“Oh, honey!” Laura boasted to Rob.
“It’s amazing how far mankind has come in the past two thousand years!”
“Don’t you remember, only until fairly recently, it was impossible to get back in touch with old friends from so long ago?”
“Now we can spend so much of our free time enjoying their company and seeing how they’ve turned out.”
Rob politely humored her as she gazed, mesmerized, at all the Facebook status updates.
Finally he admitted, “I’m so happy I have such an easy time finding out that my sixth grade teacher dreads standing on line at Dunkin’ Donuts.”
This week’s photo prompt is from Marie Gail Stratford. Rochelle Wisoff Fields leads us weekly in our Friday Fictioneers, in which each of us writes a hundred word story.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”
Logically, in our type of free society, the ability and right to discuss religion and politics should, by definition, be presupposed. Unfortunately, however, such topics have always led to much bitterness and vitriol. We are now living in a country where bitterness and resentment always seem to abound in discourse. As far as I’m concerned I’ve always quite enjoyed a nice polite debate. Because, however, so many people are so entirely polarized, it’s quite impossible for anyone to have anything to say, no matter how reasonable or how intelligently thought out, without his being automatically accused of being either racist, anti-semitic, a hypocrite, or in violation of some other liberal pseudo-civil right. A couple of weeks ago, I expressed my belief about homosexuality on Facebook. Someone on my friend list accused me of being in violation of a most flagrant liberal obsession. When I explained to him that I have no major objection to the Tea Party, and that I may even vote for Ted Cruz, he immediately left my friend list. My niece and her friends just went on their high school’s senior class trip to Puerto Rico. When she got home she explained that they got into trouble, and accused of being racists, merely because they referred to a black policeman as black. Each time I read the comments on Youtube or some other internet site, I see a bottomless pit of accusations of racism, anti-semitism, hypocrisy and all kinds of other things, merely because someone had the nerve to contradict a cherished obsession. Lately I’ve been reading two books about anarchism. Like liberalism and socialism, it’s a worldview that demands acceptance from others, and refuse to treat them with respect in return. There’s something awfully seriously wrong with people these days. http://theflavoredword.com/2015/04/21/calling-all-mad-hatters-speak-up-and-speak-your-truth/
Having gone, a few hours ago, to the Coffee Nut Cafe on Park Avenue, I’m now sitting down on an unseasonably warm Saturday, listening to the radio. The coffee they sell in that establishment is most delightful. I especially like the distinctive flavors, featuring ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla and icing. They have tea with lemon too, but so far I haven’t gotten any of their tea. I usually walk there since it’s so close to my neighborhood. If I’m going to spend a significant amount of money on something at least it’s good to know that it’s a fine product. I often walk at least twice a day, and say hello to each neighbor as he passes by. One of the ladies behind the counter is dressed in yellow. Sam, Bridget and I just recently ate bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Sam and I drank Costa Rican coffee with ours. I frequently walk down to the beach too, and enjoy all the water. Bridget has been complaining lately about problems with her telephone. It’s an Apple. Over the course of the past few weeks the weather outside has been so ugly but today’s is perfect. Nice weather always makes me happy. My Facebook friend list includes a lot of people from my past, like Brother Edmond from St. Gabriel’s, and other teachers, classmates and friends of mine. Facebook is a land where fantasy meets reality. It’s a world where everyone takes for granted a green light to ramble on about anything that interests him. The Irish advocate the wearing of green. The monarchists advocate a country ruled by a king and queen. Thanks to the internet, I’m now quite lazy about reading the paper. There are quite a lot of things I haven’t seen in Long Beach, but, of course, I’ve never seen an X ray of a zebra either.
If you choose to purchase my computer, that was made in 2013, you will find that it can do all sorts of things that, during my lifetime, were considered quite impressive. Of course, by the time you get it, all those things will already be either forgotten or boring. It has things with which we were able to store photographs, to play music, to talk to each other, and to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. We could find out about all the current events, history, gossip and recipes. It was both a blessing and a curse for the people of the early twenty first century to have this device. It distorted communication and relationships, as well as man’s understanding of his surroundings and of reality and life in general, much more than it improved or facilitated them. During the nineteenth century, when photography was first developed, people took pictures only of the rich and famous, of extremely significant milestones,and of the recently deceased. In the twentieth century, as photography became more affordable, people took pictures of special occasions, parties, vacations and other interesting circumstances. In the twenty first century, thanks to the computer, people took pictures of every box of cereal or crayons, and anyone who blew his nose or gargled. Thanks to this oddly interesting object no one seemed capable anymore of doing anything without its being put online. The online world and lifestyle were an environment during which all kinds of deception were inevitably possible exactly because of the very nature of the personal computer. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter helped to revolutionize, in unfortunate ways, mankind’s approach to communication and relationships. Up to a point it was quite a nice way to keep in touch with family and friends, but it was also a Pandora’s box with all kinds of unforeseen, uncontrollable problems.
An anonymous voice from the past
I should like to think that a train station, airport terminal, subway stop, or anyplace else where passengers gather, is somehow an eclectic combination of both a soulless space occupied by distracted, stressed zombies and a magical set for fleeting, interlocking stories within the population of mankind. Since most of the people who pass through these kinds of places are always going to remain absolute strangers to each other, and since they won’t ever end up having any significant contact with one another, in that sense they will always, unfortunately, appear as if they’re a randomly thrown together combination of nameless, lifeless non entities, who are only in the same location for an extremely short time frame, on their way to a common destination. They have the kind of connection to each other that’s somewhat similar to that of people who are connected only on Facebook, Myspace or Twitter. They all merely fit into the same category to serve a fleeting purpose. At the same time, however, there can be potentially quite a lot of drama available in such a setting. Very many people with common interests may find themselves in each other’s company. If, occasionally, someone would presume to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger in such a setting, they might even end up igniting quite a significant romance, reminiscent of the kinds that happened on shows like “Hotel” and “The Love Boat” (I’m very sorry but I don’t watch very many recent shows). People are the same all over the world. Up to a certain point it’s not such a very smart idea for anyone to trust someone he’s just met in that kind of environment. Although good people can be found everywhere places like that can be populated by all kinds of nasty characters. Denizens of subway stations are well known for being rather lazy and careless about sanitary habits and social skills in general. Once one gets past all the morons, troublemakers and otherwise lost souls, though, it’s a truly hep place. If someone were merely to hang around and to listen to the conversations people have in these kinds of places, he would be able to amass, after a short while, quite a significant collection of interesting anecdotes. Exactly because so many people from so many different environments can be found there, it must be quite a veritable bottomless pit of story telling. All those otherwise soulless non entities then become store houses of folklore and adventure. Whether by way of simple observation as a disinterested third party, or even by getting actively engaged with the occasional character in a lobby, restaurant or gift shop, anyone at any given time can at least turn an otherwise unbearably boring stressful situation into a reasonably interesting experience. Besides everything else one never knows whom he may meet in this kind of environment. Once, in the early 1980’s, I even flew to Buffalo on the same plane as jazz musician Cab Calloway.
As nice as all of mankind’s technological advances are, having given us all sorts of extra ease and convenience, I still like a lot of things better when done the old fashioned way, by real people under ordinary circumstances. Ever since I was only a little kid, I’ve always enjoyed home made food better than anything frozen or processed. This is especially true of pastries, baked goods, and desserts in general. I can remember having made quite a few comments, as a kid, about how home made apple pie tastes so much better than the kind they sell in stores. I’ve always really liked hand made clothes much better than the kind they make in factories too. That’s a lot to ask of life though. Mass produced clothes are usually very nice and much more affordable than those that are individually made. Music is another world in which I shun excessive technological influence. I’m not like those fans in the middle 1960’s who abandoned Bob Dylan because he played an electric instrument. I like a little innovation but please don’t overdo it.
I just recently read something in the New Oxford Review about the current trend toward trying to eradicate penmanship, and to keep people communicating by way of social network media like Facebook and Twitter. Instead of teaching kids how to write in cursive, liberals in the world of education are now trying to phase it out, explaining that we now live in a world of keyboards and touch pads and that the need for the ability to write is supposedly an anachronism. The article’s author argues, and I wholeheartedly agree, that each individual’s penmanship, unlike his printing, has his distinctive and unique personality in it and the same thing can’t be said for the printed or typed word. Food that is processed is a counterfeit of the real thing. So is manufactured clothing. Artificial communication, though, is the absolute worst of all because it will inevitably irrevocably destroy all interpersonal relationhips and mankind’s sense of community.
It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was a youngster. Now that I have all sorts of Facebook friends from as far back as my days in Jackson Heights, even before my teens, I’m constantly reminded that even my very earliest days seem quite recent in my memory. I also spend quite a lot of time with my niece and nephews. Bridget recently turned seventeen, Sam recently turned twenty one and Michael will be twenty six next month. That strikes me as quite an eye opener. It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was that young. I don’t really mind the passage of time and can even get used to the kids’ constantly rubbing it in. Perhaps you could say I tend passively to ignore how old I really am. A few years ago I told my parents that I could understand that twenty years was a long time, but that I couldn’t understand that the 1990’s were a long time ago, even though we were living in the 1990’s twenty years ago. Thanks to my lifelong obsession with the humanities. I understand well that time is divided into both objective time and subjective duration. Man has to deal, in one way or another, with units of time ranging from Grateful Dead time to the New York minute, depending upon his circumstances. I still think of myself as being young, though I realize quite well that it’s now a crock. All I have to do is to meet a former classmate or teacher of mine, or anyone else I knew a significantly long time ago. My appearance has changed, though I’m still recognizably the same as I was in days of yore. I sort of live in the past in certain ways. I should like to think that I shall soon be quite a very interesting old timer, the kind who knows how to tell legitimate stories about the past, and to compare and to contrast then and now, but not in a creepy way. It’s all a question of facing up to the inevitable. I’ve never liked that as-young-as-you-feel crap. I’ve also never been able to stand when characters such as Willard Scott refer to fans of his as a hundred and four years young, or anything like that. When someone pretends that old people can be young in some way he denies the legitimate goodness, beauty and worthiness of both age and youth. When that happens no one wins and everyone loses.
I haven’t had a best friend since I was a kid. When I was a kid in Jackson Heights my best friend was Earl. Then when we first moved to Lindenhurst, around the time I turned twelve years old, my best friend was Jimmy. His family moved eventually so that left me without a best friend permanently. They’re both now on my Facebook friend list. Each one has a birthday on Halloween. It’s a very nice idea for someone to be able to have a friend whom he can always count upon, and whom he can even refer to specifically as his very best friend. I’ve never liked the idea of a BFF though, not because I don’t think someone should have a best friend. It’s simply because I consider it quite a seriously annoying trite catch phrase. Maybe the reason for my not having a best friend in so extremely long a time is that I’ve always been entirely too distinctive a character to qualify for one. A best friend is quite an interesting character. It would be nice if each of us could count on someone to play Norton to his Ralph, or Oscar to his Felix. I know I don’t lack a best friend because of a deliberate decision. It’s merely dumb luck that has dealt me such an unfortunate blow.
“Hurry up, Myrtle”, said Mrs. Fleener. “Your brother’s fourteenth birthday only comes once, you know.”
Myrtle gasped a resigned “Yes mother, whatever!” as she abandoned her Faceboook and Myspace friends in order to appease the gods of family life.
It was a cool August night, crickets chirping pleasantly. Jasper and Myrtle would soon start the ninth and tenth grades at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School.
Mr. and Mrs. Fleener knew they’d reminisce fondly someday about this night but at the time it was annoying. “Ob-la-da, Ob-la-da!”, he exclaimed.