The Life and Times of a Posting Prospector

 

INTRO: The PB of this blog’s companion video will enhance our reading experience. So will our allowing virtual narrator Gabby Raconteur’s dramatization to play out in the theater of the mind. Let’s all now give a “listen” to the western frontier tale…

 

The Life and Times of a Posting Prospector

 

As our story unfolds, the sun rises over Dark Canyon. In days of yore, it had been a Wild West, bustling boomtown. These days? Well… DC… no… not THAT DC… has nearly become a rundown ghost town. This faltering community… nestled within Dystopia, USA… is as windswept as the Great Basin desert which surrounds it. It is here that the town-folk harbor a heartbroken spirit as desiccated as the post January ’17, dried up American Dream.

About one dozen miles west of this far-flung locale, we find the crusty, cantankerous curmudgeon, Mr. Merlin Luther, awakening from a fitful sleep… facing down yet another day of metal detector prospecting for silver and gold.

“Life” within this hemmed in by mountains, forgotten by time, ofttimes, telecommunications / internet dead zone is fraught with both online and real world woes. It is that fact which… in the hearts and minds of the locals… has made Merl, a man with a knack for storytelling, a much admired and sought after source of amusement. Words do come easily to him, however, the thoughts they oft convey are not always popular… well… that is… outside of Dark Canyon. Although he is a true blue patriot, he suspects his free-thinking posts have unjustifiably pegged him as disloyal… branded him a reviled, blue-hued pariah… well… at least in the small mind of a particular, peculiar, deplorable, deranged, DC despot… yes… THAT DC / THAT despot.

With last night’s campfire now reduced to smoky ashes, while Merl gathers more firewood and kindling, he feels the icy winds of change in the air. There’s also a dryness in his mouth and pangs of hunger in the pit of his stomach. Now back at his campsite, he folds up his tattered sleeping bag while chawing on beef jerky and crunching on trail mix… eventually washing it all down with a few swigs of Jim Beam™. As he sits atop his makeshift, sleeping bag chair, leaning up against a boulder, he stretches and yawns, rubs the grit from his lifeless eyes and strokes his grey, scraggly, Father Time length beard.

He feels fortunate that his innovative, tech savvy son, Merl Jr…. just prior to headin’ off for the greener, Silicon Valley pastures… had set him up with a couple of his patent pending devices… a wifi turbocharger and mini-solar array… both of which have proven themselves invaluable in keeping Merl Sr’s laptop fully connected and charged at all times.

Logging in, a quick check of the Weather Channel confirms what he already knows… the overnight desert cold will soon be changing over to blistering heat. He next opens his email and… within a nanosecond… is feeling duly pissed. Once again, the ISP and social network big shots are both demanding that he squander his precious time pouring over and agreeing to updated versions of their verbose, arcane, legalese loaded, Terms of Service and Privacy Policies.

Merl, feeling himself heading for an epic, full-blown, intracranial conflagration, opens up a word document and lets his keyboard poised fingers “do the talking” / channel and vent his rage against “the system”. Within fifteen minutes… minus two for… ahem… a behind a cactus pitstop… he is ready to publish his scathing screed. With his typical posting time nearing, he pauses to weigh the pros and cons… all the while wondering if he has overreacted? Merl decides to throw caution to the wind.

But just prior to posting, he proofreads it one last time. Let’s all peer over his shoulder to follow along…

 

 

Upon opening up my email inbox this early a.m., once more, I discovered a couple of those online ultimatums… you know the drill…

“Please read and accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy so you can continue using… BLAH… BLAH… BLAH.”

Firstly… “Please?” Aw shucks pardner… ain’t that sooooo heartwarmin’? As if sugarcoatin’ a demand with pseudo courtesy makes something that’s deep down NOT OK… somehow… some way… ALL OK?

Secondly… you’d have to be a some sort of Pollyanna clone to ever believe that privacy… either online or real world… even exists anywhere… anymore! Not with that veritable alphabet soup of three-letter acronymed spy agencies stumbling about our once great land. Hell, their agents’ Job #1 is to ensure that not one of us can even surreptitiously fart without that “momentous” event getting documented and filed… in triplicate… within our already bulging, computerized dossiers.

Thirdly… we are dealing with power-tripping, in CYA mode, muckety-mucks ISO our validation. Why must we legitimize their illegitimate terms / policies, which rarely, if ever, benefit anyone other than those who authored them? Let’s cut to the chase. What their tossed word salad is really saying is, “We choose to do whatever we damned please and you cannot do one damned thing about it!” One can practically hear their haughty “So theres!” and stuck out tongued, spit spewing Bronx cheers.

Fourthly… just what the hell does the word “agree” even mean, anymore, when it’s obtained by disagreeable coercion? And let’s not forget coercion’s passive cousin, “who” admonishes us that our very act of Logging In is akin to our agreeing to ALL of their mucked up terms… whether or not we’ve even skimmed over them.

Lastly… if we opt not to knuckle under to their high pressure, “my way or the highway” arrogance, the highway will be our reward.

Seeing how my POV could easily offend the ubiquitous, vengeful ISP and social network gods… this could result in my being summarily punished… oh… say… dropkicked out of cyberspace… real world exiled within climate change fried Dark Canyon and Dystopia USA. Fated to spend whatever time I have left stranded and stumbling about this sweltering, windswept, sandstorm prone, hellhole desert… tantalized by mirages of oases ahead… threatened by fanged rattlers aground… stalked by the starving buzzards circling above… birds of prey just “dying” for me to bite the dust.

Well, my friends, if any of you are out there… cruising and crisscrossing Dystopia’s system of crumbling highways and byways… should any of you just happen to find yourselves in the vicinity of DC… Dark Canyon… not THAT other DC… and you spot me staggering about…

Either pull over to rescue me… or… at the very least… try not to make roadkill out of me.

 

ADDENDUM: Hmmm… about the only thing worse than excessively long Terms of Service / Privacy Policy statements are the Terms of my long-read screed. Of course the big diff, here, is that you’ve read this voluntarily!

Even so… please forgive my long-windedness.

 

 

 

 

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Cleo, Theo & Cosmo (Bus Stop Chat #001) The 3 Meet!

An orange hued, hazy sunrise presides over another summery, muggy day in the bustling metropolis of Upland… bakes the pavement and skyscrapers… slow simmers the pungent blend of vehicular exhaust and fast food fumes.

There’s the general hubbub of humanity… the multitudes milling about… the engines, horns, sirens and jackhammers are all in play. Each component acts as an individual instrument in the soundtrack of city life.

The rat race begins, anew, as two men, in walking run mode, approach from opposite directions… a near photo finish as they bookend themselves onto the weatherworn bus stop bench and set down their Styrofoam coffee cups.

Paper napkins serve as makeshift mops to sop up perspiration from their brows. Upon catching their breath, they exchange perfunctory, good morning pleasantries. Their rush had been needless for, once more, the poorly funded, public transit system is punctually running late.

“Looks like another scorcher brewing… almost too hot to be drinking coffee. But I’m not about to give up my caffeine buzz,” sighs the disheveled looking man seated on the left. Dressed in white polo shirt and faded blue jeans, his thirtyish, in need of a shave face is topped off with the bedhead look.

“By the way… the name is Cosmo.”

“Pleased to meet you, Cosmo. I’m Theodoros… but just call me Theo”, says the fiftyish looking, greying, bearded man, off to the right. He then adds, “And, I wouldn’t give up my daily java jolt, either… no matter how hot the day, or, for that matter, the coffee may be.”

They first lean in sideways to shake hands and next drink their espresso.

“Couldn’t help but notice the Roman collar, Theo. Where’s your parish?”

“Resurrection Church… over on the east side.”

“So what brings you over to this side of our fair city?”

“I’m to be a guidance counselor and instructor… temporarily assigned to Andrew’s Youth Center… every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In essence, I’ll be a surrogate parent to latchkey kids… keep ‘em intellectually engaged and out of mindless mischief. It’s really tough when moms and dads each work two or more jobs to pay their bills. The resultant dwindling quality time is doing immeasurable harm to the family unit. But there I go again… rambling on and on. I’ll bet you’re sorry you asked.”

“No, not at all. What you’re doing is admirable. By intervening and interacting you’re working towards the betterment of society.”

“Thanks for saying so. Since I’m mostly paid in compliments, your kind words have made me a wealthy man.” Taking another sip from his cup he thinks aloud, “I do hope I’ve figured out the correct bus routes and schedule… wouldn’t want to be late on my first day.”

“Hmm… Andrew’s Youth Center, you say… that’s affiliated with the church over on Monroe Blvd… is it not?”

“One in the same… the Center is right in the church basement. You know so much about us, my son, are you by any chance Catholic?”

“Once upon a time… as a young boy. The word that now best describes me is ‘lapsed’.”

“If you don’t mind my asking… why did you leave the church?”

“Well, it’s a long story, Father, but not to worry… if memory serves… all you need know now is the Route 33 bus will take you to your destination.”

All too familiar with how folks handily dodge the ‘why did you stray’ question, Theo stifles his knowing smile…

“Good to know I’m heading in the right direction. So… where, pray tell, are you heading this a.m.?”

“Well… it looks like we’re both in the biz of educating young minds. The community organizers who run Kids’ Corner have me on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule, too.

“I’m familiar with that fine organization. So, what’ll you be teaching?”

“I’m on sabbatical from U of C Berkeley, where I teach astrophysics. Since I’ve now got plenty of free time, by day, I’ll be a volunteer teaching astronomy for beginners, by nights I’ll be scoping out the heavens at the San Gorgonio Mountain observatory. Regrettably, with light pollution and smog problems, heavenly matters aren’t what they used to be.”

“So true. I’m facing down problems with my own brand of heavenly matters, too. These days, people seem to deem God as unimportant.”

“Well, I don’t believe folks have actually stopped believing, Father. While I cannot speak for everyone, I think regular folks are finding the church’s overall image off-putting and irrelevant to their needs. You know… stained glass, palatial churches that could rival St. Peter’s Basilica… past popes who’d look right at home lodged in Trump Towers.

“But our new pontiff, Francis, is trying to change all that…” Theo starts to remind…

“Well, I did say past popes…” Cosmo interjects. A police cruiser whizzing by with flashing reds and blues and wailing siren nearly drowning him out.

At that moment, a twentyish looking woman, wearing blue denim jeans, unbuttoned work shirt, tee and heavy steel toed boots approaches the bus stop… clutching a Styrofoam coffee cup in one hand… a cell phone in the other. She immediately goes into a circular pacing mode… impatiently… holding her cell phone skyward… frantically waving it about while muttering, almost inaudibly, her “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon” pep talk directed at that unresponsive, barely functional device.

“Looks like we’re not the only ones with upward connection problems,” Cosmo quips. Quickly checking his own cell, he speaks up, “Excuse me… I’m getting a strong signal… four out of four bars. You may borrow my phone.”

“You’re a life saver,” she says while approaching the bench. As she sits down and keys in the number she mutters, “That damned bus is going to make me late for work again… and it’s only my second week on the job. By now, Manuel… that’s my boss… is probably thinking that I’ve flaked on him again. He’ll likely fire my ass.”

Now speaking fluent Spanish into the phone, only Theo can understand her side of the conversation. Of course it’s easy to fill the gist of the rest. That’s in the form of her crisis averted, call’s end sigh of relief. Handing the phone back to Cosmo… she’s once again profuse with her thanks.

“Well… since it looks like we’re stuck here for awhile… I’m Cleo.” The round of handshakes ensue as she continues, “I’m a carpenter working over at the Devonshire construction site.”

Theo and Cosmo’s facial expressions “out” their lingering provincialism.

“Hey guys, welcome to the 21st century… don’t look so shocked. These days, women carpenters can and actually do cut it.”

“And I’ll bet you have plenty of power saws to back up your statement, too, “ jokes Cosmo. As the chuckles subside he adds, “I’m Cosmo… I teach astrophysics over at Berkley. As for my newfound friend…”

While conspicuously adjusting his collar and, clearing his throat, the other man interrupts, “I’m Theo…”

“Well ain’t that a hoot!” Cleo chimes in, “You’re Theo the theologian and he’s Cosmo the cosmologist.”

The group laughter gets drowned out as three 18-wheelers rumble by.

“Devonshire… wow… that’s really upscale,” Cosmo says while competing with the street noise.

“Yeah, tell me about it… the site’s billboard out front boasts, ‘Outstanding new homes starting in the five millions’… blah, blah, blah. Hell, I couldn’t eke out the mortgage payments on a birdhouse in that soon to be snooty, gated community.”

“Affordable housing? Does that even exist anymore?” laments Cosmo.

Theo frowns his silent, horizontally nodded answer to those Qs as Cleo asks, “Just where are everyday, average folks supposed to live, any way?”

“For sure, that’s a problem that that insensitive unholy, Trump, could never begin to fathom… let alone fix,” adds Theo.

“Amen to that!” she sighs and then looks down at her cell’s chronometer. “Guys, we’ve only known each other for ten minutes and… if you’ll excuse the construction worker parlance… I’d say we’re already building some great rapport.”

“In this one instance, I don’t even mind the buses running late,” Theo agrees.

“I’ll ditto that… but better late than never,” Cosmo says while gesturing leftward.

A three-bus convoy is now barreling down upon them.

“Any chance we’ll see one another again?” Cleo queries.

“Well, as for us guys, we’ll both be here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning,” says Theo.

“Thru late September, if not longer,” adds Cosmo, “How about you, Cleo?

“Well, since the only day my carpool can’t get me to work is on Fridays, it looks like we’ll all be meeting back at this bench a week from now.”

“Here’s to next Friday,” says Theo as all three raise and carefully tap their coffee cups… make a toast to their newfound friendship.

“You two like bagels?” she asks. Since both men nod vertically, she adds, “OK, that’ll be my treat for next week.”

Just then the busses all come to a squeaky, air-braked halt. The doors fling open to admit Cleo, Theo and Cosmo. Waving their till we meet again farewells, each climbs aboard to complete the final leg of their Friday morning commute.

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A note to my readers: My game plan is to post these Cleo, Theo & Cosmo Bus Stop Chats on most, but not all, Fridays. These three fictitious characters will engage in political / social commentary… sometimes in agreement… other times not. But either way, the important thing, here, is that no matter how heated a discussion may get, they’ll remain civil towards each other… which, btw, is the way it should be… but usually is not… in our real world.

My apologies for this first installment running a bit long… that was mainly due to character development requirements. Future chats will focus more on (what else?) the actual chats… and consequently, be of shorter duration.