Friday’s Theme Music

Masked up and went walking yesterday. Of the ten pedestrians I encountered, one was masked. So, about eighteen percent are masked when out and about, contrary to guidance.

Our little town has a reported ten COVID-19 cases. That’s an unofficial count. The county has had fifty-two cases. Social distancing and sheltering-in-place has been practiced, but most only wear masks when in stores, because the stores demand it. So, I suspect our low count is due to our rural nature, limitations on travel, and luck. I hope it all holds.

While out exercising my legs, I realized I was humming a song and identified it as the Rush song, “Freewill” (1980). I have one friend who was a devoted Rush fan and another who can’t stand Rush because they don’t like Geddy Lee’s voice. The Rush lyrics rushed in with these memories (sorry for the pun).

A planet of playthings
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive

The stars aren’t aligned
Or the gods are maligned
Blame is better to give than receive

[Hook]
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose freewill

h/t to Genius.com

These lyrics are taken in different ways by different people. (Well, words, right? That’s how it goes with words.) I’ve always thought that the song referred to thinking for yourself. I like to believe I think for myself. I wear a mask because that’s recommended; studies show it helps reduce viral transmission.

Maybe I am sheeple, as non-mask fans charge. Perhaps my twenty plus years in the military conditioned me to obey orders without question. Don’t think so, myself; I was known for challenging orders.

Then again, we select and frame the information and memories that best suit what we want to know as the facts, don’t we? We’re each in our own bubble. We try to control what comes in and goes out but there’s quite a bit beyond our control.

Nebulous? No, complicated. One thing that I’ve discovered as I’ve aged is that I’m not the person who I think I am. My window into myself is as limited as my windows into others. My body is often doing things that I don’t know, responding to chemicals in ways that science knew but I didn’t, and my brain often reacts before I think. We depend on surface impressions and isolated moments to inform our decisions. Some of them are magnified in importance – in our heads – rising on waves of emotions and intellect.

Such complicated beasts we are in a complicated world. Which takes me back to “Freewill” and Rush. You make a choice. Sometimes it seems to work, other times, it seems to flop, but a lot of times, we’re forever waiting to learn the results.

Annual Week in Review

Yes, it’s Sunday, and time again for my recurring segment, the Annual Week in Review.

In politics, shit storms continue around the world. This week, the POTUS tweeted about Obamagate, an expression never heard or seen until the POTUS’ tweets, leaving everyone baffled about WTF he was talking about.

Arguments abound about whether social-distancing, masking up, and sheltering-in-place are worthwhile. A lot of false information is being spread. Vetting everything takes time.

My 401(k) is down about six percent (fifty-five thousand) but my personal brokerage account stayed up, as I have a big chunk of Costco in it that I bought a decade ago. My wife’s 401(k) is down about twenty-five thousand. All those accounts are investments, and aren’t needed right now, so it’s an annoyance more than anything, for which we’re fortunate. I’ve checked with family to ensure they don’t need any financial help, and have given to some charities.

Personally, I’ve been painting the inside of the house. My wife has always complained that the house is too dark. Three years ago, we painted one bathroom and the guest room with Homestead Resort Parlor Taupe. It looks nothing like taupe to me, but ecru, but, you know, marketing. Pleased with the result after three years of study, we (I’m employing the couple we here) are painting more areas.

That paint color had been discontinued, so getting more of it required having the color analyzed and mixed. It worked, though, thanks to modern technology.

I began with the foyer and progressed through one hallway, usually painting three hours a day. Much of the time was spent taping the baseboards and door jambs (which are both brilliant white) to keep it all neat. (There were seven doors in the foyer and hall, including the front door) As it looks great, two more gallons of paint were ordered on Monday and picked up yesterday (which required a masked visit to Lowe’s, known locally as thunderdome). I’ll be continuing with more rooms.

Besides painting, we acquired more plants.  My wife’s initial efforts with arugula, leaf lettuce, and basil went spectacularly well. I’d already weeded, turned and fertilized the raised beds, so last Saturday, we masked up and headed to our local Grange Co-op for more plants. They were well-organized there, and over ninety percent of the people we encountered were socially respectful and distanced themselves. (Somehow, I expected that from gardeners.)

Three tomato plants (of different varieties), lemon cucumbers, and zucchini were planted in the raised bed, leaving space for us to add more. More lettuce (including our fave, Romaine) was planted in our ‘green beds’ and positioned in the sun on the patio.

I’ve also been doing yard work, trimming the trees and bushes, conducting the annual battle against blackberry brambles, weeding, and cutting the grass.

Haven’t been blogging much, because I’ve been writing a lot. With or without a global pandemic, fiction writing is my escape. I’m having fun writing like crazy each day. I often don’t know WTF I’m doing, other than following the main character’s leads. I often cringe because I don’t know where it’ll all take me, and I’m constantly learning about him. Sometimes he seems like the Hulk to me (without the green skin, and he doesn’t return to being Bruce Banner). His Qiqz addiction informs his thinking and behavior; I’m still understanding Qiqz and his origins.

Meanwhile, other surprising directions include understanding the Plies (who are people who accept a specific role in society) and the egg people (who I’m just starting to explore). Did I mention this is dystopian? Yeah, I’m drawn to dystopian fiction; to me, it offers the same large canvas of mystery and exploration that murder offers crime victims, or love offers romance writers.

I usually write three to four hours a day (although goofing off (to shift into the mood) is included in that time).

My wife cooks dinner for us six out of seven nights. I cook on the other night, and sometimes try to help in the kitchen, depending on what we’re making. I have grilled us plant-based burgers a few times, and grilled chicken for myself (she’s a vegetarian). We’re each responsible for making our own breakfast and lunch. She’s also baked for us a few times.

Exercising has been more challenging. Walking is my primary source of exercise. Before COVID-19 arose in March in our area, I was walking about ten miles a day, with eleven or twelve reached a few times a week.

I now go out walking once or twice a week, going up the southern hills where people are rarely encountered (I have a mask on when I’m doing this), but otherwise run in place in the house, or use the Stairmaster. Inspired by my cats and interested in increasing my pulse each day, I’ll do a few minutes of mad dashes, racing around the house like a crazy cat. I usually pretend that fast zombies are after me or that I’m running football pass routes. Whatever works, right? But I’m only getting about seven and a half miles per day.

I’ve had three beers to date since we began sheltering-in-place nine weeks ago, and no wine or other alcohol. Not a deliberate choice, so much as I’m not interested in drinking.

I do have a cuppa coffee each day, though.

My wife has been Zooming with others. She takes a morning exercise class three times a week and a belly dance class twice a week. She has Zoom tea with friends with one group every other week, does book club once a month with Zoom, and visits with friends catching and giving support to one another via Zoom once a week. Yeah, she’s the social side of our couplehood.

Beyond all that, I kill time. I’m working on another jigsaw puzzle, fifteen hundred pieces, featuring a Corvette. Time is spent on social media and reading blogs. I feed, groom, and play with the cats (and clean their litter box and clean up their gaks), play computer games, read books, and stream television. Streaming is down; we finished “Counterpart”, which I enjoyed, and began “Upload”. I’ve been watching “The Last Kingdom Again”, building back up to the new episodes released this year, and watched the new season of “Bosch”, and a few movies and documentaries. I read a lot of news, though. Of course, I call and chat with Mom and Dad.

We have gone on two shopping expeditions, one day to local stores, and yesterday to Costco and Trader Joe’s. Since we’re over sixty, we could have gone in during the early ‘protected’ hours; we didn’t, because we were advised otherwise. It was bad intel. If we go out again, it will be during the protected time.

Oh, yes, and we voted, by mail. By mail is the Oregon standard; it is the only way that it’s done.

That’s all from my niche of existence. I know this all sounds pretty self-congratulatory. We are damn lucky, in multiple ways that I often take for granted. Hope you’re all doing well out there in cyberland. Stay well.

That is all.

Victory Is Coming

The birds were plentiful and noisy. Several noticed, “Hey, where are the humans?”

It seemed true, the birds agreed. They didn’t see as many humans as usual. Odd, up here in the northern latitudes, where winter was rolling over into spring. That’s when the humans usually became more active.

Word went from bird to bird, flock to flock, pecking for confirmation: were less humans out? Fewer cars, trucks, and motorcycles? Were all noticing this or was it a local anomaly?

“Yes.” Verification flew through the flocks. Except for a few pockets, less humans were present outdoors. The birds were winning the war. 

Orders were issued. “Increase your efforts. Be vigilant. Keep shitting on them, shit on every human you see. Our strategy s working. Victory is coming.”

Measures

The coronavirus is creeping into our area (Ashland, southern Oregon). A case was confirmed in the county a few days ago. Friends forwarded information to us early Friday morning. Medical professionals, they’re sharing stories from the hospitals.

“…saw 6 cases of bilateral pneumonia in folks 60-80. All had to be
admitted…have NEVER seen 6 cases in one shift.
Absolutely no way to test them for Covid-19. All negative for regular flu.
One woman 60 yr. on Methotrexate. Very sick. (Asante ER)”

Testing kits aren’t available. We’re over sixty years old. My wife suffers RA. She decided to self-isolate and skipped her exercise class at the Family Y. With the chain as it is, that requires me to self-isolate with her.

We’re people who generally stay stocked up on supplies. We have a freezer chest to support our approach, and a pantry. A case of bottled water is kept on hand. We don’t use bottled water; this is for emergencies.

Portions of our philosophy can be ascribed to our parents’ attitudes, but we also went through typhoons and lived in earthquake-prone areas, and now live in a wildfire area. We want to always be prepared. Besides those factors, I’m a guy that always thinks that you should never run out of staples. You know you use it, you see your use rate, buy more before it’s gone, if you have the means and it’s available. Just common sense to me.

An inventory was conducted. Have thirty-six rolls of toilet paper on hand. There are two of us. Don’t need more, thanks. Several boxes of tissues, and cough drops. Enough coffee for about six weeks (yeah, we’re Costco shoppers).

We have personal hygiene products, and no need for more. Cleaning supplies are aplenty. Cheese. Tortillas. Guacamole. Romaine lettuce, onion, carrots, and celery. We also have frozen pizzas with cauliflower crusts on hand from Costco. Frozen blueberries and mangoes. So far, so good.

Lots of pasta (could use some sauce), rice, soup, wine and beer (a few bottles of each), black beans, lentils, bread (several loaves frozen as reserves), peanut butter (three extra large jars on hand), potatoes, jelly, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cane sugar.

I ended up buying more fresh fruits and veggies (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, bananas, pears, spinach, grapes), doughnuts (comfort food) (just a small pack), more frozen fruits for smoothies (my wife makes them for us several times a week), cat food, and eggs. (Seems like we can never have enough cat food on hand.)

Entertainment shouldn’t be an issue. We have the ‘net, broadcast and streaming TV, books, and jigsaw puzzles. We also bought painting supplies for a new project, and have yard work to do.

I can go for walks for exercise, we agreed, as long as I don’t contact others and clean up when I arrive back home.

The stores weren’t bad. I was worried as the parking lot was full. Cars were parked anywhere that was possible. As a man finished putting everything in his car, I made a deal with him; I’ll take his cart back for him, since I required one, and I’ll take his parking space. Yeah, wiped down his cart handles.

Inside the store (local place, Shop n’ Kart) everything was well-stocked. Not many shoppers. I did my thing without issue. All check-out islands were open. A cashier was immediately available. She was using disinfectant on everything.

She told me that I’d just missed the rush. When she’d come into work for the eight AM shift, it’d been a madhouse. My timing was golden.

Back home, we settled down to read the news and talk about new developments.

Here we go, life in the time of COVID-19. Be safe out there.

 

Friday’s Theme Music

“The trouble with you is the trouble with me,” I thought. I was dealing with a cat (“You don’t want THAT food? What is it that you want, because I don’t understand”), but it applies to life partners, politics…yeah.

With that line of lyrics, hello, “Casey Jones”. The 1970 Grateful Dead song jumped head first into my thinking stream.

Not a bad song for the day. While it’s a song about a train engineer high on cocaine with a train coming toward him on the wrong track, I always see it as a metaphor, modern warnings to all of us. Watch what you’re doing, give it some thought. Be alert because the potential for trouble remains all around us.

Walking, of course, requires a lot more vigilance than the drives are employing. This seems especially true with weather shifts. Weather shifts change energy; drivers, feeling it, become distracted. Just my theory, but I see it all the time, you know? Lot of anecdotal evidence.

With COVID-19 also traveling person to person, nation to nation and town to town, it’s a good time to be aware of that threat and mitigating steps you can employ.

Tuesday’s Theme Music

My mental iPod shuffle (completely wireless) played many songs today, starting with some Pink Floyd and Boston. Much of this was provoked by reading others’ posts, including one about the song, “King of the Run” by Roger Miller. I once dressed up as a hobo (I don’t think it was for Halloween), and using a candy cigarette, imitated Roger Miller doing his song (yeah, I’d seen it on television). After some Carly Simon and Jewel, I stepped outside and began walking.

That changed the stream. As I breathed the air, more Pink Floyd popped in, but the stream finally settled on U2, “Beautiful Day” (2000). So here we are.

Monday’s Theme Music

Preparing to depart the coffee shop yesterday, I bused my table. Looking into the roasting room, I saw one of the Noble employees back there. My jaw dropped.

He’s a spitting image of Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night back in the late 1960s.

640px-Three_Dog_Night_1969

Negron, Wells and Hutton of Three Dog Night in 1969

Thinking about that as I walked the town, I went through a few TDN songs – “Eli’s Coming”, “One”, “Joy to the World”, “Mama Told Me Not To come”, and “Liar”. The song that arrived to stay in the stream was one where Negron was the featured lead vocalist. That would be TDG’s cover of “Easy to Be Hard” from Hair.

Not only was it fittin’ to have Negron, the secret coffee roaster (maybe he cloned himself) singin’ a song, but the song whose lyrics fit these times of rollbacks in how we treat one another to the point of open hostility and cruelty.

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needy friend
I need a friend

h/t to AZLyrics.com

Cheers

Love the bumper stickers in the video.

A Stormy Mountain Dream

Well, dreamed that I seemed to be on a pilgrimage. At first, I traveled with others, about thirty of us, I’d guess. I knew a few, but none were intimate friends.

We were all walking together on a road or a path (it didn’t seem clear). We’d left a city and were now into the countryside.

We came to a small house. Many announced they were stopping to rest or had decided that they’d gone far enough. But it was light. I wanted to keep going. With a few accompanying me, we went on. Walking faster, I’d assumed the lead.

Glancing back, I discovered that more people had dropped out. The remaining were far behind. I waited for them to catch up. They slowed. Exasperated, I walked back to them. They told me that they were stopping to rest.

I shrugged and asked if they minded if I went on. I felt driven at that point. I realized that we were heading toward a mountain, and I wanted to get to the top of it. I told them that. They laughed. They weren’t planning to go that far. If I wanted to go on, that was alright with them.

Their condescending tones told me their impression of my desire. It irritated me. Deciding that I was done with them, I told them, “See you later,” and left.

It was still bright daylight, but parts were darkening. I realized a storm was coming. No, then I saw that to climb the mountain, I had to go through a storm.

Well, alrighty. I hesitated some but remembering the others’ tone restored my will. I was going on.

Now I reached the mountain. The paths ended at the bottom. It was steeper and taller than I’d realized. Looking for the easiest path, I couldn’t find one. Just had to go for it. I was tiring, and entertained thoughts of going back. Looking that way, I was surprised how far I’d gone. I’d gone up more than I realized, and the view of a broad valley was stunning. Far away, I thought I could see the city.

I couldn’t believe that I’d gone so far. The city’s buildings were barely visible. I’d gone miles, but it’d only been a day. I also thought it odd that it stayed daylight for so long. Well, that didn’t make sense, which made me chuckle.

Then I turned back to the mountain. Holy moly, it seemed incredibly steep and tall. There was no way that I could get up it. At this point, I had to crane my head and neck back to see any of it. What I did see seemed like sheer granite walls. This would be a climb, and I wasn’t ready for it.

But I’d come so far that I didn’t want to go back. After vacillating a bit, I spotted a place that seemed like a way up and started up the mountain. Big, hard, cold drops of rain fell on me. There weren’t many, but they were huge and hurt when they hit, and were incredibly cold, sending shivers through me.

That slowed me down and returned me to thinking, do I want to go on? I didn’t really decide but felt like I’d let myself down if I didn’t, so I resumed walking and climbing. Sometimes I could walk, but then would come to a place where I’d need to climb, so I did what had to be done to get up the mountain.

Harder, more thorough rain suddenly erupted, soaking and freezing me. I hunted protection in the rocks and found a little. Hunkering down, I put my back against rocks and shivered and rocked from the cold. A wind would sometimes blast me, forcing me to duck my head. I tried looking out over the valley but the storm blocked the view. Feeling miserable, I cursed myself for trying this.

After a while, the rain relented. I’d become numbed to the cold and decided I had to do something, so I’d go on. Moving might warm me. Leaving the rock’s shelter, I discovered a path and started walking up the mountain, no problem. While I did, I discovered that I’d been praying.

Praying is contrary to my nature. I wasn’t sure what I prayed for. At some point, I found that I’d walked out onto a rock ledge. The rain didn’t fall there, although I could see it still fell in places around me. Lightning struck me, lighting me up in a purplish aura. I saw myself standing on the rock with my arms stretched out, lit up in a light purple aura, as a bolt of lightning stayed attached to me.

The dream abruptly ended then with me sitting up in bed and sucking in a breath. Thinking back on it, I thought, I’d been praying for magic.

Looking back on the dream versus writing it, I can’t convey how fast it went, just click, click, click, jumping from scene to scene, image to image. It’d been a very fast-moving dream, and I haven’t been able to convey that. Remembering it, though, my heart beats hard and fast.

Odd, but I think I dreamed this before. It seems so familiar.

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