The PVP Diaries #24

Update 4-15

Don’t even think about hitting the double digits tomorrow. That supple little ‘4’ from the other day had a sexy swagger to it, dontcha think?

Now…this:

We laugh, right? No, wait, this is definitely a crying situation. Or we cry while we’re laughing:

If repair is possible, under a “best case” scenario we do not anticipate the bridge reopening in 2020 or 2021.

Two years, minimum, without the bridge. I think it’s fair to set the over/under at about three years – say, opening July 2023. I’ll be the optimist and take the under. What say you? Look, I don’t leave West Seattle very often anyway, and almost never via the bridge. Most of my off-peninsula obligations lay to the south (and it’s pretty much all soccer). But this means that going south is going to be murder, because there is really only one viable route over to the city side of things, and it’s a series of very small roads – one lane each direction – with poor signal control and pretty much no room. But anyway, without going on for too long about it, things are going to be absolute madness when the lockdown lifts and everyone starts going back to work. I can’t wait to see the views from the traffic helicopters on the first full-commute morning without the bridge.

NopeMap

You can, perhaps, see where there might be a bit of a problem. That West Seattle Bridge has (oops, had, haha) anywhere from 4 to 7 lanes total for traffic, depending on what segment you’re on, including a bus only lane. If you look at the map there, on the lower left is the Fauntleroy-Southworth-Vashon ferry terminal. That’s where I live. Fauntleroy Way is going to suddenly see a comical amount of traffic twice a day. And it’s not just the commute, is it? That bridge is (was, Andy, was) full of cars any time of day, so it’s staggering to think how the bulk, the weight, the mass of traffic is now going to be worn by this body of land.

The car haters are, of course, loving this little Pyrrhic Victory. I could go on, but I don’t have the energy to pick apart the absurdities in their sweeping, presumptuous statements about how absolutely everyone should be biking or busing. 427 comments on the post at the West Seattle Blog as of this writing. It won’t stop soon. Most of them are calling for public hangings to be resumed, because of course every time you fire a public official, a new piece of modern infrastructure pops up just where you need it. Some of the rest of the commenters are gloating over the coming carpocalypse. Just a few saying “well, this sucks, but at least I didn’t plummet to my death from a collapsing bridge.” Whatever’s left is just one person saying sarcastically to another “I can’t wait to hear where you got your engineering degree.” Overall, it’s a level of dysfunction that baffles me.

………

I’ve started and stopped a few different concluding moves here, but couldn’t settle on anything. Sometimes – maybe it’s conscience, maybe it’s vanity, maybe it’s just the critical hiss of tires on a distant road – but something sometimes stays the hand while still letting it stumble on in an impotent Parkinsonian pantomime. Soundless fury – significance hunting.

I was going to say something about
the love we have for our part in a tragedy.

How it’s as if we’re giddily collecting material for our deathbed soliloquies, thrilled at the prospect of mining unearned respect
from stories of exaggerated woe

As We Lay Dying.

We mark them –
the pities,
this plague –

and it’s this marking that fuels our gruesome conceit.

Don’t let me lay dying and recall for posterity the Spring I never left home.

………

In an effort to wrap it up tonight, I went to look at naïve haircuts. I don’t have a name for the poet who runs the place, but the poems are always striking and unique. And in the world of poetry, let me just tell you, uniqueness is rarer than whale oil, and harder to harverst. The most recent post mentioned a song, so of course I had to listen to it, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t hit the right spot for me out here on the porch in the slowsprung dark of Wednesday night in April. The wind is light – my god so light that I move my cheek against it like a cat. There is no plague. Nothing is sick. A bashful car drives by slightly sideways with its eyes lowered. I can hear the raccoons coming out from behind the house.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

I just found a fifty on the ground
Hallelujah
Laundry time!

How wonderful for him. That’s gotta feel so good. But he also said that the Domino’s he walks by several times a day has just shut down because an employee tested positive. He swears up and down that he had the virus 2 weeks ago. No way to know for sure.

That’s not what “unabridged” means, Comrade Citizen!—

The PVP Diaries #23

Update 4-14

The numbers are staying low. I’m pretty easygoing, but I figure I’m about 5 days away – a week tops – from getting annoyed. I’m bored. I’m just about done putting up with everyone’s fear of looking like they didn’t do enough. The National Guard has officially arrived in West Seattle, and that’s just ridiculous. The shark is in position, and the Fonz is fast approaching the ramp. They’re helping pass out food at the West Seattle Food bank. All we needed was for mom to bring us some soup and saltines, but we’ve been getting chemotherapy for a month instead. “Just to be sure,” they keep telling us. “We’re not out of the woods just because the numbers have gone down.” Yes, we are. Yes, we exactly are because of exactly that. THAT’S WHAT THE NUMBERS ARE FOR. Their validity isn’t limited to occasions when they support your prejudices and prolong your stranglehold. I’m tired of hearing people talk as though we still have a long way to go. As though this is just the beginning. I find that highly destructive and defeating. It’s like a global self-pity party. “There could easily be another spike!” Another? There wasn’t a first one. I’m tired of that attitude, of that mindset. It’s failure. Especially because you can tell how much people like having it. What I really sense from people more than anything – the feeling I get from the media and the politicians and the hoi polloi – is that the end of this “crisis” will be very, very disappointing to them. A let down. Millions upon millions of people will suddenly not know what to act deeply concerned about when talking to neighbors and posting on Facebook. The armchair epidemiologists that I mentioned back in entry #6 will have to find some other way to scold people. The entire world’s opportunity to elicit each other’s pity over a global 15 minutes of pain will have passed, and they’ll have to start rooting around like truffle hogs for the next human tragedy to covet. And they’re all hoping that the next one is a little more local, a little more personal, so they don’t have to share it this time. Another terrorist attack or mass shooting will be just what the doctor ordered after the civilized world trudges through a few long weeks of abhorrent peace and ease, on its way to wondering why in the hell we even have a media anymore.

I may not be a full-on Coronacaust denier just yet, but I say unapologetically that I am so very, very tired of being afraid of my fellow citizens. Not because we might make each other sick, but because we might turn each other in.

We didn’t catch the flu – we caught communism.

So buck up, world. We may not be able to make the Coronavirus last forever, but we’ll replace it with some new hell to celebrate soon enough.

………

Was I saying something? Isn’t this supposed to be about

…the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus?

Sure. Here: We recreated a famous painting for The Boy’s art class. It’s not “Mona Lisa” famous, but it gets some pretty good mileage nonetheless.

IMG-3389

First one to identify the painting in the comments will be the first one to identify the painting in the comments. Congratulations. It was a little rushed, because the garbage truck was barreling down the street towards us, but overall I think it’s a nice bit of work. Especially the blood.

I read more Moby Dick. It’s odd – I didn’t expect half of it to be a sort of field manual of cetology. Whole chapters where, let’s face it, the story’s more or less shelved and Melville’s just purging himself of the leviathan mass of research he put into the novel. And it has that 19th century American knack for verbosity (I’m looking at you, Hawthorne)  that drives me a little nuts, but once I get into the rhythm it all rides on rails greased with spermaceti.

Unrelated – My wife stopped suddenly in the middle of hurriedly topping off her coffee in between meetings this morning to say “oh yeah, happy anniversary.” It’s been 13 years. Good ones. I made tacos for dinner.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Hey you are messing up my
heist here I’ll talk later
gotta make money
No sorry, hustle not heist

He was at the Circle K, doing his thing, I asked him about the social immunity thing, after he said that “they came up with no gatherings of 3 or more people” as a response to the homeless damaging the place that was set up for them. I didn’t read his mood well, though, and he got pretty upset about it, pretty resentful. He’s been a Coronavirus skeptic from the start, and none of this is sitting well with him. Even the socially immune are subject to the stresses of a pervasive environment of increased tension. Not to mention the ubiquitous suspicion to which they are always subject, and its amplification during this time of (hey it’s totally not) martial law (yet).

Leave your house, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #22

Let’s try it like this:

Update 4-13

Over the last 3 days, the new deaths have been 7, 8, and 4. I’m sure Thursday will have some number in the teens, just to frustrate Olympia. King County’s making all the noise on this, anyway. I’m sure the rest of the state would like to just encourage an avalanche to cover the road at Snoqualmie Pass, sink a ferry or two, definitely blow that Tacoma Narrows bridge, hit I-5 just south of Everett, and leave us to stew in our own viral juices. Which of course would wind up not amounting to much. But it would be pretty dismally predictable for Washington, and the West coast in general, to blame the victims while exonerating the attackers (see: every crime, ever, not carried out by a white man) in China.

I have never been to China, and I have never studied it, but I don’t have to hear the word  ‘wet market’ more than once to start assuming ghastly things. And I used to watch enough of those “irreverent-western-traveler-foodie-goes-to-Asian-nations-to-eat-weird-crap” shows to know that there are dietary peculiarities in China that I want nothing to do with. I certainly saw some things in the souks in Morocco to make me put up a little cross with my fingers and hug the walls as I passed:

Mofish

And this is pretty tame. But no ice in sight on a 90-something degree day in Fes. And the flies were like Amityville, but the old meat on my bones wasn’t rotting as much as the stuff in the stalls, so they left me alone.

FLies

Anyway, China, maybe start thinking about not eating bats and dogs and shark fins and bird nests anymore. And also the communism: If you had to choose one thing to stop doing today, make it that. You’ll thank me later.

………

And things were going so well:

Today, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced an agreement on a shared vision for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.

That’s the least reassuring news I’ve encountered since I first heard the word Wuhan. Probably – I’m no economist now, but probably – the best thing these three can do is say “all clear,” and then just stay the hell out of the way. But they’re already itching to cement their legacies in the regrowth of the region. It’ll be like the equipment manager from the winning team getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup, except the equipment manager actually had a role in the victory.

………

It’s not easy posting music from a band/artist that you don’t know well. I’ve never been much of a fan of Pearl Jam, at least not since their first album back when I was in high school. But then my girlfriend became a little to obsessed with the lead singer, and that was very off-putting. Anyway, the music’s just never hit me in quite the right spot. But Eddie Vedder’s my neighbor now. His house (one of them, anyway, his “permanent residence”) is up the hill from me. I can catch a little glimpse of part of it between my neighbors houses, and past some very tall, very old Western Red Cedars. You’ll make certain income assumptions about living so close to someone so famous, but rest easy knowing that we and the Vedders occupy different financial galaxies entirely. He just found a beautiful place to buy a few parcels of land next to each other and build a modest compound (he’s no Bill Gates), and Bob’s yer uncle. I’ve never met him. I’m told he’s very short. My point is that last night at about 8:15 I was reading on the porch when I heard something odd through my headphones, so I took them off to listen. Sure enough, it was Eddie up there, singing away into a microphone and playing some music. Given the time, and the fact that I caught it already in progress, it may have been a salute to first responders/front liners. Apparently making noise at 8:00 every night is a way to do that. I’ve heard people banging pots and pans off in the distance a few times recently,  and I guess if you’re Eddie Vedder maybe you dust off a keyboard or a guitar, plug a couple of things in, and crank it to 11 for a few minutes.

It didn’t last long, and I don’t know what song he was playing, but it was honestly a pretty nice moment. I texted my wife to come out, and we sat and listened there as the light went out of the sky a little bit, and some neighbor somewhere in the quarantevening gave an enthusiastic “woo-hoo!” at the close of the song.

I should have yelled for him to play Free Bird.

So, Pearl Jam. And I’ll ease my anxiety by pairing them up with an old friend, and a song you just heard a few days ago. Not my best moment here in the PVP Diaries, but this is the wet market version of blogging:

I do a pretty solid, and I think very funny, Eddie Vedder impersonation. I’ve promised my family that if I ever meet him I’m gonna do it. The girls are aghast, and the boy can’t wait.

………

The weather continues to be great (sorry for those of you seeing the rough stuff right now). Day one of Sprung Broke was ok. A lot of time outside, but still too much of the screens for the kids. Just about time to set ’em all up again, and see what we can knock down.

There is no “Homeless in Coronafornia” update today. As ever, read nothing into that. Could be a lost/stolen phone, lack of wifi access, who knows. We’ll catch up to him again soon.

Ah! Eleventh hour check-in! Minutes before I publish and he chimes in with:

Spectacular
It’s Tuesday
You’ve got the virus don’t you?

Sarcastic on the ‘spectacular?’ Maybe. But I think probably not. Happy Tuesday.

Don’t Jam your Pearl, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #21

KC Public Health News and Blog
KC COVID-19 Data Dashboard

They’re reporting things a little differently now, releasing the data only on MWF. But the data dashboard is still populating. I’ll keep links to my go-to pages at the top. Saturday saw 7 new deaths, and Sunday just 8. These are more comfortable numbers. We’ll see if it’s a trend.

My only bold prediction about the end of this whole ordeal is this: pick any government figure across the globe – governor, mayor, president, chief – and that person will receive roughly equal measures of condemnation and praise for actions taken to minimize the damage. Each one will be either a hero or a horror, depending on who you ask (and they won’t wait to be asked).

………

This week we Spring break under quarantine for the first time ever. This’ll be a challenge. Anyone knows you can sit a kid in front of a screen and not be bothered all day, but that’s obviously not the solution we’re looking for. Our daughter will gladly watch dog videos on her phone for a week straight, but again: nope. The prime directive of parenting when the kids are still very young (at 12 my daughter’s pretty much out of that category) is this: Remember you are a parent first. And also second through fifth. And this isn’t because of noble notions of self-sacrifice for the all-important children of the world. It’s just because the quickest way to become frustrated, angry, and miserable, and to have a very bad time of things, is to expect that those high priority personal things that you want to do, can actually get done. You’ll be able to visit them throughout the day, sure. But if your disposition isn’t given over to the fact that at least one kid is going to come to you at every moment you least want them to, then you and they both are in for a very bad day.

The weather will be good, but we can’t go far. The 7 kids on our dead-end street will be tired of each other and getting rather catty by Tuesday, I think. But kids have memories shorter than their attention spans, so it’ll be a roller coaster.

Speaking of cats, this is for all you cat lovers out there:

Ask the things you shouldn’t miss
Tape-hiss and the Modern Man
The Cold War and Card Catalogs
To come and join us if they can

My son has been wanting to venture out a little farther on his bike, being tired of doing small loops in front of our houses. Everything around us is a hill, though, and without directly saying it he only wants to ride on the flat stuff. So we shoot straight out of our little block, past the speed bumps that mark the boundary for all of the kids (beyond those it’s ‘here there be monsters’ territory, actual cars driving, no sidewalks, blind curves – the nightmares of the urban mom) and ride until we hit the curve in 45th Ave SW where things turn eastward and uphill very quickly. He stops there and turns back, afraid of the effort in that slope, and we cruise back to our driveway. It’s maybe a couple hundred yards each way. Now he’s asking if he can do it alone. Of course, yes, be careful and all that. Never forget where you are, etc. It’s easy and he’s fine, of course, but there’s the neighborhood politics of jealous children to think about. Because now even the 5 year old is asking why she can’t ride her bike out there, too. All I know is that I’d rather be under-protective than over, which is a nice and pretty  thing to say when all I really want, as a parent, is to get everything exactly right  the first time, every time. That can happen, right?

I actually worry sometimes that I’m too close with my Boy, but I also often feel like I’m his only advocate in the world.

He’s it, though, he’s one of them. He’s one of…

…the brutes, the boys,
the noise-born boys
whose shouts we shush –
stamp right out –

He’s gonna be the one who throws the stone in the water right next to your bobber, the one who punches the neighbor, the one who swears at the grown up. He’s taught me that it’s harder for some kids to learn the niceties, and they aren’t necessarily to be blamed for that. More importantly, neither am I. My God, he tries so hard. He knows there’s so many things he’s getting wrong, and he already feels separate from the other kids on the street, because he’s the one who’s always in trouble – the one the other kids get tired of. He’s too much for them. Too much for himself, for now. Too much even for me sometimes, but there’s no way in hell that I’m going to squash or suppress any of it that I don’t absolutely have to. There are bad parents, yes, but most bad kids have good enough parents who are trying all the right things, and simply have some rockier soil to till than others. And most bad kids aren’t bad kids, they’re just behaving badly for the moment. I remember, when I can, that bad behavior is fleeting – good souls are forever. I try to teach to the soul.

………

So here we roll into our COVID-19 Spring Break. I’ll be having leftover Easter breakfast this morning, because it looks like this (well, it did yesterday):

FTC

 

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia on Easter” update is a little dull. I asked him if he found any Easter eggs:

I did not
I almost forgot it was easter
Did you?

I did. Well, I always do. My whole life is an Easter egg. Sometimes the candy inside isn’t my favorite – maybe it’s malted milk balls or something butterscotch – but everything’s somebody’s favorite, so sharing is easy.

Let the boys scream, Comrade Citizen!—

Easter Respite

On March 11th I wrote a semi-prophetic first post about the plague. I remember that I wrote it while sitting in my favorite bakery for what would be one of the very last times until we don’t know when. For its title I took a line from the song in the post that says “I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” Yesterday I found it prophesied early in the pages of Moby Dick, as Captain Peleg says of Ahab that “In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t well either.” I like it when life shows persistence like that. It makes sense on Easter Sunday. Ahab also “lay like dead for three days and nights.” This according to Elijah — sometimes authors don’t make you work too hard for the meaning.

This is Easter. I would love to sound my soul for something beautiful and reverent, and to turn it out here for you. But I know where I am just now, and it is not there. I also know that I am not religious. I trust God and am respectful of holy things, but I am not religious. I don’t say this as a boast, neither as a confession. It is simply information, meaning to support me when I say that Easter doesn’t excite me for the devotion, or for the story, or for the faith. Though in many ways I wish it did. I wish Sunday mornings saw me in suits, and I wish the darkness above my bed was haunted by peace. It would be something, in the place of nothing.

I say too little when I try to mean too much.

The Pequod has only just got underway in my reading. The two erstwhile captains, Bildad and Peleg, have stayed on board as long as they could stand it. Readying the ship (perhaps more than is their duty) out of fealty to their investments in both money and history.  With some reluctance they have sailed back to port, leaving her in the hands of the as yet unseen Ahab. Green Ishmael boards with a cartload of philosophy; black Queequeg skips from capstan to capstan with his great harpoon and a small wooden idol.

I like to think that at a fresh 45 years old, my Pequod is similarly still in sight of land, though with a grand, blasted adventure still ahead. I have a mighty crew about me, indeed, and I don’t mind not knowing yet who among us steers, who commands, who merely toils, and who’ll be heaving the harpoons when we find us under siege. Who might give a leg, and more, and all, to the whale. Let’s make it me.

It’s Easter, and maybe the song below isn’t full of rejoicing and light. But it seems full of worry and respect and self-doubt, and the self-awareness to know that what we do wrong we do mostly out of fear. Out of confusion. It’s a good day to ask for help seeing a little more clearly.

 

My wife, who worries (understandably but incorrectly) that her job takes too much of her and that she isn’t mother enough, manged to cobble some goodies together for Easter baskets. She is always the one, not me, to cover the details: the Easter baskets and the Christmas stockings, the birthday cards and thank you’s. She manages, and she does it with the magic of the Good Woman – the magic that respects you far too much to trick you, but leaves you awed just the same. Every day she resurrects me. She spent much of last night with our daughter, preparing a French toast casserole for this morning’s breakfast. We will eat today, and expect a lot of sun, and I will cook with charcoal and woodsmoke, and, God willing, we will rest.

 

 

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #20

TWENTY!

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 4,117 confirmed positive cases (up 231* from yesterday)
  • 277 confirmed deaths (up 19 from yesterday)

19? C’mon, man, take a friggin’ break already. Also from the day’s release:

Preliminary data shows COVID-19 impacting all races and ethnicities.

The simple, informative tone and lack of any guilt-laden social commandments tells me that what this really means is that it’s mostly white people dying. Any other demographic and we’d be getting lectured on our culpability for pathogenic injustice.

(sometimes I’m comfiortable letting my pragmatic cynicism off its leash)

………

The milkman came yesterday. (are you done giggling yet?)  He’s been a boon during the quarantine – no need to run to the store for milk or eggs or butter, plus we can order lots of extras like bread and tortillas and eggnog. Yes, eggnog. It’s seasonal! Apparently Easter is an eggnog holiday. Anyone out there accustomed to that? It’s a new one on me, eggnog always only being a Christmas thing in my world. I’m open to it, though, and we got some. The Boy absolutely loves it.

He has chosen to write his story for school this week about what he will do first when the quarantine is lifted. It has led him to think about what he misses, and he’s in tears. It’s beautiful. He’s always worn his emotions like a skin of fire, unable to restrain any kind of feelings. I’m watching him from across the room now, pencil waggling back and forth across the page, wiping tears with the back of his non-writing hand, and breathing all those irregular, sudden breaths of the deep weep that’s ready to burst out. He’s really feeling it. I know him, so I know this will do him good, and he will come out of it feeling grand and magnanimous.

He’ll want to be good to people, especially the 3 and 5 year-old neighbors who he has been avoiding because they annoy him. They come to the door asking for him, wearing their little bike helmets and staring up at me like living stuffed animals: “Can we play with your son?” Seriously, that’s how they say it. Then they annoy me when I tell them he’s busy, because they follow up with the inevitable “why’s.” He’s doing schoolwork. “Why is he doing schoolwork?” Because he has to. He’s still in school and has assignments. “Why?” Because that’s the way it works. “Why?” I eventually get fed up (I know, don’t be so grumpy) and say something like “why do you keep asking me that?” or “why are you on my doorstep?” or just a solitary “why” without any context. They say “why,” I respond with my own “why,” and they just stare blankly at me for a few seconds, and then turn around and walk away. Kids don’t have time for your stupid games.

………

John K. Samson is fun story. His music is so good and his lyrics are such brilliant poetry that I forget I heard him first in a band named Propagandhi. He was the bassist. They were a noisy punk band whose politics I took a very, very long time to pay any attention to. At first I was just a doofus in high school who was getting a recalcitrant chuckle out of the irreverence of the lyrics, especially the anti-religious stuff. It was all kind of funny to me. Then I realized that saying those things, like F*** religion, over and over again, actually meant something. It isn’t a cast-off, slipshod sentiment that you toss out there and giggle. If you say it and mean it, then you get behind it. If you don’t mean it, you don’t say it, and when you hear it you stop listening. It was about that time that I realized I could be an atheist without constantly mocking and jeering religion and the religious. I found out that faith was valid, respectable, and dignified, even if I didn’t have any. It took several more years to realize that all of it – the mockery, the disdain, the bellicosity – came from a place of insecurity in me, and an inherent laziness that prevented me from investigating the validity of anything whose importance was easier to dismiss than assimilate.

That’s a heck of a digression. Back to John K. Samson. He left Propagandhi, formed a band called The Weakerthans, and of course did his solo thing. I’ve never read enough to know if there was the classic ideological falling out between him and the fanatics of the original band, but none of his work after that seethes with politics the way Propagandhi did. Just more poetry, and a helluva lot more fun. He’s Canadian, but don’t let that turn you off right away.

Spring made winter an insulting opening offer

………

Gerard, commenting on the last post, mentioned the “socially immune.” It reminded me of the army, when the whole “drop and give me 20” thing was called “getting smoked.” Believe me, sometimes those smoke sessions got very creative and lengthy and painful. But one soldier – he was a troublesome Private, disobedient and belligerent. As is the case with so many kids like that, if he respected you he would work his butt off for you and be your best ally in any fight. When I was a forward observer, I loved having him as my RTO in the field. Anyway, he had just been dropped by an NCO for some snide comment or another, and he immediately flopped to the ground like a dead seal. When the NCO asked him, somewhat impolitely, what the hell he was doing, he simply answered, “you can’t smoke a quitter, sergeant.” Truer words…

So the socially immune. The homeless are socially immune. They can get arrested, but okay yeah, whatever. Like the private in the story above, what’re you gonna do? A jail cell is an improvement at times. There’s no deterrent save their conscience, and only they can say what sort of a state that’s in. If my brother’s any kind of representative sample, a social conscience among the socially immune is the sort of thing that can be functionally muted when it needs to be. I imagine that in all but the most mentally diminished, the conscience can never be fully silenced, but it can be quieted to the point that it’s easily overtaken by the sound of a needle breaking skin.

Bringing us, predictably, to your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Mandatory mask which I shortly lost after I made it
aaaaand dead silent after sundown aaand homeless
people tearing up the library yard
I guess we have the ok to camp out there
and have another woodstock

That’s a very serendipitous report, given the above commentary on social immunity. You don’t want to say these things, but you don’t want to see them, either, and yet it’s impossible not to. So many efforts get made, especially in particularly stricken places like Seattle, to give the homeless some relief. Organization and stability. These small communities are set up by volunteers and good souls, little shelters built in unused areas so that the homeless can stay dry and warm and have a little bit of their struggle eased. A moment’s dignity in the day. But they tear them apart, time and again. I’ve asked my brother why there’s so much resistance to the help among the homeless. He’s not sure. He says there’s fear – of effort; of having expectations laid on them to do better, be better. Fear of the work and struggle it would take to break addictions and face, honestly, even for a short time, exactly who they’ve become.

There is the bristling skin of elementary social rebellion among the homeless, as well. But it’s reactive, not proactive. An illusory response to the sadness of their condition. They resent and jeer at the system and the rules and the strictures of our society.  Accuse us of being slaves, and pretending to prefer the freedom they enjoy, having broken away from the burdensome restrictions the rest of us live under. But of course that’s just defensiveness, the haughty donning of uncalled-for armor. A “mandatory mask,” if you will (which so much intellectualism boils down to, anyway).  The differences between us need to be made to seem like a desirable arrangement for them. But it’s all pretty silly and sophomoric in the end, like a high school student just discovering Noam Chomsky and convincing himself that he likes the taste of that barbed hook, once it’s in.

It’s ok to cry, Comrade Citizen! Jesus wept, too.

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #19

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,886 confirmed positive cases (up 198* from yesterday)
  • 258 confirmed deaths (up 14 from yesterday)

14 again? It seems like that number’s come up with suspicious frequency. But I just looked back over things and it only happened once or twice before. There’s been a 5, a 9, an 11, an 8. In other words there’s no need to dust off the tin foil hat just yet. Imagine that – people starting to accuse the government of cooking the numbers. I mean, I’m sure those people are out there already, but they’re like the people who still say “negro.” Alarming in a marginal way, but mostly with the feel of a stationary museum exhibit.

I’m on the porch with my wife right now – a beautiful evening. 7:00pm and looking at this:

Porch Spring

All the bike riding activity happens on the dead end street that’s off to the left of the street sign you can see on the left side of the picture. I can hear the littlest kids yelling and laughing. The light’ll be good for a long time yet.

School started strong this morning, and ended badly. The boy chose story revision for his first task, and it was a big one. He’s enthusiastic but a complete disaster when he really gets going, so it took some serious literary rodeo to corral his stampeding (one-page) novella. After that he just fought me on everything and the day really dragged on. Besides that, I’m tired as hell from a late night and early morning, so I was really looking for one of those neatly greased days that didn’t need much from me. It was not to be.

Later I let the pressure washer earn itself a vacation, scrubbing clean the deck and some very slimy rectangular walkway slabs. There isn’t much as satisfying as watching that jet of water take a few layers of crud off of old stone.

A car just pulled off the road out front and two guys got out to pee in the ivy and ferns. With the weather and the weird plague vibe, a couple of drunks stopping to pee somehow seems fitting, even though Spring break isn’t until next week. I wanted to be bothered by it, but they were definitely more than 6 feet apart, so whatever.

Honestly I’m a little spent for today’s entry. There’s a chance I’ll get up tomorrow in time to add something more meaty. For now, be it known that Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan (Boooo! or yaaaaay! depending on your daily whim) has announced the closure of all of the parks this weekend. I can’t wait to see how many people go anyway, and then read all the angry commenters accusing them of risking all of our lives for their sense of entitlement.  I’m not all-in on believing the closure is necessary, but if it’s what we’re doing, it’s what we’re doing (and no this isn’t me, stupidly and sheepishly agreeing to the removal of another liberty, on the way to looking at the totalitarian state around me and asking “how did we get here”). If you go to the park this weekend you aren’t being rebellious or exercising your individuality and freedom. You’re just being a dick. This isn’t that hard. Unless you’re being abused at home, and the park is one of your only refuges, in which case I really just don’t know what to say.

………

For reader/commenter Marica (and heck yes, the rest of you, too). There’s no lesson in it, nothing relating to current events. At least not intentionally. Just one of what I’m listening to at this place in the timeline:

We left our shoes under the ground
Tied yellow feathers to our arms
And learned the language of the aching mountain
I went out west to try to build a better version of myself
My iron tools got swallowed up by spirits

Maybe music’ll get regular here.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Well, it’s 12 hours later and I don’t have one. These things happen, and frankly I’ve been happy to hear from him pretty much every day for the last few weeks. That’s not exactly the norm. For my own part, I can report a brilliant night’s sleep. I had dreams about being in various long lines. In one I was with my whole family. Underground at a mall or some fun center for families/kids. My dad kept taking advantage of people who weren’t paying attention when the line moved, and cutting in front of them. It embarrassed the hell out of me, and I complained to my mom. But also, he was really making progress. Another part of the dream, or a whole new one, had me in a classic ruck march from the army days – just a long, spread out column of people marching under load. My pack was so heavy that I was staggering at first, but it gradually became easier to bear, until I realized that it had fallen off without my noticing. It was lying near the edge of a pond we were walking past, and when I went to get it I slipped and fell into the water. There were turtles and some of that odd dream stuff that I can’t clearly remember. I was stirring up the mud and it was a jet black cloud in the water. Ink. Maybe Moby Dick’s to blame in some way.

Anyway, great sleep. Out cold by about 9:30, no wake ups until 5:45 AM. That never happens – I’m an awful sleeper. And the coffee was, of course, prepped and ready to go with a push of the button, so Imma go pour that first cup. Enjoy your Friday!

Scrub the mosses, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #18

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

The usual place I pull these numbers from didn’t update, but the synopsis at the top of the page had the new numbers:

Public Health reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the official case count in King County to 3688. Fourteen new deaths were reported, bringing the total of COVID-19 deaths in King County to 244.

So…14 more deaths. Every day seems more and more sane and normal, more and more routine, more and more natural. Then you find out 14 more people died in one county in the past 24 hours and you thank God that it isn’t. Isn’t normal, isn’t natural. This is an anomaly, a bump, and it will pass.

………

My word, in yesterday’s entry I wrote “Robert Louis Stevens.” Must have been too early for those last two letters – coffee hadn’t kicked in.

………

It’s starting to feel like I’m telling you the same things over and over: Neighbors are good, bridge is closed, kids are studying, weather’s nice. We ran out of any functional amount of flour a while ago and haven’t been able to resupply. There’s none available on Amazon Fresh, and I’m not going to the store if I can help it. They haven’t had it any of the other times I went. So I haven’t made any new bread, and there hasn’t been pancakes for breakfast in a while. We’re good on eggs and sausages, though, and fruit and bread and butter and jelly, and I like those better than pancakes and waffles anyway.

I was reading 100 Years of Solitude for what felt like 100 years, and I can’t bring myself to finish it. My interest has all dried up in the absence of any substantial thread to follow in that frenetic tome. It was entertaining for a while – I like magical realism, and Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is one of my favorite stories, but Solitude just whiplashes all over the place and only occasionally zeroes in on a feeling, and it gets old. A little while ago I read The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. It was a great read, but practically the same damn book as 100 Years of Solitude. The mountain of similarities between the two was just one more thing that blunted my interest.

A short time ago, a post at American Digest referenced Moby Dick in some oblique way, maybe even only in the comments, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it (the link will take you to a different post, more directly cetacean, and specifically Melvillian). I have no interest in reading every classic novel ever written, but every now and then I think of one that I should take a run at. And so I bought Moby Dick and started reading it today. The entirety of my experience so far with Melville is Bartleby the Scrivener (peculiar little guy), so I have no preparation or prejudices to carry into this novel. I just want something I can get into, deeply, for a while. At this point I’ve only just met Queequeg, so there’s nothing to report just yet. The seafaring books hold a strange interest for me – Conrad’s Lord Jim is easily a top 5 read of mine, and I’ve been through a few of his short stories as well. The Open Boat by Stephen Crane is another killer. I’ve never been a sailor, haven’t spent much time at all on boats or around the ocean. But maybe it’s like Melville says in the beginning of Moby Dick; maybe there’s just something eternal and immutable and ineffable that draws us all to the sea, whether we know it or not. Life has spit me out here on the shores of the Puget Sound, after all.

No Boats

I have no interest in owning a boat, in case you wanted to know.

………

Sometimes you hear something, laying in bed, and you stop breathing for a little more quiet. You look at the back of your wife to see if she’s moving or as asleep as you expect her to be. You lay there and listen through doors and down stairs and around corners, and after a few moments you satisfy yourself that nothing bad’s happening and you can go back to sleep. Other times you hear something, laying in bed, that makes you jump out and grab your pants, phone, and Louisville Slugger all in one motion, and head downstairs.

That happened two nights ago, just after 10:00. It was a short-lived rage, as I had already been starting to remember, on my way down the steps, that we had an Amazon Fresh order scheduled for delivery at some point. I recalled my wife telling me, but had purged any details relating to time.  We both went to bed without a thought of it in our heads. There was some alcohol in the delivery, which required ID, so the driver had knocked lightly and shuffled around on the porch, which was what got my half-asleep self to leap out of bed in the first place. Heart rate normalized, shirt on, I placed my ID on the ground between us and stepped back so that she could scan it without touching it, or me.

Of course she had already touched all the grocery bags, albeit with gloves on. I brought them in, washed my hands, emptied the contents, washed my hands, folded up the bags and put them away, washed my hands, went back to bed. My wife greeted me on the way into the room: “That was supposed to be 10:00 in the morning.” She stopped short of either accusing them or admitting her own scheduling mistake, and I didn’t care enough to press the issue. It’s the blame thing again, and I just have so little interest in it.

………

I’ve been wanting to put some music here. I probably should – keeping a record of what I’m listening to during the plague is as useful and informative as anything else. It’ll certainly be interesting to look back on. I can’t remember what made me think of Buffalo Tom today. I haven’t listened to them in years. It was nice to look them up and see that they haven’t stopped making music after what feels like another hundred years. And not only that, but the album they made in 2018 sounds every bit as good as the one that got me hooked back in 1992. There’s a whole bunch in between there to catch up on. Here’s ’92. I’ll pepper in some newer stuff as we go:

I was in high school back then, hit the Army in ’98, a few years after barely graduating. That song just sounds so much like the 90’s. It’s poppy, but somehow barely better than the mass of drivel that caught on and got popular for a minute – The Spin Doctors, Wallflowers, Jesus Jones, Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows. Throw in some Blues Traveler and you have every high school party I ever made fun of like some reject from a John Hughes movie.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Hawaiian Virus

I checked in with him throughout the day, but didn’t hear from him until about 1:30 this morning. I was up, because Moby Dick and Tales from the Loop. I asked if that was his shirt, but he didn’t answer. It’s a pretty instructive or iconic picture for the times: a lone shirt in an empty laundromat after hours, safely distanced from everything else, next to a suspiciously open back door. Ready your escape! The Hawaiian pattern is hopefully festive, but missing the mark in color and composition so that it looks more like the camouflage Army uniform of a 2nd world island nation. It’s all just flourish and fancy in the end, and the fight must be dragged out into the sun, because nothing hides like a virus.

 

Bone up on your archaic whaling vocabulary, Comrade Citizen!

 

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #17

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

Alki Pano
Harbor Ave, Elliott Bay, hints of the mouth of the Duwamish

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,486 confirmed positive cases (up 155* from yesterday)
  • 230 confirmed deaths (up 8 from yesterday)

Love those single digit deaths. Zero would, of course…

News on the Bridge front:

Since our initial recommendation, our biggest concern has become the extent and rate of cracking near the quarter points of the main span could lead to collapse in the near future if strengthening is not implemented quickly. 

So the West Seattle Bridge was probably a lot closer to catastrophic failure than we realized. And the engineers say that 80% of its burden is, I think they call it unloaded weight or dead load or something – it just means that its greatest stress comes from its own weight, even without a single vehicle on it. So it’s getting worse even as it sits unused. That sucker won’t be open for years, and at the front end of the plague year that’s a dirty little serendipitous way to heap misery onto tragedy.

Was the bridge built poorly in the first place? It was finished in 1984, after the previous bridge was rammed by a 550-foot freighter called the Antonio Chavez, piloted by an alcoholic Norwegian named Rolf Neslund. Some people believe he did it on purpose because the city was taking too long to get it replaced. He and his equally afflicted wife lived in the San Juan Islands, where they screamed and threw things at each other in drunken rages, and from where he eventually disappeared. It’s a wild story that’s well worth the short read here. 

In any case, the city’s hand has been forced again, this time by damage that has set in quite a bit sooner than expected. They’re still trying to figure out what’s causing the advanced cracking (which is still growing, oh BTW), so they know what to prevent when they fix it. Is it the increased traffic from the incredible population growth on the peninsula? Is it pile driving in the harbor below? Is it the sinister red paint of the highly controversial bus-only lanes? Or is it Rolf Neslund, tugging on hazy bottles of spicy aquavit and repeatedly ramming his ghost ship into the concrete knees of that behemoth span, screaming curses at his terrible wife?

You know which explanation I’m going with.

While pretty much everyone is complaining about how it’s been handled, as well as assuming that the only possible explanation is a combination of negligence, ignorance, and malice, I am just glad they caught it and kept everyone the heck off of it. A bunch of armchair engineers complaining on the internet is a lot more tolerable than dredging the Duwamish for bodies. Call me naïve, but I never expect every possible danger to be anticipated. I expect the greatest possible effort to be made to anticipate every possible danger, but when the experts issue a report that says “we don’t know the cause” or “we didn’t see that coming,” I don’t immediately scream accusations of incompetence. As Robert Louis Stevenson said:

The world is so full of a number of things

We can’t possibly see them all coming, and have to content ourselves with reacting honorably when the surprises come.

………

One of the highlights of this past week or two has been watching our neighbor’s 3 (I think) year old son learn to ride a bike. Our dead-end street angles upward towards its terminus, and he starts at the top of the hill on his no-pedal scoot bike, shooting with unchecked speed straight down towards a very small speed bump and the basketball-sized rock at the end of my driveway, which sits at the mouth of our sanctuary. It was hard to watch, and thrilling, as he would fly down with his feet out at angles and the little bikle wobbling with that “brink of disaster” shimmy that you always see on motorcycles right before the bike crumples nose-first like a horse getting shot in a movie, and the rider soars over the handlebars. But he’s always been able to get his feet back to the ground and Flintstone himself to a stop. There have been crashes, to be sure. His parents are great about it – no panic, no rushing to pick him up, just a casual walk to the crash site where he’s already picked himself up and is in some diminishing state of tears. He does like to veer towards our rock, though, and apparently one night when we were inside, he ramped himself off of it and took flight, swelling up his hand and scraping pretty much everything. He turned out ok and boasts now of the time he “back-flipped off of the big rock.”

The rock is fine.

He’s pedaling now, without quite enough strength to make it back up the hill, but with the semblance of control that comes with having brakes that aren’t the rubber soles of his Keds. Of course, knowing how to drive and knowing where the obstacles are doesn’t preclude the odd, unforeseen circumstance that ends in tears and broken things. You can’t prevent that forever no matter how much information and experience you have. Sometimes you even run into things that you can see perfectly clearly in front of you. Just ask Rolf Neslund. The key is not getting bent out of shape about it. That’s how you finish Stevenson’s poem up there, in agreement with the line that says:

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

………

Skyline

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Sounds good , I have to go set up a living quarters. It’s going to be as good as I can possibly make it
Have an awesome day

You too. You too.

—Ramming speed, Comrade Citizen!—

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #16

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,331 confirmed positive cases (up 164* from yesterday)
  • 22 confirmed deaths (up 14 from yesterday)

For some reason this reads like some piece of mild guidance, delivered in passing, from the time before this all got serious:

The virus that causes COVID-19 is highly contagious, and each face-to-face interaction is an opportunity for it to spread. In addition, it’s important to wash your hands with soap frequently and avoid touching your face.

Because honestly, here on April 6, 2020, my reaction to that statement is, “Are you new here?” And by ‘here’ I mean Earth.

Imagine, though, coming across someone who had no idea what was going on? Or heck, waking up from a coma today.

“I’m sorry, doctor, a what now?”

“A pandemic. COVID-19. Or Coronavirus. Or the Chinese-“

Doctor!

“Yes, nurse. Of course. I almost forgot. Haven’t watched the news in a while. Anyway; big virus, very contagious, people dying, world on lockdown, social distancing, toilet paper’s gone.”

“Social what?”

“You have to stay at least six feet away from everyone. People are walking around with six foot poles. Yelling at each other for getting too close. Some guy in California – I think California. Had to be California – got arrested for paddleboarding. Alone. On the Pacific Ocean.”

“How did they arrest him if they have to stay six feet -“

“I stopped trying to understand a long time ago.”

“Can I have my coma back?”

………

My wife’s office is in our bedroom. Wait, let me say that a little differently: My wife’s office is our bedroom. I avoid it as much as possible so as not to disturb her, being on Zoom meetings most of the time that she’s working. From the very beginning, If I do need to go in there for something, I’ve been texting her this gif:

Is it Safe

I don’t expect her to know what it is. I barely do. I watched a few minutes of Marathon Man years ago – enough of it to have “is it safe” burned forever into my cultural consciousness, to the extent that I knew there would be a gif for it when I wanted it. Now my poor wife endures that brief madness a few times a day, and we’ll both remember it for reasons far different than most other people ever will. In her case, possibly without even knowing where it comes from. I still don’t know what “it” is. I’m sure she recognizes Dustin Hoffman, though. It’s a pretty good gif for the times, and would make a nice t-shirt:

CORONAVIRUS 2020

IS IT SAFE?

Different shirts could have different pictures: parks, beaches, libraries, malls, schools. TV sets with a CNN logo. The Pacific Ocean.

………

Here’s a tweet:

That’s a pretty steep downward correction. Fewer than half the projected deaths. So I guess I get a sort of limited vindication. You may not recall my prediction that this would end up being a lot less severe than we initially thought. The UW numbers up there seem to be on my side. But if I’m being honest I have to admit that it’s already worse than I expected it to be. I honestly thought a couple of weeks would go by, the virus would prove to be a big nothing burger,  and we’d be back to work and school, probably by now. Next week at the latest.

Except Governor Inslee just issued the order to keep schools closed for the rest of this school year. So the severity of the illness might be angling down and making me look good, but the lengthy duration is going to fly well past my Nostradamian soothsaying about when we’d get to “break’s over, everyone back on your heads” time. And the lower death toll may very well be entirely attributable to the draconian reductions in liberty that, let’s face it, are pretty palatable in the end. Good job, everyone.

I think the school news is going to hit a lot of people hard, though. I got a little smug about this in one of my earlier entries: the widely followed model of two working parents looks like a horrible idea all of a sudden. One of our neighbors has already expressed some displeasure and worry about the extended closure. You wonder what things will be like after the all-clear, what will be different. I’ve said that I disagree with the idea of a profound change. With the people who say “life will be completely different after this.” I still believe that. We’re not going to substantially alter the way things are produced and purchased, the way jobs are given and taken away, the way education happens (or doesn’t). Our drive to reduce fossil fuel use will be in the same state as it was in January, electric cars won’t be any farther along on the timeline, and the moon won’t be suddenly colonized by December. Communism will still be evil, and people will still want it (until they have it).

But will some families who’ve had a parent lose a job because of COVID-19 maybe say, “This isn’t bad, honey. Do you think we can make it work?”

A man can dream.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

It was great
Still no signs of a sick person, I mean besides me

There’s no telling what he means there. He’s probably sick, yes. But that’s always a safe assumption. He likes to say things like that, depending on his mood, because he knows how the conversation will go. I’ll be practical and concerned, he’ll be glib and dismissive, and he’ll enjoy making me look like the one who’s out of touch and focused on the wrong things. Understandably, he gets a little satisfaction sometimes from my frustration. The best – I should say the best-off of us – have vulnerabilities, and we play a lot of stupid games to keep them from being exposed. Imagine if your whole life was a vulnerability. Self-defense would be your default mode.

Cheesecake for breakfast, Comrade Citizen!