Manifest Density

It's one of those days. Ever have one of those days? It's one of those days.

My patience… It's not even just worn thin, because “thin” would imply that there was still some actual patience left to be had there, only with some degree of reduced structural integrity. That's not it at all. We're talking full-on decompressed hull breach here on the ol' USS Restraint — nameless, red-shirted ensigns sucked out into the cold vacuum of computer-generated space and popping like ants under a magnifying glass. Patience is, for me, at the moment, a distant, smoky memory.

Okay, now part of it may be that I only got about three hours of sleep last night. I'll admit that. But there I am, sitting on the train on my way to work today, surrounded by an unending cacophony of “ring tones,” and I realized after a while that I was trying, with every stray fiber of my being, to not pick up the guy next to me and use him to bludgeon to death every cell phone user within earshot.

There were ring tones just churning and blurping incessantly, one on top of another on top of a third and occasionally even a fourth. And not just a little “beep-beep!” indicating that somebody was, for some unfathomable reason, trying to call these twits. No, no, no… We're talking about entire songs here. Long ones. Nerve-whittlingly long. Mindless-violence-inspiringly long. And obnoxiously loud, might I add.

Why is this, anyway? Are people these days so cripplingly desperate for attention and approval that they absolutely must have entire Mozart symphonies programmed into their toy phones? And keep the things cranked up loud enough that somebody three counties away might be heard to remark, “Say, is that ‘The Magic Flute’? As a ring tone? Well, now isn't that clever? Wow… That person must be unbelievably hip and cultured. Why, I must invite them to sup with me and my high society friends this evening.”

See, now this in and of itself is a perfect example of why I am a staunch supporter of the concept of waiting periods for firearm purchases. Otherwise, there is every possibility that the phrase life without parole would have loomed large in my legend by this point in time.

Folks, it's a toy fucking phone! It's a piece of shit, it doesn't work half the time, it sounds like total dog shit to anyone unfortunate enough to receive a call from somebody who's on one of the damned things. And let's be blunt here: having seen people at a perfectly good party ignoring everyone in the room for long stretches of time because they were too busy “text messaging” like some note-passing high school girl, I can pretty safely conclude that it's effectively sucking out what little most people possess in the way of social skills.

It's not a lifestyle, it's not a fashion statement, it's not a goddamned jukebox, and I sure as shit don't need to be accosted by the 10-minute dance remix of “Who Let The Dogs Out” every time your “BFF” wants to touch base with you about what color PVC tube-top you think she ought to grease up and squeeze herself into when you two go “clubbing” three days from now. Put your friggin' toy phone on vibrate and give yourself a cheap thrill and the rest of us at least a few moments of peace, for chrissake!

The ensuing moment or two of silence might even give me time not only to banish these cartoonishly homicidal thoughts from my frazzled noggin, but also to raise yet another question that's been nagging at me during my morning commute for the past little while now:

Why, in the name of Zeus' sphincter, am I suddenly seeing caps with pockets on the back?

I'm not kidding, for the past couple months whilst riding on the train I keep seeing them. You know those skullcap/stocking cap things the young whippersnappers seem to like to keep pulled down over their ears well into the most crematorium-esque of summer months in a clear attempt to try to look as asinine as people in disco suits or parachute pants ever did?

Well, it's one of those things, only with the button-flap pocket off of a pair of cargo shorts (or perhaps one of those little zipper jobs) grafted onto the back. Christ only knows why.

Can anyone explain this ridiculous-looking thing to me? Did the fashion industry stick us with such a sudden, alarming pocket deficit in recent years that we have to start making up the difference on our hats? What are people actually putting in these things? A bonus twenty? A pack of Listerine Breath Strips? Their weed? An emergency Trojan? Some form of recreational flatworm? Is there really such a burning desire on the part of post-millennial hipsters to keep their keys stashed against the back of their skull?

Perhaps one's ring-tone rendition of “Elvira” simply resonates even more insistently and attention-grabbingly when one’s toy phone is enhanced by the rich, cavernous echo of a cranial sounding-box.

Is this, then, how it ends? Is this a Burma Shave sign along my own personal road into the Alpo-farty depths of geezerhood? Has my aging, liver-spotted finger strayed so unbelievably far from the pulse of society that I'm stuck deep in the remote past, anachronistically relying on something as laughably passé as pants pockets when somebody hands me my change after I pick up my order at the local Prune Hut?

Or is this actually causing eyes besides my own to roll?

Also, on a completely different morning-commute-related note… yes! For the million-and-sixth time, I have heard of Jesus! Everyone with a functioning pair of ears has, by this point in time, heard of Jesus. Okay? Now stop asking me this threadbare old question as though you'd just invented cold fusion over breakfast this morning! No, I don't feel like standing around “hearing the Good News” while I'm clearly late for work, nor am I going to do anything with this “God Is Coming To Get You, So Cover Your Ass” pamphlet other than chuck it in the first trash can I see, unless of course I decide to just rip it up right before your scripture-glazed eyes and sprinkle the pieces on your shoes with a self-satisfied flourish.

If I want fairy tales, I'll dream up my own, thank you. I don't believe tales about virgin births in barns, any more than I believe tales about virgin births in hospitals or taxicabs or the Viagra Suite at the fucking Sybaris, for that matter.

I don't buy stories about our allegedly 6,000-year-old world being created in six days so that Adam and Eve could saddle up and ride their pet brontosaurus around the Garden of Eden until they caved in to their raging apple jones and got chucked out on their fig-leaf-draped asses as a result.

I'm not particularly convinced by yarns about murdered zombie-saviors crawling out of their own tombs and then walking across the water to yuk it up with a bunch of fishermen before floating up into the sky (unless the MST3K guys are in the bottom corner of the screen doing commentary, of course).

Nor do I believe in Joseph Smith's magical underwear. Nor am I about to shave my head but for a topknot and hassle tourists into buying flowers at the airport all day. Nor am I willing to consider for one thin second that my body is clogged with alien space ghosts, and the only thing that can possibly save me is for me to give tens of thousands of dollars to Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

I know, I know… I'm just a grumpy cynic who has clearly murdered my inner child in cold blood, aren't I? It's like when I recently saw a birthday card that read “30 is when you start saying 'those damned kids' and meaning it.” And I realized that that's not true at all. Actually, when I turned 30, I realized for the first time that whenever I said “those damned kids,” I'd unknowingly been meaning it for quite a long time already.

I'm on target to become one grouchy-ass old crank during my adult diaper years, lemme tell ya.

Look, to each their own. If any or all of these religious trips help you rock yourself to sleep at night, then more power to you. But why must you stand there on the street corner with a “Mr. Microphone” hollering at me about it through an ancient, static-spewing practice amplifier?

In a similar vein, I recently had a friend of mine mention to me that she's rather burnt out on a circle of friends of hers who are obsessed with an obscure Armageddon myth that deals with the ending of the Mayan calendar in 2012. For those of you who are as yet blissfully unfamiliar with this particular little tale of apocalyptic woe, it basically revolves around the Mayan Long Count calendar, which has been going since 3114 BC, and which happens to end on December 20, 2012. Those who make their living selling books about this sort of thing have evidently decided that on this date, the world will suddenly end. (Keep in mind, apparently the Mayans themselves didn't even believe this.) And, predictably, a whole hell of a lot of people around the world have bought into this load of bollocks hook, line, and wallet.

I've heard this story plenty of times myself, and I don't blame this buddy of mine one bit for being sick of listening to her own friends obsess about it. As far as I'm concerned, it's right up there on the Batshit Looney Scoreboard with the Mormons' magical underwear, and it shows once again that we've been alarmingly successfully at breeding the capacity for logic and reason clean out of our species.

I'm supposed to believe that the world is going to suddenly and violently rend itself to lava-slathered pieces because a 5,000-year-old, long-defunct Central American civilization's calendar runs out? Right. And if I repost some random message on MySpace, “Tom” is going to personally write to me and tell me who's been viewing my page, give me a brand-spanking-new super-secret nickname that only he and I will know about, and then wave his magic MySpace mouse and make my penis grow until it is comparable in size to that of a fully grown Clydesdale draft horse.

Has anyone ever once stopped to think that our own calendar ends every fucking year? And that rather than perishing in fire and brimstone, we just wear stupid hats and get embarrassingly drunk and then run out and buy ourselves a new one? Just because the Mayans didn't incorporate nearly as much built-in obsolescence into their calendar as we did into ours, from whence extrapolates one that the friggin' world is gonna explode when the damned calendar runs out of dates? As I said before, even the Mayans didn't believe that.

But religious and new-age books and seminars and churches are all big business, aren't they? And boy-oh-boy, the river of new product just never ever seems to dry up with that bunch. And of course, by new I mean “endlessly recycled, rehashed, and resold ad nauseum.”

Evidently the latest mass-marketed plate of metaphysical leftovers is something called The Secret (or whatever the hell else they might be calling this year's version of The Celestine Prophecy, which itself was about as original as, oh, let's say any of Carlos Mencia's vapid-ass, one-note, alleged “comedy” schtick).

Perhaps you've heard of it (or, more likely, been accosted by somebody who justrecently heard of it and oh boy is this the answer we've all been waiting for!) Near as I can tell, The Secret is your standard “Allow Yourself To Believe You're Okay And Your Life Will Be Better” pop psychology rap — which in and of itself isn't a bad idea and sounds reasonable enough, right? But (here it comes!) it is coupled with the idea that we can use our thoughts to “manifest” things in our lives. Like … actually make shit materialize out of thin air if we just think about it hard enough and clearly enough.

Annnnnnnnd we're back to magic underwear again.

I know, I know… “But it must be real! Oprah told us to read it!” Okay, fine… How many people have “manifested” a winning lottery number so far with this gimmick? Nearly one? Seems to me that everyone who reads this book ought to be rolling in dough by now, wouldn't you say? Working their dream job? Drinking champagne in an island paradise with the perfect sexual dynamo of a mate?

Hell, you'd think that at least one of these enlightened Manifestarians would have spent at least an afternoon visualizing and manifesting an end to the Iraq War by now, wouldn't you? I mean, y'know, law of averages and all?

Folks, it's funny when Silent Bob is trying to “use the Force” to levitate a pack of smokes in the movie Mallrats — but there's a reason that that's funny, now isn't there?

Look, can we just finally arrive at a point where we're no longer laboring under the deeply narcissistic misapprehension that we have the power to fire thoughts out to the universe and have it “manifest” shit for us as though we were ordering Chinese delivery food on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

A point where we understand that the cosmos is, in fact, far too vast and complex to be able to simply be reduced to little more than a glorified vending machine?

A point where we realize that we are not actually able to spontaneously give ourselves cancer by simply fucking up and accidentally thinking about it?

Might it require a particularly robust blend of gullibility, delusions of grandeur, and good ol'-fashioned paranoia to believe that this kind of thing literally happens? I'm thinking it might.

Has the word metaphor truly faded that completely and thoroughly from our language?

Judging from what I see in the news and on my commute to and from work every day, I think it's worse than that. I think the sad fact of the matter is that metaphor is in fact one of dozens of other very important words that have similarly faded from most people's repertoire as far as their grasp of the English language goes. Parable and allegory seem to have vanished right along with it. In fact, my prediction is that we're tottering perilously close to the point where, before too long, we'll have collectively given the old heave-ho to any word or phrase that cannot be reduced to a vacuous text message abbreviation.

Holy fuck, do I need a drink!

Er, that is to say… “HFDINAD!”

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