Stop Networking Me!

July 2, 2009

Sometimes I want to be anonymous.
I don’t want to be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, or
Twitter.
I don’t want that guy I never liked in high school
Sending me a friend request.
I don’t want that woman I worked with when I was 23,
Who probably remembers the times I screwed up in work,
And that I got fired;
I definitely don’t want her as part of my
Network.
There’s a reason I moved on with my life,
And didn’t stay in touch with some of these people.
I thought I was done with them
Forever,
But now they’re looking me up on social networks.
Friending me.
How can I turn them down?
What should I say?
“Sorry, I never really liked you
In high school, because
You gave me that embarrassing nickname that I hated.”
Or, “Sorry, you must have forgotten that I had a
Shouting match with you in the office
Twenty years ago,
And I always suspected you got me
Fired.
So, no thanks, I don’t want to be your friend now.”
I’d rather present a different face to the world,
And list my many accomplishments, triumphs, and
Awards (even if I’m a little hazy about some of them).
I’m looking for a different network;
I’m looking for a different me.
I’d rather not chat about old times,
Because it’s old times I’m trying to forget.
Didn’t you see my profile picture?
I’m more distinguished now,
Somehow more, oh, professional.
That person you want to connect to
Is in a different network.
The stuck-in-a-time-warp network.
I’m not part of that anymore.
I hope.

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When Will The Robots Arrive?

June 9, 2009

When will the robots arrive?
We’ve all been waiting so long for the robots to arrive.
They’re so efficient, so precise, there are no temper tantrums with a robot.
No, “I’ve got a headache”.
No, “The way you eat your cereal makes me crazy”.
No, “I’ve always hated your friends”.
Imagine, someone living in the same house as you, but
they never tell you they’ve heard your stories before.
They look at you with those wide robot eyes and there’s absolutely no shred of
disappointment in them,
or sadness,
or contempt.
They seem interested in everything about you.
You are the most fascinating person in the universe.
You are subject to moods, of course, but the robot factors that in.
The robot pays no attention to your moods.
The robot understands that you are an emotional human, and it is to be expected that
you will say and do completely illogical things.
The robot understands the algorithm for that.
The one that says humans will every once in awhile go crazy.
Some of us will want to be robots, be part of that clean, precise universe
where there is no randomness,
no yawning emptiness,
no fear, no tears, no grief.
It is such a lovely way to live, isn’t it?
Some of us will long for that, in our ham-handed human way.
The robots will understand that, and will take into account that we’re being human
and stupid, of course.
They will understand that we can never be like them,
even if we don’t understand.
They will clean up after us, pull the sheets tight when they make our beds, straighten the room after we’ve broken some plates in a frenzy of lust, or rage.
They will be there always, ever ready to make things right again.
And neat, very neat.
We might imagine them shaking their heads,
perhaps with a certain tilt of the head
as if to say, “look at these ridiculous humans,
how did they ever get to this point;
how did they ever build empires, probe the heavens, unlock the secrets of the universe?
How did they ever build us?”
But then again, that would be irony.
And irony is impossible for robots.
Which is another reason why we’ll love them.
They’ll be the most wonderful machines,
And our lives will never be the same.
Some of us will grow fond of the robots,
Adopting them as members of our family,
Giving them nicknames, like “Binky” and “Toots”.
Putting bunny ears on them,
Or aprons.
The robots won’t care.
They’ll just keep doing their jobs,
immune to the drama,
while each of us leads our
comic
and poignant.
magical
and messy,
fabulous
human life.

Love List

May 26, 2009

I love that I have one child left who still wants me to kiss her goodnight.
I love a sky that is heavy with snow.
I love telling myself that good things are just around the corner.
I love how solving crosswords will make me lose track of time.
I love a sandy beach and the feeling of the sun on my skin.
I love counting my blessings.
I love falling asleep.
I love that little catch in Patsy Cline’s voice when she sings “Crazy”.
I love having debates about religion.
I love looking up at the sky at night and realizing the stars have moved since I looked at them two hours before.
I love a full moon, when it seems to take up half the sky.
I love the music in a young girl’s voice.
I love how I never tire of laughing at Inspector Clouseau movies.
I love my teeth, now that I had them straightened.
I love watching a pelican glide a foot above the water.
I love talking about memories with old friends even though we’ve told the same stories for years about our wild youth.
I love that I get one more year to act silly with my 11 year old daughter, before she gets embarrassed by me.
I love that I can talk to someone from Brazil or China through the Internet.
I love looking at the way girls on the beach stand a certain way when they know boys are looking at them.
I love that I discovered positive thinking in college.
I love the taste of chocolate.
I love hugs.
I love to watch my son play basketball.
I love to tell older women they look terrific.
I love the prospect of another day.
I love that I’m still here.

An Interesting Case

May 22, 2009

I’ve noticed that my doctor spends a lot more time making notes
these days when I visit
than he did five or ten years ago.
I am a more interesting case, it seems.
He furrows his brow more.
“That blood pressure number is getting high again,” he says.
“We’ll check it again next visit, but
we may have to start you on some
medication.”
In my house, growing up, we never even took
aspirin.
My Dad worked 30 years without taking a sick day.
His mother hated hospitals.
She had four out of five babies delivered at home.
The one that was born in the hospital was never right, she said.
She blamed it on the hospital.
I was always proud to be healthy, and doctor-free,
but now I look at my body in shock and berate it.
“What’s this rash you gave me? And why is my blood pressure elevated?
What happened to all that energy I had when I was twenty?”
My body shrugs.
‘That’s just the way things are,” it says.
If pressed, it will tell me I should have taken better care of it.
“How many times did you stay up all night when you were romancing girls?
And do you remember how much you smoked?
And some of the food you ate? And the time you mixed vodka with whiskey, that night at the bar? What were you thinking?
I wasn’t built to last forever,” it says.
“I’m not indestructible.”
“You’re letting me down,” I say. “I had plans, lots of plans for these next couple of decades. I was going to travel, build castles, write books, fight some more wars, start a company or two, before I turn my empire over
to my children.”
“Listen,” my body says. “Take it easy. Enjoy every day. You know, I really like the feeling of sitting outside in the park on a sunny day. We used to do that when you were young.”
“Yes,” I say, remembering days that seemed endless, glorious.
My body sighs.
“Can we do that again?” it says.
I think of the doctor with his checklist.
“Sure,” I say. “That would be nice.”
I’ll settle for a smaller empire.

Spring Song

May 22, 2009

I’m not going to worry about science today,
Or the state of the world economy.
I’m not going to think about climate change,
Or whether we’re headed for ruin.

The sun is out, the sky is blue,
It’s a blue so pure and serene.
The air tastes sweet, the light is golden,
The flowers are unfolding.

I know there are many thorny problems
Facing us all today,
But I’m shelving them till tomorrow
And I’m going out to play.

I’m sorry if this sounds selfish,
I know I should worry more;
But Spring is here, my blood is up,
I’ve got to go outdoors.

I’ll get back to the serious issues
In a day or two, I promise.
Right now I have a pressing date;
A walk in the park awaits.

Speak To Me

May 15, 2009

You hoard your words like a thin-lipped miser,
as if you’re afraid of spending your treasure,
and being left empty pocketed.
I try to pull them out of you, cajoling like a carny barker,
trying to separate you from your cash.
Who told you that words
were to be doled out like quarters, one at a time?
I’m an interviewer trying to coax the answers out of you;
an attorney cross-examining.
Should I give you truth serum?
Just once I’d like to see you open up your wallet,
spend some of your words.
Don’t you know you can’t take them with you when you’re gone?

I spend my words recklessly;
like I just won the lottery.
I’m lavish with them, I’m generosity itself.
I’m always chatting, yakking, talking, confabulating, blabbing, gassing, nattering, palavering. I’m promiscuous with my words,
I use them in dangerous combinations, I throw them like glittering coins into the fountain and make wishes with every sentence.
Ask me a question and I’ll give you three different answers.
My stories never end.
I go on too long, I know. People’s eyes glaze over.
I can’t help it, I’m word crazy, and
I can’t turn it off.
So I keep talking, fighting against the silence, filling up the air
between us with torrents of words.
Enough for both of us, and more.
Don’t mind me, I’m just talking to myself.
It’s better than silence; at least I think so.
Only sometimes, I wish you would answer.
I wish you would throw me a penny or two from your fortune of words.
I’m spending all of mine, you see.
Some day maybe there won’t be any left;
And then you’ll have the bankruptcy of
silence to
comfort you.

I’m Indebted To You

May 1, 2009

Here’s another phone call with another fabulous offer
of a credit card, a low-interest mortgage,
a sumptuous vacation home,
or perhaps a brand-spanking-new car.
Sometimes it’s a well-known celebrity
Who’s taken the time to record a message
just for me,
about how absolutely critical it is for me to vote against
this or that.
I am flattered to receive so many calls.
I feel so important, that so many people want to
offer me so many valuable things,
or get my opinion on some essential issue
by answering a few simple and brief questions.
I try to be polite and listen to them all
without interrupting.
It’s such a lovely life they’re proffering, and of course,
who wouldn’t want to live in a gorgeous home and wear designer clothing and
drive a sexy car and
have scads and scads of money?
And talk on the phone with Sean Penn or Madonna?
But, there’s just one small thing. . .
I tried out that lifestyle already, you see;
and I’m hung over,
broke
and deflated;
so I won’t be needing any more
shiny new
fairy tales
today.

Don’t Need No Progress

April 29, 2009

Everywhere I see the news:
“The future will bring such wonders.”
Magazines and pundits all enthuse,
And tell us we’ll live to a hundred.

New discoveries, they proclaim
Will change us dramatically.
Technology will our lives reframe;
We’ll be living ecstatically.

Robots will do the dirty work;
Medicines will make us healthy.
We’ll grow new limbs, we’ll never get hurt,
We’ll all be very wealthy.

It all sounds grand and glorious,
And I hope to see it come true,
But I don’t take it very serious,
I’ve got a skeptical view.

I’ve lived too long on this Earth
To get caught up in the hype and the bluster.
I remember with some sense of mirth,
Predictions that didn’t pass muster.

Gardens on Mars, remember them?
Or affordable cars that fly.
Or the most ridiculous one, ahem:
Teleporting in the blink of an eye.

I’m not begrudging our progress,
And I love predictions so bold,
But I’d be happy with no more, no less,
Than a cure for the common cold.

No Longer There

April 28, 2009

The school I went to as a child is closed;
all the classrooms shuttered.
The schoolyard where the boys played keepaway, stickball, handball, or
had endless arguments about who was the greatest
baseball player,
and where the girls skipped rope, played hopscotch or tag, or
told breathless giggling secrets about the boys;
abandoned.
The house where the nuns who taught us lived
is being rented out.
The rectory, where the priests lived
is an office building now.
The church, where I got in trouble as an altar boy for
a joke I whispered during Mass,
is rarely used.
Changing demographics did it in.
Enrollment was down,
costs were up,
The diocese had to cut costs.
The brick building sits on the hill,
smaller than I remembered it.
“There’s where I went to school,” I tell my children
as we drive up the street.
“It looks old,” says one.
“What an ugly building,” says another.
“Can we go home now?” says another.
I consider stopping the car;
maybe there’s an unlocked door.
I could walk in and explore;
take my seat in one of the old wooden desks
and try to remember the joy of being
eight years old again.
Instead, I drive on;
Knowing it may be years before I get back here.
By then the building may be gone,
razed and replaced by houses, or perhaps a shopping mall.
All the memories scattered.
My children don’t care about that;
they have the casual ruthlessness of youth.
The present is all that matters.
This building is an interruption to them.
For me it’s still a quivering, beating living thing
That’s diminishing in my rearview mirror.
“Wait,” I say, turning the car, “Let’s stop here.
Just a few moments.
Just a few moments and we’ll leave.”

Eternal Hope

April 27, 2009

I have books, many books, on how to get rich.
I have books on time management.
On interpreting my dreams.
On esoteric Oriental philosophies.
A whole bunch on how to be happy.
A few on self-hypnosis.
A smattering on religion.
A hodgepodge on visualization, yoga, law of attraction,
and other such topics.
When I was a kid I read a lot of comic books.
I was fascinated by the advertisements in the back
promising a well-muscled physique
if you just sent in your money
to Mr. Charles Atlas,
who once was a 98 pound weakling
like me.
One day I sent in my money,
waited desperately for the exercise plan to come
and tore the package open with shaking fingers
when it arrived.
I dutifully read the books,
practiced the exercises,
checked myself daily in the mirror;
and gained an inch or two in my biceps,
and another inch in my chest.
Sometimes I wonder what ever became of those books;
that patented exercise program
that made he-men out of skinny boys.
Maybe if I found it, and tried it again,
but this time tried really hard,
maybe I could still have that powerful physique.
It’s out there, waiting for me, like when I look up at the big grinning moon
on a clear night,
and it almost seems close enough to touch.
Maybe I followed the formulas wrong.
Subtracted when I should have added.
That’s it, I must have made an error;
the mistake was mine.
I’ll try again;
this time will be different.
I just need to buy another book.