Molly M

Alive a live o-oh, alive a live o-oh…cockles and mussels…

That’s the words I hear in me head when I’m standing in a pub, listening to traditional Irish music on a Sunday (soon-day) night with a friend and a room full of friendly strangers.

The moments we can’t capture on fil-um, when a pint of Guinness (or Murphy’s or some hoppy lager) fills your stomach and asks you to stay a bit longer.

Yes, those.

And these — the smiles we share when we’re clapping together in sync with the Celtic tunes almost as old as time, the bits and pieces we pick up from the instruments (accordion, pennywhistle, guitar, fiddle, voice), the singalongs and the drinkalongs, the couples kissing, the couples arguing, the singles dancing and the groups laughing together at an inside joke…

Yes, indeed.

Tonight was just such a night at a popular spot in Killarney, no need for photographs, living as one did in the moment, giving oneself to the performers, listeners and barkeeps (and some combination of them all (none of us giving much thought to quantum mechanics (probably (most likely (maybe)))))…

Wantin’ to relive memories from a decade ago, doing so, getting locked inside a pub with a singer, his daughter, and granddaughter belting out old tunes, acting as door bouncer meself for the tourists who di’n’t know better that a feller from Alabama was lettin’ them in after 11 p.m. at a Killarney pub he’d never set eyes on 15 minutes before.

What was the name of that pub?

Can’t remember, me bein’ alone and all, my previous night’s companion headin’ back to the B&B, full of diet Coke and wantin’ a full night’s sleep afore we take the RoK at 8 in the mornin’.

So there I was, all by meself, watchin’ the honest, heartfelt performance of three generations of pub singers and thinkin’ back earlier on the day when I showed a clerk behind the cash register at Bunratty Castle shopping centre a video of Jenn Nye and Travis Nixon dancing West Coast Swing, explaining to the clerk, who mistook me for Travis that I’d help Jenn teach a class of West Coast Swing and woulda kept doing so until me wife complained I was getting too familiar with Jenn, so, to show the clerk the difference between West Coast Swing and what the Irish call jive (since I’d seen the clerk dancing a bit of solo to a pop song playing over the PA system and her telling me she liked line dancing and then asking me if I was a dance instructor meself), I pulled me wife over and showed the clerk and her friend the difference between West Coast Swing and East Coast Swing (a/k/a Irish jive).

Days such as this I live for, making connections across the globe to complete strangers with whom I make instant friends.

No photos or vids necessary.

Life.

Preparation for offworld exploration.

Bit by bit.

What will tomorrow bring?

More of the same, and happily so!

How else are we going to explore Mars without an extemporaneous expository exposition?

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In another world…

[Personal notes recorded for posterity.  Feel free to skip]

Taking a break from the future to write about the past, to capture thoughts of an ordinary life…probably repeating myself…

When I was 12 years old, I attended a summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina.  I, along with about a dozen campers (six boys and six girls) and two camp leaders, spent five days in a rustic campsite, which meant we slept in bunkbeds housed in wooden sheds and ate in an outdoor eating area with fireplace and picnic tables.  We hiked, swam, canoed and went “tubing” (riding inner tubes down a river).

Like any situation where you spend time with kids your own age, I discovered I liked being outdoors with some of the kids but not all of them.

I had a crush on one girl and she liked me but she was more enamored with the fellow camper who was the son of the camp manager, well-liked and popular.

Thus, I was left to “pair up” with another girl (funny, how many of us naturally paired up with members of the opposite sex; however, one summer another boy was interested in me (I didn’t understand the word “gay” back then) and we corresponded afterward just like any boy and girl would).  She was outgoing in the sense that she tended to blurt out sarcastic, funny responses to things people said, sometimes defensively; thus, I took notice of her when others were a bit turned off.

She was the underdog, a bit awkward socially and easy to talk with, once I overlooked her social faux pas with me, sensing that it was her way of flirting.

She tended to hike a little slower than the rest of the kids, getting blisters on her feet and making excuses about being slow.

Made her even more attractive to me for some reason.

Was it the “rescue the damsel in distress” syndrome in me?

Perhaps.

We corresponded, which gave rise to my writing career, wanting to entertain her (and other correspondents) with short stories I’d include with the regular letters we exchanged.

Two years later, she approached me about the prospect of us meeting for the same week at summer camp, in this case hiking five days on the Appalachian Trail.

Thrilled that a girl would be so forward as to ask me for a five-day long “date” at age 14, I acquiesced.

I had forgotten about her slow hiking rate.

The camp leaders saw the two of us at the rational, well-behaved campers and were used in unusual ways.

For instance, the camp leaders did not want boys and girls sleeping together in tents or in AT shelters, with either camp leader sleeping between the boys and girls; however, they trusted the girl and me to sleep next to each other, with the two of us sharing a pillow more than once.  We were also used to act as barriers between rambunctious boys in four-person tents, the girl and me sleeping in the middle with two misbehaving boys relegated to the outside, colder part of the tent.

The girl and I never kissed or even faced each other when we slept, making sure we were “appropriate” children.

We continued to correspond throughout junior high and high school, visiting each other twice during our high school years (we lived in east Tennessee towns about 30 miles apart).

We had our first official romantic date during spring break of our freshman year in college (she attended Tennessee Tech and I attended Georgia Tech at the time).

I had had a regular female friend in high school, with whom I attended both of our senior proms — we were a regular fixture and people assumed we were boyfriend and girlfriend but we never kissed, despite three-plus years of being together (she now lives in Tokyo with her husband; they have two grown-up children) — we also attended sorority/fraternity social events together after I transferred to the University of Tennessee; people assumed we were going to get married.

Instead, somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the girl from summer camp and, despite reservations from my sister about my maturity (and opposition from my high school female friend), and six years of on-again/off-again dating, I showed up, during one of our off-again stages, at her apartment door one evening with a dozen red roses and an engagement ring.

I moved in with her a day or two later, in April, and we got married that August at age 24.

Fast forward 30 years.  I turn 54 tomorrow.

Where has the time gone?

Better yet, what happened to my dreams of being a free writer living in a cottage exploring dreams and Big Ideas?

I stood at the front of the church on our wedding day, seeing all the people looking at me, wondering if I was really ready for so big a commitment, basically something I had long opposed myself, the institution of marriage.

When we were on our honeymoon, out on a catamaran off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, I remembered something else about marriage that bothered me, something I had kept to myself since I was five years old:

My genderlessness, which sometimes fluctuated into bisexuality and attracted people of varying sexual orientation.

I had seen it time and again while growing up but did not understand what it meant to be attractive to people who didn’t always subscribe to the heterosexual lifestyle we were taught to perpetuate, especially at summer camp, which was sponsored/run by a Christian religion organisation, where we daily prayed, sang Christian songs and read out loud passages of the Bible.

So, from my honeymoon forward to recently, I kept up the sometimes difficult appearance of a heterosexual male in a monogamous relationship with a heterosexual female.

I had let myself get painted into a corner a few times over my hidden sexuality, wanting more than once to kill myself, almost a daily routine of thinking, “Well, I can kill myself tomorrow.”

Then, thanks to a dear, close friend of mine, I achieved a level of self-awareness that I could no longer ignore.

At first I identified myself as genderless, due to the fact that my marriage has been pretty much a celibate one for the past nine years, my sexual desires as strong as ever but not for the woman I lived with (I have rationalised “why” over and over to the point I don’t have any one reason why we’ve been abstinent this long).

My desires, they change from moment to moment and day to day.

I can flirt with a guy or gal any day of the week.

But, am I just a flirt?

As the 30 year mark arrives, I ask myself, is the security of my marriage worth it anymore?

If I stay married, the world stays the same, even though I announced myself to several close friends, including my sister.  Financially, my life is much easier in this marriage than outside it.

If I get out of this marriage, my world will change quite a bit, could be better or worse.

Before I make that change, I ask myself what is it that I really want?

After all, there are important parts of my life that having financial security helps out, including a social dancing group that could use funding assistance.

But if I was a single man, I could also devote more time to activities that I’d no longer have to coordinate with my wife’s need of my time with her, which is never high demand but still ones that I’m not much into, like going out to eat and seeing movies or sitting in front of the TV at home while she plays a computer game and I text friends.

I’ve known my wife for 42 years, or 78% of my life.  Does that mean anything?

Would I publicly give up all that my life has been to start a new uncertain one?

Would I want to be at home alone?

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m going to explore the future with my Martian buddy!

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Gargle Blasting

When the split between calendrical time and quantum accounting set Earth-based humans against their comrades, history changed for one group and disappeared for the other.

The citizens of the Inner Solar System Alliance continued to operate on a Martian time scale, giving humans on the major planets and orbiting satellites a common measuring and planning tool, each according to their local traditional timekeeping.

Meanwhile, the Quantumites no longer kept track of a single chronological path.

They erased time from their conversations.

The Quantumite subculture existed in parallel with the ISSANet, able to operate in both systems when needed.

They were just as aware of spatial relation as they were to distance-independent means of making progress.

For them, sets of states of energy on one planet constituted a megastate of energies, a computational mass, an I/O engine whose inputs and outputs were tied, in ISSANet parlance, to both previous and future states of energy on other planets in our solar system and ones within our galaxy.

Space travel as envisioned by scifi writers was no longer necessary.

The Quantumites knew they were an existential threat to the majority of humans in the ISSANet so they did not make their presence known through recruiting methods or other ways of drawing unwanted attention.

Shadowgrass had met a Quantumite during research on the history of black hole mathematical modeling.

The Quantumite, itself a model for the type of person Shadowgrass had become, a bioelectromechanical being able to mature like a human being, had not wanted to reveal itself to Shadowgrass.

Shadowgrass would not have noticed anything different about the Quantumite except that it had the ability to manifest itself in more than one form in more than one place at a time, an accidental discovery that Shadowgrass made during a laboratory experiment, planting special RNA type material on everything in the lab when a piece of lab equipment exploded and spewed liquid all over everywhere.

A few sols later, Shadowgrass had flown over to another Martian Colony to give a live lecture and a biological material detector in his body signaled the presence of the RNA material in a group of sponges floating in an aquarium.

Shadowgrass took samples of the sponges back to the lab, analysed the samples and determined that the sponges’ genetic material closely matched that of the Quantumite.

The Quantumite gladly admitted the event was not a coincidence but the happy luck of Shadowgrass’ genius breaking a barrier.

After a long discussion, Shadowgrass agreed to keep the Quantumite’s existence as an unspeakable/unthinkable state of being.

Of course, the ISSANet, through deduction, reasoned out the gap in Shadowgrass’ research time and associated it with the presence of the Quantumite with Shadowgrass.

Vocabulary analysis further showed that Shadowgrass had changed his conversations with others, cutting them off unexpectedly or acting deaf when asked certain questions.

Although Lee and Guin were off on another mission and away from Mars, the ISSANet contacted them and requested their telemetric presence with Shadowgrass, explaining to them the unusual behaviour patterns that Shadowgrass had recently exhibited and a request that Lee and Guin extract the details from Shadowgrass.

Independent as they thought themselves to be, Lee and Guin understood they depended on the ISSANet as much as they didn’t want to.

They asked Shadowgrass directly about his contact with the Quantumite.

He explained that the Quantumite told Shadowgrass about its influence on Lee and Guin when they designed Shadowgrass.

They agreed the Quantumite was an unusual being and had been a big contribution to the attributes they gave Shadowgrass.

Of course, they knew the ISSANet was listening to their conversation.

Therefore, Lee and Guin could not at that time explain to Shadowgrass his quantum entanglement capabilities.  Instead, they could only very slowly move Shadowgrass into contact with the Quantumites.

Shadowgrass had been embued at “birth” with the ability to see planetary systems as computatational states, large algorithms at the macro level.

The laboratories he had built were subconsciously designed to analyse the outputs of several planets at once, their own solar system an equation ready to be read at the right moment.

The Quantumites had linked quantum states across molecular boundaries, showing Lee and Guin, when they had discovered how to hide their clones from the ISSANet, how their own work was contributing to the Quantumite Library.

Every state of energy was connected to and led to the next state of energy, sets interlinked with sets.

When Quantumites had rejected the concept of time, they opened themselves to a form of immortality that ISSA citizens could only dream of.

It was like a snake shedding its skin and becoming an eagle which shed its form and became a sun which gave birth to a planet from which snakes formed, forms building on and changing into forms, ad infinitum.

Lee had actually been born a Quantumite.

So had Guin.

Many were born but many more created.

Some discovered their true selves and others were shown.

Some would never know.

Regardless of their state of awareness, Quantumites were linked across the galaxy in a level of awareness matched to their knowledge of self.

Some chose to remain in their human form their whole lives, experiencing the pain, joy, life and death of a single human life.

Some chose to leave their birth solar system and transform into other forms elsewhere.

Some chose mortality of 100 Earth years.

Some chose mortality of 8 billion sun years.

Some didn’t choose and allowed the semi-random interaction of sets of states of energy to determine their lifespan.

For those who chose immortality, the concept of self melted away.

A Quantumite never gave itself a name, being in a constant state of flux for which labels were meaningless except to temporary sets of states of energy like humans and other social creatures.

Lee, Guin and Shadowgrass used their birth names as a means to track themselves in the ISSANet.

Deep down, however, they knew they had no names, having achieved immortality as they individually learned how to transform from one shape to another, the idea of self vaporising into thin air like a morning fog.

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Meditative Moment

Delving deep into our species’ undiscovered mysteries of the universe — for some, it is a passion with no end.

For others, living the lives that ancestors had laid out is sufficient.

Neither is worse nor better than the other.

In fact, we may be predisposed to one or the other, or some combination thereof.

Therefore, it behooves us to know ourselves, our desires, our capabilities.

I know I desire to explore the solar system, if not in my body, then in a body that represents me in some way we haven’t figured out yet.

For that reason alone, I wake up and get out of bed.

But I am a social creature and sleep in bed next to another social creature (or two) pretty much every day, thinking about her and my other friends constantly.

So exploring the solar system only makes sense if I am not alone.

And some days, the rational analysis of pure science gets boring which means my friends and I find ways to entertain ourselves.

That is what makes us special, different from the rocks and the trees, from the wind and the dust.

Our humanness, our unique brand of socialising, carries us out of the solar system in a tiny vessel recently sampling galactic winds.

This morning I played with our cat, Papier, who wanted to play and play and play when I wanted to sit and write.

Is one activity more important than another?

Papier does not care about this laptop computer.  She understands it competes with her for my attention.

No one would criticise me for spending the rest of the morning playing with our cat rather than meditating upon the quality of “humanness” by typing here.

The choices we make are ours to make and live with.

When I learned to embrace that last sentence, I gave up worrying about others’ opinions and spent more time loving who I am.

Reminds me of a question a friend asked me in junior high school: “What happens when the people whose opinion you care about don’t care about your opinion?”  It was asked rhetorically and we laughed at the dichotomy of growing up in a subculture that you don’t call your own, thinking, at age 12 or 13, that we would not spend our adult years in the same place we were then.  That friend ended up living all over the world, including Paris, France, and Borneo.  We stay in touch but not very often.  My travels have been limited to Northern Hemisphere destinations — when will I ever travel to the Moon or Mars, and with whom?

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