PVP Diaries #29

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

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

THE BIG GRAMMAR:

Update 4-23

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

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

THE METAPHORS AND THINGS:

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

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

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

THE CRAZY:

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

………

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

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

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

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

………

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

………

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

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

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

Make better music, Comrade Citizen!

PVP Diaries #28

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

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

DE GOBERNOR:

Update 4-22

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

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

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

Recovery Poster

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

DE SHARK:

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

The science isn’t settled – your opinion is.

DE ANGELS:

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

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

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

Nook

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

………

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

Right here, skipp

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

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

Govern the shark, Comrade Citizen!

 

 

The PVP Diaries #27

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

Update 4-21

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

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

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

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

Signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

Straight to bed with no dessert, Comrade Citizen!

 

The PVP Diaries #26

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

Update 4-20

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

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

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

Patio Before

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

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

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

Dry ice

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

………

Your “homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

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

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

Dig for your food, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #25

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

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

– Melville, Moby Dick

PASSION:

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

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

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

VANITY:

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

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

Anyway…

Update 4-16

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

………

THE MAGNANIMOUS EARTH:

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

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

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

 

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

The Joneses

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

Drive through the barricades, Comrade Citizen!

 

 

The PVP Diaries #24

Update 4-15

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

Now…this:

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

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

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

NopeMap

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

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

………

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

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

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

As We Lay Dying.

We mark them –
the pities,
this plague –

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

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

………

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

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

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

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

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

The PVP Diaries #23

Update 4-14

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

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

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

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

………

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

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

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

IMG-3389

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

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

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

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

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

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

Leave your house, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #22

Let’s try it like this:

Update 4-13

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

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

Mofish

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

FLies

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

………

And things were going so well:

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

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

………

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

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

I should have yelled for him to play Free Bird.

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

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

………

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Jam your Pearl, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #21

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

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

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

………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………

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

FTC

 

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

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

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

Let the boys scream, Comrade Citizen!—

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!