Peak Sheen (or how $10 gasoline will save the world)

A few nights ago, I decided to torture myself and watch a movie about “peak oil” cleverly titled, “A Crude Awakening”.

I say “torture myself” because what can I do really? Drive a Prius?

Whatever, America is an oil society. George W. Bush got it right: we are addicted to oil. Almost everything we do involves oil. I’m not saying that Priuses aren’t great and a step in the right direction. The problem is that even if everyone was forced to drive a Prius tomorrow, and assuming our historical rate of economic growth, oil demand would rebound to current levels in only a few years.

It’s not going to be as easy as switching the car you drive. No, the real solution to our “addiction to oil” will be something closer to what Charlie Sheen is going through right now.

Some sort of ugly, embarrassing, strung-out withdrawal but without the glamor and pornstars.

“A Crude Awakening” debates and dismisses each of the major alternatives to oil: solar, wind, biomass, nuclear and hydrogen. Of these, hydrogen seems to have the most promise. Too bad a “hydrogen society” won’t be a viable alternative for another 30-50 years.

Until then, things don’t look pretty. In fact, one of the dudes featured in the movie was being interviewed in front of emergency crates of water manufactured by “S.O.S Food Labs”.

Seriously.

It was late. I was watching the movie alone. My mind began to race.

“Wonder if oil wars are our only future.”

“Dad drove a huge Plymouth in the 1970s. Is he a dick for doing that?”

“Are my kids going to become some sort of oil slaves?”

“Jesus. Am I already an oil slave?”

“Do I need to stock dried goods? Dehydrated vegetables?”

“Where can I buy a horse? For transportation?”

Like a good American, instead of freaking out any further, I just turned off the movie. I needed to smile. I pulled up the Charlie Sheen ABC interview.

 

I got to the part where the interviewer seemed to cast doubt on his ability to stop “using.”

“How do you know you won’t relapse?” she asked.

“Because,” he said, “I blinked and I cured my brain, everybody has the power.  It’s just because, you know… Can’t is the cancer of happen. Can’t is the cancer of happen.”

“Maybe Charlie Sheen is right,” I thought, thinking about the movie again. “Maybe we’re just saying we can’t change, get off oil, but we really could. Can’t is the cancer of happen. Yeah… Nothing is going to happen if we keep saying we can’t do it! Maybe we can have a hydrogen society in only 10 years and forestall world disaster! Maybe we need more leaders like Charlie Sheen!”

Charlie Sheen brought me back from the edge. Mind sufficiently calmed, I quickly fell asleep.

But the next morning, the movie re-entered my mind. Over breakfast, without telling my wife about the movie, I said, “I could totally see moving up to a quiet farm somewhere. You know, a small plot of land, grow our own food organically. Some chickens.”

I didn’t tell her my ideas about buying guns and stocking food.

“Really?” She said, rubbing her very pregnant belly. “I can’t.”

Trying to give the idea momentum, I continued. “Wouldn’t it be great to wake up, hear roosters, see dew on a meadow?”

“No.” she said. “I like our life here. All of our friends are here. Our family is close.”

“Yeah but what happens when trucks…” and here my voice cracked before I blurted out, “stop delivering food out here?” Shit! I reached for my fork, averted my eyes, and tried to play it cool.

The weapon of choice in Italian households.

But my wife was staring through me. She was quiet for a good 10 seconds, just staring at me, rubbing her belly menacingly. I could hear her hands going “swoosh, swoosh” over the fabric.

“What are you talking about?” She took a step towards me. She was holding a wooden spoon. “My god,” I thought, “I’ve angered a pregnant Italian woman and she’s holding a wooden spoon.”

Clearly, I was in danger.

She raised her voice, waving the wooden spoon around like some crazed conductor leading a group of crack-addled Charlie Sheens playing piccolos. “You’re getting all paranoid and crazy again?” Slam! The spoon hit the table. “While I’m eight-and-a-half months pregnant?” Slam! “Remember when you had me split our savings between 6 different banks and bought bullion?” Slam!

Ah, memories of 2008…

I got the fuck out of there and head back to my cave, the office. I closed and locked the door.

The first thing I noticed, was oil creeping close to $107 a barrel. Searching for the reason, I read an article about $200 crude calls changing hands.  Then I read about the upcoming “Saudi Day of Rage.”

$200 oil. Wow. Days of rage. $10 gasoline. Man! The movie was right! We’re at the beginning of the end!

I tried to calm down. Thinking back to the night before, I thought about Charlie Sheen. What would he say about this? I bet he’d say that worrying about $200 oil was boring and normal.

Could $200 oil actually be good?

Sure! $200 oil is only bad if we want to continue on the exact path we’re on, but that path is ending. Changing isn’t going to be an option. There are finite amounts of oil under the ground. That’s just a fact. “Drill baby drill” is nothing more than a weak slogan and useless policy unless it’s coupled with huge commitment to developing other resources as well.

If $200 oil gets us thinking harder about hydrogen, or about solar, or does anything to shake the entrenched interests in this country that are standing in the way of real change, then that’s actually a good thing.

The alternative is that, like the pre-awakened version of our friend Charlie Sheen, we continue chilling with pornstars and “banging 7 gram rocks.”  Then when our heart explodes in a couple of decades, we’re not going to have anyone else to blame but ourselves.

Not the liberals. Not the conservatives. And not the other terrorists.

Wonder if cars can run on #tigerblood?

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For more tips on rationalizing the coming apocalypse, kindly follow me on Twitter.

Exit music.

How To Beat Tooth Fairy Inflation

Last week I was deep underwater in a trade and glued to my screens when my daughter entered my office drooling.

“Adda! Adda!” she said. From the corner of my eye, I could see she was jumping.

I took a quick glance. Hanging from her open mouth was a string. It was tied to her tooth.

A couple of weeks earlier, when she was in the throes of losing her first tooth, my father told her how they used to remove teeth back in the day. You know the classic story: A loose tooth. A piece of string. A doorknob. A sadistic sibling. Inspired by this story of abuse, my daughter was set to untooth herself.

Historically, losing a tooth has been linked with violence.

Happily, later that day, without the aid of a string or doorknob, my daughter’s tooth succumbed to plain old gravity.

The tooth fairy was summoned.

Now, when I was a kid, the tooth fairy was a simple character. You wrapped your tooth in a bloody tissue and stuck it under your pillow. While you slept the tooth fairy visited and you woke a quarter richer. There were no questions like, “What’d the tooth fairy do with my tooth?” or, “Do I need to report tooth fairy profits to the IRS?”

For some, things haven’t changed much. The prior weekend, I visited my sister. She has two boys. Knowing that my daughter’s tooth was about to fall out, I had asked my nephew what the tooth fairy brought him. “The tooth fairy stinks,” he told me. “I put my tooth under my pillow for like, 3 weeks and when she finally came all I got was a buck.”

Things are more complex in my household. When my daughter lost her first tooth, my wife decided since it was “a special day” that the tooth fairy would not only BUY the tooth, but grant a wish as well. Wishes aren’t measured by the CPI, but let me tell you, they’re maybe the biggest inflationary threat to our economy.

That first tooth cost me $5. The wish (a doll) cost an additional $35.

Anyway, the day my daughter lost her tooth, it was my turn to put her to sleep. Before I entered her room my wife pulled me aside, and whispered a threat disguised as a request. “Make sure you find out what she wishes for!” This meant I had to be both a warm and loving father and a cold and heartless intelligence gatherer. From my daughter’s glitter-and-pony-filled head I had to pry her wish, so that it might be granted by the morning.

Brain scan of a 7-year old female.

So after we read our book and were set to turn off the light, I asked, “Did you make your wish?”

“Not yet,” my daughter said. She grabbed her tooth from the special jewel-encased box she has made specifically for lost teeth, and moved a couple of feet away from me, towards the end of the bed. She clasped the tooth between her hands, closed her eyes really hard, bit her bottom lip, and wished with great effort. When she opened her eyes again, it was as if she was exiting a trance. She looked completely unburdened.

“Holy shit,” I thought. “That was a big wish.”

I asked her in a conspiratorial whisper, “What’d you wish for?”

“Shhhh, Daddy! You know I can’t tell you. Quick let’s get to bed. The tooth fairy is gonna be busy tonight.”

“Is it something you eat?”

Silence.

“A doll?”

Silence.

She wasn’t letting me in. I felt a little panic entering my head.

“Is it” I asked with some trepidation, “alive?”

But she wasn’t talking. She took her wish to sleep that night. In fact, she fell asleep faster than ever.

My wife was waiting for me in the office. “So?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “I got nothing.”

“Well what are we supposed to do?” She looked emotional about it. She’s 8 months pregnant and just about anything can make her emotional right now. I knew I had to come up with something, and fast.

“Look,” I said. “I don’t remember much about the tooth fairy when I was a kid. All I know is that I maybe got a quarter in 1980. This whole idea about the tooth fairy granting wishes isn’t going to work. Let’s just get back to cash. The tooth fairy traffics in financial dreams only.”

“No, I don’t like it,” she said. “I want the tooth fairy to be a little more special.” My wife wasn’t going to settle for the quarter under the pillow trick. “It’s like, remember a few years ago when you wanted to make Groundhog’s Day an important family holiday?”

She always brought up my Groundhog’s Day idea when her back was against a wall.

“Yes,” I sighed.

“Well, I supported you then. Now you support my ‘tooth fairy is a big deal’ idea.”

I did some quick math. My daughter had another 18 teeth to lose. At $40 a tooth (assuming $5 a tooth and $35 per inflationary wish), that would cost me $720! Tooth fairy inflation was going to ruin me. I decided to try a different tact. With my wife feeling emotional, I took a stab at poetry.

“Let’s just change the character of the tooth fairy,” I said. “Losing teeth is a stage in life. The tooth fairy needs some depth, some philosophy, some poetry. We’ll write a note in glitter pen, or whatever, on special tooth fairy stationary that we can hide away. We can even douse the paper in perfume and tie it up with hair that came from the tooth fairy’s pony. (Admittedly, that last detail was a bit much.) We’ll just wrap the $5 in the note, done!”

My wife was skeptical. She wanted more details. “What does the note say, exactly?”

“The tooth fairy gives away stars.”

Where teeth come from and where they return.

“What?”

So we came up with a story. Every tooth, is a bit of a lost star. When your kid loses a tooth, the tooth fairy comes to reclaim it and return it to its star. For returning the tooth, your kid gets a little bit of money. Sort of like a bottle deposit, but much more romantic. Importantly, the tooth that grows in has also come from a star, one that you can choose and point out to your child.

Now, don’t worry if your neighbors give you crazy looks when you’re out on the front lawn, one arm around your kid’s shoulder the other pointing up to the night sky saying, “There it is! That’s the star your tooth came from, honey!” I mean, they probably lie to their kids about Santa Claus.

And their parents lied to them about “job benefits” and Social Security.

We all choose the myths we wish to believe in.

The next morning when my daughter first looked under her pillow, a wave of disappointment swept over her face. The hamster, or puppy, or whatever it was she expected to find, wasn’t there. Instead, there was a glittery note, fashioned as a wing (I have a crafty wife).

Quizzically, my daughter picked it up. She asked me to read it.

“It says, ‘The stars are in your smile.’”

Apparently I was dead on. Because she looked at me and I was blinded.

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Have teeth? OMFG! ME TOO!!! Follow me on Twitter!

Exit music.