The PVP Diaries #34

The persistence of indignity

“Their most faithful disciples were the two cart-horses, Boxer and Clover. These two had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments.”

– George Orwell, Animal Farm

THE PIGS:

Update 4-29

Today Governor Inslee extended the stay-at-home order, without giving a new end date. There’s another presser on Friday, I hear, and I really hope he says something to regain some of the faith that I’m starting to lose in him. What used to look like steadiness is starting to look like indecision. This next part is good, though – remember that alliance between Washington, Oregon, and California that had me worried? Worry no more!The West Seattle Blog reports:

3:38 PM: He’s asked about the value of the Western States Pact if other states in it are making different decisions. He says the pact is more for “communication.”

I guess you need a “pact” in order to communicate these days. But anything that keeps us untethered from the only two states in the union that are battier than we are is good news to me. The key, though, is the part about other states making different decisions. Every governor is going to try to be the one with the cleverest solution, and none of them will put this debacle behind them, none will let it go, until they’ve done something to distinguish themselves as the one who got it the most right. But as is usually the case when refusing to acknowledge success and competing for the crown of legacy, you sail right past your last chance to get it right and relegate yourself to the regressive consolation of, in the end, admitting your mistakes. Not that they ever will.

THE CART HORSES:

There’s a quarantine site in nearby White Center which is not going to open, and may never do so, because there hasn’t been a need for it. From White Center Now:

3:11 PM: Angie Malpass from King County verifies that the Top Hat facility “is on hold”:

There continues to be plenty of capacity at King County’s COVID-19 isolation, quarantine and recovery centers that are currently open today in Kent, Issaquah, North Seattle/Aurora, Harborview Hall and Shoreline.

We saw peak demand about one and a half weeks ago at 74 guests and have seen a plateau now at 61 guests today.

But of course:

Public Health is anticipating an inevitable second wave of COVID-19 and we will continue to keep White Center ready to open for when than second surge happens, should the current 5 facilities that are operational reach capacity.

It’s just impossible for these people to look at success without seeing it as a cause for alarm:

“You’ve just won the Super Bowl, but the champagne is likely poisoned, your plane is expected to crash, your wives are all projected to divorce you, and our experts are predicting that if you don’t spend all of your bonus money right now you risk not having it to spend irresponsibly later.

But good job, everyone.”

I’m just looking for a politician to commit a little political suicide, because at this point a bad move, politically, is pretty much guaranteed to be a good move, intellectually and morally. And vice the hell versa.

………

THE SIMPLE ARGUMENTS:

We got a freezer. When I called the local company a couple of weeks ago to ask about one, they first told me not to get my hopes up. Not only were they in high demand, but pretty much every compressor on Earth comes out of China, and nothing was coming out of China (except, well…). She predicted zero availability until late Summer. “But do call around.” I had asked for a chest freezer because, being a noob in the supplemental frozen storage category, I assumed that when you put a cooler in the garage, it was one of those big boxes with the lid on top that was good for burying things so deep that you were guaranteed to never see them again. She said to get an upright. They’re much better.

So I took her advice, called the big boys down by the mall, and asked for an upright freezer. I hit the sweet spot. The salesman said they had a shipment coming in, and there were several available. “Be here in about a week,” he said. Had I called a day later I might not have had another chance for months. It’s a 14 cu. ft. beauty that fits nicely in its place in the garage, and will be an excellent extension of the (always) too small freezer on our fancy fridge. We’re gonna stuff that thing with as many Pelosis of Ice cream as we can.

………

My daughter’s friend turned 12 yesterday. As an alternative to a party, her parents organized a parade. We got in line with about 10 other cars, two blocks South of her house, and drove in a slow, honking procession down her street. Most of the kids in the cars stood up through sunroofs and held signs/posters – it’s interesting to note how ubiquitous those are now (sunroofs, not posters). I’ve had one in each of my last two cars, and almost never used them. Like, at all. In fact, the way the searing heat of the sun comes through them when they’re open makes them rather unpleasant to use. In the sun. They can be mighty nice on a summer night, though.

Anyway. Signs were waved, horns were honked, hoots were hollered. It was 7:00 PM. Some of the neighbors probably thought it was obnoxious, and others no doubt took some joy in it.  Whenever, in my life, I’ve seen someone enjoying or appreciating something that’s simultaneously bothering me, I’ve felt so low. Their joy always put my droll resistance in high relief. My younger life had me on a greased trajectory towards curmudgeonliness. I was always so sarcastic, and like so, so many people do, I believed that finding fault with something was a sign of intelligence (kind of like, I don’t know, seeing success as a cause for alarm), while accepting and enjoying things was most often the blind submission of the cart-horse.  Many years ago I consciously took a few steps to correct that particular course of mine, nudged the tiller with some careful reading, and arrived in a better place. I screw it all up aplenty, to be sure, and there’s no guarantee that if a birthday parade came honking down my street, I would smile and be generous about it, but there’s a better chance of it now. Perfection’s not very much closer, but I can just see its gritty peaks when I look up through the sunroof, because I’m finally choosing to open it.

………

Yes, as a matter of fact, the fried chicken did come out beautifully:

Fried Chix

There’s even a few leftover for breakfast.

Don’t be alarmed by the sun, Comrade Citizen!

 

The PVP Diaries #33

Polish up your crystal ball

Neon lights and slinking purple skies
Squeeze out soft regrets from all our lies
As I greet another door that opens in
To that place where we repeatedly begin

I’m tangled up in try
Slipping on I wonder why
I face
Affection, not embrace

Another urban wasteland thick with fears
Icy lights that shine like frozen television tears
Or dying embers of another day
Please tell me what it is I want to say

I’m tangled up in try
Slipping on I wonder why
I face
Affection, not embrace
Affectionate embrace

 

Update 4-28

It was quiet on the local front yesterday – no big news from the guv, and nothing about the bridge. There was, however, this story brought to light, concerning the rather swift 20 month rebuild of a bridge that collapsed in Genoa, Italy. The collapse, while killing 40 people, gave them something we don’t have here with the West Seattle Bridge: a head start. The controlled demolition will probably add some time to the project (if it needs demolition at all, which hasn’t yet been determined), but I would also think that controlled demolition would mean easier, quicker cleanup. Though of course I know nothing about these things and am just wildly speculating. I’m not making improbably specific guesses in a dearth of knowledge and understanding, banking my chits for future claims of Nostradamian righteousness.

………

Go ahead, steal it and make your own. My brother-in-law has a print shop, maybe I’ll ask him to pretty it up a little and print one out:

Virus Fashion

………

We played trivia last night. Our neighbors here on our not-so-dead-end street invited us last year to a fundraiser for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which was enough to get us on the list for things like last night’s fund-raising virtual trivia happy hour, hosted by our neighbor who is an auctioneer and all around crowd pleaser, with a toolkit that includes magic and yes, trivia hosting. We took the 30 second walk to their house and sat on their deck under some heat lamps, teamed up with the other half of the marriage while submitting to all royal demands for social distancing, and finished in a dignified 5th place out of some 45-ish teams. Mind you, many of the other players were physicists, biologists, etc. from the Fred Hutch Center, so I’ll take it.

The three rounds were interspersed with some brief statements by a couple of the aforementioned contestants, who talked about the work they’ve done on COVID-19 – nothing as exciting as announcing a vaccine, but much calm and no claims to know how bad it is, was, or could be. No speculation about transmission, and no implications that they know better than someone else. It’s funny how the confidence of actual knowledge seems to inhibit the desire to wear it like a crown. That’s for the rest of us, who only know what we know from social media. They have work to do, and they’re doing it. One guy said that his colleague was losing tens of thousands of dollars worth of “very special” mice, something to do with genes. Fred Hutch does a lot of work with genetics.

Anyway, their work isn’t just for Seattle or Washington, so if you have any interest in donating, here you go.

………

Mostly uneventful day yesterday, otherwise. My wife noted recently that for all of our eating at home, we haven’t had anything Asian yet. I checked what we had on hand and made some lettuce wraps with ground beef. It was damn good and a nice change of pace. But I also put a bunch of chicken into a brine so that I can fry it up tonight and get us back to basics (though I don’t know what’s more basic than ground beef and iceberg lettuce). Fried chicken gets us all a little excited here, especially the kids, who can’t get enough of it. I don’t think there’s any food, short of dessert, that they’ll eat more of. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: there’s very little in life as satisfying as putting food in front of your people and watching them enjoy everything about it.

Expect some obnoxious and obvious quotes from  Animal Farm here in the coming posts. Orwell in a time of Government overreach? I’m so proud of my daughter’s school.

Don’t be trivial, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #32

Secure your tee-time now.

Update 4-27

I listened to Gov. Inslee’s latest presser yesterday – briefly, anyway. Things are easing up ever-so-slowly, and ever-so-oddly:

Barely Open

Good, ok, outdoor recreation is getting the go-ahead, albeit rather cautiously. They are still prohibiting overnight stays anywhere, but at least it’s ok to – wait, what does that say? Golf? I actually heard that part of the presser, and have been waiting for the confused outrage. Hunting and fishing are controversial in the best of times, but they’re utilitarian and meaningful activities that people – even those who wouldn’t do them – are generally able to stomach and understand. Golf is purely fun (for those who like to do it), and frankly little more than an excuse for 5 hours of day drinking. It isn’t even exercise, so it is difficult to imagine the justification for green-lighting it in a time when sitting on a park bench was briefly verboten, and is still strongly discouraged. I can only assume there was some kind of irresistible political pressure that came from The Golf Alliance of Washington, who Inslee credited in his presentation. The slime trails glisten in the sun.

I read a comment that lamented the rather male-centered nature of the allowable activities, as if sexism is playing a part in the return to normal. Having graduated from college just last year, I know how common it is to hear, concerning equality and civil  rights, the flat stupid claim that “we’re no better off today than we were 100 years ago.” Some people will even bleat that we’re worse off, and that we’ve gone backwards; these are either 19 year-old girls with really big glasses and even bigger girlfriends, or 6-figure tenured female professors with a “partner” at home whom you can be sure doesn’t hunt, fish, or golf. Anyway, I know we won’t be back to normal without irrational complaints of injustice, so I read this as a good sign.

Caddyshack

………

The wind must have been pushing out to sea last night, because I could barely hear the ferry’s engine as it idled. So I went inside, and listening to nothing but tinnitus and the ticking clock, I finished with The Whale. It was 10:57. I think I felt compelled to note the time so precisely because Ishmael wouldn’t have had it any other way. That last 100 pages or so were harsh and tense and frantic. With 60 left it was nigh my usual (loosely held) bed time, but there was no way that I was going to put off the finishing until the next day. I note one of the novel’s lessons being the power and contagiousness of obsession, wherein a dubious crew and openly rebellious Starbuck can’t help but pursue the whale beyond all reason, even amidst thoughts of mutiny, though the purpose was never their own. I wonder if that’s applicable somehow, today, in these trying times.

I know that a college class would quickly turn the brown and black characters in the book into some crime committed by Melville, but it’s clear he meant their mysticism, religiosity, and faith to be read as compliments, as indispensable qualities for a man to carry into combat, as an example for the less constant white members of the  Pequod’s crew to follow. The soothsaying Fedallah especially; Ahab’s soul ultimately lashed to his own prophecies, as we are all tied fast to the body of our own surging, foaming, gliding, raging destiny, when our doubts are not there to hinder (or protect) us.

Of course, in college, using faith as a compliment is a crime all by itself, so Melville is fairly dragged to the depths before he even pushes off.

………

News has arrived that my favorite writing spot will be re-opening soon, though only for takeout. It looks like some new pick-up windows have been installed. I love their donuts and other pastries, but I love the people who work there, too. The Original Bakery (I call it the OGB) has been around since 1936 and Bernie, the short man who owns the place, is in there baking away in his white, V-neck t-shirt and an apron at obscene hours. They’re a low-key, somewhat dilapidated little oasis a half-mile or so from my house. I need it to come all the way back so that I can sit there and write while snacking on butterhorns and sugared rings, and on Thursdays the glorious glazed buttermilk knots. For now it is enough to know that they are not going under – they’ve been completely silent since the beginning of the restrictions, and I worried that because of their size and age they’d decide that this was time to close the doors forever. I rejoice.

Don’t use the ladies’ tees, Comrade Citizen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PVP Diaries #31

Stop yer blubberin’

I need my weekends now, more than I used to.

Update 4-26

Eh, whatever. I know Saturday was double digits again, but overall down, and overall eh, whatever.

I saw a headline come across my Alexa thing that said something about the CDC announcing 6 new COVID-19 symptoms. Six! Just as it looks like things are waning, and people are growing increasingly weary of isolation (and government overreach), we have new symptoms to keep us all believing in the boogie man. Big surprise. I didn’t look them up. I’m guessing it’s something like fatigue, restlessness, lethargy, impatience, weight gain, and bread making skills. I have a few symptoms that I think the CDC has very irresponsibly left off of their list. It may not be Coronavirus, but it’s an infection for sure:

  1. Belief in the news
  2. Uncontrollable reflex to wallow in predictions of long-term misery, coupled with…
  3.  Relentless pessimism
  4.  Cravings for the following:
    1.  The closure of something else this weekend
    2.  Legally enforceable mandatory mask wearing while outdoors
    3.  A special police number for reporting your neighbors
    4.  Comparisons of nurses with war heroes
    5.  The opportunity to say “science,” again.

But hey, I’m just a guy with a blog, trying to read Moby Dick and Animal Farm at the same time, while building a 280 square foot paver patio out of what used to be a formidable hill in his back yard. What do I know? I know my mattock needs sharpening, that’s what.

I do think I remember speculating very recently that we were fast approaching the point when our success in battling the virus was going to be used not as a reason to ease restrictions, but as an excuse to create more. And Lo:

The social distancing measures observed in King County have reduced transmission of COVID-19 to the point where cases are expected to slowly decline or plateau at current levels. New or strengthened interventions are needed to reduce transmission further before partial relaxation of social distancing measures can be considered

And indeed, in PVP entry #25:

In fact, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t use success as a reason to clamp down even more.

Everyone’s trying to be Bill Belichick, running up the score against the Coronavirus in the fourth quarter of a rout.

………

The girl made brownies for her Girl Scout meeting (via zoom, natch), then she made an Olaf cake (from Frozen) as part of a FaceTime baking competition with her 5 or 6 year-old cousin (second cousin? My wife’s cousin’s daughter). Because I am an idiot, I took pictures of neither. Because I am no fool, I ate a great deal of both. She’s an excellent baker, my daughter, but a very bad cleaner. I would ban her from using the kitchen at all, but a love for cooking is a heap big thing in my book. She’ll learn to clean as long as I keep teaching her how, but if I’m on her case about cleaning so much that she starts to hate cooking, well that’ll be a big time dad failure.

The boy? He made…noise. He’s a little excited right now because I’ve agreed to get a cat. He’s been looking at websites and even sent an email to a breeder, though of course purebred cats from a breeder are often obscenely expensive, so that’s not an option. Found some British Shorthairs yesterday for $1500 each – no, kitty. That’s a baaad kitty. We’ll check the humane society, other outlets.  I’ve always liked cats, even had a couple in an apartment in Sierra Vista, Arizona, while I was stationed at Ft. Huachuca. They were a couple of big, fluffy things that were named Mother and Murphy. I remember the knots and tangles in their long fur. We’re definitely sticking with the shorthairs. Mother’s getting worked into a short story I’m writing.

Or at least that I was writing. I figured this quarantine would be short-lived, so I made the full mental commitment of “I’ll get back to writing (the novel, etc) when the kids are back in school.” I stopped compulsively jotting down notes, and seeing my stories in every little (and big) corner of my world. I just took that lens right off. Now that the return to school is off the table, and with summer coming, I need to shift back into the other writing mode. But, considering what I said about momentum recently, and how difficult it can be to change direction, well, it’s a slow process.

I also didn’t read much over the weekend. The last 130 or so pages of Moby Dick are taunting me, but I’m mired in the doldrums of one of the many sections wherein Melville leaves the story behind to “have his spoutings out,” and clear several blubbering tons of whale research through his blowhole. Some of it is exciting – the butchering of the whale and rendering of his fat , for instance, are enough to elicit trigger warnings in college classes across the western world, if they would even stoop to teach the book. Just read the chapter “Cutting in,” or “The Cassock.” You’ll lose sight of Ahab and his quarry entirely, but you may feel actually, bodily, a little oily when you’ve finished. Chopped toes and whale pelt ponchos.

I read three pages of Animal Farm yesterday, but my head wasn’t in it.

………

I had my celebrity moment today. After 14 or so years in West Seattle, and 2 years as his neighbor, I finally saw Eddie Vedder for the first time. My wife and I were in the front yard, helplessly pulling weeds, and he came around he corner on his bicycle, with his daughter close behind. It’s a steep hill, and he was giving her the usual parental guidance: “stay on the brakes a little, take it easy.” They were going very slowly along, so I was able to ask, “how you guys doing?” He said, “hanging in there.” Then I noticed a dandelion that had somehow slipped my attention previously, and went after it with my little Japanese gardening thing-a-ma-bobber. Got it, root and all.

………

Clean as you go, Comrade Citizen!

 

The PVP Diaries #30

You’ve been benched.

…when suddenly from out the very heart of this plague, there stole a faint stream of perfume, which flowed through the tide of bad smells without being absorbed by it…”

— Melville, speaking (I think somewhat obviously) about me and my blog. In Moby Dick. In 1851.

………

THE PLAGUE:

Update 4-24

Gettin’ harder to die out there. I really don’t even have the energy to be glib about this right now. The numbers are reaching that disorienting point in their evolution when they won’t matter anymore. We’ll be asked not to get lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that nobody’s getting sick or dying, and before long you’ll hear things like “we can’t get too caught up in the numbers.”

THE BAD SMELLS:

 

Can't sit here

Aaaaaaand…tipping point officially reached:

No Seats
Alki Beach

I’ll try to get out there for my own picture tomorrow. Until then, I’ve stolen that one from the story at the West Seattle Blog, where the overwhelming majority of the comments are decidedly not in favor of this latest move. The broken bridge is doing a good deal to accelerate the anti-government gestalt here in town, as people are growing increasingly concerned about the post-lockdown transportation outlook. It isn’t universal, but there’s a probable majority of citizens in the camp that believes the bridge’s woes are the direct result of negligence and incompetence on the part of public officials. For this camp, people must lose their jobs ASAP, and the city government is the white whale that has taken the community’s collective leg. We’ll see how the hunt culminates in the next round of elections.

Meanwhile, the government doesn’t seem to realize how effectively they’re shortening the lifespan of the lockdown with moves like sabotaged park benches. This kind of crap is going to force a necessary capitulation and a far less graceful “easing” of restrictions than the government envisions (if they envision it at all). I actually kind of appreciate this – life will be back to normal sooner this way.

THE PERFUME:

it is now Friday morning, and I woke to realize that I failed to prep the coffee. I did clean the equipment last night, but then I falsely assumed that there was ground coffee remaining in the pantry. I was wrong, and at 6:00 AM I was not about to fire up the grinder. I ran my trembling hands through the tea section of the pantry instead, willing to go that less favorable route in an emergency like this, when lo! but I beheld a jar of Trader Joe’s instant coffee. Like the Pequod’s mate Stubb, who knew that in the absence of spermaceti, an ancient whale may still be mined for its fragrant ambergris, I, too, settled for and yet savored the less golden nectar. And I didn’t have to fool a Frenchman to do it.

A while back, before all this madness, I read The Pearl alongside my daughter, as she had to do it for her 6th grade English class. I was able to discuss it with her (those BIG METAPHORS, haha), and help her with the assignments she was given. These interactions were often met with a frustrated sigh, as she loves me but is happy to demonstrate how annoying I can be to her. Yesterday she came downstairs carrying a copy of Animal Farm, set it on the table next to the chair where I spend 90% of my quaran-time, and said “I only have to read the first two chapters by Monday.” By this I am to understand that I have received my orders.

For posterity, notes about me: My hair is the longest it’s been in any recent memory. Possibly since before the Army. That isn’t saying much with this wispy nimbus that barely claims my scalp. These are no Samsonian locks! I can cut my own hair, and my wife could do it as well, but I figure that now’s as good a time as any to see what happens if I let it go, so there’s that. Also, I exercised yesterday for the first time since early January. Oh, there’s been yardwork and occasional walks, but my laziness has been monumental for months now, the ensuing lassitude has become oppressive, and I know that I have become someone about who(m? I never could get that one. Subject/object, etc.) people will look at and say “the lockdown has been hard on him.” Perhaps it has, and I’m just too stubborn to know it.

………

There is no “Homeless in Coronafornia” update today. Be thou not concerned! Honestly, these weeks of regular communication between me and my brother are the anomaly in the data. Over the years we’ve talked very sporadically. In part, I am contacting him more often than I normally would have. One reason is genuine concern – though he flat refuses to engage in any conversation about it, he is in a high risk population – poor diet, poor hygiene, and a body besieged by substance abuse for decades, living without decent shelter. I want to keep tabs on him now more than ever. He bristles, understandably, at any suggestion that he might be a member of a different population than the rest of us – a form of denial that insulates him from attempts at recovery, and therefore failure. It’s been such a long, exhausting series of ups that are only ups because they end in such crippling downs. I can’t even imagine.

Look before you sit, Comrade Citizen!

PVP Diaries #29

What? No pictures?

“You have to stop reading books with big grammar and metaphors and things. It makes you sound crazy when you talk.”

– My daughter, eating breakfast, listening to me saying something very earnest and wise, no doubt.

THE BIG GRAMMAR:

Update 4-23

Hmmm…more small numbers. Somebody must be asleep at the number-churner. When the deaths, as a percentage of positive test results, start to increase, people will no doubt wring their gloved hands mightily, without thinking very hard about it.

In order not to be lumped in by yesterday’s post with some group of science deniers (as if any such thing exists except as rhetorical phlegm to be hocked up in yard signs and tweets), I state unequivocally that science is just fine. It is (he said, urging care) neither good nor bad. It simply does things in order to see what conclusions arise, and whether those conclusions support the guesses that started things off in the first place. Science can take a very careful and precise course towards those conclusions, when care and precision are its goal. But when its goal is to influence populations, it becomes more a matter of, as Melville (through Ishmael) says, “the savour of analogical probability.” The ship of state always seeks the most favorable winds. All science is flawed, because it is performed by humans with agendas. In every case. Full. Effing. Stop.

THE METAPHORS AND THINGS:

It really is quiet in the morning, without much but the distant (and oft mentioned by me) drone of the ferry’s engine with its low, lethargic frequency. It’s the barely elevated breath of a giant, ceaselessly turning some mid-sized planet on his finger like a basketball, perfectly suited to the task. The small rain this morning is doing its thing, too — the gallery having just witnessed a decent shot from a bad lie just off the fairway rough, and issuing its reserved applause. I think my wife’s idea for an early walk yesterday is a winning one, and I ought to start making it habit.

It’s nice that the rain came to beat the pollen down a bit. I’m not a particularly allergic person, but I’ve been taking some Allegra for the past week or so in order to clear up the occasional gunk and stuffiness in the evenings. NO SYMPTOMS, NO VIRUS, I SWEAR IT. The rain’ll be mucking up the cars in the driveway, though, already besotted with the fetid dust as they are. After driving out to the Boy’s school Monday to pick up his homework kit, the awareness of other people’s eyes on my filthy, yellow vehicle motivated me to wash it (there’s something of the Sartre in there, hell is other people, etc). I washed my wife’s too. I dried them quickly in order to give less purchase to the pollen, but they’re both pretty well dusted and tinted already.

They’d be tucked safely away in the two-car garage if I wasn’t such a cliché of tools and workbenches, unused golf clubs and begrudgingly used Christmas lights, bicycles and bins. It’s a choice – I could sell or trash half of what I have in there and barely miss it, then fit both cars with a bit of room to spare. But I’m ok with it the way it is. I do have to suppress a slightly frustrated chuckle when my wife points to some object that we no longer need or want and says “we could just keep it in the garage for now.” I think it is often underestimated how much time is spent in (and in-and-out of) the garage for some of us. How much effort goes into its organization, and how we view it with every bit as much punctility  as we view the living room or bedroom; and would much,  much rather not just heap things in there willy-nilly. For one half of a marriage, the garage is a place where things can be put in order to be kept out of the way. For the other half, the garage is the way. No harm done, no ill-will here. Just the necessary deviation in cognizance that arises from differently distributed usage. The janitor, after all, sees a garbage can very differently than I do.

THE CRAZY:

At 8:00 Pm every day the ferry does its part in the salute to front-liners, however broadly we’re defining that these days, by letting loose with its horn. (among my many cynical conceits is an unwillingness to deify or lionize humans without rather extreme justification. I can appreciate effort and heightened professional utility, but the “hero” word has long passed the point of critical dilution). Just now the horn is coming from the M/V Cathlamet. It’s a Chinook word (Kathlamet) that means “stone,” which seems a rather obviously ill-given name for a boat. A kind of joke. But I do love that blast for some reason. It’s a sonorous assault that’s bigger than anything in sight, save Mt. Rainier. Three bellicose peals from the west of me, maybe four (I’ll think to count sometime), and then it’s done. By contrast, up the hill to my east, from somewhere behind the trees, comes the clattering racket of some demonstrative loon who is literally (literally) banging a ladle or spoon or similar against a steel pot. As if there is no other avenue of tribute available than the cacophonous blaspheming of a Spring night. There isn’t a nurse or grocery worker in the known world that wants you to subject your neighbors to that abuse in his or her honor. Put it away.

………

Grandma made masks. My mother in law. She’s a genius with a needle, sewing machine or not. Yesterday a package arrived with 5 masks of varying sizes, actually decent looking and very well put together. Very impressive. She’s made things and repaired things for us over the years – blankets, clothes, curtains, torn and bleeding stuffed animals, etc. It makes me realize what a genuine skill that is, and how much more valuable I would be, as a human being, if I had that ability.

She spent some time in a convent in her youth, but rebelled eventually, and later turned her family against the church. The story goes that one Sunday during mass, the priest said something bad about homosexuality, and she rounded up the kids and walked out. She is now, let us say, ungenerous towards Christianity. It’s slightly out of character for her, because she can be very expansive and open, intellectually, while maintaining her own rigid ideology. Which, frankly, is not a bad way to be described.

Several years ago I went to one of the Catholic churches in town, aiming to reaffirm my faith (or abandon it, if that proved necessary). After a handful of meetings with the leaders of that particular congregation (brilliant people, PhD’s, etc.), and some weighty suggested readings (not to mention one liberating Confession, after which the spiritual lightness I felt was near miracle-level), I couldn’t believe how socially and politically accommodating they were trying to be. I think the secular left is completely unaware of how hard the church is working to appease them. And I know that for a lot of Catholics, that’s a Very Bad Thing. I get that. I don’t know what good any religion is if it doesn’t adhere to some very challenging principles, and I’m always a little saddened when I see rigidity slackened. But give we all must, at times, especially if charity is one of our guiding tenets.

That was unexpected. I wonder if the plague has created many converts. Oh man, now I want to watch The Ten Commandments again.

………

The rain really picked up as the day went on. Nothing Biblical, or anything, just steady. I was worried that the kids might go without their daily 11:30 recess, but that was a wasted concern. They went out just the same and spent an hour in impervious merrymaking (Merrymaking? Really, great grandpa? Were you in the Civil War, too Andy?). The usual parental concern of “catching your death of cold out there,” and the weird admonitions I remember from childhood about going around with wet hair, have vanished with the omnipresent threat of The Leveler of Civilizations in the air. But of course now if one of them gets the sniffles, we’ll be terrified.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update is scant, if not completely absent. We’ve been missing each other – responding to each other too far apart to be of any use. We used to joke, as kids in the days of telephones ringing on the walls and side tables, about how our dad would pick up the phone and say not “hello,’ but “yellow.” Querying tone, with the accent strongly on the second syllable: “yell- oh?” So yesterday, with several hours between responses, this exchange occurred (he started it):

“Yellow?”
“Blue.”
“Pink, watsup?”
“Purple, catsup?”

There, aren’t you glad you came today? Two (semi)grown men in our forties, and that’s what we do. Now go ahead and start your catsup/ketchup debate.

Make better music, Comrade Citizen!

PVP Diaries #28

On Governing the Shark

“You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned.”

– The 90 year old cook, on the Pequod. Moby Dick.

DE GOBERNOR:

Update 4-22

Gobern dat, Jay. He did come on and do some governing yesterday, announcing an incredibly vague and non-committal approach to ending the shutdown:

The return to public life will occur in measured steps, guided by science, and informed by our public health needs, ability to mitigate impacts, and the response of our communities.

Here’s a sexy little poster, soon to be seen in all the windows of all the businesses in the state (if they ever let us visit them again):

Recovery Poster

Yes, it is a whole lot of nothing, except that it’s a shift in the narrative. Momentum dictates everything in human life. If there’s a sense of things going in one direction, it is nearly impossible to abruptly stop, much less head in another direction. Here in the United States, think civil rights. That didn’t happen over a few short years of MLK marching around in protests and writing a single letter from jail. There were decades of movements and constitutional amendments involved in that success. Or think of feminism and gay rights, climate change. Movements that, by all evidence, have seen their apotheoses, but are completely unable to slow their momentum and show no signs whatsoever of stopping. Governments especially are preternaturally poor direction-changers, so it’s heartening to see this control over the tone, mood, and momentum of the language of the plague here in Washington. The “plan,” as it is, doesn’t include much action or specificity, but it turns the conversation into one of recovery instead of perpetual malaise, and it’s the snowflake that becomes, eventually, a snowman. I think that tone control has been a strength of Inslee’s handling of the crisis from the beginning – in an earlier entry I lauded his refusal to use the term “shelter-in-place” when everyone else was screaming it through mouthfuls of chewed fingernails.

DE SHARK:

I get annoyed at the way the word “science” is used. If you replaced it with the word “faith,” the masses would lose their minds. But it’s the same thing. What percentage of people out there have any direct involvement in any kind of science? Like 2? 5%, maybe? In fact, there’s millions upon millions of people who know a heck of a lot more about faith and about God than there are people who know anything about science, but we sit back and proclaim its infallibility like a good little flock of believers, without ever seeing any of it except what doesn’t wind up in the trash can at the lab. And nobody seems to think about the fact that whenever a scientist comes out and proclaims with confidence that condition A is true, there’s another scientist out there proclaiming that, in fact, it is B that’s true. But when B isn’t politically, socially expedient, that good old peer review process steps in to show him his seat at the back of the theater. The scientific community is as subject to corruption, money, and politics as any other organization anywhere. But the faith of the masses in the magic of the lab frock is unassailable.

The science isn’t settled – your opinion is.

DE ANGELS:

I lost it a little yesterday. I was sweeping the kitchen floor while worrying that I was coming up short in the homeschooling of the Boy, after making everyone’s breakfast and doing the myriad menial things. The broom came across the Boy’s shoes, six or so feet past the line they’re supposed to cross near the door – the place where the tile transitions to wood – and that was the proverbial, unpredictable, perfectly insignificant last straw. With an uncontrolled kick I sent one of the shoes across the house while exclaiming in a violent whisper: “fucking SHOES!” The Boy looked up from his cursive practice with a freaked out expression that I don’t remember ever seeing on him before (I never swear around them). I left the room for a minute, came back, and pulled up a chair right next to him to apologize. Without looking up from his workbook he put an arm around my shoulders (he’s kind of an old soul sometimes) and said, “That’s ok, father-” (he calls me father, for some reason. I never asked it of him, that’s for sure) “That’s ok, father. We all get to have a bad time sometimes.”

Yes, we do. We most certainly do. He does, too. The group of kids that have been playing together on our not-so-dead-end street are well into the time when they need someone else to play with. They’re on each other’s nerves a bit more often, and I had to mediate another absurd falling out between the Boy and the neighbor boy. The stand-off concerned the Silver Surfer. Nothing of substance along the lines of any classic debates that might interest the comic book fans out there, just the neighbor talking about the Silver Surfer, and my Boy telling him that it was useless information, so please stop talking about it. The neighbor kept talking about it, my Boy kept becoming more and more irrationally angry, and the threats started flying. I sometimes get impatient and slip by saying something like, “Arguing about the Silver is Silver is something that stupid people who hate each other would do, and I don’t think you want to be known as stupid people who hate each other.” I might have said that yesterday, but it was a long day, and as my son said earlier in the morning, we all get to have a bad time sometimes. I have no real uber-dad strategies for these situations, except 1. defend my son and fall, generally, on his side while not neglecting to see where he’s at fault, and 2. Not believe one single word of the “he said, she said” lies that start flying when they start talking. Not from the neighbor kids (or parents, because we’re all just as bad), not from my own kids, not from the politicians, not from the pundits, and not from the scientists. Where was I? Oh yeah – five minutes later It was as if nothing had ever happened. They were sharing Cheetos and doing just fine.

My wife came down a few minutes ago, about 7:00, and said, “It looks like a beautiful morning, I’m going to go for a walk.” I should have gone with her, but I’m pretty comfortable here:

Nook

She bought me that chair as a birthday present, probably ten years ago now. That’s a forever chair.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update is a bit scant today:

Right here, skipp

I checked in, he responded with that message just after I went to bed, and here we are.

I made a new page here, by the way. It’s up at the top, and all the Perfect Vision Plague Diaries are located there now, along with any intermittent and related posts.

Govern the shark, Comrade Citizen!

 

 

The PVP Diaries #27

It’s a game of viral denial

It took me a bit to get going this morning – kids, pancakes, etc.

Update 4-21

At this point I’m just putting the numbers up for posterity.

I remember being very young and learning from my mom how to crack eggs into a pan without breaking the yolks. I slowed and focused, tapped the shell against the edge of the skillet, got my thumbs into just the right spots, and with all the precision I could muster, I tried very slowly to pull the two halves apart. The shell resisted, and I dug my thumbs in a little more and pulled with a little more insistence. Suddenly, the whole thing caved and the broken yolk pooled with bits of shell in the hot pan. My mom said, “sometimes, it’s possible to be too careful.”

I say that in case, you know, the governor is reading here.

I didn’t take any pictures of anything yesterday, except this:

Signs

I was driving along Alki beach after picking up the Boy’s homework kit for the week. It was another one of these droll, sunny, gorgeous mornings on the water, about 8:15 AM at this point. The sign was the government – an admonishment to “keep it moving,” and two other messages that I can’t remember. I believe two things right now that are working hard against each other:

  1. The pandemic is real and significant.
  2.  The more physical presence the government has in my life, the less I believe anything they’re saying.

Think about how hard a child digs in when his lie is about to be discovered. He’s laid back if nobody’s asking questions, but as his position slips he gets frantic and demonstrative. That’s my definition of government:

A child perpetually on the brink of having his lie exposed.

And, just like a child, the pantomime drags on indefinitely, even after the deception is well and truly in the open. We’re all soft parents to our bad government child, as well. We keep giving it ice cream after threatening to take it away, no matter what they do wrong.  Then we come on the internet and we’re all “That’s the last straw! I’m not gonna take it anymore. I’m keeping my freezer stocked and my guns loaded!”

In their macabre, joyful nihilism the left wants the glorious government to lead us towards a neatly regulated catastrophe, replete with civil institutions that tried hard but couldn’t handle the death toll. The right’s grandiloquent, showy independence itches for a chaotic decline to anarchy and mass graves where intelligent skeptics fight off hungry looters and impotent government agents, using an arsenal of legally permitted guns. Both sides are eager for an apocalypse in which they can claim a part for good social media posts and a red hot reddit thread; they just disagree on how to get there and what it should look like.

All I know is that every week here sees an increase in the signage and messaging from the state and city governments, not to mention new restrictions, and that really quivers the needle on my BS detector. My tendency is towards skepticism anyway, especially where the government or popular opinion are concerned. When those two align I just have to smile, shake my head a little, and get back to digging out the hill in the back yard.

Of course the thing I’m most skeptical of is my skepticism. It comes on reflexively and feels mighty comfortable, and that’s a dangerous combination.

………

Look the Coronavirus deeply, searchingly, lovingly in the eye and sing it this song:

 

I never thought the day would come when I
Would be the poison in the pen I use to write
You said you were alone in somewhat of a nervous tone
I guess it was the blank look on your face that was easy to replace

So then I went and drank myself into an idiot all through the night
Recounting all my paranoid and selfish thoughts but I was right

I made a space for you inside my soul
And let my feelings kill the part that I control
So part of you was me, neglectful maybe cold it seemed
Despite having the wounds we both imbibe, the scars are
Somewhere we can’t hide

I then stayed up for two more years just thinking of the sacrifice you made
Indifferent to the reason so apparent in the pain
I polished off another drink and taught myself to numb and drift away
For one more night so I could justify the day

So now I entertain the thought of going on all alone
But you are all the life I’ve ever known

I swear one day I’ll get it back something that is already dead and gone
Again i see the trumpet player looking for his song
Don’t worry I won’t follow you, that part of me is learning to let go
What was a space is like a cancer in my soul

………

I have no “Homeless in Coronafornia” update today. That’s more my fault than anything. It’s been a busy, exhausting few days, and I just didn’t reach out. These things happen.

Straight to bed with no dessert, Comrade Citizen!

 

The PVP Diaries #26

It’s only a scratch

There’s not a lot to report on the neighborhood front. The virus was like this yesterday:

Update 4-20

Six is nice. Saturday was 11, so I had to roll my eyes and still grimace a bit uneasily at the double digits. That’s my metric, for some reason. The parks were open this weekend, too, though the parking lots are still closed, and there were mounted police (yup, we have those here in West Seattle) at the beach. Apparently the new trend is something along the lines of “keep it moving.” Lots of signs with the condescending and parental-sounding “this is what six feet looks like,” plus encouragement to exercise at home, which was spelled “excercise.” My confidence runs low. They don’t want groups gathering, stationary, hanging out, etc. All I can think of is the signs along the shoulder on the highway that say “No Stopping or Standing.” When I was a kid we’d whip past those in our big van with the couch that converted to a bed, on the way to Wisconsin Dells or Myrtle Beach, and they always confused me: aren’t you already stopped if you’re standing?

Our not-so-dead-end street gathered, stationary, hanging out last night for a happy hour in the sun at 5:00. Kids have a way of increasing their numbers in the imagination – the 8 of them that were running around out there, aged 1 – 12, seemed like a mad pack of at least  12. Bikes and trikes whipping and weaving around the camp chairs, frisbees flying, balls bouncing. Eventually a game of laser tag broke out. “Stop covering your sensor!” “I’m not!” “You are, you’re going like this!” War is always ugly.

We dug amazing amounts of dirt from one place in the yard and moved it to another, for a patio we’re going to put in. Here’s a little “before,” for tracking purposes:

Patio Before

We’re digging out the hill behind the wagon. A wagon which is wholly unnecessary and obnoxious, but I was wooed by its gimmickry when I went in search of a wheelbarrow (not wheelbarrell, in case you’re one of those people), and I came home with that. I’ve certainly put it to significant use over the last couple of years, but it doesn’t store well, and it’s always in the way when it isn’t in use. A wheelbarrow could just be propped against the wall or hung up. This thing lurks.

It’s a little difficult to get going this morning. Sleep was good, and the coffee’s better. My wife had to get up abusively early, so I slept elsewhere and she started the pot before I got up. I’ve said that there’s nothing better than breezing by the coffee maker in the morning and just switching it on, but that’s not exactly true. It’s better when you’ve woken up to find out some else already has.

She’s been swinging for the fences and easily clearing the wall for 13 years now. I made a somewhat elevated meal for a late anniversary dinner on Friday night – some high level steaks that came packed in dry ice. I cooked them over charcoal and was reminded of how much more flavor comes out that way, as opposed to the gas grill. But the dry ice – my daughter asked me to “pour some into this bowl of soapy water:

Dry ice

I love having kids, I would have just thrown it away.

Saturday morning there were scones waiting for me (and coffee, natch) when I woke up. Some sort of (very worthy) answer to the anniversary steaks and grilled broccoli of the night before:

Scones
Four for the kids, four for the (older) kids.

We ate every one of them before getting up from the table.

………

Sprung Broke is over, we’re back on our heads. The boy’s school sent an email yesterday saying something about “the bags you are returning to school.” I cannot remember any indication that we have anything to return to school. But the whole conversion to remote learning has been touch and go, and they’ve done a good enough job so far that I have no interest in registering this as being worthy of complaint. I’ll pack up some of the stuff he’s been working on and take it in when I go pick up his new learning kit for this week. If it isn’t right, oh well.

Look, for the record, I’m not wearing a mask. I just, I don’t know. I can’t get to a place, intellectually, were the absurdity of it is eclipsed by necessity. Maybe that makes me bad.

………

Your “homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

It’s busy
Apparently no one cares about viruses now we are all
hugging and shaking hands it’s great

He played a scratch ticket, won $5, and was faced with the world’s oldest dilemma: Take the cash, or get another ticket? Imagine your life, if that choice actually carried legitimate weight. If risking that five bucks on another ticket was the difference between some food, and heading back to the busy intersection with your “anything helps” sign. Then imagine some mayor or governor telling you to wear a mask when you’re at the beach.

Dig for your food, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #25

Fundamental, elemental, sentimental

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus.

“So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and seasons for that.”

– Melville, Moby Dick

PASSION:

Starting this weekend, Seattle will close portions of two neighborhood greenways to through traffic so people can bike and walk in the road, we’re calling them Stay Healthy Streets.

(I’m not sure about that second comma, guys) They must have heard me say that I wasn’t worried about totalitarianism. “We’ll show him.” There isn’t a grocery store anywhere near the route they’re closing down, ostensibly “To support safe social distancing while exercising or walking, rolling, biking to grocery stores or food pick-up…”

Yeah, it’s kind of an unused route that doesn’t see much traffic from anyone except the local residents, but a land grab’s a friggin’ land grab, and a power trip’s a friggin’ power trip. Besides, this virus has made the single occupancy vehicle the safest mode of transportation available, and now they want to keep us from using it.

VANITY:

After an initial evaluation, we are aiming to convert approximately 15 miles to Stay Healthy Streets in the coming weeks.

In the coming weeksThey’re simply not even considering an end to this. And while I’m no doomsayer, no conspiracy theorist, this is precisely the kind of “temporary” measure that finds a way to stick around after it’s supposed to go away.

Anyway…

Update 4-16

Another day in the single digits. So the Mayor’s gonna be looking hard and fast for more things to shut down and strangle before the party is over. In fact, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t use success as a reason to clamp down even more. “We’re doing so well already, more restrictions will obviously be even better!” These people have never felt more important, more needed, and they’re going to clamber for purchase on this greased pole for as long as they can.

………

THE MAGNANIMOUS EARTH:

The girl and I made cinnamon rolls today that were dry, but nice, and packed so full of sugar and butter that they couldn’t help but be delicious. I hid one away for tomorrow’s breakfast. Later she and I pulled a small table to the end of the driveway and played cards. The sun was on us, we played war. It was a solid half hour at least of forgetfulness and joy, utterly unaffected affection. I had no fatherly lessons for her, nothing for her to clean or to think about. Just light competition over the simplest of games. She’s brilliant and electric.

She’s at the neighbor’s house right now, in the backyard. I know because we just received a text from the mom over there, containing a short clip of the kids playing “the ground is lava;” balancing on swings, a slide, and in one case, a soccer ball. We’ve just coordinated her return – 9:15, which puts a bit of a twitch in my rather old-fashioned parent instinct, but this is Sprung Broke, after all, and there’s no governor here to tell them that the lava isn’t real and the slide is off-limits.

There’s been a couple of birds flirting with me out here on the porch. It’s 8:20 PM. Juncos or bushtits – tiny little things. Perching between the rails in front of me, hopping about. They just flew past my legs and I could feel them.

 

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

The Joneses

People go to great lengths just to spend a weekend like that. He gets to do it all the time.

Drive through the barricades, Comrade Citizen!