This early morning in the pre-dawn I see a wolf briskly walking the other side of the road that faces our home. It is a lonely road this early hour before the birds leave their nest, or any colors emerge from the shadows. Our home sits alone on this stretch of street, and the wolf and I are semi-acquainted. He or she is wary of me but not unduly disturbed by my presence. He will not increase his pace or detour into the woods, but will turn his head in my direction to show me the feral flash of yellow from his wild eyes, the only color in the gray morning. I suspect the wolf is headed home to his den after a night of hunting. Across the road lies undisturbed forest that stretches into southern Missouri. Caverns pocket this whole area, and I suspect he has found one with an opening that serves as his lair. I only refer to this wolf as male because of his size. He is far too big in height and girth to be pure coyote. He is a wolf dog, some odd mix of coyote with a very large domestic dog. Whatever the blend is, it has the look of an authentic wolf, one that has just walked off the page of a Grimm’s Brothers Fairy Tale, or maybe the wolf made famous by Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” There is zero chance it could ever be mistaken for a domestic dog or a common coyote. It is a viscerally pleasing way to start my day.
This morning we back our road weary but durable Ford F150 out of our driveway. It is loaded with a craft tent, pop up tables, and an assortment of birdhouses and wall décor made from reclaimed wood. We are headed to the Bentonville square where we will join our gypsy brethren to sell our wares at the Farmer’s market. There is not much produce this early, beyond asparagus and leafy greens, but there are handmade soaps, organic eggs, grass fed beef, goat cheese, leather workers, ironsmiths, and plenty of musicians who showcase their talent, or lack of it, with their instrument cases open and suggestively primed with a few crumpled bills.
In the semi-darkness we set up our booth and I wander off, with the blessings of my wife, who wants her space and private time. This morning when I leave she is wrapped in a blanket with a book in her hands. Nothing much will happen for crafters until later in the morning. Much of our business is with repeat customers, who as a rule my wife remembers, complete with their names. For me, names and faces are stored in some distant part of the brain I seldom visit.
This morning I don’t want to lose my parking space, so I hoof it four blocks to McDonalds for oatmeal and coffee. Paper read, oatmeal and coffee consumed, I exit the double doors where a man is struggling with a baby buggy between the doors. Looking out and up at me is a brown eyed precocious one year old who is downloading data with her brand new brain .
Tom, the father pushing this carriage, has also walked the four blocks from the square, where his ten year old son has set up a booth selling lemon bars. Tom and I converse on the way back The carriage takes the full width of the paved walk so I walk on the grass beside him dodging tree limbs. Tom is an import from New Jersey and teaches cyber-security classes at Walmart. I share with him my paranoia about Facebook and the data they collect, and joke about our rug robot mapping our room layouts and selling the info to Nebraska Furniture. He has his own bigger problems. He tells me that every day there are 1 .5 million attempts made to hack into Microsoft’s Cloud System. His conversation is feeding my paranoia. He tells me to leave my phone within earshot and discuss a trip to Disneyworld or the Bahamas with my wife and see if we don’t get some advertisements for those destinations. Jiminy Jumpin Jesus, do I now have to worry about the lethal threats my wife makes on our Commander in Chief, or about the ominous dialogue my phone picks up from Netflix murder dramas? I have apparently sent a few disturbing text messages while simultaneously voice texting and watching Longmire or Dexter. Even though the TV is ten feet away from my recliner it picks up dialogue from the set.
Tom is a gregarious friendly guy and shares a lot of information. It appears we are all being tracked and targeted by cell phones, fit bits, smart refrigerators, and those handy virtual assistants like Sirius and Echo. These clever devices we purchase compromise our personal privacy.
As we wait for the walk signal within sight of the tents surrounding the granite statue of a Confederate General in the center of the square I ask Tom the question that has been bothering me since I started this blog back in August of 2017. Should I be worried about sharing my blog publicly on Facebook? It’s been handy to share family history with kinfolk and friends spread all across the country, and sometimes out of the country. This useful technology comes with a dark underside I worry about. Sharing too much information might be useful for a scammer or hacker to use in the future. I don’t get a definitive answer from Tom, but he doesn’t say much to allay my fears. He introduces me to his son who is wearing a white shirt with a black tie looking like a very young Walmart executive, while another boy about his age in ragged shorts and t-shirt rips by on his skateboard.
I check in on my wife to give her a potty break. She likes to use the clean restrooms at the Walmart Museum that is housed in the original 5 and 10 dime store owned by Sam Walton. In the museum store you can buy a slinky, Teaberry gum and other items reminiscent of the fifties. She hands me a hundred dollars worth of mixed bills she uses to make change with, and heads toward the museum store. I fold the money and put it my billfold. She returns with a Chai tea and takes my cell phone because the Square App for credit cards on her phone is not working. Without a worry about practical matters in the real world I wander off again with all the cash she handed me before her potty break. I am now unreachable because she has both of our phones. I find out hours later I left her with only one dollar.
I wander guilt free towards the 21 C hotel which is the epicenter for the current Film Festival that fosters diversity. Geena Davis and Meg Ryan are milling about talking with visitors outside the hotel. I head to the tents behind the hotel and unknowingly breach the security perimeter where guards are keeping people out because the area is not open until 11 a.m. There is everything from Barbie Doll displays to new security apps to shield your privacy. Two booth operators who are just setting up beckon me over to field test their virtual reality demonstration. I place the monstrous goggles on my noggin and strap myself into a chair that resembles one used in executions. I have never tried virtual reality and naively don’t ask why I need a seatbelt. I gave up the adrenaline rush of roller coasters thirty years ago but soon I’m on a dizzying death defying coaster ride with my adrenal glands in overdrive. I’m wondering if this would count as my annual stress test. I can turn my head in any direction for a 360 degree panoramic view and at the end of the stomach churning ride I am abruptly launched out into space over the ocean. I can see where this is going. Soon I will be able to experience a Wallenda like walk on a tight rope over the Royal Gorge or bypass security at the Trump Tower and launch myself off its roof in a squirrel suit. Those morons paying millions of dollars to Elon Musk for a ride on Space-X are just wasting their money. Too soon I’ll be able to take the same ride for little of nothing with virtual reality headgear sitting in the safety of my nursing home wheel chair.
The creaky outdated computer attached to my neck from birth directs me to the Bentonville library and the comfortable chair that sits by the sunny window in the periodical section. After scanning some half dozen current issues of magazines like New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and Mother Earth, I take a short nap of forty winks, but I wasn’t really counting. Refreshed, I return to the square at “High Noon” and am met with a withering “look,” that “look” that spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e, with a capital T. I am let off with a warning and probation because most of her customers used the credit app on my phone, paid with cash, or used the ATM machine in front of the Arvest Bank.
Since that day at the Market last week I have returned to the question I asked Tom. “Should I be worried about posting this blog publicly?” Since my first blog last August I have had over two thousand page views. .Known family members read the blog from Puerto Rico and Ecuador, but I have had page views from unknown people in sixteen other countries, including Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Recently I had 42 page views from Russia that doubled in a day to 84 page views. I don’t think this is some average Russian curious about Americans. Am I being targeted by some Russian troll factory? I think this suspicious statistic answers the question of “should I be worried?”
I will be taking the blog out of the public domain. I will continue to alert friends and family on Facebook, and share it with them privately if they want to read it. I will leave what’s out there intact and accessible but from this point forward new blogs will be private.
I started out describing the ghostlike feral wolf that passes our home so early that there is only his gray outline and the flash of feral yellow from the iris of his eyes. I’m not sure what draws me to him? There seems to be to some embedded magnetic attraction between canines and man. It must go back to the dawn of civilization when some primeval wolf circled the campsite of some prehistoric hunter. Staying just outside the reach of light emanating from the fire it was not stalking the man, but curious. I like to think of this wolf that frequents the road that faces my home as a throwback to those early inquisitive wolves that led to the lasting bond between canines and modern man.
I’m aware that I may have augmented the image of this wolf with my imagination and failing senses. I’m also reminded that that the flash of yellow from his eyes is only a wavelength that my brain converts to yellow. Yellow and every other color in the spectrum are only wavelengths that do not exist in the real world. They exist only in our minds. I will take a pass on questioning the existence of things outside my mind for now.
This wolf may only be in my head, but I wait for the next sighting of him with unexplainable eagerness. He is a reminder of a past life that was not so complicated and cluttered with digital toys and devices that separate us from the real world as we once knew it.
Postscript Caveat –
Be cautious what you share on the web on your medical history, especially those who have had their DNA tested for specific genes that affect health. As a hypothetical example, let’s say a man has his DNA tested by “23andMe” and finds he has a set of genes that code him for a short life due to cardiac failure. If he puts his DNA test on the web to find relatives, he could unwittingly make the info available to insurance providers. Down the line his children might find they are uninsurable because of that trait in their gene pool. Most companies like “23andMe” are reputable but you put your trust in the hands of the site administrators. There’s also the possibility the information could be hacked in the future. Just saying!