"Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". -Pink Floyd
Cue the Moog Synthesizer compositions of Wendy Carlos.
In 1971 Kubrick released a masterpiece Social Commentary on a Crumbling Britain, and a social/psychological experiment adapted from the Anthony Burgess Novel A Clockwork Orange, ("the American edit"). As the adaptation progressed, Burgess and Kubrick got on swimmingly with similar tastes, philosophies, and literary interests. While Burgess only made $500. from the Film, one thing they had in common was their fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Seminal Dystopian novel chronicles a near-future lawless British teen through his crime sprees, and then a B.F. Skinner'esque psycho-social modification, called the Ludavico Treatment. The 'Ludovico Treatment' promised to cure 'Little Alex' of his penchant for lawless "Ultra-Violence", in no time. And so it was either the treatment or prison.
The American and future distributions of the Book would leave out the final chapter/s proving his redemption. Not surprisingly the Book, and the Film polarized audiences, but mostly because it seemed tangibly real -- Possible.
And so we know that the novel and film were good, because they forced followers to the bleeding edge of their comfort zone.
As we drift toward future Dystopian Britain, with their charismatic leader, I wonder how his behavior mods went whilst, 'in Hospital'.
I think that A Clockwork Orange was an amazing book, and I have read & seen it many times. You could say I'm a fan..., But, I never knew watching why the eye-dropper scenes of "ultra-violence", weren't in the book. It turns out that Malcom McDowell scratched his cornea on set, became blind for a spell, and the shots with the eye-dropper were an actual physician treating him. Fun Fact! This doctor visit was a clever directorial turn in production, which intensified, the peak. The audience shuddered to see their anti-hero endure ‘treatment’.
But for me the “Boris Moment” came earlier, when Alex is visited by his Probate Officer. You see, I keep seeing Boris Johnson as probation officer P.R. Deltoid, sitting beside truant lil' Alex mid-day on his bed. In this fateful scene he's being told by Mr. Deltoid that his days are numbered. There is this slivered implication that our Hero's destiny could maybe be adjusted before his fate is sealed... But for recklessness on both sides, the outcome is certain, and the writing was on the wall. Regardless — At that decisive moment, when Alex is un-phased by the ovations of Mr. Deltoid (AKA Boris) — His maniacal Napoleonic chaperone now shouting, presses Alex to the mattress and grabs his crotch.
(Exhale now as this is perhaps the end of a stretch to tie Boris to the script, however the image persists).
Now I know that The P.M. is not Mr. Deltoid, but one can wonder how far from this character he is. Of course analogs exist to anything if you stretch the facts and blur the lines. Mr. Deltoid doesn't know the outcome, so he comes with an ultimatum of sorts, and Alex believes his destiny is otherwise. I suppose the lesson here is one of Hindsight. When history is written, it is always by the winner. Outcomes are never assured, and the social experiment of the Ludovico treatment, as with a lobotomy, much like Brexit, wont necessarily put you (as they say) on the right side of history. Ludavico was an experimental aversion therapy to rehabilitate criminals into useful lawful citizens in under two weeks. (and when it sounds too good to be true...) It should come as no surprise that the real actor Aubrey Morris, who played Mr. Deltoid, also played Napoleon. This is not to implicate Boris is "acting" as P.M. nor as Napoleon.
One truth remains, that when Boris got the plague, and the fever came, and his O2 levels tanked, he saw perhaps for the first time the back-side of his own black mirror. When the shot resolved, he got to contemplating, but for a minute, "What If"?
The thing about the psychopathically self-assured is that they almost never have the opportunity to put on another pair of lenses. And the trouble with a lobotomy, is that it does work for some things, but history doesn't smile upon the treatment any longer. When we elect a single person to represent "us" in more than one thing... Can we be assured that they are capable of multitasking, or even competent at two things?
Here, we have Brexited --That's the one thing. And here is this hushed moment, like the crotch grab -- We hold our breath, then... the "hut--hut--hike"!, and then the snap, the kick, and alas the ball is high in the air floating back down to the earth, and where it lands will decide the fate of the game. But it's not a game.
As we all seek a treatment, it's perhaps prudent to remember that maybe we were all wrong. That our collective Ludavico treatment will later be recalled as a lobotomy, we wont know today, and so we punt.
So we are back home in Boris' cozy bedroom, after a nice day's romp with some masked friends far afield, and we return as fast as we left to our agendas. The question is; Did being hospitalized serve as a negative operant, in this classic Behavior Mod. drama?
There is one way to look at our reactions to the dystopia, and it is always political. How does this affect electability? When there are no adults in the room, do the kids step up and make things work, or do they run amuck? It is the case that some want to try a strategy to stave political fall-out and prevent casualties, which sounds like a reasonable way to remain in power. The other is to let a wildfire burn the brush back, hoping the forest stands, and fills back in more lush than before. Neither is ever really wrong in the moment, per se', but judged harshly for certain through hindsight when they fail.
Through the lens of A Clockwork fiction, where Britain is de-stabilized, gangs patrol the night, criminals clash with curfews, and quarantines seem to keep the sanguine safe, while rogues profit by any means necessary, is there really a reason to keep up the façade? Wasn't it always this way? Didn't we always click agree to the terms when we began the game? A few people wield the power, and the rest work for them. Elites scatter scraps, and pittance to keep the masses in check? It is as Feudal as always. sSame as it ever was. Wealthy people like Madonna recite solidarity with commoners from a 300 square meter bath covered in fresh rose petals, while waiters move in with parents & friends and ration ramen & soap. Shall we admire what a great job they are doing?
We now have two camps.
1. Governors, States, Provinces, recognize that the emperor has no clothes. Kids decide that because there are no adults in the room, we should pick up the pieces, and put things back together, this way.
2. People aligned with the misanthrope wait for a rally, handouts, and some loose sense of direction, if not a soup-line. And then we all just go back to doing things the same way all over again, so we can forget.
Whichever way you lean, you might as well go for broke. Kubrick wanted a shot of Alex jumping out a window, to commit suicide -- So he dropped a Newman Sinclair Camera in a box out of the third storey window of the Corus Hotel, to grab the effect of falling from Alex's point of view. The camera survived 6 takes, until the shot was perfect.
Like any Dickensian tale, redemption only happens when one sees that there is something to recover from. Boris returns from the ICU, and isn't scared shitless?
Britain will either recover from a massive hangover by dumb luck, staggering home from the pub, and having a long nappy on the global economic stage, or they will not. But I'm not so sure Boris gets that.
In a Clockwork Orange the Book's ending closes the loop on redemption, while the Film version and American abridged printings leave a bit more up in the air. As with all great film and fiction, you are either the type who wants the Hollywood ending, or the Fellini finish.
Kubrick asked Malcom McDowell to try the jock-strap on the outside of his Cricket whites, and that made all the difference.
OK so last time we tapped Orwell, and now we must float the class 4 cortisol river into the simean brain-stem, to discover how we become & and how to kill a Zombie. Let's say that you don't have a pet unicorn, and rainbows never appear to land at your threshold. That means you are normal (more or less), and you have no natural immunity to becoming a Zombie. Let's assume you check Fakebook regularly, and something someone says on that blog from hell, really gets your goat. You ride it out, or you react, but normally it just passes. Soon others choose sides, and you are faced with a choice; Turn off, and tune out the background noise, or jump in the pool with the rest. It was a shitty day at work, or wherever, so you choose the red pill, pop it like candy, and jump into the argument.
"...I understand too little too late, I realize there are things you say and do that you can never take back..."**
Shall we begin with a more clinical view?
Experts say that about 10 percent of women and 4 percent of men will develop PTSD. They said this for decades, but since the Plague came to call, we should expect to see a moderate spike in this affliction.
The Amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure located deep within the temporal lobe; It is designed to:
So back to jumping on the bandwagon -- We have found that the new bully-pulpit of anti-social media spares us from boredom, but the rub hits when we use our super-powers for evil. Temptation to tread into uncharted waters, leaves us at best awash in a torrent of new emotions, and at worst holding a pitch-fork, when we really need a paddle. The other chemical present in turmoil is our old friend adrenaline. This quick-setting glue can patch a hole, or sink us quickly depending upon how it's applied. Zombies have this in spades, but remember, "Guns don't kill people -- Zombies jacked on Cortisol, Adrenaline, and bad agendas kill people". 'FIGHT or FLIGHT' is the first "Bullet-point", and that's the one which will do you in. It's when "FIGHT" is chosen, that those ill-equipped for fighting, come out swinging, ...but they are not landing any punches, are they?
As they flail, with their arms out-stretched, they are learning some new dance-steps called "The Zombie". And so it was in reaction to rational "stay at home" directives that the Zombies gathered to mindlessly storm capitols to thwart the order.
As part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, cortisol & adrenaline are released during stressful times to give your body the energy-boost required to react. This boost can fuel your muscles to respond to a threatening situation. But when cortisol levels are constantly high, due to chronic stress, some collateral issues become: insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
(By the way these make it more likely that the Zombie Virus kills you).
So there we have it, the makings for a rowdy (unhealthy) bunch who want to get back to their so-called normal lives; So they gather in groups with torches and pitch-forks, mashing teeth, popping pills, and passing tiny globules of spittle through the air. Soon their groans infect everyone within ear-shot.
The good news is that Zombies are easy to spot:
1. Because they look stupid.
2. Because they wear a uniform underscoring their solidarity with a "red-pill addiction".
3. Did I mention they look stupid?
(For help spotting a Zombie near you reference above image Courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch)
Zombies are not fictional film fodder, they are (were) the person you tried to "set straight" on social media last month. You know the ones who keep sending you incendiary material? The thing with fires though, is that they always go out when the fuel is spent. If you don't stoke it, it smolders. But, tip a little petrol can, and well, ...You get what you give. Maybe don't fan the flames. Stay home, pop a blue chill pill, sit on your hands, and watch "Zombieland Double Tap".
And that's how you kill a Zombie.
"...But what would you be if you didn't even try?, You have to try. So after a lot of thought, I'd like to reconsider, Please if it's not too late, Make it a Cheeseburger."
-Lyle Lovett Lyrics from "Here I Am" 1989.**
We are going to keep this short. One song, Great low budget film, and no Laugh track. c. 1984. I Promise.
In My unremarkable youth we were in a recession and many teens had it far worse than me, but it was clear that even Hollywood was tapped into the main vein of our major U.S. recession. As always happens the counterculture seems to be first to fire shots across the bow of our squalor. But this movie hit home. Everyone at the base of our food pyramid bought “Generics”, which for the uninitiated is not a Pharmacy term, but one forged in the crucible of hard-times. Advertised Brands were basically too expensive, so major retail Grocers stocked their shelves with un-marketed, blank labelled, canned, dried, and packaged goods which contained in some cases the seconds, from the same factories who made Brand-Name foods. And so generics were invented. Grocery shopping became an embarrassment when one was caught with a cart-load of "generics" beside someone you knew, who could yet afford the real name brand foods, like Dole, DelMonte, or Folgers... Generics were not the same as the name brands, but people needed to eat, and stores hadn't yet invented their own "store-brands" so bare black-n-white labels bore the stigma and the shame of inflation era super-market surplus. We ate casseroles made from Generics, Powdered milk, and No-name bread. We relished in Re-runs, Kung Fu, Bones Brigade, Sit-coms, with crappy laugh tracks, Archie Bunker, Gilligan's Island, & The Gong Show. When edgier films geared toward people a bit below bar, made their way to VHS or Beta... We rented. One such film bracketed [outcast youth] in a recession almost perfectly -- It was "Repo Man". Here is the Preview Reel at IMDB.
As with art & budget epics, imitation is in fact the sincerest form of flattery, and The real "Repo Man" (1984) didn't imitate as much as it set a new bar. This dystopian reality fiction would later be emulated in a sort-of remake, while phrases and conventions forged in Repo Man were integrated in many subsequent main-stream films. In fact the brief-case from Pulp Fiction was basically a nod to the "Trunk" in Repo Man, if not as toxic.
It's no stretch that Sy Richardson's character in "Repo Man" and in "Straight to Hell" (another film from the same director) forged future outrageous film styles and characters like Samuel L. Jackson, in Pulp Fiction, (as he plays in just about every film). You can find out more about mystery brief-cases, outlandish characters, and alien trunk contents, when you re-watch "Repo Man" and "Pulp Fiction". ...Then you can watch "Straight to Hell" & "Syd and Nancy" when you are bored, and unemployed.
But do watch the original Repo Man, directed by Alex Cox, to review a typical 80's dystopian youth.
For reference, this key track is linked @ Youtube, in the image above. Listen in a new tab, and let it roll. This track is a slow burn version of the faster Punk Original by the Circle Jerks called, "When the Shit Hits the Fan". It's really worth a listen -- But the whole bright soundtrack to this film rubbed rainbow crayons into the monochrome coloring book of an 80's youth. Shared adolescent blahs from Brixton to Benton Harbor, fueled a creative rebound. Weened on black and white re-runs, and generic canned goods, a colorful denim & flannel generation was pushed out into a stagnate job market. Every kid had the blues, from The UK, to Scotland, from Denmark, to Jamaica... and nobody really knew it, simply because if you were a teen in 1983 you were forged in this numb glop, and you didn't know otherwise. Whether your walkman played Ska, Punk, Pop, Rap, or Reggae -- the disaffected crafted one hell of a mix-tape which backstopped an awkward time to grow up.
As history repeats itself, it's no real shocker that kids then, as now, have no real (Blues) appropriate soundtracks to sweat this one out... That was, until the Repo Man Soundtrack dropped. We can talk about Hip-hop and Teen-angst bands another time, but what summarizes the early eighties scratching crawl from the muck-and-mire of a giant recession, was the tempest of styles, raw emotion, bad production , and piss-poor acting -- This made a macabre feature film a perfect analog to what's coming your way today.
We never owned a new pair of anything in 1984, and in fact it was our frequent Thrift shopping which led to corporate chains (Urban Outfitters), selling "Thrift-like" clothes, and new clothes that looked "Thrift". We were fully immersed in this, but not ironically, as today. We simply couldn't buy cheap asian clothes, and so we bought used, and wore thread-bare hand-me-downs. We patched knees, and elbows, and shit -- when they wore thin, we tore them on-purpose. Seems odd that just last week we bought our jeans pre-torn from China.
Grunge revisited this thrifty chasm a decade later dipping their toe in the pool of anti-fashion flannel. Then again two decades later (basically last year), ironic nerdy "Hipsters" absconded the same 'fashion-backward' posture buying up golden-rod wool sweater vests -- Pirouetting from their plank head-first into the poverty-pool -- They quenched their whole being in hideous Carol Burnett, and Telly Savalas kitsch smelling of moth-balls.
So that's really all I have today is a nod to an Orwellian 1984 drama. Bookmarked by Bowie's Awesome Song of the same name, and this ironic lounge track "When the Shit Hits the Fan" by the Circle Jerks, slowed down for the B-Film of that Iconic Year Produced by Michael Nesmith of The Monkey's, which just basically sums up our new normal.
A solid recession Film Recommendation shot near Los Alamos Lab to help you self-medicate and reflect upon where we are headed. Forewarned is forearmed, right? and well... we blew that, ...so Watch this movie, enjoy it's soundtrack, with some generic corn flakes, and think about how your hand-me-downs can help a neighbor, nephew or the next decade's fashionista in our re-run economy.
A solid Interview with director Alex Cox of Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, and other Punk percolations is linked here:
Bad Math always leaves we dumb-shits yearning for clarity.
Stop me if you've heard this one... But I read an article in Bicycling Mag., quoting someone from Specialized Bicycle Company, the Big "S", who said and I'm quoting... "You can ask riders What's wrong with your bike?, and almost no one knows the answer"; "So we have to answer questions that no one's asking..." this pompous oratory continues but nothing in it clarifies the above whacky statement. The same day I read Greg LeMond (a heroic champion cyclist) and raw carbon supplier, describe riding one of his first steel productions bikes while visiting with his father back home. The Bike made by Rolland Della Santa had far longer chain-stays, making it steady, if a bit slack, but overall comfortable. Here is the issue...
Dramatic pause... And here again is where you have the moment to re-read that Specialized Quote: "You can ask riders What's wrong with your bike?, and almost no one knows the answer..."
The quote is attributed to Chris D'Alusio, "Creative Specialist" at Specialized in Morgan Hill CA.
I'm not normally looking for someone to tarry with, (well perhaps a little bit) but this is just plain dumb-shit.
Here are a few thing that may be wrong with my bike: My chain gets dirty, My blinkie Light dies, My ass sometimes hurts, along with my shoulders, I get flats sometimes... But there are some real things which we all may want to improve that a giant brand could react to.
"The 'S' Word" can certainly see from their silver castle that people want bikes which fit well, allowing them to be both biomechanically efficient, and free to roam, but loose, comfortable and fluid. I'm rather certain that if you ask anyone the same question they will say something similarly nostalgic like:
1. "I want my next bike to feel like the one I had as a Kid... Free, Flying, and Beautiful. I want it to feel alive and effortless".
2. "I want my bike to be beautiful, perhaps the coolest and most elegant cherished thing I own".
3. "I want my next bike to liberate me from the difficulties of the day to day, while making me feel connected to the earth, my friends, and victorious relative to everyone I can pass.
4. "I want my bike to inspire me to ride it, and to be beautiful".
5. "I want my bike to be light enough to not notice it through my own exertion".
Newton or someone smart once said, "If my big helmeted head is the largest impediment to being aero, and I wear a flowy wind-breaker this April, you can't really expect me to imagine that 3k extra for an aero bike will save me, "X" watts over "Y" Klicks, without also considering that what would really make my life perfect would be a comfortable and light bike that has lovely timeless styling. In the end We all need to look good and survive to brag about it right?
I don't mean to call out someone with such a fancy title as "Creative Specialist", but I will clear my throat, and pronounce a few things a bit more loudly, as if speaking to elderly parents...
What we want is beautiful, Lithe, and efficient. What we want is to buy a bike and then 6 months later reminisce, that "My Bike is the best, and I don't need nor want a new one". What we want is to buy something which inspires us to ride. What we want is to enjoy every ride And give no thought and less envy to others with newer, fancy rigs.
In a word... we want a Classic.
We want Classic rides, with perfect steering, balance, and handling. We want light, efficient, and lovely... Timeless.
We want great, we expect great, and if you are a big company with huge marketing resources, and people with titles such as "Creative Specialist" then you will certainly understand that. Kill the Fade Paint schemes, Kill the B.S. Aero advantage of a 20lb bike, and Kill the monologue in general and let's have a focus group.
But you may miss this one point, because it's not made in a vacuum or a wind tunnel.
Here is Greg LeMond again, in the same article:
"Weight is also a consideration. Most aero frames are up to 500 grams heavier and have odd-shaped tubes that play a role in the harshness of the ride. Since 98 percent of a race is spent riding inside the peloton, an aero bike gives the rider almost no benefit"
"...an aero bike gives the rider almost no benefit" echoed over and over again in his head...
Specialized does make some of the most slippery, and lovely bikes in the biz, and admittedly is not shy to take chances with colors, styles, and inventive ideas. In short they don't always act like a giant mean international monster corporation. They are "rider focused", or at least they used to be. But admittedly their obsession with slippery wind defying kam-tail aero bikes clouds their vision. Or, maybe it was just a dumb quote we should forgive. Maybe.
Here is LeMond again speaking the truth:
"The only time an aero road frame makes a real difference is in a solo breakaway or in a small group breakaway... And on most stages (as with most rides) weight is a bigger factor than aerodynamics."
Lustful, yearn-worthy bikes which shake your pocket change loose, and leave a kid asking the salesperson, "Hey... Do you have a lay-away program?". This is the sure sign that you are on the right path to a 'Classic'.
Our Bicycling article continues to discuss Light and Aero... the rarified lexicon for modern bike design. This is totally bull shit. While sitting up on your glossy cloud, with your pants down, Smaller leaner companies like Salsa Made Fat Bikes, Adventure Bikes, Cargo Bikes, and Gravel Bikes, and you played catch-up to these smaller brands, with "me-too rides". While later you re-tooled. Others made faster, lighter, more lust-worthy rigs, cheaply... until you descended back to earth, to hire a "Creative Specialist".
What does it take to make something people want?, and what does it take to ask them what they want?
Marketing as we know, is legend for being a one way street. A Vacuum. Hmm... "We have something to sell, and so we have to develop a clever story-board to convince people to buy it". So it goes with Cigarettes, Whisky, Light Beer, and Gasoline, as it also appears with Bicycles. Here is the typical one sided snake oil monologue which occurs when a manufacturer sets upon their agenda to pour money into "one-sided" development. Ask the staff, "Who here likes to ride these bike things". "So Tell me what you want to see this year". ...And you viola, get a Walmart Bike Brand.
Ask a rider, what they want and the answers you'll get will vary sure..., but the resounding consensus will be as espoused above. I want a magic thing that I upgrade rarely because I'm so smitten with it, that it will be a reckoning to ween me away. e.g., my U.P.P.E.R., and M.B. Zip, or a Waterford.
Lovely, light, fun, functional, and comfortable. Nobody ever says Aero vs. Stiff, vs Light. Just the marketing team.
So when you wear the title of "Creative Specialist"; wear that smock as though the company really truly needs your input -- Because the kids in the pit with actual grease on their apron could tell you, if you listened. If you merely polled techs, customers, and prospective clients, you will find that your job is maybe not so important.
Create beautiful, bikes, and make them fun, efficient, and enduring. When you have made that bike, we will fall in love. ...And, unfortunately if you've done a great job, we wont need another favorite bike for a decade.
Here is what's wrong with my recent Specialized Bike Purchase... One thing is that you make a size scale which excludes me, because I'm somewhere in-between sizes, in spite of the fact that I am the most average Cyclist Build of modern homo-sapiens. Truth is it costs too much to make a real 57, so you make a Large and a Medium. The Large is Basically too tall at the head-tube, and reach / stack, and the Medium too short overall top tube, drop.... So My large S-Works Diverge needs to lose the Hover Bar, Change the Stem, and lower the seat-post among other adjustments. But it's slack compared with my OPEN. "Touch-Points" as the Big "S" calls them. Oddly, when Specialized abandoned the women's specific "Dolce" designs, this year -- (Bikes made specifically for Women's physiques), they explained (marketed) it away as essential biodynamics. They said, 'Women were the same as Men, with different Touch Points." Women are equal for sure, but not generally the same. The latter part about touch-points, I don't disagree with. Women do have different "touch points" than men. The real truth is that making a size run in Women's specific designs costs (too much). It's a loss to the Big "S" Corporation, because Women are not worth it.
Here is the other thing. We love some of your colors, but some are waaaaaaaaaay too trendy, like circa 1996 Fade-trendy... So make a Black, Matte Navy, or a Dark Green option and we will covet our bikes for a decade, without becoming weary of the trendy graphics, and timely decals. Look to the automotive industry, if you need leadership.
Another thing..., If you make a Future Shock, (front end suspension) and parade it around for two years with McLaren in your camp, as though it is THE well planned breakthrough, with Smart Partners like McLaren... then be certain that your next iteration can be updated... Don't leave behind those who dropped 9K on the cutting edge, and drank your Kool-Aid, telling them a mere 6 months later after a recall... that the new one is waaay better, but not upgradable. As SRAM does, with a wireless Hydro Disc Shifters; These are programmed to shift 11 Speeds, but cannot be soft updated to shift 12 cogs. That's Bull-shit, and i think we all know it.
Make the best shit, you can, and consider buyers with no clue, and also those with 40 years of experience, and make shit timeless and sustaining.
Be that brand, and we will tell all of our friends to buy that same Classic bike that we just bought from you.
The magic here is that you wont need to re-tool every 6 months to make something especially new. You will be legend for making timeless things, with subtle ongoing incremental improvements, like the 911 or the Tarmac.
Tone down the bullshit, and rev up the classics.
Today I stole this wordpress unicorn from someone who stole it from someone else on the inner-webs. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, as good books and good plagiarism are often a twisted thorny ring. Seems like a bit of cheer is what's required today. Good Friday. While most Unicorns typically scare the shit out of me -- This docile cyclist seemed tame, and she/he has nothing whatsoever to do with "Good Friday". Except maybe that spikey thing, and they will help me celebrate Good Friday properly.
I'm sure that when I was young enough to care about unicorns, I would have loved "Good Friday", mostly because that meant that in a few short days I'd get bunny candy, and a stuffed animal from a fat hypertensive rabbit, and his lovely wife. (my perfect parents). Then we'd do the requisite tour of Church, restlessly petting fake animals, fidgeting, whining, touching everything, and generally making impossible the study of Mass for the rest. When we had thoroughly stolen all of the biblical gains proffered by the priest from proximate parishioners, our mongrel group, that was my family, would load up the Van, and Homemade Bunny Cake, and drive to ruin my grandparent's day as well. They loved when we came, of course -- But just before early dinner was to occur, (a Krakus Ham with Pineapple Cloves & Maraschinos on top) and right after something got broken... they were really quite ready for us to leave. "Holidays" are spaced out throughout the calendar year to give hosts time to heal between visits.
Today, in spite of my well planned parochial upbringing, I had to re-check the web to recall what "Good Friday" should mean to me. Here is what I've found. Gud, and God are near homophones and so it happens that like all Christian lore, we tend to get some words mixed up in oral recitation.
You know that it could be said that 'killing the Christ' was not necessarily good right?, ...and even bad. As such, the Germans typically refer to today, as Karfreitag, or Sorrowful Friday. Which makes some sense. Now, but for hindsight context of a Happy outcome, and a cheerful unicorn article, I will spare everyone the rest of the diatribe opining anything religiulous so as to remain up-beat and non-denominational -- And so I will press on with why today is "Good".
Today is good because we bought our first family camper in mid April 1976.
Today is good because This weekend marks the midway-point in my incarceration.
Today is good because I remember once at Easter, riding bikes in the warm sun, and not giving a shit about thorny crowns, or viruses.
Today is good because Unicorns will it to be so, as the one above seems to indicate.
Today is good because I'm not dead yet, and so don't need to be resuscitated, (yet).
Today is particularly good because I'm not serving canned ham.
Today is good because I slept late, even though it's a normal work day for me.
Today is good because I'm going for a bike ride with my unicorn, as soon as I can figure out how to get his hoofs in his clipless pedals. I'm open to advice as to how my unicorn balances their magical ass on the narrow seat, and whether they too shall wear lycra bib shorts, and the helmet thing...
Whatever your strategies become to say a few positive words this "Good" Friday, It will prove important to try your best to wax nostalgic about Rainbows, Unicorns, Hams and Bunny Cakes. When we all roll away our proverbial stones, we will likely have been forced to dine on all fare of canned goods, and austere cookbook concoctions.
After you take your bike ride with your unicorn friend and share a coffee, shower, or a ham sandwich together, consolidate all that you can recall of your magical youth when you did not have a care in the world, and share that glob of rainbow energy with someone close, but roughly 6 feet away.
It's simple to imagine a world where people gather in Mega-Churches, Ball Parks, Stadiums, and Festivals. For us that's easy.
Some will have a hard time explaining the good ol' days to friends and youth. The days before trash bag prophylactics. Stories will seem naïve, and too good to be true. Likewise, others will have a tough time explaining that there was once negative interest rates, and average people got checks from the Government to sit on their hands. Just ask Andrew Yang. I'm not sure which one will seem stranger to the audience when I share those tales of yore, I'll leave that to the creative storytellers... I am sure that if the plague doesn't kill, you the Lysol will.
Now that we wash our hands in mid-masturbation, and screw without breathing, or lips pressing anything... let's create a safe-word for suffocation. I wonder how Tinder establishes new VR boundaries. C+SWF seeking C+SWF for a romp in the sack, whereas the sack is actually an 80 gallon heavy duty plastic trash can liner. The thing with Screwing Covid Style is that, well... You know. That 4 mil HDPE bag is so thin you hardly know it's there.
How far have we come in a month. New strategies, like any desperate time, call for desperate measures. Here is one -- Tequila.
Someone said take Zinc Lozenges, Others said gargle with salt water... Me, I'm thinking tequila, which is damn near to IPA, and not that piney IPA you would want, but Iso-Propyl Alcohol. Given the choice between cleaning products and time tested brands like Patron, I'll likely take the Patron. But for the fact that on the back side of this (which is the actual dark-side) we will all be addicted to something; IPA, Lysol, Anti-psychotics, and every fashion of simulants. The smart money is for sure on IPA in the near term, along with PPE, NCS (Non-Contact Sex), and of course good old fashioned Yogurt. Truth is that Billions of Cultures couldn't cure you from the Antibiotics you inhaled as a child for so much as a runny nose, and so now there is more Yogurt on the grocery shelves than Produce and Cleaning Products combined.
Let's be honest, We destroyed your mycobiome so effectively in your youth trying to kill off harmless virions that (B.C.) Before Covid we flew to Germany for a Fecal transplant to get our precious tummies back. Ahh!... The Gut. That wonderful cesspool of highly effective bacteria, which kept us alive through adolescence, now weakened by generic Amoxycillin, hates you!, and I have a letter from your doctor to prove it.
Let's face it, you suck now, as you cower in your padded cell, wearing your mask backwards, worried about the new Pangolin-Bat Bug, wondering whether NOW may be a good time to leave all of your CD's and LP's to a niece or nephew. Oh shit!..., you don't have any CD's or LP's, because you threw them out when your friends fat-shamed your HUGE collection -- telling you that Pandora and Spotify have left you behind the curve. You have only a crappy car, and a sweet coffee maker to leave to your Nephew. Your whole empire was built on shitty Chinese crap, and Un-pronounceable consecutive-consonant laden Ikea abominations. What should you leave in your will then? Don't ask me, because I really don't know. What about that sweet bike, and those swim fins you used once in Cancun? You should get your affairs in order, if you think the end is neigh.
I think that I've got a good chance of surviving this, and I do believe that we all get this thing, so don't listen to me. What's left for us all when the party stops, and the plastic cups & paper plates are tied up in the same trash bag you now sleep in? The same shit that's always left at the end of the banquet. Some whittled white-ish carrots, crusting Hummus, and an assortment of cold withering Mini-wienies. No surprises.
The days for optimism have just begun.
if you're gonna do it, then... do it clean
Today, living in upside-down land, nuclear families spill onto sidewalks exploring "olden-days" outings -- playing catch, roller skating, bike riding, and generally making awkward public appearances, where they were formerly invisible phantoms. I have now seen more than 50 "new" neighbors, who never ever appeared in public previously. Whereas for decades kids were shuttled to "safe" activities in giant SUV's, faces up-lit by glowing devices traveling to Soccer, Hockey, Lacrosse, etc... today, these mysterious elites pour onto their neighborhood sidewalks completely ill-equipped to be "Free-Range".
My childhood was not special; in fact all kids had basically the same loosely disciplined lives. We always roamed the streets without our parents, we always rode miles from home on Big-wheels, Bikes, and Skateboards. Strangely the exodus in upside-down land, forces hundreds of families to pour out onto the side-streets as frustrated families drive each-other nuts. Being bound by four walls is unbearable, like an overcharged battery, we fire it up and hit the pavement. Oddly what is now occurring is both beautiful, and frightening. In my strange new neighborhood, these invisible wealthier families bought up their neighbors homes, tore them down and extended side yards into sprawling sport courts, lawns, gardens etc... These fenced cages were intent to keep the family safe when there was no need to, while ironically boasting an elitist means to self isolate. Private families, with sheltered parochial life-styles are now the ones spilling onto our city streets. Why? Their children are ill-equipped to manage their fledgling free-range habitats. I've seen them playing in the street, riding in the street, and even coloring in the street. Car traffic is reduced this month, true... but it is a city. Novice riders need to take care to remain clear of moving vehicles. Those who never stepped on city pavement are now out and about, playing in traffic. This can't end well, but at least it won't raise the Covid toll.
A typical B.C. (before covid) day in the life went like this:
Dad wakes & shaves and departs the attached garage at 5:15 in a Tesla or M6 to an elite Health-club, before hitting the office until 6 P.M., then to another private club for cocktails with other elites.
Mom wakes early and heads to Orange Theory before the kids are up, returns flushed to make kids breakfast, and they exit arguing in a Massive SUV to drop 2.5 kids at private schools. On the way back, a rendezvous with other Yoga Mommies for a Skinny oat-milk Latte before they hit a mani-pedi appointment. Chip-free nails dry & Mom heads to Pilates, and when properly stretched, she heads home to shower. Clean, and Blown-dry she gets the grocery delivery into the fridge, and noshes some pre-pack store sushi. 2 Hours on the internet to update Facebook, and leer at others, she orders several tops, and leggings online, before leaving to shuttle kids from school to sports. Returning to pick-up dinner and drizzle dressing on a salad, Kids are dropped off for dinner and home-work.
(So it follows that "Social Distancing" should not be a new idea for many).
In upside-down land, the new routine goes like this:
Dad scratches his balls and makes a pot of coffee all by himself. (applause) He hits the Peloton, and a Life-fitness rig which wasn't touched since the house was built. In fact, the room in which all of these torture devices dwell, was just another untouched space in a massive custom home. Dad balances his laptop, dripping sweat, and struggles to stay connected with a laptop, a bottle of G2, and phone, while changing his clothes, before closing the den door in isolation from his waking family.
Mom sips her plastic flavored Keurig, and lowers the seat of the peloton, then completes half a Roku-based Yoga session before a kid screams. Mom breaks up a quarrel, and gets two pajama'd kids to eat sugary cereal, before opening the back door to allow an estranged pure-bred dog into the melee when she scratches the door. Mom dresses the kids, and presses them to "turn off the TV ...and go play in the yard!" With placid faces lit by cartoons, Mom hits her Facebook to lament "her struggle". By the time the clock strikes 10 the kids become unbearably bored, and Mom puts jackets on them to take a bike-ride. In the Garage she fumbles with cob-webbed kid's bikes, and a hand pump. Mommy's iPhone11 Pro face-times a nephew, after failing to find a youtube video on how to air the tires. The teen helps his aunt fill the tires, and she soon gets the kids, some chalk, and their bikes to the alley. After 20 minutes coloring with chalk, and several texts to their father, the whole family collects on the sidewalk to re-adjust the bike seats. Neighbors who have never seen this family nor their kids, walk widely way around the idyllic family at their stoop. Mommy and Daddy now sport solo-cups, while they watch their kids roll down the block.
The polished family awkwardly greet estranged neighbors from afar, as hundreds of passing neighbors remark in chorus,
"Wow, that's who lives there!?, (half question-half statement), "I didn't know anyone lived in that giant house, as I've never seen them before."
It used to be that one in 40 homes in early July would put a few kids on the front walk to pimp sugary lemonade, but now everyone is distantly discovering their neighbor's new fashion, milling about wearing masks. Odd new accessories to the daily Covid bike rides. I've not yet seen the Hermes, or Burberry mask, but it's coming.
New Catchwords include, We, Us, Our, Uncertain, Together, and Troubled (Times). Overnight 'our' lexicon changes. While the clinical term for Kids not catching Covid is "Naive" immune system...Really! This is a fact. Turns out that not having antibodies, helps when something comes about because your body doesn't strain it's resources to attack something new. Cats and kids are just carriers -- Great.
What does this new way expand out to? Do we bar blocks, and set-up a neighborhood watch, to keep traffic down. Do we close neighborhoods, cities, and state borders? I don't know.
Probably not -- But weeks ago my friend and I were projecting how this exclusionism all goes down. States sealing borders, people wearing visible ID Bracelets, races excluded... all becoming a dialog. When I was a kid and my teacher caught us loading the tips of paper-airplanes with pins, and tossing them to stick into the acoustic ceiling, I didn't really understand why I was being singled out for detention. Detention? Nobody likes detention, but it was always suspicious that kids who never ended up in the clink after school, always feared and observed those who did, as socially mal-adjusted, or even evil. Truth was the fear of Detention was a fear of some unknown isolation, about which nobody ever spoke, And on the inside -- you weren't allowed to speak or sleep. So what of Detention? There was no productive outlet, although sometimes an essay of confession, or writing sentences was the constructive forced labor. When a kid got home and their parents found out that so-and-so at school got "Detention"..., Parents always forbid their kids from seeing "that kid" any longer. This was harsh. No Jury, no due process, just excommunicated. Bam! This week we are discussing emptying jails and prisons. That should inspire some people to stay home.
In this odd childhood process, called detention -- when one was voted off the island, things seldom improved. An untouchable kid may be ridiculed, or taunted, or become legend as other kids fostered a brooding fear of what they may be capable of... Spinning yarns of every manner of menacing backstory. Truth was, that Detention was shits-ville, only because other kids actively or passively seemed to gloat at what a nice day they had on "the outside" playing guns, or roof-jumping, or smashing shit, while Those in detention suffered with repetitive sentence structure. Detention was a primer for prison.
What is it then, when we are all in Detention? Truthfully, I don't fucking know.
"By the way, Is there any way that Texas can secede and leave Austin Alone?, Sovereign? he asked... "No problem", he replied "Don't let the door hit your Ass on your way out". Can a State cleanly leave our Republic?
What then, if a (United) State says, "You unclean, people can't come in, because we here, in Texas think you may get us sick", What protocols are applied? School-yard politics are never fair, and so it seems to me that like any squabble, the rules of engagement, (never clearly delineated) seem to force involved parties to make up some dumb shit rules, and then argue about them. I am convinced that public spraying of aerosols fogging streets, and soaking the "un-clean", is perhaps the most dystopian hail-mary reaction to being completely, politically, and socially bankrupt. State's-rights are valid, right?, until they are so extreme that they violate what we all come to understand as acceptable. You know it's true that nobody listens to zealots any more, and who the fuck cares what Richard Branson, and Evangeline Lily do or say in their secluded castles? Who the fuck gives a shit about the stupid celebrity cavalcade of "social wisdom"? Nobody!
What is acceptable, is behavior which preserves people's rights for liberty, while doing the most good. Where would this new idiocy scale out to, without anyone actually being in charge. Because the kids seem to be running the Detention Classroom, if we (the public) allow idiocy to pile upon itself like fake meat in a charcuterie tray, we are once more preparing something useless which will be scraped into the trash like crusty hummus when the party ends. Nobody wants to eat a shit sandwich; So States have begun to take back their sovereignty from the Fed. States close their borders?, as they asphyxiate their public, and poison the populace to stave off illness. What are the rules of engagement, when Missouri decides that an out of work barista riding their bike to stave off insanity, gets stopped in mid-sojourn at a "Border crossing"? Fact is that if it weren't for some shitty Rotary or Kiwanis sign overgrown with weeds, and sunflowers, nobody would know as they entered the back door of a state, that they had actually crossed a street, let alone a border. Strange times.
Meanwhile Nobody knows, and that's where the madness sets in.
So this one kid at school has mono, and comes to school, what if they don't know it? Is there a test? Is the Test accurate? do they have an "All Clear" wristband? Really, the times they are a changing... When I was a kid, we owned a thermometer, and when we knew our health was not right, we took the temp, and stayed home -- But only about 60% of the time, was diagnosis accurate... The rest of the time we soldiered on. So what of The nightmare scenario which expands as an exponent from a few ill people. From these simple, untested ideas comes a brutal outcome. The anointed few, excluding the unclean... A caste system, with some unacknowledged "expert" who interns people in camps until "they" like their health prospects; whilst The rest remain restrainedly free. Refugees imprisoned -- A populace free to choose their precautious behavior.
This cannot work, Can it? Detention!
Ask Not what you can do for your sanity, but what your sanity can do for you. Perhaps you can make a paper airplane, or a broach, or a tetradactyl. People have discussed the complexity of being isolated and avoiding what makes them healthy and sane. A campground, a pond or stream for fishing, and a trailhead for biking or snowbound descents... But what of the wisdom to remain home? Don't be glib, just discuss what bad comes from a bike ride, or a jog? Why do some get shamed for a walk through the neighborhood, if they don't have a dog on the leash? Is there nothing wrong with the caution to remain home? Can we balance social isolation with outdoor time? The argument we hear is the ER Nurse, or Epidemiology Intern called to serve, who chastises you to "just stay home"!. The reasoning is that Blood supplies and resources are tapped thin, and YOU should not add to the problem. But I know more than one healthy young person who's fallen down the staircase. I know several people who have broken a limb, or hip in a bathroom or a threshold.
We all know people who've hacked their palm slicing an avocado. Today however we are to remain in our padded box. How do we distill the wisdom from the mash-up? It all reminds me vaguely of being a kid in elementary school being narked on by another student for nothing more than having more fun than them. We are all supposed to be sullen, somber, reflective right? Wrong!
What is the real issue? Envy? If you have no knack, and lack the dexterity to take a walk, run, or ride as naturally as bathing, then by all means, stay out of the bath. For the capable public, the stats prove that getting in your car to drive to the store holds more risk than a stroll, and likely the same holds true for a bike ride, or a jog. The issue is not one of flippant disregard for another's reverence to the world ending. The issue is not a caution to conserve resources, it is just people giving a social-media tongue-lashing to strangers. Can we please try to understand each other this year? Nobody spreads disease when they ride their bikes as a family. Nobody spreads a disease while jogging alone, staying clear of others. Everyone needs to enjoy some outdoor time. Or the insanity and suicide epidemic may outweigh and outlive the plague.
I suggest you ride your bike, Jog someplace, swim alone, if your beach is open, and enjoy what you can, because it's possible that the shit hasn't yet hit the fan. When you are left without any civil rights, you will reflect on that last time you did "this thing" quite fondly. Perhaps that will be the recollection which motivates you later. It's also possible you will die in a week, so live responsibly, meaningfully, and do try to enjoy yourself. Safe or Sane is a terrible conundrum.
Many bodies piling up will be illustrative to curb bad practices. Citizens will make mistakes, of course, but they will also help each other, and make mostly good choices, driven by fear. Social scales look a bit like this... We have bodies on one plinth, and free-will on the other, and You can guess which one weighs more. By the time the public sees the damage, the damage will have been done. Being a citizen during the Pandemic Era, means that your neighbors and friends can't understand why naïve people are incapable of projecting beyond their privileged circumstance. Clarity is elusive in Detention.
Malaise makes us wholly incapable of clarity, so it's critical to maintain mindfulness. So how do we balance deadly freedom with being in detention? Civil rights & Civic responsibility are challenging contemplation. Being subject to random stop and frisk; Whether by strangers, on anti-social media, or by local police is madness. The madness does not stem from a nervous passion to promote public health, because it cannot. It is simply a nervous incantation like spraying aerosols, that can't stop the wave of coughs.
When a Gig-Worker who delivers groceries, can't afford to stay home, and hands you tainted groceries -- How long can the bags sit outside your bubble before they rot, or until the virus wears off?
Another Detention essay begins like this:
An interstate truck driver, whether it is Amazon, UPS, JB Hunt, or a far smaller LTL, has one job, and they need the paycheck, because their partner was just liberated from the other half of their combined income. Do we really believe that this desperate driver with a mortgage to pay, will stop driving when they develop a dry cough and a mild fever or night sweats? Nope! IT WONT HAPPEN. They will drive all over their trans-continental route until they succumb to being desperately ill, pulling extra shifts, or, they will recover without knowing why they felt ill. This single vector is possibly far worse than an exec or an out of work teacher visiting their parents back home. The driver will stop every few hours as required, and buy the occasional hot dog, steak, or slurpee and hither and yon, they will pee, and flush, and wipe, and pass cash for all fare of social engagement before and after pumping diesel. They will become the anonymous outlaw vector. But alas they are mission critical, so that your cat-food, and Bud-seltzer can arrive on-time. Whilst you observe your state's health protocols, sneaking in bike rides with your masked children, You should not feel ashamed. But, thousands of locals may be affected by one outlier?, Yep., that's your delivery driver.
When strange fictions become the new normal, it's sometimes actually valid to review the cannon of sci-fi to explore contextual scenarios, and potential outcomes. I've seen and read some dystopian Sci-fi, and they can be telling. After all, the Phone in your pocket came from them, as did the walkie-talkie, and the laser, but I can't shake the images of "A Clockwork Orange" as one outcome, or ...perhaps it's already happened.
Has nobody watched a single shit-ass sci-fi thriller? For crap-sake, the idea that a selective quarantine will work is laughable. But Medicare for all is sounding good to a lot of people right about now. We are all socialists now.
Now that we are all bike riding Socialists, (like it or not, it's happened) -- we are all floundering in a giant social welfare net. We are naive children in a gigantic moon-bounce bumping, touching, and licking the same balls. We are all going to get this. We are all going to have to pay for it, and most importantly We all have to remember this moment, so as to not let it ever happen again.
Let's roll up our sleeves, and get to it. Let's calculate real projections, Create real solutions, and then make positive changes which don't exclude anyone or anyone's rights. Be ready for the secessionist back-chatter.
Be smart, be vigilant, create normalcy, or sit on your hands and wait for your fucking Prom.
The world needs bright torches right now, ...so stay lit.
Seems like only a year ago I could confidently wipe my ass of any adversity, and soldier on. Raised in a large family, there were occasions where the roll was empty, and i'd waddle, wading in my dropped trousers from the bathroom to the closet to restock. Siblings never did have much time for such formalities, and let's face it a week or so ago, nobody could conceive of running out of TP, except at Lollapalooza, or Coachella -- But the savvy tourist always carries a modest back-up supply.
(Fortunate Butts &) "Chance Favor the Prepared Mind", -Louis Pasteur
A year or so ago, when things (still) sucked politically, but were yet a bickering surreal fictional Fantasyland, I dreamt of owning a puppy of my own. I am actually in-love with only one dog, And she belongs to my Sister-in-law. Ahh, Shit -- What a great time to be a dog! Right? Her dog is special though, and got along swimmingly with the neighbor's puppy. One day in late spring, her neighbor's lovely dog enjoyed a sunny afternoon doing absolutely nothing in the yard. It luxuriated like a fat Packer-fan at a tail-gate BBQ, licking it's chops, and perhaps it's balls, as they do. The afternoon was warm in Southern California, and the yard was lovely. Hummingbirds flitted about, while dog food sat in a bowl nearby, and the outside world never seemed a challenge, because this puppy coveted in comfortable quarantine, surrounded by a 6 foot fence. Patio door open, cool AC mingled into the Mid-Spring breeze, and so this Pup, instinctively selected the perfect spot to digest it's lunch like a sultan snake on a hot rock. We all did.
The canyon road purred with passing Tesla's, occasional Range Rovers, and deliveries..., Everything was delightful. I know this because that week I visited this glorious So-Cal enclave as a base-camp to set upon an adventure to ride my Bicycle through Big Bear, Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, etc... It was a lovely home. Her neighbor's home was also a lovely sanctuary, as all homes seem to represent. This home was particularly idyllic for one to be holed-up. A patio corral with all creature comforts for Humans and Dogs alike. The Trash Cans warmed beside the fence bringing a slightly piquant sour scent toward the pups, which for neighboring dogs wafted subtle fragrant dinner scraps like a Parisian Candle at a real-estate showing.
I waited for my bike to arrive VIA FedEx, and prepped my gear, and kit, while the neighborhood dogs lie lazily in their yards like a fat President, barking occasionally at nothing at all, clearly Oblivious...
I have some things to say about pet companions:
A. Dogs Require us to hand them food, otherwise they don't do so well.
B. They Prefer the good food, and that shit is expensive.
C. I can't ride my bike any given day, all over kingdom come, if I have to care for a pet.
So when my bike arrived safely in it's carton in So Cal, I was sure happy, and this was even more welcome, when my favorite puppy "Helped" me receive the package from the Courier.
The trouble with being sated, and complacent, is that you never see the Black Swan oiling the barrel, packing up their shit in a foreign country, and boarding a plane to pay you a visit.
(A virus is a remarkably simple long molecule cluster wrapped in a protein and fat, basically a tiny version of some sugared cereals you favored at age 6).
I don't have any relatives who currently want nor need to live with me, but that may change very soon. What Everyone (including Dogs) would prefer, before receiving that knock at the door, is a call to say -- "Hey, as you know the shit has apparently hit the fan... And well..., I need a place to stay". By the way this is always a welcome visit, as compared to when the Black Swan arrives, so take them in. In that peripheral moment which we never see coming, where we are fat, happy, and smug sunning ourselves and rubbing turmeric-orange lotion on our faces to appear youthful, (or even presidential)... We tend to ignore experts who say, "be careful, too much sun -- Or 'that orange shit', may kill you".
At that unguarded moment, (that very moment when you throw cautions to the wind) is when the Coyote rooting through the trash cans beside the fence, gets on top of one to peer inside for a scrap or two. This scourge, like tiny virions, see this fat little puppy in the yard, as opportunity. Amazingly we/it appear far more attractive than yesterday's pungent leftovers in a wet trash bag. So you see that neither the Privileged Presidential Puppy, nor the Coyote believes things may ever be more perfect.; until the swan arrives.
For countless days prior, the startling sound of amazon packages being tossed over the fence bringing beautiful but superfluous things was a daily interruption to Nap-time in the warm California Sunshine. This sudden bang, like so many other times desensitizes us to an eventual clamor...
And, then 'Things' changed.
That day when the Coyote had to decide between the Trash-bin, or the Bichon... The asymmetry of this decision, and the truly tragic spiral which follows changed a small history. So it appears that if all you do is baste your body in golden turmeric sunshine, you may appear more of a fragrant morsel, than a formidable opponent -- Besides, That trash smell broadcasts a vulnerability; It marked you. But by the time the puppy yelped, it was already in the Coyote's Jaws, and little could be done to mend the situation.
(Nearly a Year later the same happened to my favorite pup. But thankfully she was saved, from it's jaws, punctured and stitched and all.)
So.. That week, before my epic ride through the Southwest Desert, I gave a second thought to pet ownership. I cuddled my Sissie's surviving dog, and thought about that absurd tangential apocalypse, as I bid farewell to puppy.
How does the Black Swan know when to appear? A. When we are complacent?, fat?, and pathetically off our guard? or B. whenever the fuck it wants to?
So be it. It was done. Now you /we pick our next moves. Answer was "B,' By the way.
I was sure glad it was the neighbor's dog, though... and not my Sister's. But that is a discordant even tasteless comment considering the circumstance. Such is the comparison to ageism in today's capitalist rant. Once the afternoon settled a bit, we counted our proverbial blessings and moved to assembling bikes for a road trip. Nagging at me was that thought, however; "Will this be my last vacation?"
Once upon a time in my life I was so free and things were so easy that I thought, in a novel way, Hmm, I think I may want one of those puppies, and I would just go and pick one off the shelf, place it in my basket, and stroll to checkout. Funny the fortune to buy anything, even companionship. A simple wish.
"A healthy soul has a thousand wishes, while the infirmed has only one". -Indian Proverb.
As Archie and Ethel Bunker used to sing..., "Those were the days..."
In this era of The Black Swan, which flew down and revoked my hall pass, I feel like now was the time to pick up one of those companion animals. But..., Alas, They are all gone. Really? What in the Fuck!! Now..., when I am finally ready to commit to support another soul, they are disappeared, like toilet tissue.
What now becomes commonplace was a by-gone fiction seemingly days ago... Vacation plans scraped into the compost bin -- and sadly beauty seems remote. Former free-range birds peck at what cool-ass life you've scrapped. So when do the Rummage sales start? When do the Bake sales balance the scales? How bad-ass is your best neighbor's caserole, now, sold by the slice..? This is real right?
Denial is still your reaction to 'the disruption'. Give it away brothers and sisters, because there is no single thing in your house besides your family and your memories which hold true value. This has become your new reality. Fairy tales are tough to come by, and by world standards you still live in one. Granted, deserted roads make for swift travel. Today my 1 hour commute took 16 minutes... You've lived a dream for how long now?... And now you lament the end of the fucking world? Chillax bitches! Would it not be perfect if we could just return?, Back-up and rewind only until Mid-February, when everything was still obliviously lovely? Licking a 6 dollar ice-cream cone, in winter, and shuffling back home with friends.
I know at least one Xenophobe who stains a fresh pillow-case orange each night, and HE thinks that paradise restores next week, Tah Dah! ...but alas he is off his rocker. I'm for that too bitches; but a chorus of bitching won't help. Before the whole card house collapses, can someone find me the tape? Magical thinking in tough times is exactly that. Just ask the Veep who credits the Orange-utang in chief with each national step backward, His new role as Vanna White, (Cheerleader to Sajak's) madness, turning tiles in our upside-down world, hoping to reveal wisdom. Can no one tell the emperor to put his clothes back on for the daily Spin of the wheel?
A virus and a Pandemic are innately a-political, BUT, if they tended to prefer to devour a particular group, I could suggest one whose usefulness has outlived it's constituents. And... It's not the neighbors puppy.
We are in serious need of participating in our republic; and getting over ourselves. This was what you thought was important..., and I'll agree it was. Things were all roses, a month ago, but the backend was built upon sand and hubris, with idiotic magical thinking, and THIS is what happens when you dispense with expertise and dismiss science. "Welcome, my son" It was beautiful, wasn't it?, Until the bottom fell out. "Welcome to the machine".
The rub about chaos, is that predictions become impossible: e.g. Puppies being sold out, like toilet paper and a run on canned Beans... Man, what a quick digression. Up end the fucking table and watch it slide to the floor. I can't get a puppy now, because (like toilet tissue) everybody had the same thought at the same fucking time. All the puppies have been snatched up. This conceited view is precisely the problem, 'my predicament'.
I totally concede that there is seemingly no wisdom today which will predict a swift return to the "Good ol' Days" of mid February, but that paradise was also bullshit. What is blocking you from embracing today is yesterday; was yesterday. We are still blinded by nostalgia, and it's too soon to fondly reflect upon a bygone month.
"Where have you been? That's all right -- We know where you've been".
Last month as I walked through my neighborhood, Amazon delivered brand-new cardboard boxes to each end every home, and what was in them was ultimately worthless. True they don't sell puppies, but the food comes that way. Ask your dog, they know. Every single restaurant I would eat at, was sat with families and friends who's faces glowed, lit from devices below, as they ignored conversing, and took to socially self-isolate, clicking away at the same damn table. Each guest arrived by separate Lyft Car. In our world a month ago, was a mutual disdain for anyone who disagreed, and common ground was an elusive coyote. Someone would have to die to get a consensus. So we stared at glowing fictions garnering false hope and fake news. Today, We have one struggle. Today we are all socially bankrupt, and the worst thing of it -- Is that all the puppies are also out of stock. Yes! Companionship where you could have cared less in November, now is a strange currency. Hug your fucking Charmin. What we need to know now is... Who is hoarding all the extra cute doggies?
I could use one right about now.
Yesterday was lovely yes, I'll grant you that. But what came before is memory, and today is your action day. You are no further than a few days from that B.C. time, (Before Covid) than the days which have ticked by as you hoard cocoa-puffs, T.P., and hit that bong. While you well-up with dread, take a breather. Whilst you sit idly by, someone needs help. Someone near you could use a smile, a hand-up, a few groceries which you could certainly spare. What is it that you are missing right now? Food, Shelter, (a puppy for certain), The security of friends and family? Nope! They are all still there. What I think is missing, is certainty. What is not missing, is beauty and selfishness. To get anyplace now, you will need to pedal, paddle, and push past your own stagnation. The Cushion on that porch was just so fucking plush that you didn't see the flight being boarded by the Black Swan. And no one in charge did either. You thought it was all coasting from here, (everybody did) and now you have to actually endure some hardship, we all do. Pity wont help and we are fresh out of that. The trouble is that your Netflix shows don't lend real context to how the fuck hard every generation had it before yours, nor to how facts, and expertise solves problems, and not piss-poor politics.
You may have completely missed the memo, if you believe that your life has fundamentally changed. Not Yet! I'll grant you that your sense of comradery may have stumbled a bit, your buying power blows now... I'll give you the strange white noise in the background, and the quietude on the street is off-putting, but you are the same whole person you were last month -- Last week... Perhaps now you will begin to see it, before you fracture. To see what was missing. Every scrap of your essence remains. Finding it, is your next move.
I recall when people searched deep within themselves to find the most meaningful, perfect gifts for each other, and perfect compliments to pay. This drifted into "What do you want for Xmas?" "What do you want for your Birthday", As if reaching into some magic bag was all it took to produce perfect regalos. No! Some kid made that in the Third world, and their world was so different than yours precisely so you could give someone some worthless crap they'd discard. It was just before you became a smug selfish bastard, when you still wrote letters, and poems, and belonged to book club. Relax, and read past that critique because "That's not you, me, right?" "Happiness is a warm gun"...
But it is you. Remember when people used to say, that it is better to give than to receive? Nobody is asking you to serve up a Kidney, so chill the fuck out! Today, you have some simple business to attend to. Being kind is a start. Giving blood is a second quality contribution. Being something better than what you were last month will break many rules. As we learn to be kind to one-another again, go forth with compassion.
Here we go with your excuses again. Is it not a great time to fix the Faucet?, the Tile?, the Roof?, that Pest problem is all you by the way. You are the problem. Who needs you?, now?... Are you your own enemy?, or are you simply scared? Every bit of adversity is unwelcome, yes. Every moment where we lose control, we drift a bit. Do you have something you have been longing to accomplish? Here is your hall pass.
It can't all be early Beatles Songs, you and they too needed to experiment. You have a responsibility to your family, your neighbors and friends. Psychedelia morphed from boredom, because lord knows the love-songs were getting long in the tooth. Judging by your complete lack of direction you may need some shame or psychedelics to accomplish anything.
Sitting around like a log. You have some work to do. No?
Here is a truth... The Luge helped loggers send multi-ton trees down a hillside toward the river. Although it's not advisable, to be on the course when a live tree sails through. You can in fact ride that slick track when the work-day is done. Now we all live on the edge, so what are you frightened of? Scared?, yes, unsure? certainly; But you open your own way of seeing a chance. Take a ride. Don't sit there when the next log comes down the slope. Be something larger than your idiotic fantasy of the world. Be this log. Isolation is good for none, bad options include: Pornography, Amazon, and Netflix, all false idols. What ever came in a cardboard box which compares with your Mom?
"You've been in the pipe-line filling in time... Provided with boys and scouting for toys. You bought a guitar to punish your ma..."
What of your next on-line purchase makes you whole or happy? A mysterious forest awaits with real things like trees, and streams and none of them are as toxic as you right now. "So welcome my son, To the Machine"
No contagion lurks in the Park by your home. Go there, Listen to the crickets, The birds, the neighbor's dog is barking a nervously, sensing ambient fear. The time to fear was before the moment, but not now. Afterwards, comes a sea-change of will, participation, and grace -- And perhaps a tide of cuddly puppies will raise all ships.
Keep your Dignity, Wipe Sparingly, and let me pet your fucking dog.
...Please don't hoard all the puppies
So you are thinking that maybe this is actually "IT" -- This is it huh? really? How do you feel? Shall we cue "American Pie", by Don McLean... Quixotic moments call for some deeper reflection, Wait... What was that song about anyway? Let's not worry about the nuance. Or, is the answer actually concealed well below this?, deep beneath the noise? I can't suppress this image of a Habitat of monkeys in the zoo, clinging, grooming, completely dependent upon their care-givers. How about just the "outro", Yes?
"I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play."
Were you troubled that the grocery shelves were bare?, No frozen pizzas?, No Frozen Burritos?, No More eggs? As if the Grinch arrived last night? Were you the Grinch who snatched up everything just before an elderly local got down that aisle? Shame on you!
What's your reaction when Grub Hub wont deliver? What's your next move? How have you prepared? Now Cue a single monkey screeching in the cage -- and soon all of them are making a racket. Perhaps it's Time to reflect upon something important. You didn't want that frozen burrito anyway. Did you.
Our Path, Way, Route, Channel, or Road, guides the natural order of the universe, as much as we humans can discern. The Nameless concept of "Tao" will reveal itself with study -- Our true potential for individual wisdom.
Laozi in the Tao Te Ching tells us that "Tao" is not the name of a thing, but it is the essence of the natural order of the universe, which would naturally be "difficult" to circumscribe to a name as with an object, like pizza. So nouns fail us. Tao remains eternally nameless, because it is non-conceptual. Tao is evident in ones being of aliveness. Unlike boundless named things, "The Way" or "Tao" remains elusive, or even embedded, but not revealed without intense reflection upon what remains un-identifiable. But we seldom pay attention to such things. Who has time to pay attention? Oh shit! you will now...
Whatever your Tao means to you, I find that when the shit hits the fan, a Oneness with things we've perhaps forgotten to touch or reflect upon begins to resolve into view. For a few, this focus brings to bear many new truths about the nature of the universe. Truly.
When Mercury is in Retrograde, I generally retract to an inner place where I can duck in reflection as calamity whirls up to gale force. It has happened far too often that at this Celestial whirring, things begin to go off the rails. I'm not talking about the inconvenience of a cancelled rock concert, or an emergency proclamation preventing gathering. These suck, (of course) but they are just symptoms of a larger calamity. Sigh... When Mercury begins to move backwards as it did from February 16th to March 9th, I keep my head down. I think of a lawnmower, and this is not a great time for wee blades of grass to stretch skyward.
I may be disappointed with effects of sweeping changes to "my" daily life, but this too shall pass. What is surreal about new austerity, is the way each individual comes to regard themselves from within this tempest. I find that most, if all people become upset by the sudden dynamic shift from being the center of one's universe to being somewhat less of a unique snowflake. When we suffer individually, as with a broken bone -- We lament the injustice of our circumstance. When we suffer en-mass, (and as sympathies dry up)... we tend to look within for strength.
Today I looked around at the flippant shrugging "Ah Well!..." attitude of some neighbors and then sat quietly in that uncertainty. Like most, I would hope that we all become as immune to a virus, as we have become complacent with our lack of camaraderie. The simple truth is that we will have to all do some soul searching to find what was important before we all became smug in-compassionate self absorbed consumerist individuals. Living the Dream.
The Tao of apocalypse teaches us that like fungus, we are all interconnected below the surface. One seething wet messy organism tucking limbs under it's covers. Today we will begin to regard our healthy comfort above all else. Funny how yesterday you just could not believe that you'd have to wait two whole days for your On-line order to arrive, and now we hoard toilet tissue. Comfort. The funny thing about comfort is that being comfortable is a myth.
When Mercury Fires up that celestial lawn-mower, and the shit hits the blades, what is important is the same thing that it was well prior. Somehow this was occluded by the milky white spoodge of consumerism. When the music stops and we all scramble for a chair, someone is left out without a place to sit. Please let it be me. When the bubble pops, and we all stop agreeing that mass consumerism can go on forever... The only things most people contemplate, is, "Getting Back to Normal". "Normal". "The day the music died".
Last week a young friend of ours was crossing the street when he was struck by a turning driver. He would die in the hospital a few days later. He was the sort of person who could resolve with eloquence and a few choice words this very moment we are in today, But sadly he won't witness our petty dialogs. He was uniquely tuned-in to that other layer of our virtual existence; The layer with substance... The one beneath our surfaces. This beautiful person won't worry about online orders, waiting lists, and rationed hand sanitizer. We will miss him, and this profound personal sense of loss pulls back the curtain on the charade in which we all participate. We tend to think of ourselves, rather than community. Gathering into our towers more toilet tissue, hand sanitizer and a hand-gun, now cowering behind a stock-pile of canned goods -- Instead of calling our neighbors and friends to see how we could be useful. Instead of reaching for a larger purpose than ourselves, we duck and cover. When we lose family and friends as well may happen, To peruse someone's personal belongings after they pass is revelatory. What sacred few things remain which we cannot take with us. What appears more important today than anything else, is how you've left things.
When My time comes, I want to be beautiful. Not attractive -- But well regarded. Today I think I still have some work to do.
Slow the tempo, and cue the music, "And good ol' boys were drinkin whisky and rye, singing this will be the day that I die".
We are an amalgam of our reflected behaviors, and mimicry, we share a playlist, wear the same styles, emulating celebrity behavior as benchmarks for our social grace. We are all beige buoys floating, yet loosely moored to the earth, clamoring & complaining when the waves mount. We bob and bump each other, as we now practice "Social-Distancing". What we learn in turmoil is the weight of what we once took for granted. What was once "ordinary" is now nostalgic. Now, it seems, we can control less of our collective destiny, so we return to comfort, as a our pinnacle goal. Sanctuary.
Travel has always been the ultimate social lesson for me. Exposure to unique lifestyles and places builds equanimity like a funeral for a friend. We leave our shoes at the door to the temple, and so much other clutter, and cross-talk. This White-noise which was preventing us from hearing seeing and being, is cleansed through the lens of travel. Travel is what we will miss the most when we are housebound.
You can still travel to the woods, the park, the railroad tracks, the lake, the ocean, the yard, and even the porch. You can walk, run, and ride places, and see things, and as a stillness takes over, as it did in the towering canyon of our city after Nine-Eleven, we will begin to see, feel, and taste things differently.
This desolate moment will soon remind me of Raymond K. Hessel's run-in with an apparent lunatic in the book Fight Club... should one survive the barrel of this gun, the next day will be outstanding! To quote a great read: “Listen, now, you're going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing off the top of your head. Make something up. I don't give a shit. I have a gun.
Finally, you were listening and coming out of the little tragedy in your head.
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?
Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please.
No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could do anything in the world.
Make something up.
You didn't know.
Then you're dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.
Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight.
A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a veterinarian.
You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your wallet into the back of your jeans. So you really wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against another. Is that what you've always wanted to be, Dr. Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian?...
So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school.
I have your license.
I know who you are. I know where you live. I'm keeping your license, and I'm going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then six months, and then a year, and if you aren't back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead...
Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your life.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Profound is what death is -- And like most tragedy, a sense of the profound undercuts our sense of self ...substituting in a bit of Tao. We all struggle to explore something larger than ourselves, something compelling, the reason we are here, doesn't fit into the tidy boxes which bind traditional religious faith. We can put a bow on our beliefs in the form of a giant temple, church, or synagogue, but the building is just a building, and the building is closed. Now that you are taking your prayer service from your living room, consider something larger than yourself. Consider wandering through the woods, sitting beside the ocean, walking through your neighborhood. Enjoy the sounds and the silence.
It's not the Apocalypse, but even if it were..., how would you wish to be remembered?
This is a time to be tolerant. But as one mighty institution once put it succinctly, it is also always a time to be, "helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent".
...In the Apocalypse, as in Scouting, boys and girls start with their 'best right now selves', and grow into their very best future selves.
Consider the Tao of the Apocalypse, and how you want to be remembered, be your best self -- and don't forget to wash your fucking hands.
It's curious that Chicago is nationally ranked as "Bike Friendly". I'm conflicted about this because any day of the year, one can easily be swallowed by a giant hole in the pavement, and disappear. If you ride a lot, you know what I mean when I say that your brain holds a topo map of nearly every well-travelled route whether it is on or off-road, and that muscle memory often takes over where senses fail, to assure you traverse two points without going down. It is also eerily true that we adjust this map as the pavement changes shape, and shoulders a lump, broadens a hole, or sinks. This year Illinois thought they'd flex their "Prog Muscle", (which i'm rather sure is located somewhere near my ass), to make recreational marijuana legal in 2020. So it is now that we are finding ourselves to be more progressive... And so, pot is legal, ...And lines quickly formed to buy some weed on a chilly New Years Day, 2020.
Me, I slept in.
The supply and demand being not quite worked out, meant that in mid-winter people camped outside their local Cannabis temple, like millennial lemmings seeking sacred Jordan's. If you are not from Chicago, nor Illinois for that matter then you will easily know it's borders, as you approach to buy your weed. We are delineated from Wisconsin to the North, or Iowa to the west, by the sudden change in our topography, that is we are the place with shitty roads.
As we migrate through: Toll Plazas, (a tax upon any visitor to maintain roads), a gas station (where gas costs a dollar more per gallon to maintain roads), you will eventually find that the topographical map of our landscape changes drastically to brittle bits, as we fail to maintain our roads. For a driver or rider this means that you may wish to broaden your following distance, so that you can see the lovely sights ahead. Illinois is where most midwesterners learn to swerve. In Chicago, we have no mountains, no real hills to speak of, just a lot of rusty bridges, crumbling train trestles, and the pavements, well -- They are a mess.
Like many places in America's rust belt, we also slowly dimmed from a bright epoch of industrial exuberance, where everyone pulling a lever at the factory netted a boat, a summer cottage, and a pension. The latter being our undoing, as Illinois struggles to pay creditors for lost revenue, and for juicy pensions. When we run out of pocket money, the first thing we kick to the curb, is infrastructure. So consider this a warning when you pass through Illinois and NW Indiana by bike; You will perhaps need some new ninja skills such as:
1. Learn to swerve without rolling under a truck.
2. Learn to bunny-hop in case you need to levitate over a roadway abyss.
3. Perfect your zen when an auto dodging similar pot-holes swipes you toward the curb.
4. Expand your field of view. ETA to obstacles which swallow you like sunken sewer covers.
5. Hold your lane, and if needed, drive your bike like a car to stay relevant to Auto Traffic.
6. Check the Amtrak time tables for travel with your bike, you may want to sit for this one.
I was planning to ride up to Michigan's Manistee National Forest, and then ferry across from Luddington to Manitowoc WI, but had a tough time reconciling routes to levitate over the whole of Chicago's south side, and Northern Indiana's Industrial gem called "Gary". Last year I lacked enough fingers and toes to count in one trip to MI, the near-death obstacles. As a City person for my whole life, I cannot reconcile why it is not better to build a road once every 20 years with Concrete, than to pave and patch it every month using Asphalt. I have ideas of course as to how contracts are awarded, and how lucrative jobs seem to pad the pockets for teams of Pot-hole crews. When I was 6, my Grandfather and I took the CTA Bus from Riis Park on Chicago's far west side down to the "El Train" en route to downtown. He walked fast, and when I would pause to lament, I would use something I'd notice to distract both of us from my tired legs. "Hey Papa", I'd ask, "What's with that big truck full of black stuff"? ...He would tell me that they were 'Pot-hole Crews' and that they have the best job security in town. "Now watch", he said -- "They are going to drizzle a bucket of tar into that hole, and then scoop some Ashphalt into there". (he pronounced it "ash-fault", an affect of his Chicago upbringing). I watched as they opened the trucks tail-gate a slit, and shoveled down some black glop.
Then one man began to smack the mound into the hole until it sat just proud of the road-way. It was mid summer, and I'd also noticed large wave-like berms of road where heavy traffic and our bus creased the pavement into ridges like mohawks on a bald Mr. T. I saw a cadillac drive over one near the bus-stop, and grind and spark as the undercarriage scraped the ridge of 'Ashfault'.
My Grandpa then said "Now look there, they have a person for each job..." "That one drives the truck and reads the paper". "That one opens the tail-gate lever", "That one shovels out the Goop". "And that one drizzles the hot tar to make it stick, like glue". ...And then, I said "They are done!", finishing his primer on potholes. He said "No, not quite.., that person there has to clean the shovels". "Ok" I replied, "What do they use for that?" He said, "They usually use Kerosene or Gasoline". We both watched, with acrid tar stifling our senses; Standing in the hot sun waiting for the Next bus.
"There!, he said, "they have a jug, and a bucket, and they will use the Kerosene to wash the tar off-the shovel", "...And that's Job security!", He exclaimed with authority.
The bus arrived, and we stepped up and into it. A dwarve drove the bus and he wore huge blocks on his shoes to reach the pedals, and I tried not to stare. We moved back, and found our place, and as my Grandpa stood, I kneeled against the window, to watch the 'Pot-Hole crew' pour kerosene onto sticky shovels as they shrank into the distance. My Grandpa said, "You see the kerosene will clean the tools, and it will also soak into the Ashfault and break up the glue holding it together, and then in a few months, there will be another pot-hole to fix." "That's Job Security!" he said indictingly.
So it happens that Our new Mayor, and Our New Governor, are heavily vested in the Pot and the Pot-hole Biz. They are also hoping like a bake-sale to solve climate issues, that Pot sales may help to pay for road repairs. This is of course in part because, My state, (being a strong-hold of democrats and a "sanctuary city"), will not get Federal infrastructure funding as has been lavished upon the three 'Red-States" which border us.
When you count on Pot to fix Pot-holes, you'd better also hope that there are lines out the door in January. If you are a realist, it's best to learn some strategies to avoid them, even if it means taking the train around the City of Chicago in search for your next adventure.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.