"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 12 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.



[Light House]

Past 2 AM, raining. There was no

one to email, no one to talk to,

simply the company of my own

indwelling self-doubt monsters

and longings ill-becoming my

station. What there was, was to hit

Alta Vista and get into trouble.



Of course, I wanted to trick the

machine, skeptical it could do

anything for me. I gave it a

string that I was sure it

couldn't find, that of my Great

Lost Love (elsewhere referred to

as Dirk Van Hooeven, whose

absence is always present, much

like the red-shift of receding

stars). I typed in Dirk's name

and waited for Alta Vista to

stall. As far as I knew, Dirk, a

high-ranking officer in the

cabals of global finance, had

nothing to do with the Net

land-grab or the silliness of

personal Web pages or anything

tasteless or technologically

off-point, ever.


But the infernal machine came up

with nine matches - my jaw would

have dropped if there had been a

human interpreter to see it.


[Patsy Cline]

Ghost traces of Dirk in HTML, he

existed in the form of

portfolio-management conference

proceedings, official bios and

agendas. Business-to-business

marketing on the Web had placed

him within my grasp for sicko

late-night lonesome cowgirl




And if I wanted to, right then

and there in the privacy of my

own home, I could have ordered a

two-hour tape of Dirk talking

(about the latest in barely

legal financial chicanery, no

doubt. No matter). For only 30

dollars I could have delivered

by snailmail, in plain brown

businessy wrapping, his patented

chesty rumble that had always

made me go mush. I thought about

making the purchase - but I

couldn't do it.


Too humiliating, too akin to my

feeling about sex toys - sad and

shoddy phantasms of Genuine



[Good Vibrations]

I scanned the rest of the

listings. I could tell he'd

moved back to New York from

L.A., changed jobs. If I wanted

to, I could now call him at his

to-me new Manhattan office and

say, "Hey, Dirk, 'play Misty for

me' !"


I logged off, aghast and

encoeure. I hadn't meant to, yet

in using Alta Vista I had become

a snoop, stalking Dirk online.

And I knew that from now on, I

would probably be able to trace

his whereabouts, his career -

better and faster and cheaper

than the use of any private

detective. Unless Dirk ceased

from being a financial

double-alpha, as Business went

more and more online, it would

be easier and easier to be

up-to-date on his life.


[Play Misty]

I had done something really



Nevertheless I couldn't help

myself - having seen what Alta

Vista could do with Dirk, who

didn't really belong in

cyberspace, I wanted to see what

it would do with Wretch, who



Wretch, my first date in two

years and head technologist for

an entertainment combine (call

it FlameBoyCo). Wretch was much

inclined to giving good quote

about better business practices

on the Net. And while nothing

had ever really happened between

me and Wretch, like a splinter

under the skin, he was a foreign

body my system of

psychoneuro-immunology was

taking a long time to dissolve.



Since Wretch, unlike Dirk, did

have a vanilla, probably-would-


kinda name - let's say "Charles

Forbes" - I did a search on

"Charles Forbes and FlameBoy."



Sure enough, Alta Vista was happy

to show me Wretch - sounding

like his usual charismatic/flake

self. I could just imagine his

intonations, his moues,

his practiced

aw-shucks-knock'em-dead force,

as I read the transcript of a

radio interview with him and

another net business expert guy.

It brought Wretch back vividly;

a shameful flareup of the

infatuation I had tamped down

months before.


Still, I was into it; I had to go

for it.



I re-engaged with the accursed

Alta Vista, called up his

listings again. And then the

strangest damned thing happened:

I was directed to a bunch of

queer websites. Hunh? I skimmed

them with increasing dismay -

until I ran across the mention

of the outing of Forbes and

Flameboy. Flameboy, the

eponymous founder of the company

Wretch worked for, was famously

gay in Hollywood.


I logged off again. Was that what

it had been? That Wretch, in

spite of his statements ("I'm

not gay") and actions (bragging

about how much money he made had

appeared to be a ty-pi-cal

Regular Guy display to impress a

female he wanted to bed) to the

contrary - was gay? I'd had

reasons to wonder, and it would

be much nicer to ascribe his

herkyjerky/hotcold behavior to

sexual indeterminacy. Better a

closet case than (as a friend

said), "a lovely turd."


I thought about what had the look

and feel of an unwanted

discovery. At the very least, it

didn't seem right that the Web

should be the means for outing a

former potential object of




I sat at my computer, motionless,

the screen still carrying

evidence of this latest

adventure in data-mining,

apparently so incriminating of

Wretch. Nauseated at what could

be retrieved by anyone about

anyone, or what could appear to

be retrieved; totally thrown by

what maybe it seemed I had come

across (being lied to, a closet

life). Then it came to me: Alta

Vista in its machine

literal-mindness had

approximated my Charles Forbes

with the outed Malcolm Forbes (a

close, not exact, match).



And though I was able to salvage

my mate-hunting amor-propre (and

maintain the historic good

hit-rate of my hyper-sensitive

Martian perceptual apparati), I

remained disturbed that it was

so easy to have drawn the wrong

conclusions, extracted the wrong

"information," done research

assumed to be correct because

done by computer - when because

of the ways humans fill in the

spaces in between - it was




With some relief, Wretch slipped

back into the category I had

constructed for him with much

will and reluctance months

before - like the Doubtful Case

in Camus's The Plague, Wretch

remained ambivalent for damned

sure, but probably not about the

gender of those he wanted to toy



[Alta Vista]

By 4 AM, I finally finished my

network antics, after trying out

the name of my ex-husband, the

name of the second guy I'd slept

with (a draft-dodger I had

fallen in love with when I had

been a 15-year-old runaway), and

the first of my smooth-talking

good-looking S.O.B.'s (an

erratically brilliant CalTech

undergrad who had gone down in

history as my first encounter

with my weakness for polymath

sociopaths). Thank goddess none

of them were there.


And Dirk wouldn't know, and

Wretch wouldn't know, that I had

been sidling up to them for



Yet when I logged out for the

last time, I was afraid of email

that might await me from Wretch

or Dirk. Somehow, through the

genius of magical thinking, my

scare at getting caught lead me

to fear they might link back to

me through my linking to their

names on the Web.


[United Colors]

The guilt about acting furtive

was about as rational as the

atavistic fear of contagion that

erupted as I had held the hand

of my best friend as he lay

dying of AIDS in San Francisco

General Ward 5A. Though I knew

better, I had still gotten

tested a few months later. So it

was with assuming my lost

subjects-for-limerance would be

able to tell I had been pawing

at them electronically, like a

possum or chipmunk scrabbling

through papers on their desks. I

was afraid of little trackmarks

or scuffles, signs of



It had become clear even before

the sun came up that I could be

updated on the WorldWideWeb life

of Dirk and Wretch as each week

Alta Vista enhanced and

refreshed itself. And I knew I

would not do it. The gesture was

sneaky and unclean. Unrequited

love should more honorably be

left where it's always belonged:

in the the body - the head and

the heart - and not in

discorporated electronic pulses

of intelligent agents - of those

who pine.


courtesy of Justine