When I was a little kid, growing up in sweaty Florida, my bedroom was over the garage. It looked over Mrs. Quigley's driveway and yard across the road. In typical suburban fashion we had about 6 feet between houses and zero privacy. Not like NYC no privacy where you're packed so tightly in all directions that you pretend you can see through the neighbor in front of you on the fire escape in his underpants just to be able to deal with living there.
No, this was the illusion of privacy. It's all great if you love thy neighbor but sometimes there are rotten teens selling meth out of the garage on the corner, or a foreclosure that tanks everyone's property value. But this was the 70s and my parents thought this was the American Dream realized. And it was if you didn't look too closely. My mom used to brag about how we had a Corner Lot and to me all that meant was we got traffic from both sides.
It's all in how you spin it.
Dad was a career military man, Colonel, Marines, Korea, the whole bit. Worked for big business and then transferred to FL to work in avionics and was "encouraged" to retire in his mid 60s for a reduced pension and took it. He did not roll into retirement gently. There was lots of vodka. Lots of oranges squeezed from our back yard tree and lots of pointless yard work in a teeny suburban yard. The sole purpose of our yard was to hope the tree shaded you from the sun and to look at azaleas. My folks came from Minnesota and their parents were small farmers so I suppose they wanted no part of growing their own. My mom used to laugh when I collected my chicken eggs and cleaned my coops in Georgia. "Eggs are on sale at Publix for $1.89 this week, she'd say. Want me to pick some up for you?" Love bites were common in my family. If they teased you, I guess, it meant they loved you. I'm not a fan. I like humor but sarcasm is kind of shitty. Anyway, back to Mrs. Quigley.
She was an old woman who lived alone. A Crone I guess, but at my tender age she could have been 60 and seemed ancient. She had silver hair and dowdy clothes and did grandmothery things...this was 1974 before women were pretending like they were in their 20s well into menopause. It was rare to see a midriff top, razor cut jean holes and magenta spiked hair on an Old Lady. She had a House Coat and slippers and at 6:30am most mornings she went outside and raked her driveway. "Scratched" her driveway as my dad would say. She'd scratch the sandy soil, bemoan the sprinkler that missed the "lawn" that never grew and get the leaves from the neighbor's messy live oak off her one car driveway. She was done around 8am but now I realize that was probably to remain outside to wave at the worker bees driving by to sit in rush hour traffic. After my dad retired, he spent a number of years with a flat head shovel getting sand and eroded soil off his concrete driveway, a sound I still cannot bear. In his later years, he struck up a lot of conversation with Mrs. Quigley and even started to help her plant some better trees and clean out her gutters. They were busying themselves.
Most mornings here in this tiny urban lot I'm renting I find myself "scratching" this postage stamp. I went from 7acres and too much to do outdoors to very little to do and very little motivation. This is not my house. The landlord won't bring in new soil so when it rains the shoddy fill dirt from below reveals bolts and glass chunks. There hasn't been enough rain to even grow the grass so the electric mower I got sits in the corner, tarped. Two huge elm trees flank the corners and I've put potted palms on the patio. I've got garden beds where giant squash plants explode with leaf, flower, but no squash. I've added mulch and leaves from other people's yard service and done my best to compost and augment this soil without spending a ton of money on a place I will not be staying. Most mornings there are trucks lining the road to get into the commercial buildings across the road and the hum of diesel (and smell) is not what the dog and I had in mind when we downsized. But still, I effort. I love being outside but I couldn't find a place that struck a balance of bucolic yard/less work, so I pretend this is okay.
I think it's good to challenge ourselves to adapt when things suck. You can't sit around thinking about how this isn't what you want or wondering how you're going to die. That's like walking a long sidewalk full of broken glass. Barefoot.
I know this isn't where I will stay. I remind myself that the work load of running a farm, event space, having chickens and lawns and fruit trees and eggs and hens and a holiday rental was soul crushingly labor intensive and expensive. And also 13 years was enough. Great experience, loved most of the time but done. So I sold and here we are. I am impatient and I want my New Life to start immediately, but my mature side knows...that would be highly unlikely to uproot and replant in the same year and flourish. I'm in that phase of re-potting where the plant goes into shock because it doesn't like the new soil or the sun exposure you've put it in. So I rake. I rake the nut hulls from the squirrels and move the mulch around. I water the potted plants with a bucket (no hose bib here) and I move the patio chair from one side to the other. It's calming in this water treading phase we're all in. I suppose it's like those Zen Garden sand meditation plots.
It's all in how you spin it.
I think it all started to crumble when we got Heat Index scores on the Weather channel.
FEELS LIKE 104! (actual temp 91) The brain believes what it hears most often. So confirmation bias for ridiculous and sensationalized news reports like CNN will come out of your mouth if you watch that all day. CNN has become the National Enquirer from the 1980s. Aliens coming for Liz Taylor!
And add to that BBC (look up their nefarious leaders) and even the NYTimes who is partly owned now by Carlos Slim, Mexico's grand daddy of monopoly and the sole owner of ALL cellular communication via TelCel and cable news. So, just in case everyone didn't go to Journalism School (USF, Tampa 1990) we call this Yellow Journalism, aka Fake News.
Anyway, if I tell you over and over that the Heat Index is 104 you think it's actually the hottest ever at 104. And no matter what you see on the temperature reading in your car, your phone, the good old fashioned mercury line in your back yard saying 91, you'll think it's hotter because the weather man said so.
May I present to you, Confirmed Cases. C V-19 with more testing (and flawed tests which are no secret) will show more antibodies. If I tested 1000 more kids today for brown eyes than I did last month? I'd have a chance to have more brown eyed kids. And what if I went to a Mexican neighborhood? 100% more brown eyes than last month!!!
See, what I did there is give you statistics with NO CONTEXT. Were there 45,000 blue eyed kids? Is the population 43343430000? Why is this significant? The subtext is missing. Click bait. Media outlets have started to put disclaimers at the bottom of stories I'm seeing---*"NJ Dept of Health reported 9500 cases today that were unreported cases from March"... was a post script I saw for a headline that read HIGHEST CASE SPIKE EVER IN TRI STATE AREA" (and then the little bottom caption under a photo). That's liability protection...Oh we wrote the truth! We just knew that you'd never read it. The money works if you click on the headline. Your lizard brain goes for the fantastical.
If you're not thinking clearly or you're exhausted with bad news or your confirmation bias is that this is terrifying, this will be terrifying. If you realize that 99% of what you see in print or hear on the *news* is baloneyfied or at least blown out of proportion, you'll not even read that any more than you'll read about Liz Taylor and the aliens. You'll fare better because your fight or flight ire won't be up all the time exhausting your actual necessary immune response.
So it's just 91 degrees. And there are more "positive" RNA antibody tests showing up because more people are testing/reporting. Though I live in a small city of 500,000 and literally I've seen ONE banner hanging outside of one "pain management clinic" that says they have C V tests so I'm unclear about who's getting all this testing, but if I forgot to report 9500 cases from March in NJ and "found" those today...it doesn't mean that anyone is sick. Or that there is a SPIKE. Language is important. Perspective is key. Ask---yea, but how many are sick in reality? And how many recovered. How many are hospitalized and how many are just fine and dandy running around? How many died of C V (including but not limited to George Floyd's autopsy) it starts to unfold a pattern. Remember chicken pox? Did you survive?
There would be quite literally people (homeless for example) doubled over and hacking on the streets if this were an alarming stat. It's just a stat. I come in contact every day with homeless street people in Tulsa. None of my regulars even have a sniffle or cough. Most aren't wearing shoes and they surely aren't wearing a mask. Interesting, no? You could argue that they have all dropped dead, but I see the same folks day after day after day since September 2019. I'm not trying to sell you on anything except that pandemic is word that strikes fear. But really it just means wide spread.
I will freely admit that my confirmation bias and background in microbiology, wellness and my propensity to follow doctors, whistleblowers, functional medicine professionals, thinkers, weird scientists--- and the fact that I've been a medical researcher since I was a teenager leans me in another direction. As a food service kitchen professional for decades I'm also trained on how virus and bacteria travel, live, temperatures and such. Not infallible and I don't claim to know all of it, but just because the one person with a vested interest and high paying job to report on what they tell him to says something on the television doesn't mean he is either. And if you research that one person and you see that he's missed the mark and even made worse the situation with HIV and AIDS back in the day you'll say, Hmmmm. Also maybe you'll look at his patent holdings for viral spike proteins and say, huh. Or maybe you'll see that he's involved with the computer billionaire who wants to rush a vaccine and say, wait. What? Just for fun, and I'll just leave this here...look at his wife and who SHE works for. Hint: Human test experiments.
I don't think the human body is out to get us. I don't think viruses are evil. Even parasites serve a role. But when we don't understand the evolution of life on a planet, it's scary. Gut biome! What's that???? (what keeps you alive) I don't understand meteorology enough to explain Heat Index, but I know that FEELS LIKE is a sorta half truth. And CONFIRMED CASE SPIKE is a bunch of hooey. If you turn off the idiot box they don't make all the $$$. Remember that.
And if you worry about what it SEEMS like, you're in a worse position than if you just lived your life, washed your hands, ate some oranges and kept an eye on the stock market for the next bubble burst. The reaction is what will be our downfall. Very few of us will actually get sick and die from this or we may get hit by falling rocks because we are always looking down at our devices and wearing a face mask. *you can bet they'll call that a C V 19 death! But get your affairs in order anyway, shit happens all the time. We're walking bags of goo held together by magic. Just celebrate that. And as always, Turn Off The Television. Love y'all.
*if you would like to leave me a tip and support my column buy me a "coffee" at the Ko-Fi link above and thank you!
Thank you for reading and supporting my writing. If you'd like to leave a tip, "buy me a coffee" click the link above. Thank you!
Reflecting on my drive out west and back in the last couple of weeks and remembering a time when I used to laugh about stuff. Before a paper mask became a ridiculously polarizing choice of politics and values that one was judged on, I was a Snorfler. A giggler. A clown. A dry clown but a clown. Out of all the things I miss the most? Laughter. Humor. Jokers. Joke makers not the creepy clown face from Mr. Phoenix.
I also miss the time when a friend or a stranger and I could look at each other and shrug our shoulders and say, "Whatever..." and smile. (I could see their smile because they weren't muzzled.) So I guess I miss faces too. Smiling faces. Not the grim, sad, stern faces. But open alive breath taking faces and people with color in the cheeks. I think it's interesting to note that while we're all wandering around looking like we came from an Ebola ward (or the Psych ward, let's be honest) it's important to note that you probably don't have the virus right now. Most of us. Many of us. Are not sick. Have not been sick. Will not get sick (though no one can predict the future) and if we do get sick, we will get better. For those enamored by statistics, the good news is 99% of us will recover. But in the meantime can we still live our lives? Can we still experience joy? Happiness? Love? Embarrassment? Confusion? Laughter? Suddenly it's all rage and some love and light (albeit a little forced) and feigned positive slogans peppered in there. "We're all in this together..." but we actually are more separated than ever. I hate slogans. I remember when my 88 year old mother, in her death bed no less, said,
"I think I'd like some BLING, " and I cracked up. That was the saddest year of my life in 2015 and I laughed (inappropriately at times) more in a week than I have in this whole blighted year. But funny things happen! They still do! And I want to talk about them.
In Gallup, New Mexico a few days ago I stopped at a Red Roof Inn to sleep once to break up the 16 drive back home. I fantasize about laying on the dog beds in the back and will nap occasionally but toilet, shower, closing doors win. Red Roof is about as cheap and basic dog friendly that I'll go and nationwide, they have pretty good beds for $60 and the doors lock. (I've seen some things in other brands that are eye opening). New Mexico has been closed for months and now is having a New Wave of mandates for mask wearing (which I keep saying, if that's so successful at prevention why is there a New Wave?) The front desk clerk was covered in a polka dot face covering (homemade) and gloves. There was a plexiglass shield with no voice opening and so we couldn't hear each other. There were two ice buckets with liquid with hand written notes that said PUT KEYS. PUT PAPER. And smelled like alcohol. The credit card machine was blinking and blank and I waited for a total for the room before I signed and she yelled..."IT WON'T SHOW UP, THE HAND SANITIZER BLEW UP THE SCREEN" and I asked for a paper receipt as it's never a good plan to just sign a blank check. "THE PRINTER DOESN'T WORK BECAUSE WE PUT TOO MUCH SANITIZER ON IT AND IT SHORTED I'LL HAVE TO CALL CORPORATE AND GET IT FAXED BUT IT'S TOO LATE NOW"
Folks, I don't care what's going on. That's funny.
In my room out of all the things that were missing (soap, hand towels) there was a dog paw print on the middle of the sheet which I'm okay with but which makes one think that no one is doing a great job at laundry. Never mind "sanitizing" for the virus. And requiring low wage hospitality workers to suddenly be nurses is kind of like asking elementary school teachers to bear arms in the classroom.
There was a giant ironing board however and iron but no visible plug where one could use this ancient machine and I wondered who would need such a thing off of I-40 in the middle of the desert? I haven't used an iron in 20 years and most of America has indeed embraced the yoga pant. But that's what the Hotel Set Up Handbook says, and by golly, truckers may want to iron their tank tops. That cracked me up.
Speaking of truckers I saw some interesting outfits and mannerisms from them. They have to be the least bullshit having crew out there on the roads as they've been "essential" and working this entire time. I saw a guy with a BatMan head mask not covering his face holes who told the security guard at the door..."I'm wearing a mask. Technically." And walked inside. This also cracked me up.
I also saw a man drying his laundry on his balcony at my sort of posh boutique hotel in Sedona who was bottomless naked. This amused me.
The front desk clerk at that hotel in Sedona told me if I wanted to buy a coffee mug or get a drinking glass I'd have to drive 20 miles to the next town. There were 3 thrift stores across the road. I bought both for $1. That just made me roll my eyes.
The lady and her dog who yelled MORNING!!! while I was taking a photo of a tiny flower on my knees with my dog...which scared both of us and my dog barked at her dog and she said, "Gosh, SORRY..." and commented to her dog that my dog wasn't friendly. It sort of pushed me onto my side and I had to collect myself from my perch but it made me laugh. I hated her but it made me laugh.
I love to laugh more than anything. More than money. More than fancy food. More than sex. It is a pre-requisite to life on this earth and I think all of this is sad, maddening and ridiculous and maybe planned and we all may not make it out before we're herded into FEMA camps, but please try to find some humor in your daily. The lady with the mask on that she wrote THIS IS BULLSHIT also made me laugh and that is another thing we shouldn't forget. Compromise.
Here I am on my 4th blog since 2008. I've done this for a long time (back to 1990 actually, we used to call it a column, which was much more respectable). I enjoy it and it's part of who I am. I'm been writing for the "paper" since I was 22. I was groomed for it, educated for it and I love it. But I haven't done it for a couple years and I feel the gnawing. I grew up devouring Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Erma Bombeck and even that nutty Joyce Maynard who, after I attended one of her mushroom fueled naked sauna Guatemalan "writer retreats", I sort of fell out love with. Not because of the mushrooms and wife swapping, but because her workshop sucked and it cost me $5000 and gave me parasites. But her column, as a kid, reading the St. Pete Times, I looked forward to.
But when newspapers became Penny Pincher coupon books or were written by software demons translated from a foreign tongue, I stopped sharpening my pencil. When they fired the fact checkers and went into Click Bait, I just left the business. In a particularly sour period of my life I worked for a large ad agency writing soul sucking copy like Avoid the Noid, (you're welcome). It was a brief moment in my history when I did bad work for good money. I don't recommend this life plan. I quit, and went into the restaurant business. If you want to get beat up, come by it honestly. Everybody, I mean everybody is a restaurant critic.
But then no one wanted to read anymore, just watch videos. And post emojis. Everyone was perpetually Tween. It's fun for a minute but like putting stickers of ponies on your forehead, it's a little silly after the age of consent. But lately, just sort of, I see good written conversations happening in the Comment Section of YouTube. Sometimes related to the content, but even better...sometimes not. People sharing other info and studies and facts. Not surprisingly I sub to a bunch of independent journalists and functional medicine docs and groovy space channels. I feel like you can find your tribe and move to the same island together one day. When I find an argumentative tone or insults, I'm out. Let's talk, offer opposing views, listen. Some comment sections are of course, disingenuous, poorly written mosh pits of bad grammar. But I read them. We all do. Some of us meet in the comments. It's a weird subculture.
A friend of mine got a comment on his page today on a link he shared that was not offensive in the least but his good friend said...
"Hey Bruce, what is this misogynistic shit sandwich you're trying to shove down our throats?!" We had a good laugh and talked about how many people don't know what misogynist means. I'm not sure how one responds to this besides describing said Shit Sandwich. A cow patty grilled and served on a multi grain of opinions sauced on my fucking page with a side of Blocked.
As much as I like the guilty pleasure of reading the comment section, I decided to disable comments on here because I don't care what you think. Let me rephrase, I don't care what you think about what I write. If you like it, come back, leave me a tip, buy me a "coffee" (kofi link below), donate, tell a friend. If you don't? Don't read my drivel. Simple. This is not a public forum. You can have your own blog and write what you think over there.
The internets have opened a door to a great many opinion havers and agenda pushers (aka influencers) and yes, I know how the game works but it's a pretty low bar. Wouldn't it be cool if someone like Chris Hedges was paid as much to write instead of Jenna Marbles? And no offense to Marbles, but we have to have a space for the writers and the thinkers along with the Tubers and people who shoot a tshirt cannon while riding in a Lambo. Us Weekly can exist with the New Yorker. If the Kardashians can't be billionaires from showing their butts, I think we can toss a few coins to those of us who sit on ours. Typing jokes, writing websites, annual reports, kid's books, poetry, songs. Starving artist shouldn't even exist anymore. And if I get a tour of Pelosi's chocolate ice cream freezer whilst the rest of the country burns? We need a new plan.
But here's the thing...Marbles and PewDiePie and Logan Paul or even Rogan...It's not supposed to be the same demographic. Would you watch TeleTubbies instead of Arrested Development? No. So why are the drag queen makeup tutorials making millions of dollars more than our great minds? Because we're letting kids run the world. And kids, tweens and college kids are into Cancel Culture, Binary Thinking and Fantasy. Check yourself and see if just maybe you've fallen into the teeny bopper trap. Drama? check. Bullying? check. Taking it seriously when someone (like the President) "tweets"? Check. So, like a 17 year old white girl spray painting FTP on a Starbucks in Seattle, you've lost the plot. Find your own playground.
We think we don't have to be the grown ups in the room because they aren't feeding us grown up food so we're throwing strained peas and apples all over the place like a bunch of fussy toddlers. Nose up, baby. Nose up. If we want to pull this nation together we have to put down the bong, cork the Mommy Merlot party, turn off the devices, put some pants on and call a meeting. Detox. Lead. Clear your mind for some lucid thought and stop asking what the 15 year olds want. Stand up for yourself. Liberty. Freedom. Choice. The Press. Whatever flavor you want, but support more than ONE MEDIA CHANNEL. Be civil. Use social media as a TOOL not a life line. The reason 10 families run the entire world is because we pay them to. Let's demand better choices and support those who go out on a limb to provide us with one. And here's a subplot: **The evil puppet masters of the media world know that a teen or 22 year old YouTuber will go soft in the knees over a $50,000 endorsement to hawk whatever product or psych operation they have cooked up...and it's going right into your kiddo's brain. So pay attention, it's not just product placement of soda and shameless plugs anymore. ** Demand accountability. In a future post I'll list some independent journalists and OTT (over the top) media where you can take a look and listen.
Thanks for reading. If you'd like to leave a tip, Buy Me a Ko-fi link below.