The PVP Diaries #76

Stab it with your steely knives

What do you do with a plague? Cut a hole in its head, reach inside, and rip its guts out.


This time I knew it was 5:30 in the morning, and I got up anyway. Sometimes I can just feel the fight for sleep coming on, and the best option is to remove myself from the battlefield. I prepped the coffee last night, and there’s pumpkin bread left from the weekend, so I’m in a good place. Let’s do this in chronological order:

I must have been Saturday when the kids made these chocolate haunted houses. It’s a kit from Trader Joe’s. Note the fact that they’re chocolate, not gingerbread. I suppose TJ’s has such respect for the traditions of the nondenominational, nondescript, nameless, vague, celebratory season that revolves arbitrarily and with no grounds for any particular reverence around the inexplicably specific date of December 25th, that it reserves gingerbread for that particularly non-particular time of year. Halloween gets chocolate. Because there won’t be enough of that.

The Boy made his frenetic attempt, and was pleased. He decided that it’s sloppiness does not, in point of fact, represent poor workmanship. Rather, it is purposeful, as the house looks more haunteder that way. Who would argue?

The Girl worked slowly and deliberately, and of course came away with a much more polished product. I thought I had a picture of it, but alas (is that redundant? Is the “but” too much, alongside the “alas?”). The Boy thought hers was a little too nice to be scary, but that was just jealousy playing at insouciance, and it is a stance that fails to account for the horrors that stalk perfection like a dormant cancer.


Did someone say plague? We’ve been having weird data corrections. Two days ago, some 16,000 tests were removed from the “total tested” category. Yesterday, over 22,000 were added. I think that those numbers warrant a slightly less generous term than “data correction,” but you know me – always looking for someone to punish. An empty gallows is a waste of tax revenue, I always say.

18 Hospitalizations? Imma call that another data correction, considering there are 60 in the past 14 days. That’s fewer than 5 per day (and conspicuously absent any data about COVID patients being released from the hospital, but pay no attention, and all that).

Deaths remain very low and are getting lower – 3.1% of total positives today. I remember a steady 7 or 8% for a long time. Hospitalizations are also very low, so it looks as if (he said, wondering if his readers noted the skepticism) the prevalence of COVID is as real as ever here in King County, but the severity is on the decline. We seem to be inching closer to that “living with the virus” situation that was on everyone’s lips for a while. It won’t be good enough. Nothing will, until we’ve had time to prevaricate about and refuse to accept extant vaccines, virtue signal about our trust in either pharmaceutical companies or the government (depending on your party affiliation), and hold society hostage for a ransom of tweets.


The pumpkin carving was a success. We were able to decorate nicely and put together enough shelter to keep the stuttering drizzle off of everyone. I had a crock pot of spiced cider staying warm that went more or less undiscovered for most of the afternoon. I was feeling a little down about it – you know that feeling when you do something that you’re just sure is the perfect thing, but no one else seems to be catching on? That was me, until a neighbor kid ladled herself a cup and proclaimed it decent, and I anticipated the rush of drinkers and compliments. It never really materialized. A few cups were had, not much was said in the way of praise, and I had to chalk it up as a generally underwhelming effort.

There was to be a contest of sorts, but the judging never really got underway, and of course with the varying ages and skill levels, prudence would not have allowed anything like winners and losers. The Girl had done well by making several certificates for things like Cutest Pumpkin, Scariest, Weirdest, etc. Nobody seemed too put out by the fact that awards were not issued – except The Girl of course, who was not shy about saying that she felt like her certificate making efforts had gone wasted and unappreciated.

Talk to the guy who made the cider.

I took pictures with a real camera throughout. Our neighbors have 3 kids ranging from 2-ish years old to 6 or 7, and I remembered how much more photogenic they are than the 9 and 12 of my own children. I spent almost all of my pictures on them, then had to go through that old fashioned process of transferring them from a memory card to my computer so that I could touch them up and send them.

The Italian and I sat at different tables, chatting with the carvers while we did the slimy work of separating seeds from guts. Later I patted them dry with paper towels, then dried them further by putting them in the convection oven at about 225 degrees for 10 minutes or so. Then it was a quick toss in butter, Worcestershire, garlic, and salt, and a good long roast to wake them up. I turned the convection back on in the last 10 minutes for a little extra crispness. They’re delicious. I’ve bagged them up so I can give them to the neighbors, who will enjoy eating the labors of their fruits.

-Haunt your houses, Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #75

The holiday with the built-in masks

Virtuous yard signs. The thing is, being welcoming is the rule. If you go trick-or-treating at a thousand houses you may find half a dozen that treat you poorly. The rest are happy to have you. But when you put out those signs proclaiming how welcome everyone is, you create the impression that kindness is the exception. You paint a lie, and that’s why we have so many people running around thinking that the US is such an unwelcoming and intolerant place – because people started making signs to say that “in this house is rare generosity, you are unlikely to find it elsewhere.” Talk about creating your own market. I’m sure there’s a business term for just that sort of thing – ginning up an imaginary condition for people to believe in, then offering them the only solution to it, and in limited supply.

Whatever. Enough.


I have to take a placement exam for the online Arabic class I’ll be joining. It makes me nervous. Arabic is still intimidating, even after two years of classes and a few weeks in Morocco. And it’s been more than a year since I’ve used it, really. I’ll have to write, read, and speak. Chances are good that I’ll be rusty enough to land in a low-level course, but I don’t mind. I have time. I will say with all awareness of the seeming vanity or frivolity of it that the idea of fluency in Arabic is singularly energizing to me. Holding that odd key to another world – I want it. Even at my peak, Moroccan third week, it was still frightening and stressful and enervating, the pressure of being called upon to speak in or write in or translate from Arabic. I want it to be easy. Check back in a few years.

My morning commute in Rabat, June/July 2019

That brings back some good memories. It takes me too long to read and translate any of that. But man, I had better get out of that section of my photos before I get stuck deep in a rabbit hole, eating dates and drinking mint tea until my family sends out a search party. It’s gotten late here.

I wrote a couple of Morocco poems. Like this one. Here’s an earlier version. I think I like it better. The second half is better:

Show me to the old medina
before the sun can warm the stones.
The darkness scrubs the city bright
Where the hamsas guard the homes
 
Walk me through the old Medina
before the torpid cats arise.
Half their world is always dark
because they steal each other’s eyes.
 
Hide me in the old Medina
among the rugs and clay tagines
but don’t forget to call my name
when it’s time to pour the tea.
 
Lose me in the old Medina
and seal up all the gates!
I’ll learn the names of all the cats
and give you half my dates!

It’s hard to get a feel for the public vibe on trick-or-treating here in West Seattle. There have been a couple of discussions about it in the comments on articles at the West Seattle blog, and it seems like a pretty even mix of “we’re taking the kids out there and enjoying the night,” and “don’t be irresponsible, stay home.” I note a (possibly meaningful) difference. It’s not 100% black and white, of course, but the two camps seem to be I’m/we’re going out, and you stay home. There are plenty of people saying I’m/we’re staying home, too, but the point is in that difference between the individual actors and the public proscribers. The argument is, of course, that the individual actors are endangering the public, so the proscription is necessary, but frankly I think that ship has sailed, for the most part, even in the minds of the frightened. There are still mumblings out there (seriously!) about killing grandmas, but I’m seeing gradual shifts in social behavior. A sense of slightly lightened tension, more people ignoring the one-way signs at the the grocery store, more people widening their social circles, that sort of thing. And hey, the parking lot at Lincoln Park is open, ahead of schedule. It’ll be packed this weekend.

We’re hosting the not-so-dead-end street for pumpkin carving on Sunday. I’ll brew up some apple cider and keep it warm on the deck. No doubt The Italian will make some pumpkin bread, The Girl Child will make some sugar cookies, neighbors will bring things, and we’ll fling gourd guts around for a while. Later, I’ll roast the seeds, and we’ll dig into some pot roast that I’m making from all that beef we panic-stocked over the summer. We nicknamed the cow from which it was carved Hector, for reasons I don’t remember. I think it was The Girl’s idea. Nobody objected.

-It’s been a year of tricks, go get your treats, Comrade Citizen!-

Beautiful Place, Everyone Hates It

Parking parallelism

In a world that suddenly lost all its racism, the racists would simply have lost a tool for sounding like morons, and would indeed likely find a great deal more success than ever, suddenly lacking the worldview that had previously been so staunchly resisted by mainstream society. It would be a net gain for them. But not for the activists. Not for the journalists and the professors and the sign wavers and the marchers. Not for the authors and poets and painters, not for the actors and filmmakers. For them, the end of racism would be the end of nearly everything. The end of racism would turn their world upside down and dump them out the bottom, naked, poor, and ashamed. Their jobs would vanish, their paychecks would dry up, their book deals would be meaningless, their degrees, doctorates, PhD’s, all of it would be gone.

So of course they’re complicit in keeping it alive. They’re causing as many train wrecks as they can so that they’ll never have to wake up without someone to save. But meanwhile, man, the bodies are really piling up.

Those paragraphs are clipped from a long, rambling missive I have been putting together since my 4th of July weekend in Idaho. It was about definitions (again)(always). I kept adding to it and sculpting it and deleting things and shuffling paragraphs around. Eventually I decided it was just so much more of the same pissing and moaning, so I just looked at it and said “no.”


I’m at a car dealership. My car apparently had a couple of safety recalls that needed to be addressed. Remember the way Anton Yelchin died? I have a Jeep like his with the same odd transmission that somehow resulted in him getting out of his car while it was still in gear, or in neutral, so it rolled down a hill and crushed him against a pillar, I think at the end of his driveway. It really is a bit of an interesting situation with the gear lever, in that doesn’t lock positively in place to indicate that you’ve put it in drive. Or in park, as was the obvious issue for our young Pavel Chekov. You just bump it forward or backwards and it returns itself to the starting position. My car before that was a manual transmission, so it really took me some getting used to. But cars now are doing all kinds of odd things with their transmissions. The Italian’s car, for instance, is some kind of a throwback to the old three-on-the-tree:

Three on a tree" learning to drive a stick shift! | Learning to drive,  Shift pattern, Transmission

Her car has a right-hand shift lever on the steering column, but the similarities end there. It’s a matter of pushing a button on the end for park, tap the lever upwards with a finger for ‘go,’ downwards for ‘go back.’ It’s simple, but the biggest problem is the lack of uniformity. Every car runs different now. When I get back into my car, I have to remember that the shifting happens at the center console, and that I have to engage/disengage the parking brake myself. The Italian’s German car puts the brake on as soon as you put it in park. Takes the brake off once you hit ‘go.’

This of course opens a can of particularly slimy worms concerning technological advancements in automobiles, and whether we’re collectively worse at driving because of it. I do know that when I think of all the safety measures – beeps and warnings that light up in the side mirrors when a car is in your blindspot, cars that actually brake for you in whatever the car deems is an emergency, cars that literally drive for stretches without you at all. – when I think of these things I recall Mike Rowe’s talk about how an excess of emphasis on safety often results in more accidents. Risk compensation.

But prudence and compliance are not the same thing, and we should look with deep suspicion upon self-proclaimed experts and professionals who tell us that safety is first, or worse, that ‘our safety is their responsibility.’ Those people are either selling something or running for office.

Mike Rowe, Safety Third

I haven’t heard much from Mr. Rowe lately, but maybe he’s just all worn out from the world proving him right at every turn. Also I think he does a lot of his work via Facebook, and I’m not there anymore. I’m not much of anywhere anymore.

Anyway, cars: The one real issue I’ve had with both of our cars stems from the fact that you don’t put a key in the ignition anymore. The obvious other end of that situation is that you don’t have to remove a key when you are finished driving. Removing the key was always the way you knew – without having to think about it – that the damn car was all the way off and you could get out. Whether you put it in park – or in 1st for manual transmissions – before you turned it off was up to you. But now the key never leaves the pocket, and there have been a couple of times that I left the car running for a while. Once was at a kid’s soccer practice – over an hour of hanging out at an indoor arena while my car was running outside in the parking lot. Not the best situation.

Slightly better, though, than the time I left our daughter (it was our first baby! I wasn’t used to it yet!) in the infant seat in the car for a good 20 minutes while I was in the grocery store. She was under a year old. I remembered just as the cashier was ringing me up. I can’t imagine the look on my face.

That wasn’t the key’s fault.

Anyway, I’m still at the dealership, and it’s just reached the limit of the time they said it would take “at the longest.” I expect these things to go worse than expected, so I expect to not be leaving soon. But I did just experience the one thing that can unsettle the most patient temperament: Someone who came into the waiting room 30 minutes after I did has just been told her car is ready. It doesn’t matter how different her services probably were, that one stings a little. My patience wanes. But at least my beard is sweating under a face mask in a warm room that smells like incense and car air fresheners.


One more paragraph from that other essay:

If an alien stumbled upon Earth, having no prior knowledge of us, and spent a month or two observing the USA, the cognitive dissonance would leave it utterly confused. It would write in its journal: “Nation incapable of distinguishing between victory and defeat. Loudest voices have total control, insist they are oppressed. Progress towards future rendered nearly impossible by obsession with past. Beautiful place, everyone hates it.”

Maybe I’ll keep working on it and post at some point after all.

-Is it in gear, Comrade Citizen?-

The PVP Diaries #74

Poetic Bridges

Algorithms and machine learning and all, so the fact that this happened is probably because I searched from my own computer. You might get different results. Anyway, I googled “the snapdragons smelled buttery delilo,” and the second result was something I had written in 2011:

“I think I am just reading things to find the beautiful words. I don’t really know how much the story means to me, in the end. I do know that this is why I need fiction – non fiction doesn’t say beautiful things. Or maybe it does. But if that’s not fiction, then nothing is. I don’t know what snapdragon is, don’t know what it looks like. What it smells like. I don’t need to anymore, thanks to Don Delillo:

It was the rooftop summer, drinks or dinner, a wedged garden with a wrought iron table that’s spored along its curved legs with oxide blight, and maybe those are old French roses climbing the chimney pot, a color called maiden’s blush, or a long terrace with a slate surface and birch trees in copper tubs and the laughter of a dozen people sounding small and precious in the night, floating over the cold soup toward skylights and domes and water tanks, or a hurry-up lunch, an old friend, beach chairs and takeout Chinese and how the snapdragons smell buttery in the sun.

When you can start with the simple rooftop summer, something that just says “this is where we sat when” and end up at “the snapdragons smell buttery in the sun” without a missed anything between, you’ve built more than a dozen carpenters could in a month. You’ve built another forever.”


All of that because a poem that I read at Naive Haircuts reminded me of that passage in Underworld by Don Delillo. If you have any interest in poetry at all, or maybe especially if you have none, follow the link and read his poems. The images are so crisp and the music is so clear that I could read those poems out loud and actually like the sound of my own voice.


I haven’t been right about much during this plague – note what I said in the very first plague diary:

For the record, my early prediction for the Societal Freeze brought about by the Perfect Vison [sic] Plague is that here in the United States it will be over much sooner than we think. We will have overreacted in effective ways, and we will look back on this whole thing as a job well done.

Me, 3/16/2020

I mean there’s wrong, and then there’s “the polls say Hillary is going to win in a landslide” wrong. But my initial plague prediction blows right past that and sets a whole new bar for prognosticative failure.

Why do I bring this up now? Because, as I guessed just a couple of posts ago, soccer has already backpedaled. I called this one correctly, for a change. The King County numbers have steadily been climbing, and now we’ve moved from a moderate to a high risk county. Practices will be little to no contact again, and though the soccer club didn’t come out and say it, this can only mean that the league games scheduled for this weekend are canceled.

But how’s the bridge coming along, you ask?

Photo credit: West Seattle Blog

Those are some kind of maintenance platforms on the underside. They’re not doing much, aside from whatever it takes to make sure the bridge doesn’t collapse, even with nothing on it. Note the prison-esque concrete misery of its Soviet style design. It was built in 1984, so it is very much a Cold War construction in the spirit of surviving Mutually Assured Destruction. Unfortunately, it couldn’t even survive traffic. I remember 1984. I was 9 years old and terrified of nuclear war. Screw you, The Day After. The Foucault-like observation tower on left of the picture is the watchtower for the lower bridge, officially the Spokane Street Swing Bridge. But I know I’ve been over all this before.

City council member Lisa Herbold was kind and brave enough to send out a survey asking the very in depth and technical question of whether we, the people, would prefer to repair the bridge, or to replace it. There’s so many ways to mock that move that I don’t know where to start. If you like, you can throw in your vote here. My vote is for replacement. I think it’s high time – and an absolutely perfect opportunity – to be ambitious. This thing’s gonna cost a fortune no matter what, so let’s be bold and creative and build something beautiful. Pull a full Singapore and find someone who will design and build a bridge that will have the whole world talking. As a rule I avoid negative generalizations about America and Americans, mostly because it is the stock and trade of the least intellectually creative people out there – Americans are fat, Americans are selfish, Americans are lazy and won’t walk anywhere, etc. Nobody hates Americans like Americans, because self-loathing is peak virtue signaling. It’s such a clever dodge. You can’t be criticized very effectively if nobody hates you as much as you hate yourself.

Jesus, I digress. Here’s a negative generalization about America/Americans: Our urban construction is based almost exclusively on the principle of Easy, Fast, and Cheap Inexpensive. Our cities are not visually, aesthetically pleasing. It is uninspiring to look at them, and uninspiring to walk in them. There is nothing to wake the spirit. Nothing to be proud of. Maybe someone could run around select streets in San Fransisco or Chicago or New York and take some iPhone photos, then hit them with a good instagram filter and say “look how beautiful,” but overall they’re real downers. They look best at night, without exception, because all you can see is the lights. But now Seattle has a chance to etch out a small fissure between itself and its deep pseudo-solcialist branding by doing something grand and moving with this bridge, instead of just taxing us with another dull, gray way to slow people down.


A note in closing: I received about a week’s worth of traffic here yesterday, and there is no ready evidence of any particular reason. No incoming links, pingbacks, no particular post with excess views, nothing. Just a lot of hits to the home page. So if you are a someone out there who directed viewers my way yesterday, I say thank you. Thank you very much.

-Build it better, Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #73

Eye and ear protection required.

Wait wait WAIT. 5:30? In the morning? I thought it was 6:30. I’m not feeling very “out of bed at 5:30” today, so I must have been reading the clock wrong. I’ll have to go back upstairs and check. Between the rain and the tinnitus I was probably just going to lay there awake for a while, anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. Gives me more time alone with my coffee. Coffee and….Roger Waters? Polarizing fellow, I know. But I’ve like most of his stuff, even post-Floyd. I do remember listening to an album he made sometime maybe 10 years ago. It was lousy. But let’s drift back to The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Classic Pink Floyd-ish album that tells a story. A panicked flight from civilization, sex (slightly unhealthy?), failed Thoreau-ian escapism, alcoholism, psychotic collapse, eventual comfort. Maybe:

[Waitress:] "You wanna cup of coffee?"
[Customers:] "Heh, Turn that *****ing juke box down
You want to turn down that juke box....loud in here"
[Waitress:] "I'm sorry, would you like a cup of coffee?
Ok, you take cream and sugar? Sure."
In truck stops and hamburger joints
In Cadillac limousines
In the company of has-beens
And bent-backs
And sleeping forms on pavement steps
In libraries and railway stations
In books and banks
In the pages of history
In suicidal cavalry attacks
I recognise...
Myself in every stranger's eyes

And in wheelchairs by monuments
Under tube trains and commuter accidents
In council care and county courts
At Easter fairs and sea-side resorts
In drawing rooms and city morgues
In award winning photographs
Of life rafts on the China seas
In transit camps, under arc lamps
On unloading ramps
In faces blurred by rubber stamps
I recognise...
Myself in every stranger's eyes

And now, from where I stand
Upon this hill
I plundered from the pool
I look around
I search the skies
I shade my eyes
So nearly blind
And I see signs of half remembered days
I hear bells that chime in strange familiar ways
I recognise...
The hope you kindle in your eyes

It's oh so easy now
As we lie here in the dark
Nothing interferes, it's obvious
How to beat the tears
That threaten to snuff out
The spark of our love

We had a downed tree on the road just outside our not-so-dead-end street yesterday. It had been pretty blustery the night before. I headed out Monday morning to do the homework kit distribution at The Boy’s school, and ran into this. It’s bigger than it looks. I do think I probably could have wrangled it out of the way, but that’s a pretty soft probably. There was a brief internal dialogue about the gritty self-reliance that could clear the mess right away and do the neighbors a service, right now, vs. driving off in the other direction and calling the government to come clean it up, eventually. I chose the latter, and still feel dirty. My strongest rationalization was that even though the area still had power, I didn’t have time to be sure that there weren’t any power lines involved in the mess. Besides, it’s just as fast (for me) to turn around and go the other way. Depending on the destination, the direction in which we leave the house is often just a matter of how we feel at the time. The victory was secured by The State on this day.

It’s pretty perfectly laid across the road, though. Conspicuously so. For just a short, quick-pulsed second I had that ambush feeling.

The neighbor dads and I are looking to go in together on one good-sized, gas powered chainsaw for us to use in case a tree comes down sometime that hems us into our not-so-dead-end street (or worse, God forbid). Waiting for Seattle DOT to come out on their schedule won’t be feeling like a very good idea at that point.


It’s funny, I just found the COVID-19 Glossary on the King County site. You know how I love me some definitions. Check this one out:

Obviously this kind of thing is about as moving as a coma by now. “Often overestimates the actual…” Translation: “Does not represent reality.” Err on the side of panic, I guess. CYA. I understand. I guess I recognize myself in every stranger’s attempt to go blameless.

“…and can make a disease seem more deadly than it is.” You don’t mean to say…it couldn’t really be possible that…I mean, no. Right?

Also, I was thinking yesterday, has there been a single announcement from the CDC along the lines of “Hey! Good news!” or has literally everything they’ve learned been worse than what they already knew? I don’t think SCIENCE is any different than we poor, common people when it comes to a bias towards the negative. Especially in groups. Company loves misery.


Wind advisory today, gusts up to 50mph. We might be looking for that chainsaw sooner than we thought.

The PVP Diaries #72

Full-contact hypocrisy

There are frogs croaking with an Amazonian thickness in the section of the Green River that runs alongside The Boy’s soccer practice. It’s a huge facility down in Tukwila where the Sounders sometimes practice. Tonight it is neither the frogs nor the Sounders that have my attention. Rather it is is the fact that for the first time since returning to practice (that must have been July, maybe June), they are going to be able to compete. Practice has returned to a full-contact situation, so they won’t be relegated to their little orange cone cages in the corners of the field. They’ll be all over the place, knocking into each other, tugging on shirts, lowering shoulders, and maybe even throwing the occasional elbow. Until now, soccer practice has been a sad little exercise in wishing it didn’t suck. A test of patience and the ability of a nine year-old boy to think of the long term in order to tolerate a lousy short term.

It didn’t work. He hated it. He complained every day that he had practice. Begged us to let him quit so much that we almost gave in. But in the absence of an alternative, we weren’t going to tale away his only real physical outlet. His pent up energy would be the end of us all. But yesterday he heard that practices would be full-on again, with no social distancing, and his attitude changed. A little. It wasn’t very perceptible, because he’s guarded and would be giving away far too much of himself if he were to come out and say that he was happy to go play soccer. He continued to insist that soccer is lame, but gave himself away a little by saying that he was just looking forward to trying out his new soccer shoes (my God, their feet grow fast). He’s only nine, but he already acts as stupid as the rest of us. My work is done.

Fast forward! It’s tomorrow now. Today, Thursday. The phone just buzzed and showed me that The Girl has an actual soccer game on the schedule now. October 17th. I am an eternal optimist, but also a realist, and I think that 10 days is more than enough time for everything to be rolled back, and I won’t be at all surprised if the game gets canceled before they get to play. Wouldn’t make much sense for them to cancel it afterwards.

I said it here before, I doubt this will be the last time. I know that people “aren’t ready” for close contact. That for a lot of people this is all happening too fast. But I remember that none of those people had any trouble trusting the government (and the science and data it cited) when the government was shutting us down. It’s the same government, the same science, and the same data that are opening us back up, so it doesn’t make any sense to choose (and it is a choice) not to trust them now. And this isn’t exactly fast. We’re still in a world of social distancing markers on the floors, one-way grocery store aisles, special shopping hours for vulnerable populations, mostly – and very often fully – remote schooling in most areas, mask requirements just about everywhere indoors, pro sports with no fans, closed parking lots at parks, and sad, sheepish anticipation for every little peep that comes out of the governor’s office. We’re not walking the plank here. We’re dipping a toe or two.

And if I’m being honest, I do fully expect to see it rolled back. There will be an increase in positive cases soon, unless the governor thinks he can be re-elected without it. So we’ll cancel our soccer games, tape off the playgrounds, close the libraries, and increase capacity at bars, with expanded hours. For you know, coping. I might finally get actually annoyed when there’s a vaccine, fully vetted and approved by SCIENCE and issued by TEH GUVERMINT, and the people who have based every step of their COVID lives on government-relayed declarations from scientists are suddenly all “you’re just gonna believe it’s safe because they said so?”

People are friggin’ weird.

One more development to report now that it’s the future. It happened last night as I was saying goodnight to The Boy. We had just finished our highly classified bedtime ritual when he looked at me and said, “I can’t wait for practice on Saturday. I really like soccer now.” He’s a better man than I. It would have taken me months to change my tune.

-Get back in the game, Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #71

Two sugars for Jay

Yay, Jay.

They won’t let me stop writing plague diaries! After what felt like months without much movement beyond the usual bickering, we had a slew of changes announced yesterday. Among them: bars get to shut down an hour later every night, which is nice because the streets will be that much emptier for the drunk drivers. It’s utterly (*searches for an adjective to convey the proper level of emphasis without falsely indicating surprise) stomach-turning (that’ll do!) to note how important alcohol is to our society. In a global pandemic that has people clawing at each other’s faces in pursuit of the right way to react, the best way to limit the spread, the best balance between safety and freedom in order to minimize the death toll, every single step has been a (sometimes clumsy) dance of prioritization. When historians study us and want to know what we considered to be the most important elements of a healthy society, they will look at our response to COVID-19 and see that the fetters came off of public alcohol abuse more quickly than library access. Go team.

Masks/no masks, six feet/ten feet/no feet, I don’t much care. I mean, you see the (wobbly and hesitant, again) steps they’re taking to get us back on the right track, get us back to a semblance of life like it was back in February, and it of course it isn’t going to be good enough for some people. Especially the ones who insist that everyone in a mask is an idiot who will go gleefully to the gas chambers, which are being built as we speak, at a joint CDC-CNN compound on a plot of land in upstate New York, where AOC will serve your pre-shower coffee to keep you buzzing about fair trade beans while you wait your turn.

But for what I am guessing is a majority of us (yikes – assuming majorities is dangerous work), the loosening of restrictions is simply a welcome step. Something to be pleased about (don’t confuse that with celebratory), and a sign that we’re getting somewhere. Let’s take our time. I don’t have any particular interest in the idea of ripping off the Band-aid. Society is fickle, and to exercise some compassion and generosity in this situation means going slow enough that the people who are still really scared of this thing – whatever you may think of them or their reasons – don’t come completely apart. Not for the selfish reason that it would constitute a problem for the rest of us, but for a reason that we tend to have a very hard time recognizing as legitimate: because it’s kind. Being kind is enough of a reason to do anything.

It is interesting to note that the people who were the least resistant to the restricting of personal liberties are also the ones most resistant to the restoration of them. The people shouting “too soon!” “I’m not ready!” I guess it just goes to show that – whether there was any intended tyranny in the lockdowns and mask mandates or not – in any given population there is a significant number of social agoraphobics who are the most comfortable with the fewest options. Maybe that line at the gas chamber will be longer than I think.

So we’re getting there, slooooowly, and as election day grows nearer I think we can expect to be thoroughly dizzied by the ups and downs, the giving only to take back, then maybe given again, maybe not. But keep your ammo in the bunker for now. We haven’t woken up years later to find out that the virus is gone but the restrictions are not. For all the garment-rending we hear about how this has all been paving the way to an Orwellian future of dirty gray coveralls and electrodes on the nipples for public displays of general happiness, it’s just not happening. Wasn’t ever going to, but preppers gotta prep. I guess what it boils down to for me is this: Nobody reads 1984 and says “Oh yeah, that’s what I want.” Not the left, not the right, not the middle. Not the leaders, not the followers. It’s universally deplorable. Yet everyone seems to be able to point to how the other side is marching us straight there at a double-time. Have you read 1984? I mean yeah, that’s a world in which nobody wants to live. But it occurs to me that it’s also a world over which nobody would want to reign. Why we always think people are trying to get there is beyond me.

-A bar is just a booze library, Comrade Citizen!-

Could it Be? A PVP Diary? #70

Be the sixth kid.

All play areas in Seattle parks will reopen to the public on October 6.” I guess that’s something. Key takeaways:

Play equipment is open to five or fewer kids at a time – Good luck with that.

Give yourself and others at least six feet of space – Kids? On a playground? Six feet? Even gooder luck with that.

We are all in this together, so kindly remind others of the guidelines and find a different activity if the play area gets too crowded – There’s the real craw-sticker right there. First of all, sure, we’re all in this together. But not the way you think. More like the way the crew of the Essex were in it together, up to and including the point when they had to draw lots to see who would be shot for food. Also don’t forget to note the gentle reminder, the tacit permission from the state to be your neighbor’s keeper, with or without their permission. What could go wrong?

“Excuse me, but I noticed your child is the sixth person on the playground. She’s endangering the other children. Can you please remove her until someone leaves?”

The worst part is that it will happen. Karens will Karen, after all, especially when the dot-gov is right there telling them it’s their duty.

They’re reopening the parking lots at the city parks, too, but not until the 13th. Don’t want those play structures to be flooded with 5 kids at a time for another week yet, I guess. The continued parking lot closures are a bit funny, considering that we’ve been able to eat indoors at restaurants for quite a while now. We can interact, maskless, and pass dishes and food between strangers inside a building, but if you want to walk along the beach you have to park across the street. For the Public Good. There’s been so much weird dissonance in this whole thing.

I’m not really paying attention to the plague stats here, aside from what the West Seattle Blog posts in its daily update. I’ve dipped a toe in the water this morning, though. Nobody’s really dying anymore in King County. I think something like 10 in the last 2 weeks. Out of 2.2 million people. I don’t find that to be a particularly behavior-altering stat. 2% of King County hospital beds have COVID patients.

I suppose this graph means the percentage of total tests administered that come up positive over a 7 day period. Averaged. 2.5% is as un-alarming as the death numbers. 97.5% of tests for COVID-19 are negative. Is this the sort of thing that battens our hatches? Really? Oh, I forgot, we can put 5 kids on a playground now. Clearly our grip on reality is firm.


I can tell you that the Homeless in Coronafornia situation remains largely unchanged. He had a strange windfall of money come pouring in, in the form of a COVID relief package that he was able to get by applying for unemployment insurance. There will be more coming in over the next few months. I will not be naive enough to believe that a few thousand dollars could turn around and rescue a life like his, and I try not wish he would have put it to better use. I certainly do not begrudge him for having some good food and comfortable hotel stays for a little while. He says that many people out on the streets are unaware or incapable of figuring out how to access that COVID relief money. Naturally, predators have swooped in, offering to help them apply for and receive the money, and charging a steep percentage of the take to do it. There’s sickness out there far worse than anything a Chinese bat can give us.

Pack the playgrounds thick, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #69

Sanding the deck has been like doing a jigsaw puzzle. The Italian and I work on it when we have the time, sometimes together, sometimes separately. We’ll look outside after a while and say “woah, looks like you got a lot done today.” And last night, when I was driving home with the kids after soccer practice, I realized I was going to be a little annoyed if she got to be the one to finish it.

Percentages. Deaths were hovering at about 7% of positive cases for a very long time. I imagine the 4.7% will continue to drop. And 13.5% of positive cases seeking hospital care certainly sounds high to me, but I have no idea. This does not appear to be the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, is all I’m saying.


Mary Rowlandson is a strange read. Being captive of the Indians seems to have been an unpredictable blend of torture and ease. She seemed to be able to wander their camps fairly freely, entering any wigwam she wanted to at any time, and even invite her owners to “dinner” if she scrounged up enough food to share. But then also she received beatings at random times, had her food stolen from her pockets as soon as it is given to her, and was sold between families. Maybe it was that frenetic unprdictability that fueled her peculiar habits of capitalization and italicization:

“The Woman, viz. Good wife Joslin, told me she should never see me again, and that she could find in her heart to run away. I wisht her not to run away by any means, for we were near thirty miles from any English Town, and she very big with Child, and had but one week to reckon; and another Child in her arms two years old; and bad rivers there were to go over…”

“English” and “Indian” receive frequent, but not consistent, italicizing. And capitalized words from that passage like “Town” and “Child” are written un-capitalized as often as not. Old timey stuff, whatever. I’ll get over it. I am not a scholar of the grammar and mechanics of the 17th century Engrification.


Have to run – cutting it short. But not without reporting that as it happened, the Italian did not finish sanding the deck while I was away at soccer practice last night. But she very nearly did, excepting an area that was soaked the day before – collateral damage from yet another battle in the Coronavirus Not-So-Dead-End Street Water Wars of 2020. A fight that escalated (as they always do) from balloons to water guns, which leads to the positioning of several 5-gallon buckets (both Home Depot orange and Tru Value white) in various spots around the neighborhood for resupply and reloading, until someone finally says, “Oh just to hell with it” and takes control of the nuclear arsenal by grabbing the hose. Naturally this is when the shouts of “that’s not fair! begin, answered by a bloodthirsty, 9 year-old cry of “F*** fair! THIS IS WAR!”


Capital capitalization, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #68

Maybe bring paddles back to the classroom, too.

Let me bring this back for a minute:

We’ve been having a small uptick in deaths to go with the large bump in positives. The graphs are predictably startling. But “tons more people being tested everyday,” and all those mitigating factors, and whatever. I don’t know what this thing is, how serious or grave, but it’s certainly still here. That it is being artificially buoyed to some extent by politics is undeniable (or so I think), but who knows how much. And as I look at graphs with a marked upswing in the last couple of weeks – tests, positive results, deaths (not so much an uptick as a steady presence), I then come across the graph for new hospitalizations:

There appears to be a sort of diminishing of severity to go along with the surge in occurrence, such that you wonder how much we still have to fear. Some of you will say “there was nothing to fear in the first place,” some will say “don’t let your guard down,” and others will give it the ol’ “a little of both, somewhere in the middle.” All I know is that I don’t want to homeschool my son again.

The parents at The Boy’s school started a long email situation the other day, prompted by a Dad linking to an article about outdoor classrooms – some nod to yesteryear, open-air learning environments, the benefits thereof, etc. A dozen or more emails followed, all laser focused on that subject. The next day a friend, Mom of one of The Boy’s classmates, texted me privately and said that if they don’t – first and foremost – get a solid, complete plan in place for remote learning, they’ve failed. She sent an email to the school saying the same. I couldn’t agree more. Whatever the Coronavirus might actually be on the sliding scale of Vast Government Conspiracy to Global Death Sentence, the likelihood of being in the classroom in the Fall is close to zero (at least here in Washington). And this is the 21st century. I like the idea of outdoor learning as much as the next guy, but we’re not paying all that tuition to send our kids to a 1907 model of education.


The reading’s all been somewhat one-dimensional. And I also forgot to mention that my first post-4th of July read was “In the Heart of the Sea” as a follow-up to Moby Dick. I say go and read it. Twice, even. But under no circumstances are you to watch the movie. Do. Not. Watch. It. The book was written by a man with the most New England name I’ve heard since Hester Prynne: Nathaniel Philbrick. You’ll see some references to the whale stories in my hockey novel, if that ever comes to pass (no, it isn’t actually a hockey novel). Highly recommend.

To mix things up, and because my not-a-hockey-novel is set in a fictional Massachusetts (OMG I spelled that right on the first try) town, I’m starting today on Colonial American Travel Narratives. It begins with Mary Rowlandson’s story. The introduction (yes, I repeat, you have to read the introduction) goes a bit predictably academic when Rowlandson fails to mourn the death of her captors’ baby:

At the same time, the religious framework that mediates Rowlandson’s suffering makes her blind to the suffering of those who don’t share the same cultural assumptions.

Christianity and cultural assumptions? TARGET ACQUIRED. Please, Professor, do go on:

Rowlandson’s inability to extend sympathy suggests that her survival instinct outweighed the Christian admonition to be charitable.

No, it didn’t. In fact, I don’t see how her survival instinct had anything to do with it, or Christian charity. Rowlandson had already seen “seventeen family members and friends butchered before her eyes.” The people who did the butchering kidnapped her, and at some point lost a papoos of their own to sickness, about which Rowlandson simply said “I confess I could not much condole with them.” It would take something like a humanities professor to translate that reaction into cultural insensitivity or religious hypocrisy. For my part, I find the fact that Rowlandson did not outright celebrate the child’s death, and characterize it as an act of divine retribution, to be charitable in the utmost. Christian, even.


I take the kids to the doctor today for an annual checkup. I have no idea if this will involve any sort of a traditional flu shot, or if we’ve dispensed of that cute little ritual altogether. Seems kind of like going swimming in a raincoat at this point. I’ll certainly ask.