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So much so I sometimes wonder if the next step in our evolution will be a phone attached to our hand permanently. Every restaurant has an app to order ahead of time. People even control their heat and air conditioning with an app on their phone miles away from their house. Turn on their washing machines and televisions with apps from work.
It is shocking when you stop and think how inundated we are with the digital world. It has gotten to the point where you never speak to a live human on the phone anymore but an impersonal robot incapable of interaction beyond programmed data. Watch a group of youngsters in a group sometime. I usually see five or six standing around, each looking at their phone, interacting by not interacting.
Then again I see adults in their fifties doing the same thing. I doubt it. All this has now put us as a society in the unenviable position of mass dependency. If you are under twenty and all you know is the world as it is now, how exactly are you going to function when the entire way you know how to live is interrupted, even collapses? The only way such young people know how to interact on almost every level is through Technology. I wonder the culture shock when they have to actually not have a cell phone in hand.
I can honestly see reactions from stultifying boredom to crippling helplessness. A world without Technology to them might as well be That this can really only be said of those under twenty shows the speed at which the world has changed with the onslaught of Technology, which is much faster than we can process it as a whole nor deal with its inherent dark side. It is like an out of control car careening down the freeway at eighty miles per hour and we are standing on the side of the road watching.
To me, all this equals the first steps towards a society of complete mechanical impersonality. When life becomes a video game and people literally just another cog in the machine things like empathy, compassion, humanity begin to die. That is happening as I write this and it shows no signs of slowing down. This is when Technology hides, in the dark, just below the surface, not quite able to be seen, not even able to be pinpointed exactly, but still there and as real and as powerful as ever.
Call it Big Brother or the Electric Eye or Satan if you want, but whatever you choose to call it it is watching you. I speak here of privacy. There is not much anymore and soon, if Technology keeps barreling along, there will be none. You can bet that someone, somewhere, knows everything you did today. It is that damn digital world again. The World Wide Web. The Cloud. The Internet of Things. I bet some drone has a bead on me right now, sitting on my porch, writing this. Even ordering a pizza with pepperoni to go on your android app.
You know whoever controls this controls you. Controls your life. Because life now is Technology. Twenty years. Fifty years. Myself, I shudder. It is all right there, in the words and images of dystopia and future darkness. Words we ignore and shrug off as they slowly but surely manifest themselves each and every day more fully. We can see the future but are incapable of doing anything about it. What happens when we finally realize it only when we are standing in the middle of it, all around us, controlling us, not the other way around? Somewhere, I bet Phillip K Dick is nodding sadly.
There are no Androids. Just Electric Sheep. A blast of hot air jolted me back a step when I opened my car door. I sputtered a few cuss words chiding myself for not putting up the sun shield when I parked. I piled all my bags into the front passenger seat, so once I got home I could easily grab them and run into my cool house from the hot garage in one trip. And then I saw them. The youngish looking couple was walking along the street at the far end of the lot. He was pulling a wheeled suitcase and she was carrying a bright floral print duffle bag. The first thing I noticed was how tan they were.
They were the color of a caramel glaze over Flan. She wore a floppy straw hat, the kind you swear you will never buy on vacation, but do, when staring into the sweet face of a pleading child vendor. They looked tired but those tan, svelte legs carried them on.
They both wore shorts, sleeveless shirts and dingy tennis shoes. No matter how new tennis shoes are when you pack them, hiking on dirt roads of a barely populated island will wear them out. These two dripped an exotic vacation. She was walking a few steps in front of him while talking at him over her shoulder. He was focused on maneuvering the large suitcase that was a funky red, white, green and pink plaid.
I immediately gave them points for having the easiest suitcase to spot on the baggage claim conveyor belt. And I thought I was being creative by tying bright ribbons in multiple knots on the handles of my black suitcases. Hopefully little girls felt pretty wearing them in her hair in Jamaica, Belize and the Caymans because those ribbons never made it when my luggage arrived. I looked back at the couple crossing the busy intersection corner across the street from where I sat waiting to exit the parking lot.
She strolled ahead, her long chestnut hair, stringy from sun and salt water, flew as she waved her arms in animated conversation. He trudged on, his eyes glued to the sidewalk, bumping the suitcase up onto the curb as a car barely missed him. That was definitely vacation daze. Envy crept up my pantsuit-clad legs as I recreated their memories over the last four days.
I bet it was a freewheeling, spur of the moment trip so they had to leave their car at the off-off-site parking lot. Based on their masterful suitcase I pictured them in a secluded cabana perched over a coral reef where they dove and snorkeled for hours. Freshly caught lobster and sea scallops were dinner and breakfast was a cinnamon torte, rich Blue Mountain coffee and a plate of fresh cut pineapple, grapefruit and mangos on a tray at their door.
Lunch was either slept through or spent floating under water, mesmerized by coral reefs. God, I need a vacation. I glanced up and saw she was stopped, facing him and pointing to herself. It looked like she was shouting at him and quickly she spun around and kept walking. He resumed following her without responding. I knew that was fueled by the letdown of coming back to a demanding, high pressure job.
Faced with leaving behind serenity, even the most loving couples can get testy. Hopefully, four days ago, they let go of the tension and just dissolved into the environment, stimulated by dark rum, moonlight and the nighttime sounds of waves curling and thrusting on the shore. The bark of a car horn broke my trance. There were still five cars in front of me waiting to turn on to the boulevard that would take us past tall shiny buildings to cozy, comfortable homes with manicured lawns. But the block long scene across the street had nothing to do with our lives.
On the corner, vacant, abandoned and boarded up was Forever Fantasies, a recently closed down stripper club. Next door a chain link fence marked a dilapidated storage building patrolled by snarling and barking dogs.
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This was the product of no zoning in this world class city. Creative Non-Fiction My couple had turned the corner across the street and they were headed towards where I sat in line to exit. I noticed that his shorts were a little frayed. It dawned on me that she could be scolding him for dressing so casual on the trip home. They probably got a few stares from the business travelers, but then it was Tuesday after a long holiday weekend and maybe everyone on the plane looked just Wearing the same clothes from a vacation whispers the vestiges of that carefree feeling.
From what I could see through the cars in front of me, she had no jewelry on. How wonderfully bohemian. Whatever they were arguing about right now, I hoped they had paid proper homage to the Last Night Gods. One must celebrate appropriately the last night before coming home to reality. Finally there was just one car in front of me and I could leave the parking lot. Then a white with shiny chrome Range Rover, music blaring, cut in front of me.
Delayed again, I scanned the street for the smart, adventurous couple. She was turning into the motel. No, no, not there. That place is dangerous. You must be lost. He was nowhere near the motel. I looked back towards the corner at the intersection. There he was. He was bent over pulling something out of the duffle bag on the ground. He stood up and unfolded it.
It must be a laminated map. He stepped near the traffic that was stopped at the light and then he turned around and was directly facing me. He raised his hands and held up a sign. Anything Will Help. Less than two months after her heart beat for mine, I became her living ghost. For nine months I heard her whispers and felt her lies, love, and tears. And then she left me. But for a few brief moments in my frenetic early life, I lurked in a shadowy limbo where unwanted children go to wait.
We departed anyway; dramatic goodbyes, no matter how brief, simply prolong the inevitable. Upon return, sob spasms shook his tiny body; he had cried for the entire forty-five minutes we were gone. We exchanged a few words with his teachers, who assured us that yes, they were accustomed to this and yes, kids adjust.
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Mommy always comes back, they reassured him. Mommy always comes back. Well, what do you think about that? I well remember the last time. So should he. Cigarette smoke hangs above the boxing ring in a ghostly blue-gray cloud, mixing with bright ceiling lights that burn a hot yellow glow onto the canvas like afternoon summer sunshine on a Galway day. It is autumn, , at the National Stadium. The novice final in the County Dublin boxing championships is underway. The crowd roars for blood. Sweat flies from his wild mop of brick red hair and he keeps coming. I throw another dandy, this time sending spit flying from the other side of his face and mouth and he keeps coming.
Flashes shaped like dirty rain drops blur my vision like a downpour from the netherworld. Cross with the right. Then boom. I reach out to hang on. No way am I going down, I tell myself. I tear into his ribs with one, two, three hooks. Looking at me with the stern gaze of a seasoned ex-pug, he lectures that I would have won but for one glaring and, frankly, shameful defect.
That was a strategy. The victor and I shake hands but do not speak. But we go our separate ways. I came home, worked in Florida as a beach bar bouncer, graduated college, got married, worked in a state prison, got fired, got divorced, got into journalism and moved from Pennsylvania hard coal country to the soft wine coast of Central California.
In my play, the protagonist loses a boxing match in Dublin but returns home telling the big lie that he won. The play ends when his buddies at the Irish Club send a message to the real winner offering a rematch and the winner heads to America looking for revenge. Mayhem ensues. But I never lied, as often as I told the story.
And the wild experience added to the invaluable lessons I brought home with me as a young man. My three months living in Dublin also enabled me to connect with family in Cornamona, where my grandfather was born before he emigrated to work as an underground coal miner for 45 years in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where I live. I returned to Ireland as often as I could; more than a dozen times over the years.
In I was living in Santa Maria, California, where police had accused the late music legend Michael Jackson of serious crimes. Joined by press from all over the world, I covered the trial as a newspaper columnist, sitting in the courtroom each day of the trial as well as appearing on Sky News as a special daily commentator for the duration of that sad spectacle. Time to avenge the hometown decision I should have won, I said as we laughed, all in good fun. Give it to him, I said. Stunned when the phone rang again, after 33 years my alleged nemesis and I finally talked and laughed together as we detailed our recollections of the fight.
I went to the pub to face my cheering section as a loser. Over the next few years, we sent Christmas cards back and forth. And, a few years ago we faced off in person once again — this time over pints instead of over battle cries from the bowels of a packed Dublin boxing stadium. My wife took our picture in a nose to nose pose, with our fists raised as if ready to do our terrible damage to each other all over again. Just last month, Christy showed up on my Facebook page with a message that he would be in New York for St.
Healthy and in decent shape, we both kept moving through our lives, working whatever magic we could work and make our way to as many golden sunsets we could find. I turn sixty-six in June. But nobody should try pushing either or both of us into any corners anytime soon. I recently attended a martial arts seminar in Philadelphia. Training daily and holding black belt rank in three different Japanese martial arts—3rd degree in Aikido, 2nd degree in Aikijujutsu and a first degree in Taihojutsu; I am a senior citizen badass.
But in the spirit of peace and love, I posted a few seminar photographs on my Facebook page. One picture shows me bending over to apply an arm pin to an opponent I had thrown face-down on the floor. I am into the hard grind. When I knock someone down there's no need to keep them held down. I knock them out, Steve, you should remember that.
Bye, my friend. What in the name of Irish Olympic boxing legend Harry Perry—who I met at the tournament, by the way—is that supposed to mean? I suggested the massive expanse of Phoenix Park would be better. We were kidding, right? Just playing, right? Tread on the tail of me co-oat.
Looking back, I know what I did wrong. The Irish people and press will go insane. And the winner is… Sorry, lads. I apologize if I got your hopes up with this kind of twisted wishful thinking. The old days are long gone; for better or for worse. What matters now is how well we live our lives and how well we train and prepare for the future. Trite or not, the truth is that none of us is getting any younger. Nowadays, make mine a nice fruit punch with freshly squeezed oranges rather than a ferocious punch in the gob - either given or taken.
I can still cut him. He can still pulverize the corpuscles in my face. I can still jab, jab, cross with the right. He can still put out the lights. Tough memories shape our dreams of yesteryear and visions of tomorrow. Thanks, but no thanks, champ. No, she said, it has to do with money, the way you waste it. I did have lots of money in college.
It had red hairs. I bought a Trans-Am. I drove Sara to the Mountain Club in New Hampshire; we hiked and ate mushrooms that tasted like cow shit, or how we imagined cow shit to taste. The leaves burned on the paths. I handed Sara a wadded pocket of crumpled money. Sara— her red hair alit like signals across mountains—left me alone a few feet from the peak. I watched her descend, and I thought about what was behind the money and other things, too: the fall of leaves, the sun and stars, all of it.
Do not speak ill of the dead! Not to mention those little pills she thinks we don't notice. We both know it's true! She was a sweet old lady, but her meatloaf tasted like day-old roadkill! His red cheeks stand out against the business section as he takes another generous gulp of brandy. Nobody even looks at her.
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You're going to get all over me but just let that one go? What we? She acts as though she's made any greater contribution to my parenting than just paying for private schools and nannies. My chair shrieks across the hardwood floor. In the safety of my room I collapse onto my bed. Another successful family dinner. I reach for the little orange bottle on my bedside table and gulp down the small white pill, relaxing as a warm buzzing fills my veins. I am finally starting to relax.
Then my door creaks open. Maybe you should start listening to me. We both know I'm the good kid. More mature, more responsible, even better looking. I'm getting an A in honors geometry and you're what, flunking out of Algebra two?
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That would require them to actually care. They will always love me more. I'm out of bed and lunging before I even know what I've done, reaching for her, rage pounding in my temples. But she steps Fiction I stagger and crash into my desk, picture frames falling and shattering on the floor. Broken glass scatters, shards landing on Violet's bare feet. The moment is over, and I'm left with nothing but a pang of regret. She steps towards me, her pale feet crunching over the crystalline shards, leaving drops of blood like rubies behind. Don't speak ill of the dead.
Violet Johnson, Cherished daughter, beloved sister. We weren't even close to home when Annie told me that her Uncle Charles had just died. Eight more hours, at least, if we drove nonstop. We were sipping on bad sugar drinks and eating Chex Mix with a Morrissey tape in the deck. She had her phone in her lap and she was reading various cake recipes out loud when she got a text from a cousin. Mid-recipe she said, hey, my Uncle Charles died. It was almost like it was part of the recipe, after the mixing but before the baking.
She started sobbing lightly. I wanted to pull over, but we were in a U-Haul and the shoulder was narrow. It was raining hard on the interstate. The cars were close with their blinkers on. I had to keep my attention mostly on the road and I could barely reach her from across the big cab of the truck. So I leaned and put one hand on her shoulder while she cried. I also turned off the Morrissey tape. We finally made it to an exit. We sat in a booth at a truck stop diner while Annie cried some more. The southern waitress and the line of truckers at the counter all thought I was breaking up with her.
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