Plague Diary VI
Day 140 8/1/2020
Entering Lammastide. The beginning of the descent into winter. Hard to imagine winter in Jersey in August, except as a promise as delicious as an icicle dipped in chocolate.
I would like to open this section with a celebration of good news, but here all news these days is declared fake news. To some, the spike in covid throughout the nation (60,000 + new cases per day) is fake news, so they go off to summer camp full of good news—800 go off to camp; 300 test positive when they get home. I would like to declare that the good news is the end of the pandemic, the rebuilding of a nicer nation, the healing of the earth. That too is fake news. At least for now.
Lammas is the time of harvest, bringing in the sheaves, but also a time of dying—John Barleycorn is Dead, the fields go fallow. We celebrate the harvest with merrymaking and handfasting in the face of the coming darkness. Walking down Witherspoon Street among all the people sitting in the outdoor cafes—where there used to be traffic lanes—is good news. Let’s leave it at that.
Day 141 8/2/2020
For some reason I wake up feeling positive and strong. As I write, two little house sparrows come to sit on my windowsill. The sky is darkening, the humidity registers at 90%. I hope it rains, of course, having come from an arid state where any drop of moisture is a miracle, but Mother Nature seems to think that 90% humidity is rain—why bother working up to a storm?
Hurricanes down south, the newscasters are spazzing out trying to decide whether to report on the major storms or the major spikes or the major fuckups as our esteemed legislators refuse to release any more money to soon-to-be-starving Americans. They settle on Dr. Faucci. Dr. Faucci says we’re in shit trouble and headed for more trouble before we hit big trouble. Damn Dr. Faucci for spreading FAKE NEWS. Off with his head!! Ok, says Dr. Faucci, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine within the next few months (Translation: we’re in shit trouble and headed for more trouble before we hit big trouble and you’ve already told people not to take the vaccine because it might be the deep state trying to poison you) maybe as early as 2021. Off with his head!! That’s too long! We want a vaccine and we want it NOW. And if we don’t take it it’s because we have RIGHTS and YOU CAN’T MAKE US.
I am pretty sure that somewhere in the galaxy there are alien beings watching this on AndromedaTV and laughing their asses (do they have asses?) off.
Day 142 8/3/2020
My brother has frogs. My brother who lives in the California desert by the way. Frogs in every room of his house. Frogs on the windowsill, frogs on the couch. Climbing into bed at night he finds a frog on his pillow. He sends me a video of a frog hopping from the kitchen table to the top of the Toaster Oven, while he sings a frog song to it. Apocalypse Now! Vindication for the mighty Charles Fort who wrote about frog plagues from his desk in the NYC library, where he labored for 40 years cataloguing anomalies. A crackpot, they said. One of those weird library hermits with their little scraps of paper. I read all of his books in the ‘70’s. I believed, but of course I never thought it would come true. It was so easy to believe and prophesy in the 70’s. We talked about all of this—about the fall of the American Empire and frogs falling from the sky and all—so in a way this whole shitshow seems phantasmagorically familiar. We were sitting on the porch in Pasadena, smoking dope, sure, so even we tended to dismiss our predictions, but NOW, well, hey.
If Charles Fort were here—and who’s to say he is not—he would have a desk covered with little slips today: massive uncontrolled fire in California; hurricane coming creeping and screeching up the East coast from the Bahamas to Maine; the coronavirus spiking in 50 states; the (oxymoron alert) leadership of our country speaking from Golf Cart One, saying that a.) we are doing very well, b.) that nasty lady scientist who was my toady (not frog, no offense to frogs) saying everything is alright for months has now flipped to saying we are in extreme danger is PATHETIC, c.) we expect a vaccine by the end of the world, oops, I mean year; the Navy releasing its files on UFO’s and crash debris from non-earth technology (Not saying aliens now, folks, no need to get alarmed, just non-earth technology); and frogs everywhere.
Day 142 8/4/2020
Numerology for today: the Tower—sudden news, sudden upheavals, catastrophe, danger, liberation. Therefore, I am writing this early in the morning before everything falls apart. Or blows up. We don’t get international news anymore, so maybe there’s a bomb somewhere that we don’t know about. Somebody told me that the last time the planets were in this configuration was during the Fall of the Roman Empire. I look at my hand and a giant square has appeared under my Jupiter finger. In times of the Tower, best thing to do is to revert to California woo-woo. Comforting, although I must say, not the same when you’re not high.
I have not fulfilled my homage to Larry Kramer for a few days, so here we go:
Cases in the US: 4,800,000. Number of new cases in one day yesterday: 50,000+ Deaths:158.600. This is day 142, in case you are not paying attention. That’s 33,803 a day. But we are doing very well.
I am going to prophesy now, so if you want to skip ahead to see if I am right, here goes: Cases of Mental Illness caused by fear, anxiety, isolation, separation, food deprivation, cognitive dissonance, economic distress and morbid despair: 100,000,000 and counting.
Day 143 8/5/2020
Well, we had a hurricane, and something (Beirut) just blew up. And my brother still has frogs. I have the strongest urge to go out and buy a bottle of champagne. Not that I am feeling celebratory at the moment, you understand (although I kinda liked the wild rain and rattling wind of the hurricane. Fit my longing for adventure.) but just in case. Good to have on hand, dontcha think? I think so, and I agree.
Day 144 8/6/2020
I did something utterly dangerous today—I invited someone (my yoga teacher) into my apartment. We sat here in the living room and drank a smoothie and talked for an hour late in the afternoon. There was a time when that would not seem dangerous, two ladies sharing the woes and burden of our menfolk in the hour before dinner. But indoors, my God. It felt almost daring, almost defiant. Sinful by covid standards. But we didn’t touch, so it was just a venial sin, right God?
I didn’t turn on the news, held out for Father Brown solving murders in his little English village. I remember toward the end sitting on the couch with Glenn, watching Father Brown, and he started crying and said, I wish I could live in Kamelford. Looking back, I can see how much stress he was under; at the time I probably said something inane. Here and now, I think we all kinda wish we could live in Kamelford, even with their high murder rate.
Q: would King Donald send in Federal troops to quell the violence? Would he call Father Brown pathetic?
Day 145 8/7/2020
Emperor Donald the Obese, while on the Imperial Golf Course, says “The pandemic will disappear.” When asked about the appalling rising tide of covid cases and deaths responds with majestic fervor: It is what it is.
Next he’ll tell us that all the sick people should be flogged in the public square.
Day 146 8/8/2020
One of my friends is falling into the pit of depression. Not the “I’m so depressed that they’ve taken Downton Abbey off Sunday Night TV” kind of depression. Lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, complains that she is just “blah,” and I can see it in her posture, demeanor, lack of spark. I worry. I say, let’s take a ride. I tell her that any and all crises in my family were handled by going for a car trip. It takes her a couple of hours to make up her mind whether to come along, but eventually says she “probably should,” so I pick her up and drive over to New Hope.
So off we go. Beautiful hot summer day, beautiful drive. My friend sleeps in the car. When we get to New Hope (just across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania), there are millions of people. Most are masked, but by no means all. My friend is nervous, but we walk across the crowded bridge and along the tow path for a while, then walk back across to the car via Starbucks and I drive home. I wonder if I have fallen into one of my former habits of trying to rescue people but tell myself she is a friend and I was going to go anyway. I find when I get home that some of her low-ness has affected me and I wander through the remains of the day inside the covid marshmallow mindset.
Day 147 8/8/2020
Covid count time: 5,000,000. That’s five million. A thousand people die every day.
Our estimable leaders have decided not to renew benefits to the 30 million or so unemployed people and have gone home for their summer recess. D the O announces that HE will give them money by Executive Order (which will probably be deemed unconstitutional, but not until after he takes the Mantle of Messiah-ship) but he can’t give them too much and he can’t continue the ban on evictions, and he can’t give them healthcare. (Some money must be saved for tax relief for the rich, you know.) Who needs healthcare anyway, they’re going to die, It is what it is. He announces this from his golf clubhouse to a room full of podgy un-masked white men straight out of the clone factory. (Just a little note, not to get you concerned, but each of those men—not a single chick in the room—pays $100,000 to join that club. Annually, I believe. Me, I’m saving my $100,000 for mani-pedis.)
Day 148 8/9/2020
The days are divided between park time and fan time. In order to cool the apartment, I run two fans, the de-humidifier, and the window AC. Yes, they cool the space, but the noise is incessant and crazy-making. So, when I can’t stand the noise anymore I go outside. Out to the plaza where I try to get a chair in the shade, up to the Univ Garden where I have a bench that I think of as my own. When I get too hot outside I go back into the apartment until the noise is intolerable. Like a see-saw. Not conducive to any sustained effort. Taking care of creature needs these days is like tending a fractious infant— just as I get her to sleep, she starts wizziling again and I have to move her.
I tell you all this to avoid telling you that while I am in line for my iced latte, or my iced tea, to carry to a cooler place to sit, a 20-year-old youth jumps to his death off the concrete parking structure next to the plaza. Ah, God, what magnitude of trouble could make that seem a viable option? I hear about it later, of course, long after any evidence has been cleaned up, but the residue of sadness is palpable in the neighborhood.
Some of us are not making it.
Day 150 8/10/2020
At the end of the day my friends and I go to the labyrinth. We haven’t been going for several weeks now because of the oppressive heat, but I have the rather desperate urge to walk the stone path. When we get there, the labyrinth is covered with fallen branches and twigs and leaves from the hurricane. We spend an hour taking armfuls to a big pile at the side. It feels good to be doing manual labor, to heave and drag large branches, to fill my arms with twiglets and leaf clusters, to walk around to the pile and release them. Sweat pouring down my face and arms. It feels righteous to watch the labyrinth re-emerge. Holy, beyond metaphor. I walk, thinking of the lost boy, praying that there is a welcoming Presence holding him, telling him he is loved, healing his broken soul. I pray for all the lost boys and all the lost people. I pray, though I feel somewhat puny—me, who carps at the news and complains about the heat—while the earth is hemorrhaging a river of souls.
School starts in Georgia. A high school girl posts a video of a hallway crammed full of unmasked teenagers, to protest that the school is not taking adequate safety measures. She gets suspended.
Do you find this Plague Diary too depressing? I should write something funny. Let’s see, I called my brother today. He assures me that the frogs are still there. He thinks we should start an alternative TV channel called Frognooz. We’re working on the theme song.
Day 151 8/11/2020
Strange days. (Running out of adjectives here, weirdseems over-used, can no longer use
unbelievable or inconceivable or even the banal newsworthy.). Just strange. Hours spent sitting in the plaza with a book on apophatic language. The language of un-saying. How does one un-say the pandemic? Have to work on that.
Late in the afternoon have a hilarious conversation with (my healer friend) John D. Laughing about aging and purple pills and purple bras. He says he’s written a prescription for me for GHMO: Get Her Married Off. Can you imagine that? Finding love in the plague years? Like Beauty and the Beast, it’s not until the wedding night that you first see your beloved without a mask. Oh! It’s you!!
Day 152 8/12/2020
Here in the East we call a day like today a nothingburger. I, of course, the Queen of Nothingburgertown, spend the day wandering from the apartment (hot, humid, too noisy) to the plaza (hot, humid, have to pee) to the neighbor’s porch—what to do, leave the mask on? take the mask off?, back to the plaza. Someone has left a book on one of the tables—a continuation of the old Napoleon Hill Think and Grow Rich. I skim it: hey! all we have to do is manifest our passion. How could I have forgotten that? I think my passion is to have something decent to eat—sick (don’t say sick) of my own apophatic (non-cooking) culinary non-efforts. Lo and behold, I see, just over there, right at the edge of the tented outdoor restaurant (that used to be a swanky indoor French restaurant), a small table separated from all the rest. A little ray of sunshine glints off the crystal (non-cardboard) wine glass. Well lookie here, I have done manifested myself a dinner out. I walk over in my scruffy indoor-outdoor-day-and-night-covid clothes and my unkempt hair (masked, of course) and stand before the maître d, (sweating above his mask) who ignores me for as long as possible in front of a quarter-full restaurant on a nothingburger day, then asks Can I help you? What, no good evening, madame, what is your pleasure? I say I would like to come for dinner. He seems somewhat shocked, so trailing him I walk to the manifested table and seat myself.
The food is good (meaning cooked), the wine is excellent (meaning not in a plastic glass topped up with fizzy water), the bread is served with real butter (not Whole Foods organic processed vegetable oil). I kinda like this. I’m going to have to manifest more often.
Late in the night my brother texts me that a wild fire has sprung up 2 miles from his house and he is packing his car to evacuate.
Day 153 8/13/2020
Totally engrossed in reading Mystical Languages of Unsaying by Michael Sells. Apopathtic language. Wow, I read and re-read, trying to follow the thread from transcendence to immanence without reification, pronouns without prenomial antecedents, the cast and return of mysticism feeling like fly-fishing in the South Platte river. I get it, I don’t get it, I re-cast, I feel it, I lose it, I don’t get it, I re-cast. Lovely. Whole mornings spent in the Plaza with my latte and my fishing pole.
In the afternoon I paint a silly picture of a Frog King for my brother and send it to him over the internet (another aporia) to his dingy hotel in Palmdale CA. Wait expectantly for his response—I want to make him laugh. He does.
You see, don’t you, that I have averted my eyes from DSTV--Doomsday Scenario Television. There is good news, I should note: a womanof color has been nominated for VP. Historic moment, and I am happy for that, but still, still, we have to look first at color and gender. She becomes a symbol of color and gender. The First Woman of Color to be nominated to this High Position—What was her name again? We may never hear about her ideas or her accomplishments, but even if we do, it will always be preceded by her color and gender.
Fuck’s sake. The Great Balloon, of course, has already launched his new Birther campaign—she is not qualified, may not be a citizen, you know. Suspect birth—I mean her parents were immigrants from other countries and besides it was a mixed marriage—mongrelizaton of the races. White suburban housewives will be aghast.
I dunno, the Democrats raised $48 million in 48 hours after her nomination. And in America, it’s all about money. New slogan: POP THE BALLOON. C’mon covid—you’ve already hit almost 5 million Americans (although the Balloon has issued an edict to revise the count downward), can’t you focus for once and get this fucker?
Day 154 8/14/2020
Thank you, Napoleon Hill, I have just manifested my first writing student. Four weeks of coaching at $10 a week. Wow, I am a teacher again. Hallefuckinluljhah!
I had to go for a drive to another township to pick up some meds. I got lost , of course—you might ask yourself how, with a GPS, could that happen? I mean, program in the address, start the car, and go wherever the woman in the box tells you. So simple, really. Second question, why are there two identical addresses (Princeton Medical Center, 2 Research Parkway) in two different townships 22 miles apart? It doesn’t seem fair, somehow. Of course, it doesn’t seem exactly fair that the pharmacy can’t get the meds in the first place, but that’s another thing.
HELLO. WELCOME TO PENNMEDICINE .
IF YOU ARE A DOCTOR, PRESS 1.
IF YOU ARE A PATIENT, PRESS 2.
FOR ALL OTHER CALLERS, PRESS ANY NUMBER THAT CORRESPONDS TO YOUR MOTHER’S ASTROLOGICAL ASCENDENT.
PLEASE LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THIS IMPORTANT NOTICE:
YOUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS TOTALLY FUCKED UP.
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT YOUR CONCERN WILL BE ADDRESED IN THE ORDER IT IS RECEIVED.
YOU ARE NUMBER 22,700 IN THE QUEUE.
LEAVE A MESSAGE IF THIS IS AN URGENT MEDICAL EMERGENCY REQUIRING IMMEDIATE ATTENTION.
THIS NUMBER IS NOT ACCEPTING MESSAGES.
Anyhow, in the course of getting lost I drove through beautiful farmland complete with fruit stands selling fresh blackberries and peaches, and perfect townships full of gorgeous old trees, gardens drooping with hydrangeas. I didn’t stop; I drove home, errand complete. Only then did I realize that I had been trapped in an archaic errand mindset of get-something-done, check off something on the list. For 5 months there has been no list, you know. I forgot how to do it. I missed out on a quiet stroll in a quiet village—me, who has complained for 154 days that I am inside a bubble, drove straight home to the bubble. Geez.
Day 155 8/15/2020
I go to the bookstore and pick up a copy of Norman Cantor’s In the Wake of the Plagueabout 1349 and on, in Europe. I read
“Inevitably medieval physicians attributed the disease to God’s punishment for sin and to bad astrological conjunctions involving the feared planet Saturn. The king of France appointed a commission of University of Paris professors to account for the Black Death. The professors soberly blamed the medieval catastrophe on the astrological place of Saturn in the house of Jupiter.”
Oops, didn’t my astrologer friend tell me the other day that Saturn and Jupiter will be exactly conjunct on 12-20-2020? I hasten to the internet. Yup, that conjunction has spelled disaster throughout time. Fall of empires. Even a list of all the Presidents who have died or been assassinated during a Saturn-Jupiter conjunct. Shit oh dear.
My brother—yes, the frog brother—has had to evacuate his home due to a major rampant wildfire. He regrets that he had to leave the frogs to fend for themselves.
Day 156 8/16/2020
There are two sides to this: the Doomsday-CNN-RachelMaddow-It-Can-Only-Get-Worse side and the other side that can’t be named but only felt.
In the morning I wake up to anxiety. The 12-20-2020 scenario plays in my head—what if I can’t go to England in October? Ever? What if the world descends into violence? What if there is civil war? What if this is the Fall of the Roman Empire on acid? Oh, and personal stuff too: why hasn’t a certain friend returned my call when I reached out? Does s/he think I am pathetic? What about my upcoming medical test? I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of failure. Am I failing? Oh, darling, the Loop of Logismoi winds around me, threatens to strangle me. (Thus proving I am failing and pathetic.) This is covid in the isolation tank.
The only way out is out, you pathetic thing. Put your shoes on and get the hell out of here.
I walk out and into the other side. I walk down the middle of the street in tears, leaking a miasma of doubt and anxiety behind me like rancid farts. I walk past my usual turn-back corner, mostly because I simply cannot go back in. I walk on into a lush green neighborhood with large clean houses set back on verdant lawns bordered with flowers. I come to a corner, and as I wait for a lone car to pass I see on my right a very large, overgrown and somewhat wild bamboo grove. I am drawn to walk to the edge of it. I peer inside and see that in the center is an open space, totally hidden from the outside world. I push through and find myself inside the drum. I first read about bamboo “instruments” back in the 70’s in Madame Blavatsky. She described how she and Leadbeater went to India and on one occasion were taken inside a bamboo organ: a grove where holes had been very carefully and strategically placed in the bamboo stalks in such a way that when the breeze blew through the grove it made music in amazing harmonies, like living flutes. This grove has not been tended, but the bamboo clacks like a drum in the breeze. (I heard a magnificent bamboo drum in Hawaii once, on the Hana side of Maui.) I stand inside, turning to the quarters.
I go on. Further along, still in the middle of the manicured neighborhood, I come to a little stone bridge crossing a dappled stream flowing green and yellow through the light of the trees along its sides. I stop and vow that I will leave my fears and miasma on this side of the bridge and not take them across with me. In the center of the bridge I watch the water for a while, make a recording of its sound and send it to my brother—who texts me at that moment from inside his recording studio. I say, Here, you can sample this and put it in your music.
I go on. I see on my left a narrow green path leading into an emerald forest. A woman and a small girl are walking on the path, so I decide not to explore it. Another day. I come to a second bridge, larger this time, made of a metal mesh, such that I can stand on it and see another stream flowing beneath. I take its picture and send it to my friend who did not respond to my plaintive call earlier in the day. I walk on.
I come to where the road branches. I decide this will be my turn-around point. Apogee Avenue. The driveway on my right is lined with round river rocks. I pick one up and put it in my pocket, thinking I will toss it into the pool I saw under the second bridge. I start walking back. On my right I see a broad green path leading down away from the road into the woods. I am drawn to go there. I climb down the embankment and though I can’t see the water, I can hear it burbling behind the bushes. I follow the path along for a while until I come to a clearing next to the stream. There is a small waterfall here, with a pool at its feeder level. I decide to throw my rock (imbued with all my troubles)into the pool. I miss, and the rock hits another larger rock with a bang! and bounces into the pool. Swear to God.
As I climb back up to the road, my friend calls and we chat as I walk toward home.
When I reach the far side of the little stone bridge, I realize I don’t have to pick up the raggedy bundle of smelly fears I left here on the way in. Let it molder; may it become fertilizer to mushrooms.
There are two sides to this: Doomsday and— although there was no “frontier of twilight” as described by Lord Dunsany—what for now we can name Elfland.
You can see the gate from here.
Put on your shoes.
Day 157 8/17/2020
Strange day, tidying up the house, looking at my watch in dread of the prep for tomorrow’s colonoscopy. (I know, I know, TMI). I joked with a few folks that I didn’t need to go through all the prep because the Republicans had already scared the shit out of me. Nobody laughed.
Day 158 8/18/2020
Woozy day culminating in the medical test. A friend came over and sat with me while I came back to earth. So nice, so new, to have a friend in the house. Everyone wants to talk about when we get back to normal. I don’t for even a minute believe that it will happen. Our normal was a ramshackle contraption built out of splintery boards from old outhouses. You had to squint and hold your nose to think it was beautiful. I’m not holding out for normal, I just want to have people over to tea in my house not contingent on a medical issue.
Oops, too negative. I’ll stop kvetching and stick to the numbers: 39,794 new cases in one day today. Over a month with more than 1000 people dying per day. US: 5,460,429 total cases (most likely undercounted due to new rules designed to keep us from freaking out, oh well) and 171,000 deaths (for sure undercounted) and 94,000 “immune” kids (Kids can’t get covid…) very sick. I apologize for being redundant, but we’re talking about 158 DAYS here.
Wanted to stay awake long enough to watch the Democratic convention but missed it.
Day 159 8/19/2020
You won’t believe it, but the temperature this morning was in the 60’s. I looked out the back window and saw a tinge of yellow in the top of the trees. Autumn is coming, despite our fears that she had pulled up her skirts and moved to somewhere in another galaxy, leaving our sorry, melting asses behind.
The Democratic convention rolls on—without me so far, alas—and I want to stand up and believethat love and truth will overcome the person-who-is-currently-shutting-down-the-Post-Office. I want to feel like the little me in the second grade, holding her hand over her heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance and believing we were One Nation (“under God” wasn’t added until 3 years later) with Liberty and Justice for All. I believe, help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)
Day 160 8/20/2020
I saw it!! I stayed up late (for me) and watched the final day of the convention and I saw America, land that I love for the first time in these dismal months. I saw faith and hope and dignity and character shining right there before my mesmerized eyes. I listened to the story of Joe Biden and heard his impassioned acceptance speech and I fely what I have wanted to feel since 2016. God (who was mentioned frequently) bless America. Of course, there was an undercurrent of God Help Us and an equally fervent reminder that we have to VOTE as if our lives depend upon it, our country depends on it—a call, if you will, to spiritual warfare and political action. And of course, afterward the pundits were busily showing the flaws in scheduling—kinda like critiquing the dangling thread in Mae West’s bustier if you ask me—and carping that they don’t see the policies, why didn’t they discuss policy? (Easy—we would have all turned it off.). But for those three hours I saw a light on a hill and thought, hey, maybe we will get out of this. We don’t have to believe that the Pink Balloon of Fetid Gas will remain aloft forever.
Plus, for dessert, they arrested the Pigpoop, Steve Bannon yesterday—went out and hauled him off his $35 million yacht paid for by idiots who believed he would build a Wall with their retirement savings and save them from the Impending Horde coming here for the good life. Well, wall, yacht, whatcha gonna do? Wouldn’t yourather escape the Impending Horde at sea on your yacht than behind some looming steel wall in the desert? I mean my yacht, of course. You don’t have a yacht. The Mexicans came and stole it in the night.
Day 161 8/21/2020
I taught my first student today after such a long hiatus. She has signed on for a 4-week ($10 per week! Take that to the bank!) class on how to become a writer. I have had so much fun devising a short curriculum including ideas and checkpoints and assignments. I loved working with her on Zoom. (This in itself is a milestone: I have not enjoyed a single experience of Zoom in now almost 6 months. It seems to take three-dimensional life and flatten it to a dimension-and-a-half, suck the blood and guts and smell out of it, shove it into a device that pretends to help you communicate, but ends up making you feel as alienated as if you were Zooming through space quantum light years away from reality. No wonder the kids—especially the little kids—hate their online “school,” some of them having tantrums and breakdowns—I don’t WANT to Zoom. I WON’T. I WON’T. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!) I’m a teacher. I taught. Imagine that. Somewhere a seed has cracked open. Underground, maybe, alone under a burning forest, maybe, but life is going to win.
Day 162 8/22/2020
I walked the labyrinth late in the afternoon with my friends—both in their mid to late 80’s—while the late afternoon sun dappled the stones, making the larger ones show their faces. Funny faces made of light playing on their rounded rock-selves. If you watched one stone for a period of several minutes, the faces changed, like emotions playing on a human face in conversation. What were they saying? We’ve been around for a lot longer than you, earthling; play the long game. Not “hope,” I guess, but “know.”
Simultaneous hurricanes heading for the southern coast; 560 concurrent wildfires in California—11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours. CNN informs us that an asteroid is going to hit the earth on or about the day of the election. Well done!! This is better than “Dazed Housewives of Bumfuck.” Forget Netflix. Honey, make some popcorn and let’s watch the Weather Channel.
I order The Complete Works of Charles Fort on Amazon.
Day 163 8/23/2020
Hot again. Geez! We had a few cool days and we all felt hopeful, like the old school-is-starting-and-we-have-new-shoes-and-a-new-dress-for-the-first-day hopeful. Now it’s back to all-fans-blowing-dehumidifier-roaring-air-conditioner-clattering funk. When I first got up I saw a single yellow leaf at the top of the big tree out back, and I thought Autumn! But that was before the sun swam up into the fug of humidity. You get the drift. And drift it is on days like this: Shall I do this? Nah, too much effort. Shall I go outside? Nah, too hot. Shall I stay inside? God, no, the noise in here would drive a truck driver nuts. I know, I’ll just take a nap. And so forth and so on. I finally got in the car and turned on the AC and drove around for a while. Eventually sat down by the lake and watched butterflies. A heron flew by, low over the water. A grebe surfaced and dove into her own circles. I catch myself laughing as I remember a silly verse Glenn loved:
When the weather’s hot and sticky,
That’s no time to dunk your dicky,
But when the frost is on the punkin,
That’s the time for dicky dunkin’.
Honestly, I do miss that fucker.
Day 164 8/24/2020
On Monday nights I talk to my friend Jane in Colorado Springs. She cares for her two grand-nieces while their parents work. She was counting the days until school started. Well, school is “virtual” now so she is not only caring for them but teachingthem as well. And she shrieks, I am also the IT person! First day of school. The girls arrive dressed in school clothes and a backpack, eager to see their teacher and friends, eager to be in school. An ipad has been sent to each girl (Mind you, these girls are 6 and 9 years old.) (Mind also that Jane has never used an Apple product in her life.) The day begins. Aunt Jane, I can’t get this to turn on. Aunt Jane, I can’t read what it says to do. Aunt Jane what do they mean press and hold the audio button? Aunt Jane, what is a audio? Aunt Jane, this just stopped working. (The system blacked out District-wide several times throughout the day.) Aunt Jane, can you help me? Aunt Jane… Aunt Jane… Aunt Jane…. Jane tells me, I thought the teacher would come on and talk to the kids and be with them during the day. (The girls thought they would see their friends.) I guess she came on during roll call, but it took us two hours to get started so we missed that. Finally, at about 2:30, after the third blackout, the District “came on” and said, essentially, that’s enough for the day. The kids turned off their tablets and said, Aunt Jane, can we play now? Sure, honeys. And you know what they played? she tells me—they played School.
Day 165 8/25/2020
For those of you who have missed the physical ravages of covid, you now have the chance to become deathly ill by watching the Republican Convention. Foaming at the mouth and spewing hatred, the Messiah-to-be whispers and raves into the microphone, baring his teeth when he smiles about smiting the enemy—they will come and get you, theywill be in your neighborhoods, they will take away your guns, yes they will. He purses his little pink lips when he whispers, I have saved millions of lives because I closed the border to China, I have been working to get a vaccine before election day. And, you know this whole election is a fraud and it will be illegal, and it will take yearsto figure out how they tried to steal it and you know what we should be saying? You know what they are afraid of? Say it:
Twelve More Years!!
There’s been a run on airsick bags at the local pharmacy.
Day 166 8/26/2020
Another Black man shot in the back by cops. Another city in flames. The Trump Family Reunion goes on—all of them made up like drag queens—so much makeup darling, you
look fabulous darling, and I love, love, lovethe lashes, I have been looking everywhere darling for 6-inch lashes, where did you get them, you must tell me, darling, isn’t it fungetting ready—and giving oratorios of praise to their Father Who Art in Podium. This, my friends spells the end for both Hollywood and for Drag—face it, we’ve been outdone. Never in our wildest, most speculative, drug-fueled, money-mad dreams can we top this.
I wake up thinking about my (so far embryonic) plans to go to the UK in October. I look around my apartment, my home that I love so much, and I think, no know, that when I come back to it nothing will be the same. All this complaining about isolation and loneliness in the middle of the covid bubble morphs into nostalgia (Is it possible to have pre-nostalgia?) for these days of writing and painting and walking. On this coolish, almost Fall day I think of Leonard Cohen leaving Mt Baldy:
I came down from that mountain
after so many years of study
and rigorous practice.
I left my robes hanging on
a wooden peg in that old cabin
where I sat so long,
slept so little.
. . .
‘Thank You, Beloved’
I hear a heart cry out
as I enter streams of screaming cars
on Santa Monica freeway
westbound for L.A.
I guess I feel that way
not only about leaving Princeton for
however long, but about
leaving my diseased nation, I guess
about leaving this body, I guess
Day 167 8/27/2020
I write in my morning journal—talking to God. The last part of the message:
These days are yours.
Don’t squander them by using them
to take apart what is given.
I look at yesterday’s musings and I see the trap I set for myself: the ego (that Mad King in the wind-haunted castle) going over all the “what ifs” and setting a “plan,” complete with “contingencies” and “dates” as if deciding were the same as a royal fiat, and the future would behave accordingly…or be flogged.
I sat with my neighbors the other night as they lamented the closing of the Senior Swim after next week. “We go every morning! That’s half of our day!! It takes us to lunch time and that takes us to 1:30. What are we going to do with half a day?” I felt that way for at least the first month of covid: how to fill up the days so that they would pass, so that they would be survivable, so that timewould go past until this is over. I talk to my neighbors and I think of the millions of other American “neighbors” trying to get through this day so that they can get through tomorrow.
For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is stricken and withered like grass;
I am too wasted to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my skin.
I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
I think of the 17-year-old boy getting through the day by imagining himself an Avenger for MAGA, shouldering his rifle, strutting proudly into the street to save America, getting through this day by pulling the trigger as he walks, knowing—and God help us, he is right in this—that he will be called a hero by the people he admires.
Day 168 8/28/2020
More violence atop more violence. A Black man is shot in the back 7 times in front of his kids in the car. Ah well. A white boy walks down the street shooting and killing. He’s given water by the cops. The pro-sports leagues cancel their games. (I met Tommy Smith and John Carlos, you know. How brave and brazen their raised fists were at the 1968 Olympics. The two of them standing alone on the podium: reverse image of the Statue of Liberty. NOW look what we’ve got. 50 years later. Jesus.)
CNN talks about the pandemic. The other media outlets let that part of their coverage slide away. Old news. 5 million sickened; 180,000 dead. Day 168, people. Remember way back when there were only 158,000 dead? Ten days ago? Predictions that 317,000 will be dead by New Years. The Emperor has sent out a fiat on CDC letterhead, that we don’t need to wear masks anymore, not really.
Day 169 8/29/2020
A pro-T rally rolls through a Midwest city. Shooting paintballs and tear gas at the demonstrators. Somebody gets shot. A white person gets shot. Now here’s some truly bad news. The Emperor announces that he will visit the city to meet with the police and survey the damage to buildings. Hoo-wee.
I listen to stories now, people tell me:
~A friend who took his vows as a postulant—a life-long dream come true—abandoned and betrayed by the leader.
~A friend finds herm partner up on the roof. What are you doing up there? Deciding where to jump that will for certain break my neck.
~Corruption about to be exposed where another friend works. Big stuff. Looking for a fall guy. Who me?
~A business partner descends into drink, sleeps in the office—or at least spends the night there over-filling ashtray after ashtray.
What holds at the center of the circle?
I think of that quote, I think, Who wrote that? I google it. Oh yes, it was me.
My astrologer friend says there are 8 planets retrograde at the moment. Full moon coming.
Day 170 8/30/2020
So here’s the deal. I go to the plaza every morning to drink my coffee. I see a man there every day. So I go over to him and introduce myself. He tells me that he was widowed and moved here to be close to the library and the university and all and all. But now it’s all gone and he is afraid of the virus. So he stays in his apartment, just over there, all day and just comes out here in the morning. I bring my own chair, he says. Otherwise I stay in. I read a little, watch a little TV. Sometimes I sit on my balcony. It gets a little boring, but I am so afraid…. I tell him about the time a couple of weeks ago when I came and had dinner at that table, just there. I couldn’t do that, he says. I am afraid. I, of course, want to pick him up and shake him and lecture him about the choice between dying of covid and dying of fear, but instead I say, well, if you ever get up your courage and want to have dinner… I waggle my finger between me-you.
I walk over to another table where I see some people from my yoga class at the Y. When do you think it will start again? they ask plaintively. Well, I say the online classes are great. I don’t do that, says the man, I don’t like online. Have you ever tried one? No, I don’t like them. I, of course, want to pick him up and shake him and lecture him about the choice between waiting for covid to be over and … same old, same old.
I come home disgruntled and see a message from another friend: We just returned from our “mobile bubble” adventure—masked, socially distanced, endowed by Lysol Wipes…. Crikey! I have the above reaction again.
Well, enough already. I put on my shoes and take off, practically at a run, toward Elfland. I walk and walk, further up along the stream bed, way into the woods. I sit on a rock next to a little waterfall and I think how lovely it would be to put my feet in, but….
But, HELL! I take off my shoes and socks and slither down the little embankment on my butt and crab-walk over the hard, sharp rocks to the side of the stream. I heave myself awkwardly onto a flat-ish rock and stick my feet in the water. I sit there for a long time, toss pebbles into the downstream pool and watch the circle of ripples spread out. I am not afraid, I say, to no-one there (thanks Neil Diamond). I don’t want to die of covid, but (different “but” from the slithering “butt” just decribed) I DO NOT want to die by my own hand, walking through life turning off all the lights.
Day 171 8/31/2020
The mayors of two cities have publicly dis-invited the Emperor to visit. One says, “You do not bring peace.”
Day 172 9/1/2020
I want to write a story, like a Biblical story:
1. The city writhed in struggle;
They called out for justice.
2. Instead of a king or an angel;
an ass was sent.
3. The ass called for a parade in his honor;
the parade brought plague and
the pageantry of hatred and
4. The ass sat on his makeshift throne, surrounded
by guards and perpetrators;
to praise the struggle,
not the justice.
5. The city cried out its rage and grief;
the ass brayed.
6. His pink anus lips pursed as
he regaled them with a story;
of a plane, yes!
full of people in black, yes!
armed and aimed to kill them, yes!
coming to their city even now, yes!
7. and only he could save them. Selah
Day 173 9/2/2020
We used to call these days the Dog Days of Summer. The last of the heat, the 91st day of wearing the same pair of shorts, rinsing them out at night. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Covid has robbed us, robbedus, I say, of our sense of fashion. Almost inconceivable to think of days past—even hot, sweaty, humid days—when we didn’t look at our closets and picksomething to wear. Who cares? Who you gonna talk to? Even if you see some slovenly creature (me) wandering through the plaza in the same pair of shorts every day, you can’t tell who it is behind the mask, right? I looked in my closet the other day and what do I see? Shoes! Many pairs of shoes—to compliment different outfits, to fit every occasion. They look like artifacts.
Day 174 9/3/2020
More Black men shot in the back by more cops.
Covid stats in the US: 6.22 million cases; 188,980 dead. It is shown that proper air circulation helps; the government cancels all orders for air circulators.
They say there will be 300,000 dead by Christmas; the Supreme Quack announces that “herd immunity” will save us. Experts (no, not him, real experts) say that herd immunity would come only after 2 million more people die. The SQ also says we are doing “really well.”
It is what it is.
Day 175 9/4/2020
The Estimable Commandant in Chief says our soldiers are suckers and losers, asks a Gold Star dad—at his son’s grave, mind you—"Why do they do it? What’s in it for them?” The media is incandescent. (This even pushes the tell-all book about Melania to the background. Now we’ll never find out why she wore that jacket.) The Generals are “good people,” so why do they become Generals? "They don’t make any money.” He refuses to attend a ceremony at Belleau Wood (sacred to the US Marine Corps) because the helicopter can’t fly in the fog (“Horrible weather, I have never seen such weather.”) and it would take too long to get there by car, oh my. (Spent the day in his hotel watching TV instead.) So now the Orange Balloonmeister has pissed off the Marines. I don’t know, but I don’t think I would want to know that I have pissed off the Marines, would you?
Day 176 9/5/2020
I went to get a flu shot. As I waited my turn I thought, here I am getting inoculated against the annual flu while the shadow of covid covers the world: little boy with his finger in the dyke. Nevermind, it flattened me for the rest of the day.
Since I had no energy to get up and out, I turned on the TV. Watched Rev Al Sharpton host a Black-Folks-for-Trump-no-really spokesperson wearing a most magnimonious shiny jacket and oh-so-starched white shirt. Loved seeing the Rev in his famous striped suit smack down the high siditty preacher. I remember walking to the subway uptown the morning of the earthquake in Haiti, and there at the top of the stairs offering Words and solidarity and strength to every person heading down to the trains was the Rev. Certain images are indelible. Whatever made that smart-looking young man think he could stand in that wind and not be knocked down?
Day 177 9/6/2020
Labor Day weekend. Good Americans, the nice Americans, need I say white Americans have swarmed the beaches and boardwalks, smeared themselves with tanning lotion, swilled beer, swelled their stomachs with hot dogs and pickle relish and smarmed their superiority as a special people. There’s a poem there:
Maybe a song—I’ll have to ask Gregg to put it to music. Oh, yeah, Prince already did—
Party like it’s 1999.
The roving reporter stops by an outdoor table where a tanned man with dazzling teeth says, “This is Great!” His busty wife, daring to lift her eyes from her voluptuous implants echoes, “Yesssss!” They beam at one another and lift their midday margaritas in a toast. When the hapless reporter asks him about masks, his face contorts into a sneer. “That’s a HOAX and you know it. And so what? We’re all gonna die.And you are gonna to die, and you (here he nods to the invisible cameraman) are gonna die. So what’s the big deal? You want us to muzzle ourselves? Huh?” He gleams at his wife who beams back her admiration, dazzled by his brilliance.
Day 178 9/7/2020
I’ve been reading the Enneagram. Now here’s a bit of unsolicited advice for all you avid readers: DO NOT psychoanalyse yourself while in isolation. (Don’t do the Ignatian exercises either, by the way.) With no professional in the room, no bearded Doctor (or Confessor) sitting next to your couch (or behind a screen), you are left with the internal experts, the committee of judges, who—trolls that they are—live in the crevasses of your brain and come forth at times like this to gloat over your sins and omissions. One day with the Enneagram and I am reduced to mush. They should subtitle the book How to Maximize your Catholic Guilt. Makes watching Rachel Maddow seem like fun.
Homage to Larry Kramer: 6,350,000 cases in the US. 190,000 deaths.
But hey, we’re all gonna die. (I am heartily sorry for this sin, Father, but I want to slip a cyanide capsule into a few select teacups—they’re gonna die anyway, right?) Shit.
Day 179 9/8/2020
I walk by a jewelry store every morning on my way home from the plaza. A ring in the window catches my eye. Says ‘hello.’ I ignore it, the store is closed anyway. The next morning I pass the store and the ring says ‘hello’ again. I walk on. This flirtation goes on for a few days. Now the ring says ‘well, try me on.’ I walk on, glad the store is never open.
I hear the voice of my friend Thelma saying, “If you see something you want, buy it. Otherwise for years you will think about that thing and go ‘why didn’t I buy that’?” Well, I can’t buy it anyway because the store is closed. All the stores in the plaza are closed. Next day, ‘Try me on and if I fit, buy me,’ says the ring, this time preening in a stray sunbeam. Honestly, I don’t know why stones talk to me, but they always have. I turn the corner and see the OPEN sign on the door. So I go in. I try the ring on. It fits. I wear it home. I’m laughing; after 6 months of thinking it’s a highly dangerous and ultra-scarey thing to buy two meatballs at the corner Deli, the first thing I buy is a ring.
Day 180 9/9/2020
One hundred and eighty days. Well, well. Half a year. I’m holding tickets to the UK 41 days from now. (You see how compulsive I have become about counting?). This is how it works: I try to remember the name of the hotel where the wedding was in 2018, draw a blank, and as I am writing this, an email from that hotel pings into my inbox. I attend my writers’ group online and the man who has been regaling us with the story of smuggling the dead body of a Stassi agent into Iceland inside a whale penis reads the next chapter wherein their airplane engine fails and he and the whale penis parachute to safety and land in the Callenish stones (I shit you not). I am reminded of the first time Rorie and I thought about going to the UK and a large promotional brochure for the Caledonian Mac-Bryne ferries arrived unordered at my Venice apartment. So, I am holding tickets and the signs and omens are lighting up, the Stones are calling me, of course, but more importantly I will be among people again. I cannot express my joy.