I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.
This may be the only thing I’ve been right about from the start (remember if you will that my earliest predictions were for a couple of months of panic, then a return to normal). And I’ve been saying for a while now that the election was going to mark a change in both the public and the official/governmental sense of the plague. It has. We’re at a point now when everything plague related has been rising steadily – positive test results, deaths, hospitalizations, the reproductive number – all of it. And yet, we are loosening up. There has been the lip service done about limiting family visits and travel during the holidays, but there are no new restrictions, no new closures, nothing more than some slightly more insistent admonitions to wear masks and keep your distance. COVID is far worse in Washington state than it has been since the beginning, and now the Governor is talking about sending kids back to school by March. It’ll be just the K’s and 1st graders and any students with special educational requirements, but in a climate where every sneeze had the Capital boarding up another public window, starting the back-to-school process during peak pandemic activity is a curious move, to say the least.
And it may just be a function of time and complacency, but the public in general is less fervent about it. Comments on COVID articles aren’t as high-strung and vitriolic as they were two months ago. People are taking bigger trips (while of course checking all the plague-safety boxes they can), staying gone longer, having more visitors, etc. All, again, while the pandemic is worse than it has ever been. How do we explain this?
I explain it, of course, in the way that best highlights my prescience: by saying that the plague’s political expediency has evaporated, post-election, so the utility of high-visibility reactions and measures has disappeared almost completely. And you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no way to say what would have happened if Trump had won (HE DID WIN VOTER FRAUD STOLEN ELECTION NEVER GIVE UP BUT ALSO I CAN’T BELIEVE HILLARY DIDN’T JUST SHUT UP AND ACCEPT THE ELECTION RESULTS IN 2016 WHAT’S WRONG WITH DEMOCRATS ANYWAY), but I did say that the plague vibe would dissipate more quickly and completely with a Biden victory (HE DIDN’T WIN YOU LIBTARD HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MUCH AMMO I HAVE).
I remember October, when the kids went back to full soccer practice and had some games scheduled because the two week number of positive cases was below 25 per 100,000 people. Today it is 496.2 per 100,000. In June a jump like that would have had us locked down tighter than a frog’s butt, and yet the kids are going back to school, and nobody’s screaming, nobody’s protesting.
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but all evidence seems to point to COVID reactivity being strongly dependent upon election proximity.
It’s called mass timber, and there are some gorgeous examples:
It would be a nice contrast/offset to the concrete and cranes of the port. Visually speaking, this section of downtown is drab, frantic, ugly, and uninviting, and that’s putting it mildly:
That’s the bridge as it currently stands. The camera is pointed generally southwest, with the bridge heading into West Seattle. SoDo in the foreground. SoDo is one of those decaying industrial areas that has a few clubs, craft cider breweries, and artisanal, small-batch, hand made trucker hat and candle companies trying to survive even in the best of times, and is therefore considered “good” by people savvy and perceptive enough to have eschewed the strictures of mass commercialism and the creep of the suburban mindset. Me? I’ve lived in the suburbs. It’s very nice there, if occasionally stale. But stale in the way that is more of a sustained, unbroken, and therefore rather unexciting, comfort and warmth. So of the suburban mindset, I say creep on.
I have taken the internet browsers off of my phone. A one point there were three of them. Sometimes you open a site and things are wonky, so you try it in a different browser. Redundant systems, etc. I had Safari, Edge, and Firefox. I was tired of going to my phone all the time, so I deleted them. It’s been 3, maybe 4 days, and it’s amazing how much less time I spend looking at my phone, reaching for my phone, stopping by the phone when I walk past it in the kitchen, etc. It’s a nice piece of freedom. There is still email on there, and a host of other apps, of course, but I’ve turned off notifications for almost all of them. My connection to the phone has decreased far more than I expected, just with that little change. I was actually thinking about getting a basic flip phone next time around, but there’s an awful lot of texting going on for actual, necessary communications, and I remember what it was like to do that on the alphanumeric keyboard. No thank you. Plus, pictures. I have a real camera, but by God it’s as big as a, well, a real camera. It’s not for all occasions. There are those who will say that we need to enjoy moments without introducing our technology to them. Without pulling our phones from our pockets, snapping a picture, adding a filter and a clever comment on instagram, and then moving on. I agree, and that’s why I don’t have social media (except this). I don’t have a Facebook account, so I don’t have a cognitive link between a sunset and a Facebook account*, such that I cannot look at the former without thinking of the latter. I just have the sunset. Also, when those moments are real enough, big enough, you don’t tend to think of your phone when you’re inside of them. It helps, also to not be living forever on the cusp of your next tweet.
*OMG that’s right, I do have a FB account, but it’s only there for messenger – still my best way to stay in contact with Coronafornia.
Speaking of Coronafornia, what’s the virus doing, you ask?
Same. Lots of positives, no deaths, negative correction to hospitalizations. If we reacted this way to every mostly harmless inconvenience, the government wouldn’t allow us to schedule our own oil changes anymore, much less do them ourselves in the driveway. We’d get a text from the state notification system the moment the oil light came on in our cars, and a window of time within which we must check in at the nearest DOT staffed service station in order to have our engines replaced by windmills and a one-month unlimited light rail pass.
-Is mass timber a church for trees, Comrade Citizen?-
“But I was not a domesticated animal. The dirt and grit of a city, the unending wakefulness of it, the crowdedness, the constant light obscuring the stars, the omnipresent gasoline fumes, the thousand ways it presaged our destruction … none of these things appealed to me.”
– Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation
Confession: Sometimes I don’t wash the coffee pot between uses. I just give it a good rinse and get on with it.
The Italian decided to start getting the Sunday Seattle Times. She said that it has better international news than what she gets from CNN. Of course I’ve suggested that she could get better news than CNN by studying the dregs of her tea, but the blackest habits are hardest to break. Last Sunday I came downstairs to see The Boy laid out in front of the fire, propped up on his elbows and reading the Sunday funnies. It was a sort of grand and old fashioned sight, almost Rockwellian, full of the sense of nostalgia, but also a little decay. But what is nostalgia if not a willful, wistful forgiveness of rot? It gave me memories, yes, because I read the Sunday funnies as a boy as well. I looked forward to them. I’d sit at the table, hunched behind the box and over a bowl of Cheerios (with a few spoonfuls of sugar added) or Honeycomb cereal or Raisin Bran (two scoops!) and I’d read them all. I used to take special care – and satisfaction – from deftly folding the sections cleanly back against their creases in order to keep the sprawl of newsprint manageable. I felt grown up giving the paper that adroit two-handed snap in order to pop out a little inversion.
My favorite was always Garfield. Something about his casual sarcasm always worked for me. And I had a predictable soft spot for Odie. For some reason Andy Capp stands out in my memory as well, though I doubt very much that I had any real idea what was going on with him and his ruddy nose that always preceded him back into the house, where an angry wife awaited. Wiki’s got him summed up:
“Andy is a working-class figure who never actually works, living in Hartlepool, a harbour town in County Durham, in northeast England. The title of the strip is a pun on the local pronunciation of “handicap”; and the surname “Capp” signifies how Andy’s cap always covered his eyes along with, metaphorically, his vision in life.”
I also remember The Family Circus – classic single panel comic. There was Cathy, but I think my status as not an angsty, self-obsessed girl kept me from enjoying it too much. And for some reason Fox Trot, though I remember little of it. I get the sense that it was a new comic when I was a kid. Lemme check…yep, April 1988. I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember it.
Anyway, the other part of the funnies was the word scramble, and I loved it. I was always good at that. I think the crossword was kept somewhere around there also, and I always did as much of that as I could. It was how I managed to feel kinda smart before going back for a second laugh at Garfield falling asleep in a plate of lasagna.
The first comment even references Garfield. It’s like the internet woke up and brought me the paper today.
The Italian said that she always called them “the comics,” and her parents told her they used to call them “the funny papers.” That’s what it was in my house, I think, though usually just “the funnies.” The Sunday Funnies. I never had a paper route, but I often was sent out to the driveway to bring ours in. I remember the perfect little button-drops of rain on the orange plastic baggie it was wrapped in, the dusty smell of newsprint, of insubstantial lightness, that sighed out as the paper was removed. I don’t know if I pawed through it and grabbed the comics myself, or if I waited for them to be handed to me, but that hardly matters. And I’m sure I did what The Boy does now – read my favorite parts out loud to a bunch of people who I was sure thought it was all as funny as I did. And, just like now, from my siblings I probably got a “nobody cares, shut up,” and from my parents a charitable chuckle. But what do I really know? Memory’s not much different than nostalgia – just a theatrically generous reading of expiration dates. That same charitable chuckle at a joke that’s only really funny somewhere else.
As far as coronavirus goes, in order for this post to earn its title, I’ll just say this: at some point my attitude is going to make the full shift to “screw it, let’s all get sick and get this over with.”
-The newspaper’s been nothing but comics for decades, Comrade Citizen.-
Freakin’ cat’s been meowing like crazy today. Just looking for attention. I think it was Lileks who defined (or at least tipped me off to to it) a dog as an animal that always believes itself to be on the wrong side of a closed door. Today it is one of the cats. Rae. She’s upstairs where two rooms are occupied with people who have their doors open specifically to admit cats, and one room, also occupied, but with its door closed specifically to deny cats. That, of course, is the door outside of which Rae is sitting and mewling, insisting on admittance. I have no doubt that once The Boy finally lets her in (though he knows he should not, because the cat is a notorious and unwelcome Zoom distraction), she will walk into the room, sit somewhere almost close enough for him to reach her for a chin-scratch, then when he finally gets up to give her some attention, she will shrug and walk out of the room.
That’s how you know there’s nothing wrong.
I watched the saddest movie in recent memory a couple of nights ago. A Monster Calls. It’s aimed for younger people, somewhat, though it’s heavy enough that I would not foist it on either of my kids just yet. It’s from a book that has illustrations and all the markings of a children’s story. It is no chintzy modern manipulation packed with twists and surprise endings. Everything happens exactly the way you expect it to, and perfectly so, and I think that’s why it hit me so bloody hard in the end. I had spent the whole movie more and more worked up about what I knew was inevitably coming, trying like hell to not look towards the ending – trying to pretend you know, that everything was ok – and instead of being rescued by too-clever story-writing that re-jiggers the emotions to something more superficial before they get a chance to fully develop, it simply delivers on its promise. And crushes you with it. And the plain, obvious simplicity of what the monster is trying to drag out of the boy throughout the movie is exactly what’s so powerful about it. It’s profound like reading the lyrics to a song and realizing you’ve been singing one word of a line wrong for 15 years. And it makes the song a thousand times better.
And who knows, maybe I was just there that night, in a place where that kind of story was going to work so well. Could be that if I watched it a day earlier or later, it wouldn’t have had that effect. Good thing I got to it when I did.
We’re back to hanging on Governor Inslee press conferences. They’re coming in fast and furious these days. Last night he appeared with his wife, presumably because the focus of his remarks was family holiday plans. They stressed the importance of staying away from family this year, for Thanksgiving at least. I would imagine there are plenty of people relieved to have that excuse ready at hand this year. “Sorry, mom. I know we only live 20 miles apart, but the Governor said no.”
They keep pumping out charts and graphs, of course:
Well that’s alarming. If you’re into being alarmed. It’s not really my thing. The data is a mess, though, and you can look at a table and a graph on the same page and find different numbers for the same category. New positive test results, for instance, are either 622 or 462, depending on what you look at (and again, on the same page). Hospitalizations are either 19 or 2. I could probably look harder and find the reason – maybe a day’s lag between the two charts, who knows. Not that it matters. Having an explanation for the discrepancy doesn’t excuse it from existing. Inconsistency breeds doubt and mistrust. But hey, if everyone trusts you, who will you mock?
No matter what numbers you find, we’re still way below anything alarming. The red line is the target, set at 10% of all King County hospital beds. According to this, we’re at 2%. A different page says 2.5%, but we’ve been over this.
Also, in his address last night, the Guv forebodingly mentioned “further measures” to be announced in the coming days. I can’t wait. Nothing scares me like the confluence of earnest mediocrity and low-grade tyranny. Legacy chasing is always a solo act, except for the casualties.
“Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any…”
Whitman, Song of Myself
I looked at the pile yesterday and thought “I don’t know if that’ll be enough to finish.” But I pretty quickly recognized the thought as vanity. As me wanting to believe in myself as clever and discerning. But there’s one very important thing to consider, to remember, and to take very seriously, which is that I don’t know. I have only done this once before, and that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were different. And anyway, even so, twice in 20 years is not enough experience to stand before the remaining wood, hands on hips, orange foam earplugs sitting askew in the canals, and declare, “no sir, I don’t think that’s gonna cover it.”
But we like to do that, don’t we? Near the end of a large jigsaw puzzle, when we’ve scanned and hunted a dozen times for a piece that we really want to find, but can’t seem to locate, we say, “I think there’s a piece missing.” It’s almost never true. The flight’s delayed and we say “It’s probably gonna be canceled.” It rarely is.
We like to predict failure. So we come to expect failure. It’s probably a defense mechanism. A desire to not be caught off guard when the world comes up short or our preparations prove insufficient. Nobody wants to look the fool. Except that it’s foolish to forget reality. It’s foolish to forget the limits of what you do and can know. It’s something that I’ve started to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older, something that I’ve embraced rather than resisted. The fact that, as my Dad is fond of saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Or something very similar. I don’t mean that in a layered ignorance kind of way. I am aware of the things – I know full well that I don’t know calculus or which gauge of nail to use for framing a wall. I can learn, but at the moment I have no idea. And it’s the moment that matters. I’m not going to waste any of it by looking at a differential equation and pretending I can solve it without first learning the steps, and then carrying them out.
In this moment I have no idea whether there’s enough wood stacked in the dining room to finish this flooring job. There’s no point guessing – that’s just a pantomime of discernment, and meanwhile the floor isn’t getting any more finished.
Be content to start looking for another piece, to work the puzzle until the end and find out then if you’re missing anything. You can always crawl around under the table or look for it in the vacuum bag at that point. But don’t bother until you know. Be content to keep laying the planks, pulling piece after piece from the dwindling pile, without guessing at square footages and pretending that you can out-think the ignorance. You can’t. You can only out-learn it.
“The report, the third in a series by IDM, affirms that while there are still risks associated with returning to full in-person instruction, the risks could be significantly reduced through school-based countermeasures, hybrid scheduling, and a phased-in approach that brings back K-5 grades first.“
The report has quite a bit more to say. I’m always a careful reader of tone – I usually measure the things I say to my kids based not on what I mean, but how I expect they’ll receive it. There’s always a difference. I tend to read intentionally in the mode of how my kids listen subconsciously: picking up cues from the language, scanning for subtext. This report is all very cautious and non-committal up front, but it marks a shift from the message that “the risks are far too great,” to the message that “the risks are there, but we may be able to work with them anyway.”
Here in King County the positive cases continue to climb, and I think we hit some kind of a state-wide record in one of the last couple of days. But the election’s over – at least the part where leverage matters – so the doomsday attitude is probably going to abate to some extent. Especially if Biden wins. But even if Trump winds up winning somehow, his hardest detractors aren’t going to hold their constituents hostage for another four years – or I suppose two, in order to reach the midterms – over this ersatz plague. I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.
But maybe that’s just me being unrealistically hopeful. What do I know?
– For the love of God, learn to lose gracefully, Comrade Citizen –
Happiness…which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day.
Whitman, Song of Myself
As nice as it may be to believe, the fact is that it won’t be over any time soon. There are too many layers, too many complications. The dust simply isn’t going to settle on this one until, well, I’m gonna say Thanksgiving:
It’s hard to get into a rhythm with this job. I have doorways to go around, floor vents to negotiate, and all the forced stoppages that occurred whenever The Boy starts a Zoom class. The banging and the compressor were understandably no good for his schoolwork. It’s possible that I’ll find my flow here, and make swifter progress, but I am asking myself for patience.
My biggest worry was that I had to start in two different spots, and hope that as I built up both sides they would prove to be aligned when I got to a point when I could join them in the middle. It worked, and my confidence definitely took a boost. I did as much as I could today without making any special cuts, thinking that, well, thinking that I was friggin’ tired and didn’t want to start a bunch of complicated (for me) measuring and cutting.
It helped to start things off with breakfast on the grill:
I saved some of the sausage for other people. Really.
I’m really looking forward to the stack of wood in our erstwhile dining room disappearing. Everything is out of place. What I couldn’t move to the garage just keeps getting shuffled around the vast kitchen/living room/open concept cave. It’s hell on habit. The Boy does his schoolwork from a new spot every day, and my morning chair is sort of floating in space. I have always come downstairs to it – the first one awake whenever possible – and had coffee adjacent to the fire, facing out from the corner, while I find new ways to bore you. This morning the chair is near the geographical center of the room, one arm touching the kitchen table, and as I sit in it I look over the top of my laptop to a view of the coat closet door, six feet in front of me. My chair hasn’t properly seen the fireplace in weeks.
Environments conduce to moods. This one conduces to little, though no doubt Walt Whitman would criticize my slavery to difference.
Coronavirus? I can’t even. But it’s kind of a thing here, and maybe one day I’ll be glad I did it:
So it looks like hospitalizations are seeing a slight increase. Ok, doesn’t look particularly dire, though. And death remains a difficult sell.
This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of the octave flute and strike of triangles.
I play not a march for victors only…I play great marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say that it is good to fall…battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
Whitman, Song of Myself
I suppose today the internet will be less sufferable than usual. I had an American Government teacher back in 2016, when I started my college re-engagement tour, who was a Palestinian named Jihad. Really. He was obsessed with government, especially the courts. He would go to the court house when he had the time, just to watch trials. On the Friday before the election he said, “please raise your hand if you think Hillary Clinton will win the election.” I was in the front row, and didn’t turn to look, but I figured it was unanimous. He then said “now raise your hand if you think Donald Trump will win.” I put my hand up and this time I looked around. There was a young Asian kid, probably too young to vote, who was wearing an Army field jacket with a German flag on the shoulder. He had his head down and his hand up. Nobody else in a room of 30-ish people. I assumed that what most people thought they were doing was indicating not who they believed would win, but who they wanted to win. And that the fear of raising your hand for Donald Trump would make you appear to be supporting him, to want him to win, which would have been social suicide.
That’s the sort of small life skill that I wish people would develop. The ability for rational discernment. The ability to say “I want outcome X, but I anticipate outcome Y.”
I don’t know that I want any particular outcome today. I know what I grudgingly prefer, and I know what I expect. I know which query from Dr. Jihad would get my hand in the air today. I know that no outcome will result in grace or dignity, and that I will be sad for people and a little afraid of them, for a long time to come.
Democracy is no place for heroes. We should stop looking there for them.
An email has just come from The Girl’s school, saying that it’ll be hard to wait for results, that they should be sure to show their families /teachers/etc. kindness and patience today, in order to be respectful. I can say with some confidence that my daughter would have no reason to believe that there was any need for increased levels of patience or kindness, that she wouldn’t have a hard time respecting anyone, that she wouldn’t believe in election day as an excuse to slip into poor character habits or a time to be afraid, if her school wasn’t making sure she saw it that way.
We go so far, we work so hard, to sow unease and uncertainty into our world. To undermine our harmony and placidity. We harvest woe, we band great sheaves of blight. We pack our silos with spores of fear, to be spread against times of abundance and health.
The COVID thing has been interesting here. The number of positive cases reported has been on a solid upswing, causing The Fear in the people. But deaths and hospitalizations are on a solid downswing, which isn’t getting much coverage. My armchair conclusion is that the severity of the thing is proving rather insubstantial.
I’m getting sick of masks, sure. But I tire most quickly of narratives, of dull repetition, of tropes and conversational tics. Hearing “2020” or “COVID times” or any declaration about how good or poor a job that people were doing of “observing social distancing” at the store or the park or the beach, or most recently all the proud announcements of everyone’s clever ways of safely passing out Halloween candy to people who “probably shouldn’t have been trick-or-treating anyway,” just makes me want to go home and close the door behind me. At this point I’d rather just talk about the election, which is absurd.
–I, for one, don’t give the tiniest shit who votes, Comrade Citizen–
Liberty relies upon itself, invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is positive and composed, and knows no discouragement.
Whitman, Leaves of Grass
The work continues. I’ve made 4 trips to the dump so far. It looks like I’ll need to make six total.
The repetition is the killer for this kind of work. Whether it’s prying plank after plank out of the floor, walking armload after armload out to the Jeep, or flinging bundle after bundle onto the mountain at the dump, no part of the job is novel or fresh. Except yesterday when I rented a toe kick saw to cut around the kitchen cabinets. I had nevcer even heard of one a week ago, much less used one. But the blade was as dull as a politician’s smile, so there was no joy in it. I told the guy at the Home Depot when I returned it: “The blade is really dull.” He looked at it. “Christ, I ordered new ones, someone must have just put them away somewhere. I figure you probably had to work at least 20% harder because of the blade, so I’ll take 20% off your bill.” Nice moment there.
Today I’ll bring all the new wood inside the house so it can acclimate for several days before I install it. That’ll keep me busy for a while. And it will be repetitious in the extreme.
This panel of experts, begun by California Gov. Newsom last week, will expand with representatives from Washington, Oregon and Nevada.
Great. So Moe, Larry, and Curly are going to tell us if the vaccine is ok when they will allow us to be vaccinated. Because when have we ever thought FDA approval was good enough? And yes, I guess that makes Nevada Shemp.
Obviously it’s more boring anti-Trumpism. The FDA is a federal agency, so the Three Rioteers have to show dramatic mistrust of anything that comes from it.
“We believe in science, public health and safety. That is why I am pleased that Washington is joining California and other western states in this effort,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “Any COVID vaccine must be guided by the expertise of scientists and medical professionals and that’s just what this workgroup will do.
“We believe in (insert weaponized banality here).” It’s so boring, so sophomoric, so transparent. And what about these scientists and medical professionals? Do you mean more of them? Because (and admittedly this is an assumption on which I have never followed up) isn’t that what the FDA uses at some point in their process? Or is FDA approval just a matter of heading into the nearest convention center and asking a bunch of people if they think something’s ok?
So again, what Larry, Darryl, and Darryl here are really saying is, our scientists and medical professionals. Right now, federal scientists and medical professionals are Trump’s scientists and medical professionals, and this is a virtue signal of the highest order, in which our freedom to receive a fully approved vaccine is going to be held hostage for a ransom of votes.
I hate this kind of crap so much. It’s like being stranded and freezing at the side of a desolate road somewhere, and refusing a ride because the person driving the car stole your girlfriend in high school.
Anyway. I’m hoping to have the floor fully removed today, but realistically it will be tomorrow. I have to disconnect some electrical outlets in order to move the island, and that’ll probably be the “thing that should be easy enough but will cause great problems.” Like getting an available, FDA approved vaccine.
“Faith is the antiseptic of the soul…it pervades the common people and preserves them…they never give up believing and expecting and trusting.”
-Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I really don’t know what to say, but looking at that graphic makes me want to use bad words when I say it. Here’s another fun one:
What’s with that BS wink in the middle? Is it supposed to feel chummy? Or is it an inside joke between the governor and the graphic designers: “Yes, you tooooooe-tally need to wear a mask. Of Coooooooourse it’s helping.” Because that’s what it looks like to me – mocking deception.
The Boy had a cold last week – stuffy nose anyway – so we decided to get him tested. Abundance of caution and all that. The last thing you want is the scorn from your neighbors if your snot-dribbling child is running around out there putting everyone’s grandmas at risk of certain death, only to have to shamefully admit you haven’t even had him tested.
There’s a walk-up testing station 5 minutes from home. I went online to make the appointment, and of course it kicked off the dread sense of tentacular government omniscience. I felt marked, immediately, and only missed a printable badge of some sort to be cut out and pinned to my lapel whenever I left the house. Registering on the website initiated four (4!) separate text messages to my phone, and 2 or 3 emails, all within seconds of each other. The testing site itself was distinctly Orwellian on a cold, blustery, gray October morning. A winding, taped-off queue area in the back corner of a vast parking lot, sparsely peopled and all the more desolate looking for the social distancing duly observed. The destination? Beige shipping containers where the greeters sat behind plexiglass and signs with behavioral instructions like “Do not place ID in basket until asked to do so.” The only thing preventing me from calling it Soviet is the lack of police or military. I wish I would have taken some pictures, it was fantastic. I doubt very much they would have let me, though.
It all moved quickly enough, and the woman who checked us in was wonderful – cheery, positive, helpful, and bundled up like a Floridian in Canada. I asked if they had space heaters: “Nope.” I asked how long she had to be there: “Until 5:30. But we get breaks to go warm up in the other building.” It wasn’t a building, but who was I to step on her obvious decency? I had only registered The Boy for a test, but she asked me if I wanted one, too. I said sure. She said, “OK. You can ignore the text you get – I’ll fill out your forms for you myself. Quicker that way.” That was an unexpected level of helpfulness from that otherwise dour scene.
The test itself is pretty awful. Both nostrils, and I think my sample may have been contaminated by some toenail fungus that the swab managed to pick up when the nurse/technician (I don’t know her qualifications) was finally done snaking it into the depths of my body.
The Boy was terrified. As he watched me, the PTSD from his recent nasal cauterization kicked in, and he started to refuse the test entirely. It was getting a little uncomfortable in there, as time went on and we weren’t making any progress. Eventually an enormous fellow in a Department of Health parka lumbered into the container, making me wonder what nonsense I was about to be involved in. But he must have been related to the receptionist because he was as jolly as Santa Claus, and said that they could give The Boy a kids version of the test. Much less invasive.
All in all about a 20 minute process. They gave us each a QR code I could scan with my phone to find our results, both of which arrived in under 24 hours. Both of them negative.
Good thing there’s an even bigger eye, watching even that one.
I went to the doctor yesterday for a physical exam. It was only my second time seeing this particular doctor – I switched a few months ago because my previous doc was female (sexist!), and doctoring at this stage of life can get very personal very quickly. As a man I feel better with a male doctor at the helm of my particular ship. The other problem with my last GP is really the more significant matter, and that’s that she always seemed unsure of herself. Had a kind of nervousness about her. It did not instill confidence. I only landed in her office at all because years ago I had hurt myself or had some other mildly urgent situation, and when I called to make an appointment with my usual guy, I found out he retired. I grabbed the next available appointment, and it was with her. Thanks for the heads up, doc.
So, today, physical. I like this doctor a lot. Outstanding demeanor, obvious intelligence. In the course of a conversation about some minor nuisance that’s just part of being alive, he said it was that way because “that’s how God made you.” It completely threw me. This is Seattle. That’s malpractice material out here. I’m willing to bet that he has had patients who found a different doctor after hearing that from him. Anyway, he said it, and I went blank. Stopped listening a little. I started getting flooded with the thoughts: Is he watching for how I react to that? Do I look like it didn’t phase me? Do I look uncomfortable? Am I making any facial expressions (from the mask up) that indicate apprehension? All of those were possible because of how confused I was for a moment. I felt like he was testing me. The Seattleites I know who believe in God are few, and the rest of the Seattleites I know never say anything nice about them. So put aside any thoughts I might have about religion, to hear him say that relieved me. It was the sudden exhilaration of re-discovering an animal, long since having logged it and written it off as extinct. I wanted to get up right then and there and hug him for five minutes or so – to thank him for inviting God into the exam room like that.
And I don’t really know why. I think it was just that it was so different from what I’m used to. It was the kind of complete, casual sincerity that Linus needed for summoning the Great Pumpkin to his pumpkin patch on Halloween:
As I get older, I find my appetite for common decency growing, my thirst for simple natures intensifying. And I find that when I ask “why am I this way” and am presented with the answer that “that’s how God made you,” it satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst. As a youth I would have rebelled. I would have thrashed about in the brackish waters of an intellectual lassitude that believed there was merit in being reflexively anti-religious. As an older man I’ll want more, eventually. Even the most devout know full well that “because God” isn’t appropriate as a final answer to anything from a sprained ankle to a brain tumor. But in the beginning and at every step along the way, it does carry the brilliant, tranquilizing anaesthesis that always comes from the Truth. You hear it and you know. I heard it today, and I knew, and that’s the best way I can think to say it.
Oh by the way, I’m healthy as hell. The doctor was impressed. I had the full bloodwork done at my last visit and everything is optimal. He kept using the phrase “young and healthy” to describe me. Must have said it half a dozen times during the visit. I fixated mostly on the young part. Because let’s face it, you can call me young as many times as you want, but it rings a little hollow in the context of a conversation about scheduling a colonoscopy.
-Are we burning off our fingerprints yet, Comrade Citizen?-
“I have often thought it fortunate that the amount of noise in a boy does not increase in proportion to his size; if it did, the world could not contain it.”
-Charles Dudley Warner, Being a Boy
“Thank you,” she said, “for not salivating very much.”
Look at me, using a cheap hook like that. It’s pretty simple and uninteresting, like most things, when you find out about it: Yesterday I went to the dentist to receive my first set of Invisalign trays. I’ve decided that as I get older I am going to be obsessive about my teeth. And they’re crooked. The top teeth have a little bit of a skew to them, like one shutter on a window was hung in a hurry and left a little sideways. But the bottom are an odd mess of nervous chicklets trying to hide behind each other – a frenetically sunk line of pickets. And it’s more than aesthetics; all that crowding and stacking creates places that don’t brush or floss easily. Buildup occurs..
Anyway, during the process of sanding away at a couple of teeth so that they will be able to move next to each other, the dentist was nice enough to say to me, “thanks for doing a good job of cleaning your teeth this morning.” His assistant then followed with, “and for not salivating very much.” She meant it with all earnestness, of course, but since most of the dental implements had been removed from my mouth at the moment she said it, I was in a position to reply with, “oh good, that’s something I’ve been working on.”
In other words, I’m on the Invisalign diet. Gotta wear them all the time, and can’t eat or drink with them in. And really, they don’t bother me as long as I don’t mess with them. The act of taking them out is pretty painful, though. I’m about to brave it so that I can have my morning coffee, because some things are worth the pain.
I agree with Charles Dudley Warner. My God, the noise of the boys. I always get a little skeptical and unimpressed when I hear sentences that start with “the war on…” so you won’t find me stoking the fire in the War On Boys camp. Still, it would be naive to say that we haven’t been receiving a bit of the old ill-treatment in recent years. Toxic masculinity, and all that. They even have this “male fragility” idea that they can bring out when they deliberately insult us, and we have the nerve to take it as an insult. It’s like getting kicked in the nose, and when you complain about it or try to retaliate, you’re simply dismissed on the grounds of your facial fragility. If only your face were fundamentally, morally, better, you’d be fine with being kicked in the face, over and over again. And so we arrive at the boot, stamping, in saecula saeculorum.
Of course, I do tell The Boy to shut up. And often. There’s just no end to the sounds issuing fort from his maw. And when the mouth quiets, he often, very seamlessly, re-routes his inner cacophony and releases it via drumming on the nearest thing, or moving very fast in a small space filled with things and people. The movement is a kind of noise, too, and when combined with actual, audible noise, is something like the voice of God.
I’ve been busy. Since moving into this house 3 years ago, we’ve never really been able to find its heartbeat. There’s something kind of lifeless about it. We’ve been chipping away at it with little changes – different paint color, new backsplash, rearranging furniture, not to mention the landscaping/patio things we’ve done. And also my recent wainscoting venture.But even with those paddles to the patient’s chest, we haven’t managed to coax its soul entirely out of hiding. Part of the problem is that it’s got no rooms. Everyone’s favorite real estate term these days is “open concept,” but here’s an inherent coldness to cavernous spaces, and our entire first floor is essentially one big room. The kitchen is on one end, the living room is way down on the other, and in the middle is some vague space where we’ve put our kitchen table. Ultimately, we decided that we could make a significant change to the whole damn thing by replacing the floor.
For the past three days I’ve been ripping out the hardwood. I won’t do this again, at least not in a 900sf space. That is, if you trust my measuring skills and my math, and I trust neither. I’m three days in and a little over half done with the removal. It’s what I believe they call “backbreaking work.” Bent over the whole time, after consulting youtube for the best methods and best tools, I eventually landed on a combination of 3 foot wrecking bar and standard garden shovel. The lightness and leverage of the shovel, with its long handle, make for relatively easy popping of the planks, even if I’m still bent double the whole time. But it’s useless within a few feet of the wall, so that’s where the wrecking bar comes into play.
Anyway, I fell slightly short of my goal yesterday because I hit one of those inevitable snags that forced me to quit for the day. Today I’ll solve that problem when I rent the toekick saw that I need for cutting around the kitchen cabinets.
Work takes so much work that never shows up in the final product. Sometime (hopefully before Christmas) we’ll be looking at the beautiful new floor, and nobody will see the hundreds of walks to the truck with small armloads of nail-laden wood, the improvised small-scale demolition at the base of newel posts and under bookcases, the cumulative time spent at the dump, the obnoxious scan of the underlayment for nails that didn’t come out with the planks, or the sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming that punctuated every hour or so of the job. Of course I’ll see it, but the worst thing in that case is to remind everyone else.
From the first plank, to three days later.
I’d love to say something pithy and wise about the plague, but there’s not much for it. I’m planted firmly in the (very populous) camp that believes there will be no change to speak of until after the election results are all in across the country. Unlike the garden shovel I’m using to tear up my old floor, the Coronavirus is not a multi-tasking tool. It’s leverage is useful only in the political arena, so once the final whistle blows on that game, it’ll slowly drift away like the throngs of people who used to dissipate from what used to be packed stadiums where what used to be men played what used to be football on what used to be Sunday afternoons.