Ready, Set, Done: Post-Apocalyptic Dream Edition

It is 8 am, and I am half awake. Outside, I can hear the distant hum of construction machines whirring awake, as they begin their daily work schedule. I imagine that the construction workers must be freezing as they mill about in the dawn light. It is certainly not an enviable task, to be part of a construction team this early in the morning.

Let’s see, what did I dream about last night? I must say, I had a rather unusual dream. In it, me and a fellow astronaut crash landed on a planet, which was actually Earth fifty years in the future. I had the misfortune of being captured by some government officials, who forced me to assimilate into the global totalitarian regime that had taken over much of the planet. I was made to watch indoctrination videos that gradually brainwashed me and caused me to lose any memory of my former life.

Where was my astronaut partner during all this time? No doubt hiding, in an attempt to save his own skin.

Meanwhile, I was being watched by a handler 24/7. The handler took me back to my hometown, which had somehow evolved into a bustling metropolis. The place had been completely built up. Only a few shreds of the town I remembered—an old grocery store and a few groves of trees—remained.

Eventually the handler revealed to me that the Earth was on the brink of complete chaos. In a matter of 3-5 years, many crucial resources (water, oil, food) would be severely depleted. In the meantime, he was stockpiling a decent arsenal of food and supplies in his basement.

So, yeah, that was my dream last night. Crazy weird, right? I think it’s a result of all the speculative sci-fi movies I’ve watched recently (Interstellar, Oblivion, etc.) I also saw the trailer for Mad Max last night, which doubtless filled my head with all sorts of random oddities.

Ready, Set, Done: Post-Apocalyptic Dream Edition

An Ode to Pop Music

Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Iggy Azalea, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the contributions you have made to the world of popular music.

Truth be told, I am a bit of a music snob. I would never publicly acknowledge the excitement I feel when “Dark Horse” comes on the radio, the way I dance around in my car when “22” is playing, or the depth of enjoyment that I experience upon hearing the opening notes to “Fancy.” Until now.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s great enjoyment to be had in listening to melancholy indie bands such as Arcade Fire, The National, or Radiohead. There’s something to be said for their musical talent and their eloquent songwriting abilities.

However, there’s also something to be said for the carefree nature of top 40 music, the ability of certain songs to lift you out of a dark mood and remind you about the fun things in life. Sometimes, all you need to dispel a bad mood is to spend 2-3 minutes belting out the lyrics to your favorite pop song, and–voila! Instant stress relief.


Overheard: Train Ride to Times Square

I was taking the late train home one evening, when I heard a plaintive voice behind me, talking on a cellphone.

“No. Don’t go to Dubai,” the man pleaded with whoever was on the other end. Girlfriend? Wife? Lover?

“Amelia, listen. I want you here. I want you to stay. I didn’t mean what I said at the party in Zurich. You know that. You know how upset I get when Dad bothers me about making a living. I mean, Amelia–we belong together.”

As subtly as I could, I glanced back to catch a glimpse of the speaker. He was young–age 24, perhaps. His clothes and his bearing marked him as belonging to the elite class. His dark hair was slicked back in a casually hip hairdo. He wore a crisp, blue-and-white checkered dress shirt, and tailored khaki pants. His black leather dress shoes were clearly of superior quality. A dark blue blazer had been flung casually across the empty seat next to him, partially concealing a messenger bag made of fine leather. The young man leaned to one side as he spoke, one well-toned arm reaching up and over the back of the chair.

“Okay, okay. Fine, I admit it. A Rolex watch wasn’t exactly the most romantic one-year anniversary gift, okay? What do you want next year? An Aston Martin? Another yacht? I’ll get it. Just don’t run off with Paul. Don’t. Go. To. Dubai.”

The young man sat up and lowered his voice slightly as the conductor passed. “Okay. Okay. I get it. So, Paul is more mature, right? And he’s got plans, right? Okay, fine. Well, did you know that my Dad was planning to make me V.P. of his company next year? You didn’t know that, did you. That changes things, right? See, we could make things work. Amelia.” He paused and said even more softly,”I want to grow old with you.”

The next few minutes were quiet as the young man nodded and listened to the woman on other end. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay. Look–let’s meet in New York, at Times Square, right? Meet me outside the station. We’ll take a limo over to the penthouse. On me.” Another pause. Gradually, the young man’s voice was losing its agitation. “Okay, my number is 555-1234. Talk to you soon. Bye.”

The young man was silent for the rest of the train ride. I wondered what thoughts must be racing through his mind. Was he excited to finally be catching up with his long lost love? Was he confident that he could win her back, despite the fact that she had moved on to another suitor? How would things turn out?

I was almost sorry when the young man departed, at the stop before mine. It would have been interesting to see how his evening turned out.

Note: If this anecdote was a movie scene, Shia LaBeouf would play the young man, and his love interest Amelia would be played by someone like Mia Wasikowska.

Overheard: Train Ride to Times Square

Deadlines: A Character Sketch

Suzy Scruples fired up her Audi TT Roadster and screeched her way out of the Starbucks parking lot. The time blinked accusingly in neon green on her car’s dashboard: 8:55 AM. Blast it!  She was going to be late for work again.

It was all her son Timmy’s fault. The chronically forgetful boy had forgotten to pack his lunch in his backpack –even though she’d reminded him three times that morning. Naturally, he’d only remembered once they were elbow deep in gridlock traffic on the expressway. After some awkward maneuvering and a very illegal u-turn, they’d returned home, picked up the lunch, and resumed their adventures in gridlock.

Now Suzy was paying the price. Of course there had been a line at Starbucks, and the apologetic barista had gotten her order wrong. Whatever. The price she had to pay for being caffeinated. The coffee shop was only four minutes from work, but once she had arrived at work, there would be a parking garage to deal with–and three flights of stairs to navigate. Not to mention the hassle of juggling coffee, a purse, and a tote bag while wearing three inch heels.

Somehow, the morning still felt bright and crisp as Suzy slammed the door of her car and shuffled hastily to the elevator.  Wedged next to Loud Cellphone Talker, she whipped out her smartphone to respond to her husband’s latest cryptic text: We need to talk.

I’m on a deadline. I don’t exactly have time for phone calls. Make it quick, she texted back.

Call me. This is important, he responded almost instantly. If Suzy hadn’t been so desperate for her caffeine fix, she would have flung her coffee cup in frustration. Instead, she took a deep breath, and exited the elevator when it arrived at her floor. She snubbed the receptionist on the way in, which gave her a brief rush of satisfaction–but only for a moment.

Taped to her office door were two documents. One was a note from her boss, requesting a seventh revision of the 50-page marketing brochure that she was designing. The other note was a legal document with her husband’s signature–divorce papers.

She was about to dial her husband’s cell phone when another text popped up.

Like I said, we need to talk.

Note: This character sketch is meant to be a satire. Be kind to your receptionist and the local barista.

Deadlines: A Character Sketch

Pie for the Ex-Rocket Scientist

Gina was wiping off the diner’s long, linoleum counter towards the end of her shift, when Cody walked in. It had been years since they’d seen each other, but Gina could tell it was him by his deliberate walk, and his familiar faded jacket: a blue, plaid insulated hoodie. She wondered if the jacket still smelled of pine needles.

Cody’s piercing blue eyes took her in as he surveyed the dining establishment.
“Table for one?” Gina asked, twirling her hair as she leaned against the counter. A cleaning rag dangled idly in her right hand. Cody nodded.

Still the strong and silent type, Gina noted to herself. The young man seated himself at a table that overlooked the nearby rock quarry. From this distance, the sound of drilling and scraping was faintly perceptible.

“I’d like…” Cody paused as he squinted at the menu. “A black coffee. And a slice of your best pie.” He gazed at her intently as he handed her the menu. Gina nodded curtly, and walked away. As soon as she was in the back area, she took a deep breath and leaned against an adjacent table.

“That your new boyfriend?” the cook grunted from his position over the grill.

“Ex-boyfriend. From high school,” Gina replied. She went over to the mirror outside the staff bathroom, and smoothed down her uniform, making sure that nothing on the pink dress and faded white apron was out of place.

“Ain’t that the one what washed up out of some good school, and moved out to the wilderness? What was he studying, rocket science?”

“Quantum mechanics. At Princeton,” Gina said, twisting up her golden brown hair into an elaborate bun. “But I guess he’s back now.”

“I don’t trust them smart types what decide to up and run off like that. What must his parents think? All that money wasted from schoolin’.” The cook flipped over several burgers, splattering grease against his heavily stained apron. “An’ what you think you doin’, gettin’ all gussied up for a smart fool like that?”

Gina said nothing, pulling a slice of blueberry pie out of the refrigerator. She placed it in the toaster oven, running out to pour coffee and attend to a newly arrived customer.

“You done heard me before,” the cook said when she returned to the kitchen. “What you think he has to offer you? The same craziness what made him run off?” Gina tried to ignore him again, but he blocked her way to the toaster oven.

Gina folded her arms, glaring at him. She wasn’t intimidated by his nicotine breath, his two-day stubble, or his large assortment of tattoos. “Andy, you don’t get to tell me how to live my life. Not anymore.”

Andy glared at her for a full twenty seconds, then stepped out of the way, sighing. The next batch of hamburgers was noticeably overcooked.

Back at his table, Cody was glaring blankly out the window. He had not taken off his hoodie. The brim of a ripped, red and white New York Yankees ball cap poked out from under his hood.

“Pie for the ex-rocket scientist,” Gina said as she dropped off the slice at Cody’s table.

He said nothing. He didn’t even look up. Gina stood and watched as he picked up his fork and started eating. He was clearly savoring each bite.

“Well?” Gina asked, a bit too loudly. Some of the other customers looked over briefly.

Cody’s eyes flickered up to her briefly. He paused, laying down his fork. “This right here is the best blueberry pie that I have had in ages.” He resumed eating.

“Is that seriously all you’ve got to say?” Gina lowered her voice. She sat down across from him, facing the diner’s front door. “After the way you left all those years ago? How worried people got for you? How worried I–” Her voice faltered.

“I’m sorry Gina, but it had to be done. Great changes are coming around here.”

“Changes? What in the world are you talking about?” Gina asked.

“Stuff that’s bigger than this crazy little town,” Cody said quietly. “Bigger than this world, even. Do you know why I left Princeton?”

“You ran out of money. Your father cut you off when you said you didn’t want to study science.”

“It was more than that. Look.” Cody stabbed his fork into the remains of his slice of pie. “There’s something mysterious happening at the center of this universe. Mysteries that are about to be solved. Tell me,” he said, gazing at her with an expression that made her heart beat fast. “Have you ever heard of a dark neutron star?”

Gina could feel Cody’s breath on her face. She wanted to reach over and grab his hand, but at that moment the town sheriff walked into the diner. He was headed straight for their table.

Cody glanced back towards the door. Seeing who it was, he instantly straightened up and pushed back his hood. Gina stood up from the table, straightening her uniform.

“Everything all right here?” the sheriff asked Gina. She nodded and went off to attend to other tables.

The sheriff turned to Cody, who was pretending to be oblivious to the officer’s presence as he finished the rest of his pie. “Son,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Pie for the Ex-Rocket Scientist

Stars by Sara Teasdale


I went to a quirky high school that made students memorize tons of poetry…so I’ve definitely got this one covered. Let’s see, which one should I choose? The first one that comes to mind is this poem:

“Stars” by Sara Teasdale

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines all around me
Spicy and still
And a heaven full of stars
Over my head
White and topaz
And misty red
Myriads of beating hearts of fire
That aeons cannot vex or tire.
Up the dome of heaven,
Like a great hill
I watch them marching stately and still.
And know that I am honored to be
Witness of so much majesty.

The best thing about this poem is how deftly it evokes the visual element of stargazing at night while out in nature.

Note: Just double-checked what I remembered by referencing this website. I had about 98% accuracy. Not bad, for a poem I memorized in high school!

Photo courtesy of Chris Brinleejr.

Stars by Sara Teasdale

One-Way Street

I would definitely travel to the future. Granted, I might pick the wrong era and end up in a futuristic Dark Ages of some sort. But it would still be worth it. Assuming that the Singularity or some other cataclysm doesn’t ever occur, the future could be a pretty nice place: better technology, improved medical standards, and maybe even a shot at immortality.

One-Way Street