The Future Is Retro Now

View post on

This old bar, on the last Friday before Christmas, was full but not packed. I picked the window table, but the chair facing away from the view, so I could see the folks sitting at the bar, and the other patrons. Though I could turn my head to look at the sidewalk and the street with constant traffic.

Was Multnomah Village ever this busy when I lived here, 22 years ago? It doesn’t seem like it.

And there wasn’t a corporate for-profie medical clinic across the street, that’s for damned sure. That whole idea feels like dystopia to me, alone. It sits next to the frozen yogurt shop, which metaphor escapes me right now.

I sip my strong Irish Quaalude and poke at my pocket smartphone and think about the end-of-the-world politics of the country in which I live. The reality TV star is going to have the power to order nuclear launches soon. We’ll find out about the next war when he taps out 140 characters or less and posts it to Twitter. How many retweets and faves will the Armageddon get?

22 years ago I was renting a basement from a co-worker not far from this bar. It was a money saving idea for both of us. We worked at Powell’s and idly dreamed of unionizing and I did my job, terribly and despondent. I was at Powell’s, off the clock but still hanging around, the night America elected Bill Clinton, the Comeback Kid from Arkansas, and my roommate tried to cheer me up (I was not political but still very cynical) by saying, “Hey! The good guys won one this time!”

In comparison with the presidents who followed him, maybe Bill Clinton was a good guy. I’m still not 100% certain, though. My idea of a good guy would be someone with politics like Bernie Sanders, but maybe a person of color or a woman so they’d actually speak for the most vulnerable in our country with the voice of experience.

22 years ago I would sit in this bar with a sci-fi book and read and eat and drink. I remember it being mostly empty. I remember the fancy dark wood paneling. I remember the upside down clock over the bar. I remember tasting gazpacho for the first time and wondering why a bar that touts its Montana roots would make a cold Spanish soup. It was good soup, though. Tasty. Gazpacho is not on the menu tonight, however.

Tonight, I’m sitting in the bar, tapping out my memories on a pocket supercomputer that’s constantly connected to a global information network, eating and drinking. Fancy wood paneling intact. Upside down clock still there. Montana roots still evident, at least on the menu. Evidence of totalitarian economy on view out the window.

This Christmas season, I’m feeling like I’m finally getting the dystopic cyberpunk future I was promised all those years ago.