Virtual vs Real: Out There In The Real World

by Eric Lucas

Hurricanes prowl the Atlantic. Stocks are down—so is consumer spending. Battles rage over health care. Michael Jackson’s burial is set. Bombs blow in Russia and Iraq.

Thunk.

Scritter scree scree scrabble thunk.

photo by Jeff Henshaw via FlickrThe commotion 30 feet away in an old fir pulls my gaze up from the computer to a branch at a high angle just over my wife’s drying beach towel. It’s a Douglas squirrel, harvesting late summer cones to fatten up for winter. This consists of sawing them off the branch and pitching them to the ground 50 feet below, where they land like golf balls hitting the green after a good approach shot. I watch for a while—the commotion represents intermittent squabbling with another squirrel which is, I guess, trying to perpetrate the rodentian felony of unauthorized downloading.

Back online, I check the overnight baseball scores. Yep, another loss, 11-3 to the Yankees. Surprise.

S&P’s off 1.7 percent. There goes the new Prius.

I’m on vacation and, I admit, I am using the guest ranch’s WiFi at our cabin in the pines to stay in touch. It’s 7am. The rest of my family snoozes away. It’s not work if no one knows, right?

And there are very, very serious happenings in the world of virtual reality. In my email I find a new catalog of business productivity courses in Dubai for Indian workers. I wonder how I got on that list, and furthermore how could I figure out the answer if I wanted to. Did you know that up to 98 percent of all email is spam? All that server capacity, dedicated to member enhancement and abandoned bank accounts in Rwanda.

Thwap!

That’s the sound of me whacking a yellowjacket with a spatula. We’d roasted a chicken in the barbecue the night before, and they’re still coming around, also on a mission to get fat for winter. I suppose chicken essences are whiffling out of the grill, like the rumors of incipient socialist euthanasia, and the yellowjackets are on a search-and-destroy mission. As am I and, in Teddy Roosevelt parlance, I’ve got the bigger stick.

OK, it’s really just a plastic Teflon spatula, but it demonstrates perfectly the fact that a weapon is best that’s suited to the task and no more. Some people use spray cans of nuclear waste to strike stinging insects from the air. I use a pancake turner, cocking the thing like Manny Ramirez lining up on a fastball, and please don’t tell me any more about him and female hormones and baseball prowess. I mean, really. One good swipe and a yellowjacket goes sailing sideways 10 feet. My batting average is .500.

Pah-lump blump.

photo by Matt Hintsa via FlickrThat’s a mule deer bounding through the woods 20 yards away. I don’t know what spooked her downline, and I think I’m invisible in my quiet deck-chair internetting, but she stops exactly behind a clump of brush where I cannot quite see her. I “see,” rather, a tawny flag amid the green that might well be a tail, and I “see” the extrapolation of where she was, trended into where my expectations put her now. That’s exactly how I have picked stocks in the past, extrapolating their leaps and bounds into nearby brush. I just wish I knew what spooked them downline. Stocks, I mean. A moment later the doe has utterly vanished, an event I witness only by its result. Like so much of my investing.

Kurkle-pleep–kluq-kluq splorp.

That’s a raven in the woods doing an excellent rendition of the background counterpoint in “Beat It.” Ravens are famed for their mimickry abilities, and there are naturalists who have carved out careers cataloging the various “dialects” used by ravens in specific regions. I suppose this one is speaking “Indigenous Inland Northwest.” Outrageous trivia, studying raven-speak. No doubt federal grants covered that. Where a bird picked up on the biggest hit of 1979 I don’t know, but it’s marvelous how information gets around these days.

For example, an ancient Egyptian marble bust at the Field Museum is an exact likeness of Michael Jackson. Prescient, those Egyptians, to foretell the King of Pop’s appearance, down to the eyelashes. Did you know this is a serious medical issue, growing eyelashes? If you don’t have enough, you have eyelash hypotrichosis. Jackson died just before the answer hit the market, Latisse, a goo you paste on your eyelids to overcome eyelash deficiency. No wonder people are suspicious of government health care, which probably wouldn’t pay for eyelash treatment. How American is that?

Whicka-whicka plick plick.

That’s a woodpecker, talking back to the squirrel and the raven. I see I have a new email from the British Lottery Board and won’t ever have to work again. Funds like that are what the governor of South Carolina used so he could fly to Argentina and rendezvous with his secret mistress. And did you see this new video of the tabby cat dancing on the dachsund’s tail?

Thunk. Whicka-whicka scree-scree kluq.

Whap!

Buzzoo-bzoo.

That’s a hummingbird—you see, the song of the woods never ends. Good thing I have the internet to keep me in touch with reality while I’m on vacation.

 

Eric Lucas is a contributing editor to YourLifeIsATrip.com and an international travel and business writer who lives in Seattle; to learn more, visit his website, www.TrailNot4Sissies.com.

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