Love Is Strange
The foreign tourists were the livestock of Capri. Like sacred cattle, they roamed wherever they pleased.
“No, you don’t see! I need to be a princess! That’s the only thing that will help! I have to be like royalty! That’s the important part! When I make the scene, everybody has to stop and stare.
“So, uh, you want to be an entertainer? That’s a pretty tough life.” “No, more like Paris. I mean, Paris Hilton. Paris is famous and powerful, and she gets all kinds of international respect.
The Culture Minister spent his twilight years singing, dancing and promoting Brazilian fashion designers. And messing around with his computers, of course. The Brazilian Culture Minister adored computers. The old man had a lifestyle that Farfalla sincerely envied. All aging, dropout, former hippie Baby Boomers should be like the Brazilian Culture Minister.
Farfalla knew every one of these Italian fashion empires. Each one was built on fear and envy and the ghostly bones of sweatshops, but they were genuine marvels of world civilization.
Farfalla knew that they were evil, yes, like a vampire tiara of blood diamonds, but there was no such thing as glamour without evil. Glamour with no evil was like that so-called ‘fashion’ from Finland. Like ‘Marimekko’— clean, bright, terrible, stainless Finnish clothing. Farfalla would rather jump off a bridge than wear Marimekko.
Don’t kiss him. If only Babi had said something else.
Mr. Paris had cold facts and figures on what happened to French exports whenever Premiere Dame Carla Bruni dismounted from a French jet. Fashion earthquakes occurred when Carla alighted upon some primitive, backward locale,
Some people thought that brilliant, geeky woman couldn’t be voracious, vampy sex-bombs. They were ever so wrong.
“You’re from Seattle, dude. You’re a YAWN, ‘Young And Wealthy but Normal.’ Your shirt is from REI, and those pants are from Patagonia. Those are Timberland shoes. You’ve got white Nike socks.”
Torino — it’s nothing like Milano... You’re from Seattle? Well, Torino is just like Portland.”
“Gavin doesn’t really ‘like’ music much. Gavin is a Futurist. So, Gavin mostly plays Brian Eno ambient music about ten-thousand-year old clocks.
the big panel on Innovative Flat Freak Tipping Points was a circus.
Dr. Svante was not a mere, 26-year-old Seattle startup hustler, like Gavin Tremaine. Dr. Svante was 76 years old. Dr. Svante was the genuine Futurist article. He was a true 21st-century seer.
“Fabio, that story is obviously a horror story. ‘Not ever being Jackie Kennedy,’ that is super-obvious, any politician’s wife would know that. Guys in retail don’t get it that the ‘female consumer’ is a woman.” Gavin rubbed his chin. “There might be a pretty good market opportunity there in women’s wear.”
Because Silvio Berlusconi was Italy’s Prime Minister, and he was divorcing his wife while in office, just as Nicolas Sarkozy had done before him. Kind of clear, major, futuristic trend-line there.
Gavin could draw a clear line on a futuristic graph. Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the United States to Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in France, and then, when that line hit Italy, it shot through the roof.
“LOXY is not fashion any more. We are the Web. When the Web eats fashion, it’s not fashion on the Web. It is the Web as fashion. It’s not the same philosophy.”
“I found my dream job with LOXY, but two years have passed. So my future dream is over. Reality is here today! So I have to leave the job I loved. I have to be real, Gavin. Real, and now.”
So let me give you some good advice. Don’t lose your temper and leave a lot of money lying on that table.”
Don’t screw yourself over! It is no use being a Futurist if you don’t benefit from a future that is totally obvious. They’re gonna pound you into the dirt when you lose control of that company! That’s not some fancy Euro philosophy or something to debate about, it is just, like, stupidly obvious. Don’t make me raise my voice here about something that is fated to happen to every tech clown on this planet.
Brixie the Blogger was flaming him. Gavin had seen plenty of flame-wars on weblogs, because all weblogs had flamewars. However, Gavin had never been standing next to a real-life person, on the nicely polished hull of a beautiful boat, flaming him publicly. Brixie wasn’t talking to him, or listening to him. Nothing like that at all. Brixie was off in her own world, flaming away like a blowtorch.
Most of all, these beautiful clothes transformed Eliza. A girl who had looked sullen and ridiculous became a woman who looked fierce.
To be free of your parents, you have to make your parents feel old. That’s the magic secret.”
“Not your kind of blonde. Not teenage Seattle girl blonde. Viking Goth blonde. Blonde like Karin from ‘Fever Ray.’”
“You can do that, but you need to learn to do what you want, Eliza. Stop Acting Dead.”
Farfalla had never heard two men engage in such closely-studied non-talking. Obviously, they were talking about some great source of hidden power, worth a lot of money.
She knew that Gavin had never done this before. He hadn’t wanted to undergo this trial. He feared and hated doing this. How had he found the courage to try? Because he did have the courage. Oh yes, she thought, looking at his troubled face. His father did things like this. Gavin had grown up seeing work like this done. This story was another man’s story. This was his family’s story. Gavin was a young man who was loyal to his family heritage. He was loyal to his history.
“I don’t have an iPhone. iPhones aren’t secure,” he blurted. “Forget I told you that.
He had learned something today. His father’s property still mattered in this world. It mattered because it had never been “property” — instead, it was a fishline snarl of a thing, half military secret, half
It took time to ruin a real world. But, time was all it took.
Times changed. People moved money out of the stuff that was old-fashioned, and they moved money into the cool new stuff. The future had all the cool, new stuff. To make progress, you had to figure that out.
To lose three poker hands and gain one big pot, that was doing great, in venture capital. He was doing great.
But, he was an accountant. So, he could do the math. In the past ten years, the entire Seattle venture-capital community, all those brainiacs eagerly inventing progress, had supplied an eight percent return on investment.
Gavin knew how to make money. He had done that. But was that a man’s work in the world, was that the future? You call that treadmill, the future? What a fraud, what a fairy-tale!
Sarbanes Oxley was the bane of every inventor’s existence. Sarbanes-Oxley was the stake through the heart of the dot-com dream.
Not one single event at the Futurist Congress had started on time. Least of all some big Brazilian speech about the future of Brazil, because Brazil was the country of the future, and always would be.
since her childhood schooldays in a raucous Sao Paolo public school, Farfalla had idolized Anita Garibaldi. In her girlish, Italian-Brazilian heart, she secretly wished to be Anita Garibaldi, boldly roaming the world with her handsome lover, and also a whole lot of swords, flags and guns.
She kissed her fingertips and blew them at him. Just one little gesture, instant, spontaneous, throwaway, but it hit him like an anvil.
“The best-educated, most creative, best-financed people in the world have lost all control,” he told her. “We have panicked. We are losing our minds in public, and what about all the other people in the world, for God’s sake? What about them? What about the guys who’ve already lost their jobs?
GET INTO BED WITH HIM RIGHT NOW! Lust screamed. Farfalla’s Lust had flaming yellow eyes and hungry teeth and a rather flat head, but Lust was screeching her very best common sense.
“Anything but a stupid speech about market forecasts! What about me, what about my future? My future doesn’t have one single thing that I want! My future is nothing but more of the same, always the same, only worse!”
Let’s change the story!” “We’ll write a new speech?” “You recite it, and I’ll translate it. If I say it and and you speak it, then I’m not Cassandra, perfetto. We’ll write our own speech here and now.”
‘Danger, energy, and fearlessness.’”
Didn’t people marry during horrible plagues? Of course, people would marry during plagues! They needed those children to replace the host of the dead! And that, ladies and gentlemen, was what tomorrow was all about! That vital willingness to awake with the new dawn, to join the marching pageant of a vivid world, where only the brave deserved the fair, where the cringing pessimist and the sneaking cynic were properly scorned! A glorious Italian future entirely worthy of the finest moments of its past! As the great prophet Garibaldi had once commanded (in Italian of course), “Women of Italy! Cast away all cowards from your embraces! They will give you only cowards for children!”
“Look, Brixie, I may dress like a nerd, but I can read trends. Yeah, I can tell you what to do. Listen to me. You have to back off and outlast these glitzy bastards! You need to pace yourself, Brixie. Knock it off with snorting speed on yachts. Think Diana Vreeland.”
We met the world’s greatest Futurist there. Dr Gustav Y. Svante. Nobody knows who he is. That’s why he’s the world’s greatest Futurist. He told us... He said that the future was already here, but nobody listens to the future. The future is all around us, but we don’t see the future yet. We don’t hear it or see it, so we can’t tell it.”
I can know the future, but not all of it. Nobody knows all of the present. Nobody ever knew all of the past. We forget the past. We forget the most important things in the past. They are gone, they are ghosts now.”
“My country is an empire in decline.
I’m a visionary. I live in a ruined castle. The plumbing broke in my castle. My castle stinks every day.”
“’Whatever I want’ is the truth. I want the truth. I want some moral sincerity, some integrity, and some free will. That is ‘whatever I want.’ I want it so badly. Because I don’t have any.
She should have known to expect the unexpected when it came to the One. Somehow, just “giving up and doing whatever he wanted” wasn’t even the easy way out.
“That was always my future story. Except now, it should be now. Not the future any more, now. Except, now, it isn’t happening.
I am on the brink of ruin! I could throw away everything I have, everything I own — and all because of you? Why? What am I supposed to get out of this? I do you this magic service you demand from me... I recite this magic spell, you go off happy as a queen... you have exactly what you want!
What a strange thing to learn about himself. Farfalla Corrado would always be proof to him that he didn’t know himself. That little Italian girl in her silly high-heel shoes had kicked the foundation-blocks of his psyche apart. Her blinding presence in his life was like a cave-dweller’s one glimpse of sunlight.
Years passed for them. He traveled more, and she worked more. Romeo and Juliet developed an email relationship. Marrying Madeleine was not a new idea for Gavin. That was the logical idea. They had talked practically about the subject. Madeleine had sound, sensible ideas about getting married.
“Gavin, what on Earth is wrong with you? She’s, like, a witch with magic powers! How could you possibly miss that? She’s paranormal!
“Madeleine would never let me catch fire in the first place.” “You need to wake up, Gavin. You’re a very weird, intense guy. You belong on fire.
Her parents had no money, because they were selfless and idealistic people. They had devoted their lives to creating “appropriate technology” for suffering poor people. Poor people who were not Italian poor people. Brazilians, mostly.
They occupied a humble ecological shack that they had built by themselves. Farfalla’s parents were extravagantly proud of this hand-crafted hovel, which had many of the features they had always recommended to poor people. Their toilets didn’t flush.
Pancrazio was an Italian electronics engineer. He built circuit boards. This sounded like the dullest, geekiest, most boring activity in the world. It was, too — except when Pancrazio did it.
Pancrazio installed that junk in his own revived factory in Ivrea. And once he flipped the big switch, his dead factory walked like Frankenstein.
They had futurismo written all over them. That was why Farfalla had decided to set her hat for Pancrazio Pola.
Magic disgusted her. Her room was like a taxidermy shop for the dead dreams inside her own head.
The Cupid arrow of time flying through her, here yesterday, gone today... That arrow had not passed through Farfalla. She was stuck on that arrow. Pinned like an insect in a box on a shelf. Her fate was impalement. Love was not a flying arrow. Frustrated love was frustration. Frustration was cold iron, solid iron. She could feel it there, a colossal presence.
The “Call Me” girl is painlessly available to her lover at any moment. Day or night, any weather, any reason, any season. She will walk across the city naked in her bathrobe to embrace him, apparently. She will never vex him with any problem or a sorrow of her own. She is a golden jar of honey.
Golden Honey Girl was like a princess from an ivory tower on Venus.
At the next repeat of “Call Me”, more hairline cracks appeared in the fantasy romance narrative.
“I prefer to do it wrong. I’d like to do technology wrong a million times. When technology works, and it makes some profitable product that corporate creeps can sell, I’m disappointed.”
It’s always that! Farfalla — why do you even have a ‘story’? Nobody else that we know has a ‘story’!
“You are doing all this weird, crazy stuff to yourself, you know. You don’t have anyone else to blame.
“Why don’t you give up and join his story?
“He has the pretense of wealth, and the obligation of wealth, and the reputation of wealth. That’s all that he has now. That and his beautiful past. That’s all he has. It’s the truth.” “Well,” said Rafael, “I feel pretty sorry for him, now. Because that’s a very Italian story.
You are like the evil demon God invented to make my life impossible.” “Look, you can’t scold me like that any more. Never again. Because I’m all grown up now, and I feel sorry for you. Maybe, I’m stoned sometimes, but you are delusional.
My dad picks big flamewar fights. It’s like my dad just discovered that people can talk about politics without his permission.
“My dad gets surprised all the time now,”
This world isn’t his kind of world. Because, you see, my dad got old.”
“Did you just say ‘the future is stupid’?” “Yes. ‘Cause it is. Most of the past was stupid, and most of the present is stupid.
“Gavin is going to marry his girlfriend.” “She never loved him. Not like you love him. He thinks she is angelfood cake, and he’s hip-deep in quicksand. She’s going to make him much stupider, because that’s her purpose in life.
“That’s the most romantic thing I ever heard! Gavin? Mr. ‘Due Diligence’? And you got all coy? You did! You got cold feet! You are wicked!” Farfalla said nothing. Eliza’s façade of composure cracked. She began to get shrill. “Look, are you as stupid as he is? Are you totally doomed, like Cassandra?
If anything had “synchronicity,” then music had synchronicity.
Gavin’s work in the firm concerned due diligence for venture capital proposals. These proposals generally came in two parts: an awesomely cool technical notion and a hopeless business plan.
Sharing was not paying.
I can see many parallels there. In the New Depression, we have his parallels with switched polarities. We have radical conservatives, and cautious progressives.”
Were the Seattle VC geeks so feeble, so pathetically on the ropes, that they would rather take over Seattle politics than take over the technology biz?
“I think I need to brief the firm today about the scene in ‘urban informatics’,” said Gavin. “I mean software for cities.
they had become the talent scouts for Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon.
Of course, he had to break off their affair for good and all, that part was inevitable. But, he had to find some decent way to finish it. Not his kind of decent — her kind of decent.
Sex with Madeleine was so simple, pure, and satisfying. She was a necessity for him, like food and breathing.
We need to get back to the bedrock of the American Constitution.” “That’s interesting. What part of the Constitution?” “All of it,” said Madeleine.
It had never struck him until this moment, but Madeleine looked quite a lot like Sarah Palin. She had the same square jaw, bright eyes and alert, head-lifting perkiness.
She was a pretty woman, Sarah Palin. “This is the Carla Bruni factor,” he said. “This is the Carla Effect.”
We need to... go to battle stations and get married. Because we’re both in trouble.”
The geeks were all going broke doing this. Nobody seemed to notice that. The geeks did not care. No, it was worse than that. To care for nothing was their Italian badge of honor. “I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death! Let him who loves his gizmos with his heart, and not merely with his lips, follow me!” Giuseppe Garibaldi said that.
The romance books were much worse than circuit diagrams. A circuit-board diagram was trying to reveal something obscure. These romance novels were trying to hide things that were
So this strange, strange woman, this Emmeline-Amelie... known, when known at all, for her “minor female regional writings”... she was underwriting the whole Scapigliati enterprise. Amelie was their unheard prophet. Amelie was their slave. That
women would never pay to read that story. True Love was a fantasy narrative.
But mostly, there was a whole cosmos of things not being said about the Princess-Author’s own survival. As in, “Please buy this romance book so that I can support all my beloved husband’s crazy, spendthrift artist relatives.” That was the golden key to the whole set of works there: Amelie wrote her novels, as a bleeding act of womanly self-sacrifice.
All the characters in the books were readers. And without exception, they were stunned, enchanted, amazed and, yes, doomed by the author’s Circean gift.
Nobody noticed that Gavin had entered a state of enhanced mental clarity. Except for Eliza, who looked at him with pity and dread.
Gavin understood what had happened between himself and Madeleine, but he did not know how to say it. It was embarrassing to admit that he had lost all desire for her. He could not tell her how badly he felt cheated by life. Just demeaned.
So, Gavin was not in the futurity business. Gavin was in the business of getting rid of far-fetched proposals that wasted important people’s money. Once he internalized this, his work became easy. He could lay out a devastating refutation of a business in five minutes flat.
They couldn’t all be bad ideas, could they?
“But I’ve heard that — statistically speaking — depressed people are more realistic than people who are in a healthy frame of mind.
what kind of world am I creating with this engagement with Brazil?”
Brazil does not exist for your personal benefit. Brazil will not let your future alone.”
woman who does not merely attract you as a man, but can share your aims and help you steer your life in your chosen direction. You will need to be patient about that. There are not many such women in our world.
Gavin hadn’t realized that the
Abyss was part of reality.
Gavin’s layman’s notions about the true nature of ultimate reality were thirty years out of date. In the twenty-first century, scientists had discovered all kinds of additional kinky weirdness about quantumness.
String Theory was what happened to science when you didn’t have physical evidence, but plenty of math.
The rest of the universe, the vast majority of the universe, was made of two kinds of awesome nonstuff: Dark Energy and Dark Matter.
If most of the Universe was a dark Abyss, then the Abyss was all the real action.
It was hard to imagine what a man could do to “fit in” with a world that was Abyss.
“You ever read the work of Philip K. Dick?” asked Night-Owl. “I don’t think so,” said Gavin. “He was a philosopher,”
“I admire the twentieth century! The twentieth century has plenty to say to us, now that it’s dead.
The future of the American West was already here, and the bad news just hadn’t been distributed. So, this retreat was a perfect place for Gavin to forget all about love and romance, and confront stark metaphysics. Not just some scientific physics, like before, but metaphysics
“Why would Mom go to a counseling session? Mom is great! Mom is always great.
A few queenly, glamorous victories against a general background of squalor and oppression. That was the music scene, anywhere in the world, accountants or not.
“’To live without society, a man must be either very like a god or very like a wild beast,’” Gavin quoted. “To live outside the law, you must be honest.’”
Microsoft has hired everybody important to make sure they never do anything!
What Futurist couldn’t predict the bitter irony?
How often he outguessed future events, and how rarely he changed them. The Golden Boy was a straw in the wind.
Marriage appealed to him because marriage was a mystical experience. That was why he desired it. A marriage ceremony transcended rationality, practicality, or common sense.
The driver fled. Farfalla pulled off her straw hat and wiped sweat from her brow. “You look cute, baby,”
“It makes you wonder what people would do,” Farfalla said, finding a blouse, “if we all believed that Love was the only, true, divine power.”
“The collective intelligence in FlickR found the locations for me,”
It doesn’t matter to me if I am your One. I don’t want to be your One. That’s not what my story’s about! I don’t believe I am this One guy, and I’ve heard too much of him from you, and I’m starting to get mad at him!
“Gavin, please tell me my words. Please, just say them to me! I know you’re the One. I don’t want anyone else! I love you! Please do it.” “Can’t do it,” Gavin said, gazing out the mirrored window. “I’m not magic, I can’t say magic.”
punk-ass Red wouldn’t even properly marry your Mom... So typical! I guess he’s carrying on like he’s the great architect Enrico Menotti.” “He is the architect Enrico Menotti.”
Even, Ettore Sottsass was scared of my father.
“The French make very cute, delicate warplanes,” said Gavin. “That ‘Dassault Rafale’ is the Carla Bruni of fighter aircraft.”
“this is one very complicated business deal. It is a super-intricate global deal. It is crazy, in fact. And it suddenly it occurred to us — to him, and me, too — that if I wasn’t around any more, that deal would become a whole lot less complicated.”
“Oh yes, that is exactly voodoo magic. When people turn into ghosts, and nobody asks why they died, and people are too scared to talk about that, even when they know... That is real voodoo, and that was always real voodoo.” Gavin wiped sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, “Maybe America is turning into Brazil even faster than Brazil is turning into America.
“They passed an amnesty in Brazil. No one gets to ask about what generals did in the past. Because it’s the past. It’s forgotten.”
“So, it was a pink airplane. It was a killer drone airplane, but it was pink, delicate, and made just for girls. It’s a robot drone aircraft made for women. He said that women’s groups are the key to winning the Brazilian drug war.
Nothing will happen to you there. Nothing ever happens when important people talk about the future.”
“A million girls have that problem!” snorted Hepsiba. “Stop thinking that you are so special! Go ahead, marry him!
“Time passes,” said Hepsiba, gently. “That story about the special One meant just for you...” Hepsiba paused. “Well, that was certainly true, but it was a young girl’s truth. Because you were a young girl then. You were innocent. You are a grown woman now. Remember that other fairy story I told you... about the frog, the ball, and the well?
“Don’t you be so proud, my dear! There are a thousand girls in this favela who have much greater magic powers than you have!
Did you ever hear a woman tell a romance story about the tenth year of her marriage? Let me tell you all about that, my girl. Because, even for a very powerful voodoo witch, getting rid of a husband is hard.”
You must love me a lot, to tell me a story so terrible. That is the worst story I ever heard.” “My dear, you are young. You lack experience in these things.”
“Well, I’ll never kill him. Not him. It would be ten times easier for me to kill myself.” “Suicide is for cowards! We are the adepts!
He wouldn’t even realize that this was hard to do. He would come here like tomorrow morning comes here. The future comes to everybody. This place is the future.” “If you foresee this rightly,” said Hepsiba, “then this man is not your One. He is not even a man with a soul. This man would be your Demon. He would possess you.”
Nobody asked him one question about Seattle.
They simply wanted to hear from him — all about themselves
“I thought hard about it. I thought: so, what is it about Cassandra? What gives with her? What is it that Cassandra needs from life, that she never gets, that she’s so upset about?
This is all about what people really need. From the opposite sex. What we need is not what we want. It’s all all about what we don’t know we need. That’s what it’s all about, between men and women. Love is all about the absences, the mysteries. Love is about the Abyss.”
were complaining a minute ago that your boy was too stupid for you.” “Well, yes. That’s true, too. Gavin is great about seeing the future, but that doesn’t require any brains. Because most of the future is stupid.
Foreigners obsessed about Brazil’s favelas because the favelas seemed so scandalous. Favelas starred in heart-wrenching European art movies. For Brazilians, the favelas were not dramatic, not exotic. For the people who lived there, who built there, favelas were modest and dull.
But Farfalla was an architect’s daughter. She knew a lot about Italy’s problem. Not favelas, but the exact opposite. UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
But they were also very, very dead. Italy was littered with dead castles. Zombie architecture occupied the peninsula.
The favelas were her true futurity. The futurity for the planet’s real people. The people who were planetary losers.
She would stop weeping and moaning. Just stop it. And not just shrug it off this time, and pretend to make the best of it. She would find some moral backbone in her life.
“Warcraft zombies are a bunch of fags,” said Bozinho, gravely. “We never play World Of Warcraft. We play War. Modern Warfare Two...” “Halo Three...”
Losing the Internet is just like moving to another country. They do things differently, here in non-Internet world.
were great. There wasn’t anything remote or exotic or intellectually difficult about the favelas. They were all about abject poverty, huge
blocks of drug cash, and completely disposable human beings outside any legal or property system.
‘A witch with jet engines,’ that sounds precisely like Carla Bruni in Italy, Sarah Palin in the USA, and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. I’m figuring you’re one of a type there.”
will kill everyone in your town. But, well... your One, I’ll probably let him survive. Your ‘One,’ I feel sorry for that guy. Because he will have suffered.”
“I wish you would stop doing that,” said Farfalla. “Stop hacking my romantic narrative! Nobody else does that to me. It’s so geeky.”
My Time Travel is ten times worse than your occultist hokum!”
“This is your Hansel and Gretel favela church. It looks like it was built by airborne cannibal hobbits.”
“Gavin, stop speaking languages that you can’t actually speak. You can’t impose your narrative on my narrative.”
You want me to stay here in Sao Paulo with your Brazilian boy, but with this man at my side — my futurist Prince Consort — I will become Queen Cassandra.”
I can tell you what happened. Pancho Pola brought in one of the open-source control chips from his lab in Ivrea. He took your Space Age military secret, and he made that secret obsolete in thirty minutes.