i love you, too

I’ll start out by confessing that Dr. Cornel West largely fell off my radar over the past few years. Mea culpa. Mea culpa albus.

I’ve also been mostly lukewarm on Anderson Cooper for no real reason other than CNN has the worst panel discussions imaginable. But CNN still rocks when there is something big enough to warrant on the ground coverage. Their Black Lives Matter protest coverage from multiple cities has been solid, so we’ve been dialing in for those few minutes we can stand watching the world burn.

A few weeks ago (May 29), I chanced upon Dr West on Cooper’s CNN program. I was knocked sideways by the naked passion and truth of his discourse. It was so raw, so sharp to the bone, that I kept expecting the camera to cut away in mid-sentence.

I’ve gone on at length about how Your Electric Picture Radio Box Matters, but that has mostly been in reference to fictional affairs and frivolities. The dilution and conformity of televised news coverage, on the other hand, makes it matter barely at all. A bunch of talking heads nattering conventional wisdom over a ten second b-roll loop of visual popcorn, largely devoid of all but the cheapest mental nourishment.

But this was pure fire coming from the tube. No punches pulled. Cooper looks a bit stunned, but to his great credit he lets West roll. Worth a watch when you have time.

Stanwyck and I were agog. The notoriously cool medium reached flaming hot for a brief moment. And then, naturally, everything settled back down to the standard dozy drone, as along came Cuomo to explain in tedious detail what we were seeing with our own eyes.And often getting it wrong. We soon drifted off to watch something more soothing, like the Great British Bake Off and Clock Making Show or the Teletubbies.

Last night, we happened upon another encounter between Cooper and West. This teleskypezoom affair, despite the social distancing, was probably the most purely humane and touching exchange I’ve ever seen on the teevee.

I’ve been at this for over 50 years. And yet, I’ve got to bounce back. And I will bounce back. The world, white supremacy may make being black a crime. But we refuse to get in the gutter. We will go down swinging like Ella Fitzgerald, Muhammad Ali, in the name of justice.

And we do it for brother WyattWyatt is Cooper’s newborn son., and we do it for my daughter, we’re doing it for the Asians, we’re doing it for the whole world. Because that is the only hope of the world and that kind of love is always tragic, comic and cruciform. You gotta get ready to be crucified with that kind of love.

Cooper was at a loss and fumbled for the right words. A few moments later he choked up and had to pull himself together. West continued:

No, we’re in it together, Brother and the beautiful thing about tears, Socrates never cries, but Jeremiah does and so does Jesus.

We cry because we care. We’re concerned. It is not about political correctness or self-righteousness. We cry because we are not numb on the inside. We don’t have a chilliness of soul and a coldness of mind and heart.

We cry because we connect, but then we must have a vision that includes all of us and have an analysis of power that is honest in terms of the greed, especially at the top. In terms of the hatred, running amok. In terms of corruption, not just the White House and Congress.

Too much churches, too many mosques, too many synagogues and too many universities, too many civic organizations.

And then the greed in us.

You and I would talk about this all of the time, right? The gangster in us. Because we’re wrestling with this day by day and that’s why we need each other, my Brother.

Note to self: Get Dr West back on your radar screen.

I was as staggered as Cooper at this point. Lucky for me I did not have several million eyeballs on me. But Cooper is a pro, no question, and he steered toward the customary segment conclusion.

Only to have West say this:

I love you, my Brother.

Have you ever seen a professional talker rendered speechless? Cooper’s expression was an exquisite blend of joy, pain, and confusion. What the hell can you say to something like that?

After what seemed like forever, Cooper whispered the only possible reply.

I love you, too.

Watching the struggle between professional journalist Cooper – who knew damn well that saying such a thing to a polarizing figure like West was surely testing the bounds of corporate tolerance – and the human Cooper was something to behold. Seeing the human side win out was a moment of pure ecstasy.

Despite the loudly proclaimed motto of the blog (see up top), I do not say this as often as I should.Other than to Stanwyck, who must surely be tired of hearing it by now. Three little words. But there are universes within its eight letters. It is disarming. It is generous. It is enveloping. It is hopeful. It is a clear recognition that I am he as you are he as you are me. Coo coo ka choo.

It’s love, dammit, the kind that we need more of, the kind that we see in every person out marching peacefully for change right now. The kind we see on every face that is covered by a mask. Not love of self, but love for our Sisters and Brothers. Hope. Decency.

I love you, too. Thanks for reading. It means the world to me.

PS – Here’s the clip from last night. It is worth watching. It is also worth noting that CNN edited out the closing moments when Cooper said, “I love you, too,” though it does appear in the CNN transcript.

It’s Happening Here

One of the phrases that keeps popping up over the past three and a half years has been some variation on “I never in my life would have imagined…”, followed by a description or photo of whatever daily excess our government has committed as part of its ongoing stumble to authoritarian rule.

I say we simply have to have a better imagination. No matter how bad we think it has gotten, every new day will bring another excess at which we shall gasp and clutch our metaphoric pearls.

It’s happening here.

I know some will accuse me of overstating the case, of amplifying a few unrelated facts into something that is just a fever dream of my addled liberalism. Just as some told me my reaction to the election of Trump was extreme and irrational. Tut tut, silly boy. We’ve been through worse than this.

I admit that my imagination upon the election of Cheeto Don ran riot, that I imagined one preposterous disaster after another during his term, that I imagined a seething subclass of malcontents, racists, and gun nuts taking his election as license to cosplay their more twisted fantasies. You should see some of the failed fictions in my desk drawer.

My imagination, sadly, fell far short of what turned out to be our new normal. Mea culpa.

Despite the warnings of several astute observers (Sarah Kendzior and Masha Gessen among many), I held out some glimmer of hope that the ‘norms’ and ‘traditions’ of American governance would be enough to save us from the arrogance, malevolence, and sheer stupidity that were Trump’s most apparent qualifications for national leadership in the first place.

Trump’s method is based in his most prevalent personal trait: He’s a fuck up. He has failed in almost every venture he has undertaken, but because he has no conscience and no inkling of personal fault, he always manages to extract himself from the wreckage better off than before; it doesn’t hurt that he surrounds himself with slavishly devoted functionaries desperate for a little of his gold dust to float their way. From Roy Cohn to Michael Cohen, he’s always had “a guy” to take care of his mess. And they always find out too late that he has as much loyalty to them as he does to the guy who gold plates his toilets. Everybody get’s stiffed in the end.

So it is with his consolidation of political power. Incompetence is wedded to rank opportunism. There is no pretense to decency. No behavioral norm is safe. And given that he is a congenital fuckup, he inevitably creates another crisis that lends itself to grift and depredation. One after another flunky finds himself roadside with a tire track on his back. Repeat.

I knew Trump was a simpleton bereft of decency. I know he had been a mobbed up petty grifter and conscienceless racial provocateur. I knew all the things about him, just as I knew the rot at the core of the modern GOP and the conservative movement was perfectly tilled for his brand of resentment and greed to flourish. I had always just figured the decline would continue at a leisurely pace under a Cruz, a Rubio, or a JEB!, more or less nasty, but with at least a whiff of gentility and noblesse oblige to cover the stench.

My imagination failed me.

So here we are. More than 100,000 dead in a pandemic made worse by incompetence and preening ego. An economy in freefall.But hey, the stock market is doing great! Our ability to influence events beyond our borders reduced to almost zero.This may, in fact, be an improvement, historically speaking. The logistics of responding to a pandemic are hard, they tell us. Besides, it’s not so bad, just like a flu. We don’t have the resources. We don’t have the supply chain. We don’t have etc. and so on.

Yet somehow we have the ability to mobilize thousands of troops tricked out in riot gear, with full logistic and armored vehicle support, to clear a public park so our president could pose with a borrowed Bible in front of church those troops “liberated” with tear gas and riot gear.And fuck sake, spare me any of that “it wasn’t tear gas, you stupid libtard, it was pepper spray.” Somehow, we always have the necessary resources to impose order by means of force, wherever in the world we might choose to do so, no matter how much it degrades the situation in the end. But there is never enough money lying around for, oh I don’t know, adequate health care for a huge swath of our citizenry or replacing a crumbling school. Hell, we can’t even seem to maintain our major airports at a standard equivalent to a Kathmandu bus station.

My imagination failed to warn me that the president would deny that there had been tear gas deployed outside the White House, even though hundreds of people witness that it happened. My imagination totally failed to prepare me for the moment when his Barbie-esque press secretary compared Trumps awkward fondling of a Bible on the St John church steps as equivalent to Winston Churchill’s surveying a bomb rubbled London in WWII. Stop believing your lying eyes, peasants.

It’s happening here.

Today, June 4, marks the 31st anniversary of the Chinese governments slaughter of protesters in Tienanmen Square. The world was almost unanimously shocked and revolted by the government aggression. One notable exception was a mobbed up grifter and publicity whore from Queens, NY:

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak…as being spit on by the rest of the world.

Playboy Magazine, March, 1990

Since then, Trump has notably praised dictators across the globe: Erdoğan, Kim, Orban, Xi. And Putin, of course. Especially Putin. Always Putin.

Trump idolizes that kind of pseudo-masculine aggression. As a weak man, he longs to express himself in a manner he believes proves his machismo. His crowing about his sexual assaults. His unsubtle braggadocio about the size of his dick. His calls for cops to “not be so gentle” when they arrest people, calls for protesters to be “punched in the face”. His longing for the old days, when men were men, and so on.

Now we have Lafayette Park, really only the latest expression of his power lust, but surely the most transparently autocratic. Lafayette Park has long been considered a ‘people’s park’, and there have been peaceful protests there against every president in my living memory. It’s kind of like our Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Anybody can speak their mind.

Some of those protests involved people camping out for weeks and months to make their cases. Some I agreed with. Some, not so much. Some were, frankly, cranks. But no matter their position, it is our First Amendment right to protest that has been on display, and I say “Hell yes” to these folks with the passion to stand up and speak their piece. And until this week protesters have largely been left in peace.

Contrast this to the armed occupation of the Michigan State House several weeks ago. Where that was all about intimidation and fear – terrorism, in a word – Trump urged Michigan Governor Whitmer to just ease off and let things settle down. As with the torch-wielding white supremacists in Charlottesville, he sees the “good people on both sides” and urges us the let racist bygones be bygones.

But the unarmed, almost entirely peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park expose the weakness and rot at the president’s core. Like most men raised in the poisonous atmosphere of macho America, Trump is terrified of looking “like a pussy”. So he sent combat-attired troops to teach those people who is boss while he waited out the troubles in his underground bunker, a special snowflake’s hidey hole.

As chilling as the scenes in Lafayette Park are to watch – not at all unlike Tienanmen in 1989 or Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring – the scene that gutted me to the core is the one up top of this diatribe.

For me, the sight of fully armed combat troops deployed in formation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is an insult akin to what an honestly religious person must feel upon seeing a serial adulterer/thief/liar wave a prop Bible in front of a church.

Like all the monuments on the Mall in D.C., the Lincoln is typically open to visitors 24/7, every day of the year. I prefer to visit at night, when the shadows make room for visits from the ghosts that inhabit the Vietnam and Korean Memorials. It’s as close to sacred ground this atheist knows outside the Village Vanguard.

It is quiet at night, and unlike the daytime throngs of field trippers and such, the people you see there after dark seem to share a sense of reverence for the truly horrible burden Lincoln bore to maintain the Union against the forces of treason and racial subjugation. He was no saint, Lincoln, a fact he recognized as well as anyone. He was a flawed man who bore an unimaginable burden. In the end, he paid the price that racism extracts when it is challenged.

This imperfect vessel knew enough to make a plea to our “better angels” central to his project. Trump’s project – much like the Confederacy itself – relies on the baser impulses of greed, cruelty, resentment. Sadly for us all, lesser angels are much easier to rouse.

Trump has imposed an occupation force on the nation’s capitol city, something the traitors Davis and Lee could never achieve. There are combat troops and military police and personnel from the Federal Bureau of Corrections trained in quelling prison riots. The Drug Enforcement Administration has been mobilized to surveil the protesters. The National Guard is on the scene. At this point, he needs only an excuse – or an invitation from one of his supplicant Republican governors – to spread these forces into other communities.

It’s happening. Here.

Today, on this Tienanmen anniversary, the NY Times published an “opinion” piece by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. The headline is enough to catch the drift: “Send In The Troops”, but it is worth a read to understand the dark sentiments shared by way too many of our neighbors. It would have fit right in during the pre-Civil War years when self-righteous plantation owners warned against the inevitable rape of our precious white women if the slaves gain so much as an iota of freedom.

The government, and the halls of business and industry, are filled with Tom Cottons. Handsome, well dressed, educated at all the right schools (even as they decry the corrosive subversion of Ivy League elites). These are the people who call for the elimination of American freedoms in order to preserve their own “freedom” to accumulate wealth, guns, and power. These are the people for whom a request to wear a mask during a pandemic is intolerable tyranny, but who also believe that protesters getting shot in the face with rubber bullets are just getting what they deserve for not following police orders.

I realize the American Dream, the promise of all men created equal and such, is a fantasy built upon the great, original sin of slavery. The nation’s prosperity was extracted via the unpaid labor of millions of Black Americans. Our American Dream, the freedom and standard of living that had been a beacon to oppressed people around the world, is a happy face painted on centuries of savage cruelty and greed. The racism inherent in our governance is an entrenched barrier to our progress as a civilized nation. The people protesting in the streets right now – and the people who support them – are demanding that the promise be honored, and that the cancer be removed. Our future depends on their – our – success.

The Tom Cottons of the world demand that these upstarts – us, by damn – be taught a lesson once and for all and that we learn to stay in our place. If we are lucky, resilient, and determined, we might be able to push back against that pressure. If not, nothing in my wildest imagination is likely to measure up to the darkness to come.

NOTE: Not from my imagination. I’m still working on it.

COVIDream #3

A night of fractured scenes, only one cohered in memory.

On a full airliner. We land on the top level of a parking deck.Planes flying through and landing on parking decks are recurrent in the i2b dreamscape.

I am asked to stay seated until everyone is off the plane. As the last person leaves, my seat has become a chair in a dentist’s office, complete with all the swishy tubes and drills and such.

I look out the window and all the passengers are pressed up against the terminal window to watch my dental surgery. The dentist and nurse are masked and unrecognizable.

Surgery over almost as soon as it starts. Now I am in an airplane seat again. I move to get off when an announcement comes on telling me to take me seat for takeoff. I look out the window and we are now on a parking deck adjacent to the one we landed on.

I buckle in. The plane takes off. I wake with a start when it seems the plane will not clear the office building on ascent.

~ FIN ~

COVIDream #2

In which the nightly escape from our waking nightmare is sometimes not.

I find myself toiling once again in the corporate world, this time an ominous place focused on cyber security.I actually worked for two hi tech security firms along the way. It was very Blade Runner: all black and grey metals with finish ranging from flat matte to deeply reflective without being at all shiny; black and grey carpet in the usual industrial pattern that is not a pattern; lighting that was more than ample to see and work, but still felt dark; and, that i2b dream staple, the elevator banks that move from place to place of their own volition, and that never seem to take you to the same place twice.

My first day at work. No idea what I am supposed to be working on. I get hungry. Since I don’t know anybody – everybody is very standoffish, almost rude about it – I set out to find food alone. There is a very pleasant cafe/tavern next door, or so it seems. Their menu is about 40 pages long, and has lots of lush photos of food that they do not seem to serve. They have a very detailed beer listing, though. However, the joint is part of and for the security company only, and does not serve alcohol during business hours. The company runs 24/7, so, no. I return to HQ, starving, and buy a few chocolatey baked treats and some coffee in the lobby. All the baked treats are chocolate or something else dark, to match the visual aesthetic of the place.

I get on the elevator back to my cubicle. Guy next to me says, “You must be new.”

At last, a friendly voice. Sort of.

“Yes, first day.”

“Go easy on the muffins. That shit will fuck you up.”

Door opens, my new friend disappears. Later, I find out the hard way that, yes, the muffins are laced with amphetamines, anti-anxiety agents, and various other behavioral modifiers.Goody’s powder for the cyber age, reckon. But I was starving, so I tucked right in. Yum.

I exit the elevator in what I think is the right place, but nothing looks like where I was before. My cubicle is an extension of the building vibe: dark, weirdly quiet, and the cubicles are finished in a silken fabric that is almost irresistible to touch, right on the borderline between luxe and creepy. A chair that feels like a massage headed for a happy ending. I also have a fine monitor/speaker system for watching movies – from a company approved list – because, they “don’t mind how you spend your time as long as you get your work done”.

This area is…different. A bank of harsh fluorescence hangs from a drop ceiling with most of the tiles missing. The cubicles are all beige and tatty. Chairs are wobbly, arms missing, cushion bursting out of torn ‘leather’. The biggest difference: nothing but H1-B immigrant workers, mostly Asian or Indo-Pakistani, crammed butts to nuts, wearing headset communicators and staring into old CRT monitors. Typing for their lives. Dressed in black, head to toe. I see a jug at every person’s feet: make-do urinals so they never have to leave their desk. Lots of muffin remains and crumbs. One person notices me and stops working to stare. That disruption in the collective flow seems to make everyone stop as one and stare my way.

“Sorry, I’m lost.”

The only white guy on this floor walks up to me. Black khakis, black polo with embroidered company logo. Same outfit as the H1B folks, but blacker. Earpiece. Phone and taser on his belt. He steers me back to the elevator, which seems to have moved to a completely different place.

“Be more careful next time. This is a security company. No room for errors.”

I get on and press – what floor am I anyway? – 12, why not. The elevator accelerates fast enough to knock me off balance. But it is moving horizontally.Another fixture of 12b dreams: elevators that move horizontally.

I emerge in a different building entirely and on a higher floor than before. Maybe a diagonal elevator? Same aesthetic, but abandoned. Wires hanging from the ceiling, chairs toppled, piles of cubicle pieces. I toss my coffee and wrappers in an overflowing trash can. Very much the setting of the last scene of Fight Club. Figure this is not the place for me, so I turn right around to an elevator that is no longer there. Well shit.

Voices in the corridors. I find my way to a cluster of people at yet another bank of elevators. They go quiet. Clearly suspicious and almost hostile. I get on the elevator and hit 7 – that’s my floor! hope I’m in the right building!

I emerge to familiar surroundings. My manager – actually a very friendly manager I worked for years back – sees me and welcomes me back.

“Trouble with the elevators?”

She laughs and smiles. Maybe I’m not crazy. She leads me back to my cube. I take an opportunity to ask about my duties.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get something to you soon enough. Until then, just watch a movie, or read, or nap. Whatever. It’s just important that you get here on time. Oh, and there will probably be a lot of required overtime. Nights and weekends. Hope that’s okay.”

Now Kate and I worked together for a long stretch at a company that got bought and sold many times until someone finally bought and cut it up for parts and tax writeoffs.

“Kate, this is embarrassing. We’ve had so many owners and name changes, I can’t quite remember the name of the company now.”

“I know, it’s crazy. I forget too. Let’s just call it Hell.”

And she laughs again, tells me to be sure to be onsite when required, and waves.

“You should try the muffins from downstairs. They’re GREAT!”

Weeks pass. Months, maybe years. I still have had no assignments, no work to do. But the pay is good, and I get to watch movies and such. The nights and weekends are pretty damned annoying, but jobs are hard to come by.

Elevators continue to move around, offices and cubicles don’t stay in the same place for long. I never see Kate again. And I eat muffins all the damn time.

One stretch at work goes on for three straight days. I go home exhausted. Our house is a little company bungalow, one of hundreds exactly alike. I find it boarded up with a police notice on the front door. Crime Scene. Do Not Enter. Investigation Site.

With the company logo at the bottom.

I go back to work. Where else would I go? When I get there, I take the elevator to my cubicle. The elevator dumps me out into the gaggle of H1B workers.

Cops in riot gear have a bunch of the visa employees lined up on their knees. Zip tied. Terrified. A couple of bloody noses.

Cop in those wrap around dude bro sunglasses gives me a chilling grin.

“I told you he’d come back to the crime scene.”

They grab me and start reciting all my crimes. Apparently I am the kingpin of a gang of saboteurs working to undermine global security by infiltrating the Company.

The proof? All that time I spent at The Company when I had no work to do, no reason to be there. Tracking my movements, including suspicious wanderings to parts of the complex where I have no business.

~ FIN ~

Note: This dream spanned several successions of waking and going back to sleep. Usually I can ‘change the channel’ on my dreams by rolling to another side or the like, but not this time. Any wonder I am always tired?

COVIDream #1

The nightly dreamscape has been wild of late. This series hopes to capture some of the weirdiality. Not necessarily significant. But damn….

I am on a business trip to Atlanta, sometime post-pandemic. I rent a car because I am told mass transit is impossible, and taxis are dead because Uber/Lyft killed them before they died.

I drive out to Chamblee (!) for my morning meeting. My car is stolen during the meeting, and the rental company has none to replace it. Due to so many car thefts, apparently.

My next meeting is in Decatur. So I start walking. And walking. It is hot as hell, then it rains, then it is even hotter. I finally realize it is too far to walk. I see a MARTA bus stop. I wait. When the bus arrives, I get on, fumbling for money. Dead silence falls.

I look up and everybody is staring. Everyone is dressed to the nines, and the bus is ultra-luxury. Leather seats, calm lighting. A waiter serves refreshments.

“How much to ride?”

The driver, in his very neatly pressed uniform, looks me up and down. I’m a sweaty mess, but I’m wearing a decent suit, so I guess he figures I’m sort of okay.

“You can’t ride without a swipe card. No cash allowed. There is a place downstairs in the building on the corner where you can get one. If you can get one, you can catch the next bus. It will be here in five minutes.”

I scramble to look for the card vendor. The downstairs of the building has multiple storefronts and businesses. There are no signs. I keep sticking my head into places and asking until I find the place.

Suspicious stares. I ask to buy a swipe card for a ride.

“Sorry. We don’t sell single rides. Minimum one hundred dollars ride credit plus a fifty dollar card fee.”

“But I don’t live here. I’m just visiting.”

More suspicion. Another worker picks up a phone, whispering. The woman “helping” me turns on her best customer service smile, and chirps:

“It’s the best way to keep the riff raff off the bus. Keeps them nice and clean this way. It improves the customer experience.”

I pay. She hands me my card.

“As soon as your background check is complete, your card will be activated. Give it 24-48 hours. And thank you for choosing MARTA. I hope you enjoy your rides.”


The Opposite of Nothingness, Part II

A quick addendum to yesterday’s post made necessary because I am really out of practice at this so I forgot the main thing I wanted to share about Wu Fei.

Around three weeks ago, Wu Fei announced that she would present a piece of music every day through a subscription service. There are two options: You can pay a little bit per month to receive a piece every day, or you can take the unpaid option that brings you a piece every Monday and Friday.

Like most artists, Wu Fei faces a real challenge: How to continue to create new work, engage with an audience, and earn some income. Her solution, in part, is this subscription series.

The twice-a-week-for-free option is a no brainer. Just do it. Click here to take a listen to today’s piece, “Green Plums and a Bamboo Horse“.

If you can throw in a little coin, “[y]ou’ll also be supporting a new way of creating music as a livelihood, and motivating me to compose or improvise an original piece of music every single day,” as Wu Fei explains at her project site.

It’s a mere $8.88 a month for the full ride, around 29 cents a pop for a new sliver of beauty in your life every day. You can also give gift subscriptions to your pals who may be a tad short on the dosh these days.

Most days Wu Fei’s new piece is the first thing I listen to. Today’s piece has run through three times so far.

Sign up. Just do it.

The Opposite of Nothingness: My Favorite World #39 (COVID Series #1)

I danced around this piece all last week. With everything so upheaved, I felt obligated to deliver something with heft, depth, and consequence. To offer something that might offset the grim reality that plagues our everyday.

Writing essays about how the world is fucked up and bullshit are easy enough in normal times. Now it’s just shooting fish in a barrel. And really, what’s the point?Don’t even get me started on the futility of coming up with something fictional when we are living inside some Mary Shelley/Camus/Kafka fever dream. We are all sharing the same streams of information, more or less, and unless you are gamboling around the fringier fringes of the internet machine, the news is stark: This shit is real and it is not going away quickly. That first rush of “I can ride this out standing on my head” bravado has withered and died. The long haul, we are in it, and sorry y’all, but it feels like so much nothingness I could just fucking scream.

Thus my bright idea to leaven the isolation by offering up some My Favorite World diversions. Share a few tidbits that might lively up yourself, shed light on some, perhaps, lesser noticed gems that make this My Favorite World.

But what a fraud! Who am I to suggest to anyone how to lighten the burden? Where does this Grumpy Gus get off chirping about MFW and cherishing the gems of culture as a shield against the darkness.

Because here’s the the thing that I’ve been missing: Joy. It is staggeringly difficult for me to find true joy right now. Moments of contentment, perhaps, even moments where I almost fully forget the looming terror and disappear into a moment of – is that joy? – only to have it snatched away.

Oh the bitter irony of the person who forgets his own prevailing ethos! Because both the i2b / MFW sensibility comes down to one key verb: Choice. Always has done. Immunity to boredom is a choice along a continuum. Savoring the only world you have to choose from is damn near binary. But it remains: Make a choice. Doctor, heal thyself!

I turn then to an old Guitar Craft adage, the one that suggests when we feel we are not up to a task, or somehow unworthy, that we Assume the Virtue and go ahead anyway. In plain English: Fake it til ya make it.

So without further ado, here are a few gorgeous tidbits from this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. It’s my favorite, by the way. World, I mean.

First up, a master of the Chinese guzheng, a 21-string zithery thing that sounds like a room full of chiming twelve-string guitars.

Wu Fei means “opposite of nothingness”. And that, I reckon, ought to encompass everything, including the Joy that I seem to have misplaced somewhere.

I first heard Wu Fei at the Big Ears Festival in 2017. Her solo set summoned angels and devils and ghosts, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Her collaborations range from far edge new music improvisers like Fred Frith and Carla Kihlstedt to guitar virtuoso Gyan Riley (son of legendary composer Terry Riley).

The Wu Fei / Gyan Riley 2011 album Pluck is available over at Fei’s Bandcamp page for a mere seven beans. Go. Buy.

Until recently, my favorite We Fei collaboration was this monstrous Duo for Guzheng and Freight Train. Chaos. Roaring Chaos, at that. And in the middle of it all a stillness, filled with Joy.

Here’s the key thing about Wu Fei: Her music brings Joy. Even in the sad or dark pieces, there is joy in the suffering. And nowhere does the Joy shine more brightly than in her recent recording with banjo wizard Abigail Washburn on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

I caught this pair at Big Ears a couple years ago. Because I was ducking in out of the rain for “a song or two” before I moved on to something more something or other-ish. I mean, c’mon. On paper, the matchup has all the appeal of something cooked up for NPR fundraising week by a bunch of market driven pencil pushers, yet another in a long march of pedestrian world music mashups. I, I sniffed, am above such RiverDance-esque manipulations.

An hour later I was still in my seat, my coat still on, tears of sorrow and laughter streaking my cheeks. This was no bit of clever, audience-tested oatmeal. Fei and Washburn have been friends for years, ever since Washburn studied in China, and more recently as Fei has relocated to Nashville. And in the best tradition of pure folk music, they cooked up their stew jamming on the front porch while they tried to keep their young’uns in line.

The resulting album, produced by Washburn’s husband Bela Fleck, is one of my favorites in recent years. It is soulful and authentic and virtuosic and just so damned full of Joy I could just fucking scream. Happy scream.

So Much Joy

Go buy it. And while you’re at it, check out the cover story on Fei and Abigail in the new issue of Songlines, penned by my fine old buddy DD.

And while we’re talking about good old pals, there is nothing like hearing the voice of an old friend, even if he’s telling you stories you’ve heard a million times. Hell, these days, that might be the best medicine of all.

So here’s a kicking little Tiny Desk Concert from John Fogerty and his kids rocking a few old favorites. I especially love the actual baseball bat guitar he uses on ‘Centerfield’. There’s an old joke about Stratocaster just being baseball bats with strings. This one looks really uncomfortable to play, but it sounds great.

And finally, just because this naughty little ear worm has been deviling me for days, a happy little ditty from 1970 by the Kinks. I was maybe ten or eleven when this came out, and while it took me years to realize what was really going on, I loved it right off. And that’s the way that I want it to stay.

Pronoun Confusion is nothing new

Y’all be well and holler if the spirit moves ya. And as always…


It matters a difference.

PS – Click here for Part 2 of this post, because I forgot something really important that I remembered at 3 a.m. Mea culpa.

Live and Let Die

“Tut, tut, child!” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

— Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A few days ago, our more-or-less president paid a visit to an Arizona factory where they manufacture Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), in this case the N95 masks that are essential for health care workers and are pretty damn great for the rest of us who are trying not to die of the COVID monster. As the Great Pumpkin toured the site – without wearing a mask himself, at one point spraying his putrid drool directly onto a bin of newly-made product – a curious song blared over the loudspeakers.

Indeed, it was the James Bond theme written and made famous by Sir Paul McCartneyHe was in a band called The Beatles for a minute back in the dark ages. You can look it up. and redone by the fleetingly popular 80s hair band Guns’n’Roses; it was their antically screeching version accompanying the president. Late night comics had a blast, as did the twitterati, hailing the anonymous jokester who slipped this past the gatekeepers. Others japed that the hopelessly incompetent boobs on the WH staff were to blame; they just did not realize what the song actually says, yet another in a long-running GOP quirk of using songs that mean the opposite of what they think it means. Born in the USA, anyone?

All bullshit, sez me. I assert that the song was chosen with great deliberation and malice aforethought. This is the message the White House wants you to hear and internalize. “Live and Let Die” is as succinct and honest a policy statement as the Trump gang has presented in the three dark years they have been looting our national patrimony. It is the exquisitely logical culmination of disaster capitalism. These mafioso are damned if they are going to let this good crisis go to waste. And in a rare moment, they decided to not even pretend any more that there was so much as a passing interest in ameliorating the human consequences of the pandemic.

We fool ourselves when we fall into the trap of assuming the capos and subcapos in the White House are bungling doofuses. I believe they are, in fact, quite capable at the mission they have undertaken. They are there to hasten the dismantling of the commons. They are there to reaffirm White Supremacy as the dominant paradigm of the American social contract. They are there to convert public assets into private holdings. They are there to ensure their friends are allowed to conduct business unfettered by inconveniences like environmental and labor protections, barriers to monopoly, and pesky annoyances like restrictions on abuse of power and foreign financial entanglements.

And certainly our betters do not deserve to be hampered by concerns over whether a few hundred or a few hundred thousand Americans get sick and die from a novel pandemic. Especially when such concerns might keep the hoi palloi from going about their designated roles as widget producers and consumers. The engines of democracy, what what.

America was built on the backs of expendables. From the beginning there has always been a surplus population that the sober-minded Captains of Industry and Capital have been hair-trigger ready to sacrifice to their own enrichment. Use them as one would any natural resource: Extract the value and cast the remains aside.

This is the mission of the Trump kakistocracy. It’s a time honored strategy beloved by organized crime and hedge fund titans (though I repeat myself): Take over an institution and through concentrated malfeasance drive it into perilous instability. Then the looters are free to pilfer and sell off the pieces for personal enrichment. Fans of the Sopranos recognize this as the Bust Out.

The Trump family – so accurately described by writer Sarah Kendzior as “a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government” – has been systematic in its efforts to undermine governance. This has been apparent from the jump, and while Trump is indeed half-an-imbecile at best, efforts to dismiss this rampage as the product of stupidity leaves us helpless in the face of a harsh reality: The destruction of American governance and the evisceration of the rule of law are at the heart of the Trump project.

But wait. There’s more!

Because the evangelical core of the MAGA movement is so inextricably wedded to theological White supremacy, there exists a huge swath of our fellow citizens who are actively and enthusiastically rooting for an apocalypse of any kind, just so long as it does the salutary work of ridding the world of apostates, degenerates, liberals, mud people, and pretty much anyone who does not buy into their christo-fascist revelations.

This sets us up nicely for a maker-taker / saved-damned parsing of the citizenry. The makers are happy to see the decimation and further impoverishment of the takers, the better to more thoroughly control the resources that are – obviously! – the makers’ natural due. The saved are happy to see the damned scourged by hellfire, or virus, or whatever sword of god is close to hand. And anyone who falls to the sword – even those who thought they were in the maker/saved camp – has only gotten the comeuppance they so richly deserve. So how dare you tell me to take precautions on behalf of my or my neighbor’s health? Survival of the fittest!

We live in a reality where the federal government has made the utilitarian calculation that letting this pandemic “run its course” is more cost efficient than trying to fight it, that re-opening the economy is worth whatever death and suffering among the commoners might result. That this is both morally and economically insane is beside the point, because none of us matters in their accounting. They want you to know they feel that way. They want you to feel that way about yourself. Because once we believe it, we are done.

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.

John Adams, 1814

Are we done for? Maybe not, but as long as this syndicate runs the show, we are well advised to not expect any substantial aid – or even reasonable guidance – from our governmental institutions. We are being urged to get our economy rolling again – much as we were told to just go shopping after 9/11 – not because medical science suggests it is time but because the people who can force the issue are tired of not raking the profits to which they are accustomed. Even worse! The proles are getting money for nothing, just for sitting around and watching teevee.

Who the fuck do they think they are? Rentiers? Stockholders? Money lenders?

No. Not you.

I am depressed beyond measure as people rush to fill reopened public spaces, as people squander the gains made against viral spread over the past two months.Or has it been four? Or six? I lost track of the month this morning as I woke from yet another anxiety dream. I was sure it had to still be April. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems likely that this hasty ‘return to normal’ – whatever the hell normal might even mean any more – is going to trigger another wave of infection. I hope I’m wrong, but any cursory study of the great pandemics of history suggest it is inevitable. I will take no satisfaction in being proved right.

They keep coming back. They don’t know why.

People like me are accused of wanting the shutdown to go on forever, and judging by social media comments, anyone foolish enough to want to protect their own health – by wearing a mask, practicing distancing & isolation, etc. – is some wretched combination of homosexual, commie, and victim of marital betrayal. We are One World, Soros/Gates controlled puppets, a flock of sheeple being led astray by “crisis actor” doctors and nurses conspiring to use the pandemic to make their Cheeto Jesus look bad.

A bunch of haters trying to make Trump look bad.

As I have done forever, I have been consuming a bunch of apocalypse narratives lately, and I really need to stop. Some of them, like the latest William Gibson novel Agency and Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, are terrific page-turners that left me feeling hopeless. Ducks, Newburyport is a thousand page stream of anxiousness story about a woman who is certain global catastrophe is just around the corner. Thanks anyway, and it is indeed written superbly, but I’m more than capable of generating my own running commentary on the end times.

HBO’s Westworld started off spiffy enough, but devolved into dreary slaughter and a bleak pile of body parts.The nod at redemption for Dolores was a nice touch, but not enough to counterbalance the grim nihilism. And however cool the exploding skyscrapers at the end of Fight Club might have seemed in 1999, Westworld’s invocation of this image is at once lazy and pretty god damned tone deaf post-9/11.

It felt like I was chewing nails. I needed something light, a little pick me up as ’twere. So I pulled down The Plague by Albert Camus.Yeah, I am a weirdo.

Amazingly enough, it was just the ticket back into hopefulness. First off, the writing is remarkably sharp. The tone steers clear of the dark spectacle that is common currency in dystopia tales. In its place is a heartfelt humaneness, a depth of feeling that refuses to hide its suffering behind narrative fireworks.

On the last page, the narrator explains that he wrote his account because he wished to…

…bear witness in favor of those plaque-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

The Plague, Albert Camus

We find a similar tone in Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell. This examination of community responses to five epic social calamities – from the great San Francisco fire to Katrina – paints a picture of how we might find our best selves in the face of crisis, how we might rise above our habitual indifferences to achieve something greater than the sum of our parts. We need look no farther than the front line medical workers for an example of what that might look like.

One post-dystopic book I’d like to read again soonWill he never learn???? is Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. It paints a grueling struggle, but it is suffused with hope for a better future. No matter how dark, our heroes refuse to give up.

“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.”

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

That pretty well sums up where I am right now. I despair for the choices and challenges facing my kids and their generation, and I grieve for the thousands who have and will die from the indifference the Trump syndicate has shown towards medical science and human decency.

My optimism is pretty much spent. But I remain too stubborn to surrender hope, no matter how unreasonable that may seem.

Top of the page, yo. Blog motto. It matters a difference.

Also, too: I’m going to bring back the My Favorite World series next week. Because there is still so much astonishingly wonderful stuff to celebrate.

Put Out More Flags

As part of “Operation America Strong,” the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds announced they will fly joint operations over Washington, Baltimore, New York, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Austin, sources told USA TODAY.

It was inevitable that vocabulary and concepts around COVID19 would come to lean heavily on militarized bafflegab. We are “at war” with an “Invisible Enemy” that threatens to “destroy the economy and the lives of millions of Americans.” We “deploy strike forces” to conduct tests in elder living facilities.Perhaps the term ‘care team’ was deemed too twee and weak for the National Guard carrying out the “mission.” Screw it; let’s scare Granny to death. We are exhorted to “activate the arsenal of democracy” to defeat this threat.

Not as easy to predict was the invocation of one of our most overused symbols of military prowess, the roaring squall and vapor trails of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds of the U.S. Air Force air demonstration squadrons.

It is customary to have the victory parades after the victory is won, but if the COVID episode has proved anything it is that our government’s sense of sequence and priority is somewhat addled. And hey, who can resist a tight marketing pitch? Operation America Strong. Fuck yeah.

As with most things military, the actual cost of these mighty flexes are damnably difficult to pin down. The most common figure is $35M-ish per annum per squadron, but estimates range as high as $200M when costs of maintenance and aircraft replacement are figured in. Each plane burns approximately 1300 gallons of jet fuel per hour, an extravagance that is expensive fiscally and environmentally. That is a lot of overhead up there for something that will be done with in a few seconds.

But hey, what’s a little dosh when it comes to putting on a circus, no matter how quick? Sure, we could pay the rent or buy Momma’s insulin, but fuck it, let’s drive up to Dothan instead and buy us a bunch of fireworks.

Maybe to some degree our lazy reversion to illness-as-military-metaphor makes sense. It is likely that as I write this post the total number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID19 will surpass the number of U.S. troops killed during the entire Vietnam War. (We surpassed the Korean War tally over the weekend.) This makes COVID19 the fourth most deadly war in our history.CW, WWII, and WWI for those keeping score.

This assumes that we have been counting more or less accurately. “Some experts” believe we are missing a huge batch of COVID casualties, while “other sources” disagree, asserting that the COVID numbers being deliberately inflated by nefarious forces who are trying to use the pandemic to subjugate the “sheeple” who refuse to see that our essential Liberty is under attack by a tyrannical one-world-government cabal.

Both sides. You say potato…

Somewhat less paranoically, we are exhorted to “activate the great arsenal of democracy” in order to “protect our precious freedoms” and “kick start our economy” so that we might enjoy the “liberty” that fuels the “American Dream”. We are in an “arms race” to develop a vaccine, a race in which victory is “critical” so that we are not left at the mercy of pick-your-villainous-other. You know, Those People, the ones who started this virus in the first place. You know who I mean, amirite? Nudge wink…

“When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.” – George Orwell Politics and the English Language (1946)

Never mind that. We are “winning the war” with our “Invisible Enemy”.

Today, the White House proudly announced that the U.S. has conducted 5.4M COVID tests, “more than any other country in the world”. This boast gently elides the fact that 5.4M represents about 1.5% of our total population.

Here in Florida, Gov. DeSantis touts that Florida has conducted the third highest number of tests in the nation. Again, the elision: Florida also has the third highest population in the nation, putting our percentage a little below the national figure. Yesterday, our Governor Mini Trump declared that he sees a “light at the end of the tunnel”. Victory! Open the beaches.

It is astonishing how successful our man Ron has been, given the impossible obstacles. Just yesterday he blamed “the media” for ignoring the dangers of CV for too long. But our Speaker of the House today asserted that “journalists continue to sustain the pandemic narrative” and that “the measures we have taken in the last few weeks have been both harmful – with freedoms lost, money spent, livelihoods destroyed – and pointless.”

It’s a dessert topping! It’s a floor wax! Both sides!

The bafflegab comes strong and fast, one degraded word and metaphor after another. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty’ have taken a solid thrashing over the past 40 years, denuded of any real meaning by relentless deployment in service of selling cars and trucks and sundry other shiny objects, not to mention their use as cudgel to differentiate “patriots” from “libtards” &c. The sight of literally tens and twenties of outraged protesters demanding their Constitutionally protected right to get a haircut – in the name of Freedom! and Liberty! – could only attain greater comic amplitude if they painted their faces blue like Mel Gibson.

Freedom isn’t free! It’s a bumper sticker.

But the word that has taken the worst body blows of late is ‘essential’. Who has to show up to work? The essential workers. What businesses have to stay open? Essential ones.

That the people who do the work deemed ‘essential’ are overwhelmingly the lowest paid among us is more than a tad discomfiting, as is the free slinging application of the word ‘hero’ as a token of appreciation in lieu of actual support and compensation. This is a word that has long served as a lever to encourage people to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, which all too cleanly equates to what is good for their betters. Dulcē et decōrum est prō patriā mōrī, yo. You’re a hero, maybe even an essential one.

The word takes on water fast when we start to see enterprises like WWE pro wrestling declared an “essential business” in Florida. That this happened within 24 hours of the ownership of WWE donating $18.5M to the Florida GOP is either a happy coincidence or a disturbing demonstration of the power of a specific kind of essence that lies behind the unsubtle drive to Reopen America. Nail salons. Barbers. Tattoo artists. Waiters. Not many people leaving the gated communities for those essential tasks.

On the brighter side, the present viral moment affords an opportunity for us to closely examine what ‘essential’ truly means as we adapt to a life style that is, to put it mildly, constrained. While there may be a long list of things we might really, really, really want to do or buy – beyond the life-sustaining basics of food, shelter, and medical care – much of what we took for granted as necessary is just…not.

Being cooped up at home for weeks (months? experts differ) on end sucks. Shit gets old under the best circumstances. I can rarely tell you what day of the week it is without checking first. Sleep is hard to achieve and riddled with the most cinematically disturbing dreams. There is nothing grand about it.

But shelter in place (itself a term more closely related to mass shootings that are often carried out in a militarist fantasy) is quite evidently the most effective means of curbing the spread of the virus until a vaccine comes along. Contrary to the assault rifle toting mini-mobs demanding their right to a mani-pedi, self-isolating does not equate to cowering in fear. It is an act of love and affirmation.

The pandemic catastrophes of history share two salient features that suggest our near future: First, there will be a premature declaration of all-clear, with an attendant resurgence of the disease that matches or exceeds the first wave. Second, there will be a reflexive move to blame anybody else for the catastrophe, especially among those whose job it was to manage the crisis.

“It was on fire when I got here.”

In a twist that would be ironic if it were not so poignantly tragic, the U.S. State Department until recently was actively recruiting immigrants in the health care field. Somewhere between a sixth and a quarter of the health care work force is currently comprised of immigrants. If history is any guide, these good people are as likely to face rage as they are appreciation. Thank you for your service, hero. Now kindly leave before we show you out the hard way.

Wielding the same kind of demented alchemy that saw a pig virus from a Kansas farm end up with the name Spanish Flu, we already see a small but visible contingent of yahoos determined to hang this virus around the neck of China, which is handy since these same deep thinkers can’t quite tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese and the rest of Asia’s children.

So let’s gear up for some traditional scapegoating to let the steam off. And if you count your blessings that somebody else is the target, remember it wouldn’t take much to set the hounds off on a different hunt. It’s as much a part of the American Way as the damn air shows.

American as apple pie.

The worst of it is that we have not seen the worst of it. Even if the virus miraculously mutated itself out of existence tomorrow, there would be massive upheaval to sort out. Jobs have disappeared. The gap between haves and have nots has been quite explicitly demonstrated. This pandemic is not and never will be the ‘great equalizer’. (The phrase “we’re all in this together” is yet another trope tossed around in hopes that we won’t notice the differences.)

But the disruption represents an opportunity to reconfigure at least some aspects of our social contract into something more equitable, more in keeping with the vaunted American ideals of fair play and justice for all that have never quite managed to manifest in our destiny.

Unfortunately, this opportunity cuts both ways. There are powerful actors already at work taking advantage of the crisis to consolidate wealth and power. The hasty reopening in Georgia of the businesses deemed essential are as much about coercing people back to work and off of unemployment as it is anything to do with liberty or rights of assembly. When government makes these kinds of inexplicable decisions, the best explanation comes with following the money. Cui bono? I guarantee it ain’t the waiter working for tips at Applebee’s.

Along the same lines, it is instructive to witness the panic expressed by Our Betters (people like Jamie Dimon and Jeff Bezos and Rick Scott) as they clutch their pearls at the idea that people hardest hit by the virus might actually receive some kind of support that makes their lives better, even if just for a minute. “They’ll never want to work again,” cry our pampered overlords. Perhaps if the jobs and compensation were not such pitiful crumbs in the first place, they might find their labor widgets more amenable to return.

The dignity of work is another one of those denatured bits of language that exists solely to make it easier for the top to extract labor from the bottom. Nobody who is earning a low wage cleaning bedpans or fast food grease traps needs to hear anything about the dignity of work from these soft-handed swells. People like to work, to have a purpose, a task. But they like to be appreciated for that work and compensated fairly. It’s an essential part of the dignity touted but that is never remitted. Moral hazard, my ass.

Essential. Non-essential. Unskilled. Entry level. We have been sold a pig in a poke. The work that is keeping us propped up right now is largely ‘unskilled’ and ‘entry level’ work. The work that so many of us have done for years is part of a deck chair shuffling choreography that serves to keep us, and each other, busy. Think of all the oh-so-essential office jobs that are going undone right now.fwiw, I have done every job I am about to mention at one time or another. My apologies to anyone who does this work and finds it ennobling. The world keeps turning even without a flood of instruction manuals and press releases and such. Advertising has devolved into a computer-generatable stream of “We are all in this together and we value you, our customer, as one of our family, and by the way, we are not in the car/pharma/travel/entertainment business: We are in the people business.”

Do you miss compiling network usage statistics, analyzing cash flow deviations, or dissecting work flow charts to find someone who can be fired? Do you miss developing power point presentations and proofing spreadsheets over a holiday weekend to help your company extract a one-tenth of one percent increase in efficiency? Do you miss hustling insurance titans into buying software that will “enhance their enterprise productivity while allowing them to right size their work force”? Do you really miss coming up with catchy phrases like Operation America Strong?

Do we miss measuring out our days by the thimbleful? I don’t think so.

I think we miss each other.

Please refer to the top of this page for the ever-applicable closing line. oxoxox

Message From the Bubble

Love in the Time of COVID19

A fine pal suggested I offer some strategies for Boredom Immunity as we endure our varying degrees of lock down and isolation. I doubt I have anything useful to suggest, but why let that stop me, right?

It hardly seems real. Unless you are one of the people on the front lines of our current predicament, the whole thing has a fuzzy cast to it. Like a piano slightly out of tune, just off enough that is not quite cringe-inducing, but far enough from harmonious to make it a little hard to take. Occasional moments of wincing at wave forms that do not quite align, the urge to stop and play a passage or chord over again to try to determine what is wrong. And then over time, the off notes start to sound more or less okay, what was the problem anyway?

We have been locked up for how long now? A week or two, for most, maybe a month for the more anticipatory/paranoid among us. Time goes mushy: Is it Friday or Tuesday? Sunday, you say. What difference?

For us – me and my enfeebled immune system and Stanwyck and the dogs – life under CV19 is really just a sharpened continuation of the practices of the past year. We have been practicing social distancing since before it was cool. Or cruel. A tad more intensely diligent, but really just more of the same. Keep your distance. Wear your mask if you have to go out. And really, do you need to go out after all?

I know things are different now. Our friends in the medical world – including the heroes who helped keep me alive over the past year – are up against some serious trouble. A few scattered friends have been sick, or are very sick, or have even died. Our kids are scattered from mid-Florida to north Vermont, riding out the plague in their own fashion, afraid to come home because they are afraid they might kill me. (This alone cuts with so many sharp edges.) My elderly parents face isolation and uncertainty along with the litany of medical issues they brought with them to this era.

Aside from phone calls and Zooming (a new verb for our time), I am not much use to any of them. We talk, commiserate, hope for better times.

And yet…

A friend posted a lovely drawing on Facebook today with a comment that she had a wonderful day yesterday, and that fact made her feel a tad guilty. Piffle, says me, the world needs joy to survive, so have as many good days as you can. Good days had may serve as counterweight to the blazing shit show raging around us.

Or so I like to believe.

Because lo and behold…Most of my days over the past month have been good, some even very good. We are in the blush of Spring, the best weather of the year here America’s most penis-shaped state. I have a nice home – free of mold, bless you all! – and a pantry full of food. I have books and music. And dogs. And most of all, Stanwyck.

Lou and Mimi

I spent the past year saying “Rob is the luckiest boy in the world”. And I meant it. Now, I feel even luckier. Most folks don’t have it so good.

People living alone or living with one or more people they do not really like. Having toddlers who need care, feeding, stimulation, and someone who can explain what is going on in a way that reassures, yet is honest and real. All while trying to not lose the proverbial shit in the face of what is probably the single biggest crisis most of us have ever seen.

Teens – and their parents – who are sick to death of the four walls and however many family members from which they cannot seem to escape. I cannot imagine how dire it must feel for everyone involved.

Worse: People stuck in toxic and abusive conditions. People who were at best day-to-day survivors, now out of work and money and wondering how to survive. People still at work and risking exposure to a potentially-lethal virus doing the jobs we need them to do to keep the barest level of society functioning. People who were largely considered unskilled workers until all this happened, people who are now deemed “essential” to keeping the machine running.

I think about these folks every day, feel grief and despair for their plight.

And yet…

I still enjoy my days in semi-solitude. I revel in the absence of schedule and deadline and hurry up here and there. I am content to sit and stare at the sky for long stretches. After a year in which it was often all I could do, I have come to appreciate such a simple, basic activity.

But it is not for everyone. Stanwyck, bless her, has a dozen endeavors underway. The house is a maelstrom of sewing machines and laptop workstations and studio projects. She meets with friends via Zoom nearly every day, calls her Mom every day. I think she has mostly good days.

But the weight from ‘out there’ exerts force, creeps into dreams, disrupts easy slumber. We do not try to deny it. But given the measure of control we have in regard to the creeping beast, we try to not dwell and brood.

We do the best we can. It’s all any of us can strive for.

So, maybe a few ideas for how to build up some immunity to the tedium?

  1. Avoid watching the wall to wall coverage of the crisis, especially if the criminal president is speaking. Read a few decent news sources every day and set it aside. Nothing is going to change in the course of an hour or a day or between a show’s A block and B block.
  2. Try to establish a relationship with quiet and stillness. If you can, cultivate Silence as a friend, whatever that might mean to you. Counter-intuitive tip: You can experience Silence even when your environment is howling like a tea kettle.
  3. Read. Or write. Or draw/paint/play an instrument. A little goes a long way.
  4. Move your body. Anything helps: sit to stand from a chair ten times and stretch your arms overhead. Or dance. Or jump up and down. Just move.
  5. Eat well, drink moderately (or even not at all, if you wish). You do not have to be a fanatic. Just take it easy if you can.
  6. If you can’t, and you go on a spree, don’t sweat it. Forgive yourself your transgressions.
  7. Notice. The stuff that you like and the stuff you don’t. Just pay attention. The blog contends that if you are bored, it means you are not paying attention. Find something worth paying attention to.
  8. And most of all, and you know what’s coming next doncha, you’ve been here before and it seems to still be the key for getting through whatever demented plot twist the cosmic scriptwriters throw our way…

Love Each Other, Motherfuckers!

It matters a difference.