The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

It’s mid-afternoon and I’m taking Jessica to an eye appointment in Oakland. She’s certainly not “my little girl” anymore.  I long ago stopped being surprised by her cogent views and the way she so forcefully and eloquently expresses them when we have serious, and sadly infrequent discussions on politics, society, culture and news.  We’ve crossed into that stage of life when I’ll ask her for her counsel on the occasional life crisis.  I suppose that makes sense.  She’s been through more in her 33 years than I’ve been in my 66.  Jessica has degrees in Political Science and International Negotiation, neither of which are directly applicable to her current job.  That’s like many of us.  How many fellow history degree holders do I know who are doing something besides teaching history or practicing law?

I wonder how her life might be different if she’d pursued something applicable to her education.  Sometimes life pushes you, hard, in directions that you never anticipated.  Now my daughter the aspiring baker dreams of having her own little shop.  Politics to pastry seems like more than a fair exchange.

Like the rest of us (well, the ones who follow the rules) the COVID life has her staying home on weekends when she might normally be out and she’s filling up part of her spare time baking.  It fills the house with luscious inviting smell and our bellies up with countless carbs; bulging chocolate chip cookies, cakes, cobblers, honey laden Greek desserts.  Used to be that my mom would let me lick the batter bowl, now my daughter hands me the bowl and the spatula.  We need to leave shelter in place ASAP.  I feel pounds coming on.

During our drive she tells me about a documentary she saw about how the news is often delivered with an end game of shaping public opinion.  It brings to mind Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley – dour, no nonsense and not even a hint, spoken or unspoken, of any bias.  That’s not to say there was never any emotion.  I remember Cronkite falling into tears when he reported on the Kennedy assassination.

We both agree that it’s often, too often, difficult to separate fact from partisan fiction.  That’s unless you’re watching CNN or Fox in which case it’s an open and shut case of bias, one from the left the other from the right and there’s nothing really right about either.  They aren’t supposed to be in the business of shaping public opinion or making news when they should simply be reporting news.  Jessica tells me that she’s sick of the back and forth bickering, as sick of the “fuck Trump” stuff as she is with the “fuck Pelosi.”  I have to agree although I’ve been, and probably will continue to be, guilty of the former.

We’re turning off of Highway 80 onto 580, normally a crawl but in the COVID days the traffic flows.  As we cross into Oakland I tell her that it’s my belief that America is so ideologically divided that we’re far beyond the point of any rapprochement. The silos too hardened, the anger too malignant.  Anyone running for office claiming that he/she will be the unifier is either lying or delusional or a mixture of both.
“It’s my opinion, and it’s frankly just recently come to me, that, not necessarily in my lifetime or yours, but at some point the United States will no longer be united. I just wonder how it’s going to divide.  From a philosophical point of view California, New York and the northeast and maybe Colorado could make up one nation and let the rest fend for themselves. It just doesn’t work out geographically.”
It’s a notion that I’ve thought a lot about lately. How would it work? Would it be like the EU with open borders and a common currency and a NATO-like defense compact?Currently America is “a house divided” and we know what Lincoln said about that.

It isn’t a notion that hasn’t been explored. In 1981, journalist Joel Garreau wrote The Nine Nations of North America, which proposes a North America being divided into nine nations based on economic and cultural similarities.  The problem is that the divisions would include Canada and Mexico.  Do those two nations really want to adopt a petulant, child such as America?

Before the medical appointment Jessica has to stop by her office and pick up some mail.  Jessica comes back to the car happily flush with checks.  Like the old saying goes the checks are in the mail; greenbacks, moolah, bucks and bread, the almighty dollar and as Liza Minelli so famously said , Money Makes the World Go Round.

She tells me that once things are back to some semblance of normalcy, if that ever happens, her company is considering the notion of dumping the traditional brick and mortar arrangement and everyone will work from a home office.  Fine by me, then I don’t have to worry about the dogs while Cora and I are gone on vacation, assuming vacations ever happen again. I just don’t see how working from home 100% of the time can actually work.  How can a team function with no face to face interaction, even if the faces are at six foot social distances.  Could this be one of those predictions coming true of how coronavirus will change the face of the workplace?  Not my problem – I’m happily retired.

Jessica’s at her appointment and I’m parked in the shade reading more of Ian Shapiro’s text, The Moral Foundation of Politics before surrendering to the impulse of checking out Facebook.  My avoidance of news and politics is going to change the way I use and view Facebook.  I’d been hitting the political bottle pretty hard and my rants against Trump, his sycophants and snake oil junkies were relentless.

It’s actually Facebook and the attendant silliness and stupidity have that have had a big hand in pushing me off of the newsfeed and politics in general. A former co-worker from the pre-Bush recession days, a woman named Lisa, a Facebook friend but not really a friend is peddling more junk than a cartel kingpin; crap like the Plandemic video and an almost limitless diet of other toxic tripe. There are a few others like her who just regurgitate videos, memes and the opinions of others while not having either the brains or the gumption to add their own opinions or the conviction to respond when challenged.

Against my better judgement, or any judgement at all, I recently called her out over a post that links to a video of a Doctor Jeffrey Barke who says the virologists and epidemiologists are all wrong.  It’s an ideological rant rather than anything that’s based on medicine or science or statistics.  Barke is a family physician.  And I would want to hitch my life to the preposterous ravings of a general practitioner over the evidence delivered by scientists because….

And so it goes that my comment sparked a response from someone else which sparked my response and then the sparks flew, though we heard nothing from Lisa. She instigates the fights and then stands by and lets somebody else throw the punches for her.  Finally I gave up when one commenter complained that not being able to go to the skate park is tyranny.  Was it Patrick Henry who said “Give me a skate park or give me death?” No. I long ago developed a policy of not arguing with infants or imbeciles.  Since the man has a FB account he is obviously not the former so he must be the latter.  I’m close to unfriending Lisa.  I’ve jettisoned most of the screwballs on my “friend” list.  Maybe she’ll beat me to it and save me the trouble.

And then there’s another Lisa who used to live up the street.  We think much alike and she puts up political and COVID related posts as ceaselessly as I used to. The threads that are woven from her original posts are legendary.  Lisa is sharp, articulate and witty.  She’s like a chess player who stays a few moves ahead of the opponent.  Still I don’t know how she tolerates the occasional half wit who enters the fray, how she never seems to tire of the debate.  She must know that she’s not going to change the minds of the pinheads out there.  Of course she is an attorney so…

I’ve been waging an internal battle over quitting Facebook for good. It’s only utility is that it allows me to keep in contact with people who I might otherwise lose contact with (Yes, I know, I’ve been told that there are other platforms out there). For now I’ve unfollowed some of the knuckleheads and unfriended one or two of the insane and galactically stupid.

The ride home halts at a disappointing sight, a traffic jam on Highway 80.  Disappointing not because I bristle every time that I hit traffic but because under shelter in place there shouldn’t be any traffic.  This tells me that there’s some creeping complacency.   It corroborates what I’ve heard from friends and what we’ve talked about at kitchen table conversations.

Up until recently we’ve had the evening news on before/during dinner but we’ve unsociably distanced ourselves from news at the table.  The only one who’s really following news religiously is Cora.  Jessica is too busy with work and has been recovering from news overload for longer than I have.

Dinnertime talk this evening is all about vacations.  Jessica’s trip to Hawaii with her children is off the summer schedule.  Cora and I had been planning a trip to the midwest, landing in Pittsburgh and driving west, hitting Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Kansas City.  We were going to see major league baseball in each of the cities and sample regional foods. We’d planned almost an entire week in Chicago and I was ready to have dinner at Michael Jordan’s restaurant.  Our autumn trip to Italy might get resurrected in 2021.  For 2020 it seems that the only possible option might be a camping trip but even that seems like a stretch.

COVID nights are really no different from pre-COVID nights but I’m not betting on post-COVID nights.  We’ll worry about that when we get there, if we get there.  Most evenings Cora and I settle in for a movie (we’re running out of titles) or an episode of one of the series that we never watched when they were current and popular many years ago. I try to avoid binge watching and make a series last for a while. Cora isn’t concerned about running out of fare.
“Cora, if we burn through this series we’re going to have to figure something out and we’re running out of options. You don’t want to have to go back to trying Fleabag again do you?” I was told by someone who I thought was an unimpeachable source to watch Fleabag.  Halfway through I turned to Cora and asked if we had any flea powder.  Fleabag has become our recurring private joke.

On this particular evening we end up watching the series finale of Bosch, a detective show, and one of the few currently running series that we’ve been watching.  It’s a favorite of ours and as often happens I’m hoping that Bosch will get a seventh season.  It’s always depressing to get to the end of a good series.  It’s like getting to the last page of a good book or knowing that after the second encore the band is NOT coming out for a third.

The season ends with a closing theme that seems all at once apt, ironic and poignant, What a Wonderful World performed by Chris Botti and Mark Knopfler.

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Written by: Robert Thiele, George Douglas, George David Weiss

PIdgeon Point sunset 1

10 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles – May 2020. A Day in the Covid Life Part II (Evening)

  1. Scott Blake says:

    I’m glad to see you state in print “I’m happily retired” after too many months of complaining about being retired. It took a while for you to get to the happily retired part and I’m glad for you that it happened.

    Cronkite and the announcement of JFK’s death, the thing that I think is most striking is not the tears but that the unflappable Cronkite had to remove his glasses, take a second or two to compose himself, and continue the report with a voice that cracked, which probably never happened to him before or since. People who weren’t alive or old enough to remember those four awful days in November can easily find film of it on YouTube and other sources. Network programming was taken over first by coverage of the murder of a popular president during a motorcade, then the manhunt and arrest of the suspected gunman, and then by the murder of that suspect while he was in police custody.

    It was almost unbelievable, even more so than the current pandemic. Add to that the murders within a few weeks of each other of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968 and the escalating nightmare of the Vietnam War. People who weren’t around then like to idealize the 1960s as peace and love. The so-called Summer of Love was a brief period in 1967 and 1968 was almost a year long horror show. Famously the amazing Apollo 8 mission near the end of ’68 drew a telegram to NASA which read “Thank you for saving 1968”.

    1. Paulie says:

      Of course I’m happily retired. Who wouldn’t be in the middle of a pandemic that’s turned the world upside down. Most of my happiness is a result of the current state of affairs. I couldn’t imagine many retirees who would bemoan the fact that they can’t be living in a work world in which the main scenarios are, losing work; having their work routine turned upside down; worrying about the cratered economy eliminating their job; or working in a situation in which they can catch a virus which can make them very sick or make them graveyard dead.

      Given the situation I would be considered ungrateful if I complained of being retired. What, beyond the shelter in place, has changed my routine? Well I guess you could say, the grandchildren are home all the time and I have to help school them. My daughter has turned part of her room into a home office and is home all the time. If I don’t get to Home Depot or Sprouts when the doors open I have to stand in a Disneyland-like line. I’m having a devil of a time finding bleach (not that I want to mainline it as suggested by the President of the United States). I suppose that if not for the coronavirus I might still be “complaining” as you put it.

      I have to demur on the notion that the assassinations were more unbelievable than the current pandemic and the resulting turmoil. The assassinations of the Kennedy’s and King were certainly impactful. Those events and the changes wrought by them affect the daily lives of Americans today. We’re still not sure what the backwash of COVID-19 is going to bring.

      I would agree that anyone who lived through the 1960’s and yearns for a return to those days must have been on a decade’s long acid trip back then. I guess the exception might be Country Joe McDonald who recorded a song titled Bring Back the Sixties Man and I would be surprised if he wasn’t on acid for a fair portion of the decade. What I do yearn for from the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s is the activism, less the riots, that punctuated those years.

      1. Scott Blake says:

        “Complaining as you put it”? That’s exactly what it was and I’ve heard you say “Complaining is what I do, you do what you’re good at”.

        I agree with you about the activism missing from this decade and the past decade. A friend put it well last year when he said to me “Where is the outrage? Where are the street protests?” We have street protests but they seem to be all about opening up businesses so people can get their nails done and sit down to dinner in restaurants. One reason we don’t have so much activism is the Internet. In the 60s and 70s it didn’t exist, so activism and protesting had to be done in public. Now most of it is done online on Facebook, blogs, and comments on newspaper websites.

        The reason I think that the assassinations of the 60s were so unbelievable is that they were a shock that in some ways this country hasn’t recovered from. The current pandemic is not really a shock because of the recent past, with SARS and Ebola. Agreed, we’re not sure what the long-term ramifications will be from this pandemic. What we’re seeing in these past few months may bring lasting changes. If so, it’s inevitable that some will be good and some will be bad.

        As bad as I feel for people who have lost jobs and are having a lot of trouble finding jobs, I feel almost worse for those whose small businesses will be lost. The people I’ve known who have had small independent businesses close see it almost as a death in the family. One was a couple who owned an excellent New York deli in San Mateo County. They had to close up and move back east because of the necessity of taking care of ailing parents. They had planned that deli for years before it opened and were so sad to have to close it.

        1. Paulie says:

          As per usual our common ground is but a small patch.
          The anti-SIP protests are the current iteration of street protests that stem from specific incidents. There have been others from the left (the Trump inaugural and BLM) but for whatever reason, social media, internet or laziness, the movements lose steam. I took part in a march the day of Trump’s inauguration. It was quite a worldwide turnout that day. After that, not so much. The organizers of the inauguration day protest contacted me a few times via text about planned future protests but those never materialized. In the end I just blocked their number. The BLM movement went strong for a while. I remember the Bay Bridge being closed and having to drive to the San Mateo Bridge in order to get to the airport. It seems that the right is able to generate more staying power with their causes, that is if you believe the author of the book Deer Hunting With Jesus, who postulates that the Republican Party and the right have a more dedicated grassroots movement (take that up with Joe Bageant, not me).
          When it comes to protesting, spontaneity seems to be passe. Other than the aforementioned and some other outliers protests seem to coincide with “anniversaries;” the Roe v. Wade decision, Earth Day, International Women’s Day.

          I don’t know that I understand the notion that the country hasn’t recovered from the assassinations. No doubt they changed the course of history. With the assassination of JFK we got the LBJ Presidency and all that resulted. We’re only left to guess what a continuing JFK Presidency would have resulted in. RFK would likely have won the nomination and possibly the ‘68 election. His assassination certainly cleared a path for Nixon as the Democrats as per tradition came up with yet another milquetoast nominee in HHH.

          SARS and Ebola? Mere blips that we wouldn’t even remember if they hadn’t been brought up as sidebars to the current pandemic.

  2. There was some idealism in the 60s. And many of us were incredibly naïve. Or is it just that I’m more cynical now? Doesn’t seem to be any idealism now. Remember George Carlin’s definition of a cynic: an idealist who doesn’t want to be disappointed… Again. I believe that if we come out of this gradually we will come out all right. But some things will change. But still, we will have that beer. I never had a Facebook account. I’m glad. There seems to be more evident IQ in blogging. Please encourage Jessica to start blogging again. Her writing is wonderful. So is her thinking. They go together.

    1. Paulie says:

      I’ll pass the word on to Jess. Maybe I can get her on as my occasional guest writer. She certainly boosts the readership.
      I don’t know how old you were in the 60’s. I was in fourth grade when JFK was assassinated and while I knew in a child’s way that the event was grievous I’m sure I didn’t understand the full import. When I look back at the ‘60’s it seems it was a transitioning time, when innocence was lost. If you just look at the music of that decade we went from the carefree surf music of the Beach Boys to the darker music of the Doors and the protest songs.
      Naive yes. I remember the first Earth Day. Our high school class went to the beach to do a beach cleanup and we were certain that we were saving the Earth.
      The activism though, that was born more of anger and fear. I think that protesters sensed that they had more skin in the game back then. The war protests, if not spearheaded by the youth, were certainly populated by the youth and people of color who seemed to be shouldering the burden of the fighting. The racial protests were a direct result of segregation in the early to mid-sixties along with profiling and incidents that sparked riots in Watts and Newark. Skin in the game. And as another commenter wrote, no social media as an outlet.
      I have to admit that I go through ups and down over our current crisis. I sure hope that we don’t have to wait for the inauguration of a new POTUS to get our act together.
      As for that beer, I’m certain it’s in our future. We can always do as I suggested and sit six feet apart on the sidewalk and sip from paper bags. In that event the beer has to be Olde English or Colt 45. If you want to go high brow you can get by with PBR 😵
      No FB account? You are certainly not missing anything.

      1. IPA for me. I was in the eighth grade. The news came over the public address system while we were in the middle of a math test. We listened in silence. When the announcement was over about one minute of silence went by and one student who didn’t quite get it said “what about the math test?” The teacher said, “screw the math test.“

  3. I avoid commenting about anything political on Facebook, made the mistake once and learned a lesson real quick.
    Love Bosch hope it is around one more season. Have you watched The Messiah? Worth the watch.

    1. Paulie says:

      Oh Carolyn I’m the bearer of bad tidings. Bosch hasn’t been renewed. I’ve read two or three of the Bosch novels written by Michael Connelly. They’ll never pass for great literature but they are entertaining reads when you’re looking for something light.

      1. Oh that’s too bad, thanks for the book recommendations.

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