Paranoid in The City November 2006


One morning recently, I woke up with my head feeling a little out of balance. A little tinge on my right side. It wasn’t quite a headache or migraine. Something very subtle. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt like something was “up.” I hoped it wasn’t an early sign of a cold.

My alarm clock was set to the BBC World News. A woman with that calm, more reliable BBC British accent was reporting from South Dakota where they were experiencing record-breaking ice storms that have caused major power outages. The reporter continued to say that some scientists believe this is an indication of global warming trend, and that this winter will be extraordinarily harsh. And it looked like the storm was coming this way.

After a brief interview with three very worried top meteorologists, there was a look at the radical effects of overfishing on the delicate food chain of marine life, and a report from the government-appointed 9-11 Commission, which released a statement that the nation is still woefully unprepared for a major terrorist attack. Most vulnerable, apparently, is the water supply.

After taking a nice, wasteful hot shower in terrorist contaminants, I put on my jeans and white button front shirt that I had picked up from the dry cleaners yesterday, (probably treated with Perc, also known as tetrachloroethylene, which is suspected of causing cancer and liver and kidney disease,) and walked out onto my busy Brooklyn street, breathing in the fresh morning auto emissions air.

I bought the paper and went to get a coffee and croissant at the bakery on the corner.
While swallowing carcinogenic java and globby gluten that would probably impact in my intestines and eventually lead to Crohn’s Disease, I read about melting permafrost of the Arctic Circle releasing carbon dioxide that has been trapped underground for eons, the severe drought in the Brazilian rainforest, and how there is definitely, definitely, definitely going to be an avian flu pandemic in March.

I got a call on my cellphone from my friend Cary. I told her how my head was feeling kind of funky. She felt a little weird too, but mostly because her boyfriend’s Buddist teacher said a prominent Hindi leader told his German meditation partner that there was going to be a serious terrorist attack somewhere in America sometime in the spring that was going to “affect the food supply.” The leader was worth listening to because she also predicted the Tsunami. Cary said she was going to try to get away and go to Europe, but she could only get away for a month and wanted to know what month I thought would be a popular one with people that hated us so she could go ahead and book her ticket online. I told her that April seemed like the time to go because April, to me, is the most Springy month, when crocuses peek out of the chilly earth, buds appear on the tips of trees, there is a sense of promise in the air, and terrorists scamper out of their sleeper cells with a renewed sense of purpose.

I walked out of the bakery and onto the street, and made tentative plans to have a liver-toxifying drink that night with Cary, chatting with her on my increasingly warm cellphone which was doubling my risk of acoustic neuroma while also being wiretapped by Homeland Security.

Passing by a 99 cent store, I saw that there was a sale on bottled water. Perhaps this unbalanced feeling was just simple dehydration. I said goodbye to Cary and bought a huge 24 bottle package of Aqua Fina for only 4.99. I carried the crate of bottles back home, thinking that even though the water was probably dubiously purified and full of estrogenic monimers that leach into the water from its plastic bottle, it’s always a good idea to drink more H2O. And with so much of it, I would be able to keep hydrated when the biblically terrible winter storm struck or the well-executed terrorist event that would affect the food supply, even though the tainted water would eventually toy with my hormones and turn me into a middlesexed creature with low sperm count and tumorous breasts. I put the bottles under the sink, next to the stack of duct tape and plastic tarps I had stocked up on during the Anthrax Scare of 2002.

I thought maybe I should take the train into the city and go to Whole Foods and try to stock my refrigerator with healthy organic goods in case Spirng came early this year and I would be immobilized terrorist attack, or whopping doom-combo of attack, blizzard, earthquake, and flu strain that may leave me homebound and without use of my legs.

At my subway stop, the police had set up a bag check station. I walked by and smiled to show that I was friendly and wasn’t carrying anything dangerous, (unless I was contaminated and didn’t know it, or the pawn in some complicated tandem bombing operation, unwittingly carrying a detonator that was slipped into my bag by the elusive and well-trained Al Qaeda operatives) and slid my Metrocard through the turnstile.

While on the platform, I avoided standing near the trash bins (bomb motels) and casually looked for suspicious packages in case I needed to see something and say something. I walked to the end of the platform so I could ride in the last car to lessen the impact of an underground catastophe because terrorists always hang out in crowded middle cars or the front of the train so that when they expose their taped up vests of dynamite and jumbly wires and explode themselves, the cars directly behind them will collapse in on the first car like a metal accordion.

I tried to hold onto the pole in the car up at the top, where it was colder and hadn’t been touched by a toxic, coughing Avian Flu patient zero. At Canal Street, a bunch of loud Terrorist Target Families got on board with their shopping bags and happy, unsuspecting eyes. Right before the doors closed, two officers peered into the subway car as if there was some sort of high security alert. I found this strange because I hadn’t heard about any heightened terror alert or bomb on the 10 print, TV, radio and internet news sources I monitor, but then I thought that maybe since the last three heightened Red Code security alerts were later found out to be hoaxes, those secret government leader-guys decided to just heighten the security and not make a public announcement, which, to me, meant it was actually true this time.

Maybe that’s why my head felt so weird. It was picking up some claivoyant frequency. I tried to recall if this is the way I felt in the early morning of September 11th. Or right before the Tsunami. Or maybe when Katrina happened.

Whole Foods was packed with people. I stocked up on canned water packed tuna, which my intense anarchist friend Guy advises me are a great post-apocalypse basic, but there was so much delicious, colorful yet perishable foods, couldn’t help but buy a pre-prepared overfished salmon burger replete with mercury. Sometimes you gotta splurge!

I wanted to make it a very quick trip so I could be back on the subway before Suicide Bomber Rush Hour and I swiftly got back on the train. Once home, I called Cary to tell her that I was feeling a little off and thought I should just stay in tonight and chill out. You know, read a little Noam Chomsky, take vitamin C, give myself a testicular exam.

I turned on the TV just to make sure nothing had detonated over the past couple of hours. It soothed me when I saw Anderson Cooper’s square face made up of stern, trustworthy, serious horizontal lines. Flipping through the channels, I saw that NBC was advertising its made-for-TV movie “Category 7” The End of the World,” a follow-up to last year’s “Category 6: Day of Destruction.” It was about a deadly series of hurricanes that destroy Florida, starring Gina Gershon as a FEMA director in a tight booby sweater, Randy Quaid as a Storm-chaser, and Shannen Dougherty as a misunderstood scientist. Also that night The History Channel was showing: “Tsunami 2004 Waves of Death,” “Modern marvels: The Cannon,” Parts One and Two of the documentary “The Antichrist,” and “Katrina: American Catastrophe.”

But before I curled up on the couch for a nice relaxing night of TV, I thought I should just try to unwind a little and go for a walk. I stepped outside plugged into my i-Pod listening to “Yoga Meditation, How to Architect Your Destiny and Change Your Life,” Part Four with Wan Qi which I downloaded from the Spirituality/New Age category in the i-tunes Podcast Directory. My goal in this walk was to lessen my stress levels, because it turns out you can give yourself cancer through stress and stressful thoughts. In fact, according to experts, worrying that you may have cancer may in fact cause the cancer you worry you may have. I walked around the neighborhood past everyone’s blue recycling bags propped up on the curbs, conscientiously full of bleach bottles and Snapple containers. Wan Qi explained the difference between living life and leading life. I tried to feel aware and an architect of my destiny, which I wanted to not involve a brain tumor, but if it did, I would be fine with that.

On the middle of my block, where two trees darkened the sidewalk, a young man in a hooded jacket came up behind me, clamped his arm around my neck from behind, and pushed me to the ground.

“See this? See this?” he said, showing me his silver handgun.

“Yes. Yes I do,” I said.

He asked for my wallet, which I gave to him. He took 60 dollars and gave it back to me. He also wanted my i-Pod, which I handed over while Wan Qi explained that life is like a river in the dangling earbuds.

“No hard feelings,” my mugger said politely, “Do you need help back up?”

“No. No thank you,” I said. He walked away, and I walked home. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. It was so real and actual, it sort of threw me for a loop. I guess I had to call the police.

In the station, while I waited for the nice, efficient detective to fill out a report, I caught up on the pile of periodicals I had brought with me just in case there was some down-time. I read about the risk of getting Hepatitis from sushi, how the earth is spinning slower and slower every year, adding a second to the world clock (which may throw off the electronic systems that keep nuclear weapons in check), and how the Mayan Calendar ends at the year 2012, which in their culture marked the end of the world. The adrenaline of the mugging experience curbed my slight head-thing, but it eventually returned. And I have it right now, actually. Should I go to the doctor?

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