Solitary Man

According to Spotify, Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” is in heavy rotation for me these days. 

I wonder…

I’ve been getting some weird invitations to lunch. They arrive in the form of mail flyers. They are addressed to me, in a way, Current Resident. So nice of them to think of me, I figured I’d give them the courtesy of reading further. One was for a urology seminar. Another was for a survivalist conference. A third was from a funeral home. Although they may think me rude, I passed on all of them. Lunch at a funeral home just makes me nervous. It’s like going for sushi at a bait and tackle shop. Too easy to mix up the inventory with the catering. I would hate to be halfway into my patty melt when a frantic mortician runs into the dining room and shouts, “Where’s Mrs. Burger?” 

Where, indeed. It’s an honest mistake, really, but one I’d rather not be involved in making. When a business ends up cremating a Cobb salad and preparing Mr. Cobb for the buffet, you can bet I’m not buying whatever it was they were trying to sell me in the first place. Likewise I’d have a hard time drinking the lemonade at a urology seminar, and my stomach turns at the thought of seeds and irradiated root vegetables at a doomsday convention. 

“You’ve gotta start eating small amounts of radioactivity so you can be prepared when all the bombs drop!” 

I decided, for the most part, to continue to dine at home, like a solitary man. Which led me to consider that I may be turning into a bit of a recluse. Maybe not as bad as B. Traven, Thomas Pynchon, Buckethead, or that hermit that wrote Beowulf, but certainly a fellow leery of mingling. I thought about it and arrived at two conclusions. 

The first is that the true solitary man is one by design. It’s not for a lack of anything better to do that he affects a certain isolation around himself, and it’s not for a defect in social etiquette that he doesn’t maintain a large circle of casual friends. Chiefly, a man is resigned to a life of lonesome meditation when, through the clarity of solitude, he discovers the secret peculiar to his existence. Every person’s revelation is different, and as such no one else can help him solve his own riddle. Likewise, once he has glimpsed a bit of his own blueprint, he is powerless to communicate it. The mysterious wellspring of his soul’s grand design becomes corrupted the minute he tries to explain it to another person, like a butterfly that loses its iridescence the moment it’s captured.

That, pretty much, is why the true solitary man stands alone. 

The second conclusion I came to was that it’s good to lay low because people are psychotic and will try to fucking kill whatever they can get their hands on. There’s murder everywhere. Sick lunatics are running amok with no other purpose than to maim, torture and destroy. And it’s not even the haters you have to watch out for; it’s the love that’ll kill you. 

One of the recent standouts is a woman named Jacqueline Ades. She is locked up, for the time being, at the Maricopa County jailhouse, but only after sending over 150,000 text messages to a fellow she went out on a date with once. On one level I’m glad I’m not the object of her “affection,” but on another level I’m kind of jealous. Nobody has ever cared that much about me to send an avalanche of messages the size of the Oxford English dictionary. 

The volume of her texts is one thing, the content is quite another. Ms. Ades seemed to come to the conclusion that there’s no better way to show someone you care than to send them a faithful list of gross-outs. Her electronic epistles declared her loving intentions to bathe in this fellow’s blood, wear the top of his cranium like a hat, slice him up for a fondue, and use his bones as chopsticks. She’s a creative sort, I’ll give her that. She’s also the Ed Gein of modern dating app users.  Her love notes were so depraved she could’ve given the Marquis de Sade a run for his money. That was when I hit upon an eerie realization; Ms. Ades’s last name is an anagram for Sade. Well, there it is. She may be the last true libertine, although she strikes me as more of an Elizabeth Báthory type, the Hungarian vampire countess who used to drain her servant girls of their blood for use in her beauty rituals, which never worked, given that she was about as homely as Quasimodo. 

If all that wasn’t bad enough, I then started to get a little jealous of how prolific Ms. Ades is. Anybody who can crank out a hundred thousand text messages in a few months is quite the dedicated writer. Not even Stephen King can write that fast. I sure as hell can’t. 

Which led me to a third conclusion: The solitary man stays that way because he doesn’t like to be reminded that there is always somebody out there doing it a little bit bigger, stronger, faster, or crazier. Then, I guess, I’ll be what I am. 

Sing it, Neil Diamond…

More Alembics…

No Ifs, Ands, or Bots

Those were the days…
It used to be that bots were parasitic maggots living in fly shit. These days a bot is a parasitic maggot living in the internet. Not a lot of difference, really, although the actual larvae of the botfly is a little more honest. The tiny insects need to eat you to survive, and that is all. It’s nothing personal. The new, space-age bots, the tiny roving bands of wifi marauders, the mechanical champions of hotly held beliefs, on the other hand, arrive as your friend. “Please like me. I like you. Tell you what, I’ll help you stick it to your anonymous internet enemies, those neighbors and shaggy acquaintances who want to destroy your way of life. Just like me. One click. One like. One small victory.”

Basically a bot is a veritable cattle prod that jolts the cattle, in this case the human internet surfers, into a fit of apoplexy. It’s one thing to have an intestinal parasite. It is another to have a mental one. Nothing can provoke a good brain rage like seeing a picture on Facebook of a scaly, muscle-bound Satan in an arm wrestling match with a chiseled, Aryan Jesus. Two workout fiends. One good. One evil. I always suspected that Hell was a large health club facility filled with free weights and mirrors, and that the region around Mount Tabor was where Steroid Jesus and the Apostles congregated for a cross-fit style regimen of wind sprints and squat lunges. Now the internet has proved it. Thank you, internet.

Bots, as I understand them, are used to “meddle.” It’s a fun word. I’m glad it is back in fashion. The only other historical evidence I have of meddling is Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine gang, who spent their time smoking pot and thwarting a parade of backwater villains, who would’ve gotten away with it, had it not been for those “meddling kids.” Strange these days, though, to pull the mask off the Zombie or Swamp Creature and find a sheepish looking Vladimir Putin. Even the Harlem Globetrotters and Sandy Duncan wouldn’t believe it.

If manipulating weak-minded people is a crime then let us imprison all the lobbying firms, the public relations consultants, all special interest groups, most of the media, all advertising agencies, image consultants, the movie industry, the record industry, all Super Pacs, the fashion industry, every mega-church that has taken money from a cancer victim to buy a private jet, ambulance chasers, weepy politicians, “Lumpy” the clean coal mascot, every mascot for that matter, the science of product placement, billboards, banner ads, and every global effort to commodify goods and services and ideas from the Ross Sea to the Queen Elizabeth Islands. Maybe we’re already imprisoned. It’s called Earth. It’s walls are comprised of digital voyeurism.

I would like to take this opportunity to make friends with the bots out there. It’s nice to have people “like” you, and in the absence of an actual person, a computerized audience of enthusiasts will do just fine. I would love for this blog to be liked and reblogged a million times, either by humans or, failing that, little mechanized acolytes. An algorithm will always support my point of view, and an algorithm will never ask me to drive it to the airport, or make me feel guilty about missing its birthday party, or drunkenly hit on my wife at the Fourth of July barbecue. Actual organic friends are overrated.

Meddling, fiddling, tampering, tinkering. Everybody does it all the time. Modern digital media is filled with a million, tiny Leland Gaunt characters from the Stephen King book Needful Things running through a person’s activity, promising to deliver support in exchange for a harmless prank, a little nudge in the direction of putative righteousness. Which is innocent enough, until you see the two old ladies in the neighborhood actually swinging at each other in the middle of the street with hatchets and carving knives because a bot disrespected their flag, or their pot plant, or their transgender child, or their shotgun, or their fetus, or their president, or their carbon footprint, or their limited understanding of historical forces, or their cable news network, or their favorite sports team, or that reality star that is always making a mess of things, either in the reality of television or in the reality of reality.

It is quiet on my street today. As far as I can tell no neighborhood biddies are trying to kill each other. The sun is out. All machinery is OFF, except for a pre-recorded version of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony that wends through the windows in lofty and playful flight. Nothing is asking anything of me. I am beyond the reach of humankind. My neighbor’s dog trots up to the fence, regarding me in silence. I toss him a treat that I keep on hand for such an occasion, remembering what Mark Twain said. If you can improve upon the fortune of a dog he will not bite you. This is the main difference between a dog and a man.
More Alembics to come