He Likes Bacon

“I want bacon flavored bacon on my bacon. I want so much bacon flavor that it obtains critical mass. I want it to collapse into a bacon singularity were no flavor can escape.”

She pushed her glasses down her nose so that she could look over the wire-rimmed frames at him. “That’s crazy,” she told him, “that would leave you trapped inside the bacon event horizon.”

“That’s where I want to be,” he said.

“All alone? Forever?”

“With bacon you’re never alone.”

“You’re insane.” She crossed her arms and shook her head. “But if that’s what you really want, I can’t stop you.”

“This is goodbye, then,” he said. “I’m gonna have me some bacon.”

“Goodbye, moron.”

He smiled and waved, then stepped into the giant Bacon Accelerator. There was a loud hum, a flash, then he was gone.

All the Required Paperwork

“Aaaaaaaaaaa?” the hard faced, white-haired lady said. “It says ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa.’”

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

“Your name is ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa?’”

“It’s pronounced ‘Bill.’”

“Bill?” She stared at him in outrage. “How do you get ‘Bill’ out of eleven A’s?”

“It’s a foreign spelling.”

“Well, that’s just ridiculous!”

“It’s on my birth certificate.” He proffered his wrinkled document.

“I’m not issuing a driver’s license to ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa.’”

“Bill,” he corrected.

“I don’t care how you pronounce it!” Her eyes scanned further down the paperwork. “And what’s this? Your last name is ‘Puffiboomboom?’”

“Yes…”

“Puffy … boom boom?”

“Well, it’s, um—”

“What, do you pronounce it, ‘Smith?’”

“Actually, it’s pronounced, ‘Ledbetter.’”

“Ledbetter?” Her wrinkles flushed crimson. “How do you get ‘Ledbetter’ from ‘Puffiboomboom?’” She held up her wiry hand. “Don’t tell me. Foreign spelling.”

“Yes.”

“How stupid do you think I am?” she said. “This has to be a prank!”

“No, ma’am.”

“I’m not buying this, not at all!”

“I have all the paperwork filled out—”

“Aaaaaaaaaaa Puffiboomboom is not getting a driver’s license. Not from me.”

“Ma’am, I didn’t choose this name. It’s something I’ve had to live with all my life.”

“Well, it’s time to choose something else!”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? If your name is ‘Bill Ledbetter’ then why don’t you just spell it that way?”

“Can we do that?”

“Well,” she said, “let’s see.” She typed angrily at her keyboard for long minutes, and then a machine whirred. She grabbed a stamp, smacked it down on his paperwork like a judge banging a gavel, and then slid the whole pile at him. “There, Aaaaaaaaaaa Puffiboomboom, it’s done.”

He stared at his brand new driver’s license. The picture was typically horrible, but the name was spelled “Bill Ledbetter.”

“Thank you,” he said to her.

She huffed, then looking past him at the long line, shouted, “Next!”

Bill gathered the papers and his new license and walked quickly outside to where his friends waited. He showed them the license, pointing at the birth date. Magically, he was now over 21 years old.

“Dude!” yelled one of his ecstatic friends. “Let’s go buy beer!”

Afterlife Kahlua

Kevin died suddenly.

It took him a while to realize it, because he thought he was dreaming. Walking along in wintry downtown Chicago, his feet crunching in the snow, there was a few minutes of discontinuity and then suddenly he realized he was floating. Several feet below him was a prone figure surrounded by what looked like a spilled strawberry Slushie. A large icicle had broken off the side of the looming skyscraper and buried itself like a dagger into the top of the poor bastard’s head. Oddly, the poor bastard wore a coat identical to Kevin’s … and shoes, too.

And pants.

The uh-oh moment came when Kevin recognized the grinning monkey’s head tattoo right where a normal person’s wristwatch would be. What were the odds someone else would have that? None, he finally admitted to himself.

It wasn’t long before the beautiful white light showed up, and a guy in a black hooded cloak holding some sort of antique farm implement urged him to float into it. Beyond, he knew, would be a land of pearly gates and puffy clouds, and thinking what a trip that would be, he went for it. The light itself seemed to have a kind of gravity, pulling at him, so after he got too close to the event horizon he couldn’t change his mind even if he’d wanted too. It sucked him in like a Kleenex into a Hoover.

There was music on the other side, but not the angelic choir Kevin had expected. It was a muted and low fidelity jazz, sounding a lot like he were listening to it underwater.

As the glow from the beautiful light faded, Kevin began to make out details. At first he saw what he thought were the pearly gates, but as the edges sharpened Kevin had to finally admit to himself it was shelving.

On the shelves were bottles.

Rows and rows of bottles.

Liquor bottles.

He was in a liquor store. It was even one he recognized — it was the Binny’s in the South Loop. And not only was he in a liquor store, Kevin was sitting on one of the shelves, next to the bottles.

He was a bottle. He was inside the bottle.

“Hey, hi there, excuse me,” said the bottle next to him. “Did you just wake up?”

“What?” Kevin said, surprised that he could talk.

“Ah, yes, you are awake. Good! Could you tell me, perchance, what brand I am?”

“What?” Kevin said again.

“Can you read my label? Could you tell me if I’m Baileys or Carolinas?”

Kevin had to fight the rising tide of panic that threatened to overwhelm him. “You’re a Baileys,” he said.

“You’re sure? You can see my label?”

“Yes, plain as day.” He wondered how he could do that, being that he no longer had eyes.

“I’m a Baileys,” the bottle said. “Thank God.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because it means I’m top shelf — like you.”

“What am I?

“You? You don’t know?”

Kevin went to shake his head, but didn’t have one. “I just got here.”

“Oh, well, you really did just wake up,” said the Baileys. “You’re a genuine Kahlua.”

“Kahlua?”

“Did you just die or something? Went into the light? Found yourself here?”

“Yes!”

“Think you’re dreaming?”

“Yes!”

“Well you’re not. Welcome to the afterlife, Kahlua.”

“I’m … this … I’m not—”

“Better get used to it.”

“This can’t be the afterlife! It can’t be. And my name isn’t Kahlua! It’s … my name, it’s … um.” He couldn’t remember.

“Your name is Kahlua,” said Baileys.

After a few moments Kahlua remembered he was feeling panicky about something, but couldn’t remember what. “Why am I here?” he asked finally. “Why aren’t I in heaven?”

“You think you’re not? You’re a top shelf spirit sitting in a world class liquor store!”

“But what am I doing here?”

“You’re waiting to be reincarnated. We all are.”

Kahlua, who used to be Kevin, could feel his previous life slipping from his mind like the details of a dream upon waking. He grasped at it desperately. “I don’t get it,” he said to Baileys, “I just don’t get it. Why did I turn into a liquor? What does it have to do with being reincarnated?”

“This is how I understand it,” Baileys told him. “We’re spirits, right?”

“Yes, but…”

“We’re spirits. Alcohol is called ‘spirits’ for a reason — this is why. So we wait here until someone comes and buys us, drinks us, and under our influence have unprotected sex after which we are implanted as a soul in the newly conceived child.”

That made sense, but yet it didn’t make sense. “But,” he told Baileys, “not all children are conceived while their parents are drunk. Are you saying they’re born soulless?”

“No Kahlua, think of it this way … human population is constantly growing. There’s always more babies being born than souls to occupy them … so those are new souls. It takes inebriated parents to conceive a child with a more experienced soul. And if you look around you, this explains a lot.”

Kahlua could no longer remember enough of his previous life to judge if this was true. It seemed to make sense. As he sat there pondering it, a beautifully dressed young couple came walking by and the woman said, “Oh!” and reached out to snatch Kahlua off the shelf.

Baileys called out, “Not fair! Not freaking fair! You haven’t been here fifteen freaking minutes! I’ve been sitting here for weeks!”

If Kevin/Kahlua had shoulders he would have shrugged them. It was just a case that he — and this young couple — were about to get lucky.

The Secret Novel

I am writing a secret novel. I can’t talk about it. Or at least, I can’t reveal what it’s about.

I will reveal why it’s secret: because if I tell people about it, I’ll lose interest in finishing it. This has been my problem all my life.

I get a novel idea (I get them all the time, I can’t help it – I seem to have a brain that is wired for stories). I start writing it. I get excited, I tell people about it, I tell them about the characters.

And then I start losing interest, because … now I’ve already told the story. So it gets put away for a while until something sparks an interest in it again, and then the cycle repeats itself.

Then, on my last book, Forever And For Always, the premise and the details are so bizarre that I was embarrassed to tell people about it, so I kept my mouth shut. I would occasionally tell friends that I’m writing “a book about people having to fix physics, because someone broke it,” or “I’m writing a sequel to the last three books in the series.”

End result: I finished it in record time.

So then I started a new one, but I told most of my friends and family what it was about, and guess what? I lost interest. The book sits about 1/3 finished, gathering dust.

So now I have this fun idea for a new novel, and I’ve started writing it, and … I’m going to keep it a secret.

Let’s see if I can finish it before the end of the year.

Donnie Darko: Holden Caulfield as Ressurrecte​d by Philip K. Dick

Ten years ago today, I wrote the following in this very blog:

I knew there was a reason I really liked the enigmatic film “Donnie Darko.”  It turns out writer/director Richard Kelly is a fellow Philip K. Dick fan.  I stumbled across this today in a serendipitous moment whilst searching for something completely unrelated:

First-time writer/director Richard Kelly purposefully wanted “Donnie Darko” to be a genre-busting tale that would mean vastly different things to different people. Kelly offers this explanation of the film, “Maybe it’s the story of Holden Caulfield, resurrected in 1988 by the spirit of Philip K. Dick, who was always spinning yarns about schizophrenia and drug abuse breaking the barriers of space and time. Or it’s a black comedy foreshadowing the impact of the 1988 Presidential election, which is really the best way to explain it. But first and foremost, I wanted the film to be a piece of social satire that needs to be experienced and digested several times.”

Richard Kelly

Present day update:

This is still one of my favorite movies because I so admire the way it was written and put together. Also, here’s some sage writing advice from a more recent 2017 interview with Richard Kelly:

“My movies will take place either on the eve of an election, or in the aftermath of an election.” This device effectively timestamps the narrative in a unique place and time. It’s hard not to make a wormhole of our own between the time depicted in the movie and the current American climate following the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Film Daily Medium.com article, Why ‘Donnie Darko’ is just as relevant today as ever

My takeaway is to back up something I’ve already taken to heart. If you place your story in a specific time and place, it can never be outdated. It exists in history.

Cry Me A River, Please?

The Universal Observer

According to quantum physics, the act of observing something affects it. Just that fact that you look at it, changes it. Experiment after experiment proves this.

It gets even more weird.

When you’re looking at the smallest of things, the tiniest of the tiny, nothing is there but possibility. The fact that you look at something forces it to choose one of the possibilities and solidifies it into reality. This leads some to conclude that reality itself is not there if you don’t look at it.

This is very Zen, but ultimately it doesn’t stand up to logic.

Perfect example: Mars. We send rovers to Mars, and look at a landscape that we can tell has been there for a billion years. We didn’t just now force the landscape details into existence by looking at it. It’s been there all this time without us observing it.

Yet still, it’s proven — the nature of reality requires an observer for it to solidify into one (out of all) possibilities.

Observation is necessary for reality.

So who is observing everything when there’s no one around to observe it? This Ultimate Observer must be omniscient and ageless. This Observer must have been around a billion years ago to check out Mars, the surface of Venus, and even the dark side of the Moon.

Logically, this Ultimate Observer must exist, or the Universe would be empty. All the things that we don’t observe wouldn’t be there, and yet they are. We know they are.

Since this Observer is literally forcing the Universe out of a cloud of possibility and into substance, would not this qualify as godhood?

This to me is the best logical argument for the existence of a Universal Mind, be it external, looking in … or perhaps internal, in a panpsychic sense:  that consciousness is a universal and primordial feature of all things.

You Are Here … Or Not

Just like light is both a wave and a particle, and Schrodinger’s Cat is both alive and dead, we both exist, and don’t exist.

We are made of atoms, right? But atoms are made of smaller things, and those are made of even smaller things. In between all of these tiny things are enormous spaces — so much so that we are actually made up of mostly empty space — but even stranger, when you get down to the very smallest components that make up existence … there’s nothing there. It’s just a field of probability. It’s a soup of random, roiling strangeness.

At its very basic level, reality is about as tangible as a thought. And it’s all connected, it’s all one thing. It’s all a vast web of patterns of force.

That’s it. That’s all that’s there.

Nothing at this level separates us from anything else. We, and the rest of the Universe, are all one large pattern. If reality is like an ocean, we are waves on the surface.

Next time you’re angry at someone for cutting you off in traffic, remember, you and your car, and that other guy and his car, are all one thing.

You’re mad at yourself.

So calm down. Relax. Not only are we all in this together, but we are also everything that exists.

To Be A Bird

Oh, to be a bird! A flick of the feathers, a pump of the wings, and the Earth drops away. To surf the currents of air, to dive and swoop and soar! To land on food and carry it off into the sky, and not have to leave a tip. To take a vacation down south every winter without having to worry about time off requests. A tree is your bed, and the great wide open is your home.

Oh, to be a bird.

 

I wrote this in my journal on this day twelve years ago. I don’t remember writing it, and I don’t remember why I wrote it.

Spiral Into Oblivion

Well, there was some good news, relating to an earlier post. The tests came back negative and so nope, I do not have cancer raising its ugly head again.

To celebrate, I ate a ginormous hamburger with deep fried onion rings and a nice glass of beer. Out of all of it, the beer was probably the healthiest thing I ingested. But hey…

I enjoyed it.

In other news, I grabbed yet another Apple product to throw into the big hole in my life. My Apple credit card gave me $75 to spend at the Apple store, and my friends, there is nothing left at the Apple store I need. But I had to spend it on something, and there was nothing I even remotely wanted for only $75, so … I finally caved and got the Beats headphones I’ve been eyeing since they came out. And I’ll tell you this, they were way over $75.

Will I enjoy them? Yes. But do I need them? No. I have a perfectly good set of Bose headphones that I once bought on a whim at an automated kiosk at an airport. And I have a very nice set of LucidSound gamer headphones that I bought when I was trying to fill the hole in my life with gaming.

One thing I did buy recently, that has yet to arrive, and which I hope will actually help fill the hole in my life, is a spiritual book recommended by a local Buddhist center which I have secretly joined.

Why secretly? Because they have no idea I’ve joined them. I have yet to find the time to show up to introduce myself. So you can say I am a secret virtual member of that group.

I have studied a lot about Buddhism over the past several years, and the more I learn, the more I realize I’m already a Buddhist. I hope by actually officially joining a group of them, I’ll learn how to finally fill the hole in my life that I’ve been trying to fill with booze, sweets, hamburgers, video games, and expensive toys.

It would be nice to find a way to fill that hole before I finally spiral into oblivion.