That Was Some Experiment

Ftrain author really a commie!

Workers of the world, get dressed. Straighten your bowtie. Your wife smooths her lipstick as the cab goes north, up to the lower sixties.

It's Mayday, and there's an event for Children with Phomalasis. If you could just write a check and not shoehorn into this tux. Fundraiser hypocrisy--they never invite the hungry kids themselves. Imagine the children, ragged and oozing, standing in a gaunt cluster on the ballroom floor. The horrified celebrants turning away in shame. You grin darkly, looking out the wet cab window.

Pad the fare with an extra buck for the Indian driver. He's dot, not feather. Inside, check your raincoat, and look for who you know.

You mumble to your wife, "Christ, is Prada a sponsor?" You see hundreds of white people, milling in tight black clothes, framed in red bunting along the windows. It's as sharp as a Russian poster, but without tractors.

People laugh about a new commercial that ran tonight, a thirty second collage of grainy monochrome rally footage, tanks on parade, and yelling faces. You saw it on a show you're ashamed to watch.

The voice-over:

Because for every Lenin there's a Stalin,
For every letter to the editor, there's a knock at the door,
For every hint of rebellion, an enforced famine,
For every agricultural minister, dead agriculturalists who disagreed.

Because the people need to run from themselves....
Nike May Day Running Shoes

Because the people need to run from themselves....
Nike May Day Running Shoes

"I never saw anything like it," you say, after a fifth G and T. Long live the revolution of the compact disc, hard drive, ceiling fan, Aerobie, bicycle wheel, and hula hoop. The charity ball circles the sun. The earth twists; you spin your coworker's wife, her smile orbits your own. Wheels within wheels, of fortune, steel wheels of tanks in the commercial, the round toothed gears on which you were supposed to throw your body. All revolve. Will not be televised. You start to speak all this out loud, then feel the wobble in your hips and taste the lime in your mouth.

"Never saw anything like what?" your dance partner asks. You only laughing, your dancing sloppy.

The night folds over. The rain has stopped. Generous and sweaty, you hand a homeless woman two dollar bills, your wife's bare arm crooked in your black sleeve. A mistake: the woman is not begging, she's crazy, giving out leaflets at two AM. She shakes her dark head and hands back your cash with a trifold pamphlet.

Embarassed, take your arm from your wife and raise it for a cab, flexing your fingers into cloudy space. You skim the pamphlet in the street's orange glow. On an inside panel, along with all the other invective:

nike mayday sneak ers
(5 lines that make a fist)

the tiny red flag
embroidered by sweaty
child hands, the thimble
loose as a beret on the

This is printed at a right angle inside a contour sketch of a raised hand. Each line is inside another finger; the last line is printed at an angle to fill the thumb. The palm is inscribed with handwritten capitals:


You read it as "hold any onto revolution your comes round swoosh 360 degrees," and stuff the pamphlet into your pocket.

Stooping into the cab, tilt your head and think: let's hope that's in Kelvin, not Celcius.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

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Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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