“Table for One”

Title in quotes because I didn’t name this beautiful picture; nor did I possibly leave boot prints in muddy puddles, or quiet sandal steps along stone pathways, to sneak up on this flower and its momentary inhabitant. That glorious moment belonged to my wonderful friend. A dear person. The kind of behind the lens, shy, keenly aware human being all of us should have in our emotional back pocket.

She has a name – one I didn’t ask permission to use. In addition, I will not splay words of adulation upon this page – although they would be appropriate. To simply mention her support and encouragement will suffice.

What cannot be unnoticed, and necessarily witnessed by simply being next to the pictures like what’s above, is her eye for nature’s beauty. I’ve seen the sun splendidly spectacular, trees triumph, and water massage thousand years old rocks – through her lens. The lens of a camera phone btw.


In the course of a work day, perhaps, or a leisurely walk, she finds moments to see what few of us see. Hundreds upon hundreds – possibly over a thousand – captured frames we’d never know if she didn’t stop to let us in. Allowing us the opportunity to bee, yes “bee one with nature” …

… and then it’s no longer a “Table for One”, is it?

We’re at the table together. A not so subtle reminder as August of 2020 winds down into the early fall months. Exactly two-thirds of an extraordinarily un-bee-lievable year melted into our memories with so many unknown experiences yet ahead.

Everything seems so un-natural. Words, tossed about from people we’re finding difficult to trust, are not the same anymore. Cloth that was beautifully sewn into dresses and ties is now muffling “I love you’s” being spoken by those making that masking decision – which is another American divide. Science is at odds with opinion, and numbers are no longer stern – they are malleable and flexible to the moment.

Yes, it seems un-natural. Through our human lens, anyway. What appears to bee isn’t always that way. If we step back, as my picture-esque friend does “quite finely”, nature gives us time to see what she sees: a bee on a flower. Simple.

Bees collect pollen, a source of protein they feed to their offspring. Also, I believe the hair on their bodies collects the pollen as well which, in turn, helps pollinate the earth. (I may know more music than biology, Mozart than mud, but I think I have that right?). See, our wonderful world has a plan for everything.

We’re just the goofballs messing it all up. The party crashers at the table, as it were. It’s estimated 50% of all the wildlife is extinct now … and we are in the 6th Extinction event as I type. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until I became a bit more educated and less dependent on single-use plastic bags. Half to eighty-five percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton in the ocean and it’s in trouble. Over-population is destroying natural habitats. We eat way too much food to sustain the land necessary for cultivation … on and on it goes. This is from a guy who … well …

I’m not a nature walker. Far from it. My best day would be to sit at my desk with one hand knuckles deep in a bowl of dry cereal with the other controlling a mouse. I do appreciate nice things in front of my peepers when I go outside, however, and I want them to stay that way. I want a blue sky, lush green grass, and clean, healthy air.

My life is like 2020. Roughly two-thirds over – if actuarial tables are correct and no speeding bus is headed my way soon. Comparatively speaking, both have had ups and downs. Maybe you’re right there with me in age? Perhaps not.

Whatever the case, you’re doing all the right things and I’m glad to introduce you to my friend’s world of pictorial pleasures. She’s pretty shy, so I don’t know if I’ll have the delight in sharing more of her colorful imagery with all of you in the future.

Knowing her as I do – and since we’re all in this together – she’ll graciously welcome us at her table if I ask. That’s how she rolls.

For now, on this very early Sunday morning in August, I’ll be content knowing another day is ahead for us to look through our lenses to see what my fabulous friend sees. When a flower appears, stop … if only for a second. You may witness a small miracle nature has been creating every day for 4.5 billion years. Bee-lieve me, we don’t want to lose sight of it.

My dear friend is making sure we don’t.








Ten and Two

I rolled over on the sofa the other morning because my back hurt. Something creative came out of that spinal soreness – at least from my point of view. This:

Now, you may not agree with my creative assessment, however, you’d be going against a few Facebook friends who found that post to be somewhat entertaining. Since I count myself among my friends, … happily hoping you are to you as well during this year of unpredictable, unprecedented, incredible instances in our lives, I offer the following:

Humor and originality, to get through the sludgery of this year, especially, have been my go-to. Those two streets have always been under my wheels, but never so road-ready as they’ve been in 2020 – paved with intentionality. They are mental representations of what I’ve always needed my life to be: Laughs, Escapes, Acceptances, Re-dos, and Normals. All of these, in both tough and easy times, help me L-E-A-R-N.

Within all five are my keys to lower blood pressure, easier breathing, and a general sense of better control over my life. If only people ahead of me in line at the local convenience store would quit insisting on rattling off every … single … lottery number to the clerk they scratched on their Denny’s napkin, I’d be close to perfectly calm … for a few seconds anyway.

Here’s the problem with my plan: I’m always having to get back into my emotional car, filling the tank with new material over and over, never quite getting out of town.

Why? I’m a difficult L-E-A-R-Ner. How about you? I can laugh, escape, accept, re-do and be normal, … but it’s a tough road figuring out a new path forward knowing something new.

… and that’s the problem we face in America today. Especially in 2020.

One of the expressions I hear a lot is, “I don’t know what I don’t know”, as it relates to this awful virus, masking, etc … So honest, yet so deceivingly scary, right? This opens us up to speculation, opinion, Facebook rants, politically driven drivel, bent blather from the media, on and on. We can’t shut our lives down, or off. We need contact with sources for good information … we need to learn our way through this with all the solid, trusted, data – both hands on the wheel. Ten and two.

The other 2020 problem, November’s election, I fear too many don’t want to learn about the other side. There’s hate, malaise, discontent, fear, blindness – all not-so disguised as roadblocks inside the minds of some who blindly drive only on one way streets. What if Hate Avenue is a dead end? Anger Alley could have a really delinquent mob hanging about near the back gate. It is all an unknown.

Some claim to know absolute truth. There seems to be more Facebook absolutes than molecules in Newton’s apple. For every left, a right …. every right a wrong, every Zuckerberg a Spielberg, ad infinitum mucho latte and a cherry.

I know very little except the first eight months of 2020 have been a freakin’ nightmare. Lives have been upended, suspended – or, sadly ended – because of a virus. In addition, an election coming up is so ridiculously overblown with hot, bloviated air to the point of being one pin prick away from political pop-in-stance. Lastly, I saw this in the news:

Deborah Rose, 64, of Thorold, Ontario, won a lottery jackpot of more than $750,000 using a set of lucky numbers that came to her in a dream. Photo courtesy of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.
(Awkward blank space here … sorry. I didn’t know how to fix it. So, I’ll just place a few random thoughts here to fill in the white block to make it pretty. We had rain today. Not much. Ate a veggie burger for supper with some Kraft mac and cheese. OK. Geesh there’s a lot of space to fill here. Oh well. Again, my apologies … The caption accompanying this picture is a few miles down.)
Aug. 26 (UPI) — An Ontario woman who scored a lottery jackpot worth more than $750,000 told officials her winning numbers came to her in a dream.

I sure hope the poor guy standing behind her in line at the local convenience store didn’t have to stand there for hours as she painstakingly pattered off her numbers. I must admit, though, Mrs. Deborah does have stunningly beautiful eyes. The pinky extensions make me think she’s a bit apprehensive holding a large moola check, so may I kindly suggest she send me some of that jack to lighten the load of my car a bit? I’ve a long road ahead – as all of us do.

I accept what is. Don’t really like a lot of it right now … don’t have to – and you don’t either. Take some time to laugh, be creative, be whatever normal looks like to you. America needs it now more than ever.

I should settle in for the night. Perchance to dream, I guess. Hey maybe a few lucky lottery numbers will slosh around in my head? One thing I do know for sure: my back will be sore in the morning – it always is. It’ll never learn, virus or not, but I’ll think of something creative to get myself going.

You do the same. ok? America needs to find its backbone again, too.

619

During these early morning hours, when I’m awake and find my words a little more accessible than later in the day, strange – but comforting – things usually happen. Strange defined as “unexpected, unpredictable phenomena appearing before my eyes”, and “comforting” meaning, “I don’t jump out of my semi-wrinkled, now-blemished skin” when they happen.

These happenstances are really quite the cool factor in my life. Perhaps you have them in your life as well? Petite surprises jump-starting your day. I love them. My eyes – and by extension, my crazy brain juices – seem to thrive on finding miniature nuggets of fascinating frolics when opening for the first time in the morning.

This second day of August, 2020 is no exception … a pleasant, cool morning in the 8th month of what is turning out to be a ridiculously fascinating year. A year when everything seems to be going south. Now, seeds from China. Geesh.

Well, I saw a number on my clock and it was wonderful: 619

Why? Three digital digits on a clock face shouldn’t be that exciting. Am I plainly weird? Is my sanity compass pointing to a different magnetic pole? Are the rumors of my particular peculiarities among the populous really accurate? No. And, yes.

I must admit, as any person in his sound mind would, none of the above assertions are kinda true. Yes, I do have oddities, but that makes me, me. You are you as well … and we make the world go ’round which is why 619 is so wonderfully wacky. Take it for what it’s worth. I worked a long day yesterday, didn’t eat much until a Taco Bell Quesarito went marching down my gullet late last night, and I slept quasi-ok under a fuzzy blanket on the sofa. So, three numbers on a tv clock ARE going to be captivating. Glad to be participating in life as another fine dawn appears over the window air conditioner to my left. Aah, 21st century wonders.

619. Less absorbing are the three syllables used up saying it. Six-one-nine. Ten letters … s.i.x.o.n.e.n.i.n.e.? Not very interesting either, right? Additionally, adding them up gets us to a sweet 16 birthday party I’m not so sure any teenager even celebrates anymore, so we can cross that off the strange, but comfortable list I proposed at the beginning.

Let’s do a 180-degrees turn together and you’ll see why I find this number so appreciatively appropriate for us as we begin our trip into the last five months of 2020.

It is still 619.

So many people are throwing 619’s at us. Wanting us to change who we are … What we believe, … What we are to do with our lives, …Who we trust, … When we go where and do what.

They are asking us to do a “180”, in essence, without realizing when we do, we are simply returning back to what we already are. Nothing much will have changed except our disdain and resentment toward them for asking us to do something we didn’t want to do in the first place.

However, if on your own accord, you decide to rotate your 619 because you feel the process is for your benefit, by all means … go for it. THAT process can be life changing. You’ll still rotate back to the same position, but feel and act differently.

Point being, “You can’t push a rope” – one of my favorite expressions. This masking, Covid-19, mandated culture we are experiencing now is a brutal, opinionated, Fauci-fact-quasi, who knows world right now. For every yes there is a no, … every right a wrong, every wall an opening. We’re being pushed to rotate our 619 lives without the nudgers realizing we’re only going to end up back where we started.

“A person convinced against his will … is of the same opinion still” – accredited to Mary Wollstonecraft, but original source unknown

And, there’s the rub. Few, if any, are changing their minds about any of this. Politics, religion, now Covid …. the three no-gos in discussions around dinner tables that aren’t even happening anymore, anyway. It’s all arguing about numbers and stats, data points, and charts. A big rotating rotisserie of roasting grumpiness where opinions spatter outward toward patrons with upright forks in hand … waiting to chomp on the fat of misinformation and slanted media bias.

But, back to my early morning fare. The sun is higher in the sky now. I must begin my day. I’m not angry or beset by what’s going on in the world. Quite the opposite. My 619s are pretty good these days. Yours are as well, I’m sure.

Lollipops, unicorns, and pots of gold. Maybe tomorrow morning will present one of these instead of three innocent little numbers. Who knows. For sure, I’ll roll out from under a blanket, open my eyes, and begin a new day with whatever comforting and strange nicely nuggets appear before me.

Hopefully it isn’t a compass pointing due south. Now that would be just plain strange.

…and quite uncomfortable.

Log On It!

It was to be a nice late evening meal for a few smaller than small critters. A family of about seventy or so, by my imagination. What kind of critters? Who knows. For sure, they were tiny and resting up from a busy day of dirt-dalying among the various clumps and mini crags in the front yard. Mom, dad, Uncle Frater, the ten kids and various cousins … all around for dinner …

Then … WHAM!

Not to be a Dougie-downer, but critter catastrophes happen. These events are common because ants walk on a busy human byways and flies are swatted during lazy summer evenings. Just so happens, on this past Saturday’s eve, an odd, innocent insecta-sidal incident occurred which, unfortunately, caused the envisioned demise of seventy little non-human dinner guests. An aged tree branch fell on all of them. Unexpected. Sudden. I’m sure there was no pain.

Now I’m left to figure out what to do with all this.

Oh, not the family of imagined critters. They’re imaginary. I think I’m simply a guy awake enough to write a little, but just on the edge of goofy-groggy to dial up a “we had a massive log drop on us this past March”. Now what! Unexpected, sudden. Log on it, anyway!!

As for the log in my yard, I propped it up against the tree from whence it came. This feat of festive propping took me two days to accomplish after looking at it a few dozen times. You wooden 😁 think so, but I’m a guy and this is how we roll. Now I have a tree triangle the neighbors will have to enjoy all winter … and possibly impress my Junior High math teacher during a drive-by – provided he is still aware enough to pound an extra long chalkboard eraser or finger-flex a ten pound pocket calculator. At present, the hypotenuse being the log, earth as one leg, and the host tree the other: an example of triangulation configuration at its finest. At least I think so…

We couldn’t prop the Covid against a tree and then go about our lives, could we? When it landed on us, the virus crushed a lot of our ambitions for 2020. There we were … simply eating dinner one evening with friends and family then …. WHAM!!

Life hasn’t returned to normal. I know this. You know this. After over four months of living behind the new air we’ve been breathing, I fear we are having a difficult time remembering what normal used to be. As the grass under this immovable log continues to be denied the sunshine of a new day, we are losing the ability to know what fresh air and new ideas taste like.

The air is becoming old and stale with devisive, bitter arguments about masking and mold is growing around each crevasse of political divide. We are communicating, but in a strange way. There seems to be a quietness afoot. “Suspicious” is probably a better word … perhaps even “cautious”. Nobody knows what to say anymore … moreover, to whom, or when to say it. So, I fear we are becoming a collection of “what-to-do-or-say” people scurrying about under our huge log.

There are those outspoken among us, to be sure. Their voices ring and bounce between the bark. We hear them loudly proclaim their truth as they see themselves portrayed in the sliver of light peeking through the perceived darkness they see in others. It is an overly-opinion filled new normal nudge all of us are engaged in at an accelerated pace due to this Covid log we are under.

We don’t need to be all this and a heaping pile of mulch, though.

As much as this looks dire and can be sour to the sights, let it not bug you. There is a definite, determined upside to all the doom-inisticism I offered above. There is light at the end of my word-spitter, now heard, critter fancy.

…and that light is YOU. You, me, and everyone else.

The Covid log fell on all our dinners this past March. Those eating McDonald’s and friends snacking on caviar did not escape the wrath of wham from distances we’ve yet to determine. With all respect to our loved ones lost, most have survived thus far and we are pushing forward, right? Numbers, percentages, cases, etc ….all of these keep going regardless how we feel, individually, about all of it. We just keeping going forward doing what we believe is correct.

Here’s what we need to do. Together, we need to lift this log off of us. It’ll take a Herculean effort, I know, but we can do it. It means agreeing on a half-way point about masking, perhaps … or, not being so stubborn about our views on this doctor or that politician. We can’t all be right about everything we believe all the time. There needs to be some give and take here.

We need to stop being so judgemental towards others. Our four months social media immunology education isn’t enough to warrant an opinion about why Mary Doe isn’t wearing a mask, or why she is. Cloth, surgical, mosquitos through a chain link fence, droplets, drywall dust, N95, – all the masking arguments I’ve heard are getting pedantic and old. This sounds harsh … and it is directed as much towards me as anyone. I think and reflect upon what I see on Facebook. What is mandated? What isn’t? A law? Not a law? Again, it isn’t all that clear, but we can talk talk it out and try to find a middle ground here.

The gray areas are brutal now. Not just masking, but business requirements to remain open in PA are as clear as muck … oh, and testing for Covid. Geesh. False positives, delays, changing stats, ups/downs, percentages, comparative analysis … on and on.

Comfort groups on social media with fringe followers calling out marginal issues. Again, there needs to be a compromise somewhere. Hardliners taking a stand on masking and gloving where science and common sense have stalemated.


If we rely on the politicians, media, or any social construct to solve this for us, that’s not going to happen. They don’t have a crane large enough to lift this burden off of us and, ironically, they’re sitting on the log anyway, adding to weight we must lift.

So it’s up to us if we want to enjoy a normal, fun dinner in the future without the worry of another unpredictable log falling from the sky. We need to shed this current worrisome woodiness from our lives. When all has settled, we can then watch another family of Uncle Fraters enjoy their summer meal without worry themselves.

How nice it will be to talk among ourselves. Talk about what once was the Covid. All the battle-barking going on right now will be the old normal we will not miss. The log on it we will finally lift off ourselves together – unified as one voice.

Ping-Pong Pandemic

This virus confirmed my suspicions.

We live in an openly free country. With that comes the opportunity to stand in the midst of any need-to-be-right crowd … shouting down any opposing idea or solution to a problem facing the very country in which we live. We can absolutely live our lives believing we are right about any cause and justify that belief any way we choose.

On that basis, we have a viral problem of need-to-be-righters in America. A group of people who, under normal, daily life, would have a nearly nice, neighborly discussion with anybody. A few weeks into this pandemic, I suspect they turned. I’m approaching this from the side of belief (emotion/feeling), not knowledge (science/data) … Emotions are driving the masking debate.

I often asked these folks, “Where, and how, does this end?”. There’s been no clear answer. All of us believe something about masking, but our hidden smiles are the middle not the end. Most of the stringent/hard-core ones I try to talk to are not-so-quietly saying, “Here’s my line in the sand.”. Without realizing it, any real human conversations with them bounce off my once open ears and fall into the closed-minded, need-to-be-right quicksand beneath their feet. Their end is only theirs: an individual conviction. For us remaining on the edge? A sinking feeling. A no answer morass as we are still lost in the jungle of unanswerable questions about a virus still sitting on top of the canopy.

I believe taking a stand on issues is important. This isn’t a treatise on rolling over to every oppression and wrong in America. Certainly fight for what is worth fighting for …

… But this masking “thing” is confirming my suspicions about conforming to a larger societal problem. What to do about our pandemic and a large number of Americans who Just. Need. To. Be. Right. is concerning to me.

I am addressing those shaming and chastising others with opposing views on masking. Others are content doing their daily life’s chores and successes – believing what they believe and acting accordingly … those are not the ones about whom I am concerned.

Let’s simply put aside the politics. That’s a real messy stew. Who did and didn’t do what and when isn’t going to help the meat or veggies go down any better here.

Masking.

I said no science, but some has to be stated: We have 330 million Americans, roughly. I am assuming we have a pandemic and the testing accuracy is 70/30 to the good. We have numbers similar to the flu, however, the infection rate (spread) is worse and symptoms are not similar. We currently have no vaccine.

…And, a complete lock-down will never, ever happen.

What I am assuming above is amateur level stuff based on my own digging … nothing more. No MSNBC, FOX or media bias scoping. Just me, myself, and I asking around and reading a few articles.

That said, back to my question. How do we get out of this? … and here’s where I can give myself, and you, an answer I believe satisfies the need-to-be-righters and everyone else who is tiring of all the gray area blast-bickering.

Emotions drive the masking debate, so let’s attack it there. Want to be happy about your position … or, have a chance to be proven right? Let’s do it.

Carve out 10% of our populous who won’t mask, period … i.e the most stubborn among the stubborn, or those with legitimate medical issues. Since the remaining 300 million – that’s us, folks – probably (presumably) will never agree to a complete lock-down, all of us either mask or don’t mask for forty days. What’s 40 days, right? We get to the end of August and see what happens.

This mask or no mask fence-sitting cannot continue. It’s ripping us apart. These hawkishly leering positions need to be sling-shotted off their perches of righteous indignation and proven right, or wrong. At least in the short-term, let’s get some answers.

Option #1) NO MASKING Now, obviously, no masking could end up ridiculously bad. The virus takes hold and does its thing among the elderly, immuno-compromised, and otherwise susceptible. If not, those need-to-be-righters not masking can claim victory. I really, really hope this never happens, btw.

Option #2) MASKING All of us mask, and see what the numbers tell us in 40 days. No changes in infection spread would mean the masks did not work and we are, as a country, forced into another plan of action. If the numbers go down significantly, those need-to-be-righters who are masking can claim victory.

For my life and the lives of my loved ones, this is the only way we are going to find out where the end is. Existing in a society where this-and-thats keep going back and forth about masking is the ping-pong pandemic that will never end. Two people, needing to be right all the time, hold opposing paddles of emotion while whacking a little opinion ball back and forth, trading points, and voicing vitriolic volleys are getting us nowhere. The umpire’s useless, the referee’s retreating, and spectators are not-so surprisingly sendentarily stupified.


My vote is option #2. Why can’t the 300 million of us come together and simply mask for forty days and see what happens? Be Americans. Quit the fighting about who is right or wrong, left or right, Republican or Democrat, cute or ugly, tall or short, funny or dull. I want to see some kind of results somewhere … not just keep playing some game at the net.

If we don’t soon unite as a county, this pandemic is not going to end. Both sides can’t be right at the same time. And, it’s not just a virus. The divide along all lines – politics, race, economics, gender, religion, etc – is going to expand and we’ll never recover IF we can’t find some common, acceptable ground upon which to stand.

The mask hanging in the picture belongs to someone who cares.

Be that someone, please. If you are outside and can social distance, don’t wear your mask if you don’t want to. I don’t. (Caveat: I work outside behind a grill – and it’s hot – so, there’s that … also, inside every business I do wear a mask). Inside? I’d recommend it because that’s what the experts want us to do. Avoid large crowds, wash your hands, and if you’re not feeling well at all … stay home.

I don’t need to be right about anything. I’ve been wrong about more things than the Inspector has gadgets. This virus has confirmed my suspicions, however, about too many needing to be right at the cost of possibly being wrong in the long run.

That cost is too much for me to pay. I’ll continue to mask. Maybe 299,999,999 other Americans will join me and we’ll meet up again August 31st, 2020 to celebrate a ZERO on the ping-pong pandemic scoreboard.







Sir Covid and Chocolate Milk

Needing to revisit this again, I say. Promised myself I wouldn’t, but the past 24 hours requires it due to the confusing rhetoric bouncing around in my brain like a bin full of hard rubber balls.

I fault only myself. The blame is here. I listened with rapt attention as my post-betrothed dutifully described – or, attempted to – the logic of this viral spread among people. She went into moderate detail about how all of us, at some point, will come in contact with Sir Covid and, depending upon our ability to fight his ferocity against us, will need to decide how to move forward as a society. Individually, our decisions will affect the community as a whole. Geesh, I hope I’m summarizing this fairly. If not, it’s been a good life … That’s it in a nut shell. Kinda.

Oh, and he may circle around the town only to revisit us in the future. We may, or may not, have an immunity against this future assault … if it happens. One does not know. At that time, I’ll still be pondering such in my brainiacal bin of balls, perhaps, wondering why I ever considered all of this a possibility in the first place.

Well, I am now … because she mentioned it last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not quite 4 a.m.. I’m up processing possibilities over and over due to that damn conversation we had over delicious salmon, mac and cheese, a vegetable mix, and quite refreshing chocolate milk. Credit given where due, it was a home cooked meal my wife prepared after I worked an exhausting three days in the blasted heat. We didn’t scurry over to our usual Sunday evening restaurant fare. Instead, it was a quiet evening at home.

We can have back-and-forths, ups and downs, in betweens, and scurfluffles just like any normal couple. Our political, social, religious, economic, and familial views are – for the most part – on the same game board … although we have distinctly different game pieces. Every once in a while, she feels the need to arm-sweep all the game pieces off the board and change the rules. I, admittedly, give her good cause to do so. She sits with reason and logic, I bring chance, mystery, spontaneity, and risk-taking. I’m almost always right … she’s generally not so … (those last words inserted just for fun because I know she reads these …)

The “It” I referred to above was a casual conversation floating between our two personalities. This particular word exchanged centered around the following blip that appeared on her visual reader-radar and she wanted me to be aware of her opinion on the matter. I listened dutifully. It wasn’t a heated dialogue between us. Any normal folk ’round these parts darn near know there’s enough heat these days to choke a duck. We remained calm for a few minutes, ate our overly seasoned (but yummy) fish slab, and continued …

This is the video posted online by ZDoggMD. I checked it out earlier this morning. By “earlier”, I mean 1:30 a.m. while casually munching on a chocolate Cliff Bar … watching the screen saver slowly move right to left on our t.v.. Here’s the link: (Spoiler alert … I recap the video below)

https://www.facebook.com/ZDoggMD/videos/326793034987356/

Please don’t assume my position on the matter. I’m still processing my possible position posed by this professional physician who posted the promo.

If you did, or didn’t watch, he prefaces by saying: “Don’t watch the news”, then continues with four things we can do to mitigate the spread of the virus: #1) Avoid tight, crowded spaces unless you wear some kind of face covering, #2) Practice social distancing (get into the “vibe” of doing this), #3) Wash your hands frequently, and #4) Stay away from others if you feel ill with a cough, fever, chills etc … see a doctor. These are very practical things to do, according to this gentleman doctor. Pretty hard to disagree with any of this, right?

My disagreement isn’t with my wife, necessarily, the doctor, or the colorful balls NOT social distancing around inside my head STILL. A contention convention is being held at this moment within my brain … attended by synapses firing viral inquiries faster than I have answers.

I have more than one question, but one primary query remains at the top: When does this virus end … and what does the end look like? THIS was the paramount “It” last night between my wife and I. THIS is why I am revisiting an area of my overly tired brain once again at an early hour – not wanting to, apparently, give it a break.

My response to her: “Well, I guess everyone either develops an immunity to it, or dies”.

That’s all I had to say. Now, the inflection of “That’s all I had to say.” is really important here. “That’s all I HAD to say.” is significantly different from, “That’s all I had TO say”. The first implying “Them’s fighting words!” … the second, “I’m saying this as my opinion,” The latter being my intent. My wife, being the calm, astute, non-confrontational type, continued on with her platter of food in front of her, mildly silent … carefully choosing her words. “Well, we certainly don’t want anyone we love to die, would we? I think we should all do the best we can.”

I don’t know if I won or lost the game I wasn’t sure I was even playing … or, didn’t want to play in the first place. Regardless, It is still a question that goes on unanswered. There is no end to this – and that fact, to me, is meekly depressing. This virus is our century’s / generation’s Vietnam, in a way. A seemingly unbeatable, ongoing enemy that hides everywhere. We have abortive weapons, unproductive goals, and divisive leadership … all the failings proven ineffective over fifty years ago.

I’m not a fatalist. Just a guy who is lacking sleep, fixated on colorful balls, and working too much in the heat – which may, or may not, be affecting the way my perceptions seep into my words.

Sir Covid be damned. He’s around and to be dealt with, I guess. Can’t take him lightly according to Dr. ZDogg and plenty of other folks sporting more letters after their names than I. Just that one dang question, among others, dangling around my gray matter not going away any time soon, evidently causing me to lose even more sleep. Hey, don’t feel sorry for me at all. The mere fact I probably lost a small debate over dinner last night is a small consolation.

I have the pleasure of expressing myself here which makes all of “IT” ok. I feel better – two hours later. Not much of the big picture was solved and I still have questions, however, some of the rubber balls bounced out while I typed. There’s now room for air and a little less confusing rhetoric occupies the space.

I think there may some left-overs in the ‘fridge … maybe some chocolate milk, too.

Dear Me

Dear Me,

Today, I heard you were showing white privilege, white indignation, and white intolerance. Under the most unfortunate of circumstances, these qualities were thrust upon your character by a close relative who, by all measures, exhibits signs of intolerance herself. Not “white” intolerance, mind you … just intolerance toward anyone with an opposing point of view. For this, I am sorry.

This came out of the blue. Well, not really out of nowhere. You did proffer a logical, thought-out opinion about the most recent rioting, looting, and burning in Atlanta. Perhaps, in hindsight, Facebook wasn’t the best social format to do so, my friend. After all, you tried twice before and the words you crafted weren’t met with smooth dialogue either. Your decision to delete all three posts this evening, in my opinion, was the best solution for now.

I saw the whole string of texts sent to you from your relative and may I, again, offer up my apologies. I will give her some credit for privately calling you out and not publicly spewing the hot ashes of her vitriol. As an aside, at least she didn’t call you a “racist” like the other “friend” on Facebook felt the need to do.

So, here’s where I’m at right now – and why I felt the need to write you a letter. You’re my closest and dearest friend. I’ve the fondest regard for your character and know you to be the most sincere, compassionate, loving person toward all regardless of race, sex, income, lifestyle choice, or any qualifier one would choose to apply. The anger and misunderstanding directed toward you is misappropriated. Period.

Here’s what they don’t know: You are starting to understand “White Privilege”. Indignation and Intolerance stand outside your fence – this I know. She is way off base on those two. I won’t even begin to justify those with a response.

You’ve set aside this day to think on that phrase. Since the accusation was hurled at you this morning, you caught the ball, tucked it under your arm and wrestled with it. That’s what you do. You ALWAYS do. You study and meditate. Think and mull over words and propositions … especially if it is deeply concerning to your character.

I heard your voice as you spoke out loud. The revelation hit you around 7:30 this evening, didn’t it?

You said, “It’s the way the movement is worded. ‘White Privilege’ is divisive. This has been the anchor around my attitude. This is why the bitterness in my words comes through. I’ve not a privileged bone in my hard-working skeleton. Privilege sounds Ivy league, haughty, lofty, and aloof to me. The usage is comparative to my experience – which is all I have to go on. So, when I am labeled, “White Privilege”, that is where my mind goes…

…Now, after thinking it through a bit, if the phrase, ‘Being white has its advantages’ was used instead, I could embrace this much better. Seems a small difference, but I understand the issue so much better this way. I now see myself as a white male with less fear for my safety in certain neighborhoods compared to my black friends. I understand my relationships with (some police) as different and job, insurance, voting, and social experiences in America as not the same.”

When you said those words, I knew you’ve been educated. That’s you, Doug. You are someone who knows how to grow … and learn. You know the value in change. You know the humility in recognizing your faults in actions and thinking – and the necessary remedies without sacrificing your values along the path of understanding.

Too bad those who fault you – and label you – will never know your true self because they don’t read this blog.

I am truly honored – and privileged – to be by your side every living moment. Stay strong and don’t ever quit being you. One heartbeat at a time, my friend.

Love,

Doug

I’m Assuming You Don’t Know

When walking into Cracker Barrel last night for dinner, I assumed my favorite lemon-pepper trout dinner would be waiting for me on the menu. This delicious two piece fish entree with sides of macaroni and cheese, corn, and a salad has been a Sunday night regular for my tired, worn, weekend grill-sloshed body’s hungry belly. Sam the Man, our favorite waiter, is usually there to smilingly serve my iced tea with an extra glass of ice and knows enough to not even ask for my order. He knows what I want … on any normal night.

Sunday, June 14th … last night. No assumptions could be made. Texas Roadhouse, on a whim and suggestion from a good friend, was well into a line upon arrival and I was too hungry to wait. Next door, Chili’s parking lot looked the same as if there was a sudden run to the border. Why did my wife and I not first head to Cracker Barrel? I assumed a 7 pm dinner time on a Sunday would be less likely loaded than any other time of the week – especially during this covid-19 social tightness noosed around restaurants these fine days .

If not for the urging from a good foodie-vendor friend all weekend, and the seasoned, drippy pork chop painted picture he drew, I wouldn’t have steered my beat up Honda into Texas Roadhouse’s socially distanced, beef-ribbed parking lot. Hooking the trout first inside Cracker Barrel with Sam and a cold iced tea … sitting down after 6 long days of work … and I would’ve avoided any extra miles on my already worn nerves.

We finally entered that most familiar store after passing the rocking chairs and extra large checker boards. Signs and notices suggest mask wearing, however, some do not oblige. Workers? Yes. Guests who scrum about the gifts shop? Some – who most likely assume they are virus free, do not wear them. A muted, vocal tone from a very nice familiar host immediately directs us to a table triangulated and distanced 6-feet from any other in the large echoed room. Scratchy wooden chairs across a tiled floor accompany, now, condiment-less blank tables with no golf-tee games happily waiting twenty minute pastimes between ordering and meal arrivals.

The old pictures on the wall remain still, but have an eerie new meaning. Folks in hazy black and white pose staring across our table last night gave me the same pause they, themselves, have stood in two-dimensional time. They knew nothing of the cell phone I tapped text messages into while I stared disappointingly at a limited menu, but seemed to see into the starkness of a barely full dining room. Technology escaped their purview. Life did not.

They must have noticed my disbelief in realizing trout, apparently, jumped off the menu. An apparent covid-casualty of the worst, unimaginable kind. I assumed, after driving happily away from Texas Roadhouse, Cracker Barrel would save my stomach soul. Sam tried to calm my weary worries … and he did … sort of. I settled in on the haddock after dismissing the catfish, chicken, meatloaf, roast beef, sampler, and various other quite limited choices.

As a non-menu grabber for years, it was odd scanning over other choices. I never do. Always the same Sunday fare. Yes, a tad OCD … welcome to that world, but after working in the sun all weekend, a Sunday night with Sam, trout, iced tea (and an extra glass of ice) is an assumed treat.

Assumed until it can’t be anymore. I had to pause. My normal wasn’t acceptable, except I can accept assumptions … sometimes. Let me explain:

This is where we are in America. A few mornings ago, a Wendy’s burned because, once again, a young man was tragically killed unnecessarily. The night before, I was watching coverage of that police shooting in Atlanta – as it happened only hours before – and, sadly, I had to assume “something” of a violent or destructive nature would happen in reaction … and it did. An innocent building was torched in protest.

I am not condoning the reaction. It wasn’t a response, but a visceral, gut-punch reaction from a community who assumes the gunning down of a 27 year old man who, yes, physically struggled with the police, was so every-day anymore. You know what? …the assumption isn’t wrong. This young man was fleeing and shot in the back – twice. It’s a story that cannot be ignored anymore by saying, “Assuming makes an ASS-out of U and ME’. That American story is gone. It makes an ass out of the police who shot the man. Period.

Yes, an argument can be made for the gang minority violence in Chicago … along with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m zeroing in on the violence against black men perpetrated by some law enforcement who seem to have no problem squeezing their trigger brain and, yes, murdering with no just cause … apparently … allegedly, may I say before being accused of “guilty before innocence”. Notice the word “some” used above – recognizing the honest, moral among them as well.

The list is filling up and is too full, now, for me to ignore. I can’t assume the American system of law enforcement is right, just, and equal anymore in the disbursement of justice at the point of contact in a park, drive-thru, street sidewalk, or city corner. I can fairly assume it is for me as it applies, however, to me a white male living in a fairly conservative north-eastern state surrounded by mostly Republican, Christian people. Experiences for others in more diverse, highly concentrated bigger cities would be significantly different.

I always assumed it was the same across the country. OUR country. I was wrong. My life was isolated from the reality of racism. It isn’t any more complicated than that. Not just racism. Bigotry against those who choose same sex relationships, trans lifestyles and similar alternative choices, atheist or non-traditional worship meditations, are on my awareness spectrum. James Baldwin makes sense more to me than ever, shades of black experience are being lifted – shining light into my previously shaded white world.

Assumptions of what was can be no more. Generations of thinking need to be changed. I, myself, can’t lift mountains of new information to new heights, nor can I speak those who can’t hear. What I can do is change my assumptions, little by little, and take a stand on new ground – while talking to those who will listen.

Trout at Cracker Barrel is one small sacrifice. I assumed it was to be … until it wasn’t. I’ll live without it for now. There are men and women not alive today because bad, horrible, possibly – and assumed – racists police decided to use excessive force and exterminate others’ lives … over and over again. Yes, there I WILL use “assumed” … because the shoe fits. A shoe that does not deserve to stand on ground I stand.

Today, I am responding to all this. Tomorrow, and in days to come, there will be more. Reform, change, and reactions in time to avoid another tragedy? Doubtful. But then, I’m assuming the outcome.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.









Y’all Need To Have A Sit

Two chairs facing. Have a seat.

All I see is people saying…. If you believe this, delete me or block me, if you feel this way, delete me or block me, if you support that, delete me or block me, if you don’t think like me delete me or block me…..Do you see the problem yet???? Your making further division, what about hey we don’t agree but let’s be friends and talk about it, or we don’t agree but I love you anyway. ALL of you saying delete / block me if, YOUR part of the problem!!!!!! We’re never all going to agree, we can try to understand and come together NOT delete / block me if. How is that helping to bring anyone together? Seriously y’all need to have a sit and THINK about it. But hey keep falling into exactly what they want us to do, divide. I love yin’s all but those of you saying this crap, take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself are you really doing anything to help our communities come together? Or are you adding to the division by the “if you don’t agree delete / block me”.. my early morning thoughts anyway.” – R. E., Facebook 5/4/2020

These words found their way on my Facebook feed early yesterday morning. I found myself stopping my usual quick scan of the silent, predictable political divisiveness … disguised as sharing, caring thoughts … when suddenly coming across the paragraph posted above. My comment to R.E was a simple, “I love this …” followed by a private message asking permission to use it. She obliged with very kind allowances in the course of a pleasant early morning private message lasting a few minutes.

You see, we communicated as adults in a virtual room – learning about one another. Two strangers with, unknown to us, commonalities heretofore undiscovered. We have a common friend. We share a common interest in a musical instrument. I must say, without knowing her beyond the few minutes of black letters in a tiny little white dialogue box, both of us displayed above average intelligence and social skills, are/were in the food business (I think), and have a unique ability to adapt and change if necessary. Oh, and we’re probably crazy humble and proud of it as well … but, I digress.

So, two unfamiliars … now, familiars. Since this is now the case, I can call her Rachel. Rachel is her name. Nice to meet you, Rachel. I love your words.

A few years ago, I sat in a local Taco Bell sharing stories with a friend. A black friend who I never see as black. It is so uncomfortable for me to even type that word, “black”, because I never, ever see him as such. For the purposes of this post, I must use the qualifier, however. He is a very successful friend who is wedded to a white (geesh, do I really have to keep using these words) woman. They are such a nice couple. He’s seen true tragedy. His bullied junior high-aged son committed suicide four years ago and my conversation touched a bit on that sad occurrence.

Mainly, our talk had to do with my concern surrounding a relative who pointed a bony finger at my supposed “white-privilege”. An upper-level advantage I was unaware I had until it was thrown on my pile of things about which to worry – I guess. Never considered the notion until then.

I asked J.P. for a meet-up (agreeing to buy a burrito in exchange for his time) to discuss if he ever saw the “white” thing in my life … and to discuss his perspective on being a black man in America.

I’m so glad I did. We cleared up my non-discriminatory thinking in a two-taco minute. I knew we would. Loving all races, creeds, colors, beliefs, life-styles, and genders is my motto and never would I ever find it in my heart to be mean to anyone. What followed, however, was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve ever had.

He spoke of being asked to empty clean laundry on the sidewalk while walking home from the cleaners – for no reason other than being different. All this having to obey authority because the alternative was worse.

He spoke of having caution while in position of authority in administrative healthcare due to the fear of mistakes. One little slip-up could have jeopardized the future of another minority coming up through who sought after the same position.

We talked through experiences. I learned through listening. He is a highly educated man who experienced life on a completely different path than I. I suspect had we been born twins – imagine with me, of course – and pursued exactly the same career paths, his life and mine would have been very different based solely on the colors of our skin. That’s such a sad reality of the American experience.

Lest we judge, things are SO much better than they were. Even 20 years later, when J.P. was sauntering along the sidewalk, we still have pockets of problems, but I believe America is waking up.

Back to my good friend Rachel. Are you kinda seeing why I loved her post earlier? She’s right, ya’ know? If I would have blocked J.P. out of my life, so much conversational richness and vitality would have been gone … forever. I reached out and he willingly answered. We talked for over three hours.

Two guys – one black, one white – sharing a bunch of Mexican food … talking about life. We “had a sit” and filled each other’s life baskets with memorable words. Words that inspire me years later in our coronavirus, George Floyd obsessed, media-driven craziness known as America 2020.

Rachel is my new mini-hero this morning. She re-ignited my memories of J.P. and the importance of an adulting-dialogue between parties wanting to understand each other – and my overarching message to you: Don’t impulsively block/delete people … especially those you call friends … on Facebook or other social media sites. If you find their words irritating, reach out. Ask them what they mean. Maybe they just ate a bad burrito and have gas! You don’t know the movie they’re living. Don’t be so bold to assume you know their true, core issues until you talk with them. If you find them offensive, intolerable, and too quirky for your taste after reaching out, dump ’em. Until then …. be real.

To additionally qualify my admonition, a string of comments on Facebook does NOT qualify as a conversation. Most do this for shock value and reactionary-response, so to assume you are conversing with said friend is folly in its highest form.

Now, y’all need to have a sit … Mask up, go to an acceptable location if possible, or find a quiet little dialogue box like Rachel and I did yesterday morning. TALK and LISTEN to one another. Find common ground. Look for the 10% similarities to bridge the 90% variations in thinking. You’re not going to agree on everything, of course. If you do, RUN AWAY … FAST !! There’s no such reality as total agreement on the whole kit-and-ka-boodle.

In conclusion, be a Rachel … “take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself are you really doing anything to help our communities come together? Or are you adding to the division

No truer words were typed on Facebook during recent days, in my crazy humble opinion. Oh, and I’m sure my new friend Rachel would so kindly agree.

Hometowns

Hometowns.

They mean so much more to us now. Even if not surrounding some physically, these charming little – or, perhaps larger – neighborhood pieces of our lives still hold on to our memories. They must. This is their purpose.

It has been roughly a week since writing an entry on DougHugs. I’ve spent that time scooting about in my hometown … and nearby communities … practicing some necessary life skills for the uber-thousandth time: shopping, driving, paying bills, working, eating food handed to me from over-worked drive-thru food joints, and thinking. Lots of thinking.

Considering my way through the muck of this new reality has been a stuckiness problem. Maybe not for you lately, but for me. I suspect placing the word, “maybe” to be presumptive. There can’t be a human alive right now who doesn’t feel stuck in a goofy world of newness – and not a fresh, new born baby excitement kind of fresh. Each day is becoming that scratchy, skippy, record over and over where even the needle is being felt as a voodoo-ish reminder of yesterday’s sameness each time it jumps off the monotones.

We’re all here. It’s the emotional neighborhood in which we have been forced to isolate and distance from our instincts to gather together.

I didn’t realize this newness until hearing words from a social disease “expert” yesterday. With exception to most of her usual panic-laden blather, I did find one perspective rather interesting. She made an overall comparison of this pandemic to 9-11, Ebola, and Aids with regard to scope, effect, and response. I perked up and listened with both years while setting my popcorn aside.

… And I paraphrase: “This pandemic, unlike all others mentioned, has affected every single person on the planet. Every. Single. One.”

She’s right, y’know? The physical damage inflicted on 9-11 was rebuildable – which has been concretely proven. Three-thousand souls lost is a horrible tragedy for our country and was shared, briefly, by others around the world. Within a few short months, life continued on … for most. The stock market began to roar, folks walked about with less flag waving and patriotic duty, … normal returned as normal did as months rolled into years. The world didn’t stop much. Ebola and Aids were even less a hiccup on our path of normalcy. Yes, to some a major health crisis, a marginal social cry for justice to others.

This pandemic is a very different world experience-experiment. It is one big-old, “What in the hell is going on?” … and the reason our neighborhoods are so important to us right here … right now. The goofy-ness goo that surrounds our sneakers causing our stuck-stuckiness is WHY these little – or big – parts of our lives mean so much to us now. I say “our” due to you feeling it as well. I know you do.

This is Hollidaysburg, PA. My hometown. The overlook picture is Chimney Rocks. I snapped this picture during a quick walking pass-by on Memorial Day after a pleasant little picnic outing. The turkey sub I ate was, eh, so-so. The usual most-excellent places were closed and lack of proper planning landed my unprepared self at the local grocery store for a pre-wrapped hoagie. Meh.

Food aside, the day wasn’t about jamming high sodium lunch meat into my always moving mouth, anyway. Glad I had the hour to stop – in my hometown – to breath. Something this pandemic, ironically enough, doesn’t give us time to do.

This has become a respiratory, infectious virus that has not only taken over the lungs of, sadly, now 100,000 American lives and many others around the world, but also has conquered the consciousness of every single human being on the planet. To the “expert’s” point … she was dead center on target.

My hometown was a welcome relief this past Monday. I’ve seen her hundreds – if not thousands – of times from the inside out. That vista from Chimney Rocks is a popular look-out I used to scurry about as a youngster many, many years ago. It wasn’t developed as a park and slightly more dangerous to navigate in polyester pants and reeboks. But, hey, I survived it. No Samsung cell phone, bills, working, driving, or shopping, … or Covid-19. Just me, my friends, and my hometown.

If you’re not close to your hometown, go to a local park to sit and remember something about where you were growing up … something positive about life. Something fun. A vista or overlook that takes your mind off this stupid virus for a minute or two. Actually living in your hometown? Go somewhere you love … and do the same thing. A bench. A tree. A porch. A park. Somewhere you can be you for a few minutes.

This will always be their purpose. Places to revisit when the world is upside down with issues, pandemics, and “unfamiliars” we simply don’t understand. They have familiarity no other place can offer weary souls and tired eyes.

I speak for me when I say, “This is Hollidaysburg’s purpose in my life. She has problems, but when we are quiet and respect each other …there’s a way through any of life’s challenges.”

Find your hometown again.