt man and bird occurred, narrated by Cassidy who spouted various mantras along the lines of “if you start it, you’ve got to be prepared to finish it”. After a few mumbled words reminiscent of Avatar I thrust the knife forward and held it there. As the blood poured out we were both as still as one another. A minute or so past and when I felt sure the fight was over I stabbed it repeatedly in the neck from my vantage in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to remove its head. All was quiet again, but when I stood up to come around the fence the bird thrashed to life in a gruesome, uncoordianted display of flapping and gurgling. Mercifully this did not last long and for the next few moments Cassidy and I held it down simply with our palms, breathing heavily.
Plucking and gutting the bird was not an issue. Even its warmth, shitty anus and odd feathery hollowness did not turn my stomach. But I did feel woozy, lightheaded, but more I think from the exhaustion of the act than any physical response to the gore involved – kind of like getting a tattoo. All night I felt different, strange, firmer. At one point, when I locked the meal inside the oven on a clean cycle, we freaked out over the thought of charred remains and a pointless death, but generally the mood was reflective, not somber or shocked at all, just thoughtful.
After a while it occurred to us that what I had done could be considered a right of passage, and that in today’s society we do not present our children with this opportunity as we no longer see the need. We have become a society of convenience where instead of being accountable, developed, experienced individuals we prefer to pay someone else to our work for us. As a result, some now have no opportunity for a right of passage, while others, specifically those who work in abattoirs, perhaps have too much. We have lost a connection with life, gone too far down a path of mindless consumption, obsessed by luxury and vulnerable to the failure of technology that we do not even understand. Our opinions of what is acceptable and to some extent even valuable on a personal level have been skewed by little more than a few generations of ignorance (now thankfully somewhat in decline) and increasing isolation (sadly spiraling out of control). As we move back and forth from germ obsessed patriots, united, to xenophobic, estranged, and largely unsatisfied individuals, divided, the systems to which we adhere, blindly rely upon, and nurture mindlessly, betray us by poisoning our environment and forcing us to work our lives away for a currency, which apart from granting us supplanted dreams, serves mainly to provide an excuse for not learning and/or doing that which possession of it has rendered all but obsolete.
So now, even though we are broke, I can still provide for my family, and most importantly take full responsibility for those provisions having gained the confidence to be able to kill. Awful though it might seem, masked beneath the beauty of nature’s world is one simple and ‘ugly’ truth, that life must take life in the interest of life itself, and while I still might not feel quite right with it, I know that what I did I did out of necessity and that if I had to I could do it again.
Over the next few months Cassidy will be attempting to impart his knowledge of permaculture to me so that I will have the skills to grow food quickly in any climate. As we depend less and less on money for life, life seems more and more fruitful. Opportunity hangs from the trees, hides in the soil, swims in the rivers. Later Mateo and I are going fishing with a hand line. Maybe we will catch dinner. Maybe we will go hungry. Either way I have to say that I prefer the uncertainty, excitement and challenge much more that the predictability of a paycheck. How dull our lives were before. Security definitely has its place, but without the perspective to appreciate it for what it is, it can be wholly smothering.
In many ways I can see how a man who jeopardizes the well-being of his family by living in poverty on a stationary bus with no prospects for employment might earn the title ‘dead beat Dad’, but the reality is that Sam and I walked into this situation together, as partners, and despite my tyranny we remain committed to support each others needs and the needs of our children, who are healthy and happy. Carrying a pan of potato water today down the road this morning to Cassidy’s house (which we learned last night that he is squatting) I was struck by the beauty of sufficiency and labor, and felt a great sense of pride for what we were doing. Sadly, however, in spite of our our triumphs, our sacrifices and our passion, there are many who give little credence to what we are doing. Mainly because we seem irresponsible, but also because while they can imagine it, they have no real way of understanding what it means.
Keep up to date with happenings at Cassidy’s living permaculture experiment, 4th Ave. Ag., here.
(Mateo and I caught 7 fish! Mainly Snapper. Grilled and seasoned with key limes from Cassidy’s garden).