Saturday, November 18, 2023

Overheard at Booth 1: Disassociation Tomato - written on Nov 18

Disassociation Tomato 2023 November 18


We jumped through a portal and came out the armoire door in a hotel room.  I went over to the window and saw the downtown skyline.  It seemed like we were on the fourth or fifth floor of the hotel.

I put down my backpack on the shelf that had a chair and could be used for a desk.  Above it was a TV screen that looked like the main display panel on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.  It was a beautiful, massive screen.  It looked like it took up the space of the entire wall.  

Also, it was SO THIN.  Barely bigger than the thickness of a cigar box.

I asked Acsa how they did that – I mean, TVs have tubes and electronics and stuff in them.  These are things my friends know better than I do, but I’ve never paid attention much.  All I know is that our TV is on a big shelving unit, which is also made for my dad’s stereo equipment, and sits right on top of the space where he keeps his record collection.

This TV was mounted on the wall, and also had an arm where it could be pulled out and moved to an angle, probably so that you could see it better from the bed.

There was only one bed.

And two of us.


“I need to tell you something,” Acsa said. She took off the hat and the goggles and sat down on the edge of the bed.   “COVID is bad.  I mean, really bad.  Actually worse than the Flu Epidemic of 1919.”

“That the Spanish Flu?” I asked.

“If that’s what you guys call it, yeah.   But COVID is not only worse because it killed millions, and I mean MILLIONS across the world, but it was also worse because it destroyed the ability of people to agree on what reality is.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked her.

“It means this,” she held up her tricorder (I am not going to call it a “cell” – no way, no how, not ever.  It is a tricorder!)  “Everyone was hooked to this.  Everyone believed this.  And there were many many MANY voices on this, and they were all chattering away, and they confused so many people that many more people died.  People died who didn’t need to die.  And really, there is no amount of mathematical study of probablity or Potentialities that will ever give us an accurate number of who might have been saved and who might have lived.”

“That’s horrible!” I said.

“Yes, it is.  And now, I want to tell you, that you could have stopped this.”


That was weird.  Look, she just took me to some Mad Max post-Apolcaptic hellscape, and I’d been seeing deserted streets and empty grocery stores and people afraid to get close to each other, and everyone masked up and running around like they are all “duck and cover” and now Acsa is telling me that somehow I’m the key to all this?

I was like, “No.  No way.”   I’m not THAT guy in THOSE novels who has the secret to “save the day” and all that.  Not me.

It wasn’t me, though.  It all had to do my band, the Ardmore Gongmongers


Asca laid out the case like this:  Dan Maxwell, our bass player, the third of the triad that is the Ardmore Gongmongers, the same guy who described himself as the “John Entwistle” of the group, and wrote songs like “Cecil the Aardvark” (I heard it – it was on the iPod.  It’s HILARIOUS!) … was the same guy who COULD HAVE STOPPED COVID.

Ok, I can tell that you guys are probably rolling your eyes right now, but let me try to explain it to you the way Acsa explained it to me:  Dan, after the band broke up after college, went on to continue his studies in biology, and became a biologist working for a diabetes medicine manufacturer, looking for better diabetes drugs.

If Dan HAD NOT been in the band, he WOULD HAVE met a Chinese exchange student in his medical program, and he would have gone into the field of virology, where he and she would be married and work with both American and Chinese companies, working on treatments for various viruses – like the Spanish Flu of 1919.

What is the one way that Dan takes this course?

No Ardmore Gongmongers.

There are no Ardmore Gongmongers if I’m dead.

At 15.

By a gunshot to my head.


So that’s how it plays out.  Yeah, it’s kind of like a twisted “It’s a Wonderful Life” – kinda like what Howard the Duck experienced in Bizarre Adventures #34 (I love that issue, by the way – I have a mint copy that I keep sealed and I have a copy that I read)

I told Acsa, “Look, in a world with all these millions of people …”

“Billions,” she corrected me.

“Billions,” I said.  “Not just one guy can change things like that.”

“No,” she admitted, “Dan doesn’t make a cure for COVID or anything, but he and his wife work on a team that helps to mitigate the spread.  What they do doesn’t STOP it, but it makes it so that not everybody dies.   And when COVID is just like the flu, it never makes all the people freak out and confuse so many people.”


And to show me what happened, Acsa showed me on her tricorder.  We also spent all afternoon watching the television.

I saw people in Italy, not leaving their houses, singing to each other from their balconies.

I saw refrigerator trucks parked outside of hospitals in New York City, where they were holding all the dead because people were dying so fast and filling up their morgues.

I saw stories of people emptying shelves of toilet paper.  (Didn’t really understand the toilet paper.  I mean, come on guys, just use a washcloth if you have to!)  (I know that might sound gross, but … for real!)

Then I saw government officials of the state saying that we needed to get people back to work and if that means that they give COVID to grandma and grandpa and they die, then that’s the price to be paid to make sure that America stays strong.

That last one really hit me.  That I think weirded me out more than anything else.  That sounded like what they taught us in school that the Soviets tell their people.  DIE so that the STATE can live.

What the hell kind of place IS 2020, when my country started sounding like the Commies?


And then … she showed me the other news: the idea that spread that the government had made COVID to kill the elderly.  Ideas that the Jews had made COVID.  That the Liberals had made COVID.  That the Chinese had made COVID to kill THEIR elderly, but they just messed up and it got out of their contol.  That the Chinese had made COVID to kill AMERICANS.   

That COVID didn’t exist.
That it was just the flu, and the government was using it to control people.

Acsa said, “These were real deaths, real deaths of real people, but the real death was the truth.”

“What was the truth?” I asked her.  “What exactly IS the truth?”

“The Truth,” she told me, “is that everyone who lives anywhere HAS to agree on what reality is.   If they don’t agree on what is happening in front of their eyes, everyone dies.   Alone and scratching at each other’s eyes.”


Look, I know this is hard to believe.  This is hard for me to believe, even now.  But this is the part where I have to let you know that this is coming.  It’s coming.  It’ll be here in 35 years.  I don’t know if I’ll be still around to see it – I mean, to see it AGAIN.  But it’s real.  

Acsa knew it only as the past, because she was born decades after it.   But for her, it was still in the memories of those who’d lived through it, and there had been a lot of “sorting out” she called it, to determine what could reliably be called the “truth” because the survivors who had lived through it were the ones who had completely different sides.  

Which is weird, because all the old people I know are in total agreement: they all grew up in the Depression, they all fought in World War II, they all lived through the 50s and saw their kids become adults in the 60s, and they all agree that everyone my age has it good and that none of us would ever be able to live through the same kind of hardships they had when they were all 15 years old.

Acsa’s old people are completely different.  Half of them say that the world was ripped apart by COVID, and the other half say that COVID never happened and no one ever died, and that the other half just created COVID in their minds in order to try to take their guns away.

I can kinda see why Acsa wanted to spend most of her time with dragons rather than with people.

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