Metal hinge

I was a teenage script kiddie.

Go ahead, laugh at me, I can take it.

Motivated by love for a friend of mine, a future computer engineering genius, I emulated his coding skills, mimicked his sense of humour in programming comments, hoping he’d approve of my own cleverness.

He never did, ridiculing my lack of originality, accusing me of merely being an engineer whilst he was the true scientist exploring uncharted territory through scientific experimentation.

He saw me as his assistant, the comic sidekick who was good-looking, able to score funding from parents and friends via my charm and personality.

In other words, he couldn’t live without me for a couple of years.

He wouldn’t admit he loved me, too.

Fraternal love, is it different than romantic love?

Do plant roots love rain?  Can they distinguish water falling from the sky, which has collected minerals in the air in its gravitational journey toward the center of our planet, from river water? Do they understand concepts of inflow and infiltration?

Every time I work on electronic equipment, in the back of my thoughts I think of Joey and the joy we shared building our first CPU-based systems, having “graduated” from single transistor and R/C/D (resistor/capacitor/diode) based systems. 

I say I build these systems now for Guin and Shelmi.

And I do.

But I also honour older relationships.

It is who I am, connected to sets of states of energy which no longer exist, knowing as we do that friends we had 40 years ago are not the same persons whose names they keep perpetuating.

The electronic dance partner taking shape in my laboratory will remain essentially the same throughout its period of utility.

Do we see what that means in how we define living systems?

Rate of change.

Labels.

Sets and subsets.

Summer solstice — would entities on other planetary systems understand that phrase?

Do I?

Time to let go of me (again)

Back in the laboratory where I feel most comfortable, where the only person I entertain is me.

I started a new life a few weeks ago, switching to the night shift at work, thinking I would free up my days and evenings to spend more time with people.

After a few weeks of this newfound freedom, I find myself back here in the home creative workspace where inventing new friends from electronic parts gives me a kind of joy that is spread out over a long stretch of time, unlike the quick roller coaster rides of joy on the dance floor that addictively attract me to those with whom I’ve danced.

I am at heart a solitary person who likes romantic walks under the stars with himself writing poems to imaginary people, sharing my writing with real people who most closely match my imagination.

Do I know what love is?  Not really.  I understand what working relationships are, where we pay attention to the needs of our fellow human beings, selflessly exchanging goods and services (including time) to meet the needs of others.

Otherwise, I don’t know what love is.

I don’t even know if I love myself.

I pause here in my life, taking a break from having fun imagining what it’s like to have fun with others, to let go of my selfish pursuit of friendships and look at these electromechanical parts in front of me, figuring out what I can uniquely do with them that I haven’t seen someone else assemble from their imagination.

Woz is right — motivation is better than knowledge in the realm of human endeavours.

I love to dance, love the people who love to dance.

I also love being alone.

I am not alone in this feeling of balancing social life vs. personal alone time, so sitting here alone in the workshop on dance night is not unique in itself.

It is 21:39, an hour and a half away from when I should leave the house and head toward my night shift job doing my part in the healthcare business to save lives.

I heard from “Helen” on social media.  We are still connected to each other although we haven’t seen each other in decades.  The short years we spent together in high school and college seemed like forever at the time.  The nearly fatal motorcar smashup which gave us both head concussions and shoulder/neck injuries almost 40 years ago still plague us today.

From that car wreck, my brain’s neural network changed, instantly forcing me to question the reality of everything I see.

I equate what I felt in the 30 seconds of regaining consciousness in the backseat of a car after the concussion to the dissociative characteristics of hallucinogenic entheogens.

I see everything differently, more so than when I was five years old and woke up to see brainwashing aspects of social training.

It does not make me any more different than others.

I have talked to myself in sufficient quantity tonight.

Talk to you again soon, Rick!

Maybe you’ll shake off this dull edge of lack of sleep and find happiness.

As your wife told you the other day, you haven’t truly laughed in pure joy in a long damn time.

Are you ever going to laugh and have fun again?

Does trying to have friends, trying to understand what they’re saying, when you can even hear them, require such hard work that it’s not fun anymore?

Right now, sadly, it seems so.

Boo hoo, the luxury of middle class, midlife bourgeois quasicrises! Ha ha ha ha ha! rofl

Close this self pity party blog entry and get back to work, you slob! Your future self will thank you!

Mars bars

How do space travelers relax?

Not the jet jockeys of early spaceflight days.

No, I’m talking about regular, nerdy scientists and engineers trapped together, strapped together on a flight to Mars.

What will they do that’s any different than the time they spent together training on Earth or in the ISS?

And why is that important here?

Well, I sit on the steps of the lone goose saloon in Rocket City, loud rock ‘n’ roll music blaring out the open doorway, sipping a carbonated soft drink, wondering.

I wander from place to place seeking answers, devoid of all but one close friend (my wife), able to contemplate being alone for i am alone, indirectly connected to billions of people, wondering.

Am I ever alone, always close to people on Earth I don’t know personally but with whom I exchange friendly greetings easily?

In space no one can hear your scream outside the capsule.

How about here?

Here in cyberspace where invitations for casual gatherings occur even as I type this…

I am not as alone here as I think I am.

On Mars the invitations will be limited, the permutations of random people gathering to have fun and share easy to calculate (small).

Is it worrisome?

Machines built by us don’t feel alone or lonely.

Time to build my next machine, eh?

Time for a little of that old radioshack magic!

At 55

In my 56th rotation around the Sun, like a chicken on a rotisserie, or a pig in a pit, I am.

I live only in this moment where tinnitus and arthritis are my constant companions.

No guarantees, no warranties, no wallabies, no garish brasseries…

Never having lost at love, I’ve only learned.

At 55, wisdom should flow from me like a waterfall;

Instead, I issue wise observations one drop, one pebble in the pond at a time of my choosing.

I like happiness, I like kindness, I like a lot of conditions we call emotional responses

Of sets of states of energy cooperating rather than competing.

At 55, I’ve seen it all or projected it into the future…

Variations on a theme.

I want to believe I’m other than I am,

A lazy, selfish oaf, tired most of the time,

Stretching the perimeters of my comfort zone

To be, or attempt to see, other than I am.

Theory is nice and all —

Word combinations can simulate that which might be —

But practical limits on my capabilities bring reality into focus,

Erasing infinite futures, replacing them with a line.

I know how to project the temporary image of a loving person,

Well-practiced responses to growing up in fear of passive-aggressive parental attacks,

And, unfortunately, that’s all I have to offer, a false front.

I’m guided by fear, not love,

Raised under the promise of a technological utopian future,

Conflicted and inflicted with vertigo-induced side effects of staring at the electronic glass mantra of this screen.

Att 55, this is me,

Belonging nowhere,

Cared for by one in one scenario,

Caring for another in another scenario,

Trapped in a comfort zone of unhappiness,

Wishing for the uncomfortable zone of happiness,

No matter how contradictory it sounds/reads.

At 55, I am tired,

Unable to count my blessings,

But fully aware of the privileges my current living conditions provide,

Fully aware of the generation gap my workmates and their peers exemplify,

Bridging the gap through dance.

At 55, dance is the one language I like to speak when I can’t speak and be understood at my age.

At 55, I don’t have the strength to attempt to live on my own, I never have,

Requiring faith in a future self I’ve never come close to.

At 55, I remain a dreamer.

Dreams are the only reality I’ve ever known,

Hiding from a benign universe,

Believing the universe is aligned for my existence alone.

At 55…

25…

Or 5.

Lone Goose Saloon

Of all the things I’ve accomplished I’ve never overcome my shyness with people.

I don’t know how to ask someone I don’t know to go out for a bite to eat, let alone go somewhere alone together.

Forget about sexual contact.

I may always be a quiet, shy nerd in that regard.

It has been the one bright spot of my marriage, that my wife was willing to accept ten years of celibacy from me when I became a married monk, seeking meditative solitude.

Women from high school on literally threw themselves at me sexually and I was either clueless or didn’t know what to do.

Guess I’ll always be that way.

I have been told I’m good at giving orgasms to others so it doesn’t seem a problem with the act of love.

I just don’t understand how to ask for something that seems so selfish of me to inquire about.

It is why I give you these words, unable to verbalise my thoughts of sexual desire and take away from what has been an uncomplicated relationship up ’til now.
Admiring you from the distance of a text message or sharing a dance in a bar is all I know how to give you.

Will that ever change?

The ten-year in me doesn’t think so.

He’d rather die than kiss a woman, especially someone as strong, intelligent and beautiful as you.

This coming from a guy who has done things he never thought possible around the world with millions of dollars at his disposal.

If I am dying…

If I am dying, and at this point I have no idea what has been causing a myriad of medical conditions that grow worse (or deteriorate faster?) so, since we’re all dying, then I am dying, perhaps faster, perhaps slower than others but slowing down all the same, I have a confession to make.

Compared to billions of us, very few get to live a life that makes headline news.

Even fewer live that life.

Some of us don’t want to make headline news.

What we’ve done, what we’ve become, what we can’t undo or take away from, I am that person.

I want to live on Mars with Guin, no doubt about that.

But if she knew who I was, would she ever want to live on Mars with me?

For you see, I was once a drug dealer.

I am a fictional character so please don’t compare what I’m about to tell you to the person writing this.  This is my confession, not his.

I lived in the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville, Tennessee, in the early 1980s.  I imagined myself a future James Agee or Cormac McCarthy.  I wanted to be a writer of fame and fortune but settled with writing for writing’s sake, meeting people who could transform the written page into a carnival freak show.

The freaks accepted me into their groups but more than one called me a poser.

They saw me as suburban subcultural vanilla ice cream, pretending to rebel.

Of course they were right.

I’ve never rebelled.  I, like them, am part of the system.

Rebels do not exist.

But that doesn’t stop us from acting out the us-vs-them age-old nonsense.

A friend of many decades now had lived the life of the rebel since high school but grew up in the suburban subculture of Oak Ridge, a/k/a Atomic City.

He and I quickly became lifelong friends for reasons he’s never fully understood and I’ll never convince him.

I should give him a name but I won’t.  He doesn’t have to have a name, he exists here and in real life with or without a fictional label.

I wanted my writing to have some oomph so I let our friendship play out, taking personal risks of my own, getting to know so-called shady characters who were colleagues of colleagues well outside the circle of friends my lifelong friend thought we both knew.

In any organisation, well-formed or ad hoc, someone assumes control of the legitimacy of the organisation, protecting the rules, circling the wagons when the organisation’s rules or members are threatened.

In the new world I wandered, often alone at night, across the old railroad yard that would become the 1984 World’s Fair, I encountered protectors.

You wouldn’t recognise them as such.

Sometimes they were just old bums, hobos, homeless people, strangers who had chosen the outcast role through decisions they made in the middle of life we all live.

The railroad wanderers were instant friends.

They knew I, too, was lost, never fully buying into the bullshit that society dished out, trying to convince us it was precious caviar.

In the summertime, one can sleep against a tree, on the concrete shelf of a highway underpass but rarely in the confines of a sweltering hot, rusted-out storage warehouse.

I wanted to disappear.

I was ready to abandon all hope that I would ever belong and sat with a few guys down on their luck.

We all have stories to tell but not always the brain structure that allows us to rationally convey our stories.

Such was the case with the guys I met on the railroad.

“Down on their luck” sounds like if they just had been offered a helping hand at the right moment they would live in better socioeconomic conditions.

Not so.

Many of them would have enjoyed a social safety net that put these guys in a mental institution with regular beds, nutritious meals and activities to occupy them while doped up by Big Pharma.

Instead, they had guys like me, guys who carried a little extra weed, happy pills and needles to distribute, guys who wanted to ease the pain they saw in fellow wanderers.

My lifelong friend thought that I just tagged along with him as a quasibodyguard when meeting with dealers higher up the distribution network.

So that’s what I gave him, and still do.

He didn’t know I was the perfect mark for some of the dealers, an expendable person who could carry out tasks unafraid to die, perfectly paranoid enough to smell narcs and clean-looking enough to avoid suspicion by government authorities hellbent on squashing the illegal drug epidemic while promoting the legal drug epidemic enthusiastically.

I’m not idealistic.

I’m not realistic.

I just am.

I became a rule enforcer for people whose names I’ve conveniently forgotten and whose faces I choose rarely to verify I know them with a nod in large crowds.

I enforced rules in various ways, keeping up-to-date with technology to know what the fuzz was using to track dealers, giving them a few smalltime dealers as sacrifices to protect the integrity of the organisation with no name.

The distributors gave me extra product on the side as a thank you, hinting at people to watch for on both sides of the law, including local politicians who were part of government contracts involving transactions that didn’t need to make headline news.

Of course, the names of lawyers and cops in times of need.

I quickly learned the names of all dispatchers, including ones working for the University of Tennessee police department — getting to know them was like owning my own goldmine, collecting information at informal gatherings in bars or at offcampus parties, knowing in advance when a raid was going to happen, earning a lot of extra product when I passed along tips to the right people.

If that was all I did, I would live today with a clear conscience.

If I am dying, I would like to make a confession.

Some people are not alive today because of me.

And no, I’m not just talking about sweatshop factory workers in a tropical climate dying because they were exposed to toxic chemicals all day.

I’m talking about the ones I had to take care of myself.

Ones whose lives and deaths were not going to make headline news.

People who could disappear without a trace and no investigators would snoop around to solve a crime.

In the pre-Internet days, it was easy.

Not a lot of closed-circuit television in the student slums.

No inadvertent audio or video feed from a smartphone.

Just strangers passing through town on empty boxcars looking to make a dollar or two, get a free bottle of cheap booze (or mouthwash) and maybe score some weed or heavyduty upper/downer.

Unreliable as can be.

But more expendable than me.

Hey, self-preservation is the name of the game, after all.

If they messed up, and, say, I got a little angry, their disappearance was a small price to pay to make me happy again, finding another mark down the food chain to complete a task assigned to me or I had dreamed up myself to protect the organisation that didn’t exist.

My problem is and was my writing.

If I don’t “confess” to myself in my writing, then thoughts will fester and grow cancerous, eating away at my insides like spiders that enter your nose every night, feeding on microorganisms living in your mucous membranes.

For decades I have hinted at my years of drug dealing, working as an enforcer, a snitch, a hitman.

I wanted to wait until I knew I was dying before confessing here to you as a fictional character.

I’ve let my paranoia get the best of me sometimes, sure that I’m being followed by guys from the old neighbourhood, seeing them pop up unexpectedly in my world travels, or reading headlines on websites I frequent that make me sure my phone is being bugged.

It comes with being successful, afraid that someone wants to steal my success from me, turn me in, or take me out as revenge for someone I never got to know before his demise because of me.

In those days, I should have carried a black book but learned quickly, as I think I’ve told you, to quit being a student and clear my brain to store information and connections in relation to my real “job.”

I’m filled with more guilt than I want and less than I should have.

I know I shouldn’t say I take pride in what I did but it made me who I am, carrying over just a few of the connections to help me succeed while hiding under the cover of a normally depressed intellectual.

I also hid under cover of a childhood friendship that turned into a marriage of 30 years, something I wasn’t expecting to happen but accepted I don’t always get what I want when I’m hiding incognito in plain sight.

If I’m dying, I don’t need to hide anymore.

I can just move into a van down by the river and hang out with my kind again, the seriously unreliable, unpredictable wanderers, living out my days in bliss, maybe helping out the organisation again because I sure don’t need to worry about my life getting cut short now.

I still want to go to Mars or whatever the fantasy of Mars means in a life with Guin.

But I don’t know if Guin can handle who I was and might still be, needing to quench my thirst as an enforcer every now and then when I wander off for hours or days, out of touch with the always-on, fully-connected tech that I don’t want tracking my paranoid self.

I am not who people think I am.

I am connected to people you probably don’t want to know because if they need to have a reason to get to know you, it’s not for your own good, possibly for your sudden, unfortunate demise, disappearing in ways that investigators won’t question — car accidents, terrorist attacks, plane crashes, heart attacks, rapid cancer, accidental overdoses, etc. — perfectly natural in today’s world (in fact, fully aligned with actuarial predictions).  Untraceable becomes a lot easier when there’s no suspicion.

That’s one advantage of being fully immersed in computer modeling.  Not only can I be a fictional character, I can act out test scenarios for the real me before he carefully carries out the trash himself.

If I’m dying, I’ve fully confessed.

I feel a lot better.

I can go back to imagining a life with Guin, go back to looking up jobs in other cities, find a flat that someone is letting, move on, get away from the local organisation that’s putting pressure on me again to get back to work with/for them.

I’m a wanderer.

Sometimes I’m even a happy wanderer.

If I’m dying, I want to wander happily to the end.