Take me down little Susie, take me down
I know you think you’re the queen of the underground
And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave
—-Rolling Stones, Dead Flowers
“Electricity is really just organized lightning”
― George Carlin
Along my drive to work there is, as there always is, a line of giant electrical distribution towers. Over the past few months, I have watched them replace the towers with even larger and higher towers. Twice a day I was treated with a show of technology while this operation proceeded step by step.
They did this without disturbing the wires. First they poured huge round foundations near the old towers. Jutting out of the concrete were rings of heavy bolts. The new towers went in – placed in multiple sections lifted by a crane. Modern crane operators cans sling these massive cylinders of galvanized steel around like they were chopsticks.
Once the new towers were in place, the wires from the old ones were moved over. I didn’t see this – it happened while I was at work. I assume the transfer was done hot – with untold thousands of volts coursing through the conductors. Think about that – a miracle taking place above your head while you only gripe about the traffic delay caused by a closed lane keeping you away from the danger.
Only then were the old towers sliced with a torch and removed.
The stubs are still there – I’ll keep an eye out for how they disappear.
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.
I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer
Oblique Strategy:(Organic) machinery
I was cleaning up the directory structure on my laptop and happened upon some more of my old journal that I put online (these were the days before blogs) starting in 1996. I wrote every day for ten years or so. I navigated to December 17, 1997, exactly twenty years ago. This is what I wrote then.
The morning cup of coffee has an exhiliration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.
—-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
I managed to get almost all of my most pressing stuff caught up so I took a half day of vacation this afternoon.
I braved the stores and bought an espresso maker to give to Candy for Christmas. I hope it’s alright. There’s eighteen gazillion different kinds of these things: steam pressurized, pump pressurized, Braun, non-Braun, cheap, expensive, built-in grinders, plastic, metal, with and without Stainless Steel Frothing Pitchers, even a tiny backpacking model. I finally decided on one with an Automatic Froth Generator – whatever the hell that means. It is my hope that this will make the construction and blending of a proper Cafe Latte easier. I believe this is the concoction she purchases at Starbucks.
I only hope the damn thing doesn’t explode.
Candy went to pick up the kids and I hid her present ’til I can get enough courage to wrap it (wrapping paper and I don’t mix neatly). We were going to surprise the children with the fact that I was home from work early. Candy called, though, and said that since the day was so nice the kids wanted to go to the park. I decided to finally dust off the old mountain bike and ride down to surprise them there.
Man, am I out of shape. It felt good to ride again after so long, but my legs were rubber and my chest was heaving.
It appears that I will join the rude crowd, the mass of lemmings, and get on the New Year’s resolution train; joining a new health club and trying to whip my lazy aging carcass into some sort of presentable shape by spring. Wish me luck.
So things have changed and they have stayed the same. You forget how strange and new the idea of espresso coffee was only twenty years ago. Candy bought herself a Keurig this year. I am still struggling to ride my bike – though I do better now.
And I still can’t giftwrap worth a crap.
I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older
I turn the switch and check the number
I leave it on when in bed I slumber
I hear the rhythms of the music
I buy the product and never use it
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can’t understand just what does he say?
—-Wall of Voodoo, Mexican Radio
Oblique Strategy: Think of the radio
When I was a kid I was really interested in archaeology. I even joined a local archaeologist club and had a fantasy of going out somewhere and digging crap up. Of course, nothing ever happened. I loved a book about archaeology called Gods Graves and Scholars. I was always fascinated by this photo from Chichen Itza
A couple decades or so ago, I found myself in the exact same spot – sort of cool. It turns out that photo was taken from the top of the great pyramid.
But as far as actual archaeology goes… nada.
Now I’m cleaning out my garage, organizing, sorting and throwing as much stuff away as I can. Finally, I feel like an archaeologist, slowly moving through the detritus of the past, working layer by layer, trying to understand the purpose of things that have been long forgotten.
“The past does not influence me; I influence it.”
― Willem de Kooning
Oblique Strategy: Give way to your worst impulse
There is nothing as exhausting as facing your fears – no matter how things turn out. It is so tiring, I’m not sure it’s even worth it.
Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley…
—-Control Voice, The Outer Limits, The Sixth Finger
Oblique Strategy: Use Fewer Notes
I am not a fan of internet memes, challenges, viral videos, cat images, or Rick Ashtley.
However, when I was invited to do the “Seven ‘Days, Seven Black and White Photos” on Facebook, I decided to do the thing.
Because I wanted to.
“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
Oblique Strategy: Retrace your steps
What are the reasons for the modern vertical big city downtown? Maybe three is no reason… maybe they just are, like a mountain or an ocean. Maybe simply the value of a square foot of property.
There is the perceived need to pack a large number of lawyers, accountants, and administrative assistants together in order to foster some sort of symbiotic synergy between them. Think of the three dimensional human density in a fifty story high rise… it is unprecedented. I saw a documentary on The Lost Boys of Sudan – the Africans were brought to Houston and given ordinary apartments. They had never seen a two story building and were constantly afraid of falling through the roof of the first floor. Imagine their reaction in a skyscraper.
With today’s multi-use towers, will we have people born, live, work, and die in the same building? It’s certainly possible. It may be inevitable.
But I think the real reason for skyscrapers is to impress the rubes. To amaze the hayseeds off the farm and in the city for the first time. After all, they are the only ones that look up.