Thursday, September 24, 2020

Apology to Wisconsin

     In mid-September, against my cautious nature, if not my better judgment, I drove up to 
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to Ontonagon, on the shores of Lake Superior. 
     Yes, it was risky. I'd be hanging out with half a dozen guys for the weekend. Mostly careful, older men like me. A couple younger guys, in their 30s. All people outside the bubble.
      I made up my mind not to go, initially. I've gone, geez, seven times before. Nothing worth getting myself sick over. Yet when the moment came: "Yes or no?" I surprised myself by saying, "Yes."
     Why? I always go. The year I didn't go, nobody went. It was my fault. I take risks as it is: shop in stores. Do interviews. I've been safe so far. It was a calculated risk. This pandemic could go on for years. You can't cower forever. Mental health is as important as physical health.
     I was more concerned about the drive up. My pal who has a place in the UP said he had gotten some hostile looks from gas station attendants on the trek. The mask. I knew we would stop at Held's. We always stop at Held's, in Slinger Wisconsin, about 90 minutes out, to load up on beef jerky for the weekend. It's thick, soft, homemade beef jerky. I used to buy enough to bring home. A souvenir from the Great North. But my wife complained about it smelling up the kitchen. My older son coined the perfect description:
     "It tastes like a burned-down house."
     That it does. So I only bought a pound and a half—about $33. It didn't last a day. 
     I was worried about walking into Held's. The transaction. Would I wear my mask? Or would I cave to local convention and go in unprotected? When in Trumpland, do as the Trumpkins do. How timid is that? Wear the mask and not care? I'd only be inside for a minute. Not a rough crowd, exactly, but not high tea in Andersonville either. Last year, a guy in front of me had a pistol. Not in a holster. Just sticking out of his trousers pocket.
     "Obscure columnist beaten to death with a side of jerky for wearing a mask..."
     I was relieved to see this sign on the door. Insisting, politely. The clerk—nah, that's too highfalutin a term for Wisconsin—the guy behind the counter, wore a mask. He cut me a generous hunk of jerky.
      Honestly, I wasn't worried until the drive back. What had I done? Now I have to wait two weeks to see if I get sick. Plus, when I got back home, I began to worry I'd have to quarantine. Went online, tried to figure out the requirements. I have a research day Friday at the Newberry. Would I have to cancel? No, there was a window—their numbers were down, while I was there. The COVID quarantine gate didn't slam shut, for a second time, until Tuesday. Whew. That was lucky. I
've been home for 10 days, and not so much as a tickle. Lucky. So I seem in the clear. 
     Bottom line: I'm glad I went. Took the heat in the sauna, plunged shouting into the frigid lake, hiked for a few hours, smoked cigars and drank can after can of Pabst Blue Ribbon NA. Talked and laughed and cooked—well, cleaned up, Rory did the cooking. Told jokes, dirty jokes, if you can imagine. It was a lot of fun, and fun can be hard to find nowadays.
    And although I did some across some kind of spontaneous Trump parade near the aptly-named Butte des Mortes, I was wrong about the mask situation. So my apologies, Wisconsin, for underestimating you. Those folks in Wisconsin can still manage to surprise. Let's hope they do it again in November.


  1. its all reasonable, rational and logical until you get infected. I wore a mask religiously , starting in march. being a woodworker I had a couple boxes of N95s on the shelf. wear one most of the day to begin with . stayed home for 2 weeks when lightfoot and Pritzker shut things down. didn't leave the house. BUT the bills kept coming and went back to work. technically I'm an essential worker ,I guess, contractor in manufacturing LOL . found work , some in looted stores. stopped ordering groceries for delivery. went to Home Depot places like that. worked vacant residences as people rushed to sell second homes and such . wore a mask and for awhile a face shield . hands were raw from washing. no socializing . didn't hug my children for months. sat on my 81 year old mothers deck and visited from her deck deck with her inside. got infected somehow. I was so careful , sorta. went for regular testing. got infected. not the asymptomatic way. I got sick. at home 2 more weeks . it sucked . its more than a month and im still feeling shitty . low blood oxygen level. weakness in the extremities. I have a good day if I dont try and walk the dog more than a block .

    I thought I missed the respiratory involvement but seemingly my lungs took a hit. glad to be alive. hope to recover completely. wouldn't wish this on anybody. no idea how I got it. but im pretty sure it was from being out and about. relieved to have not infected my mom or anyone I contact traced. all tested negative .

    yes its hard to isolate, a mask is just risk reduction . I recommend strict adherence to social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and a face shield . I suspect it entered my system through my eye. I dont know but im sure I had a mask on. probably got it from someone who didn't. but if id have stayed home I might not have .

    im on the other side but a county health worker called . they said continue to wear a face covering , social distance and wash my hands. even though I've tested negative. grrr

  2. That's a valuable story, FME, thanks for sharing it. I'd hate to lose you ... wait did I just say that? ;)

  3. Neil: Give up the goddamned cigars, please.

    1. You sound like my wife. I used to order them by the box. Now months can go by. And only in the warm months. I don't have one from Thanksgiving until Memorial Day. What's the Red Foxx line? A man has to do something, otherwise he feels foolish on his death bed, dying of nothin.' Or words to that effect.

    2. A variant of that sentiment is in the Mark Twain anecdote about a doctor telling a lady patient she can only be cured by giving up strong liquor and cigarettes. When she said she uses neither he mused 'There she was, a sinking ship with no ballast to throw overboard.'

      Your occasional indulgence in cigars is probably more problem for your wife than your health, but reading biographies of famous people who were done in by lifelong use -- most recently U. S. Grant and Sigmund Freud -- suggests that cancer of the pallet is not a good way to go.


  4. Nice. I have the same reservations. Good to hear I may be over stereotyping our neighbors to the north

  5. Good for the trip and the cigars. Hey, and good for the 'never been in Chicago' book; just finished it last night.

    But I have to admit being confused about those trump banners. Aren't those really Democratic voters hoping for an end to the bullshit? At least that's how I read it and point out to anyone who will listen.

  6. Not possible to over stereotype our neighbors to the north. Beautiful country to be sure. However, except for Milwaukee, one of the most segregated cities anywhere, lily white as the driven snow. And not in a good way (should there be one). Ron Johnson, Paul Ryan elected again and again. Would you like cheese with those crackers?

    1. Many years ago a Black fellow student, learning I was from there, said that Wisconsin north of Milwaukee felt like Alabama to him. That was, of course, before they learned how well Black folks can run, block, tackle and catch. When my sister elected to attend The U. of W. in Madison an uncle who took his politics from Colonel McCormack's Tribune feared she would come home a dedicated Communist. And then there was Joe McCarthy.


  7. I wouldn't have gone. Of course, I wouldn't have done a number of things that our intrepid host has, both since March, and before that...

    I'm glad that you had a nice trip, but personally, I'm not wild about the "Well, I did (whatever) and it was fine" school of analysis, coming from EGD or elsewhere. One of the many features that are disturbing about this pandemic is that nobody really knows for sure what are exactly the right and wrong things to do. And there's no credit for 6 months of being careful if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    There are plenty of folks who are not following any protocols who don't get sick. I don't take that to mean that none of us should follow the protocols. What I'm reminded of when I'm out -- always in a mask -- is that once you leave the house, you just don't know what you're going to come across. I only do things that are considered "safe", but that doesn't mean that I won't cross paths with others who are not interested in being safe. And that's in Chicago, where I'm sure the attitude is different than in many parts of Wisconsin.

    Things went well for you, NS, at pretty much the same time that those Badgers were working their way back to being on Chicago's shit-list, so I wouldn't be inclined to give them a whole lot of credit. Maybe I will in November...

  8. I always assumed that folks in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota were taught the same things that I was as a kid: science is good and the good guys won the Civil War.

  9. Every Friday we have Patio Friday on our back porch, even when it's 88 degrees with 80 percent humidity. The size of our patio limits the attendance to seven. Everyone brings their own everything. We sit far enough apart where we don't feel like we're breathing other people's exhales. Who knows if we're being careful enough but we are satisfying our need for human contact. Some of us have been tested. Results all negative.... so far.


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