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!—

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!

 

 

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #15

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 3,167 confirmed positive cases (up 269* from yesterday)
  • 208 confirmed deaths (up 8 from yesterday)

*Many of the new cases being reported today were diagnosed in days prior and do not necessarily represent a spike in new cases. The “new confirmed positive cases” figure we publish each day represents all new confirmed cases reported to us through 11:59 the night prior. Some of these test results were processed on days prior but were delayed in being reported to us.

Plus 25 other deaths on Friday and Saturday (combined, not each).  This thing is still rolling steadily along. I’m a natural skeptic, but I’ve acquiesced to the reality of it. Not with any real panic or fear; just shrugged shoulders and acceptance – like going to see a band that you don’t really like, but doing it with the best friends you have.

The best – and to some extent only – friends I have are my family. This isn’t me selling low on self-pity; it’s just that without a job or a particularly outgoing personality I don’t have any kind of a network outside of the home. I quit drinking a few years ago and things dried up quickly on the social front, too. Turns out sobriety is a kind of mild leprosy, which is ok because if the lepers could boast of anything, it was a better relationship with the saints.

The neighbors are good, too. I’ve already said as much here in the Plague Diaries. Good neighbors are a form of good fortune that even money can’t guarantee. Solitude’ll seal the deal, but that’s not everyone’s bottle of sanitizer. For most folks, you buy a home and cross your fingers, and if it turns out like it did for us you acknowledge the presence of luck in at least one corner of your life.

In a quarantine it is hard to want, expect, or ask for much for your birthday. Well I suppose you can want a whole lot, but unless it’s coming from the pharmacy or Home Depot, it’s best to aim low. All I really asked for was a break from the chores. A day without dishes and laundry. I also wanted the kids to be helpful and to not fight with each other, but as I said just now, it’s best to aim low. I spent the day watching movies and TV. Watched Onward with the Boy. It was a pretty solid effort about trying not to wish for something impossible to such an extent that you miss the fact that you already have it in a different form. I don’t know that my son picked up on that message, but at least now he knows what a manticore is.

I half-watched Toy Story 4, but that franchise doesn’t pull me like it used to. When I woke up for the ending it seemed like pretty basic stuff – Woody still can’t cope with the idea of being replaced or left behind, and he makes an ass of himself and endangers all of his friends because of his obsession with his human. Plus super-capable-strong-independent female Bo Peep makes derpy-clingy-hapless male Woody look like an idiot over and over again, which is a trope that got very old with the sitcoms of the 90’s. Until the part when everyone who had just finished dressing him down for his selfish foibles finally understands the value of loyalty. They see that Woody isn’t simply obsessed – he’s dedicated and faithful. Sometimes to a fault, yes, but he’s a Good Man. And a cowboy, to boot.

Which brings me to His Dark Materials. I love me some fantasy, talking animals, and parallel worlds. I was honestly enjoying this one for little other than the visuals, the polar bears, and the British accents, and then I finally made my way to the final episode. This is the one where a mostly palatable and engaging series turned into another droll criticism of religion and adulthood, linking the two by laying on them both a sentence of ineradicable ignorance. I suppose it was always there – the good guys were the gypsies, children, and the University, while the bad guys are all well-dressed adults who believe in sin and control the population through fear. There is the gray area though, populated by two people, one of whom is clearly meant to be capital-G Good, but does some awful stuff along the way; and one very, very Bad person who shows glimpses of virtue that clash with an otherwise cruel march towards maniacal goals.  But (gasp!) are they really after the same thing, after all? I’ll watch more.

I also started watching Tales from the Loop, which looks ok. Fun, thought-provoking, and not overly moralizing. Yet.

Did somebody say birthday?

Plague Birthday

Limited supplies meant a cheesecake made from scratch with no sour cream. My wife said that she found a recipe for just that sort of thing, and without divulging any other information she teamed up with our daughter to make that beauty up there. I like cheesecake. A lot. The more plain the better. All those crazy concoctions at the Cheesecake Factory are nothing next to a well-executed, unadorned, New York style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. Maybe a little fruit drizzle, but not much. Yesterday’s Plagueday cake was glorious. My girls hit it out of the park, and – holy cow, why haven’t I already had a slice for breakfast?

I was also bidden to rise from the couch and head outside sometime during a clockless afternoon. On the way out the door my parents serendipitously FaceTimed me, so I walked with them out the door, where the neighborhood was gathered (with some, but probably not legally enough, distance between them) to sing me a rousing happy birthday song. There was even a shiny tuxedo and a tiny guitar in the mix. Babies, children, adults, and pets. It was unexpected, wonderful, and more than enough to make me rethink all that stuff about friends that I said in the beginning.

HERE COMES THE BOY! I can always tell the way the day is going to (at least) begin by his demeanor. Today he marched right down the stairs and said “I guess I’ll have some emails to check,” on his way to grabbing the Chromebook that his school sent home for him. Today shoud be a good one. Let’s see what his sister’s first words are (she’s just arrived on his heels). It took a few minutes, but she’s started making her scranbled eggs without a word until her brother walked past her and she said “go away.” Good morning to you, too, sunshine.

This has gone on long enough without saying anything. So here’s your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Hope your birthday was a good one!

I didn’t even have to ask for that.

Tune up that ukulele, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #13

Lucky 13!

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 2,496 confirmed positive cases (up 166 from Monday)
  • 164 confirmed deaths (up 14 from Monday)

14? I keep looking for the new deaths to stay in the single digits. The governor does consistently ac-cen-tu-ate the positives, letting us know regularly that what we’re doing is working. The best measure of that, as I understand it, is the transmission rate – how many new people are infected by each confirmed case. In Washington state it’s gone down a good deal. From 2.7 in February to 1.4. And:

In order to sustain a drop in new cases, each infected person, on average, must infect fewer than one person.

That’s a bit of the bright side for you. Some people will look at that and pick it apart for its cracks and its “yeah-buts,” but I will do you the favor of sparing you any dark side. I don’t watch the news, have abandoned Facebook, and pay no attention to Twitter, so I don’t know much about any dark sides, anyway.

Another bright side: I’ve written a few poems during and about the plague, you’ve seen them if you ‘ve been reading here lately.  I’m submitting those poems, along with a couple others that line up thematically, to a competition looking for a group of poems that share an idea or topic. I read last year’s winner, and I like my chances. Still, these things tend to go to previously published, well-established writers with MFA’s and teaching careers, no matter how much lip service the journals give to “emerging and new writers.” But that all sounds like the carping of a loser. I’ll slip through a crack somewhere someday, and it’ll get easier from there.

Here’s that cake the birthday girl put together the other night while I wasn’t prepping the coffee:

Adri's Cake 4-1-20

She has fun. Her birthday will be pretty humdrum, not being able to go anywhere. But I’ll exempt her from her chores and feed her sweets all day. I know her school will be having everyone sing a plague-era happy birthday via Zoom this morning, and her soccer team will do the same thing later tonight.

LATER

She started school today with an April Fool’s joke. When she signed into Zoom for class, her little brother was at the screen with his head down. Her teacher asked her “Are you hiding from us this morning,” and then her brother popped his head up and waved, saying “April Fool’s!” She came on screen and introduced him, and then everything went along as normal. Ohhhhh, those plague-time antics!

Form my part, I made bread. The boy wanted to see the picture I took of it, and now I know why.

60746654324__E613DBFA-567D-4923-8B2F-0704306A00E8
Hilarious, son. Just hilarious.

This is a yeast bread, light and airy and holy cow is it good. I still haven’t found yeast at the store, but a friend had some the other day and he gave it to me when I brought him a sack of flour. What wholesome, old-timey bartering this virus has led us to.

I spent a few minutes here, reading up on what Amazon’s been doing about the plague. If you figure that Microsoft, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, Google, Facebook, Apple, Et al. are making similar efforts, then continuing to beat that “capitalism and corporations are evil” drum starts to seem a bit silly. No doubt there’s some of those horrible-awful-mean oil companies and world-killing car manufacturers joining in on the goodworks, too. It will do nothing to change the AOC’s and the Kshama Sawants, the Bernies and the college professors, because screaming at giants who have no interest in hurting you has always been a handy substitute for courage (just ask Greta).

For all the birthday cake and April fooling around, yesterday ended on a somewhat low note. The whole situation bears down a little heavy at odd times, and in the quiet house just before bedtime, when the old people are tired and lights in the kitchen are being turned off, the low mood can start to stir.  The soul feels like an early dough: wet-heavy, hard to shape, and impossible to keep from sticking to your hands. The day-to-day can be too much at the best of times and you’ll never see the mundane ague descending soon enough to stop it. You sit, you hang, you slump, and you ride it across the slow river like an old ferry that can only be pushed by a long pole and a short memory.

And you wake up the next morning with nothing to do but turn on the pot, because you prepped the coffee the night before, just after eating birthday cake.

Yaycake
Happy 12th, young lady.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today is short and sweet:

Not too bad.

I know he talked to Dad yesterday, and Dad says he’s doing pretty good. Which lines up nicely with what I like to think about life – perhaps more than ever in a plague: Sometimes “not too bad” really is pretty good.

Make lemonade, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #12

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 2330 confirmed positive cases (up 171 from yesterday)
  • 150 confirmed deaths (up 9 from yesterday)

Updates complete, numbers “confirmed” again.

I’d do some math and kick out a percentage, some kind of hack-job fatality rate that takes exactly nothing into consideration, no context, but you’ll notice as you go around that whenever someone does that it is only to preface an “I told you so” kind of article about the virus being either far more dire or far less interesting than the perceived morons who disagree with them believe. Besides, what would “6.4%” mean anyway, in the big picture? (oops)

………

I’m in far less of a hurry these days. I wonder if that’s a common feature of the quarantine. There’s a lot of time saved by not having to commute. My wife is…sedate, almost. Usually I don’t even get to see her before she leaves for work. Hers is a commute that uses the now-closed West Seattle Bridge, so the longer this quarantine goes, the better. That’s a fiasco that will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. You’ll be surprised to hear that, here in the early stages of the review/recommend repairs process, there is a general hue and cry to see the rolling heads of anyone connected enough to the issue to be in the meetings. Everyone at the DOT is an idiot who kept the city council in the dark about this danger for far too long, but also the city council are all evil people who knew from the beginning but chose, maliciously and with true foul intent, to ignore the issue and divert funds to painting curbs and bike lanes. It’s alarming to read how many people come right out and say “it’s important to find out who is to blame for this.” My God, we love us some blame, don’t we? I don’t know why I’m so averse to it. Maybe because blame is completely unrelated to solutions, so it seems kind of irrelevant. Of course if it’s murder? Rape? Robbery? You find the culprit, duh. But…

“The West Seattle Bridge is going to collapse this week!”

“Naturally, we need to fire somebody. Close it off, and fire somebody.”

“And fix it?”

“Well, sure, but we’ve got all these pikes that last year’s voter-approved property tax hike paid for, so let’s put some heads on ’em before the voters start worrying that we’re wasting their taxes on things other than their original intent.”

“Won’t we still be wasting their taxes on —”

“Yes, yes. But there will be heads. They like that sort of thing.”

It’s funny that the primary target of the mob is a guy named Sam Zimbabwe. I keep reading “it’s Zimbabwe’s fault,” and I think “wait a minute now, if ‘Wuhan Flu’ is racist…”

Here’s a particularly hot take:

An nobody at SDOT will even get a slap on the wrist for this debacle.  Anyone associated with this needs to be shown the door.   But we all know that will never happen.  Unbelievable. 

Why do I keep forgetting to buy low on pitchforks and torches?

………

Without school, and with the lack of sports and other extracurriculars, I am down a minimum of 26 car trips between Monday and Friday. And that doesn’t include the grocery store, hardware store, etc. Lots of gas, lots of miles, and lots of time saved. Normally, by this time on a Tuesday morning (8:17) I would have cooked 3 breakfasts, made and packed 2 lunches, and issued at least 4 orders to brush teeth (one command is never enough, of course). We’d be making sure everyone’s backpacks have all of their supplies, and anything that needs my signature gets it (it’s surprising how many things require a signature, and not just missing homework/bad things). “Are we picking up so-and-so this morning?” “No, that’s tomorrow.” The routine is well-established and we’re never exactly frantic, but it’s nothing like now: breakfasts as they all trickle down (usually me first!), no bags to pack, no time-eating drives to two different schools. Instead it’s coffee already made, and me – on my second cup, butt half-swallowed by the big chair next to the fireplace (normally I’ve just gotten back from dropping off the first child at school), and casually pecking away at the laptop like someone who gets paid for this (maybe I should pitch this to someone, now that I think of it).

I won’t see my daughter again until lunchtime, she’s starting school by way of a zoom class in her bedroom right now. The Boy will bounce down the stairs in a few minutes, fully dressed and singing or shouting or throwing things in general jubilation (he is an absolute cliché of boyness, thank God, rarely quiet and always moving). He likes checking emails and doing his own thing and so he’ll more or less get started with his school on his own. I’ll slide in to introduce his schedule for the day and make sure he’s productive well past his 5 minute attention span. We sit together at the round kitchen table throughout the day and team up pretty handily on his duties. This is not me on a “my son is perfect” kick (we know too many of those parents). He would get nothing done at all without significant guidance, and ten minutes don’t go by without some kind of complaint or him asking to play Fortnite. Yeesh. But if I step back and take the broad view? Yeah, he’s doing alright.

I have 15 minutes before his school starts.

………

Boy, that day got away. It’s almost exactly 12 hours later. I finished the landscaping earlier (haha, right). The boy joined me for a short but necessary walk up the hill and down the Thistle Street stairs. I think it still rates as the second longest staircase in Seattle (outdoors, anyway), at 367 steps. Judging by the fresh wood on that handrail, this is a fairly old picture.

Stairs

My daughter has just finished decorating her own birthday cake, and my wife is taking her picture. Letting her do it herself is a bit of a birthday present. She loves baking, and especially the decorating part. She’d probably be mad if we bought her a cake or made it without her. She has an April Fool’s Day birthday, and one of these years I’m going to come up with something huge. So far we’ve spared her.

I suppose tomorrow we can expect a bunch of Coronavirus April Fool’s jokes. China jumped the gun by saying “it’s totes no big deal” months ago (Good one, China. A real knee-slapper), but the CDC should really issue a huge notice announcing a vaccine tomorrow, only to have Trump appear on Maddow at about 10pm Eastern time and say APRIL FOOL’S!

………

I was hoping to have a “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today, but it is not to be. We’ll catch back up with life on the SoCal streets tomorrow, hopefully.

Well I’m glad I didn’t quit on him too early, he comes through at exactly 9:00 PM with your HIC update. It’s a comforting bit of nothing interesting:

Sorry phone was out of commish
just back at the ol’ laundromat
You?

I never want to tell him exactly what I’m up to, because it always comes out as “plenty of food, nice warm house, happy family,” and that seems a little insensitive considering his circumstances. I know he’s happy for me, but there’s gotta be a line. There’s always a line.

Shore up your bridges, comrade citizen!