Author - Paul Schatzkin

#HomeAlone Day 55

We keep hearing the phrase “these uncertain times,” but it is not that the times are uncertain so much as the quality of time itself has changed.

It is May and there is no baseball.

To fill that seasonal void, I’ve been reading Phllip Roth’s “The Great American Novel” – which is a sordid satire about baseball (what else could a Great American Novel be about?).

Most of the story takes place during World War II; There is a passage where one of the team owners explains to a player that what is really at stake has less to do with Hitler than the looming threat Stalinist Communism:


Even as this war rages on against the Germans and the Japs, the other war against us has already begun, the invisible war, the silent assault upon the very fabric that holds us together as a nation…

In order to destroy America, the Communists in Russia and their agents around the world are going to attempt to destroy the major leagues…

When baseball goes, Roland, you can kiss America goodbye. Try to imagine it, Roland, an American summer Sunday without doubleheaders, an American October without the World Series, March in America without spring training. No, they can call it America, but it’ll be something very different then. Roland, once the Communists have made a joke of the majors, the rest will fall like so many dominoes.


The “invisible war”? The “silent assault”?

Who knew Coronavirus is a Communist??

#ColdWarOver #CommiesWin

photo credit: The Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles played a game in an empty ballpark in 2015. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

#HomeAlone Day 49 = Seven Weeks

49 days. That’s seven weeks.

Seven weeks of FaceTime, Zoom and Webex.

The last time I did anything in the actual world was March 12, when I went to McCabe Pub in Sylvan Park for my weekly cheeseburger – something I’d been doing for more than twenty years. I hope that tradition can resume one of these days, but I imagine it will be weird with only three or four people at the bar, spaced two or three bar stools apart. Will I need to make a reservation? How do you eat a cheeseburger through a mask?

I’d started using a grocery delivery service a couple of months before “stay home!” started; I’ve continued that routine, getting delivery once a week and leaving a generous cash tip taped to the front door for the shopper. Those people are my heroes. Their efforts provide a weekly reminder just how upside down our culture and economy are.

Several times a week, when the weather is nice and the sun is shining, I’ve indulged myself with #TopDown joy rides over the back roads out here in West Bumfuque. That has necessitated several trips to the Shell station in Pegram; I gas up the car with a rubber glove on one hand. I made one trip to another service station to swap out my propane tank and two trips to the post office to drop off stuff I’d sold on eBay. That is the full extent of my outside-the-house commerce. Amazon/UPS delivers everything else.

Every morning I get out of bed, put on my sneakers and go for a two-mile walk trough my neighborhood. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have all the conspiracy theories sorted out, and I almost understand what is happening in WestWorld. Thomas Jefferson is still dead but Clay Jenkinson lives! Most days I take another walk in the late afternoon, then I sit on the back deck and read a book, watch the hummingbirds – and remind myself repeatedly how fortunate I am. Despite it all…. #gratitude.

In seven weeks, the only other humans I have seen are the neighbors I encounter on my walks. We stand on opposite sides of the street and exchange pleasantries. Their dogs are the only living creatures I have touched. I regret not getting a kitten when I was thinking about it last year. The animal shelter not far from here has been closed.

The only people who have been to my house are my housekeeper who comes every other Tuesday, a plumber and the HVAC guy. Otherwise, all my “human interactions” (including two ‘virtual dinner dates’) have been mediated by screens, electrons, and digits. Thank you all for setting your camera in “landscape” mode and minimizing the backlight.

Speaking of dating: I did a bit of that in the months that followed my divorce last year, but was informed / reminded numerous times that: divorced less than a year, I was essentially radioactive. Late last year I decided to go into hibernation and wait for the year to end. The year ended in January and then…. oh boy, more hibernation.

It has been seven weeks since I’ve gone to my job, which keeps me on my feet – and burning calories – for eight hours several days a week. I know I am among the fortunate ones to work for such a large company that I have stayed employed and paid even though I have not really been working; the company has kept us engaged with video conferences and online training. They’re doing their level-best to get us ready for reopening, though it is quite uncertain when that will be or it will look like. In the meantime, I look forward to those video-interactions with my co-workers (aka “the kids”).

So it was no surprise when I stepped on the scale this morning and learned that in seven weeks I have gained six pounds.

It has been seven weeks since I’ve have had a hug; seven weeks since I’ve had any physical contact with another human being.

If I can’t touch anybody or anything, I’m starting to wonder why I even need a physical body.

And then I remember: my body a transportation device.

It transports my mouth to the refrigerator.


Public Service Announcement
For Facebook Live Broadcasters

Last week, I posted this query on Facebook.

The question arose after watching my good friend Jerry Vandiver delivered an otherwise wonderful performance of his music from the porch of his house in East Nashville to his friends and fans via Facebook Live.  I say “otherwise” because the delivery was marred by what I consider the Cardinal Sin of Internet Video and a Scourge of Our Times surpassed only by the Coronavirus and herpes: ‘vertical’ video.

See the problem?

I will spare you all the diatribe about why vertical video is such an anathema.  Suffice it to say that 9-out-of-9 video and photography professionals agree.

In Jerry’s case last week, he had is band socially-distant-spread across his  lawn, but because the video was shot in “portrait” (vertical) mode, the bottom half of the frame was just empty street.  Apparently when he tried to set his iPhone camera in “landscape” (i.e. horizontal, like the way we watch TeeVee) mode, the image got “flipped” so that it looked like everybody was playing their instruments left-handed.  So Jerry settled on the “vertical” aspect, I threw a gasket, and posted the question above on my own Facebook page.

After a couple of days another Facebook friend, another singer/songwriter by the name of Bill Mann, posted the complete solution:

Let me break it down for you and simplify where I can:  1

  1. Facebook Live is accessible when you go to make a post to your FB (personal)) profile or (business) page.  Clickd the little red camera icon:
  2. HERE’S THE IMPORTANT STEP: Before you do ANYTHING ELSE, rotate your phone into LANDSCAPE (horizontal) mode and LEAVE IT THAT WAY!
  3. When the Facebook Live window opens, tap the text line that lets you put in a description.
  4.  Tap on the little wand with a star, in the lower right-hand corner (I think Bill may have misplaced this icon in his post – it’s on the lower right, not left).
  5. This will open up two rows of icons at the bottom of the screen. Ignore the top row of colored icons; find the screw-driver-and-wrench on the lower right.  Tap that to open  the “settings” panel.
  6. Tap the icon on the far left to reverse the mirror image.
  7. Make sure you back out of this menu by clicking the “X” in the upper left-hand corner.
  8. Now, keeping your device IN LANDCAPE MODE, tap the blue button to the right or your screen to begin broadcasting (I use the term loosely).  You might want to mount the phone on a tripod first.

These steps pre-suppose that you are going to use the front-facing (aka the “selfie”) camera for your broadcast – assuming you want to be able to see what is in the frame while you’re transmitting. This is OK with newer phones, like the iPhone 10 and newer, because the resolution of the front facing camera is adequate (though never as good as the primary, rear camera) for what you’re doing.

If you’re using the rear camera, you can skip steps 4-6, just make sure you have the camera mounted in landscape mode before you click the blue “start” button.  You can’t  change the orientation once the recording/streaming has begun.

Jerry and I tested all this out this morning, and  discovered that it is only with that front-facing “selfie” camera that Facebook flips the image so that normal guitarists all look like they are playing left-handed.

Which, with the only exception being Paul McCartney, is another violation of the laws of the natural universe on par with vertical videos.

I hope somebody finds this helpful.

Dispatch from #HomeAlone
Day 32: Wither Baseball?

What is Spring without baseball??? 

Along with everything else that his been canceled or postponed, there is no baseball.  No major league baseball.  No minor league baseball, no Little League baseball.  No hits, no runs, no errors.

I’ve been hearing that maybe the entire MLB 2020 season will be televised from (empty?) stadiums in Arizona and Florida.  The Nashville Sounds should have had their opening day  and my friends and I should be triangulating on our first game of the season.  And my annual 4th (3rd) of July game? Could be canceled for the first time since 1999. 

I’m trying to fill the void by reading Phillip Roth’s The Great American Novel, which is all about baseball (what else would the “Great American Novel” be about?).  Yesterday I read a passage in which one of the characters waxes eloquently his objection to flood lights and night games, which passage I share with you here – as a reminder of what we are missing. 

– – – – 

The great Ulysses S. Fairsmith, renowned manager of the Ruppert Mundy’s in the Roth’s  fictional Patriot League, and known throughout league not as Mr. Fairsmith but as Mister Fairsmith expressed his opposition to  against the introduction of  baseball played under artificial light rather than the bright natural sunlight that God himself had intended:

I do feel in every part around the league, on those golden days of sweet, cheerful spring, hot plenteous summer, and bountiful and benevolent autumn, when physically strong and morally sound young men do sport in seriousness beneath the sun, as did the two in Eden, before the Serpent in the Fall. Daytime baseball is nothing less than a reminder of Eden in the time of innocence in joy; and too, an imitation of that which is yet to come. For what is a ball park but that place wherein Americans gathered to worship the beauty of God’s earth, the skill and strength of his children, and the holiness of his commandment to order and obedience.

For such are the twin rocks upon which all sport is founded.And woe onto him, I say, who would assemble our players in our fans beneath the feeble, artificial light of godless science! For in the end is in the beginning, in the Paradise to come as in the Eden we have lost, it is not by the faint wattage of the electric light bulb that you shall be judged, but rather in the unblinking I of the Lord, wherein we are all as bareheaded fans in the open bleachers and tiny players prancing the vault of His Heaven.

So, that’s what’s missing.  Just one more reason we all feel so disoriented.  Because it’s April, and there is no baseball.

Daytime, nighttime… Play ball already!

Appomattox 150 (+5)

Today, kids, Cohesion Arts has a history lesson for you:

On April 9, 1865,  Union General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the drawing room of a house near the village of Appomattox Court House in western Virgnia.  There are no actual photographs of this historic occasion, though most people familiar with the history have probably seen artistic renderings like this one:

An (unknown) artists rendering of Lee’s surrender to Grant – April 9, 1865

For most people who know a little American history, this is presumed to be the moment that marked the end of the American Civil War.

What most people don’t know is that there were two meetings between Grant and Lee.  The second took place  the following morning – April 10, 1865 – 155 years ago today.

When Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, Lee had only the authority to surrender his own Army of Northern Virginia.  He did not have the authority to surrender the rest of the Confederacy, or the other armies that remained in the field.

Realizing that the war was not yet fully over despite Lee’s surrender, Grant summoned Lee to a second meeting. At this second “interview,” Grant implored Lee to use his considerable influence over the other generals to likewise surrender.   They met for roughly 30 minutes, first doffing their hats to each other, then shaking hands, but never leaving their horses.

Once contacted, the other generals complied and the war was, within a few days, effectively over.

From late 2010 until mid 2015, I was privileged to be part of “The 186 Project” – a musical commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial produced by Americana songwriter and guitarist Thomm Jutz.  I formed a partnership with Thomm and songwriter Peter Cronin, and acted as an Executive Producer on the project. Thomm and Peter did most of the songwriting along with a host of some of Nashville’s finest, and I did all the photography for the cover art and inserts for the three CDs the project delivered between 2011 and 2014.

That assignment took me to several Civil War re-enactments over the course of of the following four years – culminating in the re-enactment of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April of 2015.

I did not get to enter the McLean House, where Lee’s surrender was re-enacted the morning of April 9.  That plumb assignment went to a photographer working with the National Park Service.

But the following morning, I did  manage to get myself into the catbird seat for the re-enactment of that ‘second interview’.  I ignored the NPS ropes and pushed my way through to a small rise, across the road from the ridge where my friend Curt Fields,  portraying General Grant, and Thomas Jessee, portraying General Lee, met: at the exact same spot, and at the exact same time that their predecessors had met 150 years earlier.

I was the only photographer at that vantage point, and I believe that I shot the defining photo of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

There is more to be told of the event, and the final “tintype” rendering of the photo above (available for purchase, duh) can be found at

This “tintype” rendering suggests how an actual photo of the event might have turned out in 1865

There are links on that page to some of the other photography I shot during the Sesquicentennial.

While you are perusing those images, let me suggest you also listen to this moving to tribute to Grant and Lee co-written and performed here by Dana Cooper, from The 1861 Project Volume 1: From Farmers to Foot Soldiers.

And…. funny story:  I really felt this was a special image from the Sesquicentennial.  I imagined all kinds of products that would go well in the National Park Service gift shop at Appomattox.  I called the manager there, they sounded really interested, but would have to clear it with the Park Historian.  I sent some mounted prints.  A couple of weeks later the manager got back to me and said that the Historian didn’t like the picture – because the horses are too fat.

Go figger.

#HomeAlone – Day 27

At 9AM I placed the scheduled FaceTime breakfast call.  

No answer. 

I ate my bagel with cream cheese and orange juice alone at the table, looking out he window at the backyard, skimming the news and Facebook on my iPad 

Incoming text message: “Overslept… lemme walk the dogs…*” 

I’m watching John Prine videos.   

Hello In There. 

A wave of sadness overwhelms me. 

This is the saddest I have felt in years. 

I almost cried. 


I don’t want to wind up like the old people in this song. 






*the call came through about 45 minutes later.  I’m better now.

Ignore All the “Productivity Porn”

“…ignore everyone who is posting productivity porn on social media right now….Let go of all of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now.”

––Aisha S. Ahmad, from The Chronicle of Higher Education 

– – – – –

Update from West Bumfuque, StarDate 200330

I have basically not left my house for 18 days now.

My employer () closed all its stores on March 14 and there is no re-open date even on the horizon. I am beyond fortunate to work for a company large and prosperous enough to continue compensating its employees through the closure. I’ve had several video conferences with my colleagues. There is not much news but the virtual gatherings are a welcome respite. They like that I wear my silly top-hot with the rainbow ribbon.

I went to a “virtual AA meeting” via Zoom yesterday and was surprised how well that worked. #32years!

Instacart delivers my groceries (which I handle with rubber gloves and disinfect before storing); Amazon drops something on my doorstep a couple of times a week (nothing new there, really).

I have all the toilet paper I need, but the Publix where my Instacart order gets filled is completely out of ketchup. Of all brands and varieties. Gone, empty, nada. Civilization is treading on very thin ice indeed.

I haven’t taken cash out of my wallet for nearly three weeks.

I shower… most days. I wear clean clothes. Little victories.

I go for twice-daily walks around my neighborhood. If it’s sunny and warm in the late afternoon, I go for a “21st Century horseback ride” – I take my Mustang convertible out for a 40 minute spin over some of the backroads out here in West Bumfuque. “Sport mode” is great for curve-straightening. Giddyap, little pony car.

Riding around the countryside alone still qualifies as “social distancing,” right?

In the evenings. my go-to binges right now are “Outlander” Season 4 on Starz (via Amazon Prime) and “Cheers” on Netflix” (only 269 episodes to go; think that will get me through the pandemic?) On HBO I’m following along with “Westworld” – which is gorgeous and brilliant, but also incomprehensible without podcasts and recaps. “The Plot Against America” is equally brilliant, timely, and much easier to follow. “Plot’s” vision of a dystopian past run by humans is much more terrifying than “Westworld’s” vision of dystopian future run by robots.

I miss Colbert’s monologues.  This week he has resumed his shows from his home, but the tone is different. I’m glad John Oliver is doing what he can from home, his monologue/diatribes work better without a studio audience.

I finished “Portnoy’s Complaint” and have queued up Phillip Roth’s “The Great American Novel,” which is about baseball, which we will otherwise be doing without for the foreseeable future.

The rest of the time I am #HomeAlone, trying to do the things – and then trying not to be too hard on myself for mostly not doing them. I have fallen into the bottomless pit of the #InfiniteScroll.

So this was a welcome relief:

“…ignore everyone who is posting productivity porn on social media right now….Let go of all of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now.”

Ah, there’s the doorbell. Instacart has  dropped my groceries off at the front door Lord, bless those souls for being on the front lines, they are every bit as vital as the nurses and doctors but not nearly as well compensated.

I’m going to put my rubber gloves on now…


As seen on my walk through the neighborhood this morning – Self-Incarceration Day 15

#Pandemic #Coronavirius #Quarantine #MorningWalk #Flowers #Nature #Nashville

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