Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Hunting of the Snark

At the most unexpected times, the parent I never was emerges with the same reflexive surge as Sally exhibits when, as we stroll across campus, a skateboarder streams past us. Sally is hard wired to notice things that move. If they move suspiciously or if they move with the noise of, say, skateboard wheels whirring over a brick or otherwise textured walk way, even more of her hard wiring kicks in and she wants to herd. I am apparently wired by some form of connective tissue to be concerned for her welfare to the point where I remind myself of the overly protective parent.

Sally is a tad over thirty-two pounds. I am a tad over 175. I have not measured her height--and you call yourself overly protective!--but I do know with some familiarity now all six three of me (particularly where things tend to get stiff). On a gram/molar basis, Sally is tougher, better equipped, more independent than I am. I can quickly make the transition back a few or more thousand years when some if not all my forebears had animal totems, guides as it were against existential loneliness, Post-It Notes on the refrigerator door of being alive. Those worthies took clues as well as companionship and yes, the flesh of sustenance from any number of animals, birds, fish. They painted and incised representations of these companions, the Post Ice Age equivalent of tagging, on cavern walls, rocks, the occasional walrus tusk, the reindeer bone. I have about my living space just enough artifacts--Zuni fetishes, Hopi kachinas, Navajo blankets, pre-Colombian statues--to remind me that I am not nearly so modern and enlightened as I am said to be every time a passing band of politicians is interested in my vote.

It is, however, one thing, a noble thing at that, to conflate my concerns for Sally's welfare, to order an extra hot dog for her when I am at Nathan's, or a plain burger when at In-n-Out Burger, or even to consider sharing my albacore burger when my appetite takes me to The Habit. It is another to have so identified with my MacBook. Not only have I purchased a padded carrying case for it and poured through various downloads and add-ons for its welfare, I have invested it with an enormous power. A long-time user of the PC, I made the switch to Mac in early September and am still on what is euphemistically called a learning curve. In the waning hours of last night, I managed to discover the how's and whys of the persistent appearance of a particular deconstruction of genre fiction I'd assembled for one of my classes. Every time I fired up the Mac, this phantom document would appear. Not only that, this very Mac had suddenly taken a hands-off attitude to any CD, refusing admission with a greater intransigence than an American border guard. Feeling on more unfamiliar ground as the night wore on, I got the sense of some of those early fisherpersons, sailing out beyond the point where they could see the coast line. Completely adrift they were, being inventive at the behest of the parental necessity. Woe is me, six times the heft of Sally, thinking dire thoughts such as, If I have to leave this computer at Mac Mechanic for a few days, I'm screwed because the Mac has materials I need to cope with right now.

I do suppose a whaling or fishing or seal-hunting Aleut would have the same concerns if his kayak had come acropper, needing an application of pine tar, which could easily take a day or two. What does not conflate is the index of survival. That I am so concerned about one small device, however wonderful I think it is (as opposed to my having recently told my PCs to go be fruitful and multiply themselves), I am amazed at what has been lost in the translation of civilization.

True enough, I can see Tintoretto and El Grecco and Mary Cassatt and Cezanne instead of the more stylized drawings that may not even by some definitions be art. But instead of taking navigational chances as the early ones did, or testing differing sail configurations the better to bring in a barracuda or two, I am amidst a group of students on skateboards (not a bad thing, the skateboard)with cell phones, iPods, and designer backpacks. And no, I'm not taking off on them and their tools, I am taking off on me for having lost my way for a time and for that most egregious sin of all, self-pity.

As if to confirm this, Sally was indeed on the job at 3 this morning, protecting me from unseen menaces of an even higher danger.


R.L. Bourges said...

only stand to reason, shelly: sally handles the atavistic watch over your sleep, but your mac holds entire portions of your brain: your words, your connexion with the blog, your access to google...heck, if they'd had macs in the cavern days, you would find chomped apples incised on every surface!

Smiler said...

Since I am still on the path and by no means enlightened, I have many fears. But the biggest of all is fear-of-the-Mac-breaking-down. It would be like cutting the umbilical cord to the world, and in some small way, to the universe as well (and yes, I do know we don't need a machine to access all that, but as I said, I'm not enlightened yet).

Diane Dehler said...

I like the idea of a phantom document. I open my computer, log on and voila...this mysterious and "brilliant" manuscript appears. And it just happens to be the story of my life and...oh no.. It starts rewriting itself.

On a more serious note, I was clicking on links, wandered in and I enjoyed reading your post.