Deus Ex Machina: or, Why I’m in Port Huron Twice This Week

Okay, so. Kind of a schizoid crossing this time. The usual level of service was restored on the front lines, where my car was searched (as we all know, evildoers are most likely to smuggle contraband when entering the country for a court appearance), all cell phones were confiscated, and I was berated by a littermate of last December’s Brotherhood of the Baton who, already in possession of the car keys, demanded my house keys as well — then told me he didn’t like my attitude when I pointed out they were, in fact, house keys. So far, pretty much the kind of behavior you’d expect from a border that, by an empirical 2:1 margin, is the most unpleasant and belligerent boundary on the planet1. On the other hand, the very nice blonde lady inside asked me how my day was going, talked about the local restaurants, and even looked perplexed when Baton Boy dropped two sets of keys on her desk. “Were these, um, connected or something before? No? Why would he want your house keys?”

She would have been welcome to search my car any time. But I suppose that pleasant disposition is the very reason they’ve got her squirreled away in the back room to begin with.

Anyway, it’s not the crossing I wanted to tell you about today. What I wanted to tell you about was the pretrial meeting. But I can’t do that because it, um, didn’t happen.

I wasn’t actually watching at the moment fate intervened. We’d been sitting there for about an hour while the docket depleted around us: home invasions, petty thefts, some poor doofus with a teensy amount of blow in his pocket. My attention had wandered down to my right foot, where I was using the plastic doohickey on the end of my shoelace to clean goose shit from the treads of my cross-trainer. (There are a lot of geese in Port Huron. I kind of like that about the place.) By this time the session had pretty much run its course; if we weren’t up next, we were probably second in line.

And suddenly the room fills with an almost divine white noise (it’s not actually supernatural; they just use it to mask private conversations up at the bench). I glance up in time to see the judge stagger offstage, clutching his chest. I see defense and prosecuting attorneys all mysteriously migrating towards the court secretary. I hear the words “We’re going on a journey…” which, decrypting around the interference, was more likely to be “We’re going to be adjourning…” Someone used the phrase “medical emergency”.

That’s right. The judge had some kind of heart attack right there on the bench, just before calling on The People v. Watts. Or maybe it was only a bad burrito. Whatever it was, it took the guy out. Which is why I now get to turn around and do the whole damn thing all over again tomorrow.

Most of you know I don’t put much credence in Imaginary Friends. I’ve always found it curious that in a Court of Law — self-proclaimed bastion of empiricism and hard fact — you are expected to swear an oath on a book of fairy tales before testifying. But if I were one of those who do believe in the Divine, I might wonder if I should read this as some kind of omen.

I mean, really. What are the odds?
———————

1Apparently it’s not just the passers-through who feel this way, either. I was recently gratified to discover that the citizens of Port Huron feel even less love for the Blue Water border patrol than the rest of us do. Which is saying something.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday January 21 2010at 06:01 am , filed under Squidgate . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

40 Responses to “Deus Ex Machina: or, Why I’m in Port Huron Twice This Week”

  1. It’s like when you see a magic trick and don’t know how it’s done… you still KNOW it’s a magic trick, don’t you?

    Meme works in mysterious ways.

  2. When one thinks of border guards (on both sides of the Canada/US divide), one is reminded of the old Chinese proverb (which I first discovered in “The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew”:

    “When small men cast long shadows, the sun is setting.”

  3. Looks like you’ve been touched by His Noodly Appendage!

  4. Ah, I don’t know Finster… I prefer “It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.” – Bob Dylan

  5. The blonde lady is actually a witch, and she’d really love to see you again. Just don’t use this in a book; its’ too unbelievable by far. DEM at its best :)

    And good luck in court, by the way.

  6. Oh, it’s easier to believe in witches than Imaginary Friends?

  7. I was using the plastic doohickey on the end of my shoelace to clean goose shit from the treads of my cross-trainer.

    Aglets.

    And suddenly the room fills with an almost divine white noise (it’s not actually supernatural; they just use it to mask private conversations up at the bench). I glance up in time to see the judge stagger offstage, clutching his chest. I see defense and prosecuting attorneys all mysteriously migrating towards the court secretary. I hear the words “We’re going on a journey…” which, decrypting around the interference, was more likely to be “We’re going to be adjourning…” Someone used the phrase “medical emergency”.

    His Noodliness wants you in America; it’s a sign! He decided to get you a better judge! Of course, that cardiac vessel had been counting down to critical placque-up for decades before you sat pushing little treadworms of goose poop onto his nice clean courtroom floor. Now if the bailiff had announced your name and right then the judge flopped over, I’d worry.

    You know. If it were me, I’d be in a crazy haze of strained attention, boredom, and agitation waiting to be called, and it might cast a dream-like filter over whatever was really happening. If it were me, I wouldn’t be taking literary license, I might genuinely hear the white noise as numinous and “We’re going to be adjourning…” as “We’re going on a journey,” Just for a split second, then reality would snap back.

    It’s as if stress and boredom combine hypnotically to make the mind cast around for a second for a more exciting plot. Not sure what that is for evolutionarily, but I blame the movie and tv industry for planting hours of high-drama, low-probabilty images in our brains. *shrugs*

  8. Heh, everyone in america is slated for a heart attack or burrio-based traumatic injury at some point.

    Pretty strange but hey what isn’t weird about america these days?

  9. Sounds to me like they’re playing good cop/bad cop. I hear border guards really want to play at being cops.

  10. Peter stated: “…you are expected to swear an oath on a book of fairy tales before testifying.”

    I would rather swear on a Brothers Grimm book…one of my long ago ancestors was Grimm, but not that Grimm…or maybe that new book by Victor J. Stenger…better yet, I’d swear about Mother Nature with The Kumulipo (Hawaiian Creation Chant) in hand.

    @Chris J: “…touched by His Noodly Appendage!”
    Noodly One? Is that the Spaghetti Monster in the Sky?

    Peter said: “The judge had some kind of heart attack right there on the bench, just before calling on The People v. Watts.” And then Hljóðlegur said: “Now if the bailiff had announced your name and right then the judge flopped over, I’d worry.”

    I don’t know, the Judge had the paperwork in front of him…don’t need to “hear it”, besides People v. Watts was probably the biggest case on the Docket that day for this judge, and an international one at that…major domo stress buildup…one of my uncles was a judge in criminal court, and it definitely takes a toll…

  11. @ Chris J.

    Surely it was the judge who was touched by His Noodly Appendage?

    😛

    Ven

  12. Maybe its for the best. Do you really want someone having chest pains hearing your case? I suspect that it would not put him in a favourable mood.

  13. Peter stated: “…the very nice blonde lady inside…”

    I always wondered about this “blondeness of being”. Whether born blonde or faking it, why is folicular lack of eumelanin pigment such a notable identity?

    Apparently lots of females believe they are “blonde inside”, so they make their physical appearance match this golden aura of lightness.

    Being born blonde, I would not recommend taking the plunge unless you can withstand the dumbness jokes, airhead assumptions and bimbette categorization…otherwise, go ahead and lighten up.

    Laur said: “The blonde lady is actually a witch…”

    Witch? No, I believe she was an “enchantress”.

  14. Christ sake, Pete, when I told you to knock em dead
    in Court I didn’t mean for you to take me *literally.*

  15. I got a hea-ar-ar-ar-art, I got a mi-i-i-i-ind
    But I ca-a-a-a-an’t tell love apart

    It’s very difficult

    We got the keys
    To your heart

    I got the keys, keys
    To your heart, heart
    And I got ‘em
    On my chain, on my chain

  16. If there was a God, he sure as shit wouldn’t set foot in Michigan. As a former resident of Ypsilanti, I can attest to the fact that nothing divine exists there, if it ever did.

  17. Whether born blonde or faking it, why is folicular lack of eumelanin pigment such a notable identity?

    The what may or may not have been a blond what may or may not have been a person who may or may not have been in what may or may not have been a building on what may or may not have been a border between two allegedly North-American countries. Boy, that just rolls off the tongue.

  18. Oh sure, it starts innocently. But next thing you know some AI with the ability to hack the human nervous system through signals encoded in white noise is bumping off law enforcement officials left and right around you.

    Humanity fights back against its newest AI overlord using you as its involuntary spokesman through your writing; and then we are living the next sequel:

    Deafhearing.

  19. At what point after the flash of light and “We’re going on a journey,” did you hear the soothing strains of “All Along the Watchtower”? And have you noticed that blonde popping up in other places? Like, your mind?

    Speaking of blondes and their state of being, may I also nominate curliness as a state of being? I am just as messy, coarse and tangled on the inside as my hair is on the outside.

  20. Either it was His Noodliness (marinara be upon Him) or someone waved their hand and said “This isn’t the cardiac rhythm you’re looking for.”

  21. Re: “All Along the Watchtower”, did you know Dylan wrote it? Hendrix did it justice though.

    ~Chris STILL STANDING in NY
    Though now “self-employed.” :)

  22. Sometimes the universe just whirls into alignment for no discernible reason. Deus ex machina and all that…

  23. Ross said: “Oh, it’s easier to believe in witches than Imaginary Friends?”

    Could that be the difference between the earth-based “Wiccan Religion” where being a “Witch” is considered a presently existing neopagan, and a child, still innocent, pure, and possessing a sense of wonder, has “imaginary friends”?

    Pssst…some women have “imaginary lovers”…having something akin to a “spiritual experience” along the lines of an ecstatic transportive mind-body unification crossing a transgressive threshold of transforming surrealistically imagined transcended reality…of course I am not at all speaking from personal experience.

    @Branko Collin – :) Some of my ancestors were Dutch, so that makes me fractionally so…

    “Boy, that just rolls off the tongue.”

    Speaking of tongue, I just rewatched “The Thing”, the “special edition”, there were a whole lotta noodly things reaching out and touching life forms, a whole lotta noodling, noodlization and noodlfaction, and I did have a thing for Kurt “R.J. MacCready” Russell with the feathered “Snake Plissken” hair…anyway, Childs took too long to flamethrow until the multi-tongue tentacle came at him.

    p.s. I don’t have a website or a blog, and contrary to apparent evidence on this blog, I don’t have much to really say, but, so then, hey, I noticed that you can link websites via your “name”, so if you click my “name”, this thread, you will see a live webcam of Waikiki Beach, a childhood haunt… in front of the Duke “Father of Modern Surfing” Kahanamoku statue.

    You get to see all sorts of people from all over the world – some have been lei’d, some are wearing matching Jimmy Buffett-Parrothead-pseudo-Hawaiian resort clothes, a few will wiggle-hula their butt, and some will even “look right at you” and wave.

  24. The Universe? Starting to sound like what an atheist friend of mine called ‘Fate’, which is to me just another name for the supernatural. No use getting upset what we cannot possibly understand.

    If it was Monaghan, I truly hope he’s OK. Hard to tell from the newspaper photo, but he seemed a nice sort.

  25. Is that you Chris in NY, “wiz of ice” on LiveJournal? :)

    Thank you for sharing your writings…been to Ohio only once in my life when I was a kid, and I was into Shakespeare, Dungeons & Dragons too…

  26. Nice to know.

    Haven’t gotten to the part about Hawaii yet, but if I live and breathe, I’m sure I will.

  27. Been practicing staring at goats?

  28. I am so sorry Peter for posting so much! But there is this feeling:

    Hey Chris in NY, I was looking at this progression –

    “I prefer “It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.” – Bob Dylan; ~Chris STILL STANDING in NY Though now “self-employed.” ; Starting to sound like what an atheist friend of mine called ‘Fate’, which is to me just another name for the supernatural. No use getting upset what we cannot possibly understand.;…but if I live and breathe…”

    Along with, “All Along the Watchtower”, here and “Desolation Row”, there.

    At the risk of making A and embarrassing myself, being banished to a self-exiled purgatory off this blog, but that is ok, as I am nearing the end of my work day and therefore forgive this scattershot writing, I hope all is well with you Chris in NY, and I am seeing from your writings that you are now employed otherwise instead of that computer job you had alluded to in another thread here, perhaps I am reading into the darker musings of your poetic soul and I do hope that you continue to write and finish your “Cat & Coyote” Story, I really like it, are you acting in Shakespearean plays I wonder, for it is better for me to be shamed in feeling something, and Peter can just erase this, than for me not to say something, I’m torn between major domo boo boo and just do it, but “if I live and breathe” without any time feels like some sort of end, anyway, I am now thinking of the songs, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” Elton John, “How to Save a Life” The Fray, and “Bittersweet Symphony”, The Verve, perhaps I am just a weepy hormonally female, and the fact that my sister is in the hospital today finding out she had a silent heart attack, I suddenly remember a young man I loved, many years ago, who while listening to the Unforgettable Fire Album, decided this life was not for him and went elsewhere beyond…anyway, I hope you are doing good Chris in NY, “but if I live and breathe, I’m sure I will”…I am not sensing this as meaning someday if you are still living and breathing at some point in the far foreseeable future, but something to do with the here and now, “Right Here, Right Now”, Jesus Jones –

    A woman on the radio talks about revolution
    when it’s already passed her by
    but Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about you
    you know it feels good to be alive
    I was alive and I waited waited
    I was alive and I waited for this
    Right here, right now, there is no other place I want to be
    Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history
    I saw the decade in, when it seemed
    the world could change at the blink of an eye
    And if anything
    then there’s your sign of the times…

    I sincerely apologize if I am way off the mark and did not mean to embarrass anyone, except myself unintentionally, hopefully no one is too salty with me, but that is alright, so I hope you are doing good Chris in NY, and if I am batting out of the ballpark cause I am feeling something not existing then my brain is messing around with me and Peter can just delete this scattershot mistake. But I have this feeling…I am sensing something in your words…I hope all is well with you Chris in NY!

  29. It’s funny you mention what you sense in writing. Because I found this passage of yours especially intriguing:

    “I was walking in a bikini with swim fins strapped to my back”.

    I’m sure it was nothing, but I said that same phrase, word for word, out of context, to about ten people and they ALL had the same image in their head. Can you guess what it was?

  30. It’s just as well. Always be early on the list or have your matter adjourned. Create *your own* medical emergency if need be.

    Judges develop what defence lawyers refer to as “compassion fatigue” by about 2:00 p.m. They need a cigarette, they gulped their lunch down too fast, it’s been a long time since the Clonazepam they took with breakfast and it’s a long time yet until they can have their first drink of the evening. Most of all, they have heard *way too many excuses for one day* — and too many for a lifetime — and they are just fucking tired.

    Good luck next round, dude.

  31. “secretagent, on January 22nd, 2010 at 5:41 pm Said:
    Been practicing staring at goats?”

    Actually, that part of the film is fiction. They were actually fucking them.*

    * Made that up. :)

  32. Chris in NY! So you are doing good then, and I have made “an ass” of myself worrying, right? I was hoping to make A. So Peter can erase my scattershot babbly feeling stream of consciousness, then, because you are doing good?

    Chris in NY said: “It’s funny you mention what you sense in writing. Because I found this passage of yours especially intriguing:
    ‘I was walking in a bikini with swim fins strapped to my back’.”

    Yes, my dream, as I recall, posted in a pre-Christmas thread, after reading a book called Watermind, watching bits of Pirates of the Carribean and the movie Precious…but of course that singular sentence without the other dream painted factors happened in actual life when I used to go bodysurfing, snorkling and boogie boarding…

    Chris then said: “I’m sure it was nothing, but I said that same phrase, word for word, out of context, to about ten people and they ALL had the same image in their head.”

    Alright Chris in NY, :), if it was out of context, and since you are a guy, a human possessing the “xy”, then I could imagine what people would think if you said “I was walking in a bikini with swim fins strapped to my back”. Or did you include that a woman had stated that in her dream, so the association was not that? My interpretation based upon my own sense of it, was that it was a dream with undercurrents of flying, soaring and being in the ocean for that walking was along the cliffs’ edge…ready to take of and be free.

    Chris then said: “Can you guess what it was?” Sorry, no. My view from here of my dream makes me see what interpretation I have. But ten other people, having the same image? What other image could it be, other than a person (male or female?) in a bikini with fins strapped to (his or her?) back? Besides, I am still not sure if I have indeed made an fool of myself in my sensing-feeling post…

  33. If that guard had your house key, get your locks changed ASAP.

    You already know the capacity this clade has for vindictive violence.

  34. @keanani: No, dear. I’m a big boy who can take care of himself. Sure, I had a rough day, but as I said on Twitter, “Stirred, not shaken.” We find comfort where we can. Sorry to hear about your sister. Too many heart problems all around.

    Anyway, an interesting bOINGbOING flashback. Timothy Leary and William Gibson once collaborated on a proposed Neuromancer film. I still recall the first time I ever heard of Gibson or the book. It was at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival in the dressing room where a dear fiend was reading it. (Video at the link).

  35. Hopefully you’ll get a judge with youth and common sense next time. Good luck!

  36. Very best of luck the second time round! Hope things go well!! :-) You’ll be alright…

  37. The latest Times Herald hack job:

    http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20100122/NEWS05/100122005/1025/LIFESTYLE01/Trial-scheduled-in-Watts-case

    with the standard stupidity in the comments.

  38. I can’t help but wonder what the boarder guards/prosecution hope to accomplish by going forward with this case. If it’s true that they are not going to use the video, it turns into nothing more than a “he said, she said” type of thing. That is completely unacceptable. As we all know, the brain is almost always mistaken. A videotape, however, is not!

  39. “I can’t help but wonder what the boarder guards/prosecution hope to accomplish by going forward with this case.”

    “Welcome to the party, pal!”

  40. Best of luck Peter. I wish I could send something more substantial, who knows, maybe soon. I can certainly at least see myself getting another copy of Maelstrom because I seem to have lost it. I definitely liked Blindsight and Starfish but there’s something creepy-weird about Maelstrom that made me read it like ten times. Probably more.