A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

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“A vacation from my (pandemic) problems”

If you’ve seen “What About Bob?,” you’re familiar with Bob Wiley’s vacation idea while struggling with mental illness. 2020 is a year of if not insanity, then surely uncertainty, and that was the operative word describing the possibility of a proper vacation this Summer. I’m grateful that my employment has been uninterrupted by the current crisis, but it’s been, you know, work, and after a very intense few months helping customers manage through the crisis in the Kronos Community, I needed some time.

In late June, I booked this place (It looks far batter than it really is.) in West Falmouth for my family and kept a close watch on the COVID-19 reports from the state and I monitored Falmouth posts on Twitter. The situation seemed relatively safe, so I let 2 refund deadlines pass and we arrived on July 20th for a 3-night stay. Given the risky Russian Roulette of being in public during a deadly pandemic, I set low expectations with three simple experiences for the respite:

  • One day at the beach
  • One (rainy) ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway
  • One dinner (out) harbor-side and the Flying Bridge

We had a lovely dinner, and in one day completed a 15 mile morning round-trip bike ride to Woods Hole and the afternoon at Old Silver Beach. My old joints enjoyed the cool buoyant water and simply being together with Kyle, Beth, Megan, Mike, Maddie, Aza, and Luca recharged me. Megan captured the vibe better than I can with an Instagram post.

Stay healthy. Baby steps, peeps.

Black Like Me

I’m off Facebook again, and hopefully this time for good. In response to a “Black Lives Matter” piece I posted, a “Facebook Friend” replied:

fuck you
had any black people over for dinner lately?

Another “friend” posted a BLM opposition piece authored by, of course, a black man as if that one opinion renders the movement illegitimate.

I deactivated my account.

I mean, I guess there are black conservatives besides Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, but why? Considering Trump’s Republican party today, I wonder, what specific policies do any of his supporters uh, support? You know, other than the racist ones like “the wall” and defending the Confederate legacy of slavery.

Life is too short, and I can’t spend any more time debating those “fine people.” All I can do is try to evolve myself.

The answer to the Facebook question posed to me is “No, I have not had any black people over for dinner lately.” I don’t have any black friends. I grew up in a white town and pre-pandemic, worked in a very white office. I do have an African-American work acquaintance who I had hallway chats with back a building ago. While we did have some lengthy conversations over the years, race was never a topic.

Just a shade over 20 years ago, I was tasked with hiring my replacement when the New England office I worked in was being relocated to California. I was offered a generous package to move but declined for family reasons. I flew out to interview candidates with the instruction to bring only the worthy ones to the boss for a second interview. Hiring your own replacement is akin to approving a life-partner for your child. No one is likely to be good enough. After passing on a few candidates that I knew were not a good fit I interviewed a black man. He had a great resume and as we spoke, I could tell his broad skillset would be a key to success and we just connected. Feeling good about his potential for the role, I introduced him to the boss. About 15 minutes later they emerged along with a look from the boss that said, “are you kidding?” Since the boss didn’t cite any specific reasons the gentleman wasn’t right for the job, I assumed the reason. I believed the candidate was just like me in terms of skills and experience – a great fit, but he didn’t get the job. Later in the day, I said, “fuck it” and brought the boss an unqualified used car-salesman type just for fun. At the end of the day, I told my soon to be former boss that he needed to find my replacement himself, and he did.

13 years earlier during my interview, he and I had a pleasant conversation about cars and family. I got the job. I’m not sure whether a black candidate like me would have. If not for the white privilege that kept doors open for me, I’m not quite sure where I’d be. As for the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s not dismissive of other lives. It simply asks for fairness for black lives – in getting a job, a house, another breath in this life. It’s not too much to ask.

“The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

(Not) Going to a ROCK SHOW

HAL, you’re not going to believe this one.

These pandemic days, anyone I follow on Social Media that’s a music fan is lamenting the sidelining of the ROCK SHOW. I sure am. On June 5th, pal Dave and I missed our first show of the pandammit when Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (and David Crosby) had to cancel at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in the Big Apple. Oh, and we also had sweet seats to see the Evil Empire at the Death Star in the Bronx Saturday afternoon! The show is now scheduled for the same week in 2021. Not sure if the MLB schedule will cooperate or even exist. Interestingly, Ticketmaster offered a refund or the 2021 show. No word from the Yanks on my $350 sitting in their savings account.

There are times that I simply must attend a live show for the bombardment of music I love. Not just the sound, but the physical pounding of amplified sound waves, the dazzling lights, the emotional contorted faces of performers and fans, the smell of stale beer, and the taste of bourbon. A live show penetrates my soul. It sucks to miss it. Somewhere in some thread, a post read, “whoever you last saw live in concert you have to spend the pandemic with.” I was happy to reply, “Jenny Lewis.” In fact, Ms. Lewis performed the last two shows I attended, and they were fantastic.

I’ve traveled to see some shows – mostly just drives. NYC, Northampton, MA, Portland, ME, and of course, Boston, an hour away. I did fly out to see Mr. Isbell and band at Red Rocks Amphitheater in 2017. That was an all-timer and I highly recommend seeing your favorite band there.  My college buddy, Phil has trekked the globe to see the Stones, and he’s flown here to see the Drive-By Truckers with yours truly. Except we didn’t see them. In February of 2017, Phil jetted in from San Jose so we could dine at Abe & Louie’s Thursday night, then see the Sharks play the Bruins, and finally the Truckers ROCK SHOW on Friday evening. The steaks and wine were top shelf, and Phil’s team lost, but mother nature dumped a good two feet of snow in Boston that night and the Truckers had to postpone to Sunday. Neither of us saw that show.

Back on January 10th this year, Phil contacted me again with news the DBT’s had an upcoming show. How did I miss that? Phil wanted to fly out again in an effort to finally see the band. I jumped on the website to look at tickets and unfortunately, the pickin’s were slim. I wrote back with a promise to find tickets, but it never came to fruition and unfortunately, we missed that show, too.

In March just before the pandemic really took hold, I bought a new laptop. It’s a sweet Lenovo Yoga that doubles as a tablet that I use while I’m ellipticaling. It’s pretty sweet. The first night I had it the excitement of a new toy gripped me. I sat on the couch, set up preferences, loaded up software, and then logged into Gmail. I thought it a good time to clean out the email box so I worked backwards from early March cleaning out a lot of the old stuff that had been lingering. Then I saw this one from Nov 21, 2019 at 10:04 AM from

I had purchased first-row tickets in the balcony in November and completely spaced it. Sorry, Phil.

This year sucks.

“A place to indulge my narcissism…”

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic I rejoined Facebook after about a year away. Like any undisciplined human, I just couldn’t not post about politics and at some point, realized…

Nobody cares what you think.

That got me thinking about why I post content like that:

  • I care about the world we’re creating today and leaving for younger and future generations tomorrow. (Note: It’s not going well.)
  • I’m virtue signaling about how “informed” and “morally right” I am on worldly issues.
  • I’m certain my DNA contains a few strands of troll. (2)

Which brings me to this oft-ignored blog and why it’s still here. From the start, it’s been aptly sub-titled, “A place to indulge my narcissism…” Contributions here have waned over the years, but I keep paying the annual hosting fees for an occasional story. Why? In a way, it’s like a dusty old journal that my 19-month old grandson may turn the pages on someday. He or his older sisters might care what I thought. This place has documented parts of my journey over the past 16 years and has been therapeutic.

Hey, it could be worse. In another time and place I might have been ranting to strangers on a street corner.

Tuesday’s Gone

On Tuesday, it’ll have been two years since Beth, Kyle, and I departed for two weeks in London and Paris.

If we were leaving this week, the trip would not be happening, and we would have missed the once in a lifetime opportunity to see some American Idiot steal 2 mugs from a Starbucks at Montmartre. On Tuesday, no trips of a lifetime will commence, weddings won’t happen, no funerals either, the music has died, and there’ll be no Stanley Cup Playoff games.

So how are you doing? What have you missed or will be missing? I know friends who have children in the graduating class of 2020. We’ll mail your diploma, kid. Weddings seem mostly off, but that goes for divorces, too. Imagine being one of those couples. Oh, and note to self, don’t die. Well, not if you want guests. I just heard COVID-19 took a cousin of mine. His brother wrote, “We can’t do anything for him right now but will have some sort of celebration of life later in the summer when this clears up.”

“…later in the summer when this clears up.”

Yeah, I’m thinking not.

I have tickets to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and David Crosby in NYC on June 5th, followed by a ballgame at Yankee Stadium the next day, but those aren’t happening. I have no idea when I’ll be willing to engage in large dense crowds like that, but it won’t be before we have either a vaccine that prevents COVID-19 infection or an anti-viral that stops it. Without that, going out in public is like playing Russian Roulette. Yeah, the odds of catching a bullet are low, but if you do it could be game over.

I took myself out of play in early March and have been very cautious. I’ll continue to be, though it’s easier for me than most. I still have a job and can work from home. I’m very fortunate. Some people have neither the time nor privilege to binge-watch Netflix or write blog posts. They’re in bread lines. Still, the “Liberate whereverthefuck” crowd infuriates me. Sure, liberate the FoxNews-watching stiffs to go back out there to get the economy going again. The dead from that right-wing promotion will receive the usual “thoughts and prayers” from the folks who suck dry the collection plates of capitalism. Fuck that.

“He who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is battle slain
Can never rise to fight again.”

― Oliver Goldsmith

Life is Short(er than Ever)

A CNBC report from July of 2019 describes a US life expectancy decline during 2017-2019 for 3 primary reasons:

  • A rise in drug overdoses
  • An increase in liver disease
  • A rise in suicide rates

The article goes on, “The last three years represent the longest consecutive decline in the American lifespan at birth since the period between 1915 and 1918, which included World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic, events that killed many millions worldwide.”

I recall hearing about this morbid trend and thinking the causes were too circuitous from my existence to worry. Well, 2 of the 3, anyway. Then COVID-19 showed up and mortality became “number one with a bullet” on the list of life’s concerns.  In other words, number one and still rising. Number one with a vengeance.

So, with impermanence now center stage, I find myself shorter than ever on patience for people’s bullshit. Specifically, “people” and their “bullshit” fall into several buckets:

  • Trump supporters (friends, family, social media trolls). He’s a horrible person and you support him. Connect those dots while you’re out there liberating America.
  • People who make unironic statements like, “My God is bigger than coronvirus, you’ll see.” (I left the misspelling in for authenticity.) Yeah, this guy thought his God was big, too.
  • Bullies who prey on those lower on the food chain.
  • Those who repeatedly declare “I’m done” to go along with other disparagements, only to later suggest, “You should reconsider the ease by which you shove people away.” Nah, I’m good. You’re done, remember?

Which brings me to, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It doesn’t mean indifference. Author Mark Manson says that we have a limited number of fucks to give in our lives. And with life now  shorter than ever, use them wisely on the people who matter.

Bern’d Out

Where to begin in this masked surreality we’re living? Let’s start with how much more I look forward to the dream state these days. It’s an 8-hour stretch (more or less) during which I don’t have to think about living through a deadly pandemic. Waking hours are long and stressful, yet I have it WAY easier than most. Work has been crazy, but I’m thankful to still have it. It’s been an interesting journey from “I wish I could just work from home” to “it would be nice to see the peeps in the office.” Videoconferencing has become a welcome daily activity and most now opt for their cameras to be on. It seems that before this pandemic, we, well I, really undervalued the importance of human contact. Not that the video meeting thing has escaped the noxious air completely, we’ve had our share of audio and video glitches, but people are much more patient with the hiccups. In my privileged world at least, people are being a little more empathetic with each other. The digital humanity is welcomed, even if there are occasional and hilarious fails. I experienced one this week, and it’s the highlight of my pandemic work from home experience to date. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, Forrest.

In less fun news, Bernie dropped out. He was my candidate in 2016, and although I did financially support him this year, my giving was mostly to Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get past the misogyny of white men enough to win some primaries. They seem to require a white guy, no matter how corrupt (Trump) or blasé (Biden). I knew Bernie and Liz were long shots, but I wanted their progressive voices in the campaign to move the Democratic party left, and they have. Biden, now the presumptive nominee – unless a “draft-Cuomo” wave occurs, moved left this week proposing to lower the age for Medicare to 60 and to forgive student loan debt for millions of middle-class borrowers. I like both proposals, but worry about what seems an obvious cognitive decline in Biden. He’s struggling now, and I’m not confident he’ll be able to string a coherent sentence together by November. I wouldn’t be upset if the Democrats changed course and went with Andrew Cuomo. During this crisis, he’s proven to be two things Donald Trump isn’t. A leader and a human being.

What else? Oh, after a year away, I went back on Facebook to keep up with people I might not otherwise be able to. Hey, we are in a pandemic. The Facebook experience has changed – from the interface to the interpersonal. It seems not many give a damn about the state of the country with a dimwitted orange crime boss at the head of it. Maybe people just want Facebook to be a light escape. I don’t know. I think the devolution of our country into a gerrymandered Republican authoritarian state is worth caring about, but that discussion is not for everyone. I don’t even get pushback from my MAGA friends. Oh, wait. I blasted them into the unfriended regions of I don’t give a fuck about your cut and paste opinions the last time I was on Facebook. I sometimes stalk their pages to see what kind of lunacy they’re posting. Same old FoxNews regurgitated lies. Just like their Messiah Trump, they’ll never ever admit to being wrong and now in a most deadly way.

Anyway, back to Bernie and saving the country from these fucking “COVID-19 is a hoax but I’m going to dump some stocks based on the classified intelligence briefing I received on it and oh, by the way, go stand in line at 5 polling places (down from 180 in Milwaukee) to vote in the pandemic anyway” Republicans, I’m “Blue no matter who.” Yeah, Biden wasn’t my first, second, third, four… Fuck, I only preferred him over Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bloomberg, and Marianne Williamson, although if she wasn’t so “woo-woo” I’d prefer her policy positions over Biden’s. So yeah, even though I’m pissed that Bernie was done in mostly by the Democratic establishment and the mainstream media that supports it, I’ll be voting for Biden and so should every other Bernie supporter. I think this quote sums up the choice for the “Bernie or Bust” crowd:

“You can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. I’m getting a fucking welding torch. Okay?” – James Carville

“At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.”

I can’t type a number representing the dead because it will immediately be obsolete. Inevitably most of us will lose a family member, loved one, friend, acquaintance… You get it. The ex·po·nen·tial growth “curve” of humans contracting the virus won’t bend downward until we remove humans from its path – either by isolation or death. Once you’ve taken your last breath, you can’t spread Covid. Better to “stay the fuck at home.” Huh. I wanted to link to the video of by Samuel L. Jackson, but instead see, “Video unavailable – This video contains content from Disney, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.” Priorities.

So how are you doing with this? I’ve been at a heightened state of paranoia since around March 10th when I began quarantine for my son and me. A couple of nights since, I’ve been certain I somehow caught it. One night my feet were cold in bed and I was convinced that represented fever, forthcoming lung shutdown, and death. Beyond our physical health and financial concerns, there are millions of us on the edge psychologically or headed there. Desperation may have many bad outcomes. As I peered into the bleak abyss of my imminent demise, I focused on my breath. Breath, Breath, Breath, Breath… asleep. Sorry, to be a reformed smoker guy, but have you tried meditating? It’s really helping me right now. Still, this is so surreal. I am paranoid. I let packages and mail sit for days before I touch them. This week, a good friend wrote, “Today I got a package from Yep Roc –  5 new albums. Wiped down the box then each album w bleach.”

What’s working for me… Well, work is insane for me right now. I’m interacting with our customers every day as they are seeking answers. We all are. Crazy work is a welcome distraction from thinking about death. Family Guy also distracts this sophomoric mind. Beth, Kyle and I watched “The Ten Commandments” last night. That was a fun 3:40 distraction, but the plague scene with the creeping dark fog entering homes was an unwelcome metaphor. Other than that, meditating, exercise and music help. Even this one.

The Onion

I caught myself staring at the one sweet onion that my daughter picked up for me at the grocery store yesterday. She and her fiancée, Mike are shopping for me. Is it too dramatic to suggest she’s trying to save my life? I don’t think so, but it’s also not healthy to think too much about our mortality right now, so let’s get back to the onion.

It’s just an onion, but I was thinking “how can I get the most out of it?” How many meals can I stretch it for? A few feet away from the Allium cepa sits a bowl of black beans soaking in water. I bought beans and Jasmine rice over the past few weeks, preparing for the “shelter in place” situation I knew was coming. Thinking about maximizing the utility of an onion got me thinking about my grandmother and other people many of us knew that lived through the Great Depression. I remember thinking how silly her frugality was. From my naïve perspective back in the 1970’s, life was plentiful – and wasteful.

Today, none of us can take for granted dropping into the grocery store whenever we feel like it. We are literally risking our lives to do so. Jesus. I’ll cut this post short before I trigger a different kind of depression in myself and anyone who may read this. Here are 11 Life Lessons From The Great Depression Everyone Should Learn that may help us today.

Oh, and crying is natural. Don’t worry. It’s just the onion. It’s ok.

“In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”
– von Goethe

Chinese Easter Bunny

Easter 2020 in the US

Other working titles of this post were the Kevin Baconesque, “6 Feet of Separation” and “2.4 Million Weddings and About the Same Amount of Funerals.” I do feel for the graduates and blushing brides who will have their day postponed, but hopefully they’ll simply be grateful that their fate is better than those dying from COVID-19.

The title I chose juxtaposes our “Dear Leader’s” Easter delusion with the global-political competition between the US and China. I think there’s a “rest of the story” regarding the origin and arc of COVID-19, but we may never know the truth. What is apparent, at least to me is how much Donald Trump and some of his supporters have worked to spread the narrative of “the Wuhan Virus” to place the blame on China. An inconvenient truth is that there were cases in the US as early as October closely resembling the symptoms of COVID-19. Hopefully, testing of those individuals will reveal whether that had the deadly virus.

So, China and the Easter Bunny. I think what Trump and stewards of “American Exceptionalism” are most worried about is not the mounting deaths across our country, but that China seems poised to restart their economy since their outbreak in the Wuhan province began weeks before ours, and because they “shut it down” through government-imposed social distancing and mass testing, they seem to have stopped the spread to the point they can resume some semblance of normal life – including economic activity.

Meanwhile, in the (Far From) United States of America, Trump’s denials, downplaying and just general dumbness and petty vindictiveness have the country on the edge of a human and economic disaster. He and his administration received intelligence reports in January, but Trump, amplified by Fox News downplayed the threat into early March.  Now here we are. “Opening things up” by Easter is a fantasy, but also an indication by Trump that he’s willing to sacrifice American lives to not fall behind China in the Global Economy.

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Donald Trump 02/28/20

Yep. Let’s hope we can make that miracle a reality on Tuesday, November 3rd.

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