Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freeze The Gorillas

Skinner: Well, I was wrong; the lizards are a godsend.
Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
- The Simpsons

I just named my laptop a couple hours ago. I guess people do that nowadays. What with The Internet. And The Googles. And shit. I named her Adell. Because, dude - she's a Dell.

I've had Adell for four years now. During that time my spine has warped under the dull weight of her increasingly obsolete body. I have lugged Adell around in my backpack for four years. Taken her to coffee shops and bars. Taken her to the park. I took her out to Dennys for dinner once, because I was feeling generous. I have lugged Adell all over the world by now - or at least, all over the parts of the world nobody really cares to visit. I lugged her from the United States to Poland, to Darmstadt, Germany, and back to the States - across the Pacific, to a swarming, metallic Korean metropolis, to Japan, to China, and back to the States - over the Atlantic, to a cheerless mining town in Poland, to a soiled mattress in Berlin, and back to the States - to a wartorn Mexican city, and back to the States - and finally, to China again. I'm surprised she's made it this far. Hell, I'm surprised we've made it this far.

And I remain loyal to her, as I remain loyal to all things old and valuable that I nevertheless treat like utter shit. I don't want a new computer, though I perhaps need one. Over the years, Adell and I have bonded. Have fused ourselves together, as it were. We are one. Patiently and meticulously, I have trained this computer, this Adell, to be as scatterbrained and forgetful and occasionally drunk as I am. I have programmed her in my own image. Any writing that I have done over these past four years, I have done on Adell's dust encrusted, Cheetoh powdered, hair imbroglioed keyboard. Or at least, that is what I would have her believe.

But I waited until a couple hours ago to name her. It seemed like the right time. Before it's too late, I suppose. I'm rather worried about the ol' girl these days. I'm worried about Adell because her cooling fan has stopped spinning. On the plus side, that means she's running a whole helluva lot quieter than she used to. But now she's got these wicked mood swings, you see. Hot flashes. The whole shebang. It's all motherboard menopause up in this bitch.

After ten minutes of typing, Adell gets hotter than doing the Macarena in the summer of 1995. I could cook stir fry on her touchpad. Her home row keys brand my fingertips, her space bar scalds the prints right off my thumbs. She makes writing much more of an adventure than it ought to be. When I start to heat up, she starts to heat up, and just as I'm splicing my last comma, just as I'm hanging my very last participle up to dangle, Adell decides to shut down. Six thousand words vanish from the screen. Those words may as well have never been written. There they go: into the void. I tap at Adell's monitor: darkness there, and nothing more. I exhale and church my hands in my lap. And then my eyes glass over and I sit there real quiet-like. Somewhere in the distance, a loogey is hawked. A moment later, there comes a deafening pronouncement from the laowai's fourth floor apartment. The cicadas scatter. The children scream. Moped alarms go off. Meanwhile, my next door neighbors are sitting around the coffee table taking notes. Fawk, the dad says. Fawk, fawk, fawk chants the kid.

Like many another great innovation, my temporary solution to Adell's little overheating problem came to me serendipitously. Late one Friday night, I discovered that a strategically placed ice cold beer kept Adell at room temperature for just the right amount of time necessary to write a half-ass blog post. As long as I had a beverage close at hand, I could type myself crosseyed. But in this country, a cold beer is hard to find. And the thing about cold beers is, they have a curious way of disappearing.

I needed a more permanent fix. So I began to dabble in feng shui. I pushed my desk into the far left corner of the room so that the computer was sitting directly under the AC unit. Then I cranked the AC all the way down to a couple goosebumps above absolute zero. In short, I turned the room into a meat locker. I'd write for hours at a time that way, hunkered there in the steely breath of the artificial Arctic, teeth chattering all the while, and then I'd step out into the Sichuanese summer and sweat like a hunk of microwaved chicken.

Operation Freezer Burn worked out well enough, for a month. And if I gave Adell a cold beer or two on top of that, why, she ran as briskly and as smoothly as the fastest Atari on the block.

But by meddling with the primal forces of nature, I had unwittingly incurred the spitting wrath of the ancient Chinese Gods of Interior Design. Feng shui translates to "wind and water," in English. And in the weeks that followed, there would be wind. And there would be water. The AC started leaking. At first, it merely dribbled. Then it started raining. Then it started hawking loogeys across the room. I often had to shield poor Adell from the barrage. For a time, I hid us behind a crude protective wall of cardboard and aluminum cans. But eventually, after one too many loogeys in the face, I caved: I moved the desk back to the other side of the room so that me 'n Ms. Adell were out of spitting distance. Better an overheated Adell than a drowned one.

Still, she wouldn't even boot up without a little climate control, so I kept the AC on, despite its relentless slobber. This presented yet another problem: the AC started slobbering so much that the floor was beginning to puddle. So I solved that problem by blanketing the floor with dirty towels. But I'll have you know: dirty towels soaked through with AC runoff don't, as a general rule, smell terribly inviting after the third or fourth day of writing. So I had to wash the towels. But my washing machine leaks, too. So I had to use still more towels to soak up the washing machine runoff. And eventually, I had to wash those towels, too.

Jesus. If Adell were cool enough to let me open PowerPoint, I'd show you a flowchart. It's hard to explain. I'm a complicated man, and I lead a complicated Sino-Bohemian existence. Lots of ins, lots of outs. But in sum, what I do every day is this: I use a bunch of towels to soak up the water left behind by the washing machine, which I use to wash the bunch of towels that I use to soak up the water left behind by the washing machine, which I use to wash the bunch of towels that I use to soak up the water left behind by the AC unit, which I use to cool my laptop, Adell, who has an internal fan that doesn't turn. And I use Adell to write blog posts: sloppy little snippets of my mind that I send tottering out into the world on their tiny little matchstick legs.

And I smoke in order to write. And I overdose on Nescafe in order to write. And I drink a bit of formaldehyde beer in order to write. And all of these are bad habits. Well, then. Maybe I should give up writing. That might just solve everything. That might just freeze the gorillas. As it were.


alison said...

Haha. Up in the great brown north, I used to put the space heater by my feet under the desk, essentially heating up the desktop like a hotplate. Which then required an ice pack wrapped in a towel under the laptop as keep it cool enough. But my feet were warm.

Anonymous said...

Good evening

Awesome post, just want to say thanks for the share