"I'll be damned if I can find a place to park." He said aloud to no one. He was alone in the car.
The street was slick from a rain storm that had passed hours before. There was no good reason to keep the windshield wipers going. Aldo did. First setting them on "full", until the wipers screeched, then switching them to "intermittent". This proved unsatisfactory. The windshield just smeared.
"Better to get out and walk." He pulled the car over to the curb. He wasn't sure he was supposed to park there or not. The street was very narrow, European close with cobble stones. Aldo doubted that another vehicle could get by him, even if it went up on the curb. Maybe it was "One Way". He thought. There was no sign indicating that was the case. "Should make a note of that." Aldo told himself.
He pressed the "Secure" button on his keylock and a disembodied voice addressed him in official sounding tones.
"The vehicle is secure."
"Right." Aldo said and started walking. His footsteps echoed loudly. Aldo smiled. They sounded like audio from the film "The Third Man". He almost expected Orson Welles to step suddenly out of the shadows. In fact, the whole area seemed very familiar. Residential at first, then there would be shops down that way. Hmmm. He would look for light and noise. Perhaps some music.
Down a narrow street he saw an archway. The archway framed a square from where yellow light and soft music issued."Now that's more like it." Aldo said aloud, moving toward the sights and sounds of human activity. He was not disappointed. The square was alive with people, shoppers, tourists, and street vendors. The square was a covered affair so the cobble stones were dry.
He moved along with the crowd, entering the stream of people moving past shops and sellers hawking wares from makeshift stands. The faces that turned toward him smiled warmly, even though he knew no one.
"The music changed. Until that moment, the audio had been particularly without distinction. Now, was jazz -- cool, low and sensuous."
As he neared a stand loaded with brass bells he stopped. The gray beard vendor smiled a toothless smile. Aldo nodded and tried to look interested in the array of hand crafted gift items that only tourists would buy. He failed but the Bell Seller took no offense. He simply turned his attention to a MicroTV hanging on a post next to him. On screen were two men:
GUEST: "He never said that!"
HOST: "But, he's often quoted ..."
GUEST: "I know. What he said was that we might be better served not to think in terms of cause and effect but in terms of information streams and pressures."
HOST: "Okay. I think I understand. But, what then was his contribution..."
GUEST: "His contribution was that he insisted his method could be validated using historical data."HOST: "Umm. Could you give us an example?"
GUEST: "Right. One example he, himself used was World War Two. Instead of thinking of the events that led up to the war, and the prosecution of the war itself, as a series of separate causes and effects but rather as streams that produced pressures...."
HOST: "I'm sorry but you are losing me here. Like what sorts of pressures?"
GUEST: "Well, like pressure produced by the personalities involved. For instance if Roosevelt had not been President of the United States and Churchill had not been there to lead England in the Battle of Britain, and so on."
HOST: "So how does that lead to information streams?"
GUEST: "Well people create and process information. We perform information actions. Everything we do can be considered as an information act, so one needs only to gather, and evaluate the quantity, quality and nature of the information available to understand the phenomena under consideration."
HOST: "Like the causes of wars?"
GUEST: "Sure, but not just wars, but everything. The key is the shift in the way of thinking from lock-step Newtonian, cause and effect, to a more Quantum, broad streams, flows and pressures methodology."
HOST: "I see, and that's easy to do?"
GUEST: "Heck no! That's almost too hard for anyone to do."
The old vendor laughed.
"Ja, Ja!" He said, looking up at Aldo, who just smiled in agreement.
Aldo allowed the surging crowd to carry him along around the square until he found himself deposited at the entrance to a restaurant. He tried to read the name of the restaurant, but couldn't. On the metal plate above the doorway, he could only make out the hazy outline of the words: "Two Loose Street". Obviously, some sort of error he figured on entering.
It was dark inside. Aldo stood in the lobby a moment, to let his eyes adjust. When they did, he could clearly see polished wood, red and white checkered tablecloths, candles stubbed down in smoked glass; all standard stuff.
He decided to sit at one of the booths that lined the stucco wall on his right. There seemed no point in waiting for someone to seat him since no one seemed to be in the place. He seated himself. The plush cushions hissed as he settled into the booth. He caught the scent of leather, lemon polish, clean, fresh-pressed cotton, and burning candle wax, all at once. At the same time he noticed the strains of music that issued unseen around him. He hated that. You never could seem to pin-point where the music was coming from. It was just there, all around you. Aldo found such experiences unsettling, but was able to shrugged it off. He recognized the feeling as a matter of personal taste. Others obviously reacted differently.
He settled back to observe the whole of the restaurant. There was a bar, across the dining room from him. For the first time, Aldo noticed that there was a bartender. The man stood in the precise middle of the bar from the two ends, polishing glasses with a white drying cloth. Aldo thought the towel the man was using was a bit too white. In fact, Aldo might not have noticed the bartender at all except for the movement of white he spotted. "Maybe that was the idea." Aldo thought. It would be something he would ask George. In the meantime, no one came to his table. The bartender starred absent-mindedly ahead, polishing the glasses. Aldo checked his watch. Immediately afterward a man entered the restaurant. He was wearing a green suit, with a white shirt and a red tie. He scanned the restaurant and went to a seat at a table. For many moments nothing happened. Then another man entered the restaurant. He could have been the brother to the man who first entered. The second man wore a blue suit, white shirt and solid-red tie. He walked to where the first man sat. They exchanged words in a low tone. Aldo couldn't make out what they were saying. After a minute or two, the man in the green suit stood up and left the restaurant. The second man sat for several minutes in silence. He too then left the restaurant. Aldo checked his watch again. Almost immediately, another man entered the restaurant. He too scanned the dining room before picking out a place to seat himself. This time a booth was selected. Aldo couldn't see what The man was doing if anything. No waiter appeared to take the man's order. After a moment the man got out of the booth and left the restaurant. "Well that works." Aldo said aloud. Within a heartbeat, a waiter appeared at Aldo's side. The waiter handed Aldo a menu and then disappeared.
The music changed. Until that moment, the audio had been particularly without distinction. Now, was jazz -- cool, low and sensuous.
"Let's sit here." A man's voice first then that of a woman. Okay". Aldo saw them round a palm and make straight for a table in the middle of the dining room. They sat across from each other. A handsome couple. Aldo thought he might have seen them someplace before. "Was it the cruise line couple?" He wondered. Both were in their mid-twenties. Dress was conservative for both. Hers, a black "V" neck dress, black patent leather handbag with strap. His, a dark blue business suit, white cottonLook shirt and dark, almost purple, red tie. "Right out of the box." Skittered across Aldo's mind.
"What I mean to say..." The man continued as the waiter appeared from somewhere in the shadows to lay menus before the couple. "What I mean to say is, you've got to have some kind of a goal."
"I have a goal." The woman replied. Her voice was pleasant. Aldo hoped there would be something in it that would interest him. There wasn't. Not that the voice was wrong. No, it was simply ordinary. "Right out of the box."
"No, I don't mean that." The man leaned forward. "Everybody has goals. I have goals, you have goals, even your brother Louie has goals." He glanced at her to see if she would bite on that one. She didn't. In fact she simply turned the page of the menu.
"I'm listening." She said glancing up.
"I mean something you've got a stake in."
"I've got a stake in things."
"My car. I still owe on it..."
"No, no." The man leaned back. "That's exactly what I mean. We have a stake in things, objects, stuff. But, we don't have a stake in anything for real!"
"Keep your voice down." The woman cautioned.
"And what if I don't?" The man teased. "What's at stake if I don't?"
The woman looked the man coolly in the eye. "Dinner with me." She said evenly.
"Are you ready to order?" The waiter stood at the man's elbow but his question was directed at the woman. She examined the menu intently.
"Oh, no." Aldo thought to himself. "Please no."
"I think I'll have the Steak Tartar." The woman said.
Aldo groaned. He got up and walked out of the restaurant. It was still night. But everything had changed. The square was no longer crowded. There were but a few stalls still open. Even the light looked strained. The yellow of it was joyless. Aldo headed for where he had parked the car. The faces that turned as he passed were haunted. Aldo couldn't tell if from fear or anger. He quickened his steps. Down an alley and a left. Was he being followed? Aldo wasn't sure. He stopped and listened several times. Once he thought he heard footsteps that stopped, as if waiting for him to proceed.
Once at the car, he pushed the button to unlock the door. He slid behind the wheel. He closed his eyes, waited a beat, and pulled the visor down.
"Well. Whatd ya think." George asked. Aldo opened his eyes. His friend stood next to him, looking at the scene on the computer screen. The computer displayed the first person perspective view from the driver's seat of the car. A few rain drops spattered the windshield before George turned away and looked keenly at Aldo."It's buggy as hell." He said.
"I know, I know. I'm still workin' it." George said glumly.
"I liked it." Aldo said to cheer up his friend. George brightened.
Aldo nodded. He did like it. He liked the look and feel of the interior and exterior spaces. It felt comfortable. He pressed the "Enter" key and a list of "errors" scrolled down.
"I sometimes wonder if life isn't like that". He said.
"What?" George responded.
"Reality, full of errors. It's just that we can't see the error messages. There's no de-bugger loaded in the program that runs the Universe."
George looked seriously at his friend. "You know what I think?" He said.
"What?" Aldo replied.
"I think you've been doing this a little too long. Time for a break," George added. "How about some food"?
"Sure". Aldo set the visor down next to the keyboard.
"What do you feel like?" George asked.
"Anything." Aldo said with a sigh. "Anything but steak."