URBAN MYTH?

Once upon a time, there was a company who had a great idea. Create a platform on which all kinds of people could come and do whatever they wanted. They could write, show off their photography or paintings, even show videos and play music.

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They created easy-to-use software and a congenial atmosphere. People flocked to them. They started sites. Talked about their lives, their memories, their hopes, dreams, art, ambitions. They connected with one another. Participated in collective events and formed friendships that circled the globe.

And everything was good.

One day, someone in a high tower in a far distant place said “We need to get with the real world.”

Many people were surprised because they thought they already were part of the real world, but he was the Big Boss, so they listened. He must be wise, because he was in power and we know that powerful people are wise, right?

tablets kindle iPad

He told his employees that small devices were the way of the future, that no one would use real computers — desktops or laptops. Indeed, several years before, many people believed — briefly — something along these lines. Everyone had long since backed off this belief — because it was obviously untrue.

Too many things — in business, art, even entertainment — needed a bigger, more powerful machine. Working people weren’t going to do spreadsheets on telephones or tablets. These things were convenient for checking email, but without room to work and a keyboard, no one was going to write their next novel on it, try to manage finances, or edit photographs.

Ghost Town by Apache Junction

But the Powers-That-Be didn’t want to hear this. They had a vision and were determined to make it true, at any cost. Moreover, they believed they had the power to force their customers march in lock step to their music. They hired a band and played marching music day and night.

Their customers blocked their ears and expressed their dismay, but the corporation couldn’t hear anyone over their own music.

Thus over a period of months and years, they changed everything. They took away the fun, the congeniality, and the software. They sucked the fun out of blogging. And then, people began to drift away.

There were some protests, some angry voices, but most people had been doing it because it was fun and it wasn’t fun any more. So they posted less. With each revision of the platform, more people gave up.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

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There wasn’t any other platform to take its place. There ought to have been, if this were a happier fairy tale. No alternative universe existed into which they could go, so they just quit. They found other media. Maybe not as good as the old one was, before the corporate bosses ruined everything … but it was okay. People got used to it. At least no one was trying to make them do stuff they didn’t want to do.

empty chairs

Over a period of time, the big corporation noticed they didn’t have so many people using their platform. “No problem,” declared the Big Boss. “We’ll get businesses to take their place. They will pay us for our services.”

Businesses had their own IT departments and servers. They saw no reason to depend on someone else when they had their own resources. And the platform’s reputation for poor customer service while creating a user-hostile environment was all over the Internet. Everyone knew someone who’d been betrayed. No one wanted to risk their business. What if they were next on the corporate hit list?

“No thanks,” they said and moved elsewhere.

sad momProfits fell. First a trickle, and then a mighty waterfall. Customers abandoned the ship. Eventually, the corporation realized it was out of business. Like Wang. DEC. Grumman. IBM. GTE. They thought they were so big and so powerful, they could do whatever they wanted however they wanted.

They were wrong.


The End.


What a Twist! — Tell us a story — fiction or non-fiction — with a twist we can’t see coming.

A LITTLE RANT FOR A DAMP FRIDAY

Good morning! It’s a gray, miserable drippy day here in the heart of central New England. Where the rivers flow, the boneheads rule, and it’s always 1954.

sun and misty woods

The question has been asked if I live my life according to some kind of code. Do I have principles. Values.

On a Friday morning, this is a very large question. I am only in the middle of my first cup of coffee. Still, I am awake. I have already restored my computer from backup, re-installed my printer. Convinced the dogs to go out, even though it’s raining.

They do not like the rain. Poor babies.

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

Speaking of boneheads, such are those who populate WordPress’s upper echelons. They run the company. With whips in hand they drive the corporate horses into a frenzied gallop towards the Cliff of Destruction. I guess they so admire Microsoft and their extraordinary success with Windows 8 they have decided to emulate them. Nothing exceeds like excess.

As such, they are fine ones to be asking me about my codes, values, principles. They should take a look at theirs.

But I digress. Forgive me. Sometimes my irritation overcomes my commonsense.

Of course I have a code. Values. Principles. Everybody does, whether or not they know it, whether or not they’ve given any thought to the matter.

Each time you make a decision affecting how you interact with other people, it is a mini-demonstration of your codes, values, and principles. When you tailgate other drivers, carelessly talk or text on while you drive, you are demonstrating your lack of concern for the welfare of others. You are here for you and no one else.

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When you show up late for a dinner and the host and other guests are thoroughly inconvenienced, you tell them by your actions what you think of them. If you force others to clean up you messes, it says what you believe. It doesn’t matter if you go to church and profess pious religious values. Who and what you are is what you do. You are how you treat other people, how you live your life. The rest? Blowing smoke up your own ass.

There are so many assholes in the world and they seem to be in charge of just about everything, from corporate boardrooms to customer service. So, in an effort to retain whatever sanity is left to me, I live life simply.

“Shut up, Marilyn” is my motto.

When I read the moronic rants of idiots on social media, do I answer them? No. I click the page away. When I’m standing in a grocery store line and hear conversation between morons, filled with appalling ignorance and misinformation, do I try to correct their wrong-headedness? Not a chance.

“Shut up, Marilyn,” I say to myself. “Just shut up and butt out.”

Age confers wisdom and that is what I have learned. They don’t want my opinion. No one cares if what they spout is true. Most people believe their opinion is as good anyone else’s, whether or not it’s based on anything.

So I shut up. It may not be the best or highest-minded course of inaction, but it works for me.

NON SEQUITUR AND TRIUMPH

After a long string of relatively aimless, free-range days, yesterday came with a mission. I needed sunglasses and was determined to end the day with a new pair.

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I lost my prescription sunglasses during the wild and crazy weeks of October 2014 during which we were on the road most of the time. I don’t know precisely when they vanished or where. If I knew that, I could find them. I would not need new ones.

Did they fall out of my bag? Had I — as I am wont to do — shoved them in the side panel of the car door and they fell out along the way? Perhaps at a gas station or a diner? It has happened before, but always I noticed and retrieved them.

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I’ve been ultra protective of those glasses. I have worn the same frame for close to 15 years. Flattering. Comfortable. Elegant. I felt like a movie star when I wore them and I was sure I looked 25 years younger. And glamorous.

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Losing them was a minor tragedy. I have been in denial, sure they were hiding from me, but would appear magically somewhere I never thought to look.

But the days came and went … and as the sun gets brighter, I knew I had lost them for good. Like losing a friend with whom you share many memories. They’d been with me at Disney World. Ridden the Cyclone and Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens. Climbed hills in New Hampshire and Maine, and helped me take pictures up and down the east coast.

I swam with them in the azure waters off Haiti. They protected my eyes while I gazed, awe-struck, at the Grand Canyon. Now, they were gone. Mourning time was finished. I needed sunglasses.

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I couldn’t go back to Walmart because I’ve been banned … not by Walmart, but by the crook who runs the Vision department for having the temerity to report his crookery to Medicare for double … maybe triple … billing. Whistle blowers always take a hit, but this was not such a big hit.

I had to buy my glasses at Lenscrafters instead of Walmart. Some might consider it an upgrade.

Yesterday I discovered the gorgeous new Ray-Bans I ordered 12 days ago would never appear. My prescription was incompatible with the frames. Only slightly daunted, we hauled ourselves back the Lenscrafters in Auburn. Where I ordered new frames and lenses. I would only buy a frame for which the lenses could be made “in-house” because my patience for waiting while the glasses when out to a lab was all used up. I was feeling downright cranky about it.

I explained that I would end the day with sunglasses. No option B.

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Determination won the day and I have a lovely pair of Ralph Lauren frames. The lenses are not the pure gray I expected but have a hint of rose in them. I can tell by the sky, which looks so much bluer than it does with my eyes alone. Although I’m still grieving for those I lost, I will learn to love the ones I’m near.

In the course of this longest day in months, we found ourselves needing to fill a 4 hour intermission while Lenscrafters tinted and ground my lenses. Garry and I are not mall rats, but we had a list of errands, many of them long deferred — as in have been waiting to get done for years.

First, though, we took a long walk to the other end of the mall to by a couple of Annie’s Pretzels … the absolutely best pretzels anywhere.

As I limped along, I though about Pat at CHRONICLES OF AN ANGLO SWISS. Pat has been taking daily walks, trying to regain her lost mobility. It has been working for her and she looks terrific whereas I look like a proper marshmallow. Thus I pushed myself from one end of the mall to the other and I though of her as I trudged along.

We are very close in age, similar in other ways too. If she can do it, I can do it. I kept walking. Remarkably, I began to feel better by the end of the walk. Maybe it is time for my long-delayed rehabilitation.

We ate our pretzels in the big massage chairs in the middle of the mall. Then we hiked back to the watch kiosk and Garry had new batteries put in his two favorite watches, neither of which has worked in a couple of years. Ticktock. Garry’s watches are telling time. Another check in the win column.

Three more hours to fill. In our senior version of mall hopping, we drove to Millbury where we hit PetSmart for dog food (bravely buying a different flavor — let no one say we are not adventurous) and biscuits to feed the ever-hungry pack.

One more stop.Target.

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It’s spring. The dust and the dirt of winter somehow seems dustier and dirtier than it did in February. I need to clean. And it’s long overdue for buying new mops, dusters, and various cleansers. Two and a half hours left to go. We went home to drop off all the stuff. Garry was bushed. Me too, but I had a bug in my brain. I wanted those sunglasses, damn it.

I called Lenscrafters. Ready!! Garry reluctantly hauled himself to his feet and off we went. Again.

I have sunglasses!

Our to-do list is completed. Exhausted but triumphant, we had survived our longest day. I’m ready for you, world. I’m safe from sun and prepared for the upcoming (or so rumor has it) warm weather with plenty of sunshine!

(Afterwards, the ballerina called her husband on a cell phone and told him to meet her at the two-story McDonald’s in the middle of Shanghai to celebrate ...)


Daily Prompt: Third from the Top 

MY STORY, BY JAMES LEE BURKE

I’ve sort of already written my autobiography. I called it The 12-Foot Teepee. A few people read it, but a fresh approach would surely give it new life.

Or maybe a less fresh approach. Definitely a different approach. Less sentimental. Darkly descriptive. Faulkneresque with shadowy, flawed characters trying to get past their guilt and regret for bad choices, damaged relationships, and murky pasts.

How about James Lee Burke?

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I love your books, Mr. Burke. Not just Dave Robicheaux, either. I love all of them, the flawed, crazy, haunted, alcoholic, bunch.

Will you please write my story? Pretty please? You’ve got the right style. You can describe my abusive childhood while adding a sufficient amount of wry humor to highlight the ironies of my adulthood. You do flawed people brilliantly and God knows, I’ve got enough flaws for a series.

Bizarre characters and plenty of them. The legion of the weird have marched through my life. They hung around for decades and they aren’t all gone yet. I seem to emit some kind of magnetism which signals to the misfits, miscreants, loners, and strangers in a strange land to come to me. I call them “friends.” Or I did. Many are gone.

in the electric mist with confederate deadMine could be the story which could be the movie you want to make. I know how hard you’ve struggled to get one of your wonderful books properly translated for the screen. So far, no dice.

I hope you don’t take it personally. Hollywood murders most books. It’s totally not you. It’s Hollywood being Hollywood.

Stephen King is a great author who keeps trying, but ends up hating “the movies” do to his material. The only recent author who manged to escape that fate was John Irving. He wrote the script for Cider House Rules himself. Got an Oscar for it. Have you considered that?

Script-writing isn’t easy … even when it’s your work. Maybe especially when it’s your work. But I’m digressing.

Maybe there’s hope for you, if you have the right property. Me. Stop laughing. I’m semi-serious here.

If you add your brooding, sardonic, Southern style to my outwardly ordinary upraising, meld it with the ugly reality of those years, and add a dollop of the bizarre life I’ve lived as an adult … In your unique style, how could it miss?

Good for you, good for me. It’s possible I’ll be dead by the time the book hits the virtual shelves and ultimately the silver screen, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be the ghostly character, like the soldiers from In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Maybe I’ll hang around to see the reviews.


Ghostwriter – The Daily Post

THE PHYSICS OF CHOICE

Life is a path with many forks. When you choose one, the others continue to exist and for each turn not taken, a separate reality based on the choice you didn’t make is created. If we had the right magic — or physics — we could go back and explore those other realities. It might be interesting, or horrifying.

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During the summer between my junior and senior year, I got a three-way choice.

Door number one. My old boyfriend — with whom I could not have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex — sent me tickets to join him on Cape May for the summer. After which, anything could happen. At 18, it was a surprisingly attractive offer.

Door number two. The guy I’d been dating asked me to marry him. I liked him. I don’t think anyone would classify it as deathless romance, but it was a serviceable, sturdy kind of relationship. Building-a-life kind of love.

Door number three. I was accepted as a transfer student to Boston University. They had (still have) a terrific program in communications. I wanted that degree … and to be in Boston. In the 1960s, Boston was a super cool town, unlike very uncool Hempstead.

It was a lot of deciding.

I chose to get married. Not the most thrilling choice, but it gave me a safe harbor to finish school, start a career, break out of my parent’s control — all of which were important for me. It was not just marriage. It was emancipation.

Was it the “just right” choice? Your guess is as good as mine. We make choices based on who we are at the time of choosing, plus what we want, know, or guess about the future.

I made a sane choice, a reasoned choice. One I thought I could handle. It worked out. I haven’t put much time into wondering where the other paths might have led. It doesn’t matter. Here is where I am and I believe it’s where I ought to be.

My current home.

It’s amusing to wonder if that summer was the beginning of three realities, two of which exist on other planes, somewhere in the time-space continuum. “Out there” is a Marilyn who went to Boston, another who went to Cape May.

If I ever bump into them, I’ll have to make sure and ask me how it went.


Hello, Goldilocks!

ZIPPY TRIP TO THE ZONE

In 1965, I was first married. We lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings. Our flat was 2 Q at the far end of the hall. A corner apartment, nice because we had better than average light.

I didn’t drive yet, but it wasn’t a problem. There was a bus stop right in front of our building and the university was just a 5-minute walk. When I wanted to go into town, I just hopped a bus. No parking problems, either.

One sunny day, I felt like going shopping. I did. Had lunch, bought a few things. Having taken the bus home, I took the elevator to the second floor, balancing my packages. I walked silently down the long carpeted hallway to apartment 2Q.

I tried to put my key in the lock, and it didn’t fit. Odd. Hmm. A nameplate was firmly attached to the middle of the door.

2 Q

KINCAID

My name was not Kincaid. I didn’t even know anyone named Kincaid. It was Apartment 2 Q. But not my place. Or maybe it was, but what was with the nameplate? Hmm.

Feeling increasingly dazed, I made a quick u-turn and walked back to the elevator. I pressed the button and rode back down to the lobby. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing. Then got back into the elevator back to the second floor. Should I have taken the stairs?

 

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Ding! I arrived. Clutching my packages against my chest, I — slower than before — walked down the hall. The pattern in the paint on the wall paint seemed cleaner and brighter. I was feeling a bit light-headed when I got to the end where that pesky nameplate still read “Kincaid.”

There was no question in my mind what had happened. I’d expected it all along.

I had slipped through an invisible wormhole. I was now in a parallel universe, another dimension. Everything was identical in this dimension to the world I knew except that in this place — I didn’t exist. Where I had been, someone named Kincaid was living. Maybe Kincaid was my husband. Perhaps I did exist and Jeffrey had gone missing.

I stood there. Breathing. Staring at the nameplate. Pacing a little down the hall and coming back.  Until finally, I looked out the window. And realized I was in the wrong building.

I’d made a simple mistake and gone into the wrong building.

I have forever since harbored a sense of disappointment. However weird, I wanted the magic to be real. I wanted an adventure in The Twilight Zone.


WHOA, DAILY PROMPT – This is at least the third time this prompt has appeared in one form or another. Maybe more. So if this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the third version of this story I’ve published. Because there are only so many ways to answer the same question.

I SAW THREE SHIPS …

Why does it look in this picture like the Pinta is shooting at the Santa Maria?

Fly-on-Wall to Chief: Hey, pssst. Look out on the horizon. See those white sails?

Chief: Those white things? Sails you say? They look like boats with a tepees on top. Haven’t seen any of them in a while. Well, maybe not ever. Who do you figure they are?

Fly-on-Wall: Europeans.

Chief: What’s a European?

Fly-on-Wall: Sickly white-skinned people with weapons and disease. They can kill you without even trying. They’ve come to destroy you, take all your land … that’s if you survive their diseases.

Chief: Get outta here. How bad could it really be? We’re healthy and strong. We get plenty of good food and exercise. Those ships don’t look so big or dangerous.

Fly-on-Wall: They are BAD. Evil. You should kill all of them before they set foot on shore. Really. No kidding.

Chief: What about hospitality? We don’t treat visitors like that. We welcome visitors.

Fly-on-Wall: Make an exception. Don’t welcome these. You’ll be sorry. Very very sorry.

Chief: You know, you’re just a bug. How do you know all of this?

Fly-on-Wall: I know things. I’ve been a fly on the wall for a long time in a lot of places. Don’t let the bastards off their ships. Burn them, kill them. They aren’t your friends. They bring illness, destruction. The end of everything good.

Chief: (Whack) (Splat). Flies. They always think they’re so smart.


FLY ON THE WALL – DAILY PROMPT

GET IT IN WRITING

When I was young and naïve, still trying to get established in my chosen profession, I happily accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than it is now.

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You called or wrote a letter. Included your résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.

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I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

Back then, it was over-crowded. Hot in summer, cold in winter. Expensive, particularly for a kid earning a minimal salary at an entry-level position.

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I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. No one had heard of me, or the job. I had nothing in writing. No job. I wasn’t sure I would even be eligible for unemployment. I eventually qualified, but I had learned the most critical life lesson of all.

GET IT IN WRITING.

Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s as good as the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.