Category - Digest

#HomeAlone Day 300(+)

(or: How I Spent My Winter / Spring / Summer / Fall Vacation)

According to an app I’ve got that counts the days, Thursday, January 7, 2021 was the 300th day of the condition I’ve been describing as #HomeAlone.  As the day dawned, I thought to compile an  account for myself for those ten months.  It took longer than I expected. 

Maybe it’s enough to say that, 300 days into a global pandemic, I am still among the living.  There are more than 350,000 Americans who cannot say the same.  It will likely be closer to half a million before it’s safe to go out again.  I shudder to think that it could be substantially more than that before it’s really  safe. 

We have been through a full cycle of seasons with Covid now. It started in the winter of 2020 , wore on through the spring, the summer and the fall, and now here we are in the winter of 2021.  The Four Seasons of Covid. There will likely be two, maybe three or even four more. 

David Olney Tribute, Belcourt Theater – March 9, 2020: My last public event before the pandemic.

The last public event I attended was a tribute concert for David Olney (Spotify link) – the evening of Monday, March 9 at the Belcourt theater in Nashville.  As the crowd waited outside for the doors to open, there was some casual recognition that all was not right in the world, but there were no masks.  Actual precautions didn’t begin until I dropped in on a friend after the concert and had my first experience of “social distancing.” 

I worked my job at the Apple store in Green Hills on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10 and 11 – which was the day the World Health Organization declared that the novel Corona virus had become a Global Pandemic.  What I recall of those two days is that most of my customer interactions were normal and familiar.  But I second guessed myself after shaking hands a couple of times, and by the end of the second day was resorting to hand waves and fist bumps. 

The next two days – Thursday and Friday – I was not scheduled to work in the store. 

I watched a fair amount of TeeVee, read online accounts, and tried to make sense or the invisible train wreck that was barreling toward us.  I tried to separate useful information from the bubbling brew of hysteria, but nevertheless managed to work myself into quite a lather over whether or not I should return for my next scheduled shift on Saturday.  I spent much of those two days composing a wordy email to my managers, trying to explain that because I am so fucking old, I am in the “high risk” mortality bracket, and begging some kind of special dispensation with regard to my schedule. 

Instead of sending that tasty word-salad email, I just called the store and said “I’m a little concerned about coming to work today.”  A few hours later the woman who runs the whole operation called back and said “OK, we will take you off the schedule – and find someway to keep paying you until you can come back.” 

As I told my therapist at the time, that moment felt so much like the first time somebody expressed unconditional support that it nearly brought me to tears (actually, skip the “nearly.”). 

The next day all the Apple stores in America closed.  That was 300 days ago. And I have been using the hashtag #HomeAlone ever since. 

*

Those next few weeks and months were a mix of – oh god, how I hate to use this word – uncertainty, anxiety, and confusion as the whole world basically shut down, went into panic mode and started running out of toilet paper. 

I had started using a grocery delivery service a couple of months earlier, when it dawned on me that for a modest surcharge I could get somebody else to wander the aisles at Publix on my behalf, giving me that much additional time each week to stare at this blank screen and wander instead amid the brambles that pass for coherent thoughts in my head.  

Once I’d entered “I’m not leaving the house” mode, I came to rely even more heavily on such services.  Thankfully, I already had more than enough toilet paper for the one person in the house who needs it once a day, but I might have started over-stocking on certain other staples. I still have a freezer in the basement that is somewhat full of skinless chicken breasts, hamburger patties, bread, frozen dinners, etc.   And I still get deliveries of fresh milk, orange juice, and eggs every week. And Oreos.  Oreos have become my Quarantine Comfort food. 

I really didn’t do much but eat for the first few months.  I got fat on Wheat Thins and cheese in the afternoons and a honkin’ bowl of Purity Cookies and Cream that I scarfed down with some late-night comedy show around 10 or 10:30 every evening.  From March to July I went from 173 pounds and jeans that were already a bit tight in the waist to 184 pounds – and the next size-up jeans.  

And I tried to be creative and productive.  Or, more correctly, I thought about it a lot. 

Harvey Schatzkin & Ellen Gould, ca. 1943

Returning to a project that has been lurking on the back burners for a couple of years, I finished reading and voice-transcribing all of the letters that my parents wrote to each other in 1943 – the year between when they met and when they were married in January of 1944.  Most of that time future-father Harvey was deployed to a weather station in Greenland (you’d be surprised how vital weather information from the arctic circle was to the aviation war effort in Europe).  He and my future-mother Ellen exchanged the sort of letters that war-time love stories are made of. 

Now I am sitting on the material and re-reading the letters, and my intention drifts between two opposites: first, I entertain the notion the idea that I have to do something with material, find a way to put it into the world. But, when I’m stuck for just how exactly to do that I also drift to the simpler notion that having read his letters, having spent more time “in the presence of my father” than I did in the few years were both alive (and I was barely sentient) … is enough.  

Harvey and Ellen’s letters, aka “The Pile.”

And I tried to spend some time playing and even recording some videos, that the most I was able to make of that intent was a clip of a George Harrison / Beatles solo:

*

In the meantime, my part-time job peddling gizmos for “The Trillion Dollar Fruit Stand”  has gone through several iterations since that day I called and said I didn’t think it was safe for me to work at a store in a mall.  I will always be grateful to my employer for that moment when they told me to “stay home and we’ll figure out a way to keep you on the payroll.”   

Then all the stores closed and suddenly Apple had  thousands of employees that could not go to work. To its credit, the company never furloughed any of its employees, but the work we’ve had to do  over the past 9 months has been a bit of a roller coaster, alternating  between “busy” and actual work. 

In the first few months, we did a lot of internal training, studying online manuals and guides to keep our knowledge and skills sharp in the event we returned to the store.  Then, when George Floyd was cop-murdered and we had to be reminded anew that Black Lives Matter (such a low bar!), the focus shifted to a program of “Diversity and Inclusion” which continues to be a focus of the company to this day. 

Slaveholders ALL.

When the musical Hamilton came out on Disney+ in July, we were in the midst of those discussions, and, given my general interest in all things American History, I dug into the actual characters’ back-stories and discovered that not only the Southerners but all of the central characters in the musical were complicit in the “peculiar institution” of slavery.  One of the actual creative highlights of the summer was compiling a Keynote presentation with those stories and converting it to a YouTube video.  

Apple tried to reopen my store in the spring. In anticipation of the reopening,  I went to the store for a few hours in June.  It was weird driving into town for the first time in months, seeing how little traffic there was, having to deliberately remind myself of the route that I take from Pegram to Green Hills: “Oh yeah, I get off the Interstate here… I turn here… wait, where the hell is everybody? Oh, look, plenty of places to park.” 

And then walking into the Mall, and seeing who was or was not wearing a mask, and discovering how irritated I get whenever I see somebody with a mask that doesn’t cover their nose.  I’m writing this 7 months later and that still grates on me. 

At the store, we underwent several hours of  special training re: how we would work with masks and social distancing.  Then the reopening date was pushed back once… twice… and when it was canceled the third time, they didn’t even bother to reschedule. The store was closed all summer. 

My “Work-At-Home” Station

In July,  they started setting us all up to work from home, sending us specially configured equipment and running us through yet another training program.  I have worked several different roles in the six months since I started taking calls at home.  The latest role has proven more challenging.  There are several times a day when I wonder “why do I have to do this?”   Still, it’s better than having nothing specific to do.  

I am genuinely grateful for the benefits like health insurance (even though I am old enough to qualify for Medicare), and weekly Covid tests.  And I have to admit that that those bi-weekly pay checks are all that stand between all the crap that Amazon delivers to my door every day and having to eat cat food. 

A typical route along the backroads of West Bumfque

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, I amused myself with almost daily “Life is Better With The Top Down” drives in my Mustang along the curvy backroads of this part of Tennessee on the outskirts of Nashville that I like to call “West Bumfuque.” I love downshifting and stepping on the gas coming out of the curves. Since there are no passing lanes, my idea of an “an achievement” in those days was going the whole 15 or 20 mile route without getting stuck behind a slower car in front of me.  

Then I remember how scared I was in those first few months to just to stop for gas.  One of the info-nuggets that circulated during the early Days of Covid was the idea that the virus could be transmitted through physical surfaces like a gas-pump handle.  I took to the practice of carrying rubber gloves with me when I went to the gas station. I panicked slightly one time when I left the store after paying and opened the door with my bare left hand instead of my gloved right. 

Maybe it’s just fatigue after nearly a year, but I am less reluctant now to enter public spaces, like the convenience store that purveys a salad that I eat for lunch a couple of times each week.  Or I’ll run in-and-out of the J-Alexander’s on White Bridge to get one of their chicken Caesar salads – with an extra serving or their dressing that I use over the rest or the week.  The last time I made such a guerrilla strike, I looked at the people seated at tables and wondered, “what’s the matter with these people?”  Not that I’m being judgmental or anything… 

*

In the absence of meaningful production, I have consumed. 

On Netflix, I binged on: The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, Away, Waco, Ricky Gervais’ After Life, the lavish alt-history Hollywood, and the too-close-to-home religious quandaries of Unorthodox.  I watched the final season of The Good Place and indulged in the fantasy series Cursed and The Witcher and the first season of The Umbrella Academy.   I tried Sex Education and Season 2 of “Dead To Me” and gave up on both after a couple of episodes.  

In the realm or feature films, I put aside my differences with Aaron Sorkin enough to enjoy his take on The Trial of the Chicago 7, was grossed out but only slightly amused by Borat’s Subsequent Moviefilm (there were moments when I thought the title was actually the most clever thing about the whole film), and was painfully disappointed by Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day – even as I relished every moment that Gal Godot was onscreen. 

It wasn’t all fluffy entertainment. Oh, no, I availed myself to all kinds of educational programming, too.  I cringed at the pedophile stories of Jeffrey Epstein, (at the same time I wondered “why don’t I have a private island in the Bahamas?”) and was touched by a documentary about the Challenger space shuttle.  I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the  legendary Argentine Formula 1 driver Juan Manuel Fangio, traced the origins of the technology we use today to a company called General Magic, communed with The Band in Once We Were Brothers, returned to the roots of folk/rock in the hills of Laurel Canyon, and relived my adolescence with a couple of Beatles documentaries.

My favorite indulgence has been the classic 80s comedy, Cheers. Oh, for the simpler times when the antics of Sam and Diane diverted us from the fact of Ronald Reagan  gutting the country and handing the carcass over to the oligarchs. 

From Amazon and Starz I watched Seasons 4 and 5 of Outlander.  On Apple TV+ I watched Defending Jacob. On Hulu I watched Cate Blanchett pretend to be Phyllis Schlafly killing the Equal Rights Amendment in Mrs. America. As Amy Coney Barret was being confirmed to the Supreme Court I watched The Handmaid’s Tale.   From HBO I witnessed The Plot Against America,” tried to make sense or David Byrne’s American Utopia and relived the two seasons of Rome looking for cinematic antecedents to what is happening in America now.  

Damn, that seems like a LOT of television. The truth is I typically watch just an hour or so each night – but  jeezus, we’re talking more than 300 nights here!  

My definition of “bingeing” means that I watch a whole series one-episode-at-a-time over consecutive nights.  I can only think of a couple of occasions when watched multiple episodes in a single sitting, like New Years weekend when I watched three episodes of Bridgerton two nights in a row so that I could get back to Peaky Blinders during the week – though that ‘binge’ was interrupted by the Series Finale of The Republic, staged live at the Capitol Building in Washington on January 6. 

It hasn’t all been television.  I’ve read more books in the past 10 months than I probably read in the ten years before that. 

Watching the HBO series about The Plot Against America put me on a brief Phillip Roth bender, first re-reading that cornerstone of my youth, Portnoy’s Complaint and then The Great American Novel, a story about an alternative baseball universe.  By then we were well into the summer of no baseball, and I substituted with more books:  I re-read Shoeless Joe (and watched the movie version, Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams).  Then I re-read the Roy Campanella  biography that I first read in the 4th grade, which introduced me to the themes of racism and integration that made me a closet Dodgers fan (the rest of my family and friends were all devoted to the damn Yankees).  I read a stunning biography of Mickey Mantle entitled The Last Boy  and David Halberstam’s richly detailed account of October 1964.  

And I did a lot of that reading sitting out on the deck behind my house, looking up as hummingbirds came to light on the feeders above my head.  

*

Back on Netflix, I watched the documentary The Social Dilemma  and fretted over the ungodly amounts of time I spend  on Facebook. The movie explores the damage that algorithmically-driven digital platforms  are doing to society, but I can see the equal carnage they also do to my own brain – withering my thought process and attention span.  As I stare at my empty white screen and try to fill it with my own creative expression, the pauses in that feeble output are too-easily interrupted by the instant switch to another window and another tumble down the bottomless rabbit hole of doomscrolling. 

Even more so than before the pandemic, Facebook has woven inexorably into the fabric of my life.  Here in the Covid bunker, Facebook (I don’t use Twitter and Instagram only slightly) offers a steady illusion of social contact and stimulation, and in its virtual way fills the vacuum that forms from not being able to see people or do things in the real world.  

It still looks a lot like Christmas

It’s hard to separate the good that Facebook sometimes does for us as individuals from the evil it has wrought upon our culture. Of particular note, via Facebook I recently  recently struck up a correspondence with a dear friend from junior high school I hadn’t really spoken to for several years.  And a group page keeps me connected with my neighborhood out here in West Bumfuque.  We all agree that we should leave our Christmas lights up at least until the arrival of Daylight Savings Time on March 14, as our way of warding of the darkness of this Covid winter.

I made a half-hearted attempt to excise Facebook from my life in the fall, but as the election approached I found that I could not turn away. I feel the same way about Facebook that I felt about Scotch and vodka before I quit drinking – but I’ve been saying that for years now.  My life is powerless and unmanageable and I need some kind of 12-step program. In the meantime, It’s the easiest place to go when I feel the need to unload some snark and irony. No wonder I don’t get anything done. 

*

The other questionable habit I seem to have adopted – probably before the pandemic but, again, more so during – is the reliance on text messaging in lieu of actual conversation.  

I don’t know at what point in my life I began to devalue phone calls.  I think back to when I was a teenager (in a previous millennium) and the telephone was the lifeline.  It was some kind of big deal to call a girl and just talk to her.  Now, it seems I prefer the asynchronous nature of text messaging, the excusability of dead air: “Go ahead and send me a text; I’ll answer it when it’s convenient or I think of something clever.” 

Add to that the pandemic-induced reliance on  FaceTime, Zoom and Webex to maintain some semblance of contact with the outside world. 

Marshall McLuhan said that new means of communication rewire our brains and restructure the way we process the world around us.  I don’t think we take into account the amount of hidden effort that goes in to the way we have been forced to communicate this year, dealing with everybody in our lives in disembodied postage stamps on a screen.  Everybody is a ‘talking head’ now, some well lit and composed, others dark blobs slipping off the bottom of the frame.   It takes an unseen extra effort to cope with all of this virtual reality. 

Uh, Lee? I’m over here…

Here’s a perfect illustration of what I mean by the ‘unseen work’ all this Zooming entails. This a screenshot of a recent session with my therapist, who I have not seen in person for nearly a year.  Note the direction she is looking.  I call this the “parallax paradox.” She thinks she is looking ‘at’ me, but she is lookin at my image on a screen to her right; her camera is off somewhere to her left.  So I just spent more than an hour sharing the most intimate details of my life with a woman who for that entire time never once “looked” me straight in the eye.  And don’t even start me on the composition – her chin bouncing off the bottom of the frame, the upper third of which is her ceiling.  How is a conversation like this – when we don’t have any control over where the eye rests – not extra work? 

Back in the fall I think I discovered what all this forced seclusion, isolation and screen time is actually doing to me.  

The realization came at the end of an 8-hour shift spent fielding calls from mostly annoyed customers, trying to explain why they could not go to a store to buy the thing they needed right now.  The effect was amplified during the holidays, when a lot of people were trying to buy things in time for Christmas, and what with the supply chain being compromised, a big part of my job had become telling them that was not gonna happen.  

At the end of one long day, a woman I’d had a couple of ‘virtual dates’ and done a lot of texting with started to text me up, and I was just not interested.  I’d been staring at a screen all day.  I’d been talking to strangers all day.  I was exhausted.  

That’s when I put a name on the  condition that defines the past few months. 

I have been living in an “Isolation Feedback Loop.”  Simply stated: I am alone, and, yes. I am lonely.  Now leave me alone. 

*

As I sit here finishing this opus on Day 306, I do think that the most valuable, lasting thing I have managed to do in all this time is stay healthy. Which is to say… alive. 

Or as Fran Lebowitz put it it, “I think I’ve been excellent at not getting COVID –because I have not gotten it.”

Staying alive has mostly meant staying alone.  It’s just me and my books and my screens and my journals and Buster the Demon Cat, who showed up over Memorial Day weekend thanks to a (mostly) Facebook friend (see, there’s that whole Facebook conundrum again…).   

Buster is my near constant companion, following me all over the house as I make my daily commutes from the bedroom to the kitchen to the office to the living room. 

While friends and acquaintances have turned this year into a period of extraordinary output – writing books, writing and recording songs and posting an infinite stream of Facebook Live and videos on YouTube – the only thing  I have done with any consistency is make photos of Buster and put them on Instagram and Facebook. When my grandkids ask, “Grandpa, what did you do during the pandemic?” I’ll just say “I put cat pictures on the Internet.” 

Oh, wait.. I don’t have any grandkids – even though I turned 70 back in November.  I  marked that occasion by buying the first new bicycle I’ve had since I was a teenager.  

In the summer I instituted a routine I call “Analog Sundays” – when I put down the gizmos for a few hours, listen to vinyl records and read the print edition of the New York Times.  

I spent an autumn week at the edge of a lake in the Ozarks, mostly reading and journaling.  I brought my guitar with me but only took it out once. Well, OK, twice. 

Autum In The Ozarks – Greer’s Ferry Lake, Arkansas

Honestly, it hasn’t been all solitude. I’ve had a few lunches – outside, on sunny autumn days – gone for a couple of hikes in the park with friends, continued a years-long tradition of weekly coffees with a friend that have now become FaceTime visits because its too cold to sit outside at Starbucks.

I’ve spoken to neighbors that I hadn’t spoken to since my divorce two years ago because they were closer to my ex-wife than I (I got the house but she got the neighbors) And, speaking of my domicile,  I see my housekeeper every other Tuesday. I can’t imagine the squalor I’d be living in were it not for her. 

But I can count the total number hugs I have had since March on the fingers of one hand. Maybe it’s enough that I get to snuggle with the cat (when she’s not trying to gnaw on me).

Take that, fat.

At the end of July, my Wheat-Thins-and-Ice-Cream-Quarantine-Diet peaked the scale at almost 185 lbs, and even the expanded-waist jeans I was wearing were starting to bind.  That’s when I decided to try an “Interim Fasting” regimen that I learned about – where else? – on Facebook.  In my case, “fasting” mostly means I stopped eating those honking bowls of ice-cream every night at 10:30 

But that (and calorie counting) was enough: This morning I weighed in at less than 160lbs, probably the first time my weight has had a “150-handle” since I was in my 20s or 30s.  Not bad for 70.  Another couple of pounds and I’ll be releasing my Inner Adonis. 

There’s more – like the online course I took on The Future of Constitutional Democracy that I took in the fall – but, jeezus: I started to write this on Thursday, January  7. That was day 300 since I went into this lockdown / isolation feedback loop on March 13.  I’m finishing it up on January 13 and I’ve already taken more than  4,000 words to account all the nothing I’ve been doing for the past 10 months. 

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo suggesting that after the plagues of the 14th and 15th centuries came the Renaissance and Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries. While the Enlightenment was probably more a result of technological innovations (the printing press) than the resolution of a public health crisis, I’d like to think that the analogy is still apt – that something new and entirely better will emerge from this protracted period of hibernation.

My mission now is to simply remain alive until it’s my turn to get “the jab” (as the Brits call it.) As the prospect of a vaccination looms over the horizon, I’d like to think that my thoughts are turning to  whatever new world awaits.  

In the meantime, I am ever mindful of the the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” 

But this is fucking ridiculous. 

Sunset from The Tree House – December 12, 2020

How Is This Even Possible?

(Reflections on a Numerical Milestone)

by Paul Schatzkin
November 15, 2020 

For the past few months, I have been looking at this photo and thinking I should have something to say about it pertinent to the occasion of my 70th birthday. 

These are “the Schatzkin men.”  In the center, my father, Harvey; on the left, my brother, Arthur; on the right, yours truly.  The photo was taken in our backyard in Rumson, New Jersey in March, 1954 (note the white picket fence in the background).   I was 3.  Arthur was 6, and Harvey… well, we didn’t know it at the time, but Harvey had only a few years left on the planet: multiple myeloma dispatched him in 1958 at the age of 37. 

Arthur died in 2011, just a month shy of his 63rd birthday.   Glioblastoma – the same kind of brain cancer that nicked Ted Kennedy and John McCain.  “Heart disease runs in some families,” my brother’s widow said at the time. “In your family it’s cancer.” 

So here I am, having outlived them all, the only one of “the Schatzkin men” with a first-person need to learn how to spell “septuagenarian.” 

How is this even possible?

Mickey Mantle ca. 1951 (not a Schatzkin)

Before I try to answer that question, let’s talk about Mickey Mantle. (What’s that you say,  you don’t know who Mickey Mantle was? Then a) you’re an idiot, and b) Google it.) 

Mickey Mantle’s father died  at age 40 – as did several other men in the Mantle family.  Hell, they all worked in the lead and zinc mines in Oklahoma, so their early demise is not altogether surprising. 

But Mickey, even though he was a strapping athlete who worked in the verdant, sunlit expanses of major league baseball, lived his life like a man who expected to experience a similar fate.  He told anybody who would listen that he had no expectation of living past 40. 

“I’m not gonna be cheated,” Mickey said during the best years of his career, and he conducted himself like a man bound and determined to pack a lifetime of living into half a lifetime. 

When those decades of hard living  and hard drinking finally caught up with him – well after his 40th birthday – Mickey would often say, “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Like Mickey Mantle, I grew up expecting I was gonna be dead by 40, too. 

But in my case, the lament is more along the lines of “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I might have planned my life a little better.” 

By which I mean, “I might have planned it at all. 

The really odd, perplexing thing is: even though I averted that Gateway of Doom for more than 30 years ago, I still live in its shadow. 

That’s despite a lifetime of therapy that started in the third grade – the  year after Harvey disappeared from the set.  Despite spending countless hours in the presence of a highly regarded (i.e. Freudian) child psychiatrist, nobody managed to figure out that I’d been traumatized by Harvey’s sudden departure.  

Guess who is going to have (at least) 67 more birthdays!?

Let’s do the math: 

Harvey Schatzkin: dead at 37. 

Arthur Schatzkin: dead at 62.

Mickey Mantle: dead at 63.

Paul Schatzkin:  hearty and hale and now 70 years old! 

How is this even possible? 

Well, for starters, it’s possible because I’m ridiculously healthy.  

Nobody is going to confuse me with Adonis or Apollo, but I get out of bed every morning, put on my sneakers and walk for two miles.  I close the fitness rings on my Apple Watch  and by the time I put it back on the charger each night I’ve walked the requisite 10,000 steps every day.

And, knock wood, in those seven decades the most serious illness I have ever had is the measles when I was a kid and a skin cancer on my leg that was thoroughly excised about 4 years ago.  That’s it.  Knock wood again.   

When I had my annual physical last spring, the doc said my blood-work numbers were nearing the threshold where I might want to start thinking about possibly doing something to bring them down.  That was about two months into Covid 2020: My weight was in the high 170s, but on the rise amid a pandemic spent sitting at home eating fistfuls of Wheat Thins in the afternoons and a hefty bowl of Cookies and Cream with Colbert just before going to bed every night. 

At the end of July I started counting calories and commenced a practice of (daily) intermittent fasting; My weight has gone from a peak in the mid-180s to the mid-160s today.   I’m gonna go see the doc tomorrow and run the numbers again to see if they aren’t below the aforementioned Threshold of Concern. In the meantime my jeans fit a lot better.  

Be it ever so humble…

So if I’ve lived this long and I’m in such good health, why do I feel I should have more to show for my time on Earth than a paid-for house, a muscle-car convertible, an old truck and a crazy cat? 

Others in my age bracket are settling into their retirement now: moving to Florida, setting up rocking chairs, counting their grandkids.  I’m still working at a part-time job and skipped the part about having kids altogether, grand or otherwise. 

Which brings me back to Mickey Mantle:  Mickey said he should have taken better care of himself, and I’m saying I should have planned my life better.  

If I hadn’t expected to be dead, maybe I would have paid more attention in school, gotten a better education and availed myself to one of those “profession” things that I keep hearing about.   

Lahaina, Maui ca. 1984 –What else do I have to do?

Instead, my academic career was most notable for bearing the label of “underachiever.” In the years when my classmates were earning their fortunes – in some cases raking in more money than a croupier at a Vegas craps table – I might have done something more lucrative than smoking vast quantities of dope and taking tourists sailing and snorkeling in Hawaii (it was a tough life, but, dammit, somebody had to do it…).

Despite my academic sloth, I did have one substantial material success in my life.    

The drugs and alcohol wore off in the late 80s. I came to Nashville in the mid 90s and, combining a little bit of knowledge of music with 15 years of experience with personal computers, I started an Internet music business – before most people had even heard of the World Wide Web.  With that enterprise I found a purpose, built a business and became part of a community.  Despite the lack of any formal training, I was  doing good work, making friends and earning the respect of colleagues. 

Ahead of the curve? I was there before there even was a curve.

But I swear to God, the whole time I thought, “I guess this means I’ll be dead soon…” 

That was 20 years ago.  The business has come and gone. I was fortunate that its demise included a “liquidity event” that paid off my mortgage and has kept me  afloat for all of those 20 years.  

Like a scene in a Monty Python movie, “I’m not dead yet…” – but I have struggled mightily to find a similar measure of purpose and commitment in the years since. 

It’s not like I didn’t do things: I wrote a biography of “The Boy Who Invented Television” – a story that his transfixed me since my years on the periphery of the TeeVee business in Hollywood in the 70s.  As that volume went into the world in the fall of 2002, I imagined that I’d embarked on a career as a “biographer of obscure 20th century scientists.” Unfortunately the fabled ‘sophomore effort  went off the rails and took that career idea with it. 

There have been several other fuses lit – that burned off into duds. 

But… wait a minute. I’m not supposed to be finding a second or third career.   I’m supposed to be dead – like my father, like my brother, like Mickey-fucking-Mantle.  

And yet…. here I am. 

How is this even possible? 

I know that part of the answer to that question is a tale of sobriety.  

“I’m not dead yet!” because “The Reverend” Gene Perkins introduced me to AA in 1987

With the help of a friend who 12th stepped me into ‘the program’ in 1987, I stopped smoking, drinking, and snorting just in time to avoid imposing my father’s fate upon myself.  I have not had a sip, a sniff, or a puff since shortly after I turned… wait for it… 37.   I did a lifetime’s worth of drinking, I just stuffed it all into half a lifetime.  Me and Mickey – except, in my case, without the incurable liver disease.

Now I reach the biblically prescribed three-score-years-and-ten wondering “why me?” and “what for?”  

The decades-long inability to find answers to such questions – and make further contributions to the household treasury beyond paying off the mortgage and spending stupid money renovating the place – might be one reason I find myself living alone at age 70.   

When my cozy domestic reality started unraveling, I discovered that I needed to supplement my income with, well…. actual income.  That’s when I discovered that the only thing I was still qualified to do was peddle gizmos at the Trillion Dollar Digital Fruit Stand. 

Like everything else, that situation changed dramatically this year. Where I once got to spend several days each week having occasionally meaningful encounters with actual other humans, for the past several months I’ve just been sitting at a computer terminal staring at a screen and listening to people mumble inaudibly about stuff they need.  A couple of times a day I get to conjure up some useful knowledge and make a modest difference in people’s lives, but mostly it’s been telling  cardholders from the International Bank of Entitlement that they cannot have the thing they want in the minute that they want it.  

Arthur @ 2-1/2, Ellen @ 29, me @ 5 weeks.

That’s when the part about ‘not having a plan’  starts to gnaw at me.  I start to think “this is not what I had in mind…” for this stage of my life.  Then I remember, “Oh yeah, I never really had anything in mind for this stage.  I didn’t expect there would even be a ‘this stage’.” 

Which is when I stop thinking about the male side of the family and wonder if maybe I got a longevity gene from my mother’s side of the family.  She lived until she was 81. In fact, she got married for the third time when she was 73.  

Maybe that’s why, along with all the other thoughts percolating above, I keep circling back to this vague idea that I will (or should?) do something remarkable with my 70s.

“I took the tablets an hour ago. I’ll be gone by midnight.”

Given my continued good health (did I mention knocking on wood?) it’s not unreasonable to surmise that – like my mother – I’ve got a good ten more years before faculties fade and organs start breaking down and I have to face the decision that Ruth Gordon made in “Harold and Maude” (you can Google that, too). 

Then I catch myself, and begin to question this whole fixation, this lingering self-and-social pressure that I am supposed to “do” and “strive” and “accomplish.” 

I recall something Kurt Vonnegut (admittedly, no slouch in the “doing” and “accomplishing” departments) said: “I am a human being, not a human doing.”

And then it dawns on me:  Maybe I’ve finally reached the point where I can stop obsessing on the “doing” part of life and just make the best of the “being” part. 

Maybe, in the eighth decade of my life, that’s enough.  

It’s certainly more than Harvey and Arthur – and Mickey – were doing at this point in their lives.

*

This is 70 (OK, I took it last night, so it’s actually 69+365 (since 2020 is a 366-day leap year)

*

(Care to comment?  I think we’ll gather most of  them here at Facebook; in the space below if you’ve managed to get yourself out of roach motel….)

“Hamilton” – and Slavery:
I Made a YouTube

If you don’t wanna read all the verbiage, I’ll put the video here at the top:

Here’s a direct link if you’d rather open it in the YouTube app or a browser:

OK, Two things:

I suppose by now everybody who wants to has seen the Original Broadway Cast recording (not film!) of Hamilton – the musical sensation where a multi-ethnic cast (only George III is portrayed by a Caucasian actor) sings and dances their way through the classic (i.e. white-man’s version) tale of America’s Founding.

I’ve watched through the whole thing twice already, and various fragments of it as well and honestly… I think it’s pretty fucking fantastic.

I (finally!) managed to see the stage rendition last December when one or the ‘bus and truck’ road shows (finally!) found its way to Tennessee Performing Arts Center (aka TPAC) in Nashville.  And I thought it was pretty fucking fantastic then, too.

So, I will admit to being a bit of a Hamilhead – though perhaps not as much as the fellow I watched it with on the 4th of July who has seen it on stage like half a dozen times.  I considered myself quite fortunate to have seen it the once.

Anywhoo…. Hamilton was the First Thing.

The Second thing was… this ongoing discussion (via video conferences) that we’ve been having at my job about the whole #BlackLivesMatter moment and the necessary conversation the country has been having about the systemic racism which has been part of the American Story since…. well, since 1619, if you wanna be precise.

As part of that discussion, I volunteered for a “History subcommittee” that was assigned to come up with presentations to the rest of the staff about… well, whatever we wanted to dig into.

And since this discussion was all happening around the video release of Hamilton… I got the bright idea to do a (semi) deep-dive into the role (black) slavery played in the lives of all the (white) characters who are featured in the musical.

Open rabbit hole… fall in.

This turned into about 6 days of pretty much non-stop work: researching all the Founders portrayed in the musical (thank you, Internets), and then distilling what I learned into a Keynote presentation. Which also meant getting somewhat skilled with Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint) and putting all my Photoshop chops to the test as well.

What was supposed to be maybe 10 minutes morphed into more than 20 minutes worth of material, and I finished the first complete top-to-bottom run through last Saturday – about 15 minutes before presenting it to a Webex with 100+ people tuned in. It was very warmly received and several people asked me to make it a video and put it on the YouTube.

Which meant another two days of fine-tuning; In addition to sorting out the vagaries of the Keynote  application, I have also been grinding my way through a program called Logic to learn audio editing, which I decided to do to grab some clips from the actual show. And then I had to figure out how to put it all together in iMovie so that I could upload it all to YouTube.

It’s a 24 minute production that took me about 60 hours total to compile -basically the most actual “work” I’ve done in all the time I’ve been #HomeAlone.  I guess it was about time I did something useful.

That’s all you need to know about what this is and how it got here.  I’ll drop it the embed in here again so that if you’ve read this far you don’t need to scroll back to the top.

Thanks for watching.  Leave your comments on the YouTube page.

 

#HomeAlone Day 105
A Trip to The Dentist

Notes from the Urban Dystopia:

My dentist is in the L&C Tower at 4th & Church, so I went downtown yesterday for the first time in four months. It was truly exciting to be able to put the top down on a beautiful summer day and have an actual place to go.

Once I got off the Interstate… “eerie” doesn’t begin to describe it.

I started to wonder where I was when I turned eastward onto Charlotte Pike and there was not another car in either direction for blocks. I passed a demonstration at Legislative Plaza where somebody was barking something through a bullhorn about the State Police stealing citizens property (hadn’t heard that protest before). I found a place to park right at the entrance to the garage (no circling around floor after floor looking for the one empty space).

The street was basically empty of pedestrians, though I was surprised/pleased to see that even outdoors most were wearing masks.

The lobby of the L&C tower was empty, with social distance markers spaced along the floor leading to the bank of empty elevators. I rode 9 floors to the dentist’s office alone in the elevator.

In the office, the waiting room was empty; The two women behind the desk were wearing masks. I was greeted by a masked young man who pointed a thermometer at my forehead and handed me a Covid Questionaire: “do you have a dry cough? fever? chills? headaches? fatigue?” After checking several boxes “no” I asked “are there any trick questions here or can I just mark them all ‘no’?” I handed the clipboard back and immediately went to the rest room and washed my hands.

The rest of the visit was like all the visits before. Hooray for nitrous – the only buzz I get after 32 years without a sip, a sniff, or a puff. The hygienist agreed with me that, despite all those awkward, adolescent years with braces, my front-lower teeth are “a mess.” She scraped away as best she could. My teeth are clean now. Mission accomplished, now back to solitary…

I drove down 4th Ave to Broadway, past several of the honky-tonks. More eeriness: the streets were empty, though here the few tourists I did see were less enmasked. What was weird was to hear country hits and standards blaring out of the clubs, and look inside to see them mostly empty. The sound echoed around the street in ways I’d never heard before.

Re-reading this before posting it, I realize the most-used word is “empty.”

Surprisingly, there are still scooters parked on the street, but it doesn’t appear that anybody body is using them. I’m surprised that’s still a thing.

Today in #TMITM
And The Truth is Finally Breaking Through

The revolution may or may not be “televised” – but it is definitely being “packet-switched*.

I see a video like this and I think: oh good, the truth is finally breaking through.

Tulsa? Rosewood? Never heard about that on ABNBCBS, did ya?

This is what’s different between now and, say, 1968 – the last time convulsive dissonance tore a hole in the fabric of our cultural universe.

In the 60s, the media environment was dominated by three primary channels. Even when The Whole World WAS Watching, the message was homogenized and filtered through those three channels. Three points of origin transmitted that carefully pasteurized message to an infinite number of points of reception. Yeah, the police are rioting, and clubbing kids in the street, but… Laugh In! Mary Tyler Moore! Power structure intact!

This is what’s different now: The internet has produced a world of channel parity. Every point of origin is a point of reception. Every citizen has their own channel.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

We are all transmitters and receivers. And when a man gets murdered on the street in broad daylight, there is always somebody there to record it. As Will Smith said: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Because we have all these gizmos in our pockets, there is no longer any corporate or political force that can control the narrative.

And finally, the truth is breaking through.

Kimberly Jones lets us in here on the Dirty Little Secret: The system IS NOT broken, it is working precisely the way it was designed to work. The forces that we were taught are here to protect us are actually protecting the now obsolete narrative

We are all Kimberly Jones now.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

I use the hashtag that begins this post a lot. #TMITM = “The Medium Is the Message.” When he coined that expression in 1964 Marshall McLuhan explained: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

In other words, it is not until the media environment changes that new content can be delivered. The printed Bible fostered the Reformation; newspapers fostered republican democracy; first radio and then television reorganized society around broadcasting towers. The advent of the Internet reversed those trends toward ever larger audiences. Everybody is a transmitter, everybody is a receiver.

After a decade of smartphones, the truth is finally breaking through.

When I first got on “the Internet” in 1993, with McLuhan’s maxim in mind, I wanted to believe that this fundamental change in our media environment would ultimately foster a fundamental change in the way our society functions. The advent of the Internet fed whatever idealism was left over of my sensibilities from the 1960s.

I have despaired over past decade, as I have watched ‘social media’ poison the world’s discourse and flood it with disinformation and crazy talk and unleash a whole world of stupid. Even as the movement of the past few weeks erupted. I’d lost hope that the promise I thought I saw 30 years ago had foundered.

Kimberly Jones has restored my hope. This video is by orders of magnitude the most information-packed three minutes you will see this week, this month, this year.

It has taken almost 30 years since my first packets of hope were delivered, but the truth is finally breaking through.
– – – –

H/T Heather Larkin Vogler

– – –
*”packet switching” is the fundamental technology that made the Internet possible. When you Google those keywords, the result will be delivered in “packets.” You could…umm… Google it.

 

#HomeAlone Day 84
Uh, Houston? We Have…. A Kitten

Every year, around the middle of March, as the cold and dreary of winter wears on, I will say of the season, “Winter: it goes on until you can’t take it any more – and then it goes on a while longer.”

The same can now be said of the spring of 2020.

And quite possibly the summer.

Maybe the whole fucking year.

It can likewise be said of the past 5 years, when speaking of the descent that started with that ride down the escalator that has no bottom floor. 5 years later, new bottom after new bottom, and still we descend…

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

I really have no reason to complain (but I’m Jewish, why should that stop me?) as I have been comfortably ensconced out here in West Bumfuque for the past nearly three months. My cupboards and freezer are filled with provisions, and “essential workers” have made the trek out here each week to drop off more.

It gets pretty damn lonesome at times, but I figure I am better off this way than if my ex was still around. I am grateful that all resolved itself well before I had to lockdown, otherwise the operative hashtag would be #MurderSuicide instead of #HomeAlone.

I wish I had more to show for all this time I have had to myself. I have ventured furtively into various creative endeavors, but let’s just say “the input exceeds the output.”

My attempt at an audio/video recording space. If only I sounded half as good as it looks…

I set up the ‘studio’ in the back of house – the space with the big picture window that I cleared of all but a mediation cushion once I had the house to myself  – to attempt some audio and video recording, but the first attempts at actually recording something sounded so bad that I have not tried again for a week or so.

I have not really been writing much. I lament that most of my verbal energy gets dissipated into Facebook posts and comments. Facebook has become my go-to distraction and frustration. On the one hand, it offers the illusion of some kind of contact with other humans. On the other hand, the conceit of keeping an open mind and peering outside my own bubble opens the window on a stream of crazy nonsense that melts my brain.

The back roads less traveled aka my typical top-down joyride routes – Old Charlotte, Pond Creek, River Road and back again.

I really didn’t leave the house for about two months, except for #LifeIsBetterWithTheTopDown joy rides along the back roads between here and Ashland City most afternoons. This has been the season for a convertible, and I have not let it pass without making the best of it, nearly every day.

As for writing… heh.

I’ve written a couple of accounts of my life in isolation, that, again, mostly got posted to Facebook. But I also made some notes about my visit to the doctor last month for my annual physical, posted to my website in two parts here and here.

I have been missing my job at the Apple store. The store closed on March 14. The good news is that Apple has so much cash (like $2-million-per-employee!) – and continuing revenue through online sales – that they haven’t laid anybody off. We’re all still on the payroll. I had a personal experience there that has transformed how I feel about that job and the company:

As the Coronavirus Panic reached its first crest of frenzy in mid-March, I started to worry about the risk for my age bracket relative to the rest of the personnel I work with (many of whom are literally a third of my age). I called the store on Friday March 13 and expressed my anxiety, telling a couple of mid-level managers that while on the one hand I didn’t want to ask for any special dispensation, on the other hand… I’m old and 3-to-5 times as likely to die if I get the Covid. A couple of hours later the Lead Manager called back and said “we’ll take you off the schedule and make sure you get paid.”

That moment brought me almost to tears. No, wait… actually… it did bring me to tears, to the extent that this emotionally-arrested old man is capable of them.

The next day they announced that the store would close indefinitely and offered a similar arrangement for all personnel. But I felt like the universe had singled me out in a way that I felt like somebody had my back – as my therapist pointed out – maybe the first time in my life.

And then I settled into my confinement. They have tried to keep us busy with online training and video conferencing – just more glass and silicon and mostly looking at my own disembodied image on the screen.

In preparation for what remains an unscheduled reopening, I actually went in to the store for the first time on Tuesday for several hours of “socially distanced retail training.” I wish I could say it was anything other than just fucking weird. It was great to be in the presence of other actual humans again but of course we were all visible only from the eyes up. And seeing people for the first time in months but… no hugs, no physical contact of any kind. Wearing a mask and trying to communicate through it… not fun. Also very itchy with the beard. And, of course… don’t touch your face…

“The Pile” – my father was a prolific letter writer; my mother saved them all.

The other thing I have done in the past couple of weeks is return to what I am now calling “The Pile” of letters that my parents exchanged with each other in the year between their meeting and their marriage in 1943. I have been reading the letters and dictating them into a digital document. I don’t know what I will do with this stuff. I have reached the point now where I feel like I just need to stay with “the work” such as it is and eventually something will manifest. I have been circling the idea of weaving my own memoir (remember the 1969 stuff?) with some of this material. I just don’t know yet.

As I’ve been dictating/transcribing these letters into a Scrivener doc, I’ve stored some on Dropbox so my sister in Connecticut can read them. Here’s one from Harvey, and here’s one from Ellen. I’m pretty sure there’s a story in there somewhere…

It’s not quite so lonely out here for the past two weeks… as some of you know (via Facebook), I got a kitten… Her name is “Buster” (she was gender-confused when she first arrived) and she’s about 8 weeks old.  I’ve posted pictures of her on Facebook almost every day over the past two weeks.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

#Home Alone Day 63
To Doc or Not To Doc Part 2:
You Can’t Get There From Here

(continued from here)

As I suspected, the hard part was just getting to the clinic from the parking garage. 

The elevators, they’re easy to find, they are centrally located in a red-walled glass box in the center of the garage.  But the stairs?  Good fucking luck. 

The parking lot was fuller than I thought it might be, but I was pleased that everybody I saw was wearing a mask.  

After I’d parked the car, I searched for a stairwell  in what amounted  to wandering around in a dark concrete maze. I saw a couple of gentlemen in scrubs (and masks!) conversing near the entrance to the elevator lobby, so I approached, and from a socially safe distance asked,

“Do either of you gentleman know where I can find the stairs up to the Frist Clinic.” 

“The stairs are locked,” the gentleman in the navy blue scrubs muffled to me through his mask.

I took this news rather incredulously.  “The stairs are locked?” 

“Yeah,” Mr. Scrubs repeated, “on account the virus.  The elevator is the only way up…”

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:  Because there is an infectious virus a-loose in the land, the only way to get to the doctor is by getting into a small enclosed chamber with a bunch of strangers?

One of the more vocal members of the Committee Inside My Head said something like “if that’s true, that’s the dumbest fucking thing you’re going to hear all day.”  I’m not sure, but those words may have gotten through before the committee member that holds my tongue could stop them. 

It wasn’t easy, given the labyrinthine nature of this particular parking garage, but I managed to find the vehicular entrance/exit, thinking I’d just go out on the street and find the entrance to the building that way.  But the way these buildings are arranged around Centennial, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the building I was trying to get in to.   

I went back into the garage, and after a little bit more dialog with Mr. Scrubs, resisted the Covid Wheel of Anxiety -induced urge to just get back in my car and go home.  I resigned myself to getting on an elevator in order to proceed with my mission: to risk my life in order to get a clean bill of health.  #IronyAbounds

Not so fast…

I wanted to wait for an empty elevator.  Two people with masks got into the first car that opened, and I figured “what the hell…” and got in with them.  But before the doors could shut… another woman got in.  She was not wearing a mask.  I got out. 

The next car that opened, there was just one other guy – with a mask –  waiting to get on, so I took my chances with him.  

I put on a rubber glove and pressed the “4” button.  #ParanoidMuch? 

The door closed before anybody else could get in.  In the few seconds available, to us, we exchanged our mutual surprise that there was no stairwell access to the building.  He got off in the lobby and again, mercifully, nobody else got on.   30 seconds later I had finally reached my desired destination.  

I’m sorry I didn’t think to grab a photo of the lobby of the Frist Clinic. It’s usually a pretty bustling place, but this time it was nearly empty.  Most of the seating had been removed, and what remained was all socially-distanced apart.  There were signs saying everybody had to wear a mask, and a Miranda-like warming that “if you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you…” 

I waited a safe distance from the counter for my turn to check in.  The receptionist asked me for my Insurance card, and I made a mental note to thank Apple for keeping me employed and insured while so many millions of people are losing not only their jobs but also their health insurance – at a time when they are really going to need it.  Note to America: this is fucking stupid. 

After a short wait the nurse invited me in. 

“How are you?” she asked dutifully.

“Right this moment… I’m pretty agitated!” I replied, launching into a concise summary of the Ordeal of My Arrival and repeating the profane conclusion that the  Committee Inside My Head had arrived at earlier.

Then she sat me down,  took my blood pressure – and rattled off a number that didn’t sound right. 

“Is that good?” I asked, sensing some alarm. 

“No.” was all she said.  

She left me in the room to wait for the doctor while I wondered if being forced  to ride an elevator could actually elevate one’s blood pressure.  

Dr. Louis Johnson at the Frist Clinic, who has been my Primary Care Provider for the entire time I’ve lived in Nashville. Another, like my barber and my housekeeper, who have been around longer than my (now ex-) wife.

Eventually the doctor arrived and I told him the story of the limited choice of conveyance. He was surprised that somebody had told me the stairs were inaccessible.  We talked a little about the Strange Times we’re living in, and the exam commenced.  

I’ll spare you the sordid details of the ensuing poking and prodding.  The highlight for me may have been the discussion around my weight.  He didn’t say anything, but I did express my concern that I have add a few lbs from “sitting on my ass for the past two months.”  

“Yes,” he said, “that’s been a concern for a lot of people.” 

“Yeah, that’s what happens when the grocery store has run out of chicken but you can get all the Oreos you want…”

When the exam was over, the doc took me out into the hallway and showed me an exit to the stairs. “That’ll take you right down to the parking lot.” 

Before I left, he took my blood pressure one more time. 

“Normal,” was all he said.  

Whew. 

So, yeah… riding an elevator in the spring of 2020 is definitely not good for your health. 

Of course we won’t really know the full impact of this penetration into the Infection Zone for another 12-14 days so… y’all standby!

#HomeAlone Day 63:
To Doc or Not To Doc?

After much perseveration, I have decided to go to the doctor for my annual physical today.

Like every thing else over the past two months, the decision hasn’t come easily.

So far as I know, my health is good. Despite my advancing age (a “7-handle in November!), the only health issues I have are blood pressure and A1C that have hovered near the “you might have to do something about that” levels in recent years. The last time I did the blood work, all the numbers were fine and the doc said “just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” That was a couple of months after the divorce was finalized. Go figger.

This is a non-essential excursion into a potentially risky environment. The nurses I spoke to at the Frist Clinic assure me that they are taking all the necessary precautions: everybody in the clinic must wear a mask and observe social distancing. And there was one point during the conversation when I realized: the nurses and the doctors and staff at the clinic are going to work every day – and they’re not dead yet…

Once I’d decided it was probably (?!?) safe, The Great Wheel of Covid Anxiety starts turning again: How do I get from the parking garage to the clinic? Sure, once in the clinic, all the guidelines are being practiced, but I usually ride an elevator to the clinic on the 4th floor. What is the likelihood that everybody on the elevator will be wearing a mask? From what I read, not very likely. I can just imagine: one cough from somebody on an elevator and dial up the body bag.

It’s not helping to turn on the TeeVee or read something on the newspad (do they still make newspapers?) that singles out Nashville as one of the newest hotspots in the nation and wonder all over again, “why risk it?”

There seem to be two factors driving the Covid Anxiety Wheel: On the one hand, it only makes sense to be cautious. On the other hand, at what point do you realize that your life is being ruled by fear? At what point do you have to listen to the third voice in your head (it’s quite a committee…) that says “feel the fear and do it any way”? (H/T Julie).

Anyway I’ve made my decision.

Like Luke finding the exhaust port on the Death Star, “I’m going in…”

I just hope I can find the stairs. And I am grateful-sweet-jesus that I have the strength to climb them…

#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)