Breaking up with a time traveler hurts: Online dating profile I wrote for a friend

About me:
“Vroom! Vroom!”

That was the sound of Evel Knievel’s motorcycle about to jump the Snake River Canyon. It was the moment of truth. I wasn’t responsible for Evel’s making it across the canyon, but I was responsible for him making it home safely. As the chief engineer of the Skycycle X-2’s emergency safety systems, I was nervous, hoping for the best but anticipating the worst.

“Ksscchhhhhtttt!!!” The radio jumped to life. Flight control was checking in with me. “Safety engineer?”

“Safety systems go,” I said.

“Roger,” he said. I was last on the checklist. “All systems go. Evel, you are cleared for launch.”

A burst of steam billowed out  of the Skycycle, and I felt my broken heart pounding in my chest.

The year was 1974, and I was confused, lonely, adrift. It had taken me months to admit what I already knew: Breaking up with a time traveler hurts. So when the job came along, I held onto it like a life preserver. If I couldn’t mend my heart, I could at least save a life.

Everything I knew about Evel’s soon-to-be-famous jump of the Snake River Canyon spelled disaster. Not one of the unmanned test runs was a success. The Skycycle X-2 was a hybrid machine whose apparent design mandate was to combine the street handling of a rocket with the flight dynamics of a motorcycle.

And so I worked. My colleagues joked that the only reason OPEC ended their 1973 embargo was because they knew how much midnight oil I would burn. But the work paid off. The X-2’s propulsion systems would always be a slapdash mess, but its 350-plus integrated safety mechanisms were a work of art.

As the Skycycle accelerated toward the edge of the Snake River Canyon, I thought of Sir Edward Robert Chaswick Valiant Sandwicher the Third, Lord of Sexelton and Master of Chessgrass Manor, Servant of the Queen and Royal Knight of the Kashmir Protectorate. We called him E-Bob for short, and in return he pretended that it didn’t bother him.

I could afford to think of E-Bob. The Skycycle’s many safety mechanisms required no human input at all. Not from me, not from Evel. The rocketbike was built with the assumption of failure.

E-Bob and I met in an East London flat in 1967. I had been invited to participate in a round-table discussion on the possibility of astral planes populated by alien races of flower children.

As a physicist, engineer, and the author of thirteen widely acclaimed books on logical positivism, I looked forward to the event. My fellow participants were to be a “conceptual writer” who wrote mostly “poems without words” and a radical Maoist full-time fingerpaint artist.  The venue was a small bookshop called The Mouldering Crumpet. They sold only three things: British flags, Vespa scooters, and coffee table picture books of Vespa scooters draped in British flags.

When I arrived I was informed that the event was canceled. In order to provide an eyewitness report of alien flower children, the writer and the Maoist had attempted a daring astral projection that ended in tragedy. Believing that travel across astral planes could be accomplished by travel through time, they had been crushed to death in the gears of Big Ben.

The owner of the bookshop made an announcement. “Blake and Harmony are grooving out on fabulous new plane, and we should rejoice in their bodily liberation,” he said. He paused for effect, then continued, “Ironic, isn’t it, that in their worldly absence we are the ones who are truly crushed.”

Everyone laughed politely, and the owner invited us to his flat. Once there I drank six cups of punch, and then I met the most handsome man in all of jolly old England.

“Ahoy there, fancy lassie,” said E-Bob. “My name is—”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Sir Edward Robert Chaswick Valiant Sandwicher the Third, Lord of Sexelton and Master of Chessgrass Manor, Servant of the Queen and Royal Knight of the Kashmir Protectorate?”

His face went pale.

“My word. You’re absolutely right. That means the prophecy is true.”


“Before learning the secrets of time travel, Wizard Jenkins instructed me to take on a nom de chronos. This was done to protect the integrity of the space-time continuum. Since arriving in the 1960s, I have gone by the name of Jamhouse Johnny Juicebox. My groupies know me as Triple-J Threat, the most far-out psychedelic bassist in all of London, but Wizard Jenkins has said that my true love would know my real name. The fact of the matter is, I have come here from Jane Austen times in search of a proper mate.”

We pledged eternal loyalty to each other that night on the banks of the River Thames. E-Bob then revealed the secret of time travel.

“Blake and Harmony were close,” he said. “But they had it backwards. Instead of crawling inside a giant clock, you must ingest many hundreds of tiny clocks.”

“So that means—”

“Yes, you’re absolutely right. It requires that the time traveler eat countless pounds of miniature but precise Swiss watches. The concomitant expense ensures that time travel is available only to the royal class. As it should be, of course.”

This was my first sign that E-Bob and I came from different worlds.

Our relationship was good but rocky. We were together for many years, and did many fun things, but eventually he developed a lycanthrope fetish and dumped me for a nineteen-year-old werewolf named Sandy Biggums.

“‘Ere you go, gov’nor,” he said as he left my life forever. I was devastated.

So I took the Evel Knievel job.

And there I was, on the edge of the Snake River Canyon, watching the Skycycle race away from me.

Most of you know what happened next. The jump failed. Evel Knievel lived.

That night, during the closing ceremonies, the launch team was officially retired. I was presented with a fine gold watch. And that was it. I finally had all the watches I needed to travel through time and leave my personal trauma in the past. The next morning, I made a great big goulash of Swiss watches and ate them all.

My stomach churned, and the world contorted itself around me. Things got brighter and brighter, but I got sleepier and sleepier. I passed out. I woke up in the year 2013. With the help of the savings I had deposited in a high-interest bank account, I bought a solid gold house. The floor around the oven gets soft when I bake cookies, but otherwise I have no complaints.

Please contact me if you are a metallurgist with a doctorate-level specialty in thermal conductivity or enjoy eating cookies.

Netflix and werewolf hunting.

Discount Scooby-Doo: Chapter One



Lightning flashed in the distance, and rain lashed at the windows. The wind howled, and so did Discount Scooby-Doo. “Awooo! Awoooo!!!” he cried into the hideous night.

Lightning always bothered Discount Scooby. It reminded him of his birth. Discount Scooby was born in a storm not unlike this one, at a plastic factory near an experimental nuclear reactor. When lightning struck the reactor, it exploded. In the rubble of the once mighty factory, something stirred. A plastic figurine of Scooby-Doo had come to life, animated by the power of nucleons.

Something was wrong, though. This Scooby was mutated, hideous … “not of this sphere”, as the secret, post-accident investigation board would later report. The repressive military government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Lesser Nuclesia knew that Discount Scooby must be kept from the world. Yet they knew his very being held the promise of untold riches. And so they housed him in exile on an isolated atoll in the South Pacific.

Lightning flashed again, silhouetting a distant, Panamax-class freighter ship on the horizon. Then, seconds later, another bolt from the heavens, this one striking directly midship on the S.S. Babylon’s Desire, igniting a terrifying conflagration.

Discount Scooby-Doo ceased his howling as he watched the ship burn. The Babylon’s Desire had suffered a hull breach, and the vessel soon began to list as she took on water. Emergency flares arced across the sky as Scooby, with his eagle-like, radiation-enhanced vision, watched the crew abandon the far-off ship.

Help arrived near daybreak. Orange-and-white coastal defense choppers hovered above the burning hulk. Discount Scooby was transfixed.

And then, one by one, the precariously stacked shipping containers broke loose and fell into the sea. But the real break belonged to Discount Scooby. One of the containers was drifting right toward him, and it was labeled “jet skis”.


Subscription postcards: Double rainbow, tree blossoms, chevrotain

Postcard collage of a weird-looking animal in front of a derelict Nevada shack.

Message on postcard:
Hi Beth — The other day I saw a double rainbow. It was not as exciting as YouTube had led me to believe. But it was still pretty good.


Postcard collage of several old cars in front of a lake, parked beneath text that reads "soothing relief for dry eyes".

Message on postcard:
Hello Carmel — Happy springtime! All the trees in Portland, Oregon are covered with blossoms. Up in the mountains it’s still snowing. Down here in the Willamette Valley, fallen flower petals just look like snow. It’s neat.

Cherry blossoms cover a Portland street with a sharrow marking.

Cherry blossoms on the street.


Postcard collage of Asian chevrotain in the Grand Canyon.

Message on postcard:
The animal on this postcard is a called a chevrotain. They look like tiny deer and live in Asia. They are smaller than dogs and cats!

Subscription postcards: Space beings, tacos, nano challah

Postcard collage of two birds on a sand dune, with text that says, "You've just won a foreign lottery."

Message on postcard:
Hi Kathleen — I’m out at a trailhead in the Salmon-Huckleberry, camping in my van. Last night my girlfriend Mandy and I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey on my laptop. A great big truck drove up and parked next to us during the creepy ending part where the astronaut goes through the lights and turns into a space fetus. My first concern was malevolent extraterrestrials. Hers was drunken hillbillies. She is the realistic one in this relationship.


Postcard collage of a cruise missile flying toward an antelope.

Message on postcard:
Hey Jeff — Today in the grocery store checkout line I saw a “Make your own taco sticker activity book”. I am glad that hungry stoners finally have a place to buy aspirational lifestyle sticker books.

A "Make Your Own Taco Sticker Activity Book"

This is so sad.


Postcard collage of a cooler-toting man standing next to a woman, standing in front of two old cars, in Michigan at night.

Message on postcard:
Erin: Greetings from a coffee shop, where today’s roast is allegedly called “nano challah”. I didn’t see any braided, microscopic bread in my cup; consequently I am uncertain about the derivation of its name. I think the baristas might be pulling my leg.

A sign for "Ethiopia Nano Challah" coffee.

I know what those words mean, but not in that order.

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Postcard collage of a fish in front of a stream in the woods, hovering above the word "crappie".

Message on postcard:
I was at the coast last weekend, and on the way home I stopped in Corvallis at the Oregon State University library. I needed to track down a paper from the proceedings of a 1984 conference on sinkholes. Okay, maybe “need” is too strong a word for that. But it sure was fun to read.


Postcard collage showing budding flowers in front of an outhouse. Text reads "the art of serenity".

Message on postcard:
Spring is here. Yesterday I did a 17-mile out-and-back run to Powell Butte, a nature park in Portland. I got stuck behind horses on a narrow trail. Horses have a reputation for grace and elegance. It was earned from the opposite end of the animal.


Postcard collage of an angry crocodile near some orange flowers on the California coast. Beneath him is are the words "Justice Is Served".

Message on postcard:
I’m camping near the Salmon River here in Oregon. It snowed overnight. It is the middle of April. It’s really pretty, but then again so is summertime. Yeesh.

Picture of trees at a trailhead covered with a little snow.

April in the Oregon Cascades. Presumably the mountains got more snow up higher; we were camped in the valley near the Salmon River.

Subscription postcards: Toponyms, thimbleberries, and canine trail stewardship

A biplane flies over crater lake. Beneath it is the phrase "The Residue of Memory".

Message on postcard:
Hi Sacha — My girlfriend Mandy and I are visiting the coast this weekend. Today we’re in Pacific City, Oregon. There’s a big rock in the ocean called Haystack Rock. It’s confusing, because there’s a second, identically named offshore rock a little ways north from here. I’ve heard far-out hypotheses that all life is a gigantic computer simulation. If so, whoever programmed it failed to allocate enough namespace for geological features.

Haystack Rock, near Pacific City, seen from the beach.

Haystack Rock, near Pacific City, seen from the beach.

Another view of Haystack Rock.

Another view of Haystack Rock.


A rugged cowboy enjoys delicious thimbleberries.

Message on postcard:
Evgeniya — Greetings from the aptly named Beachside State Park here on the Oregon coast. This morning I found a sealed glass jar that looks like it floated over from Japan. I took it with me; it’s weird and strange to think about how it got here.

A sealed jar that I found on the beach.

I found this on the beach.


Postcard collage of a woman standing near an old station wagon, in front of cultivated fields, captioned with the words "get married".

Message on postcard:
Hey Andrew — Today I visited Cape Perpetua on the Oregon coast. My girlfriend Mandy was very excited to see that there is a trail named “Amanda’s Trail”. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that the sign is no longer accurate. My dog Skillet peed there, which makes it technically his now.

Subscription postcards: Chocolate outrage, confusion in Hebo, and Gangnam’s high-water mark

Postcard collage of Bill Clinton in the South Dakota Badlands, with the text "mature adult" next to his head.

Message on postcard:
Hey Steve —Today I saw a glucose-based, nutritional energy gel for sale. The name of the product was “Chocolate Outrage”. I can’t say for sure, but I think it was named by a white guy.

Packages of a product called "chocolate outrage".

Chocolate-flavored, honkey-christened.


Postcard collage of four differently colored cobs of corn in the South Dakota Badlands, captioned with the phrase "Harness the Transformative Power".

Message on postcard:
Mollie — Greetings from Mount Hebo, near the Oregon coast! I’m camping here with my girlfriend Mandy. It’s a little cold out, and there are a few patchy remnants of snow on the ground. Skunk cabbage is blooming in a nearby stream and along the lake. It is very peaceful, especially compared to the bait and tackle shop a couple miles away in downtown Hebo. It is your one-stop shop for fishing gear and hateful, self-pitying screeds printed from the Internet and misattributed to Bill Cosby.


Postcard collage of a happy, mustachioed man standing in front of his shiny old car. Behind him is a peaceful sunset on a Washington beach.

Message on postcard:
Bridget — I am at a coffee shop in Pacific City, Oregon. There is a chalkboard here, upon which a person has written “Gangnam Style! Whoop whoop! Don’t erase.” The entire declaration contains twenty additional exclamation points not included here. Years from now I think that historians will recognize this chalkboard as the official high-water mark for worldwide interest in “Gangnam Style”.

Gangnam-awareness chalkboard in Pacific City, Oregon.

I’m used to seeing the words “don’t erase” next to complicated equations on physics department chalkboards. But this is important, too.