Background

“So I figure we ride this thing out as long as we can, collect enough paychecks to buy our way out, and…” I make a sailing motion with my hand, then take another drink of beer.

Ryan looked incredulously at me and says “Don’t know if I’ve been living under a rock these past few days, but what the fuck are you talking about?”

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Tilt

The car merged across four lanes of slow-moving traffic onto the on-ramp, when the world turned around and I was hanging to the side of a cliff.

The car’s wheels stuck to the ground, the air-freshener still pointed in the direction of the road, and the rest of the surroundings kept their normal orientation, but now I was seeing the highway in an unfamiliar light.

When a plane takes off you notice it, right? The cabin is tilted upward, away from Earth’s surface and toward the sky, and you somehow can tell, can look down the long stretch of the carpeted surface of that strange aluminum tube and somehow see that, yes, it is pointed up, even though you’ve not moved, that the belt around your waist is still nice and snug. You can look “up”, in the direction of the cockpit, and appreciate that the people in front of you are higher, in some sense, than you are.

Same thing here. The car continued its forward trajectory through the on-ramp and I banked into the turn, but all along the world seemed to stand on edge. I was driving on a vertical wall, banking further up the wall, moving in an impossible way, stuck to a cliff and continued our upward progression.

I glimpsed cars in my mirrors and they continued on their merry way, oblivious to the fact that the Earth was now exerting a completely different pull on us, that we were now stuck to this planet in a whole new imaginative way, something worthy of a crappy sci-fi series on a cable channel or a one-off episode of a teenage-angst-meets-super-hero show.

Then the bit of wax in my ear stopped moving and the world rotated back to its former orientation and the moment passed. Damn, I need to clean my ears more often.

JR – part 2

The next day I got up and started working. My first move was to send an email to work and claim that a previously-undiscovered variety of flesh-eating bacteria had made my lungs its home for the foreseeable future, so I might have to take a day or two off.

I then coded for sixty hours, slept for twelve, and finally barged into Dave’s place at around 10am. I was carrying a box of coffee in one hand, a white paper bag with bright colors painted on it in the other hand, and my backpack.

Dave was of course on the phone, I could hear my voice coming out of the bakelite speaker.

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JR – part 1

Dave was my dealer for a while. We found each other the usual ways you find a weed dealer in the city: Craigslist. Not gonna lie to you, that’s the honest truth.

I was buying a stereo system, and he was selling one. I made the trek south, picked up a pair of decent speakers for a reasonable price – Dave had upgraded, business must have been going well – and found four ounces of weed inside one of them when I got home.

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Settled

Went through the mail the other day. Not the recent stuff, but old mail that’d been put into folders and boxes and stuck into the corner of a room with a desk. The mail that says 6/12 on it, or something from just around the second Obama administration. I’m going through the mail because it’s a simple chore to do on a Thursday night. “Arrow” was playing on TV.

The old system was to take the envelope, complete with the letter in question and in some cases a return envelope, and toss the whole thing into the folder, along with other letters received at about the same time.

That night’s activity was to go through the mail again and toss out the envelope and the associated junk, just keep the letter in question, but once in a while throw away anything I wouldn’t need.

I’m a hoarder, on some level. Can’t and won’t throw away things, especially information. Still lugging around the contents of my computer from college, somewhere on one of these hard-drives…

Throwing away mail seemed strangely final and destructive. Now way am I doing something so irreversible! Where’s Ctrl-Z?!

But in the case of electric bills from 2012, I actually paused and considered how ridiculous it was to save the damn thing. It was a long time ago. There wasn’t a person in the world who would ask me to prove that I paid sixty dollars for power in a random month some four years ago.

The account was settled then, and the most recent statements from PSE would prove just that. There was no need to keep this piece of paper around.

“I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut; I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut. I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this. I just can’t imagine a scenario where I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut.” – Mitch Hedberg

I paid for some service in college to make a painting of a photograph, with the deal being that if I wasn’t happy with the painting, I could get something else from them. Never did settle on the painting, and that money (was probably a hundred bucks) is gone forever. In this case, if I cared enough, a paper trail might help.

Bought some super-duper version Beatles version of Rock Band, which came with the guitar and drums and mic, and played that all of a half a dozen times. Didn’t throw it away because I’d paid good money for it. Didn’t sell it because figured I wouldn’t get anything close to what I paid. It’s true, but why should that matter anymore?

Paid some strange online MP3 service twenty bucks a decade back. Still remember that, obviously.

The “accounts” for all of these have been “settled”. There’s nothing to be done except move on with life. And realizing that, not too long ago, took a huge load off my shoulders. The realization that sometimes you need to close the door on the past, throw it all away and not be afraid to start over. That was a good moment.

Lies

Driving through the dark windy forested roads of rural Redmond, through the part of the eastside that looks like more like countryside with its numerous farms and pastures and horse-dominated fields, some part of my brain takes over and starts to imagine the impossible.

The road is unlit, save by the headlights of my car. It’s late, so the forest is only visible when I speed through a curve and the beams shine onto trees and yellow arrows. Beside that, it’s darkness.

As I drive through a straight segment of road, when it’s just the asphalt, I think that on the right is a steep cliff, a drop-off toward the Pacific, while on the left is a mountain. Swerve one way or the other and I’m a dead man.

Or there is a dragon, its eye at the level of the car and just about the same size, following my progress, watching me and ready to spit fire at this unwelcome mote in its kingdom.

Then there’s a turn in the road and reality of the forest comes crashing through and suddenly the cliffs of NoCal and the hidden dragon are gone. Then I’m through the turn and my mind is once again free to imagine what is clearly untrue about the surroundings.

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