Deck of Cults

Deck of Cults

February 3, 2019

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The Real Life Ventures and Adventures of Trey and Batman

by Trey Nosrac

On the exit ramp leading to the Justice Center, I slowed behind a snowplow that sprinkled salt on the windshield and said, “I can’t believe you didn’t find an excuse to get out of jury duty. Hell, last time I got called, I just sent the notice back with a note on a piece of torn up paper bag that said, ‘On the planet Beltron, in the galaxy of Zorf, we do not judge.’ They never wrote back.”

He smiled, “I just hope I get on a case and don’t sit around all day.”

I switched gears and said, “I’m joining a cult.”

“You’re already a card-carrying member of harness racing.”

“I’m joining another cult.”

“Multicultural, very impressive.”

Not even bothering with an eye-roll, I continued, “I have a plan to use this new cult to rejuvenate the sport of racing, training, buying, selling and gambling on standardbred horses.”

“Ambitious, do tell.”

“The idea came from thinking about the guys on The Deck.”

“Who are?”

“A group of statesmen, assorted experts and aficionados. They love the sport. They seem like a fun posse who meet on weekends in the winter at a training center in South Florida to drink coffee, eat bagels and watch the new horses train. I enjoy reading about them. How great would that be? Instead of plowing through this slush, imagine sitting in the sunshine with yearlings, dreams, stories, food, and wisdom.”

“That’s your old cult. What’s the new one?”

“The technical term is Reformed Luddism.”

“This should be good,” he said.

I continued in a mock serious voice, “We work towards a society that views technology skeptically. We believe that high-tech advancements, which you have your fingerprints all over, will cause problems and do harm. We’re trying to do something about it. You could call us reluctant participants in the digital world.”

“Where do you meet, in a cave where you uninvent fire?”

“We meet online, on Facebook, in blogs and in chat rooms.”

“Need I point out the irony of your previous sentence?”

“It’s a real movement. It’s small, but we see that the downsides of technology’s inevitable march are real and getting worse. You show me a parent who doesn’t worry about ‘screen time’ for their kids. Everybody with half a brain cell understands that there is a psychological cost to non-stop, addictive, checking, swiping and staring at phones. Families are trying with ‘no phone’ times, friends agree to head to the cafe or take weekends without their computers. We are resisting with strategies called slow living or slow tech.”

“And your plan is to create another antidote to hyper-technology?”

“Yes, I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve done a lot of research, several days on the Internet.”

“Again, ironic.”

“Ironic, but not moronic. Batman, I really have a very cool plan that slows the world down and that would draw in new racing fans. It’s a plan that will make a profit, rejuvenate the sport, and would be a lot of fun.”

He grew serious and said, “We all wonder what we have unleashed. I know a former Google executive who started a nonprofit organization to push back. At every tech conference, a huge topic is the speed of artificial intelligence. We ask: are we the good people or the bad people?”

I nodded and said, “Look, everybody knows the world has changed. Living in a lower-tech world, starting a low-tech business and partial disconnection may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. I’m not just being ornery. This is not some nostalgic or retro idea. I want to use technology but not feel used. My lower tech harness idea just swims upstream.”

“That might be swimming upstream hauling a boulder.”

“We are not trolls or wackos for thinking there are times where being disconnected is good for people. A little Luddism won’t hurt.”

“So what’s your plan?”

“You want my complete Deck pitch?”

He nodded at the white courthouse looming in at the end of the street, “Give me the overview for now.”

“My plan would place hundreds of people in a Deck-like setting on a regular basis. It would include complete strangers from great demographics who will spend mornings where they mingle and watch horses train. They would have a chance to see our wonderful sport up close, in a non-threating environment.”

“Is kidnapping involved?”

“Nope, this will be easier than you think. What do you want me to start yakking about first — the where, what, why, when or who? I got them all covered.”

He thought for a second and said, “Since you’re talking about a physical place with an old school approach, let’s start with the where.”

We pulled up to the curb in front of the massive marble steps leading to courthouse building. He put his hand on the door handle.

Before he climbed out, I said, “I already have the perfect location — you have never heard of it. It’s very carefully selected. The project has shovels in the ground. I want to show you, not tell you.”

He stepped out and said, “You have my attention, show and tell time on the ride home.”

Before he shut the door, I gave him a thumbs up and shouted, “Cool, I’m taking the damn sport back to the future. And say hello to OJ.”

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