Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Vision Thing

"Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

- Plan 9 From Outer Space

I have been thinking about the future lately. What lies ahead? I think this was triggered by a 401k meeting at my office which convinced me the best retirement plan is to die young. When I was younger I think I thought I would be dead by now.

So much for goal setting and long term planning.

I think it is only natural that we want to know what is going to happen in the future. From Nostradamus to Madame Cleo, people have always looked toward prophets and psychics for advice about what is to come.

The Amazing Criswell

The quote at the top of the blog was delivered in the film by the Amazing Criswell, an American psychic who is famous for making outlandish and inaccurate predictions. He predicted that the world would end on August 18, 1999. It didn't. Yet in March 1963 Criswell went on TV and predicted that President Kennedy would not seek re-election in 1964 because something was going to happen to him in November 1963.

In the movie Ed Wood, Criswell, as played by Jeffrey Jones, admits that he is merely a showman. However some who were close to the real Criswell quote him as saying, "I had the gift but lost it when I started taking money for it."

Jeane Dixon

Another famous psychic was Jeane Dixon. She allegedly predicted the assassination of President Kennedy as well. She also predicted that World War III would begin in 1958 and there would be world peace by the year 2000. In retrospect it appears that Jeane was more hype than prophet--although she did make a fair amount of profit during her life. I remember when she passed away someone made the joke, "Didn't see that coming did she?"

Books about Biblical prophecy are very popular. Hal Lindsey who wrote The Late Great Planet Earth about the End Times foretold in the Bible has been making a good living off of his "the Antichrist is on the way and Jesus won't be far behind" books for 30 years now. One of his books was called The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. (Apparently it is a very slow count down. Maybe they started it at a million.)

Then there is the Left Behind book series. There are something like 100 volumes, plus spin-offs like movies, board games and for all I know, chocolate bars. Any way you look at it, End Times Bible prophesy is big business. Why else would someone have felt a need to do a remake of The Omen?

I remember when the psychic hotlines were all the rage. Celebrities who hadn't worked much in a long time hosted infomercials extolling the wisdom of calling Psychic Friends for sage psychic advice. I am not sure who it was that decided to market these hotlines by using has been and never was celebrities. I mean who would look at La Toya Jackson and say, "Yeah! I want to get advice from whoever is telling her what to do!"

I went to a psychic once. She was a middle aged Southern lady of some renown. She once predicted a plane would crash and it did, so the FBI followed her around for a while. She insisted she was psychic but her flaw was that she wasn't so good with time frames. So when she told me I would get a promotion, it didn't necessarily mean I'd get a promotion any time soon. It meant I would get one eventually. And you know what? Eventually I did! Are you getting goosebumps?

I don't mean to suggest that I am a total skeptic. Truly I'm not.

My college girlfriend was into both astrology and the Tarot. When we first met (when we were still "just friends") she did a Tarot reading for me. She told me that I would soon (as opposed to eventually) meet someone who would change my "lifestyle" forever.

After we became involved, she consulted her astrologer in Miami about me and was told to beware because a high percentage of Virgo men born in 1958 are gay. Soon thereafter, I met my boyfriend, took up the gay "lifestyle" and proved the astrologer was correct--at least about this particular Virgo born in 1958.

Besides psychics and prophets there are people who are visionary, who without any claim of special powers or without using a Ouija board, can imagine things that are coming in the near future. I guess sometimes it is just a matter of seeing which way the wind is blowing.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol predicted that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Given the 24 hour news cycle, reality TV and the Internet, he is dead-on correct. William Hung, the runaway bride, Octo-Mom and all those Real Housewives come to mind.

Andy didn't say how famous mind you, he just promised we'd all have 15 minutes of fame.

If you haven't had yours yet, just wait.

Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky gave us the prophetic 1976 film, Network. I highly recommend it. This movie foresaw network news packaged as entertainment, and predicted reality television decades before it became all the rage. Chayefsky thought he was being outlandish and satirical.

Or it could be that he just saw what was coming.

It could be that some people are born psychic and some people just have a keen eye. Maybe we just want to believe someone can predict the future so that the future doesn't seem so scary and, well, unpredictable.

I don't know if I really want someone to tell me what is going to happen in my future. No matter how good it is, eventually something is going to go awry. No need to get depressed about it in advance.

However, a psychic really might be helpful with retirement planning. I wonder if any of the people who are handling my money at T. Rowe Price are psychic?

Maybe a better question is, who do I have to consult to get some winning lottery numbers?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Missed Connections

Have you ever encountered someone in passing and wished you could see that person again? Maybe it was someone you brushed up against at a club or exchanged polite words with on the street. It could be someone you made eye contact with across a subway platform. You know, the whole "some enchanted evening, you might meet a stranger across a crowded room" thing?
Later you find that you can't stop thinking about that moment and wish you could make that connection again.

What to do? How can you reach this person who slipped through your fingers like a ghost?
The solution? Place a Missed Connections advertisement on or in your local newspaper.

I am fascinated by the Missed Connection personal ads. They seem crazy and romantic and even a little bit cosmic to me. I find them irresistible.

I have a friend who also finds them irresistible.

Every week when she gets the latest issue of the local weekly paper she turns to the missed connections ads.
"Is someone looking for me?" she asks out loud in the voice someone might use when consulting the Magic 8 ball.
After she has read over the ads, I ask, "Was anyone looking for you?"
"Not this week," she sighs.

In truth my friend checks the missed connection ads with the same level of seriousness she checks the Horoscope column. For her it is a moment of wistful fun but there is still a whisper of possibility…
In that same paper my friend checks every week there is an ad that has been running for about a month. Perhaps you can see why it caught my eye:

I saw you at (a local topless bar and grill) You: hot, tall, white lady; I think you're in love with me. We talked about you going to nursing school. I'll help you fund it. Me: short, big, white guy in tank top with Jheri curl mullet.

I have to wonder if the lady in question has seen this ad. If so, why hasn't she responded? He is pretty sure she's in love with him after all. The hot, tall white lady needs to jump on this one. Let's face it. Short, big, white guys in tank tops with Jheri curl mullets don't grow on trees.

I have another friend who placed a Missed Connection ad on Craigslist after locking eyes with a terribly handsome man in a restaurant as she was walking out the door. Amazingly enough, the man in question actually responded. They got together a few times. Ultimately it didn't work out. He looked good on the outside but….
Let's just say the last time they saw each other he bit her. Not in a good way either. The man actually bit her.
I guess some missed connections are better left missed.

Yet even though things didn't work out for my friend, I still see each of these ads as a tiny monument to hopefulness.

The missed connections ads frequently tell a story—sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometime lurid, and sometimes even a little scary.

Here's a local "man for man" missed connection ad:
Wandered into the bathroom at the exhibition hall and saw you leaning back at the last urinal by the wall...I tried not to look, but just couldn't resist your incredible good looks and your huge c*ck. I've never seen one that big! You were on your cell phone and holding your huge c*ck with your right hand. Once you finished, you shook you c*ck a few times at me and then continued talking on your cell phone in the handicapped stall. I wanted to follow you in there…but there were others in the bathroom. I'd love to run into you again...please respond to this email and let me know where we can meet.

Wow. There's a lot of c*ck in that ad.

I think we can all agree this ad is appalling. Why would anyone talk on his cell phone while using the bathroom? Was he raised in a barn?

On a somewhat different note, here's a man for man missed connection from Washington, DC:
You are damn hot. I'd like to get to know you. I see you taking metro daily at Dupont. I am your secret admirer. I even take the orange line just to follow you…

Think about the story this one tells. Every day this man waits at the Dupont Circle Metro station where, instead of catching the train he should be taking to get to work or school, he follows the subject of this email onto the orange line train. He does not make small talk or even speak to the object of his affection. He rides until his beloved disembarks. Then he has to backtrack and catch the train he should have caught in order to arrive at his original, intended destination.

This story is a gentle reminder that the only thing distinguishing a "secret admirer" from a "stalker" is a restraining order.

I love the variety of emotions expressed in these ads. Some of them are almost poetic:
Am starved for human connection; you once fed me.

Here's poignant one from San Francisco:
I saw you, but now you're gone.

And here's a troubling one from San Francisco:
Saw you standing there in your piss soaked panties. We might as well hook up and make it a fun time.

Some missed connections seem nearly hopeless. From London:
About a year and a half ago we met at the UCL locker room…I lost your number, tried to just move on and not think about it, but you keep popping into my mind. Would love to meet you again sometime… You will probably never get this, but just in case.

You have to wonder why he didn't jump on the lost number situation a little sooner. This one is a missed connection within a missed connection. I fear it will take a miracle to bring these two together.

But it could happen. That is one of the things that makes missed connection ads so fascinating—anything is possible even if it isn't likely.

Sometimes people use the Missed Connection ads to make contact with someone with whom they already have a relationship. I guess they just aren't sure how to take things to the next level.

Here's an example:
I think you're great. Just what my Mom would love for me to take home. I love the way that white coat looks on you. Your smile is so comforting. It's so embarrassing that you have to treat my feet. I hate it and I love it at the same time. Do you have a girlfriend, Dr. Lee??

Gee, I hope things work out for the girl with the foot issues and Dr. Lee, don't you?

Here's another one:
Dear Bipolar Girl at Work
So I'm starting to suspect that you read the "Missed Connections"…I've noticed a slight change in the way you act towards me. The way you smiled at me makes me think that something is up... Anyways, I hope that you are reading this because this is how I really feel about you. The truth is that I can't get you out of my mind and I love having you there.... I want you to know that I do care about you and I hope everything is going good in your life outside of work.
See ya tomorrow...

You can't help but be curious about what happened at work the next day.

I see these last 2 ads as an adult version of the junior high note-passing brand of courtship:
I like you. Do you like me? Check one:
( ) YES
( ) NO

There are times when I read the Missed Connection ads and think: Gee, you already had your chance. Like this one from Chicago:
You ate my nachos, I ate your pretzel.
You took my picture for me, spit on my arm, and left just before the game ended to meet your friends. Wish you had asked me for my name, or number, or both. But you can email me now

Spit on his arm? Help me understand—this guy was able to collect DNA from some gal but not her name or number?

As far as I know no one has ever written a missed connections ad about me. Sorry to say, if they did I missed the ad and, well, we never connected.

Maybe I should take matters into my own hands like this missed connection ad from Portland:
I read this daily to see if someone wrote about me.
Don't you realize how bored I am at work, and could use something to read?
Do my white teeth smiles, charming retail flirting, sarcastic sense of humor, and snappy fashion sense need go unappreciated by craigslist readers?
For god sake write about me!!!

Actually this gives me an idea. How can I expect anyone else to be looking for me if I haven't found myself yet?

Perhaps I should consider the metaphysical possibilities of the Missed Connections ads.

Being in the throes of a midlife crisis and all, I am perpetually in search of myself. Then, just when I think I've found myself, I slip through my fingers like a ghost.

Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?

I've been to paradise but I've never been to me.

Oh sure, generally speaking, wherever I go, there I am. But sometimes it's like I am a million miles away…

What about those days when I am just not myself?

Last week at the gym I made eye contact with myself in one of the mirrors while I was working out. Was it my imagination or did I have "a moment"…and then some sweat dripped into my eyes and I turned away. Can that moment be recaptured?

When I ride my bike on Sundays I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the windows of the buildings that I pass but I am too shy to say hello…

What to do?

What else can I do? I placed this Missed Connections advertisement:
I see you riding your bike most every Sunday morning. You--40 something man with blond/gray hair. I love your Keith Haring t-shirt. Me--similar to you in many ways. You seem to be searching for something. I hope it is me.

There, that should certainly catch my attention. Maybe I'll connect with myself soon. I know the odds are slim but there is still the whisper of possibility…
So tell me: Do you read the Missed Connections ads? Have you ever placed one? Has anyone ever been looking for you? What happened?