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Cosmic Debris
by Gary Greenberg

Labors of Love

July 1999--T-minus ten, nine, eight, seven… 

   Here I sit, poised at the cluttered command console of the spaceship Cosmic Café, ready to fight multiple G-forces as I blast off into the vast frontier of cyberspace. Just like astronauts here in the tail end of the 20th Century, I’m aboard a craft that doesn’t have "reverse" on the gear shift or "slow" on the throttle. Nor does it seem to have much in the way of an emergency escape mechanism.

    I’m taking off anyway. The die is cast. The fuse is lit. I quit my job. The adventure begins as soon as this darn rocket takes off...

    But I seem to be stuck on the launch pad, the countdown frozen at T-minus something or another. I’ve had some techni%$#cal pro...problems similar to the non-technical problems my wife Nora faced while giving birth to our son Glen. Her problems resulted in 40 hours of labor, the most remarkable thing of which has been its propensity to increase by approximately one hour per year. Or so says my wife, whose claims I can’t refute without facing a chilling, nostril-flared glare accompanied by a haughty insinuation that I couldn’t possibly know the pain of childbirth,
which I tend to believe since I can’t even bear the pain of hearing about the pain of childbirth.

    Anyway, by Glen’s next birthday his mother’s labor will be up to 45 hours, and when he turns my age, it will no doubt be an astounding 85 hours.

    As I sit here waiting for my newly fashioned website to be uploaded, my thoughts keep drifting back to the excitement and sheer fright of bringing a real flesh and blood being into the world. I wondered how I’d support a child when I hadn’t proven especially adept at even supporting
myself. Would this mean large-scale lifestyle changes? Would I  have to switch to from imported beer to domestic? I was scared, but I kept telling myself what my father had always said, that life is just one adventure after another.

    The Cosmic Café is my latest adventure. I remember the moment when it was conceived, five or six years ago. I was teaching English composition at Florida International University and my wife and I had talked about what a good idea it would be to open up a New Age style café that would
serve coffee and snacks while selling healing crystals, therapeudic incense, new age books, new age music and assorted other mystical, magical new age merchandise.

    As I was leaving the university to drive home one day, I got caught by the light at the entrance. I waved to a poet named Elisa who was in the next lane, lit a cigarette and thought of the name Cosmic Café. I told my Cosmic Cafe logowife about it when I got home, and she agreed that it was a great name. But that’s all it remained for several years, in part because our world was about to be invaded by a little alien life force.

    As far as we can tell, that little life force began on the night of my rugby team’s annual banquet, when four of the rugby wives were pregnant and in a circle talking and Nora joked about not getting too close to them. We didn’t realize she’d caught the same bug for a couple of months, till the home pregnancy test came up positive. At that point, I chased my wife as she ran around the house pulling her long black hair and screaming that her life was over, finally catching up with her after she’d flung herself face-down on our bed, crying and kicking and pounding her fists.

    She adjusted quickly once the initial shock wore off and grew radiant, glowing ever more as she grew and grew and grew. At five months she looked seven, at seven she looked nine and as the ninth month drew to a close, she looked as though she were about to give birth to a bouncing baby manatee. Fittingly, she went into labor on Labor Day, but it lasted until the day after Labor Day, or actually until the night of the day after Labor Day, 40…41…42….43….44 hours and still counting.

    Hopefully, the Cosmic Café’s birth won’t take that long. It’s probably happening as I write this sentence. My attempts to deliver my own cyber-child were thwarted numerous times by hardware and/or software glitches, many of which took place in the vast technical wasteland between my ears. So my friends at are uploading the Cosmic Café for me during their lunch break. 

    There, it must be done already, seeing how long it took me to struggle over that last paragraph, not to mention fielding a call from a computer named Bob who wanted to sell me a time-share unit in Orlando. And so, I now have a presence in cyberspace, floating comfortably in weightless
orbit along with a billion other pieces of cyber debris…

    Funny I should say that. I just received a call from’s Kathy telling me that she too was experiencing some technical difficulties which were, of course, my fault. Apparently, some capital letters managed to invade my file names, and my server, unlike my website-building program, is case sensitive. No doubt, the capital letters are getting even for a newspaper column I recently wrote in which I use no capitals. I taunt them, tease them and suggest that their time is limited in the dawning cyber-age of e-mail and www addresses. I suppose they’re exacting their revenge now. Kathy says that it’s not a difficult problem to correct, just time-consuming.

    So the labor continues, and I can only hope that it won’t go on and on for 40 (or more) hours, like my wife’s ever-expanding labor did on that fateful September day/night in ’94.

    The birthing room at the hospital was cozy and calming, lights dim as candles, air accented with incense and filled with soothing,  seamless New Age music. I’d brought enough tapes for about eight hours and after a while just let ‘Celtic Mysteries’ play round and round until Nora, all bloated and sweaty and ready to pop, whose epidural only took on one side and for hours had been in the kind of excruciating pain no man will ever know, screamed at me to shut off ‘Celtic Mysteries’ before she did something with the tape was probably physically impossible.

    By eight p.m., when the obstetrician’s HMO fees kicked into overtime, the doctor appeared and announced  what our nurse, Nora, I and probably even the fetus had known for hours…that she would need a Caesarean section. Nora sounded like a punch-drunk Rocky Balboa in the final rounds of his fight against Apollo Creed. "Cut me, doc," she cried. "Cut me."

    "Okay," he replied, checking his watch. "We have another one to do first, maybe in an hour."

    If my wife had had a gun at that point, there would have been one less lousy obstetrician in the universe. But at least we were down to the last hour, which turned out to be closer to two. I comforted Nora in that dark and cozy birthing room, till suddenly we were thrust into a bright, frigid OR where they strapped my wife to a table like Jesus on the cross and quickly erected a curtain over her distended midriff. From that point on, things moved fast as the doctors cut open my wife and pulled out my son, crying and screaming and otherwise letting the world know he’d arrived.


    And now, so too has the Cosmic Café arrived. It is no longer confined to the belly of my computer, but is its own entity with its own IP number, exposed to the world and viewable by anyone with a computer, modem and phone line. Should I pass out cigars? Call my mother? I must say, it looks a little funny. And not all of the links are working right, but it’s here at last.

    Happy birthday, Cosmic Café. May you live long and prosper.

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