Monday, October 15, 2012

As the baseball season winds down, baby season kicks in with a vengeance

What is it that guys talk about? Assuming guys actually talk to each other and not just mumble incoherently, attempting, for reasons cultural anthropologists are at a loss to explain, to imitate their hominid ancestors, grunts over beers in a bar somewhere, Patti Smith on the sound system reminding guys why they're so often hopeless dicks, some girl sitting in the corner savoring a mostly incomprehensible novel by Kathy Acker, in which men are brutally deconstructed at near the speed of light, their true natures as callous, unfeeling, grunting morons revealed.

Typical Guy A:  "So, like, how's it going?"
Typical Guy B:  Grunts, gulps beer noisily, assumes deadpanned expression.
T. G. A: "How's, uh, you know, what's her name?"
T. G. B: Sucks in air, rolls eyes. "She stopped talking to me about a week ago."
T. G. A: "Bummer. Hey, what do you think that chick over in the corner is giggling about?"
T. G. B: "Who the fuck knows? Maybe she just metaphorically offed her boyfriend."
T. G. A: No clue what that means, but grunts and nods head, because in the usually deluded haze of male discourse some sense of mutual understanding appears to matter. "Anyway, did you see the game last night?"

And there it is, the way through the wilderness, the one topic to successfully navigate the maze of damaged male ego, elevating the conversation to a level where something at least simulating rational dialogue can occur.  The game.  Baseball.
You don't even have to be interested baseball, or know anything about it to have the conversation. Baseball is mostly intuitive; it neutralizes typical male obstinacy, facilitates an easy suspension of disbelief, while promoting a vaguely satisfying sense of camaraderie. 

So the revised conversation goes something like this:
"Anyway, did you see the game last night?"
"Need you even ask?"
"How about that ninth inning?"
"Amazing! Cabrera does it again, huh?"
"I'm telling you, the guy is incredible."

(Note: Even if you haven't watched the game, invoking the name Cabrera is a safe bet, owing to the fact that there are like 47 guys named Cabrera currently playing in the Majors. Chances are there's at least one of them playing in every game on any given day. There are also 28 guys named Josh, making it not only a good second choice, but also lending an air of first name familiarity that will no doubt impress your friends.)

And this is how it should be, smooth, precise, emotionally non-threatening. In a perfect world all male conversations would be about baseball.  But then most of know through bitter experience what buying into the 'perfect world' scenario generally leads to.
Occasionally guys go off the reservation, a tiny, seahorse-shaped wrench is tossed into the works, baseball fades into mere background noise and all of a sudden all they can talk about is babies. You think maybe it's a virus, or something they ate, that it'll pass, but it doesn't. They've boarded the baby boat and there's no turning back. You want to talk playoffs, they want to talk sonograms; you've got tickets to a game, they'd love to go but they're flying to somewhere in the former Soviet Union to buy diapers in bulk (hey, it could happen); you grunt, growl primordially, they goo-goo, gaga; in desperation, you start reading Kathy Acker, they're busy studying the New Father's Survival Guide. 

"So, an actual, real-life baby, huh?"
"As in miniscule quasi-human who miraculously appears one day and then runs roughshod over your life for the next twenty years."
"I can hardly wait."
"A baby, lest we forget, who can't even pick up a bat, let alone hit for a decent average."
"Great, isn't it?"
"Wait a minute. If you're going to be a Daddy, that means I'm ..."
"Ah, the penny drops."
"But ..."
"Welcome to the brave new world, Grandpa."
"Shit, I've got to sit down, get my breathing under control."
"What about the game?"
"The what now..?


Friday, October 5, 2012

Disconcertingly Random Bits of Questionable Data

The fear of hearing disembodied voices in his head is one of the reasons he never answers the phone.

"She said she was thinking about going back to the planet from which she came, but she changed the subject whenever alien abduction came up."

Turns out the presumed barrier between the mind and the so-called external world is actually a porous membrane. Impossible to tell if something is simply being observed or imaginatively conjured, or if it even makes a difference.  UFO encounters are a good example of this.

Say there's this guy and his girlfriend and they're camping one early summer on a very large lake in northern Canada and not particularly satisfied with the standard definition of reality at the moment they decide to take some LSD 25 (aka Orange Sunshine, the connoisseur's  psychotropic of choice) and then some unknown time later they have a very 'real', exquisitely palpable, terrifyingly close up and personal run in with multiple, apparently alien spacecraft.
Are they hallucinating? Manifesting irrational forces from a temporarily shared unconscious? Projecting unresolved emotional issues towards their parents, from whom they feel alienated?  And then suppose it turns out there are two other people camping nearby who, while not actually having visually witnessed the event, confirm that the 'terrible noise' of it woke them and, they frankly admit, scared the bloody hell out of them. How do we explain that?

"The past is a schizophrenic ghost who refuses to move on."     

Another guy, at random, heading into the shower, ostensibly to do the things people normally do in the shower, except he suddenly slips out of the showering moment and starts having crazy flashbacks, stray memories of things that may or may not have happened, becoming intensely focused on seemingly insignificant events from a remote past which can no longer be verified, standing there under the water for twenty minutes and suddenly realizing he has no idea what he's washed, if he's washed, what it even means to wash.
Have you washed?
Have I what? 
And then it's like, wait a minute, washed or not, who am I?
It's not just the re-experiencing of past events, but multiple variations of these events; a single word, perhaps, which either was or was not said at precisely the right or wrong moment, that shifted the event, the experience and subsequent memory of it, from outcome A to outcome B. And we're somehow convinced that both occurred. Furthermore, we suspect that outcomes C, D, E, F, etc., as unimaginable as they may be, also occurred.
This, of course, corresponds to the 'Multiple Worlds' hypothesis in physics, by which the quirky, out of time, multiple reality of the quantum world is extrapolated onto the macro-world of people, planets, trees, cats, dogs, etc.  The thinking being that if electrons can do it, why can't we?

So anytime a choice is made and A occurs, all possible variations of A simultaneously occur.

Example: There's this girl (or guy) you're attracted to, but you never talk to her and regret it for the rest of your life; you do talk to her and she sneers contemptuously at you and walks away; you talk to her and fall instantly in love; you talk to her, go back to her place and she tries to kill you; you don't talk to her, but begin stalking her and eventually try to kill her; you don't talk to her and she ends up marrying your best friend; you talk to her, end up in bed with her and discover she's actually a guy, or, worse case scenario, an alien guy pretending to be a human girl. 

 Talk about things you might later dwell upon in the shower.
At the very least, it certainly renders irrelevant the concept of 'making the right choice.'

"Anything is theoretically possible, so be careful. The next time you walk through a door you could find yourself standing on the moon."

Somewhat more likely, there's a one in a million chance of being struck by lightning (in any given year) In the same time frame, there's a one in seven billion chance of being struck by a meteor.
With approximately 7 billion people on the planet, we can logically infer that within the next year one of us is going to have a spectacularly unusual and, considering the average meteor whistles in through the atmosphere at 30 kilometers per second, extremely bad day.

I thought losing my job, wife, house and dog all in the same week was as bad as it could possibly get. Then the poor bastard next door gets hit by a fucking meteor. Really helped put things in perspective.