Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lakeview Senior Care

I extended my stay in Los Gatos a couple of days for a new project that turned up. After my bacchanal at Whole Foods the other night I took a long walk along the Vasona Reservoir to its southern end where I sat on a bench in Oak Meadow Park and heard, over the din from Highway 17, a new voice in this usually private ether of mine, a special voice among other voices who were struggling, angry and fearful.  I traced the source to a plaster, off-white two-story building on Industrial Way across from where I sat.  In the dusk I was just able to make out the painted and peeling sign: Lakeview Senior Care.

Oy Gevalt
!  as my grandmother would say.  I was set for a front row seat to the final throes that await us all.  Believe it or not the prospect rather cheered me, not, I hope, from schadenfreude (a moot victory in the long run) but from curiosity.  Were there sentient beings trapped in that hideous, loveless white box, so close, tauntingly, to the magnificent sea and mountains, love and beauty so near but worlds away?

I crept into the noisy mix and found, since it happened the women were sleeping, only thoughts from the men of Lakeview, who are tormented night and day by a hormonal imbalance that causes them to feel like randy fifteen year olds.

A startled voice said, "Who are you?"

"Are you reading my mind?"  I was stunned.  The voice was in my head.

"Yes.  Are you reading mine?"

This was the start of my collaboration with Jim, a 94-year-old retired OSHA inspector and resident of Lakeview who, like me, was a telepath who had never met another telepath. You can imagine the interest we've had in each other over the last few days, like two happy dogs sniffing each other's assholes.   I haven't met him in person yet. It's strictly brain on brain.

Jim has all sorts of ailments: walking is painful and slow, his vision is poor, his hearing is poor.  Everything about Jim is poor except his brain, which, as far as Jim and I can tell, is working fine.  And even though the combined functioning of his prostate, testicles and penis does not produce the same daily charge of lust and semen he recalls from youth, the one or two orgasms he manages per week can be surprisingly intense, and unrelenting desire presses upon him even when the ejaculatory charge is low.  Jim tells me that the sex urge never ends for men.  He says it never ends for women either but their hunger is a more subtle disturbance, easier to disguise than the 24-hour male disruption.  

Jim's view is that when, in modern consumer culture, sexuality starts to appear unseemly in middle age (at least to the young, who buy most of the products), it is driven underground, stoking its flames.  Over the years as one demographic of potential lovers after another becomes unavailable forever (by law, custom or physiology), men and women are driven into a private existence of near total deprivation- evolution taking its sweet time in ridding us of vestigial passions.  Jim says that even though his member doesn't work like it used to, his inner soul is beset with desire as much as ever.  Of course the consumer culture looks to make a buck here.  Often the guys in the lobby watch a Cialis commercial together (usually on the evening network news, the source for oldies), and even the non-telepaths feel a communal despair.  One evening an 85 year old woman named Margaret, one of the more cogent residents, told the grumbling men, after a particularly grotesque Cialis ad featuring a woman looking into a man's eyes, pouring an ocean of love into this man, flooding him with love, real love...anyway, listening to some of the men (including Jim) gag and complain, Margaret observed that these commercials are written for women.  Men don't like being described in pathological terms like "dysfunction," and they are skeptical that real love can come from a drug.  Women however are receptive to another message in the ad: By using a drug to get an erection, men are not being vain, futile, pathetic or any of the other negative things that male focus groups associate with the product.  On the contrary, buying and using the drug is itself an act of love, a tribute to the woman's beauty and the man's need for her.  Margaret asserted that once the women are on board, the men follow.

Jim says he sees the same suffering in every kind of man- janitors, school superintendents, doctors, businessmen,  scientists- you name it, in their dotage they sizzle and burn.   Some of the still gregarious guys share their pain as a social experience when they watch local ABC7's weather girl, Sandhya Patel, night after night in the lobby.  The bravado is usually profane:

"I wouldn't kick that number out of bed!"

"You'd never have the chance- a girl like that wouldn't give you the time 'a day!"

"How would you know?  You ever get laid?"

But most of the men keep their suffering to themselves.  Eldon, for instance, who used to work as a dry cleaner, is troubled when Sandhya wears a particular blue knee-length knit dress, especially if it has a narrow belt of blue fabric cinched around her slim waist, the ends hanging down from the knot.  That triggers something in Eldon, who sometimes grabs the arms of his walker to steady the memory surge: the soft, slightly rough fabric over her lap, his hand sliding up her thigh under the soft fabric.  Then Eldon departs into a chemical dream of laps and love.  The overriding emotion is love- albeit associated with the lap/thigh image- rather than lust, although Eldon has an erection during the experience that he will need to deal with at some point.

Mentally strolling through the lobby I surveyed each man's sexual sentence, how each man counted the years of that sentence against the parade of new and beautiful humans swarming around his prison.

Think of it, all across America, all across the world, ugly, loveless holding facilities for relentlessly horny but disabled obsolete males of our species, choking in their death throes at the sight of Taylor Swift on TV and longing for oblivion, at least before the morning meds kick in.  Lakeview Senior Care has taught me to be impatient with our limited paradigm for geriatric care.  Yes, elderly men have their bedpans emptied and their asses wiped, but who empties and wipes their dicks?

The elderly women too feel residues of intense emotions, often about families and homes, long-gone or imaginary.  I did find women who masturbate and think about sex, but it's an occasional need, not a constant eating of their livers as with men- this is why women live longer.  The women remain the more practical of the genders.  When they have dementia, it often concerns cleaning things.  One woman scrubs her desktop all day with an imaginary rag.  In her mind the filth on the desk is all the filth of her life: bad food, bad people, bad men, bad sex, accumulating forever and scrubbed away forever.

The men and women of Lakeview Senior Care have in common that they are cut off from humanity. Each life is isolated, as much as for people in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison up the coast.  The isolation started many years ago, before they were elderly, as they approached retirement age but were ambulatory and lucid, so that by the time they were placed in storage at Lakeview they were well acquainted with their fate.

I've checked out Lakeview's staff.  Some are people with feelings who care for the patients, some are just doing a job they hate.  All the staff receives euphemistic training about creating a productive life for seniors, and all have received practical on-the-job training for running a facility charged with keeping people calm as they wait to die.  The veteran staff have developed considerable skills in this area and are prized both for their acceptance of distracting drugs as a basic right and for a bedside manner that, from the best practitioners, suggests love.  Even the most skilled care, however, does not include masturbatory services.  Some day the medical industry will look upon us as we do upon the Dark Ages.

Jim takes things in stride. He enjoys the visits of a young Pilipino social worker named Karen.  She sits across from him looking pretty and competent, and asks him questions.  Once she asked:

"You wrote that you don't like growing older.  Why is that?"

Jim is used to Karen's scripted comebacks to his expressions of discontent, e.g., "It's important to keep busy.  We've found that seniors can find significant meaning in their lives through expanding their interests," etc, so this time, when Karen asked why he doesn't like growing older, Jim replied, "Because when you grow older you get ugly, stupid and then you die."

Karen turned her cute smile on Jim and chuckled.  Jim read in her thoughts that the comment amused her and she planned to share it later with colleagues.  He cracked a small smile indicating he would not fight her on this.  What could she say, after all- that aging doesn't make you ugly, stupid, and finally dead?

I asked Jim if he had any suggestions to make end-of-life care more supportive.  Jim said that special care workers should come by a few days a week to masturbate the patients, both men and women.  He said he felt strongly that this would go a long way towards alleviating the plight of the elderly, adding that he once invaded Karen's mind to see what it would take to get her to masturbate him.  He found that if there were a course, a certificate and extra pay, she'd have no more problem with it than sticking a catheter in his dick.  

This morning I said goodbye to Jim from my park bench.  I told him I enjoyed his company and would stay in touch, telepathically if not in person.

I had arrived in Los Gatos needing to force myself to care about politics, and I ended up with a new perspective on why politics is irrelevant: It's not about anything.  For instance, no candidate talks about the sexual desert that awaits us all. Understandable, perhaps, since no one talks about it.  If we don't talk about it we don't have to do anything about it, but how much could masturbatory services, to take one example, cost Medicare? Nationwide it would probably cost less than our recent bombing of an Afghan hospital.  Of course cost is not the only, or even primary concern.  We are hamstrung by archaic beliefs, the chief of which is that God loves our suffering, that we deserve it because we are rebellious creatures who have defied Him, so to alleviate our punishments would be to fight God.

Such religious views offer far from a reasonable default position on sexuality in the elderly.  The disappeared cultures of prior humanity had gifts for old age that we can barely imagine.  The "primitive" elderly had life and community.  We have Ambien and Atarax.  Note to the future: If you figure out the plight of the elderly, it stands to reason you will also help the young.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hillary plays Los Gatos Electronics/ The pink cookie

Part I  Hillary plays Los Gatos Electronics

Let me get my review of the Democratic debate over with.  I watched it in the showroom of an electronics store on Los Gatos Blvd. in the eponymous city, where Hillary's face was duplicated fifteen times around the room which, though slightly disorienting in terms of telepathic reception, did allow me to collect the basics.  When Clinton argued that even though she was a first lady, a senator and a secretary of state, she is a Washington outsider because she's a woman, I focused all my energies on her inner thoughts.  There were none.  She was just throwing out a well-rehearsed line.  She already knew who would buy it and who would not- everything was anticipated.  Sanders displayed a similar well-rehearsed delivery accompanied by a similar non-reflective interior.  One note of interest: Buried deep in his left hemisphere, Sanders carries the moment years ago when he figured out that if he did a few mildly radical things in his youth, he could carry the term "progressive" with him the rest of his life.  He foresaw that his colleagues in Congress would tolerate him for opposing the Iraq War and the Patriot Act because he had no expectation of prevailing on those issues. Prevailing would have ruined his career.  I located an archive in Sanders' brain recording a memory in which he figures out how he will use the terms "socialist" and "progressive" for an appreciative electorate in Vermont, then downplay those terms for a national audience. His big anxiety is his cave to gun manufacturers and his opposition to the Brady Bill, which Sanders deemed necessary so that Vermont hunters would not trash his career hopes.  When the NRA gave him a D- because of his lip service to later gun control proposals, he was relieved and uses this D- in all responses to gun control questions.  

I must apologize to readers who were expecting more on the debate.  I found this one really boring and depressing.  What did it have to do with the crises of our species: the disappearance of settled culture, the inability of the state or the global consumer machine to substitute for the missing culture?  Not to mention war and genetic engineering, the unholy twins of our apocalypse.  Last night's debate was as far removed from reality as if it had been scripted fiction spoken by actors.  The places to go for serious discussion of the human condition are science journals and science fiction. Writers like Arthur C. Clark, Greg Bear and many others describe the reaction of a shocked human race to news that everyone's way of life will be over in a few years, the same news humankind has received in real life.  In the stories, people react by rioting or adopting survival mode and/or space flight, but they usually don't continue business as usual, like we are.  What kind of story would that be?  We have to read fiction to find our reality.  

Part II  The pink cookie

Sorry if I seem irritable.  I'm not myself after what Tom, my new billionaire friend, did to me in Big Sur last night. 

Rewinding:  The morning before I arrived in Los Gatos, as I sat in the back of the Uber Tom had paid for, distractedly looking out at the 17 Mile Drive, I remembered the small package he left for me with a note apologizing for giving me Test 1124.  I dug into my pocket and pulled out the package, tore off the paper and found a cunning wooden box.  Inside was a pink cookie and a card with the instructions, "Eat me," in Tom's wild cursive, and: "P.S. Make sure someone is around to help you enjoy this!"

I got the picture and felt humiliated that a billionaire huckster could target me so knowingly.  Still, after my experience with Test 1124 I was hesitant.  As Tom had explained, he had contacts for the newest drugs, many of which were so powerful that care had to be taken in introducing them into society.  My pink cookie, I suspected, was one of these.

Nevertheless, as we whizzed north I wondered what upcoming venue might best suit the cookie's purpose.  Los Gatos approached, surrounded by the sea and beautiful mountains.  It was a bit crowded after Cambria and Big Sur, but I decided that crowded was what I needed.

I asked the driver to drop me at the Motel 6 on Bascom Avenue, off the 17. Following a nap and a shower, I walked to Los Gatos Electronics, a few blocks down, for the debate, after which, in dire need of new input, I ended up in front of The Happy Hound Cafe on Los Gatos Blvd.  There was still plenty of sunlight.  The cafe looked cozy.  I went in and sat at a window table, where I ordered coffee.  The place was busy.  There were regular people and irregular people.  I stared into my coffee and wondered which I was.  Then I took out the little box, removed the pink cookie, put it in my mouth and ate it with coffee.  Too late it occurred to me that I should have secured payment from the pharmaceutical source for beta testing.

It was clear that the researchers in question had figured out super-fast activation of an orally ingested chemical.  No sooner had I eaten the pink cookie than- well, I had expected something intense, but what actually happened is hard to describe, and I either hate Tom Kettleman or I'm grateful.  I think that Tom, during one of his Test 1124 trips, intuited that the pink cookie would combine with my telepathy to produce...something new.

Like physical encounters at a distance?  Would that be new?  It started with the waitress.  I became hyper-aware of her and she became aware that I was aware, and then she became aware of me and I was aware of that.  Then it felt like we were in close contact, though it was hard to tell if it was physical or mental- maybe an amalgam of both.  The feeling was startling, but it only lasted when she was standing near me.  When she went to the kitchen or waited on other people the effect was gone.  This was frustrating and I felt I should have taken Tom's advice to find someone special to share the experience with.

The trouble was that I didn't have anyone special at that particular point in time, way back yesterday; I was kind of on my own, kind of adrift.  I paid and left the restaurant, looking for a place where I might establish a connection.  A few blocks down I found a Whole Foods Market and went in.  Lots of healthy, attractive people, and a salad bar!  I got a salad and perched on my stool, surveying the couples at tables and beyond them shoppers going to and fro.

Then I felt the residual effect of the previous night's Test 1124 kick in.  It turned out that Tom's second experiment on me delivered a triple whammy: I saw a schematic in my head showing how to commingle with every person in the Whole Foods.  I can't recall much detail, but the schematic gave directions to secret gateways found in everyone's psyche through which all manner of communication and contraband can pass.  Through these portals I connected with my fellow humans and felt an other-worldly bonding which involved awareness of them on my part and a pronounced though invisible awareness on everyone's parts around me and a rather erotic glow developed and it felt like everyone's skin touched everyone else's.  As customers swiped their credit cards across from cashiers, their eyes met in fire.  As thrifty shoppers stared at the mayonnaise prices to compare with Trader Joe's, the grip of their hands on the cold glass became a connection with the throbbing and sensual heart of the cosmos.  And then, as all particles must on that day foretold by faith-based empiricism, we ignited and burned together, our souls reduced to a subatomic dance, which, by the way, was quite pleasant.  I felt a deep serenity. Whole Foods, I will never complain about your prices again!

Sorry for the dissipation, if that's what it was.  I'm sure it's not seemly in a man my age.  I'll get back into politics as soon as I can stand it.  Not that I'm judgmental.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Networking in Big Sur

Editor's note: This segment, detailing Harry's encounter with a Silicon Valley billionaire, is missing entries both earlier and later, so that we don't know what "passionless passion" Harry fled the night before, or how it left him sleeping on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, or where Harry told the Uber driver (paid by the billionaire to take Harry anywhere) took him, nor do we know if he took the pink pill in the millionaire's gift box, or, if he did, what happened.  Possibly the Time Lords, or lords of a more secular origin, judged the redacted passages a bit too real?  D.L.

I was not very presentable after trudging up from Moonstone Beach after my night of passionless passion.  I spotted the Cambria Coffee Roasting Co. on Main Street and headed in, spent some time in the restroom then ordered coffee and a roll.  I looked at the news on my cell phone for a while, but it seemed repetitious: Person kills another person; famous person dies of old age/drug overdose; person who wants to be a famous politician attacks another such person; military of one country bombs another country.  I was staring dumbly at the newsfeed when I heard the jingle of the front door and a large man walked in.  He looked in his forties, tall, maybe 6'1", disheveled graying hair, something of a potbelly, wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. You would not have known he was one of the richest men on earth.  He sat at the counter near my table and that might have been the end of it, except that he turned around and looked me in the eyes.

"Harry the Human?" he asked.

Under some circumstances I would have felt pleased and reassured at the recognition, but this morning I was pretty numb, and for a second I wasn't sure I was Harry the Human.

Nevertheless I said "Yes" with a faint smile.

He beamed and stuck out his hand, leaning forward so I could shake it.

"A pleasure!  I heard you in Frisco back in the day; I was about 10, and you made a big impression.  Name's Tom Kettleman."

Yes, it was the Tom Kettleman, founder and CEO of JerkMonkey, the crazy successful dating app (used often by bisexuals who have never experienced half their nature) that was just bought by Google for $11 billion.

Kettleman, used to throwing his "weight" around, lurched over and sat across from me.

"So what have you been up to, Harry the Human?"

"Harry is fine."

"Ok, Harry.  What brings you to Cambria?"

"I'm on my way to Big Sur.  Just a meditative trip, to unwind myself."

"Sure, I get it.  I'm going to Big Sur too. You look like you're hitching.  Why don't you join me?"

I accepted and spent the next twenty minutes watching Kettleman eat his eggs. Mercifully he took care of the conversation.

"So I'm going to the WTF at the Ventana Inn.  Heard of it?" Kettleman asked as he crunched his toast.

"I don't think so."

"Counterintuitively it stands for 'The Weekend to be named.'  Clever huh?  Started about ten years ago as a forum to commune about the Valley's latest thoughts and inclinations. The main event is in December; this is just an excuse to sojourn in Big Sur."

"Sounds interesting."

Kettleman gave me a searching look, his fork poised in the air.

"Can you still read minds?" he asked.

"Yeah, I can."

Kettleman put down his fork and stared into my eyes.

"Read my mind now, would you please."

"Right now?"

"Yes, please."

I read his mind and gave a report.

"Ok, Tom, you are very excited about some new ideas."

"What ideas?"

"Well, you are tired of hawking the Internet for what you've come to see as 'superficialities' aimed to make civilized life more efficient, like helping people book rooms or find taxis and dates.  You want the internet to be civilization, to lie at its heart, and at the heart of humanity."

"Damn, you are good, Harry!  That is exactly what I'm thinking about!  Anything else?"

There was something else: Kettleman was on a drug that I could not identify.  It wasn't pot or a prescription drug.

Before I could answer, Kettleman threw some money on the table and stood up. I followed him out to his car, a red Tesla Model X.  I plopped my grungy self down on the white leather passenger seat, feeling that, after my night with nature, I was defiling this car, which looked and smelled like it was two days old.  I picked up a stray thought from Tom about the car.  He had been struck by and memorized a promotional line about the Model X: "It is ludicrously fast, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in as quick as 3.2 seconds."  Kettleman, like most of the Valley's young billionaires, was not born into money and he liked the idea of acceleration.

We tore out on Highway 1, and, yes, achieved 60 miles an hour in about 3.2 seconds, ludicrously.

"So how about it, did you pick up anything else besides my new idea?"

"Yes,  I sense that you're on a drug, but I can't identify it."

He chuckled.  "Uh-huh.  What do you sense about this drug?"

I watched the meadows north of Cambria speed by as we approached 100 mph on the straightaways.

"It seems to produce ideas...that you wouldn't have had otherwise."

"Yes, but what's unique about it?"

"A drug that produces ideas is not unique.  But this one produces...I'm not sure, there's something different about the ideas."

He smiled broadly.  "You're on the right track.  After my first billion I started meeting all kinds of people.  Now I'm connected to the world of future drugs and to scientists who are not ready to roll these suckers out yet- they're too powerful, too much potential to change society.  I let them use me to test their latest."

There was a silence while he remembered that a stranger was in his car listening to him.

He glanced at me.  "This drug is the most potent one yet."

We passed Hearst Castle, built by another wealthy man.  Someone should author a study showing whether the contributions of the wealthy outweighed the unfairness of their wealth.  Personally I would conclude that it depends on the contribution.  I searched Kettleman's mind again, trying to get a fix on the drug.

"They call it Test 1124," he said, "and it's a doozy.  Under its influence, I'm visualizing how the Internet can be an organic part of us.  The drug is actually stimulating technical ideas that I don't think I would have had without it.  My mind is bionic, dude!"

We sped on in silence for a while until we started to hit the tight curves that follow the steep mountain walls to Big Sur.  It seemed that Kettleman calculated the Tesla's speed to be the maximum possible short of fiery death. I'm not a fan of speed and my heart sank at the thought of seventy miles of hairpin curves ahead.  To distract myself from the peril, I concentrated on my new friend's idea-producing drug.

He seemed to sense my focus and said, "Whatever you already know about, Test 1124 magnifies your knowledge.  It's almost like an auxiliary brain that you can attach to your own brain.  I'm going to pop one tonight when I present to the group.  Fucking shit!"

We were stuck behind an ancient camper driven by a well meaning but cautiously slow elderly couple.  Slowness is the quality most hated in old people.  

"Damn, fucking shit!" Kettleman howled as he was continually unable to pass the slow camper on the blind curves.

"Hey Harry, can you use your telepathy to gauge whether a car is coming the other way?"

It was the drug talking, giving him ideas. I saw that part of him was testing the drug's efficacy: If there was no oncoming car and we survived then the drug worked.  If there was a car and we and the other car's occupants died, then Test 1124 needed further testing, but not by us.

I was horrified at the idea, but I sent out my mind and was surprised to find that, indeed, if a car was approaching I could sense its passengers, and when I sensed no one, no car came.  I was reluctant to try it out, but it seemed the price of freeloading off this billionaire.

"Ok, I can do it," I said with fake assurance.

"Fan-fucking tastic!  Give me the word."

We tested out my abilities a few times, until it seemed a safe bet that my predictions were reliable. And then I called, "Ok, go!"

He burned rubber and passed the van on a completely blind curve, to the horror of the old couple.  I went into a state of suppressed terror that was not relieved until we swung back into our lane in front of the fast receding van.

"Harry, you the man!"

I confess a certain pleasure at having been useful to such a mover and shaker after my degrading night of libidinal angst [refers to missing document, D.L.].  Kettleman needed my assistance one more time on the drive, behind a green 2001 Ford pick-up that had seen better days, and then, presto, we were in Big Sur in an obscenely short time.

Kettleman pulled into the Ventana Inn's lot, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do.  I made a few tentative steps toward the highway, but Kettleman stopped me.

"Where are you going?"

"I don't have a reservation."  The cheapest rooms at the Ventana go for $300 a night.

Kettleman laughed.  "Nonsense, you're my guest.  You'll be a hit tonight. Come on."

The lobby was dark and lush, with bowls of mixed nuts on coffee tables, and recent issues of trendy magazines piled nearby (there was a preponderance of tech and science mags, suggesting anticipation of the WTF conference).  A wood fire burned in a huge stone fireplace.  I could have lived in that lobby for months.

Kettlman's room featured two bedrooms (at considerably more than $300) and he showed me my room.  Its open window looked out on an ancient redwood forest whose aroma drifted in.  It was disturbingly wonderful and self-indulgent.  I really must learn to enjoy myself.

I lay down on the bed and slept.  A few hours later I was awakened by Tom, who was sitting by the side of my bed.

"Harry, sorry, it's almost time to get ready." He paused and looked out the window at the tenebrous forest.  "You know, Harry, there must be a reason that everyone isn't telepathic."

"I've thought about that," I replied.  "If everyone were telepathic we wouldn't be able to lie, and society probably could not function."

"Or society would have to change so it could function.  I want to talk about this now while I'm feeling the Test 1124 I just took.  I'm having an idea about telepathy now."

"What's the idea?"

"We need to quantify it, to see what biological features are in your brain that enable your telepathy, then make it transferable.  FYI, I'd like to be telepathic."

"Wouldn't that be tough for you in business?  You'd have a huge advantage over all your rivals, and they might not forgive you later, when everybody becomes telepathic."

"You have a point, but making everyone telepathic has its own problems.  Have you seen the fifties classic, Forbidden Planet, with Leslie Nielsen before he was funny and Walter Pidgeon?  It's based loosely on Shakespeare's Tempest."

"Yes, I love that movie!"

"Right, huh?  You'll recall that the planet where Walter Pidgeon has been stranded with his foxy daughter for twenty years is full of amazing advanced technology, like giant power plants that have been functioning and maintaining themselves for thousands of years.  They were built by a vanished race called the Krell who learned how to be telepathic.  The problem was that they harnessed their minds to machines that empowered their thoughts and turned them into actions.  The Krell expected telepathy to be a boon and make them a great force in the universe, but they forgot how much even the closest allies secretly worked against and often hated each other.  In the night, while they slept, they wiped each other out."

"Yes," I said, "Walter Pidgeon cries, 'My poor Krell!'  That's something to ponder."

"It sure is.  Ok, I'm going to shower and get ready.  The conference starts in an hour.  You might want to do the same."

"Yes, thank you."  I did indeed want a hot bath, a shave and a change of clothes.  Tom left and I performed my ablutions, wondering if Tom's point about the Krell was that, for everyone's safety, only one person should be telepathic, and that person should be Tom.  That couldn't be right though, because I'm already that person.

An hour later, as Tom and I walked towards the banquet room, he pulled me aside and pressed a chew-tab into my hand.

"Test 1124, my man.  I want to see what it does to you."  Like the dope I am, I ate it.

We entered the banquet room and there were the big names from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Airbnb, Uber, Facebook and a lot more I hadn't heard of.  As I adjusted to being among such men, I noticed that they were men.  Then I noticed that they were white men.  And then I noticed that I am a white man.

Tom did a lot of backslapping and kibitzing as he introduced me to people with enough money to buy the world.  He was a big force in the room, it turned out.  He approached the podium and started things off."  

"Gentlemen, welcome to the tenth WTF," (applause)  "I'd like to start by introducing my guest, whom many of you will have heard of, Harry the Human!" [scattered applause and a few calls of recognition]  "As those of you who've lived in the Bay Area for a while will know, Harry was a popular coffee-shop presenter in the Haight back in the '60's, where he was known as a telepath with far-out ideas.  I can vouch for his telepathic abilities, so watch your thoughts!" [some slightly nervous laughter]  "Please welcome Harry the Human!"

Tom waited for the applause to stop, then continued.  

"We are here to discuss what the Internet can be, not what it is.  What it is, is a facilitator of the quotidian, the mundane, our everyday chores and challenges.  What it can be is a new template for civilization itself, a new template for our species."

At least he didn't say "...for mankind."  I settled in my seat.  Tom's vacant seat was to my right.  To my left was the head of a big tech firm whose name I hesitate to mention. I scanned his mind and found that he was overcome with anxiety that I would scan his mind.  I gave up trying and nibbled on the salad.  

While Tom talked about the evolution of the Internet, I started to feel a strange sensation, as if my brain had spread out around the room like a cosmic octopus whose tentacles were snaking into all the moguls' heads.  Suddenly data started streaming into me from all those heads: secrets, plans, attitudes, lies, truths, ambitions, delusions, discoveries.  It was too much; my brain felt in danger of buckling.  Then what seemed like a complete schematic appeared to float in the air.  It was a diagram of a system with which I could process the thoughts of everyone in the room, sorting and prioritizing them and not being overwhelmed.  It was the Test 1124 at work, I realized.  I checked out the schematic and it looked workable.  The weird thing was that it didn't feel like I had thought of it.  That's not the kind of thing I think about anyway.  The drug did indeed seem to be an auxiliary brain.

Then the experience took a disturbing turn.  I started to feel emotions generated by my brain-sucking octopus, arrogant and dominating emotions that I'm not accustomed to having.  The chemical activities this drug induced in my brain appeared to have a consciousness, and a desire to control.  I found my new brain calculating how I could dominate everyone in the room, their thoughts and actions.  It was a megalomaniacal state, which, to put it mildly, I was not comfortable with.  The power hungry entity within me began to grow stronger, and I felt I was being taken over by something possibly evil, as well as highly impractical, but I could not fight it.  Panic rose in me as I felt my personality overwhelmed. I started sweating and shaking.  Soon my heart was pounding and I had to do something.  For want of a better plan I ran from the banquet room, out the double doors to a patio at the far end of which I found a winding trail lit by subtle ground lights, through the steep dark forest past the restaurant and finally to a circle of redwoods, the mystical and expensive venue of many weddings.  I charged into the circle and collapsed in its center, rolling onto my back and staring up into the dazzling starry sky looking down through the redwood canopy.  I basked in the absence of other minds tempting me to control them, but soon I started to think about controlling the redwoods by finding their secret psyches.

I remember shouting, "No!" before Tom and a party of moguls arrived to tend to me. That is my last memory before waking up in the hotel bed the next morning.  On the nightstand next to the bed was a note from Tom: "Rough night, Harry?  Sorry about that- I blame myself for pressuring you to take the pill.  Hey, it was great talking to you and you really helped me get my thoughts together.  Let's meet up sometime soon and start the conversation where we left off- no unwise diversions this time!  Check at the desk for your ride.  Cheers, T.K."  Under the note was a small gift-wrapped box, which I put in my pocket. 

When I got to the front desk a crisp young woman pointed out a man sitting on a couch who had been waiting for me.  He was an Uber driver who had been secured and paid for by Tom, with instructions to drive me anywhere in the U.S. that I wanted to go.  Soon we were headed for San Francisco.

Some adventure I'm having, huh?  I guess I can't complain, but, you know, I probably will. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The urge to write

In my case the urge to write is sporadic and unpredictable; it came this morning at dawn when I awoke cold, wet and sandy on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, the last major town before Big Sur, the immediate quest of my hitchhiking tour north.

I got up and ate a Nature Valley granola bar- its wrapper promised it was good for me- and then my cell phone contacted me about its lack of purpose, calling out: Write on me!, so that now I'm writing my tale on a miniature computer on the wet sand, an aggravating process in terms of proofreading, but the urge is strong and the beach overpowering, leading me into stream of consciousness mode, probably my default mode anyway, as I present the salient sensations of my fall travel season, starting with the latest Hobbit movie which I saw in town last night, a movie that upset me with its heroic sexual fantasies.  Exiting the theater I needed to share the moment and restore my belief that life is as good as a movie or maybe even better, so I cast my mind out and it landed two blocks away at Mozzi's Saloon, where an older woman named Mary sat alone at a bar.  

I saw her when I came in and cheated- only because at this stage of life I have to- by going right into her head, where I saw her deciding, as she saw me walk to the bar and sit two seats from her, that she would accept me if I could present a sustained fantasy of myself, and I realized that only Harry the Human could do this, that noted guru, a wizard living past the age of magic, an interesting and successful man rather than a confused old fart without a single useful thing to do on this planet, so quickly I searched her thoughts and found with relief that not only had she heard of Harry the Human but years ago had seen him in the Haight and was struck by his parlor tricks, so I revealed my identity and lied, saying I remembered her, that total recall is part of the telepathic arts (it is not) and it worked like a charm!  I had a complete, functioning fantasy-self, ready and able to interest her as my basic self could not.  Like a puppeteer dangling my constructed personality before her, I led her from the bar down to Moonstone Beach, where we avoided the few groups huddling around fires that were braving the cold wind and stormy sky and moved over the rolling expanse of sand, the crashing Pacific to our right, to our left the lagoon where Santa Rosa Creek pools before emptying into the sea.  

We sat on the sand, gazing at the waves when it all went wrong.  It was my fault,  maybe because I saw her fantasy of me more clearly than I should have and it made me feel alone, or maybe I worried that if we made love she would stake a claim on me instead of letting me scurry away like the male black widow whose mate looks to eat him after coitus.  She smelled my anxiety and recoiled, wondering if I had tricked her, that maybe I was just another useless discarded man, pretending to be someone so I could score, and she said, "Let's just talk," and I was relieved and started talking about the Hobbit movie, how it made me want to swing a sword and chop evil into bits.  "Who wouldn't want to fight for the Lady Galadriel or the re-born King Thorin, off the charts virtuous and noble?" I asked. "That movie made me want to drop everything and enlist in a non-existent army!" 

"I wanted to go to war against the darkness," my groping brain added, "Too bad we can't, though; darkness isn't something you can actually fight."  I looked up from my self-absorbed rant and saw that Mary was not looking at me; she was looking at the waves.  I went into her head and understood I had totally lost her.  She was immersed in reveries about people and regrets; I was a sad footnote. I walked her politely back to the street, where she said she could find her way home. Then I came back over the sand, all the way to the far side of the lagoon, took off my clothes and ran around a little, which I hoped indicated that I was alive.  It was freezing so I got dressed again.  My memory stops there.

I woke up wet, cold and not sure if I was ecstatic or defeated or both.  Next steps: find a restroom and freshen up, use the local wi-fi to send this post to D.L., return to Highway 1 and stick out my thumb.  My only idea of what I'm doing today is that I'm going to Big Sur.  Why?  To do what?  Does its mad beauty have anything for me?  I've mentioned my quest to find out if God has a sense of humor. Have I discovered that "He" doesn't?  In past trips to Big Sur I'd hang out on the tasteful patio at Nepenthe, perched tranquilly on a sheer mountainside three hundred feet above a rocky beach, but I can't see doing that today.  People would detect the tentative state of my soul and flee, lest my weakness infect them.  I might tell my ride to let me off twenty miles south of Big Sur at the unpaved and little used Naciemento Road, which meanders a hundred miles over the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Salinas Valley.  I'm thinking I could walk up Naciemento until I can't sense anything of humanity except the road, then leave the road and walk into the forest with my backpack full of water and granola bars until the human world is gone, and it's a different world, with a new perspective.  

If God has a sense of humor, maybe now is the time to let us know. On second thought, maybe not.  

It may take me a while to get my act together, so please be patient if it’s a few days until my next post.  

All the best, Harry the Human