Checking back in with the world

I’ve been gone.  Not just from Pasadena, but from the world at large, for at least six months.  I can probably count the number of times I left Mike and Susan’s house in 3.5 months on two hands, or maybe three, but some of those were just hiking.  I didn’t see much news.  Thankfully I missed the entire healthcare debate.  I didn’t spend time with other people.  I was checked out.  Now I’m starting to check back in, and of course things seem kind of surreal.

I went to a mall last Friday.  The one by the Santa Anita racetrack.  I went with Ian to see Avatar in IMAX-3D, and to get a little exercise.  I’ve mostly been laying around trying to stop being sick for the past week.  When we got there, the show had sold out, so we decided to walk around the mall — to literally circumambulate it, not walk around inside like shoppers — and decide whether we wanted to go to the next showing, and kill some time.  It was bizarre.  The whole place.  I felt like an alien, first for having biked there (they have a giant valet-only parking lot), second for clearly not wearing culturally acceptable Friday-night-at-the-mall attire, and third for having a giant crazy-homeless-guy beard.  The homogeneity of the people just seemed bizarre somehow.  Lots of black and white clothing.  Lots of text messaging.  Lots of makeup and trying to look tough.  The scene was so strange we decided to pee in the bushes in the parking lot rather than try and find a bathroom inside.

Of course, by the time we’d walked all the way around the consumer temple complex, the next show had also sold out.  So we went home.

Then yesterday, sitting for an hour in the waiting room at the dentist’s office (I accidentally showed up an hour early because Google Calendar has been adjusting for timezones… if they’re going to do that, they should really pay attention to where a given event is…), and reading Thomas Friedman’s old book From Beiruit to Jerusalem, I heard in the background two pharmaceutical ads on the radio, back to back.  The first was for Lipitor™.  But it wasn’t a normal drug ad (that such a thing exists as a normal drug ad is itself disturbing).  It sounded more like a political campaign ad, railing against what I can only infer must be some kind of popular skepticism about the statin drugs about which I have heard basically nothing.  It had lines like “Your doctor must have had many good reasons for prescribing Lipitor™.”, all innuendo and implication, without actually saying anything, or confronting whatever claims might have been made against it.  It was propaganda.

The second ad was for a disease called “my wife isn’t horny enough syndrome”, or wait, no, maybe it was hypoactive sexual desire disorder.  Seriously.  It was an ad for a new disease, which they just came out with.  There isn’t even a drug.  It’s just a medical study.  Right.  That’s how you get participants for medical studies, through mass market advertising.  Why can’t they just admit they’re developing a female aphrodisiac, and hey, would anybody like to help us with the testing (I’m sure there wouldn’t be any shortage of volunteers).  No, it has to be couched as a chronic disease, with a soft female voiceover, that never says the word ‘sex’, except when spelling out the URL for their website.  Instead it’s “Do you suffer from a decreased desire for intimacy?”  If they actually come up with something that works, I’m sure it will be a hit.  Especially on the black market.  If there’s anything men want more than Viagra™ (which is still very popular, according to my spam folder), it’s a pill that makes women horny no matter how bad of a lover or listener you are.  Hopefully it will be flavorless and water soluble.

So I’m not entirely sure whether I’m happy to be back or not.

By Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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