Tuesday, June 14, 2022

106 - George Washington visits Donald Trump

It was a bright magically sunny day out on the Mar-a-lago golf course. Donald Trump was driving the cart from the tee out to the muddy swamp where he had hit his ball. Senator Lindsey Graham had also hit his ball in this direction, a little less distastrously, though, landing it nicely on the fairway. So, of course Trump claimed Senator Graham's ball as his own and stopped the cart.

Something strange was happening though. The bright sun was turning bizarre colors. There were purples, blues, oranges swirling around Donald Trump. Suddenly he was by himself and Senator Graham was nowhere to be seen.

Trump shrugged and settled in behind Graham's ball. He practiced his swing a couple times, and prepared to hit.

Something stopped him.

"Hello Donald."

The voice came from some nearby trees. Trump looked up, puzzled, as George Washington stepped out from behind a tree and tipped his tri-cornered hat.

"Is it...is it you? George Washington?" Trump stammered.

"Yes," Washington answered.

"Wow! what an honor!" Trump was smiling broadly. Washington was not smiling. "You know," Trump continued, "most people don't know, you were a Republican. People don't know that."

"No," Washington corrected, "I was not a Republican. That was Lincoln. I was against any and all political parties. there were no Republicans when I was in office.

Trump blinked angrily. "Maybe you need to go back and check," he said. "It's just a fact that you were a Republican."

"I warned the other guys, you know, Jefferson, Madison, that whole crowd, against the whole idea of political parties. I knew nothing good would ever come from them."

"Actually..." the corners of Trump's mouth were twitching. "Actually, You're wrong," Trump said. "You were totally a Republican."

A stony silence passed between the two men. Eventually Washington cleared his throat and said, "You lost the 2020 election."

A rumble passed through Trump's body the way a ball of digestive gas rumbles through...well, through Trump's body.

"Hey, didn't you own slaves?" Trump shouted.

"I emancipated them all," Washington said defensively.

"Slave-ownin' George," Trump cackled. "You better not try to run again. When I put a label on someone it tends to stick. Just ask Lyin' Ted Cruz."

Washington cleared his throat again and straightened up. "You lost the election fair and square, and if you want to have any political legacy, you have to admit this and tell the truth."

"I always tell the truth," Trump said dismissively. "That's why my new social network is called Truth Social."

"Have you heard that little story about me?" Washington asked calmly. "It's about an apple tree. The punch line is, I cannot tell a lie."

"Oh, ha! you're lyin' about it now. Everyone lies. I know you made up that story. Maybe I'll switch to 'Lyin' George Washington.' Has a nice ring to it" Trump brought his attention back to the Lindsey Graham's golf ball, and tried a couple practice swings.

"That's Senator Graham's ball," Washington said, matter-of-factly.

"Graham's ball? What are you, blind? His ball is over there in the mud. Everyone saw him hit it there. What a loser!"

George Washington looked down solemnly. He shook his head. Slowly he turned back toward the tree he had stepped from behind. He walked toward it. He turned back to take one last look at Trump, just as Trump sliced the ball sideways into a lake. Trump laughed and returned to the cart, driving it straight toward the green, where he grabbed a ball from his bag and tossed it near the cup.

Washington disappeared behind the trees.

Donald Trump was never seen again. He didn't mind, He lived forever in a magical purple blue orange golf wonderland. He was happy.

And so was the rest of the world.

Peter Wick
June 14, 2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

105. Final Sneak Peek - How To confuse A.I. - "I Don't Own a Dog!"

As I post this, my new book, my satirical SciFi, How To Confuse A.I. has become available for pre-order. It will be officially published and released to the public on Tuesday May 31, 2022. This excerpt comes about 20 pages in, as Adam Douglas settles into a calm evening at home with his simulated partner, Trilda. She is a part of the Simu-network, which -  oh, screw it. At this point you have to read the whole book to get it. On with the sneak peek, which, yes, drops you right into the middle of a scene...


The the glass balcony door opened, and a small whisper-silent Antarctica drone entered, carrying a package that it placed on the middle of the table.

Adam held his fork in his mouth, motionless, looking at the drone.

"Enjoy!" the drone said in a light perky voice, before flying back out the balcony door. The door quietly slid closed on its own.

Adam slowly removed the fork from his mouth. He chewed suspiciously.

"What's this?" Adam asked.

"Let's open it and see," Trilda said, clasping her hands together in anticipation.

"I didn't order anything."

"Open it."

Adam set his ffork down on his plate, still chewing his last bite of pasta.

He reached for the box and pulled it toward him. It was a very familiar box, the Antarctica logo on the side, the smiles around the edges.

He looked at the address. It was definitely addressed to him, Adam Douglas.

Adam was suspicious. Why would a delivery come when he had not ordered anything?

"Open it," Trilda chirped happily.

Adam reluctantly reached for a table knife and began to cut the tape.

He lifted the flap of the box and recognized some sort of clothing item.

He cut the tape down the side and opened the other flap.

As he pulled the green clothing item out of the box, he twisted his face sideways. It appeared to be a dog sweater.

He looked back inside the box and saw four small white dog booties, shaped perfectly for a small puppy's feet.

"What the-" Adam shook his head in confusion. "This is obviously a msitake."

He looked at Trilda, who was smiling an odd happy smile.

Adam raised his hands in confusion. "I mean, did you order this?"

"No," she said calmly. "It's probably based on your interestes."

"My interests..." Adam looked at her sideways. "I...we...there's no dog. We don't have a dog."

Trilda just smiled back.

Adam held the sweater in one hand and scooped up two of the booties in the other. He was perplexed, and Trilda wasn't helping.

He dropped the booties and the sweater back into the box with a shake off his head and sat sideways in the chair.

He lifted his eyes to his left and brought up the Antarctica hologram. He scrolled through the list of contact info and tapped a line on the hologram.

Jarvis appeared immediately.

"Hi, I'm Jarvis," Jarvis said  pleasantly. "Thanks for contacting Antarctia. It will be my pleasure to help you today."

Adam turned once again and lifted the sweater from the box.

"This - this dog sweater was just delivered to me," he said, agitation creepiing into his voice. "I didn't order it."

"Cute!" Jarvis gushed.

Adam looked at Jarvis blankly. "I didn't order it," he repeated.

Jarvis smiled warmly. "Thanks for letting us know of your concern," he said. "We at Antarctica are obsessed with our customers' satisfaction. No, seriously, we're obsessed with it. It's the only thing we ever think about." He paused, then said, "If you will kindly give me a moment to look up your case."

Jarvis looked off beyond Adam. He was silent for a moment. He nodded happily and looked back at Adam.

"Good news!" Jarvis exclaimed. "It was seventy-five percent off!"


That's all. The book awaits...

PeterWick

May 15. 2022



Thursday, April 14, 2022

104 - Messiah Complex, Anyone?

The world moves quickly, and the state of things as I write this might be very different from the state of things when you read this.

As I write, Elon Musk has submitted a mutli-billion dollar bid to buy Twitter and take it private. The outcome has not been settled yet.

I want to try to sort through some very nuanced issues here, in a serious manner, which is sometimes hard for me. I am usually more likely to make jokes of things (including jokes about Musk - mashed up with a few other billionaire tech CEO's - in my upocoming book, "How To Confuse A.I.").

Elon Musk purports to be crusading on behalf of "Free speech," a concept that I very much support. Having (among other things) a little bit of a journalism background, it hits me deeply when, for example, China cracks down of freedom of the press in Hong Kong. the freedom to speak freely is something I take very seriously.

The problem with Twitter (and by extension Facebook, although I have not been on Facebook since 2014) is that "freedom of speech," becomes a wild west of propoganda (sometimes very sophisticated propoganda, expertly done by devious parties), with insufficient checks and balances, on a platform too easily used to spread dis-proven conspiracies, and outright falsehoods.

So, I ask Mr. Musk, do you support 'Bad Actors' freedom to speak expertly designed falsehoods, manipulated specifically to damage our public discourse?

I'll give you my answer. In the public square; meaning literally outside on a street corner, where The Constitution guarantees free expression, yes, I support anyone's freedom to spout nonsense of any kind unhindered. Literally outside on the street corner. That is where constitutionally-protected free speech has no limits.

On a social network, though - a corporation such as Twitter - I support, want, demand, that the company police and check that 'speech' on their platform is not being used to manipulate, to decieve, or to tear apart. A private newspaper demands the freedom to print and publish whatever it deems print-worthy, according to its own standards. Yet, that same newspaper has the freedom to say no to someone from outside the paper demanding that they print their outside/confrontational/false article or editorial. It is not a clamp-down on "freedom of speech," for this private newspaper to reject a submitted piece of writing. The writer of the alternate piece of writing has absolute and total freedom to go outside on the street corner and shout any and all desenting views he wants. That, and that only is "Freedom of speech." Any private company has the freedom, even the responsibility, to police and safeguard their platform from incendiary flasehoods.

Twitter was getting better at these safeguards, especially when they recently banned a few conspiracy-spreading loonies. My worry about Elon Musk running Twitter is that he will be inclined to let the loonies, the liars, the conspiracy theorists, and the propogandists new license to attack. Elon Musk says his attempt to take over Twitter is about "the future of civilization."

Messiah complex, anyone?


Peter Wick
April 14, 2022

Monday, March 14, 2022

103 - Who is Tyrell Elon Zuzerzos?

 With my book How To Confuse A.I. coming in May, I feel a need to set the table regarding who and what exactly I am parodying, or satrizing, and anticipate any need to protect myself from wealthy men with lawyers.

The book has a short introduction, where I spell out a long list of comedy and science fiction works (books and movies) that I reference in the story (dystopian future as a comedy anyone?).

I might not have included every reference, though, Maybe with this post, I am rewriting my introduction a little bit.

For example, I did not spell out exactly which country I have borrowed a few of the more disturbing high tech surveillance practices from. It's a big country. One of the biggest. Lots and lots of people, all of them living under constant government surveillance. The country's name rhymes with Bina.

I'm actually not too worried about that country getting mad at me. I would love nothing more than to have my book banned in some huge country, simply because I made fun of them a little bit. That would be awesome!

I'm more concerned about a few rich Americans, who...sort of...well, let's say, I satirize them a little bit too.

But first, no, let's bring up the First Amendment, and talk about a lot of other satire that has been protected by courts over the years. Why? Because - I'm just being honest - I actually am a little scared of rich guys with lawyers, and I want to preemtively stop them from suing me.

We don't have to look any further than Saturday Night Live, especially the entire four years of Alec Baldwin satirizing our previous bumbling, egomaniacal, President. If Trump COULD have stopped SNL and Baldwin from making fun of him, he definitely would have. The fact that Trump was powerless to stop them is a testament to the power of the First Amendment, as tested in many many courts over the years.

I looked this up. I'm at scholarship.law.unc.edu reading about this topic. I'm quoting: "Satire may be more readily deserving of Frist Amendment protection because it can be viewed as a form of commentary." The write-up goes on to list and discuss several cases where plaintiffs tried to sue someone for making fun of them. Courts have overwhelmingly sided with the defendants (the comedians).

So... who is this guy, Tyrell Elon Zuzerzos? He's nobody, of course. He's a fictional character. In my homage to previous works I have of course borrowed the name Tyrell from Blade Runner. Eldon Tyrell runs the Tyrell Corporation. He is the maker of the 'Replicants,' the simulated humans. I just took his last name and made it my character's first name. 'Elon'? I don't know. Just a good-sounding collection of letters. Zuzerzos? Hm, starts with 'Z," ends with 'Zos.' Who knows? What do you think? I think it's all made up and isn't based on anyone. (If you saw my facial expression right now, you would see how SINCERE I am.)

Maybe you can help me. If you can think of any high powered tech CEO's out there, who run multi-billion dollar corporations, who believe that they are doing something AMAZING for humanity, who maybe, just maybe have too much of a Messianic view of themselves, let me know. I would LOVE to know if there is anyone like this in the world. If you can point me in their direction, maybe I still have time to include them in my..in my, uh...First-Amendment-protected satire.

Peter Wick

March 14, 2022

Monday, February 14, 2022

102 - Pickles and Chocolate - My Secret Days With The Gazpacho Police

It's true! Margorie Taylor Greene was right! Nancy Pelosi has been running a secret police force called the Gazpacho Police. How do I know? Because I worked for them. I resigned recently, blaming hardship, emotional trauma, and psychological stress. Telling my story here, hopefully, will be part of my road to recovery.

It all started when Pelosi received word that several Republicans - yes, all of them Trump allies - were making unacceptable food combinations. They were putting ketchup on pasta, we were told, and peanut butter on hamburgers; shocking stuff!

Pelosi didn't waste any time. She had the entire force set up in a couple days. I was designated as an undercover agent. My job was to shadow Margorie Taylor Greene when she went out to eat, track her food combos and report back. I was never to be seen in person. It was a tough assignment, but I took it on because I love my country.

The next day I was hiding incognito under a table at a diner around the corner from the capitol. It was a tight squeeze, MTG's feet, three other pairs of feet (someone was wearing socks that hadn't been washed in days), and me. What I overheard scared me - cheetos and broccoli....COMBINED!

When I reported back to Pelosi, she exhaled with that decision-makers command that she has, and strode off in the direction of Chuck Schumer's office. Later that afternoon we were given even more serious instructions; serious food combo breaches like this were to be texted to her, live in the moment, and the uniformed officers would report to the scene as soon as possible.

It was early the next day. MTG was ordering breakfast at a favorite morning spot of the congressional crowd. I was hiding inside the garbage can by the door. I listened intently, worried that I would not hear exactly what she was ordering. At first it seemed simple enough; a bowl of cereal and some orange juice.

She took her order to her table and sat down. Everything seemed innocuous...until...I could not believe what I was seeing. She opened her orange juice and, right there in front of everyone, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, she poured her orange juice right into her cereal...CEREAL AND ORANGE JUICE!

I reached instantly for my phone, fumbling it into someone's left over tray of ketchup. I wiped it off and typed out the text to Nanci Pelosi; "Orange juice in her cereal," I texted, "Completely without any sense of shame!"

The reply was instant. Pelosi had uniformed officers already stationed nearby. They were on the scene in a matter of minutes.

The arrest was swift. The cereal was beyond hope.

So, she was right to call us the Gazpacho Police. It's what we are. It's what we do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm looking for some Ranch Dressing to dip these chocolate chip cookies into.

Peter Wick
February 14, 2022


Friday, January 14, 2022

#101 The Beatles - Get Back

I am aware that writing about The Beatles risks making me look like an old fart, so let's start by setting up some context. Like most people who are around these days, I discovered the Beatles after the fact. I'm not quite old enough to have been a part of that whole 60s thing when it happened. I might be old enough for the kids to still call me an old fart, but I'll deal with the kids separately.

If, like me, though, you have any love for the creative process, a fascination with collaborative creativity, love for the great artists of the past - even if you are NOT a Beatles fan - then the 8 hour-long Beatles reality show currently streaming on Disney+ will prove to be endlessly surprising, fascinating and gripping.

It also helps if you ARE a Beatles fan. Just saying. Knowing some of the history makes it just that much more mind-blowing.

So, here, in no particular order, are some take-aways that linger for me after watching all 8 hours almost twice (I'm writing this after rewatching the first 2 episodes, before watching the final episode again later tonight).

Beatles solo songs- Filmed and recorded in the context of The Beatles imminent break-up (sort of, more in a moment), it is amazing to watch George Harrison and John Lennon workshopping an early version of George's "All Things Must Pass." This song became the title track of George's 1970 solo album - a tour de force triple album, and considered by some to be the best Beatle solo album of all time. John also busts out an early version of his own eventual solo song, "Gimme Some Truth," and at one point begins singing what I thought was his later solo song, "Jealous Guy," only to realize that it is the exact same tune with completely different early lyrics.

No, This is not the breakup - This month-long project took place in January, 1969. A year later the footage was finally edited into the film "Let it Be," (the title song also released as The Beatles final single), and coincided more or less with the 1970 announcement of The Beatles final split. What is most surprising about the intra-group disagreements, though, in this 8 hour version, is that the four members really want, and work hard, to mend their differences. Yes, George quits the band for a few days, but the other 3 meet with him off-camera twice, in what had to be intesive discussions, eventually convincing him to return. Also, given the early 1969 time-frame, we have to remember that the entire Abbey Road album - was it their best? I tend to think so; I won't argue too forcefully against the Sgt. Pepper voters, though - was recorded over the following half-year. So...maybe they still did their best work AFTER all this turmoil.

John and heroin - We know for a fact that the always-experimenting John Lennon was going through his one heroin phase around the time of  these recordings. What we don't know - and I won't even try to guess - is how much of it he was doing, how affected by it he was on a given day, or whether this was before, during or after his primary period of using the drug. What we do know - what we can see with our own eyes - is that John seems fairly out-of-it early on (episode 1 has a moment when Paul calls him out for nearly falling asleep). the first episode features a sometimes quiet John, a band-member who is there in person, but sometimes only barely there in spirit, By the time the second episode starts, though, John seems to begin waking up. By the mid point of the second epsiode, we have a whole new John who wasn't there at the beginning. He is engaged, creative, playful. He cares about the work. He writes and rewrites songs with Paul. The real John Lennon finally turned up.

Paul is a musical force of nature - The history of The Beatles has tended to make people choose sides. Some people are on the John side. Others are on the Paul side. the sides will never agree....or will they? Years after the split both John and Paul referred to each other as "best friends," and there are many stories of Paul visiting John and Yoko in New York in the 70s. Watching the Get Back footage play out, it is impossible to hate Paul (and yes, I had often considered myself to be on the John-side). Songs seem to pour out of Paul in a way you might imagine symphonies pouring out of Mozart. It is stunning. He can toss out something improvised that never made it onto any recording, and you just look on in wonder. I came away from watching it, humbly admitting that I may have been wrong about Paul. He is a genius. Case closed.

George's selflessness - Yes, he quits the band for a few days. That might not be considered 'selfless.' I was surprised, though, at his complete change in attitude after returning, and I look on this attitude in the context of George being the one most fully immersed in eastern religious philosophy. George always had to swallow his ego, being around the Lennon-McCartney machine. Maybe that is what pushed him further into eastern mysticism. You're a Beatle. You're going to have an ego.  But you're not John or Paul. Now you have to swallow your ego. Watch George after he returns from his little Beatle-vacation. He buys in. He gives all of himself to the projecct. He is smiling. He's having fun. Amazing.

Ringo the dependable - He's a drummer. Drummers have to be dependable. Rarely have I witnessed a personality that so closely resonates with a band member's job within the group. Ringo is always there, always on time (the only one who is always on time), always watching his bandmates, listening, rarely making a fuss, always contributing exactly what he needs to contribute. He's quiet, but he's like a quiet magician who you sometimes don't notice, but who makes everyone else in the room better.

Abbey Road songs - As the project began, the band was aiming for something like fourteen songs. They were struggling to get there, not that they didn't have fourteen good ideas. Some of the ideas were just that, ideas, not fully formed songs. Many of these set the foundation for Abbey Road a few months later. If you're an Abbey Road fan (this more than 50 year-old album just ended the year 2021 at #96 on the Billboard top 100 albums for the year), it is beyond happiness to watch George work on "Something," John try out early versions of "Polythene Pam," and "Mean Mr. Mustard." One morning Ringo shows up with an unfinished version of "Octopus's Garden," and George huddles with him at the piano, helping him refine it. Paul does several takes of "Oh Darling." Oddly, maybe surprisingly, the first version of "Come Together" that we hear is Paul singing, sitting at the piano. fun stuff!

Billy Preston - When old friend Billy Preston shows up one day just to say hi (they had met him years earlier in Germany, when Preston was backing up Little Richard), the band (of course) asks him if he wants to sit down at the piano, and from that moment the whole enterprise takes off to a whole new level. No one questions it, not even Preston himself. Everything begins to click, to connect. It begins to feel predestined. Preston is there on the rooftop, performing as the "Fifth Beatle." He should get more credit for this than he does. John wanted him in the band. For this moment, he WAS in the band, and he fit perfectly.

The rooftop concert - This is what it's all about, isn't it. The Beatles final live performance, and it's an icnoic one, an illegal performance, one that disrupted the London business day, an outdoor performance that brought out the cops...just as Paul wanted. Yes, it was Paul who wanted to do something illegal. He even says at one point, "We should trespass." He was musing on where they should perform, where they should trespass, setting up as a band someplace where they would possibly be kicked out. He even suggests the Houses of Parliament. this is one of the great moments of the Beatles short career.

Peter Wick

January 14, 2022

Sunday, November 14, 2021

100 - "Speakeasy" (sneak peek #5 of How to Confuse Artificial Intelligence)

 First, before getting to the How to Confuse AI excerpt, let me take a quick moment to acknowledge that being my 100th blog post, this marks more or less ten full years of the Simple Displeaasure blog. I want to thank the thousands of readers who have stopped by. Seeing the numbers grow means something to me, and the number of readers seems to be going up each month. So...thanks. I appreciate it more than you know. Now to the latest book excerpt...

Post #98 - just 2 months ago, tries to put these AI sneak peeks into some sort of order and perspective. This one comes (chronologically in the book) after the four previous ones. So if you feel like going back and reading through them in order, start with the explanation at the start of #98.

CHAPTER FOUR - SPEAKEASY

"Adam!" it was Amy. "Come with me," she said, walking briskly down the sidewalk.

Adam was walking faster than he wanted to, trying to keep up. "Let's take a pod," he said casually.

"Nah, it's not far. Let's walk. I feel like a walk."

Amy walked quickly, leading him around a corner.

"Where are we going?"

"To lunch," Amy said with a smile. Adam thought he saw the quickest, faintest wink from her, but he could not be sure.

Amy led Adam across a narrow elevated walkway. Adam had never been here before. It was isolated. Then Amy turned to Adam and said, "Wait." she looked quickly to the left and right. She reached her hand to the back of Adam's neck, where his Lynq chip was located, and pressed. A menu loaded in the air next to Adam. Amy scrolled through the menu, found what she was looking for, and slid a button to 'off.' She closed Adam's chip menu and repeated the entire process with her own Lynq chip. When she was done Adam began to speak. she placed her hand directly on Adam's lips, to keep him quiet. she smiled at him again. Then, to Adam's surprise she climbed over the concrete barrier of the walkway, and onto a creaky metal fire escape stairway on the side of a building. She looked back at Adam, who had not follwed her onto the stairway and chirped, "Come on."

Adam slid himself over the conrete barrier and stood next to her on the stairway.

Amy laughed a mischevious laugh and headed down the stairway. Adam followed.

At the bottom of the stairway Amy continued briskly through a narrow alley, then another alley, and finally to a dead end, a foul smelling, filthy alcove filled with garbage dumpsters.

Adam twisted his head in horror at the combined smell of garbage and urine.

"Where the - Where are we? Where are we going?"

"To lunch," Amy said with another laugh.

Amy put her eye up close to the wall. A light turned on and scanned Amy's eyeball.

A door unlatched.

Amy pushed the door open.

It was dark.

Amy pulled a string that turned on a weak yellow light bulb. Then she quickly began descending a flight of stairs.

Adam followed, perplexed.

After descending a second flight of stairs, Amy put her eye up to another reader. Again the light scanned her eyeball. The second door unlatched and Amy pushed it open. They found themselves in a large empty warehouse space. In the distance Adam could faintly make out the sounds of  music.

"Where the hell are we?" Adam asked.

Amy turned to Adam and looked at him.

Adam stood facing her, a look of confusion spread across his face.

"Do you feel it?" Amy asked.

"Feel what?"

"The silence."

Adam looked up. He was not looking at anything in particular. He was listening, feeling. He turned all the way around. He looked back at Amy. He gave a half laugh. Despite the faint pulse of distant music, he was amazed at the silence.

"We're disconnected," Amy said quietly. "It's just us."

"Y - yes!" Adam felt it.

"No Lynq, no eves dropping, no surveillance."

"Yes!" Adam was surprised by the feeling. "It's just my brain!" He looked at Amy. "So, outside when you loaded my Lynq menu..."

"Turned off your location," she said matter-of-factly.

Adam was learning new things about Amy. Who is this person? he wondered.

"Come on," Amy said, and she strode across the large empty warehouse room.

As they approached the far end of the room the music got louder.

Once again Amy put her eye up to a reader. It scanned.

The door opened onto a scene of freakishness that Adam had never seen before. Red, yellow, and blue hair stood out to him. People with tattoos, peircings, half-shaved heads stood about talking and laughing.

Adam felt that he had just been transported to another time and place. This was from a fantasy world, an old movie, a relic of either the past or the future. He was not sure what to think or feel.

"What is this place?" he asked Amy.

"It's a Speakeasy.," she said.

At that moment they were interrupted by Tony, an effervescent, happy character with a green streak down the middle of his hair.

"Amy!"

"Tony!" They gave each other a hug.

"Who's our new friend?" Tony asked, looking toward Adam.

"This is Adam," she said. "Adam needs our help.'

"Wait, what? I do?" Adam blurted out, caught slightly off guard.

"Hi, Adam. I'm Tony," he said, giving Adam an unexpected hug.

"Hi Tony. good to meet you."

"Well," Tony said, taking a step back. "Come with me."

He led them through the collection of colorful, energetic characters to a table at the far end of the room.

"Chicken Caesar salad," Amy said as she sat.

Tony turned to Adam and looked at him expectantly.

Adam did not know what Tony wanted. He turned to Amy. "Is that a code I'm supposed to understand?"

"It's what I want to eat, silly," Amy said.

"Oh! Oh, okay, yes, two, then. Two chicken -"

"Chicken Caesars?" Tony confirmed, then turned to leave.

Adam looked around and took the scene in. "So, what's this? It's a sp -"

"A Speakeasy," Amy said. "You know, like the 1920's?"

"Hm? the 1920's?"

"You know," Amy began. "The 1920's, alcohol was illegal, so it went underground. Al Capone and all that?"

Adam again scrunched his face in confusion. "But alcohol isn't illegal. What - what am I missing? I'm so confused."

"You're cute when you're confused," Amy said with a chuckle. "It's called a Speakeasy in honor of the 1920's speakeasies. This place is off the grid. It's natural. It has no - there are no eyes, no ears, no Antarctica. No tech, except what the rogue techs do to keep this place incognito. no one's listening here. All these peoople are real. No simulations. We're safe here. We can talk freely. We can speak our minds. We can speak...easy...get it? that's why it's called a Speakeasy."

Peter Wick

November 14, 20201