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Dawn Of The Dead (Cyclists)


In this horror screenplay I’m going to pen during my spare time this weekend, a small New England town is slowly, inexorably, invaded by a plague of humans on bikes. They’re a ragged lot, these two-wheeling freaks, alternately coming on like a swarm of bees in the middle of the avenue, ears stuffed with mobile device adjuncts (earbuds), or single-handedly clogging up the road going 2 miles an hour while checking email.

Oh, sure, they’re innocent enough looking – at first. There are moms in business suits and goofy-looking dads clad in loud reflective gear, little ones with helmets two-times too large, aging men in knee socks. Soon arrives a young, athletic cyclist, gliding past in his tight-fitting outfit. He seems to be some kind of leader of a riding cult. There are more like him, women as well, coming into the village artisanal bakery to reward themselves for taking up valuable real estate on the main road every Sunday, tromping across the freshly finished hardwood floor with sharp metal clips on the soles of their shoes and sitting down to a liesurely breakfast. Big-city advertisers have taken advantage of all the eyes on these sleek pedalers and cover their bodysuits in product messaging. “Credit Lyonnaise” and so forth. On certain nice summer days, they multiply into nuisance numbers.

Soon, the townsfolk begin to blame the nutty tandemistas for a wide range of social and economic ills that have nothing to do with them. What are these outsiders doing here anyway? Go back to your engine-free world!

The townsfolk have had enough. They get behind the wheels of their cars and go out on hunts, seeking out the peloton and picking off its riders one-by-one in a frenzy of SUV-bloodletting, until the only cyclist still rolling is the cult leader. As the townsfolk bear down on him, he cries out: “What has become of you people? You used to be peaceful!”

This is when he realizes that they’re completely possessed by some demon, who communicates with them 24/7 on their mobile phones.

And the thing is, that all happens in the first five minutes.

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Navigating Modern Technology


My family recently acquired a new vehicle, going all-in with the maximum numbers of bells and whistles available. Look, it’s 2015, don’t expect me to use mirrors when I back up, or pay attention to the lines of the road. I want my car to warn me via beep tone if I swerve out of my lane while staring at my personal electronic device.

When I first get in the car and start driving, I discover that one of the essential bells (or is it a whistle?) is broken. My wife, in the passenger seat, tries and fails many times to enter a destination on the navigation system. This is no good! How are we supposed to get to North Conway, use a map?

We call the dealership to make sure we’re doing nothing wrong and discover that one cannot add a new destination to the navigator, even by voice command or while sitting in the passenger seat, while the car is moving. That sounds reasonable, given all the bicyclists getting run over these days by drivers checking Facebook whilst putting on makeup and making a sandwich. Except that this car is so packed with features, including one that stops the car before it runs into a brick wall, that it’s kind of strange that it can’t detect a passenger and assume that he/she is doing the navigating.

We pull into a rest area and put the car in park. Now we're able to add a destination! The strange part is that over the course of the next several hours and days we discover that there is absolutely no restriction on the driver using the navigation/info system to check the status of his/her stocks, even while speeding down the highway.

Maybe the teen driver who ran into both of our parked cars the other day was checking her stocks instead of watching the road. And here I assumed she was applying makeup and making a sandwich.

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Professional Thieves


My long and distinguished career as an essential cog in various intricate administrative machines began humbly enough in the 1980s. I came up the ranks with a reputation for lightning-quick reflexes, and after I “got over myself” (ah, youth) it was clear that I needed to get serious if I was to make my mark in the world of desk jobs. So I entered a few office-management tournaments in the open division, easily winning head-to-head battles with seasoned pros (I was timed once snatching a phone off its cradle before it even started ringing!), and eventually took the Golden Rolodex Award at Admin SmackDown IX.

But my meteoric rise wasn’t without a dark side. I worked at Mass General Hospital for a time in the cardiac unit, mostly ordering supplies but now and again filling in on bypass surgeries in a pinch. Two or three of my colleagues were doctors who had these fancy joint MD-Ph.D. degrees but still needed to go through me to get their sulfuric acid. One of these doctors was from Australia and used to call me “Pat-Rick." He got very frustrated once because of my inability to pull the right strings to get him sulfuric acid on, like, a moment’s notice. (“And what, pray tell, are you planning to do with all of that sulfuric acid, hmmm. Dr. Whatsyername?”).

Despite the possibility that this doctor was doing cutting edge cardiac research when he wasn't in the O.R. poking holes through clogged arteries with a catheter, what I most remember about him is that during the sulfuric acid crisis he came into to my office to engage in some psychological arm twisting, and when my manager in the desk behind me left the room briefly, the physician reached out and grabbed a hunk of her partially-eaten muffin and stuffed it into his mouth.

Barely a year after that episode, I was wooed away from this world-renowned hospital to be an essential cog in a different machine at a world-renowned university (no, not Yale), where I came to learn that a mild-mannered librarian of Russian documents had admitted to a mutual colleague, in a fit of guilt, that she was so hungry one late morning that she pilfered a sandwich from someone’s lunch box in the community fridge.

I tell you this because I’ve heard over and over, all these decades later, that incidents of food theft from the office fridge are “probably perpetrated by people off the street,” since our building is open to the public. Maybe. But don’t be sure we’re not the victims of doctors and librarians.

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There's An App For That


About ten or fifteen years ago, I discovered the rock musician PJ Harvey and the brilliance of her work. This is not to suggest that I made her known to the rest of the rock-listening world, the way Berry Gordy discovered bands like The Miracles and Surpremes. As usual, I was a late-comer to good music. The album “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” was highly accessible and still uniquely PJ Harvey. I went out and bought CDs of her earlier work (this was when many people were still paying for music), which was fiercer, like it had been shouted out from a basement window. The Song “Rid of Me” was creepy as hell, reminiscent of at least one relationship I’d been in.

Soon after this, I came to realize that PJ Harvey was playing a show at the Paradise Rock Club, a venue in Brighton, MA that holds less than a thousand people. Of course, as sometimes happens to this aging rock fan, I learned of the show’s existence many weeks after it had sold out in something like 2 minutes. Years later, around the time that Let England Shake was released in 2011, I sought out but couldn’t find anyone to see her with me at the House of Blues and ended up not going. What a stupid mistake! I’m old enough to know that you must get out and enjoy the music whenever possible, even if none of your friends are able to attend.

And now I find myself in the final quarter of 2015, still having not seen Polly Jean live. However, I have an app installed on my phone, a download suggested by the educator formerly known as “America’s Favorite Acerbic High School Principal,” (now Italy’s favorite). The app, called “Bands In Town,” vibrates in my pocket whenever it thinks I would appreciate knowing about a rock show coming my way – which happens a lot less frequently than you might think. In this case, it told me that PJ Harvey would be playing O’Brien’s Pub in Allston. (Did you get that? O’Briens -- a tiny bar!).

After a day or two of fumbling with the app (“sign in with Facebook!” – can’t remember that one; “sign in with Google” – ditto; “sign in with email” – which of the twenty five email accounts could that be referring to?), I went online to the PJ Harvey website, where no shows of any sort were scheduled anywhere in the world. (That’s the kind of life PJ leads).

Eventually, O’Brien’s website provided the demystification: playing on Halloween Night was, among other acts, “PJ Harvey by Mud Dive.” It was a night of impersonation, in other words.

I guarantee that this won’t be the last time “Bands in Town” makes a fool of me.

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