Exempli Gratia (A Blogger Labels, Google Maps, and Mac Stickies Improvisation)

NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.

It was fall, and I was on vacation in Kansas City, riding my scooters around town. I own more than one scooter, and when I go on vacation I like to bring them all. Comparing the relative merits of different conveyances in new places is one of life’s great pleasures.

As I buzzed about, I searched my electronic map for a good place to get pizza. The town was new to me; how was I supposed to know where to find a decent pie? Perhaps I could have asked one of the many locals I kept wheeling past, but I prefer computers—the anonymity of a screen, the honesty of cold data—to actual human interaction. This is my way. I like to think that it’s the way of the future.

I hadn’t had an acceptable slice since my last vacation, when I was in San Francisco, staying in a hotel down on Market Street. There’s a fantastic pizzeria there—at 10 Market St., specifically, if you ever happen to be in town, and the place still exists, whenever it might be that you read this. Isn’t that one of the funny things about writing, that it can outlive its subject? Just ask any of those Greek and Roman guys, or other historians from other empires that no longer exist that you learned about once, either in school or on the Internet.

Anyway, all I wanted to do was find a business, some business that sold pizza to its customers, but this was proving somewhat difficult as I whizzed up and down the narrow roads and twisting alleys of the fine Midwestern city in which I found myself on this particular vacation, even more difficult than the proverbially onerous task of finding a good hotel near LAX—which is, really, the needle in the haystack of the online generation. I know one—I mean, I know a really, really excellent place to stay near the Los Angeles airport—but I don’t hand out free advice to just anyone; I like to play my cards close to the vest.

My trouble in Kansas City was, in part, logistical. I had to keep one hand on the scooter’s handlebars, hold in my other hand the digital map device on which I was performing my search, and, on top of all that, keep the widget in my ear from falling out, the widget connected to the telephone I was using to call Lou. Lou is my friend with the answers. He also happens to have the most unmemorable telephone number ever: 555-7361. It’s a number I always have to jot down, no matter what. Lou is my answer guy, when the non-human networks fail me. He’s the guy I call when I need to connect the dots—like, say, when I want to understand why Seattle and ZIP code 98109 are not perfectly coterminous, and how exactly to get from one to another—if it’s even possible to get directions from some place to a place inside it—or when I need to figure out what JFK was doing at 350 5th Ave. in New York City the day before he was assassinated. That sort of thing.

Lou, I said on my portable telephone, what does a modern, digital, scooter-driving fellow like myself need to do to get some repectable pizza on his fall vacation in Kansas City?

You need ingredients—e.g., eggs, maybe milk, Lou said.

And then? I asked.

And then you need to figure it out from there, said Lou. That’s as far as I can take you. Or as far as I want to take you, he said.

Eggs and milk, I said. Very helpful examples! You’re a good friend, Lou, I said, in so many ways; e.g., your always dependable advice.

No problem, said Lou. Anytime. You know the number.

Eggs, milk—good stuff, I said. I’ll write myself a note.