Tuesday, July 10, 2007

RAMBLE ON: Flint to Cary, crashing computers, missing e-poems, good ole’ linotypes and Underwood, full-moon fevers... oh my, I am so depressed!

WHERE'S CARY, North Carolina?” my Bay Area homey Beaver The Fever rang me up at 2:17am on a bright full moon June aftermidnight. “How far is Cary from Asheville? You gotta tell me, man. I am freakin’ out!” I’m quite sure Ms Padgett Lee Feaver III (her real name) was fine, I’ve known this li’l pesky critter – a good friend I call, “a turbo-boosted chipmunk on perpetual imaginary acid trip,” since age 17 not to know better of her irksome nocturnal buggings. “What’s up with Cary? Why would you want to go to Cary?”
“Because I can’t go to Irvine CA or Amherst NY! That’s why!”
Hmmm. “Why not Asheville? I live in Asheville. Don’t you miss me?”
“Nah! Asheville is some contradictory, oblique, crisscrossing juxtaposition of maddeningly bottled inertia! I’ve got enough of your Asheville! I got enough of you, rock star!” (Ah! What arrogance! Didn’t I just say Beaver The Fever is some turbo-boosted chipmunk on perpetual imaginary acid trip? So I forgive her for the acerbic sarcasm. No problemo.)
Uhh. “What do you mean? You prefer Cary over Asheville?”
“What do I mean? Cary is all I want and need right now. Asheville is just like you or my ex, who adores you like you’re a demented alter-ego of Holden Caulfield, or some fantasized nutcase-dreamer. Besides, I am done with all these best-of WNC bugaboo. Damned PR! I just want to get to Cary.”
Oh, man... Do I deserve this wayward missile right now? But what are friends for anyway, right? I just have to understand Ms Feaver III. Just like all of us chronically New World-harassed earthlings, Beaver The Fever wants PEACE. For her, peace is the absence of war—aka violence. “Violence” also translates to an emotionally/mentally-tortured marriage. (THAT is WAR for her, and I can’t blame the poor soul...)
Right now, Padgett lives and works in Flint, Michigan. Yes, Flint – Flint of Michael Moore’s “madness,” beside Bob Seger’s sprawling Metamora ranch – the town that currently ranks as the US’s “most violent” or dangerous city. According to the most recent FBI data, Flint owns 26.0 violent crime per 1,000 people – compared with Cary’s 1.2. (Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.) Irvine, CA (0.7) and Amherst, NY (1.1) are the two top “least violent cities” in North America.
For some reason, Beaver opted for Cary. I don’t know—maybe Cary means Cary Grant, her everlasting-muse. Bottomline is, she is, as she calls it, “On the verge of doing a Thelma & Louise kamikaze move” right now. Tough, isn’t it? I gotta help her.

I HAVE always considered myself a devout non-believer of Prozac Nation – depression, melancholia, writer’s block, or the “a-lot-of-things-are-goin’-on-in-my-life-right-now” stigma. But then, in the past few weeks, it’s like I’ve been hit by a some kind of gung-ho Scud myself, leaving me sleepless, irksome, difficult, and aloof. Oh yes, there are graspable physical reasons that usher these unmitigated blues and funk (although, many times, I refuse to accept these “excuses” ... “not my culture, not my gig!)
My two work-computers conked out on me twice in three weeks – thereby deleting most of my Indie and Bonfires files, “lovable hate mails,” poetry drafts, three unsaved chapters of my novel-in-process etc etc. My computers have always been objects of magnificent jealousy and insecurity of my past girlfriends – but at this juncture, when my “ancient” PCs gave up, it’s like I lost it all.
Lessons of life, you know—come so bitter and painful, most of the time. The words of my last GF, Lacy Miss Molly, before she dumped me were, “You will realize, one day, that you need me a million times more than your Dell or your iMac!” (Well, I didn’t have an iMac, actually.. but then, she dumped me, just the same, saying Hendrix, her redhead Pekingese Poodle, is 300 times more sensible and sensitive than I really am!)
Anyway, I’m probably “depressed” that I lost most of my files – and here, I am, frantically emailing/calling friends and past GFs (yup, including Beaver The Fever and Lacy Miss Molly) in case they somehow kept some of my work, you know. (Lacy: “Hendrix devoured all your printed poems, m’dear! Poor kid, I mean—Hendrix. He had indigestion all night!”)
Ah, whatever. When computers give up, it’s gone—kaput, vanished, disappeared! But then, I believe in the inherent goodness of the human heart – no matter how people hate each other, there will always be a way to retrieve some shared “gifts” like a cool love poem or a “classic” fiction-on-the-works, right? Well, I never trashed my ex’es’ mementoes and memorabilias– I actually keep them, secure them, in five Office Depot boxes on my basement. (Although Marta The Nicer almost mistook them as “throwable treasures” that we sell in our weekend yard sale fundraisers.)
“Yes, I know you hate me until now, and I sort of remind you of your ex whatever his name is... but did I somehow cc’ed you a long poem that I wrote when I was in Lyons... I think when I was living in Great Neck, Long Island... no, I think when I was in a train to Brussels or Antwerp—remember that one?”
Beaver groaned, “Ah! You never changed! Men don’t change! You don’t even remember where the hell you wrote the silly poem, do you remember who you’re with at that time, or to whom you wrote the freakin’ poem for?”
“That’s why I am asking you! Because I lost the poem or poems...”
“Then, go and fix your freakin’ computer?! I am asking about Cary, North Carolina—and here you are, whinin’ about some poetry!” Then she hung up the phone. Just like before, just like the bad ole days—they just hung up on me... Sometimes I don’t understand women. They call at 2:17am without a warning, bug you out of your deadlines, demand undistracted attention. And then, they hung up. Click!
So here I am still “depressed.” In the past few weeks, I think I’ve only been sleeping for three hours at a time. But then I found out, I am not alone on this wonderful predicament. The Wall Street Journal reported that only 26 percent of adult Americans get eight hours of sleep a night these days, down from 38 percent in 2001.
What’s going on? What’s up with all these funk and blues? PCs that conk out paralyze an entire month of media mobility, cellphone “drop calls” are equal to massive breakdown of communication, missed appointment with the shrink earns you another six months of Zoloft prescription.
Depression... My Key West buddy, Merwin The Merlin, refers to this annoying malady as “a necessary readjustment of Mercury retrograde” due to realignment of Pluto’s pizza delivery on the next curb to Jupiter, or something to that effect. Some full moon fever, you know?
Check this one out – police in Brighton, England, recently announced plans to deploy more beat officers on nights with a full moon. “From my experience,” said Inspector Andy Parr, on full-moon nights “we do seem to get people with, sort of, stranger behavior—more fractious, argumentative.” I recall how I yelled and cussed at this pair of mischievous squirrels jumping up and down my front yard trees – it was a full moon, ha! I actually thought that these annoying pests were the ones responsible for my Charter wireless or Belkin router’s failing signals that midnight. (Are these squirrels working for Homeland Security?)
Come to think of it, do we deserve such stupid stress levels? I believed I was doing something relevant and urgent that evening. I was blogging bigtime, and then—wham! All my 1-million KB worth of spam email messages and blog updates went pfft! What’s going on?
Now you tell me—why there is no large-scale, organized opposition to the war? There are several reasons. But the biggest factor, according to Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune, may be the Web, or overdependence to the Internet. Instead of gathering in smoky coffeehouses or in massive rallies on the street, today’s activists fire off mass e-mails or update their blogs. Blogs may reach a lot of people, but they siphon away energy and indignation into angry words, instead of action visible to all. It’s “counterintuitive,” but the vastly improved communication networks of the modern age “may actually be taking a bit of oomph out of political activism.”
Glorious madmen like George Orwell, Alvin Toffler, and Kurt Vonnegut already sent out precautionary warnings before, but we are not listening. I am guilty, as well. There was a time when I actually believed Judas’ exhortations in Jesus Christ Superstar – “Everytime I look at you I don’t understand / Why you let the things you did get so out of hand / You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned / Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? / If you’d come today you would have reached a whole nation / Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” No. That doesn’t work at all.
Do I have to tell you how 32 (11x17 pagemaker 7.0) pages of the supposedly June 1-15 issue of The Indie – plus maybe 6K kb worth of “other writings and files” – got wasted because a mass communication device like computers crashed on me? Yeah, I can email, text-message, make a cellphone call etc to my ex-GFs and homeys with an objective to retrieve some valuable “words” that I’ve written – but, no dice! (Hendrix, Beaver the Fever’s redhead Pekingese Poodle even ate some of my Neruda-like “poemas.” Lord, have mercy!)
I remember those days of yore—during the early years of my little journalism career, back home in Manila. When my scoop news stories, proletarian verses and Brechtian street plays were neatly typed on Underwood typewriters and pressed-printed on linotypes, stacked up on sturdy molds (then later on IBM Roadrunner composers racked up on galleys). My songs? We simply sang them in front of starry-eyed villagefolk – and voila! They memorize the songs! They even reminded me of missed verses whenever I sang them during barrio fiestas. Cool, isn’t it?
Now, it’s so easy to get depressed. I did not save my volumes and volumes of work on zip disc, CDs, or external what... drives? I did! But when I went to Best Buy to retrieve the poor, pitiful manuscripts, some Borat-looking dude on pink goggles informed me that my iOmega zip disc wasn’t compatible with their machines! Oh, man...

DEPRESSED, DEPRESSED. One morning, as I nervously sifted through my bills, I noticed that I was actually paying recycling fees for many years now. And with those fees, I could have bought myself a cool new MacIntosh or maybe I could have eaten raw chilled oysters at Magnolia’s every Sunday of the week for the last seven years. (I don’t get depressed when I eat oysters, you know...)
Now hear this. A total of 1,643 pounds of trash was generated per person in the US in 2005. (No data yet for 2006.) Some 32 percent of this waste was recycled, a rate that has doubled in the past 15 years. The estimated annual revenue of the US recycling industry is $236 billion.
And how much did the superich G-8 countries pledge to deliver to Africa to fight AIDS, malaria and TB? A “measly” $60 billion. Now, that is something to be stressed or depressed about, right? I am lawfully paying the city government “recycling fees” — whether I recycle or not — and then they keep the money, and they don’t even share a decent fraction to poorer people? Bad!
Not good. That is why we poor humanity is so stressed out these days. But although I am apparently upset and desperate, I am not suicidal. And, Beaver The Fever – after a really nasty divorce – isn’t being suicidal, as well. (“Thelma and Louise kamikaze move” means she’s gonna find herself a Brad Pitt cowboy in Cary NC.)
You see, suicide is so uncool! As for me, I just invoke what my “other-Muse” Cher retorted to Nicolas Cage in “Moonstruck”: “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Yeah, I just take a deep breath, heat some ramen noodles, chow `em, watch “King of the Hill,” and think positive. That’ll work. (Do you know that for every 100,000 Chinese citizens, an average of 23 commit suicide each year? The Chinese number is 50 percent higher than the global average.)
SNAP OUT OF IT! That’s what I’m gonna do with my chronic, pesky little funk and blues these days. But I’m not gonna pop in some multicolored pill or go find a shrink or some Lily Tomlin-lookin’ madam with a Dollar Tree notepad to “heal” me. I’d rather buy either Terri The Terra or Marta The Nicer a slice of Mellow Mushroom mozzarella or mug of Westville Pub PBR – and listen to what they gotta say. That works better. Listen to those who love you, and then things will be just fine. No shrinks for me.
We in the super-affluent First World might blame the fact that there’s only 1.3 psychiatrist/s per 100,000 people in China—so the staggering number of suicides? In the US, it’s 14 per 100,000. (Iceland has the highest ratio, with 25... duh, hello? Live in a world of ice day in and day out, do you expect to be jolly?) Do we really believe that shrinks could un-depress the vaunted Chinese production line? Nah.
The scandalously massive Chinese workforce just have to take some time and chill, y’know—after hours and hours of factory work. These guys invented the CD, you know that? Before the Western Merchant called it “compact disc,” it was called “Chinese Disco.” CD. It’s because during those bygone years, the Chinese have real, cool, unadulterated fun—that they invented discotheque. (Do you know that before the Bee Gees made millions with “Saturday Night Fever,” Barry Gibb went on a secret trip to Beijing to study how to effectively sing “Stayin’ Alive” and “You Should Be Dancing”?)
The Chinese are depressed because they are also bored. Look, they mass-produce all kinds of stuff – push-up bra, birdfeeders, Pablo Picasso paintings, Rolex watches, coffee mugs, vibrators and dildos, DVDs, mug-wheels, all kinds of Cup-a-Noodles, boxer shorts etc etc. You name, they got it—ready to go. They might even mass-produce irksome imps like me, in case there is a market for such merciless pests, you know what I’m saying?
Crazy, crazy world! Indeed!
Oh, man... I am just depressed. So depressed.


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