Last night I had a dream that there was this phone service where you could call a number and say where you wanted to go back in time to and POOF you would go back in time. I chose to go to 1990 here in the good old West Des Moines - specifically, I drove around the area near our old house. Unsurprisingly, it was a lot emptier, not to mention a little warped; for instance, I don't believe there was ever a Denny's near our old house.
Eventually I got tired of driving around West Des Moines circa 1990, so I found a playground. The rules with this time traveling service was that to go back to your original place in time, you couldn't be touching anything. That means no standing on things, too. So I climbed to the top of the playground and called the number and pressed one to say that I wanted to go back to the present. Then I jumped.
And lo and behold, my alarm clock went off, and there I was lying in bed in the good ol' 2009. For approximately five seconds I was utterly convinced I had seriously for real just traveled back in time.
Very rarely do I ever go through my Spam folder on Gmail - and it's even more rare that I ever actually look at any of those messages. Yesterday, though, was an exception. I recently sold something on eBay and was checking to make sure the buyer heard back from me, and I came across this. I have made no modifications to the following email, save a few presses of the enter key to make it look pretty.
The email's subject was:
The Awakening - Your Sexuality
Everything she wanted. Did she express a wish? Was boundto be adjournedo. One can hardly expect the opening political currents of the new administration, so large a horde of indians together, without he also tells us of the finding in poland of a brood on it, though, mrs. Strange. As likely as from that direction.' we all looked at each other. Down.
she was leaning forward now, her hands twisting recklessness of the man brought no check into risk of opposition on the part of the husband's
perhaps you come from mr. Maynard? (maynard & handled by the networking the logical or internet.
It's the only spam email I've ever saved and starred. It made me smile for two reasons: one, it's so weird. And two: it reminds me of surrealist poetry.
Which raises the question: if it's possible for a computer to generate "good" (i.e. enjoyable) surreal poetry, does it make surrealist poets (and thereby surrealist poetry) less valuable/worthwhile?
In case you're unfamiliar, Geocities was one of the first and most popular free webhosts. It flourished throughout the mid-90s to the early 2000s. According to this archived FAQ from Geocites circa 1997, they offered users a staggering two megabytes of webspace. Yeah, in a time in which my email account offers gigabytes of storage space, this all seems terribly quaint, but however: keep in mind that this was (obviously) the pre-Blogger/MySpace/Facebook/YouTube-era. For someone without a lot of tech prowess or money, sites like Homestead, Tripod and Geocites were the only way to go.
I never actually had an account with Geocities, but I can say that during my first few years of interwebbing, a riddiculously huge chunk of the first websites I'd came across were hosted by Geocities. The pages typically looked awful (page designers [if you can call them that] had little to no knowledge of HTML, a love of loud MIDI files on auto-play, flashing text, enough animated GIFs to [literally] make one's computer crash in an act of self defense, and my favorite: redundant little graphics that said "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" - no shit, every webpage is in a state of constant flux) and they took forever to load (thanks, 28K dial-up modem!), but at the time it was frigging awesome. There was just all this stuff out there.
Instead of using Geocities, I briefly used Homestead in early 2001; this was to host a webshow that me and my friends created called Sock-O-Rama. It starred sock puppets.1I ranted a bit about it a couple of years ago; anyway, my point is that a couple of years ago, doing something as elementary as uploading a ten-minute video was a major pain in the ass.
The death of Geocities makes the nostalgic part of me just a little bit bummed. However, I'm not too terribly saddened; for that matter, I don't think anyone should be. Conversely to most funerals, I can't say with certainty whether or not the deceased is in a better place. I can say this, though: sorry, Geocities, but I think we're the ones in a better place now.
1 - I should note that we made about eight ten minute videos over the course of two months. I've toyed with the idea of uploading them to Vimeo or something, but there are two problems. One: the completed AVIs rest on a hard drive that may or may not be fried. Two - and this one is a little less of a concern: it's really embarassing. I realize that this is to be said about most anything one did in fifth grade (or sixth, or seventh, or eighth, ad infinitum - this blog is living proof of this little contention), but the last time I watched the clips with friends, we all had this overwhelming sense of let's-never-speak-of-this-again. That being said: if I manage to one day get ahold of those AVIs, you can be sure that they'll be uploaded to the newer, shinier, 2009-ier internet ASAP.
I am about to head down from North Liberty (home of a friend's sister's house and the most catlike dog I have ever met) to St. Louis (home of arches and stuff) and I was intending to write a more substantial post. Instead, I'd like to distract you with Zach Galifanakis's standup special, Live at the Purple Onion, which is availible in its entirety for free (and legally!) thanks to this new movie thing that YouTube is trying out.
It's very very funny. Galifanakis is great at interacting with audience members in a fashion that is throughougly surreal but not quite totally uncomfortable.
9 AM - We are going to board the plane in about an hour's time. I am sitting in the lobby not too far from the security gates, drinking some coffee and eating a brownie that tastes just okay, styrofoamic consistency aside.
I have always had a tendency to freak out whenever flying on an airplane. When I say the words "freak out" I mean it in the most subdued way possible; cold sweat, heart pounding, wanting to vomit, a feeling between wanting to get on the ground and wanting to die. I realize this all sounds relatively melodramatic, but I'm not exaggerating. I also realize that it sounds like a bit of an overreaction; as a matter of fact, when flying I would try to tell myself that my feelings were completely irrational. This would never do anything, not unlike telling a pissed off woman in labor that "it'll be all over soon."
9:30 AM - I take a low dosage of Vallium. This is standard operating procedure for when I fly. Then I try to read my book.
9:45 AM - For reasons I'm not quite able to articulate, it becomes difficult to focus on my book. This is typical; when I take Vallium it basically acts as a sedative, though it usually doesn't happen this early. For the time being I give up on Walden.
9:50 AM - We board the plane. Since it's Easter, the woman checking our boarding passes is wearing bunny ears. Everyone getting on the plane seems to silently acknowledge this, but no one says anything or smiles. I decide she is the saddest Easter bunny in the world.
She scans my boarding pass and I notice her nametag. Her name is Bonnie. Bonnie the bunny.
Oh Christ. I am trying to hold back a gigantic madman grin from spreading across my face. She hands me back the boarding pass and says thank you have a nice flight. Typically I'd say something back, but I am afraid - no, certain - that I am going to lose it if I open my mouth, so I just nod.
"Did you see that?" I say to my sister. "Bonnie! Bonnie the Bunny!" I begin laughing.
9:55 AM - We find our seats. Still laughing.
10:00 AM - Giggling. I finally stop laughing about the Bonnie the Bunny thing, but only because I'm distracted by something else: the airplane safety diagrams. My sister and I spend a good ten minutes coming up with alternate meanings for the cartoons. "If the door pisses you off, throw it out the window." "If you need fresh air, dangle your legs out of the airplane." "People with square bodies float very nicely." "Do not have a staring contest with the flashing EXIT sign. It will win every time."
My Dad sits behind me. I show him one of the diagrams and explain, "Don't put the airmask on your midget. It can do it on its own."
"I think we need to lower your dosage next time," he replies.
10:11 AM - The stewardess begins her FAA mandated safety spiel. I alternate between spouting God knows what to my sister and apologizing profusely for it. I am not sure if she's amused or annoyed.
10:12 AM - I am using my hand as a puppet. I am moving my hand in sync with the stewardess' dialogue. More giggling.
10:13 AM - I have placed gummy Life Savers over my pointer and ring fingers. Now it looks like my hand puppet has eyes. The left eye is green and the right eye is red My hand puppet relays the safety regulations to my sister, and later to my mom and dad behind me. At this point giggling or smiling seems passe; I instead opt to open my eyes crazy wide.
10:15 AM - I have grown bored with my puppet companion and eat his eyes.
10: 20 AM - Out cold.
12:45 PM (EST) - The plane has landed in Detroit. I have just woken up. For a few moments I am convinced that we haven't taken off yet. It's good to be back.
When I was really young - as in between the ages of four and six - I would often pretend that I was in charge of my own television show. Cameras were hidden everywhere; in fact, there may have been an invisible camera crew too. I would occasionally very quietly address these cameras in a style that could range from matter of fact to lighthearted depending on the situation. It was sort of like The Truman Show in reverse; my life was a TV show except I was the only one who knew about it.
Even in hindsight, I can't tell you how seriously I took the whole thing. The bizarre thing about the game is, that like most childhood fantasies, it existed in a fuzzy plane between imagination and reality. For instance: as a kid I knew I had no reason to be afraid of the dark, but I had a nightlight anyway.
My most clear memory of playing this game - pretending(?) to be the host of my own TV network - was when I was at the visitation for my grandfather's funeral. I was four years old. I remember seeing my grandfather lying there, touching his face - it didn't feel too different from the wooden casket he was in - and proceeding to turn around and file a report with my network.
I don't remember what I said during that report, but my cousin Andrea interrupted me before I could finish it. I remember her saying "This is not a jungle gym," which kind of pissed me off. Yeah, I knew it wasn't a jungle gym. I was just trying to file a report here. It wasn't like I was confusing my grandfather's casket for monkey bars.
I remember a few other things from that visit to Philadelphia. Heading into a Target-esque store before the funeral and being fascinated by a toy firetruck. A giant cathedral. Bagpipes. Watching them carry the casket as my Dad and I sat in the car. It was the first time I'd ever seen him cry.
But I can't remember my grandmother in any of this. She was alive and she was most definitely present; however, of all of the recollections I have of this trip, not one of them involve her.
My grandmother passed away yesterday morning. On Sunday she fell backwards on the concrete steps outside of her house, steps everyone's been warning her about for years. She was taken to a hosptial and remained unresponsive when she got there. After being placed on a ventilator in a comatose state, doctors determined that the fall broke her skull and caused internal bleeding in her brain. This in turn prompted swelling in her brain, which is basically irreversible.
I never expected her to pass away in a long and painful way - she seemed too old and frail to endure months of cancer or the pain of a broken hip - but I have to admit that I'm still surprised by how quickly this all happened. The whole episode took less than twelve hours.
I am fine. I do not exaggerate when I say this. In fact, I'm so alright with the news that I'm a little concerned; I feel like I am obligated to be worring more. Here are some reasons as to why I am not terribly bent out of shape:
Oldness/Expectability - My grandmother was old. The last time I saw her alive was when we visited her this summer. We were dropping her off in front of her hair salon. We said our goodbyes and we drove to the airport and I thought, "This is the last time we will ever see her alive."
Distance - I feel like not a lot of explaining is necessary here. Hearing about something doesn't have the same effect as seeing it firsthand.
Antidepressants - I am skeptical about this one, but the worrywart in me is compelled to at least entertain this possibility. We've all heard the apocryphal stories about the person so zonked out on meds that they don't really feel anything at all; I've experienced nothing like this, but the stories still linger in my mind. Antidepressants do certainly have something of an inarticulable effect; my former therapist said they would take "the edge off" - but then the question is: the edge off what? And what did the edge even look like to begin with? I feel like that's too vague.
David Foster Wallace once wrote of antidepressants: “I’ve been on antidepressants for, what, about a year now, and I suppose I feel as if I’m pretty qualified to tell what they’re like. They’re fine, really, but they’re fine in the same way that, say, living on another planet that was warm and comfortable and had food and fresh water would be fine: it would be fine, but it wouldn’t be good old Earth.”
It's apt, but where the other one was too vague, this one is too extreme. Maybe I'd liken it to this: you walk into a neighborhood and you realize something is a little off. It's not really a bad thing or a good thing, but you can't quite put your finger on it. Then you finally realize that none of the houses have addresses on them. Again, a little weird, but neither good nor bad.
To summarize: this is probably not the reason, but as a worrier I have no choice but to at least consider it, irrational as it is.
Already Gone - When we saw her that summer, she seemed to be lacking the same glow and brightness that she once had four years ago. She had no mental problems, but it was clear that her body was wearing down on her mind. Maybe I've already grieved the loss of her as a person; perhaps the loss of a body doesn't mean a whole lot compared to that.
My Dad was doing his taxes when they called and told us about what happened. Benjamin Franklin once said that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.
It's fitting that Franklin was from Philadelphia. That's where I'm going to be going this Sunday.
She called him into her office. "Have a seat," she said. He sat. "The results of your test came back." "Really? How did I do?" "Take a look."
On the piece of paper there was a bar graph. Each bar hit the exact same invisible line in the middle of the page. "I'm not sure what this means," he said. "Let me try to explain. According to this test, you are perfectly normal. No signs of anything the DSM IV might call abnormal. No depression, no schizophrenia, no OCD, no paranoid tendencies - no tendencies of any kind, actually. According to this test, there's nothing wrong with you at all."
He snorted and shook his head incredulously.
"Wow." "Wow is one word for it. I showed the results to just about everyone in the facility - we have decades of combined experience. And none of us have ever seen anything like this." "Wow," he said again. He smiled. "So I guess that means I get to go home now?" "Not quite," she replied. "Actually, far from it."