|November 27, 1998||Previous Tale||More Tales||Next Tale|
My new computer, a colossus of raw power, took me another step into future last night when I used the Internet telephone for the first time. I talked to my partner in ‘zine, Doug, for over two hours using Microsoft NetMeeting, and I'm proud to say that not one red cent went into the bloated coffers of the phone companies. If you haven't had the chance to use this technology yet, I heartily encourage you to seek an opportunity as soon as you can. It's essentially the same as talking on the phone, except the data is carried through your Internet connection and therefore generates no heinous long-distance phone bills. The quality wasn't as good as a phone connection, and there were occasional blips and delays, but overall the sensation was magnificent. Not only were we staying ahead of the general population's technology-usage curve, and saving ourselves some money, but we were doing it with savage glee at the expense of AT&T and friends. I've always believed that the frequency with which long distance phone companies call my house to beg me to switch affiliations suggests that it can't really cost that much to make a phone call. Like anyone who has indulged in a long-distance relationship at one time or another, I've forked over some big bucks in phone bills. Revenge was indeed sweet last night. We probably spent a good 15 minutes of our conversation chatting about how pleased we were to stick it to The Man this way.
In other news, my family hit town on Monday night, with the associated pleasant and complete disruption of my life. Most of Monday was spent getting everyone into town. One member of my family, whose professional life demands significant courage and endows them with tremendous power over the lives of other people, is extremely reticent at the prospect of driving in Washington DC. I can remember my childhood trips into the nation's capital frequently degenerating into terrifying multiple circuits around traffic circles, or frenzied map-reading when the street we were on suddenly changed to oncoming traffic only. I try to spare this individual, who will remain nameless, the trouble of driving when they come to visit. I've become a hard-ass city driver; in the part of my brain where fear of vehicular death belongs, there's now just a blackened, smoking lesion.
In many ways, I found myself mildly playing this role of jaded city-dweller to my family. It's probably just a childish attempt to assert my independence, but I take a measure of Pride in my ability to ruthlessly bully my car around the streets of this city, on the convoluted byways where helpless tourists are frequently reduced to impotent tears. There is little to be celebrated in my gradual desensitization to the violence of the city, or its poverty, or the racial gulf which yaws open in every level of its political life. But I've made a decision to live here and learn from its realities, instead of scampering out to the garden-rows of the suburbs. One likes to think that one's choices are justified, and other peoples' Envy can easily appear to be a reliable indicator.
What I wanted was the kind of begrudging admiration from people who believe I'm tough enough to survive in an urban hellhole. Of course, the mere idea that I inhabit a scary part of the city is completely laughable. The police station is so close that I could peg it with a rock. Bars on my street are more known for microbrews than brawls. But growing up in rural Virginia, we always looked towards the District of Columbia as one would view the cursed city of Sodom, with better museums. On this visit, my neighborhood obligingly did its part by providing my family with a succession of big-city sights within a block of my home: a falling-down drunk trying to find his way home, torrent of police sirens, and a large altercation outside the police station. I'm always mystified why the gods choose one moment to help me like that, and so many other opportunities to hinder.
For better and for worse, my mother reads the Tales of Sin and Virtue, and frequently comments on what she sees here. Often, she just points out spelling errors. In the case of the recent Tale in which I was mulling over registering as a human subject in an experimental drug test, she fired of a one-line email telling me in no uncertain terms to cease considering such a foolish endeavor, and used my middle name to emphasize the point. That matter is still some consideration, although I do have my inheritance to think about.
Most recently, mom pointed out that my recent mention of the Colorado Springs Independent could have been construed as insulting. It always astonishes me to realize that something I've written could be interpreted differently from how I intended it. I wouldn't think of making fun of the Colorado Springs Independent, because 1) it might jeopardize my chances of having my letter to the editor published, and 2) the journalist who featured the Seven Deadly Sins Homepage in her column later told me that her reporting once pissed off Bob Dornan's son to the extent that he called her and vented for an hour. Anyone who capable of pissing off Bob Dornan's son to that extent is worthy of admiration.
So to clarify the record, my intent was not to mock the Colorado Springs Independent, its staff, or their families. My intent was to mock the Charlottesville Albemarle Observer, where I once worked. I hope this helps bring some clarity and closure to the matter.
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