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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.
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Where you land on issues in this volatile time of needed change and upheaval is important. Resist the urge to follow the herd and repeat the "narrative" (a word I used to like as a writer but now in a repetitive echo chamber of media hacking it has become irritating) anyway, don't just follow the crowd. If everyone blacks out their social media on a day but you feel like that's not your trajectory, it's okay to sit this one out. Silence really is Golden. It doesn't mean you don't care, it means that you don't feel you need to add your voice to the NOISE.
Pick your battles and other cliche.
People who are knee jerk reacting to BLM are finding out that the movement has been ripped off by the Democratic political party who is using millions donated from well meaning folks into the pockets of politicians. So maybe wait before you align if you don't have all the answers. Celebrities who read bad scripts from their iPad at home with yoga hair and say how much they feel for the movement are cringe worthy and thirsty. Politicians who don African cloth to kneel ODDLY (and not be able to get up from the position) are pandering at best.
Companies who didn't provide masks and sick leave for their employees for months into the pandemic lockdowns who NOW require customers and staff to wear a bee keeper's suit to scan groceries have doubled down in the worst way. And they're losing business. Consumers are fickle, but they'll remember.
My best advice is to adapt. Admit you aren't a microbiologist, but take a few extra moments to read some CURRENT information on transmission, hygiene (which you should know already if you're in food handling or body work, no?) and taking the consumer pulse. Offer CHOICE. If guests want to wear a mask, that's their choice. Forcing customers to wear a mask to buy a bag of lemons? No choice. That's where you're on the wrong side of history. That's where money walks out the door. You must be dynamic in decisions and not just hold the line for one form of "policy" that turns out to be false in 2 days and you're still trying to sell tomatoes behind a plexiglass screen for no apparent reason. Beyond PR disasters, I can see a lot of looming legal action boiling on the stove. A recent post from a farmers market lifted the mask requirement because high 90s temps, lowered oxygen and lots of people spells heat stroke. Common sense prevailed.
What are we protecting ourselves from? Even the flip flopping CDC has changed their mind on 'droplets' vs. airborne and have now shown that this doesn't live on surfaces nor transfer from asymptomatic people to others. So the mask has become a virtue signaling device of rule following and another divide of Us vs Them. It's bullshit and from a science standpoint really doesn't help anything, but it makes people feel better about their decisions. I made a stand. See? I'm a do gooder. And like white girls spray painting buildings to "support BLM"? It's NOT RECOMMENDED. If you align yourself with one side are you willing to lose the revenue from the other? It's the difference between spraying down your counter tops and cleaning credit card machines in between clients or just spraying the guest in the face with bleach water. Don't be reactive. And make sure your policies make sense. Talk to people. Ask the staff. Ask your customers. Be adaptable.
So as you open your business, sit and really think. If we're in the middle of an actual active pandemic, would the drive thru at the burger joint still be open? If you are not ill, why are you wearing a face covering? If you ARE sick why are you out in public with a tissue over your face touching raw produce? Is your staff phoning it in with a mask and gloves and using the same gloved hand to take a credit card, touch a key pad that hundreds have touched before them and then reaching in to grab a cookie from the case with that same contaminated gloved hand? (this just happened to me yesterday after I watched her use her gloved hand to scratch her face because her mask is hot and uncomfortable...I said nothing but I won't return to that bakery for sure) not because I'm afraid of cooties, but because I know that they're not REALLY up to speed or concerned with health code much less viral load vectors. Or they don't understand how contamination works. So in my mind I wonder if they're using the same cutting board to cut raw chicken that they use to cut prepared food. See the slippery slope?
They're doing it for the optics. The kitchen staff hanging their faces over the sandwiches they make aren't wearing masks, so why the cashier? It makes no sense. Don't fall in line with this "new normal" crap because it changes every ten minutes. Use your brain, your immune system and your liberty of choice. If you're giving a facial and are 6 inches away from my face for over an hour, yes, mask. I don't want to smell your breath nor worry about mine. That's always the protocol where I've gone. But dress shops? Feed stores? Home Depot? It's ridiculous.