Tongue-tied with a sudden sharp ache in my chest as my faltering heart becomes overrun with an adrenal sneak-attack. The prospect, the very idea, of attempting communication– the simple art of opening my mouth and flooding the local atmosphere with my wit and humour– sends shock-waves through by body, one powerful surging tide of anxiety laying waste to vital organs and clumsy limbs alike. Just a little self-contained Nagasaki, babies bursting into flames created by the friction caused when I come into contact with the outside world. An extreme example: another collision with a mystery wandering around the neighborhood where I find myself employed. For all intents and purposes she remains a fictional character, an empty husk in a demure coat flitting from vague instances of imagination to the busy streets of anonymous obstacles clogging my day like a drowned rat clogs a toilet when you try and flush the little bastard. However, as these non-interactions become more frequent the little monkey living in the back of my brain where the lizard became the man has begun to take a pair of pliers to various nodes and nodules responsible for a variety of impulses best left alone. Yet as the growing desire or compulsion to attempt some form of communication beyond awkward eye contact and reflexive looking away there also grows the more overwhelming physiological impact of a possible exchange. But as I said this is an extreme example. Typically social interactions are fraught with nausea, faintness, a burning desire to leave and my hands and mouth cross-dressing. It’s a very rare occasion when I find myself at a party and a nearly extinct one where I leave feeling that the evening wasn’t yet another challenge to my right of existence. Against any available wall-space or tucked into some convenient corner a mental checklist is checked more thoroughly than any examination by Santa Claus or the CIA. I don’t know how to behave, how to approach anyone, how to effortlessly and naturally become part of a conversation, how to think, how to dress, how to talk and even if I did what the fuck am I gonna talk about? There’s a million and one rules of engagement in any social

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gathering and I will violate each and everyone until I’ve shamed the poor sods who invited me into leaving to make sure I get home okay. Not that I need to go to parties and attempt to fit in, make nice, meet people or enjoy myself. This is an avoidable pitfall and nine times out of ten I’m smart enough or balanced enough to decline any well-intentioned invitation to leave the safety of my little hovel. Unfortunately, while life is full of parties, it’s also full of various obligations which require even more stringent application of communication skills and an ability to stand in the correct line with the correct paperwork and the correct questions and answers. I’ll be taking to the friendly skies soon and my excitement about this impending vacation is tempered by an acute fear of dealing with the airport, getting stressed out and anxious, then boarding a death-trap which will use the force of gravity against my stomach and fill my head with visions of corrupted fuselage breaking apart. I’ve been told there will have to be an exchange with the plastic smiles lurking behind the check-in counter instead of the animosity expressed by the automated tellers. I think the last time I checked-in through the counter one of my bags was x-rayed and my other bag and I were both stopped by security and humiliated publicly. This would be more of a brick-wall in my life if my job was better paying and I found reason to, I dunno, check out pyramids somewhere. Trouble commences whenever I need to ask someone at a store where something might be– I know that it won’t exist until I ask some over-worked and under-paid future assistant manager for life who will drop everything they’re doing to take me right back to where I was looking and politely point out the neon lights and bells and whistles surrounding the product of choice. Hell, ask the guy down at one of my liquor stores how well I deal with paying the correct amount. Then there are times in your life where you have to enter some strange place with bad carpeting and worse lighting where employees have compulsory attire and perfect, white teeth. A faint memory of intentions long drugged, murdered and dismembered slowly began to haunt me after reading an article detailing the recent protests which briefly interrupted the shareholders’ meeting for Berkshire Hathaway.

Okay, so I thought Warren Buffett was former secretary of state or something but he’s actually a modern American success story who took his failing textile business in the middle of Nebraska and, on whims and shrewd observation, built one of the most trusted investment firms in the country while simultaneously becoming the world’s third most excessive bank account. Every year it’s a yuppie-freakout in the streets of Omaha when the men and women of capitalism descend to listen to Buffettt preach the gospel and talk shop in between ping-pong games and ukulele jams. Apparantly Jimmy Buffett dropped in and played a rendition of “Margaritaville” with altered lyrics to suit the event. Jimmy’s music isn’t for poor people, you have to be a middle-class ex-hippie to understand the complexities of “Get Drunk and Screw”– imagine a convention-hall full of his kind. Then everything stopped when a Sudanese refugee and several Karuk Indians (Klamath River/Shasta region, California) took Berkshire Hathaway to task for some investment practices. Jimmy Buffett was so shaken he had to leave the room and smoke a joint. A shareholder named Judith Porter (who may or may not be the Sudanese refugee tho my guess is decidedly not) introduced a measure for Berkshire Hathaway to divest its nearly three-and-a-half billion dollar stake in PetroChina due to their involvement in Sudanese oil-production. It’s a nationalized industry so money goes from the gas pump through a million intermediates and into the suppression of anti-government rebels and their vicious women, children, farmers, old-people, poverty-stricken villages, food crops and starving livestock. Mr. Buffett protested the protest claiming that the stake held by Berkshire Hathaway company wasn’t in the portion of PetroChina that operated the Sudanese oil-fields before putting the measure to vote. Money won with over 830,000 tallies in favour of continued profiteering and just shy of sixteen thousand trying to do the least amount possible to alleviate any lurking symptoms of white-guilt. Next up were representatives of the Kuruk people who have seen the paradise of reservation-life sullied by two hydro-electric dams which have depleted Klamath salmon. As she broke down and cried Buffett yelled from the podium, “Life’s tough, hippie” before signaling security to mace the woman before dragging her back to her teepee. Actually the truth doesn’t need much dramatization; after expressing sympathy for the plight of the Kuruk people Buffett dismissed their complaint with, “The world runs on electricity and it wants more electricity” and then passing the buck on government regulators who are in charge of the hydro-electric project.

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Despite their crushing defeat at the hands of self-interested, successful modern Americans I admire the small voices of protest. I wish that I could take it upon myself to summon the courage found in the ragged nail of their pinkies. What conviction and strength they must have had to stand amidst such overwhelming opposition and plead their cases, all with the knowledge gnawing at their intestines that they will be out-voted and quickly forgotten. I can’t even go to a show without spending some quality time writhing around on the toilet and spending half the evening with one foot out the door in case I need to puke in the alley. Years and years ago my grandparents opened a small gift-trust mutual fund for all us kids and for years I threw the periodic statements away without any comprehension of the snazzy charts and optimistic copy. After Iraq became the center-piece for the world-wide orgy of violence I noticed that my investment company’s copywriter was beside himself with optimism that diverting investments into the defense industry would really line my pocket and I suddenly found myself at an interesting cross-roads. I certainly don’t want to make money off the industry of war but I’ve never once interacted with this company– what the fuck do I do? John, former house-mate and seasoned veteran of life, gave me a couple of options. His response to liberal whining about corporate malfeasance was that people should buy one share of offender’s public stock which would give them the right to attend a shareholder’s meeting where they could stand up and bitch and moan to a captive audience instead of people on the street trying to get home from work. Obviously this is a little robust for me so it was off to option number two which involved closing my death account and opening the hippie account at any number of boutique liberal investment firms dedicated to community development and hugging third-world savages and telling them what a good job they were doing at surviving the latest Bechtel adventure. Close accounts, open accounts? This was around the time Peter Camejo was running for governor in California and I became aware of his firm Progressive Asset. Surely the blood would be wiped from my hands were I only able to take my shares to them. But let’s get serious– I don’t even know what these shares are– they’re just numbers on screens I try to avoid whenever the news gets into business. This was going to require calling someone, perhaps even going to an office and sitting down across from some flunky, leaning my backpack against my chair, and saying… Fuck… I wanna close my account? I wanna take my account elsewhere, how do I do that? Actually, maybe you can do that for me? Wait, no, wait, let me put this floormat on first. Hi. So, uh, you live around here? Well I’m me, what’s your name? Yeah? So uh, yeah, do you uh, I dunno, do things. With other people? Or not, sorry. Nice to meet you. See you ’round.

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