Our Fingertips Touching

Carol was coming down for a few days to get her mojo back on.  She’d been to Mexico before, but mostly to Tijuana dive bars where she had looked to bag men with sufficient amounts of strangeness and good teeth.  We were a pair.  I was the sane one, the tall one, the one who got her out of trouble and I had red lips to boot.  Cheap hotels, busted cars, corrupt cops, guys with too much grease in their hair, and happy hours were my specialty.  She was coming to celebrate her birthday.  So I decided to get her a ticket to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, which was an experimental band that was scheduled to be in LA next month.  They sounded like several spools of poor quality black and white French movies playing nonstop in my bedroom closet, but she liked all things different, so I figured this was the cat’s meow for my old friend.  In our last phone conversation she laid out a big hint on what she wanted for her B-Day when she said, “I can’t get ‘Undoing a Luciferian Tower’ out of my mind.  I keep humming it over and over again.”

I got on the phone to talk with Ticketmaster. I was using Skype.  The AI voice asked, “What would you like to do?”  The voice had an accent that I could not immediately place.  European, yes, but the country, I couldn’t say.  I confidently said, “I want to buy a concert ticket.”  The robotic voice said with some irony, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t get that.  What would you like to do?”  I repeated my hope to purchase a concert ticket several times, but the robot couldn’t understand and evidently you can buy other things from Ticketmaster besides concert tickets.  Once the robot understood I wanted a ticket, she asked what band?  Her voice rose at the end to indicate a question.  I said, “Goodspeed You! Black Emperor”. The robot responded, “Please say a band, like The Rolling Stones or the Grateful Dead.”  Motherfucker, was the Grateful Dead still playing?  This started a long exchange with the Ticketmaster voice that included me bleeding into a milk glass turning white circles on my desk.   The voice’s syntax was imaginative, somewhat aggressive, and I felt as if I was entering an endgame not of my choosing.  After ten or fifteen minutes, we reached the moment I could input my credit card number, and then these dark words sounded: “I’m sorry, but that show is sold out.  Would you like to see Amyl and the Sniffers at the Moroccan Lounge, 901 E 1st St, Los Angeles, for the same date and time?”

Without thinking I blurted, “Yes.”

The voice controlling my life said, “Please enter $27.50 on your Visa card.”  And so I did.  I looked up Amyl and the Sniffers and the Moroccan Lounge.  Suddenly I felt as if a lightning bolt from a passing black cloud had hit me dead center and I understood the beauty and danger of Artificial Intelligence.  Zounds!  I could see everything clearly now…the Ticketmaster voice was employing a Russian chess strategy that anticipated my every move.  Ticketmaster had always had a plan for me.  Perhaps, the Godspeed You!  Black Emperor show was not really sold out, but Ticketmaster was promoting Amyl and the Sniffers.  Maybe Ticketmaster had a piece of Amyl, but whatever the case might have been, in reading about the two bands, I knew instinctively that Carol was going to be head over heels about Amyl and the Sniffers.  Could Ticketmaster have known that Carol would like both bands equally?

The Ticketmaster voice congratulated me on my wise purchase and then I further realized that the voice was none other than a feminized Alexander Alekhine, the old Russian Empire chess grandmaster.  No wonder I couldn’t peg the accent.  Alekhin was Russian yes, but he had also lived many years in France after he escaped the Soviet takeover of the Russian Empire.  By a stroke of pure magic, I knew the voice because my Gramps had bought a recording of him at a Reno pawn shop many years before.  It was a chess set and a tape combo.  He had talked about coming to America.  He never made it.  Stalin assassinated him in Portugal, but here was his voice coming back to me via tricky Ticketmaster.

When Carol got to my home in Mexico, I had a spread of guac and chips and a big pitcher of Margaritas. I put on Chinese Café/Unchained Melody by Joni Mitchell.  Later, we went out dancing at the Berlin Club.  We took the place over and just like in the old days, Carol threw up in a dark corner of the club.  We recovered with beers and chasers.  I took her up in the mountains where we rode horses naked under the moonlight and at the appropriate moment I pulled out the printed ticket to Amyl and the Sniffers.  Carol squealed, “How did you know?”

“Happy Birthday Carol!  I love you so much,” I said, and then the moon went behind a cloud and I was twenty-five all over again and I started thinking about FORTRAN and the various dicks and nice guys I used to work with at that top-secret European Department of Defense contractor: the one that surely used the same strategy and tactics as Ticketmaster.

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