The PVP Diaries #50

Fifty!

Update 5-27

I’m just a guy, doing this again.

Misty

I’m tired. Broadly and acutely, after this long hibernation and a short night’s sleep. Let’s let Emily Dickinson write #50 for us:

My nosegays are for Captives –
Dim – long expectant eyes,
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till Paradise.

To such, if they should whisper
Of morning and the moor,
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.

 


Sometimes tomorrow, Comrade Citizen—

The PVP Diaries #49

Update 5-25

I’m just a guy who’d rather not be awake just yet, but cats.

2-5 daily deaths in a county with 2.2 million people is not the sort of stat that has me checking the toilet paper supplies, just to be sure. I would almost guarantee that, in any population of that size, including a major urban area, some other thing kills at least that many people every day. Cancer, gang violence, seagulls. Something.

June 1st fast approaches. That’s the last target date we received from Olympia for ending the stay-at-home order, mandate, strong suggestion, we-can’t-force-you-but-just-you-test-us, whatever thing. There isn’t a much better way to lose support than to set dates and continue to move them back, and I have to believe that any further extension of this condition beyond June 1st is going to be the beginning of noteworthy unrest. And no, I don’t mean revolution and armed conflict. But beaches and parks will be swarmed, closures will be ignored, businesses will open in defiance. And of course there will be more of the marches and protests that have already occurred, and which the Governor has been very condescending and dismissive towards. I don’t like any marches or protests. Something about them, no matter the cause, makes me rankle with disappointment and unease. It’s a sort of legitimized mob-rule. A designed, large scale antagonism that pretends to be all abashed, suddenly, when it receives pushback from authority. Any large group is at least 90% mindless momentum, and that’s all kinds of dangerous.

In any case, this week should bring something noteworthy from Governor Inslee. I think I’ve done alright at noticing his successes as well as his failures here, all while never forgetting that no matter what he’s doing, it only comes after a careful consideration of where his votes are coming from, and whether a run for President is in his future plans. I’m generous where it’s warranted, but politicians want absolutely nothing except re-election. Morality gets a condescending head pat and is sent outside to play in the rain. Sometimes politics and good choices do align, absolutely. But it’s always the politics, and never the good, that drives the choice.


Memorial Day weather was lousy. It cleared up enough in the evening to grill some steaks. I managed the charcoal poorly, being a bit rushed, so the overall quality was down a smidge from what we’re used to from me. Here in affordable Seattle, a steak at one of the big steakhouses can easily cost $80 for 10 ounces. The price screams upwards from there for all the Wagyu flying around these days. We rejoice here at The Haven when we can buy a couple of fat cuts for under $20 and make them taste even better here at home. And without all the stifling formality.

We took a 3 mile walk around Lincoln Park, amid the forests of pines and signs: “Park closes at 8:00,” “this is what 6 feet looks like,” “keep it moving,” “play area closed,” etc. The bad weather kept the crowds down, and it was by far the lowest number of people we’ve seen there in the past couple of months. It is still somewhat exhausting, though, wondering and worrying about what’s in the minds of everyone you walk past. Do they think you got too close? Do they think this is all nonsense? Am I being respectful enough of my fellow citizens while maintaining my right to approach this thing in the way I think is best? I’m so sick of it all.

My wife went to the grocery store for the first time in what, almost 3 months now? I’ve been to Home Depot several times, but otherwise we’ve gone nowhere. And even then I’ve only done the curbside pickup, where they bring my order out and put in my car so that I don’t even have to get out. Yesterday I went inside Home Depot for the first time, to visit the customer service desk and arrange a propane exchange. The amount of plexiglass and floor tape was staggering. The X’s on the floor that said “stand here” were not aligned with the cash registers (is that what they’re called now?), so you couldn’t obey the mandate of the adhesive without a very awkward exchange between yourself and the associate. But if you just positioned yourself where you naturally would for that sort of interaction, you weren’t on the X. Such dilemma. And it turns out that no matter how many people you see every day walking around with some kind of mask on their faces, it’s unsettling, odd and unnerving to put one on yourself in public for the first time. I felt so self-conscious, though I know there was no reason to be. Have I mentioned that I’m sick of all this?

Anyway, the grocery store. This is a city, so grocery delivery is so readily available and convenient that we got kind of comfortable in the routine. But we’ve been getting crazy here, going nowhere, and so my wife chose one of the 9 (at least) grocery stores within 4 miles of us, and headed out. Her report? Meh. It was pretty quiet out there. Some people without masks, which is a criminal offense in some minds, and a non-issue in others. She came home, unloaded the groceries, and found a pear that she probably wouldn’t have gotten in pre-plague times, when it was ok to pick up a piece of fruit, look at it, then put it back. But overall the produce was the purpose – fruits and veggies are often very disappointing when the groceries are delivered.


 

Last week I returned to a good sized short story that I was writing, sporadically, before our little gift came from overseas. It has racism and the gripping dilemma that a college educated city girl on a hog farm in Indiana has to face, between defending her female friend (#metoo! #believewomen!), and defending a well-liked illegal immigrant, a long time member of the community. The uncomfortable convergence of disparate social justice priorities, when one must be chosen over the other. There’s even cats. It’s got 17 pages to it, which makes it the longest single piece of fiction I’ve put together. I wrote several research papers and essays that touched the 25 page mark in college (just a couple of years ago!), but that’s not the same. For a guy who writes a lot, it seems odd to be impressed by writing a lot, especially when it isn’t even a lot. I need to aim higher. That’s what the novel’s for. At the beginning of the lockdown I was working steadily on it, with a well-established routine. Some chapters laid out, several scenes and dialogues written, lots of notes. I worked at the same time every day, in the same place. I said to myself “when this whole Wuhan virus thing is over, I’ll get back to it.” Seemed reasonable. Homeschooling The Boy was happening in my usual writing time. Well, that particular hospital ship has clearly sailed back to its home station, all unused and unloved, so it’s time to rearrange the priorities and the mind a bit and get back after The Work.

So, Tuesday. One of the final weeks of homeschooling. It’ll be rough when school’s out for the Summer and the kids are home all the — Christ. I had a wild dream last night that I was still teaching The Boy, but we were doing it at his school, which was actually my old Jr. High School in St. Charles, Illinois (hello, Haines Jr. High!). He was resisting his work, so I said “Fine. You’re just not doing school anymore, I guess. You’ll just have to do nothing and see where that gets you. Let’s go home so we can be there when the police arrive to talk to you. The school has to call them and let them know that you’ve quit.” He started freaking out, his teacher walked in the room, and I realized (as we always do in these situations) that I was in my underwear. I’ve had the naked at school dreams before, but only as the student.

When I go in for these weekly schoolwork exchanges, it’s just like Home Depot. I pull up and pop the trunk, one of the 3 teachers on duty pulls last week’s work out and replaces it with this week’s new material, and I’m on my way. But we always chat some through the open window of the car from whatever distance they keep. It’s definitely 6 feet. I don’t wear a mask. Again, I have to wonder whether they think I’m a grandma killer (that’s the metric, you know), or if they think nothing of it. I’ve mentioned, perhaps, that I’m sick of this? Of the ever-present suspicion and paranoia? If I haven’t mentioned it before (though I strongly suspect that I have), consider it mentioned now.


June 1st approaches! Ready your torches, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #48

Now Lanser stood up. “I told you I’m very tired, sir. I must have some sleep. Please co-operate with us for the good of all.” When Mayor Orden made no reply, “For the good of all,” Lanser repeated. “Will you?”

Orden said, “This is a little town. I don’t know. The people are confused and so am I.”

“But will you try to co-operate?”

Orden Shook his head. “I don’t know. When the town makes up its mind what it wants to do, I’ll probably do that.”

– Steinbeck, The Moon is Down

I’m just a guy eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

I know there’s a list of counties in Washington who are now (graciously) permitted (with suprememe benevolence) to apply for the privilege of embarking on phase 2 of reopening their businesses. I am no revolutionary, but I am no idiot, and while neither am I a Constitutional scholar, I don’t think that’s the way it works. I’m pretty sure these people – The People – can hang their shingles and throw open the doors whenever they damn well please, without begging for permission from those elected officials who serve because we allow them to do so. Not the other way around. 

I’m saying nothing new here, of course. Nothing novel (haha). I don’t spend enough time thinking about it to be particularly long-winded or effective in the defense of liberty. I just know what my gut and my eyes and my ears tell me, which is that this whole thing is a parade of garbage that continues without flagging, not because of the extant danger of pervasive disease, but because of the extant disease of pervasive vanity. If a leader somewhere were finally willing to appear small and pedestrian, then that is where you would find a place well-governed. 

But the people are broken, too. And I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg. I know many people who are talking about the future and saying that it could be a decade before we’re traveling and taking vacations again. There’s simply nothing in me that can accomodate that level of pining for the worst-case scenario. When I listen to people talking about the state of the Wuhan Flu, there’s an unmistakable note of pleasure, of excitement, in every number they can cite that makes it seem like nothing’s improving. People want to be afraid. Since the beginning of The Great Woe, I’ve flogged this notion so much that it’s going to need a safe word, but the fact is that people choose to target, for some reason, misery as the way to experience an elevated sense of personal importance. 

I think that, for a lot of people, if they hear about a plane crash or an earthquake that happened on the other side of the world, they feel left out. They feel that the victims have gained a notoriety that will never reach them. That’s why we have the trope of “where were you when…” that pops up with every major malady the world has ever known. Assasinations, terrorist attacks, space shuttle explosions. We’re jealous of anyone who gets to enjoy a horror to which we were not invited. Primarily, probably because a tragedy bestows notoriety in the most desirable way possible – the unearned way. When an earthquake hits your city, well, you were just sitting around doing nothing extra, nothing above, nothing that required effort or ingenuity, and suddenly something happened that made you important. Tragedy is the treasure of the terminally unexceptional, sought out and dug up by someone else, and left on the doorstep. 

But here we have the best possible hell – a global one! Nobody is left out. It is literally everyone’s 15 minutes. Except that as the coronavirus sputtered along, the perpetually mediocre and eternally aggrieved masses started to realize, with a rising sense of panic, that they weren’t going to get sick. And neither was anyone in their families. Obviously, some did, but the numbers turned out to be disappointingly low and so full of asterisks and predictable concentrations in nursing homes that this global nightmare was starting to look like a date with fame that was going to leave us sitting alone at a fancy table and repeating to the waiter through stifled sobs that “she’ll be here any minute.”

The only thing we could do with that kind of embarrassment is to close the restaurant. And pretty quickly we closed them all, because that saved us from the shame of having gotten all dressed up only to have gone to the wrong place and sitting there feeling pathetic, while our thrilling disease was off dancing with someone else in the space we left on the floor by reading the invitation wrong.

And it’ll go on (already has), far longer than it should. It’s the only way to manufacture enough unwarranted fear to make us feel important. Worrying over the hell that might yet come is the best possible alternative to acknowledging the one that never did. 

Seek your happiness in joy, Comrade Citizen!

 

 

The PVP Diaries #47

For the love of God, Ronny, do NOT tear down that wall.

My “h” key has gotten sticky, and WordPress has offered me a new editor. It’s taking some time to get used to, but I try to resist the urge to mistake “unfamiliar” with “initially difficult and therefore bad,” so I’ll give it a try for a while. Knee-jerk resistance is one of the standard intellect-signaling responses to new experiences. “I’m super smart because I immediately recognize how inferior is this new thing to the old thing, and in these specific ways.” You know the type. Heck, if you’re normal, you know the feeling. If you want to resist something, resist that.

Update 5-20

I’m just a guy who can’t catch a break from the rain.

New condition: Dashboard Fatigue!

The “Race/Ethnicity Dashboard shows its cards a bit too shamelessly with statements like this:

The dashboard below shows the impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color compared to whites in King County, Washington.

They don’t care one whit who’s surviving, they only care whether white people are surviving with disproportionate success. Presumably because of some form of racism. I point again to my insistence that the perception of racism far outweighs the reality of it, precisely because of its necessity in the lives of the people fighting it. It’s the paradox of activism: You define yourself by fighting injustice, but you can’t fight an injustice that you’ve eliminated. It hurts you to be successful. The activists gain far more from racism than any actual racist does. Who needs it most? Who suffers if it goes away? And so who works hardest at keeping it alive? The whole thing’s a rollercoaster that climbs out of the gate and just keeps going up. You’re stuck wriggling under that locked-down lap bar, wondering how high they could possibly have built it and could you have taken a different ride, or is this miserable escalator the only one in the park?

Hint: There’s a dashboard for that.


Roughly one month of work:

Patio Before
April 19
Plague Patio Complete 5-20
May 20

Everything is laid and set, though a few of the wall caps still need to be glued. There was no rain in the forecast, so I spread the joint sand, which wanted 48 dry hours after being initially watered in. Then I woke up at 4:30 this morning to the sound of rain in the downspout. It’s a pretty light rain, and I’m not worried.

Drainage! Backfill! Lighting! More work to do, but the hard part is over.


Yes, language alert, but it’s fairly apropos:


Settle for losing at the ring toss, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #46

Just trying to limit the future undoings

 

Update 5-19

I’m just a guy with a pile of damp sand in the driveway.

………

There’s so much that goes on everyday, and yet so little happening. I think that’s where the paralysis comes from. Press conferences and new websites and dashboards and applications for this and that and collapsing bridges and closing streets…masked mayors and lines at the hardware store and yet the sun and rain, and yet the sun, and yet…

There’s a blog I used to read every day (it’s still going strong) that eventually led me to recognize something about the relationship between criticism and character. The author had outstanding, clever, brilliant insights into all the political  happenings in the world. He saw the flaws in all of the more widely accepted and vociferously approved social movements, and was extremely adept at logically, sensibly, rationally deconstructing them to show them for the flawed propositions that they were (are) (as long as they were carried out by progressives). I almost invariably agreed with him. I have no doubt that he has an awful lot to say on a daily basis about the Wuhan Flu and all the turmoil surrounding it. But then I realized that after a year or so of reading and commenting on his essays, I was in the company of someone who spent a significant amount – probably a majority – of his mental and emotional energy, on complaining. Every. Single. Day. Often at great length. However much I agreed or believed him to be right, it was inexhaustible negativity. I thought and wrote:

I can’t imagine a life with my daughter if, even after these scant four years, she had a dour, bitter, angry father. Would she ever smile at anything other than someone else’s misfortune? 

………

3 days later and I am still slowed by my wet sand, but little by little I am drying it out and making progress:

Nearly there 2

Nearly There

I actually got out of bed last night – minutes after climbing in – because I remembered that there was rain in the forecast. I threw on some clothes and swept up my drying sand so I could get a tarp over it. Fool me once…

………

I guess I know what to expect from my mornings for a while:

………

My daughter’s happiness is all simple, and all wonderful, and none of it is dependent upon her own perception of her cleverness among the throngs. There are only two people in the world who know how to smile like a four year old: A four year old, and the person holding her hand. It’s never long before she tells me I’m squeezing too hard.

Please loosen your grip, Comrade Citizen. You’re hurting her.

 

The PVP Diaries #45

Just in time for Halloween

Update 5-18

I’m just a guy who was kept up all night by cats.

I’ll accept a temporary tax hike to pay for intensive testing and tracking of the regular flu next year – everything they’re doing for the Wuhan Flu, without all the tyranny. I’m just curious. I just want to see. You know, data and science. All that.

I heard someone the other day say why it was so important to close churches. Now, this is probably widely traveled stuff by now, but I’m pretty news-deprived, and I don’t tend to hunt down the details when I hear that liberals and conservatives have different ideas about what should be done with churches. So this information was new to me, and I utterly failed to swallow a chuckle when I heard it:

“It’s all the singing.”

Right. Gotcha. Okilee-dokilee, neighbor.

Flanders Gun

I am against, ever and always, the replacement of joy with fear.

………

I went to pick up The Boy’s school packet for the week, and drop off his completed work from last week. That’s been the only shortcoming from his school – I have no clear guidance on exactly what to turn in. There’s just a bag full of stuff every week, a schedule for what to do, and a couple of things clearly marked “do not return to school.” Other than that, I just kind of pile up everything he’s done and send it back. In the first week, his cursive workbook had a note on it that said “return for corrections,” and that it would come back on the next available pickup day. So I turned it in. 3 weeks later I asked about it and they rushed someone to our house to drop it off because it has to be completed in order to move on to 4th grade, and now we’re 3 weeks behind. It’s alright; there isn’t that much to do, and he doesn’t mind working on it. Still, he panicked and cried when he heard that part about not getting out of 3rd grade.

As he always does, he recovered very quickly got to doing what needed to be done.

They’ve sent home seeds and a tomato plant. we’ll participate selectively in the gardening. We don’t have very many sunny spots at all, and I’m not building any contraptions to help things along. I know how to garden on a very simple, amateur level, and I can teach them easily enough. I’ve grown things. It isn’t rocket science. One of the packets is pumpkin seeds. These will not be planted. I have no interest in pumpkins, and having grown a squash before, I know the obscene sprawl of those plants. No thank you.

………

Here’s a piece of a conversation I had with my brother yesterday. He was being belligerent, and I have a hard time being generous when that happens:

Perceptions

………

I did a little more work on the patio, but didn’t take any pictures. The sand was still so wet that I had to spread it in thin parcels on the driveway and let it dry for a couple of hours before using it, so it wasn’t a day of great progress. Today, though, should see me just about finished. Except that’s never true: I still have to lay some drain pipe and backfill the wall, build up some soil around the exposed parts of the perimeter, and install some lights. I’m a little tired of shovels and rakes, I’m here to tell you.

………

I’ve heard plenty about how they like the warmth of the keyboard, but this won’t do:

Keyboard Cats

Finish the job, Comrade Citizen!

 

The PVP Diaries #44

Don’t step on the cats!

Update 5-17

I’m just a guy eating coffee cake.

………

Please say hello to Princess Wuhannah and Madame Quarantina:

Q&W

10 weeks old. Their practical names are Rae and Maggie, a couple of matronly names in our family, but we will register them under their more formal monikers at the vet next week.

I fear for our furniture, but we will take all necessary precautions. They used the litter box right from the start – not a single errant discharge in the house. However, the self-cleaning litter box is large and a bit noisy. There’s a minor smell coming from it, but we’ll move it to its final position in the laundry room today – meaning that, effectively, I’ll be the only one in the family who ever sees it. .I compare this to raising a puppy and have no regrets at all about skipping that trauma. The kids have to be forced to leave the poor things alone, but when these two get some space they can’t stop chasing each other around, tackling, pouncing and bouncing, stalking, leaping. It’s so much fun to watch. Their intrepid acrobatics are already very impressive. 

It just dawned on me that I may very well be hanging out with these two into my 60’s.

Real time shot:

On the keyboard

I had two cats years ago, when I was living in an apartment off base at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. I gave them to a friend when I was sent off to Korea. Which reminds me of a story that I’ll keep short: Some friends and I were walking to a bar outside the gates of Camp Humphreys when we came upon a tiny little kitten huddled against a building in the pouring rain. We picked it up and took it to the bar, where we were friends with the owner. She drove the kitty to a an animal hospital (or a vet or a friend’s house, I actually don’t remember, but I know she was a huge animal lover) and asked us to run the bar while she was gone. It was early on a weekday, and not busy, but we did sell a few beers before she came back. There’s not a lot of places you can get away with that.

………

We are getting so very close on the patio. My sand got soaked Saturday night, because I was a bit forgetful and mesmerized by the downpour, so I didn’t cover it. I asked my brother if this would be a problem, and he said, “if it’ll screed, go for it.” The top layers of the big pile were workable:

Screed

Working alone, and in small sections at a time so as not to get ahead of myself and make mistakes, I made slow progress:

Stones down

ي فاشفط

(Sorry, cat got onto the keyboard and managed to change it to Arabic. That doesn’t say anything, though it would sound something like “ee faashfat.”)

I had to stop working on the patio because the remaining sand needed to be drier. I spread some out on a second tarp, and should be able to finish laying the stones today. Also, I think they sent me an extra pallet of large rectangles (16″x24″). There’s over a hundred of them left, and I’m almost halfway finished. I’ve only used about 20 so far. I’d think of it as a windfall, but the idea of building another patio makes me want to bury myself under the one I’m working on now.

Send air freshener, Comrade Citizen!