Elysian Fields and the Professor

Mel claimed his interviewee never showed up. As I replied to his email, he sent another. The guy just appeared, out of breath and frazzled, but not apologetic. The man claimed it was his right as a forgetful professor to be perpetually late. Oh, well. He is or was Albert Einstein. They’re all dead over there, you know.


“Sir. I really must protest–”

“Ach. That’s just silly, Mel. Who cares if I’m a little late? What I have to tell you is very important. As if anyone is listening on the bright side.”

I knew bright meant, the old alive world, but I protested anyway. “Over four hundred people tuned in last week. That’s not too–”

“Only four hundred! That’s pathetic young man. Thousands, millions used to hang on my every word. Why in my day–”

“Yes, sir, I understand. But if I’m going to make this by press time, we’ll have to hurry along.”

“Sure, sure,” Einstein said. “Let’s do this thing.” He laughed at his own modernism. “I rant not, but for those who refuse to embrace the changes of today, are doomed in the future. “

I said, “That’s kind of an old theme, really, professor.”

“Hang on, Mel. I’m just warming up. What I’m trying to say is the future has to be smart about chasing their dreams. Look at Artificial Intelligence. It’s going to be an inevitable part of everyone’s lives. There is no denying, just as there was no avoiding cars with computer chips getting terrific gas mileage. I remember my old 1954 Buick convertible got eleven miles to a gallon with a wind behind her. No wait, that wasn’t my car. Hmm. I forget who owned it.”

“Maybe it belonged to–”

“It’s not important. Do you remember your favorite Granny refusing to give the internet a try? I seemed to recall she even covered up the camera with a dishcloth.”

I laughed. How did he know that? “Not so funny today though with hackers getting into everyone’s computers. I wonder how she could have been so far ahead of everyone.”

“We’re all grannies in our way, you see. But, not keeping up with our changing world is tantamount to signing ourselves into nursing home oblivion.”

“We could always live off the grid,” I said.

“They didn’t tell me you were so argumentative, Mel,” Einstein said. “That’s good, very good. But we’ll not stop the clock either this year or in fifty. And, going quietly into the abyss or to our reward doesn’t seem to fit the generations alive today. Even if there are things they need to know and aren’t willing to learn, I say thank goodness they’re out there making everyone feel uncomfortable.

I said nothing. It sounded like he was on a roll.

“Did you know your Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s didn’t accept the status quo either? The 80’s was my generation. 1880’s, that is.” He laughed at his own joke. “We were our own protectors and innovators who steadied the egg crates for new generations of visionaries.”

“I read a little about this, sir. It seems today, Gen Z and Alpha are just waiting their turn.”

“Good!” he nearly yelled. “That’s good. We couldn’t break the chain if we wanted … and we don’t. Be you a fledging author or an experimenting gardener determined to clip and nip your way to sustainability nirvana, we who sit in the stands support you. Be innovative. Try new things. In fact, when you run the race, we will be your cheering section. If you stumble, we pick you up. If you’re thirsty, we have water.”

Einstein walked away, saying something I couldn’t catch. I have no idea how the dead are supposed to cheer anyone on. He stop and yell back for me to pass along one more thing.

“Tell the whole bunch of them not to quit and never, never let the bastards see you sweat.”


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