Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Less Than Ergonomic Set-Up

I wonder if the irony that's going to be lost on the generations of the next millennium is that they won't have a record of us with which to look back on and laugh as the minuscule slice of humanity that occupied themselves regularly by sitting in front of electronic screens in an effort to connect with one another and record their lives. If Hemingway hadn't killed himself when he did, the internet most surely would have driven him to it, had he lived to see it.

And yet, here I am. I'm still trying to figure out why. It's partially novelty. When I moved into my apartment three and a half years ago I didn't even have a working cell phone in the place. I had to walk down the street to the corner in order to get reception. That went on for months. It was me, and my stereo, and that was it. No t.v. No phone. No internet connection and a laptop that eventually stopped working altogether. I did switch cell phone carriers eventually. And for a time watched movies on my laptop before it bit the dust inside my closet. After my company was sued by a former employee I was left with a windfall of money that I'd apparently earned according to the state of California. This was last summer. Just about the time I was beginning to shoot more of my projects digitally. So I invested in a new computer. A desktop. First one I've owned, well, ever. First one I've used since college, so the better part of a decade. They didn't make computers like this when I was in college. And I'm glad they didn't, because I never would have left the room. I almost feel sorry for college kids these days, the irony being, I work with them. I'm sure there's a greater irony here that I'm missing that has something to do with my feeling sorry for kids that are able to attend college, or my allowing myself that emotion given that I'm only at the end of my twenties. Not even out of those woods yet.

Which brings me to an entirely unrelated point- I have very little idea of how almost anything works. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. There are a few things I know something about. Photography. Literature. Organizing. There are many things I know very little about, but love to pretend like I do- physics, philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, etc. There are a couple of things I know pretty well- how to make friends, how to be a friend, how to come on too strong with a girl I'm excited about, saying goodbye, throwing a party. I know how to do the Charleston. I know how to make a gin & tonic. I know how I like to hold a record and the way I like to turn its edge along the length of my thumbs and forefingers as I look closely at its jet black surface for scratches and fractures. I know what it's like to love someone that doesn't love me. I know what it's like to be loved by someone that I don't love.

I suppose as I get older I notice most that the things that used to scare the hell out of me don't scare me nearly as much as they used to and the things I never thought much about are beginning to scare the hell out of me. Getting old. Being alone. Not getting to see the world I've been dreaming about for all of these years. I picture myself in an unbuttoned, short-sleeved, linen t-shirt with a pair of sunglasses in the pocket and wearing my cut-off jeans and a fedora. I'm eating a peach that would have been too ripe had I let it go another hour. One bite has ripped it apart and its flesh is draped over the heel of my hand and I'm standing on the dock in a pair of flip flops near the Mediterranean. I've got a brown paper bag full of those peaches in my right hand pinched against the frigid emerald sweating glass bottle of carbonated water and the sun is a shattered sheet of glass on the water and there are children running along the dock and diving into the water and they are screaming and there are elderly people sitting in chairs bathing in the sun and some are playing a card game and no one speaks English well and I set down my things but leave on the shirt and dive into the water too.

Maybe computers are no different than books. Maybe we need to escape. Even from the people we love and the places we call home. Even from the good of it. I sat down to write about locking my keys in the truck I'm borrowing this morning. That cost me $165. That could feed so many children. And what was the first thing I wondered? How nice is the dinner that i could have had? That's what happens. We sit in front of these computers and it gets easier and easier to think that we're connected, because we can see it, right there, in front of us. I would trade my computer to kiss the woman I love, to be with her, to wake up with her (even though she hates sharing the bed). I would trade my computer to lie on that dock, to have the men and women and children of that village greet me in the morning with their pats on the back and their running about me on their way to school. To feel the sun on my back and the rain on my neck. To be able to sit on the porch at the end of the evening and watch a thunderstorm. I say I would trade my computer for these things but I sit at my computer and I write about them and I long for them and I wonder how far away I push them.


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I keep a copy of Bertrand Russell's autobiography next to my bed.