July 6 1998, Monday
acky Jen had locked her keys in her car last night, so today Dawn called University of Michigan Security and had them come try to jimmy it open. Evidently, because Dawn was a recent UofM student, she can get campus security to come out and perform free services. I rather enjoyed the fact that the security people parked obliviously right in front of the crappy stolen bike I've been riding.
Unfortunately, though they put forth a grand effort, the security people could not get Jen's car open. So Jen had a tow truck guy come out, and he had her door open within a minute. Cost: $25. I'd like to have whatever tools the tow truck guy was using. I could take over the world with that kind of mojo.
The view down William towards the Diag from the roof of the Division Street apartment. The original was accidentally out of focus, so I dealt with it the same way the late 19th Century French Painters would have.
Krazy Thom and Wacky Jen chatted for awhile with the Persian guy and his East Asian girlfriend out on the downstairs balcony. They all stood beneath the Indian restaurant's elephant-decorated sign, which has been tagged in the back with the phrase "Towel Heads, " a popular slur back during the Gulf War.
d made up my mind to stay behind in Ann Arbor when Wacky Jen and Krazy Thom headed back to Virginia today. I figured I could hitchhike anywhere I might care to go from here. So when Thom and Jen loaded up her car with their stuff and headed out, I wished them goodbye and headed my own separate way on my stolen bicycle. The last thing Thom did was suggest I deface my black laptop bag a bit so as to make it less of a traget for theft, at which point he blasted random patterns on it with green spray paint.
explored the frat boy-rich commercial district I'd discovered yesterday. As I rode back and forth hoping to find the cheap pizza place Dawn had taken us to yesterday, I experienced a glorious feeling of freedom. I didn't have to do anything for anyone, and I didn't have to be anywhere but where I chose to go. I could have, if I'd wanted to, set out immediately for the North Pole.
I locked up the bike out in front of the computing center in a busy section of the University of Michigan, using the original stolen lock. I was figuring that if the bike's rightful owner came along and reclaimed it, the experience wouldn't be much worse for him or her than any other clever mind-fuck I could have perpetrated.
In the computer lab, I caught up on my email, followed the recent flurry of press attention being given to the online journal world and then dove into a protracted spell of writing. I write. What do I write? These musings. So I try to do it right.
t around four, I met up with Matt Rogers down at the Fleetwood. I ordered coffee and a basket of fries, wolfing them down as quickly as I could when they arrived. I was famished; I hadn't eaten anything all day, having set goals for myself that I had to complete before I would allow myself to eat. Did I mention I'm a poet?
I was so interested in the food, I didn't pay much attention to the conversation. It had something to do with such concepts as "the nature of reality" and "non-linear means of exploring artistic paradigms" (or somesuch, I'm sort of joking around here). We also discussed our respective unremarkable love lives and the people seemingly with the power to keep them that way.
After we were done with the Fleetwood, Matt drove us to Ypsilanti, the blue-collar working man's town where he now lives with his mother. Matt's car is a sporty Honda model, though it seems to be falling apart. The clutch slips badly and every time it goes around a curve, one of the C-V joints makes a clock-clock-clock noise. But working as a bus boy, Matt doesn't have enough to afford the necessary repairs. "C'est tragique," as Matt puts it.
As we rolled into the outskirts of Ypsilanti, everything suddenly started looking dingy, old in that grey and dreary way I remember things being everytime I've passed through New Jersey. Matt stopped the car and had me take pictures of an old bowling alley sign, which, he said, used to say "OWL" but now says "B."
Further into Ypsilanti (which Matt sometimes calls "Ypsitucky" in tribute to all the Kentuckians who relocated here years ago to work in the auto plants), we came upon a big stone phallic watertower. I snapped a picture, but unbenownst to me, the settings were wrong, and to salvage it I had to make it look as if it had been painted by Georges Seurat.
Matt's mother's house was a fairly average suburban home on a fairly average blue-collar suburban street. The moment I walked in, two dogs started barking at me, and despite many attempts to make peace with a tiny little Daschund, I could only reach an understanding with the Beagle. This was unfortunate, since Matt's mother, a well-preserved white-haired woman, had been trying to take a nap on the couch. But she's evidently not the kind to get upset about such little things. Matt says that he gets along very well with his mother and that she hasn't put any pressure on him to go and make something of his life. Though Matt may not be on speaking terms with his mother's skinny long haired boyfriend, and though he may shake his head at her subscription to Cosmopolitan Magazine, he's very thankful that God dealt him this particular mother.
Matt showed me his room, which was really a closed-in porch. He'd filled it with a bed, his books, his stereo equipment & music, an Internet-equipped 75 MHz Pentium computer, a scanner, a colour printer, and piles of unsorted laundry. It was sort of like a very inefficiently laid out and much less lived-in Shaque, but it had served him well since moving in back in May. With wry self deprecation, he'd occasionally say, "I'm livin' on a porch, what can you do?" This made me recall an old Bon Jovi song, which (like most Bon Jovi songs) was based on a cliché, "Living on a Prayer." Thenceforth throughout the evening, I'd occasionally break briefly into song, shouting "Living on a Porch!" in that all-but-forgotten late-80s stylee.
There were more jokes to be had about the "concept" of "living on a porch." In our back and forth banter, Matt and I conjoured up a world-wide homesteading movement in which lots of people would begin colonizing porches, saving money on rent, getting ISDN and T1 lines installed, and becoming prolific contributors to the Information Age. We even talked of setting up a domain, livingonaporch.org, to serve as a clearinghouse for the movement. This was the sort of conversation that made me wonder what I've done without Matt for the last nine years.
att and I went on a run to pick up a copy of the latest newspaper for Matt's mother, and on the way we bought a six pack of mid-grade beer. As evening descended, we sat around drinking and playing with the one computer, installing the CoolShot software so we could get images off my digital camera. Unfortunately, all the pictures I'd taken today and yesterday were out of focus.
Matt and I eventually got involved in a long complex dialogue about the effect of information overload on the world. He wondered if I thought it was going to lead to bad things (or something along that line) for life as we know it. I said that, to my way of thing, the amount of information flow caused by humans, even in the information age, is insignificant compared to that going on, say, among all the ants in the world (tangentially, I said that Intel produces about as many transistors each year as there are ants in the world). I added that the gross effect of all this new information flow among people, if viewed from far a distance, is negligible, very unlike the gross effect of information flow in, say, our brains.
Matt lurched back and forth between a discussion of increasing flows of energy and one of increasing flows of information, and I was never really sure which one we were arguing about. Was he talking about the emergence of the Internet or the effect of the incineration of fossil fuels?
Concerning the depletion of fossil fuels and the increasing burden on mankind's numbers, I'm less pessimistic than I used to be. Sure, it sucks for the many organisms that mankind is displacing, and it sucks for our own future that we're so severely altering our environment. But these changes pale in comparison to how anærobic orangisms poisoned themselves with their own oxygen wastes several billion years ago. I think ultimately life will adapt around mankind, perhaps yielding a new equilibrium, eventually one containing an extremely decreased population of humans living in a sustainable manner. Whether they will have the wherewithall to live technologically is beyond my ability to predict.
On the subject of increasing information overload (facilitated to some extent by the glorious technology of the information age), I pointed out that there was a time some several hundred years ago when anyone of exceptional education could know pretty much all there was to know in every scientific discipline. Now, of course, that is definitely not the case. Matt hypothesized (in a fit of hyperbole no doubt accompanied with much gesticulation and body movement) that some day our specialization would make us completely incapable of communciation and we'd all go
I slept on the couch in the living room, though I did not sleep well.
one year ago
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