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Construx Xonspiritorz: Love, Shit and The Brave Little Cell Phone That Could

8:00:00 AMPaul Clemente

This contribution is from one of oldest friends Chuck Ferrin. I knew Chuck all the way back in 5th grade, a combination of rapid suburban development, and him moving in Squirrel Hill only limited our relationship's strong potential.  Chuck was always frighteningly brilliant to me, his writing and knowledge of all things I cared about was envy worthy. My memory works so strangely, but he got me into comic books, I had my first Blue Blow Pop at his house, my first taste of the best Pizza still to this day with Mineos in Pittsburgh, I saw Mortal Kombat for the first time in an old newsstand convenience store , and the memories keep flowing. As adults do, we lost touch over the years, and now recently have began to communicate like the rest of us do; through facebook. When it came time to ask for these guest posts, he was definitely on my short list.


Love, Shit and The Brave Little Cell Phone That Could


When Paul first asked me to write something for him, I wasn’t sure what to do. True to form, he told me I could write anything my heart desired, so long as I was passionate about it.

Great. I love passion. But fair warning, this essay goes the way of Dante’s Inferno. We’re going to have to travel through a savage forest, both dense and difficult, before squeezing ourselves out into the living light—a love so true that it moves the sun and stars. If you want to get to Heaven, you’ve got to prepare yourself for a ride through dirty Hell. Here we go.

Passion, in the context of this essay, is a kind of love. It’s an intellectual love, as in, “I love my job” or “I love to watch the sport of curling.” Generally, it has more to do with a feeling of the mind, a focused obsession even, rather than physical satisfaction or an emotional attachment to another human being.

One such a thing that I have been passionate about lately, and I mean this in the most authentic, true blue sincerity, is a piece of dung. That’s right, a ball of shit—or more specifically, a coprolite.
Coprolites are fossilized pieces of animal dung and can be of almost any age. The principle requirements are that they were once dung and are now primarily a composition of various minerals. Nature completes this transformation over many years by some miraculous convergence of circumstance and patience. A piece of poo falls into a stream, stays there for millions of years and gradually becomes a rock. Shit just falls that way sometimes.

Aside from their phosphate content and value to science, coprolites are also find a place in our world as collectible fossils. It takes a particular strain of curiosity to handle an object that was once a foul, steaming piece of waste, and an even greater degree of eccentricity to find that object fascinating and perhaps beautiful. But then again, it doesn’t take much for a rational person to assess that a coprolite is no longer a log of fecal matter but, in fact, a ancient stone. A coprolite is a brief moment in time captured forever in a photograph of hardened minerals. In spite of its scatological DNA, a coprolite is inherently poetic.



My coprolite was pinched out by a turtle that lived somewhere in Lewis County, Washington roughly 35 million years ago. It is indeed dung-like in its appearance, but now being mostly siderite and limonite, its present reality is that of a stone. It’s a shit-shaped rock. The organic turtle and the contents of its digestive tract are now long gone.

My mom gave this coprolite to me for Christmas, because she knew I would like it. I find it funny that, in spite of all my bad behavior, my mom never said that I wasn’t getting shit for Christmas, but if she had, she would have recently proved herself wrong.

I have always been fascinated by stones and animals, for almost no particular reason, and my mom know best what her crazy kids like. There is a large and accomplished gem and mineral shop near her home in North Carolina, and when I visited the place, I found the coprolites, along with a jar of whale brain oil, to be most interesting.

The whale brain oil wasn’t for sale, so it is the coprolite that I am most passionate about lately, and that passion strikes even me, eccentric as I am, as just plain fucking strange. The lesson, I think, is that love turns up in the most unexpected places. You might find love in a piece of 35 million year-old scat, or, as it is in this case, in the sub-basement features of a busted old cell phone.

And that leads me to the real purpose of this essay, the templates on The Brave Little Cell Phone That Could.

Unlike most people living on Planet Earth, I’ve only owned one cell phone in my entire life. It is a ragged and proud Motorola Go Phone that I bought from Cingular years ago (and I think it says something that Cingular no longer exists as a company). My phone is small, sorely lacking in features and difficult to use for almost anything at all, including speech. But I bought it because it was cheap. I don’t talk on the phone much, so I didn’t much care what it looked like.

I have a rule about things, and that rule is that things shouldn’t be replaced until they’re broken. That’s what keeps out of the Best Buy hamster wheel, a cycle of misery where people spend all their time and money acquiring the latest divine offering from Apple.

It’s not that I don’t like gadgets. On the contrary, I’ve been, at times, the most hardened video game nerd. I still have a $100 controller I bought to use on only one single computer game that is now preserved in plastic wrap. It’s just that I don’t want to live the rest of my life in a shopping line, wishing to God that I had just hung myself earlier in the day to get it over with.

But this little cell phone just won’t die. I’ve inevitably drop kicked it like a soccer ball, flung it like a discus or skidded it across a tile surface like a curling stone. And it just won’t die. Every time I think this phone has seen its last days, it comes back for more like Randy Couture’s ears.
So I’m preparing to break my rule about things and replace it soon, because I need a bigger phone for my even bigger hands. There’s just one thing—I found in this phone, like the coprolite, a strange attachment.

It’s sort of become a Brave Little Toaster to me. Like that eponymous toaster, I never thought it was an object of importance until I decided to let it go. Its resolve impressed me—how it was determined to flaunt the grinding millstone of global consumer culture. We’re talking about the R2D2 of cell phones here.

So in a kind of farewell tour, I’ve been going through all the features on my phone that I never found the urge to use. There are three cell phone games, so Cro-Magnon in their simplicity that I would rather paint on cave walls or play with Pick Up Sticks to pass the time. I am now greeted by a wallpaper of lilies that I’ve never seen, a calculator that hurts my fingers, a function that determines monetary exchange rates and a series of prewritten templates useful for quick and impersonal texting.

And Eureka! I’ve found it!

It is these templates that I am most passionate about, because like the coprolite, they represent a key to the past. They were created by some living organism, like Miranda’s hanging rocks, waiting a million years just for us.

I know somebody wrote these templates, just as I know some turtle shat my coprolite around the time that King Tut was just a dream within a dream.

But who that person was, what that person looked like and why he or she chose this series of ten templates, I can only guess. Fortunately, guessing is the game of choice for us eccentrics, and I am just as inclined to pick up a piece of coprolite as I am to explore the bowels of a cell phone.

A scientist can guess what a prehistoric turtle ate through an analysis of that turtle’s coprolite, so too can I throw darts at the framework of the template author’s mind through the composition of his or Top 10 issue.

They begin most bland and functional:

“Call you later.” Which pretty much means, “Fuck you. You’re not even worth a real diss.” Spurned love is the theme of the proem, and it never ceases. How can love quit us?. Doesn’t this resonate with even the very best, those Achaeans forged from bronze who never falter lest Patroclus not return to camp from the trenches of Troy? Call me a douche here, but still, I’m arguing for love . . . 

“Urgent! Please call me!” If I ever send you this template, or any message that begins with the phrase “Urgent!” I hope that you will remember this grandiose insincerity and never, ever speak to me again. No one ever, ever, starts any phrase, spoken or written, with the word “urgent”.
“I’ll be – minutes late!” Which is another way to say, “Fuck you. You’re not even worth a real diss.” And further, “I’m never coming back.”

“I wait for you at—“This is where it starts to get good, because this template transitions to broken English. The previous template used the contraction “I’ll” whereas here we see the simple “I”. Evidence for multiple authorship?

“Meet you in --, time:--, place.—“ While at first blush this may seem like a more complex code, it really is just another rephrasing of, “Fuck you, you’re not even worth a real diss.”

“Be happy for—“  . . . Here in the darkest hour, the glimmer of love. What happiness do we wait for? Only the templates can tell.

“I’ll wait for you at subway --, station/bus station/-- exit/platform.” Nearly as romantic as a U2 song, I half-cried when I read this template.  A postmodern tour de force making gold from lead.  And It also shows that our author can only be living in the three or four American cities that actually have these forms of transportation.

“Don’t worry, be happy.” This actually is a song. I wasn’t expecting to find Bobby McFerrin on my cell phone, but then again, I never thought I would own and treasure a piece of fossilized shit.

“Have a nice day!” A little jaded nugget of irony before the pièce de résistance.

And finally:

“Love you forever.” 

This in not “hugs and kisses”, or “xoxo”, or even “lol :)”, but
Love forever.

What forlorn cubicle in the bowels of cell phone factory hell inspired this template?

Templates should be phrases that are uttered so frequently, they are pre-scripted as a matter of convenience for the texter.

How often have any of us said, “Love you forever”? Ask yourself, have you ever even said that to anyone in your entire life?

Forever is outer space, the mathematical computation of pi, a piece of turtle dookie molded by the vagaries of nature into solid stone, not some cheap cell phone template.

Then again, I don’t think our author intended for this final template to be used with any frequency. Instead, I think it is a message in a bottle. A missive from the author’s heart intending to show us that love can be found in the most unexpected places, even in the last gasp of a dying cell phone.

And that is something I can be passionate about.

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