Querido person who stole my iPhone outside of a kebab restaurant in Barcelona at 4 a.m. and the prostitute who molested me immediately after:

I just wanted to get the Canadian girls’ email address and some fourth meal, not an unexpected $749 Verizon purchase upon return to the States and an aggravated right nut.

Shifty Thief, you’re a heartless motherfucker. Can’t you find a way to target individuals who actually listened when the Verizon associate told them getting the insurance is a good idea? But, Shifty Thief, I must be honest: Easy target aside, you are good at what you do. I don’t even know when you got me or what you look like, and I had even sobered up. I either placed it on the counter at the kebab restaurant and you swiped it, or I didn’t get it all the way back into my pocket and you picked it when I was molar-deep in some rolled-up European tastiness. I never thought I’d like any combination of food that included cabbage, but I was wrong, and no matter what you might have lifted from me, Shifty Thief, I’ll always have my cabbage epiphany.

Why My Phone Is Probably More Interesting Than You

Skynet was supposed to attain self-awareness last week.

Yep, that Skynet, the fictional global grid of linked computers featured in the Terminator films that started as an automated global defense network intended to reduce human error and swiftly evolved into a renegade global power that fired nukes against Russia, launched a protracted war against human threats and sparked the only cinematic franchise which featured a governor naked. Three times.

I could have finished National Novel Writing Month. Seriously. I pounded out 43,492 words with four days left, leaving me a mere 6,508 words to go to hit the “winner” level of 50,000 words by midnight last night. That’s a spittle-soaked couple’s squabble, or a wild weekend road trip, or a dimly lit barstool meditation on the meaning of civilization.

Cellrunner

By Nicholas Belardes

Writing

I am a cellrunner. There’s no doubting my obsession and ability to plug in as I head out on a city bus to write and steal juice from the bent steel city.

Resembling a modern day sci-fi novel sub-character with my spiky mini faux hawk and buggy black square glasses, I look out the bus window into the urban juiced-up decay. I tighten my backpack and the laces of my dirty petroleum shoes. I’m hungry to step off.

The bus brakes wheeze. Neon surrounds the projects. Billboards light piles of bricks and bottles. Casinos shine on dirty streets and faces of addicts whose cheeks turn yellow in street corner lamplight. I can see it all as I step off the bus and fumble for the writer’s equivalent of a laser blaster converted to look like a suped-up .357. At least that’s what I imagine as I pull my iPhone out of a black pocket in my Vans backpack and text blast, forming paragraphs that don’t originate from pen and ink or a laptop.

My only problem? Battery power. Cell juice. I’m down to sixty-seven percent as my fingers work the touchscreen.

But like some old addict once told me who sat with steely eyes and neon rims: “Seek the juice and you will find it.”

No need to write and write until your cell battery drains. You’ve got to be obsessed with recharging, always have an eye along the gutters of the horizon line for a place to chargeto cellrun if you have to.

Go ahead. Stand plugged in and write like a madman while you’re taking juice. Electricity burns into your phone.

God knows I need it.

I take a walk down a melting city sidewalk, enter an outdoor mall with big fancy facades and valet parking and immediately scan for outlets. I find them on treescoiled and tied to the bases, hidden behind mall planters and along the walls where light-up signs should be plugged in. I see them in moviehouses where stand-up video games or neon-glowing kiosks used to stand. They’re obvious in most Starbucks, and hidden in some. They’re in casinos and fast-food joints, along strip mall walls and by stages in parksif you can pry a lid and get to the holy juice. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they’re right under your ass. Just look beneath your chair wherever you are.

I’m a writer and this is what I do: I take a bus or a long walk out into the juiced-up urbanscape. I have a cord and plug in my pocket. I have confidence and anxiety that in a world where batteries fail and diminish almost as soon as you charge them, I can juice up to one-hundred percent, fingers whizzing across the touch screen.

And then it’s magic, right? Words form. Paragraphs. Storylines. Characters. This mobility allows me my own inner escape velocity where I’m strapped into an iPhone rocket that soars where writers with cumbersome laptops have wet dreams of being free.

It’s no different than what Matt Baldwin wants to do: bust out some memoir for The Nervous Breakdown from an iPhone App. Probably from the top of a mountain. Or while harpooning the great white novel with a cellphone in his teeth. I tried and failed. But Matt hasn’t given up: “Yeah I’m going to email Brad and Greg about it. See what they say. Would be awesome if we could input directly.”

I can take my device to rocky crags on the seawall in Dana Point, where one slip is a smashed leg between tons of boulders. I tap out a novel chapter and watch the surf send maddening swells that smash fishermen against rocks. I sit by a Ferris Wheel in an upscale mall, plugged in if I have to, or walk down Las Vegas Boulevard and tap out a novel, knowing I can duck into a casino and maybe stand around in the lobby, connected to the very same juice that’s sucking money from drugged up slot junkies. They can’t get away from spinning video screens where even Trekkies pay homage to virtual Bones.

Laptop junkies are like cellrunners of a minor variety, sitting in libraries, airports, coffeehouses, restaurants, and car washeswherever they can get a free hotspotand surf the net and write their caffeine-buzzed B-movie scripts and novels. They can play World of Warcraft and eat a scone.

But they’re confined, and more addicted to pseudo-social environments and fancy paperboard cup holders with green logos. They want to check in on Foursquare, and Yelp about the barista, and gulp away their Saturday mornings before smoking out over lunch saying, “I wrote my novel today while some pretentious yuppie soccer mom gossiped about her kid’s perfect teeth and bloodlines. It was a bitch.”

A true cellrunner can take to the streets with an iPhone, a cord and a plot.

A true cellrunner doesn’t need anything but to get out of the house, to write on the go, and shove that cellphone in his pocket and look for the next outlet.

More juice, please.

He can walk and write and look up at jets and clouds and type a novel while walking down stairs and slipping in a doorway. People will think you’re texting your girlfriend that you don’t have. But you just keep writing.

I became a cellrunner in Las Vegas, starting in those very same Starbucks, sitting like another lonely writer masturbating to my own shitty prose along with twenty other desperate men in the same emo-run coffeehouse on Rainbow Boulevard that’s just like the emo-run coffeehouse on your street. I couldn’t write on my Samsung Instinct. Sure, I always wanted it charged. But I wasn’t cellrunning by any stretch of the word.

When I got my iPhone that all began to change. I wasn’t writing on my phone yet. Just texts and emails and worthless Facebook updates. But I immediately got obsessed with finding places to charge my phone.

My epiphany began on a lonely day at the movies.

I’d just seen some forgettable flicks at The Orleans where I moviehopped and sat texting as Jake Gyllenhaal forgettably swashbuckled his way through CGI Persia of the ancient world. I left the theater and spotted an outlet by a wooden bench. I didn’t think twice and jammed my plug into the wall, attached my phone, and sat there juicing up where some old Ms. Pacman game probably once sat sucking electricity like some kind of energy whore.

Afterward, I juiced up wherever I could. My sonnenreise was just as acidic and energy filled as a land of lemon blossoms. But this meant a new kind of fragrant awakening: real mobility and an addiction to seeking out juice when cell power reads only thirty fucking percent. Gotta keep it up. Gotta juice up. Gotta find the outlets when you can, where you can, and stay mobile and keep writing. In Las Vegas, Bakersfield, Irvine, Laguna Hills, Huntington Beach. And in Dana Point, where I asked a man who carried plastic bags filled with worldly goods if I could juice up under his seat in McDonalds.

He gave me a look of wonder then said, “Sure. I was just leavin’.”

“The worker said it’s the only outlet, man.”

“Oh yeah. That is the only one, guy.”

He looked like he hadn’t bathed in three years. But somehow he knew about the secret juice beneath his chair. He glanced at his friends and they all stepped into the coastal fog hovering outside the door.

I got on my hands and knees on the dirty floor, plugged in and started to write. When I was juiced up I continued to tap right into the fog and out toward the sea.

*NOTE: This piece and my last two posts have been written entirely on an iPhone.

Dear Whoever Who Has My iPhone:

I’m sure you thought it was weird, finding an iphone lying in the middle of the street last night, nestled in its tiny black leather case, just sitting there on the asphalt. I would have thought it was weird, too, maybe even funny. How often do you see something like that? It’s almost as common as finding a baby on the street, except an iPhone is a lot more fun to play with.

That’s what I would have thought, too, but when I woke up this morning and realized that it wasn’t in my purse, car, or coat jacket, that something was seriously, seriously wrong. I jumped into my car and raced back to where we parked last night, and scoured the street. It was nowhere in sight.

Then my sister called, and apparently you butt dialed her last night at 2:45 a.m. while you walked around for three minutes with my iPhone crammed in your pants somewhere. If it’s still there, kindly take it out. So, I’m sure the first thing you did this morning aside from moving my iPhone away from your privates—I mean, I don’t know how much radiation comes off that thing, I’m not sure of any studies to the effect, but do you really want to take that chance now, do you?—you’ll notice that there’s an listing under Lost and Found on Craigslist for my iPhone, in which I list not only my email address so that you can let me know that you have it, but the words, “REWARD OFFERED.”

And I’m serious about that. I could certainly sport you a breakfast for doing something very nice and thoughtful by returning my iPhone, in fact, I’d be delighted to.

How about breakfast and coffee? Even something complicated that Starbucks would charge extra for. Hey, my treat—after all, you’re doing me the favor, remember! No arguments!

But I just checked my email and I realize it may be too early yet for you to arise and sober up a little, I mean, judging by the phone call to my sister’s, you were up pretty late. I’m sure it will take a couple of minutes for you to figure out you found my iphone and discover that you desperately want to return it and then ran through a series of logical deductions that you should immediately go to Craigslist, which would be the reasonable place that someone who had lost their iphone would list a “lost” ad on. “Lost” ad with “REWARD OFFERED,” you know. Make sure you see that!

It’s okay. I have time. I know how it is. I was in college once, and on occasion found myself wandering the streets at 2:45 in the morning, finding iPhones and whatnot that some unfortunate soul had dropped because she was too stressed to realize it was in her lap, not in her pocket, and she stood up and well, you know the rest, right? Iphone in the street. Oldest story in the book.

So I just checked my email again and I guess you’re sleeping a little bit longer, which is fine, it’s fine. I’m cool with that. Because I’m sure as soon as you’re able, you’ll email me and I’ll email you back to ask you under what circumstances you found the phone and what my case looks like, because, after all, there is a REWARD OFFERED, and I can’t be running around, giving rewards to everyone who found an iPhone last night, you know. And I need to make sure it’s not one of those Russian mobster, “Meet me at the gas station and give me the REWARD OFFERED first and then I’ll give you the iPhone” sort of deals, because you can’t be too careful. I have to watch out for myself, after all, although I am quite appreciative of your potential willingness to even meet at the gas station, I sure am.

You’re a late sleeper, huh? Maybe you’re having dreams about returning the iphone you found in the street to its rightful owner because that’s THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Because I think it’s probably pretty obvious that no one would just go out and throw an iPhone into the street and walk away, right? Right? I mean, it’s not like people have fights with their boyfriend on an iPhone and get back at them by whipping the phone out into space like an engagement ring or something. No one would treat an iphone like that. It’s a treasure. I don’t know of one person who would. I took good care of it, why on Earth would I throw it on the ground? I stood in line for hours to get it. I had my favorite songs on it. Seriously, I had 750 pictures of my dog on that phone, not to mention some private photos I took of myself in a hat I had custom made for me by a girl named Paula on Etsy, in case you looked. I know. I know, it’s not a great photograph, I know that. None of them are. But I was trying to look tough and be funny, it’s a hunting hat, get it, with a deer embroidered on it? She did a good job with that hat. I still have the hat! That didn’t fall out of my lap onto the street. Still have the hat. So no, that’s not what I look like regularly, not at all. I look like that mainly because it is hard to take your own picture with an iphone, it is not like a regular camera at all. Did you know that? You just have to guess where the button is, and keep touching it and touching it around the area you think it might be and yes, it can get frustrating, and yes, you can get hand cramps because that’s the hand where my carpal tunnel is the worst so that’s why I was yelling in some of those pictures. But I was yelling at myself in those pictures, not at the iPhone and certainly not at anybody else, so it should not be an indication of my character or person, not at all. I’m a nice person most of the time. Eighty percent of the time. Maybe 76 percent of the time. In almost all of my iPhone pictures, I am being nice. In fact, if you flip through those photos, as I’m sure you might have—not saying that you don’t have any respect for the privacy of the person who was clearly careless enough to get out of her car with an iphone on her lap, not at all, I’m sure you do, but curiosity baits us all—you’ll see that I take photos of happy, jocular things, demonstrating my multi-faceted interests, hobbies, and things I see as curiosities.

After all, can a girl who has 750 photos of her little dog, who you may notice is sometimes wearing accessories, such as glasses and hats, on her phone be all that bad? She certainly can’t bad as someone who doesn’t deserve to have their phone returned and loses it to someone instead does something nefarious with it, right? But no, you probably won’t see any pictures on that phone of me building houses with Habitat for Humanity or volunteering in Central America, holding the mouths open of tykes while aiding Doctors Without Borders as they fix the cleft palates of little children. Probably not on that phone, but I did give them $25 once, I just didn’t think to take a picture of me donating on line. I’m sure it was used to fix a palate. Or at least part of one.

But if you wonder if I took the picture of the girl sitting on the curb with her butt crack hanging out while her boyfriend was breaking up with her, no, I did not take that. My friend thought that was funny, and in a way, it was. She really needed a belt. But even if I tried to tell her, I doubt she could have heard me over her wracking sobs.

All right, I took the picture, but listen, it was a once in a lifetime chance, you know? I saw the crack rising up and I just snapped, I didn’t even think. It was during the 24 percent of the time when I’m maybe not so nice. It was like seeing the Loch Ness monster or something similar, no one will believe you unless you offer proof. So now I have proof. So when I tell the story, I can offer a visual, and people believe me. That a girl who is very busy having her life destroyed by someone she loved can be too distracted to know that she is slipping out of her clothes.

Oh, God. I just had a horrible thought! You don’t know anyone in China, do you?

Checking my email again!

Boy. How late do you usually sleep?

If you will just get out of bed we can go have your REWARD breakfast right now, if you will just get up and go on Craigslist. Get up get up get up.

Please don’t call China. You better not have called China, if I have to end up paying for calls to China and/or any other far off lands, your reward will reflect it, and I’m just being honest. Fair is fair.

ALL RIGHT. Fine. How about a REWARD BREAKFAST and one call to China. A short call. I will do a small call, a brief call, a “Hello Ma, I am calling you on a stolen phone. I know, I laughed, too!” Okay, I’m sorry, sorry, not a “stolen” phone, let’s just say a “phone that does not belong to me and instead of flipping through the Contacts list and hitting the entry that said ‘home,’ I called China instead” phone. How about that?

Are you awake?

You’re awake, aren’t you? You know, I get the feeling that maybe you really are already awake and instead of spending efforts to find the listing for a lost iPhone on Craigslist, you just might be laughing with your ma about my unhealthy relationship with my dog, not to mention the abundance of pictures of food, and sometimes alcoholic beverages. And about the Russian dancers and slugs having sex on my patio.

The Russian dancer is not a Cossack or Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof. It is my husband. It was very cold that day so he bundled up. And wore the Diplomat, a style of hat he has. Leftover from when he was Hamid Karzi for Halloween. It is quite fetching on him. Anyway, to cheer me up, he did a couple of Russian dance moves one day and then fell over, evidenced by the photos on my iPhone and the blurry image of an ass, but with a belt. My husband always wears a belt. And yes, you were right, those were slugs having coitus on my patio. I had only seen that once before, and again, I cite proof. You should really laugh at those photos. I did. It took them forever.

Dude, GET OUT OF BED.

Please get out of bed.

Why won’t you get out of bed?

Never mind. I already know.

You’re not going to give my phone, are you? You’re going to keep it, aren’t you, or sell it on ebay or take it to some pawn shop across the river, and there are a ton of pawn shops across the river. You know I’ll never find my iPhone. For the next month I’m going to stare at everyone I see talking on a phone to see if it’s you, talking on my iphone. At Safeway, at the mall, at every restaurant, everywhere I go, I’ll be looking. But I’ll never know for sure what you did with it, why you simply couldn’t give it back, or why you thought you deserved to keep it.

You suck.

You’re an asshole and I know it’s just a phone, but really, what did you think when you found it? Could you have possibly thought that someone abandoned it on purpose, maybe someone who was too young to handle the responsibility of the iPhone and thought that by leaving it in a wet, shiny place with lots of traffic that it might have a better chance at life with a different family? If I wanted to abandon my iPhone, I would have left it in a safe place. Like a fire station.

It’s not your iPhone.

It’s not your iPhone.

I’m still paying for it as I write this to you.

You know, my dog is holding my Visa bill in between her paws at this very moment and I want to take a picture of it and make a joke about her reading the fine print and saying, “You know, if you pay this one day late….” but I CAN’T.

I’m going back to using a Sharpie to scrawl, “This was stolen from Laurie Notaro” on everything I own.

You better not have called China.

But if you did, guess what?

Your Ma is going to get another phone call, one from me, on my new iPhone. And I’m going to tell her everything.

Sincerely,

Laurie Notaro

PS: I hope I see you sitting on a curb one day while someone is breaking your heart.

 

 

Outrage

By Richard Cox

Rants

In a little while I have to go outside and haul six giant lawn bags from my back yard to the street. The bags are full of leaves and some pruned tree branches and they aren’t all that heavy, but that doesn’t make me dread it any less. It’s fairly downhill from my back yard to the street. There is a strip of grass all the way to the curb, so I don’t really have to carry them. I could just drag them down there. Tomorrow morning the bags will be magically whisked away to raked leaf heaven, and still I’d rather complain about having to move them forty feet to the curb than actually do it.

Earlier I went to the grocery store and they were out of local honey. All they had in stock was a slick national brand harvested in a faraway place, and for all I know it’s not even honey but high fructose corn syrup with glue in it, the product of an evil, shadowy agribusiness scientist whose entire purpose on this planet is to genetically engineer foods that are addictive and make me fat when I eat too much of them. As you can tell I’m pissed off about the honey. About the store being stocked full of 3.8 million food items I might want to buy but being out of the kind of honey I definitely want to buy. The nerve.

On the way to the store the streets were packed with cars and trucks and SUVs. There were too many to count. Where the hell are all these people going? There are twenty four hours in a day. We don’t all have to take the same two hours out of every day and jump on the road together, do we? The guy in front of me was driving a giant pickup truck, red and shinier than a brand new Porsche, and it should be clear to anyone who cares that he’s never hauled so much as a screwdriver in the bed of that thing. There is a cover over the bed, for heaven’s sake. How dare he have the opinion that a pickup truck is nice-looking and might be purchased for any reason other than pure utility?

And even when the roads are empty, like late at night or in the middle of nowhere, I’m always too far away from where I want to be. Last year I drove to Wichita Falls on a storm chasing expedition, and when the chase turned out to be a bust, I was five hours from home. Five hours! So on the way back, in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, I got a bit of a lead foot. Maybe it was my choice to drive all the way to Texas but that doesn’t mean I should have to spend five hours on an empty highway going home. Somewhere between the Red River and Lawton I reached 135 miles an hour before I decided I was being an idiot. What’s the big rush to get home? So I can sit there and sulk about not seeing a tornado?

But I have every right to sulk. When I storm chase I connect my laptop into one of the power outlets in my car and hook it to a GPS receiver that is plugged into the other power outlet. Then I use a wireless card to connect my laptop to the Internet. Software on my computer overlays weather radar with a road map, it tells me how fast the storms are going and how fast I’m going and allows me to plot an intercept course. It tells me if storms are rotating and if they are producing hail. The software does everything but drive me to the damned storms, but then I cross the Red River and that’s when I find out my phone carrier doesn’t offer rural data service in northwest Texas. So I have to actually look for the storms, like out my window, and I have to place a phone call to someone and ask them to look at the radar. I mean I’m in the middle of nowhere and I have this little flatscreen computer phone that makes it possible for me to call anyone in the world, but that’s not enough. There is no data service out here for the love of God.

My car is smart enough to talk to my iPod and pipes all my playlists into a fancy display on the dash, but the menus take too long to navigate. I guess it’s my fault because I had the nerve to load 4,000 songs on there. 4,000 songs that I’m totally bored with. Hundreds of thousands of hours of blood and sweat tears by musicians I’ve never met and I can’t find a single song on the damned iPod that I want to listen to.

And while I’m driving back I can’t decide if I’m hot or cold. I tinker with the interior climate of the car by individual degrees. And the road is too bumpy. I look out on the prairie and I imagine people trying to cross the land on horses or in wagons, with no smooth asphalt, unimaginable discomfort caused by life-threatening conditions in the Old West, and I’m frustrated because the only restaurant on the turnpike is McDonald’s.

This weekend I’ll play golf and probably shoot a pretty good score, but I’ll be upset whenever any shot doesn’t go exactly where I want. I’ve only been playing for twenty-five years. Why haven’t I figured this out yet? It’s not rocket science.

And speaking of rocket science, why haven’t we sent a man to Mars by now? This is 2010. We were supposed to find that big black alien rectangle by Jupiter nine years ago, but the reality is we haven’t even traveled to the closest planet yet. We’re supposed to be flying around in DeLoreans propelled by fusion engines that run on trash, not arguing over where to dig up more fossil fuels. And if you really want to piss me off, ask me why there is no such thing as a real lightsaber.

How come everything isn’t exactly as I want it? Whose fault is this?

I’m outraged!

Aren’t you?

iPhone App

By Ted McCagg

The Feed

Thank you, President Crow, for that generous introduction. I know we just met on the steps leading up to this stage, but you pretty much nailed me: I am a 30-year-old guy with an MFA who works with computers and constantly daydreams about having webbed fingers and toes for reasons he wishes not to disclose.