Monday, November 26, 2007

SAVAGE STEW AND AMBROSE BIERCE FROM ACROSS CYBERSPACE:
More Baseball, Yakking Cats, and How Communication Technologies Shape the World

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- She said she was just bored.

I'd wondered about the text message she'd sent, one of about five from the infamous 323 Area Code Thursday morning, a strange Happy Turkey Day!!! Gobble-Gobble, Jason! :P sent at exactly 4:48 a.m. Pacific Time - arriving here instantly, in Ohio, just after breakfast.

Bored outta my skull. If you're still alone today call me.

Bored in the City of fucking Angels, right smack dab in the middle of striking Hollywood and fire-riddled Malibu, a freeway away from Pasadena and an afternoon train from Santa Barbara.

Her boyfriend had flown back to his parents' house for the holiday, back to the rugged confines of the western Rockies. Her own family was on the road, somewhere, plans made long before an unavoidable work stoppage shut down Tinseltown.

A nice brunch in Beverly Hills would be her only holiday feast, with a girlfriend and an out-of-work set painter.

* * * *

It's funny how Americans like to pretend that the third Thursday in November somehow means something to the rest of the goddamn planet, how we pretend for a day that the Pilgrims and Native Americans really did get along in peace, liked watching football, and traded guns for corn until the advent of shopping malls 400 year later.

Chatting online earlier in the week, my texting actor managed to make Los Angeles sound like the loneliest ghost town in America on Thanksgiving, as if the city would shut down like some rural Wyoming village of a few dozen people.

Very melodramatic, but, well, she's in the drama business...

* * * *

I'd planned on spending the day by myself, reading and watching movies. I turned down several offers to dine with other people's families, in fact, to enjoy the solitude.

I even cooked myself a monstrous pot of turkey sausage stew, put some Calexico on the stereo and settled on a collection of Ambrose Bierce stories while the Limas and kidney beans melted into the meat, fresh sage, onion, and dill weed.

Calexico gave way to some documentary on public television as the stew reduced, public television beget dinner and a DVD, dinner beget dishes to the soothing sounds of Wendy O. Williams, NOFX, and Bad Religion. I cleaned up the stove and countertops to the tune of the Warren Zevon's "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner"....

Just chillin'. Thursday, I was just thankful to be alive, alone, and without any sort of drama in my life. And I just chilled away an entire day, happy as a clam.

Just as I finished rereading the Bierce's anti-war classic, "Chickamauga," she sent yet another series of texts - again, bored in L.A. after brunch and already halfway through everything stored on her TiVo. Reading the last message, an apology for bothering me, I finally got around to at least beginning to make those follow-up holiday calls I'd been putting off all day.

Starting with the first text of the day, I called back a poor, not-so-starving actor trapped out in the 323, a thespian with nothing better to do on a Thanksgiving in Los Angeles than to subtly hint at the fact that she'd like to chat with a certain librarian/blogger/loner in Oxford Fucking Ohio...

* * * *

We spent the first two and a half hours talking mostly about baseball.

Yes, baseball. Off-season stuff.

Joe Torre, the new Dodgers skipper. Do the Chavez Ravine boys stand a chance, now that L.A. has once again stolen something from old Gotham, a Bronx manager to accessorize their former Brooklyn ballclub? And of another Joe, Cincinnati's Joe Nuxhall... did I get any feedback from the local Reds fans? Did anybody in Oxford Fucking Ohio say anything about it?

Besides being bored, she wanted to verify that, yep, the Zenformation Professional Jason was indeed the same Ohio Jason who'd finally sent his number - discreetly - through a mutual offline acquaintance. And to say she was shocked that we'd met once, at a Central Coast bistro a few years back, through that same acquaintance, would be an understatement.

"You know, dude, you go on these mini-rants where I have no clue what the hell you're talking about. You sound a lot like I imagined you to sound, like you write...

"...And I can tell you used to be in radio. You should try XM or something."

I tried to be entertaining, tried to be a good conversationalist. I've been slipping a bit, having spent a good portion of the last two months in serious dental agony, unable to even speak clearly without slurring or drooling for two weeks.

But, for the most part, I listened. When you're not accustomed to solitude, being alone on a silly holiday can make anybody feel as if they're the last human being on the planet - it's easy to forget things like telephones and the Internet when one is down on themselves.

And, yes, And she just wanted someone, anyone, to talk to her, like an real human being and not some - ugh! - girl from TV! One of her cats has been ill, hakking and yakking up scores of hairballs. Some creepy hippie at the organic market where she shops followed her to her car and almost got pepper-sprayed for insisting that the Burning Man must be followed, at all costs.

She needs a new stylist, one who doesn't yap like a chihuahua about customers behind their backs. And her new Hybrid car doesn't sound right...

And her sick cat ... he yakked up something... while she was driving the I-405 freeway ... in the passenger seat... Oh God, the smell...

* * * *

Only non-relative I talked to all Thanksgiving Day, not counting an interview, via Skype, for a very un-librarian job in Glasgow, Scotland, at just past 2:30 p.m. GMT and an unscheduled online chat with an ex living just outside of Paris.

Hell, my sister was in Southern California herself when I called, my parents six hours up the coast, and my grandmother, back in Virginia and once again able to drive after her near-fatal accident, was making her way through Downtown Richmond traffic to dine with her boyfriend's kinfolk.

Small world, really. Damned thing just keeps shrinking like a wet sweater in a hot dryer.

But at least through our ability to adapt to our situations, to adopt and explore new technologies, and to look inside of ourselves, into our own abilities to share our experiences and to listen to the experiences of others, we're never really that alone in this brave new world.

Thanks to all the changes in our global information infrastructure over the last hundred years, we've witnessed changes so dynamic that the very fabric of humanity has become intertwined with the crackling pulses of electrified airwaves and the miles of cable beneath our feet. Not for everyone yet, sure. But for hundreds of millions of people, the greatest experiment in information-sharing the world has ever seen has already become a way of life.

Rarely are we ever as alone as we feel. When we feel the walls closing in, when we feel abandoned, when a solitary holiday seems like a prison sentence, there's almost always a good book waiting to be read, a community park open, a mountain to climb, a film to watch, or -

- Or somebody to talk to when you're just bored, even if they're on the other side of the world.

We should all be thankful for that.

- # # # -

13 comments:

Coyotemike said...

Ahh, solitude. There are many times when I just have to lock the door, turn off the phone, shut off the computer and let the world take care of things without me for awhile.

G said...

Nice musical accompaniment for Thanksgiving. "Rarely are we ever alone as we feel" - a hard lesson for many. Good read as always. Be well.

jacob said...

Just catching up. I hear you.
I can only hope for some alone time. Not the same alone,, is it.

cooper said...

I've never thought Thanksgiving meant anything to the rest of the world.

solitude I like, but not everyone in the whole world has equal access to technology to be thankful for.

I hope your holiday was all yu wanted it to be.

curiositykiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
curiositykiller said...

I felt that way before, but after a couple of years, solitude isn't so much fun anymore.

Obviously it's different when there are invitations, and instead you choose not to be among companies...

It's always nice to have options, eh?

The ZenFo Pro said...

Mike:
You know, I think it really is one of those perks that comes with experience. You just learn to appreciate solitude a bit more. I've always envied my dad, for example, because he spent two years in his mid-twenties living alone in a remote lighthouse on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Scared my grandparents to death, because, well, he didn't see anything wrong with going a few weeks without speaking to a non- Park Ranger...

G:
Yeah, for some reason, all last week, Zevon kept coming up in casual conversation. Thanks, and you too, chica :)

Jacob:
Heh. Everybody needs their own alone time, dude.

Cooper:
Sadly, most folks do. Just because somebody in another country knows about the stupid holiday, doesn't necessarily mean that they give a shit about how much money Americans waste on Black Friday or which Macy's float looked prettier.

Heh. Well, I never said anything about equal access. But, actually, about 5 in 6 human beings on this planet have at least some access to the oldest currently used ICT - telephony and radio signal receivers. That's why I said Global Information Infrastructure, and not World Wide Web. The Web's the baby, a product birthed by the Papa Radio/Microwave and telephone line. Sad thing is people in the More Developed World forget that sometimes.

Betcha were just thinking about this pesky Internet, huh? :P

Killer:
Well, too much solitude can be a bad thing for some folks. For me, well, the older I get, the less I rely on others to determine my emotional state. But, yeah, options are indeed nice.

Liberality said...

Black Friday is made up just like Thanksgiving was made up. So is cyber Monday. The more society tries to elicit a certain response from me (buy lots of food and stuff yourself, buy x-mas presents now, buy stuff online today) the less likely I am to do it. I do so like being contrary. Glad you got to spend your time off doing what you wanted. We all need that gift from time to time.

pia said...

My comment didn't take. It was long and good

Great post as always Jason

I haven't left yet and thought I would feel sentimental and do a bit but I'm so wired....I'm bringing my damn 212 area code with me

Ting said...

Well, still wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving. I thought all Americans eat Thanksgiving dinner with their families? no?

Did you know that Ning was in Oxford for a weekend a couple of weeks ago? I didn't ask her if she saw you or not. She was surprised to find out that Cindy got married.

anyway, hope everything's going well. I'm busy as hell with school, baby, family... Very jealous of your alone time!

take care
Ting

Cooper said...

I have to laugh at the "My comment didn't take. It was long and good"

I have that problem a lot with blogger, but pia saying "my comment didn't take is just funny".

I'm glad you took five seconds out of your busy day to stop by.

xboxgirl said...

"Small world, really. Damned thing just keeps shrinking like a wet sweater in a hot dryer." Yeah, it, sometimes, can really seem that way.

and

"When we feel the walls closing in, when we feel abandoned, when a solitary holiday seems like a prison sentence, there's almost always a good book waiting to be read, a community park open, a mountain to climb, a film to watch, or -

- Or somebody to talk to when you're just bored, even if they're on the other side of the world.

We should all be thankful for that."
I'm not religious, but amen to that.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lib:
Yeah, not a fan of the consumerist bullshit, either.

Lol, which reminds me...

You're probably gonna love my "Christmas Card."

Pia:
Lol, these last few weeks have made it damned near impossible for anybody, I think, to get their comments to take.

Ting:
Hi Mama Girl! Long time no hear! Hope the baby's doing well... and so's your hubby.

Not everybody celebrates it, no. I kinda got soured to it when I realized, well, we tend to give more thanks for our own gluttony than our fellow man. There are guys in Iraq who haven't seen their families in 18 months, and I've see mine twice a year. Heck, they're the ones who need the holiday...

What the heck was she doing back here? Lol, once you escape, you're not supposed to sneak back into prison ;)

Coop:
My... are you missing me? Lol... sorry I've been swamped. Facing firing squads at work, too...

Xbox:
Yes ma'am :)