Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS

"I had a dream last night about you and me and a typewriter." You can't go wrong with a lede like that — I've got to know what comes next. Is the typewriter between us? beneath our fingertips? used as a prop in a steampunk sex scene?

But of course there are no immediate answers because things are getting cool-weird now. We are approaching the border to a place of scurrying secrets and myriad unknowns. I like to call it Rummyville.

(Named, of course, after Donald Rumsfeld, a Bush defense secretary and a baffling man who once said: "There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.")

I know I don't know a lot of things, but I'd like to because, you know, reporter. It's in my DNA. I ask a lot of questions, an annoying trait that usually leads to no good end and has been known on occasion to spark shouts and fisticuffs. The things a man does in his quest for information ... but I'm getting off track here.

Point is, you can do something about known unknowns. You can ask around, double check with sources, beat the bushes and try to scare the unknowns into the open so you can capture those little bastards and get to know them, or at least smother them.

But the unknown unknowns — those are scary because you never see them coming until they thwack you upside the head and aim their pretty pointy teeth at your throat. They're the equivalent of a sucker punch in a tequila- and amphetamine-fueled bar fight — all surprise and no upside, just a mighty wallop to the face and a fast close encounter with the sidewalk. Thank God for the alcohol and the speed; otherwise you might feel it when your face hits the pavement.

I don't know what I don't know here so I walk lightly, take shallow breaths, keep a watch on any hand between my thighs. No room for distraction in these badlands. Must proceed with extreme caution. I'd rather be gunshy than shot dead by someone I never see coming. I have dreams about that sometimes. They are not pleasant.

I think about her dreaming of me, the strange knowledge of being nestled somewhere inside another human's head.

She tells me more about the dream:

"There was a typewriter and we were both using it. Both of us had our hands on it. But I don't know if we were collaborating."

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