Happy Birthday Ken


I am writing to you from a secure and secret place, safe from the hacking of the Russians. Yes, it is true, I have found a way to avoid them. The Russians, I mean, and their hacking, I mean. I have found a way to foil entirely their machinations, a quite clever and, I might even say, diabolical way.

I do it as follows.

I unplug my computer from the electrical outlet. Yes, I unplug it, depriving the computer of all connection to the world. You see, unplugged, a computer is much like a rock or a desiccated turd or a mass of lint, such as one finds in the belly. Such as I find, when I go in search of navel lint, as I often do. Not daily, that would obviate the requirements of suspense, but weekly, perhaps monthly. I have written the precise intervals in my note book, somewhere. Yes, a long lead-up, a greater suspense, more rejoicing, that is how a master gathers his navel lint. And, as a side-effect, there is a larger yield of lint from the belly to be had. Patience, patience. The deferral of gratification, it is always rewarded: this is the alpha and omega of capitalism, to defer one’s gratification. I tell this to the young, often, that everything depends upon the deferral. To put up a store for the future, to scrimp and save, to work hard at being patient: I tell the young that this is the duty of one’s life. This labor is always rewarded, I tell them, except when it is not, which alas is often.

Now of course an unplugged computer is as much as useless, as a rock is useless for all except the most ordinary of tasks. Many of my acquaintances are rocks, it is true, and I carry at least sixteen rocks wherever I go. The idea to carry rocks came to me years ago, when the pet rock was in fashion. Soon it was no longer in fashion, but I kept going. Yes, I persisted at the thing, long after it was an object of fashion. It is the nature of fashion to come and go, but I carry my rocks in the happy knowledge that fashion past is likewise fashion future. The carrying of a pet rock will return, will once again be in fashion. The stoning of adulterers, an enthusiasm of our youth, will return, will again be in fashion. Or it will not, in which case I have carried these stones in vain, for decades, beguiled by a mistaken thesis.

Ah, but the old days! Yes, that is my topic. You see, an unplugged computer is secure but useless. When we were young, there was no hacking. Someone might look over your shoulder as you wrote, with a stylus, and that was the worst of it. So that is what I did. I unplugged my computer, and wrote upon its polished surface with a stylus, which is to say a rock. The rock was not a digression, in other words. Indeed the rock was the essential thing, the very point of my story. I scratched the words with a rock into the surface of my computer, and the Russians were none the wiser. And then I transcribed the words scratched into the computer, transferring them to other objects, using a rock. To be more certain of my safety, I wrote the words on numerous objects. A few words on one object, a few more words on another object, and so on, and so on. The genius being that, should an object fall into the hands of the Russians, they would have only some of the words, an adjective or a few conjunctions, perhaps a verb. And should all of the objects fall into the hands of the Russians (a most unlikely event) they would have all the words, but in no particular order. For of course the objects are a jumble, that was my plan. I wrote the words in no particular order, and when I was done I threw the objects in random directions, as if to the proverbial winds, or what I considered to be the proverbial winds, for there was no wind.

The truth is, I am confused by this idea of randomness. I am not entirely sure that there is randomness. What seems random is often ordered, what seems ordered often random. I say seems because that is what it is, a seeming. Perhaps the Russians will find my random writings and they will in fact be ordered writings. In any case, I have done my due diligence, by having the random objects shipped individually to a secret and distant location, where they have been transcribed and ordered into this message.


Ken. What have you done? Today you are older. It seems like every year you do this. Are you mad? Do you realize that you were once 20? And, year after year, you threw it away. Yes, you took small steps, at first, from 20 to 21, and from 21 to 22. Then leaps, discarding the 2 entirely to adopt in its place the 3, which led you in the end to 30. It was not the end. It could have been the end, might have been the end, was theoretically an end, an end of sorts. You persisted, moving from 30 to 31. And so on. I could rehearse the nuances, if I chose, recounting every step in detail. It is all here, in my note book, every detail. I resist the urge to say sordid, I will not write sordid. They always speak of the sordid detail, but I will not stoop to such banality. Suffice it to say that there were details. Were they sordid? I shall not say. Suffice it to say that they were sordid.

Well then, so be it, so be it. I wish you a happy birthday. It is our secret, safe from the Russians. No one will know. My machinations are foolproof, or near-foolproof. They are in the vicinity of foolproof. Otherwise, they would not be machinations, but something entirely else. For a machination is nothing if it it is not foolproof. And a birthday, well, it is nothing if not a day to write to a friend, to write for a friend, to tell a friend he is valued and loved.

Your friend,


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