Michael Phillips, The Airstream Chronicles - Cheeseburgers In The Airstream?

Cheeseburgers In The Airstream?

Things are getting stranger by the day here in the Airstream.

Yesterday Bell came in to use one of my computers. When I asked him why he didn't use his own, he said, "MJB, the Commodore 64 is on its last legs. I can't even get it to play Pong any more. It's a sad day indeed."

"Yeah," I said, "It's always hard to lose an old friend. What do you need to do anyway?"

"I need to get on that dang Internet and see what those bastards are saying about me." He lit a cigarette and poked at the laptop. "How do you turn this god damn thing on?"

"Arty, here...don't bang on it like that...look, just push this button. See?"

"Jesus H. Christ!" he shrieked, "Lookit that color screen! MJB, you gotcha some high technology out here. I'm gonna start charging you rent."

I went outside to get some fresh air, and when I returned about 20 minutes later, Bell was flinging my ThinkPad around the room by the phone cord.

"Arty! What the hell are you doing?" I wrestled the computer from him and pushed him down onto the tattered old La-Z-Boy.

"MJB, you wouldn't believe what those sons-a-bitches are saying about me out there in cyborg-space!"

I put the computer back down onto the table and started to check it for damage. Bell lit another cigarette and continued his rant. "This god damn free speech has gone too far! What's the world come to when people can put up these negative messages about my water pipe magnets and Absolutely Fresh Flowers!? Next thing you know, they'll be saying Cusco isn't really cutting edge music!" He was really mad now.

"Come on," I said, "you have to admit that you took those magnets off the water pipes a year ago."

"That don't mean they didn't work! Hell, those things change the molecular structure of the water! You know damn well why I took those magnets off MJB, they was scaring the dogs." I looked at Bell and he shrugged and said, "Well, you know what I mean. The dogs was acting different. Stumpy wouldn't even chase his special stick! I think them magnets are a tool of the devil! But boy howdy, they sure did clear up that scaling and blow the gunk outta the pipes!"

Bell slumped into the chair and lit another cigarette. I said, "Arty, I don't care what's going on on the Internet, you can't come in here and toss my equipment around like that. You're acting like a madman lately. What the hell's wrong with you?"

"You don't see it MJB, you don't see what goes on! They curse me and the little woman, they call my guests idiots and charlatans, hell, they even put up hundreds of messages advertising their dairy farms! You oughta see it, every message ending with some kind of smart ass remark...it's like anarchy on that newsgroup I tell ya! There has to be a way to make sure all the messages are favorable to me and the show. You figure it out MJB, look at all these computers and wires and thing-a-ma-bobs...you figure out a way to make them motherfuckers stop saying bad things about me!"

I'd never heard Arty say "motherfuckers" out loud, so I knew he was really upset. I opened up a couple of beers and handed him one. He sucked it down in one gulp, crushed the can against his forehead and barked, "Set me up again!" I handed him the other beer and tried to talk some sense into him.

"Arty, don't worry about that newsgroup. I mean, look at it, it's dying all by itself. It's turning into a bitch-fest. They don't even talk about your damn show anymore."

"That's what I'm talking about MJB! Don't you get it? I want them to talk about me on there! Not all this nonsense about teenage dairy farmers and ham radio!" Bell emptied the second beer, belched and lit another cigarette. "Hell, I guess it don't matter what those idiots type about. I just thought that group there would be another place I could hawk some of Crane's junk. But them guys are just too...too...opinionated! they question everything! It ain't like the radio show at all..."

He slunk down into the ratty recliner and nodded off, snoring and drooling. I took the cigarette from his fingers and threw it out the door of the Airstream, where one of the dogs picked it up in his mouth and carried it off. Maybe he was right about those dogs. I set the alarm for 10:45 p.m. so Bell wouldn't be late for his show, and left, quietly closing the Airstream door so as not to disturb the boss.

mjp
1/12/96

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