Sunday, March 11, 2007


Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

- Smashing Pumpkins,
"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"

My lovely day of being screamed at in Chinese and attacked by giant wild turkeys ended with my new computer's operating system dying.

I called Apple's tech help line and got pressured to purchase the extended help plan before I was given any real help. I would have probably purchased it anyway, but I did not like them preying on the panic one has when there is a computer crash.

As I suspected I had to reinstall the operating system, losing everything that was saved on the computer. While I had not backed anything up officially, since the computer was new there was not much new on it. Most of my files for teaching are also on my computer at work (I email them to myself there). A few pictures are gone and some music, I think. Everything else is still on the old clunker, so I just had to transfer everything over again. Not a good way to spend a weekend, but it could have been worse.

One annoyance is the fact that you cannot upload your music from your iPod back to the computer it is synced with. Your iPod should be a way to backup your music files, but that it ain't.

Sara left to visit her family in New Mexico yesterday. I would have liked to have gone with her, but I just have so much to get done during this coming week of Spring "Break". I drove her to the airport - Newark. It is sad how they have turned airports into mass-hysteria zones. The area outside the "security zone" is a waste land inhabited by transients trying to get to their flights. Even though we arrived at the airport with time, there was absolutely nowhere where we could sit together and wait for her flight. No seats, no restaurants, no cafes, nothing.

Eventually Sara joined all the other departing passengers in the maze leading up to the security check. As I waited to wave one last goodbye, I noticed how the workers herded the people through the chaotic maze as the crowd ebbed and flowed. It really reminded me like cattle being led to the slaughterhouse. You could smell the paranoia. It was probably leaking out of someone's three ounce bottle of liquid in the one quart zip-lock bag.

It turns out that Sara's flight was delayed about an hour and a half. I do think the area in the "secure" zone has more amenities, so hopefully she was able to entertain herself and sit.

Property of Joseph A. Maloney © 2004

The airport experience along with teaching a course on urban anthropology, living in New York city, talking to my mother for the first time in a couple of months (she was traveling around Mexico and out of phone contact), and trying to ground myself over this "break", has made me reflect about the interaction we have with the people around us.

For example, the building in which we live has a lot of nice people, but we really don't know any of them beyond the usually pleasantries we may share if we pass by in the hall or elevator. The people who live below us are a young couple (with Grammy tickets) and a nice dog. We have spoken about getting together for dinner, but it has never come to fruition. Our most meaningful interaction has been picking up each other's mail when we were out of town.

The man who lives above us went to the same university where Sara and I got our Ph.D.s and his sister even has a Ph.D. in anthropology from there (she lives in Brooklyn). How did I learn this? When I went to investigate why water was dripping from our kitchen ceiling and I was happening to be wearing a collegiate t-shirt. We also have spoken of the need to meet up, but have not done so.

And then there are the students with whom I fished through the discarded books in the basement, the friendly and cheerful woman who seems to have a similar schedule as mine since we always seem to be in the elevator together. Our lives pass by yet they never do connect.

Beyond that, one of my colleagues from work lives about a mile away, yet we have only met up a couple of times. I know there are some alumni from my college here, but I have not even come close to looking them up. Even Frankie from this cyber-psuedo-reality lives and works a subway ride away (we were also living in close proximity in Boston) and have discussed meeting up on occasion, but never have done so.

I am not sure where I am going with this. I have no answers. I guess I am wondering if I have become a cog in the social wheel. Have I become trapped in the iron cage of modernity (extra credit to whomever can site the sources of those two references)?

I have become fascinated with rats. I get to see them running in the gutters, scavenging in the subway stations, eating at Taco Bell (the rats are-not me!), and sunning themselves in the park. I even bought this book:

which I hope to delve into over the next week. Perhaps I believe that they might have some answers for me. Either how to survive or how not to become a rodent like them. Dunno...

The gears are cranking in my head. Whether anything good will come from it is anyone's guess.

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