Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Mental screen savers

I always play these weird games in my head to keep me busy and eat away the free time in elevators, showers, and meetings when typical people probably either shut down their brains or think about God or something. One of my puzzles is to think about the Camaro I had back in high school and what I would do if I wanted to restore it and had an unlimited budget. That one’s boring – the big gun is thinking about a quarter of a billion dollar inheritance. It sounds shallow, and many people would just think “I’d buy a car. Then I’d go to Nordstrom’s”. I think about a life-sized game of Risk: starting corporations, large scale retribution, and political destruction. I guess it beats doodling on my arm with a magic marker.

Anyway, my newest mental screen saver has been this: imagine going back in time only five years, confronting yourself, and hanging out with a week. Now, this is more advanced than the typical ‘see yourself as a kid’ thing. I haven’t changed that much in five years. Hell, I still have the same glasses I had five years ago. But, it was a whole different era for me – I was back in Indiana, living on dog food, mostly unemployed, and going through women like I go through Coke now. I could mostly unnoticed in 1992 – I could probably show up at work and work for 8 hours if it weren’t for the fact that I probably weigh like 20 lbs more and I wouldn’t be able to remember anybody’s name.

I thought about it more and wrote some of the science behind the thing. I would be fully functional (not like a Quantum Leap hologram), and I would be able to change anything. I would have a preprogrammed jump-back point of like a week. When I returned, everything in the past would revert to its previous value. Nobody would remember me, and all of the things I diverted or messed up would go back to the values that had already happened. Basically, a week-long divot of the past would be cloned and held in escrow while I fucked around, and then when I returned, a union of the past I changed and the piece that was removed would be grafted back in place. I thought of such a complex system so multiple machines could knock people back to the same timeframe of the same world without wiping out future people when grafts were reimplemented. A simpler system would be to take a week-long sample of the past and then feed it into something like the Star Trek holodeck, but it wouldn’t be entirely true. Here’s why – lets say the 1997 me decides to meet up with the 1992 girlfriend and I tell the 1992 me to get lost so we can talk for a bit. Okay, if I was in the holodeck, the only rendering information it would have would be my views of the 1992 girlfriend, and not her actual reactions to new situations. Well, I guess it would if it greatly sampled the entire week-long piece of the past from the actual past and not from my brain. The problem is this – I don’t know everything about people from my past – I only know the events I saw. I can guess, but it’s not 100% accurate unless it is really the living, breathing person in front of me. I think.

The weird thing of all of this – when I travel back to 1997, everything else reverts, but my memory doesn’t. I can carry back thoughts that change my future, because it hasn’t happened yet. I just can’t change the past.

The grand total of all of this is that I end up with this odd playground where I get to see and talk to people that I will never see again. And I get to do stuff like visit IU the way I remember it. I can drive my VW to Garcia’s and log into my old computer accounts and sit around with the 1992 me and lay some heavy shit on him/me about what’s going to happen in the past/future. I guess the whole thing is sad and abnormal, and I wouldn’t be doing anything worthy or changing things or anything. It would be like a photo album except with all senses, and it would probably just be depressing.

Other things I was thinking about in this – would I need to take my medicine? I would have to somehow bring it, as I took different medicine then. How would I hide myself to other people? I could say I was an older brother or something. I think about how I would identify myself to myself – I guess that would be easy – I know a lot of things that I have never told anybody, and if I laid out a bunch of those to the 1992 me, I/he would figure it out. Everything in my wallet would be wrong – the only thing in there that I would’ve had in 1992 would be my Social Security card. All of my money would be unspendable – I have $4 in my pocket, 3 are 1996, one is 1993. None of my credit cards would work. But I could probably use my 1992 photo ID without any problems, as long as I kept my story straight when I got pulled over or whatever. The people I saw everyday would be confused about me because my hair is probably different, I weigh a little more, etc. but the people I only run into every few months wouldn’t know. I don’t know, it’s a very strange thing to think about. I mean, I could sit and tell myself who would die, who I would date, but it would only be for my own morbid fascination. I guess I want to drive my VW again, too.

I want to write a long thing about FM radio. I don’t know what the focus would be though. The coolest places for FM radio are probably LA and San Fran. I remember driving into San Fran from Jose and the seek button would stop about every tenth of a number on the dial. 98.1 98.2 98.3 98.4 etc. Within 6 or 7 hits, I found a station playing Obituary. And although I’m not into these disco dancing stations, there are dance stations that must play commercials like all day, because they spin records for hours at a time without stopping for a commercial break. Any music that’s fast and doesn’t stop every 2 minutes for a car dealership ad is pretty cool to me. My biggest peeve is the station that has such a rigid format that you could set your watch according to the next Snapple commercial. When I drive south every other Friday to Karena’s, I listen to KOMO AM for the traffic reports. Bill Gallant is on and he’s a fairly cool guy, but they actually take like 15 seconds of callers per hour. It is commercial / traffic / commercial / intro / commercial / traffic / commercial / intro / two seconds of talk / commercial / traffic etc. Why can’t they just play commercials for like 4 minutes of the hour and shut the fuck up so they can get some entertainment going? I mean, I hate Rush Limbaugh, but I bet he talks for more than 3 minutes of his 7 hour shift in the morning. What makes it even worse is on the music stations when they do the same commercial rotation and then they play the same 6 songs all day. I hate listening to 107.7 now because they play all the commercials and then they play the same 311, No Doubt, and Porno for Pyros songs over and over and over. They play that Pets song by Porno for Pyros like it’s a new hit – IT’S BEEN OUT FOR FIVE GODDAMN YEARS! So I try to listen to 99.9 and they are moderately okay, but they have this thing “we play 9 in a row all day long”. Well, they don’t. They play 3 or 4 blocks of 9 with a lot of commercials in between. Like, if they finish 9, they don’t do 4 commercials and a station ID and then go into another 9. They dick around for a while, work around the lunch break or whatever, and an hour later they start another 9. And during the blocks of 9, they break between the songs for station promos, which I think is a ripoff. But, they play some older ozzy, and some other good metal stuff, which is better than listening to Bryan Adams or Air Supply.

I still think Seattle is better than Indiana though, because I NEVER listened to the radio there. Your choices were elevator music, or adult contemp. pop music. I guess now they have some “alternative” stations, but still. There are usually 4 stations that your FM radio will pick up in Indiana, even in the major cities. People are happy listening to the Chicago 17 album or whatever.