15 June, 2020

bones in the ground, blog edition


More about Thomas Morris... and the twisted ironies of the place... here.


"My nature comes of itself." -T'ao Ch'ien

I'm the round peg
denied by the square hole.
I'm the rusty cog
that revels in being rusty. (from Field Journal)

So there was a BLM protest march in Bethel, Ohio this past Sunday.  Some of the more yokely locals decided to attack a peaceful protest, yell, cuss, steal signs, and generally embarrass themselves -- sort of like the high school varsity football team did my Junior year when they celebrated finally scoring a safety (That's 2 points) at the end of a scoreless and winless season like they'd won a state championship.

It's times like this I remind myself that "Bethel" is a biblical term meaning "A Holy Place." I also remind myself of the short list of points I tell people on the rare occasion I talk about where I grew up:

  • the afore mentioned celebration over a safety;
  • the fact that Bethel, Ohio wasn't on a map until 1998; and
  • the fact that Bethel only ever makes the news when bad things happen like that time a kid got off the school bus to find his parents murdered (never solved), or the time the barned burned and people died (never solved), or the time an alumni from my graduating class tried to rob a gas station with a pocket knife (got caught).


I remind myself that it's the same place where some of the "good and faithful" people collected money to buy a billboard proclaiming Satan had taken over the school board because the high school biology teachers continued... as they did when I was a student... to teach the Theory of Evolution. In a biology class. 

Bethel has never been a holy place -- not for me, anyway.  I can't even say that I hated it that much when I was a kid; I just always knew I was going to leave. The things I hated about it had mostly to do with the fact that I was socially awkward, which presented in all the usual ways. I didn't really connect with most of the kids I grew up, though I had a circle of friends. Looking back, it wasn't really anyone's fault that I didn't connect with most people. Even though we all grew up in within the same geographic boundaries, I had very little in common with most of them, and most of them had very little in common with me. Probably the only thing we had collectively in common is that none of us knew a damn thing and we were all wandering around lost, hormonal, and generally confused by the mixed messages we were getting from the adults around us and from television. 

I've mention before that until I turned 16 and got my driver's license, I never saw a black person except on television. Think about that minute. Then think about the depictions of the black community on television in the 1980's.  I know for a fact that there wasn't a non-white student in the schools there until after I graduated. So, 1991. I remember asking an adult -- an elder in my church, no less -- once why there weren't any black kids in my school and why there wasn't a single black family in town. He leaned in, smiled, and answered "What's out here for them?" He went on to tell me in a tone that suggested official, though not necessarily heartfelt, regret that there HAD been a black family that moved into town sometime in the 70's and that "someone" burned a cross in their yard. 

Local police did nothing about it. The family moved not long after that.

This is where I grew up, but it's not my home. And maybe it never was. My mother hasn't lived there in almost 30 years. My dad is buried there, but I'm not the victim of that sort of sentimentality that feels rooted to dead bones. The last of my father's family that lived in Bethel, my Uncle Bill, died recently. My cousins on my mother's side have scattered. My Uncle Jack, my mother's brother, still keeps his house there, but he and his wife Kathy travel a lot and also have a house somewhere in Florida. What little connection I ever had to where I grew up grows more feint by the year. I'm good with this, though growing up in a small town does leave it's mark no matter how long ago you left.

The absence of that sentiment in my make-up doesn't mean I don't love my father's memory, because I do. But attachment to dead bones is memorialization, not memory, and certainly not history. Maybe that's why I could care less about Confederate statues or the confederate flag. The Outlaw Josey Wales may be a good movie, but it doesn't ennoble the confederate cause.  I could probably suss out the delusional nostalgia and faulty logic that would compel a Bethelite to attack peaceful protesters. But to be honest, I don't want to spend the energy on them. They're not worth it; they weren't when I was a kid and they're even less worth it now.

No one there cares what I think. They never did, and that's fine. But I love that there are people there who will march in support of Black Lives. If there is hope in these Byzantine times, it's rooted in the fact that positive change is knocking on the door of a place that, while it's not as holy as it's name, it damn well should try.

12 June, 2020

Days of the goat, blog edition: Boone

The goats. Boone is the white one. Photo by AHay.

It's earlier than I normally write this, but I've got a day ahead of me and I wanted to get this down. I started working this week -- my first "job" of any sort outside my writing for about a year. Freelancing has gradually dried up, for all the reasons that freelancing does.  But let me tell you about the job. I work at a day shelter for homeless men -- the same place I volunteered once a week before the pandemic hit. When the severity of COVI-19 became clear, the shelter decided to cut volunteers, for both their safety and the safety of the clients. I'm unusually young for a volunteer; many are retired and fall within an endangered class.  And try as I did to get them to make an exception for me, they didn't.  

I can't say I blame them.  Shelters, even the good ones, end up with an institutional hair or two; it's about managing limited resources for the greatest possible use, and I have to admit that St. John's Center for Homeless Men does this better than most. 

At the same time, at home we've borrowed four goats to clear out the overgrowth in our backyard. This wasn't necessarily my idea; it was my wife's. But she works at the shelter as well, in the housing program, and she, along with the rest of the regular staff, have also been picking up the work that was done entirely by volunteers pre-pandemic. Everything from answering phones to passing out soap for the showers was done entirely by volunteers. 18 a day. So it's fair to say that everyone on staff has been overwhelmed and handling the best they can since early March. 

So my wife locked on the idea of goats. There's a logic to it. Goats clear pasture with frightening speed, and we have A LOT of undergrowth that's impeded our forward progress on some plans we've had for the back yard (Check out the Abandoned Garden Project for more on that.)  Also... well... the idea of goats is kind of cool. And my wife is really good finding things. Being a mostly lifelong resident of Louisville and something of a people person and natural networker, she's highly effective at finding things. 

God bless her for that, and for marrying a misanthrope saved only by grace and a lingering social conscience.

Of course, goats in the actual aren't the same as goats in the ideal. Goats do graze, and do it quickly, especially for of them.  They eat, they shit pellets like a broken bb gun, and they sleep. It's taken most of the first week to get them to warm up to us, especially Betty, the lone female. The other three are castrated males: Wally, Merlin (the brains of the outfit) and Boone. 

There are challenges, of course. And a learning curve. I grew up agriculturally adjacent and Amanda is from Louisville. It's true we have neighbors with chickens, and geese, and -- yes -- goats. But "domesticated" livestock are different than, say, domesticated dogs and cats. They just are.  

And we're learning. It's mostly going well. I'll report on more of it later on. I do, probably out of habit, connect these two situations -- the goats in my backyard and my new position as Temporary Shelter Staff... because it IS a temporary position. And I don't mind that, either. Domesticated goats in our backyard and me as a paid staff member anywhere, even a place I have missed and am really happy to be back in and able to help both have a FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY sort of feel.  I'm peripatetic and stubborn by nature. I can be both affectionate and taciturn. Some people think I have a personality that has horns. I'm good with that.

Another reason why I think the goats, my new job, and me are all somehow connected by more than coincidence -- one of them is named Boone... which has been the name of my fictional narrator in more than two dozen stories, one novel and two novellas ... over the past 20 years.

More later. Gotta go.

05 June, 2020

27: It's not about us


Today would have been Breonna Taylor's 27th birthday. It seems appropriate then, to state unequivocally my support for BLM and the protesters nation wide in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the hands of Minneapolis PD.  My support  has been from the sidelines; nursing a twisted ankle and a case of bronchitis makes me a liability -- and while my ego would like for me to be out there, now is not the time for ego. Especially mine.

Activism, on any level, is challenging and dangerous work. Our country has has a history of
attacking activists:
  •  Dakota Pipeline activists 
  • Leonard Peltier.  
  • Medgar Evers
  • Carl Braden
  • Cripple Creek miners (the first ever instance of the military firing on American citizens with a Gatling Gun. 
  • Eugene V. Debs. 
  • Joe Hill. 
  • Albert and Lucy Parsons.  
This is an incredibly short list. The actual list is much, much  longer. 

Another list that's also incredibly long... too long to list here... is the number Black men, women , and children murdered by systemic racism. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Dave McAtee are just the most recent. 

I rarely call out a specific audience in my posts, but in this case I believe it's necessary. I have no interest in trying to explain the context of the protests to the victims of systemic racism. So this is for everyone else: the ones who don't understand. The ones whose face is like my face and hasn't had to worry about being Murdered While Black.  

You don't have to embrace the Democratic Party to support the protests. You don't have to change your religious beliefs. You don't have give up calling for peaceful resolutions; but you do need to identify your biases. You do need to understand: this isn't about you. Check your ego. Demand transparency from all government officials. Demand that Free Speech not be penalized because it calls out truth to power.   Demand that police brutality and murder by cop be treated like the crimes they are.  

During the pandemic (Remember the pandemic?) we were treated to scared white men with guns trying to bully the government because they believed in acceptable losses to "re-start" the economy (that didn't really stop). Freedom for them means sacrificing others. 

The activists in the streets who endure red pepper bombs and rubber bullets, who get blamed for the violence perpetrated by police, by opportunists, and by provocateurs, are defining freedom through personal sacrifice. Their bodies are their ballots.  

Like me, you may have good reasons not to be out there. But there are other ways to offer support. Remember: it's not about us.

28 May, 2020

Consarn it! Figuring out life in the post pre-pandemic world



If I were (still) a betting man, my money would be on the terra firma. 

Now that people can get a hair cut and angry anti-maskers feel like they can bully anyone wearing a mask like a roided up Alpha Beta,  it's past the time when we need to start figuring out what life in the wake of this pandemic will look like.

I suppose the first thing to keep in mind is that there is going to be a learning curve. Our national myth is built on a double-foundation that absolutely works against us: exceptionalism and rugged individualism. 
Revenge of the Nerds (1985)

And what this gets translated to now is some Gabby Hayes caricature of the backwards '49er nursed on amphetamines and instant gratification.   So we're going to have to figure some new things out, like respecting personal space and adjusting (temporarily) to some different social norms in regards to eating out and interpersonal greetings. 

George "Gabby" Hayes (RIP)


This will be hardest on the huggers, I think... though not on those of us who are selective huggers, and certainly not for the non-huggers out there. 

In these areas, though, I have a lot of confidence in our ability to make a shift. The Karens and Stans of the world will take longer to adjust, but they will when it's made obvious to them that being a spoiled brat will keep them out of the salon chair longer and their roots will be as much of an indication of their selfishness as it will be their vanity. 

There are, of course, the gun-toting anti-maskers... these bastions of Muricanism, that have less of an understanding of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights than the average 7 year old.  They have the 3 Percenters to protect them -- jackboots that represent the bully base of the Trump regime, who have managed to infiltrate state and local police departments while Karen and Stan were too busy complaining about the number of sprinkles on their FroYo because, you know, YOLO, right?  I have less confidence that they will eventually embrace any kind of true social responsibility because life to them is nothing more than a remake of a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie.  Fully swaddled in a nostalgia for Something that Never Was, they, along with their low rent buddies in various white power militias that take Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome as gospel will take it upon themselves to bully, to frighten, and to do whatever it takes to turn the world -- or what they decide is their corner of it -- into a whites only dystopian nightmare.  



They feel pretty confident in their ability to do all this because their figurehead has given them permission. Trump is a carnival barker at heart. He knows how rile people up and he knows -- just like corporate hacks and powermongers know -- that getting one half of the country to murder the other half is just good business.  The murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Lousiville are not isolated incidents.  The increase in racially motivated crimes against people of Asian descent are not isolated incidents. There's been an increase in these crimes since Trump took office; but it would be a mistake to pin it all on him like he created it.

That would be giving him too much credit.

I've said before that Trump only stood up in front of a tide that was already rolling. My assertions of this were dismissed in 2015 by highly educated and well-intended liberals who honestly still had faith in the system... or, if not faith, a sort of strangled hope that while the system is completely fucked, it's "the system we have." I told them then that Trump was probably going to win. Not because I wanted him to win (I didn't) but because of something else that I had difficulty articulating.  

Now I understand what I meant to say five years ago.

Tyrants are not dynamic people. Dictators CAN be. But, like Brodsky wrote, "To be a tyrant, one had better be dull."  Tyrants are not game changers, swamp drainers, or bringers of change. Tyrants are bureaucrats of their own hearts that want order ... order that cements the status quo in place ... at all costs.  And make no mistake... Trump isn't a tyrant just YET. 

But he's in the running. 

And, so, as we try to figure out how to live in this pandemic stamped world, I have to be honest. My money is on the dirt. Any conventional wisdom suggests that we're not done with COVID yet, no matter how much people want it to be done.  And there will be those who will continue to exploit the situation in the name of profit or power. And the system will tighten its hold, unless we examine the possibility that all these little fires might be fueled from a single source. And it's not so much about the election, but about making changes to the system itself that will make it more humane. 

They're not going to make it easy, though. 

19 May, 2020

Special Patreon Podcast Episode: The day I should have let go of capitalism but missed the metaphor

Episode 21: a Patreon​ Special!


I'm working on a couple of new regular podcast episodes as well as two new PATRONS ONLY episodes, but I thought I'd share this one through my Patreon page. This episode is set for the PUBLIC... that's you! Feel free to share! And if you want to hear those PATRON ONLY episodes... there's usually 2 of those a month... all you have to do is be a Patron. Starting at $1/ month, you will get new Patron Only Podcasts delivered to your email. 

18 May, 2020

Social Distance Diary: Remembering your first (quarantine)

Your humble narrator (L)  age almost 3. 

This is one of the few digitally archived photos available that prove I ever had a childhood. There are others, but this, like those, is a picture of a picture... which means someone, probably not me, either scanned in or took a picture of the original with their phone.  It's an especially telling picture; one that explains not only a lot about me, but about some of the dynamics that helped forge most of my childhood. You'll notice that it's a birthday party. My brother's actually. And that's me, wanting my piece of the spotlight like only an almost 3 year old can.  (Sorry, Brian.) That's me, on the left and my older brother on the right. We're sitting on our dad's lap. He was still fixing airplanes at Lunken Airport, where Proctor & Gamble executives used to fly in and out on their corporate jets.

Wasn't I a cute little duffer? I always thought so. It was quite the shock to my system when I learned that not everyone thought so. Of course, one of the reasons that maybe a pitiful few didn't like me was because it took a while for me to get socialized to the point that I realized I wasn't the center of the friggin' universe.

If you're paying attention to the picture, you might notice that I look on the pale side. I'd been sick when the picture was taken.  I was sick a lot.  A cold/ flu that never seemed to end, that kept me (and my parents) awake at night; hacking coughs, trouble breathing, a come and go high temperature.  Doctor after doctor misdiagnosing it. At one point they took out my tonsils just in case that was the problem. (It wasn't.)  I wasn't breathing well, but it never occurred to me that I was sick because no one TOLD me I was sick and I hadn't been around other kids enough to know that not everyone was experiencing life the way I was. 

By the time I was 5, I'd been sick for most of my life.  I almost didn't get into kindergarten on time because I was small for my age.  I was in Kindergarten when I was finally diagnosed correctly, and was sick so much of the academic year that I was nearly held back because of how much I missed. (I was ultimately allowed to make up everything and went on to 1st grade, which just goes to show that kindergarten teachers have infinitely more faith than say, grad school administrators who insist on making me finish late when the delay wasn't my fault but I was well able to catch up. But that's another story.

The diagnosis: chronic asthma, made worse by allergies. These words are far more common now, as are the treatments. But in the late 1970's chronic asthma was considered rare. I was pretty much allergic to the entire outside world. I was started on an aggressive treatment of allergy shots, daily inhaler use, and some other medicines.  I was sent to camps and workshops to learn breathing techniques and strategies that were designed to maybe reduce the amount of medicine I was taking. (It worked.)

My parents were also told to limit my exposure to dust and pollen as much as possible. They pulled the carpet out of my bedroom. I had to give up my stuffed animals. My mom mopped my room, floor to ceiling, every single day. If anyone in a 5 yard radius was mowing in the summer, I wasn't allowed outside. And since we had a next door neighbor who couldn't help but mow his grass, whether it needed it or not, I was always inside. 

Always. 

When I was 8, the doctors finally gave my parents the green light to let me outside other than school or church.  I had a lot to catch up on, and mostly I didn't. I've never been great at sports; years of having to stay inside and inactive made it that much harder for me to pick up everything from swimming to riding my bicycle. I didn't know it then, but I had picked up a Fear of the World. After all, it was trying to kill me, right?

It took me a long time to figure out that I'd developed not so much a fear of dying as much as a fear of living. I knew it what it felt like to almost die. Seriously.  The body's panic center goes into hyper drive when, for example, you're unable to breathe, and working harder at it only makes it worse. A full blown asthma attack feels like drowning on the absence of air. 

I've been thinking about that time a lot over the last almost three months. I returned from San Antonio on in early March and I've been under some kind of social distancing/quarantine regiment ever since. Not because I was told to, or because I'm sick, other than the garden variety Ohio Valley Funk that nearly everyone living in Louisville gets in the Spring. But because it's been the right thing to do.  I was accused early on of not taking it seriously when I voiced concerns that mass shut downs without a plan in place was a form of economic warfare. I have been accused of being manipulated by one grand conspiracy or another because I wear a mask when I go out and I support social distancing as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The economic warfare has gone on anyway, just in macro. The grifters in charge of the country have used the stimulus bills to rob the country blind while throwing pennies at some of the rest of us.   

But I come back to this picture. Not because I was a cute little duffer, or because it's a good picture. But because at this point, I hadn't learned to be afraid of life yet.  And it does make me wonder, what will come out of the pandemic. What will we learn? Will we learn? I'm not enough of an optimist to believe that this apocalypse, like the others before, will be the grand turning point. This isn't even my first apocalypse; and if you're reading, it's not yours either.  Even if you're too young to remember 9/11, it was an apocalypse that has impacted us for the worse. So learn some breathing exercises. Adopt some strategies... ones that keep you calm. We may be "re-opening" whatever the hell that means, but this apocalypse is far from done. And it won't be the last one. 


05 May, 2020

Ohio Valley Funk /adelic; or SUPPORT LIVING ARTISTS (#GIVINGTUESDAYNOW)


Yes, it could be worse. My ankle is on the mend, and we were able to get the roof fixed. Springtime in Kentucky means that my allergies, like most people's, have kicked into high gear.  That's the reason I'm not posting a new episode of  Record of a Well-Worn Pair of Traveling Boots; I'm coughing a little too much and my voice isn't its usual, harmonious self.   I'm looking forward to getting back out on the road and having new stories to tell, and I'm hopeful that maybe sometime in this summer I'll be able to do just that.  

Don't worry, though. I'm just taking a break this week from my regular episode and the Patron Only Episodes available on my Patreon Page.  I'm planning on being back in a week or two with another story from my recent or not-so-recent travels for both the regular episodes and the Patron Only Episodes for the month of May.

The pandemic has brought a lot things to the surface: sheer stupidity on the part of protests with dubious ties to right wing gun's rights and ultra-conservative groups; the best in human love and compassion for one another; and the worst, selfish behavior from hording of everything from toilet paper to tofu and a total disregard for health care workers and the people who really do create the wealth in this country. (NOTE: not anyone represented on the President's "re-opening council.")

But one thing that's actually been happening for a while is that well established independent literary presses are in trouble. Late last year, one of the larger independent presses that I very much admire used a GoFundMe to publish collection of poetry.  In today's mail, I received a letter from another independent press of goodly size, inviting me to a monthly membership:



I get it. I really do. It's the same thing I'm trying to do over on my Patreon Page, with my podcast, and with various other writing projects over the years. From what I can tell, there are quite a few people who believe my work is pretty good.  They visit my blog, they visit my Instagram, they download my podcast. True, it started out as my circle of friends, but people are catching on. 

So why do I ask for support? Why don't I just publish a book with some established press? 

Well, I hope to. I really do. Although I'm a massive proponent of self-publishing, I also think the established publishing paths have their worth. Where I tend to differ from a lot of writers and artists is that I don't reject one in the name of the other. This does present some problems since pretty much any poem I publish digitally or in a pamphlet won't even be considered by most other journals, magazines, or online publishers. Some of that is a copyright issue. Most of it has to do with a hold over attitude dating at least to the 1920's about who will be able to claim to have "discovered" someone who might someday be famous... as famous as poets get, anyway. 

And yes. If editors are being honest, their bias against republishing already
self-published work boils down to an unseemly one-upmanship and outdated 
 ideas about the "vetting" process of publishing.

This bias has kept most of the traditional publishing lanes open, with the help of that same snobbery being adopted by most of the grant and fellowship foundations that offer some kind of stipend for doing the work. 

And yet, I find myself wondering what the difference is between a press that uses a GoFundMe, another that offers a monthly membership, and me?

Nothing. There isn't a difference at all. 

But the larger question then becomes not just about me being able to pay my mortgage. I'm one of many upon many of artistic voices. And I believe all the voices should be heard.  Who's job is to support the work of being done now? And what is the nature of that support?

The reason I post so often... on Instagram, on this blog, and in other 
forums... is because I believe  my work, like me, lives mostly on the currents. 

This isn't to say that I think it lacks "value," or that I even think of my work as something that needs to be defined in terms of  "value,"  I put my work out on the wind because that's where all words go, whether they're Art or not. Might as well give the meaningful words a chance to breathe, too. 

About 10 years back, when I was passing around the manuscript of a novel that's never seen daylight... a crime noir-ish thing called Toxicity ...  an agent who wrote me a very nice, personal rejection letter pointed out to me that in any given year more than ONE MILLION books are published and that less than 1% of those are new, still living authors. This was before epublishing, of course. I'm sure that taking into account the number of writers who publish ebooks exclusively on Amazon, for example,  there are significantly more new writers publishing every year. 

But making it easier to publish a book doesn't make it any easier to be able to pay the electric bill, or to fix a leaky roof. 

Most writers I know hustle to sell their own work, just like most of the musicians I know. As a matter of fact, there are more artists hustling for themselves now than ever before because the tools to do so are easy to use, generally accessible, and (for the most part) available at no cost. 

That also means that 

the time we spend hustling, we aren't making art .. a situation that, over the long term, can be self-defeating.

So I hope you'll take that into consideration. Living artists need to live. That includes me, of course. But there's a lot of us. After you've wandered over to my Patreon Page, take a look around on Patreon and wherever you spend your internet time. There's good work being done. Please support it.

 

24 April, 2020

Social Distance Diary: transmitting the dharma


Today is one of those days when I feel the world shrinking, when the the mountain range of things I can't control (always there in distance, like the Rocky Mountains) just laughs at me and my approaching level of incompetence. 

I think of myself as a river pebble. Sometimes I get knocked around by the current. Sometimes I bump up against other pebbles, bigger rocks, a fish, a cricket, a tadpole, or a plant. Sometimes the current lodges me somewhere: I get stuck in the mud, or between a couple of other pieces of detached sediment.  But water is as caustic as it is refreshing. And the current is always in flux. Being, as I am, a river pebble, I pick things up as I go. But I continue to struggle against what wasn't passed on to me to begin with. 

I really like the house my wife and I live in. It's an old house, and has old house problems. A good many of those problem are things I'm able to fix. Most simple repairs, for example. I've changed power outlets, hung shelves, patched and painted walls.   Replaced toilet seats.  These are things I've picked up over the years: like changing a tire, a battery, or the oil. I know a little about a lot of things, actually, which makes me at least moderately useful maybe 80% of the time. 

But the things I do know stand in relief against all that I don't.  And while I try not to dwell on the reasons why, since the slim difference between a reason and an excuse is a dollop of self-pity,  the fact is it's difficult not to track it back.  

My grandfather, my mother's dad, was a carpenter. He smelled of saw dust, coffee, and nicotine.  He used to scribble little projects on scraps of paper, pieces of paper towel. I used to sneak into his workshop just to smell the smells. My old man ran a jet repair crew in the Air Force; he knew how to work with his hands.  There was a wealth of knowledge there that wasn't passed on. I don't know if any of it would have interested me, but I wasn't given the chance to reject it, either. I was a sickly kid and protecting me meant keeping me away from certain things. 

The things I HAVE learned, I sought. And I do think there's something to be said for being the active seeker of knowledge.  But there's something else about the heritage of knowledge.   I've had a lot of teachers over the years, but it's difficult to trace what I know down to a single heritage.  

In the Chinese tradition of Zen, heritage matters. It's how teachers become teachers; the monastic certificate program.  The master discovers who the next in line is and, through a ceremony , the dharma is transmitted and a new master in invested. And depending on what school you look at, the issue of heritage matters.   Heritage gets a bad wrap in America because it's been all wrapped up in nationalism and narrow views of patriotism.  Heritage and tradition have become tropes, and our culture chases them like they matter.  Whether it's being a Harvard Legacy, a third generation Teamster, a fourth generation military volunteer, or a trust fund baby, we chase heritage like it matters more than the life right in front of us. 

Maybe it's because we're a country of mutts. Those inbred Aryans -- the Proud Boy incel types who think blood heritage matters at the expense of common sense and history -- chase heritage like merchant social climbers Jane Austen is still read for writing about.  Our need for a royalty formed out an imaginary meritocracy makes us chase celebrities and social media "influencers." Maybe we do this because we're more than a dozen generations past the place where most Americans  can easily trace where they come from and we're stuck with 23 and Me.

The good thing is I'm still not scared to learn.  And that's a kind of dharma, too.

17 April, 2020

Social Distance Diary: Gimped

I can't complain. 

It'd be easy to. But complaining might jinx it and if I'm being honest, a twisted ankle isn't the worst thing that can happen during the plague year.  

And now with talk of "reopening the economy"... as if the economy has really closed... the only thing I seem to be able to focus on is what to carry forward. 

I keep thinking of my maternal grandmother, Lonnabelle Dunn, and what she carried. She lived through the Great Depression. She saved lidded plastic containers -- the kind that cottage cheese, sour cream, and margarine were packaged in. She washed them and saved them "just in case." She grew up in Crystal Lake, Wisconsin.  She taught me to play Gin Rummy, which she enjoyed because her father, a deeply religious man of an temperance bent, wouldn't let her play any card games that used face cards since face cards were used in gambling.  She would save barely used sheets of paper towel.  She could, in turns, be pragmatic and then  pollyanna.  Her world had clearly defined roles and expectations and she spent her later years watching all of that unravel. It must have seemed unfair. 

Some frugality was already set before all of this mess with COVID-19.  It's not that I'm especially good with money ... it tends to burn a hole in my pocket ... but I've been pretty good over the years at keeping reasonable, shelf stable supplies.  I've learned to be a decent cook. I'm fortunate to be married to someone who is an amazing cook. We're decent planners and not particularly scared of new things. I'm content to carry that forward, along with a renewed conviction that life is suffering and connections matter, and that people are still more important than profit.

The thing I don't want to carry forward is some expectation of normalcy. Normal is an unfortunate nostalgia. People infected with it simultaneously have a very specific, concrete notion of what it looks like but can't really seem to agree on what it means. We group together based on having similar pictures of normal in our minds.  We pass these cement abstractions on to out children, and within two generations normal becomes tradition, which is sacrosanct... until it isn't. 

A year after the 1918 flu, the Rev. Francis E. Tourscher was concerned that people were starting to forget, which is why he recorded the stories of nurses in Philadelphia for preservation in the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia . He wanted the facts on record from people who experienced the pandemic because memory has a way of giving way to nostalgia. 

I both derive some comfort and am deeply horrified that our tendency to embrace nostalgia isn't tied to something as new to the world as technology.



Normal -- that infective kind of nostalgia -- often ends up running contrary to fact. And in these, the days of Trumplandia, where facts are under erasure more than ever, normal is a nostalgia we can't afford if we're to carry anything forward that will keep us alive.  So I'm going to let my ankle heal. I will need it to carry things forward. Things that matter.

10 April, 2020

Social Distance Diary: Check-in checklist


Yes. There's what you'd call a typo.

It's not the social distancing that bothers me, or staying home. I've worked from home for several years now, and though I miss being able to haunt my favorite coffee shops and miss seeing some friends in person, I actually feel like I'm doing ok. I was seriously under-employed to the point of not really working before the outbreak; and I don't mind poverty, exactly. I wish there was more money around for emergencies but thanks to a few thoughtful supporters, I've been able to help us eek out a few solutions on the home front. Which is to say, feel free to check out the tabs about being a Patron or offering one time support via Venmo or Cash.me... 

...but these are tough times, tougher than many have had to experience. Not everyone does poverty well, and I have to confess it's something I've learned on my own over the past couple of decades rather than something I was raised with. My parents worked hard and we lived what used to be called a more or less middle class lifestyle; but my attempts... mostly feeble, always well-intended, but ultimately doomed to failure... have always been short. So if you can't toss some money in the hat, believe me, I get it. There's a few projects I'd love to support but I don't have money and I can't put in sweat equity right now. 

But that's not to say I don't keep busy. I do. 

I count things. A lot. Being a list maker of long repute, I am one who likes ticking off boxes. This what serves as routine for me, I suppose. I have a daily practice -- my writing, reading, and spiritual practice is all tied together. I make coffee. I've been doing more cooking lately, and have only really had one catastrophe. (It involved burned oatmeal.) My podcast takes up a significant amount of time... not only the writing and recording (which is honestly the easy part) but the networking and trying to grow it. I'm fully engaged in my creative work... but this was a pre-COVID state, so, like being under-employed. 

That's not to say I'm not noticing some issues. It's difficult for me to focus on long writing tasks, for example, so even if I had paying clients right now, I'm certain it would move like sludge.  I'm forgetting what is (for me) fairly simple language. ( I couldn't remember the word "superfluous" a few days ago.)  

And I thought my email was hacked 
when in reality I changed the password 
and then promptly FORGOT what it was.

As an alcoholic working on just a little over 2 years of sobriety (infant!) I have had to come to terms with the fact that my brain sometimes works against me. It's not a fault in the programming. It's not crossed wires. I'm allergic to booze like I'm allergic to pollen. That's how the ol' electric thinking box was built. But unlike pollen, which immediately creates a negative reaction, I LIKE what booze does to me. At first, anyway. It is, in a way, an intellectual and even spiritual lubricant. There was a reason why Li Po would write 100 poems for every gallon of wine. Believe me,  I get it.

But my brain makes it near impossible for me to stop once I've gotten started. I chase that feeling... but like anything ephemeral, that dragon is impossible to chase. 

So I make lists. I tick boxes. I am getting better at living in the moment because... well ... anything else is not being present. And if I've learned anything over the years, it is that being present matter more the amount of money I make, more than any socially constructed abstraction of my success or my failure. 

My wife, who is a far better human than I am, said it like this: "What we have works for us."

One of my readings, today, though, did, at least, make me feel better about my need to make lists. Early in  Run to the Mountains, the first volume of Thomas Merton's journals, he made lists. These journals were written before he went to Gethsemani, when he was still a student. A
among the lists he made, one was of things he couldn't believe existed. Two items on this list stand out:

The New Belgium Fascist Party
Evanston, IL

Tom, I get it. I don't understand fascists, either. I've been to Evanston, Illinois and know for certain it exists. But I can't say the same about Coalinga Junction, California. And I've been there, too. 




03 April, 2020

deadmachine retread: Thus Spake the Congregation


I knew something was wrong when Twila gave me the stink eye outside the student union. Divorces are difficult enough. Being young – too young, I remember my grandmother saying – made it that much more difficult. Having a three-month-old daughter made it even more so. Getting divorced while being married with a three-month-old daughter on a small college campus in Eastern Kentucky pretty much guaranteed that only Sisyphus had a more difficult load to bear.

Perverting common wisdom, a divorce has more than two sides to the story. There’s the usual… what one partner says and what the other partner says. Then there’s what really happened, which tends to be somewhere in the middle. And then there’s what everyone else says. And depending on who it is, where their loyalties lie, what their predilections are, and what their own (inevitably skewed) views on marriage are, there are any number of stories, all of which sound true enough to pass the gossip test regardless of how close to the truth it happens to be.

The usual unofficial morning kaffeeklatch of what was then called the Non-traditional Student Union was congregated in it usual corner spot in the upstairs student cafeteria. Woody, Shyla, Tammy, Jack, Ernie, Barb, Babs, and Shane were all in their usual spots drinking their usual coffee and having the usual conversations – all of which can be boiled down to how most college students have it easy. Marie and I gained entry to this group not so much because of our age, as our ages fell within what is (still) considered the traditional age, but because of our marital and parental status. Young marriages were increasingly less common in the 90’s, even in Eastern Kentucky with its sometimes self-proclaimed penchant for the traditional and the morally unambiguous. Both Barb and Babs, both of whom were products of failed marriages forced by cultural shotgun, applauded our decision not to resort to sin by partaking of marital fruits outside the sanctity of the marriage bed. Tammy, Shyla, and Twila didn’t say that in so many words, but Twila – who was a grandmother with granddaughters who hadn’t headed the words of Jesus since being baptized Old Regular Baptist style in a coal sludge dirty creek at the age of seven – demonstrated her clear approval by speaking often about how she wished her Becky and Sue had inherited some stiffer moral fiber like me and Marie.

Ernie, Shane, and Jack had no opinions on the topic. Or at any rate they didn’t express any openly. Woody asked me once when none of the others were within earshot – with no small amount of incredulity, I might add – how I could saddle myself so young when there was a campus full of beautiful young girls to occupy my time. Jack kept his own counsel about anything that didn’t involve the NCAA and Ernie, who was trying to be a writer, mostly talked politics.

Shane never said anything at all. But since I knew he was the guy Marie was currently fucking, I felt like I knew what his opinion was on the subject of marriage.

The group fell silent when I approached. When I sat down everyone but Ernie and Jack moved their chairs back a little… not like they were making more room but like they were afraid that whatever was wrong with me might rub off.

Ernie eyeballed the women carefully before uttering a neutral welcome.

What’s going on, he asked.

Not a thing. Just waiting between class.

Barb made a harrumphing sound and Babs just shook her head. Jack nodded at me, the way men sometimes do to show solidarity right before the bombs fall and its every man for himself.

I tried making conversation, though I didn’t much feel like it. I wasn’t sleeping and even the copious amount of drinking I was doing wasn’t helping.  Going to class was more an exercise of habit than purpose at that point and my professors treated me with increasing levels of shock, annoyance, or unsympathetic pity. I wasn’t doing anything. But I still made it to class. I was still working, if for no other reason so I could give money to Marie for Rhea. After we split up she moved out of the trailer we shared and in with a friend to help defray expenses. I was staying with friends who would ensure that, if nothing else, there would be beer and tater tots to eat and who could give me a ride to campus.

Barb made another harrumphing sound. You don’t need to be here drinking coffee like you have friends here, she said. You need to go and take care of your daughter.

Babs, Tammy, and Shyla all nodded and vocalized their agreement with Barb. Ernie and Woody shrank back into their chairs. Jack shook his head and kept his eyes on his coffee. Shane sat there rubbernecking and waiting for the actual carnage. It didn’t take long.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Barb went on, thoroughly encouraged by the congregation present. Your wife and daughter are living up in some shack with no electricity because you threw them away. And here you sit like you deserve to be around civilized people.

That wasn’t what happened. I knew that. Marie knew that. I’m pretty sure Shane, as amused as he was with the show, knew, too. The only thing that was true was that I left. The arguments and accusations, the yelling and recriminations by both Marie and me weren’t anyone’s business. The misery we’d inflicted on another wasn’t anyone’s business. And it wasn’t anyone else’s business whether Marie or I were screwing anyone else. I wasn’t, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t change the fact that the marriage was over, that my daughter would grow up never knowing her parents as being a married couple. It didn’t matter that nothing in my experience had prepared me for that level of failure – not that anything does, really. But I didn’t even know any kids with divorced parents when I was a kid. My parents were happy. My friends’ parents seemed happy. That was what I expected when I got married, for all of the right reasons. And in spite of what Twila thought, it wasn’t to stave of immoral carnal lust. I was in love… or I thought I was, anyway.

But none of that mattered. Just like it didn’t matter that I had just seen Marie and given her money and asked if she needed anything. No, she said, like I insulted her dignity. We don’t need anything from you.

If there was any real justice in this evil world, Barb intoned, someone would take you out to a deserted holler and show you how we treat men that abandon their babies.

The congregation was silent. So was the entire cafeteria. Ernie and Woody refused to look at me. Jack met my eyes briefly and I knew he knew what was what. But he also knew, like I did, that no amount of words would change anything. Sometimes you take your beatings whether you think you deserve it or not.

27 March, 2020

Social Distance Diary: A Walk in the Park

This near hollow tree is still standing. I take a lot of comfort from that.

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. - Herman Hesse

We went on a walk in Iroquois Park last weekend, along the horse trail a bit. Just to get some air. Just to get a little daylight together.  We picked the horse trail because there were fewer people there; not that there were a lot of people, because there weren't. But with the outbreak and my wife's work, we're being super diligent about social distancing and have been... even before Andy asked us to.

I love being out in nature, and I count it among my blessings to live where I have access to a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. He, like John Muir, had an inkling of humanity's relationship with nature, and of our need for it.  More people know that Olmsted helped design Central Park in New York than know he designed "The Big Three" parks in Louisville.  At the core of his design philosophy was an idea that may have come to him when he was traveling in secret across the Pre-Civil War south and writing the articles that would eventually become The Cotton Kingdom: that it nature should be left to be nature because that's how it best serves people. (Never let it be thought that he was some prescient eco-warrior, because he wasn't.) He was very much opposed to manicured landscapes that were very much in vogue... a manicured look that was meant to suggest mankind's dominance over nature.  

Iroquois Park was originally designed with this in mind; and even though some very unOlmsted-like things have been added over the years, the amphitheater is a boon to the south end and to the city, the playground is well maintained, and while I'm terrible at basketball, I don't begrudge anyone a pick-up game in non-outbreak conditions. A large part of the park is still maintained much like Olmsted imagined it. Fallen trees are allowed to rot where they fall as long as trails aren't blocked. During our walk, I noticed where a tree that had fallen across the horse trail was simply cut in the place that blocked the way but left on both sides.

As humans -- as monkey not long from the trees -- we sometimes can't help ourselves but to leave a mark. Amanda asked me on our walk if I ever carved my initials into a tree. No, I told her. I always felt bad for the tree.

This expression of hypersensitivity didn't surprise her; she knows me too well.  She pointed out, though, that as long as the carving doesn't go all the way around the circumference of the truck, that it will simply grow and expand with the tree.

She wasn't asking because she wanted to carve our initials into some poor tree; but she did notice I was taking pictures of some carvings that attracted my attention:




While I can't bring myself to make such marks, I do appreciate that the tree carries on in spite of it for the most part. I suppose if I felt like I had permission to carve into a tree, I'd consider it. But I'm not one that the trees have decided to talk to. Not yet, at any rate.


I was talking to an old friend recently who takes stunning photographs of far flung places. He told me  that a person gets some perspective when he stubs his toe on a 5000 year old tree. This tree may not be that old, and I (surprisingly) didn't tub my toe on it. But I derive a great deal of comfort from it, and the others being there. 


20 March, 2020

The undefeated: deadmachine retread fiction




In the spring of 1998, I called home this attic in a 131 year old house in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a decent place. I’d found it when the woman I was living with decided she’d rather fuck my friends and try to make money as a stripper than be my girlfriend. “You’re too moody,” she’d say to me. “You piss and moan like an old man, you read boring books, and you’re when you’re drunk, you get mean and grumpy and you can’t get it up.” I was heartbroken; she’d been my first real piece in two years since my marriage to Rhea’s mother fell apart. She was a full-bodied redhead, and every bit as crazy as people say redheads are. I was living at her place when she broke it off; she tried to convince me to stay and help her with the rent… to be roommates, she said. “I’ll have my life,” she said, “and you can have yours.” Now, I might have been heartbroken, but I wasn’t an idiot. She wanted me to stay because I was the only one of us actually working and earning a weekly paycheck, and she wanted to be able to fuck whoever she wanted while I paid the bills. I left that night and spent a few days with friends and realized that I needed my own space – if only so that I could get my shit out of her apartment before she abandoned it or sold it.

I found out later that my new landlord was schizophrenic and had nasty turns where she’d go through everybody’s apartments and steal things. She even stole a poetry manuscript that I was reading for a poet friend of mine. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for losing it, even though it wasn’t my fault. I don’t remember him giving me any manuscripts after that.

But the rent was cheap enough and mostly I dealt with Frank, who managed the property for her while she was “away.” (I later found out that when she was “away” she was locked in a padded room at Eastern State Mental Hospital.) Frank seemed like a good ol’ guy. He was a retired pipe fitter, and had known my landlady his entire life – his family and her family had been friends. He didn’t care much about what I did as long as I was quiet. A couple of times I was short on rent and he let me make it up. He was a stand-up guy. Frank knew Stanley from his long gone wild boozing days, the days before he found “God and the love of a good woman,” and he let Stanley move in to get him off the street and get him a regular address so he could draw a welfare check. When he brought Stanley in, Frank pulled me aside. He talked with a slight growl – the kind of growl common in men from the Appalachian part of Kentucky. “Watch out for him,” Frank said. “Now, “ he paused. “He’s a drunk. I won’t lie. But he’s HARMLESS. A good guy, really. I’ve known him for YEARS.” I looked at Frank and I saw what might have been a little sorrow in his eyes. “We’ve tried to get him to quit... but….”

My first conversation with Stanley happened about a week later when he bummed a smoke off of me. He bummed a lot of cigarettes in the little bit of time I knew him. I liked him immediately. Once, I was going somewhere or another… to work, I think… and I saw him walking down the side street.

“Where ya going, Stanley?”

He turned and smiled his goofy shit-eating smile. He was shaking and his face that already looked like road kill was twisted pain. “Up the way.”

“You want a ride?”

He hobbled over to the car and got in. Up the way ended up being the liquor store. It was eight or nine in the morning and he needed his morning bottle. The woman behind the counter at the liquor looked down at Stanley over the edge of librarian reading glasses, and she gave me one of those looks, too, that seemed to say How can you encourage him? I wondered if she gave the same look to broken down grandmothers who spent their entire social security check on lottery tickets. Stanley bought his bottle… a fifth of Stoli… and when he got back in the car he cracked it open and took a swig like it was water. The pain was erased from his face. He offered me the bottle. “No thanks,” I said. I have to get to work.” When I dropped him off, he bummed a smoke and hobbled back into the house.

I took him to the liquor store when he asked and when I could. I was working as a clerk at a convenience store and my schedule was flexible. Besides, I liked Stanley; he was a nice old guy in the way old drunks can be nice. He had his moments, usually when there wasn’t a bottle handy, that he could be a real asshole. But he was small and wiry. Eaten away. So even when he got in my face, it was harmless because in that condition a steady wind would have pushed him over. The short car trips gave us time to talk, and Stanley liked to talk. He was touched—afflicted really— with nostalgia. I’d be driving him to the liquor store and he’d point to trees that lined the street. “I planted them trees,” he said. “Had me this job, got paid fity cent an hour. I liked that job. Got to be outdoors, like when I was a kid and all this was open. No buildings. No streets.”

Once when I was bringing him back from the liquor store with his morning bottle, this old guy approached the car. He looked old and tired, too, but he was cleaned up. Shaven. Showered. He was driving an Acura and he wore the ugliest Hawaiian print shirt I had ever seen – which was saying something since they’re all uglier than sin. He knocked on my window. I rolled it down.

“Yeah?”

He talked past me. “Stanley? Stanley, that you?”

Stanley looked up and smiled.

Then the Hawaiian shirt guy talked to me. “I love this guy,” he said. “I’d heard he was living here.” He looked over at Stanley. “We used to run together, didn’t we Stan?” Stanley kept smiling and nodded his head. “Yeah,” the guy said. “I knew Stanley back when I was on the street. Good guy, Stanley. A real good guy.”

I looked at the gold-plated watch hanging on his skinny wrist. “So how come you’re not on the street anymore?” I asked.

“Settled out,” he proclaimed. “Found me a good woman with a nice house and warm bed. She doesn’t care what I do so long as I don’t fuck around and I drink at home.”

Class act, I thought. “Cool.”

“Listen,” he said to me, “you take good care of this guy. Stanley’s one of the best.”

Stanley smiled. The Hawaiian shirt guy got in his pearl colored Acura and drove off. “You know that guy?” I asked.

Stanley nodded. “Yup. He’s WEIRD, though.” Stanley rolled his eyes a little. “WEIRD. If you know what I mean.”

I didn’t ask any more questions. It was the 90’s after all. Don’t ask don’t tell was still an acceptable social concept.

On another one of our jaunts he saw a book laying on car seat next to me. “You read?” he asked me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I like to read.”

“You been to school?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I went. Don’t know that it did me any good, though.”

He looked a little sheepish. “I never learnt to read,” he said. “Dropped out and ran away from home when I was a kid.” He kind of shook his head. “fity-five years old, can’t read shit.”

The only thing that surprised me more than the fact that he couldn’t read was that he was only fifty-five. He looked much older, but a hard life will do that. He’d spent forty years drinking and working odd jobs, failing at relationships and living in alleys and homeless shelters. He never once mentioned trying to sober up. He never once indicated that stopping had ever crossed his mind. I never mentioned it because I didn’t want to be a judgmental prick, and well, it wasn’t like I had any room to talk. So I kept taking him back and worth whenever I could, let him smoke my cigarettes, and when I had a little food left over, I offered it to him. What the hell, I figured. He is who he is.

Eventually he drew some friends. Frank had apparently figured out that if he moved people into the house who drew a check and controlled their money for them, he could actually start turning a profit. He moved in another old buddy from his wild drinking days, got him in the system. I later found out that all the checks went to Frank and Frank’s wife, who “kept” their money… paid the rent and gave them each a weekly allowance, so they wouldn’t “drink all the money up.” The new tenant’s name was Clarence. Clarence was a big ugly drunk, and something of a bully. He liked to push Stanley around when they were drinking, and it bothered me, but I didn’t interfere. He and Stanley were old friends, had done a lot of drinking and sleeping in alleys together. I figured if he wanted Clarence to stop, he’d handle it himself. They even drew a follower – some dark haired kid whose name I never bothered to learn. He tried bumming a smoke from me once after he’d seen me give one to Stanley and I told him he could when he was old enough to buy his own fucking cigarettes. They would give the kid money and send him on errands for booze or food or whatever. They started hanging out on the front porch. Stanley didn’t need a ride from me anymore, but he still bummed smokes when Clarence wasn’t looking.

I started working a regular white collar job – I’d dug myself into a clerical job at the University, the first job I’d ever had with paid vacation days, PTO (paid time off) plus medical and dental. I saw Stanley less and less… mostly because I was working during the day and hanging out with friends at night, spending my new money in the bars. I passed Stanley on stairs sometimes when I’d be stumbling home, and we smiled at each other said hello. I saw him trying hobble down the street towards the liquor store on crutches once or twice. He went through two bouts of TB, one crazy skank who followed him home from the bar, and a few tumbles down the stairs. I was spending less and less time at home because the summer turned the attic into a sauna.

I came home from work one afternoon in late August and Clarence, the kid, and Frank were all standing on the front porch. They had been crying. Or at least, Clarence had been crying. As I approached Frank asked me if I’d heard.

“Heard what?”

“Stanley,” the kid said.

“What about him?” I was expecting to hear that he’d either gotten arrested or had settled out with a nice woman who would dress him up in ugly shirts.

“He died,” Clarence said.

“Huh? How?”

Clarence couldn’t answer me because he was too broken up. The kid was clearly high. Frank broke the silence. “He was walking to the liquor store, and he tripped and fell into the street. He was run over. Dead.”

“Dead?” I repeated.

Frank nodded. Clarence looked at me with deep baleful jaundiced eyes. “Did they get the guy who did it? The car?”

Frank shook his head. “Nope. Probably not going to either.”

I stood there for a couple of minutes. I didn’t know what to say. Death, as an inevitability, usually invites comment – but only because nobody knows what to say. I turned and went upstairs, and took a shower. Then I opened all the windows. Then I sat down at the kitchen table with a bottle whiskey I’d been saving for no particular reason, and drank until it was late into the night.

13 March, 2020

Social Distance Diary: cat food

You can't tell he chonky. But take my word for it. He's a tick with fur.
It's not the run on toilet paper and hand sanitzer that surprises me. It's that it's still (at this writing) still possible to find Twinkies (including CHOCOLATE FLAVORED ONES, thank you very much ironic junk food gods that put these on Earth AFTER I gave up sweets for good) and Doritos... even the  questionable favors (anything but nacho cheese)... are still on the shelves.

We are not prone to panic; my wife's work in a mens' homeless shelter pretty much assures that if COVID-19 hits the homeless community that we're front and center for exposure. And... it will. That is, if it hasn't hit already but no one knows because the state of Kentucky has 120 test kits... that's one for every county for you Social Studies folks. Add to the the fact that the executive management of #Trumplandia is blocking states from using Medicaid to pay for testing. I'm sure they'll call this a cost savings issue, and Mitch McConnell will flap his throad waddle in passionate agreement, even he flops his eyes back agreeing with the trillion dollar drain on the Fed to bolster up the corporate cronies in the military-industrial complex. But again ... not prone to panic.  We are planners and preppers (of a sort) by natural inclination, so we're more or less ready if River City experiences a serious lockdown.
So we plan, avoid panic, and accept that while we will do everything we can to avoid exposure, the fact is, our chances are better than average. 

But we DID notice yesterday that we were low on cat food for our chonky little trash kitty, Wasabi. And we noticed that we were dangerously low on cheese. And honestly, I figured that, being Thursday, the next wave of panic shopping wouldn't hit until today (Friday) when most everyone gets paid. So we went to the store last night after a lovely dinner with her mom and some friends we see maybe once or twice a year.

Dear Friends and Readers, I was wrong.
The Kroger on New Cut only had two check out lanes open, and pretty much everyone but us was pushing around carts that were loaded down and roughly 100 times their individual body weight.  Of course, there were tons of Self-checkout Lanes available, but I personally don't like encouraging wage theft and no one pushing around 1000 metric ton of groceries is going to scan all that themselves. 

We used a small cart and bought cat food (double coupon!),  yogurt, cheese, a few incidentals for upcoming meal planning, and some seltzer water.  And then we waited. The three carts ahead of us were loaded down with apoclapyse supplies: frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, sugar cerea, milk, pop. No one had toilet paper or hand sanitizer because the shelves were empty from the previous wave.  The cashier's eyes were glazed over and there weren't enough people working for either register to have its own bagger... which mean the cashiers had to do double duty.

But, we survived and made it home in time to go to bed. And we we woke up in plenty of time this morning. 

I'm not hearing anything about mass riots over bungholio paper, but I have heard that bidet sales are doing well.  I suppose there's that. And to be honest, when all this is over, I can't say that I won't think hard about buying one for The Hermitage.