Three strikes and you’re out. If that were true for me as a computer user, well, I’d be long out. Forgotten. Gone. This is because I have something in common with computers. We’re both fragile. It breaks and I break. I break down weeping and frantic. I lose my cool, pace around and think why could this happen again. Curse, pace, curse, pace.

Just ask my wife to testify.

So it happens again. A message to upgrade a program pops up. “Oh, yeah. Okay,” I think. And click. It’s not a virus. I’m not that bad – anymore. It’s a program update, a heavy file. For those in the know about computers that means check things first, clean up, run a Disk Utility or something like that. I just go click. And continue my work. There are deadlines to meet, stories to write. The message comes telling you to restart the computer. “Oh, yeah.” Click.

And that’s it. A half hour later and you’re still waiting for the computer to start back up, getting anxious. Deadlines to meet, stories to write. Not again. Yes, again. The computer’s down and you’re weeping, frantic. You’ve lost your cool and you’re pacing, cursing. Pacing, cursing. All those work files at risk of total loss – and the family photos. The music downloads. The contacts. Everything.

And I think, crap, I’m a moron. Without this technology I wouldn’t be able to live in a pine forest at the beach. So suck it up and admit defeat. You suck at computers but you can learn. You can get better. You can change. So you say to yourself and to your wife, “I promise, I really and truly promise. I’ll never do it again. I’ll be good and get better, improve, do things right, back things up, save it all on a second hard drive.”

Yes, I will. But just let me finish this work first. There are deadlines to meet, stories to write.

And you know you’re doomed.

Tuned Out

It might be the distance from the city. It might be the age, or having three kids under five. But I have no idea what’s “in” anymore. Sure, I went to Creamfields three years ago and danced cool and hip to The Prodigy. “Smack My Bitch Up,” “Breathe,” “Firestarter.” And in my elation I said to my wife, “I can still dance to this and, no way, I’ll be 50 in 13 years.”

Now we live in the pine forest at the beach. And my wife is downloading music and she says, “What would you like?”

I draw a blank.

What’s going on? This can’t be. A blank. But it’s not an easy question. You can’t say just anything. It’s got to be cool, alternative, new. Even old. But it’s got to yield a response like, “Yeah, man, that’s good stuff.”


“Hmm, let me think.”

And I think that the last movement I lived through was grunge. I listened to the marathon session of Nirvana after Kurt Cobain’s death, understanding, feeling the music. I’d lived it – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden. I listened to it at university and in the years after. Traveling, broke, surfing and chilling in France, Ireland, Scotland. It was real.

Since then? Nothing.



And I think that if I ever make it famous and get interviewed and they ask me what the most played songs are on my iTunes. Well I’ll turn it on and there you’ll have it: Xuxa, the queen of Latin American kiddy music. Twenty-one tracks in the Top 25 Most Played. I’m to blame, really. The kids are fighting in the back seat on a road trip and how do you bring the peace? “Hey, who wants to listen to Xuxa?” And we’re all singing, a happy family. And sure enough I can now hum them all – in the shower, in line at the bank, waiting in a lobby. Out walking.

So I turn to my wife and say, “Whatever you do, just don’t download High School Musical.”

Mayonnaise Sandwiches

I’m in the city for a few days on my own. You know, freedom. Do what you want. No kids. Hallelujah! Take a nap, drink a beer. Put your feet up.

The trouble is that you’re on deadline, the editor’s calling and there’s nothing in the fridge except bread and mayonnaise. The cupboards? Dry oatmeal and bran flakes.

You feel like you’re back at university, only the stakes are higher. Money, your salary, the bank balance and the credit cards. The clothes to buy, groceries, haircuts, medicine, school tuition. Inflation.

So get back to work and don’t lounge.

Crap, you think. And you pick up the phone to call the kids and your beautiful wife and the damn dog and pesky cat. It’s mayhem down the line, from back in the pine forest. Fighting words out of your daughter, cries from your boy. My wife is frantic. How can she get out of an invitation. “Oh shit who’s that at the door?” she says.

And you think, heartburn and all it sure beats mayonnaise sandwiches and flipping through TV channels on your own.