The Luxury of 85 Percent

A very short post today. Not a day for long reads, as most of my energy was spent elsewhere. Sleeping, mainly. It’s exhausting trying to do nothing while expected to do everything. This isolated, mandated, stay-at-home unproductive shifting around the house drains my ever-loving energy. With that in mind, consider the following brief, Nobel committee submission:

Did some thinkin’ today. What else other than “thinkin” is there to do, right?

This is a peaceful, little, calm discussion.

The pandemic of 1917-1919 took 675,000 US lives, according to the CDC’s own numbers. Based upon the estimated population at the time of 104 Million, that number is 0.65%. There are no stats as to what % of those deaths resulted from pre-existing conditions, so let’s assume all of them were directly related to the pandemic.

We are at 325 Million in 2020. With the above % as a base line, we should expect 2.1 Million deaths. Obviously, current projections (models) don’t even come close. We are, hopefully, not going to be even 15% of that number.

The difference is not only information, but also the speed at which our understanding and knowledge travels. Seems so ordinary, everyday to us.

We can differ significantly about who did what, where this went, and what happened when – all good for our national dialogue. Let’s, also, never forget the 85% margin of grace we enjoy that the folks of 100 years ago never had. Our luxury of advanced technology and medical science is a gift.

Let’s not abuse it by arguing too much.

Day X and No Closer to Why

I need experiences with people. Maybe you don’t, but I do. This is why stay-at-home mandates are not good for me.

Following the rules, paying attention, being the good son. I will obey. For now.

We need social contacts. Snuggling up, emotionally, with our commuting counterparts is so vital to an enduring, healthy life. For some inevitable quiet types, this isn’t possible … I understand and respect that space. Others pursue touch, contact, reach-outs, feed-me’s, Google Hangouts, text strings, and coffee mug hugs. I am the latter.

A collector of people. A fun, flexible, flocker of folks. Everything I’ve done in my life spins around the question, “If X is worth doing, the why must be in the gathering of others.” Simple, right? Sure! … Until the anvil of Covid-19 is dropped right in the center of this socially delicious cake and all the sugary people parts projectile out in all directions. Then Mr. Doug Hugs is stuck wiping icing tears from his frown face. This flocker of folks, now, a sad silhouette embracing a new normal.

Am I happy about it? No. I think this is pretty obvious.

Wasn’t really in the mood to write about anything today at all – except when a lady changed my mind, without knowing she did. A walker of walks in a weird wonky way, she was. It upset my emotional apple cart and forced my writer’s hand into action. To be sure, she is happily on her way peeling an onion or tucking a little cherub into bed – I don’t care, none the wiser to her habitual thingy-things at this moment. Her few seconds time interaction with me today was enough to unpeel my onion.

Ya see, she avoided me. Now, before you get all, “What’s the big deal there, Mr. Big Shot Blog Banger…?” on me, it was a sidewalk, passerby sleight. Simple to you – and possibly 99.999% of those considered normal in psychiatric circles – but irritatingly irrational, exceedingly egregious, and somewhat stupefying to me. Defined in my Freudian dictionary, I am currently socially distant from almost everyone who connects me to myself. Unfamiliars and Familiars alike. Today was another Day X and No Closer to Why the following happened:

I was sauntering south, she – in her black knee-length skirt and red sweater vest – heading north. Both of us sharing the sidewalk, kindly so, fifty feet apart. Catching friendly eye-glances of one another (or so I thought), her body language changed as I simply uttered, “Hello.” from a safe distance of what I assumed was at least two parked car lengths. She stuttered in gate, flip-flopped as if I spat-spittered the words, “I HAVE THE BLACK PLAGUE and AM A MUTANT!!”…

Am I over-acting the role? Yes. But, she started it!

She made quick work of her planned pedestrian route, eerr, .. shall I say excellent footwork in the alternate path – around, about, and in between any and all inanimate objects – in the overt attempt to avoid my ogre self. The man who could be infected with the dreaded Coronavirus. The man who should be avoided at the cost of saving the whole of human kind.

OK. That last sentence was a bit uber- dramatae. I get it. My psyche can’t handle a lot of this distancing. I’m not built for it. My X inside my brain doesn’t understand the why. My intelligence side does, though. I can read all the articles, study until the particulars prick their way out of my pores, and all’s well in the happy-smart world. Avoid me on an emotional sidewalk, and I become the sloppy, garbage “pale” mess only a late-night blog street sweeper can begin to clean up.

I ask the question, “why?”. I know why. She was afraid of my infected self. I get that. Not clueless here. To understand meant no blog, right? She did avoid me, which is more to the point. A simple smile and nod while quickly knee-jerking her Carl Lewis-ing, hurdle jumping self over two BMW’s at 60 miles-per-hour would have been a socially acceptable, better tea-sipping thing to do. I didn’t require much. Just acknowledging my insecurity at the time would have sufficed.

So that’s my story for today. Didn’t want to write much. Had to, I guess. Don’t know if today’s encounter had any effect on said red-sweater lady’s life, or not. She probably spent her day zig-zagging around ALL the N95 masked monsters in town.

As for me, I feel a bit better knowing there’s a connection here on my virtual huggy blog. An experience with people. Something I need.

At least on this space, you can’t avoid me. Well, you can, however, that defeats the purpose. If you don’t see the irony in that, I think I’ll need to avoid you for a while. At least until this stay-at-home mandate is lifted. When that happens, I know a sidewalk where we can meet.

Maybe a real nice lady in a black skirt will walk by. Do you want to stick your leg out as she goes by, … or, should I?

Plank, not Prank

An April Fool’s Day Plank. No, I didn’t spell it incorrectly. Exactly the way I meant it: P-L-A-N-K.

Prank, the generationally accepted form, is way too tame for today’s messed-up, “screw your opposing political view and accept mine!” world. So much intolerance, anymore. I want to take that very plank they stand on and whack it upside their zealous, arrogant, idea-inebriated, inhabitantly politically pompous heads. Too soon into the ongoing Covid-19 virus debate? I don’t think so?

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone!

I love the meme going around social media: “April Fool’s jokes are on hold this year. No prank can outdo the shit we’ve been dealing with ..” Oh, I so agree. The virus. The f*cking virus (so sorry for the language, but you’re feeling it too, right?). Worldwide, humans are struggling with a new reality – a new normal as I’ve written so many times before.

Online teaching, Social Distancing, Government mandated-isms & over reaches (if that’s a “thing”), confusion from national leaders and medical experts, flattening curves not advised by Weight Watchers for a change, and shortages of masks, vents, and patience. NYC, Dr. Birx, the Pillow Guy telling us about God, arrests of preachers in Florida, navy ships, … all this … oh, and poor toilet paper is, well, yesterday’s news. These are our realities every day. One massive April Fool’s f*cking joke.

Who’s playing it on us? I have no potato-licking, speed-spitting idea. It’s become one big picnic of off-time recreational joy rides to big box stores, where families of, say, eight or more rug people pile into aisles looking for the latest flannel fashions. No BoGo sales? No problem! They’ll flam their way to the customer service desk to make use of valuable, strongly mandated stay-at-home time. There, I’m confident the over-worked, stressed, drastically under-appreciated gem of a human being will be glad to address and unmask the perfectly articulated complaint put forth by such an upstanding member of our community.

Am I bitter and a bit frustrated? Yes!! Does this show in my words?

Boxing out the big box stores, let’s get back to the four-one-plank problem. THIS is the splinter sticking in my side today. He said, on the right, She said, on the left … or, vice-versa. Doesn’t really matter the sex of either side. Well, unless a wife chooses, then whichever side is correct … of course, but I digress.

Discussion of politics at anytime is Ugh, right? Especially so when emotions are running faster than hearts at a Bon Jovi concert. Like NOW for instance.

Pick a political plank to stand on, and you will be well within the legal 6′ social distance of millions and miles apart from untold others. The space between is vast and getting wider. If you, with your (possibly) virus slopped garment draped over the unshowered three day body you have, dare express an opinion different from the dude/dudette snuffled up against you … good luck staying on that ship! So polarized and sensitive, are the Pirates of political discourse, that General Calm abandoned ship a while ago. He life-boated out once the words, “Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws of the Constitution …. ” were spoken.

Take whatever election into consideration, and dump it into the canons of political, public discourse. Add a few pandemics, maybe a very divisive, selfish Congress, a few social media platforms, 24 hours non-stop news, mis-information ad-nauseam, extreme views about everything with no consideration of moderation, and a fascination – albeit fading – with toilet paper … and you have one hell of an April Fool’s Plank.

I don’t care, really, what year. 2020, 1984? (George Orwell-ian would have been nice, though)… 1776? (Ha! Imagine that)… Whenever. Just so happens this is a year of perfect vision – and we ‘ain’t got it. Wait. Allow me to correct that. Oh, some among us have it!! Just ask. Better yet. Look down at the plank upon which they stand.

…and then look across the wide, wide boat and recognize the other side. They’re just as committed. Both perilously walk their plank in opposing directions, destined to drop off into a sea of despair. Once they do, we have the ship to ourselves.

Great. A cruise liner full of moderates crowded around with nothing to do but play April Fool’s jokes on one another. Now what? Here’s one! We can’t dock anywhere now because our whole f*cking ship is probably contaminated with the virus.

Now THAT’S an April Fool’s Prank, yes P-R-A-N-K I can embrace. (But 6′ away, please. I don’t want the shitty virus).

A Pompeii Pal

Snarky around corner, but for a moment…

Italy is in the news. Our brothers and sisters are living through individual and collective stories written by an evil author of viral consequence. They are to be shown every ounce of compassion and support available. So, too, are all the sufferers of ills, depressions, and anxieties as result of this global pandemic. Surreal. Unlike anything our living, breathing earth has seen since 1918, when millions of our ancestral friends grievied the loss of loved ones themselves.

Italy was in the news during the late 16th century as well. Uncovered after centuries, buried under 19 feet of volcanic debris, the ruins of Pompeii were discovered.

Apparently, in 79 CE (Current Era … yeah, it’s a thing), Mount Vesuvius had what amounted to a bad gas day resulting in a quick burial for the unfortunate inhabitants below his bellowing ash hole. Fitting two word phrase seeing as how Mr. V decided to interrupt an otherwise ordinary day with sudden death, despair, and destruction.

Not aside, sarcasm is purposefully inserted here because it was masterfully – and sidewalk artfully – used by a toga wearing wall-writer at the time. More about this dude in a bit.

We have Pompeii. A bustling boulder, semi-metropolis of first century A.D. (C.E. ..?) thinking where grapes, scrolls, and steam baths-o’bacteria ruled the hours. Men of high stature statues lined the lanes and pebbles rumbled under the chariot wheels as horses pulled piles of hay atop peasant wagons.

Scenes of daily struggle were simple, I can suppose in my, now, coronavirus isolation, stay-at-home mandate mind. No electronics, cars, or airplanes flights to miss … or Facebook political opinions to violently tap in my opposition .. then delete before actually posting up.

Toga toddlers spinning about, discovering what was new to them that remained undiscovered by elders stuck in traditional ways of their ancestors. The legacy of what remains in the remains of every generation since. The cycle of cyclical time. Pompeii was just us a thousand-and-a-hundred-or-so years behind.

Enough deep, philosophical pandering to my early morning muse. Sorry ’bout that. She gets me … not in the sense, “She gets me” like “Wow, she understands my inner soul” … more like, “She freakin’ ropes me in with all the deep thinking and won’t untie me ..” kinda gets me.

Anyway. Pompeii.

The walls of Pompeii have an interesting history. According to “Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader, 14th Book” …

“In Pompeii, the walls of every building were used as billboards on which anyone was allowed to write whatever they wanted. When the buried city was excavated, archaeologists found notices of upcoming plays at the theater, the schedule of games at the stadium, the price of goods at the market, and the comments of passersby.

The elections in Pompeii were coming up when the city was destroyed, so thousands of political ads were found, including this one: ‘Vote for Vatia, who is recommended by sneak thieves, the whole company of late drinkers, and everyone who is fast asleep‘ “

Sarcasm nearly 1,900 years ago. Gotta love it. Ironic, too, that we are in an election year as well. Good thing there’s no sarcasm here!! No volcanoes ready to erupt anywhere on social media walls anytime soon, right?? I can’t IMAGINE any of us writing our thoughts anywhere public …. oh, the shame to bear on our toga-less, exposed back-sided opinions these days.

So, back to our ancient spray can dude. He’s the real hero of this tale today. I’d even suggest he is our bare-back rider of a white Fresian horse; This mere peasant is the only hero for all humanity needing a sarcasm-saving champion of the day. I love this dude for one reason … and one reason only.

On the wall, he scrawled:

Everybody writes on the walls but me”

I’m sure he perished in the massive belch. Good for him. Dying as a sarcastic, real, grape loving toga dude. Live on, bro .. We’ve got ya covered from here.

If only I could find a local steam bath. I’m in the mood for some company. Social Distancing is killing my buzz and I’m out of spray paint.

Always the Tease

It’s 3:45 in the morning and I’m up as usual. My sleep-wake cycle is all weirded out much like half the country’s attitude right now. Social screens blowing up with contrarian viewpoints, arching flame-filled volleyballs across spiked nets … works of biased broadcasting to be sure. I’m certainly not one to kick sand in anyone’s face here. Or, am I. Atlas shrugged his shoulders at the man and then became a body of reckoning by facing down his bullies. Ayn Rand served up potential of the human mind and the consequences of our good intentions in “Atlas Shrugged”. Both are digging their heels, deeply, into the dark wet sand of our emotional ripples. We sit watching them play as the volley never ends.

Above looks like an itchy, painful, sand-in-the eyes mash of mix metaphors and cross-pollinating literary plaah. I grant you that. Again, it’s early (now, 4:32 a.m.), I’ve run low of hot tea, am checking in on Facebook as I type, and hear funny voices in my head. The latter not uncommon, by the way. Oh, and we are still Social Distancing … not from anything inanimate, mind you – just from anything breathing, moving, or otherwise capable of interacting on any level keeping me from losing my ever-loving mind.

So, let’s tie all this together .. the little bit I’ve here so far. Charles Atlas Shrugged (not shagged .. be careful – now, now) Ayn Rand at the beach playing volleyball. We’re watching them early in the morning on March 29th, 2020, during a mandated mindful-ish, societal time-out. I am sipping once again after filling my monopoly-themed mug once more with Garden Andes organic tea. Facebook became boring so I clicked out and the voices still remain but are less funny …

All this to say, you have my almost complete attention. For now. To the subject at hand: The word BUT. Not, BUTT, but BUT … only one “T”. Being ever so careful, I am clarifying for clarity, exacting for exactness. In the case of this word specifically, it’s … Always The T’s, … always. T’easing and pleasing, in the most joyous of ways, during these confusing, hard days.

This word has been peeking around the dunes lately, wanting to play with the big boys and girls on the beach. I am as guilty as the next bikini-clad, batman-boxer bathing suit, speedo sporting, sand surfing writer. We invite it on our literary towels, where tanner more sporty looking words lay, without considering its ability to shun onlookers. Once a but is seen, an interested glance accompanied by a wink and a nod turns away. Exposed to the sun’s light, a but cracks open a spasm doubt previously unkown to snufflers walking by. It negates any sweet smelling idea proposed by the sentence structurer. Therein lies the rub.

I’m not completely adverse to the idea of using the but word, however, it is used way too often. It’s crammed into sentences so often I don’t think even the most exquisite among literary laxatives would ease the log jam. So apparent in columns of online social and professional colonoscopical bloviating, I find its usage exhausting. No wonder we’ve seen a run on toilet paper. It’s not just due to the Covid-19 outbreak and panic buying ad nauseam. Some fault to all the professional editors who are scurrying about, raiding the big box stores, maxing out their corporate credit cards, driving up the stock prices of Charmin, Cottonelle and Angel Soft. They are trying to clean up the crap-storm, but messes of contradictory information floating around in every crevasse of porcelain popular opinions.

So, here we are … buckets upon buckets of wet sand starting to build castles on a beach that will, eventually, be washed out … BUT for now, we have to deal with what is. A world of he-said-they-said-she-said information where everyone is entitled to their opinion preceded by the word “but”. I see it everywhere, especially in the Facebook universe where a man-boy founder’s vision of a better, less ugly world is certainly not that right now. I would argue today is more in line with Zuck’s original intent, anyway. Lining up faces in a juvenile dorm room to poll away the pretty from the ugly … just now we are substituting opinions for faces.

We are caught, non-professionals and professionals alike, in this goofy paradigm. Our line in the sand is the constantly moving narrative of what is true and what isn’t. Every day the stories change. President Trump vacillates more than a well-oiled, grease pole of slimy day old engine oil and Congress couldn’t agree on where to take a sh*, well … I’ll keep it clean because they did, sorta, manage to pass a massive relief. err… bill, BUT

We will pay for it … eventually. There’s the rub, again.

Opinions are like ***s … as the saying goes, so I will get back to my original premise. But is a problem, Give me any proposition, follow it with “but”, and you’ve just negated your original position.

“I think you are gorgeous, but…”
“Wow, you certainly look nice tonight honey, but…”
“Thanks for your order, but…”
“I hate being Socially Distant from you, but …”
“Spiders can go suck on poison, but …”

See the problem? Now, to be clear, as a reply to another’s opinion, I could be persuaded. For example:


ME
“I’ve been up four hours now and I think the two mugs of tea I’ve consumed so far are making me delusional.”
YOU
“Yes, but think of all the fun you are having click-clacking away knowing you have all day to do absolutely nothing … abso-freaking-nothing!”

Aside from me asking why you are sitting next to me and I can’t see you, get my point? As a reply, it is ok. After your own idea, though, I’d avoid it like the Covid-19 virus…especially on social media. You’ll confuse an already stressed, red-eye-ball popping public whose tolerance for anything less than a two-seconds meme is already stretched thinner than the skin of a …. _______ (fill in your own descriptor here). The above examples are fine for humor’s sake, BUT when politics get involved, nasty-nasties comes out to play. I’ve seen it. To my shame and pity, I’ve engaged in such malfeasance to such a degree … forcing my play shovel into the sand … causing me to say…

… Here I sit. Watching Atlas and Ayn lob and volley. There are consequences of good intentions. One of them being my ability to not sleep during the night. Another, a willingness to share deep, profound knowledge with you, my loyal reader. So, here it is:

“This whole Covid-19 virus could be a once in every 100 year plague, or a simple over-hyped common flu bug, but maybe neither one. Could be somewhere in between the two. What do I know?”

Let’s hold hands in agreement as we sun bathe together here on my Superman towel. Oh, by the way, could you put some SPF 50 on my back? I’m starting to burn here.

I Had Other Plans Today

“I never thought in a million years this could happen to me. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. We are guilty of not taking this serious enough from Day 1. For that, I have learned such a valuable lesson about life.
Last night we found out that I tested positive for Covid 19. I am the second case in Blair County.
This has been the worst 8 days of my entire life. I feel like I couldn’t possibly survive all of this for many more days but I need to find the strength.
If I can use my experience to help save a life, I’m happy to be honest about this with my family, friends, coworkers and community.
The good news for my coworkers is that because Jordyn was sick last week I only worked one day. I had no symptoms until 3 days later. So after speaking with the Dept of health today. They say you all are safe. ❤️
The same is true for Mikes coworkers as well. You are all safe ❤️
Once my symptoms started I’ve been home.
All it takes is ONE person that has a slight cough and thinks they are fine to go in public and touch a product at the store and not buy it and the next person comes along and touches it. Wildfire!
My symptoms started with
* severe headache
* High fever (102-103.8)every day and still going
* a cough so bad that if I had to guess I’m coughing thousands of times per day sometimes until it makes me sick or takes my breath away
* loss of taste and smell
* sick stomach
* dizziness and cloudy brain
* it’s hard to walk unassisted.

* The pneumonia has taken over every movement like how I breath and talk and use my energy sparingly.
I’m not going to feel any better for awhile. This isn’t something where you just wake up and feel better the next day.
Anyone that knows me well knows we weren’t very understanding at first of everything being cancelled. WE WERE WRONG! I am 37 years old and there are moments I feel like I won’t survive this because I feel so horrific. I can most definitely agree that an older person would have an extremely hard time with this. Do your part. Please stay home. HELP SAVE A LIFE!
Mike and Jordyn are doing well. We are under strict quarantine. I hope someone takes this post seriously and it can help change even one persons mind about staying home.
It has been impossible to keep up with messages so I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to get back with each of you. We appreciate the support so much.”

I didn’t plan on copying and pasting the above Facebook quote from our 2nd COVID-19 case in Blair County, but it moved me. Rachel’s words needed to be my words – replacing what I had planned for today’s reading. I intentionally allowed her “million years” to be your door into this experience today. Enter into a new world of us – a small western Pennsylvania county with, now, two positive cases of coronavirus.

I didn’t plan on unfollowing a Facebook friend a few minutes prior to writing this entry. A friend I’ve known over 30 years. I suspect today changed the cart path of our friendship that’s weathered far worse than one, yes one, nasty exchange. Over what? Stupid actions of guys playing golf when they should be at home … social distancing … being smart about all of this. You have two guesses as to my friend’s position on the matter. He’s all-in hoax, I’m all-in responsible “don’t know, better safe than sorry”.

I didn’t plan on being extra lazy today. It just happened. All my stuff took way too much time to not do. So many tasks undone. Minutes labored on … and on. The soup I did manage to heat up for lunch was extra slow as it turned in a forever’s time of 3 minutes. I watched with fascinating fancy as the chicken pot-pie-pea something soup spun around and spit itself into the wax paper cover. Eventually counting the dough balls as I ate them passed the time. Didn’t count the peas, though. Peas don’t deserve that kind of recognition, even on a lazy, do nothing kind of day.

I didn’t plan on convincing an elderly, close relative the virus isn’t airborne – as much as it is person-to-person contact – and he could have been outside enjoying a nice 55+ degree day. (As an aside, I do believe air can carry sneeze droplet molecules 45 minutes … if that’s accurate). He has been under this misunderstanding – mainly through watching too much TV – and self-isolated under this condition. Big props to him for “over-cautioning” (if that’s a thing) and I’m glad he did. Pleased, however, to be able to clear up the confusion and give him some breathing room outside of the rooms he has been looking at the past week or so. I believe he actually cut his grass today. Wonderful when eyes are open to what is true.

I didn’t plan on finding out one of my best friend’s sons has a birthday today. Josh would have been twenty-five if I read the Facebook comment correctly. Without knowing Josh, you’d have little awareness of his struggles in life. No need for me to give details of his life leading up to his exit from this world. Be advised he had a family who embraced his physical and emotional challenges with more love than is – almost – more than you would believe possible. I am humbly embarrassed to admit I did not know today, March 27th, is his birthday…

…Which, in a so sweet and caring twist, leads me into what I did plan for today … a memorial for another special candle day person.

My mom is, as well, no longer sharing in life’s journey with us. She died in 2012. Her long partnership with cancer gave us insight into her character as she never once complained or fought against the eventual outcome that was to be. Her joy overwhelmed us all. Her love continues to be missed.

Today was to be her day. Her 82nd birthday – to be shared, as I now know, with Josh, Rachel, and soup. Funny how things go.

I had other plans today. So did the universe. Happy Birthday, Mom. 🎂💕

Stuffy Classrooms and Hope

It is no longer an uncomfortable desk chair – among many of similar style with ages of scratched pen marks and gum – sitting in a stuffy classroom in August. This furniture in which I sit is plushy-comfy and significantly more adept at helping me stay calm. You see, as I write, I’m having 2 a.m. school flashbacks of first day, “What did you do last summer?” composition book, tell me stories. Didn’t matter what grade, teacher, building, bus I rode, or clothes worn on that first day back … some variation of “I want to know everything about your life when you weren’t here” had to be known.

Why this sudden anxiety? After all, those experiences were, … uhm, … some time ago and didn’t require any extra trips to the guidance counselor’s office or force me into a transic state of obvious obscurity. I moved forward into days two, three, and four of each year with little concern about that particular task. Giving no more thought to the teacher exhaustively pouring over my words of, “THIS is what I did …”, my steps tried to avoid larger pits of bullying, adolescence, and the blah-ugh of life I felt every day.

The summer story was always the same, anyway. Work. Don’t want to complain. So many lives with dirtier, nastier, grittier experiences in comparison and I have no right to gripe. I have not a “In the mine a boy, out a man” story to tell as I less-than gleefully found my way into strawberry fields or paper routes for summer income. Later, as permits allowed, transitioning into fast food service was easy and the dangers of black lung, methane poisoning, or collapsing walls were distant, non-existant realities. Safety with no worries and little time to recreate, summer was the time jammed in between compulsory education.

Why the anxiety now … at 2 a.m. … 40 + years later? What do I look like? A Therapist?

GEESH.

Why yes, … yes I am. I’m called upon to be my own right now. This is probably why I’m a bit anxious and the gods of teachers past decided to poke my REM. They are asking me to resolve this before the sun rises on another day. So, me … the dutiful student of things, always do what I’m told when asked of me … will comply.

Teacher: “Welcome back kids. The classroom, you’ll notice, is a bit different than before. Everything you were used to has changed. Look around. Write about what you see … “

——————-

“I don’t feel comfortable. I know you wanted me to write about what I see, but what I see makes me feel bad. You used to have happy pictures showing people holding hands, smiling, laughing… Where are they?

I’m sad. My friends are sad. They are angry at each other because what used to be kind words turned into bad words. They are not listening. Some of them are doing this unfriending thing now. “BFsF forever” thrown away.

I’m sitting here writing this looking around. My classmates aren’t happy. Their heads are down and it doesn’t look like anyone wants to do this assignment. The air here is stale. In this written silence, I ask you to open a window knowing you will not hear me. I saw you lock the door … and am convinced few others did. For my security – or the insecurity of others – I’m not entirely sure.

The windows to the outside give little assurance. Trusting what is seen out there is hard to do right now. Once calming tree branches used to massaging with the wind are now resisting harsh, cold jabs of unpredictable bruising.

Corners of this very room are the starkest 90-degree angles math has ever seen. Black and white of no variation takes hostage all colors wishing to brighten our hopes as we put pencils to our paper. This is the hardest “What did you do last summer?” I’ve ever been assigned. It’s not summer. I’m not happy. I suspect there are millions of fellow classmates in school with me right now. We’re stuck here.

Want to know what I see? Confusion. Anger. Mis-information. Greed. Political stupidity. Sadness. Death. Hatred. Bigotry.

This isn’t the conclusion, though.

What isn’t seen, but is in us, is HOPE. Yes, there are pockets of doing-good we can see. Personal stories of humans stepping up. Certainly – MOST certainly – props to ALL the medical front lines heroes pushing forward all the miracle medicine and making the hard decisions. They are my hope that we can get through all this. I have little faith in a political solution. Windmills and wishing there.

Hope is my unseen hero. It is my one-letter anagram off chance of a p-r nightmare not happening in the weeks to come. Hoping some calm, rational, peaceful minds can stand before us and teach us what we need to know about living with this pandemic.

Certainly, as IT stands before us today, we are not being properly educated in the matters at hand. No offense to you, teacher, as you read my composition over your drippy coffee, but, kindly get a clue.”

—————–

This once/100 year problem is teaching us about ourselves and showing us the real others. I’m not opposed to learning about the machinery in other folks’ skulls; However, when social media likes and dislikes turn into hatred and lifelong friendship breakdowns, there is stinkiness afoot.

Not just social media, but our own biases as well. Inabilities to accept even the smallest changes in a normal behavior pattern – even for the benefit of society – can be hard. Social distancing, I’ve witnessed as recently as yesterday, is still on the sideline for some folks … laughing their way through the day. Hand washing, coughing into your elbow, staying indoors, the 6-feet rule, sanitizing everything, all of this is sooo uncomfortably annoying – out of the normal. It’s really difficult to grasp for folks holding on, dearly, to what they’ve always known.

Staying composed while composing. This is all I can do for now. No real answers for anyone, I guess.

I’m sufficiently tired now. Two hours later and the anxiety has abated somewhat. Thanks for listening. Kinda wish my old guidance counselor’s office was available, though … better yet, my counselor himself! Now, wouldn’t that be fun? Would like to take the ‘ole composition book into his office and insist he give it a read. He may tell me I have too much time on my hands and suggest I look for a job. Oh, that’s the moment I’d be hoping for…

… that moment when I can reply, “Do you want fries with that?” Experience, after all, is the best teacher.

Think.

Thinking about thinking. This isn’t a good thing for me now. I need to be active – moving my body around in bigger areas, bouncing ideas back-and-forth with other humans. Changing the world within 6-feet of each other is a more ideal situation than what is currently in place. As I sit here thinking, too many hours inconveniently pass without a single word written. Hours into days. Thinking about thinking isn’t ideal … for any of us.

This is one of many unseen, small tragedies of this stay-in-place mandated quarantine / isolation reality. Time. Thinking time.

Our bodies are made for movement. I’m in that sliver of the self-employed population where motion produces a nice little income, so a forced voluntary stay behind your own walls and think isn’t very kind to my wallet. This situation makes an unhappy relationship between my bills and the dust accumulating in my checkbook. Other folks in my industry have been slogging their stuff about town, money-changing for goods, however, I’m not inclined to do so because of the risks involved. Thinking, in this regard, isn’t a bad idea … I guess 🤷🏻‍♂️.

I think about my mom. She died in 2012 and is lucky to be avoiding all this mess. As the quintessential social butterfly of our family, her world would be a deep crevasse of emotional isolation. A dark time this would be in her silence behind the smiles. Most unfortunate would be her unwillingness to show it as she personified the sweetness of every rose. Always the optimist … always the, “everything will be ok”-er no matter what. This was her thinking all the time. I hesitate, but think it may be true, … most in isolation right now are staying positive.

My thinking about thinking also confirms that these same people are hurting underneath. Mom was very lonely, but never let it show. Needing contact, but staying strong to keep the proverbial plates spinning, or ovens warm is status quo for now in the homes where nobody greets us at the front door. Entryways we should not be near anyway – violating our own social distancing mandates.

What are we thinking? It’s important we share the anger, doubt, and sadness with each other at home. Facebook and other social media don’t get to sit here at our table.

Pick a quiet evening once in a while with only family – no outside distractions. Perhaps a take-out pizza with extra cheese sits in the center among a few cold beers for the adults and sodas for the kids. No napkins, just pieces of torn paper towels to wipe the inevitable mistakes off Grandma’s table you’ve had for years. Good idea using her table. It holds memories from the hard years when milk and bread were much, much harder to find.

Think things through, together, out loud. I would argue every day if possible for a few minutes in between news updates, memes, texts, virtual lessons, (blogs), essential work obligations if necessary, home responsibilities, and whatevers …. Talk real emotions and feelings. This isolation is so unkind to all of us. Unnatural and uncomfortable. Don’t be positive if you don’t WANT to be. Be angry. Be mad

If you’re gobsmacked because thinking about thinking is getting on your nerves? Write a short, incoherent blog about it. Get it off your chest!! You may start to feel better …

I said, “May”.

Have a wonderful isolation everyone. I have some more thinking to do. Ugh.

Thumbs and Connections

I recently discovered Google Hangouts. This delightfully little bit of technology escaped my perview, until recently, when a friend suggested using it. We had a weekly meet-up with his daughter who needed a social-distancing lesson. Tweeking and twisting our four miles apart cameras over ten minutes, the virtual hook-up went nearly blip free save a few gaggles and glitches. I must say, “pleased” is a word infrequently used in a sentence when conjoined with recent technology, but in this case, I was.

None of us raised with cardboard clickers in our bicycle spokes, or overnight sleepovers with flashlights hovering over scary stories, could ever have imagined ourselves living with such technology. A digital age where single digits are so much more important than ever before.

I’m a pianist. Have always been. Maybe my fascination with fingers is over-hyped because of my chosen hobby/profession. I haven’t taken real good care of my filangy-friends, however. Racquetball injuries – and more than my share of goofs – have set my hands with a permanently dislocated thumb, scars, bruises and hurties time will never kiss away. I’m surprisingly ok with all of that. My younger self wouldn’t have accepted it. He kinda had his thumb up his a**. We all did …

…But, we found ways to entertain our thumbs by engaging them in dirt filled holes, doll houses, and play-dough. We used them non-sparingly to flick a little metal bell on our bikes – alerting the little worms on the road of our approach. Occasionally, dad’s laziness would call our other fingers into service, assisting the thumb in the evening’s changing of the TV broadcast ritual … from one of three black and white channels to another. A pretty simple life for thumbs.

In the 70’s, a thumb could get you across the country from New York to Seattle. Granted, not so soon after you changed the channel for your dad, but possibly a few years after graduating. Knowledge wasn’t always absorbed thumbing through a Funk & Wagnall’s encyclopedia. The cab of a CB-ing trucker named Billy-Dee was the classroom of clarity for many a hitchhiking wondering-wanderer. Roadside ideas ruminated by professors of pavement prognostication were the time stamps on that era.

Not like today when thumbs are so vital in communicating information. I’m writing … using my Samsung phone, alternating letters when needed, using opposite thumbs. Could I be sitting in my desk chair, tapping in letters with other fingers, staring at my PC monitor? Sure. I, simply, don’t want to. It’s too inconvenient. This recliner is comfortable, I have my snack table here, a TV handy if needed, and plenty of blankets.

It isn’t just texting, blogging, and other hand-held forms of writing where we’ve exceeded all youthful imaginations. We’d thumb our collective bell-bottom pant noses at the thought of sharing our joy stick with anyone. The gaming industry’s use of thumbs has well exceeded the pong-era ping fancies we entertained. Slow bee-bloops … back and forth at the end of big, thick wires attached to heavy TV’s at one end and gaming consoles at the other – with thumbs glued hours to the minute.

Today it’s hi-tech, interactive gaming. Thumbs at the ready. Local colleges have team logo matched shirts. (Back when, as Gramps would say, we matched because all of us had orange cheetoh-snack dust drizzled down the front of our shirts.) They probably have regimented thumb push-up drills, finger-fun day, and aerobics for palms. It’s just that serious.

All this to say, I’m trying new technology as needed … and my thumbs are getting a workout for sure. Not so much with Google Hangouts, though. That’s more like a talk-y kind of experience once all tech stuff is out of the way.

Seeing another human live on screen, and also myself in an even smaller insert at the same time, is …. well … a bit more than my younger self would have imagined. I know I was asked many times early on, “So, Doug. Where do you see yourself, say, in the year 2020 (or, some such year)?”.

Pretty sure my answer wasn’t: “Well, most likely, if my plan works out, I’ll be under a forced quarantine from a once every 100 years virus, blogging about a virtual video site from a hand-held computer device connected to the whole world. We have a reality show president, my life is run by robots pretty much everywhere I go, and my thumbs are more important than ever before. Oh, and the Pirates suck.”

Ask me where I think I’ll be in two months. Hopefully right here on the recliner. It’s comfy. It’s home. I have my thumbs and they’re my connection to something normal for now.

Sacrificial Spiders

The unavoidable updates on t.v., Facebook feeds, and over-the-shoulder glances at my local grocery store are forcing my hand. I wish upon wish it wasn’t so. This morning, my brother sent me a long text – one I’ve seen prior – detailing a higher level of panic and preparedness across the state. I wish upon wish THIS wasn’t so, either, but I don’t know … I just don’t know. And, of course, none of us know if this plan to quarantine under some “martial law” edict is the right thing to do – if, indeed, it is what’s going to happen.

I wish upon wish NONE of this was so. Every day I wake up not wanting to write about COVID-19. There are many, many other gorgeous propositions occupying my mind needing exposure. Alas, under threat of bulging eyeballs in the sockets of nervous neighbors, I cannot expose anything these days. One sneeze, a single cough … and I’m doomed to the Alcatraz of alarmism. It’s the way of us now.

On my mind are thoughts of my elderly dad with health problems and my wife, immediate family, friends, students, co-workers, customers … all under the umbrella, now, of COVID-19. No ideas of getting together soon for dinner and laughing. No wondering where we can meet up to eat pizza and ask, err … force, dad to pick up the tab. No jamming four adults into a small cafe booth to eat breakfast and, respectfully, pick on each other. No scooting around my cart to put my arm on a customer’s shoulder and say, “It’ll be ok” …

All of these are constantly swooshing around in my mind like the dirty little lines of water left behind before the final pass-over of a dry mop. I’m constantly being put through the ringer of COVID-19. All of us are. Irritating as these little lines are, however, they are reminders that there is a brilliantly waxable floor underneath. Just right now, the freakin’ dry mop is in the closet, locked up, guarded by the meany -man virus.

The watery-dirt of uncertainty is nasty stuff. On any given day … well, let’s say hour, information changes, and this depends upon who and what you’re watching. It is constantly refilling the bucket and swathered across our floors. At this point, we have no control of the kitchen mop, either. Feels like I’m standing on the seat of an emotional chair, spider-scared with a broom, swat-swinging at air, wondering what I’m afraid of, looking at cans of sorta-statistical-soup wondering if I have enough gas in the car to go buy T.P.

I wish upon freakin’ wish is wasn’t so. Right now, I want to be in my car headed somewhere – ANYWHERE – at this point. According to the unwritten law, I can go if information is correct. Limited travel is warranted to places necessary for survival. Food, medicine, the “necessaries” are allowed and avoidance of non-essential outside movement is what we’re all trying to do. Social Distancing, right? Flattening the Curve? Kinda wishy-wish my college 8:00 a.m. philosophy-of-whatever-life class professors would have considered “flattening the curve” back when I decided, mistakenly, to avoid their most interesting of lectures. Hey, I had the social distancing thing down waaay before all this started … except that I didn’t realize there were consequences. ‘My bad. Mmpffh.

And there are possible consequences, today, if we don’t do what is being asked of us. I don’t know, as I said before … none of us do. Information from the medical community is what it is because they, the professionals, can only guess based upon what they know.

As far as politicians, there are, granted, a few who care state-wide within their local district which, I would argue are the most important social connections we can have right now. Folks I can see and talk to directly are doing a great job… Senator Douglas Mastriano, Senator Judy Ward, PA State Representative Jim Gregory, PA State Representative Lou Schmitt to name a few. I’ll grant the odds makers a margin of victory on that betting sheet. A specific gripe could be directed to the national response from Washington. I very rarely opine politically here on my blog – and don’t care to ever again; However, the amount of unprofessionalism and partisan pandering on both sides, nationally, continues still as the average American steps into an unknown future without a sense of security.

What we face now is unavoidable – as was my urge to write about this stupid virus… again. Something like the moon, Google Hangouts with my dear sister, or EE bonds would have been exceedingly delightful in my overly charged wet-mop brain. This bonking (to be kind) virus is crawling its way around – no longer in the shadows of our imaginations. It’s real. I wish it wasn’t so.

Now, I have spiders to fight off. Amazing that I’ve been able to scribble this whole blog on one foot, atop a kitchen chair, with one hand holding a broom. We’re all making sacrifices right now. You’re welcome.