He can see the storm cloud approaching as he comes down the hill to Foggy Bottom. He feels the first drops, heavy and thick on his scalp and arms — real water splashing on his skin. Ahead, the umbrellas pop and flutter like too-fat birds. They flock to the escalator funnel, diving down underground, seeking dark shelter from the storm. He stops in front of a lamp post and turns his face to the rain. Weighted drops pepper his eyelids, lips and tongue. In a landscape of gray and glass he can feel the rain, smell the earth and know he is alive.
Up against the wall on an empty street, the cold cutting through my leather gloves and wool cap. I’m on my way to the job, the tie round my neck pinching, my earbuds blaring the Pogues and a last drag of the cigarette before throwing it to the gutter. Across the way, they’ve started the fire in the pub. I wish I was there with you again, drinking coffee and pints and watching a Friendly. We’d listen in silence to the announcer’s smooth call – the thunder and echo of the chants – and we’d be close again.
Yellow and white polo shirts, stitched with the logos of technology resellers and stretched over expanding bellies. Holstered smart phones hanging from woven brown belts. Tan Dockers and tasseled penny loafers. We move slowly, maneuvering our carry-ons through the crowd like rolling sheep on a leash.
The smell of smoked meat and chargrilled hamburgers ordered wordlessly from computer terminals. Smoking is only permitted in the Blue Note Cafe.
This is America at its most complacent — eating its flesh in silence, obeying the overhead voices and permitting itself to be herded through the government machinery of security check. Remove your shoes, your belt. Hands in the air — enter the machine. Be still, wait for the scan. We move with amoebic precision bulging through the food court and funneling toward our TSA minders.
We gaze into out touchscreen phones, stroking them like a worry stone, thumbing through message after message. We wait for the next plane to take us to the next car, which we’ll drive to the next faceless inn and suites. We earn points, we earn miles, all piling up for that next dream vacation.
We are moving because moving pays the bills. Because moving provides the American dream — a family, a truck, a home — all perched on a clean, bright, chemical-fed lawn and filled with cheap luxury.
America, your flight has arrived. Please collect your personal belongings and proceed to concourse B, gate 15, for an on-time departure.
Photo: Memphis International, by Flickr user sgtgary. Used under a Creative Commons License.
The splash of a drink hit her sandals as she shuffled by. She felt the cold drops on her feet just before she registered the pop of the break and the slip of the wet glass from her fingers. She wavered backwards for just a moment, held the back of her wrist to her forehead and shouted, “Watch your feet!” She took her seat in the corner and wiggled her pretty wet toes. This was Saturday.
She sits at the bus stop alone while others stand around her embarrassed to look, their day feeling ruined. Her papers are spread out before her, unfolded — dirty, soft and creased with age. She scans the pages with intent and voraciousness looking for clues for how she got here and why — knowing the answers lie in the scraps before her. She polishes the paper with her finger speeding across the pages, back and forth like a centipede trapped in a shoebox. The bus comes from down the block; the people line up in an orderly fashion; she folds up her papers and gathers her things, finding no answers.
Four AM, your mind is racing, the heat is rising. You get up, go out the back door and sit in the long grass at the edge of the forest. Sweat beads up on your forehead and stays there like a halo. Through the trees you see the shadow of a fox loping down the dry creek bed. He stops at a stagnant puddle next to a fading beer can, takes a few laps of brown water and moves on — well prepared for the coming heat.
Actually, “web strategy” is a little too grand for what I’m talking about. It’s really more like, “New year, new way of thinking about the stuff I do online.” And I have been thinking about it a bit lately for a lot of reasons, both personal and professional that I won’t get into right now.
But, here’s what I’m looking at for 2011: