The drinker

Without setting foot outside your door, you can know everything under heaven.
Without looking out the window, you can grasp how Nature works.
The farther one goes,
the less one knows.

Thus the sage knows without stirring,
recognizes without seeing,
accomplishes without making any particular effort.

Daodejing Chapter 47 (translation mine)


Sunlight pours in through the bow window of his apartment in the assisted living facility. He sits in a pool of it, luxuriating in the warmth and the full-belly feeling that follows a hearty breakfast. The latest issue of Time magazine is open on his lap – an amusing read, he thinks, so long as one doesn’t allow oneself to get angry at the enormous presumption of its name, its absurd and undeserved sense of cultural significance.

He skims a two-page excerpt of Christine Todd Whitman’s new book, It’s My Party, Too – ah, the rage of the privileged classes! Then his eye alights on a full-page ad for “DoubleTree, A Member of the Hilton Family of Hotels.” More family values? Well, maybe.

The ad is an obviously fake photo of a couple kissing underneath a pair of saplings pruned in the shape of popsickles. Behind them a sturdy-looking fence guards the edge of a precipice, and an ocean at sunset stretches beyond. Off to one side, a coin-operated telescope points stiffly up and in the opposite direction from the couple. The man is dressed like a businessman – white dress shirt and creased slacks – and she like a school girl: knee-length skirt, light sweater, hair in a ponytail. The copy reads,

A place where you’ll be well taken care of and comfortable.

So you can focus on something else.
Or everything else.

The twin trees’ foliage blends together directly above the merged heads of the couple. In fact, if the man were to straighten up, his head would be caught in the leaves. She, of course, is craning on her tip-toes to reach him. There’s the faintest suggestion of a bulge in the front of his pants.

Corporate mergers are in the news again, and perhaps there’s some kind of subtext here designed to appeal to the business traveler. It’s very well done, really, the old man murmurs, stroking his chin. A shower of dandruff cascades onto the page. Amused, he strokes harder. The lower half of the ad rapidly becomes buried in white. He cackles with glee. “Time for another whiskey, my boy!” he says in his best Studs Terkel voice.

Halfway around the world, the lovers are just drawing apart, just opening their eyes and beginning to focus on the world around them. She lets out a little cry. “My God!” says the businessman. “It’s snowing!”

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