Space in the Spice Aisle

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.”

JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962

It’s time to give our 35th President some skin … a high five, if you will. On this first Saturday in May, fifty-eight years after those famous words were spoken, he deserves prophetic props for rolling a crystal ball down bowling alleys of special-spacial circumstances. The exploration of space he saw coming – and for that, Mr. President, I salute you.

It has become a race for space. Specifically, a tiny little hometown market space by that same name in my quaint growing-up ‘burg. This county seat of approximately 5,700 shuffling day-to-day, non-city folk who weave in and about a few remaining retail stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. A nice area where a future spring found its way into our Slinky hearts in 1943 and America’s oldest foundry is still operating. A nestled in-between community I find myself revisiting frequently as a customer during this shutdown time of social distancing.

Roughly twice a week, I get the call. “Need some stuff”, is the usual request from my father who jovingly asks for my assistance, which I am more than happy to give. He is, thankfully, not entertaining the idea of crunching his way around the cereal aisle looking for granola, or considering squeezing melons near grandmas in fear of the ‘rona. I admire his willingness to go beyond the stubbornness I know he owns. So, the call comes ding-a-linginging across to my already busy Samsung … and I answer. Every time. Glad to.

It’s almost always the same dozen or so dairy, snacky, and bready things I need to buy for him from the “Hometown Market”. Yes, that’s the name. A quaint name in the quaint town called Hollidaysburg. This small brick grocery sits one block off a two lane by-pass in a small neighborhood space where most have walk-to-or-by access. The parking lot is on a slant, so the carts have an attitude. In and out, empty and full, these wirey, meshy ne’er-do-wells are in constant cage-match mode … knowing gravity pulls favor to their corner at every turn – provided, of course, all the wheels rotate in sinc and don’t klunk and wobble.

Inside is a wonderful elbowy space. Aisle (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist) need to admit the jamminess is more than your typical box store. It is, of course, SmallTown, USA, for a reason. My fellow air-breathers walk about, on any unrestricted day, laughing and touching … smiling and feeling … piling high their hungry carts with goodies from the shortened, narrow spaces inside this small mart. Products lining the shelves insist on having personal, intimate interactions as walker-bys don’t initate contact. Advil wants to know where you went drinking last night, the bananas are fruitlessly a-peeling for compassion, and soup can d-rivel on and on … it is a small, therapy-inducing echo chamber at times.

These are restricted times, however. Special-spacial circumstances. One particular day, for dad, I found myself firmly planted, masked, in the “mist” of it all. Fogged up and as confused as the nice gentleman I found myself next to. Two dudes, two brains, two registers open, and two carts with no concept of time, distance, reality, … or space.

NASA, we had a problem.

Both he and I felt confident we navigated our way through the store quite well. It was an unspoken, eye-nod only guys have at the end of a successful wife or dad mandated grocery list errand run. We knew it. The tape 6-feet on the floor, however, gave us immediate pause and dampened any celebratory, non-verbal bro-mancing. See, there’s only about a cart length plus a body between the end of the register line to the end of the product aisle. Not enough space for two “just met masked dudes” unless one of us jumped on the other’s Oreos. Furthermore, neither of us knew for sure which of the two registers was open, or, what tape on the floor was applicable to which one of us. The ugliness of the moment was upon us. Two stars circling the grocery store black hole of social distancing with absolutely no idea how to proceed. The idea of “what to do” was clear – to management. For us, not so much. So we did the only thing we knew. Shrugged our burdened shoulders …. and laughed.

We didn’t see our smiles. Didn’t have to. We knew the moment required calm because what else was there? Stuckiness of the moment required our inner silence to maintain the frustration while our outer voices expressed our joy of the moment. I’d love to quote the conversation, but it happened a week or so ago and “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday and I eat the same thing every morning”, so …. (that’s my dad’s favorite saying, btw…). Really, though, the words aren’t as important as the message, right?

Space is important right now. It IS one of the great adventures of all time. JFK didn’t know how right he was almost 60 years ago. The quote starting my sunny Saturday morning blog said a lot. Re-read it. There’s so much more to unpack about leadership, vision, national pride, and adventure. It would do us all a great service to heed #35’s words and start paying attention to our individual and collective spaces again. Small, quaint hovels or large cities, we are a “pale, blue dot” in the biggest space of all, according to Carl Sagan.

The next time you find yourself masking your smile heading to a small space, remember there’s bound to be another doing exactly the same thing. You will meet. You will bump carts and be awkward together. Take that moment to laugh. It’s all we have in the space we share. Together.

Tea On, My Friends

Cautiously, but with absolute certainty, I approached my desk a few minutes ago – mug of organic tea in hand. What makes this rainy, dank morning different from all others was my unwillingness to stop pouring the scalding water until it reached maximal height inside this humorous, tall mug-o-mine. This familiar Monopoly-themed ever so comfortable porcelain vessel – in which I have found such a friend these past forty days and forty nights – is filled to the upper edge – as am I. Both maximum capacity. Filled as filled can be.

Sympathetic, small vibrations rang, however slightly, when I set this mug down on the glass covering all the to-do memos I never get around finishing. You have these as well, for sure. Small to medium sized bits of paper with pen and pencil marks noting names, addresses, passwords, cell phone numbers, dates, websites, bill due dates, some pictures, goofy memes printed and saved, important kid moments, receipts, etc… all stuffed under glass. If not there … clipped, hung, taped, sorted, filed, pinned, stapled, folded, glued, boxed, drawered, or tacked above, around and about the very place you sit and sip tea just as I am doing right now. Hoping upon dear hope you don’t spill any hot, commiserating, isolating-get through beverage on what is probably 99% unimportant paperwork if you are honest with yourself. But hey, This environment itself is a comfort, too. In my clutter I find peace.

Within this sort-of mess, the tea sits to my left – less full as I have sipped a few slurps off the top. The stapler I’ve named Edward, Clorox wipes and wide, red duct tape roll all breathe a deep sigh as they are beyond danger of spillage at this point. Yes, all three are currently on my desk among an old 1967 Billy O’Dell Pittsburgh Pirates card, vintage three-hole punch, and pair of drum sticks. All the usual clunky stuff you’d find on anyone’s desk in Normaltown, USA. Also erected to my immediate off-center is a stack of three clear packaging tape rolls – one on top of another. By my estimation, this engineering miracle is 6″ high with an empty plastic chocolate milk bottle (label removed) jammed down the middle – upside down, mind you. The bottle has to be upside down, like my early morning mind, because this is the only way one side of an antique, small gold plated wire plate holder would fit down inside between it and the inner roll side of the tape.

Snuggled comfortably in the two prongs is my recently sanitized Samsung phone which completes my not quite, hardly-at-all Rube Goldberg, sort of Frank Lloyd Wright homage. No moving parts except my occasional finger sputtering a stroke down to refresh the screen or one more gentle push on that annoying little tic-tak shaped button at the bottom to bring light to a dark, flat, 2-D impersonal world. It’s a solid structure I’ve built. So proud to avoid future chiropractic stressors on my upper neck not goose-necking while gaping over said phone, be stocked up on packaging needs through 2089, and have ease of access to data. Data read from a small, impersonal phone screen, through the lofty, quarantined, isolated, heavy supposed droplet masked air of uncertainty … into another larger PC screen of whiteness until I enter letter after letter of color and vibrancy.

Need to warm my tea. Be right back. This time, not so full … aaaand, I’m back – marked safe from over-filling.

To my point. I can, today, share with you #IsolationIssues. These are little tidbits of word-knowledge invented, at times, from within my thoroughly depleted, wiped clean of any conscious-currency brain. Usually those middle of the night / early morning moments sandwiched in between checking CNN, MSNBC, PRR, Fox news,, Google, Facebook, AOL mail, Pluto TV, and my alien friends on planet SR59G67. Suffice to say, the knowledge and insight I glean from my three-headed, one-eyed, highly-intelligent super tall hot pink, interstellar confidantes far exceed any mastery of current affairs any of the previous media expert prognosticators offer at this time.

Anyway, I digress. Here are my #IsolationIssues to date as pulled, conveniently, from my cell tower of tape. I lay claim to them as original only as far as I have done no research to the contrary. Is that enough of a disclaimer? I don’t know.


















Yes, I have issues, some extra Reader’s Digests if you want to borrow them … I’ll place them in a safe location on my front porch so we don’t have to be within 6 feet of each other. Too soon? I get that. I loved “Laughter is the Best Medicine” in those little bugger of periodicals. When my grandfather passed away, all his back issues were able to be saved and sit peacefully in my file drawer as a testament to my generationally gifted gene pool of goofiness. I get all this honestly. I have back issues as well. My L2 and L3 are bothering me lately.

He was a gentleman who lived into his 100th year. Most likely because he never tried to carry an over-flowing hot craft of flaming pekoe into his den. Ironically, I sit at the very desk of his I inherited upon his passing. He’d be so proud. Not of my attempt of tea-toting, but my tape tower upon which I’ve drawn inspiration for today’s post. He was a humorist who drew inspiration from life – as I have.

My tea has melted into a cold brew. I must exit and address the issues ahead. All of us should as we must. Carry your tea carefully, my friends.

Has It Been That Long?

Where does the time go?

Two weeks ago – if you asked me – I would have replied, “Not a chance.” to the question, “Do you believe there would come a time when writing every day, or every other day, on your blog would be difficult?”

This is a (minor) tragedy of this isolation. It is also my timely obituary of same. The bell has rung. Time to put the ‘ole boy down. Just about out of patience with an eely, slithery, invisible, politically-leeched, internationally famous infection known as coronavirus, the ‘rona, “Covid-19”, or whatever moniker you choose to slap on it.

It’s a constant of insolent data through mindless Coronavirus task force briefings, internet sloth and blather, hours of staring down into the same group of dirty dishes, opening cans of reasonably low sodium soup, and shuffling paperwork. Masking while asking, distancing and whincing, peering at my peers through little social media screens … these are the supposed normals to be accepted. They are also among little beat-downs in the heavy bag tied around my waste of time. Thus, almost two weeks of empty screens … no words to share.

I don’t feel alone, however. Most of us are really off any regular schedule. It’s 3:50 a.m. and not too uncommon for me to be up, but over on the Facebook side of my life, life is vibrant, colorful and very active. The friendly zoo cages of likes and opinions are happily unlocked which has been the case since the lockdowns started. It also reflects a time when crumb-critters-kiddos are in bed, dogs, cats and gerbils are nose-nestled in their torsos, and adults aren’t quite awake enough to spaddle each other (I’ll let you define that term). So, social media it is.

The problem before me has been experiences. I’m limited in my “Hey, you’s!”, and “Waz’ ups?”. Five to ten seems to be the magic number of humans the universe is allowing me to wallow with on a daily basis. Now, either I am a not worthy a higher number as determined by a supreme people-power-purveyor, or my lack of a regular shower schedule precedes me. I need interaction to create words. Imagination is wonderful to a degree, but when the heat is turned up from boredom and lack of human contact, interest burns as quickly as people run when you cough these days.

No disrespect to what we’re trying to do here. I get all of it. My blog is so insignificant to the bigger universe of ideas, models, testings, procedures, lives, businesses, countries, states, politics, finances, … all of the nouns we can assign to the times in which we live. This has been – and will continue to be – a big deal throughout 2020.

I’m not assigning blame to anyone for my current state of malaise. Ennui, unfortunately, is an intended consequence of isolation-idleness and I’m, quite simply, not happy about it. For example, “blah” and “whatever” should not be used in more than fourteen sentences daily …. but I do, and this is not good. I’ve organized throws and blankets by colors and size, rearranged my hoards of piano music eighty-eight times, flicked through Netflix until my thumb was numb, played enough hands of free internet poker to poke my eyes out, and have dishpan-man hands. All if this to, apparently, avoid writing on this blog – without knowing it.

Now, I don’t want to sell myself short here. In the midst of all, I have been keeping up to date with my dad’s grocery order and calling him every day. He has the same dozen-or-so items keeping him alive and I’m grateful for his dietary consistency. This makes my masked grocery trips for him quick and easy. His attention to necessary isolation has been a wonderful opportunity for us to connect as father and son.

As well, I have connected with my pianistic past by recording daily pieces … uploading them to Facebook for perusal. So, I can’t say all has been a complete waste bin of idleness. I have enjoyed some of the moments spent.

It’s now 4:50 .. Where does the time go? Well, today will be another day pretty much like the past forty-five. I’ll eat a Clif-bar, drink some hot tea, and scurry atop my fifty-ish feet, wearing out the path in the carpet I’ve worn down through many trips to the sad refrigerator.

All is not lost, however. May 1st I am opening up my business. After almost six months – four normal for winter break and two from mandatory shutdown – the community will once again have Doug’s Dawgs at their service for lunch. I am so opening up my world.

Experiences I need in a way only my idleness and eye-rolling can understand. There will be masking and social distancing because, because,….. those are the normals now. For how long? Who really knows. All I know is … there’s not a chance of ever saying, “never” when asked about anything because we don’t know what’s in our future. Ever. Just ask me. Maybe two weeks from now I’ll write about it? Hopefully sooner if I don’t have anything else to do.

A Rainbow

A Rainbow.

It has been a few days since words have appeared here, and quite a bit longer for a rainbow in the sky hugging Altoona, Pa. . Mr. Roy G. Biv was kind enough to make a visit Tuesday. Don’t know where he’s been and can’t recall the last visit when his magnificent colors broke through an otherwise dreary, overcast day. I don’t need perfect recall. All is forgiven because this visit wiped away any regret from past memories. He was here … time was sparkling, magical, and still…

…and now a few more days have passed. It’s Friday. Those words above were written this past Wednesday, early morning. Time is a funny, goofy idea as I consider these dizzying days during another stupid, … eer, whimsical week of prison, … eer, home holiday happiness.

Since the rainbow, I’ve gone a bit insane. Understandable in some 7-color, multi-hue way. My vibrancy is fading. It’s like I’ve been washed so many times. Put through the ringer – as my depression-worn grandmother would say. Jammed into the rollers like pizza dough, over and over, with coronavirus flour flying everywhere, clogging up my nostrils. I can’t breathe anyway. The heavy, homemade, flannel 10-layer cloth mask I’ve been forced into wearing is choking any life sustaining oxygen not only from my lungs, but also from any viable source within 6 miles of my house. A giant vacuum of Corona-suck, it is. But, it is color-fast. So no worries. Ugh.

Back to the rainbow. Ah, never mind. So over it.

Let’s see here. Oh, school has been cancelled for the remainder of the year! Yeah for that news (sarcasm)!! I’m a part-time music instructor at the local Montessori school and miss the kids I teach, privately. Instrumental lessons are now on-line with pixilated and delayed piano hands, no 3-D laughs, and difficult riffs, fingerings, and rudiments being taught through air. My “fellow” staff-mates (fellow in quotes … and they know why), are most likely missing the kiddos equally and feel as I do.

🤔What else? Fighting on Facebook with a friend over stupid sh*t. Well, ain’t that just something to be expected? She was upset that I, …wait for it … posted up an article without attaching an opinion to it either way. I must have an opinion, she opined, and railed me for not sourcing the article. I likened it to, well, here’s part of the reply:

I’m quite proud of the vegan dig. Don’t dislike vegans at all. As a matter of principle, I wish I had the discipline to do it. I’d be a lot healthier and happier not eating meat … but I had to make my point, absurd as it was. We made up – olive branched later. Forgave-forgot. If you think I will post up another article without checking the source, you’re right. I will. Need to Facebook fight once in a while. Reminds me people care … even if they’re the crazy ones. Or, did I admit I was earlier? I’m so confused.

Then there’s my FB video with the iguana and the rabbit. We’ll just move on past that room and look for other rainbows.

My dad is finally walking laps outside instead of around the inside of his stuffy two story house … for this I am grateful. He’s worked his way through this isolation and found a mental home that is satisfactory. I call every day. We laugh together. I like these moments with him

Ok. I have to end with the damn rainbow. Here’s my takeaway. A rainbow is like coronavirus news right now. We see only a part of it, but it never ends. It’s all pretty and such – full of hope and hype at the same time. There’s more we don’t see than we do. Both go around the world in one complete circle, quickly, and disappear as fast as they appear …. and we’re on to the next thing.

Not disparaging rainbows in general. Better times might find me looking for pots of gold or leprechauns. Right now, I’d rather be smooshed into rollers with dirty laundry than consider the magic in 7-colored, prismatic pieces of droplets miles in the sky.

I’m not depressed or mad. Just being real at the moment.

If I let a few more days pass, maybe I’d feel differently. Nah. For now, I’m going to continue to eat meat and fight with people on Facebook. Why not, right? My kiddos aren’t practicing, anyway.

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.

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.

Don’t Mess With My Glitter

Lemons. I never ask for them in my iced tea. Sanitarily speaking, many fingers have touched that yellow bubble-skinned fruit from tree to glass edge, so I don’t feel the need to contaminate my caffeine. Ok, you can argue some waitresses place them in a side bowl. Great. One step shy of my glass, but many strides, still, from a dangling dirt appendagary. One other reason that may be primary: they’re bitter and I simply don’t like them. Maybe should have led with that.🤷🏻‍♂️

Also, bitter rhymes with glitter which is the main theme in this post today. Hey, don’t judge me. I have my motivations. They may not be yours, but if and until the blog police decide what goes, I’m goin’ with it…

Earlier last evening, I imagined the following:

“I want to be in outer space right now. No oxygen, yes, but complete silence and the occasional meteorite that may knock me unconscious before the lack of oxygen does. The eight-minutes late sun on my face. No news. No COVID-19. Just me, my earth under feet for the few seconds I have to exist, and the whole universe uninterrupted before me. The silence in the stars – a beauty for all of us.”

Any occasional or regular reader knows I like my Imagineer’s Workshop. The place where ideas can be lived out without the pressures of expectations. Fantasies and whimsies of illustrious magnificence are born from magical imaginations and experienced in my mind before ever seeing letters into words. Some logical, most crazical and fun-flopable. I like them that way. My mom taught me to see inside what had to be learned outside … make sense out of the world through a humor filter inside.

Cope with humor-hope. It’ll all be ok.

I’ve met a lot of people with the same outlook. “Crazies” as most normals would categorize us. We are a subculture of real-life comic book heroes saving the day-by-day doldrumers from their mono-continuo-laborio-adinfinito-itis. Our relentless puns, dad jokes, memes, and casual odd facial expressions unconsciously thwarting robberies of self-meaning and purpose. All under the cloak of self-sacrificial court jestering. You are quite welcome.

One such person I met a little bitty ago. She’s equally weird. In a good way, of course. A fellow-ette superhero who conquers the world of the day quite-ly nicely …. thank you very much. As is the case in my blog universe – and with all superheroes – her identity must remain a mystery.

We met in the most fortunate of circumstances. I, the illustrious instructor of keys, and her, the mother of four, requested my services. I obliged. From there, we became friends.

As such, she follows my blog and I, occasionally, reach out to her via text to gain knowledge and wisdom on subjects heretofore unknown to me. We are kinda-kindred souls on the who-can-be-a-one-upper game as well. For the record, I’m winning.😉

Most recently, our weaving-word exchange (d)evolved into an imagineer’s arena. My purple monkeys and party balloons found their way into an octagon grudge match with said superhero-ette. Her space is glitter-ati filled dreams on top of unicorns drizzled with ice cream sprinkles. We wrestled our way into a corner of infinitives and exclamatory phrases, when at once across my screen came:

“Just don’t mess with my glitter, dawg-man!!!!”

Now, for the sake of comparison and my ego, look over that …. and then re-read my elegant, sweet, reflective, honest, non-combative, pleasant tome above. Who’s the superhero you’d trust? C’mon now. Be honest. She can handle the truth.🤣

I may – MAY – have instigated the friendly jabber-jousting betweeen us. I admit no fault beyond the genesis, however. Unicorns aren’t real. All I needed to do – in order to confirm her status in our Elite Hall of Heroes – was to verify her knowledge of such. She did. A little snarky, but she did. 🙄

There will be a day – soon – when I will be held accountable for this writing. Not by the blog police, I’m most positive. Anyone of normal or above average intelligence could figure it out … even my unicorn friend – my fellow “Crazy”. Oh, the sweet irony in that sentence.

Hey, if I didn’t assume the risk, no sense I’m wearing the cape, right?

Overall point? Find your glitter, purple monkey, unicorn, or whatever imaginary place makes you happy … and live there any time you need to. Be a superhero.

Just try not to drink iced tea with lemon while you’re there… or be bitter about anything. Life’s too short to be unhappy.

You’ve got the Touch

Since we’re having joy and merriment with viruses, bacteria, and other fun, fuzzy little subjects:

June 9, 2017 By Melanie Waddell, Director of Marketing, PDI Healthcare

“In an age of constant connectivity, healthcare professionals are rarely without touchscreen devices. From tablets in hallway kiosks to x-ray screens to doctors’ and nurses’ own smartphones, such surfaces abound in healthcare settings.

Proliferation of this technology inadvertently increases the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and spread of infection. Our fingertips are home to a plethora of bacteria, and constant contact with touchscreens leaves phones, tablets, and other devices coated with thriving bacteria cultures that put all of us at risk if not cleaned properly.

But while touchscreens are present in healthcare facilities now more than ever, protocols for properly addressing the risks they invite haven’t quite caught up.

On any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If not cleaned properly, some bacteria can survive for months on the surface of a dry touchscreen device, according to a 2016 Environmental Health Review study.

And the risk of contamination is amplified by the fact that 86 percent of clinicians and 76 percent of nurses use smartphones while at work, according to Mobile Trends Report and a study published in JMIR Publications, respectively.

Harmful strains, such as MRSA, Staphyloccus and Streptococcus spp can linger on devices and put patients at risk of infection. Such hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) also cost hospitals billions of dollars in reduced reimbursements and preventable expenditures every year, according to the CDC.

The prevalence of these devices emphasizes the importance of proper cleaning, which is one of the most effective means, aside from hand hygiene, of minimizing or eliminating risks.”

A loyal reader, J.S., sent me a wonderful suggestion which tweaked my fanciful, yet bacteria-on my…, virus minded brain. Hard to remember a day when I wasn’t thinking outside a virtual petri dish of microscopic what-ifs being fed by a test tube of streaking headlines every half minute, but I digress.

Yesterday wasn’t a day of rest from the lab-orious, but always laughable, lather of lexicon, however, I did have a moment to check my messages. J.S. squeezed quite an interesting droplet into the little glass of ideas I had sitting around on my formerly germ-free table of literary schemes. She suggested I ponder the possibilities of the the dreaded touchscreen sign-in station at your local medical facility. “Sign-in station” defined, by me, as the non-human, flat formed, roughly two-dimensional, know-it-all-but-must-ask-it-all, bacteria screen circus all of us must face blurry-eyed at 7:05 in the morning after a 24 hour fast …. and use the steadiest finger of our non-shakiest hand while the other comatose, juice deprived patients wait their ever-lovin’ turn behind us.

The last time I used one of these was around a year ago at the medical center just up the street. It wasn’t pretty. Well, it kinda was, I guess. Presentation: a clear 10! .. Execution? Yes … by firing squad, please. I did everything S.O.P.. Name, DOB, procedure (blood work), the date, Dr. Name, my favorite pizza topping, extra mayo … all the standard questions. Uh, oh …. “We don’t have you currently in our system …”. “WHAAA?”, I proclaimed loudly under my breath just enough to get the attention of the receptionist over at the – get this – sign in desk.

She was a very nice lady. I could tell as I stomped gingerly over to her after thumbing my obstinant nose up at the digital excuse of a touchscreen. I explained my purpose for being there and she listened intently. Kudos to her. Also, props to her for telling me I, apparently, wasn’t standing in front of her … as there seemed to be no record of my existence. Damn. No wonder I couldn’t get waited on faster at Walmart.

OH, wait! What she meant was …. nobody sent over the order for my blood work, so my flat-faced, dirty-MRSA friend over at the other end of the lobby didn’t know what to do with me. “What do I do now?”, I kindly asked. “Well, we can’t do anything without an order from your doctor.”.

Stop frame…

One thing you DON’T want to do at this point is the following:

“Hmm. Can I just go over to the screen, again, and order my blood work, a small order of fries, a Pepsi… and maybe some nuggets? Super size, or not … wadda ya think?”

I don’t care how hungry you THINK you are, that is not a good idea. Clever? Yes, most definitely. Smart? Absolutely not. You will get an icy stare – enough to ensure your Pepsi will stay fresh-ly cold for the day. Also, more than enough to guarantee you may never return with both legs operating normal … that is if you can see through two black eyes.

It took three visits back to the center until I finally got my blood work done. What had to be completed, was. Now, just to be fair, I don’t believe the lady at the sign-in desk had anything to do with the delays. It was the inefficiency of the whole system between three different buildings, two doctors, and one two-bit little touchscreen. Oh, and karma.

The bigger picture is the touchscreen sign-in process. Since then, I have used them frequently – as I’m sure you have. The thought of how dirty they must be has crossed my mind, thus the article above. (What’s written by Melanie Waddell is more general and extends to all hand-held devices. Touchscreens – pardon the pun – are not immune.) Not only the unsanitary nature of the screen, but also the frequency of errors I’ve encountered.

It could be me. I have a weird relationship with Karma. We dance the dance so much I wear out my own soul by the synchronicity in the steps of our soles. I walk up to a touchscreeen and can almost expect certain malaise. Not always, but mostly … because I taunt them and they feel my tauntness. ATMs, convenience store kiosks, … any large flat surface requiring my digital attention. They will freeze up, deny my passwords, accept my passwords, but tell me stupid information I didn’t want to know, or just stare at me with a blank screen: “out of order, come back later”

I spent my adolescent and young adult years working in the fast food industry. The big one. No self-serve ordering kiosks. Just now old-fashioned registers where guys like me took your order, ran around to get it all together, collected a few bucks and sent you on your way. Simple.

Today, there are more kiosks than help. I don’t like it. I don’t care for it at the medical centers either. It’s not really because they’re dirty like the above article states, although that’s enough of a reason for most. Humans aren’t machines … and machines can’t ever be human. We need people to be with people. Us with us.

Yeah, I know smarty-mouth guys like me who are a bit testy with nice ladies at 7 a.m. can be challenging, but isn’t that still a better option than flatty-face?

Well J.S., see what you did? Take it in stride, my friend. Thanks for the idea. I will forever be grateful when there is an uprising of the touchscreens against me. Karma can be a nasty thing. I’ll make sure they have your number.