I Can’t Believe It’s Not Oxygen


Our story begins at 30,000 feet aboard an EMB-145 commuter jet piercing heavy fog and moving north in a hurry. No lights are visible from below. We might as well be flying through a bowl of chowder. The aircraft shudders gently as it climbs, and I’m counting the seconds in my head. The first seven minutes and the last five are the worst. Prime time. That’s when something, if anything, is most likely to happen.Why am I doing this? Who am I talking to? What is the intended result? Write until the hands cramp, until the eyes begin to cross in exhaustion. Half asleep, the tip of my black felt pen jumps and slides like a water witches wand in search of a well as I stalk the nonsense from the earth: He who holds the spill collides. Who induces it? Who is eating it? What’s the best dog for cleanup? What’s the next step? Will it attest the coastline? What does the public need to crow? How can they stay intoned? Vibrating radio crystal intervals at 105 on the list, cheap shit space operas, cardboard suits, a flash in the darkness now and again, the steel ring of a lighter — LOSS OF SIGNALOpen your eyes. Choose a name. Get into character. We’re going live in five, four, three (get into character..)

Music kicks in, and my head snaps up. I’m aware of a decade-long ache that begins in my temples, cascading onto my shoulders and extending down my spine like a vestigial pain tail. That’s the result of never letting go. That’s the feeling of staying awake for days on end and never letting anyone get close to you. That’s what you get for living your life via text messages. That’s the result of having your personal GNP plummet to the earth like a sack of wet concrete. Gotta be strong a moment longer, hold the breath a little harder. All too often, you picture yourself sitting crowd-center swaddled in Level A, slowly sipping O2, deliberately distanced from your surroundings by the safety of tear-resistant plastic and the slow hiss of your breathing.

The Sky Ninjas are making their rounds now, steel cables where their spines ought to be, serving hot tea in heavy turbulence. Long red hair smoothed back into a crisp pony tail, her freckled face glowing clean like she’s fresh from a spa day in a car wash. Bright blue eyes fixed on me. “Something to drink?” I want to drown in her eyes. I want to make her laugh. I want to woo her, win her over. I want to tell her something she doesn’t already know. I want to impress her. I want to show her it’s gonna be okay, and show her she can trust me. Instead, I ask her for coffee.

This is the extent of my relationships as of late.

A week’s worth of lectures, condensed: Assume away the mechanics. We must return to a previous state of multi-polarity in order to create a sustained and substantial dialog. I don’t presume to know what interests you: boutique staff, lots of heat and light, maybe somebody else’s ox being gored. The signal demands your center of gravity. What else would reasonable people appropriately expect a reasonable organization to do in this situation? At the end of the day, there is only the tyranny of definition, the weight of swivel chair interface, and a victory parade marching between these ghetto thin walls. I don’t care for your universal management badge. You continually cease to amaze me. I briefed this to truth, but he was not shot in the ass with joy over the idea. These are solid beings. They need to put their hands in the wound, write some night letters, and get involved in the knife fight. You need to take him to coffee, engage in the dialog of the deaf, and reduce the scope of his actions. I am speaking now of a secret technique whereby the operative presents information in packaged terms, a pre-limiting format; arriving at the conclusion where X is already Y, describe your actions to me in a way that guarantees that I will be accepting of your terms. Right now is too late, because as it turns out people don’t like surprises.

I’m so sorry I haven’t written in ages. I’m entirely too fucking busy, and possessed of institutional memory. But let’s not let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good enough’. This is all about finding the answer, but finding that there ain’t no answer to find. Consider the industrial hygienist; here stands a man who knows that time is short. Let him who hath understanding reckon that terrorism is big business. The tautological onslaught of the guest speakers, smug party line grok lockstep, no new news, and non-stop nodding. Weekend warriors and miniature model enthusiasts, one hand braced high, damp foreheads, rolling around on the floor in desperation whining for attention. “Please! Just one more wildly esoteric, self-absorbed show-off question! I need my reliance validated!” Black birds with shining eyes dancing on the power lines, the sharp crack of pre-storm ozone and a puff of smoke in the flap of the wings. The American public are always an audience — just not a high value one.

Visited the White House yesterday, and I’m planing to tour the state department tomorrow with a trip to the Pentagon Friday. Step one: convince an opposing panel to use quadcopters as video platforms during hazardous response situations: oil spills, rail car explosions, Juggalo Gatherings, hurricanes, earthquakes, interspecies methadone conferences, and silent raves. Not only must I sell it, but I’ve got to justify the shit out of it. Step two: craft a three-prong public affairs engagement plan for a thirty-six hour, multi-media campaign to address and support the U.S. in their deterrence of China’s plans to invade a strategic rock in the South China Sea where Japan’s interests are closely aligned. Plan for photo, video, media embeds, campaign slogans, social media, a week of peyote, and a partnership reaffirmation plan for our coalition allies. Account for opposing anti-U.S. propaganda. The whole fucking thing is as about as useful as Anne Frank’s drum set.

Emotions are not facts. Emotions are like nailing a fried egg to a tree with a water balloon. Emotions are fireflies to be caught with a fishing net. Emotions are a spiderweb to be untied and re-knotted in the space of seven breaths. (Relax, turn around, take my hand…)

Per our conversation last night: it occurs to me that I was on the cusp of something in NYC, so close to being able to touch the Future. I described it as a great ship hovering at JFK’s outer marker awaiting clearance to land, a near-tangible phenomena present in every once-shiny convenience store, the future tense cornucopia once promised and now available for discount purchase in plastic bins in hang dog bodegas nationwide; phone cards for Filipino workers living 12 to a one-room flat, burner cell phones, Rwandan refugee boy bands hawking demo CDs in the backgrounds of local emergencies and hiding them in Happy Meals.

I used to say, “The Future will be here in five minutes.” I’ve stopped saying that. It’s here. I was walking down the street in D.C. last night when I passed a hookah bar. Outside, Iranian teenagers and corn-fed Midwest white girls were soaking up the free wi-fi and texting each other from three feet away, sending their hormone-infused love notes into space. That’s the future. That conversation we had about people fidgeting over the nth degree of control they exert over their car’s A/C or heat, living life by the tweak of a dial? That’s the future. All the info, and none of the knowledge. A generation raised in their bedrooms. A four-minute news cycle. Oxygen bars. Virtual private networks. Pistol adverts. 3-D printers printing 3-D printers in space. Crypto orchids. Pop culture rifles. Military-grade denim. Sentient alcohol. Realism marketing. Buckminsterfullerene shanty towns. Drone cartels. Industrial grade sunglasses. Pre-teen cyber-savants. Monofilament street gangs. 8-bit voodoo grenades. Cardboard otaku. Neural assault film campaigns. Arctic seed warehouses. Courier gangs. Refrigerated tattoos. 8-bit augmented reality drugs. DIY assassins. Artisanal bomb marketing. That’s the future I hope I live to touch.

My head hurts. I trust all is well.

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