Friday, February 26.
There are two birds chirping outside my window. Sounds of spring. We surely need a change of season. As we approach one year of this pandemic, we’re finally seeing some positive numbers. New York City has vaccinated a million. Death numbers are dramatically lower nationwide. Could it be that the end is near?
It’s hard to predict what the end will lead us to. A return to the past or a new beginning? So much has happened that has changed our beliefs in what once was.
The pandemic has made us super aware of privildge. We understand how much the color of our skin has allowed us — or prohibited us — free passes in so many places. We’re not okay with this anymore. As the world opens up again, we will be confronted with issues of privilege, and we’ll need to decide what to do about it.
In the new world, we will need to announce who we are. On forms, in group meetings, and when meeting people for the first time, our first order of business will be to let people know whether we are “he”, “she”, “they” or “other.” In some places, we might even have to wear tags announcing this. We will be in constant need to know and announce to the world our identity.
More than ever before, our bank accounts will weigh heavy upon us. Can we really feel okay about buying a second home or a new car, when our next door neighbor is waiting for the fifteen dollar minimum wage to kick in?
Are we ready for the end of the pandemic? I’ll take the chirping birds as a good sign.
Thursday, February 25.
One of the best things that has happened to me during the pandemic is that I’ve had a lot of time to read. I’ve been reading every morning, between weights, pushups and a shower. I’ve read in the afternoon after teaching and at night before bed. Fifty, a hundred books, and there are so many more still to read.
I alternate between contemporary and historic. I read mostly fiction, rarely crime thrillers or sciene fiction. In the past few weeks I’ve read authors from Brooklyn, Vietnam, London and now, France.
Currently I’m reading Proust, someone I’ve always avoided. I’m 100 pages into Swan’s Way and am baffled. The central character loves his mom, wants nothing more to be kissed goodnight, has an aunt and is obsessed with class and caste. There are lots of manservants. I’m not sure what else is goin on. Proust writes thousand word sentences, which are perfectly punctuated and sound beautiful, but when you finish reading them, you’re not quite sure what you’ve read. My mind wanders much too much while reading, and it’s a small comfort to encounter a passage, every few pages, where his mom’s kisses are discussed.
I’ve never read Ulysses either and I was thinking today, while reading Proust, that I might try Joyce soon. Yesterday, Amazon dropped off a copy of Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue’s first novel. She will be the first ever author from Cameroon that I’ve read. She’ll be next, and then we’ll see about Joyce.
Wednesday, February 24.
I left off yesterday with the mention of this being a time to embrace uncertainty and enjoy despair.
Enjoy is probably not the correct word, but there is a Buddhist philosophy that deals with this. It’s all about accepting what is happening. Accept the good times, accept the bad. During a bad time, don’t run from it or try to push it away. There’s no sense telling yourself it’s not happening when it is happening.
I’m not very well versed in Buddhist thought, but I think this concept is meant to speak to those who are suffering sadness. During time of sadness, be sad. It’s okay to be sad. Grief is an emotion and you should experience it fully. IT’s part of being human. Eventually it will pass and another emotional state will take its place, and life goes on.
Sounds good. So how do we apply this to now? For me, this is less a time of sadness than one of emptiness. I’m empty. I’m out of fresh ideas, out of new things to say or think about. Sitting home alone every day and night, there are no new experiences, and so the emptiness. How do I embrace this?
If there is ever a time for zen meditation,maybe it’s now. Being is nothingness. I have no idea what that really means, but maybe I need to sit for a while, with my computer and cell phone in the other room, and ponder.
Note: This might be the first time I’ve ever used the word ponder in a written sentence. Ponder is one of my least favorite words.
Tuesday, February 23.
It’s Tuesday morning and I’m out of thoughts. If I close my eyes and listen, here are the words running through my head: pack rat, candy, barking dog, buddah. Each word, each thought, unconnected and essentially, as a whole, an unintelligible stream of thought.
Which makes sense for where we all are now. Most of us proceed without a clue. We’re barely aware of why we’re doing what we’re doing. The news we read is beyond ridiculous. Texas families receiving three thousand dollar bills for a few days of electricity. Six hundred thousand dollars spent on an emoji that is downloadable for free. An ex-president shows 480 million dollars of revenue in the same year he reports a 47 million dollar loss, and pays zero taxes. Ridiculous.
Still, we try to make sense of it. We want to cross our t’s and dot our i’s. We want our own stories to make sense. We want to close our eyes and find comfort and peace rather than despair.
Lots to hope for during this age of uncertainty. Maybe it would be wiser to focus on learning how to embrace uncertainty and how to enjoy despair. I’ll save that topic for tomorrow.
Monday, February 22.
Monday, a new week begins. What’s in store for us? How many of us will receive our first or second vaccination? Will another strain of the virus be detected in East Africa, Bora Bora or Hoboken? Will any of us venture into a restaurant and actually sit down and order — order, of course with the help of our cell phones which will scan the menu. How many restaurants will close this week? How many of us will spend half the day feeling like crap, not because anything is actually wrong, but because we just feel awful?
While we struggle to maintain sanity, the richest of the richest never cease to amaze. A digital image of a flying cat with a Pop-Tart body sold to a bidder, who paid with bit-coin, for 600 thousand dollars. I’m pretty sure that you or I could download this image for free, but but but.
Sunday, February 21.
As per yesterday’s blog post, it’s hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s on tv because it’s just so hard to actually believe what is really happening these days. Snowstorms in Dallas? Five course meals beach side in Cancun while the rest of your neighbors freeze to near death in their Texas homes. Putting for birdie while you’re being impeached? And this just in from the Promised Land. Israel is giving Covid vaccines to Syria in exchange for the return of an orthodox woman who had crossed the border secretly. Huh? Covid medicine being used for bartering? Unbelievable, but not unbelievable. This is our planet in February, 2021.
Saturday, February 20.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, I can safely say I’m losing my ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Lately, when I read stories about what is happening to real people in the real world, the stories seem an awful lot like the fictional ones I’ve been seeing in Netflix mini-series. Lately, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is make believe.
Maybe you can help me out. Tell me whether this really happened in the past few weeks or if it was just a fictional tv moment:
- Hundreds of crazed Americans smash windows, storm Congress and force Senators and Congressman to run for cover. A hit on the lives of Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and others ensues.
- A man is killed in a late night car accident. The driver’s fiancee, in the passenger seat screams at the driver to speed away. Later, to assuage guilt, the driver befriends the spouse of the killed man. They become close. A few weeks later, in an unrelated incident, the grieving spouse kills the ex-fiancee of the woman who killed her husband. To hide the body, he is put in a meat freezer in the garage.
- Texas loses electricity, is hit by snowstorms and frigid weather. Millions are without water, hundreds die, their Senator flees to Cancun.
- An expensive diamond necklace is stolen in France. 25 years previous, the same necklace, which belonged to royalty, was stolen by the current thief’s father. However, the son believes his father was framed and has stolen the necklace to prove his dad’s innocence.
- The ex-president of the United States plays golf during his impeachment trial. Seven Republican senators join fifty Democrats, but it is not enough to convict.
- A lawyer in Albuquerque with an unusual illness that forces him to shut off all electricity in his house, is burned to death when he knocks over a gas lantern in his living room.
I’m confused. And really, at a time like this, does it really matter whether it is fact or fiction. It’s all part of my reality, which I’m handling the best I can from my living room.
Friday, February 19.
In Texas people are boiling water for safe drinking and looking for falling trees to use for fire wood. Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and family flew to Cancun for a luxurious stay at the Ritz Carlton.
Cruz returned to Texas after realizing what an idiot he is. “Oops. Not my best decision,” was about the size of his response.
But really, his response was the response that most Americans have during crises like these. Screw everybody else, I’m taking care of me.
This is a one day front page story that will be over by tomorrow. Cruz will lay low for a few days while Texas figures out a way to get power, heat and water back for all. A few deaths, millions of dollars lost while Cruz will do nothing to assist. A week from now he’ll be back on the job. Soon enough, when he announces his intention to run for president, let’s remember this.
Thursday, February 18.
It never feels good to celebrate when people die. But there are a few people whose death makes the world a better place. How many times over the past four years did we wish for the demise of the guy who used to be president? Me, daily.
Upon news of the death of Rush Limbaugh, the yelps and cheers on Facebook were many. A few of my FB friends were sending him to Hell and I commented that Hell would have a time slot ready for him.
He’s gone, but his voice carries on. Over the years, right wing talk radio mushroomed. Scores of copy cat broadcasters, each with their own twisted views on America, took to the air. Laura Ingraham is awful. Sean Hannity is worse takes evil to new levels, and maybe the worst of all is Mark Levin, who is twice as stupid as Hannity and has one of the worst, most whiny radio voices ever.
I used to listen to right wing radio, kind of as a comedy break. People would call in and tell Rush or Sean that they were “Great Americans.” “Thanks for being a Great American,” they’d say, and then go on to say how they agreed with them about the dangerous Muslims in America, or the horrible women who wanted pay equity, or the Black criminals that deserved to be shot by police, or the paranoid Americans who wore masks and shut down American businesses.
Rush helped us understand that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., that women who supported contraceptive coverage from health insurance should air their sexual adventures, that Muslims should be rounded up and walls should be built. So many things he cleared up for us.
A dozen or so years ago, Al Franken, before becoming Senator, hosted a radio program aimed at combatting Limbaugh and his right wing nutcases. The Al Franken Show, with a Grateful Dead soundtrack behind Al, was a left cry for truth and justice. The show failed to achieve anything close to the success that Rush and company had managed. As it turned out, the left is not like the right. The right are sheep. Rush and company tell them what is what and they nod their heads and comply. The left are not sheep. When they are told something, they argue it from any number of places. There is never agreement on anything, and so even a powerful radio voice can’t persuade. Franken’s show closed with the sound of Truckin closing it out.
With or without Rush, our world is broken. Having one less despicable voice on radio makes it a tad less broken. Every little bit helps. Adios Rush. Thank the lord we will never ever ever have to hear you again.
Wednesday, February 17.
Negative two degrees fahrenheit in Dallas, Texas. A family of four drives in circles, just to stay warm in the car. A thousand cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. A family of four burns to death as their space heater ignites in the middle of the night. And through it all, keep your masks on and maintain safe distance.
That we’re living in a world that is falling apart gets more obvious every day. Texas without electricity. Millions of Syrians in refugee camps. Yemen, the same. Sudan, Ethiopia, Gaza, the same. Millions, or maybe a billion without a job, a home, food.
Is there any place not suffering?
Here, in my home, the internet is running fine. Anything I need is a mouse click away. 58,000 people are currently playing chess with each other. There are ten new messages to read on Facebook. Four people want to be my friend. Amazon will deliver printer ink to me less than 24 hours after I’ve asked for it. No delivery charge. I’m having chicken with miso/mustard/ginger and roasted radishes for dinner tonight.
A slight disparity here, and little I can do about it. There are the have nots, the haves, and a few who have everything. And very little sharing.
On paper, nobody admits to wanting a world like this. And yet, here we are.
Tuesday, February 16.
In the past weeks I’ve plowed through a number of Netflix mini-series. Last night, the one I’d been watching ended in mid-story. I’m guessing they’d stopped filming when the pandemic started. Now what? Another one? It’s really getting old.
We’re in the dead of winter, another month and a half of stay inside reality. In preparing for my near future, I need to take the facts into account: I will have many hours of every day free to do what I want. I will be alone for nearly all of this time. I can do whatever I want.
Each day I spend time doing productive things. I read,I write, I make art, I play piano, I exercise, I teach, I eat, I shower. And after all that, there are still five or six hours at least of time before bed.
I’ve come to the end of watching the screen. I’ve watched one hundred and fifty dramas. I’ve witnessed hundreds of deaths, some births, marriages, lots of divorces. I’ve seen families come together and break up and children run away from home. I’ve seen drug deals, jewelry heists, Americans in Paris, pregnant virgins, secret tunnels being dug near borders and one hundred million dollars in cash, neatly stacked and hidden under ground out in the Arizona desert. There’s nothing left to watch.
And so, I think it’s time to learn how to do nothing. I know there’s a trick to training the mind to enjoy stillness. I’ve never been good at this. It’s not easy to find a place in New York City where it’s quiet and nothing is happening. But maybe that’s something to strive to find — peace — right here in the noisiest, most chaotic place on the planet.
Monday, February 15.
I received my second vaccine yesterday. Everything went smoothly. In a little more than a half hour I made it through the metal detector at the entrance, four short lines on three different floors, the shot and a final fifteen minute resting period after the inoculation.
I came home and waited for the reaction that everybody talks about. Fever, chills, headaches, fatigue — these are the reactions to the second dose that people have been experiencing. I haven’t been sick in over thirty years, so I feared what would come.
As it turned out, I had a sleepless night last night. I didn’t have fever or chills, but for some reason I couldn’t fall asleep. My legs felt weak and I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep, but just kind of tossed and turned all night. I don’t know if this is a covid vaccine reaction. Now I’m awake, feeling okay. Who knows.
I’ll wait two weeks and then I’m covid free. I don’t think my life will change much, as I’ll need to wait for another 300 million Americans to be vaccinated before any big changes happen. It’s going to take a while.
Sunday, February 14.
In the clubhouse, the guy who used to be President, sits with his playing partners, comparing scorecards. On the tv screens behind the bar, news of the impeachment hearing runs across the screen.
“Damn that missed putt on seventeen,” the guy who used to be President says. “My only screw up. Still, beat you by seven strokes.” The playing partners, of course, ignored the numerous times the President had scrambled to make pars during the round. They were used to it. The ball in the water that miraculously popped out and landed safely by the green was just one of a number of times the man who used to be President survived trouble on the course. Tee shots slicing into the woods on holes number 5,6 11 and 14 somehow knocked off trees and miraculously landed safely in the fairway. Each time the man who used to be President “found” his ball and chalked it up to the golf gods being on his side. Which they were. All gods were on his side. Though it’s kind of strange that the man who used to be President was always buying a few sleeves of balls at the start of a round, yet never seemed to lose balls while playing.
“Sir, the news. The trial. It’s over. You won. Sir, you won!”
“Trial? Yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in American history. Anybody up for another eighteen holes. I’ll spot you each five strokes.”
Saturday, February 13.
The third hole is a dog leg left, with a small pond in front of the green that makes your approach shot extremely difficult, especially if your drive hasn’t made it past the turn in the dogleg. But the guy who used to be President hit a booming drive that cleared the trees lining the left side of the fairway. Just an eight iron to the pin, the guy who used to be president takes a practice swing and prepares to hit his approach shot.
In the middle of his backswing, his caddie interrupts. “Excuse me sir, but the call just came. The trial is over.”
“Shhh,” the guy who used to be president says. “Not now.” And he pulls the club back and swings. Not enough club — the ball is lofted high, but it doesn’t have the distance to reach the green and is headed right for the green side pond. There is a soft splash as the ball lands in the water. “Shit!” the guy who used to be President screams.
And that’s America for you. On trial for impeachment, you go golfing.
And really, why not? It’s pretty clear that the trial was over before it began. The few days of arguments will not sway a single Senator. Their minds are made up. We’re not sure why, but the majority of Republicans still side with that guy who used to be president. That he’s busy lining up putts all week is okay with them.
He won’t be impeached, he won’t be convicted, he won’t be erased. Somehow, this man will survive and, most likely, begin to be heard again, though it might be on some yet to be created social media platform.
When he gets to the green, he lets out a little shout of excitement. “Hey, look! My ball. It must have popped out of the drink. Damn I’m good!” Sure enough, his golf ball is sitting pretty, a few feet beyond the pond, nestled in the short rough, just a short chip to the hole. And that’s his game. He is never wrong, never makes a mistake, never loses a golf ball.
Remember, lying, cheating and stealing are only wrong when you’re caught. It’s the same for lost golf balls. When a ball slips out of the hole in your pocket and trickles out onto the grass, if nobody sees you, it didn’t happen. The guy who used to be president knows all about this. Come to think of it, he hasn’t lost a ball in years.
Friday, February 12.
A few years back, in Cape Cod, there was a gift shop called “I Used To Be A Tree.” This cutesy little store sold dumb little things made from wood. You could buy boxes for jewelry or desk items, carved statuettes or chop sticks. The store, in the middle of the busiest tourist shopping area in town, lasted just a summer or two before disappearing. I Used To Be A Tree became I Used To Be A Store.
We used to laugh about the name of the store. I used to be a tree. And then I got chopped down and cut up into tiny little pieces and I became a six dollar trinket that you can buy and take home and have fond memories of your vacation. I used to be a tree, giving light and shade and oxygen to the world, and now I’m a pair of chop sticks and a box. I’m guessing that whoever named that store is now in another line of business.
I don’t know why I’m thinking about that store now. Here in pandemic mode, I think I’m running out of things to focus on.
Thursday, February 11.
Lasers from space, catalytic converters and Proud Boys. It’s not easy finding peace with all of this happening. At what point do we break down and get as crazy as those surrounding us?
No, I don’t think lasers or stolen catalytic converters are in my future. These days I’m focused on figuring out better ways to cook chicken. These past few months have left me with very little energy to fight for anything.
Well, it’s Thursday, our last day of school before a ten day break. I need a vacation. No plans to go anywhere — COVID — so I’ll be home. Maybe this is a good time to really go zen. I’ll turn my apartment into a Tibetan mountain top. Just me, a jug of water, a few crackers and a pillow. Om shanti.
Wednesday, February 10.
As if there isn’t enough to be worried about these days, our catalytic converters are now in danger. That’s right. These pollution control devices that live between your car’s engine and muffler are being stolen at record rates. The converters contain palladium and rhodium, metals that demand prices of up to 22,000 dollars an ounce.
Apparently, you can slide under a car and remove the catalytic converter in a few seconds, and then you have a few hundred dollars worth of metal you can cash in at any number of scrapyards.
I had to replace my catalytic converter last year in order to pass inspection. This was to the tune of about thirteen hundred dollars. What to do about this?
Those with welding skills are installing metal plates to ward off the thieves. Me not being a welder will probably have to spend four or five hundred dollars having someone do that for me. But seriously, it will feel kind of dumb spending that kind of money on my near twenty year old Volkswagen. So, I’ll take my chances.
Now, back to reality. Mask, six feet between me and the next guy, no touching things, stay inside, what’s on Netflix?
Tuesday, February 9.
How many Jews does it take to shoot a laser from space at California? Two. One to shoot the laser and a second one to say, “Oy, such a nice laser.”
The things people say to get elected. Lasers from space is just one of the utterly ridiculous things pouring out of politician’s mouths.
Americans will believe anything. We grew up on television stories that asked us to accept the absurd, and we did. We believed that Mr. Ed, a horse, really could talk to his owner, Wilbur. We believed in My Favorite Martian, who, like aging earthlings, had a receding hairline. We believed that Sam Stevens was Bewitched and we believed The Professor could keep a radio running on the same batteries on a deserted island for a dozen years.
And now, millions believe a Jew shot a laser from space. Oy.
Monday, February 8
I’m experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. I don’t think I’m alone. The pandemic has us all battling ups and downs moment by moment.
Last week I experienced a few happy days. I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I just about felt myself whistling as I went about my daily routine. Was I really smiling as I fixed myself a bowl of oatmeal?
This morning I’m feeling frightened. Not of anything in particular, but still, I’m afraid. Another bowl of oatmeal, but this time I felt fear as I plopped a few raisins and cranberries into the bowl.
As the pandemic approaches its twelfth month, the battle of emotions becomes greater. I’m not someone who lies down and closes my eyes when I feel overwhelmed. I can go about my day and push the feelings down. It doesn’t help me, but it allows me to be productive, for whatever that is worth.
In school, we recognize the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on our students. We offer mindfulness and short mediation exercises to help students relax. Have you ever done a Zoom group meditation led by a school guidance counselor? Have you sat in your New York living room and been asked to close your eyes and put yourself in a New Hampshire forest and listen to the wind? That doesn’t work for me. As much as I like New Hampshire, I don’t want to be in somebody else’s Nirvana.
These emotions come and go quickly, often for no real reason. Happiness can become fear, but so can that fear dissipate and be replaced by moments of calm. In a few minutes, I’ll be drawing my masked figure of the day. I’m pretty sure I’ll calm down.
Sunday, February 7.
I’ve been sitting here for nearly a half hour trying to write today’s blog. I can’t think of anything to write. For the past year, I’ve been writing every day. Recently, I am struggling to find material.
Today is Super Sunday. Pandemic or no pandemic, the game must go on. Tampa, Florida, an area whose Covid numbers are near an all time high, will host the Super Bowl, where 22 unmasked monsters will smash into each other for an hour, witnessed by a few thousand fans in the stands, who may or may not be masked. Just one more super spreader event in a red state. Meanwhile, A few hundred million will watch from home. Potato chip companies are reporting historic sales numbers. With so little else going on, everyone will be attending.
I haven‘t bought chips, but I’ll be there. Football is one of the dumbest games, but I like it. My rooting days go back to Fran Tarkenton, Homer Jones and Mean Joe Green. There are so many football greats from my childhood, I could name names for ever: O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Nick Buoniconti, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Montana.
Tonight will be a night off from Netflix. The game will give me three hours of needed pandemic relief. I’ll take it.
Saturday, February 6.
The immortal words of Gil Scott Herron:
You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised
But that was 1971. These days it is all televised. In our current world, the camera clicks always. If it’s not on videotape, it didn’t happen. Is there anything not being recorded? We think we have some privacy at home, but surely there are cameras embedded in machines we have in every room. Is our refrigerator recording us and reporting all to Google? Let’s face it, Big Brother is everywhere always.
What is privacy in the 21st century? Are we comfortable when a website we’re feeding with personal information — credit card numbers, social security numbers, our mother’s maiden name, our favorite pet— telsl us that all the information we are giving them is confidential. What does that even mean? I mean, seriously, we get a hundred cold calls a day from companies we’ve never even heard of, offering us car protection and all expense paid vacations in five star hotels. We get calls in Chinese. Where do these companies get our names?
I’d like to think that privacy exists in my head. I’m thinking something now and you can’t possibly know what it is. For now, only I know what’s on my mine, but my guess is that is soon to change.
Friday, February 5.
“In the darkest of days, we go on.”
Who said that? Oh, wait a sec. It was me. I said it back in April and I said it again just a few days ago when I was reliving the past year. Dark days. Keep on going.
Two hundred situps, one hundred pushups and a few hundred repetitions of weights, all before 6:30 this morning. Read a chapter, showered, made and ate a bowl of oatmeal, ground some coffee beans, read some of the newspaper, just a few minutes past 7 A.M.
There are always a difficult few minutes at around 7:30 when I begin writing this blog. Now nearly 300 days into this daily exercise, I struggle to find things to write about. I sit and stare blankly at the screen and mull over the repetition of topics — covid, the guy who used to be president, BLM — there’s not much else to discuss.
Once I get the slightest spark of an idea, I’m okay. It’s not all that difficult to get a few paragraphs down and then move on. Which I’m going to do now, as we near the eight o’clock hour, time to make a masked person drawing.
Thursday, February 4.
Wow are those Republicans really screwing things up. It’s almost comical reading about them. We have a congresswoman who is giving the word “deranged” new meaning. We have another congresswoman who is making Democrats smile. And, of course, we have an ex-president whose name I don’t remember.
We actually have a representative in Congress who would like to kill her Democratic colleagues in the House. Yes, she wants to kill them. She has also warned about a Jew who shot a laser from space at California, starting massive forest fires. And to top it off, she is certain that previous school shootings were staged events. Disney?
I didn’t know that Jews knew much about lasers. I’m certain there is no mention of them in the Old Testament. I don’t think they even have a word for laser in Yiddish.
It’s a new day and who knows what will happen in the world today. I’m hoping for a calm day where nothing really happens. A day of nothing is what we need most.
Wednesday, February 3.
It’s eerily quiet outside my window this morning. I hear a New York buzz, a hum from traffic on the Wiliamsburg bridge just off in the distance. The snow plows from yesterday have stopped and there are no sirens at present.
New York silence is actually quite loud. As I listen to what I just called a “New York buzz”, it is really not much different from the sound of a jet plane taking off. Having lived here so long, this is my silence, my quiet. It’s truly amazing what we get used to.
Which brings me to the issue at hand; what we get used to. Nearly a year into this new way of life, we have gotten used to a strange reality. The masks, the floor markings designating six feet of space, the shuttered storefronts, the Netflix highlight of the day,— this is our normal. We might not like it, but we live it.
I’ve gotten used to the loneliness. I’m used to breakfast, lunch and dinner at a table for one. I’m used to my contact with real people being through social media and an occasional phone call. I’m used to going half a day or more without speaking. I’m used to not touching anybody.
A lawn mower like sound has just cut into the New York silence. I look out my window and see a masked man pushing a snow blower, cutting a path in front of my building. Three more people, all masked, are walking past him. A car drives by. I see a half dozen others across the street, moving about. The city never sleeps.
Tuesday, February 2.
In the middle of his career, John Singer Sargent turned to charcoal. He began making charcoal drawings of people he knew. These drawings took him the better part of an hour, maybe two. Quick sketches compared to his portrait paintings that he’d spend weeks working on. Sargent liked doing the charcoal drawings so much that he stopped everything else, and for the rest of his life was satisfied making the kind of art he could do in a single sitting.
As I approach my 300th masked figure, I’m beginning to feel like Sargent. These drawings take me the better part of an hour. I’m enjoying doing them and I’m learning a lot about figure drawing. Every day I get a little deeper into my subject. I’m paying more attention to the tree branches and sidewalk detritus in the background. I’m figuring out new ways to capture light as it washes across a coat or a hat. I think I could spend a lifetime working at this.
Still, there is unfinished work to consider. I have a large body of paintings I’ve been working on that is on going. I’ve stopped this during the pandemic because it seems less appropriate now as the subject matter is more distant.
And, well, there’s a big AND. I have a film idea I want to do that has been in the planning stages for nearly five years. I’m not even ready to tell you what it is, but it’s big and it will take half a lifetime to make.
I don’t know how much time I have left, but there’s a lot to do.
Monday, February 1.
That guy who was president the last four years was supposed to have disappeared, but they’re still writing about him. Today there is a four page article detailing “77 Days.” I think that 77 is referring to the time between the stolen election and the revolutionary takeover of the Capitol. But actually I think there were only sixty days between those events, so I’m really not so sure about the 77. Maybe it’s 77 between the election and the January 20 inauguration.
There are more news photos of the guy who was president than of the new president. We knew the new guy was a lot more boring and so this is reflected in the media. He just doesn’t sell newspapers.
The big question: is the guy who was president more or less dangerous now that his Twitter account has been removed. We don’t really know what’s being plotted now. Who is working with him? What’s the plan?
Too much to worry about.
There is some kind of blizzard happening right outside my window. I woke this morning and looked out at white. Not the eighteen inches predicted, but pretty nonetheless. As I ate breakfast a new storm had emerged, so maybe we’ll get those eighteen inches before long. I read yesterday that our cold spell here in New York is due to a warming of the Arctic. I tried to understand what I was reading but came up clueless.
I wish I owned a sled.
Sunday, January 31.
Birthday celebrations yesterday. My younger brother turned 60 and my mother in law 90. Big numbers. We toasted Rae on Zoom, family checking in from Maine, Colorado, Boston, San Francisco and New York. My sister in law, Margot, was with the birthday girl and they were drinking champagne and eating caviar. We knew it was momentous when Margot, who had not eaten anything beyond a vegetable in fifty years, ate a bite of caviar.
Let’s face it, we’re old. Rae was born in January of 1931, before the Dodgers left Brooklyn and we were still just 48 states. In the spring of 1948, Rae, the daughter of a poor immigrant family, was dating her soon to be future husband. Between dates, boyfriend Gene would mail her letters asking her for another date, because her family had no telephone. Imagine that!
Yes, we’re old, but 90 is the new 70, so there’s still time left. Which brings me to me, who now has a younger brother living in his seventh decade. I’ve mentioned before my magical thinking that says that I’ll live to be 244. Magical, maybe, but I actually believe this. I don’t believe in ghosts or aliens, Santa or the Easter Bunny, but I am quite sure about 244, that I’m here on Earth until the year 2265.
If I’m wrong, then I guess my days are numbered. If I live a normal life span, I have only 14 years and a few weeks left. Then again, I feel like maybe I’m above average. Check my SAT scores, my golf handicap and my bank account. Definitely a bit above average, so I’ll give myself another six years. That gives me a little over 7,200 days left. If you do the math you get around 440 million seconds. The clock is ticking. And hey, if I get a sex change, my odds of living another 5 years goes up. That’s another 158 million seconds. Plenty of time.
I suppose it’s time to get in touch with death. Maybe it makes sense to look at the things I’ve been doing in my life and figure out a way to end them properly. I think “close” is a nicer word than “end.” How do I close things?How to close a story? This is not easy for me.
I feel a bit like dealing with understanding the end, I mean closing, of life, for me, is like beginning a new project. Does that make sense? Beginning the end? Like everything else these days, it’s all so confusing.
I’m going to stop, just because I can.
Saturday, January 30.
When I reread what I’ve written since March I am reminded of how utterly insane our world has become. A few million have died, but most of us are still here, clinging to whatever semblance of life we still have.
I wrote this in April and it seems appropriate now: “In the darkest of days we go on. We have to because we are fighters and winners. Now we have to find different ways to make ourselves smile. When we get into bed at night, we can go over the day and ask ourselves, “Was I a good citizen? Did I find a moment or two of pleasure in my day? Did I do my best to stay out of the hole? Sleep will come easy if we can answer yes.”
The hole is deeper now than it was back in April, so it’s harder for me to get out of it. What I’ve called “feeling empty” is real. When you are empty it’s hard to figure out what to do. I’m reminded of my 89 year old father, who during his last few months, spent all day walking outside to his mailbox to see what had been delivered. He did this thirty times a day at least.
When I opened my door to get the newspaper this morning, there was a box next to the paper. I couldn’t think of anything I was waiting to have delivered. When I opened the box, there was a large metal can with my school’s logo printed on top. I opened the tin and saw an assortment of four flavors of popcorn neatly packaged and screaming “Party Time.” Which made me think: how many billions of dollars in debt are we here in New York? Billions, but I’ve just received a gift of popcorn from my school. Insane? I think so.
Friday, January 29.
Today I will draw my 286th drawing of a masked American. As our days of mask wearing continue, the drawings keep on going. Each drawing takes about an hour, and it has become a favorite part of my covid day.
I’m improving. Figure drawing has always been difficult for me. I’ve never really “learned” how to draw, I’ve always just done it. Over the years, as my needs for my figures to be more believable grew, I worked harder to make that happen.
I tell my students over and over again how drawing is about showing where the light is. Yes, it really is all about the light. But it’s one thing to know this and another to be able to do it.
A red coat, when you look closely, is as much black as it is red, and most of the red is really more pink. As the light washes over the coat, colors shift. Folds in fabric produce an endless array of gradation; colors, lights, darks. The trick with drawing is figuring out how to blend the variation of tones properly, no small task. How do you make the transition from a dark area in shadow to the sections hit by bright sunlight? How do you do it without making it look silly?
While I’m drawing, I’m not really aware of my what my brain is doing. I might be thinking about something while drawing, but I’m not aware of the thoughts. I’m on auto pilot, not really sure who or what is guiding me. Sometimes I feel completely lost, sometimes not so lost.
I suppose this is why I like it so much. While you’re drawing you are in your own world. Rules mean nothing, nobody is in charge of you. While it’s true that there are no mistakes, it’s still good to own an eraser.
On that note, I’ll end here. Time to get to today’s drawing.
Thursday, January 28
I spent the better part of an hour in zoom therapy yesterday, going over the same issues I’ve been talking about for a long time. Six minutes talking about how I feel empty, five minutes going over the repetitiveness of my daily existence, ten minutes lamenting on the depressing state of online dating, five minutes going over what I’ve been watching on Netflix. Sprinkled in are a dozen or so minutes of silence, when I had absolutely nothing to say.
I haven’t added it up, but the weekly cost times forty or so sessions a year times twenty-eight years must come out to a figure approaching six figures. Coulda bought a country house. Or a Ferrari and a speed boat.
One of my biggest issues is my inability to say goodbye. I can’t end things with people or even with a few of my possessions. My near 20 year old car, now on its third engine, is approaching 250,000 miles. The emergency break and the windshielp wipers don’t work and just yesterday the horn stopped tooting. But it’s mine and I love it, so I keep it.
For this reason, I’m still seeing the same the therapist who I met 28 years ago when Eve was pregnant and I was about to become a father. I’ve known my therapist longer than just about anybody. Sadly, I’m not sure I’m getting better. I’m nearly a year into zoom therapy, without a clue.
Wednesday, Jan 27.
I’m enjoying an unexpected week off from teaching. When I logged on to begin class on Monday morning, I waited for my kids to come to virtual school, but nobody showed up. After a few minutes, confused, I made a few calls, finally talking to my principal, who yelled at me for being the only one who doesn’t read emails.
As it turned out, classes were cancelled for the week because our semester had ended on the previous Friday and the students were being given the week off from classes so that they could make up any missed assignments. True, I did miss that email.
A week off with less than nothing to do and, of course, nowhere to go. Yesterday, I sat here at the computer, pretending to be busy. There was a brief moment of excitement when it began snowing. That only lasted three or four minutes.
I did manage to finish a large digital painting yesterday. It’s a good one, a scene of two men in a bleak landscape that is cordoned off with crime scene tape. You don’t really know from looking, what has happened, but you sense gloom.
The large digital paintings are pretty impressive. I’ve made a lot of them over the past two years. I don’t like the term “digital painting,” but that’s what they are. I’ve taken a small, four by six inch painting that I made previously and enlarged it — Photoshop — and then printed it in small sections on tracing paper. Each piece is made of approxmiately 100 sections that I collage to together. In the end, the four by six inch painting becomes a digital collage that is nearly five by eight feet large.
The big question — what to do with them? I’ve made enough to fill at least four galleries. Sadly, I don’t have a single gallery that even knows they exist. So now comes the hard part.
Tuesday, January 26.
We all know about how Amazon has taken over the world of shopping. Is there anything we don’t buy digitally? Even before the pandemic we had limited shopping in real stores to specialty items like fancy dresses. Now, even those purchases are done by mouse click.
It seems like every time I look out my window or take a walk outside, I see someone pushing a cart loaded with boxes to be delivered. Here in New York, the person pushing the cart is always a person of color. I don’t know the pay scale, but it seems to me it’s a pretty important job. These people are delivering every thing we use in our lives. But I’m guessing, from seeing who is delivering all the packages, that the pay is not so good.
We’ve acknowledged many unsung heroes these past months. The store clerk, the bus driver and of course anybody working in or near a hospital. We need to pay our thanks to the thousands of delivery people. Without these people who bring us everything we use in our daily lives, we’d have nothing.
Monday, January 25.
After reading about the death of the artist Kim Tshang-Yeul, I was inspired to share his work with my students. Kim was a Korean painter who spent nearly 45 years painting drops of water. In his early 40s, struggling with his painting, he washed down a canvas he was unhappy with and, hours later, found himself staring at the water drops on the canvas. Mesmerized, he turned to painting what he saw.
Kim’s water drop paintings are a beautiful study, abstract and super real all at the same time. Kim talked about the meditative aspect and the influence of Zen Buddhism in his work.
I thought it would be a good lesson for my students. We’d learn about an interesting artist — someone who wasn’t a dead white man! — and we’d have an interesting challenge, to paint water.
It’s hard do know when you’re working virtually whether or not what you’re doing is actually making an impact. From the results, it did. Students sent in their work and I was truly amazed. Water is not easy to paint. I don’t mean waves on the ocean, I’m talking about painting water, showing a drop of water, figuring out the light and the transparency. It ranks with hands and fabric folds as being the hardest things an artist comes to term with.
When we began, I told my students that water is something that every painter paints differently. My students proved this to be ever so true. Some students worked from photos of water drops, others went to their sinks and got their own water and dribbled it next to their canvases. Results were truly phenomenol-beautiful studies, attempts at showing diffuse light and reflection. Some of the work was so good I was sure students had downloaded someone else’s painting.
I was inspired to do the assignment myself. I worked with charcoal and made a picture of a drop of water hitting the surface of a pond, creating a series of concentric circles around the dark center. In all my years I’d never done it. Like my students and Kim Tshang-Yeul, I too was mesmerized.
Now it’s your turn. Assignment: paint a drop of water.
Sunday, January 24
Over the past months I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions. In the beginning, confusion. Then frustration, then anger, then fear. As days became weeks, weeks became months, the dreadful feelings continued.
Every few days I’d reflect on myself and my world and I’d remember how lucky I was that I was one of the people with financial security and I was in a safe place because I could do my job from home. And so, there were moments when my emotional state approached near happiness, or, at least, relief.
Now I’m waking up each morning feeling empty. That’s the word that best describes my emotional state. I’m empty. Out of gas, out of energy, out of ideas, out of whatever it takes to feel alive. It seems that no matter what I’m doing — taking a run, reading a book, eating breakfast, taking a shower or writing this blog — I feel the same emptiness while I’m breathing air and staying alive. It’s as if I have no emotions anymore.
Winter is here now, the temperature has dropped to real January. In the recent masked people drawings I’ve doing lately, people on the street stand in front of leafless trees. I haven’t seen green in a while. It would be nice to take a walk in warm spring today. I suppose I could google Spring Time and find lots of nice pictures of green things. For now, that will have to do.
Saturday, January 23.
Nearly 300 days into writing this blog, I’m struggling to continue this story. But it’s not over, and so I’m here again this morning.
Sad news yesterday of the passing of Hank Aaron, eighty-six years old. Hammering Hank. Now there’s a hero!
I have many memories of playing home run derby on my driveway with my brothers. Countless spring and summer hours spent with wiffle ball and bat, trying to park one across the street onto the Fulton’s front yard. Fresh, clean,air, bright sunshine, no cares in the world. 1967, 68, 69 and 70. Those were the home run derby years, where we’d pretend to be major league heroes. My teams would include some of the all time great sluggers. On any given day I’d become Mantle, Killebrew or Reggie Jackson. With two outs, I’d step to the plate and announce to the world, “now up, Hammering Hank Aaaron. And the crowd goes wild!”
I always loved being Hank. Even before he shattered Ruth’s home record, he was someone you dreamed of being like. Hank was like one of us, a regular guy. He wasn’t extra large, just six feet and he weighed about 175 pounds. This was before gyms and weight training. How someone the size of Hank Aaron could do what he did amazed us. He had quickness, a quick bat. Unlike other homerun hitting monsters, Aaaron didn’t strike out. He was a brilliant hitter who always made contact with the ball. And he smiled, the perfect picture on a baseball card. You could close your eyes and dream and you would be Hammering Hank Aaron, right their in your suburban driveway.
As he approached Ruth’s records, the threats began. Death threats from crazed sports fans-the same ones whose children would storm Congress fifty years later — who refused to accept that a Black man could become baseball’s greatest hero. In 1973 Aaron was given a plaque from the US Postal Service for receiving more mail than any other non-politician. Many of those letters threatened to kill him before he hit number 715. Like so many others, Aaron stared the controversy in the face and lived, took his at bats and, on April 8, 1974, he clobbered a pitch by Dodger Al Downing into the left field seats.
If it weren’t for corona virus, I’d call my brothers and organize a whiffle ball game today, in honor of Hammering Hank.
Friday, January 22.
Are we ready for boring? Today’s front page has just one article focusing on that guy who was president, that guy whose name I will never mention again. This article, not particularly interesting and certainly not sexy, was about the losers he pardoned, a couple of sleazy thieves who stole millions from you and me. A boring report of a few white people who, not only were let out of jail, but no longer owe the money they stole. Kind of makes you wish you were one of them.
The rest of the news won’t get your motor running. President Joe is pushing masks, is looking into Russian hacking, the Midtown bus terminal is deteriorating and needs repair. Again, nothing that will make you jump out of your shorts.
Where are the rioters? What happened to the overthrow of our nation? Are there no more elections to be stolen? Isn’t anything happening that will make us pee in our pants?
We’re going to have to find our excitement elsewhere, at least for now. I’m pretty sure our new president is near squeaky clean. Whatever skeletons are in his closet are not coming out now. He doesn’t pinch pussies, insult people with different colored skin than his own, nor is he set on creating more global warming or returning immigrants to their dangerous places of birth.
Soon the movies and books will come out documenting the last few years. We can watch and read about what’s his name then. For now, let’s enjoy the boredom.
Thursday, January 21.
Just hours after assuming his position as President, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders, including a mandatory mask law on federal property, removal of a travel ban for some Islamic countries, stopping the building of a wall. Not bad! Of course, a few of his right wing opponents were quick to announce that these acts were going to destroy America. Wake me up when you’re done.
We’re off to a really good start. The inauguration itself was a patriotic hit and a strong cry for racial equality and inclusion. JLo singing This Land is Your Land, Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Harris and Amanda Gorman, the 21 year old National Poet Laureate showed America that Black Lives Matter.
Meanwhile, we didn’t hear a word from the Proud Boys, American Guard, the Patriotic Front or The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Where were they yesterday while the nation celebrated? And where was what’s his name? Our ex-president, name to be forgotten forever, was gone on an early flight out to FLA. I’m guessing he had a two p.m. tee time. Thankfully, we didn’t hear even the mention of his name the entire day. As it should be.
President Joe is a few days away from a nightmarish existence. For now, let’s enjoy the high.
Wednesday, January 20.
The day we’ve been waiting for has arrived. In exactly four hours and twelve minutes — that’s 252 minutes — we will have a new president and the Donald will be G-O-N-E gone. I’m not sure how he’s leaving, by plane, car or bus. I’m not sure who’s paying for his transport out, surely not Donald because the last I heard he’s broke, nearly a half a billion in debt. Well, he’s gone in just 15, 120 seconds, which, if you think about, still gives him plenty of time to screw things up.
Let’s move on.
There is a beautiful snow falling here in New York this morning. It doesn’t look like it’s going to amount to much, but it’s very pretty. In the midst of so much ugly life, something as simple as beautiful weather lifts the spirits. Mother Nature is impervious to our human chaos.
Suggestion for President Biden: Have a National Snowball Fight followed by free hot chocolate. Everybody loves snowballs and hot chocolate. Both put smiles on faces. I can’t think of a better way to begin building national unity. There’s even a racial unity tie in, mixing white snow with brown chocolate, all with smiles, peace and happiness. After the Wednesday afternoon snowball and hot chocolate, Thursday and Friday can become Sit and Think days. We’ll have two days off from work and school and we’ll just spend the time thinking things over. We’ll have a set of nationally approved topics to focus on: Peace, Love, Togetherness, Happiness. Then we’ll have the weekend off and we’ll all go back to work on Monday, each of us feeling fully spirited, united and American. Now we’ll be able to MAGA, without the man who tried to destroy us.
Tuesday, January 19.
The countdown is now hours. 26 and half hours from now (that’s 88,200 seconds), we’ll be done with Donald. Completely and totally and one hundred percent done. Forever.
Millions will still scream and whine about an unfair election and a landslide victory for their man. They will post comments on right wing chat sites about the end of our country now under satanic Democratic rule. They will organize rallies and carry Stop The Steal signs. And a too large handful will stockpile weapons and plot the takedown of our nation. We may witness violence and deaths to a few, but we will never have Donald telling us how things are going to be.
If you want to hear the worst of it, tune in these next few months to Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham or, my least favorite person in the world, Mark Levin. They’ll keep us up to date on things. And if you listen to their callers, these radio personalities are the truest, greatest Americans of all.
I’m sick of it all. I can’t stand this bullshit that we are all suffering through every single day. I’m sick of reading about truck drivers who quit their jobs because their bosses told them to wear masks. I’m sick of reading about Olympic Gold Medalists who stormed Congress. I’m sick of reading about state governments wanting to defund universities because the school’s basketball team took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner to bring attention to racial injustice.
Aren’t you sick of it too? Aren’t you tired of going to bed feeling like shit every night and waking up feeling worse? Aren’t you tired of wondering if your next door neighbor is stockpiling weapons? Aren’t you tired of having to scan codes and answe emails from any number agencies checking up on you? Aren’t you tired of Netflix?
Deep breath. And another. It’s gonna be ok, right?
Monday, January 18.
Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Let’s be real. Some of us celebrate. Others do anything but.
If there’s one day in our year that emphasizes the divide in our nation, this is it. Even in their bright orange caps, we know the Proud Boys aren’t celebrating today. Plotting, maybe, but not celebrating.
Fifty-two years ago, when I was 9, I sat in a circle with five neighborhood friends, a candle in the center of the circle. We lit the candle, held hands, closed our eyes, and had a seance. We tried to bring Martin back. Back then, we were five suburban white kids, lucky enough to come from families that believed that all people had the right to fair treatment.
It takes more than a candle to bring him back. There are people working to bring him back. They lead the Black Lives Matter movement, trying to wake up as many people as possible. They fight for legislation, for voting rights, for fair pay and for the removal of all reminders of racism. In the face of proud boys, q anons and countless other racist neighbors, they fight.
In my school, scores of students have joined committees dedicated to Racial Awareness. These students speak brilliantly of the issues. They are intensely committedand determined to make change. The issue of race is the most important thing in their lives.
In 1967, Dr. King spoke of “a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” He foresaw a day “when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and live together as brothers and sisters, all over this great nation. That will be a great day, that will be a great tomorrow.
It is for this that my students work for.
Sunday, January 17.
125 Worth Street was the site of my vaccination yesterday. It’s a big government building near City Hall. When I got there, I joined a short line, waiting to gain entrance. Being a government building, we needed to go through metal detection before joining a slightly longer line.
Of course there were lines. Lines are what we do these days. This one moved fast enough. While I waited on line I was asked to scan a bar code on the wall. This is also what we do these days.
Of course me being the luddite couldn’t get my phone to scan the bar code. This happened a month ago outside a restaurant when I wasn’t able to scan the menu. Here now, everybody else simply held their phone up to the bar code and then walked away satisfied. I stood there waiting for nothing to happen while I hoped this meant I could still be vaccinated.
As it turned out, I was able to have a nice woman a floor above me, scan for me on her ibook, which turned out to be, of course, a link to a form I needed to fill out, which I did.
Note to self: call phone company and ask why my phone won’t scan like everybody else’s.
After filling out the form, I joined another line, this one was the line leading to vaccination. A ten minute wait and I was then at the front of the line and soon directed to bay number 7, which was on a stage at the front of an auditorium.
The auditorium, converted into a covid vaccination lab looked like a stage settinf for a third grade class producktion. Each bay was enclosed by a makeshift set of black, plastic curtains. There were numbered squares, seemingly randomly placed on the backs of some of the seats in the house. Lights were low, as if the play was about to begin.
I’m not sure about the black plastic curtains or what was private about getting a shot, but this was the way. I was greeted by young man, who turned out to be Sun Earth, a Phillipino-American with a nice smile. He wore a Sun Earth name tag and I asked him if his parents had really named him that. He smiled and said, “That’s me.” I asked if people called him Sun and he laughed and said that actually, they called him Michael. It was nice to have my covid vaccine experience have a human edge to it.
The vaccine took less than five seconds and I felt nothing, not even a pinch. After, I waited twenty minutes in the auditorium, during which I was asked to move my seat two to the right, which seemed odd as there was nobody within three rows of me. As it turned out, the seats were labeled and corresponded to how long I’d been waiting. This made it easier for a monitor to tell me when I could go. Everything, from the bar code upon entering to my exit was well documented. I noticed, even before leaving, that I’d received an email from “v-safe verification,” telling me I’d been vaccinated and would soon hear from them to check up about me.
Now it’s the next morning. I have a slightly sore arm and have received two texts from v-safe asking me how I’m feeling.
And that’s the story. Not very interesting, almost anti-climactic. Apparently, it takes about 28 days before I’m really immune, and then, I’m not actually immune, just protected. Honestly, I don’t understand it at all.
In fact, I seriously don’t understand it. I was vaccinated with a tenth of an ounce of a clear liquid, a mixture of unpronounceable chemicals that come from who knows where. Now, I don’t truly understand how my body works, but I’m pretty sure this liquid that I was injected with doesn’t stay in my body forever. Probably not even for a few days. So, what has happened to my body that now makes me covid immune? I’m guessing that these chemicals have somehow “told” my body something it won’t forget. Now my body knows what to do if the covid virus comes around. And it won’t forget. Well, I still don’t understand.
Saturday, January 16.
An hour and a half from now I’ll be getting vaccinated. Woo hoo!
A relief, of course, as I will now be safe from contracting the disease. But the bigger picture is still bleak. Today, an estimated 4,000 people will die in this country. The world wide figure must be five times that. I don’t know how many more people will be vaccinated today, but I do know that hundreds of millions won’t. Even the plan that Biden will push beginning next week promises to vaccinated less than a third of our population over the next three months. Which means the shuttered businesses, the masks and the no touching protocols will continue for a long time. It’ll be at least a year before I have a chance of having sex again.
I’m excited to be getting the vaccination, but I’m exhausted and depleted. I haven’t felt truly inspired for months. I’m empty.
I suppose there is some tiny spark in me keeping me going. I manage to write this every day, make artwork, read. These three things are time away from the worry and depression. A few hours free from what feels every day like a longer and longer sentence.
Meanwhile, I just watched the last rerun of Jeopardy. I’ve been watching one episode a day and last night I watched the last one offered by Netflix. And Alex Trebek is no longer alive. Now what?
Friday, January 15.
Where are we? What has happened to us these past eleven months? Let’s review:
April 14: I’ve read the suggestions for how you’re supposed to spend your time. Make a painting, read some poetry, do a puzzle, Zoom with friends and together, from different places, smell the same scent.
April 28: To get through this without losing your mind completely, you need to get a hold on time. You either have to make it stop or make it meaningful.
May 24: Mary Minervini, Oak Lawn, Illinois. Sign language interpreter. John Prine, Nashville, Tennessee. A favorite of Bob Dylan. Johan Herman Ciomax, Jr., Newark, New Jersey. One of the few African-American bond traders on Wall Street.
June 6: Donald said that George Floyd was smiling up there in heaven as he looked down and saw the events of the day. The market was up nearly 1000 points and things were looking rosy for America.
July 5: I’ve been awake for two hours and I haven’t spoken a word yet. I didn’t speak yesterday either, and the day before that, I remember saying two words, “Thank you,” to the woman who sold me a few groceries. I miss talking. I like talking. Talking is one of the things we do that lets us know we’re alive.
August 12: After November 3 it will get worse. Donald will call in the National Guard and any other militia he can find to try to keep the White House. We can only imagine the nightmare and national embarrassment we will see unfold. I’m imagining a final video clip that shows Donald being carted away by four men in little white suits.
October 5: Yesterday two ambulances were parked in front of my house at seven in the morning. During the day, more ambulance sirens could be heard. As I listened to the alarms, the mayor announced 100 school closings and the city announced shutdowns in neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn that have show signs of regression. Over? Nope.
November 11: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke out about his boss’ future: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
December 2: I haven’t looked, but I’m guessing Donald is still ranting on Twitter. That stolen election. Those evil Democrats. Yadda yadda yadda. The dribble continues, but nobody is listening.
January 7:Did we ever think we’d see people climbing the walls of Congress, smashing windows to get inside?
January 9: Realdonaldtrump isn’t real anymore. How cool is that! Suspending the Donald from Twitter is a big deal. Donald himself once said that he is nothing without Twitter. I like thinking of him as nothing.
Today: It’s been quite a year.
Thursday, January 14.
I read an article in the NY Times Magazine about Jean Smith, a former punk rocker turned painter. She paints portraits of anonymous people, finding their photos on the internet. The paintings are pretty good. Not Rembrandt or even Seargeant, but they’re well rendered, colorful, clear and stylized in an almost punk way. Smith has a web site where she shows and sells the paintings for 100 dollars each.
A hundred bucks for a painting is pretty darn cheap. But it works for Smith, who, to date, has sold over a quarter of a million dollars worth of art. Dang!
Which gave me an idea. I want to sell my portraits. I don’t think I’ll sell the daily portraits of masked Americans which are digital drawings. It would feel kind of dumb selling something I drew on my computer. But I’ve made some pastel drawings of these masked people which are pretty good. 100 bucks each? Why not.
I haven’t built the website yet and when I do, I guess I’ll have to figure out the marketing part of the game. I don’t have punk rock fame to fall back on, so I’ll be starting from nowhere. I think I’ve sold two pieces in the past five years, but then again I haven’t tried very hard. Maybe it’s time to get things going. Do I add three-fifty for postage?
Wednesday, January 13.
A Vote To Impeach
Manhunt is On
Statehouses Go ‘On High Alert”
Buttressed by Grievance and God
lawmakers still stunned
they could “bifurcate” the proceedings
Extremists Lean on Christian Imagery
a more organized attack
16 across, three letters: Alley_______(flashy basketball player)
14 down, four letters: Small whirlpool
11 across, four letters: “_________ homo,”
Breakfast: oatmeal with fruit, coffee
Lunch: last night’s chicken with roasted radishes with miso and lime
Dinner: Salmon, brussels sprouts and a tossed salad.
I want my mommy,
My home is my studio. A few years ago I decided to give up the studio I had in Harlem. It was expensive and I didn’t get there enough. I figured if I moved my studio into my apartment, I’d use it more. And I did. It was a really good decision.
As a result, there is artwork everywhere. But amongst the many paintings and drawings that adorn the walls, I’ve put a few things up for nostalgic reasons.
While I’m here at the computer, the wall in front of me is filled with bits and pieces of my arwork in progress, mostly news photos of Syrians crossing the desert, a photo of missiles and thirty tiny pencil portraits I’ve done of people I’ve been in Zoom meetings with.
There are also two small postcard sized pictures and a buisness card. One postcard is a photo of my son, Leo, when he was two years old. He is sitting on a red metal chair outside of our Cape Cod home, trees and a pond behind him. Leo is naked except for a maroon t-shirt. His hand is raised in the air, fisted, as if in protest. He is shouting the words, “No, Never!” Twenty-five years ago, this was his constant cry for attention. He hasn’t changed much.
The second postcard is a picture of Frank Pepe, New Haven’s pizza god. He is standing in front of his world famous brick oven, holding a pie. I never met Frank, but he will be with me forever.
The business card is a photo of Rabbi Schneerson, who most in the Hasidic community think is the Messiah. In the photo, he is waving and the word Messiah is printed in yellow below him. The rabbi is no hero to me, but my connection to him is a story. When Leo was eight days old, he was circumcised in the appropriate Jewish tradition. We did the ceremony mostly to honor Eve’s religious relatives. At the ceremony Eve’s Uncle Willy gave me a dollar that he said he’d been given by Rabbi Schneerson. Apparently it was a blessed and certainly lucky dollar. I probably should have bought a Lotto ticket with it, but I think I just stuffed it in my wallet and used it like any other.
A few months earlier, when Eve was pregnant, her bladder seized up and she couldn’t pee. She was in intense pain and we went to the Beth Israel emergency room. Pregnant and in excruciating pain, Eve was left unattended in the waiting room for hours because at the very same time, Rabbi Schneerson had been rushed into the hospital, suffering a heart attack. The entire hospital had its attention on the Rebbe.
It took nearly five hours before a nurse came in and put a catheter in her, which immediately relieved the pain.
And so these are my two Rabbi Schneerson stories. When I was in Israel I met a somewhat crazed, young, American kid who was there studying Torah. He gave me the card, which made me laugh, and for some reason, I kept it.
Leo shouting “No Never!”, Frank Pepe and Rabbi Schneerson are there before me, every day, as I muddle through this pandemic.
Monday, January 11.
I’m not big on chain stores, but since the pandemic I have been doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, which opened a store not too long ago just a few blocks up Grand Street.
Prices are good, produce is pretty good and it’s easy to find your way around. Most importantly, everybody who works there is super nice. I mean, not just nice, they are super nice.
You are greeted at the escalator with a smile and a spritz of hand sanitizer. Throughout the store there are actual people who work there ready to help you. Unlike most box stores where there is nobody anywhere, these people are everywhere, smiling and wanting, yes wanting, to be of assistance. If you ask an employee where the ginger is, they will walk with you to point it out, no matter how far from where they are standing. And then they’ll ask if you need help with anything else.
For the first few months of the pandemic, they would limit the number of customers. A line would form out side, but it moved quickly. Inside, you felt like you were in your own store. Now, there are a few more shoppers inside and a long line forms for checkout, but that moves quickly too. As you approach the front of the line, a friendly employee is there to greet you and show you to your checkout person. All with a smile.It’s a if these people want to be here at work and they make you feel like you want to be there too.
I am so impressed by the nicety that I become nicer when I’m in the store. I exchange greetings with the person managing the checkout line. I ask the cashier how their day is going and often we get into a brief conversation about life during the pandemic. I find out that the cashiers are also graduate students, artists, bike riders from Brooklyn, aunts and uncles.
In Trader Joe’s, people become people who share a community. As dumb as that sounds, it’s really true. As dismal as these past few months have been, going to Trader Joe’s has been a brief moment of happiness for me. Silly world.
Sunday, January 10.
I have scheduled an appointment to get my Covid vaccine on Saturday. I’m not sure I believe it will really happen, but I made the appointment.
I am classified as “1B.” Along with fire fighters, police officers, food workers, public transit workers, as a teacher I qualify.
Clearly it’s not that well organized, because, though I am a teacher, I will be teaching from home, probably til next September, if not longer. Why they are allowing me the vaccination seems kind of like a mistake. In the Times ethicist column last week, somebody wrote in asking about the morality of accepting a vaccine when you weren’t really an essential person. Clearly the moral answer is “no,” I should allow someone more essential to get it firs, but I’m not sure I will turn this into a moral issue.
I have to fill out a two page Screening and Consent form. Nowhere on the form am I asked to tell them that I am a teacher, so I’m wondering about proving my eligibility. In fact, I don’t own a single document that says I teach for the Department of Education. In my twenty years of service, I’ve never been issued anything.
Honestly, I a bit frightened. I’m not afraid to get the vaccine, I’m afraid of what will follow. I’ll be immune. Which, I think means, I can join the world again. Of course, the world will still be in the midst of a pandemic, so really, nothing will be changing. But getting vaccinated makes me think that soon enough, we will actually beat this virus and the world will be safe again.
As horrible as it has been, I’ve gotten used to this mess. My routine is set. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to sit in a restaurant or go to a concert or a movie. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be close to another person and to actually touch them. I’ve forgotten sex. And now, I’m not so sure I know how to return. And I know this sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling like this.
One day at a time, right? I’m set for Saturday morning and hoping that they’ll believe me when I tell them I’m a teacher.
Saturday, January 9.
Realdonaldtrump isn’t real anymore. How cool is that! Suspending the Donald from Twitter is a big deal. Donald himself once said that he is nothing without Twitter. I like thinking of him as nothing.
We can only hope that this is true. As I write, plans are being discussed to either impeach him tomorrow or cite the 25th Amendment that will remove him from office. Even another week with him in office is a danger to us all. Remember: Presidents and nuclear buttons.
We’ve lived through the insanity for four years. We’ve witnessed scores of situations where he abused his power. We’ve watched him treat the American people like they mean nothing. We’ve seen him turn his back on half the nation’s population. In recent weeks we’ve seem him reel fully out of control. We’ve listened to him rant idiotically about a lost election, watched him beg for help from his closest supporters, only to trash them when they refused to help. Finally, we watched him attempt to wage a war against his own nation. And finally, it’s over. With Twitter’s removal of his account, his voice has been taken away.
Is there still a trick up his sleeve. I’m sure there is, and we’ll see some kind of a response today or tomorrow. Remember the numbers: There are still nearly one million seconds before his January 20 removal. It only takes a few seconds to do real damage, so let’s hold our breath a little longer.
Friday, January 8.
What do we call them?
I call them tourists.
They smash through windows.
And take lots of pictures
To make sure there will be good stuff
to show the folks at home.
I was there.
For the revolution
I didn’t do anything.
But I was there.
I sat in Nancy’s chair!
I took part of a lectern.
I stopped at McDonald’s on the way home.
Insurrection in America?
Care mostly about themselves.
Freedom means free time
Look at me.
Look at my selfie.
Thursday, January 7.
And of course, none of them wore masks.
Did we ever think we’d see people climbing the walls of Congress, smashing windows to get inside?
The insurrection lasted less than a few hours. In other Banana Republics, takeovers actually take over. Here, it failed before it really started. And really, when you look at footage, what do see? You see people walking into the Capitol building taking pictures. They all have their phones out and are documenting their visit to Washington, like tourists taking in the scene. I don’t think that’s how insurrections are supposed to work. You don’t take a selfie and then stop at MacDonald’s for a Happy Meal in the middle of a government takeover. Only in America does it work like this.
Today Donald can look in the mirror and say, “I started a riot. We stormed the Capitol. A woman was killed.” It’s on you Don.
We have two more weeks of this. It’s not over. I think they might want to reconsider how the inauguration is going to work.
Meanwhile, let’s all eat a peach and celebrate Georgia.
Wednesday, January 6
A Democrat in the White House, A Democratic Congress AND a Democratic Senate. Is it really true?
I went to bed last night with both Senate races showing the Republicans with near 100,000 vote leads. With still a good twenty percent of the vote yet to be counted, the newscasters were suggesting it could go either way. We saw the same thing in November — maps divided by red and blue with projections being made about who had still not been counted. The maps were practically divided street by street and house by house. The Smith’s vote hadn’t been counted yet and they are known Republicans, so let’s assume that’s two vote for the Republicans.
I woke up to see that the Democrats had rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a small lead in both senate elections. It’s always the left leaning precincts to be counted last. With still a few more votes to count, so we’re still not completely sure yet. And of course, the votes will be contested, and on and on.
Wouldn’t it be sweet if each won by 12,000 votes. Hey Donald, what do you think now?
This afternoon the Presidential election results will be confirmed, despite a few objections from some Congressmen who are more out of touch than we ever thought possible. Meanwhile, armed right wing militants will come to Washington to be heard. Donald will say something, we can only imagine those words.
Happily, we’re in a pandemic and I’ve been ordered to stay home.
Tuesday, January 5.
I remember well those many times when I was six or seven, sitting between my brothers in the back of our station wagon. It was Sunday and we were taking a thirty-five minute ride to visit the grandparents at their house near the beach.
“Are we there yet?” We never seemed to get there.
You get the analogy. Today is day 262 of my writing this blog, which I began about a month after we began our pandemic lives. We’re not there yet.
And really, where is there? Where do we want to go? Surely we’re not going to go backwards and return to normal. Normal will never happen again. Will there ever be a day where we won’t want to cover our faces before joining the world? Will we ever shake another hand or give someone a casual hug? Will there ever be a day where we feel like once did?
Everything about who I once was is now in question. And we’re in an age of super sensitivity on many fronts. Before opening our mouths, we need to be damn sure that what we’re going to say won’t offend. And truthfully, it seems anything we say will offend someone.
Which makes me think I’m safer staying home all by myself. Which is insane, because, well because that’s just insane.
It’s only Tuesday and I’m ready for the weekend.
Monday, Jauary 4.
In just a few hours I become a teacher again. The pandemic has made me forget at times who I am and why I’m here. Soon I’ll be looking at lots of young people waiting for direction from me. Surely that will remind me.
There’s so much press about the failed virtual learning experience. Thousand of stories of failure. Well, I’m the lucky teacher who has students who want to be in my class and are succeeding. I teach art students art. Many of my students are struggling in their academic classes. Online Algebra and Chemistry is a confusing headache and they hate it. But when they come to me they smile. They are happy to have an hour to draw and paint and tap their creative spirit.
An added benefit to our virtual experience is that the kids are home alone. Not good for socializing, but it’s great for making art. When it’s time to draw, they are alone, in their own rooms, with nobody to talk to, just like real artists who work alone in their studios. They are learning what the life of a real artist is like.
In all the reporting of virtual learning, there has never been a mention of this. Nobody really thinks or cares much about art class. It’s not on the test, so why bother.
Of course I’d rather be in a real classroom. Like everybody else, I miss the human contact. But until that happens, I’ll take what I can. In my classes there are a few future Manet’s and Warhol’s, maybe even a Michelangelo. I’m glad they have a room of their own to create.
Sunday, January 3.
School begins tomorrow and I’m feely anxious. I feel this way at the beginning of September, after a long summer. It’s hard to start up again. Tomorrow feels the same and I know that five minutes after the day begins, I’ll feel just fine.
I just read an email from a student who wrote to tell me she was having trouble finishing the project that was due before class Monday because her mother has just been diagnosed with Covid and the whole family was quarantining. Ten points off for being late? — I don’t think so.
I only know my 55 students virtually. I met a few of them once at a masked get together in Central Park. In truth, I don’t know them. Once in a while a student will tell me some relevant personal information, but I know almost nothing about their real lives at home. If we go by the numbers, a handful of them have family members who’ve gotten sick. One or two have died. I simply don’t know.
Which makes teaching them a bit complicated. It’s hard enough in a normal world for ninth grade students to follow directions and turn in work on time. Considering what we’re going through, it’s that much harder.
I’m doing my best to make this school year as light as possible without denying my students a chance to actually learn something about making art. I think I’m succeeding.
I’ll end today’s blog entry on a hopeful note. Here’s to something good happening to me and my 55 young students. Art heals. We’re going to make that happen.
Saturday, January 2.
I don’t have an interesting single thought in my head right now. I woke up an hour late today. It’s past 9, usually I’m done with this writing by now. I think I’m sleeping a little more because I don’t have much to do while I’m awake.
When I first began writing this blog there was a lot to think about. The first weeks of the pandemic forced us to come to terms with new approaches to our lives. So many things we used to do we couldn’t do any more. Visits with friends, going to the movies and ball games, restaurants, sex — all those things were replaced. Now we were spending our time washing our hands and downloading lots of internet crap as we listened out the window to ambulance sirens. As our world crumbled we tried to figure out how we could keep from crumbling with it.
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit what I’ve done with my life during these past months. Having been forced to spend endless hours alone, I’ve spent my time doing crossword puzzles and playing chess. I’ve spent countless hours inventing word games. I’ve watched scores of gripping tv dramas, reruns of past Maters championships, as well as reruns of Jeopardy. I’m a step away from 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles.
On the flip side, I’ve made 258 drawings of masked Americans, as well as a handful of pastel drawings and large, digital collages from the Today series. Yes, I’ve continued my life as an artist and that feels good. But still, I’ve wasted so much time.
Which makes me feel like I’ve failed. What this pandemic has taught us more than anything else is that life is precious and time is not a given. We don’t know if we’ll be here tomorrow.
New Years Resolution: figure out what’s most important and do it. Now. Right now.
Friday, January 1.
It’s completely different and it’s all still the same. The new year has begun. We begin the year hopeful and panicked. Yes, we’re getting rid of Donald, the worst leader in the history of the world. We’re looking forward to a new government that actually cares about its people. We’re looking forward to the mass production and delivery of a vaccine that will permit us to return to a life we once knew. We’re looking forward to an economy that rebounds and gives jobs back to millions of decent people.
But we won’t believe it til we see it. For now, here on January 1, we’re still masked and depressed. Close to 4000 American people will die today from Covid. Most of the places we once visited are shuttered. Many of us are safe, but working from home, without a daily life that includes other people.
We’re still a deeply divided nation. A photo in the paper today shows the Donald at a swearing in ceremony for Amy Barrett. The front few rows show around 100 peopl clapping. 99 are white, three are masked. Incdredulous!
I don’t want to live like this anymore. But I have no choice, at least if I want to stay alive. And so I’ll begin the year much like I ended the last one and that’s just the way it’s gonna be.
Thursday, December 31.
Let’s start the countdown. We’re only 50,400 seconds away from a new year. In 57, 582 seconds 2020 will be over. Pause. In 50, 355 seconds we will be done with the worst year ever. Pause. Hey, in just 50, 329 seconds we will scream “Happy New Year!”
I’ll be shouting by myself. Many of us will be uncorking bottles alone this year. No parties, no hugging the nearest stranger at midnight. This will be the emptiest Times Square ever. Oh well.
As for making New Year’s resolutions, this is probably a good year for that. The pandemic has brought us to our knees. It has made us ask oursleves the big questions: who are we, what are we doing here, what matters,why am I alive?
I think I’ll wait til tomorrow to let you know about my thoughts for my life in the coming year. I still have 50, 036 seconds left to figure it out.
Wednesday, December 30.
It ain’t Yale or Princeton, or even the University of South Dakota, but for only 180 dollars a year, you can attend Master Class. Yes, it’s virtual, but so is everything else these days. Here, at Master Class, you can take classes with some of the worlds most famous people.
Jeff Koons, let’s call him Professor Koons, is now teaching art. And shouldn’t art be taught by the world’s greatest artist? Professor Koons’ artwork has been auctioned for ninety million dollars, more than any other living artist has ever earned. Surely the man must possess valuable knowledge.
Professor Koons doesn’t teach you how to paint or draw. He doesn’t do that and he doesn’t try to teach it. He is known as a sculptor, but he doesn’t teach you that either. Actually, the debate is out whether he really is a sculptor. He doesn’t actually sculpt. He has scores of assistants who actually do the carving.
Professor Koons teaches that art is ego. He emphasizes the importance of yourself. You have great ideas, believe in them. Stand up for them. Embrace them. Tell the world about them. Also, he tells you to enjoy color, especially pink and purple.
Professor Jeff is not the only one getting in on this absurdity. Other notables like Ru Paul, Natalie Portman and Usher are also “teaching.” But really they aren’t teaching. At Master Class you can’t talk to your professor. You log on and listen.
I’m not sure that graduating from Master Class will get you very far, but then again, a degree in English Lit or Sociology from most colleges won’t either. Let’s face it, pandemic or no pandemic, the world is broken. Maybe a class with the Donald, (he says he’s the the worlds greatest builder) will help us figure out how to repair things.
Tuesday, December 29.
Today is day 255 of this blog. I’ve written a few hundred pages documenting this sad, scary time. I am committed to writing every morning and though I search for new ideas, they are hard to come by, and so I keep repeating the same words.
Each day I make a drawing of a masked person that accompanies the blog. Making these drawings is the hilight of each day. Soon, these drawings will become a book that will include poems written during the past year. Many poets have answered the call for submissions. Lots of poets from everywhere. I began organizing the submissions yesterday and noticed some interesting possibilities. One set of poems was sent in Arabic. We wrote back to ask for a translation and received some intense pieces about the world condition. Other submissions have come from Poland and England and many from Canada, where the publisher is located. The world is represented. If ever there was evidence of a world pandemic, this is it.
I always thought artists were flaky. But compared to poets, we artists aren’t even close. Many poets, who I assume are intelligent and well read, can’t spell or punctuate properly. Well, let’s just say that they each have their own way. It’s fun to see them in bulk, hundreds of bits of writing, each containing its own form of the English language. Each poet has included a bio which is a lot of fund to read. They are not only poets, but songwriters, political activists, healers and so many fringe existences. I am happy to be included in this collection of oddballs.
I’ve read just a few of the submissions. One poet sent in some Covid limericks that were pretty funny. Besides that, I’ve yet to find a poem with rhymes. Roses are red, but violets seem to be purple these days. Or maybe not violets. Roses were red, car fenders are coughing.
Monday, December 28.
I had an early morning doctor’s appointment, my annual physical. I like my doctor. He seems to genuinely care about me and he asks me the right questions to find out how my life is going. Today, when he asked how I was doing, I told him I was fine, just battling a little pandemic depression that I figured most of us were battling. He asked me to explain and I just kind of shrugged and said that I was tired of being alone. He began suggesting some alternative ways to be in touch with people, but hearing just the mention of that made me more depressed.
I did read an article about some people who, tired of Zoom cocktail parties, have looked for other ways to make human contact during our age of separation. One woman began a penpal thing and organized a few thousand people who traded mail, and sent each other letters and little gifts. Another person,of course an artist, organized a phone calling site. Strangers calling strangers to chat about their lives. A little creepy, but maybe a bit fun too.
Sadly, none of these novel concepts gets you close to what is really needed — touch. I suppose that you could approximate the feel of human contact through some kind of virtual contraption that would involve some kind of space age glasses or headgear. I’m pretty old school, so I don’t see that happening any time soon.
I also asked my doctor about the vaccine, figuring he’d be the one to tell me what I’ve wanted to know for a while. I asked him what the vaccine was made of. I’ve been curious about this for a while but have been unable to get an answer, or at least an anwer I understand. My doctor tired to break it down for me and explain the the vaccine was built on the basic building blocks of life. This didn’t help me understand where three billion doses of vaccines would come from. Animal, vegetable or mineral? None, he answered. Which didn’t lead me any closer to understanding. He did explain that the companies that created the vaccines did work with factories to manufacture the vaccine in bulk. And so again I asked, “and where do these factories get the materilals from?” But he couldn’t provide me with an answer. In his explanation, I imagined the actual stuff that the vaccine is made from was coming from thin air. And so, I’m still clueless about this.
Sunday, December 27.
I don’t want this blog to be about my depression. But lately, it is playing a bigger role in my day to day existence. It takes me an extra twenty minutes to get out of bed in the morning, surely a sign that somethings wrong.
Back in March, when we first put our masks on, we were sure it would be just a temporary inconvenience, a week or two at the most with schools shut down and a chance to catch up on missed Netflix tv dramas. Those two weeks became a month, then two, then three.
A few months in and we were surviving just fine, even making fun of ourselves as we doubled up on purchases at liquor stores and subscribed to Hulu and a few other program providers, because there was so much to watch and so much time to watch. Many of us even wrote about how much we loved the pandemic because we could have more family time and more time in our gardens.
As we got more and more used to our new pandemic normal, the world kept on going. Baseball and basketball continued, now with fan soundtracks and cardboard cheering sections replacing real people. The stock market recovered from its early pandemic crash and soared to new highs with Tesla and Amazon leading the way. As the summer began, a white cop crushed an innocent Black man to death with his knee and suddenly, our world became more than just a health crisis. Some of us became woke.
Month after month, I kept my mask on and kept my distance from people I loved. I shut myself in, more and more every day, and little by little the depression grew.
At the beginning, we joked about how we felt like we had been sentenced to prison terms. We could enjoy our vicarious incarceration experience, just for a few days, knowing we weren’t really in jail.
Now it doesn’t feel like we’re in jail. We really are in jail. And we don’t know if we’ll be let out for good behavior next month or next year or never.
In truth, I’m doing my time in a minimum security facility. I’m allowed out each day to get exercise. I can take a run in the park, but I must stay masked and I need to wash my hands well when I return to my cell. I can also make supermarket visits, but the mask serves as my ankle bracelet. The rest is solitary confinement, though I am allowed internet priviledges.
It’s not really all that bad. There is a really good prison library and I have an unlimited Amazon account, so more books are coming. Though I haven’t actually touched a person — sex? are you kidding?? — in nearly a year, I can read about it and fantasize. I just began reading Normal People by Sally Rooney and two mismatched high school kids are already kissing by page 10. I’ll be okay.
Saturday, December 25.
There is a feature article today about how people are dealing with their loneliness. This being the day after Christmas, is the perfect time to focus on people and their misery being alone. Many trips home for the holidays have been cancelled. Rather than open presents with a nice fire going and lots of noise from excited nieces and nephews playing with new video games, people are in their one bedroom apartments with their cats, their house plants and Chinese takeout, leftover from last nights’ Christmas dinner.
Though not mentioned in the article, I’m one of them, but I don’t have a cat or plants, and I left the Chinese leftovers with Eve, who was the one person I did see for the holiday. In fact, Eve is the only person I’ve seen and actually talked to in the past month.
Yes, this intense loneliness is depressing, but I’m getting good at it. I won’t take you through my hour by hour existence, but I’m actually pretty busy. You have to work hard to avoid a serious depressive breakdown, but it can be done.
Actually the low point of my day was reading the article about all the lonely people. I’m not really sure what the point was of printing it. Who was supposed to get something from reading it? Those not lonely will read it and say, “Aw, too bad for them, glad it’s not me. The lonely ones, like me, will read it and say, “yep.”
I’m hoping to make it through the weekend without resorting to watching The Crown. Watching that would surely be a sign I’d hit rock bottom.
Friday, December 25.
Merry Christmas to all. I’m keeping my distance, no touching or hugs and we won’t be unwrapping gifts together under the tree. But still, it’s Christmas.
Which means Chinese food and a movie for all good Jewish people. Masked and six feet from all, that is still possible. We can keep this tradition without jeopardizing our health. The plan today is a nice long walk on the beach followed by a family get together — Bill, Eve and Leo. To be safe, we’re going to have our Chinese dinner outside, in Leo’s Brooklyn back yard.
As we celebrate, the world still spins in every direction. Donald will be golfing in Florida. A 900 billion dollar rescue plan sits on his desk and the government is a day away from a shut down. No biggie. I admit that I don’t understand his wanting to triple the amount of money given to families. Isn’t this the president who doesn’t care about people? These days nothing comes close to making sense. If anything, it is a ploy to simply cause a mess and to make sure nothing good happens during his last few days in office. Let’s remember the ultimate goal: to find a way to stay in office. We’re at the point of a military intervention that won’t happen. Will he and Jared grab weapons and bolt the White House front door?
And so, Santa, who apparently is alive and well and masked, has made his visits to all the good girls, boys and other’s homes. I’m thinking soup dumplings and Hunan chicken. Merry merry.
Thursday, December 24.
We’re just a day before Xmas. We’re desperate for the pandemic to end, but we’re still wearing masks and measuring the distance between the person in front or behind us. We’re Zooming to and from work. We’re watching whatever we can find on Netflix that will allow us an hour off.
But some of us are ignoring the reality of the moment. Millions are rushing to airports, flying home for the holidays. In today’s photo of airport security check lines, most, but not all are wearing masks. Which means that there are people standing in line in crowded airports who say, “I don’t give a shit. Screw you and your mask. I’m in control of me.”
That these people are actually allowed to be in a public place, unmasked and risking other lives is simply unbelievable. And yet, I don’t think the picture lies. This is America.
I’m home. Alone. I’ve decked my halls and will celebrate the birth of Jesus with myself. I won’t wear a mask or measure six feet, because I’m alone. I can’t give or get Covid from my couch or my coffee cup.
While Santa makes his way around the world tonight, I’m staying home. I’ll watch a Jeopardy rerun, read my book — Ta-Nehisi Coates this week, play virtual chess and maybe even make a drawing or two. By myself. Alone. Just me. Covid free.
And next week I’ll bring in the New Year by myself, just me, home alone. It’s the not so new normal and I’ve gotten good at it.
Wednesday, December 23.
In a few hours we’ll be on holiday break. School’s out, no Zoom for ten days! Being the last day, we are trying to party virtually today. We’ve been asked to substitute normal class for some kind of fun and games to help bring some holiday spirit to all. We’re doing what we can to pretend that there is no pandemic.
Suggestions have been pretty lame. We’ve been asked to play Jeopardy or some other game related to the subject we teach. “Who was Rembrandt? What is Surrealism?”
I decided we’d play a little game with famous paintings where I show the kids a painting and then show them a slightly doctored version of the painting and ask them to find out what’s different about it. It’s a kind of Where’s Waldo thing.
And so my students will see a portrait of Rembrandt and in the second picture, Rembrandt is wearing a necklace and gold earrings, which when he wasn’t painting himself, he most likely wore. In the second frame, Mona Lisa’s smile has turned to a pout. The David’s front and center wee wee is now covered with a pair of Calvin Klein underwear and The Girl With A Pearl Earring has removed the earring. Hey, it’s kind of cute.
Happy Holidays everybody. Tis the season.
Tuesday, December 22.
Yesterday I drew a masked four year old riding a little scooter up Grand Street. I took the picture on Saturday. I remember the little boy racing in circles as his dad walked in front, stopping every few seconds until his child caught up.
Today I will draw a masked infant in a stroller, also a picture I took Saturday on Grand Street. This little girl can’t be more than eleven months old.
This is what our children are learning about life. We wear masks. Though our instinct might tell us to interact, we don’t. We can’t. We cant touch people or things. We can’t investigate new things we find. When we wait on a line, we mark ourselves according to painted or appliqued, round dots on the floor, each exactly the same space apart.
I remember being a new dad. I remember my child’s first interactions with people. He loved meeting new people. He moved quickly from parallel play to actual playing with other children. He liked talking with people and he liked all kinds of games where you could run and throw balls together and knock into each other. These interactions were the favorite part of his life.
Without this, what are we? The pyschologists will study and write about the effects the pandemic has on children. Will they grow up to be well functioning people? Will they know how to interact with others? Certainly it will be different from what you or I know.
This is too big a topic for this tiny little blog. The two drawings I’ve made are the first of children this small. They’ve touched a nerve.
Monday, December 21.
There was an article yesterday about the new words and phrases that have arisen during the past months. Some were obvious — “social distancing”, “contact tracing” and “flattening the curve”. Others like “zoom” and “remote learning” remind us of the gloom.
Two new words stick out: “blursday” and “doomscrolling.” To be honest, I didn’t really know these were words until I read the article. I’d never used either in a sentence. But each speaks out to what we are living through.
To say it’s blursday means you don’t really know what day it is or what time it is or, I guess, you don’t really know anything at all. It’s all a blur. It’s Ground Hog Day, it’s yesterday, it’s never. It’s George Floyd, it’s hydroxychloroquine, it’s a government unemployment check, my computer’s not uploading, it’s a martini. It’s blursday and tomorrow will be blursday.
And in the middle of blursday, you find your self doomscrolling, reading way too much news that you simply need to know about but that you know is going to make you extremely tense, fragile and depressed and will inevitably lead you to needing another martini. If you’ve been reading this daily blog, you’ve been doing some serious doomscrolling.
I’m all for enriching our vocabulary. Let’s hope we can come up with a few more positive expressions in days to come, maybe the day after blursday.
Sunday, December 20.
I’m a few days away from a ten day vacation from work. In past years, I’ve travelled to Spain, Aruba and Florida. This year, it looks like I’ll be going to Netflix. I hope the weather will be nice.
Every morning in the shower, I look at my world map shower curtain and dream. It is becoming an every morning ritual, my looking for another new country to visit. This morning I was eyeing Finland. Yesterday I was fixated on The Central African Republic and Chad.
In the northernmost parts of Antartica, there is a Covid outbreak. We wonder how that is possible. But it is. Quarantine is simply not possible, it is everywhere.
Winter is here. Three months of darkness. As if it’s not dark enough already, we will now experience the darkest of dark. Let’s all take a deep breath and prepare. Let’s remind ourselves that three months will be over in 324,000 minutes. We can handle that. Yes, it’s a lot of Netflix, but still, there will be light in the end.
Saturday, December 19.
Medium, the site where I publish this blog, sends me reports every so often to let me know who’s reading the blog. I always expect the number to be near zero, but according to Medium, I have readers. Just this week Andy, Alejandra, Jennifer and Daphne, four people I’ve never actually met, have “clapped” for my blog. I’m not sure if they actually read it, but they clapped.
I’m not letting this go to my head, but it is nice to know that my words and pictures are being shared. As these days drag on, we drag on. We look for something, anything to lift our spirits, even if for just a few minutes.
It’s a cold, sunny Saturday. I’m looking out my window, which needs washing, and two men, masked, walk past my building. I hear the wind and an ambulance. Looking outside, I don’t see any reason that I will have to go out today. Here, inside, I’ve yet to speak a word. It’s possible I won’t speak today. Well, actually I’m out of pepper, so a trip to the store would kill two birds. It would get me outside and would allow me to at least say the words “thank you,” which I often say as “gracias” to the checkout person. So, I’ll either utter one word or two today, depending on which language I choose to use.
Friday, December 18.
Friday, day number 244 of this blog, which I began a month into the pandemic. That’s a lot of days, a lot of hours and a lot of seconds. 20,995, 260 seconds to be exact.
And so, the obvious question: What is time? It’s a question I can’t answer, at least not in a way that has real philosophical meaning. But surely the concept of time weighs on us as we muddle through this mess.
Before Covid, time was simple. Yesterday was over, today was now and tomorrow was something we looked forward to. We planned weekends in the country, summers at the beach. We enrolled in classes that would help us earn credit towards new and exciting professions. We took a ten minute break when we were exhausted before going back to work.
Not anymore. The weekend and summer plans aren’t happening. There is no future to consider. At best, it is on hold.
Before Covid time was something we could measure in relation to ourselves and our being alive. As kids, we had the rest of our lives in front of us, time was forever. As we grew older, we began to realize the clock would stop one day, but still, we had plenty of time left, time to grow old and enjoy life.
With Covid, we don’t know anything anymore. Nearly 3,500 Americans died yesterday from the disease. Their time stopped well short of where it was supposed to. Another three plus thousand will end their time today.
We’re healthy, we’re wearing masks, we’re keeping six feet from all others. But we’re still afraid. We don’t know if our number is coming up today, tomorrow or one day soon, before the vaccine is available.
Time is at the root of our Covid confusion. We want our old understanding to return us our balance. We don’t want to live continuously wondering if these are our final few minutes.
Thursday, December 17.
Woke up this morning and looked out my window at a blanket of white covering street and parked cars. I had no idea it had snowed.
Even during the pandemic, a beautiful surprise can happen. The day off for school won’t happen because there are no travel issues. Still, there is a blanket of white outside and we can bundle up and throw a few snowballs, as long as we keep our distance from anybody else playing in the snow.
Even shoveling would be a welcome relief today. Anything to get me outside and help me forget about my sorry pandemic existence. Inside now, I’m imagining the sound of feet crunching in the snow. And the taste of snow as you scrape some off a bush and touch it to your tongue. And remembering that every snowflake is unique. And watching it fall from the sky like magic.
There is light flurry happening now. Weather report says it will continue for a few hours. There is hushed sound out the window that is the sound of snow falling. Everything has slowed down and nothing really matters. This is good.
Wednesday, December 16.
I’m reading Homeland Elegies, a recently published novel by award winning author Ayad Akhtar. His book pops up on everybody’s “best of” list. I’m halfway in and don’t think it’s going on my list. Called a novel, it reads as a memoir, which is more confusing than anything else.
Still, it’s an interesting read. In the book, Akhtar discusses dreams. He is telling a friend that he doesn‘t dream’ and she tells him that of course he dreams, he just doesn’t know how to remember them. She tells him a way to remember that involves wrapping a pencil around your finger while you sleep and having a notebook next to your bed. When you wake up in the middle of the night, you will only have to reach for the notebook and you will be able to write down the dream. Akhtar tries it and it works.
I rarely remember my dreams. So a few nights ago I tried it. I taped a pencil to my finger and started to drift off to sleep. I rolled around in bed for a few minutes, but after a while, still unable to fall asleep, I felt really silly, so I pulled the pencil off and went to sleep.
This morning, as I was getting dressed, I remembered part of a dream where I had dropped my cell phone into a tub of water. I think it was a bathtub or maybe a tiny pond that just happened to be next to where I was walking. I reached down and picked it up quickly and wiped it dry. In the dream I was saying, “Not only that but I just dropped my phone in water.”
In the dream I was able to somehow rescue the phone without doing any damage, but the “that” I was referring to escaped me.
This was the first dream I’ve remembered in a long time. Maybe I’ll give the pencil tied to the hand thing another try.
Tuesday, December 15.
This just in on the Trump Twitter feed:
Cari Kelemen: Election Status: Trump is in the process of proving he won, and Biden is pretending he did.
And there you have it. Though the Electoral College confirmed yesterday that Biden will be our next President, actually, according to Trump Twitter, he’s just pretending. Which means the Electoral College was just pretending too. And the 80 million Americans who voted for Biden were just pretending too. It’s all pretend. And Covid is pretend and George Floyd was pretend and . . .
Yes, he’s pretending. Like a Halloween prank, the masked President elect is just kidding around.
We are still 35 days from January 20. Though it’s hard to imagine what kind of mid-winter shenanigans might happen, they will. The one thing we haven’t heard yet is Donald stating outright that he simply won’t leave the White House in January.
He will soon. It will sound something like this. “Friends, Americans, we are a Great Nation. The Greatest. Since I’ve led our nation, we have once again become Great. Our greatness has enabled us to build the strongest economy in the history of the world. Together we have destoryed a health pandemic that tried to bring us down. You have me to thank for leading us to this great moment. I’ll say it again: GREAT! No President has ever achieved as much. A few months ago we voted and you, the American people, voted overwhelmingly for me to continue leading the nation. Seventy-five million, wow! The greatest vote tally in history. Sadly, the system failed us and a great mechanical error showed a different result. Thankfully, we can ignore that error and proceed. We will deal with those who oppose this reality accordingly. Today, I say this: Together we will continue to Make America Great Again. I am proud to lead you further in this quest for greatness. Thank you America.”
You think I’m kidding?
Monday, December 14.
There’s a lot goin on. As Fed Ex and UPS delivery trucks bring frozen vaccines across the country, the Electoral College meets today to finalize the vote. Swing states electors are receiving police escorts. On the covid front, Donald has organized a 250 million dollar campaign to get people in line with the vaccine. Imagine that, a quarter of a billion dollars, including the hiring of Dennis Quaid!
Meanwhile, Donald tweets. These are most recent:
Swing States that have found massive VOTER FRAUD, which is all of them, CANNOT LEGALLY CERTIFY these votes as complete & correct without committing a severely punishable crime. Everybody knows that dead people, below age people, illegal immigrants, fake signatures, prisoners,….
(In response to the Cleveland Indians dropping “Indian.”) Oh no! What is going on? This is not good news, even for “Indians”. Cancel culture at work!
Vaccines are shipped and on their way, FIVE YEARS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. Get well USA. Get well WORLD. We love you all!
MOST CORRUPT ELECTION IN U.S. HISTORY!
Four years ago we elected this man. Who is to blame?
Sunday, December 13.
Vaccination begins tomorrow. As I write, UPS and FedEx delivery trucks (it’s true!) are delivering the vaccine to secret locations. These trucks are equipped with devices that track location, temperature, light exposure and motion. There is lots of dry ice too.
We all know a lot about this. We’ve read about the vaccine, about how it must be kept at a negative gazillion degrees Fahrenheit, about how a second vaccination will be needed after 21 days. We know that health workers will be the first to receive shots. We don’t know when it’s our turn.
What we, or at least what I also don’t know, is what is the vaccine? What is it made of? I tried to google this but couldn’t find the recipe. Is this a dumb question? We get shots all the time but we never really stop to think what is getting injected into our bodies?
So, what is the corona vaccine made of? I’m pretty sure you can’t buy these ingredients yourself and mix up your own homemade vaccine. We’re not talking garlic, olive oil, lemon rind and a pinch of salt. But are we talking animal, vegetable or mineral? Or something else?
On a Harvard Medical School website I found this: “The current antigen used for vaccine development is the coronavirus spike protein, so named because it sits atop the spike of a coronavirus particle. This is the part of the virus that the immune system “remembers.”
And the next question: What is a spike protein?
I know so little about this. Are we using animal or plant? Are we 3D printing it? Are we exploiting third world countries to get the ingredients?
The last ten months have made us all a lot less certain. We’re desperate to “get our lives back.” We don’t even really know what we mean by this, but we’re certainly desperate. And now, we await an injection that has been stored at beyond Arctic temperatures, which we will receive without knowing much of anything about what we are getting.
Saturday, December 12.
I sat through a three hour Zoom workshop on race yesterday. Maybe something important, but I was hardly looking forward to it. I mean seriously, three hours after I’d already taught for three hours on Zoom?
This workshop was led by the Center for Racial Justice. We’ve hired the best to help our school become more woke. What I react to in these events is the jump on the band wagon acceptance of the way things should be. Our world has become a collection of new words that stand in for old concepts. I’m no longer “white,” I’m someone who “identifies as white.” Colored became Negro became African American became people of color (POC) became Black. They are still the same people.
I know I’m going to get into trouble for writing this, but this is my blog and I hope the few readers here allow me to speak my mind. I have no desire to offend anybody.
The workshop began, as many do these days, with a few breathing exercises. We were coached to breathe in, hold for four seconds, exhale and then do it again. Were we asked to think about something positive, like a lake in a forest, while we breathed? I don’t recall, because I shut down when this began. Not because I don’t like breathing, but because I’m not a group meditator. When I meditate, I do it alone.
In all fairness, I’ll say that the good reason behind a group breathing activity is that it tries to bring people together, which is a good thing to do when having a group get together. And so, I think these activities should state that as the goal from the start and be less of an attempt to have each of us become zen than to have us metaphorically, in the age of Zoom, join hands and come together.
After breathing, we were asked to “rename” ourselves on our Zoom screen. This was a first for me. The intention was for us to create the name and identifying information that I would like others to refer to me as. And so, I became Bill, “he.”
For the next hour and a half we were broken into groups of three or four and asked to speak to each other and answer a few questions. When was the last time we spoke to somebody about race? Are we comfortable discussing race? What uncomfortable moments have happened in the classroom regarding race. When we were put into our breakout groups to discuss, people spoke about other things, like Covid. The questions were well intentioned, but it didn’t play out so good.
As we approached the second hour things actually started getting interesting. We were shown a short video about the origins of race which led to a discussion about the definition of the word. On the Zoom screen the definition accepted by the Center For Racial Justice was shown.
“A hierarchical classification system of human beings invented by Europeans who would come to be categorized as white. The hierarchy uses whiteness as the model for human worth for the purpose of establishing and maintaining social, economic, and political power.”
I read this and was the first to speak up about it. I thought it was a terrible definition and argued that what it seemed like was a definition that served a political purpose. Throughout history, race has been defined by certain people who have a political agenda. Here, the institute leading the workshop had done just that.
Another colleague agreed that this Eurocentric definition was too much for him. And for a second, the presenters pondered what I’d said, but in the end announced that they were sticking to their definition. Of course, they have an agenda and the definition certainly serves it.
My argument, that the definition will change as we change, will win out in the end. As does everything else — change — as we change.
I like the idea of their being no such thing as race. I don’t think it’s true, but I like the idea. I like the idea of the people we once called “colored” will one day just be called “people.” And I, too, will be a “people.”
I didn’t think that the workshop would lead me to wanting to study the history of race more carefully. I’d like to understand it scientifically, if that’s possible. I know there are thousands of pages of material, much of it written by white, separatist, bigoted people, to be looked at. I think in the end, it is not really a matter of science, but one of history. Can we go all the way back and determine who came from where? Do we go back to Abraham and Sarah, or even further back? What am I even talking about?
We meet again next week for another three hours. Can’t wait.
Friday, December 11.
Coming to the end of another week. I’ve been struggling to fall asleep and waking up way too early, so I guess that means I’m not getting enough sleep. I don’t feel tired. Actually, I don’t feel anything. Covid has stripped me of feeling.
More accurately, I just don’t know how I feel. I don’t spend time during the day thinking about how I’m feeling. I think the experts would say that I’m not in touch.
If I do stop to think about how I’m feeling, the only words I can come up with are “lousy,” “not happy” and “depressed.” I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m ten months into this pandemic nightmare and looking at who knows how much longer.
We’ve talked about how there is no thought about the future anymore. We don’t plan ahead. There are no airplane reservations being made, no plans to visit friends or see new places. The money I am saving (yes I have a paycheck that allows for that) is not being put aside for anything, because I have no plans. Will I even be around next week?
I suppose that with the future out of the picture, I should be able to become more zen like, as my focus can now be on the here and the now. Isn’t that what centering ourselves is all about? Well, it’s not working.
The truth is I don’t want to be present. Not these days. I don’t want to be made acutely aware of the here and the now because it’s awful. Which is why I read, because it helps me forget where I am. Drinking does that too, but I’m home alone and drinking alone is just no fun.
I just finished reading Shuggie Bain, a first novel by Scottish writer Douglas Stuart. As bad as it is here and now, I’m a lot happier in pandemic New York than I would be if I were in an unemployed miner’s neighborhood in Glasgow. Wow.
Thursday, December 10.
How many spotted maps of the United States have we looked at lately? Today, there are three in the first few pages of the paper. Each looks the same. We know the story. The dark spots are the areas most affected. In the past few months those dark splotches show up in the middle of the country, as well as in tiny pockets of Maine, Florida and California. New York is lighter, a small sign that we’re doing a little better than some other places.
Normally, I love looking at maps. In the past months, my world map shower curtain has given me hours of vicarious pleasure. Each morning in the shower I look at it and imagine traveling all over the globe: Central Africa, New Zealand, Finland, Tibet, Iran. In the shower the world is gigantic. There are thousands of miles I’ve yet to travel.
I brush over the U.S. Covid maps quickly. They simply hammer home the fear and devastation of the moment. I learn nothing from looking at these maps. And certainly, I don’t need them to make me depressed. I’m already there.
The dark spots in West Texas and North and South Dakota are dark for a reason. It’s a four letter word beginning with “m” and ending in “ask.”
Wednesday, December 9.
Depression and despair are too easy these days, as the days get colder and there is less and less sunlight, as we face hours of loneliness during these dark times. But it seems that things happen every day to, at least temporarily, lift the sadness and remind us that life is pretty good.
I received a letter in the mail yesterday. It was real letter, like the kind you used to get regularly before email stole our lives from us. This letter had my name and address handwritten. My smile began even before I opened it.
The return address came from Sara, no last name, from Massachusetts. I ran through the few Sarahs I knew. None of them lived in Massachusetts. I found myself hoping it was a real letter and not a plea from a complete stranger to accept Jesus into my life.
I pulled out a card with a picture of a cat, waving to me and wishing me “Good Luck.” Inside, there were four dollars.
As it turns out, Sara is a woman I knew from the Art Farm. I met her five years ago when we were in Nebraska for a summer art residency. That summer I was making sculptures. For these pieces, I made thousands of tiny cardboard people. Half of them were western and half were robed Muslims. For the sculptures, the people were stuffed into various boxes and containers along with printed words like “rainstorm,” “candidate,” “glory,” “uzi,” and “nothing.”
In the end, I had made a few thousand more people than I needed to make the sculptures, so when I exhibited them, I put the figures in a big bowl and offered them for sale for a dollar each.
Which is where the letter from Sara comes in. At the end of my stay at Art Farm, I had an exhibition of my work and Sara took four people. For whatever reason, she didn’t pay me then, but while looking through her things five years later, found them and an IOU for four dollars. And so she paid her bill and included a card and a lovely note.
Getting the letter and the four dollars allowed me to remember that, pre covid, we were alive, sharing our lives, our interests and our visions.
I’ve now made four dollars as a professional artist in 2020. I can close my books and call it a year in the black.
Tuesday, December 8.
Ok, I’m fine now.
Monday, December 7.
On this day, seventy-nine years ago, Japanese raided an American naval base near Honolulu, killing 2100 American soldiers. Today is Pearl Harbor Day, and we celebrate this historic moment.
The attack on Pearl Harbor happened once. In a single day, 2100 people lost their lives. There was no attack the next day, or the next.
Covid is different. It’s every day. This week the daily number is closer to 3,000. Every day. We don’t have the report yet for next week, but it’s not looking good.
Meanwhile, vaccines are being delivered this week. At least that’s what I read. But the numbers seem to vary according to which article you read. Twenty million? Forty million? Three hundred million by the summer? Who knows.
New York schools have closed, but some are reopening. Californians are being told to stay home for two weeks. Trump supporting Georgians are rallying, unmasked. Me? I’m six feet from you.
Sunday, December 6.
Still forty-five days til the new regime. That seems like a long time. Another month and a half of a nit wit in the White House who won’t do anything besides whine about losing the election. We’re facing the worst health crisis in our history, nearly 3,000 deaths daily, and he does nothing.
Not only is he useless, he’s dangerous. We’ve said this throughout the pandemic as we’ve watched him ignore safety and put many people in danger. Yesterday, he delivered a speech in Georgia to hundreds of unmasked supporters, crammed together to listen. One look at the photo and you know you are looking at scores of pathetic people who will be sick by next week. Some of them will die.
If he weren’t president, he’d have been arrested and jailed. Georgia law prohibits gatherings of more than fifty people. How was Donald able to ignore this? LOCK HIM UP.
There have been many references to Shakespearean drama when discussing these final days of Donald. He is reeling. One day he’s Lear, the next Richard II and then Henry IV. One thing to note — in such dramas, catastrophe always comes a the end.
Within the next few weeks, Donald will fire more people who’ve supported him. Et tu Bard? He will pardon friends and family members. He will tweet about winning Michigan by a lot of votes (he lost by 150,000). QAnon crazies will become his last supporters. We will be looking at a story that is too silly for television attention. Only in America.
Saturday, December 5.
400,000 vaccines are expected to reach New York by January. But there are ten million people in need of a vaccine. I’m pretty sure my name won’t be on the list of first to receive. Let’s hope for next January. And even that may be an unanswered wish.
It goes on and on. My day was upended this morning when I opened my door to get the morning paper. It wasn’t there. This happens once every few months. I guess the delivery person just stays in bed and skips a day, which leads me to calling the New York Times and initiating a futile attempt to get the paper.
You can’t call the Times and actually find out where your paper is. Between you and the paper is a chain of people who, according to the person at the Times, do not communicate by phone. I’ve asked countless times to be given the phone number of my delivery company, only to be told there is no number. And no name of the delivery company. Or any possible way of contacting them, as if they are on Mars.
And so, it is left up to the Times, who promise me they’ll contact the company by electronic communication and have a paper delivered to me later in the day. This never happens. Never. Ever. Not once.
And yes, it’s a big deal. I am a trained seal. My morning begins with the newspaper. Without it, I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I read yesterday’s paper, but you know how the song goes: “Who wants yesterday’s paper? Nobody in the world.”
I’ve taken a few deep breaths. I’ve told myself to be calm, that everything will be ok. After all, what’s the big deal. What could possibly have happened since yesterday? Did they cure covid? Did Donald concede the election? Do Black Lives Matter? Did the Yankees win? Without reading, I know the answer to these questions.
And so, a shaky Saturday begins.
Friday, December 4.
I drew a picture of a man smoking a cigarette yesterday (see above). His mask was pulled down, tucked under his chin as he took a long drag on the cigarette. He was on Grand Street, leaning against a car like a fifties movie icon. New York cool.
Like his movie star version, the man looks appropriately pensive. whereas without the cigarette in his mouth he’d look lost. I think his thoughts are more on the future than the past.
I haven’t smoked a cigarette in over thirty years. Not a single drag. But back in the day, I was really good at it. My love for cigarettes became a serious and dangerous addiction. Thankfully, I realized it early — at least I think it was early enough. When I stopped, I was a near three pack a day smoker. It took me at least four cigarettes before I’d be able to get out of bed. I smoked before meals, during and after. I lit one with another. This went on for a few years until I realized one day that it was time to stop.
And I stopped. Instantly. I woke up one day, I think it was mid-week, and decided I was finished smoking. I wouldn’t need a patch or a self help group, I was simply done.
I remember the first few days were a near hell experience. I was crazed, but I was determined. I spent hours sitting on park benches, falling asleep in daylight, delerious. This was tobacco. Imagine trying to get off heroin.
As a smoker I’d joke when people told me how dangerous smoking was. “The longer I smoke, the longer I’ll live,” I would say, actually thinking I was making sense. I smoked Old Gold, which was a cigarette from World War II days. “The only good gold is an Old Gold.” The thing I liked about it was that there was a little Old Gold logo printed on the bottom of the cigarette, right next to the filter. It was dark blue and when the cigarette burned all the way down, you could read the logo, dark ash against the light ash of the finished cigarette.
Those were the days. I’ve thought a few times during the pandemic about smoking. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a cigarette again! Would it feel good? Would I be able to light up and take a long drag and feel like the guy I drew yesterday. Would I be able to be cool and contemplate the future?
These days cigarettes cost as much as rent. It ain’t gonna happen.
Thursday, December 3.
Thursday is an alternate side of the street parking day. Street cleaning rules have changed since the pandemic began. For the first few months there was none, which was not good for the streets but really good for those of us who park on the street because it meant we didn’t have to move our cars. Believe me, that’s a big deal.
A few months ago, the city began street cleaning again, but on a limited schedule. Rather than clean , and make us move cars every day, the cleaning only happens during the later part of the week. And so I need to move my car just once each week.
Coordinating this with my teaching schedule is not so difficult. I try to park my car in a “No parking Thursday from 9 to 10:30” spot. My fist class begins at 10:33 and so if I move my car from the space for that hour and a half, I can put it back at 10:30 and run home and start teaching. Sounds silly, but welcome to New York.
Actually I don’t really have to even move my car, I just have to be in it, so that when the street sweeper comes, I pull my car out their way, let them sweep, and then back the car back into the space. Again, silly, but welcome to New York.
Last week, I left my car a few minutes before 10:30, thinking all was good. I came out later that day and saw a parking ticket attached to the windshield. I’d been issued a 65 dollar fine at 10:28. Silly, but welcome to New York.
I suppose you could say that alternate side of the street parking is one of the pandemic plusses. Silly, but . . .
Wednesday, December 2.
Do we remember Donald? Slowly but surely he’s beginning to disappear from the front page. As of yesterday, Barr and even Mitch McConnell have given up on him. Barr admitted the obvious, that there was no voter fraud that could have altered the election results. McConnell has begun talking about the “new leadership” in the White House.
I haven’t looked, but I’m guessing Donald is still ranting on Twitter. That stolen election. Those evil Democrats. Yadda yadda yadda. The dribble continues, but nobody is listening.
He’s now in pardon mode. His children, his son in law, his lawyer; they all need to be forgiven. It’s pretty clear that everybody associated with our president has broken many laws. In a just world, they’d all be put in jail. Donald, too, of course, should be looking at his remaining years behind bars, but that’s a whole other story. If he can’t buy his way out, he will at least hold things up in court for the next seventy-five years. By then, he’ll be long gone, buried in a sand trap behind the fifteenth green at Trump National.
Tuesday, December 1.
Thank the lord for books! Without them I’m not so sure how I’d survive Covid.
I’m reading in the morning, before breakfast and before writing this blog. I’m reading in the afternoon, after teaching and I’m reading at night. All the articles say we need to find things to take our minds off the worry. Drinking and drugs work, but you pay the price. There is never a hangover from reading a book.
In the past few months I’ve read a wide range of authors. Here’s a short list:
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. Powerful writing but I’m not sure what the book was really about. Love, life, death, dissapearing, the intricacies of the human body.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. Great writing, intense look at women and the prison system, life lost.
Little Eyes by Samantha Schweblin: Strangest book I’ve read in a long time. There’s a toy, it’s a computer, it’s an alien, it’s everywhere, it’s weird.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jessica Ward. Real life, real people, real poverty, real love in Mississippi.
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Williams. Good writing, twisted love story of twins and an homage to Bill Shakespeare.
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. Good writer, terrible story. A woman is addicted to painkillers and not much else.
The New Socialist Handbook by Dan Tucker. A college friend, Dan wrote a really good Socialism for Dummies book. A lot of information stuffed into a very short read.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. 900 page love story in Tsarist Russia. I was never quite sure who to root for.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. A great writer, a lousy book. When you get older you shouldn’t spend so much time trying to prove you’re hip.
Now I’m reading Shuggie Bain, a first novel by Douglas Stuart. This was a Booker Prize winner and it deserves the praise. Stuart tells a true to life story of life in working class Glasgow. His prose is poetic and smart. Roddy Doyle, Irving Welsh — make room for Stuart.
Honestly, books have made me wish the pandemic will go on forever. Well, not really.
Monday, November 30.
As the week begins, it is raining. It’s a calming sound. I pretend that it’s cleansing, the water will wash away the disease, wash away everything wrong.
The New York Times has a “Here to Help” section on the bottom of page 3. Normally the help offered is fashion advice which is easy to skip. Today they featured a psychologist with tips for how to feel hopeful during desparate times. Probably could have skipped that too, but I scanned the article anyway.
The obvious: Control what you can. Move forward not backward. Focus on the good not the bad. Finally, it is suggested to collect a hope kit, photos and music and other things that inspire you. Not sure if you’re supposed to keep them in a box, but having the kit will allow you to access happy times whenever you need to.
Last week I found myself looking at pictures of Leo when he was little. And listening to Gil Scott Heron and Patti Smith. My hope kit.
The article didn’t mention one little trick I use. Magical thinking. Like thinking that the rain will heal us. It might not, but it does give me hope.
Sunday, November 29.
I began writing this blog in April. A few weeks into wearing masks and measuring seventy-two inches between ourselves and the next person, I decided to record my thoughts and feelings. When I began, I didn’t realized I’d be at it for this long.
Here were my first words from April 14:
The world is a little backward these days. A lot backwards. All the things we do now are the things we didn’t do before. Wash our hands, wear face masks, fear touching people. We didn’t do that before. We didn’t watch nine hours of Netflix before six P.M., we didn’t make phone calls, we didn’t read twenty-five articles about the same thing.
I’ve been inside for the past three weeks. I’m beginning to lose it. Aren’t you? Last week I spent the better part of three mornings reading Green Eggs and Ham backwards. Sam Am I. Ham and eggs green like you do? Ham and eggs green like not do I. It was the highlight of my day.
It’s now eight months later and little has changed. The world is still backwards. If anything, it’s a bit darker now, eight months deeper into this mess. The end is nowhere in sight. We read about a vaccine, but it’s not here yet. We wonder if it’s a real vaccine or just a newspaper story. We watch numbers soar. Lately, ambulance sirens are becoming frequent background noise. We’re still wearing masks, not opening doors with bare hands, measuring space between other people. I’m still home alone nearly every second of the day, my own best friend who often drives me crazy.
I think that if we look back on the past months, we will see how our existential selves have changed over time. Many of us have altered our understandings of time. We define death differently. Some of us have altered our priorities. What was important once before, saving money for instance, seems a lot less important now. Save for what?
We’ve just ended a holiday that required each of us to think about the things we are thankful for. This seemed to be the challenge of the week. But we managed to create lists of things that made us feel good and feel human. In the coming weeks as we approach a new year, we’ll find out if we really believe what we said. Will we usher in the new year with positive thoughts and hopes, with desires to conquer new heights and slay dragons, or will we bury ourselves under the covers and drink ourselves to sleep?
Saturday, Novemeber 28.
The timing is not right. I’m running out of things to say, but I’m determined to keep this blog going til it’s over. Then again, I’m not sure what “it” is. Til what is over?
Do I write til the pandemic ends? Do I write til Black lives actually do matter? Do I write for another few weeks, til Biden takes office and Donald becomes someone to forget?
When I began writing this blog, we were a few weeks into covid. It was a few months later when George Floyd was crushed to death. A few months later we voted Donald out of office. He hasn’t left yet and it might take force to get him out, but his days are numbered.
Now it’s today. The pandemic gets worse as we wait for a cure. Record covid numbers in Pennsylvania yesterday. The U.S. map gets more and more marked with dark splotches indicating the disease’s spread. Israel was blamed yesterday for the killing of a leading Irani nuclear scientist. Millions of Americans are certain that the Democrats stole the election. Black lives still don’t matter enough. Millions are without food.
It will never be over. This blog could go on forever, and since in my twisted magical fictitious brain, I will live to be 244, that means a lot more posts.
I woke up this morning singing “I’m too sexy for my cat.” Don’t ask my why.
Friday, November 27.
New York things to be thankful for:
Alternate Side of the street parking has been cancelled for the first half of the week, meaning I only have to move my car once a week.
The tennis courts are open and no passes are needed.
Our infection rate is among the lowest in the country.
Our wifi works beautifully.
Fewer tourists clogging the streets
It ain’t much, but still we’re thankful.
Thursday, November 26.
Happy Thanksgiving. And now the obvious question: What do you have to be thankful for?
The NY Times dedicated a few pages to this question, two full pages of poems written recently. While the poets have expressed the hopes that they hold on to, thanks in large part to snowfall, trees, sunsets and other natural phenomenon, reading the poems did not help me past the gloom that pervades the moment.
The Times also printed a list of states and the percentages of people from that state who were going to eat Thanksgiving dinner with people outside their immediate family. The twenty states with the highest percentage were states that voted for Donald. And who’s surprised?
Okay, here goes. I am thankful for many things: To be breathing and feeling physically strong every day. To have time every day to think, and to let my brain wanter and be creative, to make marks to express how I see. To be in New York, a city that’s easy to hate, and feel like I live in a beautiful place. I’m thankful for the concrete wall in the playground across the street, where I hit tennis balls while a group of neighbors play dominoes next to me. I’m thankful for the two boxes containing nearly ten thousand photos taken before digital cameras. I can look at pictures of my child and remember happier times with Eve and Leo. Yes, I’m thankful for having only a few more weeks to be governed by Donald and hold hope that our democracy can recover. I’m thankful to be able to sit here now and write and know that despite it all, things are alright..
Wednesday, November 25.
Eve emailed yesterday to remind me to credit her with figuring out how to do a safe Thanksgiving. Yes, credit is due. We were looking for ways to get the family together in a safe way and Eve thought of a great solution. Thanks Eve. And thanks for reading my blog!
We’d discussed a few possibilities. A first idea was a restaurant that would serve outdoors with heat lamps. Those are easy to find by googling “Thanksgiving restaurants with heat lamps.” Dozens of names of restaurants come up, but when you call them, either they don’t answer or they turn out not to be serving a Thanksgiving meal. Also, Leo told me he hated the idea of eating Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant.
Having everybody come to someone’s house presented the obvious Covid problems. Do we get tested two days before? Will we wear masks and stay six feet apart at the dinner table? Will we talk about the pandemic and nothing else?
Eve came up with the idea of meeting on the beach and taking a family walk. We could each make a dish and divide it into individual portions and after the walk, we’d give each other our homemade treats which we could either eat there picnic style if the weather permitted or bring them home and eat them alone.
It’s the best we could do and I’m actually looking forward to a nice walk on the beach. I might even strip naked and take a dip.
Tuesday, November 24.
I began my preparations for Thanksgiving yesterday. I bought a twelve pound turkey and the ingredients needed for cooking the bird. I also bought two bags of fresh cranberries.
Our Thanksgiving plans include a (masked) walk on the beach with five people. We’re each bringing food divided into individual portions that we will give to each other and then take home with us. This is our socially distanced solution for the holiday.
Needless to say, there will be plenty of leftover turkey. But I’m pretty sure we will stay disease free through the weekend, while other Americans, who stubbornly ignore safety guidelines, will sit at Thanksgiving tables with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, unmasked and courting danger as they dig in to marshmallow coated yams, string bean casseroles, drumsticks and pumpkin pie for dessert.
And this will be small compared to what will inevitably happen in coming weeks as November becomes December. Rumor has it Santa has not cancelled plans to visit us. Yes, he’ll be masked, but will pull it off as he puffs on his pipe.
Monday, November 23.
And one more number: Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, reports that use of the term “pandemic” has increased 57,000 percent since last year.
And you wonder, why do this study this?
Before a few months ago, I’m pretty certain that I’d never said or written the word “pandemic.” Not once. So for me, that math doesn’t apply. It’s not as if I’d said it three times before and 171,000 times since. I’m guessing that I’ve gone from zero to a few hundred, or maybe even more. Have I said “pandemic,” once a day for these past 200 days. There have been days when I didn’t say it once and others when I said it at least a half dozen times. Surely on the days I didn’t say it, I thought it. But that doesn’t count here.
Pandemic is not such a great word for poets. It sounds ugly and rhyming options are limited: systemic, polemic, photogenic. Or, if you’re writing about sex, there’s transgenic. Not good.
I’m wondering how Oxford came up with that statistic. You can’t take a poll and ask people if they said “pandemic,” and how many times they said it. And you can’t ask them how many times they said it last year. Most likely, the figure was obtained by doing word counts in published documents. And so the statistic discusses media, not human usage, which makes the whole thing far more uninteresting.
My day begins, I’ll be teaching soon. If I’m going to use the word “pandemic” today, I’ll have to mention it to my students during art class. After class, I won’t speak to anybody for the rest of the day. Because, well you know why — because of the pandemic.
Sunday, November 22.
I attended a virtual event yesterday that bothered me. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because the fifty people who were in attendance were all white.
I’m pretty sure I was the only one there who thought about that as the meeting was happening. The event had nothing to do with race. But the all white turnout made it painfully aware how little we’ve come in the past months.
The people attending were liberal, cultured artists. These were people of means, some of them with second homes up the Hudson. I’m pretty sure that most of them were marching in the streets just a few months ago, carrying Black Lives Matters signs.
Nothing will change if we don’t change. We must decide if we want inclusion or separate but equal. If we choose inclusion, then me must include.
Saturday, November 21
I need a day off. I need a vacation. But it’s not gonna happen.
Do you remember the tv ad for Calgon from the early 80’s. A woman, frustrated by her daily house wife chores, stands in front of her washing machine, or at the kitchen sink. Too much dirty laundry or dirty dishes has driven her mad. She raises her hands to the heavens and shouts out, “Calgon, take me away.”
Calgon was a bath powder that promised to ease the pains of life, albeit, it only worked for middle class white women.
Lately, I’m thinking Calgon every day. I need something to take me away, to take me anywhere but where I am now. For a while, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was drinking plenty. Lately, I’ve stopped. Now I’m playing tons of chess and doing a million word puzzles. These work a little, but they don’t take me any place too exciting. Checkmating someone on the internet is not Bali.
I have a map of the world shower curtain that I’ve been looking at a lot lately. In the shower I fantasize about traveling to far away places. Yesterday I was studying the area around Manuas, Brazil. A trip to the rainforest would surely be a great escape. I’d like to travel the Silk Road too and have always wanted to explore West and Central Africa. My desire to be places where people like me don’t normally go is strong.
There are so many places I’ve never seen. I hope to see them one day, to really see them. Google visits won’t do.
Friday, November 20.
It’s Friday, another week coming to a close. Today I’ll end class wishing my students a nice weekend and telling them to be safe. “Yeah, yeah,” they’ll think, safe schmaif.
And we know, everyone’s idea of safe differs widely. While sickness and death numbers soar, setting new records daily, there are still millions of Americans who don’t wear or even own a mask. Some threaten violence if asked to wear a mask in a store. Many ignore legislation limiting the number of people permitted to meet together. Donald (the only guy in America not to admit he has lost the election) has said absolutely nothing about the pandemic in weeks.
The pandemic continues, as does the ignorance about it. In a few days we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, most of us celebrating alone or, at best, with a party of two or three. Uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and grandparents are not invited this year.
And yet, there is so much to be thankful for. We are alive. Most of us are still covid free. Some of us have full pay checks and healthy bank accounts. We have beautiful homes. Most importantly, we have time to enjoy life. Even if we need to find ways to enjoy that don’t involve other people or touch, we still have time to ourselves when we aren’t simply struggling to survive. In this most difficult time, there is still brightness.
Thursday, November 19.
And yet another number, this one a 3, but it’s a big 3. 3 is the positivity percentage that, when we reach that number, New York Schools will close. We hit that number yesterday and today public school in New York will be 100 (another number) percent virtual.
Word on the street is that schools have little to do with the rising positivity rate. Schools have kept clean and, for the most part, are disease free. In truth, very few kids are going to school, so closing them isn’t quite as bad as it sounds.
And yet, it is bad for many people, especially people with work/child care issues, most of whom are low income. And so, the problem becomes one involving race (Black and Latino), gender (women) and class.
What can I do? Nothing. How can I help? I can’t.
Wednesday, November 18.
Apparently, I drew a portrait of Mike Pence wearing a mask yesterday. I hadn’t realized what I’d done until I received four Facebook messages from friends asking me about the drawing of Pence.
I looked back at the drawing, which in truth was of an elderly, white haired woman who I’d photographed walking toward me on Grand Street. I was taken by the patriotic flag mask she wore, a lone white star on a filed of blue, with red and white stripes.
Indeed, she did look an awful lot like the soon to be unemployed vice president. Her mask looked either to be a patriotic call to the United States or Cuba. Cuba’s flag has just one white star, which this mask was showing. But on Cuba’s flag, the colors are reversed as the white star is on a field of red and the stripes are blue and white. Pence had not gone communist.
I’m looking at the picture again here on this blog, and she does look more like Pence than the elderly woman she really is. Art is funny sometimes.
We’re all desperate to be taken away from pandemic worry. I’m glad my drawing gave a few people the needed break.
Tuesday, November 17.
I’m starting today on just four hours of sleep. Though I was in bed before ten, I lay awake, unable to fall asleep for hours.
As I lay in bed, I felt completely comfortable. I just wasn’t drifting off. I have many versions of counting sheep that include playing various word games in my head. I also have a mantra that, when repeated, relaxes me. But the games and the meditation weren’t working.
At one o’clock, I turned the light on and red ten pages of a book on philosophy. It’s kind of a philosophy book for dummies, but it’s written in such a way that makes absolutely no sense. It was the perfect book to read then, as all I wanted was to fall asleep, not caring about remembering what I was reading. But it didn’t work.
Somehow I fell asleep and the next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and looking at a clock reporting 6:05. Which meant I’d slept for four hours at the most.
And so I begin Tuesday, a bit groggy, but determined to make the most of it. While I pour a slightly stronger cup of coffee, I read that 1,400 more covid related deaths occurred yesterday here in our country. Biden warned Donald that more will die if he isn’t given information to begin planning for January, but Donald is giving nothing. As of Monday, Donald was still proclaiming victory.
Meanwhile, the new white house doctor, Scott Atlas, has called out governors of states who are demanding mask wearing and closing down non-essential business. Atlas, an actual medical professional, is an anti-masker who is urging the people of states like Michigan to protest any state restrictions. No comment.
I’m hoping the weather stays warm so that Donald can golf every day.
Monday, November 16.
I lost my wallet yesterday. This is one of my biggest fears. I reached into my pocket and it was empty. In a split second I realized it was lost and began immediately to panic. I was in my living room, but at the same time I felt myself turning over on my bed and reaching for a pillow. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized it was a dream.
I rarely remember dreams. Why this one, losing my wallet? But I guess the symbolism is there. Wallet is money and identification, proof of my position in the world. Without it, I’m nothing.
University of Tennessee football players are wearing tiny devices inside their shoulder pads. The device measures physical proximity to other people and can tell you if you’ve been near a person for fifteen minutes or more.
In the past months we’ve had our temperatures taken with things that look more like pen lights.
There are so many devices and digital tools being created these days. We are way behind some countries in tracking our every step, although I think Google is watching me as I write this. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who knows that I am finishing this paragraph.
Today I’m beginning a unit in Surrealism with my students. Seems a really good time for this.
Sunday, November 15.
This question keeps coming up. I spend the first few hours of the day doing what I’m supposed to do. I write this blog, make my daily drawing and do my job. And by 2:30 I’m done.
And I should celebrate because I have a half a day left to do whatever I want. And as much as I want to do all those things I love to do — make art, write, read, exercise — I struggle to find the energy. It’s not that I’m tired, I’m not. I simply can’t motivate myself.
I don’t think the problem is existential. I’m not sitting around asking myself why I should or shouldn’t do something. More the issue is that those things that I do don’t seem to have much meaning right now. But really, I know the meaning is there. After all, I am an artist and my art is about today. If ever there was a more exciting time for me as an artist, it is now. So?
Here’s the sad thing that is hard to even say. Is it possible that I’m not doing it because I don’t think any one is going to be around to see it? End of the world?
As much as I don’t think the end is coming today or tomorrow, I think I’m living as if it is. And many more of us are too. The combination of disease and hatred that permeates our world has brought us to this point.
And one more thing to mention. For the past few months I’ve been experiencing this nightmare alone. A relationship ended at the beginning of the summer and since then I’ve been here in my apartment, just me, every day. And it’s lonely.
I’m not asking for sympathy. I know we’re all battling our worst demons these days. And I know things change, sometimes over night. Colors mix, light makes things brighter, and without doing anything, the world can become something new.
Saturday, November 14.
Still more numbers. California surpasses a million. Record numbers in six states. Predictions of 440,000 dead by March. And in Augusta, Tiger Woods is four under par in the middle of his second round.
I was reading the paper yesterday and it seemed like every sentence included a number. The NFL said that only 20 percent of its seats would be filled for the Super Bowl. Big Hit Entertainment raised more than 800 million dollars in South Korea. The European Commission denied funding for 6 towns in Poland after 100 local government in the country declared themselves “free from L.G.B.T. ideology. One third of unemployed workers have been without a job for 27 weeks or more, compared with 4.1 percent in April. 3,300 high-school students studies found that nearly one third of them suffered from depression. Portuguese film director Manoel de Oliveira completed his last film at 105 years old.
It’s all numbers.
Friday, November 13.
TGIF. And hey, it’s Friday the 13th.
We’re now ten days post-election and we still have a President who can’t admit defeat. National security and, ultimately, human lives are in danger due to the fact that Donald won’t share information that Biden needs to begin planning.
I’m a bit confused. It seems that, besides a few of his sad little cronies, the entire nation has accepted the election results. If there are documents and other kinds of information needed by Biden, how can Donald actually keep them from him? It’s not as if these documents are in his top desk drawer. Aren’t there actual people who could hand the information over, regardless of what Donald says?
It’s really looking like the men wearing white coats, carrying nets, will be taking Donald away on January 20. If they put him in a white room with a desk and a comfy couch, he just might think he’s still in office. Give him a lap top and he can tweet til the cows come home.
Thursday, Novemeber 12
Numbers tell the story. We’re now at 140,000 a day. Death tolls have surpassed the 1,000 a day mark. We are in the ninth month and looking at many more to come. Donald has 69 days left in office.
Let’s focus on that one. Donald will be President for 99,360 more minutes. That’s over five million seconds, which is quite bothersome, because it only takes a second to screw up. At two lies an hour, we’ll hear approximately 3,300 untruths before January 20.
Will we hear him tell us we’ve turned the corner again? 90,000 Amercians will no longer be Americans by January 20. Nearly a million more will become ill with Covid.
It’s hard for me to imagine these numbers. They are scary, which is part of why we read them every day. Scary news sells papers. I’m thinking that business will remain good in the coming weeks.
Wednesday, November 11.
This just in: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke out about his boss’ future: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
I saw this in the paper today and had to reread it a half dozen times. This was not the Onion and I wasn’t watching Saturday Night Live. If I were to believe the New York Times (fakest of all fake newspapers?), he really said this.
During the few months of this lame duck period, a few things are supposed to happen. First, the obvious. The loser is supposed to concede and offer congratulations to the winner. In this case, Donald is supposed to invited Biden for a White House visit. Tea or coffee and a quick tour of the house should be included in the visit. It’s always nice to show the next occupant of the White House around, let him see the bedroom at least.
And then there’s the transition. Biden should be given money from the federal government to begin preparing. When he is sworn in in January, he should have a team ready to go to work. It costs money to organize this and in all previous years, this has been an easy thing to arrange.
I wrote a few weeks ago how I figured Donald would go out kicking and screaming. Now it looks like he won’t go out at all. Will he lock himself in the White House and refuse to let Biden in? Will he make Presidential decisions on January 20, as if he really is still the President? We’re in for a show, that’s for sure.
Tuesday, November 10.
We’re now two months into Zoom school. Teachers are exhausted. It’s hard for me to tell how the students are feeling. They are showing up for class. In my art class, they are doing their work. In fact, they are doing it exceptionally well.
I was amazed at the high quality of work that my students accomplished recently. They had been assigned to make two finished drawings, figure studies of classmates. Working from photographs, the students spent a week making pencil, pastel, oil stick and charcoal drawings. Over the past few years, we’ve done this project in the classroom. 30 kids, together, drawing, talking, socializing. In a situation like that, many kids find it hard to focus on their own work.
This year, the students were home, in their own rooms, working alone. It was as if they’d each been given their own private art studio. As a result, the drawings are spectacular. There are real studies of the human form. There are beautiful drawings, cross-hatched and showing real volume and depth. You can tell by looking, that the students had spent real time working on the drawings. Many of the drawings, done by fourteen year olds, could be framed and hung in a museum.
Not that this is an argument for virtual school. We know what the kids are missing by being stuck at home. If anything, it teaches us something about how we teach. We should be able to create a studio like environment in a real classroom. It might be as simple as figuring out a way to keep the kids quiet at certain times.
Monday, November 9.
George Bush, Benjamin Netanyahu and Boris Johnson have all called to congratulate Joe Biden. No call from Putin. And, of course, not a word from Donald himself , who played golf for a second straight day yesterday.
Most Republicans are still in fear of turning away from Donald, so they’re remaining quiet. Some are even spouting dribble to reporters about how the election was fixed and Donald is still president until the law suits determine the real winner.
We face a month or two of this kind of silliness. Vote recounts, unless the vote differential was greater than one percent, are at our expense. I’m not sure who pays for the lawyers. How many billions will Donald spend on litigation?
I think the best thing that can come out of this is that, if Donald spends the next few months fighting the courts and begging for the Supreme Court to intervene, the time and energy spent fighting (and losing) will mean less time spent messing the country up further. Let him fight windmills.
Sunday, November 8.
Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, delivered in November. His one-out, two run homer to right sealed the deal for Biden. With the Jackson homerun, Pennsylvania and Nevada crossed the plate and secured the presidency. Donald, in disbelief, cannot find it in himself to emerge from the dugout and concede defeat.
And so it goes. We’ve received minute by minute news flashes for the past few days, receiving endless scores, tallies and predictions. Presented to us in the manner of a World Series game or an NBA final, (of course, this is America), we watched Biden cross the 270 vote finish line with wins in Pennsylvania and Nevada. Game over. Maricopa county, who cares.
And it did feel like a World Series victoy. Last night I was walking on St. Marks place. It was electric. The New York streets were packed. Every restaurant was jammed. A dance party was happening on the street. Everyone was screaming with happiness. “We won!” signs decorated apartment windows. I passed by a small dog wearing an “America Chose a Winner” sign.
Kamala Harris and Biden spoke last night and gave thrilling, positive spins on our great nation. We are now the party of hope and we represent the belief that our nation can come together as one and heal.
And now it’s Sunday and we’re enjoying a much needed day of rest. We’ll wake up tomorrow, winners, but facing a few major headaches — legal battles, Congress, The Supreme Court and a president who doesn’t know how to lose.
Saturday, November 7.
A day later, still 253 to 214. No, wait. I just checked a CNN website and Biden now has 264 as Arizona has now been declared a Biden victory. While we are fixated on the election numbers, CNN also reports six other things happening in the world.
- The Israeli military demolished a Palestinian community in the West Bank, leaving 73 people homeless.
- Abiy Amhed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, ordered troops into the Tigray region, stroking fear of civil war.
- Donald is going through with plans to sell 2.9 billion dollars worth of drones to the United Arab Emirates.
- John Magufuli, the president of Tanzania has been sworn in despite intense opposition demanding a repeat election due to fraud.
- Arnab Goswani, a leading right wing news anchor, was arrested for his involvement in the death of Anvay Naik.
- Russian lawmakers submitted a bill that would give lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution to former presidents.
As our myopic world halts while we count votes and deal with a deranged president, the real world continues. And for those of us not paying attention, we are still consumed by a health crisis that is killing people and keeping us six feet from anybody else.
Friday, November 6.
I woke a little before six this morning and turned the television on before getting out of bed. CNN still reported a 253 to 214 Biden lead, but the numbers had changed in a few key states. Biden had narrowed the lead in Pennsylvania and had even claimed a teeny weeny lead in Georgia.
As I listened to the talk, it was pretty clear that Biden would be the winner. Reports were in that the votes left to be counted in Pennsylvania were from Biden territory. To make the sports analogy, it seemed like we were in the bottom of the ninth, trailing by just one run, with Micky Mantle, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth scheduled to bat. Rod Carew was in the dugout if needed. Projections were that Biden would end up winning convincingly.
Do we all now know where Maricopa county is? I think I’ve heard that word, Mar — Eee-Copa, at lease thirty million times.
Biden also leads nationwide by over four million votes, but who’s counting? I mean . . .
In a few days we’ll begin phase two, the legal battle. I’m not sure how the tv people can present this. They won’t have blue and red maps to show us that are constantly changing, or not changing, as we’re seeing now. There are very few people left outside of QAnon and Laura Ingraham who actually believe the Dems have cheated. We know there was no reason to cheat because we won, by a small margin, but we won.
The party is a few weeks away and will be celebrated mostly virtually. Our new leadership will be done without vibrato and without pretending that all is good here. It’s not and the new president will inherit a most troubled nation. But we will be beginning a new era and we will be able to live Donald free for the rest of our lives. His followers will become fringe noisemakers that we won’t have to listen to or fear. With a little bit of hope, we can live our days without hating ourselves, our neighbors, our country, our world.
Thursday, November 5.
A few things I’ve learned this week:
1. The last thing I’d want to be is a television reporter doing election coverage.
2. There are a lot of people with college and graduate degrees who are extremely stupid.
3. Every vote counts.
And so, we’re finishing up the count. Barring a Dewey beats Truman like occurrence, all signs point to Biden winning the right to the White House by the narrowest of margin. Good and Bad to be taken from this. The GOOD: We are just a few months away from never having to worry about Donald again. In the real world, he has been beaten, though he will paint a different, yet completely untrue, picture. We will soon have a Democrat, and more importantly, a relatively sane, decent person, running our country. He will call on capable people to run departments and attempt to right the wrongs that have been created over the past four years.
The BAD: More people voted for Donald than in 2016. Nearly 70 million Americans believe there is something right about him. Some of these people live next door or around the corner. Some of them work with you, have children who go to school with your kids, stand in line behind you at the supermarket. 70 million!
The Pandemic, Global Warming, Black Lives Matter, The Economy, Unemployment: all these things are gigantic issues on Mr. Biden’s plate. And there’s one more thing: The Divided Nation. This might be the biggest issue of all, because it is the thing that defines who we are with the people we live with. Donald has created a world of hatred. Millions of us might say out loud how love and peace is our guiding principlem but our love is not shared with our neighbors. Not any more. Now we hate them. President Donald has guided us in this world of hatred. It has made a nation that is unhappy, tense and completely unproductive.
Joe Biden’s words sound good. He stresses how he represents everybody, not just his party. We haven’t heard that in the last four years. We’ve heard from Donald how every Democratic led city and town is evil and corrupt. We’ve heard him call intelligent people with years of experience at their jobs idiots. We’ve heard nothing but negative, paranoid dribble from his mouth for four years. He sounds like an unintelligent, spoiled six year old. And we still have three months of it and it might get worse. We will most likey have to physically remove him from office, kicking and screaming. It will be a great day for tv drama.
Wednesday, November 4.
I fell asleep at around eleven last night, depressed, but not knowing the outcome of the election. As I drifted off to sleep, Biden was losing by fairly large margins in many important states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. If you believed the news reporters, many votes in many left leaning counties had yet to be counted, so these leads may have meant little. Still, I fell asleep feeling like my team was going to lose a game they were supposed to win. Actually I felt less like my team was losing than my entire world was losing.
I woke a little before two and decided to turn the tv on to see what had happened. Biden was still trailing in all of those states, only now a higher percentage of the state’s votes had been counted. And still, the news reporters said the winner was uncertain. A little after two, Donald stepped up to a mike and spoke to his people. Many hundreds of supporters were in the room (I think he was in the White House). None of them-NONE!!!- wore masks. Donald spoke for about five minutes, during which he claimed a convincing victory. According to Donald, he was winning by huge margins everywhere. If they were to count votes late and claim otherwise, that was fraud, and there was no way he’d allow the election to be stolen from him. America, according to Donald, had spoken. America wanted Donald to make the country great again.
The newsreporters denied everything Donald said. I went back to sleep, more depressed than earlier.
It’s now a little before 8 and as I write, I don’t know the current situation. I haven’t seen the news since waking up. I’m afraid to look. The feeling in my stomach is really bad. Were the polls wrong again? Wisconsin by eleven percent? Biden was supposed to win every swing state. He was supposed to win Georgia and maybe even Texas. What the hell happened?
My morning routine includes making a drawing of a masked New Yorker before starting my day. So I have about another forty-five minutes before I learn the truth. It’s awfully quiet outside my window. Is that a good or a bad sign?
Tuesday, November 3.
We wake up today to a nation of collective fear and tension. We already know what comes next: Donald will lose by many millions of votes all over the country. He will lose the swing states he won four years ago and he’ll even lose a few that he won that weren’t considered swing. He’ll lose in a landslide because the American people know he’s a monster.
And then he’ll set a team of lawyers to work discounting millions and millions of votes. Votes will be cancelled for reasons that make no sense but they will be cancelled by right wing judges. I‘m not quite sure how they will manage to discount Biden votes but not Donald votes, but they will.
The Pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have turned this nation upside down. What’s coming next will flip it twice and spin it into an unrecognizable site. If we thought there was rioting before, after the George Floyd killing, get ready for what’s coming.
Monday, October 2.
With just one more day of campaigning, Biden is covering Pennsylvania while Donald is everywhere, begging for a few more votes. But really, I think it’s over. The people have made up their minds, many of them have already voted. Now we just have to count the votes. Or don’t count them, because the outcome will most likely be nullified anyway.
The sad truth is that in some ways, it doesn’t really matter who wins. Biden should win, but there’s a small chance the polls have been wrong all along, and, of course, a bigger chance that any of many types of fraud will tip the election to Donald. Regardless of who wins, our country is already shattered.
We’ve lost trust in our system. We have a president who has already stated that he will not accept anything but a victory. A loss for Donald will be considered a win. He’s spoken out so much about how the election is rigged that most of our nation believes that it is. It hardly matters whether it works properly or not, we now believe it doesn’t. Nullifying it after the fact will seem the logical next step.
Let’s face it, our world is not what it once was. With the computer comes hackers. They are everywhere. They turn truths into lies and they litter the world with fabricated realities that many people come to accept as truth. We all have our own understandings now of what is true and what is false. If we don’t like one reality, we accept another. And we can find proof that it’s legitimate because it’s printed somewhere.
Donald might be the biggest liar of all time, but we can’t really blame him. He has simply latched on to the way the world works now. It has given him carte blanche. Lie and the lie is now truth.
Some of the lies are big ones. The Covid pandemic is not really a big deal. Global warming is a hoax. America is the strongest economy in the world. Donald loves Black people. The Mexicans will pay for the wall. And the latest: The votes for Biden are fraudulent.
Which of those do you believe?
Sunday, November 1.
Tick tock tick tock. Though it hardly seems like it these days, the clock is still moving. Seconds are still a second long, a minute is sixty of them.
It’s seven-thirty now. We’ve gained an hour, kind of. When I woke up today, the two clocks in my bedroom showed different times. One is connected to the WWW, and so the time was automatically changed in the middle of the night when we gained our hour. And yes, when I woke up this morning, I could see, because the sun was an hour ahead of me. Strange world.
And so, I get an extra hour today to enjoy the pandemic. With our extra hour, we’ll have an extra sixty thousand new Covid cases and nine hundred new deaths which will lead to many extra Zoom hours of grieving. We’ll spend an extra hour depressed, confused, anxious and just basically lost. We’ll try to remember how lucky we are to be alive, to have refrigerators filled with food, to have enough money in the bank to cover our footsteps for the next few weeks. Although, some of us won’t be that lucky.
With a deep breath I make a silent wish that this blog will end soon and I’ll put the final words on this most tragic time of our lives.
Saturday, October 31.
Happy Halloween. We’ve made it to another holiday. Like the ones observed in recent months, this one will be celebrated in Covid fashion. In Zoom school yesterday, some of the students had donned costumes and could be seen wearing them on their little one inch square of space allotted to them by Zoom. To celebrate, I donned my Bob Ross wig and taped on a beard and mustache, and we had a Bob Ross art class. As much as despise his art, kids love the guy, and I’ve done this little act live in past years to much success. We managed yesterday, as the kids happily painted a mountain landscape. As they painted to a Bob Ross video, they kept referring to me as “Bob.” Halloween Fun.
And so, no bobbing for apples, no ringing neighbors doorbells. Parents will buy bags of candy for their kids and call it a day. Thanks to mom and dad, kids will still be able to gobble M&Ms, Starbursts and Almond Joys to their hearts content and run crazed around the house for a few hours before their sugar buzzes settle.
There are reports of Covid inspired Halloween costumes: toilet paper and hand sanitizer themes. Not sure how you dress up as hand sanitizer, but why not. As to where you’ll go with your costume, I guess that’s a red/blue issue. Which side of the social distance fence are you on, Biden or Donald? And if celebrating Halloween comes down to your political belief, this is that much more proof that our nation is seriously fucked.
Friday, October 30.
I took a little walk in the rain yesterday, a few blocks down Henry Street to my local voting precinct. Inside, it was well organized and felt safe. Everybody was masked and social distance protocol was in effect. It took me less than three minutes to cast my vote for Joe and Kamala. I came away feeling good and also left with a complimentary stylus pen and an “‘I’m A Future Voter” sticker.
In order to cast my vote here in New York, I needed only to tell them the first four digits of my first and last name, and with that information, I was given the right to vote. I wasn’t asked to provide a signle sheet of paper with my picture or anything else proving who I was. No proof of any kind was needed to prove I was a legal citizen with the right to vote, not an illegal, not an imposter or a fraud. Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee — are you listening?
I read today that Texas, one of the most cherry red states, is now a swing state. For some odd reason, Donald is spending no time or money there, and yet, if he loses Texas, it’s over for him. So, either, he is waiting to be defeated or, more likely, he doesn’t really care about the election results because he is going to ignore them and press Congress and the Supreme Court to overturn the vote.
Losing Texas might be a win for Donald, because he can speak to the American public and say that losing Texas on paper makes it obvious that the vote was fraudulent. He’ll claim that there is no possible way he could really lose Texas, so clearly the mail-ins were fixed.
From there he will go on to make claims that Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida were similarly fixed elections and the vote must be overturned. And suddenly, Donald is a landslide winner.
Following is two months of staring into the camera, raising and pumping fists, chanting “Thank you America. Now let’s make us great again.”
Following is three and a half years of whining and screaming that, despite a gazillion vote Democratic victory, this is what we’ve got.
Thursday, October 29.
I’m going to vote today. There is early voting on Henry Street, just a block from me, so I think I’ll cast my vote today for Joe. Facebook photo of me smiling, wearing an “I voted early” sticker to follow.
And the madness continues. Some numbers rise — Covid cases and Covid deaths, others fall — the Dow. Maybe this is a balanced America. Meanwhile, Donald claims fake news and media hysteria that is keeping our country from restarting. After all, he had Covid and recovered in a day and his son had it and only needed a tissue. So really, according to Donald, it’s nothing to fret over. Tell that to 250 thousand dead people and a few million more who are struggling with life after getting sick.
Another police killing of a black man. Dot dot dot.
Yes, I know this rant grows tiresome. And guess what. If you believe the fake news, we will be battling this disease at least another year, maybe more. Let’s gear up. Keep our Netflix accounts active, there’s gonna be a lot of time to watch.
Wednesday, October 28
Every day we feel the craziness of our time. So much is uncertain. For weeks now, as we near the election, we become more and more tense. One minute we’re sure Donald has seen his last days and the next we are not so sure. We see the polls that favor Biden in nearly every state. Even the counties that were once solidly red are now tending toward purple. Biden will win in a landslide.
But when we look at the rest of the picture, we aren’t so sure the polls mean much. Voter suppression, Supreme Court decisions to not count votes that arrive by mail an hour late, a maniacal president who claims he will claim fraud if he loses — and yes, he will lose and he will claim fraud.
As I thought about it this morning, in a moment of what I hope was not clarity, I realized that the Donald regime is real. It’s the ruling party and it will do everything it can to stay in power. Why wouldn’t it be able to control the election? Election fraud has happened thousands of times all over the world. Hey, didn’t it happen just a few years ago here, when the Supreme Court oversaw a 537 vote victory for a Republican. That was before Donald, before the regime was established in full force.
I read today that all over America gun sales are up. People are taking matters into their own hands. They don’t trust the government, they don’t trust the police, they don’t trust their neighbors.
I suppose the bright side to look at is that on November 4, I will be home in my apartment, teaching school on my computer in my living room, with my door shut. I don’t think I’ll need a gun.
Tuesday, October 27.
Um. Uh. Um.
This is what happens after eight months. In a few more weeks I might not even be able to manage the Um.
The repetition of news items gets worse and worse. Today there is front page piece about Donald and the Brazilian idiot who had a big dinner party back in March. The Brazilian went home and half his staff got covid sick. This was way back in March and we already knew how stupid these people were, so why are we reading it again? Other front page articles discuss voters who are too angry at both parties to vote, the New York financial crisis and colleges who are feeling the financial crunch. I know I know I know I know I know.
The newspapers might as well just lay everyone off and reprint yesterdays paper. In fact, we should all just stop living now and just do reruns of ourselves. The new us is the old us. We are hamsters.
Monday, October 26.
A new week begins but we don’t feel like anything new is happening. We’re still in the middle of this mess. I suppose this is the final week where we hold are breath, wait and hope, and try to think that some positive just might be coming.
In eight days we will have elected a new president. We can only hope that we are strong enough to fight and defeat whatever comes after. Will we have to deal with a crazed, maniacal president who thinks he can snap his fingers and make things happen for him? It’s quite possible.
Will we have a Congress or a Supreme court who sill suck up to the President and find a way to discount the voice of the people? It’s quite possible.
Why even write about this? We’ve thought it all out and now, eight days before the election, all we know is that we have no idea how it will play out. While we wait to see, let’s keep our masks on, keep our distance from each other and keep washing our hands.
Sunday, October 25.
I was scanning this blog and noticed a few things I jotted down over the past eight months:
1. The President of the United States (Donald) posted a tweet of a Florida man in a golf cart shouting White Power!
2. The President of the United States (Donald) had people who were peacefully protesting the killing of George Floyd shot with rubber bullets to make way for a photo op on the steps of a Washington Church.
3. The President of the United States (Donald) spoke out against NASCAR for removing the Confederate Flag.
Just a few items from the life of our President(Donald), who, on more than one occasion, called himself the least racist person on earth. Really?
Saturday, October 24.
I’ve always been a big sports fan and have loved reading statistics. Witnessing record breaking events is a lot of what a sports fan lives for — the most strikeouts in a game, most homeruns in a lifetime, most three point shots in a game, longest hitting streak.
We’re setting records daily. 82,000 new cases on Friday beats a single day record by 3,000. New daily records in Kentucky, North Dakota and the Texas-Mexico border. Unemployment records are being broken daily too. The number of businesses closing daily, another record being smashed every day. Indeed it’s a time for the record books.
Reading these statistics in the newspaper is almost exciting, until you realize what you are reading. These record smashing numbers are real people who are really sick and are really dying. They are really losing jobs and businesses, really lining up at food banks, really losing their homes.
And yet, Donald just said the other night that we’ve turned the corner. We’re back. We’re open. We’re good.
There are laws about stopping a person who is not mentally fit from being the President of the United States. Just saying.
Friday, October 23.
If Donald is the least racist person in the world, then we’re really in for big big trouble. It’s almost comical to hear him compare himself to Abraham Lincoln. And why Lincoln? I don’t think honest Abe was really such a Black Lives Matter kind of guy. Surely he had his reasons for ending slavery, but I don’t think it had much to do with equal rights for all. Had Donald compared himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, now then we’d have to worry.
My friend Warren, who has been traveling for the past year, decided to plunk himself down in Las Vegas. Every vote matters and he thought his vote for Biden would count most in Nevada, so he rented an apartment and registered to vote there. In my dream, Biden carries Nevada by a single vote!
Donald says this is the most important election in our history. He also says that if he loses, America is in for the biggest depression ever and we’ll all lose our 401 Ks. I’m pretty sure more than half of American adults don’t have a 401K. I think they have less than eleven dollars in savings and many don’t even have a job. Some don’t have homes or food for dinner.
Have a nice day everybody.
Thursday, October 22.
The reports are in that Russia and Iran are involved in trying to influence the election. We’ve known about Russia for a long time, now Iran is involved. I’m not really sure why this is such a big deal. Apparently they are sending emails to voters claiming to be somebody they aren’t, trying to intimidate. This seems more like modern day advertising than cheating.
Yesterday I received a call from “Amazon,” telling me I’d made an eight hundred dollar purchase of a cell phone that appeared fraudulent. I needed to talk to them about how to keep my account safe. I also received a call yesterday from someone claiming that my Social Security number has been stolen and that I needed to talk to them about fixing this matter.
I’ve been getting these calls for the past year or so. I once called Amazon just to be sure it was a scam and I was assured it was. Let’s face it, this is our world these days. Our system is begging to be infiltrated.
I’m less worried about Iran than I am about Donald himself. He is the one working with voter suppression people. He’s the one focused on Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, trying everything possible to deny millions of legitimate American citizens the right to vote against him. This is where it will matter.
Wednesday, October 21.
Even in this most depressing and frightening time, there are highlights in my day. Though I wake to a five or ten minute period of brain fog and overall gloom, I manage daily to put myself through the motions, and some of them bring a brief moment of joy.
Blueberries. This is a new found happiness. Until Monday, I was putting strawberries in my morning oatmeal. I think I even wrote about this a week or so ago. This past weekend I was with a friend and we were talking about food. I’m on a new low carb diet and, though I never really thought about this, strawberries are a high sugar food, but blueberries are apparently a better low carb alternative. And so, blueberries are now my morning choice. And they are delicious. I’m actually smiling as they explode in my mouth. A moment of happiness at 7 A.M.
I’m reading two books at a time these days. One book I read just a chapter or two, twice a day. I read the first chapter after my morning routine of weight lifting and pushups, just before taking a shower. Then I read another chapter after my afternoon run, also before showering. Sounds silly this read before a shower routine, but it’s giving me joy. I recently finished two novels, one by Arthur Phillips and another by Ottessa Moshfegh. I’m now finishing Krazy Kat by Jay Cantor. Three talented writers giving me a few moments of daily joy.
I haven’t watched Netflix in months, but just last week I started rewatching Shtisel, a drama that takes place in Jerusalem and features an ultra orthodox family. The program is beautifully filmed and I love the city of Jerusalem, so just seeing the city on film gives me joy. Also, the acting is superb and the characters are well structured, especially Akiva, the youngest son who, despite his religious upbringing and beliefs, is a creative artist. The story is spoken in Hebrew and Yiddish. Hearing those sounds bring great joy.
I have moments of joy as an artist too. Writing this, though not making me smile or giggle, feels good. My daily drawing of a masked American allows me an hour a day to disappear into my own joyful existence.
I also feel joy every day, not when I’m exercising, but when I finish exercising. It’s feel joyful relief on push up number 100 — I’m done! — and when I return home after a six mile run.
Admittedly, these joyful moments are small, but they are getting me through each day. For there is zero pleasure reading the news, thinking about the world, wearing a mask, keeping six feet from humanity. I’ll take what I can get.
Tuesday, October 20.
It seems a bit strange that Donald’s eleventh hour attempt to gain votes involves trashing Dr. Faucci. How will calling America’s top disease specialist an idiot win votes?
Donald actually said this: “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’”
Whatever? Is that what they’re saying?
One thing he got right: We’re tired of it. We’re sick of it, we really are. We wake each morning wondering how we’ll go on for another day. And then we do. We don’t ignore the fact that over 70,000 new cases were reported yesterday and 900 more American people are not American anymore because they are dead. Unlike our president, we are not babies angry that we don’t get a second desert. As much as we might want desert, we know it’s not happening now.
And yet the rallies continue and thousands if not millions of Americans are sucked into believing that Trump knows more about science than scientists. I haven’t seen the statistics, but I’m guessing that the majority of new Covid cases are more red than blue. It is beyond ridiculous. But I keep remembering that this is real, not a scripted teledrama.
It took just a few days to put a new person on the Supreme Court. If we mobilize, in as much time as it took to vote her in, we can get rid of our biggest nightmare. It is time to lock him up. NOW. Call in the National Guard and remove this demented man from office. He is a danger to us all. Let’s do the patriotic thing and put him in a clean white cell, give him burgers and fries and let him Tweet till the cows come home. But get rid of him NOW.
Monday, October 19
Juts two weeks and a couple of days before the election and I admit it’s hard not to read the same articles over and over again. Donald is a buffoon. He’s losing in every “battleground” state, more and more people who voted for him four years ago have switched sides, but he keeps talking. In recent days he has blasted governors from Michigan and Wisconsin during rallies there. A few thousand, mostly unmasked supporters chanted “lock her up,” I think in reference to Governor Whitmer, not Hilary. Trump joined the cry to put her in jail, though a day later denied he had chanted. Haven’t we read that before?
Many of his own team are already looking for other jobs, though having “I worked for Donald” on the resume probably won’t help much. By the time they are job hunting, Donald will either be in jail or the looney bin. I’m hoping for jail, thought the bin would be more appropriate.
Amazingly the photos of Donald’s recent rallies show many unmasked people crammed together. Donald himself, of course is unmasked. The numbers are up everywhere as corona cases have spiked, but unmasked Donald swears we’ve turned the corner and it’s well past time to open things up.
All of this makes for good newspaper stories, but when you actually think about it you have to wonder. How how how how how can things be this bad? Don’t we see that this is not a made for TV blockbuster, it’s real life. This is a real person denying the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the illnesses of a few million. It’s a real person screaming childish insults at every person who comes near him. A real person shouting “lock her up.” How how how did we allow this to happen?
Sunday, October 18.
I try, and fail, to sleep late on Sundays, but this morning I was wide awake before six. I lay in bed for a half an hour, playing word games in my head, trying to keep my eyes closed, wishing myself back to sleep. It’s now seven thirty and I’ve already (in this order) made my bed, read two chapters of the book I’m reading (Krazy Kat by Jay Cantor), taken a shower, made and eaten breakfast (oatmeal, fruit) and made and poured coffee (two sips so far.). And now I’m here, with no real news to report and very few new thoughts on my mind.
At this point, I’ve stopped counting. Days have become weeks have become months and will soon be years. I’ve read thousands of articles about the important issues; the pandemic, Black Lives, the election, global warming. These articles are beyond repetitive. There are days when I’m sure I’m living yesterday, or a week or a month ago, with yesterdays newspaper , last week’s breakfast and last month’s cup of coffee next to me. I am certain I’ve read these articles, word for word, dozens if not hundreds of times. There is a ten page spread in today’s NY Times about the positives of virtual school (are ya kidding me?). Ten full page articles with not a single new item. How many more articles do we need to read that begin with “A fall semester unlike any ever known is underway in America.” Is there a single living person who didn’t already know this?
I’m waking up each morning feeling like three quarters of my brain has been removed. I am without new thoughts, without new ideas or new hopes, without anything more than the ability to brush my teeth and make coffee. I am on auto pilot and there is little chance of switching to some kind of a new circuit. And somehow I remain hopeful and won’t turn my machine off. Today looks the same, but there’s always tomorrow, even if it looks exactly like last Tuesday.
Saturday, October 17.
Two weeks til Halloween, three weeks til the election, six weeks til Christmas and soon it’s 2021. And we’ll still be wearing masks, measuring six feet all around us. We’ll still be remembering George Floyd (it was his birthday this week), still be listening to right wing idiots question climate change, still be grouped according to the political side we fall on.
In the past few days I’ve heard from two friends who want to leave the city. One is headed for Martha’s Vineyard, the other for Oaxaca. I’m considering purchasing a house in Nova Scotia. We all want out. We’re tired, scared and sick of it all. And yes, we’re just about ready to give up.
I’d like to think that we’re just three weeks away from the beginning of change. I’ll stick around and see, but I don’t really have my hopes up. It’s a sad sad time.
Friday, October 16.
Every day I seem to get a little more scared. Of everything.
Today I read that our new Supreme Court judge, who is not a scientist, has no opinion on whether climate change is real. No opinion, yet she will soon be sitting on the Supreme Court!
Last night, avoiding a debate, Donald held his own televised event, during which he stated that he didn’t know much about QAnon, but he heard they were against pedophilia. Donnie boy also mentioned that the people who get Covid were probably wearing masks. This is our president!
The number of poor people in America has grown by eight million since May. Nearly a million people filed for unemployment last week. Stimulus assistance has stopped and food lines have grown. In the richest country in the world!
We wake to this every morning. This is our nation and even if we wanted to go elsewhere, we can’t because nobody wants us. If anybody can tell me how things will get better, I’m listening.
Thursday, October 15.
In less than three weeks we will have elected a new president. I think. But I’m not sure. Let’s look at all that could go wrong:
- Twenty million or more Americans can be turned away at the polls for not providing proper information about themselves.
- Twenty million or more mail in votes could be lost, thrown away or ruled ineligible.
- Votes could be improperly tallied due to hacking or other fraud.
- Congress could intervene and claim election fraud.
- The Supreme court could intervene and claim election fraud.
And what else could go wrong? We know we have a liar in the White House who finds losing the worst possible thing in the world. We don’t even think he cares about being president, he just doesn’t want to lose. We know he is crazy and deranged. We know he has already said he will contest any result not in his favor. We know there are millions of Americans who still back him. Many of these backers own weapons and may feel that it is there duty to use them against an evil enemy (Democrats).
And what else? We know that Wall Street and Russia have a preferred candidate. We know that polls in 2016 that were certain of a Democratic victory, were wrong. We know that winning by a majority of four million votes means nothing.
Scared? I am.
Wednesday, October 14.
Donald told us that we shouldn’t fear Covid. We should simply accept it, get sick and then get better. A few days in the hospital and you’re out, home and back to life as always, in his case, unmasked and super spreading.
We all know that there are over 200,000 who were not able to come home after a few days and return to their lives. They are dead. And there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands (millions?) who also were unable to return after just a few days. These were the real Americans, the ones without health coverage that allowed for the kind of treatment Donald had received. Though Donald promises the same kind of care he had to all, nobody is getting it.
In fact, we are reading about recovering patients with stacks of medical bills that their insurance companies won’t pay. Today there was a report of a 56 thousand dollar helicopter bill dumped on a Pennsylvania woman. This was for a twenty mile air lift between Pennsylvania hospitals. Her insurance company won’t pay.
Meanwhile, we are one Supreme Court judge shy of eliminating the Affordable Care Act.
One bright side, cynical though it is: Many patients who are home are suffering post-Covid short term memory loss. They are forgetting to pay their bills. This seems the best approach to me.
Tuesday, October 13
Have you noticed how many statistics have been published over the past eight months. It seems that navigating Covid requires checking numbers constantly. Schools will close if we hit three percent, a seventy-two year old will have a twenty-seven percent chance of dying if infected, Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania is now four percent, but the margin for error makes for a possible dead heat.
Today, I read that ninety percent of Americans are wearing masks to the store. This number is up considerably. I wonder about this. Are they wearing masks to the stores but not to the rallies? Are they not polling the orthodox and hasidic Jews in Brooklyn? Do they count as mask wearers the people who walk around with masks dangling from their necks and not covering mouths or noses.
It’s probably best to read the statistics with a bit of reservation. We can’t really be sure what they mean. Which makes me particularly nervous as the election nears. How confident are we that Biden’s huge lead in the polls really means anything? I fear having to look at Donald’s face if he wins and having to hear him say how he always knew America loved him. Let’s hope that for once, the statisticians have gotten this one right.
Monday, October 12.
It’s a new week but it doesn’t feel like a new anything. Everything is still exactly the same. Not much more to say about that.
Today begins the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barret. Donald is on his way to Florida for a rally. Who will we read about contracting the virus tomorrow?
There are no more restaurant menus. To avoid touching, our waiter now brings us a tiny black and white checkered bar code square and we wave our phone over it and somehow a menu appears on our phone. Except on mine, which doesn’t seem to work. But I suppose that’s me and my neo-luddite self, not my phone. Anyway, reading a menu, which can be five pages long, on a phone, absolutely sucks. And yet, getting covid from touching a menu that had been previously poisoned by a sick person would suck even more. Ho hum.
I got nothin else to say.
Sunday, October 11.
Global elites are kidnapping children and keeping them in underground prisons to extract life-prolonging substance from their blood.
Read that again.
This claim is at the root of QAnon, which is now gaining popularity worldwide. The movement is growing big in Germany, where the group has come after Angela Merkel, who has been labeled a Zionist Jew. The group is counting on Donald, yes our Donald, to wage war on Germany to save it from a left wing conspiracy. That’s right folks, we’re going to war with Germany.
You want to just write these people off as nutcases and go about your day. But the fact is, during the pandemic, these nutcases are growing larger and larger in number, have latched on to the anti-vaccine, anti-mask movement, and built a large following. The numbers, if you believe the reports, are in the millions. And they have weapons and espouse violence and revolution. A month from now, when Donald loses the election in nearly every state, what will happen?
QAnon, like the Proud Boys, is made for tv, which sadly, is part of why their movements have grown. The press they receive sells papers because, like horror films and violent war movies, people like to watch. Being frightened wakes us up. Well, we’re awake.
Saturday, October 10
Just received notice from the school Chancellor that I won’t be getting my retroactive payment due this month. This is money due to me from ten years ago, a time when we were working without a contract. When Mayor de Blasio began office, he passed legislation that awarded teachers a big chunk of money they had been owed. I was due a small fortune. Rather than give me a big fat check, it was to be paid out over four or five years. I’m not one to follow these things closely (not because I’m rich, just because I can’t really be bothered by things I have no control over), but I did notice some nice upticks in my bank account every October. And so, I was expecting a nice fat check next week. But . . .
Seems that on paper, New York is a few billion dollars short. We teachers are not sure why we are the ones who are having the money taken from. As we speak, there are 12,000 newly hired and paid substitute teachers handling the students who are coming to real school every day. Where is this money coming from? Many of these subs are teaching classrooms of one or two students. Or none! That’s right, some have classes with zero students, who have decided to stay safe from COVID and remain at home.
I’m no accountant or money manager, but I don’t think you need an eighth grade education to figure out that we’re not quite handling our finances correctly. In a follow up letter from the Chancellor, I was told that I’d get my money next July. So, I need to wait a year. I can do that. But I wonder, where is the money going to come from to pay me. Is the city expecting a windfall? Have we been assured that COVID will end soon, we’ll all go back to work, businesses will reopen, the city will get rich again. How will this happen?
Most likely next July there will be another letter from the Chancellor telling me I have to wait til the next July, or maybe the next Christmas. Or never.
Friday, October 9.
Sorry to bore you, but this just has to be said: Lock him up!
Sick for a little over a week, sick with COVID, he is on his way to Florida for a campaign rally. According to Donald, you get COVID and then you get better. And now he’s better. He delivered his get better speech in front of a staged backdrop of trees blowing in the wind in front of the White House. And apparently he’s furious at his aides, at Barr and others for not prosecuting nearly every person that opposes him. And Kamala Harris is a communist.
The doctors report that the steriod he’s on can create mania, anxiety and psychosis. Hmmmm.
Thursday, October 8.
If you watched the vice presidential debate last night you would have noticed that Mike Pence either can’t hear or just doesn’t care. Like his boss Donald, Pence talks even when being asked, told and ordered not to. Given fifteen seconds to respond to Harris, Pence spent nearly two minutes yapping away, despite polite requests from the moderator for him to stop talking. Every chance he got to talk when being asked not to, he talked.
We get it. We know how advertising works. We buy the product because the person selling it smashes us over the head with it, over and over again, until we buy. Donald and Pence are no different. They know that the person who wins is the one who is heard the most, and so they keep on talking. They talk when their opponent talks, they talk when the moderator talks, they talk while we’re in the bathroom and while we’re sleeping. They don’t say anything, but they keep talking.
Fortunately, very few people are watching the debates. There are reruns of Family Feud, Andy Griffith and Beverly Hills Housewives to compete. I’m pretty sure that at this point minds are made up. Even with Donald now saying that his getting Covid was a gift from god, nobody is really listening.
Wednesday, October 7.
Eight months in and I’m still wondering when Corona will refer once again to a neighborhood in Queens, and when masks will be for Halloween. And when I can wash my hands a little less frequently.
I will report that there has been a major change in my life. For the past many months I have cut up four strawberries every morning to add to my oatmeal. This week I purchased organic strawberries, which are somewhat smaller than the mega farm produced ones I’ve been eating. To compensate, I’ve been eating eight rather than four each morning this week. Besides that, everything else in my life remains the same.
Tuesday, October 6.
He’s back, the mask is off, we’re not supposed to fear Covid. Also, the cops are on the streets and the Second Amendment will be saved. So much to look forward to.
Doctors did mention that some of his upbeat positiveness could be from the steroids he has been given. It seems like he’s on about fifty drugs, some of them as benign as aspirin and others experimental and who knows what they do to people. There’s no telling who the president will become in coming days. Yes, it could get worse.
This made for TV movie of a world gets zanier and zanier. Scripted by a combination of writers from the National Enquirer, The Onion, Fox and Charles Dickens, the plots seem to shift hourly. Some editorial help would be of great use, but I’m not sure we’re going to get that. By the way, how is the wife doing? Apparently she tested positive too, but we haven’t heard a word about her. Is she home, hospitalized, dead or alive? I’m not sure they’ll even give her a chapter.
Sobering fact of the day: 700 Americans are dying daily.
Monday, October 5.
We might have thought this were ending and that blue skies were visible. Schools were opening, restaurants were now inviting people inside, the masks were coming off.
But yesterday, two ambulances were parked in front of my house at seven in the morning. During the day, more ambulance sirens could be heard. As I listened to the alarms, the mayor announced 100 school closings and the city announced shutdowns in neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn that have show signs of regression. Over? Nope.
We’re still right smack in the middle of this monster. Meanwhile, Donald snuck out of his hospital last night and took a ride to visit supporters, who I’m assuming were unmasked. Apparently every person who helped him are now looking at two weeks of quarantine. A few of them might die. All that to make us think he’s doing great. He’s great, America’s great, let’s not forget that.
Sunday, October 4.
We don’t really know how well Donald’s doing. Some reports are that he’s doing great. He’s up and about, with no fever, eager to “get back to work.” Other reports have him having trouble breathing and needing oxygen. He’s not out of the woods according to these reports.
And who’s surprised? We’re just the American people and it’s better to lie to us and just tell us what you think we want to hear.
The truth is that Donald and a bunch of other non mask wearing clowns who were inside and unmasked together last week now have covid and have most likely given the disease to countless others. Utter insanity, or more correctly, utter stupidity. Our national leaders are dumber than dirt.
It has been reported many times how these past months Donald would throw insults at his West Wing colleagues who wore masks in the office. Anybody who worked with him who wanted to show allegiance would parade around unmasked. It was a macho thing. Mind boggling idiotic. But it really happened like this. Our national leaders are dumber than dirt.
And now look what we’ve got. Our least liked president of all time lies in a hospital bed. We hate this man, but we don’t feel good about rooting for his demise. Our own candidate, who is nearing eighty years of age, is probably one or two days away from also testing positive, and then what? Suddenly the November 3 election becomes Mike Pence versus Kamala Harris. As we ponder this one, fires still burn out west, schools still struggle to instruct students, black men still fear for their lives while walking down the street. And we still wear our masks, that is, if we want to keep from testing positive.
Saturday, October 3.
And to think, a mask would have kept you healthy. Idiot!
If, and according to the latest data, (there’s a fifteen percent chance he won’t), he survives, he will look back at it all and finally admit he was wrong. Yes, Donald was wrong. Moron!
It seems that Donald was in close contact with about a half million republican supporters during the past week. Even sick with the virus he flew all over the country, had meetings, fund raisers and public events with thousands, unmasked as usual. And so our president is the super spreader of all super spreaders. Dumb ass!
And now he lies in a hospital bed. We don’t know if he’s breathing on his own, but we do know he’s not Twittering or nominating any more judges. He’s not interrupting Biden or yammering on about how we’ve beaten the disease and everything’s great and the market is great and white supremacists are great.
Some will say that his sickness is mostly staged, that it’s Donald’s attempt to get out of further debating, take our focus away from his taxes and our anger over the Supreme Court nomination. If he dies, he won’t have to pay back the 400 million dollars he owes. If he dies before November 3, he can die having never lost a presidential election.
Friday, October 2.
In the year 1504, five hundred and sixteen years ago, Michelangelo, then considered by many to be the greatest artist ever, completed work on a seventeen foot tall sculpture of a man to be called The David.
Today, in Italy, plans are underway to make a digitized copy of David that will be exhibited in Dubai at the Expo 2020 World Fair. The 3-D print will showcase Italian craftsmanship and high tech expertise.
It’s things like this that make me scratch my head and wonder what our world is all about.
The creation of the great Michelangelo masterpiece involved many people. Other sculptors, before him began the project. Many others located the block of marble and brought it from Carrara to Florence, not a small task. Michelangelo spent over two years, working day and night, no time off for holidays, birthdays or even a sick day. Chip, chip, chip, chip, millions of careful strokes.
The digital copy will be just that, a thing made by a computer. Millions of dollars will be spent planning, scores of computer scientists and other technicians paid to photograph and input data into computers. To make this copy, the largest digital computer in the world will be used. Gee.
When we visit Florence and stand before the real David, we marvel. We are easily lost in thought as we appreciate the beauty and imagine the human hands carving the stone. We marvel at the concept of perfection. How could a person carve this so perfectly? And so artistically?
If we travel to Dubais next year to see the digital David, what will me marvel at? Will we gush over the incredible detail created by a machine? Will we stand transfixed before this near likeness that was made by the simple pushing of a button?
I’m not sure why the digital printer was invented, but I don’t think it was for this. Certainly we all know that there is no possible way of recreating Michelangelo’s work. There was only one of him and there is no possible way of reproducing his creativity, which is, of course, what every artist is all about.
How I wish they would put these computer science geeks to god use. Aren’t there real problems to be solved?
They rebuilt the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. It’s a joke. The digitized David will be too.
Thursday, October 1.
The blog continues. I’m sorry for so much repetition but I’m not to blame.
It’s the beginning of October and we’re just four and a half weeks away from the election, which is becoming an even bigger topic than Covid, Black lives or the fires.
Tuesday’s presidential debate, or better titled “The Shittiest Shit Show,” told us nothing new. Maybe it convinced a few right wingers that Donald really is the most disgusting man alive, but truthfully, they should have known this before the debate. Anyway, it wasn’t a debate. Donald was like a severely disturbed five year old brat who doesn’t get his way. No matter how many times you tell him to stfu, he doesn’t. He is unable to keep his mouth closed. And you endure ninety minutes of excruciating pain having to hear him grovel. By the way, did you know the Russians gave Biden’s son three and a half million dollars? I think Donald told us that seventy or eighty times. Oh, do we give a shit?
Now the focus is on the fraudulent election and Donald threatening to ignore the vote and even ignore the Supreme Court. Rather, he will have his republican controlled Congress to decide who should rule the nation. Forget the vote, the people won’t be involved in this one. And by next week he’ll be announcing that it won’t be Congress, but the decision will be made by Jared Kushner, Ivanka and himself. I’m pretty sure there is an ordinance from the eighteenth century that allows for this.
And it seems like there is a new right wing, white supremacist hate group every day. Now we’re hearing about the Proud Boys, who I think are really just a tee-shirt company and a few street thugs. But they are tee-shirt wearing street thugs who seem to have the President’s approval. Donald likes thugs.
November will be a good time to live in New York City, where we will be unlikely to experience the kind of insanity that may arise in other parts of our great nation. If there is any possible way of seceding from the nation before election day, let’s do it.
Wednesday, September 30.
300,000 elementary kids are going to school in New York. The infection rate has risen to 3 percent. Why write this? Why read this?
My high school students are scheduled to begin tomorrow and I’m guessing that their school year will last less than two weeks. Again, why read this?
It’s pretty obvious that this goes on until a real vaccine is created, mass produced, properly distributed and actually taken by the high majority of the people. Donald says this will happen next month, but he’s a moron. We know that we are months if not a year or more away.
And so, let’s all suck it up. Keep those masks. Keep the hand sanitizer. Keep your distance. And sadly, keep your Netflix account.
Tuesday, September 29.
There’s a lot going on these days. Fires are still burning out west, millions still unemployed, homeless populations doubling, Donald still alive and polluting our nation. Oh, and there’s still a pandemic going on.
We’re approaching seven months and we’re still masked, still sanitizing, still measuring six feet everywhere we go. To many of us, this feels permanent.
More and more, we are reading that people do not want to go back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Upwardly mobile young professionals who have been happily working from home do not want to return to two hour commutes and lives that give them just a half hour a day with their own children. Our refrigerators are stocked with all kinds of good food. Who needs restaurants? Or movie theaters — we have all we need with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Even watching a ball game on TV, with taped crowd cheers, feels like the real thing.
Of course there are forty or fifty million Americans who would kind of like their jobs back.
Monday, September 28.
If you believe the New York Times, it is reported that Donald paid the federal government 750 dollars in taxes in 2016, the year he ran for president. This, if you believe the Times, is 750 more than he paid in many other recent years.
Which makes one thing painfully clear: I need a new accountant.
Question #1: How can you make America great again if you don’t pay your fair share to help make it great?
Question #2: Who is surprised by any of this. Isn’t this how America works?The richest stay the richest because they know how to hold on to their money. Has Donald ever paid for a meal or drinks at the bar?
The Times report covers four full pages today. I’m guessing that thousands of our nation’s richest people are reading this and thinking of themselves, because they’ve managed the same scheme that Donald has. Many have paid no taxes or, at most, a percentage far smaller than we have. In their financial paperwork are wrong numbers, lies, fraudulent accounts and misrepresentations of the truth, all resulting in huge savings. Meanwhile, we pay our thirty or forty or fifty percent of every nickel we earn.
I wonder if any of this news will wake up America. I wonder how any hard working, tax paying American could stand to vote for a man like Donald, knowing now that he doesn’t pay his share. You would think that right wing conservatism would draw the line here.
Sunday, September 27.
Today’s fun fact: A Harvard study has found that people’s minds wander 47 percent of the time. So, this is an average, which probably means that some people who are more focused than others don’t have minds that wander too often, and others, are never paying attention.
The article that this fact was found in was a not very interesting piece about how we are distracted more during the pandemic because we’re home on our computers and spending way too much time looking at social media, online shopping and playing video games. Also, with children at home, we are spending time dealing with them rather than doing what we’re supposed to do. This is less about distractions than about boredom. We’re bored at Zoom meetings, so we do something else. That’s less mind wandering than it is sanity saving.
I’m not sure what percentage my mind wanders, but I know when it wanders it is because I’m bored out of my skull. When I’m drawing, or even when I’m writing this blog, I feel focused. I’m thinking actively about what I’m doing and mind is centered. It’s just not the same when I’m staring at little one inch by one inch boxed people on my computer screen. I can only muster up so much attention (very little) when asked to read a chat comment or look at someone else’s shared screen, which is usually a powerpoint paragraph that is simultaneously being read to me, not unlike the sound produced by Charlie Brown’s teacher.
In the article, it is suggested that to stop the mind wandering we should do things like turning off our notifications and install programs on our computers that won’t allow us to open up certain sites at certain times. Which is kind of like asking Big Brother to step in and keep us towing the line. For me, that would mean not being able to play chess during a mind numbing Zoom get together. Not gonna happen.
In the end, I’m all for a wandering mind. When it is allowed to be free, great things happen. The wandering mind is at the core of great art.
Saturday, September 26.
Happy Saturday. Well, just trying for a little happiness. It ain’t easy these days.
Newspaper today: Donald to announce a conservative Christian, a member of a church that speaks in tongues, to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Donald is also now thought to be considering bringing in the military to handle the election. Yes, this is all happening in the United States of America.
We are learning what life is like in so many other countries that are ruled by autocratic despots. Will we be surprised when friends, neighbors and family members start to disappear? Here one day and off to a labor camp the next. Or worse.
Friday, September 25,
In six weeks we will have elected a new president. We’ll find out then just how much of a tyrant Donald really is. And we’ll find out whether his Republican party really means it when they say they back the Constitution. In recent days, these same Republicans who refused to vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee have promised to back Donald’s hasty move to name someone before the election. Spineless? Yes.
Every day we blink and our country gets more and more unnoticeable. It’s breaking everywhere. We are broke and dying in record numbers. We are losing our homes to fires and financial ruin. More and more of us are on the street with nowhere to go. While a few of us net larger and larger profits.
And still, because we’re Americans, we await a happy ending.
Thursday, September 24.
We are nearing a vaccination. Donald insists it will come before the election, but it won’t. But it will be coming. Johnson and Johnson has spent over a billion dollars developing a one shot vaccine that doesn’t even need refrigeration. They are soon to test 60,000 people. It sounds believable. Buy stock in the company now!
In recent days, I’ve been advised to get a flu shot, a pneumonia and a shingles vaccination. For someone who hasn’t been sick in nearly forty years, this seems pretty severe. But indeed, we are in the age of spreading disease.
Corona, police brutality, fires, unemployment, outdoor restaurant seating, pneumonia and shingles. What’s next?
Wednesday, September 23.
Day three, school. Zoom. Hollywood squares. Help!
Not sure how I’ll do this every day, and then again, who am I to complain. I have a job, a paycheck, an apartment, a bank account and a fridge filled with food. I just got back from a month at the beach. Yes, I know I’m at or near the one percent.
And yet, the Hollywood Squares school thing is pretty difficult. The pressure is on to make school great for kids. Our number one concern is to move our kids along, to have them learn things and to have them pass tests that acknowledge their achievements. And we want them to learn interaction and how to communicate well with each other. We want to teach our kids how to be productive citizens. And we have Zoom and Google to help us get there.
Today is day three and I already notice my students checking out. When I offer an inspirational video of a young artist talking about their personals struggles to find artistic meaning, I can see my students in their bedrooms, doodling in notebooks, their eyes anywhere but the screen. And who can blame them. Why would they want to watch tv all day?
Our kids are being asked to log on for six and a half hours each day. Six and a half hours non stop, without even a break for lunch. Yesterday, three students asked me during class if they could go to the bathroom. What if I’d said no?
We’re in a most difficult situation. Our approach won’t work. We desperately need to figure out another way to inspire our children and help them find meaning in life.
Tuesday, September 22.
We began school yesterday. For the most part, things seemed to go well. This is zoom school, so we’re talking Hollywood Squares, where my classroom is twenty-five little boxes, each a small square showing a student, at home, usually in their bedroom. My class of thirty-four means that ten of them are viewable only when I click to a second page, as Zoom will only show me 25 at a time, one of which is me.
Still, even in the Hollywood Squares classroom, I could see that kids were participating. We did two drawing exercises and I watched them working — drawing, stopping to think, drawing some more. I interspersed the drawing with a few slide presentations and videos. It was ninety minutes dedicated to art.
I announced at least three or four times that the assignment we started would be finished during class tomorrow. I told the students that if they thought they’d need more time than that, then they could work on it during the night, as homework. I thought I’d made that pretty clear. A two day assignment, today and tomorrow. So why did I get an email from a student asking me if we were going to work on the assignment today during class? Didn’t I tell them that we were, at least four times?
Of course, the reason for that is that some kids don’t listen. Certainly not to a voice of someone they’ve never actually met that is coming to them through the computer. Certainly not when they are in their bedroom, with stuffed animals lining the shelves and mom and kid sister in the next room. We all remember how Charlie Brown’s teacher sounded. I guess that’s me.
Come to think of it, they didn’t listen to me in real school either.
Monday, September 21.
Monday, a new week. This week, like last, I’ll do 500 repetitions of weight lifting, 1,000 sit-ups and 500 pushups. I’ll write seven new blog posts and make seven more drawings of masked Americans. I’ll run 28 miles and hit a tennis ball against a wall approximately 3,000 times. The routine is set in stone. Here we go.
The sun rises, moves on it’s path, sets. And then the stars come out. Every day the same. For many of us, the routine gets us through the day. During this time, the repetition feels a lot heavier. These days, as the masks seem to go on at the same regular intervals, the spritz of hand sanitizer similarly regular, it feels like every minute has us in the exact place at the exact moment. Indeed, we are hamsters on the wheel.
Why we choose to be hamsters is a question I can’t answer, although, dinner time, alone each night, is regularly a time for some brief reflection, usually about three or four minutes of thought fitted neatly between a crossword puzzle and the Metro section. Perhaps tonight I’ll ponder this.
Sunday, September 20.
The NY Times Style Magazine is here. I don’t usually read this, but I found myself looking at it this morning and the magazine, not unlike everything else these days, sounded an alarm.
In one way, the magazine has gone with the times. In an age where the arts are looking to raise awareness, the magazine has filled its pages with black and brown models. In all, there are fifty or so beautiful men, each between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. There is also a feature article on the artist Taveres Strachan, also Black and young.
In both the advertisements that fill the magazine and the featured photos, the beautifully dressed men look extremely serious. They are beautiful, but none look happy. In fact, they look unhappy, practically war torn in nearly every photo. Not a single smile. If you covered up the gorgeous outfits they are all wearing these men would not look any different from the other photos that are printed daily in the newspaper featuring people of color fighting the pandemic, unemployment and homelessness. In those photos, we are left feeling angry, sad and worried for the future.
In the fashion magazine photos, these somber faced people of color are wearing clothes that cost more money than some people make in year. A pair of blue, cotton pants by Paul Smith: $695 dollars. A Hedi Silmane shirt for $1,250. A 68,000 dollar bracelet by Jacob and Co. A white wool sweater by Loro Piana for $1,650. An orange sweatshirt that looks similar to one you can buy for 12 bucks at the Gap — this one is by Berlti and costs $1,070. 1070 dollars for a sweatshirt!
Dressing a Black man, who looks a lot like the homeless man on the corner, in a 5,595 dollar Ralph Lauren jacket and and 88,000 pendant is clearly an editorial decision made by a white person, who might have hired a Black man to pose, but is clueless about his situation in the world.
If the editors of this magazine think they are being sensitive and helping raise awareness by featuring people of color, they got it all wrong.
Saturday, Septmeber 19.
Add the death of RBG to our list of current pandemics. We have lost a truly great woman, an inspiration to us all. And now we will battle Mitch McConnell and Donald as they try to rush a right wing conservative into her position on the Supreme Court. Ugly is about to get even uglier.
Every day I make a comment about how crazy a time we’re living in and every day it seems to get crazier. Somehow we keep going. Strangely, there are still some out there who smile and say they love the pandemic because it allows them more family time, more time to do gardening and more time to focus on what’s really important. Kind of hard to understand, and yet, here we are.
Covid. George Floyd. Unempolyment. Homelessness. School reopenings. Fires. Coal Rollers. The election. The Supreme Court. What’s next?
Friday, September 18.
Let’s talk for a minute about trucks.
Trucks are important symbols of American pride. Advertisements for Ford and Chevy have always shown big, tough American men at the wheel. They pat their trucks like they do a good friend or a child, they smile when looking at their trucks, they toss heavy objects into the back as patriotic music accompanies them.
I was driving down the highway a few days ago and I came upon a large truck with gigantic American flags flying on either side. In front of that truck was another truck, equally large and also flying flags. And in front of that truck, another one. I soon realized I was looking at a parade of trucks, nearly fifty of them, all decked out in American Flags and streamers. Though on the highway, they were driving closer to 40 than 60, so I passed them on the left. Some of the trucks, in addition to the flags, were flying huge Trump banners. Wow!
A few days later, a right wing Donald supporting Facebook friend (yes, I have two, reminders of my high school days) posted a video of the Donald truck parade, complete with nauseating MAGA soundtrack.
I’m guessing that this advertising gimmick has gone national. If I saw it in New York, I can only imagine the parade in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.
And it gets worse. I recently learned about coal rollers. Coal rolling is a new sport played by some of the stupidest people ever known to humankind. To coal roll, you modify your diesel engine truck to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine so that it emits large amounts of black soot into the air. Coal rollers drive around looking for people who they think are environmentally correct and as they pass them they rev their engines and blow massive amounts of black soot in their faces. They like to do this to Priuses and even to bikers.
“Fuck the environment and fuck you!” they scream as they blast black soot. This display of emotion costs a lot of money and, of course is extremely dangerous to ones health, so while they are poisoning good people, they are also poisoning themselves. Ya gotta wonder.
When you Google coal rolling and look at the videos you have trouble believing that anything so insane can actually be happening in the world. But when you stop and think about it for a minute, it is easy to understand it. Which only leaves you shaking your head and wondering how much longer can this possibly last.
Thursday, September 17
Today is my 152nd day of posting on this blog. Who can say how much longer this will go on for. Donald says we’re only a few weeks away from a vaccine that will make everybody better. Scientists say he’s out of his mind. I’m wondering what Donald will say a few weeks from now when less than four people have been vaccinated. Probably he’ll say we don’t really need the vaccine because the numbers are down, especially since we aren’t counting those blue states.
For an escape I read an article about Martha Stewart. Yes, she’s still alive and she’s still super busy selling all kinds of things to people. These days she’s happy as a clam in her 200 acre Westport world. She’s riding horses, swimming, baling hay, zooming and having social distanced cocktails with friends. Martha is whiter than white.
A few years back she served time, albeit in something called a “Prison Camp.” Now, she has become a drug dealer, but she’s managing to do this legally. Martha is pushing “pate d’fruit,” which are little fruit flavored gummy bears laced with weed. Apparently she got turned on by Snoop Dogg. Only in America could two such different people have a connection.
Enough on Martha. Never in my life did I ever think I would write a single sentence about her, and now she made into my 91divoc blog. The pandemic makes for strange happenings.
Wednesday, September 16.
First day of school today. How do we all feel? Me, I’m feeling pretty good this morning, but the stress I’ve been feeling leading up to this moment has been enormous. And I’m teaching safely from home, so I’m imagining that those teachers who are donning masks and heading into real school must be terrified.
Yesterday, the Zoom site I created wouldn’t let me log on because I was told I had to wait for my host to let me in. Strange, because I was the host. It took me a few hours to figure out what might have been the problem. For a while I was convinced that nobody would be able to log on for class because there was no host to open the virtual door.
Things like that, small in relation to fires in the west and police mistreatment of people of color, loom large anyway. School should not be about whether a piece of technology functions properly. But right now it is. The first few days of school will be getting kids comfortable with technology and our forms of communication. Before they can learn reading, writing, math, science and art, they need to learn how to use Google Classroom, Zoom, Flipgrid, Google Sites, Pupil Path, Google Docs. Everything but the telephone, which, upon recent report, is a thing of the past.
I read reports yesterday of the issues many of New York’s poorest are dealing with. Those who reside in homeless shelters are living without wi-fi and many without cell phones reception. This means that their children — more than 100,000 — will not be able to log on for virtual class. Some of these children will be bussed to schools, but the bussing schedules are still not in place. We are talking about nearly ten percent of our school population.
Next week is a day off for Yom Kippur. Can’t wait.
Tuesday, September 15.
It’s really happening. All of it.
A friend in San Diego reports ash covering her car. Newspaper reports that smoke is coming to New York and Washington. Donald says science doesn’t know why this is happening. Prisoners in Oregon have been moved to other prisons and are sleeping on floors and being fed practically nothing. Corona is running rampant among the prisoners. Other prisoners are fighting fires. Yes, it’s really happening. All of it.
Monday, September 14.
Monday, it’s a school day. For me, I’m home, far away from the worry of covid. I’m in my living room, my virtual schoolroom. This afternoon I’ll meet on Zoom with two hundred freshman (they’re not all men) for an orientation.
Meanwhile, thousands on the west coast have no homes. They have school today too, but they will be logging on from motel rooms, aunts and uncles houses and state sponsored shelters. In some places, the schools themselves have burned to the ground. Throughout the west coast, it is too smoky to go outside.
While life continues, Donald is on his way to California to “assess” the damage. Oh, he’s going to do some fund raising too. Imagine that, asking for money from people who have no homes. I wonder if Donald will be wearing a mask — not to keep safe from covid but to avoid the smoke.
This chapter in history is more and more hard to believe. Does it even make sense to write it? Who will be around in fifty years to read it?
Sunday, September 13,
In the midst of forest fires burning down the west coast, while the entire world is masked and six feet from one another, while millions face homelessness and empty refrigerators, the Walt Disney Company is facing pressure for its release of Mulan. Can somebody please tell me why anybody actually cares about this?
I actually spent ten minutes this morning reading a front page article about the Disney fiasco. They’ve pandered to China and shot film footage and gave film credits to Xinjiang, the region in China where Uiguhur Muslims are detained in mass internment camps. Who is surprised that Disney has done a million things wrong in an attempt to make money. Again, the thing I don’t understand is why any of us care.
Saturday, September 12.
Cascading Scenarios, part two.
I mentioned yesterday how we are dealing simultaneously with so many pandemics. In today’s report, nearly a half million Oregonians are finding temporary housing, some in tents set up on football fields and in parking lots. In keeping consistent with social distance requirements, there are mask rules in effect and sleeping areas are being spaced out to avoid covid. Many of these people are currently out of work.
Since the covid pandemic began, the numbers report is constant. Daily affected in the thousands, deaths in the hundreds. Unemployment numbers. Temperature numbers. Numbers of days, then weeks, then months masked and sanitized. Now we’re getting numbers reports about the wildfires. Millions of acres burned, thousands of homes destroyed, 15 dead.
I think we hit the six month mark this week. Six months ago none of us could have imagined what the world could possibly look like today. None of us could have imagined a quarter of a million deaths or thirty million out of work or the end of California, Oregon and Washington.
Six months from now, what will things look like? Will we still be wearing masks and measuring the distance between ourselves and the next person? Will we zoom to school? Will we have a home? Who will our president be? Will we still remember how to smile?
Friday, September 11.
Covid. Fire. Unemployment. Unsafe schools. Pick your pandemic.
We’re in a world of cascading scenarios. We’re (failing at) dealing with one thing when another smacks us silly. In California, millions of residents are sure they are witnessing the apocalypse. As if there aren’t enough fires burning there, Syrian refugees living on the Greek island of Lesbos have burned down their squalid camps in protest. Meanwhile, schools set to open in New York are still unsafe, jeopardizing the lives of a million children and 150,00 teachers, administrators and support staff. Countless businesses, still unable to open, are closing their doors for good. Back in California, the smoke from the fires are destroying drinking water. Let’s not forget about Oregon and Washington, who have lost millions of acres of forest and witnessed at least a dozen deaths. And wasn’t an unarmed black man just shot seven times in the back by a white cop? Should I go on?
Cascading scenarios. The term is poetic and sounds almost beautiful, but the pictures are frightening. California is orange. Insurance companies are cancelling policies. (How can they do that?). Thousands of homes have been lost. Millions of trees have burned. And all this while those involved have had to wear masks and worry about maintaining six feet of distance.
For many of us, it’s hard enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. Navigating this cascade of scenarios is just not possible. And oh, what happens when it gets worse? What happens if the internet goes down or if the electric grid breaks. What then?
Thursday, September 10.
I wish I were the kind of artist who could paint beautiful landscapes or make abstractions filled with color and gorgeous lines. Or a poet who could describe the wind and the rain or the sun setting into the ocean.
My drawings and paintings show here and now. There are people and they are mostly sad. When I write, it’s about here and now and that too is especially sad.
Today, I was struck by a news photo of a family of seven asleep. Their bedroom was a dirt floor outside a metal shed. They are Syrian refugees who are in Greece. Their refugee camp had just burned down. In the photo, they are all sound asleep, surrounded by the few bags that represent their entire possessions.
I saw this photo and thought about me in my own bed and about all the cheerful, glossy advertisements that show beautiful people lying in comfy beds who try to sell us expensive linens and mattresses. This dichotomy is what interests me as an artist.
Surely we’re in a time when these disparate images are everywhere. So I suppose I should smile and be happy that this is a great time for me to be making art.
Wednesday, September 9.
There has been so much press about school reopening. The papers are filled with photos and mini interviews with kids from all over the country. In Detroit, Los Angeles, Peoria, Macon and Albany, kids are masked, carrying lunch boxes and backpacks, looking dazed and confused. Across the board, children are stressed and worried. They want school to be like it once was, but it won’t be. They want to be able to hang out with friends, but they can’t. They want to be able to move around and share the experience with each other, but they can’t. They want just a little bit of freedom, but they won’t get it.
I just finished a ninety minute staff meeting where we discussed virtual teaching. We will have some students home and others in school, but they will all be logged on to laptops learning from teachers who are also on their computers. All teaching will be done live streamed. Much of the conversation in the meeting focused on how to make virtual teaching as close to real classroom teaching as possible. How can we see what our students are doing when we can’t be near them? How can we be sure they are on task? How can we monitor what they are doing when they are home and we are home, or they are home and we are in school, or . . .
And I’m thinking Big Brother. We are trying to design a system where we can watch everything at all times from everywhere. If ever we were designing a system of checks and balances much like Orwell once wrote about, this is it. Inevitably it will create stress, fear and, ultimately, chaos.
While teachers are creating hundred page work sheets, to do lists and assignment organizers, I’m thinking in another direction. How can I make it simpler? How can I make learning art interesting, fun and easy. I need to create a program that is stress free. I can’t have the kids spending half the day checking emails to find out what do do, when to do it, where to put it and how to check it.
Yes, we want to teach our students. But most importantly, we want them to alive and well at the end of the day. We need to think seriously about this.
Tuesday, September 8.
Today is our first day of school, just staff who will meet to discuss the upcoming year. Acutally, there are ten days of this because this is going to be a year that needs a lot of planning. One can only imagine what is about to happen.
My school room is my living room, where I’ll be communicating virtually on Zoom through my Mac. Zoom, Mac, Virtual — this is my life.
For the meeting today I’ll be wearing a clean shirt. I can go naked below the waist because nobody will see that part of me. Funny to think that really only half of my body needs to be “in school” this year. The bottom half can take the year off, relax, go to the movies or to the beach.
Dress as you are below the waist is not an option for 15 year old Areli Gonzales, a sophomore in Memphis. She will be in class in her bedroom, but the school has a school uniform dress code that they are applying to their students who are learning from home. Areli has also been instructed to remove all decorations that would be seen on camera because they don’t want any distractions. Areli will have to take down some quilts that she made.
There are so many issues and problems facing us as we attempt to educate our children this year. At home dress code and wall decorations seems just a bit over the top. Administration might want to focus more on teaching quadratic equations to kids who just might be playing a video game while also logged on to class. Just saying.
Monday, September 7.
Happy Labor Day!
It sure seems strange to be celebrating workers at a time like this. How many aren’t working? The latest national unemployment number is nine percent, but everyone knows that’s fake news. All you have to do is take a walk around the block and you’ll see who isn’t at work. Scores or men and women hanging out all day on street corners and a few homeless on every street, some huddled and sleeping mid-day. Much of America is unemployed.
Traditionally this is a holiday that celebrates the labor movement. Again, this is hardly the time for cheer. Union participation dwindles. The ever popular charter school movement hires unaffiliated teachers. Private schools — non unions for teachers. Amazon — no union. Walmart-none.
Still, it’s a day off, one that traditionally includes beach barbecues and family get togethers. Today, we will stay home, or if we’re brave and or ignorant, we will meet with friends and families and grill burgers and drink beers. Some of us will at least maintain social distance while others will pretend that there is no pandemic and will become this weeks super spreaders.
Sunday, September 6.
It’s Sunday and I don’t feel like thinking about things or writing about them. But here I am and being the creature of habit that I am, I will attempt a few words.
Today’s newspaper headlines are more of the same: international spy rings looking for covid vaccine secrets, Donald legal fees approaching a gazillion dollars, a town in Utah upset over the removal of the breakfast dish titled “The Robert E Lee Special.”
There was one article that was actually inspiring. A couple of young entrepreneurs in Kuala Lumpur have built a hydroponic farm in a shipping container. They do their farming masked, gloved and wearing hospital cover-alls. They are delivering fresh vegetables all over Kuala Lumpur and their business is a huge success. Big Congrats to these young urban farmers.
In my fantasy, I’m buying a shipping container and looking for a lot in Brooklyn or The Bronx where I will start my farm. I’m imagining the excitement seeing lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and basil grow and also envisioning the smiles on people’s faces when their farm packages get delivered. How great it would feel to be involved in something so good.
Saturday, September 5.
I’ve read over this blog that I began in April. It’s been a pretty crazy six months. Here are a few things randomly selected that have been on my mind:
April 14: The world is a little backward these days.
April 18: The PANDEMIC is mother nature’s way of cleaning things up, allowing animals to reclaim territory that was once theirs.
April 24: New news report: sunlight, according to our great science expert, Donald Trump, kills the virus.
May 4: I’m not sure if this is week seven or eight. It doesn’t really matter. Today is more of the same. On schedule for today are two school zooms, one the weekly staff meeting where I’ll look at a screen of 80 tiny teacher heads in teeny tiny boxes. This is Hollywood Squares on acid.
May 13: Today’s headlines: Opening Too Soon Poses Deadly Risk. An Ecosystem Under Threat in Manhattan. Outbreak’s Untold Devastation of Latin America. Dire Lockdown For City Facing a ‘Death Spiral’.
May 20: I want to go to Canada for the summer, but the border is closed.
May 29: White cop strangles unarmed, handcuffed man with his foot. White woman with an unleashed dog calls police about a black bird watcher.
June 7: A day of silence. No words today. Today is a day of reflection. It’s time to take a knee.
June 23: Thousands came out at Talladega in support of the ban of the Confederate Flag.
July 7: In yesterday’s tweetathon, Donald praised the Confederate Flag, trashed Bubba Watson, waxed poetic about sports team names that are derogatory to Native Americans and referred to covid as the China Virus.
July 26: The American Psychological Association has coined a new word, “ecoanxiety,” defined as a chronic fear of environmental doom.
August 11: I’m on vacation, I’m in the woods, surrounded by trees, ocean, bunnies, seals, sharks, birds and, just yesterday two coyotes poking around my house. All I have to do is lie in my hammock and chill out.
August 24: Yesterday: 32,340 new cases. 446 new deaths.
August 27: No Mask Monday in Utah. Despite the fact that the Mormon Church and Walmart (that’s right, Walmart!) declared that wearing masks is the correct thing to do, parents and students in St. George, Utah are putting their feet down. Putting their feet down AND taking the masks off. “No way!” they say. “Let kids be kids, no masks!” The No Mask Monday party brought over a 1,000 St. George kids and parents together, mask free, pressed together, spreading germs to all.
September 3: Some sports teams who are playing games in empty stadiums have put cardboard cutouts of fans in the seats.
September 4: Nearing six months, trying to fathom the next 6.
Today: Yes, it’s been a crazy six months.
Friday, September 4.
Are we there yet?
Nearing six months, trying to fathom the next 6. It’s almost comic how the political situation is dictating how things work. Donald wants a vaccine before the election. So do I, but I know it’s not realistic. And yet, my guess is that we’ll get one, but it won’t have been tested properly, but millions will rush to take it and be done with covid. Some will vote for Donald.
Meanwhile, another incident of police brutality against an innocent black man. This time, it’s Rochester, New York, and a man having a nervous breakdown. He’s naked and screaming about having covid while seven police men put a black mask over his face, pin him to the ground and crush his head. He dies in a hospital bed a week later. It takes nearly six months to act on the matter. Protests follow.
We are there. There is here. I’m here and you’re here (and we can communicate virtually!), and we’re here in this every second of every day. Some of us are in this with paychecks and nice homes, others without. We live side by side. Some of us want to help others. Some don’t. Some of us want to see change in our world. Some of us want to return to what it always was. Some of us are Black, some of us are white, some of us are some other shade. All of us are confused, angry and frightened. As much as some of us don’t want to be, we’re in it together.
Thursday, September 3.
Some sports teams who are playing games in empty stadiums have put cardboard cutouts of fans in the seats. I don’t think they are running a sound track of cheers and boos, but that might help make it all the more believable.
Back in the early 80s, when much of the Bronx was abandoned, windows of empty buildings that faced the commuter train tracks were dressed up with cutouts of pretty plants and window shades. Nobody lived there, but as you passed by, to and from places like upscale Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan, you could look out your window and see a prettified New York skyline.
And so, this is where we’re at. When it’s not really happening, we can make it seem like it is. Paper cutouts is one thing. We have the internet and any number of organizations trained in creating fake realities.
News of Russian involvement in the election is circulating. I don’t really understand what’s happening, but I think there are Russians pretending to be American journalists who are writing fake news and delivering it virtually to American readers. All this to elect Donald. His supporters don’t read, so I’m guessing the stories are meant for Biden supporters. It’s all too confusing.
I’m a few days away from having to greet sixty new students in my virtual classroom. Many of these students will log in and, rather than show their own faces, will insert avatars, and so I will be looking at Bart Simpson, Kanye West and Mickey Mouse. If only I could post a picture of Tiger Woods in my place and head for the beach.
Wednesday, September 2.
No ponds, no sky, no ocean, no coyotes. The woods of Wellfleet are 280 miles to the north and I am home in the concrete jungle. I hear human voices on the street, four floors below. The sound of wind and the ocean waves has been replaced by these human voices and a thrum of cars and motors. I’m pretty sure I can hear the generator that powers the buildings on my block, which is housed across the street in the power plant.
As it turns out, I came home eleven days early. Yesterday Mayor DiBlasio announced that the school opening would be postponed. The plan now is to spend the next two weeks preparing for what will inevitably be a failed attempt to educate. We’re in for quite an experience. Let’s hope we live to tell.
I’m still unpacked, though I did take out a few necessities; toothbrush and toothpaste, my reading glasses and a few masks. Back here, I will need them. Although, on my trip to the store last night, I noticed that nearly half the people on the street were unmasked and looking like they were just going about their business. Have they forgotten or just given up the fight? Am I coming home to a city that is now divided along the same political lines as the rest of the nation? Have these people decided that since they haven’t gotten it yet that they are immune. What am I missing?
Ok, I need to remember to stay in the moment. I’m here, now, breathing, alive, healthy. Just breathe. But when I exhale I still here the electric thrum. And I look out the window and three men are walking across the street, two unmasked.
Monday, August 31.
In normal times when things aren’t going well and you’re in a depressive funk, when everything seems to be falling apart, you throw your hands up in frustration and cry, “I wanna go home!”
Today is my last day here in the woods of Wellfleet and tomorrow I go home, and it’s the last place I wanna be. I’m trading the ocean, ponds, woods, sky and stars for dirty concrete, bricks, sirens and alternate side of the street parking. Museums and galleries still shuttered, I will be returning to a world of masks and hand sanitizer.
Of course, I have no right to complain. I have a job and a paycheck and I will be able to do it from a safe place. But it ain’t looking good. On the job front, as a member of the UFT, I am part of an organization considering a strike that will potentially cost me two days of pay for every day I strike. As much as I don’t want to give my money away like that, I support the cause.
I suppose the best part about not being able to predict the future is that we can’t predict the future. Today is today and I’m here in Wellfleet. I’ll enjoy every minute of it. We’ll have to deal with tomorrow tomorrow.
Sunday, August 30.
I looked out at the sky and the stars last night, listened to the wind and heard the ocean waves in the distance. Everything was perfect, nature in balance.
Fires still burning in California. A Donald protester was shot and killed in Portland last night. We must stay six feet away from any other person. Not perfect.
It’s pretty obvious that we humans aren’t really needed here on planet Earth for a thing. Have we done a single good thing for the universe ever?
I’ll leave you with that thought. Let me know if you can think of a good reason for us being here.
Saturday, August 29.
Irrational exuberance. This was an expression coined by then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan in 2000. When Greenspan uttered these words of warning, companies that had little more than an office, a telephone and a computer that could log into the internet were trading for hundreds of dollars a share on Wall Street, millions of times more than their real value. American investors were building up stock portfolios that allowed them to join the one percent.
Until the bubble burst and those same Americans lost ninety percent of their net worth. A few jumped out the window to their early demise. Those internet darlings disappeared.
History often repeats itself and I’m guessing it will soon. As we remain masked and six feet apart from each other, and as millions of us are still unemployed and waiting for a government bailout, the numbers on Wall Street are dizzying. Led by the few giant tech stocks — Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Amazon Amazon, the market powers forward, ignoring the current demise of the world.
Some say that Wall Street is anticipating the future and the inflated stock prices are a sign that the future looks bright. Others wonder how can this be. California is burning down, another black man has been shot by a white cop, the pandemic continues and we have a deranged maniac running the country. In reality, nothing looks good. Even the Yankees have dropped six straight.
It’s silly to try to predict the future at a time like this. We’re not even sure if there will be a tomorrow. But if the end is coming, we might as well enjoy these last few days. Can we party like it’s 1999? The words from Prince:
The sky was all purple
There were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from the destruction
You know I didn’t even care
Lemme tell ya something
If you didn’t come to party
Don’t bother knockin’ on my door
I got a lion in my pocket
And baby he’s ready to roar
Everybody’s got a bomb
We could all die any day
But before I’ll let that happen
I’ll dance my life away
Friday, August 28.
Yesterday I received three emails from the DOE telling me all about how school will be run starting September. One of the emails, titled “Blended Learning And Fully Remote Teaching And Learning” (Isn’t that a title you’re just dying to read!) is fifteen pages long. Remember the Onion analogy?
In the letter there are pages and pages of information about Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching and Learning. These two buzzwords are being used frequently. It’s the DOE’s way to let us know that they’ve done the research about how to teach. For those who don’t know these fancy terms, it means there will be two kinds of teaching: teaching with a teacher there and teaching without a teacher there. Kind of like, you teach and then you give the kids shit to do on their own. I think that used to be called homework.
The email also contained a half million words about Blended Learning, the other DOE buzzword. Again, that means that some of the learning is live and some ain’t.
One of the most puzzling DOE mandates is the number of students a teacher will have. For those of us who will be teaching virtually from home, we have been told that we can have double the amounts of students. Not sure why they think we have the time for this, but it is now in official writing that we will be responsible for twice the number of students. The DOE was nice enough to do the math: 2 (double) times 5 (teaching periods in a day) times 34 (number of students per class = 340 students.
Imagine that. Imagine a day of school where you actually have 340 students. 340! Let’s see, you’ll have twelve Kevins, four Melissas, six Joses, eleven Carloses, nine Jessicas and five Willies. If you give an assignment and ask the kids to write a two page essay, you will then have 680 pages to read and comment on. Nearly the length of Anna Karenina.
The DOE has also created Virtual Content Specialists, from herein to be referred to as VCS (because everything the DOE does is reduced to a three letter abbreviation). I think the VCS are the experts on virtual learning. I’m guessing that they will tell us how to video conference with students. I’m not really sure who these people are and, to date, have not seen a single thing they’ve produced. I’m guessing these specialists are retired teachers on F status, receiving money and doing next to nothing. Just my opinion.
We’re in big trouble.
Thursday, August 27.
They say it’s not The Onion, but I think it must be.
No Mask Monday in Utah. Despite the fact that the Mormon Church and Walmart (that’s right, Walmart!) declared that wearing masks is the correct thing to do, parents and students in St. George, Utah are putting their feet down. Putting their feet down AND taking the masks off. “No way!” they say. “Let kids be kids, no masks!” The No Mask Monday party brought over a 1,000 St. George kids and parents together, mask free, pressed together, spreading germs to all.
The St. George high school admits to having a number of recent covid cases, but they won’t give the number. Do you think it could have something to do with the no mask thing? Gee.
Let kids be kids. Yeah, that sounds great. Maybe we should let them be kids that are alive and let them be kids wearing masks. Let them have Halloween every day for a whule,
American is showing it’s true colors. Three words expressing the American way: “I don’t wannna.” I don’t wanna wear a mask. I don’t wanna do my homework. I don’t wanna eat broccoli. I don’t wanna turn the tv off. I don’t wanna do what they tell me I should do.
I don’t wanna either. I don’t wanna get sick breathing in germs from some selfish moron who won’t keep their germs to themselves by wearing a mask. I don’t wanna get sick. I don’t wanna die.
Wednesday, August 26.
We’re approaching six months and we’re still wearing masks, still washing hands, still social distancing. Those two words, social and distance will be forever linked, the oxymoron of our time.
I know we’re supposed to be thinking in terms of the here and now, but I can’t help thinking about my immediate future. After a half year of pandemic life, how will the next six months play out? How many more days of this? How much longer will I measure the space between myself and the next person. How many more dinners for one will I be preparing? How much more Netflix?
There are a few things to look forward to. In six months, we will have a new president. If not, I will have a new home, most likely one in which I’ll have to learn a new language. What do they speak in Bora Bora? More importantly, can I go there, or is there a travel ban against Americans?
We can also look forward to 2021 because we can be sure that it will be a better year!
Tuesday, August 25.
I logged on last night to watch a few minutes of the Republican convention. Don’t ask me why. Standing in front of about nine hundred American flags was some young guy who I’d never seen before yammering on about how awful Joe Biden is. If you believed this man, who turned out to be Donald’s son, Joe is an evil man. He hates America and wants to destroy our country. The guy that followed him, a Senator from South Carolina who spoke smoothly about being raised in poverty — his mom worked 16 hours a day! — and overcame ten million hardships to become what he is today. Oh yeah, he was Black. A Black Republican. Hmmmm.
That any person can stand up and wax poetic about Donald, and then go home and look at themselves in the mirror, and sleep at night, amazing!
Donald spoke too. As always, he trashed Obama and reminded everybody that Donald himself has saved our country. Before “The Plague” came from China, we were doing so great. Every person was great. Every state was better than ever. Then “The Plague from China” hit and we handled it great. We got a ventilator for every American, we shut down to save millions of lives (275,000 dead!), and now we’re developing vaccines faster than anybody thought possible. And the stock markets are breaking records and letting us know that the future is brighter than ever.
Yes, if you listened last night you’d know that it was Obama that destroyed our country and Donal who made it all better. Under Obama we became an economic disaster and Trump saved our nation by cutting taxes and, according to Jim Cramer (one of the world’s biggest mouths that says nothing) created the world’s greatest economy. (Currently 35 million unemployed). I’m pretty sure the convention was brought to us by Fox.
The four big words: Make. America. Great. Again. It ain’t gonna happen with Donald in the White House. The three bigger words. Black. Lives. Matter. I’m voting for Joe.
Monday, August 24.
Yesterday: 32,340 new cases. 446 new deaths.
I’ve just started reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Gawande a surgeon and professor of Medicine, writes about how the medical profession deals with death. Seems a fitting time to be reading this.
I have an uncomfortable relationship with death. I’ve dealt with it in my own life since I was 14. My mother was the first person I knew who died. Actually, there was 92 year old Aunt Gussie, who I’d never met, but she died when I was eight and I got one hundred dollars. So my first encounter with death told me that you get money. The second time, when my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, crushed me for a long time.
The years passed, and I witnessed the deaths of my four grandparents and a few close friends. Throughout it all, I didn’t think much about my own death. All I know about that is that it is going to happen some day. At least it will unless the medical profession cures the disease. Disease, because I’ve read that there is a field of medicine that studies death as a treatable disease. A bit science fiction. but then again, they did put a man on the moon and invent a device smaller than my finger nail that can power half a city.
I suffer what some call magical thinking. When I mention my own death I tell people I will die at 244. The magical thinking part is that I actually believe it. Which I suppose means that I simply can’t deal with the topic of my own death. Quite simply, I don’t want to die. I like being alive and seeing how things play out. I have lots to do and I want to keep doing it. At least til I’m 244.
But 446 American people who were here yesterday are not here today. Killed by a virus they might have avoided getting if things had happened a little differently. Yesterday, I was walking along a dirt road and a guy in an SUV drove toward me. I was walking with my mask down around my neck and I pulled it up as he passed. He drove by and laughed as he shouted “You don’t need to do that. I’m clean!,” and drove off. My immediate thought was, “well you won’t be for long with that approach. Asshole.”
If my magical thinking proves true, I have 183 years left. How many of those will I be wearing a mask while I walk down the road?
Sunday, August 23.
Woke to a beautiful morning fog layered thick across the pond. I wish I had the right words to describe the beauty. I would need the words “gray”, “white”, “calm”, “soft,” “quiet” and “peace.”
Beauty is everywhere here. In each of the multitude of trees in the woods, many of which have fallen and cracked, having been left to rest in place. Every plant, every flower, the ponds, the sky — pure beauty for me to appreciate. Being here in Wellfleet, breathing is enough here and now for a lifetime. I am a lucky man.
Eve recorded the rain on her tent (she sleeps in a tent with a view of stars). She’ll bring it back to New York with the hope that on a sleepless winter night she can listen and be reminded of a peaceful world. I’m particularly fond of a young coyote who has been frequenting our property. As much as I’d like to bring it back with me, I don’t think that will happen.
Yesterday: 45,031 new cases, down 19 percent; 950 deaths, down three percent. The G.O.P has hired producers of The Apprentice to run the convention, including one woman who once judged Miss Universe. 560 fires in California, 771,000 acres burned,119,000 people evacuated. Outside of Wellfleet, the world crumbles.
I have another week and a day here. I will cherish each of the next 691,200 seconds.
Saturday, August 22.
During this time I keep hearing people say that the key to surviving and keeping your sanity is knowing how to be in the moment. It’s not about tomorrow, it’s about now.
Mindfullness is surely the buzzword of the moment. Even before the pandemic it was big on people’s agenda — how to be present. How to put the phone down, for at least five minutes, and just breathe. In and out, in and out, slowly, finding your breath, finding your balance, finding yourself here, in the world, now. I think this is called inner peace.
Surely, this is a great concept. As the world crumbles all around us, we can sit crosslegged and enjoy the sound of silence, feel the wind at our back, listen to our breath, be alive. Of course, when we open our eyes, and look around, the world is still crumbling.
And from recent reports, it’s crumbling faster and faster. California is burning. 560 wildfires. Friends are leaving their homes in San Francisco and nearby areas. War in Mali and in many other places. 45,371 new covid cases yesterday here in our nation and 1,128 deaths. Gang shootings in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx.
Stop. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Here I am with a pond view. Ocean waves in the near distance. Sun, a few happy clouds, bunnies running across the lawn. It’s all good.
Friday, August 21.
The emails are coming, six or seven a day. From my principal, from my union rep, from my colleagues, from the Chancellor, from the head of the union. Haven’t hear personally from Donald yet, but maybe later today.The emails are coming, six or seven a day. From my principal, from my union rep, from my colleagues, from the Chancellor, from the head of the union. Haven’t hear personally from Donald yet, but maybe later today.
Truly it’s a dizzying mess. We’re opening schools, we can’t open yet, we care about your safety, you will teach masked, you will have lunch with the kids while unmasked, there will be a lock-up room for anybody showing symptoms, we’re going to strike, we will be jailed for striking, we’ll do random temperature checks, we expect layoffs, we need more teachers, we’re in this together. As of today, we’re in this together but we’re separated by at least six feet, twelve feet if we’re singing.
It’s kind of sad that the people in charge have decided to open schools before asking the teachers that work there how they feel about it. By my estimate, the high majority of teachers do not feel safe going back into the classroom. That should be the starting point for any discussion or plan.
Where will the Chancellor be when we are back live? Where will his staff be? Where will the mayor be? Where will these people, whose jobs are NOT in jeopardy be? Where will they all be, while we are teaching live, during this panemic? Answer: HOME.
Thursday, August 20.
Yesterday I received an email confirmation from the DOE that my request for an accommodation to teach from home in September was approved. It’s the one time in my life that I’m happy to suffer hypertension — the note from my doctor has allowed me to avoid getting covid this fall.
In truth I have very mixed feelings. Yes, I’m looking out for me — I don’t want to die. But I’m giving up going back to being with real children. Real voices, real faces, real words going back and forth in a real room. Of course, the classroom setting that will be created will be far from what we’ve had before. Kids will be separated and basically isolated. Materials will not be shared. Kids will not be meeting in groups and working together. Still, there will be real people in a real room. Wearing masks.
Teaching virtually last year was difficult, but it was possible and in many ways, for me, was successful. But I began teaching my students in March. I already knew my students well and they knew me, so it was easy to relate to each other. This time, I will be meeting 55 new fourteen year olds who I’ve never seen before. Creating a classroom community will be extremely difficult. And, of course there is the problem of teaching art to students who most likely do not have art supplies. And then again, it’s virtual, so maybe I need to think in those terms. What does a virtual paintbrush look like?
Wednesday, August 19.
Wednesday, oystering day. Low tide was at 6:40 this morning, so I was up early and on the water to collect a few oysters and enjoy the early morning scene on the bay.
The oyster fisherman were out tending their grants. It’s a wonderful picture. The sun is up, there’s a warm glow everywhere. Today is clear without a cloud in the sky. You can see for miles. Pilgrim monument is clearly visible twenty miles off in Provincetown. I’m walking along the water’s edge, some two hundred yards from the oyster fisherman, who are twenty or thirty feet apart from one another. They work next to their trucks that are parked in the bay. Unmasked but safely distanced from one another, I can hear them talking to each other, joking and just shooting the shit as they work. Sound travels here and it’s soothing. Their voices echo as gulls squawk overhead.
I leave with a large handful of oysters that will make for a great cocktail hour. More importantly, I’ve spent an hour without a single thought about covid, George Floyd or the Democratic convention.
The virtual Democratic convention began last night. Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama delivered sobering speeches, stating the obvious. They each pointed out in basic terms how our nation is suffering at the hands of Donald. Neither Michelle nor Bernie once referred to Donald as an idiot, a racist or a misogynist, but the pictures they painted made it clear that he is.
In discussing the authoritarian rule we’ve been under during the Donald years, Bernie said that, while Nero fiddled as Rome burned, Donald golfed. A cute line. Michelle talked about how important every single American is and assured us that Biden cared about them all.
It’s all great talk, but we are unsure what it will do. More and more the real talk is about how much cheating is going on and whether Donald can cheat enough to win. Can he invalidate millions of voters? Can he create a postal system that won’t deliver votes by mail? Can he close down voting precincts to keep black voters from the polls? Can he win another election by losing the popular vote? And, if he loses, will he actually leave office, or will he conspire with the Supreme Court to keep him in office. None of this has been written yet. And, sadly, anything can happen.
Monday, August 17.
Start of a new week, we’re in the same boat. Report for New York is that we’re doing good. Numbers down. Only 546 dead yesterday. In New York? In the U.S.? In the world? I’ve stopped trying to understand the figures. And honestly, 546 dead doesn’t sound like we’re doing too well.
I think we’re five full months into this. Stats: Five months, 153 days. 3,672 hours. 220,320 minutes and yes, we’ve been in pandemic mode now for 13,192, 200 seconds. And counting. Another stat: During the pandemic, the average, mask wearing American has washed their hands 2,754 times.
I think I said this three months ago. I feel like the seven year old sitting in the back of the car while the family drives to see the grandparents a few towns away. “Are we there yet?”
We’re not there yet and I don’t think we will be for a long time. If ever. This pandemic might end in December or next December and we all know the next one will follow. Will the next panic have a more interesting name than Covid 19? Will it be Chinese? Will it come from across the border? Will it be internal? Will it affect people of color twice or four times as much? Will it cost us three or eight trillion dollars? Will it have us create new words for groups like super duper pods or isolation sectors? Will it eliminate all postal deliveries? Only time will tell.
Which, I suppose, is the one thing to keep in mind. We still have time. We’re still here, still breathing, still have the right to jump and sing (if at least 12 feet apart according to the DOE), laugh (12 feet), and have sex (by ourselves).
Sunday, August 16.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
And now we have Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General and another Trump appointed piece of shit. But you can’t blame DeJoy. He might be an asshole, but it’s Donald who hired him to fuck up the postal service. Donald is the one who said, “Hey Louis, thanks for giving me so much money. Now I want you to do me another big favor. I need some help fixing the election. I want those Democrats to vote by mail, but I want you to lose those letters. Can you destroy the US Postal Service? Can you do that for me?” And Louis said, “Sure Don, no prob.” And that’s how it works these days.
Side note: The USPS is supposed to be non-political. They are now being led by one of Donald’s biggest supporters.
Side note: Louis also has a personal interest in fucking up the postal service. He has huge investments in some of the biggest competitors, UPS and J.B. Hunt.
This is our country. Ever day we see stories like this. Every day the imminent victory of Joe Biden comes more and more into question. Will Donald fix the election? We know he will do anything possible. Lying, cheating, stealing — these are his favorite tools. And he’s really good at it.
We need to play hardball. This is not badminton. It’s not tiddlywinks. This is war of the worst kind.
Saturday, August 15.
You really have to wonder about how important things get figured out. Let’s talk for a minute about the school situation in New York. We are three weeks away from the beginning of the school year and we are absolutely clueless about what will unfold.
We know the situation: more than a million children go to public schools in New York City. These children have close to two million parents, most of whom have jobs. Many of these parents, even during the pandemic, work outside of home. Most of them cannot afford babysitters. There are also over one hundred thousand teachers and thousands of other adults who work in the schools; bus drivers, security officers, custodians, food service people, counselors and more. A lot of people.
The children need to learn. The parents want their children to learn. The parents want their children out of the house so that they can go to work and make money. The teachers want to teach. The bus drivers want to drive. Etc.
BUT. (and you know the but. Covid. Safety. Pandemic. Life. Death.
The chain of command is where it gets really messy. From Cuomo to DiBlasio to Michael Mulgrew (the Chancellor), to Superintendents to Principals to who knows how many other people.
I am a teacher. My voice does not get heard on these matters. Nor do the million plus kids get heard. Funny, because we’re the ones being asked to go live next month. We’re the ones who will be masked and trying not to touch or breathe on each other. We’re the ones who will sit next to each other but not too closely. We’re the ones who will learn together without really being together.
I’ve received no fewer than fifty emails in the past week about what is being “planned.” Planned in parentheses because that is not really the right word for what is happening. It is anything but planning. If anything, the approach so far makes a good front page story in the Onion. For example, yesterday it was reported that layoffs are in the planning. But the next sentence stated that more teachers are needed. Hmmmmmm. Let’s see, how does that happen? We need more teachers so we fire some? I think we need math tutoring to handle this one.
Students will be getting academic instruction during lunch, which will be eaten maskless in the classrooms. Students eating must all face the same direction. Teachers will be masked and wearing shields during lunchtime. Instruction will be given during lunchtime so that the school day will be shorter. Hmmmmmm? Doesn’t a shorter school day mean the kids will go home to empty apartments. I’m pretty sure that the parents will not also be working during their lunch times so that they can make it home to greet the kids.
There is no plan in place for having one teacher do two jobs: live and virtual teaching for those opting out of live school. There is no plan for teaching the subjects that require touching, maskless breathing, or togetherness: Drama, Music, Art, Film, Dance. These are the five core subjects at my Arts High School. And then there’s gym too. Not gonna happen.
And we haven’t even begun to talk about what happens when kids and teachers get sick. Schools will have rooms set aside to keep kids with symptoms, isolated but monitored by masked people. Schools might have a single nurse on duty. We haven’t gotten the word yet about how many sicknesses or deaths are needed before shutting down. In some other cities, schools are shutting down classroom by classroom. Imagine that happening in New York. Three letters apply: O M and G.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. The “planners” should look for other employment.
There is also talk of teacher strikes. This brings up legality, the Taylor Laws, jail time and stiff fines for teachers. Two days pay for every day not worked.
September sure looks interesting.
Friday, August 14.
A few words regarding the shit show I mentioned yesterday.
If you believe the news, fake it might be, Donald is jumping on the claim that Kamala Harris isn’t eligible to run for VP. I think he’s claiming she’s not really a US citizen because her parents are immigrants. I’m pretty sure that shouldn’t matter, since she was born in the US. But the claim is that her parents weren’t legal residents when she was born. Again, that shouldn’t matter, since the law states that anybody born here is legit.
I don’t imagine this will go on for too long. As of now, she’s mean, she’s whoreable, she’s not really liberal, she’s not really Black, she’s not really American. What’s next? I’m sure Donald will find something else to bring to our attention. The shit show will get a lot shittier.
Meanwhile, for 30 to 100 dollars an hour, you can have your child join a learning pod. Thousands of pod businesses are up and running. As our virtual lessons fail, live pods are the new solution to American education. For two or three thousand dollars a week (more if you want meals included) your child will be properly educated. And more great news: there are Go Fund Me campaigns raising money for pod scholarships for the needy. The first ten thousand dollars has been raised and only another fifty billion dollars is needed to make pods possible for all. Send money now.
Meanwhile, according to the most recent report from the NYC DOE, there will be layoffs coming soon. Also, we need more teachers. Tell me — how can both of these things happen. News these days is putting The Onion out of business.
Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed today?
Thursday, August 13.
Two days into the nomination of Kamala Harris, she has been attacked for being a woman, being nasty, being “whoreable”, being too far left, not being far enough left, for being Black, and for not being Black. As expected, America is showing its ugliest side.
We now begin a two month period of name calling, mud slinging, false accusations, ancient texts and videos regurgitated, tax forms hidden, past mistakes apologized for, law suits threatened and birth certificates questioned. Wake me up when it’s over.
I’ve already made up my mind. I’m voting for Joe and Kamala. In person. On November 3. Sorry Kanye, but my mind is made up.
And by the way, after November 3 it will get worse. Donald will call in the National Guard and any other militia he can find to try to keep the White House. We can only imagine the nightmare and national embarrassment we will see unfold. I’m imagining a final video clip that shows Donald being carted away by four men in little white suits. Hopefully we’ll get him safely locked up in the nuthouse before Thanksgiving, which we will most likely be celebrating virtually.
Wednesday, August 12.
Today is Wednesday, it’s oyster day. At low tide, you can walk along the bay and find the world’s best oysters. Walking in the mucky bay at low tide is a really fun experience. All around you are signs that the bay is alive with life — clams, scallops, crabs and oysters. Gulls fly about, trying to get to the oysters before I do. The real oyster fisherman are hard at work on their oyster farms, their trucks have been driven out onto the water at low tide. The sound track is wind and gulls. It’s a pretty picture.
After oystering, I have plans to make rose hip jam. Maybe it’s part due to the pandemic craze to make things happen in the kitchen. This will be my version of sourdough bread. There is a rose hip bush in my yard here. It has been here for the twenty five years I’ve been coming here, but this will be the first time I actually pick the rose hips. I have no real strong desire to actually eat the jam, but a friend was here the other day and she suggested making jam, so why not. This will be my first time ever actually using cheesecloth.
Also on the agenda for the day: swimming in the ocean, swimming in the pond, lying in the hammock, reading, eating some of the oysters I find. I don’t think I’ll need a mask today.
Tuesday, August 11.
Too many things and nothing all at the same time.
I’m on vacation, I’m in the woods, surrounded by trees, ocean, bunnies, seals, sharks, birds and, just yesterday two coyotes poking around my house. All I have to do is lie in my hammock and chill out.
But, because I also have a phone and a computer and the internet, I have constant reminders that I really live in New York, that the world is suffering from a pandemic, and in three weeks I am expected back at work, where there will be real live people, temperature checks, sanitizing and, of course, masks.
Just read an email from my principal about a 9:30 committee meeting about Racial Awareness. Another email from the DOE telling me they’ve received my application for an accommodation to teach virtually in September. Another email from the DOE telling me how to apply for an accommodation to teach virtually. (Dumbasses, I’ve already applied.) Another email from my union rep telling me that our school is not properly ventilated and we don’t know how we will teach children in September.
The two coyotes are not afraid of me. They have been pooping on my lawn, just a few feet from my front door. I’m not sure what they want. The ocean has been beautiful, but I can only go in waste deep. Yesterday, according to the Shark Alert web site, there were no fewer than eight shark spottings on my beach.
It’s all about the numbers. I have a one in one million chance of battling a shark. I have a one in a half million chance of getting bitten by a coyote. I have a one in a thousand chance of getting covid. I have a pretty good chance of eating a nice piece of fish tonight, here on the porch with my friends. I guess I’ll be ok.
Monday, August 10
Yesterday the New York Times published an article about the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Today, another article about the rally included many pictures of bikers attending. The rally has been held In Sturgis annually In August for over seventy-five years. This year, despite some calls to have it cancelled, it happened in near full force.
If you read the Times and believed their reporting, a quarter of a million Trump supporters showed up unmasked and went about life as if there was no pandemic. They met, they crowded into campgrounds and motels, they hugged and partied together In blatant defiance of safe living.
I was in Sturgis during the rally a few years ago. I was driving home from a summer at The Art Farm in Nebraska. My friend Marguerite was with me and we decided to take a drive across South Dakota. That summer, over a million bikers were there to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the event. What a party! But the people we met represented the entire nation, not just the right wing red. There were lots of Hells Angels, but there were also groups of bikers representing any number of groups and sects. In fact, the top three professions represented there were doctors, lawyers and accountants. People came from all over the country. During my few days there, I didn’t get to know anyone too well, but I had lots of healthy conversations with people and came out thinking that all kinds of people love bikes. Marguerite and I marveled at the diversity of the biker crowd.
I wasn’t in Sturgis this weekend so I don’t really know the truth about what was there, but after reading the Times articles, I couldn’t help but feel for the first time ever that Donald is right — our media produces Fake News. I can’t tell you how much I hate agreeing with Donald.
Sunday, August 9.
I’ve never been a mask wearer. Halloween dress-up was not my thing. At the beginning of the pandemic I bought a box of surgical masks, the basic light blue things. On the street, I notice people wearing all kinds of masks in all the colors of the rainbow. I’ve seen red, white and blue MAGA masks, Bart Simpson masks and Black Lives Matter masks, and tons of masks made of beautiful patterns and artsy designs. As we near month six, I think it’s time I get a little stylish. What statement should I make?
I’ve gotten a slew of emails from companies wanting me to design masks. I imagine they found me on some artist’s website and included me in a mass email. Their website includes lots of opportunities to click on a variety of mask designs by other artists and, of course, payment options for purchasing masks I design that they print. I don’t think I’m going to do this. A mask of Syrian refugees crossing into Turkey? A mask of Israeli soldiers guarding a check point? Nope.
I’ve been drawing one masked person a day. In New York, on the Lower East Side, most of these mask wearers were people of color. Now I’m drawing mostly white vacationers. I suppose it doesn’t really matter — they’re all wearing masks, which is the theme of my drawings.
And so, we are in the age of the mask. A 2020 time capsule will certainly have masks, and hand sanitizer, soap and not much else.
Saturday, August 8.
I’ve been writing this blog daily for the past four months. Every day I’m filling four or five paragraphs with comments on covid, masks, isolation, Netflix, zoom school and breathing. For a few weeks in June, George Floyd and Black Lives entered into my little rant.
Now I’m in a different place. Freed from covid fear here in my glorious beach house, I am breathing freely for the first time in many months. I am remembering what being human feels like and it is allowing me to think of other things. Just today I spent an hour alone, standing by the shore with my feet in the water. Looking out at a cloud covered grey blue sky with hints of pink and purple, imagining London in the distance, marveling at the gulls flying past me, waving to three seals as they swam past — not a single mask thought for a full hour. I looked at the sand and noticed the random collections of rocks and shells, artfully positioned for my viewing pleasure. Squawking gulls overhead, another seal pops their head out of the water and gives me a look. A cool, salty wave washes up at my feet. Could heaven be any better?
The Cape has always worked its magic on me. Every year I come here to recharge and remember that beauty surrounds me and that peace is possible. This year is doubly profound. I am recovering from a traumatic experience. Apparently I will suffer some form of PTSD, but perhaps my time here at the Cape will actually heal me.
And, as I write, as I enjoy this peaceful bliss, I know that there are shootings, robberies and car break ins happening in record numbers back in New York and in many other urban places. A billion humans suffer daily. My world has changed, but the real world continues its decline. I’ve always said that I’m not the kind of artist who can paint a landscape or relax into a study of green or blue. Yes, art is beauty, but I find mine in some of the world’s most tragic places. I don’t think I’ll ever shake this.
Well, I’m writing today’s blog from my dock. The lily pad covered pond before me is a deep green with a shimmer of light dusting across the top. Birds chirp, the frogs are asleep, a few big yellow insects and some bees play in the purple plants before me. How lucky I am.
Friday, August 7.
I’ve escaped to Cape Cod. Though it feels like I’m a million miles away, I’m still here. This is the first year I’ve had phone reception here in the woods, which means I get the news delivered to me, and I see this morning how students are returning to school, some for as little as a day or two before being sent home to zoom educate. Temperatures are being taken, contact tracing is tracking those exposed and sending them home to quarantine. The vicious cycle makes us aware of how badly we’re handling the pandemic.
This story was written four months ago. We knew we’d rush back and we knew we’d pay the price. What does this next chapter look like? I think it involves pods. We’re going to divide ourselves into little groups, walling each one up securely so that it doesn’t come in contact with any other pod.
These pods will be divided economically, racially and in every other divisive way. Rich, white suburban pods will hire teachers, physical trainers, masseuses and chefs to come to tented back yards to educate, train, massage and cook. All will be sterilized, masked and kept Covid free. Articles will be written about these pods with pictures of happy, smiling families. The articles will discuss costs involved. An average family will spend more on their pod weekly than many families will earn in a lifetime.
City pods will be similar, only they will most likely operate in rented spaces, some of which will have basketball courts, swimming pools and performance spaces. These pods will cost even more than the suburban ones and, of course, become the talk of the town — Metro section, page 1, full color.
Then the are the other pods. They’ll most likely hang out on the street. There will be no massages.
I apologize for the cynicism. But how else could this possibly play out? Black Lives still Matter, but who matters most? When it comes down to it, the people with money will spend it, on themselves. Covid has made us insane about keeping ourselves to ourselves. As the days pass, we become more and more obsessed with our germs, our personal space, our safety. We are going to build our bubbles and without the proper identification, you’re not getting in.
Remember the words to We Are The World?
There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
Thursday, August 6.
I’ve taken a few days off from writing here. I’ve made a bit of a life change. I’ve packed my bags and left New York. I’m in Cape Cod now, the prettiest place on earth. Yes, I’m the lucky one who was able to leave the city for some peace and quiet. Here on the Cape the fear of covid is everywhere, but here we have the space to escape much of the insanity. I am surrounded by eight acres of trees, birds, bunnies and a pond — my space — where I don’t need to wear a mask or wash my hands after touching something.
Being here I feel human again. Breathing is easier. I’m writing from a screened porch while listening to chirping birds and the soft sound of waves in the distance. Last night I heard the wind in the trees. No sirens.
I know this is temporary. A few weeks where I escape the reality I’ve chosen for myself. For now, I’ll allow myself the space. The past few months have traumatized me. I’ll use this time to reset myself so that at least, when I return to New York, I’ll return as a real human being.
Saturday, August 1.
“First Day Back, Indiana School Finds Infection.”
What more can be said about this? Today it’s Indiana, tomorrow it will be everywhere.
Here in New York, we are readying to open live in person on September 10. Thank the lord Labor Day comes late this year; at least we have til the the tenth.
Let’s do the math. One million school children and one hundred thousand teachers. Another ten or twenty thousand people making up the support staff. In a best case scenario, do we say one in 100,000 is infected and walking around with the disease on September 10? That makes around fifteen cases. Let’s estimate that those fifteen people come in contact with eight people on their first day back. Now we’re at 120. Those 120 come in contact with eight people and those 960 people make contact with another eight. Now, on the very first day back, 7,680 people have been exposed. By tomorrow we’ll be near a million. And this is a best case scenario.
It shouldn’t take a math wizard to figure this one out. If we stay home on September 10, that number will be zero. No sickness, no respirators, no ventilators, no death.
The plans are in place. The DOE has spent a zillion hours in Zoom meetings planning for our return. From their safe germ free home offices, the DOE execs have mapped it all out. We will return and jeapordize our lives while they will stay safely at home. From their safe little cocoons, they have concocted a non-sensical ten page plan that places students in a closed room, “safely” distanced from one another, while teachers move about the school from room to room, masked. Each day, new students will occupy those same seats that have been “sanitized” by the custodial staff the night before. By the way, have you seen how people have been “sanitizing” things recently. In many cases, a fast wipe with a tiny white cloth and that’s it. I’ve seen better rinsed dishes. According to plan, this rotation of A B C and D group students will learn live, without actually being able to touch anyone or anything. No sharing of materials, no working closely together, no real togetherness.
If we go through with this, we will undoubtedly fail and be back in the virtual classroom by October. This is the vicious cycle we’ve created.
The solution: Finding smart, sensible people to make decisions for us. Have these people understand that a single life lost is unacceptable. Safety first, everything else must follow.
Friday, July 31.
These times are doing strange things to people. Kerry James Marshall, one our greatest gifts of the art world is now painting birds. As big a step in a different direction this is, one thing has remained. The birds are black.
Marshall’s choice of imagery is actually brilliant. His reference to Christian (and Amy) Cooper is clear. Like Christian Cooper, Marshall has always been a bird lover. He was captivated by the paintings of John James Audubon at an early age. Interestingly, it is long been debated whether Audobon himself was part Black.
I wonder about the reaction the art world will have to these paintings. Will they accept them? Is it okay for someone like Marshall to step outside himself and deliver what is not expected from him. Too often the art world pigeon holes people. If you’re known for painting stripes, you paint stripes. Of course, if you stop and think about what is behind Marshall’s new paintings, you will realize that they are very much connected to his already established work. He has simply altered the stripes a bit.
Marshall states it clearly: “None of us works in isolation. Nothing we do is disconnected from the social, political, economic, and cultural histories that trail behind us. The value of what we produce is determined by comparison with and in contrast to what our fellow citizens find engaging,” said Marshall.
Can a painting of a bird tell us anything about Black life in America? Kerry James Marshall paints a pretty damn good response. Ten thumbs up!
Thursday, July 30.
This quote from today’s paper explains a lot: “the virus is now influenced as much by human behavior as it is by the pathogen itself.”
Which means it’s up to us. And we’re not doing a very good job. Now the prediction is 200,000 or even 300,000 dead. Covid hotspots are everywhere, in cities, towns and rural areas across the nation. Donald is now wearing a mask.
And at the very same time, I’m getting emails from the DOE about coming back to teach in the classroom in September, now just four weeks away.
We can’t have our cake and it it too. I’m not sure that’s the appropriate metaphor, but one thing is certain, we can’t eat cake right now, certainly not with each other. This virus won’t go away if we refuse to wear masks. It won’t go away if we close the bar in New York, but open it in Tallahassee and Peoria. It won’t go away if we open up our stadiums for college football and allow large groups to meet for church. It won’t go away if three out of ten of us refuse to accept what it is.
Writing about this won’t get a single person to change their approach. Sadly, the only way to wake somebody up is to have them experience the reality firsthand. Either they get sick or watch a family member suffer. Nothing you want to wish on anybody, and yet, it’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere.
America loves big. Big cars, big tv sets, big houses, big bank accounts. Now we have big numbers and they’re getting bigger every day. It’s time we come to understand that bigger isn’t always better.
Wednesday, July 29.
The news continues to amaze. Barr testifies in defense of the Feds tear gassing grandmothers, nurses and school teachers. A video promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine and discounting the use of face masks goes viral and is viewed by nine million before being shut down. More baseball players test positive. Daily temperatures in the 90s.
The words of Jean Paul Sartre: “There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.”
Tuesday, July 28.
If the return of baseball is any indication of what we see in our near future, then we’re screwed. The season, not even a week old, has been halted, as two teams have reported a large number of infected players. It seems that prohibiting spitting and high fives didn’t quite keep the players safe.
Me, far from the expert on these matters, predicted this. Kind of a no brainer. The pandemic is still here, it’s all around us. If we take our masks off and play ball, we’re gonna get sick. And we’re gonna get other people sick too.
Baseball is one thing. It’s reach is limited. Some players, their families, a few news reporters and some umpires. Sadly, they will infect each other as this continues.
School is an entirely different beast. Millions of students, their families, their teachers, their bus drivers, their custodians and security people. . . Again, I’m not the expert, but I’d suggest here that our children, the students, come in contact with nearly every person alive.
Announcement: It’s not too late to rethink this. Erring on the side of caution just might save a lot of lives. Our nation seems to be able to handle debt, so another two or three trillion to help us through this just might be the way to go. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s fund those who still can’t return to work. Let’s keep our kids safe at home and do our best to teach them with the help of Google, Zoom and any other eager internet beast. Let’s keep our masks on and wait a little longer to hit the bar.
I want to return as much as anybody else. But I want to return, not watch the show from above.
Monday, July 27.
How are we all feeling? It’s a new week, the sun is shining, looks like a beautiful summer day.
This virus was supposed to be the equalizer, but it has turned out to be just the opposite. As I write this from my sun lit living room, I know that everything — for me — is just fine. My rent is paid, my next check will be direct deposited. My car is parked a block away. I had Chinese takeout last night because new tiles on the kitchen floor had just been grouted. Last week I had the apartment painted. A new couch comes next week. A new chair, new bedspreads, a new shower curtain too. A beach vacation is on the horizon. As for health, I’m fine, having masked properly these past months and visiting sites where “Mask Only” rules apply.
I read a story this morning about Elaine Roberts, a supermarket bagger in Houston. She wears masks too, but many of the shoppers in her store don’t, as there is no requirement. Elaine got sick and her parents did too, and were hospitalized and put on ventilators.
Flavius Tudor, a health care worker in London had always sent his mother money in Romania to help her pay for medical costs. Lately, the money has flowed the other way. Flavius got sick and was unable to work. His mother had to take money from her pension to help her son pay his rent in London.
I’m simply reporting a few stories that somehow made it to the front page. There are so many more that don’t make the news. Soon millions will become hundreds of millions, maybe even billions. Will half the world soon need assistance? What then? Isn’t there anybody out there with a plan to help us recover?
July 26: The American Psychological Association has coined a new word, “ecoanxiety,” defined as a chronic fear of environmental doom.
Sunday, July 26.
The American Psychological Association has coined a new word, “ecoanxiety,” defined as a chronic fear of environmental doom. Ice caps are melting, polar bears near extinction, it’s beach weather in January and it snows in June. We’re all a bit ecoanxious these days.
When I was little there was always dramatic talk about the world ending. But it was just talk and subject for a few good suspenseful movies. Now we’re watching it happen and we don’t really know what to do about it. Holding up signs at a rally doesn’t seem to be slowing the melting.
While the world is crumbling, we are gasping for air. We are desperate for this pandemic to end. None of us want to be wearing masks while the world comes to a close. We at least want to be drinking champagne, together, holding hands.
And the beat goes on.
Saturday, July 25.
The CDC are calling for the reopening of schools. No, the pandemic isn’t over. It’s not close to over. But the pressure is on to MAGA and they’ve followed suit.
With this position by the CDC, it is that much clearer where our priorities lie. While it looks good on paper to say that our number one concern are our children and that their education is essential, this is not what it’s really about. The obvious truth is that our children in school mean our parents can go to work, the economy can start pumping, life can resume. Oh, some people will get sick and die. Shhhh.
I have applied for permission to teach from home due to a health concern. If the DOE approves my application, it will relieve me of the stress of teaching masked all day in a school of revolving students. The DOE has the right to assign me to teach anything, so I don’t really know what to expect.
This is not an easy decision. Of course, I should come first. I want to stay healthy. That is why I’ve worn a mask, washed my hands constantly and kept my distance from everything and everyone I love for the past five months. At the same time, I feel a real attachment to my school and to the students. I need them, they need me.
My friends tell me to stay home if I can. But my friends who also teach here in New York are readying themselves for teaching live. My teacher friends are not necessarily thinking rationally. They are not allowing the fear of contacting the virus to become part of their thinking. Or if they are, they’re not mentioning it.
I know I will spend the next few weeks trying to figure this out. I will probably make the wrong decision. And I’ll have to live with it. Let’s hope live with it.
Friday, July 24.
I went for my first COVID test yesterday. Over the past few days I’ve been feeling a bit exhausted and have lost my appetite. For me, this is not normal, and according to the reports, fatigue is a symptom. Of course it has been ninety-five degrees and I’ve been doing physical labor all week, so that could explain the exhaustion. But I went for the test anyway.
Turns out it was a rather pleasant experience. The Urgent Care Center on Delancey Street was super clean and the man running the office was friendly and very well organized. Everyone was masked and keeping proper distance. I was checked in quickly and only waited about ten minutes before being shown to a room.
Doctor Walker was nice, easy going and talkative. We had a lengthy chat about the virus, the safety of wearing a mask all day in a room full of people, and the bleak future before us. He told me that he only felt 90 percent safe with his mask on. Not a good sign for we teachers going forward.
The COVID test was simple, just a little stick eased up my nose, twirled around and taken out. Less than a minute, no pain.
The doctor did tell me that due to the waiting time — ten to fourteen days — the test had a good chance of being useless, because the life of the specimen he took was short and might die out before actually being tested. Hmmmm.
Thursday, July 23.
If you’re reading this blog, thank you. I feel truly honored that my words are being read and enjoyed. During this most difficult time, it’s good to get my thoughts out and to be able to share them.
Today is day 101 of this piece of writing. A milestone indeed. I’m going to keep writing for another week and a half and then take a break, as I’m off to Cape Cod to disappear for a few weeks. When I come back, I will most likely be coming back to more of the same and will have a few more things to say.
As for saying things, I’m kind of running out of things to say. There is only so much you can write about masks and hand sanitizing. As for the other issue of the time, I am white. I have a lot of thoughts, but my place is more to listen and to live properly in the world, which I feel like I am doing pretty well. Honestly, I wish I were in Portland.
It’s hard to accept the fact that the hospital beds are filled to capacity, we are hitting record numbers and dealing with over 1,000 deaths daily. Oh that this were fake news. But the truth is that five months into this, we’re at square one. Even worse, we have no leadership, no coordinated plan, no real hope for a solution. An op ed article in the paper today suggests that Donald make it mandatory to wear a mask. Five months in and this? Unfreakingbelievable.
Unemployment checks end next week. We’re still not working. School starts in September. We’re still not safe. Imagine what this fall will look like when the reality of these issues come to being.
Meanwhile, the Yankees play the Washington Nationals today. Baseball is back. But is it really back? There will be no cheering in empty ball parks. Players will not be allowed to spit. There will be no high fives or fist bumps. If a game is tied, a player will automatically go to second base to begin the extra inning. Might as well just flip a coin.
My guess is that the season will last a week or two before being cancelled due to sicknesses among players. This is how it works. We should understand this by now. We should understand a lot of things, but our nearsightedness gets in the way.
I’ll end on a positive. I’m taking the day off. I’ve got a good book to finish and a nice comfy chair. Have a great day.
Wednesday, July 22.
Every morning I wake up hoping the bad dream is over, but it’s not. It won’t go away. As I stare into my bowl of oatmeal, which looks like the same bowl I’ve stared into the past four and a half months, I wonder what this is all about. Is it time to get philosophical?
What’s it all about Alfie? (Burt Bacharach)
What’s going on? (Marvin Gaye)
Man is born free and is everywhere in chains. (Jean-Jaques Rousseau)
God is dead. He remains dead. And we have killed him. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
There in only one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. (Albert Camus)
Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination. (Immanuel Kant)
Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward. (Soren Kierkegaard)
I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not in order to enjoy ourselves (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
The only thing I know is that I know nothing (Socrates)
Who’s on first? (Abbott and Costello)
Tuesday, July 21.
Chris Wallace talked with Donald Trump. He actually said these things:
— If we tested half as much those numbers would be down.
— We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame like, but it’s going to be under control.
— Cases are up. Many of those cases shouldn’t even be cases.
— Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles.
— Masks cause problems.
— Many whites are killed also.
— When people proudly have their Confederate flag they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag.
— First of all, I’m not losing because those are fake polls. I have a poll where we’re leading in every swing state.
— Joe doesn’t know he’s alive.
— I guess everybody makes mistakes.
— I’ve been right probably more than anyone else.
— I have a mother who was like a saint.
The great words of our president. We voted for this man. We’d have been better off if we’d voted for his mother.
Monday, July 20.
Last year at this time I was in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. I had a nice house, a studio, a view of the Bay of Fundy out my window. I joined the country club and played golf twice a day. The local restaurant made a nice corn chowder. Most people on the street waved and said hello, even if they didn’t know you.
I wanted to go back this summer, but Canada said no. The border is closed. Now we are learning what it’s like to be unwanted.
The weight of the world gets heavier and heavier. Breathing, being mindful, being light and free is becoming a chore. Having it be near one hundred degrees doesn’t help. Nor does having Alternate Side of the Street Parking back in effect.
It’s Monday. It can only get better.
Sunday, July 19.
Finally broke the monotony yesterday and did something outside my Groundhog Day norm. Trip to Connecticut to visit two old friends and a beautiful swim in the ocean.
A few things I relearned on my excursion:
- There is still grass. It’s green.
- Swimming in salt water brings an instant smile to my face.
- It’s easier to breathe when there is fresh air around you.
- Being with friends is fun, even if you can’t hug them.
I’m home, back in New York. I’ve left the sand and salt behind. Now home, I’ve found a parking space good til Thursday. It’s hot. It’s gray. There is pavement, tar, concrete, brick and dust everywhere I look. Is this really the place I’ve chosen to live my life?
The pandemic has made us all crazy. Here in New York, it’s our own special kind of crazy. We keep our distance from friends and everybody else. We walk into a store and cringe at the sight of people in the same aisle we are in. We fear leaving our homes. We hole up, spend all day on our computers, barely remembering what life used to be like. Nothing is fun. Nothing motivates us. We don’t know why anything is the way it is.
Do I give up my juice parking space and take a drive back to the beach? As good a space as I have, I like the idea of smiling again.
Saturday, July 18.
Feeling a bit like a ping pong ball getting slapped around. Mask — Racial Inequality — Six feet — John Lewis — Open the Schools — Minneapolis — Record Numbers in Arizona — George Floyd — No Touching — I Can’t Beathe.
So many things making me crazy with stress and so much time alone to dwell on everything. To soothe the pain, I’ve been eating nearly a pint of ice cream daily. It feels a bit safer than heroin, although it too might kill me. Imagine that, three hundred and fifty thousand deaths from covid-19 and one from Mint Chocolate Chip. We’ll miss them all.
I saw a color coded map of the United States today showing where people were and weren’t wearing masks. The greater sections of the northeast and the western edge of California was heavily red, depicting mask wearers. Orange, which showed 40 percent of the people wearing masks, covered 100 or so miles west of the northeastern edges, across Pennsylvania and small sections of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, and also covered central California and parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The rest of the country is colored in light yellow, where most people are not wearing masks.
Of course the same color coded map could be used to show red state-blue state preference. It’s one in the same. If you wear a mask, you know Trump is an idiot and if you don’t, you think he’s making America great. Again.
Fortunately, I like ping pong, so getting battered back and forth is just part of a game I like. Hit me some more.
Friday, July 17.
Now is a good time to be a hacker. Yesterday, hackers stole the tweet accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and helped themselves to three hundred thousand dollars before getting shut down. Meanwhile, Russian hackers who go by the name Cozy Bear, have infiltrated universities, private companies and health care organizations looking to steal information on the corona virus. Cozy Bear is thought to be the same group who hacked during the 2016 presidential election.
On the one hand, stealing medical information in order to speed up the process of finding a cure for the virus sounds like a good idea. Why is this information a secret? Shouldn’t all the scientists working on the cure share information. How little I know.
From the report, the Tweet hackers were pretty bad. Asking people to contribute to bitcoin in the name of Barack Obama or Warren Buffet? Are you kidding? Sure, Kanye is a bit more believable, but seriously, you got to do better than that.
It seems that hacking and other forms of internet fraud is becoming more and more prevalent. When you read a tweet by Barack Obama, is it really from him? A few weeks ago I read that Bob Dylan had died and also about a sexual enhancement drug endorsed by Bono. Which of those were true?
It’s all horrible and a bit scary, but it’s not going away. There is no turning back. As much as we long for the old days when the milkman came on Tuesday and Friday, dialing a telephone was a physical activity and shopping was done in a real store , the old days are over.
Thursday, July 16.
Every Wednesday afternoon I have a therapy session. It’s been going on a long time. These past months, we’ve met virtually, which has worked better than I’d expected.
Yesterday, during my session, I repeated the words, “I don’t know” at least fifty times. It might have been one hundred. I didn’t know anything.
I’m guessing that the therapy business is booming. Millions like me, as my therapist pointed out, don’t know much about anything these days. We don’t know concrete things and we don’t know abstract ones either. We barely know what day it is and we certainly don’t know what tomorrow looks like. We don’t even know if we’ll live to see it. The only thing we actually know is that we’re really confused.
You would think that not knowing could be a good thing. Not knowing opens things up to the element of surprise. If you don’t know what tomorrow will look like, you’ll be surprised when it comes. Not knowing makes life like a series of unopened birthday presents. But that’s not working for this time because the surprise is always a let down. Tomorrow ends up being today and you have to relive another meaningless day.
Not knowing is uncomfortable, but it’s not really devastating. When you don’t know, you can still eat, still have a glass of wine, still play chess online and still watch Netflix. Life is just as easy not knowing as knowing.
My next therapy session is a week away. By then, I’ll still know nothing. I suppose there will be plenty to talk about.
Wednesday, July 15.
In the past few weeks I’ve gotten a number of emails from marketers wanting me to use my artwork on masks. Yesterday, it was Katherine Pion, the Cheffe d’equipe Team Leader from Montreal asking me to design some masks. I didn’t bother reading closely, so I don’t know if they want to buy my designs or sell me masks.
I don’t think I’m the right person for mask design. I doubt that a Syrian refugee or a Taliban martyr would be a big seller. Then again, they might sell well in Kabul. I wonder if Katherine Pion has an Afghan connection.
Clearly, marketing hasn’t died down during the pandemic. If anything, there’s lots more of it. Even without jobs, there is still a lot of money to go around and everybody wants it. Yesterday I had to argue on the phone with Hulu, who was charging me 64 dollars a month for tv I don’t watch. It turns out that I watched one show a while back and I accepted a free one week membership from them. For not canceling after the week, I was put into their 64 dollar a month group. God, I hate the modern world.
It’s Wednesday, but it feels like Monday and I wish it were Friday.
Tuesday, July 14.
Black Lives Matter has been painted in large letters in front of Donald’s house. Statues have been pulled down. And now, a new name will be given to the Washington Redskins. It took 83 years, nation wide protests, the killing of a black man and a pandemic.
It also took money, lots of money. The team owner, Dan Snyder, had sworn that he would never ever ever never ever change the team name. Like a flustered six year old, Synder stamped his feet and swore on a stack of bibles that his team would be the Redskins forever. Until Fedex put their feet down and said nope. This is America. Money talks. Every time.
Soon Washington will become the Redwolves or the Redtails. As wolves, they will reference a navy helicopter. As tails, they honor the Tuskegee airmen. In either case, to become one of these, the team will have to deal with Martin McCaulay, who has purchased the trademarks for these team names and others. Depending on how you feel, Mr. McCaulay is either a smart guy or a serious asshole.
We’re not there yet. As for name changes, we’ve still got the Indians and the Chiefs. And we have the Braves in Atlanta, who not only have kept their name, but still do the tomahawk chop at the ballpark. We’ve got a long way to go.
Monday, July 13.
Two items on the front page: 15,000 new cases in Florida yesterday and Walt Disney World reopened. Those of us with any kind of intelligence will think, “huh?”
It’s not just Florida. It’s happening everywhere. Here in New York, the baskets are back up in the playgrounds. Unmasked, full-court action is now the norm. Art galleries are opening in the Hamptons as plans are being finalized for bringing a million New York kids and their teachers back together for the start of the school year.
We seem to be in a new phase of handling the pandemic. We’re not going to let the virus keep us from living the lives we love. We’ll take our chances. We want Disney and we’re gonna have Disney!
Our rush to return and get those cash registers ringing again has sickened 15,000 people in a single state. Some of these people will die. Today, new sicknesses will number in the thousands. And tomorrow and the day after that.
They say that Disney is a place where magic happens. Abra cadabra, we need help.
Sunday, July 12.
Some things to remember during these difficult times:
You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Stand! There’s A Cross For You To Bear
Things To Go Through If You’re Going
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
Hold tight wait till the party’s over
Hold tight We’re in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house
Saturday, July 11.
The story continues. I really don’t know what point this tale is at. We’re somewhere past the introduction, we’ve developed some of the plot and even a few subplots, but we have no idea how long we will be stuck in this awful middle section. The plot is not developing in an exciting way. There is a good chance that it won’t keep our interest. Do we even want to wait around and see how it ends?
How will this end? Will we return to lives once lived? Will we gain insight? Will we evolve into something else, something new? Something better? Or worse?
One thing we know is that our resources are not unlimited. We can only bail ourselves out for so long. Soon the extra unemployment checks will stop coming. Most likely they will stop well before jobs return. What then?
In order to open in September, each school needs an estimated million dollars to handle the pandemic. Our government bails out banks and airlines, not schools. So where is the money coming from? (It’s not.)
It’s hard to imagine America without money. This will be the equalizer many of us think we want to see. I’m not so sure it will be a pretty picture. But maybe we should get ready.
Friday, July 10.
The message has been delivered to his doorstep. In gigantic yellow letters, Black Lives Matter is now proudly displayed on Fifth Avenue. It is quite a statement.
Donald, who is too busy railing on the Supreme Court for reminding him that he’s no different than regular people, has yet to tweet about the recent street painting. He will. Will he paint over it himself? Will he ask his people to come to his house to do the work? I wonder if a few of his peeps will just come out after midnight with a few gallons of red and splash it all around, mimicking what some have done recently to certain statues. The Jackson Pollack approach is a bit retro, but at least it’s art.
What a time we are living in. Never a dull moment.
Thursday, July 9.
Six weeks from now I will become essential. Chances are I will be ordered back to my job in a school building. If I want my pay check I will have to go.
We know the stories of the essential workers who have left the safety of their own homes and have come to work. Doctors and nurses, police officers and fire fighters, meat packers and cashiers. These are the people who, without them, society doesn’t function. Yes, they are essential and sadly, many of them are now dead.
There are many reasons for children to be in school. Parents need to go to work. Children need to learn, and the online method is a terrible substitute for the real thing. In many ways, children being in school is essential.
I am torn. I want to believe that, as a teacher, I have a responsibility to my world. I am needed and therefore I must brave the storm. And yet, I do not want to die. As good as it feels to be needed, I don’t want to be essential.
I have the next six weeks to think this through. Unlike the many essential workers who have had to go to work in order to pay their rent, I’m not in that position. I’ve saved enough so that I could get by without a paycheck for now. So my decision is less financial than moral. I need to decide if it’s okay to let some people down.
Do I owe my life to this? No. Will I feel guilt? Yes. Can I live with that? Time for me to decide.
Six weeks is a long time. It’s quite possible that all this worry is for nothing. As the numbers spike, decisions can change. It’s still possible that they will hold off opening schools. Another semester or two of virtual learning? Equally as frightening, but at least I don’t die.
Wednesday, July 8.
I feel like this story has already been written. It’s so predictable. As we find out that President Bolsonaro (who simply said “so what” in reference to 65,000 deaths) of Brazil now has covid, Donald screams out about how we need to start school now.
Money or death? Clearly the choice here and everywhere is money. We have a man who knows that his only chance of reelection is tied to the economic well being of our nation. A few million more sicknesses, another 130,000 deaths — that will lead to a shrug followed by a MAGA fist pump and a few lines about how we’ve weathered the storm. Soon, our kids will be back in school, movie houses and bowling alleys will reopen and the masks will disappear. Hospitals will overflow again, but that of course will be noted as a fake news report. In truth, our hospitals are doing great. Everything is great. Look at the stock market — greater than ever. The NFL is back. Football is great. The cameras pull away from kneeling players and pan the sky, showing fighter planes and bald eagles as my country tis of thees. MAGA. Great. MAGA. Great great great.
Me? I’m facing a return to work in September. Me, my mask, eight students at a time separated by six feet of space. My students will not even be allowed to share their artwork for fear of contamination. I won’t be able to sit with a student to show them how to draw a line or shade a form. If I want my paycheck, I will have to risk my life.
Millions of Americans have risked their own lives these past months because they needed their paychecks. Having no savings to fall back on, they rode buses and subways to menial labor jobs. They packed meat, jackhammered roads, manned cash registers and RISKED THEIR LIVES, because they needed food and money to pay the rent. These people were essential. Soon I will be one of them.
Or, I quit. I can simply say no. I have a pension that will pay me enough to live a step above cat food, which, during this time, makes me the lucky one. Which, I suppose means, I can sit back, relax and say that it’s all great.
Tuesday, July 7.
It sounds a bit strange saying this, but I woke up happy today. Nothing changed from yesterday. I went about the same routine as I have for the past months, a total Ground Hog Day repeat of each of the past 120 days: make the bed, lift some weights, sit-ups and pushups, shower, brush my teeth, take two pills, breakfast, coffee, newspaper. All exactly the same.
Today, I did it smiling. Breathing was easier, the air felt a little lighter, pushups were easier, even the oatmeal tasted a little better. Why?
The newspaper showed no significant change to anything. On page one “Cases Balloon,” “Calamity Looms,” “DiBlasio Plots Limited Return to Classrooms,” and “Trump Stokes White Resentment.” Today is yesterday.
Still, I’m smiling. Yesterday I remember thinking “oh no, I have to do this again?” Today, I’m looking forward to it.
Which I guess explains something about moods. They don’t have much to do with reality. I think I’ll just leave it at that and enjoy whatever moments I can.
Meanwhile, OMfuckingG. Yesterday Donald spoke out in favor of the Confederate Flag. He actually tweeted that NASCAR’s removal of the flag was a mistake because it has hurt their business. Even if it had, so what! In fact, NASCAR numbers were up nearly forty percent according to a recent report, so Donald was just talking like an idiot. In yesterday’s tweetathon, Donald praised the Confederate Flag, trashed Bubba Watson, waxed poetic about sports team names that are derogatory to Native Americans and referred to covid as the China Virus. It’s only a matter of time before he starts using the N word. You think I’m kidding? It will win him votes.
Monday, July 6.
We’re approaching four months of pandemic insanity. Since early March we’ve washed our hands approximately 2,000 times, watched at least five hundred hours of Netflix and read the same articles about disease data more times than we can count. When will corona become a neighborhood in Queens again.
It’s just one long word: ThevirushasaffectedaninordinateamountofblackandlatinopeopleTrumpwon’twearamaskcovid19casesontheuptickin34statessouthdakotagovernorseesnoneedtosocialdistanceBlackLivesMatterBidenhastheleadinswingstatesfortysixthousandnewcasesnationwidetwomillionfileforunemploymentICan’tBreathe.
Back in April I was reading Green Eggs and Ham backwards. I never made a recording of this but I think now is a good time. As we near month five, it all seems backward. Day great a have.
Sunday, July 5.
It’s Sunday morning and I’ve just sat down to write after eating a nice breakfast. Before that, after waking up, I made my bed, took a shower, brushed my teeth, took two little pills, made coffee and read a few articles in the newspaper. I’ve been awake for two hours and I haven’t spoken a word yet.
I didn’t speak yesterday either, and the day before that, I remember saying two words, “Thank you,” to the woman who sold me a few groceries.
I miss talking. I like talking. Talking is one of the things we do that lets us know we’re alive.
I’ve been trying hard to keep my sanity during this wacky time. I’ve busied myself with art projects and writing. I’ve read a lot and I’ve even learned how to spend hours with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. I’ve learned to cook lots of new things, I’ve run six miles a day, visited lots of friends on Facebook and I’ve played enough online chess to boost my rating one hundred points.
But I’m not talking and I think that might be what’s creating a gigantic feeling of loneliness and emptiness.
I’ve been watching Orange is the New Black. At certain times the guards refuse to let them talk to each other. It’s the greatest punishment of all. In the film Just Mercy, death row inmates are locked alone in tiny cells. They can’t see anybody, but they can talk to each other through metal walls. The conversations allow them to feel alive.
I know this is temporary for me. Today I have a zoom call scheduled with two of my closest friends and my girlfriend will call from her vacation spot on the Chesapeake Bay. So, I’ll be busy talking today. And talking is like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget how.
It took a pandemic to make realize that something as basic as talking is so important.
Saturday, July 4.
- Pack a large assortment of foods, charcoal for a cook-out, frisbee, sunscreen. Gather the family and find the local park or beach and set yourself up for a great day of barbecue, frisbee, swimming and celebratory fun. You and thousands are there to enjoy the Fourth. Fireworks displays will cap off this great day. MAGA.
- Stay home. As much fun as it would be to be barbecuing with good friends and watching fireworks, you like being alive and healthy. Hopefully, next year will be a time for celebration.
We are two nations. It becomes clearer every day how divided we are. In states like Arizona, the hospital beds are so filled that sick people are being turned away because they are deemed unlikely to survive. At the exact same time, thousands of Trump supporters are with the Donald at Mount Rushmore to listen to him trash Democrats.They are are unmasked and crammed together. At the same moment in time that our hospital beds are over-filled, the governor of South Dakota announced that there is no need for social distancing. Two nations existing in the same space.
In the past few days, Donald has flown, unmasked, from his golf course in Virginia to South Dakota and to Washington. With him are countless aides and supporters. In today’s lingo, these people are called super spreaders. In some states they are breaking laws and should be arrested. If they were Black, they would be.
As the days continue, I feel less and less safe. The desire and need to make things happen again, to open stores and restaurants and to end the virus is so strong. How many people are now saying “oh fuck it, who cares?”
A few months ago, the predictions were that we would peak and then the numbers would begin to decrease and then a second wave would happen. It would happen because we would have rushed back to our old lives too early. In the second wave, the virus would be even worse. Numbers would soar and more people would suffer. Seems like we are there.
And now, as the numbers surge, we are more divided than ever as a nation. Amazingly, the Donald has still not put on a mask. A simple act like that would send a message to millions of his supporters — idiots, but still they are our neighbors. As much as we hate this man, we still wish that he’d find one ounce of humanity in himself and let it guide him. But it won’t, because he has none. Like other megalomaniacal dictators of the past, he is a deeply deranged man. Historians write about the mental illnesses of these people. Clearly our Donald is extremely ill.
I will celebrate the fourth of July in my living room by myself. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m celebrating. In July of 1776 the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence. There was a declaration stating that all men were equal. But that declaration didn’t include women or Black people or Native Americans, the true founders of this nation. It took another 150 years to include women and nearly 200 to include everybody else. And now, though we are equal on paper, we are anything but that in reality.
George Floyd. Eric Garner. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Tony McDade, Dion Johnson. . .
Today I’ll celebrate hope. I’ll celebrate change. I’ll celebrate the possibility that our nation has finally woken up. I’ll celebrate that we are just a few months away from removing from office the man who has kept us in the dark. I’ll celebrate a new beginning and the end of hatred. Happy fourth.
Friday, July 3.
The fight for justice is big. Everywhere now there are voices shouting out to be heard. It didn’t begin with George Floyd. There was a lot of noise being made before then. The death of George Floyd brought the issue to more people.
The list of names of artists and writers who have focused their life work on the fight is long. Kara Walker, Glen Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jaqueline Woodson, James McBride, James Baldwin — just a few of the big names. There are people like Shaun Leonardo who makes gorgeous charcoal drawings of the African-Amercian struggle and also leads performance pieces that study the struggle in interesting ways.
The art and literature world, which we all know, is largely controlled by white people, is wide open to hearing black voices, now more than ever. These voices are important. We need to hear them.
As a white artist, I need to know my place. This is a time for me to listen. The Black voices that we are hearing are first person accounts of what is happening. They are far more interesting than any second hand observation I might be able to offer.
Thursday, July 2
Until the pandemic I’d never been much of a tv watcher. My tv is old and I’m clueless about how to connect it to modern types of tv viewing, so all the great shows that people talk about are not part of my tv radar. If I’m lucky, I can watch reruns of Andy Griffith or Two and a Half Men.
But with the pandemic came my introduction to the world of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Anything is now possible. I’ve plowed through a lot in the past few months.
Many of the programs have been criminal and legal dramas told in many, many episodes. Lately I’ve been watching The Good Wife and Orange is the New Black simultaneously. In both, there are lots of cases involving innocent black and brown people who are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. The TV depictions of these cases are dramatic. In some of the stories, you see the crimes committed by other people, so you know they’re innocent, but then you watch things unfold in ugly ways. You see the innocent people tortured, jailed and treated like criminals by the white people in power.
It happens in the real world too. Today, I read in the paper the story of 40 year old Jonathon Irons. With the help of basketball great Maya Moore, Mr. Irons has just been released from prison, 24 years after his mistaken conviction for an armed robbery and shooting. Mr. Irons had been serving a fifty year sentence and said he wouldn’t have taken parole because that would have meant admitting guilt.
None of us can imagine being incarcerated for 24 years for something we didn’t do. We can’t imagine what is it like to scream out that you didn’t do something and have nobody listen to us. But the truth is that there are thousands of people who have been condemned to a life behind bars who should be free. Many of these people do not have people like Maya Moore, who can use influence to make people listen.
Maya Moore gave up her basketball career so that she could devote her time to helping Jonathon Irons. Bryan Stevenson has devoted his entire career to fighting for the freedom for convicted men on death row. There are people who will fight the fight for justice. People like this give me hope.
Wednesday, July 1.
According to reports, we’re going backwards. Record numbers of sickness are being reported all over the country. Meanwhile, Donald’s lapdog, Mike Pence says we’re in a much better place. Kentucky senator Rand Paul told Dr. Fauci that he needs to be more optimistic. 35,000 people got sick yesterday, and Fauci’s supposed to cheer?
While some Americans wave flags and jump for joy, I’m staying in and keeping my mask on. Not happily, but intelligently. I’ve spent the better part of four months masked, with a bar of soap and a bottle of Purell, doing everything I can to stay healthy. Why stop now?
Tuesday, June 30.
Need for comedy today. A few laughs will go a long way.
The fiscal year ends today. How funny is that? What is a fiscal year?
Next joke. The Democrats are planning an August convention that will be mostly virtual. Delegates are being asked not to come to Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Republicans have moved their convention from North Carolina to Florida, the state having the most trouble with the corona pandemic. All delegates will be coming to Jacksonville but will be expected to come without masks. It’s okay to laugh.
Yesterday, I was visiting a friend in the Hudson Valley. We enjoyed a vodka martini, pasta and salad, safely distanced and masked. She is Russian and has a wonderful accent. Commenting on the situation, she held up her hands in frustration and exclaimed, “Virus, Schmirus.” Biggest laugh of the week.
Indeed, we are officially in Virus Schmirus mode. We walk down the street fully masked and shake our heads at those who pass us not wearing them. We are torn between shouting at them to get with the program, ignoring them or wishing them dead. We walk in to stores and greet the store owner behind our masks. We purchase things with Apple pay or some kind of device that won’t include any kind of human contact. We purell before, during and after every interaction. At home we wash our hands, wash our keys, wash our purchases, spray and spritz over and over again. We are full time spritzers. We have the cleanest hands ever. Virus Schmirus.
Phase two will be delayed. We will hold off on indoor restaurant dining. Twenty-eight dollar plates of pasta, eighteen dollar half-glasses of wine and two hundred dollar checks are on hold. We will have to settle for fifty dollar bags of soggy burgers, fries and plastic cups enjoyed from a wobbly, curbside table. Virus Schmirus.
I want my Mommy.
Monday, June 29.
Fact: The president of the United States posts a tweet of a Florida man in a golf cart shouting “White Power!”
Not a dream, not a piece of fiction written for Netflix or Hulu. This. Really. Happened.
We live around the corner from each other. We shop in the same stores at the same time. We share streets, post offices, banks. We share the sun and the moon and we breathe the same air.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” If there’s one message the bible delivers, this is it. Every single church going person knows this. Every. Single. One.
My guess is that the kind of person who shouts “White Power” from a golf cart doesn’t own a mirror because they couldn’t possibly look at themselves, not even for a second.
Both the covid pandemic and the BLM movement have made us look at ourselves and ask what really matters. I think a lot of us have come to the conclusion that what really matters is our connection to each other, which is why we come out to protest and hold hands with whoever is standing next to us, regardless of size, shape or skin color.
These days are difficult and long, but they are necessary. We hope that one day we’ll be able to enjoy life, knowing that we’ve finally created a just and equal world for everybody, a world where not a single person would every say those despicable words.
Sunday, June 28.
In these past few months, as my mood vaclilated in every which direction, I’ve turned to art to find peace and meaning. As an artist, I’ve spent many hours drawing and painting, trying to connect to this time creatively. Sometimes it feels necessary and sometimes it’s uplifting.
I’ve read a lot, but it has been difficult for me to relax while reading a piece of fiction that normally can transport me. Sometimes, I’ll read two pages five times just to know what I’ve read. Way too difficult.
I’ve watched virtual dance performances and enjoyed seeing strong, beautiful bodies in motion.
Nothing has moved me more than music. I’ve gone back in time and listened to Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Keith Jarrett and Patti Smith . I watched Tracy Chapman live, singing “Talking About A Revolution” to 20,000 people. Just Tracy and an acoustic guitar facing 20,000 fans. Between breaths, you could hear a pin drop. God was in the house. Last night I listened and watched a recent video by the Chicks. It’s truly amazing what a piece of music can do to one’s soul.
Would we survive this time without music? I don’t think so.
Saturday, June 27.
I started writing this blog three and a half months ago. It began a few days after I realized I was going to be home for a while. I knew that I was about to experience something really strange that was going to make me think about important parts of my life.
And it did. At first, I thought about what isolation meant. I thought about people and why they mattered to me. I thought about inside and outside, about fresh air and safety. I thought about food — about restaurants and eighteen dollar glasses of wine, and about how to cook more than three dishes. I thought about making noise even when nobody hears me. I thought about freedom and captivity.
Over a few short weeks I became a different person. I laughed less and worried more. I stopped making art. I got angry a lot. But soon I realized that I needed to find a way out from anger and worry, and so I tried for the positive. I became my own best friend and found ways to channel myself into creative places. I started drawing again and I made some collages. I learned a bunch of new recipes. I started running every day. And I wrote this blog every morning. Like a prisoner serving eight to ten, I figured out a way to be a real person in jail.
May 25, and the world was shaken. A white man’s foot, eight minutes and forty-six seconds, lots of video footage, a dead innocent black man. The mask and the hand washing continued, but the focus of everything shifted. I became angry again, even angrier than before. For a few days I felt hopeless because I had no idea what I could do. But that changed when the entire world became involved, when people of all colors came together to fight.
A period of hope followed. A few weeks thinking that the world was changing for the better. The sounds of Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye and Traci Chapman were making my world meaningful. With hope it was all possible.
That lasted a few weeks, during which time, another innocent black man was killed by a white cop and others were found hanging from trees, their deaths labeled suicides, but maybe they weren’t. My moods shifted daily — happy, sad, angry, confused, hopeful, dejected — and the clock kept ticking.
It’s summer now and I’m in New York City for the first time in ten years. Art residencies in Canada and Nebraska are cancelled. I have nowhere to go. I’m still wearing a mask and washing my hands constantly.
So now the big questions. What does this all mean? Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the point? I’m not going to answer these questions right now. But I’m going to move forward knowing that each day matters. My eye is on the prize, even if I’m not sure how to get it. I do know that I’ll do better if I keep my anger at bay. Maybe today I’ll listen to Bobby McFerrin. Don’t worry, be happy.
Friday, June 26.
I’m not one who makes Groundhog Day references very often, but I’ll do it now. I don’t remember the movie, don’t know what it was even about and I also don’t know how it ended. How does this end?
Yesterday I rambled about numbers, about the rise in corona sickness, the fall of the stock market and Joe Biden’s commanding lead over idiot Donald. The few days earlier I focused my rant on the removal of statues. Today it’s a repeat. Yesterday was 37,300 corona sicknesses, the market, which I said yesterday had nothing to do with the real world, rebounded, and polls showed Joe leading idiot Donald in six key battleground states. Meanwhile, many families who are descended from those whose statues are being removed are torn.
I have a Facebook friend from high school who was complaining about the removal of Christopher Columbus from New Haven. His little rant received a half dozen “I agree” comments and so, stupidly, I entered the conversation. I told him that he needed to understand why so many people wanted Columbus removed. And I told him that there were better ways to honor Italian-Americans. A statue of a pizza or a brick made more sense. Surely we’re proud of pizza and all the structures that Italian-Americans have erected here. The conversation went back and forth with little progress being made by either side and eventually led to mention of the celebration of Columbus Day and the changing of that celebration to include the native people who were here first. Like I said, Groundhog Day.
Sadly, this conversation led me to see how many white people are frustrated with what the BLM movement is doing to them. It is making them uncomfortable. The initial excitement for George Floyd and BLM has died down and now true feelings are emerging. Somehow, Dereck Chauvin’s foot has led white people to fear that their grandparents won’t be remembered properly. The focus is on “me” not “us.”
How does this end? How much longer can we read the same article over and over? How much more do I need to read about how 88 percent of Trump supporters still support him, still think he’s good on the economy and on China. How many more people will be interviewed saying they hate Trump but will vote for him anyway? Who fucking cares? And who really cares about the idiots who don’t wear masks while shopping at Walmart, getting a tattoo or going to church? Yesterday, an innocent young Latino man was killed by a cop in Tucson. Dot dot fucking dot.
Sadly the answer to the question “when does it end” is Not Now. I got a new black mask yesterday. I can wear it when I need to look good.
Thursday, June 25.
More numbers. 33,000 new cases in the U.S. yesterday. The stock market dropped 2.6 percent. Biden leads trump by 14 percentage points.
Which numbers should we focus on? The 33,000 new cases tells us the obvious: keep our masks on and hold off on making party plans. If we want to stay healthy we need to stay isolated.
I made the mistake yesterday of walking into a car dealership. I’d made an appointment to look at a car only to walk into a scene where half of the people in the showroom were unmasked. Here, in the middle of New York City, there were no six foot dividers, no hand sanitizers, no concern at all for the reality of the moment. It felt more like I was waiting for a Trump rally. I left in a hurry.
The Dow lost seven hundred and fifty points yesterday. 2.6 percent is a few trillion dollars. It means nothing. Until yesterday, the market had recovered all of the loss from early March. All better, even though millions are still jobless and, as already noted, 33,000 more got sick yesterday. Wall Street has little to do with us.
Joe leads by fourteen with just four months to go. Donald is playing now without Michael Jordan, without Tiger Woods, without Mariano Rivera and without Babe Ruth. They are all on team Biden. Today’s poll shows that even old white men are polling higher for Joe. Soon Eric and Ivanka will be too.
I like rooting for the underdog. I love it when a team pulls out a win in the final seconds. I love ninth inning rallies. But not this time. Fourteen today, twenty tomorrow. Let’s not stop until Oklahoma and Missouri become blue states.
Wednesday, June 24.
In eleventh grade history class, my teacher stated that events only stay on the front page of the news for eleven days. According to Mr. O’leary, American attention span is short; we lose interest and need another story.
Mr. O’leary wasn’t quite right. Covid kept our attention for over two months and probably would have stayed on the front page if it hadn’t been for Derek Chauvin’s foot. His murder of George Floyd and the movement that followed took over the news. For nearly a solid month, headlines featured George Floyd, Minneapolis, Protest, Black Lives Matter. A few weeks into this, when another horrific murder happened in Atlanta , the headlines kept the story going.
Today, Covid is back. The top two articles today focus on Dr. Fauci and the resurgence of the disease and Europe’s refusal to let Americans enter. A smaller article about the funeral of Rayshard Brooks appears as well, but the focus today is clearly Covid.
It’s interesting to note that the name Donald or Trump does not appear anywhere in a page one headline. Donald is quickly becoming old news. This is really good for our side.
Donald won the election in 2016 because he was able to control the media and force its focus on him. During the months leading up to the election, his name was front and center everywhere — in every newspaper, on every television and radio station, on every social media site. Even Hilary talked about him non-stop. His name was heard so often that it caused many voters to pull the lever for him just because it was the only name they knew.
Donald excitement won’t sell papers anymore and the journalists will not bother to cover his bumbling. While he screams and whines about antifa leftists and covid conspiracy theories, nobody will bother to cover it. He’ll keep tweeting and fewer and fewer people will read them. When he falls down the stairs while sipping water, we won’t watch him get up.
If there’s one thing we know about this country, media rules. Let’s hope our press covers what really matters and we’ll happily enjoy the end of fake news.
Tuesday, June 23.
Our world is changing, it really is.
Thousands came out at Talladega in support of the ban of the Confederate Flag. Led by Bubba Watson, NASCAR’s Colin Kaepernick, a large crowd rallied before the race. Sadly, a noose was found by Watson’s locker, an indication that there were still a few people lost in the past. A small motorcade of flag waving cars drove past the racetrack in protest of NASCAR. Indeed, we are in a time where everybody is protesting. That’s a good thing.
I’m guessing that the majority of the fans standing before Bubba were white people who had voted for Donald in 2016. Now these people are thinking differently. Many have been educated and reformed. Our world is changing.
While Donald screams out about our leftist, antifa terrorists who want to dismantle our statues and monuments, his one time supporters are taking them down. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Christopher Columbus, even Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. In New York, Teddy Roosevelt is being removed from the Museum of Natural History. That’s a big deal. And then, of course, the Confederate Flag. Alabama’s governor, who in the past has built a campaign on preserving historic landmarks, is now proud of Bubba. Our world is changing.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who has a checkered history as a supporter of anti-gay legislation, is now leading the campaign for gender acceptance. If you believe it, Biden is a man who has made mistakes, reflected on them, and grown. We can’t imagine Donald doing anything like that, because he won’t. As the rest of us wash ourselves of our sins, a few will be left in the dust. Our world is changing.
Monday, June 22
And now it’s the second day of summer. Sun shining bright.
But. . .
A recent article by the fake news people at the New York Times suggests that Donald is falling apart. His people, according to the Times, are idiots and his staffers are dying of corona virus. This fake report claims that his supporters, who wear red, white and blue and don confederate flags, deny that corona virus is really anything to worry about. They throw away masks they are given for free. According to fake news, their leader, Donald, who now calls Covid 19 the Kung Flu, is a racist who knows doesn’t know how to drink a glass of water or walk down a ramp.
On the other hand, Fox news reports that President Trump is marching forward on his quest to MAGA. The President stands for law and order and loves black people. According to Fox, the police force does not engage in systemic racism, there are merely a few bad apples in that bunch. And, the President is a mathematical genius, who has figured out how to cut the number of corona sicknesses by not counting them.
Such different views of our world. Who should we believe?
Sunday, June 21.
Happy Summer, happy Father’s Day and it’s even my would be 33rd wedding anniversary. A magic day.
Did I hear right? Did Donald say that we should stop testing for covid because if we didn’t test then we wouldn’t have as many covid sicknesses. Or deaths? Um….
We always knew he wasn’t the brightest bulb. We even knew he was dumb. But that dumb? Heads I win tails you lose.
It’s almost funny, but it’s not. He’s insulting 120,000 dead people and millions more who actually care about out national health.
As Donald reels further and further out of control, one can only wonder what will happen. How much real damage can he do? I’m guessing that when he loses the election by ten or twenty million votes and at least 100 electoral votes, he will claim that those facts are fake, fake numbers, fake news. He will look the camera in the eye and claim victory while he tweets about America being great again. I’m not sure what the procedure is for removing a deranged president from the White House, but I’m guessing we’ll watch it on every tv network, including Fox. Four men in white jackets taking Donald away.
Meanwhile the report on the Oklahoma rally barely made it into the newspaper. Scalpers couldn’t give away seats. There were more people at the Black Lives Matter rally in Peoria.
It’s comforting to finally be able to watch Donald go down. With a little bit of luck he will resign by Thursday, but nobody will even bother to watch.
Saturday, June 20.
“Hopelessness is the enemy of justice” Last night I heard these words spoken by the actor Michael B. Jordan while watching Just Mercy. In the real world, this sentiment was delivered by Bryan Stevenson who is one of our nations real leaders.
Bryan Stevenson is widely known in small circles. He spends his time in the deep south working with, mostly black men, who are on death row. Statistics show that ten percent of prisoners on death row, and therefore ten percent of those assassinated, are innocent. In Stevenson’s thirty years on the job, he has freed over fifty prisoners, not only from the death penalty, but from jail itself. Some innocent men have spent over 30 years in solitary confinement.
The film shown on television last night was part of a celebration of Juneteenth. During the program the host of the show mentioned the quote from Bryan Stevenson about hopelessness. That reminded me of the blog post I’d written yesterday, where I mentioned that we were currently moving along, inch by inch, toward a better world because we carried with us hope. Hope is what humans have to give strength.
But today, I’ve forgotten what hope is. Before sitting down to write this, I read of the account of four recent deaths of black men by hanging. From trees. Two in California and one each in Texas and New York. These deaths were originally ruled a suicide, though no notes have been discovered. Criminal investigations have begun as family members and others who knew the victims claim that their loved ones were not suicidal.
What is happening? Four black men hanging from trees is not something that happens in a civilized place. Is this the result of BLM progress? The KKK and other racist hate groups have been out of the news these past weeks. Could they possibly be responsible for this? That the answer is yes is what has caused me to, I hope temporarily, lose hope.
Today the world is getting worse. Hangings from trees, corona death and sickness tolls up in many areas of the country, a few million more without jobs. I’ve never felt more like I need to take my mask off, find a few friends and hug them.
Here’s new hope: This is just a really bad dream. I ate something a little too spicy last night that caused a midnight hallucination. In the dream I wore a mask, which is strange, because I don’t even own a mask, do I? In the dream I was told that I’d have to wear the mask for a long time and I’d have to stay inside and watch life from my window. Outside the window there were lots of black people. One by one, they fell to the ground. I wanted to help, but I knew I had to stay inside. Luckily, I knew I was dreaming and soon I’d wake up. I think it was Friday, so that meant when I woke up, I could read the paper and relax.
Friday, June 19th.
It’s Juneteenth. Do you say Happy Juneteenth? Are there presents? What’s the appropriate gift? 40 acres and a mule?
The true gift of course is freedom and justice, and it hasn’t been given to everybody yet. The end of slavery, sadly, is official only.
With hope we inch along. The left is finally getting heard. In the past few days the supreme court voted correctly twice, making it illegal to fire a gay person for being gay and allowing DACA immigrants to stay, at least for now. These decisions required at least one vote from the right. Today it’s 5–4, tomorrow we’ll do even better. With hope.
Hope is real. It’s not magic. Hope is about sending positive energy in every direction. When that energy is felt, it helps things change color and shape. I think the colors and shapes are changing these days. Just imagine the pictures we can make.
Thursday, June 18.
Retraction — Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis should come down! And thrown away.
I think what I was reacting to in yesterday’s blog post was reading that Thomas Jefferson was being linked with people like Lee and Davis. It didn’t seem quite right. But we’re in a sensitive, maybe an oversensitive, time period right now. Black Lives Matter is a most needed movement and one that needs support from every kind of person. For many committed people, it is raising sensitivity to extreme levels. So what do we do with Thomas Jefferson, who was as a slave owner, and, let’s not forget, the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
Yesterday I was speaking about the telling of history. Removing these statues, I said, would be an erasing of the past. But I was wrong. Statues in parks are not about telling history. They are displays of heroism. History telling is for textbooks and museums, ot for parks. And so, the parks and street corners should raise to the sky the people we want to remember as being truly heroic. George Floyd deserves a park. Robert E. Lee can have a room in a museum and with that a plaque properly defining his role in history.
We are making real progress. Recently removed from our supermarket shelves is Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. Now they belong in a museum. The confederate flag, removed from NASCAR, should also be in the museum. Sadly, there are many homes, mostly in the south, that still display this symbol of racial hatred. We will watch them be removed, one by one, over the next few years.
When I think about my heroes, they are mostly black men. They include MLK, Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammed Ali, Tiger Woods and Barack O’Bama. Funny, I can’t really think of a white person. Karl Marx, but he wouldn’t make it into any park in this country. Clearly, I’m not the one who should choose, but the people should.
When people of color scream out about the history texts that humiliate them while telling stories of white supremacy, we need to listen. The moments in time need to be rewritten by scholars who can tell the whole story. While the few rich white men were busy slicing up the world into bits and pieces they could own and control, the rest of us was here too, breathing, living. Our stories need to be told. And we need to make clear who people really were. Hero and bigot mean two very different things. Let’s put the proper tag on people.
Wednesday, June 17.
Let’s talk about symbols. They are coming down. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, the two most noted Confederates are being removed and, within time, erased from our collective memory. Christopher Columbus, who, in my etched memory, “sailed the ocean blue in 1492,” is being removed. Thomas Jefferson — didn’t he write the Declaration of Independence? — is being removed. And many others.
This is a side story to the BLM movement, but it’s not a small one. The removal of these icons touches on how history is taught to our children. Do we remember Thomas Jefferson as a great man who penned the statement our nation’s belief system is founded on, or do we discount him as a slave owning bigot?
I’ll weigh in here and risk having myself removed for saying the wrong thing. I promise not to wear black face.
I’m all for retelling history so that it represents the true story. History should not be erased, rather it should tell the whole story. And so, maybe the solution is simple: Rather than tear down the statues and symbols of our past, why not erect others, right next to them, to balance out the story. Why not leave Columbus up and put someone like Cesar Chavez next to him. Put Emmit Till or Malcolm X next to Jefferson. Wouldn’t it be great to see monuments dedicated to George Floyd, Rodney King and Travon Martin placed next to America’s other known heroes?
Statues and other symbolic items tell stories about our past. The past happened. We need to find a way to tell the whole story. Robert E. Lee was an important figure. He shouldn’t be glorified, but he should be remembered. Why not lower his statue and place another next to him of somebody who represents the other side of history.
The other approach is to remove. But if we keep removing, what will we be left with? Hasn’t every person, great or otherwise, done something terrible at least once in their lives? If they didn’t own slaves, then they slept with somebody they shouldn’t have, or stole some money or, at least told some off color jokes. We shouldn’t forgive and forget, just forgive, or at least allow the mistakes to have been made. History is multi-colored and anything but clean. We want to show the truth, not fantasy.
Tuesday, June 16.
Journalists Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham, hosting the “Still Processing” podcast were discussing the BLM movement. (Yes, it’s a movement.)
Ms. Wortham refers to the paradox of the moment. Right now the focus of the world is on black people and the justice they deserve. It is a most wanted acknowledgement. And yet, the underlying worry is that in reality, it is a show, and one that will end soon as people, especially white people, return to their lives. All shows end, or at best, move on to a next season. Will this one?
I share this worry. It has been exciting to witness these past few weeks and easy to get caught up in it. Like many, I quickly went from being angry and depressed to hopeful as the protests grew to include more and more people and a more diverse base. But after a week of noise, like Ms. Wortham, I wondered what it all really meant. How many of the protesters had come out of their houses just to get out and away from corona and to take off their masks. How many had joined the fight because it was fun and even a little risky. If you’ve been pepper sprayed or hit with a rubber bullet, isnt’ that a mark of pride and a good addition to your scrap book?
This movement is taking place in America. We are trying to change the views of Americans, hardly the most evolved humans. These are the people who spend half their day on instagram, buy second cars with money they don’t have, go to wet tee shirt nights after work on Friday and stick NRA bumper stickers on the backs of their Ford trucks. My wife yes, my car maybe, my gun never. We need to change the minds of these thinkers.
I’ve said this before. I don’t know how to do it, but I want to be a part of it. Someone, please tell me what to do.
Monday, June 15.
It’s Monday, the start of a new week, but it feels like anything but the beginning of something. I don’t know if it’s day 100 or 1000. I’m imagining that this is what it feels like to someone who is five years into serving a forty year jail sentence. Checking off each day on your wall is for the movies. You don’t do it in real life.
I suppose that’s a parallel between corona and BLM. We don’t know when either will end. For one, we wait for science to develop a cure. For the other, we wait for ourselves to force some legislative changes and, more importantly, to elevate our consciences.
But it’s not waiting, there is hard work to do. How do you change the minds of bigots? How do you teach them that skin color should not divide?
At the beginning of the corona nightmare, I remember reading a story about a Jewish man who’d been helped by an Arab. The man had suffered a crippling injury from a mine explosion as a child. This was in the West Bank, Palestine. Most likely, the mine that exploded had been planted by a Palestinian Arab. Years later, now crippled by the injury, he met an Arab-Israeli doctor who could perform a rare neural surgery using information from a medical text that had been written by a Nazi doctor. The Jewish man, who had always hated Arabs and Nazis decided to overcome his prejudices. As a result, he was healed and later befriended the doctor and his family.
This is how we do it. People learn when they have human contact with those they fear and hate. When they meet, talk and share lives and assist each other, they find out that they have humanity in common. Sometimes it just takes a basketball game or a barbecue. Other times, you need to have a thorn pulled out of your paw. It’s time to start pulling thorns.
Sunday, June 14.
Another murder in Atlanta. Black man dead, white cop fired, protests and some looting. Twenty-seven year old Raysheed Brooks was drunk, fleeing the police and even grabbed a stun gun and pointed it at police. Still, nobody’s life was in danger. Either the man was a bit crazy, or maybe he was nervous about being a black man being stopped by cops. So he did what anybody would do in such a situation. He grabbed a taser to protect himself from being injured or even killed, and he ran. I can’t breathe.
In the past few weeks, as we’ve struggled through each day, I’ve read many accounts of typical days lived by black men. College professors, electricians, computer programmers, fathers and sons who tell of moments in their everyday lives when they’ve been confronted by the police. Some have been misidentified as criminals who matched descriptions made by other (white) citizens. Others had been stopped in their cars, on street corners, in stores just for driving, walking or shopping. People who were just out and about doing regular people things — except that they were black people and posed a threat in the eyes of white cops.
In these stories we learn a few things. We learn that when a black man is put into a police car, everybody who passes by assumes he’s guilty. We learn that to many white police officers, there is no good reason for a black man to be out at night. A black man on the street at night means trouble. We learn that a six foot three inch six black man in a brown coat can easily be mistaken for a five foot nine black man wearing a blue coat. To some white cops, they look the same. In each incident we learn that if you’re black you are never safe.
And we hear from black men and women that, as much as we white people care and show concern, we can’t understand what it feels like to be black. And of course, this is true. As I struggle through these days, I experience tremendous pain. But I feel it from the safety of my white place. I will be white and privileged forever.
Actually, I think we can understand. When we read books, see films and art about the black condition, we often have moments of awareness. A well made piece of art, whether in book, film or any visual form can make us feel, if only for a moment, what being black feels like. Even a song can bring you awareness. Strange Fruit, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised— these songs make you understand.
Still, as a white person, even if I understand, I will never be black. I will never fear for my life if I turn a corner and spot a cop walking toward me. I will never worry if I need to make a mid-night trip to the corner store and I will never be mistaken for someone five inches taller than me who is also wearing jeans.
The reading of the most recent murder, coupled with more reading about other related items — Trump’s switching his rally day, NASCAR’s banishing the Confederate Flag, angry employees at Estee Lauder — -has put me in a terrible funk. It’s the kind funk that could be alleviated by an hour or two spent with a few good friends, or even by watching a baseball game. Not gonna happen today as we approach the fourth month of corona isolation.
I suppose it’s time to get zen. It’s time to breathe, feel the sun, breathe some more. This is the moment. Here I am.
Saturday, June 13.
Yesterday I wrote about the many landmarks still standing that commemorate racists, including an army barracks named for Robert E Lee that currently houses black soldiers. Recently, NASCAR has banned the flying of its most recognizable symbol, the Confederate flag on racing cars and at its venues. This decision was made only after an appeal by its only black race car driver, Bubba Wallace.
It’s mind boggling that NASCAR didn’t make this decision until June of 2020. They needed the killing of George Floyd, a month of BLM protests and a black driver to force the issue.
In response, Brad Hockaday, a basic nobody who worked for Indy Car, came out against NASCAR’s decision and also slammed the organization for their recent decision to allow people to kneel or just not stand during the National Anthem. Indy Car quickly fired Brad. Nobody will miss Brad.
The days of dressing up in black face, just for a laugh, are over. We’re in a period of over-intense scrutiny. Before saying anything, we need to be certain we’re not offending. Think twice, then think again before purchasing next October’s Halloween costume. To play it safe, you might want to just put a cap on and go out as yourself wearing a cap.
Major League Baseball sill has the Indians and the Braves and even worse, the NFL has the Redskins. We’ve got a long way to go.
Friday, June 12.
Hamster. Wheel. Rat. Cage. Rock. Sisyphus. You get the point. I’ve said it before, which only makes it that much clearer that I am the rat on the wheel. I mean the hamster in the cage. I mean the rock pushing the wheel. Whatever.
We’re in a kind of opposite war. Our objective is to not kill people. We want to save lives, save people from corona sickness, save jobs and save young black people from police brutality. We want a zero death toll, that’s how we win this war.
We don’t need an army to fight this war. We don’t need arms or bombs or guns or land mines. It’s a hippie war that is fought with love, kindness and peace. We fight it holding hands. Well, actually, we can’t hold hands just yet. We hold metaphoric hands, but we do it wearing masks.
Kind of hard to believe that the civil war ended over 150 years ago. The landmarks, street signs and public spaces still carry the names of the racist pigs who led the South. There are young black soldiers who live in a barracks named for Robert Lee. How is this possible? A black man living in the Robert E. Lee barracks while the president lives across the street from George Floyd Plaza. Black Lives Matter — Baby Lives Matter. Amazing!
Imagine a new world of street signs and landmarks dedicated to the real heroes. Imagine going to visit the Guggenheim museum and asking your Uber driver to drop you off on the corner of 90th and Eric Garner Avenue. Later you visit a friend downtown on the corner of Broadway and Rodney King Street and you eat dinner that night in Williamsburg, on the corner of Roebling and Floyd. The new New York, sounds good.
TGIF. I wish you all a wonderful weekend.
Thursday, June 11
Are we there yet? Is it over yet? Can I go? Am I here? Is it yesterday? Who’s on first?
More numbers, numbing. 112,000 dead. 8 minutes 48 seconds. 100 days of self-imposed isolation. 25 percent of a restaurant business doesn’t pay the bills. The dow drops 1,800 points today.
The numbers are horrible. The statistics tell us that we’re going from bad to worse. We’re tired of wearing masks, tired of washing our hands, tired of maintaining safe distances from other human beings.
I woke up in the middle of the night fighting a dark depression. I tried to understand myself and all I could come up with was that I just didn’t have fun anymore. Fun was not a possibility. I think I used to like fun. Smiling and feeling light was great. It made me feel that life was worth living. It’s gone for now. Now I’m alive and hanging on to the belief that the world is finally changing for the better. Sounds good, but what does it really mean?
How close are we to better? What have two weeks of protests brought us? How much time before the next young black man is killed by a racist cop? How many blacks will get stopped by policemen tonight and asked why they are on a particular street or where they are driving to or what is that bulge in their pocket? When will black people feel safe on their street, in a store, or at the movies?
It’s one thing to write a few new laws and redirect some money. Changing people’s attitudes and behavior is going to take time. It won’t happen this week or next.
We need to see real progress now. From the protests we need to see community groups established that will make people confront reality. People everywhere, in Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and here in New York. White, black, brown, red and green people — everybody needs to get together and face real issues and have real conversations. We all need to talk, but we also need to shut up and listen to our neighbors. And we need to face hatred and adversity, accept it and then defeat it. All big words and I have no idea how this can happen. But it needs to happen if I’m going to have fun again.
Wednesday. June 10
Yesterday at the funeral in Houston for George Floyd, the families of Eric Gardner, Michael Brown and others who’d lost family members to police violence were there. This collective mourning should be enough to shake the world. One of the speakers smartly stated that racism didn’t begin in our lifetimes, but it can end in our lifetimes. Amen.
ALM — All Lives Matter. Not to belittle the black issue because I know how important it is. Donald is bashing Martin Gugino, a seventy-five year old white peacenik who was bashed in the head by a cop during a Buffalo protest. They beat whites too. According to Donald, Mr. Gugino is an antifa terrorist who was using his cellphone to infiltrate the police radio signals. And Donald also claims the blood shown gushing from his head while he lay on the ground was fake, a photo prop. While it is true that ketchup goes a long way, I don’t think so. And I don’t think his estimated four week hospital stay is fake either.
Like George Floyd, known as the Gentle Giant with a 24–7 smile, Mr. Gugino was known throughout Buffalo as a gentle, friendly man, anything but a terrorist. I don’t think the beating of Mr. Gugino will ever get close to the attention that the killing of George Floyd got, and it shouldn’t, but we can add his name to the list.
Meanwhile, depending on our political beliefs, we need to choose carefully which tea we drink. In England, there is a lot of commotion over drinking tea made by companies who support BLM. Some right wingers have switched alliances after finding out that their tea makers supported the cause. But when they switched to another brand, that brand also came out with a strong statement against racism. They even created the hashtag “solidaritea.”
With more and more companies coming out in support of BLM, soon there will be nowhere for the alt-right to shop. Or Bank. Or visit a doctor, lawyer or tax preparer. Sorry guys, we’re all against racism now. All of us.
Tuesday, June 9.
The past few weeks have felt new and exciting. Millions are responding to the call to join the fight. This is big and it feels different than past, smaller uprisings. And yet, history always seems to repeat itself.
In 1932, thousands of veterans of the first World War came to Washington and set up camp. 30,000 people, the Bonus Expeditionary Force, demanded compensation that had been promised them. They remained there for weeks, protesting peacefully. Eventually, President Hoover called in General Douglas MacArthur. The army clashed violently with the protesters and burned down their tents, forcing them to go home. Three months later, Hoover was crushed by FDR in his run for President. We can only hope, that history will repeat itself.
Not unlike our protests today, the Bonus Expeditionary Force, which existed during Jim Crow America, was a racially mixed group. Black and white lived side by side by the Anacostia river in Washington, demanding their rightful pay.
The now infamous knee that Colin Kaepernick took on the football field was his version of the black gloved fists raised during the playing of the National Anthem by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two Olympic medal winners in Mexico City in 1968. Their respectful, peaceful protest, like Kaepernick’s alarmed the world, bringing the issue of racial injustice to millions of comfortable white people. And today, we kneel to both reference Kaepernick and honor George Floyd. History repeated.
History repeating: George Floyd, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, thousands more and let’s not forget Emmit Till.
Colin Kaepernick knelt fifty years after Tommie Smith and John Carlos rose their fists. We are marching 82 years after the Bonus Expeditionary Force. Enough. The thing about history is that we are supposed to learn from it. Wouldn’t it be great if sometimes, history didn’t repeat itself. Enough.
Monday, June 8
It’s a new day, a new week. What will change this week?
Today, an estimated 400,000 people will come to work in New York as phase one begins. As of Saturday, their store fronts were still boarded up. Things used to happen quickly in New York, so maybe the plywood was removed yesterday. If it was, then I lost out on my huge money making idea of taking that plywood and reselling it. Another great idea that didn’t materialize.
Are we shopping or are we protesting today? We will find out in the next few days how serious we were about the murder of George Floyd. Is this a new day, or was this just a nice little escape from quarantine?
Many of us who have been protesting have had little else to do. We’ve been cooped up inside with nothing to do. The protests looked really exciting on TV and so we joined them in our own neighborhoods. It was exciting to raise fists, shout “Black Lives Matter,” and kneel collectively with thousands. After three months of isolation, we were partying again.
Now comes the hard part. We can’t march forever. Now, if we want to really change the world, we have work to do. There are laws to change and, more importantly, there are millions of people who need to be guided to a new understanding of humanity. Some of them live in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas. They own guns, oppose abortion and go to churches with mixed up views about racial equality. Can you own a gun and oppose abortion and still believe in racial equality and justice? I say yes.
And so, we will find out soon who means it. And we’ll find out if Black Lives really Matter.
Sunday, June 7
A day of silence. No words today. Today is a day of reflection. It’s time to take a knee.
So much has happened in the past weeks. It began in March. The city stopped, except for me and a few teachers who were told to come to school for another week to learn about how to teach children virtually. We spent a few days in school, sitting six or seven seats apart, trying not to breathe on each other. It was a dismal week in a child emptied school building, learning practically nothing, receiving paychecks while millions didn’t.
Next, I learned how to wear a mask, how to count to twenty while I washed my hands and how to wash store bought food in soap and water before putting it in the refrigerator.
I learned Zoom and Google Meet, learned how to share my screen and talk to my students virtually, who appeared as one inch by one inch avatars on my screen. I also learned Google Classroom, a lame attempt to organize children’s lives and saddle them with more messages than they knew what to do with.
I became a hamster on a hamster wheel, a rat in a cage, a silly little Sisyphusian man pushing a rock up a hill. Every morning: pushups, situps, shower, oatmeal, coffee. Log in, check my students work, zoom with them, check more work, read two hundred meaningless emails. Lunch. More emails. More emails. Frequent Facebook breaks, seeing that all my friends were doing the same thing, some of them pausing to record themselves singing songs, telling stories and remembering their ten favorite record albums and movie moments. More emails. Break, go for a run. Shower, log on for another hour. Dinner and a lot to drink. Read for six minutes. Sleep. Wake up, repeat.
Three months of the same and then Derek Chauvin put his knee to George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, and things changed. First they changed for the worst. I grieved and remembered how unevolved our nation is. Along with the rest of the nation, I watched video footage over and over again of the killing. I watched CNN and MSNBC for hours as protests began. I watched crowds and cops with riot gear in Minneapolis, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore and here at home in New York. I watched our president have people shot with rubber bullets to make way for his photo op with a mis-held bible. I received a midnight call from my son’s friend Aiden telling me that Leo had been arrested. I read promising statistics showing that two thirds of the nation supported the protesters. George Bush and Colin Powell won’t vote for Donald and might even pull the lever for Biden. Out of this miserable insanity, a new day is on the horizon!
Now it’s Sunday and, though I’m not a church guy, it’s time for a rest. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds, or maybe an hour, or maybe the whole day, just silent. I’m thoroughly exhausted. A good rest might give me energy and the strength to move forward. I’m not sure where I’m going, but forward is the right direction. Come with me.
Saturday, June 6.
Donald said that George Floyd was smiling up there in heaven as he looked down and saw the events of the day. The market was up nearly 1000 points and things were looking rosy for America.
Did I not know that George Floyd owned a large share of Apple stock? If he did, then he must have rested peacefully up there, knowing his family was well provided for. Don’t sell yet George, Monday’s looking good.
I just took a bike ride down Fifth Avenue, from 125th to Houston Street. As I passed store after store covered in plywood, I couldn’t help but think about all that wood and how much money had been spent to keep the looters out. We’re talking millions. Suggestion for someone who wants to make a killing and help ecologically — organize a business that will resell the plywood to construction companies when the looting stops and the stores clean up. I’m not kidding. At fifty dollars a sheet of 3/4" CDX, somebody could resell them at a discounted 30 or 35 dollars and make a killing. Otherwise, this wood will end up in dumpsters and then landfill. I hope the people who figure this out are people with darker skin than mine. Black Lives Matter.
When I was 11, I remember walking down Chapel Street in New Haven. Coming from basketball practice, I was on my way to my dad’s store and I took a six block walk past boarded up storefronts. The Bobby Seale trial was taking place in New Haven and there was a lot happening. That was fifty years ago. And here we are again. I should have invested in plywood.
Cleaning up this mess is nothing compared to what is needed in other parts of the world. The entire nation of Syria is completely destroyed. Yemen, destroyed. Gaza, destroyed. Millions of tons of concrete, doors, windows, floors, tables, lamps, beds, television sets, drinking glasses, vanities, rugs, chess boards and pianos. All these things crushed, ruined, lying in massive heaps on millions of street corners, all over the world. This will take more than a mop and a bucket. It’s unbelievable what we have done to our world.
If George Floyd is smiling now, it’s because the recent statistic — 76 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter protests — means that we just might be waking up. We still need the other 24 percent to wake up and smell the coffee. We’re brewing it for everyone.
Friday, June 5
“Get your knee off our necks.”
Al Sharpton’s words spoken at the George Floyd memorial service yesterday were powerful. Get your knee off our necks. This will become the new rallying cry.
Sharpton, President O’Bama and many others have noted how this fight is everywhere. Beyond the minority communities and the cities, into the small towns, into the heartlands, and all over the world, the sound is behind heard: We Want Justice. They are marching in Ogdan, Utah and Olathe, Kansas. Towns that are ninety-seven percent white are marching. They are protesting in Tehran, in Jerusalem and in Sydney. Everywhere.
During the memorial service, there was an 8 minute and 46 second call for all to stand. In the streets, protesters lay on the ground, face down for the same amount of time. Symbolic and very powerful. It’s an awfully long time, more than time enough to kill a person.
How many of us are marching? Do we understand the difference between not being racist and being anti-racist? Do we understand that inaction means we don’t care. Do we understand that now is the time to do something. We cannot remain quiet. We cannot want calm and tranquility. Not now.
Today I will lead a class discussion on becoming involved. I will ask my students how they are feeling and will try to get them to talk about what they will do now. This is what I offer of myself today. I hope it’s enough.
Thursday, June 4.
Last night, at around eleven P.M., my son Leo was arrested. I received a call from his friend Aiden who told me that they had been in a protest that took them from Gracie Mansion down to 52nd Street and Third Avenue. What was a completely peaceful demonstration turned ugly when police moved in and arrested a few hundred, mostly white, young people.
I was just drifting off to sleep when Aiden’s call came. He told me that he wasn’t sure what had happened. They had gotten separated when the police moved in and Aiden ran for safety. When we spoke, he had been unable to get in touch with Leo by phone. What followed was a few hours of worry and panic.
The fact is that Leo was breaking the law because he was out after the curfew. And so, I suppose his arrest was legitimate. What was reinforced during this episode was the central theme of this whole issue. My son is white, and, as it turns out, he was treated by the police like a white man.
When I called my local precinct to ask what I could do, a very calm, nice officer assured me that this was no big deal. He told me Leo would be released soon and given a summons. When I asked if I needed to worry he assured me that I was fine and Leo would be fine. The officer knew he was talking to a white man.
Leo was arrested, but he wasn’t thrown to the ground and stepped on. Nobody stomped on his head for eight and a half minutes. They let him breathe. And now, Leo is home asleep.
Today is day ten. Millions of people of all colors have come together to protest and demand change. There are no laws to fix, only behaviors. Do we have it in us to make everyone see what is right?
As much as I hate to say this, we have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to thank. Because this revolution is being brought to us live, on tv, on the internet, in full living color, getting America excited. We are all living this in real time together every day. The sad fact that we have viewed George Floyd’s killing, every second of it, many times over, has made us feel the pain that much more, which has caused many of us to want to get involved. If there was ever a reason to put a camera in a phone, this was it. And so, Gil Scott Heron wasn’t right. The revolution WILL be televised. But he was right about one thing: There will be no reruns brother, the revolution will be live
Wednesday, June 3.
The date changes, the situation remains. George Floyd is still dead. Travon Martin is still dead. Tamir Rice is still dead. Dot dot dot.
Yesterday a CNBC reporter asked a dozen Republican senators about their reactions to Trump having violently cleared away peaceful protestors to clear space for his photo op. They all said nothing.
Let’s look at the positive. As we further divide our nation into two groups, those who care and those who care only about themselves, we find that the those who care group is getting larger while the group of selfish pigs gets smaller. A recent poll showed that 73 percent of Americans support the protestors and 20 percent don’t. I suppose the other seven percent just don’t give a shit, so we’ll put them in the don’t group. Still, that gives us a heavy majority, surely more than enough to force Donald into oblivion. Let’s make oblivion a jail cell. Lock him up.
We badly need positives.
Americans like to go with the crowd. Americans like to be on winning teams. Well, 73 percent is the winning team and we’re still taking new members. Black Lives Matter. Join the team everybody.
Tuesday, June 2.
It gets worse before it gets better. This is the worst part. Five peaceful protesters have died in the past few days. Enough said.
Yesterday’s insanity in Washington, hopefully, will assure that nobody votes for Donald in November. He had people shot so that he could have a picture taken of himself. Okay, they were rubber bullets, but they were bullets and the tear gas was real. He shot them. He hurt people, American people.
And then he held up a bible and preached everything the bible opposes.
It’s pointless to continue discussing this man’s behavior.
MAGA. This should be our call, not theirs. Rise up and fight for justice and equality for all. America will be great again when everybody has a well paying job and enough money so that nobody will need to smash a window to help themselves to a new pair of sneakers. America will be great again when every American has the promise of healthcare. America will be great again when every American can feel comfortable leaving their home and walking down the street and not worry that they will be arrested or killed. I’m done.
Monday, June 1.
Six days and nights of protests and riots. Though most is peaceful, on TV it is anything but. We watch fires, smashed store windows and even police cars and large trucks running at people. Every fifteen minutes we watch advertisements for prescription drugs and car insurance. Our national demise is brought to you by Coke.
We need change. But do we really want it? How different are we willing to go?
We’ve spent the past three months contemplating this. Until this past week, we were thinking of it differently. We were thinking about life changes in a non-coronavirus world, but we weren’t thinking about race. Well, actually, many of us were thinking about race. The black and latino people who were forced out of their homes because their minimum wage lifestyles demanded them to show up at work during white people’s isolation — they were thinking about race. Some of them died.
Now we are all thinking about race. If we aren’t, then we’re blind to the reality of our nation. We are four hundred years into this mess. Four hundred years later and people like Derek Chauvin still think that people of color are animals.
It’s time to really step it up. It’s time to say we’ve told our last racist joke. They aren’t funny anymore. It’s time to promise to never cut in front of a person of color on a line because you didn’t see them. It’s time to see them. They are here. It’s time to make friends, real friends, with people who have a different skin color from our own. It’s time to share what we have with everybody.
The good will trickle down. Today it is us that need to be the model. Next week, a few will follow and the next week a few more. We simply need to act like decent human beings. Without anger, without weapons, without division.
Sunday, May 31.
It has been about numbers. 100,000. 6 feet. 40 million. Today the number is 1968.
We are back. MLK was killed again. Derek Chauvin is James Earl Ray. The streets are burning. Our nation is being destroyed. Meanwhile, we are still wearing masks.
If this is a revolution, then many will suffer as we build a new nation. Sacrifices, many of them, will be made. We will shed many tears. We will lose loved ones. We will stare incredulously at our world as we watch it crumble. But it will change. It has to.
I’d love to see the rainbow when it lights up the sky. I’d love to see it, holding hands with a person whose skin color is a shade or two different than mine. One important question. What canI do to help us get there?
MLK said it perfectly: In the final analysis, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” And he goes on to ask, “What is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. It has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and about the status quo, than about justice, equality and humanity. . . Social justice and progress are the absolute gurantors of riot prevention.”
He said this 52 years ago. There’s another number for you. 52 years later, we’re still in the same place. 52 years later, we’re still rioting, burning buildings to the ground. If you say that 52 years later, a black person can eat in any restaurant they choose and buy any house they can afford in any neighborhood, swim in any pool, the I say that 52 years later, a person of color worries that they could be shot walking down the street or arrested and jailed for driving or spit on, just for the color of their skin.
It will get worse before it gets better. I’m not sure what worse will look like. I don’t want to see it.
Saturday, May 30.
Our worry and fear has been replaced. Now we’re angry.
Newspaper readers will be happy to know that the coronavirus is over. Today, the news is Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin is arrested, the Governor grieves, Donald says protesters will be shot. Oh, and 46 year old George Floyd, who once had a smile that lit up a room, is dead. He still can’t breathe.
Way before this happened, we had had enough. Enough after Trayvon Martin. Enough after Michale Brown. Enough after Eric Gardner. Enough after Emmit Till. I can’t breathe.
Will this killing be the one that takes us over the edge? It has made thousands of Americans angry enough to leave their homes, ignore their self imposed isolation, and come together to protest. The six foot rule ignored. Clearly, this killing makes us angry enough to jeopordize our own safety, our own lives. We will die for the cause.
But what can we do? Protests do little but to make those already angry even angrier and make haters hate even more. Peaceful protests don’t always remain peaceful.
Every year in class, we spend a few weeks studying color. Rather than do the typical color wheel studies and warm and cool lessons, I try to make things a little more interesting. I dedicate one day to skin color. I begin by asking if any of our students are white or black? Some raise their hands. I hold up a piece of white and black paper and ask again. A few laughs follow, and then we spend the day trying to paint our skin color and our classmate’s skin colors. We use blue, yellow and red. At the end of class we make a chart of everybody, posting their skin colors. What we see is a wide range of beautiful tones: cinnamon, cedar, brunette mocha, umber, gingerbread, walnut, pecan, espresso, russet, peach, beige. There is no black and no white. What we find out is that we are all the same color — brown.
This lesson usually brings the kids a little closer together.
I wonder if we did this exercise as a nation, all 350 million of us, would it help?
Friday, May 29.
White cop strangles unarmed, handcuffed man with his foot. White woman with an unleashed dog calls police about a black bird watcher. Landlords receive go-ahead to evict. Two point five million more file for unemployment. Three hundred thousand more deaths needed to reach herd immunity. Boston Marathon cancelled. My car needs three thousand dollars of work.
In my dream, I am transfixed, staring at a stack of broken objects. A muffler sits atop an old, rusted toaster. Two donuts and a bible sit on the toaster. A bed slat and a bicycle wheel rest on the bible. On either end of the bed slat are somehow balanced a stapler and a bottle of green and pink pills. A large pile of debris, some of the items dear to me, are there too, soon to be added to the stack. One thing nice, it’s very colorful.
Liza was flipping out the other night as we watched video footage of the Minneapolis killing. The man was already handcuffed, yet the cop still crushed him with his foot while the other cops stood there doing absolutely nothing. It had to be a Spike Lee movie. But it wasn’t. It was America, 2020.
We also watched the video of the Central Park woman-birder thing. I’m pretty sure the woman was in front of me on line at Fairway a few months ago, whining into her phone about her dry cleaning not being ready. Thankfully the Minneapolis news and COVID will move this story to page nineteen quickly.
I’m not the kind of person who slows down to see a highway car crash. But it seems I don’t have a choice these days. Everything is on video. It’s on my tv, on my phone, on the screen above my gas pump. By tomorrow, you will have to watch five second of an advertisement before you can watch it. Truly amazing.
I want out.
Thursday, May 28.
It’s one of those days. Not to complain, but I left Liza’s early this morning, hopped in my car and the steering wheel wouldn’t turn. Then it turned slightly, with force. After twenty seconds, I could only drive in first gear. My mechanic is just twenty blocks from her house, so I decided to make it there in first gear. After a few more moments, first gear was barely possible, somehow the car was moving in no gear. Then some warning light popped on giving me a three letter symbol. Maybe it was EMS or EMF, I don’t remember. I’d never seen it before. It was yellow and didn’t seem promising.
Miraculously, I made it to my mechanic. As I waited for help, I looked up the three letter symbol and got some message about a throttle. I don’t know what that is. In the end, I left my car with my trusty and expensive mechanic and proceeded to walk home. My GPS told me it was a two hour and twenty minute walk. Why not.
The walk was pleasant enough. I spent some of the time wondering if I should finally call it quits with my car, who though nameless, is seventeen years old and part of the family. I am attached to very few things, but this is one and I’ve spent the last three or four years making repairs when everyone I know tells me i’m an idiot.
The idea of shopping now for a new car is overwhelming.
Well, as I said, I’m not complaining. I realize that this problem doesn’t even register on the problem scale right now. Who could possibly care.
I’ll note here that I walked at a 43 second per city block rate. Felt like a pretty good clip. Also note that I walked past seven men lying down on the street. Most were in the forty to fifty year old range, all were white. One, who had a sign asking for help by his feet was doing a crossword puzzle. Note: When I got home, I saw the newspaper and the first article I read was about how most states now have to right to evict people for nonpayment of rent. Which I suppose means that in a few weeks, that same walk I took this morning will have twenty-five or more people lying on the street. It’s really unbelievable.
Surely there is enough money to help everyone. If there was ever a time to take up a real collection it is now. Mr Gates, Mr. Bezos, Mr. Zuckenberg, please — we need your help.
Wednesday, May 27.
There is a large photo on the top of page one today. Two small children are walking down a dirt road, a vast mountain landscape in front of them. On either side of the children, armed, masked Taliban soldiers allow them passage.
The photo is haunting and, to me, quite beautiful. It tells a story about TODAY. Afghanistan is entering a new phase as American troops leave. The Taliban remains, dedicated to continue their fight until an Islamic system is installed in Afghanistan.
I have been studying this as an artist for the past six years. Until COVID, the Middle East and Islamic Asia was my focus. In the past years, I’ve made over 2,000 paintings, comprising a body of work I call TODAY.
I’ve stopped this series during COVID. But seeing this photo today makes it clear that it’s still TODAY. Our today is on hold, at least for another few months. But not everyone is on hold. The world is still in motion.
If this pandemic has made me stop and think about myself and what I’m doing, then what have I figure out? The TODAY I have been looking at is brutal and depressing. But it’s real and I’m not afraid to look at it. It feels like a valid and important thing to do — and so I will continue.
Tuesday, May 26.
Wow, this is difficult. Not writing, that’s easy. It’s the living part that’s hard. And I’m not complaining, just saying that it’s hard. Last night I found myself walking around in a few circles in my living room, feeling empty, confused, depressed. Nothing was wrong, but I felt hopeless. And then I said to myself, “Wait a minute. Everybody feels like this.”
As much as we read about the creative, uplifting, soulful things people are doing these days — gardening, meditating, reading poetry, painting, songwriting, etc — we are all lost. Yes, for ten or twenty minutes or even an hour or two during these long days, we find something to lift our spirits. But the rest of the time we are lost and it’s scary.
Today is yesterday. Hey, I said that yesterday, didn’t I? Or was that tomorrow? Or last Tuesday. It hardly matters. It’s all a blur. As are the numbers. 5,000 meat workers infected. No, not 5,000. 17,000. 42 percent of the Grand Island, Nebraska meat processing plant workers are infected. Correction, 57 percent. Keep six feet apart. Correction, nine feet. No more than ten people in a room. Correction, three. Correction, one. The quarentine will end in six days. Correction 20. Correction 100. Correction never.
Strangely, the stock market is up 500 points this morning. Now that’s a number to make some noise about. They are calling it the Coronavirus Rally. WTF? If you look for the positive, you think that the market looks at the future. Wall street sees something rosy. A rebound? Workers rehired? Rents paid? Lives saved? Of course if you look at it another way you see that the one percent has figured out a way to save their own asses. In the midst of this chaos, the richest have profited and become even richer. The rally will line the pockets of a select few.
I’m looking forward to Wednesday.
Monday, May 25
The Times reports today that blue states have a far higher rate of infection than red. Over seventy-five percent of COVID deaths have happened in counties that voted for Clinton.
This of course explains in large part why so many right wingers are behaving they way they are and why some of them are bringing their guns to tattoo parlors.
This disease was supposed to unify us. It was supposed to bring us all together to share the misery as one people. But not here in the land of the divided. It has only driven us further apart.
It’s great that the death toll is down in New York, but two dozen other states are seeing higher numbers. Meanwhile, Donald is golfing in Virginia. The guy who called Obama evil for teeing up after an American was beheaded by an ISIS monster. Not only is he golfing, but he’s talking about how great we’re doing. And retweeting comments made by racists. We’re fucked.
Suddenly I don’t feel so well. I wake up every morning and manage to get out of bed and start my day with half a smile. Always nice to begin a new day. But after a few sips of coffee, after digesting the first few articles, it hits me. We’re still here. Today is yesterday and there is no tomorrow. Lousy poetry I know, but that’s how it is.
So what do we do about the fact that the Democrats are dying faster than the Republicans? Do we celebrate the fact that these numbers will soon level off. The right wing meat packers and Walmartians are infecting each other at faster rates now. Soon they’ll die and the numbers will tilt more in our favor. Also, it’s the red counties that are opening up stores now, so they’ll catch up with us. It’s only a matter of time before 100,000 becomes 200,000.
Today is Memorial Day. Remind me, who are we supposed to remember? When I was ten I marched in the parade wearing a Cub Scout uniform, my pants about nine inches too short. Not today. I’m going back to bed.
Sunday, May 24.
100,000. That’s a big number. If it’s your salary, you’re near the one percent. If it’s the number of words you’ve written, it’s half a book. If it’s seconds, it’s a day and a quarter. If it’s dead people, it’s unfathomable.
Today’s New York Times lists a thousand of the one hundred thousand who are no longer breathing, as a result of COVID-19. They have covered three and a half pages of the front section with this list. It’s not a trick or an ad for a funeral home. It’s real.
Tariach MacNiallais, New York, New York. A Belfast born fighter for L.B.G.T. and disabilities rights. Tomas Anglin, Cumming,Georgia. Created many wonderful memories for his family. Fred Walter Gray, Benton County, Washington. Liked his bacon and hash browns crispy. Harvey Bayard, New York, New York. Grew up directly across the street from the old Yankee Stadium.
These, and so many others died and were mourned via Zoom and Google, or not at all. We didn’t say goodbye to them properly. Those who knew them are now locked at home, emptied and forever mourning these devastating losses.
Mary Minervini, Oak Lawn, Illinois. Sign language interpreter. John Prine, Nashville, Tennessee. A favorite of Bob Dylan. Johan Herman Ciomax, Jr., Newark, New Jersey. One of the few African-American bond traders on Wall Street.
What does this mean? In all this real sadness, I see the positive. Life matters. People love being alive. There are so many things that people do that gives them enjoyment. Things like sewing, golfing, helping, story telling, playing the saxophone and prayer — these are the things that awaken the heart, the things that make one want to live on to the next day. I’m still here, but what will my sentence be that accompanies me to my grave? Art, piano, wine and golf, and a profound love of people and their ideas.
Harley Acker, Troupsburg, New York. Discovered his true calling when he started driving a school bus. John Horton Conway, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Mathematician known as the “magical genius.” George Freeman Windfield, Shelburne, Vermont. Could make anything grow. Romi Cohn, New York, New York. Saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo.
One hundred thousand people are enough for a small city. These people have clearly touched the lives of millions. And to think, many would still be with us had we reacted differently as a nation. They would all still be with us if a market had cleaned up properly. This story has no clean ending. It will leave a sick, sour taste in our mouths forever.
Saturday, May 23
Another day here in Hooterville, population one. I just realized that in my own little town, I can be mayor. I’m in charge.
I’m remembering the scene from Bananas when the newly appointed ruler of San Marcos speaks to his people. “Men, you will change your underwear daily. You will wear your underwear on the outside so that we can check.” After that, the ruler waits while each man gives him a gift of horse manure. He asks why he isn’t being given gold and is told that it is an agrarian country and this is the gift.
The fact is, I am the mayor now and I’m in charge. Everything I do is my choice. There is nobody around to tell me no. Isn’t this what we all want? Am I in Paradise?
The land I rule stretches from here to the living room, to the kitchen and to the bedroom and bathroom. It’s all mine, including four decent sized closets. As mayor, I appoint myself police commissioner, tax collector and dog warden. I will also be the entire sanitation department. I have a monopoly here. I run the only restaurant, the movie house and art museum. All under my command. Recently, placing two glasses on either ends of my living room rug, I have opened up a golf course, which to date is admittedly just a small putting green. There is a small swimming pool in the bathroom.
I like being mayor and I will run for reelection next month, as I look forward to another few months as sole occupier of my town.
Friday, May 22
It’s strange reading about all the states opening up shop while we’re still masking, washing hands and disinfecting everything that comes near us here in New York. We’ll be the last to return.
If we use a baseball metaphor (why not?), here in New York we’re in the bottom of the third inning. And we’re losing, six to nothing. If we use a basketball metaphor then we’re down twenty, six minutes into what looks like will be a very long game. If we use a golf metaphor, we’re in the woods on the second hole and can’t find the freaking ball.
I’ve never been very good with metaphors. And really, COVID isn’t very poetic. Nothing rhymes with it.
Nine weeks into this mess, I’m now approaching my fortieth post here and have done as many drawings of masked New Yorkers. I’m really enjoying the drawing. Yesterday, my masked man stood in front of a sign for Bottle Zone. I love the street signs. Today, an orthodox woman (note the wig) stands on a street corner, hand to her face. People being people, masked and observing the rule of the day.
When this is over I think the government should spend a few billion dollars on lollipops. Everyone who survives gets one. We’ll have a week where people will be on the streets with lollipops instead of masks. I like the transition. With that much sweetness in us all, just maybe we’ll then be nice to each other.
Thursday, May 21.
Thursday, eleven A.M. Sitting in my living room, listening to Lou Reed sing Sweet Jane, sun beaming through my window, writing down some thoughts. Steamed dumplings for lunch, tandoori chicken for dinner. Wine.
I’m never going to complain about my life again.
I woke up thinking about the statistics of how many people are testing positive for anti bodies. I barely know what this really means, but I think it means that between 20 and 50 percent of people have been touched by the disease. Which I think means that one single person somewhere in the world contacted the disease and within a few months a large portion of the world have been infected. Six degrees of separation?
I understand the math. One times two times two times times four times eight times sixteen and on and on. A few more times and we’re in the millions and then billions. I think ponzi schemes and chain letters work the same way.
Can we learn from this? If anything, the path this disease has taken makes it so clear that we are all connected. We all touch each other. Everybody. We are one. Even if we slam the door shut, put our masks on and hold our breath, we can’t avoid the contact. We are connected. I am me and you are me and we are we and we are all…..
This, to most of us, should be uplifting. We are one, we share the world. How hippie do we need to get to understand what this means?
I read an article about a new golf club in Florida owned by Michael Jordan. Grove XXIII, is touted as the most exclusive of clubs. You can count the members on a couple of hands. Only the most special of the special will be allowed to putt and chip on Michael’s course. I always love and respected Michael, surely the worlds greatest basketball player of all time. But I have two words to say to him about his new club. Fuck and You.
Seriously, does the fact that the club is so exclusive mean that members are safe there during the PANDEMIC? Will they tee up feeling like nothing can touch them there? Twenty six people safe and golfing, while eight billion others suffer on the other side. Turns my stomach.
As much as I love golf, I’ve always hated the exclusivity of country clubs. Elitism is ugly. I can only hope that we will come out of this PANDEMIC with enough understanding to change our minds about this. Wishful thinking, I know. But this is a once in a lifetime experience, so maybe it will rock our world.
That being said, I still love you Michael, so if you’d invite me for a round at your club, I’m there.
Wednesday, May 20.
Today is a good day. Not sure why, but it feels good. Lifting weights was good, my oatmeal tasted good, coffee good, it’s all good. The word of the day is good.
I want to go to Canada for the summer, but the border is closed. My friend in Nova Scotia suggested that I come on business. He owns a big building that is for sale and he suggested I come as an interested real estate developer. If I come on business, they might let me in. Or, he suggested I marry his Canadian girlfriend. Or marry him. All kinds of possibilities.
In all likelihood I won’t go. I’ve spent the last seven summers out of New York. Where to this summer? I don’t think my choices look so good. Apparently the summer cottages are all booked and those that aren’t have tripled their prices. Seems like all New Yorkers want out.
Last Sunday the NY Times Style magazine featured the Silk Road. It looked amazing. Pics of landscapes, Muslim architecture and food were so captivating and otherworldly, I wanted to be there. Imagine traveling through Western China, Iraq and Iran, through tiny villages miles away from the reality we know here. No English, you speak with your hands. People look at you like you are an alien, which you are, and you smile and they smile.
In ancient times, the Silk Road was the trade route connecting East and West. Goods went in both directions. So did danger, like disease. I’m guessing today is no different. COVID will keep me out.
New York in the summer. Alone. In my apartment. Quarantined. It’s all good.
Tuesday, May 19
When I was ten, I took my first and only roller coaster ride. I think I was on a family vacation in Pennsylvania. We were vacationing with another family and Jimmy, a boy my age and I went together on the ride. I didn’t like it so much, but I sat tight through the ride. When we were at the top and stalled for a moment, Jimmy started freaking out and saying he was going to jump. I don’t remember what I told him, probably to stay in his seat and shut up. I remember just wishing the roller coaster ride would end.
We’re now all experiencing our own roller coaster rides. Mine is a rocky ride. I hate it. And I especially hate not knowing when it’s going to end.
Last night I made myself a restaurant quality shrimp scampi dish. Served over pasta, I cooked the shrimp perfectly, drizzled with olive oil, lemon, white wine, basil and red pepper flakes. I sat down to eat it with a nice glass of white wine, but three bites into the meal I couldn’t eat anymore. A depression washed over me and I simply couldn’t eat. This was a new experience for me. I’ve always been able eat.
I suppose the loneliness has gotten to me. It’s no longer much fun being my best friend. Is it time to zoom dinner partners? I don’t think so. As much as being connected through the internet goes, I’m sick of it. I don’t want to share my screen or check to make sure my volume is on anymore. Fuck it.
Now it’s noon, time for lunch. I feel hungry. Let’s see how it goes.
Monday, May 18
Here we go, a new week.
In the old days a Monday morning would always have a certain feel to it. I’d wake up, realize it was the start of a new week, and let out a little sigh. I’d go through the morning ritual routines robotically and with a little bit of dread. Who really wants to go to work? If it were the fall, I’d think ahead to Christmas break and then do a little mental math and realize I had only 120 more work days til summer. If it were spring, I’d know I was just a few weeks away. When I got to school and saw the first few faces of the kids I adore, everything would be okay, and having it be Monday was perfectly okay.
Today I’m the rat in the cage again. Yes this and the hamster and wheel metaphor, have been played out much too much during our weeks of stay at home isolation. And yet that’s what being a rat or a hamster is all about. It’s repetitive to the point of numbness. If I have to do it again tomorrow, I’ll die. But I don’t die. I do it again.
Speaking of hamsters on hamster wheels, Mick Jagger has sung Satisfaction nearly 10,000 times to a live audience. Nolan Ryan threw over 60,000 strikes. A pilot will fly 150,000,000 miles before retiring. The average production line worker at a bottling plant might oversee 3,200,000,000 bottles capped in a twenty year career. We’re all hamsters.
Sunday, May 17
What are we doing? In the face of crisis aren’t we supposed to take a deep breath, look at things carefully, make good decisions, solve problems?
Guns and death threats in Michigan. Some have suggested beheading the governor. They’ve started a crowd funding campaign to raise money to hire a hit man. How much does that cost? It’s 2020 and grown up people are suggesting cutting off their elected governor’s head.
Thousands of nurses and medical people facing severe PTSD. Our heroes, some of whom who have left home and small children to travel to other cities to give 20 hours a day to helping the sick and dying. Risking their own lives, and now they face severe mental breakdowns.
Millions without enough money to put dinner on the table let alone pay the rent.
Tatoo parlors opening against state orders. Goddamnit, they want tatoos!
Meanwhile, the Essex Market was open and peaceful. Shopping for shrimp, tuna, asparagus, tomatoes and avocados couldn’t have been more pleasant. Paying, we exchanged “thank you’ and “have a nice day.” Aren’t I the lucky one.
Yes, our once divided country is more divided than ever. We are living next door to each other. Our social division keeps us almost oblivious to each other’s reality. I am living next door to human beings who have nothing. They are living next door to zillionaires. While I wait for the stock market to correct itself, they struggle for a meal. I can’t live like this.
Where are our brilliant people who can guide us to safety? Surely somebody out there knows economics and social science well enough to help. Can’t Donald hire at least one competent person? Never mind, stupid thought. Seriously, that crowd funding money to hire a hit man needs to be redirected. Just saying.
As for the tatoo, mine is gonna have a big picture of a Caribbean beach with the words “Send Mail.”
What’s new? Sorry, bad question.
A few days ago, I couldn’t eat more than three bites of dinner because I realized I’d been eating the same thing over and over and it finally got to me. If I had to eat one more brussels sprout I’d die. So, Last night I made a radical decision to make a pasta dish with just garlic, oil and parmesan cheese. It was the first time in nine weeks I didn’t use tomatoes in the sauce. A huge success.
It’s not easy to find variety in my daily existence. Everything is so much the same these days. It’s one thing to write how I feel like a hamster on a hamster wheel, but being one is another thing. I don’t like being a hamster. A hamster, a rat, Sisyphus. And the thing is, I’m pretty good at pushing the rock. If only the rock would change color, or get bigger or smaller or talk to me or laugh or just do something different.
I started making a flip book. Sounds like a silly project, but actually it’s fascinating. I was looking at some really beautiful flip books made by a few artists who are out their minds in a good way. They were beautiful. In virtual school right now, we’re making comic books, so I showed my kids the flip books as a way to show them how comic artists can show their work in all kinds of ways. This inspired me to make one of my own before I do it as an assignment with my kids.
So I decided my flip book would be abstract. Just colors or shapes moving about. This would be my first art project in many years that did not involve people, the world we live in, sadness and struggle. Could I do it?
I worked on it the past two days and have already made over 150 drawings. It begins with a box. The box opens and then a red, yellow, and blue line come out of the box and squiggle about. Then a window shade comes down and then opens up again and the colored lines have rearranged themselves. That’s it so far. Anyway, it’s super fun to work on and hey, it’s something new and different for me, so maybe I’m at least pushing the rock in a different direction. Now if only I can think of another vegetable besides brussels sprouts.
Friday, May 14
Day one million. I’m sick of talking about the PANDEMIC. And I’m sure you’re sick of reading about it. But what else is there to talk about?
I was reminded of how pathetic our nation is when I saw this post today on FB. A quote from Donald himself: “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”
He sure was right about that. He found sixty three million idiots to support him. I’m guessing that Fox didn’t publish this quote. Or maybe they did and it spurred on the idiots. Go figure.
My prediction for November. He wins again. With four million fewer votes than Joe B. He will win because sixty million unemployed, gun toting, god fearing idiots from Michigan, Ohio and Florida will believe him when he tells them that the PANDEMIC is over and that they will have jobs and money next week. He will tell them that together we can make America great again and that we won’t have to wear masks anymore and that everything is great and that we’re all great and that women are great and that minorities are great and that walls are great and that hotels are great and that golf is great and that locker room humor is great and that the Democrats are evil and that guns are great and that the economy is great and that and that and that.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
Thursday, May 14.
It was only a matter of time before America showed its true colors. We’ve had no school shootings for over two months, no angry, crazed gun toting citizens losing their shit in malls, movie theaters, post offices or backyards.
The guns came out yesterday, not surprisingly in Texas. Michigan is also seeing its share of armed insanity. It seems that in Texas, handguns require state issued licenses, but larger weapons like rifles, shotguns and long guns are essentially unregulated. So it was perfectly okay for Phillip Archibald to show up in front of a tattoo parlor with his AR-15 semi-automatic and usher in customers against state order. A slew of other Texas and Michigan establishments also received assistance from some good citizens representing groups like Open Carry Texas and The Michigan Home Guard.
“We go out there because we want peace, but we prepare for war, C.J. Grisham, a retired Army sergeant said. J.P. Campbell, a Freedom Fighter of Texas said it plainly: “We’re willing to die.”
So I guess if COVID won’t kill you, you might as well take a bullet fighting for the bar to open. Or for the right to get a tattoo a few weeks before it’s really safe.
But can you really blame them? They are desperate. People are broke. They can’t pay their rent, can’t buy gas for their cars, can’t put food in their refrigerators. Millions of Americans are losing thousands of dollars weekly. They’re certainly willing to take a chance of catching a cold, even if it might kill them. Dying isn’t as bad as starving.
The sad thing is seeing how some Americans deal with it. They don’t know how to settle the score peacefully or rationally. As soon as you have the opportunity to grab a gun and defend your right to freedom, you do it. Once a soldier, always a soldier.
Mr. Archibald says he’s coming to New Jersey to help other business open up. Thankfully, he said he’s coming unarmed because he knows the gun laws are different in Jersey. So I doubt he’ll have much clout. Anyway, as bleak as New York is these days, I’m sure glad I don’t live in Texas.
Wednesday, May 13
Today’s headlines: Opening Too Soon Poses Dealy Risk. An Ecosystem Under Threat in Manhattan. Outbreak’s Untold Devastation of Latin America. Dire Lockdown For City Facing a ‘Death Spiral’. And, finally an article about something else: Arab Sugeon, Jewish Patient, Nazi Textbook.
While eating a bowl of granola and sipping some morning coffee, I stepped away from COVID and read the tearjerking story from Jerusalem.
In 2002, during the second Intifada, a Jewish boy who lived in a West Bank settlement was on a cherry picking field trip with his school. He stepped on a land mine and blew himself and a few friends up. He survived, but had severe damage to his leg. At the same time, a young Arab-Israeli boy left for the United States to go to college and then medical school. Sixteen years later, the Jewish boy, now grown up, married with children and crippled, was experiencing severe pain due to his childhood mine accident. He met a surgeon, the Arab-Israeli who had returned from the U.S. to practice in Jerusalem. The surgeon told him that he could fix his problem with the aid of a textbook, written years earlier, by a Nazi German doctor. The boy, who had family killed in the Holocaust and had grown up, since the mine explosion, with an intense hatred of all Arabs, put his trust in the doctor and the Nazi book. And was healed.
Even more, today, the Jewish man has become friends with the Arab doctor’s family.
It is truly beautiful when people rise above the social and political systems under which they live. A story like this proves that people are greater than systems.
Sadly, this newspaper article was positioned immediately next to another article about an Israeli soldier who was killed yesterday in Jenin when he was hit by a rock thrown by a Palestinian protesting the Israeli taking of more land in the West Bank. Later in the day, a Palestinian was shot and wounded for protesting at an Israeli checkpoint. Since, Israeli militia have stormed into neighborhoods and arrested at least seven men. And the beat goes on.
Have a great day.
Tuesday, May 12
Eight weeks and counting. This is really difficult.
I’m remembering all the words my coaches would use when the going got tough. If we were down five with seven minutes to play , it was time to “get serious.” With five minutes left, still down five, it was time to “hang in there.” Down two with two minutes left, we’d huddle up and be told to look our opponents in the face and let them know who we were. Thirty second on the clock, down one, we had to “show them the money.” Five seconds left, down one with the ball in my hands and the game on the line, it was either do or die.
How is this different? For one, I don’t think we can win this game. We’ve already lost. Are there a billion more starving people than there were a few months ago? What’s the death toll? We’ve lost. We’ve been beaten by a microscopic drop of poison that we can’t even see. We’ve been crushed. This game wasn’t even close.
Admitting defeat, it is time to regroup and build for the next season. We still don’t know when the season will start, but we do know that we want to be in the game. We’re hoping all our team members will be around to play with us. We’re hoping for a fresh start and a full set of tools to play with. We can only hope that our next opponent will not be as cruel.
Monday, May 11.
I’m looking into my crystal ball into the future. I can’t see the date, but it looks like summer. People are on the street, in shorts and t-shirts. They appear to be walking freely. Some open doors to stores and restaurants. They aren’t wearing masks. The street is busy with traffic. Horns are honking. I look up. A plane is flying over me.
What will we do when we return to normal? What will normal be? We’ve all been thinking about this. In the past two months we’ve learned a new pace. We’ve slowed down. We’ve chosen to occupy our time with things that are personally meaningful. We’ve chosen carefully. Some of us have been with a few close family members. We’ve become closer. Some of us have been alone. We’ve become our own best friends. We’ve made paintings, read books, solved puzzles, meditated, gardened, went jogging, napped.
We’ve spent eight weeks without reaching into our wallets. All those things we used to buy — what were they anyway? What was it I was spending one hundred dollars on every few hours? The eighteen dollar glass of wine. The thirty-two dollar pasta dish. Twenty-five bucks for a movie and a bag of popcorn. Did I really spend three hundred and fifty dollars on a Broadway musical?
We’ve been so angry at our capitalist system for so long. We’ve protested, marched, signed petitions, demanded change. We’ve sworn off Amazon cancelled Facebook accounts, brought our own bags with us to the supermarket. We said we wanted change. We wanted to bring the billionaires to justice.
I think we got what we were hoping for. For the foreseeable future, it’s going to be a lot different. I just read that airlines are losing four hundred million dollars a day. At that rate, they can’t last another month.
When the masks come off we’re going to all need to think very carefully about how to proceed. We will have the chance to change society, but it will mean staying focused and not allowing ourselves to get sucked back into the old American way. Maybe it’s time for us to build a new nation and redefine the adage “Make America Great Again.” Let’s bring back the milkman and the fifty cent milkshake.
Sunday, May 10
Another Sunday. Church? Nope, not yet. And besides, I’m a jew.
I’m running out of stuff to write. In short, this pandemic is just not that inspiring. Face it, there is very little excitement that can be derived alone, at home, with nobody to talk to and nothing to touch. How many stories can you get from a bar of soap and a face mask. A few maybe, but just a few.
I don’t see a future of great Pandemic books or movies. It’s not like a war where exciting people on opposing sides clash with one another. The Pandemic stories will be about people doing things by themselves. Sure, there will be a few psychological thrillers. We’ll see some odd side of Leonardo Di Caprio playing out some weird something or other in a basement or a back yard. Or maybe we’ll watch DeNiro battle some demons from a hospital bed. Not looking forward to seeing that.
This Pandemic needs a two out bottom of the ninth double to right that scores the go ahead run. It needs a three from the corner as time runs out. Where’s Michael Jordan or Willie Stargell when you need him. Instead we have Mike Pence, the worlds soggiest donut. Okay, we’ve got Cuomo and his colorful brother, but they’re only good for ten minutes of feel good. This story has no real hero.
Little to write, but I keep on writing. Every day, the same. Hamster, hamster wheel, Rat, cage. Me, myself and I. Hey, there are three of us and we’re nto socially distanced. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Saturday, May 9.
I think I mentioned yesterday that Mr. President and his veep won’t wear masks. Now the report is that Covid has reached 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Oh boy.
As much as you don’t want to cheer when someone gets sick, whoppee! But seriously, what did they think would happen? The pretend game is over. You people are people too. Deal with it. It’s real.
Imagine the speech he’ll make when he’s in bed. Poor Donald, sick in bed with Corona, just a week after the golf courses reopened. Guess who won’t be teeing up.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the plan. Thirty percent of the nation is currently unemployed. Food stamps? Rent assistance? Ya think?
And didn’t some guy who pleaded guilty twice just get let off? Can it get any stupider?
Friday, May 8.
We’re all wearing masks wherever we go. We’re used to it. When this first started, I was pretty sure I’d never wear one, and then I did, and now I’m used to it and it’s even comfortable. It might save my life.
Our president won’t wear one. The VP didn’t wear one and apologized. I think I just read that 35 African Americans were arrested in New York this week for not properly social distancing. Am I missing something?
Meanwhile, church will happen in some states this Sunday and the government is not supposed to tell them how to be religious. Which I guess will mean it will be okay to sing together, pray together, share prayer books. I guess god will keep us safe. And the new joke will be: A rabbi, a priest and an imam went into a bar. The priest coughed, the rabbi coughed and the imam ordered tea for his sore throat. Not sure what the punch line is.
On an up note, I just managed to install a sim card into my phone that is supposed to give me more memory, or something like that. I’m pretty sure this is the highlight of my day.
Thursday, May 7.
Will try to focus on the good. And there’s lots of it. It’s really sunny today, bright and clean and even here, in New York, there is a soft, friendly feel. I walked the dog (Liza’s dog Leo) this morning and a young, masked man walked by me and gave me a big hello. The kind of hello you’d get in Nebraska.
Defrosting chicken for tonight. Sweet potatoes, red peppers, onions and garlic. A fresh salad, bottle of wine, maybe a Rioja.
Two new Netflix recommendations, one a Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda comedy. It will be good to laugh and I always loved Lily Tomlin. I still remember her as Ernistine, so funny. Yes, we need some of that now.
I sent 54 emails yesterday, one to each of my students, reminding them that all work is due today because grades are due. Online learning sucks and the kids are too overwhelmed. Today I have 74 emails. My kids have risen to the challenge and have sent in the work. All good!
Wow, there’s so much good in my life. So much to be thankful for. Did I mention I have lots of soap and two new masks, twenty rolls of toilet paper and a bottle of Purel? I’m set.
Wednesday, May 6.
This is dizzying. The numbers are down in New York, but rising everywhere else. Two to four percent rise. 1,000 deaths a day. 25,000 new cases daily. 800. 9,000. 2,000,000. Infinity.
Stop, Breathe. Stop. Think. Stop. Breathe. Breathe. It will be okay. It’s not okay. We’ll beat this. Light at the end of the tunnel. There’s no light, no tunnel. We’ll be fine. Relax. I can’t. Breathe. Stop. Cough. No. No. I’m fine.
We try to be zen. We remind ourselves to live today, in the moment. Today I’m fine, I’m alive, healthy. I have a book to read and there are flowers blooming outside my door and a new bottle of red to open. And yet, there is still a notion of tomorrow. We are used to planning for it. It’s how we’re programmed. We want to be working on a new painting, a new novel, a new project.
Samantha Schweblin, a novelist, was asked about what she’s working on now. She said what I think many of us are feeling: “I feel myself floating when I’m surprised to see I don’t know where I stand, and my ideas about what fiction is and how it affects reality change day by day.”
We don’t know. We simply don’t know what comes next. And while we don’t know, we’re floating. But we aren’t sure we’re going to land. Thankfully, we have a bottle of red waiting for us.
Tuesday, May 5.
Covid news item today: Social psychologists have found that when people are longing to socialize, they are more likely than usual to perceive humanlike traits in inanimate objects. Well, that explains my brief conversation with my desk lamp last night and the little argument I had with my fork. By the way, wasn’t that Jesus in the tree outside my window?
I’m guessing that social psychologists will be finding out even more in the weeks to come. Life without people is causing all kinds of strangeness. How many of us are talking to ourselves? How many of us are having old friends pop up in dreams? How many of us have found new ways to relieve sexual tension? On that note, if you have found some, please let me know, because I’m not doing too well there.
If you’re counting, we’ve been socially distanced for over a thousand hours. That’s sixty thousand minutes, three hundred and sixty thousand seconds. A good time to remember that time is meaningless. Pretty much everything seems meaningless these days. This was the conversation I was having with my fork last night. I was whining about the meaningless of existence and the fork kept saying that things mattered. “What you think, what you feel, what you do. It all matters,” they said. (My fork is gender neutral). “But there’s nobody here to listen to me? Hello! Nobody knows I’m even here,” I argued. “What are you talking about,” the fork said. “I’m here. The knife is here and so is your plate. We’re all here with you.” The conversation went on for a while, it even got emotional. Finally, I finished dinner and we went to see what we could watch on Netflix.
Monday, May 4
Oh no, it’s another Monday. Here we go again. Hamster on a hamster wheel, rat in a cage.
I’m not sure if this is week seven or eight. It doesn’t really matter. Today is more of the same. On schedule for today are two school zooms, one the weekly staff meeting where I’ll look at a screen of 80 tiny teacher heads in teeny tiny boxes. This is Hollywood Squares on acid. I’ve already pulled a piece of salmon out of the freezer for dinner tonight. I’ll add a salad and brussels sprouts, my latest best friend. I think I’ve eaten about two thousand brussels sprouts in the past few weeks. Admittedly, I’m a creature of habit. Being that kind of creature during this crisis is really bleak. I’m also a bit on the spectrum, so not only do I eat the brussels sprouts nearly every night, I count them. Lock me up.
Well, some of my daily routine is okay. I get to write this, I get to make a drawing, I get to read, I get to run, I get to drink wine. And eat brussels sprouts. These are the things that are keeping me from a deep depression. Of course I know I have nothing to complain about, I’m the fortunate one, lucky me. I’m just the guy in his apartment who has to wash his hands a lot and keep himself entertained. I can do a puzzle on my couch while someone else has to take a subway to work, breathe poisonous air, flirt with death. I can drink coffee and have a croissant while others wait on a food line. Sorry, but it’s true.
Dear Mr. Bezos, Mr. Soros, Mr. Zuckenberg, Mr Walton and your friends: You all have so much money. You have enough money to be able to share it with the world and still keep enough for yourself to be able to live however you like forever. Your money could allow for billions of people in the world to be able to live in a nice home and eat good food every day. If everybody had a home and good food, there would be no reason for war. Would you please share your money with the world.
Sunday, May 3.
Like most of us, Facebook is part of my day. I like seeing what my friends are up to and I post my own pictures for all to see. We don’t have too many other choices if we want to be heard. And seen. I haven’t posted a video of myself doing something arty yet, but it’s in the works. I’ve recorded myself reading Green Eggs and Ham backward. It’s a hoot, but I don’t think my friends can really take six minutes of this: A I sam, this like not do I. Boat a in you could you would? Train a! Train a!
Today I responded to a post asking what my silver linings were. I was in a shit ass mood, but then I spent a minute thinking about some of the good that I’ve enjoyed in the past weeks. I’m not sure these linings are silver, but they are lining something: I haven’t talked to anybody I don’t like in seven weeks. Nobody has been rude to me. I’ve run over three hundred miles. I’ve been a Sunday puzzle genius seven weeks running. I’ve been reminded that I know a bunch of people in all parts of the world who still know and love me. I’ve drunk some really good wine. I’m still alive.
And, maybe the best thing. I’ve spent time with Liza, my new girlfriend. This has been a true blessing. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company a few days a week. Besides each other, we’ve seen practically no one, so we’re respecting the SoDis thing. Having another real person to talk to, eat a meal with, hold hands with, laugh and cry with is definitely silver. I guess it has made me realize something about humanity. People need people. No matter how successful we might be at distancing, zooming and living virtually, nothing replaces human contact. Thank you Liza for keeping me in the real world during this horrendous time.
Saturday, May 2.
Sunny and warm. Eleven states are open for business. Hairdressers, golf courses. boutiques and restaurants open. Take the masks off, bring your wallets, time to buy.
Hold on a sec. Are you sure you want to take your mask off?
Things are about to get really weird. I think we know how this will play out over the next few weeks. We’ve already read about how one side wants this and the other that. The republicans, with their “Down with Communism” signs are ready to party. The dems are afraid, and actually many are quite comfortable at home in their pjs. And then there are the real people, the forty or fifty million who want to go back to jobs. Sadly, many have no jobs to go back to because their companies have folded.
I’m dreading having my temperature taken before ordering a shrimp plate. My new least favorite word; sanitize.
The thing is, we’re in America, where we fuck up everything. How can we possibly get this next phase right? We can’t. And most likely we will watch those numbers go back up, the charts will show us every day where we screwed up. Cuomo will stay calm and logical, Trump will get even stupider. It’s not even watchable anymore.
I saw Planet of the Humans, the new Michael Moore produced documentary about the horrors of the green movement. The film footage of big business plowing down the world, pretending to be saving our environment is mind boggling. This film makes you so frightened. But the ultimate message is powerful: if you want to save the planet, you have to change your approach to living. I think this translates into stop flying, stop driving, stop plugging in your devices, get off the internet and chill the fuck out. And that doesn’t mean fly and donate a thousand dollars to green. It means don’t fly. If you want your grandkids to have air to breathe and flowers to smell, you better get with it. Watch the film, but only if you’re ready to really rethink your life.
Friday, May 1.
I want to write something light, something funny. I want to make you laugh and enjoy yourself. A rabbi, a priest and an imam walk into a bar. Nope. Did you hear the one about the squirrel looking for a nut? Nope.
Seriously. 31 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Millions more are jobless, some homeless. Predictions of over two and a half billion people world wide who will starve this month. That’s 2,500,000,000 human beings.
Our feelings are everywhere. One minute we’re frightened, then angry, then confused, then bored. We don’t really know how to react. We’ve never seen this before. We’ve never watched our world break down to this extent. Most of us (certainly anybody reading this) are still safe in our homes. We’ve got money, food and, most importantly, our health. We read about the devastation every day. It’s around the corner, next door. But it might be getting closer.
The difficult thing in all of this is that we can’t really do anything to help. Yes, we do our small part, we socially distance and wash our hands. But that’s about it. We can’t help the millions who are suffering. And we sure can’t find a cure. We’re stuck watching, witnessing the crumbling all around us.
I’ve never been religious. My world has no god, certainly not one with a plan. But this sure would be a good time to have faith. It’s not for sale, Amazon won’t deliver it. I’ll have to find it somewhere here, within myself. Not an easy task. Then again, it’s May, a new month. Sun predicted for tomorrow. Here’s hoping.
Thursday, April 30. Last day of April.
Is it over yet? Sounds a bit like when you’re seven and driving to visit your grandparents in Madison. After fifteen minutes, from the back seat, you ask “Are we there yet.” You’re on Route 1, looking outside at the little swimming pool next to the motel. You’ve seen it a million times before. You know you’re not there yet. But you ask anyway because you want to be there.
We’re not there yet. Not even close. And this is no ride to Madison, it’s more like a trip to Pluto. We’re talking 4 point 2 billion miles. We’ve driven eleven. Fuck!
So how do we manage the next few billion miles? My shrink told me to give up on the idea of being happy. Now is not the time. I argued that I’m an American and that happiness is a non-negotiable. I want I want I want. Can’t I buy it? Two for a dollar. Isn’t it included in the agreement? I’m pretty sure I signed for it.
Okay, if not happy, then what. Content? That’s a dumb ass word. The goal is to figure out how to be at peace with ourselves here and now. The here and now is all we’ve got. We must become our own version of monks with nothing but time and space around us. We might not have a 13,000 foot peak to sit atop and contemplate, but we are all alone in our own quiet, empty spaces. Our only enemy is ourselves. Really, isn’t this the perfect time to find out who we really are? What is our essence. What makes us breathe? What makes us want to live the next moment? Once again, I’m not really sure what I’m saying, but it sounds good.
I’m making a drawing every day. I’ve gotten some nice encouragement from friends. They want to see the museum exhibit. I should publish them. I’m grateful for the support. Funny, because the drawings I’m doing now are done on my phone. I haven’t really drawing anything, haven’t used a real pencil or a brush. The artwork exists digitally only. I’m thinking a book is a nice idea. A good project, and I damn sure have the time now. Here we go.
Enjoy the day. Tomorrow is May, sun on the way.
Wednesday, April 29.
When I first started writing this blog, the Medium blog site asked for a title. Since I was writing about Covid-19, I immdiately thought “covid” and then I had the idea of writing it backwards because I was feeling a bit backwards. Actually, I was feeling more upside down, but I didn’t think Medium could handle that. So I gave it the name “91divoc” and figured my few reader friends would get used to it soon enough.
Today, when I logged onto this page to write my blog entry, I noticed that there are two other blogs here on Medium with the same name. One is called 91 divoc Mega Project Blog 2. It is by the Amal Academy and is a blog that wants to entertain the bored masses with games, riddles and memes. The second site is by Alessio Lerda and is in Italian. I just entered the first few lines into a Google translate program and it says this: “Sorry, sorry I couldn’t write you. How late am I? Quiet, only ten minutes. Really, what fucking weather. . .”
So, going forward, you get a choice. You can play a game or solve a riddle, read some bad Italian fiction, or see my masked characters and read my rant of the day. It’s up to you. Acutally, I’m guessing you have enough time to read all three, so knock yourselves out.
I admit that I’m a little pissed that my title has been borrowed by others. I’m pretty sure mine came first. Where’s the Medium copyright? WTF? Maybe I should have thought harder about the blog title.
I’ve written before about my love of numbers. Since I was little, I’d play number games, multiply numbers in my head, count backwards from 1000, learn how long an exact minute is. That 91 is the number associated with Covid has some weird personal meaning for me.
A while back I began writing a memoir. The memoir is written in short segments, each a chapter in the story of my life. Each chapter is exactly 91 words. This idea stemmed from a writing exercise I did where I was asked to write a piece that was 91 words or less. Mine was exactly 91 and I liked it enough to write more of the same length.
I’ve been working on the memoir for over a year and have written about sixty 91 word portions. And I’ve titled the book 91. Considering what has happened, I might have to change that title, because I don’t think my full life story is about the corona virus. At least not yet.
It’s 9:02 A.M. Late for me to be writing this. I’m listening to New York silence out my window. A relatively new sound. It’s not as nice as Cape Cod silence, which always includes the ocean and the wind. It’s interesting to think about sound. We all know what this disease looks like here in New York. We’ve know the empty streets and vacant buildings. Do we think about what it sounds like? I’ll end today’s message here, and wish you a wonderful day. Hey, this last paragraph is 91 words!
Tuesday, April 28.
Talking to friend Josh last night confirmed that most of us feel the same. We’re sick of this. Sick of the stay at home thing, sick of hand-washing and door knob wiping, sick of the one or two or no people we are locked up with (who, of course we love), sick of the coronavirus jokes and song parodies. And sick of Zoom and participating in virtual real life. When I lead a class of twenty-five kids, I look at the little boxes on my screen. Most aren’t even faces, but some ridiculous avatars that they’ve posted because they don’t even want to show themselves. I’m sick of that.
And there’s nothing we can do about it. More today, more tomorrow.
I’ve said this before. It’s about time and how you perceive and approach it. An hour is divided sixty times and then another sixty. If each tick of the clock is a world, then there are 3,600 worlds in an hour and 86,400 every day. That’s a lot going on. To get through this without losing your mind completely, you need to get a hold on time. You either have to make it stop or make it meaningful. Can you focus on a second and make it matter? Can you make a second meaningful? Can you make it the greatest second ever? And then make the next second even greater? Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m talking about, but it sounds pretty good.
The other way is making time stop. I’ve mentioned this before. I called it Africa time, which is a term I heard many years ago that referred to what is done when you are in a situation where you have to wait a long time for something to happen. You’re stuck somewhere with nothing to do and you don’t want to be bored out of your mind. So you meditate. You make your mind take you somewhere else. Wherever that place is, it’s a good one — peaceful, quiet, soft and easy. You can stay there as long as you want. There is no time in this place.
We keep looking for ways to help us through this. I’m the lucky one who is getting through it with a beatuiful home, a paycheck and a stay at home job. I’m not at war, just on hold. Tick tock tick tock.
Monday, April 27.
My week began by reading the story of a Massachusetts man who was on a ventilator for over a month and survived the disease. A heart-wrenching story of his hospitalization and his family’s experience during the month where doctors struggled with endless attempts to keep him alive. At one point he had to be put to sleep because if he was awake, his movement was crippling his lungs. His wife was called in at a point when doctors thought he had only a few hours left. She sat bedside and talked to him for three hours, telling him how much the family needed him to survive. His miraculous recovery had doctors thinking that her visit was what could have nursed him back to life. And so, my Monday morning began with a shed of tears.
And now I prepare for school. Today’s virtual lesson will present a comic strip by Chris Ware. His COVID piece was published yesterday in the NY Times and, since we’re working on comics in class, I figured it was an appropriate tie in. It’s all about COVID. Ware doesn’t miss a beat. In one frame, a kid is giving his mom shit about her inability to Zoom. In another a guy comments that he’d never been afraid of a grocery store. In another, A man stares at his cell phone and exclaims, “Oh my God.”
Note: It’s gray again today. Getting tired of this.
Have you read Finton O’Toole’s piece in the Irish Times? He makes it painfully clear how our nation, once the respected leader of the free world is now little more than an embarrassment.
Monday, 8:37. Damn, I wish I’d slept a little later.
Sunday, April 26.
Sunday. Day of rest. Well, I slept til ten which is a record for me. Get up for what?
I’ve been enjoying writing this little blog every morning. Today, I have little on my mind. Certainly I have no words of wisdom. The present is bleak and the future looks even bleaker. I listened to Governor Cuomo this morning. I’m definitely a member of his fan club. I’ve never seen a politician act so calm in the face of chaos. He exudes intelligence, patience, foresight and wisdom. He rattles off numbers and alludes to charts as if he actually understands them. I don’t, but it’s comforting to hear him discuss the numbers. Having 394 New Yorkers die yesterday somehow sounds better coming from him. As he talks, I’m thinking PRESIDENT. This man should be president. I know I’m not the only one thinking this. He was asked about this and categorically denied interest. Maybe it’s not a possiblity for November. It would take a lot to replace him with Joe B. Unless, Joe himself stepped up and made the suggestion. Imagine that — he could save our nation. I think Cuomo would beat D. by at least a million zillion votes. IN EVERY STATE. Let’s start making some noise about this.
Last night we were looking out the window and saw an ambulance pull up in front of the building. Someone next door needed help. Liza remembered that she had four quality N-95 masks and so she ran downstairs with them and offered them to the ambulance driver, who suggested she keep them in case she needed them. She gave them to the man and he thanked her. A midnight mitzvah.
Now it’s grey and raining, an almost permanent grey these days. April nears the end and we gear up for week 6. It’s still 2020, we’re still wearing masks and washing our hands, still inside, still social and distanced. There was a Chris Ware comic printed today in the Times. One of his characters stares blankly at his cell phone and exclaims, “Oh my God.” That about says it all.
Saturday, April 25.
Today is sunny and beautiful out my window. Haven’t been outside(or course) but it looks like a real spring day. I close my eyes and think cherry blossoms, flowers in bloom, lots of green, a warm wash of sun on my face, people smiling, people looking beautiful, people laughing, people being people.
Reality. I went downstairs to get mail from yesterday and needed to open doors and push elevator buttons using a sheet of newspaper. I washed my key in hot water and soap when I got back upstairs. I felt like an idiot washing my key. Note: I have the cleanest keys in the world. I’ve washed them at least two hundred times in the past few weeks.
Note: Sadly, there is a lot of humor in all of this. I’ve seen a few comics and heard a few jokes — they’re okay. Here’s one I’m making up on the fly. A rabbi, a priest and an imam go into a bar. It’s closed. Okay, not so funny.
Here’s the real joke. Donald Trump. But I suppose that’s an old joke, maybe one that gets funnier every day. The sunlight kills the virus idea of his is a real knee slapper. Tomorrow he’ll suggest holding your breath and counting backwards from 20. It might work.
Clearly I’m losing my mind. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Yesterday, I watched a friends Facebook posting of their family folk rock performance for the thirty-fifth day in a row. Nice people, but they can’t sing. I also heard a slew of Covid parodies and poetry readings and saw a few dozen recent art works by people locked in their homes.
I’m one of them. I’ve been working on a reading of Dr. Seuss backwards. Ham and Eggs Green. Not sure if I’ll post it because it’s about as ridiculous as it gets. Yesterday I had cell phone problems. My phone told me I was out of storage space and it wouldn’t record me. Mother fucking phone. I spent hours trying to remove data only to get repeat messages that the phone was out of storage. Really made me hate the world.
Reading Dr. Seuss backwards is actually a lot of fun. Thinking backwards is fun too. Da Vinci was left handed and wrote backwards. He was a mirror writer. Why?
To get through this we all come up with little ways to maintain some kind of sanity. For me, I think I actually look for ways to pull myself out of sanity. I mean, we’re living in a pretty insane moment. Seems like we’ll handle it better if we become a little loose in the head. I’m spending many hours running word puzzles in my head. One of my favorite games is to go through the alphabet and think of words starting with each letter that have eight letters each or four syllables each. Or nine letters or three syllables… J, K, W and Z are the hardest. There are only so many four syllable words that begin with K. Kaleidoscope, kinesthetic, kindergarten. Sometimes I’ll try to do fruits or cooking things alphabetically: Apple, Blueberry, Cherry, Dragon fruit, Emu apple. . . Anyway, it often gets me through the day.
Not sure about today. Way too sunny not to go outside. With a mask safely distanced from everybody else. Saturday, April 25, 2020.
Friday, April 24.
New news report: sunlight, according to our great science expert, Donald Trump, kills the virus. Huh? And bleach apparently works well too. Just don’t drink it.
I’ve never been one to have a firm understanding of science. It’s way too hard for me to understand. But I know that a good scientist has spent years immersed in their study. Hours and hours, day after day reading, experimenting, looking carefully and thinking. Eventually they are able to put their knowledge to good use. I don’t think Dr. Donald passed tenth grade Biology, and if he did, it’s because he cheated off of the smart kid.
As far as sunlight goes, I’m guessing that a real scientist has already done that study and most likely has moved on. I hear that Coca Cola gets the rust off your car, but I doubt it will cure the virus. Clearly, this is going to take a while. There are hundreds, thousands of people in the lab today looking for answers. Imagine the stress. Imagine the excitement when something is discovered. Our true heroes.
One thing about this: the cure won’t come in the form of a computer code. There is no app that will kill the virus. This is something real, not virtual. We won’t be downloading a solution.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.
Thursday, April 23.
Feels like this week is flying by. I haven’t thought that in a while. Is this the new normal? It is.
Liza told me that she was reading about how many of us will suffer from some form of PTSD once this whole thing is over. Having never come back from Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq (well, I did once come back from Vietnam, but it was as a tourist), I can’t say I know what PTSD feels like. But in thinking about what we could experience, I’m wondering if some of us will be afraid to re-integrate. Will reconnecting be the new problem?
The past twenty years have already created some real problems with making connections. We all know how the computer and the big I internet have made personal connection difficult for many. We answer texts more easily than the person next to us who is asking us something. We spend nine hours a day logged on and less than fifteen minutes talking to another person. At dinner, how many of us have their phone turned on and parked next to their napkin?
So, what happens next? When the disease ends, and it will, will we come out and play? Certainly there will be a big push from business to get us going. I’m imagining a slew of special offers to make us integrate. The price of the three hundred dollar theater ticket will be halved. Bars will be offering all night Happy Hours. In an effort to get the economy going again, we will all be cajoled.
But some of us will suffer. Creatures of habit, after this many weeks of our new normal, our new ways will stick. If we have to go into the office, we’ll do it quietly and rush home after work to our safe homes. A bottle of gin and netflix will welcome us home. And we’ll deal with it weekly in our therapist’s office.
I suppose the good that comes out of this writing is that I’m envisioning life after the PANDEMIC. Yes, it will end! Hala fuckin luyah. Me, when it is over, I’m going to go outside and pick a fight with someone. Someone who won’t be afraid to punch me in the nose or twist my arm. I can’t wait for the human contact. I’m gonna bump into people and say I’m sorry. I’m gonna hug a metal pole. I’m gonna kiss wherever somebody put their fingers. I’m going to hope for rush hour overcrowded subways and I might even go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, just to feel the crush. This will be my form of PTSD and I can’t wait to suffer.
Wednesday, April 22.
Slept well and woke up happy. What right do I have to be smiling today? The world hasn’t changed, we are still immersed in a living hell. But I’m smiling.
My day will be a lot like yesterday and the day before. A few hundred emails from students not sure how to upload or download. Twelve plus hours alone at home. No touching, no joking with friends, no contact. A newspaper jammed with awful news and dismal predictions, enough ugliness to wipe my smile right off.
But today I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to keep the smile through it all. In truth, I don’t smile enough, so when I do, it’s good to keep it as long as I can. Maybe it’ll rub off. If only I could take the mask off to let the others see it.
Tuesday, April 21.
Here we go. Breathe, breathe some more and some more. Scan the newspaper articles. Fifty of them saying the same thing, none of it good. Breathe some more and some more.
I was chatting with a good friend last night. She was my neighbor here on the Lower East side. She made a life change, married a man, had a new baby and moved to North Carolina where she has acres of land. She told me that, in part out of need, she has begun to grow food. She also told me that if I wanted to build a house, I could build it on some of her land.
So, a few things come to mind after this conversation. First, during times of chaos, the good people get even better. Offering me land is an awfully big gesture. I think the good people are sharing more now, their hearts are bigger, their care for one another is real.
Second, the apocalypse is on our minds. People are really thinking that the breakdown is real and it’s big. There’s no nuclear freeze, so no need for a bunker. But many of us are thinking that the stores will soon close. The groceries will no longer be delivered, and even if they are, there will be no money to buy them. And so, we will farm. We will hunt. We will fish.
Seems a bit like a made for TV movie brought to you by State Farm, but maybe we’re closer to it than we want to believe. And so, what does a Lower East Sider do? I can’t hunt or grow food here. I don’t think I’ll catch much if I drop a line in the East River. Face it, I’m fucked. So maybe I should consider North Carolina. I’ve got enough gas in my car to make it to southern Delaware. It’s a six day walk from there.
Breathe and breathe some more.
Monday, April 20.
There’s a lot of noise outside my window. Sounds like a regular day. I look out the window and two gigantic sanitation trucks are parked in front. Three masked men are emptying dumpsters. Life goes on.
I’m up early, lift weights, sit ups, pushups, a shower and a shave, get dressed, breakfast and I’m ready for work. My art students begin a new project today. They’ll be making a comic book. We finished the shoe design project, although half the students still haven’t handed it in. They’re kids. I’m at my desk now, finishing up preparations for my students. I’ve checked my Google Meet site to make sure it’s still working. I’ve straightened up the seven feet of space behind me so that my classroom looks right for the kids. Virtual school starts in thirty minutes. Life goes on.
The newspaper today is filled with great stuff. Many New Yorkers who have fled to their hometowns want to stay there. Sports teams are ready to play, willing to take the risks. Charlie Kirk, who apparently coined the term The China Virus, is making lots of noise and getting right wing press. COVID has caused Sotheby’s to hold off on auctioning a sixty-plus million dollar Francis Bacon triptych. The news is not all COVID. There was a deadly shooting in Nova Scotia. Sixteen deaths. Life goes on.
Last week I read an article about Weird Al Yankovic. I was never a fan of his, but reading about him, I decided I liked him, and some of his songs are really fun. For some reason, Huey Lewis’ awful song I Want A New Drug is going through my head right now. And, in honor of Weird Al, I’m altering the lyrics: I want a new mask, one that won’t feel too tight, one that won’t droop below my nose, one that won’t let the virus bite. Okay, Weird Al is better. Life goes on.
Sunday, April 19.
Lots of sunshine, it’s warmer today, spring.
There’s a three page newspaper story titled “What the Next Year (or Two) Look Like.” It doesn’t look good.
Reading about the predictions for the next twelve to twenty four months is, to the say the least, sobering. Anybody with the slightest foot in reality knows this thing ain’t going away. It’s silly for me to regurgitate here what we already have read ten thousand times. The vaccine is far in the future. Testing of various remedies is complicated, timely and dangerous. As we attempt to resume non-isolated life we will become divided into those who had it and those who haven’t. Young people will have COVID parties and try to get it so that they can reenter the world after they don’t die. Some communities will take major steps backwards once they interact and make each other sick. The death toll will rise. Days will become weeks will become months will become years. And the wise words of pal Jen Joseph ring ever so true: The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be.
How do I feel? A few weeks ago I was angry. Then I was confused. Then I was sad. Then I was empty. Now I’m scared. In the past week, two people I know have died. As we “flatten out” we still have a death every two minutes in New York. Every two minutes!
I’m enjoying some of the posts people are making of virtual singing groups, poetry readings and artworks. Never before would I have spent time listening to the Beatles and Leonard Cohen sung in Yiddish or a Turkish poet. There’s a lot of talent out there and it’s great to share in it. Artists are artists no matter the situation.
I’ve started to make a daily drawing of our masked friends. At first, I didn’t think it was a very good idea, but now that I’m doing it, I’m enjoying it and these people make for good subjects. A good friend liked one enough to suggest me sending it to the New Yorker. Thanks for the compliment.
In the darkest of days we go on. We have to because we are fighters and winners. Now we have to find different ways to make ourselves smile. When we get into bed at night, we can go over the day and ask ourselves, “Was I a good citizen? Did I find a moment or two of pleasure in my day? Did I do my best to stay out of the hole? Sleep will come easy if we can answer yes.
Saturday, April 18.
I just read a Sunday magazine article by Helen Macdonald who writes about the happy animals who are now living in human free places. The PANDEMIC is mother nature’s way of cleaning things up, allowing animals to reclaim territory that was once theirs. Wild turkeys, geese, boar, even elephants are roaming the streets of our cities and towns. The reports are in about pollution easing around the globe. On another note, this past March was the first March in ten years to have not had a school shooting.
Should we face it? Should we take from this that our planet doesn’t need humans. I think we already knew this on some level. Now we’re seeing that without us mucking about, the earth recovers.
We can save the planet if we leave it. What a concept.
Here’s the problem. I like it here. I don’t want to leave. And I’m selfish (human trait). I’m not willing to sacrifice myself for the good of the planet. I want to stick around and be here for whatever comes. I want to be alive.
I suppose nature will take care of herself. If this PANDEMIC is a call from nature to clean up, then another will come soon and then another. If we are not wanted here, nature will figure out a way to get rid of us. What is ugly now, will get a lot uglier. Eventually the pictures will be too ugly for us to want to repost them on our social media pages.
OR — we learn something from this. We finally learn that we can control our universal daily output. We tone it down. We clean up. We stop. We save our planet and make a world that works for all. I wish I believed we could. It damn sure ain’t gonna happen with the idiots in the world who are in power today. What will it take for everyone to understand? What will it take for CEO’s and corporate execs who are polluting the world for them to stop? Do we root for this PANDEMIC to get worse so that more people learn? I guess we’ll find out.
Friday, April 17.
TGIF means nothing today. No high fives with colleagues on the elevator, no light chats about weekend plans. Nobody’s going to the country this weekend. Nobody has dinner plans at the new place in the neighborhood. Nobody has a friend visiting from San Fran. And nobody’s going to a party.
What am I going to do this weekend? What are you doing? For those of you who look, you’ve noticed that the stock market has crashed, but Amazon and Netflix have hit yearly highs. Which tells me that most of us will be watching tv this weekend. And opening packages. Even during a PANDEMIC, Americans buy shit.
Those birds that were chirping outside my window on Wednesday morning are back. Sounds like there are two of them. I don’t speak bird, but I’m guessing they don’t know what’s going on. It’s a regular day for them, isn’t it?And for the turtles and for the geese and for the raccoons and the sharks and for the mosquitoes. It’s just us humans, who seem to fuck everything up. As we progress, we bring ourselves further and further to the end. I hate getting religious, but clearly God fucked up.
My major accomplishment for the week is that I fixed my printer. I have serious printer issues. This is my fifth printer this year. I admit that I do things with it that you’re probably not supposed to do. I feed papers in that just aren’t meant for printers, but they work for the art I’m doing and there you go. So this time, the printer stopped printing black. I tried a bunch of things without results and so I called Epsom and a nice woman sent me instructions via email and told me to call her if I didn’t resolve my issue. The remedy called for cleaning the “head” three times and doing a “nozzle check” after each “head” cleaning. Then, and this is the strange part, I was instructed to turn the printer off and let it rest over night. And then, I was supposed to clean the “head” three more times and do three more “nozzle checks.” And so, I did as told. After the first three “head” cleanings and “nozzle checks,” I could tell the problem wasn’t resolved, because the “nozzle check” printed every color but black. And so I put the printer to bed for the night. In the morning, I turned it back on, did the three “head” cleanings and “nozzle checks” and, amazingly enough, on the fifth “nozzle check” it printed black. I was stunned.
Can someone please tell me how letting a printer rest actually means something? I’m no mechanic, but I do know that a printer is not a living being who needs sleep.
The silly thing is that I now have two printers, because I was certain I’d never fix it, so I ordered a new one. And Amazon rushed it to me.
Thursday, April 16.
Another new day. I have just left my girlfriend’s apartment and am now home. We’ve been seeing each other every few days. She is the only person I’ve come within six feet of in the past month. Thank the lord for Liza. She is keeping me within a block and a half of sanity.
What’s new? The recent report is that six feet isn’t enough. A sneeze at that distance can do the damage. Is nine feet now the new six feet? We need to keep informed. Trump, the world’s biggest shitbox, is now placing the blame on the WHO and witholding more than a half billion dollars. Another brilliant move. I’m wondering if, with the help of the Supreme Court or Congress or maybe the military, we can authorize having him shot. It takes a village (and a single bullet.) I mean really.