Well, that was peculiar. As noted, something just knocked me flat yesterday. Went to bed at 4 and stayed there until 9:30, with Gnat tending me for most of the evening. She got me crackers, water, medicine, read me stories – including a gripping tale of Hello Kitty’s school play – and gave me shots with her toy hypo. I must have taken fifteen shots. All hail the placebo effect: by 9:30 I was well enough to rise. The chills were done, the aches were beginning to subside, and I was starved. Ate soup, the Great Comforter, and spent the night by the fireplace watching “Clear and Present Danger,” a not-entirely good 90s adaptation of a Clancy novel. I like Harrison Ford, but he spends most of the movie refusing to act, for reasons unclear to the audience. It’s an interesting lessons in the priorities of another time: wiretap all you like, O Omnipotent CIA, but don’t you guys dare send commandos to interfere with Columbian drug dealers. Why? Because it would be an illegal war that would soon become ANOTHER VIETNAM.
Lucky us, to live in an age where the very concept of an “illegal war” has moral weight. Most do not have the luxury. He said, sonorously.
Anyway. Went to bed, retiring to the guest room so my thrashings and fevered moans disturbed no one. The room was hot; the heat was on. I lacked the strength to rise and change my situation, so I laid there and basted. A large portion of the night concerned itself with questions of heat and discomfort, but they didn’t have thed ripe throbbing characteristics of fever dreams. Nevertheless, I awoke at 3 with a sense of purpose and clarity: I knew that whatever I’d been fighting, I’d won. Rolled over to check the alarm. Gnat had put Amazing Amanda in the bed. I activated her by rolling over, and it began: Good morning mommy! The little hand is on the three and the big hand is on the 12! What should I wear? Surprise me! I love you.
Go to sleep, I muttered.
Amanda sleepy. (YAWN)
And no fever dreams resulted from that, thank God. So I’m fine. I mean, if I can make it through a night at Chuck E. Fargin’s, with the bad pizza and gangrenous-foot parmesan and vague whiff ‘o’ barf, I’m fine. But I couldn’t write today. There was enough lingering fog in my brain to prevent stringing words together in the accustomed fashion, so I canceled a column for next week and took it easy. Picked up the kid – she was running around the gym at school, breathless, rosy-cheeked; she saw me and ran full-speed, nearly knocking me over. “How’s your tummy?” she asked.
“What’s that mean?”
“I’m not entirely sure, actually, but it’s good.”
“So we can go to Chuck E. Cheese’s?’
Ah to be five, when you can say Yippee and really mean it. We had the usual night – I met my old nemesis, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 pinball machine, a really crappy table, but I enjoy giving it whatever punishment I can. We played air hockey, and two boys wandered by to watch: “She’s really good,” said one. Gnat glowed like a nuclear fuel rod after that. When I made the pizza order I met the latest in a series of short-term clerks – the managers abide, but the rest of the staff turns over every other week, it seems. This time the clerk was a young and quite elegant Somali woman with great regal dignity. The manager was chiding her for putting her money in the wrong slots – she was mixing up the fives and tens, to say nothing of putting some bills face down. I should note that the Somali woman’s English was better than the manager’s Somali. She had enough of an accent that I imagine she came over with her parents or perhaps a husband, and how peculiar this place must have seemed. I try to imagine myself at her age, coming from a hot dry ethnically homogenous place, now standing behind a counter in a frozen suburb with a million machines clanging all around, seeing people of every hue and tongue, thinking: well, this is different. (As the Scandinavian woman of my time would put it.)
My bill came to $14.18; she gave me a fiver, four nickels, and six pennies. “I am out of change,” she said.
I nodded, smiled, took my cup and milk, and walked back to our table. That still cracks me up: I don’t have enough change, but here’s some, there you go, goodbye. This may be her first retail job in the states, I think. Was it worth the extra coins to ask for the manager? No, it was not.
To paraphrase the old joke about the New York Times headline – aw, nevermind.
I (heart) the modern world. This is the coolest application of mark-of-the-beast technology yet: getting barcodes sent to your cell phone that act as movie tickets. Of course. OF COURSE, why not? I haven’t stood in line for a ticket in a long time – I get them from the kiosk in the lobby well in advance, because I hate lines of any sort. On the other hand, it moves us towards the depopulation of the theater staff; I still remember ticket booths, not counters – some poor soul locked in a capsule under the marquee, doling out tickets from a great spool. Then there’s the fellow who rips the ticket in half – not exactly a demanding job, but it always seemed to have authority. Only I can rip the ticket. Should you rip the ticket, it is useless. By destroying it, I fulfill its value. Hail me, for I am the Head Usher. These will be anachronisms soon enough, and one more human interaction, heretofore ubiquitous, will replaced with a beep and a green light.
Wow: from techno-glee to rueful nostalgic regret in one paragraph. That’s a record.
Enough; I may be better, but I’m not 100%. I did manage to mutter out a podcast tonight, though. Nineteen minutes. Warning: contains a small portion of child towards the end. Also Spiro Agnew, as well as a survey of old radio top-of-the-hour news introductions. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Monday. (Or tomorrow, if you hit the Quirk on weekends.)
And here's your podcast. Or rather, mine.