My Evening With Google Glass

When I was a child, ads for X-ray glasses in the back of comics promised a product that could see through people’s clothes on the street, or into safes without opening them. Imagine the disappointment of all the children who paid $1 (plus 25 cents shipping), only to put the clunky, obvious eyewear on their heads and experience nothing in particular.

When Google announced its new Glass product, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a preview. The big day came and went. No Google Glass. I ended up taking matters into my own hands, contacting a man I’ll call “Geoff” who appeared to have a used pair on offer. I couldn’t be sure how many pairs were on Craigslist at this point, but it seemed worth a try. Among all the hustlers and the fakes, I had the sense that Geoff was some kind of Google insider who simply had a spare pair of legit goggles. So I dropped him a line.

I arranged the meeting with a sense of excitement mingled with dread. Who was this guy? Why was I so eager to get my hands on these things? Did I really need it? I had prejudged Glass as a kind of gimmick for douchebags, like Bluetooth headsets and Segways. I wondered about my motivation to want to review it so badly. Wasn’t it actually the case that I was just bored? Would the Glasses really change anything?

You know, the life of a writer is tough. It’s not as easy as some people think. You write things and no one publishes them. You take up other lines of work to make a living and people don’t hire you. So you spend your days doing the errands of the trade. You’ve got to wake up pretty early in order to get to the post office to mail things, far enough in advance to wake up fully, make coffee, get dressed, etc.

When I was young, I lived like an aristocrat, riding around in taxis and surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and beauty. Now all I think about is money. Would the Glasses really change anything? I approached the address Geoff gave me and knocked at the door.

As I unboxed the rigid frame and angled it over the bridge of my nose, I heard Geoff say, “I suppose you’ll be wanting some kind of authentication.” The tiny screen to my right seemed to be full of snow or something. It made me twitch involuntarily. “Yes, of course. Can I get a receipt?” Geoff grunted. I looked down at the table and saw a small numbered certificate and then turned my head, only to find that Geoff had disappeared like a cloud of vapour, almost as if he was never there to begin with.

Finding myself alone, I oriented myself with the new gear. I moved my right hand in what I imagined was the right motion to drop down the settings menu. “What a moron,” I said. “That cheque will never clear.” My words echoed back at me through the empty room.

Geoff cleared his throat. He was standing exactly in my new blind spot. The tiny box on the right hand side of the Glasses frame has the unfortunate problem of blocking things from your field of view. “Here’s your receipt.” He placed it on the table. He appeared to be a man who had nothing to lose, no reason to impress anyone. I reached out for my receipt and looked around to thank him. This time he really was gone.

My first steps into the Griffintown streets were pretty exciting, as I was able to instantly Google-map everything I was looking at. The Italian place on the corner was under new ownership, yet still displayed the old ownership’s 68% rating on Urban Spoon. I should tell them. They’re doomed to fail otherwise. They probably have no idea.

Whatever sense of dread or problems with existential boredom I was having were instantly washed away by the heady feeling of looking at everything as if for the first time. Overlaying maps, looking at a building and knowing its history, squinting up into the sky and seeing the itinerary and make of a plane flying overhead, people walking down the street were instantly identifiable as “single” or “taken” or even “in a relationship (but still looking)”: I couldn’t believe it. Google Glass was everything I imagined it could be and more.

The Netflix library consists of just 11 films, which is pretty slim. Probably due to the non-geographically specific licensing arrangements for a device with which I could theoretically fall asleep in one country at a film’s beginning and wake up in another before the film’s end. But it is a surprisingly diverse mix, running the gamut from Orson Welle’s “The Trial” to Louis C.K.’s “Pootie Tang”.

I fell asleep watching “Road House” and ended up having a dream with Ben Gazzara in it, chuckling softly to himself, sitting in a sturdy leather chair, staring into a deep glass of Scotch. “Can you believe I’m in this piece of shit? I used to work with John Cassavetes! He’d kill me if he was still alive. What a stinker.” He looked up from his drink, during what was surely the lowest moment of his career. “What is that thing on your face?”

I woke to the sound of what seemed to be rain falling in my apartment. I wandered bleary eyed into the living room, and saw Geoff standing there, wearing the Google Glasses. He was urinating into an empty cardboard box. You can never just say goodbye to Craigslist people. They always come back somehow.

“Hey!” I shouted. Geoff didn’t move. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. He looked around and was clearly in his own world. He appeared to be sleepwalking. I always heard you were never supposed to wake someone who was sleepwalking. It’s apparently very dangerous. I grabbed him by the shoulders and yelled. “Give my Glasses back! What are you doing here?”

Abruptly, as if in a trance, he locked his vacant eyes with mine and, as if reading my thoughts via the Glasses, he intuited my original craven motivation for wanting to review them in the first place. “Okay! Yes, we are bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? And it’s not just a question of individual survival, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no?”

He turned and mumbled, almost laughing, walked out the door down to the street, climbed into a smart car and drove off.

I stood in the doorway and cursed loudly. All the neighbours’ lights turned on. How dare he? Even if he was suffering from some kind of peculiar sleeping illness, he had sold me those glasses. I had a receipt! It was then I remembered that before Roadhouse began, I had hooked the glasses up to my Youtube account to upload an image of whatever I was looking at every 30 seconds. And if the Glasses’ face recognition kicked in, it would start rolling video. That’s a really great function, by the way. So I turned on my computer. Obviously, the best way to figure out where he was going was to look at the world through his eyes for a while.

The first several images through the windshield of Geoff’s car were unremarkable. Eventually, he got out and started walking around, and things became a little more interesting. I recognized a little park at the Old Port that he would have had to have jumped a fence to get into. I fell asleep again watching Geoff watching some ducks asleep by a pond in the night. It was quite beautiful.

Then he arrived at someone’s apartment. He was welcomed warmly by some distinctly unsavoury people, pretty obviously drug dealers. One of them (I wouldn’t swear by it, but the resemblance was uncanny) looked a whole lot like Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto. It made no sense that he’d be in Montreal, except that things were pretty hot for him back at home these last few days. He was absolutely, no question, smoking a crack pipe and going off about welfare cheats, the gravy train, the usual. I have to say, the image shot by Google Glass in this low-light situation was remarkably clear. I mean, crystal clear. Very sharp resolution in a really low-light, not to say dingy, setting. It was definitely him. Actually, don’t quote me on that. It seems insane. Why would he put himself in that situation? Maybe I was dreaming again. At one point, “Rob Ford” pointed at Geoff’s face and said, “That better not be on.” That’s when I fell asleep again.

As it was getting light, I woke and was surprised to see that Geoff’s feed was still on. He was on the move, driving down some street. I was shocked he wasn’t broadcasting from a jail cell yet. Wow, my Youtube account has a lot more subscribers than it did last night. He’s getting out of his car and walking down a street. It looks like he’s a block from my house. Each image refresh brings him closer to my door. There’s obviously a slight delay between the image uploading and what’s actually happening. The door is opening. I can’t believe I didn’t lock it last night after Geoff left. This is not what I signed up for when I agreed to review Google Glass. How dare this guy come back to the scene of the crime? I’m going to give him a piece of my mind.

A Man’s Best Friend

“As they were speaking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised his head and pricked up his ears.” – The Odyssey, Book 17

This is Argos, the dog who makes his presence felt during the finale of Homer’s Odyssey, the only creature who recognises the disguised Odysseus, gone for many years and now returning home.  Argos is so old that he cannot climb to his feet to greet the man who named him, but instead meekly wags his tail and radiates joy through his eyes upon witnessing his return.  Not wanting to blow his own cover during this dangerous moment, Odysseus furtively wipes away tears over the neglected state of this once proud hound, tears shed at least as much for the fact that he cannot greet the dog properly, a duty he is forced to ignore in favour of fulfilling the task in front of him, as for the state of the dog’s health.  Argos waits until Odysseus has entered the building before passing “into the darkness of death, now that he had seen his master once more…”

I have always hesitated to use that word “master” to describe my own relation to my dog, Bailey, whom I first met at the SPCA in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, barely sixteen years ago.  The relationship, while it was never exactly equitable, often enough caused me to question who was the master and who was the dependent.  He was already named by someone I didn’t know when I adopted him in his practically newborn state.  I’m glad for that, since I probably would have named him something stupid.  Bailey, it turned out, was his ideal name, both friendly and sturdily dog-like enough to convey a serious nature.

Age eventually robbed him of his ability to walk and he joined Argos in that canine darkness while lying on a stainless steel table in a veterinarian’s office.  The vet was as nice as she could have been, offering her regrets that she didn’t keep scotch on the premises for moments like these.  I could have used it.  For never have I required hard alcohol to “take the edge off” as much as I did in that moment, a moment in which we made the decision to end the kaleidoscopic life of a creature who has shared enough sights, sounds, odours, and experiences with me that I felt his (our) life flying away from us in the moments before his death, as great a sense of overwhelming injustice as any I have ever felt.  All of those ineffable moments parading themselves through my mind in all their colour and force at the same time as they relentlessly dwindled stood in sharp contrast to Bailey’s simple urge to return to the house and lay on the couch, watching me go about my business, something that would never happen again.  The circumstances around any death are probably not ideal.  I do wish that I had managed to get Bailey back to Prince Edward Island, a place I am sure he recognised each time he visited, to let him sniff the red earth and stare out into the vastness of the Gulf of St. Lawrence again.

A strong case can be made for anyone to let a dog in their life.  There are many good reasons for it.  However, in the immediate aftermath of that dog’s death, I cannot in good conscience recommend it at all.  While the cons include the more or less constant walks, whether or not you care to stand around in the cold and rain watching an animal sniff the ground, not to mention the crimp in your social life (“Sorry, I’ve got to go and walk the dog.”), the pros are overwhelming.  And the emptiness that is created in the dog’s absence is so totally disorienting, it’s tough to imagine that anyone would willingly accept the grief if they knew the outcome in advance.

But then again, it is the outcome that we all face.  And facing it at least once in the presence of a loved one does force each person to confront their own impossible fact.  To advise a person to not take a dog would be to advise them against life itself.  Don’t bother with relationships, don’t enjoy eating and drinking, don’t travel, don’t fail, don’t succeed.  All of these things are gone before we can even register that they’re happening to us, and we pursue them anyway.  All that we can do is be aware of experience, even as it escapes our pitiful attempt at harnessing it.  I always wondered if Bailey grasped that he would one day no longer exist.  People are often portrayed as having an advantage over the animals because we’re aware of our mortality.  But I’m quite sure that this awareness is delusional, and that people are as distant from facts in their own way as dogs, the power of our denial turning oblivion into a story for children.

I am in a neighbourhood in Montreal’s east end, a neighbourhood that Bailey knew well, having lived here himself for seven years.  We disappeared for a year and then returned.  The two of us have travelled a lot together.  And we spent more time walking these particular streets as anywhere he ever lived.  I now see dogs outside and playing in the park that he once knew.  There is something reassuring about the continuity of seeing other dogs after my own is gone, not too different from the kind of continuity I feel seeing other people in the present moment, or people in old films who are now surely dead, or being moved to tears by writers who have been dead for centuries, or seeing dogs depicted in paintings from the Middle Ages.  I don’t know how Bailey perceived the world.  As close as we were to each other, his actual thoughts were opaque to me.  The number of times I felt that I clearly understood (and probably misinterpreted) him is easily outnumbered by the number of times I stood in front of him asking, “What?  What is it?”

We can see a version of Argos’s drama being played out in front of shops every day, with a dog waiting outside for a person.  I’ve often wondered how each dog can distinguish using such subtle cues the person they’re waiting for from every other person on the street.  People resemble each other far more closely than dogs do, after all, with vast differences in size, fur colour and texture, ear and body shape, etc.  You cannot distract a dog that is waiting for that person who is so totally imprinted on their brain.  We’re probably mistaken if we don’t believe that a particular dog is imprinted in ours, as well.

During Bailey’s final week, a man standing on his front step in the morning with a cup of coffee asked if I would get another dog, seeing that this one was literally on his last legs.  To me, it seemed indecent even to speak of it.  He interpreted my negative reaction as a verdict against getting a dog, any other available dog, as a replacement, whereas what I meant was that I could not imagine replacing this dog.  I can only point out the weirdness of this fact, how inconceivable an idea that I could ever replace Bailey, given that I have quite freely replaced, acquired and then discarded, people in my life more or less serially, all of whom have had to adjust their own lives to the presence of Bailey, who was as unmovable as he was accommodating.  He was a gentleman.


Beautiful Losers

“How different the world would be today,” I found myself musing recently to an acquaintance, “if only the Montreal Canadiens had scored the overtime goal in Game 7 of the 2011 playoffs.”  There is something about the completely arbitrary, could-have-gone-either-way nature of a defeat by sudden death that punishes the brain repeatedly over time.  And yet the triumph of evil over good packs significant and unpredictable consequences.

“How so?” he asked sceptically.  “No Vancouver riots,” I replied.  His eyes popped slightly wider in a “My god, he’s right!” moment of realization.  Even as I saw him struggle to refute the claim, I could also see the truth of it (or at least the possibility of the truth of it) register behind his eyes.  Life is full of crazy and improbable what-ifs:  Trotsky instead of Stalin, Neanderthal instead of Homo Sapien, Montreal instead of Boston.  The mind reels.  Has anyone ever suggested that life is fair?  But things could be so different, if only…  During that series I remember smiling while reading Adam Gopnik’s assessment that Habs vs. Bruins was essentially elves vs. orcs, elegant speed vs. brainless thuggery, good vs. evil.  Even making the allowance that it is possible that Vancouverites would have burned their own city to the ground no matter what team eventually defeated them in the final, there is something just Satanic enough about the character of the Boston Bruins and their style of play to suggest that it could only have been their victory alone that facilitated the opening of Hell’s maw underneath the otherwise pacific Terminal City.

Bygones eventually do become bygones, of course, but the bandage was ripped freshly from my skin again recently when last year’s Bruins were invited to Barack Obama’s White House to complete the malevolent victory lap due them as American champions, never mind that if a Canadian team had won, this invitation would never have been extended, thus creating another reality in which Tim Thomas is still merely a nice, very skilled goaltender and nothing more.  To remove the final plank concealing how unarguably evil this particular version of the Boston Bruins is, the cuddly goaltender turns out to be a card-carrying “you betcha” tinfoil hat wearing opponent of the only actually interesting, absolutely competent, intimidatingly intelligent, fully articulate President of the United States since Woodrow Wilson.  And he publicizes his principled absence via an allcaps manifesto emanating from social media, like a high school student announcing that he won’t be attending the prom because it’s bullshit.  I remember watching his whimsical sparring with reporters during the playoffs, his sassy little lisp hinting at something a bit intriguing behind the moustache.  It turned out that he was, of course, happily married and familied up.  Bear fanciers everywhere no doubt heaved a gentle sigh of regret.  What if, Tim.  What if, indeed.

It did turn out, however, that the goaltender harboured a terrible secret.  I had no idea that, like lots of perfectly intelligent, liberal minded people I believe to be quite sane until I start talking to them, he merely doubts the official narrative around climate change.  Any thinking person does, of course.  And what about those buildings being taken down by some random gang of Saudi nonentities?  You’d have to be stupid to believe such nonsense.  Anyone who knows anything will tell you for free that we’re headed into Road Warrior times, during which the INDIVIDUAL will stake a final claim for freedom during an apocalyptic struggle against the socialist regime of Barack Hussein Obama.  And the room slowly empties around you while these people expound their theories, and you check your watch, dreaming up any kind of escape plan.  Bring on those end times.  Preferably right now.

I don’t hold an ancient grievance against the Boston Bruins franchise.  I didn’t grow up hating them, like many people who are raised in senseless prejudice.  In fact, they were the team of the improbably handsome and skilled Bobby Orr, who once signed a photo for me when I was a boy, a moment I still cherish in my mind.  My father, who pushed me forward to obtain that autograph, children being tougher to refuse than grown men with pens and photos, recently blurted out, “I hate the Flyers,” referring to Philadelphia.  I have no idea why.  Maybe he once ate a bad Philly cheesesteak or something.  I can’t grasp hatred of any particular team or group or city without good reason.  I remember my childhood self infuriating both my dad and my grandfather while they watched a match on television, pointing out the absurdity of rooting for any one team over another, given that the players just get traded from city to city year over year.  So you can believe me when I say, I have never held a historical grudge against the Boston team.  No, it is these particular Boston Bruins that I hate: with their satanic captain, their ratfaced jester, their disingenuous cheap-shot artist, and now their churlish little goaltender.

But getting back to the Montreal Canadiens, the team that I still love, despite their many problems, I have both tribal and historical reasons for remaining loyal.  Being a modern person and having no ethnic or group affiliation does create the kind of need that can be quite harmlessly filled rooting for a sports franchise.  Alternative forms of affiliation tend to be quite a lot more toxic.  The sense of inclusion when the Habs are doing well is intoxicating.  The mood improves noticeably.  The streets of Montreal are alive.  Ah, memories.

In the meantime, it is difficult being a bleu-blanc-rouge partisan during a year in which it looks increasingly unlikely that they’ll even make the playoffs.  The city’s media is unhappy, the coach is unhappy and can only express that unhappiness in English, the Quebec government is unhappy both because of the downturn in the team’s fortunes and because of the coach’s inability to express his unhappiness in French, everyone is unhappy.  And in our unhappiness, even small victories can seem larger than they are.  A little like the slightly fishy claim that money can’t buy you love, you can console yourself with the hope that victory tastes doubly sweet after a period of hardship and defeat.  At least Tomas Kaberle got to visit the White House.  He’ll no doubt tell his teammates how awesome it was when he gets back to Montreal.  And as a cowed looking Hal Gill explained to a locker room reporter shortly after Mike Cammalleri was fired for referring to the team’s losing mentality, “We’re losers until we win.”  Here, then, is to the future, when we win again.  And here’s to the landslide re-election of Barack Obama in 2012.

Update: I am not above a little Schadenfreude.

Gordie’s Lounge – Stuff that Doesn’t Completely Suck, Part #1: Chairs and the People Who Sit in Them

OK, we get it. Making stuff that lasts is bad business.

Your refrigerator conks out, you call the repairman and realize your
warranty expired. Two fucking weeks ago. Cha-ching. The perfect white
shirt you bought at the mall looks like tissue paper just a week
later. Record fucking quarter. The everyday shittiness we have grown
accustomed to isn’t an accident; it’s busine$$, baby. And we’ve all
grown so accustomed to the way the Fortune 500 makes money, we don’t
even notice it anymore.

Except when we do. That discount Scotch recommended to you by an uncle
you can barely understand was better than the stuff Japanese CEO’s buy
by the case for their clients. The mail order shirt you ordered in
1989  lasted fifteen years longer than it should have. That’s what
this column is about: those surprises that pop up with such
irregularity that they stand out.

OK, let’s get right to the  first surprise that comes to my Tanqueray
addled brain. It’s a chair. But not just any chair. I am talking about
the Leonardo DiCaprio of chairs. This is the chair that was so
fashionable, so stupid in every way, so liked by the wrong people for
the wrong reasons, that it would surely fade.

Like Leonardo DiCaprio, Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair should have
sucked. Your stupid girlfriend thought it was cool. Idiotic  people
who had idiotic  corporate titles like “Chief Evangelist” had two of
them. But like Marty Scorsese or people who judge Bob Dylan by his
fans must have realized, the Aeron Chair is good. Pretty fucking
expensive. Pretty fucking good. Good enough to star in a movie about
Howard Hughes. Good enough for a song about… What was that song
about? Good enough for my ass.

I have had an Aeron Chair for thirteen years. I’ve sat in it every
day. I am about 67.6 pounds overweight and I have never had a back
problem. Coincidence? Fuck off. The Aeron Chair is made of a
stretched, semi-transparent, and flexible mesh called Pellicle. It can
be customized through modular extensions like lumbar support, sacral
support (dubbed PostureFit), fixed or adjustable armrests and varied
bases to accommodate diverse fields of deployment. OK, that was
Wikipedia, not me. So sue me. All I know is that this chair gained a
spot in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. OK, that was
Wikipedia, too.

The Aeron Chair by Herman Miller. Pretty fucking expensive, pretty
fucking good.

The Dating Game

In March of 2011, I was in Toronto for what amounted to a lengthy working holiday.  One Thursday night, coming home a little tipsy, I responded to a request via email from an old friend asking me to participate in an event.  It was pitched to me as a fun art gallery interpretation of The Dating Game, staged by someone who has, as long as I have known her, performed fun, incongruous events in art galleries, places which can usually use a bit of uplift.  I remember her art practice comprising things like choreographing group dances, staging trashy talk shows, collapsing high and low, basically.  Anyway, I agreed, pressed the “send” icon, went to sleep, woke up the next day and realised that I had committed to something that most people, including me in another life, would have declined.  It did, however, go along with my recent resolve to say yes to more things.  The gravity of this commitment became totally clear at around 7:30 p.m. on the Friday, when, in an empty gallery (excepting the other two bachelors and a gallery worker), I saw the set, a partition separating three empty chairs from one empty chair.  This was not going to be some kind of postmodern spin on The Dating Game.  It was The Dating Game, verbatim.  I started to fervently hope that no one else was going to show up, even as I admired the purity of our hostess’ resolve.  Being, however, brand new in this city of Toronto, and seeing as I have staked a certain amount of my identity on being a bachelor, on claiming bachelorhood as my life’s work in fact, I felt it appropriate that it would be great if the place was absolutely packed, maximising the possibility for humiliation.  Who more than me, in that sense, deserved being raked over The Dating Game coals in front of an audience?  I decided to dull the panic by drinking as much wine before show time as I could.  By 8:00 p.m., the place was totally full, and I was squirming in a chair beside two competing bachelors, the bachelorette seated the other side of a partition where we could not see her.  I felt some slight sense of advantage, being a relative unknown in a new city, that freed me from the bounds of propriety.  I could say whatever I liked and care about the consequences even less than I usually do.  I knew three people in a room of maybe 70 or 80.  Others have experienced this degree of terror and survived (usually in more actually terrifying situations like being attacked by a wild animal or being shot at).  Some sense of perspective is necessary, I thought.  Can’t take it too seriously.  Let me preface my account of this evening by saying that I won The Dating Game.  Otherwise, I’m not sure that I’d be writing about it.  This, then, is advice for people who find themselves participating in a restaging of The Dating Game (we happy few), and how to win it.  Good luck to you!  May we all be champions.  Or, as the rules of The Dating Game dictate, exactly one out of three of us.

First thing I’d say about winning is, “Know your audience.”  I’ve been to art school, and a room full of art types is as secondary to me as rain on a Sunday in a graveyard depicted in any sequence of Smiths lyrics.  I know what these people want to hear, basically.  The other two contestants in this event were certainly worthy gentlemen, even as I mercilessly dismantled their game.  It has often been said, relating to romance, “Be funny.”  This is the equivalent for men of women who are told that they must make up for their lack of looks with “personality”, or as Dorothy Parker memorably put it, being a “good sport”.  In this case, you must remember that the bachelorette cannot see you, and you cannot see her, so your words (and tone) are all that you’ve got going for you.  So being funny is, in fact, more paramount than it ever has been.  I can tell you for free that being funny will get you pretty far dating-wise, but much, much farther when a cloak of invisibility is drawn over top of you.  When asked, for example, “What is your most attractive physical attribute?” you’d be a real sucker to respond, as Bachelor #1 did (and also #2!), “I’ve been told my abs,” only to be then forced by the host of the show, “Well, all right, boys, let’s see them then.”  The crowd, unified in a frenzied mob scream of “Abs! Abs! Abs!”, upon seeing your abs, cannot communicate to the bachelorette what your abs actually look like.  She only knows that you’ve made a spectacle of yourself.  So that’s a trap to be avoided.  Also, don’t under any circumstance say, “I’ve been told” anything.  Bad, bad form.  Really bad form.  I do wish in that moment that I had remembered that a girl once said to me, very eye-catchingly, “You have sexy teeth.”  What originality!  Use that one, people.  It works.  As it was, the only thing I could think of, knowing that I’d be commanded to show my physical attribute, was my eyes, at which the audience screamed back in unison, “Eyes! Eyes! Eyes!”

Second bit of advice,  don’t come off too “deep”.  The other gentlemen in this contest got caught up, sensitive men that they are, trying to second-guess what they assumed the bachelorette wanted to hear in the way of how un-manlike they are.  Where they wanted to know the answers to serious questions and whether the bachelorette wanted to go “salsa dancing” (Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it? Until you examine it.), I was content to trawl along the surface, asking frivolous questions like, “Where’d you go to school?  What was your major?”  This accomplished the dual function of making the audience laugh, solidifying my lead yet further, and putting the bachelorette at ease answering softball questions.

If I was guilty of anything, it was probably of being too self-deprecating.  I figured that sinking as low as I could was the right approach.  When asked the question, for example, “What did you imagine you would be doing when you were young, and how does that compare to what you’re actually doing now?” after listening to the other two rationalizing the massive failure that afflicts, oh, just about everyone, “Well, you know, I try to keep it as real as I can,” etc., I could not help but reiterate the thought that dogs me every night as I drift off to sleep: “No, it’s not even close.  If my ambition had been when I was 20 and going to art school to be an auteur filmmaker/raconteur/author/bon vivant-type, then I have definitively failed.”  Commiserating laughter from the audience responding to comments of that type eventually won me the day.  And I hope it convinced at least a few in the audience to drop out of art school and take up some kind of trade.

Afterwards, I was standing around talking with Bachelor #1, listening to him try to turn the loss into lemonade, saying, “Well, you know, it’s cool, it was fun and it’s all experience, right?”  It took every part of my being not to say, “Yeah, but you lost,” or, “You do realise that in life there are winners and there are losers, don’t you?”  It seemed a waste to throw away the opportunity to gloat.

Anyway, in the end, I and the bachelorette won a $25-dollar gift certificate to a fairly pricey restaurant.  We discovered that we’re certainly not made for each other, got drunk and bonded over the traumatic experience we had just survived.  A great post-script that I did not know about in advance is that there was a second round of The Dating Game to be played that evening, this time featuring lesbians.  Being a spectator, watching a whole new set of people squirm, was certainly refreshing after the furnace-like experience of sitting in the bachelor chair.  One of the lesbians performed the song “Love is a Losing Game” (a classic, immortal tune) on ukulele.  Not to mention that their questions were far more invasive and squirm-inducing than the bachelors’.  All in all, a fun evening.  An evening in which I reaffirmed my identity as Bachelor #1.


Bachelor Machine  :  Contact

Marcel Duchamp photographed by Eric Sutherland at Walker Art Center, October 1965