Sunday, August 23, 2020

Not anytime soon.

Chalked sidewalk plea, Northbrook, Aug. 20, 2020

      One common mistake among middling writers of opinion is to take whatever emotion they are experiencing and universalize it.  The viewpoint being aired is not their own particular private perspective. Oh no no no no. Nothing that singular. Nor are they responsible for airing this set of notions. Not at all. Rather, they are merely reporting and seconding common wisdom, merely conveying the vox mundi. 
     Haters do this a lot; Trump supporters often slip into the first person plural, like a tiny creature puffing up, trying to look bigger, adding heft—in their own minds if nowhere else—to their taunts. "We read your column and have to chuckle..." 
      I try not to do this, try not to conjure up imaginary friends and dragoon them to nod in approval behind me. Try not to fall into the trap of those, as Thoreau so neatly put it, "mistake their private ail for an infected atmosphere.”
     So I'm reluctant to announce that, five months into the pandemic, the public has entered into a new, brittle phase. It would be easy to do so: tempers are short, eyes narrowed, teeth grinding. Maybe they are, generally. It sure seems that way.
     Or maybe it's just me. Maybe 150 days of ... sitting around and writing stuff, with occasional forays into the living world, have made me ... slightly punchy. Ground down and hopeless. Certainly welcoming other people's expressions of strain, such as the sidewalk art above. The frustration, the fed-up-ness, detected in others. Not schadenfreude. I'm not glad they are unhappy. But rather, I am glad not to be alone.
     Just saying that gives me pause. "Unhappy." It's such a whine. Such an unwelcome development. I glided through the first four months of pandemic on gratitude. April, May, June, July. Not fake gratitude either. Real, genuine, got-a-job, not-sick, kids-at-home thanksgiving. Dissatisfaction seemed a rude gesture to everybody in worse shape. The sick. The unemployed. The friends and loved ones of the thousands and thousands dead. That's unhappiness.
     This is ... well ... what? Blessing fatigue? I'm glad I didn't go down with the ship, glad I didn't drown with the others, glad there's still some water left in the canteen. But boy this lifeboat is starting to feel cramped. And the sun....
    Blessed. I know that. Blessed blessed blessed. I would say, brightly, "I'm having a good plague!" And I was. Both boys home, finishing up their spring semesters, baking bread and playing Bananagrams. "A stolen season!" I would say. My job, clicking along, as far as I can tell. 
     And while all that is still true .... maybe it's the looming election. What are the chances of Trump being defeated and going quietly? I'd say even odds for the first, and no way for the second.  So fairly certain some cataclysmic historic foundation shaking in six dozen days, as the worst human being to occupy the Oval Office grabs the curtains and shrieks as decent Americans try to drag him out and throw him onto the dustbin of history. 
    Reason enough alone to be grim. And it might not even work. There is no guarantee that these aren't the good days, before whatever horrific Sixth Act shocker comes lumbering in from the wings. Heck, Russian tanks, rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue—laugh, sure. But who could be surprised by anything anymore? 
    So yeah, the bright spin is slowing to ... the slightly glossy creeping rotation. Like hands of a clock—tick ... tick ... .... ... ... tiiiiick—the steady march of the calendar. What? Aug. 23? You're kidding me? How did that happen? What? Still 2020. Will this never end? 
    What do to about it? I tore out some drywall Saturday. Water damaged, from a leaky radiator. Needed to be done. Well, I can't go on vacation, but I can do this... I thought. It wasn't fun, but what is nowadays?



  1. I am reading the book the Best Democracy Money can Buy. It is by Greg Palast and came out in 2002. The first chapter is about how Florida purged the voter rolls or kept people from voting. In many states felons get the right to vote once they served their time. Thousands moved to Florida and were denied the right to vote. You could ask for clemency but it was nearly impossible to get it. Most or all of these criminals were black. One person who got clemency was Charles Colson. Jeb Bush was governor at the time. Palast did much of his reporting for two British papers and the BBC. No one here would touch his reporting. A long way of saying Republicans are going to do this again. It has already started with the post office.

    1. Florida passed a law allowing felons the right to vote once they served their time but is now being held up by the Republican led state Congress. They are requiring ex felons to pay complete paying restitution and any court costs incurred before being able to vote.
      It's in the courts right now and it doesn't look good for the next election. That's Florida, where anything can happen.

  2. Totally understand and sympathize. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and every once in a while you just hit a freaking wall. Like today. Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one.

  3. I felt this way myself, and honestly I still do.
    There’s no question we are in it for the long haul, with both the pandemic and the fragile state of our country, and the future is precariously fraught with even worse possibilities.
    But we will get through this, somehow. We all have to persevere, there is no other option.

  4. You described it perfectly — Lost at sea in a lifeboat going nowhere. “And the sun….” When will it stop beating down? I also was pretty good the first four months, but I have to say this pandemic is getting really old. And, yes, I’m glad no one in my family has succumbed to the virus, but human nature being what it is, reading your column made me realize I want to pull my hair out!

  5. Of course you nailed it clearly. Blessed and batty.
    Apart from the usual reading, TV, and in your case writing pursuits, I've found great satisfaction in outdoor bike riding. Exercise, outdoors, peace and all while socially distanced. Movement works for head and body.

  6. There's an Elvis Costello song and album called "All This Useless Beauty." It's not necessarily the song itself, but that phrase, that keeps occurring to me these days. Especially the last month or so. The weather has been better than most years, as far as I'm concerned -- nice but not as hot as I feared, for the most part. Nature is in its glory; it's lovely outside, but for what? Other than walks and runs in the neighborhood, we're not doing many of the things that we would in a normal summer to enjoy the season, which is too short to begin with.

    But you're right -- so many have it so much worse than we do that even writing that paragraph is essentially privileged whining.

  7. I believe the 1918 pandemic lasted two years. Second year worse than the first.


  8. Yes, it's been rough. In the 100s for months now, here in Austin. People all around me seem to be tanking. Not nearly enough outdoor neighborly hangs since folks don't feel up to it. Everyone seems tired. Yesterday I walked about 11 miles, some of it in the heat, and by the time I got home I finally felt better. I'm not up for that every day any more, nor do I have the time. This morning it was 3 cool miles in a muddy shaded forest, which was quite nice. I take the good moments when they come but seems they are not guaranteed. We will pull through, hopefully all of us reading still here.

  9.'ll be six months, just after Labor Day. Feels like a lot less, and at the same time it feels like our lives have always been like this. I keep thinking about the U.S. home front during WWII, and trying to imagine how Americans endured 44 months of disruption, death, shortages, and upheaval.

    This past March was also a watershed moment in our history, like Pearl Harbor or JFK's death or 9/11. But it still felt temporary. We figured everyone would pull together (HA!) and hunker down, and it all would be over by the end of the summer. People always think wars will be short at the beginning of them.

    It was easier to stay home in March and April and even May, especially when the weather was lousy. It seemed to be the wisest choice, especially since I was once a long-time smoker.On nice days, we drove (on empty streets) to the parks and took long hikes. But the restlessness was already starting.

    When I saw all that televised "Open America" crap, and anti-maskers and anti-distancers, and militias with guns, I experienced a level of anger at the right that I had not felt since Kent State. I wanted to fight in the streets--instead, I spent too many hours and days battling the wingnuts online, Which only fueled the fury. George Floyd's death made everything much worse. Without the internet as a safety valve, we might be having a civil war by now. But the internet also pours more gasoline onto the burning gasoline. This is not a good thing, especially in bad times.

    Summer was pretty much cancelled, but it has brought an end to our eleven-week house arrest. We've had some outdoor adventures and dinners on outdoor patios. We're still extremely concerned about the election campaign, and the potential for widespread violence, with even worse to come in the winter and spring. A gathering storm?

    Late summer finds us somewhat less stressed-out and angry. We are among the fortunate. Healthy. No career or financial crises (we're retired geezers). The Biden-Harris ticket has brought about more optimism. Nobody we know has died yet.

    Maybe we've simply gotten more used to living like this. Human beings can get used to almost anything. But we are nowhere near the end of the tunnel. No light ahead, just more tunnel. As Churchill said after the North African campaign: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

    Much of our way of life in the Before Times is probably gone forever. As are so many people. Gone with the germ-laden wind.

  10. Neil, how you got yourself to write that Trump was actually a human being is beyond me. Maybe he is but we don't have to give him credit for it.

    1. I genuinely feel sorry for the man. He is broken, pathetic. And though I certainly can have contempt for his followers, as dupes and boobs, in the end, they're lost souls too, trying to fill the hole in their spirits with big handfuls of Trump. They do enough hating for the both of us.

  11. My life since retirement: Home>>>hospital>>>rehab center>>>home>>>hospital>>>rehab center>>>hospital>>>rehab center>>>hospital. Here I sit, waiting for them to figure out how to make me well again. I am going home in my next move, well or not. I can't stand life like this. But I will say this: It has made life more interesting.


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