I Am Not Mad

The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.
—- Salvador Dali

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Overtly resist change

This is adapted from something I wrote twenty years ago – updated it a bit.

As I left work to run an errand over my lunch hour the “low gasoline level” alarm went off in my car. It’s a gentle, yet jolting alarm; a soft, insistent “bo-ing” and accompanying orange light in the shape of a symbol of a gas pump. I drove a block down and filled up the car with gas.

The gas station was one of the new ones that offer everything under one roof. Twenty pumps, cold drinks, car wash, hot food, air and water, pizza, oil and washer fluid, magazines and lottery tickets, toys and office supplies, maps and pornography. An entire modern civilization springs up in this little store with its spreading shade-wings across the oily tarmac. An oasis, a tacky colorful monument to gaudy garish American Vulgar Capitalism founded, owned and operated by a family of Pakistanis.

I finished pumping and walked to the store to grab some juice. As I was walking I could see through the glass door a sign hanging from the ceiling. It was bright red neon; near the back of the building, yet very visible and obvious. It said:

ZEN FOOD

I was tired and cold and my brain was fuzzy. I allowed my thoughts to believe the evidence of my eyes. Why would a cheap-ass convenience store offer Zen Food? What is Zen Food anyway?

A momentary fantasy floated through my brain of exotic, delicious, far-eastern culinary delights. Spicy colorful mixtures, displayed on steam tables, savory herbs and succulent vegetables prepared with ancient recipes and exotic skills. I allowed myself the luxury of imagining for a moment I had stumbled on something special, a precious mystery hidden away in the most common of locations – a gas station.

As I, with a spring in my step, eagerly entered the store it was suddenly obvious that an advertisement hanging from the ceiling, an inflatable pack of cigarettes, had concealed the first three letters of the sign:

FRO

I pulled a V-8 out of the cooler. The day suddenly seemed colder, barren, a little more bleak and a lot more ordinary.

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Human Beings Would Not Be Human Without Them

“Any technological advance can be dangerous. Fire was dangerous from the start, and so (even more so) was speech – and both are still dangerous to this day – but human beings would not be human without them.”
― Isaac Asimov

Gas Space Heater, St. Charles Guest House, New Orleans, Louisiana

Gas Space Heater,
St. Charles Guest House,
New Orleans, Louisiana

A cold snap came through New Orleans the day after Halloween. When we came back to our room in the old guest house in the Garden District an unseen Prometheus had lit the gas space heater in the bathroom, filling the cracked and colorful old Art Deco tile designs with a warmth of blue, red, and orange.

GSTV

The other day I had to go out to work at seven in the morning on Saturday. I didn’t have to stay long and as I was leaving I stopped by the Gas Station in front of the Wal-Mart across the highway from where I work. As I stood there, holding the nozzle, I watched some quick news bits and commercials (Soft Drinks and Candy – stuff for sale in the Gas Station Convenience Store) on the flat screen television attached to the top of the gas pump.

I looked closer and found that there is a network and web site for the programming that services the screens over the pumps – Gas Station TV – GSTV.

I have lived long enough to see society “progress” from when we were lucky to pull in three black and white channels on rabbit ears wrapped with aluminum foil to boost the signal to now when there is a special network dedicated to delivering programming to people while they gas up their cars.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

A Snickers ad on GSTV. My little car doesn’t look very cool, but it gets good gas mileage.

I had no idea what an EBT Cash Benefit Card was. I had to google it. I guess that’s a good thing. I guess people that go in to work at seven AM on their days off don’t get EBT Cash Benefit Cards.