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Lately, I’ve been feeling increasingly out of touch with the culture that surrounds me. I’m not sure why, but the feeling is persistent. Perhaps it’s just age or this ridiculous chest cold I’ve been carrying around for over three weeks that has released a torrent of lethargy flooding not only my flesh and bones, but my spirit, too.

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Crap, it’s the first month of the New Year! Buck up, I tell myself. The sun is doing its bit to brighten each day. The birds may be shivering, but they are still singing on the wires and in the trees. Get a grip!

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Maybe it’s the political season that’s to blame. For me, the rise of Trump is a clarifying reminder of just how far we have yet to go as a species before we reach the level ground of a civil society with respect for all colors, creeds, and circumstance. I find myself getting paranoid when I see/hear/feel the sirens of this moment and imagine what it must have felt like in the Germany of 1932. Shocking. I have Republican friends who say ABT, “Anyone But Trump.”

I ask in the voice of David Byrne, “Well, how did I get here?”

Or maybe the poisoning of Flint Michigan’s water system is enough for a gloomy state of mind.

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Or is it the onslaught of the NFL Playoffs? I know this topic holds even more thin ice for me to skate on than politics. Who doesn’t love this time of year with the Super Bowl upcoming? What’s my problem? Oh, I don’t know, to see the nation swept up in touchdowns and extra points, in Bud Light commercials and cheer learders with their desperate smiles and blinking lashes, with the huffing and puffing of linebackers and shiny helmets and fists beating chests, pounding each other into the artificial turf…it does seem a tad empty these days.

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Or maybe the wretched news of David Bowie’s death is trump to all other psychic ailments this month. His loss was a visceral piercing to my mind and body. No one lives forever, blah-blah, but come on! Bowie dead? Gimme a break. Glen Frey and Paul Kantner were tough to take in as well.

The part of my brain that holds the memories of me and rock ‘n roll, of me and coming of age, of me and being connected to the vibrant emerging culture around me has altered, become less vibrant, less alive….less, well, connected.

What I describe next is a bit hard to recapitulate in words, and perhaps it will sound silly in reflection, but a seemingly insignificant moment crystalized my sense of cultural alienation, shining a bright light on the vast distance between me and the world “out there.”

cvsI was standing in line yesterday afternoon at CVS (a sixty-five year old man with a long goatee, holding a bottle of cough syrup) when a adolescent girl, say 16 years old, drifted into line to join her friend, another adolescent girl, standing directly in front of me. They didn’t say a word to each. They didn’t look around. They certainly didn’t look at me. They seemed to have no idea that other people were in the store or in the world at large. They weren’t holding a product in their hands that I could see.

Instead, they are embracing iPhones.

The screen’s glow shone on their cheeks. Their delicate finger stroked the glass, the glass responded with more images. They stroked the screen again. Again, the screen responded with more images. They were teasing each other, the girls and their phones. Entranced.

The line moved forward. They drifted forward, never once taking their eyes of their phone. They became first in line. I wanted to tell them they were first in line. That they should pay attention to the clerks. That they would soon be called to the register.

iphone6holding marriageThey stroke the screen with their fingers. The screen responds with more images. They are dating it seems to me.

The clerk raised his arm, “Next.”

The girls and their phones drifted to the counter. They never took their hand of their phone or looked up to the clerk. One girl pulled an eye-liner from her hip pocket. The clerk rang up the item. The girl held up her phone to the clerk’s face, still without looking at him directly. He scanned the phone. She brought the phone back to her face.

She strokes the screen with her finger. The phone chirps a response. She strokes the screen with her finger again. The phone responds with more images.

The girls walked out of the store.

The eerie, dreaminess of the moment. The emotional, human dislocation of the interaction was highly disturbing to me. I exhaled a barely audible “Wow,” and turned my head to see a woman behind me, near to my age, smile at me and shake her head woefully.

When I came outside, the two girls were seated in a brand new 325 BMW, parked, with the engine off. Their blank faces looking down into their palms.

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They stroke the screen with their fingers. The screen responds with more images.

They are kissing each other in their bucket seats. They are in love.

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I got in my car, drove home, put on Changes by David Bowie, cranked up the volume, and floated onto the dance floor with Nettie in my arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Responses to What Is It Exactly?

  1. Hugo Garcia says:

    perplexing; but are we not to blame? with our quest for knowledge and speed of it. did we not create this brave new world? the kids are becoming robots and so are we. Resistance is futile as the Borg would say.

  2. Gary Maxwell says:

    Welcome to the new Brave World of non-communication.
    I not only see kids with their faces buried in c-phones,
    I-Pads etc., but, many adults as well. Loved your latest observation on life in the early 21st century. Will there be a late 21st century? Stay tuned.

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