Plague Diary VII
Day 181 9/10/2020
people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
and loving be natural as breathing,
and warm as sunlight;
and people will untie themselves,
as string is unknotted,
unfold and yawn and stretch and spread
unfurl, uncurl, like seaweed returned to
And work will be simple and swift
like a seagull flying;
and play will be casual and quiet
as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no-one
will wonder or care or notice,
and people will smile without reason,
even in the winter,
even in the rain.
A.S.J. Tessimond, CDPII, p 1480
Fires in California, snow in Colorado, an earthquake here in Jersey. I think the Weather Channel will soon be forced to open Weather Channel II in order to just give out the regular old weather, like will it rain on Saturday or should we delay the picnic, while Weather Channel I concentrates on the Apocalypse. Of course, all those macho male reporters in their Patagonia slickers will want to work on the Disasters, leaving the daily temperature changes to the boobsy girls in short dresses. Which may cause a stir among feminists but may soothe those who have a prurient desire for normalcy (and boobs—make of that what you will).
Giant mudslides, no wait! That’s shit!!, subsuming Washington DC and oozing across the midsection of the Greatest Nation on Earth. That’s ok, Fucks News can cover that.
Day 182 9/11/2020
Ah God! Speaking of apocalypti, it’s Nine Eleven, our national Flag-ellation Day. We get to watch the planes flying into the Twin Towers over and over and over again, we get to see the specks of people plopping onto the pavement, and the cloud roiling up Fifth Avenue and George W. Bush standing in the rubble waving an American Flag. A moment of silence for all of us to remember exactly where we were when we saw the second plane go in. We call days like this “anniversaries.” I remember in 6thgrade arguing with my English teacher that anniversaries were celebrationsand the word couldn’t be used to celebrate something bad. I mean, don’t we say Happy Anniversary? I was quite passionate about it as I recall. I lost the argument, of course, once Miss Munch brought out the big gun of Webster’s Dictionary. But in myself, I never surrendered.
Nine Eleven. 3000+ dead. An alien force attacking the citadels of commerce. This now is so much worse, so exponentially much worse.
Day 183 9/12/2020
Here in Jersey, the weather has turned. Bright cool day with gentle breeze, one almost needs a sweater. The experience of deliverance; the quiet (shhh…don’t wake the sleeping giant) exhilaration of having made it through the heat and humidity and fan noise.
I feel blessed as I realize I don’t have to leave the house in the early morning in order to catch the coolness before the fug;
I feel blessed in the afternoon as I sit in the park working on my project and almost feel—dare I name it—chilly;
I feel blessed as I walk along the towpath at 5 pm and realize I am not sweating through my clothes;
I feel blessed as I sit in the back garden of my neighbors’ house, drinking wine coolers and talking about the past as elders are wont to do;
I feel blessed to wear a tee shirt to bed, to sleep under a cover without a fan.
Why do I think it is so important to name these blessings? Because out west the wildfires roar and consume and roar and consume and the visuals—the Golden Gate Bridge under a red sky with Muir Woods burning in the background—are so fucking heartbreaking that I can’t bear to watch. My beloved California, Paradise of my adult years, shepherd Mother of my multiple comings-of-age, ever-unfolding map to the Universe, healing me, breaking me, healing me, breaking me. Walks on the beach with a big dude carrying a camera, who says so quietly that I have to ask him to repeat, Somebody loves you.
The Palsied Balloon, Head (in the Naval sense) of State doesn’t mention the fires at his pep rallies. Five Star Generals(note plural) come out and say he should be removed from office. Are you listening, people? Those words signal a coup d’état, a military overthrow. What comes after that? Civil War.
It is (calmly, looking straight into the camera) said that 10% of all Americans do not have enough food. My Whole Foods pre-cooked pasta meal tastes like ashes.
Day 184 9/13/2020
I chant a Psalm every morning. The ancient voice of the psalmist sings that this has happened before:
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
I want to take comfort in that. This may be the end of the world, but it is most likely
End # 563 or some such.
Day 185 9/14/2020
In the early morning I pull on a sweater… and socks! Overnight temperature in the 50’s. Can it be? Can it be true? Have we survived the heat and humidity and come to Autumn? Surely this is a mirage and a 100 degree heatwave will pounce on us tomorrow.
I am acutely aware that I live in the Princeton Bubble—its 127 degrees in California and 3,000,000 acres are on fire. Hurricane Sally bears down on the Gulf Coast with 100 mph winds and 7 foot storm surge. A meeting of distraught Western Governors meets with the Knight of Lies (the name Son of Satan has already been taken by a serial killer). They take turns: one appeals to logic—the science tells us…. ‘Science is wrong,’ says the munificent one. Another grovels for federal help, saying 85% of the land burning is Federal land, your magnificence… ‘It will cool down,’ says the K of L. Another reiterates—it is 127 degrees in the West, your most majestic sir. The K of L rolls his eyes and smirks. Doesn’t need to say out loud, ‘Well, you didn’t vote for me, so nyahn nyahn nyahn nyahn.’ No-one mentions the 6,570,000 cases, the 33,252 people who died today. (Old news.)
Day 186 9/15/2020
Air, earth, fire, water.
Covid, politics, fire, hurricane.
War, pestilence, famine, death.
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding , up to the old inn-
Alfred Noyes, 1924
And here’s the weird thing: I wake up singing. I don’t intend to sing, but I just spontaneously start singing walking la la la li la through the apartment, tiddly pom, tiddly pom as I walk to the river. I write in this morning’s journal, ‘It seems like doomsday and liberation at the same time. Something is breaking open. The choice is fear or joy. Should I feel guilty if I choose joy?’ The response is immediate: To use a very harmful old word, darling, that is blasphemy. Exude joy.
Day 187 9/16/2020
I decided that the only way to exude joy is to declare a news-free day. So, I didn’t look at the feed on my phone, and more importantly, I did not watch any television. What!?! No Rachel Maddow? No Chris Cuomo? No Dr. Sanjay Gupta? You have GOT to be kidding. You are going to miss the 80,000 covid cases on the re-opened college campuses, girl, and the people in Oregon trapped by wildfires on every side, and the flood waters in Mississippi. You’re going to miss the Mastermind of the Media’s 47-minute-long interview on Fucks and Friends. Get a grip, girl, this is history you’re missing. I held my ground though. Okay, I went to bed at 8:00 with a murder mystery and dreamt all night about rescuing a young girl from a hobo killer in the Australian outback. But hey.
Day 188 9/16/2020
I am preparing to de-camp. I have a trip box going in the bedroom—toss in odds and ends of things I don’t want to forget to take. On a mission to get all my physical maintenance stuff taken care of: eye doc, dentist, prescriptions. I feel like one of those cartoon Seniors, running from one doctors’ office to the next. If it’s Tuesday, it must be the dentist.
It is. So off I go to see a new dentist whom I picked out of a referral list. It’s a funny Fall day, shifting between sunlight and shadow. I get a little lost parking the car between two buildings. The rigamarole of calling to announce my arrival, getting permission to enter, putting on my mask, getting my temperature taken, sanitizing my hands, blah, blah. I am put into a chair by a friendly hygienist wearing a pink plastic garment over her scrubs, giving the impression that she is in pajamas and a bathrobe from Walmart. I look out the window as I wait for the dentist. I can see my car in the unpaved parking lot under some tall fir trees. A very snazzy midnight blue convertible arrives and swings in next to my car. I watch as the top is mechanically lifted into place. Classy. Out steps an older white man with Einstein hair and a covid beard, wearing tennies and sweatpants. I mean, if you changed the backdrop you would think this was California. Could this be the dentist? Of course it is.
There’s a photograph on the wall of the office—a street in a Western town, traffic stopped at a light which is lit by small red bulb. Other lights are also lit, including the blinking turn signal of one of the cars. The dentist comes in, now wearing scrubs and a lab coat and headgear with lights and lenses and gizmos.
Sorry I’m late. Do you know that I had to stop at every red light between here and East Windsor? Eight! Count ‘em. (He proceeds to do just that, naming each street from here to East Windsor.). Yup eight!
I’m fascinated by the photograph, I say.
Yeah? What year do you think it was taken?
I look at the cars on the street, and the signs for the old hotels. I see a VW Beetle parked at the side. 1970 I say.
1969!! He says. And where do you think it is?
Nope, and he proceeds to use his fingers to point to an imaginary map west…
Nope. He points east…
Oh, yeah, I’ve been there many many times.
So, we talk about Albuquerque. I’m sort of falling in love with him—shows you what 188 days of isolation can do to a gal.
He pulls out his phone and shows me pictures of himself playing drums on a dark stage with a Black man.
You know who it is?
It’s Chubby Checkers! He shows me more pictures, of himself when he was younger and fatter standing next to Chubby Checkers.
I’m thinking I’d like another Cadillac margarita—leave the worm in—
and more guacamole please. I haven’t had a date in how many years? Must’ve been when I was passing through Albuquerque.
He sits up, puts his phone in his pocket. Now, let’s see that tooth.
Day 189 9/17/2020
The Woodward book recounting 18 hours of taped interviews with the Insane One shows that he knew that covid was “A plague. A killer. It’s bad, Bob.” early in March. He knew and he let it happen. The media goes apoplectic. The IO responds by having closed door, no mask, no distancing rallies in three states. Says if you take out the Blue states (Democrat), we’re doing very well. One of the pundits says, that’s like saying if you take out the people from New York and New Jersey, the death toll from Nine Eleven was very small. Jared—the cloned and droned Ken doll—goes on the offensive (apt word) and stands in front of the White House and says We are doing very well. And we know who We is, right?
Day 190 9/18/2020
One of the Vice Sycophant’s aides quits her jobs, faces the camera and tells us that His Imperial Germaphobe said out loud in a meeting that ‘Maybe this Covid thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with all those disgusting people.”
Ruth Bader Ginsberg died today. Women everywhere are keening.
Day 191 9/19/2020
After the sluggishness of summer, new energy comes with cooler weather. The leaves are beginning to turn, people seem busier. The Horror of the Age spends his time out on rallies with the “disgusting people,” the virus “hits a new milestone” as ‘tis put—200,000 deaths. I still find it almost impossible to watch the news. Covid exhaustion. We’re hunkered down in it now—you can see the weariness in peoples’ faces. The rallying cry, “Wear a Mask Motherfucker” seems to work for people who are wearing masks, seems to piss off people who are still celebrating their freedom from science (says so right here in the Consditushun of the Unided States of Amurica).
Me, I take walks and look at the trees changing color. I sit on my neighbor’s porch and watch Bird TV. He tells me about the whole bird society, their hierarchy at the feeder, their early warning systems (blue jays), their squabbles (doves are very aggressive). The squirrel gets into the feeder and stuffs himself while the “desperados” (house sparrows) wait in rows on the power lines for him to leave. A conclave meets up at the bird bath to discuss this. The squirrel takes his last helping and sits on the head of the stone swan savoring his dessert. Birds, nature, the Druid way, life.
Day 192 9/20/2020
The Amazing Hypocrites of the US Senate—remember them, the ones who said they could not process confirmation of Judge Garland because it was too close to the election (9 months) and “the American people should decide”? Yeah, those guys. Well now they say they have almost 40 days to the election, plenty of time to put a new (conservative) justice on the Supreme Court. A course they can. The Raging Balloon says he will appoint a woman (That’ll get votes from those suburban white ladies!) and my personal fear is that he will appoint Betsy DeVoss—the Secretary of Education who is working diligently to close all public schools. Just think of how much she can contribute with a life appointment to the Court! Ah, RoMa, you cynic, that could not possibly happen. Get a grip.
Day 193 9/21/2020
Crossing over Alban Elfed—the autumnal equinox: “the time of the Great Tides. This is the gateway of the year. At this time, our ancestors saw the Sun, for the first time in half a year, be unable to outshine the Dark. [The sun] is struck in his season with the wound of Time and from day to day the darkness will grow as the Lord of Light sinks into his age, for the wound is grievous and will not heal. This is a time of farewell and gratitude for the Summer that has been.” So speaketh Druidry.org.
Day 194 9/22/2020
The thing to keep in mind is that nothing works anymore. That is to say, nothing can be done the way it was once done. It’s like the known universe of the US of A is a vast machine, like the insides of an old fashioned clock, all wheels and cogs and this bit causing this bit to move and so on, only someone has taken a jug of sorghum molasses and poured it inside the casing and all those lovely parts and pieces are covered with sticky goo and to say that this has “gummed up the works” is a massive understatement.
I won’t regale you with the experience of trying to get my prescriptions double-filled for my upcoming sojourn to the UK. This is the information age, so should be a push of a button. Only the button is glopped up and whoever is in charge of pushing it is trying to get gloves on over her dripping, molasses-covered hands and the button cannot be pushed. Only one button remains operable—the one that puts you on hold. Suffice it to say that I spent two hours yesterday and two more today (the latter spent in tears at the counter at Walgreens while being ignored by the pharmacy staff who cannot fill the prescriptions until someone at the other side of “PleaseHoldThankYouForYourPatience” pushes the button). Years—Years, People!—of spiritual work and advanced meditation and Om Namo Shivaya and Kabala and yoga and Centered Prayer and all and all are of absolutely no value now. Covid-mind has infected the machines.
Day 195 9/23/2020
I spend the day trying to recover. I feel shame and guilt for breaking down at Walgreens, can’t clear my head of the image of me walking for two hours through the aisles of the drugstore holding my phone, crying.
The house is quiet, now that I have turned off the news.
Day 196 9/24/2020
I dream of Glenn. I see him standing there and I say to him, a little pissed to tell you the truth, “I thought you were traveling,” annoyed that he has come home without telling me. He says we can talk about this later. I see him sitting at a table drinking and talking to a bunch of people and I get a little more pissed off that he’s here when I thought he was travelling. He comes to me and I say, tetchily, “I thought you were traveling. Where are you living?” He looks at me and says, “I don’t live, RoMa.” I wake up in tears, bereft all over again. Today is his 70th birthday.
Sometimes I think he escaped before all this shit came down and sometimes I think even the beloved dead are watching this and maybe trying to send some encouragement. I read a poem which portrayed the dead as floating above us in glass-bottomed boats, and I think they’re watching the lights go out down here.
Day 197 9/25/2020
Ok, so I turned on the news. 7,600,000 cases. 240,000 dead. 54,536 new cases yesterday. Benefits cut down to $250 per week, which should buy the average family enough Cheerios to last for 6 days, now that they have been kicked out of their apartments and don’t have to pay rent. Schools are open—oops shut—oops open—oops shut. I switch to CNN—Anderson Cooper on the possibility of armed insurrection, says, “I can’t even believe I’m discussing this.” His glasses are askew on his face. (Now that is bad.) The Big Bad Woof is shamed while walking in front of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s casket lying in state in front of the Supreme Court building—Vote Him Out! Chant the protestors, just like we used to hear “Lock Her Up” in 2016. He turns and walks away with his Beautiful Silent Wife. OK, well, that was 5 minutes of news. I turn it off again. If I could only hold my liquor I would get drunk.
Day 198 9/26/2020
I wake up with a scratchy throat. OH NO!!!!!!!!! I start to spin out. I wolf my vitamins and take my temperature. Lord, I am not interested in irony! I wander around the apartment worrying. What if? What if? I feel like I am in a tunnel with a glimmer of light at the far end. All I have to do is make it to the opening and I will be ok. I hold the day of my departure as a lantern and make my way forward, trying not to touch anything along the way. That’s it, isn’t it? We have become touch-starved and it’s turning to touch-afraid. We daren’t touch anything, surely not anyone, and the horror of it all is that it is becoming normal.
The shamanic cure, I have found is not in soma or sacred fungi, but caffeine. I get up and walk to the coffee shop on Witherspoon. As I walk in the door, mask and all, the baristas call out my name. Hello RoMa! I cannot describe to you what it is like to hear one’s name called out after all these months of isolation. Validation that I am living, in the world.I sit in the plaza and read sacred Islamic poetry that speaks of “Living without a why,” total immersion in the Real. For a few moments, as the sun comes over the top of the buildings I feel Presence. God speaks, “We are in charge here, RoMa. We are the life and the light and the tunnel and the virus and more and more. “ Walking across the street on my way home I hear my name called again. “RoMa. Hi!” from a passing car. I really am alive.
Day 199 9/27/2020
I miss church. (All of you pagans reading this can skip this part.) I miss walking into the sanctuary. I miss the wood of the pews, touched by so many hands for so many centuries. I miss the colored light streaming through the windows. I miss the sound of the organ. I miss watching the line of people moving forward to accept the eucharist. There are times when I am in church when all the politics and sickness and fear pull back like an ebb tide over shingles. There are moments when the old words do not need to be re-written in a less patriarchal, more feminist, liberationist, eco-friendly, anti-colonial, pro-LGBTQ language. The ritual stands, even as the neo-Jeremiahs of the Age of Aquarius scream that the church is falling. There’s something here. Sanctified. Can I get a witness?
I enact the eucharist at home out of leftover wine and a saltine cracker. Tugging on the silver thread, the umbilical cord of my old faith.
Day 200 9 28/2020
I witness the ravages of covid isolation on the Supremes (my word for Elders). A friend of my neighbors who has moved into Senior Living, otherwise known as the gateway to Hell, comes for a visit. She is dressed in sweatpants, the Why Bother? Uniform of covid. She’s missing a tooth but can’t get to the dentist. She can’t hear even with her hearing devices but can’t get out to get them serviced. She says she doesn’t Zoom, so she has quit her physical therapy. She can’t contact her doctor because they put her on hold for “hours” and she doesn’t know how to ask for a call back. When she steps outside and starts to talk to people, “a booming voice yells, DON’T CONGREGATE!!” So, she says, “I sit in my recliner all day and watch television.”
And we worry about shutting the bars early.
Day 201 9/29/2020
We finally get to see the Master Businessman Millionaire Brilliance’s taxes. Oh, we are so shocked. Imagine! He isn’t really a millionaire, except in a funhouse mirror sort of way—He DOES owe more money than anybody else in the world. He’s the BEST. Why he owes more money than some countries. That’s HUGE. So now he either has to admit that he has all this debt—negating his claims of being a billionaire extraordinaire and King of the Deal—or he has to admit that he has been flummoxing his taxes for decades, which is a felony. Either way he’s going to jail the minute he stops being the Leader of the Greatest Nation in the World. So guess what? He’ll just have to stay in office giving blow jobs to his Attorney General every night after a hard day of golf.
A friend of mine, a Quaker, for God’s sake, sends me a publication of instructions of “10 Things you need to know to stop a coup.” Keep focused. We need to prepare. Here’s how:
1. Don’t expect results on election night.
2. Do call it a coup. (We know it’s a coup if the government stops counting votes, declares someone a winner who didn’t get the most votes, or allows someone to stay in power who didn’t win the election.)
3. Know that coups have been stopped by regular folks.
4. Be ready to act quickly—and not alone.
5. Focus on widely shared democratic values, not individuals.
6. Convince people not to freeze or just go along.
7. Commit to actions that represent rule of law, stability and nonviolence.
8. Yes, a coup can happen in the United States.
9. Center in calm, not fear.
10. Prepare to deter a coup before the election.
I wish we didn’t have to see this coming.
Day 202 9/30/2020
I tried to watch “The Debate” as the debacle was framed and named. I lasted for 20 minutes before I became soulsick and turned it off. I brushed my teeth and crawled into bed, then felt somewhat self-indulgent and guilty for hiding my head in the sand letting history pass me like a near-miss asteroid. So I got up and went back to the living room and turned the Shitshow back on. This time I lasted 7 minutes before I felt ill and afraid. So I went back to bed. This morning I watch the outtakes on the late night comedy shows. Holy Mother of God, we are an embarrassment to all of humankind. We are reverse Darwinism—sliding backward, gaining speed. Soon we will lose our legs and become mollusks (Sorry mollusks, hate to bring shame on your essences.).
I sit for my morning meditation. Instead of relaxing, I can feel myself straining with every breath, my abdomen pushing, tight, as if I am trying to poop or give birth or pass a stone. Have you ever felt yourself strivingduring a meditation? Trying to find deep calm and finding instead the entrance to Mordor? Seamus Heaney’s description of the lake of Grendl’s mother: it is not a pleasant place, nor is it far from here. My body starts to weave and buck, tears stream down my face. My lifetimes pass before me, the raising of the stones at Brodgar, the burnings, the Clearances, the Conestogas crossing into the territories with their canvas sides flailing in the prairie wind, the sod huts seeping and weeping on the way to winter, and I see myself with a hindsight that shows me that I was brave, and I pray to be that brave again. The sun breaks through the morning windows and though I can feel it, I am afraid to open my eyes. When I do, fragments of poetry and oldsong stream in my head, like Audible on acid.
I once did a collage of Ghandi in a blender, and this is it.
Day 203 10/1/2020
‘How did we get here?’
yet if one looks back to see,
the view fuzzes out, the edges blur into
walks by the river,
birds at the feeder,
odd little lepers’ picnics
outside the donut shop,
Friday night glasses lifted to touch
their clink somewhat muted by
the unbearable distance between us,
Zoom and Zoom and Zoom, and
crackers and olives for dinner.
Today the You-Know-What of the Greatest Country on Earth and his pet wife tested positive for covid-19. Cases #43,980 and #43,981 for this particular day. How’s that old Steer-Directly-for-the-Iceberg strategy working for you, Mr. Trumped?
Day 204 10/2/2020
My oh my, see what happens when you invite a buncha highly privileged can’t-touch-me white folk to a buncha meetings while hiding the fact that you are sick? Your invulnerability seems a bit tawdry, Mr. Superspreader. Why, even KellyAnne Conway has it now. (I do hope she can find designer hospital gowns.) Not to mention a few senators and your campaign manager and your communication guru and His Plumpness, Chris Christie. Not to mention that you are now in the hospital. You may put on your suit and make all the videos you want, but I gotta be honest: you look like shit. A confirmation of the old philosophy that your body is the picture of your soul.
Day 203 10/3/2020
Meanwhile, back in the autumnal splendor of Princeton… during a yoga class I experience a personal epiphany so profound that I am driven out of the house and into the bookstore to clear my head. See, that’s the thing with isolation, nobody around to say, Oh for Godssake, darlin’, here have a cuppa tea. Bookstore Therapy bill—80 bucks.
The news media is having a feeding frenzy, trying to keep the glee out of their eyes, trying to say ‘We wish you well, Mr. President’ without being struck by lightning. Trying to find words to substitute for ‘Now you know, fucker. Now that you have waved your mask around and called people pussies for wearing them.’ 1000 people a day dying and it is what it is. One (meaning me) wonders if any of the people sitting packed and maskless at those events have looked in the mirror this morning with a thermometer in their mouths, and thought, Could we possibly have been wrong? This plague wasn’t meant for us, we’re the good people, right?
Day 204 10/3/2020
In a bizarre recreation of Rajneesh-who used to drive around his compound in 53 Cadillacs once a day so that his devotees could see him and worship him—the crowned king of Covid gets into a limousine and has himself driven out from the hospital to wave at his supporters. One of his butt-slurping minions comes on CNN and proclaims that he is a Warrior, Meeting Covid Head On. Holy magnificent shit.
Day 205 10/4/2020
Oh, but it gets worse, much, much worse.
I am finding it increasingly difficult to write this diary. I think of the invisible reader, who has by now surely thrown the document in the trash after declaring it Yellow Journalism. I think I will stop, because I can see that this looks like the ravings of an angry woman with no hope and no positive thinking and no suggestions as to how we can all get along (thank you Rodney King) and have peace and love and a booming economy and restaurants where we can sit inside and laugh again. Who wants to read this?
Ok, so let me soothe your tired eyes by telling you that Princeton is absolutely gorgeous—cool days of sunshine and breezes, trees turning red and orange and yellow, young deer grazing by the river, wild geese gossiping in Vees across the sky, a full giant harvest moon rising night after night. My neighbor has created a row of stuffed masks of Hilary and Bill and Reagan and Bernie and Nixon sitting atop his hedge with a banner running below them reading REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE. His wife has filled the porch with 3’ tall witches, one of which is affixed to a broom and vibrates ecstatically, lewdly, whenever there’s a sudden noise, like a bluejay squawking at the feeder. The Princeton police have begun cruising the street, this is seditious, maybe there will be an uprising?
Day 206 10/5/2020
Kim Jong Trump (in full makeup and hair) has himself flown to the Rose Garden in a helicopter, alights, climbs the alabaster stairs to a lighted balcony strewn with American Flags, stands and flings off his mask before saluting the nation. Then turns and goes inside to film a video of his triumphant return. Tells people, Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it Control your Life.
If this gambit fails, his only recourse will be to drop a bomb somewhere the week before Election Day. It has worked for so many presidents when their ratings dropped. Think Little Bush, think Clinton, think Daddy Bush, think Lyndon Johnson, think Teddy Roosevelt. Hey, you want to. Get re-elected? Start a war.
Day 207 10/6/2020
The US death toll today stands at 210,000 officially and 275,000 if we count all the “excess deaths,” (how scarey is that phrase)? The infection rate from the Rose Garden event is “30,” but they have “decided” not to contact trace, so we will never know. Suffice it to say that 30 is higher than Australia and 3 other nations combined. The official Cute Blonde Liar (oops, I mean Spokesperson) is positive, for godssake. Who’s going to tell us what we are supposed to think? The “President’s Body Man” (oh we must NOT call him the butler) is positive. The Secret Service personnel are saying, “I swore an oath that I would take a bullet for the President, but I did not swear to kill my own family members.” We could talk about the White House staff—kitchen and cleaners and door-holders and all, but some of them are people of color so they don’t count. A General says, “We are in the grip of a madman.” A reporter says the White House is a virus pit.
Photos are taken of the Emperor at his desk signing papers, only the papers are blank.
Day 208 10/7/2020
A good day. A pleasant day. A no-TV day. A long talk with my friend John about happiness, the essence of which is—Don’t strive for Happiness, carry Contentment with you wherever you go. Happiness and sadness come and go in life, he says, but cannot disrupt your contentment. I feel inspired, take a long walk over the two bridges, trying out my new shoes for the trip. Think a lot. About how we are being fed (engorged really) a steady diet of fear and ain’t-it-awful. How we (I generalize here, but for sure me) internalize this and no matter what comes to mind, we look for (having been coached, really, on every media outlet) how it could, probably will, get worse. That’s our go-to position now. It will probably get worse. And, by golly it does get worse.
But that’s the macro,right? We have some choice over the micro, I believe. I am not a strong proponent of “Manifest” theology: you just have to be definite about what you want and clearly think on it and it will come. That has never worked for me. (I tried for years for a midnight blue Mercedes convertible. Either I am not a good manifester or the theory is flawed.) But the idea of “carrying Contentment with me,” that seems do-able. If the Emperor of Covid Central goes mad(er) and rides naked up and down the National Mall farting in red, white, and blue, well, it does not have to make me discontented with my life. (Pollyanna-speak here, but I’m trying to see that as sickening as it is out there, I don’t have to be sick within myself.) Okay, okay, I can see you yawning. I’ll stop.
Day 209 10/8/2020
I left the Princeton bubble to take a friend to New Brunswick for a doctor visit. We drove up the beautiful back roads of Princeton, huge houses and trees wearing fall colors, further and further north into the city. Past a street corner where a dozen or more Black people congregate in city garb—cheap pants and black hoodies. Nuthin’ to do, nowhere to go, exuding vibes of poverty, on to the humungous Robert Wood Johnson medical complex. I drop my friend at the door, park, and go for a walk around the block. Bodegas on one side of the street, the Hungarian Christian church on the other. A Black man comes toward me, sees me taking a picture of the church, starts talkin’—"My grandmother used to play bingo at that church, oh I used to go with her when I was a kid, and they played bingo at that church and up at St Anne’s and in that church over there, and that one down there, and there used to be swimming pools in all the parks, there were lots of parks, only one night three little kids climbed the fence down at that park and drowneded so they drained all the swimming pools in the parks, and there didn’t used to be PSEG, we just paid our bills to utilities, now we don’t know who we’re paying our bills to and the telephone company had a sign with a bell in it, a blue circle with a bell, and that there hospital was only about this big, and I know all these things, there’s a lot of nostalgia in New Burnswick.” I could have listened to him all day, but his parking meter ran out and he climbed in his ancient orange truck (that probably did once belong to “utilities”) and said goodbye. I walked on and saw a kid, no more than 13-14 trolling against a fence on a side street. He turned his head away from me as I passed. Jesus, I thought, tricking for lunch. I walked past but I couldn’t, so I turned around and went back and held out a twenty dollar bill. He glanced at me with suspicious eyes, not moving from his stance, and didn’t take it, but I said, Here. And he took it and before he had to look at me, I walked on. I sat on a bench outside the Children’s Hospital and listened to two sistahs in uniforms and ID lanyards and massive hair extensions expounding on the weather—It’s gonna be a cooooooold winter.
We drive home through the beautiful back roads of Princeton, past huge houses and trees wearing fall colors. I dunno. I wanted to stay in New Brunswick. I wanted to be like the old me, working in a big city hospital like that, or me at the Center talking to the street kids who taught me about tricking for a meal. I have my own nostalgia, I s’pose.
There are a whole lotta people for whom this scarey, scarey stuff going on right now is just the same old same old.
Day 210 10/9/2020
So the Vampire Warrior of Covid has declared himself well. (All of his doctors had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement so we will never know.) So because he is well he has begun holding large meetings and rallies where he can suck the adulation out of his minions in order to enlarge himself. He tells them that the pandemic is over and that any forthcoming information on the astronomical rise in the number of cases is false. Make America Grovel Again.
I don’t want to make you look back through this journal, but not too long ago Vlad the Inhaler tweeted Free Michigan! and all sorts of stuff about the horrible Governor of Michigan—“That woman, I don’t even remember her name.”—and how she was taking away their rights by enforcing CDC guidelines about masks and distancing and closures.
You remember, right? So ok, now a group of vigilantes has attempted to kidnap her. This does not bode well.
Day 211 10/10/2020
I spend most of the day on the phone. Months of isolation and reaching, reaching, reaching for someone to talk to and now the calls come in one after another. Folks in struggle. ~My yoga teacher, who teaches online from her kitchen for $10 a class for godssake, is stiffed by a wealthy client who wants her $50 back because she can’t take classes while at her vacation home; that’s a lot of money now that the unemployment has run out; should I give it back to her?
~My dear friend Lucy in Oregon watches the fires come over the hill: The bottom of the street has a red dot saying that if notified we have to leave immediately, only it’s a one-way street and below us 2200 structures have burned to the ground, so I don’t know, RoMa.
~My friend Pat who has acute memory loss has been in isolation for 200+ days, so her daughter gave her two six-week-old kittens to care for: So hard to remember whether I fed them; so hard to remember from the bathroom to the kitchen.
~My friend Nic in California watches the fires come over the hill, pays cash for her asthma inhalers on the black market: my health insurance cancelled and the smoke is awful.
~My friend Eliane goes to have tea with a man she met online: Do you say You Know? he asks, Because that’s a sign of a lazy thinker, one woman I met said You Know? eighteen times during our first date, the second woman said You Know? eleven times; so they have a cuppa tea and talk about stuff. At the end he tells her, You said You Know? five times.
~My brother calls to say the air quality in LA County is so bad I can’t go outside; I ordered groceries from Whole Food but they don’t deliver this far out, so I drove down there, but they mixed up my order so I had to sit in the car while they took everything out of my bags and checked against a list to see what was missing; but NEWS ALERT!! Last night one of the frogs came back.
~Fraser in Inverness calls to say You won’t know me; I’ve lost three stone! I walk with the dogs four miles a day; Shirley says I’ve even stopped snoring.
Every day my neighbor changes the captions underneath the Heads of Presidents impaled on his front hedge. Today he’s going to (finally) add You-Know-Who (the Warrior) with a caption:
I’M NOT SICK.
Day 212 10/11/2020
I’m thinking of ending this journal here. In nine days I will be on a plane to England. I feel like I am already in the liminal threshold between here and there. I’ve stopped watching TV. I go for a walk. I buy a sweater at a going-out-of-business boutique, thinking I will wear it on Christmas morning. I clean the refrigerator. (Major symptom.) I want to disengage from this saga of the last 211 days. My dad used to get his guitar out after dinner and sing to us while we did the dishes:
If I had the wings of an angel
over these prison walls I would fly…
I can hear his voice as I check my tickets and haul my suitcase down off the top of the dryer.