Friday, October 13, 2006

Bigger Than Paper Towels

While walking around Greenlake this morning,I walked past two older gents going in the opposite direction and in a deep discussion about ... something. The white haired guy turned to the the salt-and-pepper haired guy and said, "And so on the other side they had this theologian, real scum ... worse than a lawyer ..."

What a bummer.

Yesterday I was luckier. I saw a guy, probably about my age (41) reading Cinnamon Skin, one of the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. In the original cover, shiny gold (or cinnamon, I guess), which would be part of the reason I picked up that old Pocketbook Paperbacket of The Second Coming three or four years later. Here are a couple of nice excerpts I remember from MacDonald's book.
We all think of the inconvenience of making an effort. We're all going to do the right things a little later on. Soon. But soon slides by so easily. Then we vow we'll try to do better. We all carry that little oppressive weight around in the back of our mind -- that we should be living better, trying harder, but we're not. We're all living just about as well as we can at any given moment. But that doesn't stop the wishing.
Pretty good, isn't it? I don't think I've read anything in John Grisham that good. B list books were a lot better 25 years ago, I think. And then there was this:
Walking back through the mall to the exit nearest our part of the parking lot, we passed one shop which sold computers, printers, software, and games. It was packed with teenagers, the kind who wear wire rims and know what the new world is about. The clerks were indulgent, letting them program the computers. Two hundred yards away, near the six movie houses, a different kind of teenager shoved quarters into the space-war games, tensing over the triggers, releasing the eerie sounds of extraterrestrial combat. Any kid back in the computer store could have told the combatants that because there is no atmosphere in space, there is absolutely no sound at all. Perfect distribution: the future managers and the future managed ones. Twenty in the computer store, two hundred in the arcade.

The future managers have run on past us into the thickets of CP/M, M-Basic, Cobol, Fortran, Z-80, Apples, and Worms. Soon the bosses of the microcomputer revolution will sell us preprogrammed units for each household which will provide entertainment, print out news, purvey mail-order goods, pay bills, balance accounts, keep track of expenses, and compute taxes. But by then the future managers will be over on the far side of the thickets, dealing with bubble memories, machines that design machines, projects so esoteric our pedestrian minds cannot comprehend them. It will be the biggest revolution of all, bigger than the wheel, bigger than Franklin's kite, bigger than paper towels.
And yet I still couldn't keep myself out of the arcade.


Blogger Rufus McCain said...

Catching snippets of conversation while walking around Green Lake used to be one of my favorite Seattle activities, too, when I lived near there.

I once heard a woman say: "I'm a cost-benefit person, I cost-benefit everything, but I couldn't cost-benefit that."

Why do you think the bit you heard was such a bummer? I'd say it's just a juicy morsel to throw into your novel ... or turn it into a short story about a scum-bucket theologian.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Quin Finnegan said...

Yeah, those are good suggestions. I guess I just feel a little beaten down after the whole Dreher conversion imbroglio. I also automatically assumed that the guy called the theologian a scum bucket simply because he was a theologian, and had learned to reason towards different ends than this gentleman has learned to reason. Which, I realize, is jumping to conclusions pretty quickly.

1:11 PM  

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