The Inward Aim

 Who out there might I have saved
 and who am I to say
 that if I had gone and fought along
 they'd be happier today?
  
 Which among them would have marched 
 before adoring mortars and towards
 their final chance to Meddle with 
 the Honor of their chore?
  
 Who out there might I have saved
 and what would that have done
 but reinforce the enemy
 on the ever-growing front?
  
 Which among them would have marched
 until their soles knew every grain
 of every dune and cratered ruin
 that compelled the inward aim?
  
 Who out there might I have saved
 and who am I to say
 that the lives I would have handed out
 were better than the graves? 

Lawful Thievery is the Rule

“Behaviour lawless as snowflakes…”

Still Walt Whitman, still Song of Myself

It’s been that part of the movie, where we’re all in the operating room, staring at the screen on the EKG while the tone flatlines and the doctor says “clear” one last time. Five, ten seconds pass, there seems to be no hope, and then there’s a blip:

We have a pulse, everyone.

The house has the heartbeat that it’s been missing. The last piece went in yesterday – I let The Boy nail it down. Obviously the baseboards still need to go back up, but the big chore is complete. And after I cleaned up and put the tools away, I had the Spring Break feeling of freedom, of vast expanses of unclaimed time laid out ahead of me. I immediately folded laundry. But nobody told me how to fold these two garments:

They have a knack for teleportation.


I release this one annually, a small revision or two each time. It’s the sort of poem that “real poets” would not “take seriously.” But serious poets are generally a sad lot, and afraid. Maybe one day I’ll stop messing with it, I don’t know. It’s a little late coming this year, but reading the “lawless as snowflakes” line from Leaves of Grass made me realize that it was time for theft:

Summerthieves

 Autumn starts for me like this:
 an evening's cold, capricious kiss,
 chiding me to stay alert
 that I don't miss my turn to flirt.
  
 Leaves come down like lawless clocks
 along no route that rules can watch.
 They’re shouldered first, then tickle sleeves - 
 those brittle-falling Summerthieves.
  
 Ah! Here the hub of town comes near,
 with its public houses pouring beer
 colder even than the air.
 But it's so close and warm in there
  
 That I go inside against the cold,
 where I like to think we're men of old,
 and on every wooden bench and stool
 sits a girl - an honored golden rule.
  
 The Boys can leave their coats on hooks -
 The Girls will keep them warm with looks.
 Suggestive stitches, hopeful hems.
 October stalkings, autumn gems.
  
 In here we work with noble tones
 toward a sense of coming home.
 Because man is tempted to his best
 when woman is so smartly dressed.
  
 When everything to do's been done,
 we wrap the prizes we have won
 as close to us as we are able,
 and leave the rest upon the table.
  
 Warm within and cold without,
 It’s easy to forget about
 The weathers we're supposed to know,
 And on our brazen way we go. 

The PVP Diaries #83

“Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any…”

Whitman, Song of Myself

Shrinkage:

I looked at the pile yesterday and thought “I don’t know if that’ll be enough to finish.” But I pretty quickly recognized the thought as vanity. As me wanting to believe in myself as clever and discerning. But there’s one very important thing to consider, to remember, and to take very seriously, which is that I don’t know. I have only done this once before, and that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were different. And anyway, even so, twice in 20 years is not enough experience to stand before the remaining wood, hands on hips, orange foam earplugs sitting askew in the canals, and declare, “no sir, I don’t think that’s gonna cover it.”

But we like to do that, don’t we? Near the end of a large jigsaw puzzle, when we’ve scanned and hunted a dozen times for a piece that we really want to find, but can’t seem to locate, we say, “I think there’s a piece missing.” It’s almost never true. The flight’s delayed and we say “It’s probably gonna be canceled.” It rarely is.

We like to predict failure. So we come to expect failure. It’s probably a defense mechanism. A desire to not be caught off guard when the world comes up short or our preparations prove insufficient. Nobody wants to look the fool. Except that it’s foolish to forget reality. It’s foolish to forget the limits of what you do and can know. It’s something that I’ve started to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older, something that I’ve embraced rather than resisted. The fact that, as my Dad is fond of saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Or something very similar. I don’t mean that in a layered ignorance kind of way. I am aware of the things – I know full well that I don’t know calculus or which gauge of nail to use for framing a wall. I can learn, but at the moment I have no idea. And it’s the moment that matters. I’m not going to waste any of it by looking at a differential equation and pretending I can solve it without first learning the steps, and then carrying them out.

In this moment I have no idea whether there’s enough wood stacked in the dining room to finish this flooring job. There’s no point guessing – that’s just a pantomime of discernment, and meanwhile the floor isn’t getting any more finished.

Be content to start looking for another piece, to work the puzzle until the end and find out then if you’re missing anything. You can always crawl around under the table or look for it in the vacuum bag at that point. But don’t bother until you know. Be content to keep laying the planks, pulling piece after piece from the dwindling pile, without guessing at square footages and pretending that you can out-think the ignorance. You can’t. You can only out-learn it.


“The report, the third in a series by IDM, affirms that while there are still risks associated with returning to full in-person instruction, the risks could be significantly reduced through school-based countermeasures, hybrid scheduling, and a phased-in approach that brings back K-5 grades first.

The report has quite a bit more to say. I’m always a careful reader of tone – I usually measure the things I say to my kids based not on what I mean, but how I expect they’ll receive it. There’s always a difference. I tend to read intentionally in the mode of how my kids listen subconsciously: picking up cues from the language, scanning for subtext. This report is all very cautious and non-committal up front, but it marks a shift from the message that “the risks are far too great,” to the message that “the risks are there, but we may be able to work with them anyway.”

Here in King County the positive cases continue to climb, and I think we hit some kind of a state-wide record in one of the last couple of days. But the election’s over – at least the part where leverage matters – so the doomsday attitude is probably going to abate to some extent. Especially if Biden wins. But even if Trump winds up winning somehow, his hardest detractors aren’t going to hold their constituents hostage for another four years – or I suppose two, in order to reach the midterms – over this ersatz plague. I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.

But maybe that’s just me being unrealistically hopeful. What do I know?


– For the love of God, learn to lose gracefully, Comrade Citizen –

The PVP Diaries #82

Happiness…which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day.

Whitman, Song of Myself

As nice as it may be to believe, the fact is that it won’t be over any time soon. There are too many layers, too many complications. The dust simply isn’t going to settle on this one until, well, I’m gonna say Thanksgiving:

It’s hard to get into a rhythm with this job. I have doorways to go around, floor vents to negotiate, and all the forced stoppages that occurred whenever The Boy starts a Zoom class. The banging and the compressor were understandably no good for his schoolwork. It’s possible that I’ll find my flow here, and make swifter progress, but I am asking myself for patience.

My biggest worry was that I had to start in two different spots, and hope that as I built up both sides they would prove to be aligned when I got to a point when I could join them in the middle. It worked, and my confidence definitely took a boost. I did as much as I could today without making any special cuts, thinking that, well, thinking that I was friggin’ tired and didn’t want to start a bunch of complicated (for me) measuring and cutting.

It helped to start things off with breakfast on the grill:

I saved some of the sausage for other people. Really.

I’m really looking forward to the stack of wood in our erstwhile dining room disappearing. Everything is out of place. What I couldn’t move to the garage just keeps getting shuffled around the vast kitchen/living room/open concept cave. It’s hell on habit. The Boy does his schoolwork from a new spot every day, and my morning chair is sort of floating in space. I have always come downstairs to it – the first one awake whenever possible – and had coffee adjacent to the fire, facing out from the corner, while I find new ways to bore you. This morning the chair is near the geographical center of the room, one arm touching the kitchen table, and as I sit in it I look over the top of my laptop to a view of the coat closet door, six feet in front of me. My chair hasn’t properly seen the fireplace in weeks.

Environments conduce to moods. This one conduces to little, though no doubt Walt Whitman would criticize my slavery to difference.


Coronavirus? I can’t even. But it’s kind of a thing here, and maybe one day I’ll be glad I did it:

So it looks like hospitalizations are seeing a slight increase. Ok, doesn’t look particularly dire, though. And death remains a difficult sell.


– It’s a race to Thanksgiving, Comrade Citizen! –

The PVP Diaries #81

This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of the octave flute and strike of triangles.

I play not a march for victors only…I play great marches for conquered and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?

I also say that it is good to fall…battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.

Whitman, Song of Myself

I suppose today the internet will be less sufferable than usual. I had an American Government teacher back in 2016, when I started my college re-engagement tour, who was a Palestinian named Jihad. Really. He was obsessed with government, especially the courts. He would go to the court house when he had the time, just to watch trials. On the Friday before the election he said, “please raise your hand if you think Hillary Clinton will win the election.” I was in the front row, and didn’t turn to look, but I figured it was unanimous. He then said “now raise your hand if you think Donald Trump will win.” I put my hand up and this time I looked around. There was a young Asian kid, probably too young to vote, who was wearing an Army field jacket with a German flag on the shoulder. He had his head down and his hand up. Nobody else in a room of 30-ish people. I assumed that what most people thought they were doing was indicating not who they believed would win, but who they wanted to win. And that the fear of raising your hand for Donald Trump would make you appear to be supporting him, to want him to win, which would have been social suicide.

That’s the sort of small life skill that I wish people would develop. The ability for rational discernment. The ability to say “I want outcome X, but I anticipate outcome Y.”

I don’t know that I want any particular outcome today. I know what I grudgingly prefer, and I know what I expect. I know which query from Dr. Jihad would get my hand in the air today. I know that no outcome will result in grace or dignity, and that I will be sad for people and a little afraid of them, for a long time to come.

Democracy is no place for heroes. We should stop looking there for them.


An email has just come from The Girl’s school, saying that it’ll be hard to wait for results, that they should be sure to show their families /teachers/etc. kindness and patience today, in order to be respectful. I can say with some confidence that my daughter would have no reason to believe that there was any need for increased levels of patience or kindness, that she wouldn’t have a hard time respecting anyone, that she wouldn’t believe in election day as an excuse to slip into poor character habits or a time to be afraid, if her school wasn’t making sure she saw it that way.

We go so far, we work so hard, to sow unease and uncertainty into our world. To undermine our harmony and placidity. We harvest woe, we band great sheaves of blight. We pack our silos with spores of fear, to be spread against times of abundance and health.

The COVID thing has been interesting here. The number of positive cases reported has been on a solid upswing, causing The Fear in the people. But deaths and hospitalizations are on a solid downswing, which isn’t getting much coverage. My armchair conclusion is that the severity of the thing is proving rather insubstantial.

I’m getting sick of masks, sure. But I tire most quickly of narratives, of dull repetition, of tropes and conversational tics. Hearing “2020” or “COVID times” or any declaration about how good or poor a job that people were doing of “observing social distancing” at the store or the park or the beach, or most recently all the proud announcements of everyone’s clever ways of safely passing out Halloween candy to people who “probably shouldn’t have been trick-or-treating anyway,” just makes me want to go home and close the door behind me. At this point I’d rather just talk about the election, which is absurd.


I, for one, don’t give the tiniest shit who votes, Comrade Citizen

A Song for Fog

   
 Captain, do not curse the fog.
 It is the lullaby of the Blackfish.
 It is the glint eddy at the wing of the Sbaqwah.
 God-blue, long as a Black River canoe.
  
 Captain, your horn is heavy like blood in a ghost.
 What can it do? 
  
 The fog is a child squat over a snake in the longhouse. 
 It never knew you.
 It does not hear you.
  
 The osprey tear herring over a broken cedar.
 The salmon scowl at the ladder and die.
  
 Your boats are wrapped in ancient names.
 Kittitas and Chimacum. 
 Issaquah and Wenatchee.
 Only the words are quiet on the water.
  
 The engines scare an owl from the head of a bear.
 The bear scares crows from a picnic table.
 It watches you bleed cars into the hills.
  
 All head and no flukes, you pilot the ghost 
 without much rudder.
  
 You think you pilot the ghost.
  
 Captain, do not curse the fog.
 It is the white noise of the Salish Sea.
 You are the brother of the Chinook.
 You are the white throat of the Blue Heron. 
 
 Trade pilothouse for smokehouse.
 Dance the deck from wheel to wheel.
 The lullaby of the Blackfish will be your song.
   

The PVP Diaries #80

“I have no mockings or arguments…I witness and wait.”

-Whitman, Song of Myself

Because it was late, and I needed something now, I bought Leaves of Grass for the Kindle. It simply will not do. I’m sure Walt would be reassuring:

Not an inch nor a particle of an inch shall be vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

But especially now that I am out of the preface and into Song of Myself, there is a falseness to the electrons, a way that the text is a little mocking, but not with mockery, rather with its earnestness. A mockery by truth for which truth no doubt would apologize if it knew – but that’s the thing about innocence. You don’t honk at the child squat over a bug in the street. He never knew you.


Breathing room. I pulled up the last plank of old wood yesterday:

Soccer shoes, flip-flops, toilet paper, Nerf gun. Life is beautiful.

I worked my way closer to the door as I went. A decision I made on purpose in the beginning, and am very happy about. I am capable and competent, but I often make small poor choices along the way. This time I knew that I would become sick of carrying wood out to the Jeep, and making my trips shorter as I progressed would be a good call. It was.

Now the new wood is in the house:

It’s funny how that doesn’t really look like much wood. It looks like a lot when I’m standing next to it. It felt like a lot when I carried it into the house, one bundle at a time. It’s 900sf, and I hope it’s enough.

The 4 year old boy who lives two doors up the not-so-dead-end street always comes running down to my driveway when he hears me throwing wood into the back of the Jeep. He just watches, asks “what are you, um, what are you doing,” even though he knows what I’m doing because he’s asked me 6 times a day for a a week. I answer the same way every time, that “I’m just putting more of the old wood in the car, so I can take it to the dump.” Yesterday, once that little formality was out of the way, he stood there, the fingers of his hands playing with each other and his eyes glancing to and from mine in that way that meant that he had something he really wanted to say, so I waited. After a few seconds he said, “the wood smells delicious.”

“Heck yeah,” I said, “love the way -“

“It smells just like ketchup.”

I plan to start installing the new floor Monday. Until then I can clean up and check for spots that might cause me some hangups in the installation, like wood that didn’t cut away from the base of the cabinets as cleanly as I need. It’s nice to have the extra time. If the new wood was ready to install today, I would just be driving forward and dealing with issues as they arose, which would be frustrating. This was an accidental boon, and I’ll capitalize.

Have to go gget some empty propane tanks exchanged, too, because the oven is fully removed, and too heavy to put back into place until it is time. All meals from the grill for the next little while here.


Ok ok, boring post here, I know. We’ll see what Whitman and wood can wake in me over the next couple of weeks.

-Plan ahead, Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #79

Liberty relies upon itself, invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, and knows no discouragement.

Whitman, Leaves of Grass

The work continues. I’ve made 4 trips to the dump so far. It looks like I’ll need to make six total.

The repetition is the killer for this kind of work. Whether it’s prying plank after plank out of the floor, walking armload after armload out to the Jeep, or flinging bundle after bundle onto the mountain at the dump, no part of the job is novel or fresh. Except yesterday when I rented a toe kick saw to cut around the kitchen cabinets. I had nevcer even heard of one a week ago, much less used one. But the blade was as dull as a politician’s smile, so there was no joy in it. I told the guy at the Home Depot when I returned it: “The blade is really dull.” He looked at it. “Christ, I ordered new ones, someone must have just put them away somewhere. I figure you probably had to work at least 20% harder because of the blade, so I’ll take 20% off your bill.” Nice moment there.

Today I’ll bring all the new wood inside the house so it can acclimate for several days before I install it. That’ll keep me busy for a while. And it will be repetitious in the extreme.


This panel of experts, begun by California Gov. Newsom last week, will expand with representatives from Washington, Oregon and Nevada.

From The Guv

Great. So Moe, Larry, and Curly are going to tell us if the vaccine is ok when they will allow us to be vaccinated. Because when have we ever thought FDA approval was good enough? And yes, I guess that makes Nevada Shemp.

Obviously it’s more boring anti-Trumpism. The FDA is a federal agency, so the Three Rioteers have to show dramatic mistrust of anything that comes from it.

“We believe in science, public health and safety. That is why I am pleased that Washington is joining California and other western states in this effort,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “Any COVID vaccine must be guided by the expertise of scientists and medical professionals and that’s just what this workgroup will do.

Inslee again, from Moe’s website

“We believe in (insert weaponized banality here).” It’s so boring, so sophomoric, so transparent. And what about these scientists and medical professionals? Do you mean more of them? Because (and admittedly this is an assumption on which I have never followed up) isn’t that what the FDA uses at some point in their process? Or is FDA approval just a matter of heading into the nearest convention center and asking a bunch of people if they think something’s ok?

So again, what Larry, Darryl, and Darryl here are really saying is, our scientists and medical professionals. Right now, federal scientists and medical professionals are Trump’s scientists and medical professionals, and this is a virtue signal of the highest order, in which our freedom to receive a fully approved vaccine is going to be held hostage for a ransom of votes.

newhart | Tumblr

I hate this kind of crap so much. It’s like being stranded and freezing at the side of a desolate road somewhere, and refusing a ride because the person driving the car stole your girlfriend in high school.


Anyway. I’m hoping to have the floor fully removed today, but realistically it will be tomorrow. I have to disconnect some electrical outlets in order to move the island, and that’ll probably be the “thing that should be easy enough but will cause great problems.” Like getting an available, FDA approved vaccine.

-I giggle when you say “dump,” Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #78

Faith is the antiseptic of the soul…it pervades the common people and preserves them…they never give up believing and expecting and trusting.”

-Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Celebrations During COVID. Halloween.

I really don’t know what to say, but looking at that graphic makes me want to use bad words when I say it. Here’s another fun one:

Fewer. Smaller. Shorter. Safer. A guide to Gathering

What’s with that BS wink in the middle? Is it supposed to feel chummy? Or is it an inside joke between the governor and the graphic designers: “Yes, you tooooooe-tally need to wear a mask. Of Coooooooourse it’s helping.” Because that’s what it looks like to me – mocking deception.

The Boy had a cold last week – stuffy nose anyway – so we decided to get him tested. Abundance of caution and all that. The last thing you want is the scorn from your neighbors if your snot-dribbling child is running around out there putting everyone’s grandmas at risk of certain death, only to have to shamefully admit you haven’t even had him tested.

There’s a walk-up testing station 5 minutes from home. I went online to make the appointment, and of course it kicked off the dread sense of tentacular government omniscience. I felt marked, immediately, and only missed a printable badge of some sort to be cut out and pinned to my lapel whenever I left the house. Registering on the website initiated four (4!) separate text messages to my phone, and 2 or 3 emails, all within seconds of each other. The testing site itself was distinctly Orwellian on a cold, blustery, gray October morning. A winding, taped-off queue area in the back corner of a vast parking lot, sparsely peopled and all the more desolate looking for the social distancing duly observed. The destination? Beige shipping containers where the greeters sat behind plexiglass and signs with behavioral instructions like “Do not place ID in basket until asked to do so.” The only thing preventing me from calling it Soviet is the lack of police or military. I wish I would have taken some pictures, it was fantastic. I doubt very much they would have let me, though.

It all moved quickly enough, and the woman who checked us in was wonderful – cheery, positive, helpful, and bundled up like a Floridian in Canada. I asked if they had space heaters: “Nope.” I asked how long she had to be there: “Until 5:30. But we get breaks to go warm up in the other building.” It wasn’t a building, but who was I to step on her obvious decency? I had only registered The Boy for a test, but she asked me if I wanted one, too. I said sure. She said, “OK. You can ignore the text you get – I’ll fill out your forms for you myself. Quicker that way.” That was an unexpected level of helpfulness from that otherwise dour scene.

The test itself is pretty awful. Both nostrils, and I think my sample may have been contaminated by some toenail fungus that the swab managed to pick up when the nurse/technician (I don’t know her qualifications) was finally done snaking it into the depths of my body.

The Boy was terrified. As he watched me, the PTSD from his recent nasal cauterization kicked in, and he started to refuse the test entirely. It was getting a little uncomfortable in there, as time went on and we weren’t making any progress. Eventually an enormous fellow in a Department of Health parka lumbered into the container, making me wonder what nonsense I was about to be involved in. But he must have been related to the receptionist because he was as jolly as Santa Claus, and said that they could give The Boy a kids version of the test. Much less invasive.

All in all about a 20 minute process. They gave us each a QR code I could scan with my phone to find our results, both of which arrived in under 24 hours. Both of them negative.

And there we are, my son and I, logged in yet another wing of the vast monitoring structure within which we live. I know that we were already there, and deeply so, but each new recording of the name, each new acceptance of the privacy policy, each new etching of the DOB into The Great Datbase, feels like another eye, ever-watching.

Good thing there’s an even bigger eye, watching even that one.


I went to the doctor yesterday for a physical exam. It was only my second time seeing this particular doctor – I switched a few months ago because my previous doc was female (sexist!), and doctoring at this stage of life can get very personal very quickly. As a man I feel better with a male doctor at the helm of my particular ship. The other problem with my last GP is really the more significant matter, and that’s that she always seemed unsure of herself. Had a kind of nervousness about her. It did not instill confidence. I only landed in her office at all because years ago I had hurt myself or had some other mildly urgent situation, and when I called to make an appointment with my usual guy, I found out he retired. I grabbed the next available appointment, and it was with her. Thanks for the heads up, doc.

So, today, physical. I like this doctor a lot. Outstanding demeanor, obvious intelligence. In the course of a conversation about some minor nuisance that’s just part of being alive, he said it was that way because “that’s how God made you.” It completely threw me. This is Seattle. That’s malpractice material out here. I’m willing to bet that he has had patients who found a different doctor after hearing that from him. Anyway, he said it, and I went blank. Stopped listening a little. I started getting flooded with the thoughts: Is he watching for how I react to that? Do I look like it didn’t phase me? Do I look uncomfortable? Am I making any facial expressions (from the mask up) that indicate apprehension? All of those were possible because of how confused I was for a moment. I felt like he was testing me. The Seattleites I know who believe in God are few, and the rest of the Seattleites I know never say anything nice about them. So put aside any thoughts I might have about religion, to hear him say that relieved me. It was the sudden exhilaration of re-discovering an animal, long since having logged it and written it off as extinct. I wanted to get up right then and there and hug him for five minutes or so – to thank him for inviting God into the exam room like that.

And I don’t really know why. I think it was just that it was so different from what I’m used to. It was the kind of complete, casual sincerity that Linus needed for summoning the Great Pumpkin to his pumpkin patch on Halloween:

See the source image

As I get older, I find my appetite for common decency growing, my thirst for simple natures intensifying. And I find that when I ask “why am I this way” and am presented with the answer that “that’s how God made you,” it satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst. As a youth I would have rebelled. I would have thrashed about in the brackish waters of an intellectual lassitude that believed there was merit in being reflexively anti-religious. As an older man I’ll want more, eventually. Even the most devout know full well that “because God” isn’t appropriate as a final answer to anything from a sprained ankle to a brain tumor. But in the beginning and at every step along the way, it does carry the brilliant, tranquilizing anaesthesis that always comes from the Truth. You hear it and you know. I heard it today, and I knew, and that’s the best way I can think to say it.

Oh by the way, I’m healthy as hell. The doctor was impressed. I had the full bloodwork done at my last visit and everything is optimal. He kept using the phrase “young and healthy” to describe me. Must have said it half a dozen times during the visit. I fixated mostly on the young part. Because let’s face it, you can call me young as many times as you want, but it rings a little hollow in the context of a conversation about scheduling a colonoscopy.


-Are we burning off our fingerprints yet, Comrade Citizen?-

The PVP Diaries #77

“I have often thought it fortunate that the amount of noise in a boy does not increase in proportion to his size; if it did, the world could not contain it.”

-Charles Dudley Warner, Being a Boy


“Thank you,” she said, “for not salivating very much.”

Look at me, using a cheap hook like that. It’s pretty simple and uninteresting, like most things, when you find out about it: Yesterday I went to the dentist to receive my first set of Invisalign trays. I’ve decided that as I get older I am going to be obsessive about my teeth. And they’re crooked. The top teeth have a little bit of a skew to them, like one shutter on a window was hung in a hurry and left a little sideways. But the bottom are an odd mess of nervous chicklets trying to hide behind each other – a frenetically sunk line of pickets. And it’s more than aesthetics; all that crowding and stacking creates places that don’t brush or floss easily. Buildup occurs..

Anyway, during the process of sanding away at a couple of teeth so that they will be able to move next to each other, the dentist was nice enough to say to me, “thanks for doing a good job of cleaning your teeth this morning.” His assistant then followed with, “and for not salivating very much.” She meant it with all earnestness, of course, but since most of the dental implements had been removed from my mouth at the moment she said it, I was in a position to reply with, “oh good, that’s something I’ve been working on.”

In other words, I’m on the Invisalign diet. Gotta wear them all the time, and can’t eat or drink with them in. And really, they don’t bother me as long as I don’t mess with them. The act of taking them out is pretty painful, though. I’m about to brave it so that I can have my morning coffee, because some things are worth the pain.


I agree with Charles Dudley Warner. My God, the noise of the boys. I always get a little skeptical and unimpressed when I hear sentences that start with “the war on…” so you won’t find me stoking the fire in the War On Boys camp. Still, it would be naive to say that we haven’t been receiving a bit of the old ill-treatment in recent years. Toxic masculinity, and all that. They even have this “male fragility” idea that they can bring out when they deliberately insult us, and we have the nerve to take it as an insult. It’s like getting kicked in the nose, and when you complain about it or try to retaliate, you’re simply dismissed on the grounds of your facial fragility. If only your face were fundamentally, morally, better, you’d be fine with being kicked in the face, over and over again. And so we arrive at the boot, stamping, in saecula saeculorum.

Of course, I do tell The Boy to shut up. And often. There’s just no end to the sounds issuing fort from his maw. And when the mouth quiets, he often, very seamlessly, re-routes his inner cacophony and releases it via drumming on the nearest thing, or moving very fast in a small space filled with things and people. The movement is a kind of noise, too, and when combined with actual, audible noise, is something like the voice of God.


I’ve been busy. Since moving into this house 3 years ago, we’ve never really been able to find its heartbeat. There’s something kind of lifeless about it. We’ve been chipping away at it with little changes – different paint color, new backsplash, rearranging furniture, not to mention the landscaping/patio things we’ve done. And also my recent wainscoting venture.But even with those paddles to the patient’s chest, we haven’t managed to coax its soul entirely out of hiding. Part of the problem is that it’s got no rooms. Everyone’s favorite real estate term these days is “open concept,” but here’s an inherent coldness to cavernous spaces, and our entire first floor is essentially one big room. The kitchen is on one end, the living room is way down on the other, and in the middle is some vague space where we’ve put our kitchen table. Ultimately, we decided that we could make a significant change to the whole damn thing by replacing the floor.

For the past three days I’ve been ripping out the hardwood. I won’t do this again, at least not in a 900sf space. That is, if you trust my measuring skills and my math, and I trust neither. I’m three days in and a little over half done with the removal. It’s what I believe they call “backbreaking work.” Bent over the whole time, after consulting youtube for the best methods and best tools, I eventually landed on a combination of 3 foot wrecking bar and standard garden shovel. The lightness and leverage of the shovel, with its long handle, make for relatively easy popping of the planks, even if I’m still bent double the whole time. But it’s useless within a few feet of the wall, so that’s where the wrecking bar comes into play.

Anyway, I fell slightly short of my goal yesterday because I hit one of those inevitable snags that forced me to quit for the day. Today I’ll solve that problem when I rent the toekick saw that I need for cutting around the kitchen cabinets.

Work takes so much work that never shows up in the final product. Sometime (hopefully before Christmas) we’ll be looking at the beautiful new floor, and nobody will see the hundreds of walks to the truck with small armloads of nail-laden wood, the improvised small-scale demolition at the base of newel posts and under bookcases, the cumulative time spent at the dump, the obnoxious scan of the underlayment for nails that didn’t come out with the planks, or the sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming that punctuated every hour or so of the job. Of course I’ll see it, but the worst thing in that case is to remind everyone else.

From the first plank, to three days later.


I’d love to say something pithy and wise about the plague, but there’s not much for it. I’m planted firmly in the (very populous) camp that believes there will be no change to speak of until after the election results are all in across the country. Unlike the garden shovel I’m using to tear up my old floor, the Coronavirus is not a multi-tasking tool. It’s leverage is useful only in the political arena, so once the final whistle blows on that game, it’ll slowly drift away like the throngs of people who used to dissipate from what used to be packed stadiums where what used to be men played what used to be football on what used to be Sunday afternoons.


Lift with your legs, Comrade Citizen!-