Archive for April 2007

No iPod Please

April 22, 2007

Ok. This is a little over 4 pages but I think it moves.   This is a possible submission for Salon so please be honest.

     Every birthday and every holiday, I receive the same question from my mother.  “Do you want an iPod?” she asks me, grappling for some hint on what I would like to receive.

     She always gets the same answer.  “I really don’t want one, mom.  Really, just get me a gift card to Borders or something.”

     She scoffs, and rolls her eyes, going back to the dishes or the laundry; no closer to an answer than she was a moment before. I really don’t mean to be a pain, in fact I just want to make it easier on her. I just don’t feel the need to carry “1000 songs in [my] pocket,” as the ads first said in October of 2001. 

     I can’t avoid them though.  I see them hanging on women’s back pockets in color like olive green and hot pink, the coolest women with glitter and rhinestones.  I see guys with back packs that cross over their chests with straps carrying a case there.   Even the subways try to tempt me. 

     As I am waiting for the train, I see their ads lining the walls, you know the ones, the ones with the black silhouettes against bright colors with thin lines from the rectangle in their hands to their ears as they pause in motion with hips jutting or arms shot out like they are having a seizure.  The iPod shuffles are stuck on collars or tight jean pockets that only make me wonder about the gender of the wearer.  

     When my lack of enthusiasm for this product comes through, I receive looks that would be better fit for a man wearing a death metal t-shirt to a afternoon of golfing on a country club golf course.  They tell me the facts.  The shuffle can hold up to 250 songs and is half the size of your palm.  The nano, depending on how many gigs you buy, can hold from 500-2,000 songs, and are very light and thin, perfect fit for any pocket.  The original iPod offers up to 80 gigs and even came out with a Harry Potter design at one point. And finally, everyone has an iPod, which could be true considering that about 90 million have been sold already. I get it. It holds many, many songs and it looks pretty.

     Then, much to my dismay, they continue their defense of their newest obsession.  I tally the costs in my head.  “I have a iHome that I can turn on when I take a shower, and its my alarm clock too,” they tell me.  100 dollars right there.  “I got Altec Langsing speakers for my birthday and they matched my white iPod!” another one exclaims.  Depending on the model, that means their parents spent 100 to 250 dollars at least just for some speakers. “With my iPod remote, I can pause things from across the room,” someone claims. Yeah, that’s only after you pay for the required Universal Dock at $39 and the remote for an extra $29.  All these things add up.

     But while people boast that they have their whole play list on their hip, retorts accompanied by complaints I have heard about them flood my mind. Batteries were recalled during the winter of 2003 while some still suddenly fail today.  The Equalizer can easy distort the bass causing a screeching of guitar solos to puncture your eardrums, and this wondrous machine that has “altered the landscape for portable audio players” (PC World) has a failure rate of 13.7%.   Without the additional $59 for 2 year coverage of Applecare, you’re screwed. 

     You wouldn’t believe that it has been redone 5 times and the basis of the design was created only six years ago. The sales from this product also account for half of Apple’s $7.1 billion dollar profits.  Who knows how much of these were spent on replacement iPods and parts. Most people can’t imagine life without it now though, and most can’t go a half an hour without seeing at least one around.  Still, I ask, what is the big deal?

     Now, I did fall under the techno trends at one time.  Believe it or not, I did have an MP3 player that I promptly lost after putting it somewhere.  Even now, I have a Razor, though I admit I got it without charge.

     But when the iPods finally took off in 2004, my younger sister was the first one to beg for one.   College payments were depleting our accounts though, so she couldn’t get one.   Then when the nano came out, she wanted that one, and she finally got it for her birthday, though that was all she got because the price came to about $300 dollars.   My older sister bought one for herself, and my younger brother got one in the past two years and he’s only 12.

     Yet, I am fine with my CD player.  You may look at me strangely as I heft the player in my hand, thinking that I should move with the times and get and iPod.  I tell you this; Believe it or not, I have the attention span to listen to one artist for a long period of time and I do not need to make play lists formatted to my every mood. Most of the musicians I do enjoy can keep me pumped for at least eight songs, rarely any one hit wonders.  Besides if I want a mix, then all I have to do is burn a CD and I am set. 

So while you may rave about the numerous choices you have to delight your ears during the day, I find no yearning for that small white, blue, black, silver, green or pink player.  No matter how long I stare at those frozen poses of dancers, or watch commercials with people dancing down the street with something white peeking out from their pockets, I do not want one.

“Are you sure? Not even a nano?” she asks me again.

“Just get me a gift card or something,” I tell my mother once more.  Hopefully, she will listen. 

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The River Crossing

April 12, 2007

It was a dark night. The only sound was the humming of cicadas and water softly splashing on the banks of the river. The sky was an unbroken mass of stars shinning like pinpricks in a vast black fabric. They were so bright compared to the dark night that they hurt your eyes to look at them. Even at night it is warm in Mexico. Delores sweated profusely under the three layers of clothing she is wearing. Two dresses- her Sunday silk on the bottom most layer- and one skirt. The fabric was stretched tightly over her bulging pregnant stomach. The sweat was the thickest and stickiest on the back of her neck but with her arms laden with packages there was nothing she could do but shake her thick black braid off her neck and over her shoulder. Under one arm was a heavy sack containing her stone mocajete, the irreplaceable mortar and pestle which had been passed down to her by her great grandmother. She had packed it tightly wrapped in socks and underwear but as she shifted the weight under her arm she heard a tiny little clink as the well worn pestle must have clinked inside the deep bowl of the mortar. Under her other was a bundle of the remaining clothing tied up in a sheet.

Bartolome had agreed to have the rest shipped to el otro lado. The indignity of their flight was almost more than Iraseme could bear. She took one look at the cold river and stood unmoving under the mesquite tree. Sergio was already waist deep. His bundles were floating around him like small boats, each packet wrapped thoroughly in plastic garbage bags sealed with duck tape. One barely floated and sunk below the surface of the water. It contained a sack of corn meal for tortillas, uncooked white rice and pinto beans. This was all they had in terms of provisions in addition to emptied milk gallon filled with water each.

Delores lifted her skirt and started to make her way into the black water but all of a sudden there was a loud sound like a gust of wind blowing past you and then a soft light in the distance appeared bobbing up and down like a lantern on a string. It was moving rapidly toward the three people about to cross the river. La Migra they all thought to themselves as the light got closer. Some how they had found them. But as the light neared them it brighter and brighter until they realized it wasn’t one light but several spreading across a line. Had the mob followed them this far? Delores thought to herself. They were twenty days travel from Tayahu and it hardly seemed worth the effort even if they did think her a cursed bruja. The glowing lights took on a smoky glaze. There was a shimmer around them and areas of opaqueness like dust kicked up by feet. As the lights got closer they spread further and further east and west. Soon it was almost like a horizon of light coming toward them.

Delores and Sergio turned around in the water and stared. It defiantly was not a mob of people or La Migra. Iraseme blinked repeatedly and slowly backed away from the mesquite tree toward the river where her son and daughter in law stood paralyzed. Delores clutched dropped her burdens and clutched at her womb. The mocajete fell from her hands and plopped into the black water. Ireseme’s black dress thwapped against her thighs in the wind. She held her hands up shielding her eyes from the light, but when she saw its true nature she fell forward on her knees genuflecting rapidly. “ Aye Nuestra Senora!” was all she managed to say out loud. The horizon of light came so close that there was only a few feet of no man’s land between the river crossers and the mass of whatever was causing the glow. Delores gasped when she saw the source, thousands of ghostly bodies. She had been wrong, it was a mob. There were faces they knew. Old relatives they often visited in their memories, friends and acquaintances long gone. The number of those they knew however was only a small handful compared to the number of strangers. Thousands of translucent illuminated bodies stood before them. The material that they were composed of was a mere shadow of flesh and blood. They had the same qualities as a white sheet hung on a clothes line. Their bodies seemed to mesh into one another. Some were on foot, others rood ghostly horses and burros. It was an entire league of dead souls. Their bodies emitted a brilliant white light but their eyes were as black as the night around them.

Delores took two steps forward until she stood close enough to touch Iraseme who was still on her knees. Sergio let go of the floating bundles and walked forward towards the two women on bank of the river. “What in gods name do we do” Delores whispered to him when he was close enough to hear.

“We cannot stop” Iraseme said. “We cannot turn our backs to them. We must cross the river as quickly as possible. I don’t think they can follow over running water” Her voice was trembling. “And pray for God’s sake. Pray that he will save our souls!” She spread her arms out beside her as if to display her hands were free of weapons. She slowly rose to her knees and began walking backwards towards the river. She stooped to pick up her tiny bundle and continue backwards into the black water not bothering to lift her skirt. Delores and Sergio followed her example. As she stepped into the water she tripped on something hard on the sandy floor. It was her mocajete. She bent down carefully feeling the cold water close in around her. She didn’t take her eyes off the ghostly crowd. As Sergio entered the water widening the gap between them and the mob she assumed the mass would move forward it did not.