The PVP Diaries #42

Quick! Get sick!

Update 5-14

Look, it’s not difficult. Nor is it pleasant. We’re simple. We’re not as brilliant or clever or free-thinking as we’d like to believe. If Washington state were here today with the lone difference that Governor Inslee were a Republican, having done everything exactly the same way as he has done them as a Democrat, the praise would be coming from conservatives, and the condemnation would be coming from the liberals. That’s it. Period. Don’t fool yourself.

“But if he was conservative he wouldn’t – ”

Knock it off. You’re deflecting. Virtue doesn’t vote.


Statisfaction: The degree to which you can make data that directly contradicts your desired outcome, nonetheless fit your desired outcome.

So people pretty much stopped going to the ER for anything remotely related to the Wuhan Flu in what, March? Early April at the latest? I know the obvious response is “because restrictions, boomer,” and the follow on is that “if we relax now we’ll see a dramatic resurgence.” Fine, whatever, have your petty little preparation for the coming election. Make it look like something that can only be salvaged and repaired by anybody not named Trump. Just be honest about it. I would skip, whistling, into an Orwellian 1984 reality if the people throwing that particular party would just admit what they were doing. I swear I’d take confinement over pandering and sanctimonious head-patting ten times out of ten, if my jailers would just look me in the eye and say:

“We’re really just doing this to control and defeat you, out of a feeling of spite that we can’t quite locate the source of, and a general desire for absolute power.”

“So you’re not saying that this is for my own good, or that I should trust you or anything?”

“Oh, goodness no! Lol! We just want to grab everything we possibly can, hoard it among a few very powerful people, and not have any of you morons getting in our way.”

“Cool then. Show me to my cell.”

“Your what?”

“Excuse me, ma’am. I meant to say ‘show me to my comfortable new lodgings.”


I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me


The donuts were a chocolate cake variety, with peppermint glaze:


They are very good, of course, but she’s made them 3 times in a row now. And me, I like a nice, puffy raised ring, rolled in cinnamon and sugar. I wish she’d do those, but she can require some nudging, sometimes, to leave her comfort zones. Can’t we all? I’ve gone through several of the more creative offerings at my favorite bakery (though honestly they’re pretty old school and don’t do much to appease the foodie crowd) and have settled on two basics: the aforementioned cinnamon/sugar, as well as the Thursday special, which is a glazed buttermilk knot.


My wife is going to drive into the office today. The big downtown. She hasn’t been there since early March, and is under guidance to work from home until October. If it goes longer than that we’ll be turning the guest room into her office. We’ll take it. It’s been very nice to have everyone here, which is how I know we’re doing things well, as a family.


It doesn’t look much different, but it is. There’s about 3 new inches of gravel on there:

Compacted 2


The two wall sides have the channels prepped for the wall blocks. Tamped down and level, ready to be stacked upon. It won’t be as easy as dropping them in and going for the next block – there will be little adjustments, baby tweaks with the rubber mallet to get the bottom course in there just right, but once that’s done it’ll be all about the building up and gluing.

Unfortunately, there’s a materials delay. Of course. Nothing to do with any Chinese viruses. The girl in the call center said they had a “major computer glitch,” which of course means that somebody screwed something up, and the company wants to avoid – as much as possible – being yelled at by angry customers, so they’ve invoked the great ephemeral notion of rogue software. Nobody’s gonna have that argument, you know? It’s just gonna be people like me, knowing that the “computer glitch” is a garbage lie, but succumbing to the realization that pressing the matter isn’t going to get my order here any faster (or end the lockdown any sooner, but I’d hate to have a cohesive theme in my posts). Might actually delay it another day or two (or month or six, but I should really stop with that). I wonder how often they get a guy like me on the line, but who also happens to be a programmer or a software engineer who asks “what was the glitch, exactly? I can help make sure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe transfer me to IT.”

Anyway. It’s a one day delay. It’ll be here tomorrow [the Governor assures me (STOP IT ANDY)].

I overestimated my gravel needs by roughly a cubic yard. But not really! I can use the extra as backfill for the wall. Good drainage material, though a bigger, cleaner gravel would be better. Here’s what’s left:

Plague pile day 2

This is where it started:


The weekend will be glorious. Hopefully the retaining wall will be finished, leaving me only the sand to put down, and the pavers to lay. Dare I project completion by this time next week? We’ll see!

For today, my unexpected down day (except let’s not forget the ongoing homeschooling of The Boy. He’s been doing beautifully), I have two pendant lights to install – one over the kitchen table, and one over the sink. We’re replacing a couple that are ok, but we didn’t realize when we ordered them that they were LED, and far too cool of a white light to be comfortable under.


Don’t be statisfied, Comrade Citizen!

Donut Monkey

A Plague Diaries Interlude

The Girl woke early this morning. Last night she brought out her donut cookbook and arranged a sort of challenge (though let’s be honest here, everyone wins in a donut competition) between herself and her friend/neighbor on our not-so-dead end street. She started making them – raised chocolate cake rings – at about 5:30. Never mind the old man in the kitchen saying “I’m halfway done making your dinner.” She made the rookie mistake of creating the recipe step-by-step, without reading through to the end, whereby she would have learned about the combined hours of resting, rising, and proofing involved. To follow its minimums would have had her dropping the first rings into the oil at about 11:00 pm. Mom assured her the dough would be fine in the morning, or even after school if it came to that. It would not, I already knew because I know her well, come to that.

Her competitor’s dad (my neighbor/friend, if I’m being consistent) sent a picture of her entry into the fray. It’s an impressive offering:


So like I said: the Girl woke early this morning. Easily an hour before what’s normal. She’s already in there turning out, rolling, and cutting. Plus, climbing up onto the counter to get the jigger from the high liquor cabinet. The jigger cuts the perfect sized holes in the rings. She doesn’t mount the counters as much as she used to, nor anywhere near as much as The Boy, whose early acrobatics and death-defying shelf-scaling earned him the svelte nickname of the Domestic Urban House Monkey (DUHM). The Girl, with affected disdain (but still-apparent relish), bears the name of Sister of Domestic Urban House Monkey (So DUHM). She’s too tall now to climb around the kitchen with much grace, but anything for donuts.

“Have you turned on the oil yet?”
“No, these still have to sit for another 30-45 minutes. I started them now so I could fry them after my first class.”

So, she can’t pick up a towel from the floor after she showers, but she can backwards plan to cook donuts between classes. I kinda want to flip her off for that. But the donuts will be too good for that kind of attitude. And you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to see how they came out.


Now we’re cooking with Crisco!



I love the plate compactor. I’m calling it “the stone zamboni.” There’s a degree of awe that I have for ridiculously specialized tools that do their job beautifully and simply, without apparent complication. The friend who loaned it to me said “it’s finicky.” It is, and it clearly has an awful lot of miles on it, but a little subtle conducting of the choke and the throttle gets it roaring to a terrific, if somewhat irregular, frequency, and it skates around the gravel like something a tenth of its weight, needing only a slight suggestion to turn here and there. My mistake was in not anticiapting what to do with it at the end of each application. It demolishes anything that it runs over, and hitting the dirt makes a cloud that Pigpen would be frightened of. After the first time bucking and heaving it around outside of the patio area, I built a little gravel driveway into/out of the pit so that I could put it aside and turn it around easily enough. Often the bigger jobs require a measure of peripheral work that will never show up in the final product, but nonetheless can’t be done without.

Let’s look back:

Patio Before
April 3
Stone Zamboni
May 13

Wall blocks and pavers come tomorrow!


The PVP Diaries #41

As far as plague numbers go, well, let’s just say “no change.” Single digit deaths for well over a week, maybe two. The highest has been 8. Don’t fret, there’s always odd little new emphases drummed up to keep anyone from thinking we’re doing alright. I mean, never mind whether you’re a pro- or anti-mask person, the idea is absurd that now, some four months deep and well into the flattened curve, we’re seeing intensified guidance and persuasion to wear them. Why wasn’t there such strong encouragement – right up to but not quite at the point of enforcement – back in mid-March when the schools were closing and the experts were telling us how bad it was going to be? Now that we’ve gotten dramatically better, the heightened measures kick in. Incompetence is just malice with a little ADHD.

Face Coverings

Suddenly Muslim women around the world are all “who’s oppressed now, a-hole?” Of course none of the Muslim women I know wear a face covering, some not any kind of headscarf at all, so the joke is just there for the sake of the joke. But you can always look, and look, and look until you find the reality that suits your snark and signaling.

In the first quarter of my return to school, at South Seattle College, I took a poetry class. There was a Muslim girl in there wearing the full burqa – only a mesh screen across the eyes. Her voice could have come from a Nebraskan as readily as a Numidian, and she did not waste it on complaint, threat, and accusation. It was the Fall of 2016, and she was the only one in the room not calling Republicans racists, or barking about toxicity, fragility, or intersectionality. She did not write poems about violence and despair. Her calm and measured demeanor made me want to shut up and do better.

But then you see again the burqa and realize there’s an awful lot that sits unsettled here. There are questions to be asked, and caution to be exercised, and respect to be remembered. And, for the True Love of God, a divine need for humility.


Safe Start

The Governor’s been putting out guidance for the re-opening of the economy in Washington, all of which I understand to be effective as of May 31, which is the current end date for the full restrictions that are in place now. The re-opening will come, you may have heard, in phases. He put out the phase 2 guidance for dine-in service at restaurants recently. It reads as a very unpleasant way to run a restaurant. All snark aside, it seems questionable whether it will be possible to not lose money under the phase 2 conditions. But I don’t run a restaurant and have no idea what any of thier books look like. And if it heightens morale and/or builds positive momentum towards the full normal, then it’s a net gain for all of us. Again, Inslee’s ability to not mire the mentality of his state in a black miasma of doom has been his principal success. I’d love for him to have been more bold and rebellious; to have distinguished himself with some degree of political courage. Of course there are an awful lot of people who will say that he has been courageous, and they’re the ones voting for him. He could at least have taken a moment to smack down Seattle’s mayor for that ridiculous park bench maneuver. (I prefer manoeuvre, FWIW)


It’s amazing how slowly time can move. I did a little extra digging around the patio perimeter yesterday, because I had the time. I’ll get an enormous pile (5 yards) of gravel in the driveway today, but I’ll only be able to move precious little of it to the patio area, as the retaining wall needs to go in first, and lower than the rest of the patio. The wall blocks don’t come until Friday, so the project’ll be mostly idle Thursday, too. I could have timed my orders better, yes, but I’m new here. I was paralyzed by the order process, worried that I’d get the wrong amounts of the wrong things, and just be left in a monumental lurch. Alas, it was time to shit or get off the pot, so I ran the numbers eight more times and made the call. I’ll definitely send pictures when my lawn and driveway have become a staging area for most of the hardscape materials in the Pacific Northwest. No shortages there – apparently nobody wipes their ass with cement blocks anymore. We’ve gotten so soft.

I did take the plate compactor on a trial run yesterday, and it was a very loud bunch of fun.


The Woman in White is off to a good start. It’s a page turner – just the sort of thing I could use right now. A few suggestions have come in from reader/commenter/friend Marica, including Pilgrim’s Progress. I read that book about ten years ago and remember it as poorly as I remember anything else, so maybe a second go ’round is in order.


Not a good post, I know. However hard the guv may be trying to keep my spirits up, he cannot. Even after receiving some very good news yesterday, my own curve is rather flat. This is, of course, the ebb and the flow, the natural course of things. I’ve put an awful lot of energy into an awful lot of things over the last couple of months, and I think I’m in an involuntary regroup and recharge phase of my own recovery.

Dig for the cure, Comrade Citizen!

Summerpeek on the Plagueround

I have plague fatigue. The weekend was brilliant with kids and hoses and dirt and sun. And color!


85 degrees. Let’s run that Summeryard inventory:

  1. Star spangled paddles
  2. Aluminum baseball bat (pink?)
  3. Hose with selectable nozzle
  4. Scooter
  5. One boxing glove
  6.  Bicycle helmet
  7.  Tiny soccer ball (pink?)(and sparkly?)
  8. Camp chair

Note: no children in sight, being so close to cleanup time.

They invented a game wherein they would heave the boxing glove down one end of the not-so-dead end street, then run past me to retrieve it. I was sitting in the camp chair, facing the street, about midway through their run to the glove, wielding the garden hose. They tried to go and get the glove, manufacturing a series of (let’s face it, pretty weak, if tremendously enjoyable) diversions, schemes, misdirections, and covering maneuvers, in an attempt to not be sprayed by the water. The paddles were shields, the baseball bat was used in an as yet inconclusive role (though it was generally menacingly pointed here and there), and a very pathetic, flimsy, plastic football helmet whose logo had long since worn off was passed from head to head. Each new wearer had high hopes for the helmet’s water repellency, but was ultimately disillusioned in turn. The cries were of the timeless variety:

“He got me!”

“You can’t run out of range!”

“Cover me!”

“No, split up!”

“Oh, who cares? Just spray me, I like it.”


You were wondering about the patio dig?

May 7
May 7
IMG_3524 (2)
May 9

Not vastly different, but measured and marked off. I’m in a holding pattern until my gravel and sand get here Wednesday. Fine by me – I need the rest. Ran the final numbers today and will order the actual pavers and wall blocks tomorrow. Finalizing the materials – shapes, colors, etc. has been a somewhat fluid endeavor, depending a bit too much on my own personal considerations of what would make things easiest on the installer (you know, me). Christ, I hope I can pull this off.


There has been a smell of gasoline in the air all day. It’s 9:30 pm, finally dark. I’m on the porch, listening to a very still night being lacerated every ten minutes or so by the sound of the next someone dragging trash cans to the street. The fuel smell persists. I keep putting my fingers to my nose to see if it could be me, but it isn’t. I haven’t touched gas at all today. The wind changes, and it goes away. I haven’t heard a ferry.


There’s been a void since completing Moby Dick. Animal Farm was just too much like reading the internet, so I knocked it off after about half. Steinbeck’s been good – my God why did nobody ever tell me about The Red Pony? What madness! What guts! Alas, I need something bigger/longer. For two bucks I put The Woman in White on my Kindle. I read a Wilkie Collins book a few years back in college – The Law and the Lady. It was a good read in a class taught by a woman who was a total fangirl for the Victorian/gothic/mystery thing that Collins does. I understand it is a long book – 600 some pages. Just what I need. It may become unwieldy on the Kindle. I don’t like the electric format for anything long. It’s best, anyway, for airplane and night reading.

The Brothers Karamazov is also on the way. I want to do that one in paper.

The Butler Rises


I’ve always had a hard time writing to a specific theme. I could come home from a hockey game and write a better poem about baseball than hockey. All of this to say that I don’t think I have a specific Mother’s Day poem in the archives. I do have this, written in 2012, when the kids were still 1 and 3 years old. I was only just starting to get good at this dadding business, and their mother’s work travels left them very much longing, and I with my hands very full. I was still working full time then as well, so it was a whirlwind. We celebrated her returns:

The Countermeasure

Mama’s coming home today!
In anticipation, the pancakes fly
From the children’s plates
To the dog, through the sky.
Mama’s coming home today!

The sun makes noise to celebrate!
In obeisance, the butler rises
To quiet the household’s gears
With oils, and compromises.
The sun makes noise to celebrate!

Mama’s coming home today!
In preparation, a runner’s sent
To deliver the angels’ praise
For surviving, and keeping up the rent.
Mama’s coming home today!


She hasn’t traveled for months now, and that is what we celebrate. Here’s to a world waking itself up to travel, and a love that never leaves home.



The PVP Diaries #40

Strung Out

Gitano’s mouth opened for a word, and remained open while his brain sought the word. “I think it was quiet—I think it was nice.”

-Steinbeck, The Red Pony

Update 5-6

I found this handy resource. I’ll be interested in seeing what the totals look like after 2020 is over:

Death Totals
Deaths by State/county


You might remember a brief note in my 25th entry, wherein I talked about Seattle’s new “Stay Healthy Streets” program. They closed streets to through traffic in order to give people more freedom to walk without getting too close to each other. Kinda silly and excessive and transparently meaningless, considering you can technically still drive there, you’re just not supposed to unless you’re a resident on the street or your destination is within the zone. And because you remember that, you also remember that I (and countless others) said:

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

Now note yesterday’s headline at the SDOT blog:

2020 bike investments to accelerate, including 20 miles of Stay Healthy Streets to become permanent in Seattle

I read a comment from a delivery driver who noted the obvious, which is that the streets are not closed to traffic by this order, but people are walking around on them as if they are. There are a few theories about why the city’s done this. I’m sure some or all of them are at least partly true – even the good ones from the apparent minority who are in favor. In the end it was done for the same reason that everything’s done: the sweet trifecta of 1. saving money (for themselves), in order to 2. get money. And also 3. Votes. Nothing is done by any politician anywhere if he or she doesn’t think it’ll secure more votes.

Not that I care a heck of a lot, but a man eventually gets to feeling like he’s shrugged off one too many things. Inner peace gained by submission is an illusion. I guess I’ll make sure to vote.


I’m a morning person if anything. Not that I relish it – if you see me at a time that might be considered “early,” it’s perfectly ok if you don’t say good morning. And feel free to not turn on any lights if you don’t need to. But I would rather get up early to get things done than stay up late. After enough attempts at both, I know I am a morning writer far more than a night time one. I am becoming older and more interested in getting ahead of things, rather than dragging them out past their usefulness. Things grow too thin in the twilight.

I always want to spell that “twighlight.”


The Patio:

May 6
May 6
May 7
May 7

As I get closer to consequence, I consult my brother more and more. He builds houses in Massachusetts and could sneeze a patio better than I could build one. Don’t mind the string – I just moved it around a bit to make sure I was deep enough across the entire dig. Haven’t marked the actual boundaries yet. Then I went and watched this:

“it’s also the tool that will label you either a pro or a beginner, about as quickly, and about as clearly, as any other tool that you might pick up and try to use.”

My base material doesn’t get here until Wednesday, so I have time to practice. (H/T Gerard, who is the reason I know The Essential Craftsman exists, from a riveting post some time ago wherein Scott Wadsworth taught me the Truth about using ladders.)


Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

“It’s exactly the same as always, hahaha.”

There wasn’t much else. He moves around a lot and is dependent on free wifi spots, so a lot of convesations end pretty abruptly. There’s also a lot of unintended poetry in the way the abbreviated communications come out on messenger, if you’re looking for it. This happened just before we spilt for the day:

The governor spoke of things gradually opening but
not church for heaven’s sake
I thought we were protected by the lord
Guess not
It’s like a spiritual facemask


Find your poem, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #39

Throat officially cleared

 “Having lost her bearings, completely demoralized, Rebeca began eating earth again.”

– Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude

I am not demoralized, nor am I eating earth. Yet. I am only digging it and moving it, feeling sometimes armed not so much with a shovel as with one of poor Prufrock’s coffee spoons. But all the while feeling fine, if occasionally wondering what the dirt tasted like.

Update 5-5

I was up earlier than normal, but had a hard time getting started. Something in my head made me write this line down:

The only place I put my trust
is in things already returned to dust.

I’m not sure what to talk about today. I’m a little tired of my usual shtick, analyzing press releases and pretending to know better. To know anything.

I’m still digging, of course. And because there’s an analogue to every action, it could be said that I am literally flattening the curve:

May 5
May 5
May 6
May 6

As i move downhill (left in the picture) there is less and less to dig. I should be finished this afternoon. I’ll order my 5 yards of gravel for the base today, then finalize my measurements and order the sand, pavers, and wall blocks. I’m borrowing a plate compacter from a friend, and won’t have it until Monday, so no rush. Wire for the lights is already coming, but this particular household’s Committee of Ornamental Lighting Solutions has not yet met over the choice of the lights themselves. I suppose you could say that the project is being accomplished with a phased approach, with input from a diverse group of (two, sometimes conflicting) voices, and based upon an ever-shifting influx of data. In buckets.

Ok, I decided that the best thing I could do for myself this morning was to turn away for a moment and put together a one donut poem. It’s my first poem in weeks  months, and the right kind of excavation for my compacted soul.:


The easy part is the digging –
the placid silence of the spade slipping
sometimes surgically into earth –
the dirt itself gives a sexual sigh
as it welcomes the stone-honed steel
of the shovel between its sacred grains.

The easy part is the digging –
the straight-grained shaft of the handle
sometimes rung by a rock that sends
a shivering quiver into bone after bone
and out the crown of a skull that empties
toward divinity with every chuck and throw.

The easy part is the digging –
the brute sinking of shovel into soil
and the blessed singing of sinew –
the timeless rhythm that never lies
as it separates element from sentiment
and turns movement into monument.

The only place I put my trust
is in things already gone to dust.


I don’t usually give myself over to tricks like extended alliteration, but masterwork was not the goal here. The one donut poems are purges, cathartics. Semicolons of the morning, clearing the way for a fresh, independent clause.


The boy just came down – his light bounce on the stairs giving away his good mood before he was halfway here. I knew something was coming. It was. It did:

“Dad. I had the best dream ever last night. Quarantine was over, the day before summer vacation, and we could visit other people’s houses. We visited an animal shelter and we got an Abyssinian, and it was so happy, and it had no problem jumping up into our laps.  It held onto your computer cord and said ‘gimme the treats.’ And there was a lot more.”

Now he’s reading:


We’ve been looking at a Cat Encyclopedia in our very casual run-up to pet ownership, hence the specificity of the Abyssinian. It’s the first one in the book.


Your Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

As vibrant as ever

I thought maybe that was sarcasm, but his mood was light in the rest of the conversation. He’s generally a pretty positive person. It can be uplifting.