The End Times have arrived

Wow, ya’ll.  (I can say ya’ll legitimately, because my son and daughter in law live in Nashville, and so will I.  Sooner rather than later).  It’s been a long time since my last post, so let it be a warning I’ve got something important to say.  Just kidding.  I don’t, not really, but I wanted to pontificate longer than a facebook forum would allow me.  I should be working on my novel, but lately I can’t seem to string more than a paragraph together in one sitting.  So, here we are.

Tonight’s consumption is fueled by local brewery Haymarket: an IPA named Aleister.  Crisp, with just a hint of hops.  Not too grape-fruity, which is the standard by which I rate all but black IPA’s. And a couple days ago I made hubby go out and buy it, because they were featuring a six pack for six dollar special. That, my friend, is cheap in the craft beer world, but like every single brewery and restaurant in the United States right this minute, they are scrambling.  Scrambling to figure out what in the hell they need to do to balance the bills, their employees’ needs, and the safety of the public.  And still make the good stuff in there somewhere.  All in the meager and unforgiving timespan of a week.  The Michigan beer industry generates MILLIONS of dollars into our state.  Am I selfishly wishing to preserve it?  Yes, but not just for me.  There’s all the infrastructure affected, of course, from the suppliers, to the brewers, servers, kids to feed, mortgages..I could go on and on.  It’s the same story all over.  I’m aware we need healthy people to drink the beer.  We also need an economy in which to live.  Can’t have one without the other.

What is causing this unprecedented state of affairs?  Well, unless you just woke up from a coma or crawled out from under a rock, the world is in the grip of a pandemic caused by a dangerous disease called coronavirus. What we don’t know about it far outweights what we do, which is that it’s highly infectious, kills old people, people with deficient lungs, people with underlying and immune-compromised conditions, and…then there’s this.  We are also told it doesn’t kill most people, but that it will cause utter chaos in hospitals.  And you could carry it unbeknownst to you, and kill your grandma and grandpa or somebody else’s, because there’s a horrifically long incubation period.  There.  That’s my thumbnail sketch, if I ever look back.  Kindly do not message me with whatever aspect I left out.  I’m already aware my memory is precarious, and within twelve-ish days, everyone is already on operation covid overload.

Basically everywhere on the developed planet, schools and colleges are closed, businesses shuttered, people are to avoid contact with anyone not in their household, and nobody is to go anywhere unless they have to.  All in an attempt to slow the progression and not overwhelm medical facilities.  This makes sense to me in theory.  It doesn’t mean I like the new rules, but then again, only the weirdos claiming they’ve waited all their lives for this moment do.  Make no mistake, they’re out there.  I’ve seen their memes and posts celebrating “permission” to hibernate.

Here’s some of what I hate about the current situation.  I might add there’s nothing particularly unique about my rantings, nor is it a comprehensive list.

Then, later, if I’m feeling charitable, I might give a plug for the positives.

I’ve bitched before about kids and teens being chained to their phones and technology.  They substitute and over-use media platforms instead of face-to-face contact, and have been doing so long before this outbreak.  Now, it’s all they’ve got.  God knows how much sexting is happening now, how many genital pictures exchanged.  At least, I think to myself, they can’t get pregnant.  There is a chance, however minute, that after this nightmare is over they will be so lonely for a friend’s physical presence, that the almighty screens could diminish in appeal.  Phone sex has to be a poor substitute.  I’m guessing.

How about the complete disappearance of all live music?  I feel like in this house, we’ve been cut off at the knees.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  For a myriad of reasons live music is our lifeblood, and after awhile you-tube gets old.  So with all concerts and gigs cancelled, musicians are trying to keep their livelihood going with livestream appearances.  For a minute there seemed to be a glimmer of hope.  Alas, it was quickly snuffed out, as our experiences thus far have been fraught with technical difficulties.  Due to all the buffering it was like watching those Asian Godzilla b-movies, when the actor’s mouth wasn’t moving the same time as the dialogue. Whose mouth WAS moving was my husband’s, bellowing profanity at the computer and tv screens.  Not only that, but the performers looked and acted disappointingly like…us.  Wearing pajamas, un-showered, no make-up, half drunk in their messy living areas or bedrooms.  One female singer literally smoked a joint in between songs and sat cross legged and made no sense from that point on.  Another guy I am fairly sure was recording from his mom’s badly lit basement.  It wasn’t pretty.

I will say, the one upside to the gigs playing to an unseen audience, is that you don’t have the annoying side-talkers there, ruining the show.  Oh, and I could watch in MY sweats.  So, I guess that’s two upsides.  I joined Patreon to help support one particularly favorite musician, but it’s a mere raindrop compared to the hordes left out to dry.  As if hoofing around the country trying to make a buck with your guitar and heartfelt lyrics wasn’t hard enough in the first place.  Not to mention, trying to get young people off the couch and out of their bubbles. They’ll be so neck deep in their snapchat and Instagram after this I wonder if they’ll ever resurface.  They did make it to Florida for spring break, though, which I found mildly amusing, as well as feeling a tinge of envy.  People clucked and fussed, but are we that surprised?  People in their twenties think they’re invincible and as a general rule, aren’t exactly known for their selflessness.  And, they want to party.  Hell, I want to party.  Now apparently some of them have tested covid positive.  Possibly a lesson was learned.  Possibly not.

The we have the politics.  Before and during this unsettling time, Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard were thrown under the bus, (the only two Dems I would’ve voted for), and this was a bummer.  Meanwhile, Trump is digging his own grave every time he opens his mouth (which you may or may not be rooting for), and Senators have been outed for insider trading as the rest of us watch our own stocks wither and die.  Is it any wonder Americans have been so frustrated with those in office?  Accusations as to how the virus coulda shoulda been or be handled fly faster than an intern trying to get away from Joe Biden’s massaging fingers.  Don’t even get me started on him.  It’s sad, actually, to see the clips of him looking confused and inept.  I don’t get it.  Is his family really on board with him as President?

If we thought party lines might be softened now in an effort to achieve solidarity, we are sorely mistaken.  With these new restrictions in place our freak flags are flying.  There’s the extreme ends of the spectrum, of course.  Marky Marxist is screaming about sheeple caving to a Communist regime, Socialist know-it-all Sally is shouting at shoppers to staythefuckhome, and Militant a-holes Mac and Morgan are stocking up and decimating store shelves of water, Gatorade, instant rice, and you-know-what.  Then there are the moderates (like me), in the middle somewhere, complaining about salons closing, trying to feed everyone and deliver toilet paper like an underground railroad.

When it comes down to it, most of us are probably a mix of all of these components.  We’re attempting to do the right thing in scary, unknown territory.  And stumbling.  I joined a couple of Facebook help/aid groups specific to our area. Unfortunately…even THAT turns into a shitshow of opinions.  The good soul moderators have a fulltime job just closing threads off to the mudslinging.  One of the sites showcases which restaurants are still offering curbside service, etcetera.  More than a few chimed in on this “Buy/support Local” group with wagging fingers at the ready.  “All these drive-through, take-out options don’t sound like social distancing to me.  All those hands touching the food!”  (As if being at the store is that different).  When an EMT driver commented he’d have a hard time if drive thru-s closed, he was told he should “make his own lunch.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  This is the kind of nitpicking nonsense we do not need right now.

Like many states, Michigan has the “essential businesses and services only” order in effect.  It took less than a day for the arguing and debating to begin about what/who is deemed “essential.”  One area laundromat posted they were open and following appropriate sanitation and protocols, and Joe Schmo had to skewer them to the wall.

“There should be ONE laundromat for our whole area!  This is why this virus is spreading!”

Says the guy as he loads his lovely, operable Whirlpool unit in his home, blissfully unaware that with 1,600 square miles in Berrien County to encase (yes, some of it is water, but still), one laundromat would be a mob scene.  And a throbbing petri-dish.  Let’s not forget to ask, who would decide WHICH lucky laundromat gets the grand prize?  It’s enough to un-join the groups, and I don’t want to do that, because I want to help.  I want to help as I read the posts of the frantic parents thrown into homeschooling with about one hour’s notice, where these situations carry the same ends of the behavior spectrum.  You’ve got over-the-top mom Annie, spending every free minute making color-coded schedule posters that would put Sherwin Williams’ paint chart to shame. There was a father I could only assume was near tears on one site.  He said, “I’ve organized everything I can think of.  I’ve asked my kids how they want to learn, what subjects they always wanted to know more about, and they just stare at me dead-eyed!”  A long-time homeschooling mom gently referred to this period as “unschooling,” where kids used to having every minute regimented are at a loss.  It takes time, she assured him.  Someone hand that well-meaning mama and dad some weed.  Soon.

Passed out at the other end is loosey-goosey Lori, chugging a bottle of wine while throwing pinterest-generated worksheets at her brood of house-destroying monsters.  She’s given up after a week and a half.  It’s enough for me to want to dive into my old Parents-as-Teachers bins, which are loaded with activities, and offer to come by and have fun again.  But, there’s that damned six feet mandate.  Don’t tell me to take to the internet with it, either.  Some things cannot be translated to the screen.

There are those parents in the middle, too, shuffling along and waiting for April 13th in vain.  All joking aside, though, it’s the ones dealing with true addiction, food scarcity and other dysfunctional lifestyles that are worrisome.  Trust me, I saw this firsthand.  It’s bad when the world is spinning as it should.  When it’s in turmoil, I can’t even think about what those kids’ lives might be like.  There were times when I knew my coming to visit a family was the only thing they looked forward to that week.  This isn’t a humblebrag.  I know it because they openly told me.  I’m sure it’s the same for the elderly, mentally ill, or fragile folks who might have certain services suspended now.  These are the populations who are desperate risk due to enforced isolation.

So, let’s get to the good, before I get too snarly or end up crying in my beer for real.

Isn’t it wonderful how we’re checking on our friends and neighbors?  And the fact there’s going to be a baby boom in November and December?  We’re also re-discovering nature, going to parks and preserves we didn’t make or have time for before.  We’ve created networks providing vital connections regarding unemployment and area resources, ones I believe will flourish long after corona has departed.  We are appreciating teachers, healthcare professionals, and our families more.  We’ve cast a grateful eye on convenience store clerks, janitors, child care workers, maintenance crews, fast-food workers.  Maybe you won’t dismiss the employee working in a grocery store so casually after this.  Or a truck driver, or a construction worker.  Where would Nashville and surrounding areas be without them right now, as many of their facilities lay in ruin?  Every sector I mentioned is truly the backbone of our country, and I wish to God this would be reflected permanently.  Not just in pay, but in status and lasting respect.  It’s sad it takes national hysteria to unearth the hidden gems right under our eyes.  We need to pay attention to those “essentials” every day.

It could be that this craziness will result in a major mind-shift not only in our nation, but in the world.  On many fronts.  We can only hope.

Be well, friends.  There’s gonna be so much celebrating when this is over.  Until then, check on your middle-aged female pals.  We are not coping well with our shaggy gray roots, our unkempt nails, and rapidly expanding waistlines.









All suffering is not created equal

Friends, my beer of choice for today’s musings is Anger, by Greenbush Brewing.   I may or may not have published a few posts under its influence before, as I may or may not have bordered on ranting with some of my previous writings.  I will try not to vent, but I make no promises. This beverage is undoubtedly in my top five picks: hoppy as hell, yet rich and dark. Then there’s the intoxicatingly high ABV.  Which, I’m not gonna lie, helps to numb a few things, like the persistent hip and foot pain that is currently nipping at me with my every move.  Having two sisters with two hips replaced, it’s almost a foregone conclusion I’m up next on Dr. Frankenstein’s butcher block.  Is it any wonder I get ‘pent-up attitude,” like the label says?  The beautiful thing about being almost fifty- two, though, is that I don’t keep a whole lot “pent up” anymore, and God bless Greenbush for aiding its release.

Some of you know what’s been going on for me in the last month.  An incredible wedding of son and daughter-in-law, and on the heels of that, the wrenching loss of a much-too-young-to-die man: my other son’s best friend and roommate, Mathew.  I turn to my writing for ways to cope with life’s curves, but this event is so all consuming in its vast impact, it’s hard for me to even describe. Mat wasn’t just a buddy to my son.  He was like a brother to him, in every sense except physical.  I’ve posted other writings about Danny here, and obstacles he’s faced; nothing unusual there.  We all have them.  But when it’s your baby that gets knocked down, when you feel like you’ve spent half your life watching it happen, the hurt takes on a whole new level.  Especially when the hatchling has literally just left the nest, his tentative wings spreading the tiniest bit, only to fold and crash onto some pretty hard ground.  Or as one observant friend noted:  “It’s like the proverbial rug just got yanked out beneath his feet.”

Yes.  And I don’t know who is crying more these days, him or me.

Okay, it’s probably me.

I know there’s a silver lining here, somewhere, to be seen when the blinders of grief fade, and I also know in my gut Danny is going to be fine, eventually.  More than fine.

Until that moment, I am kind of…touchy.  And it just so happened that before all this occurred, I’d promised to help my Chicago-homeowner-neighbor pack and move.  Now, this lady is a perfectly nice person, and so is her husband. We have co-existed summerly for at least ten years, extending various courtesies that humans perform to make society tolerable of one another, but that’s as far as the relationship went.  Over the years, we have been happy to help keep an eye on their house or anything else asked of us.

But the timing of this favor from me could not have been worse.  I told her what happened, of course, and she was full of concern.  For about five minutes, anyway.  As perfectly nice as she is, she has this grating, helpless, damsel-in- distress component to her personality.  Maybe it’s from being a lifelong city-dweller; I don’t know.  A couple of years ago, she was forced to learn how to drive (she’s in her fifties) in order to take her husband to doctor appointments, and I swear, you would’ve thought it was the most novel and daunting accomplishment since women got the right to vote.  I couldn’t and didn’t understand her pampered and posh world, nor did I want to.  Most encounters with her usually ended up with me choking back, “Suck it up, buttercup!”

This time it was no different; in fact, it was worse, because of my raw mood.

The packing day commenced with much hand-wringing on her end.  There was the calamity of whether/how-to pack or dispose of the dishware from Italy, the pewter candlesticks from the place in Boulder, the giant picture from friends in the Hamptons, the Cuisinart blenders and coffeemakers…you get the idea.  I swear, I am not making this up or exaggerating.  And let me assure you, if it sounds like I was envious of her jet-setting acquisitions, you are misled.  I’m in a place in my life where envy is not allowed, and I want more stuff like I want a third eye.

“Oh, Ellen, this is such a mess, and I’m a wreck! I can’t decide what to keep, what to get rid of!  It’s awful! I just want to cry!” she wailed after a couple of hours of bubble wrapping crystal.

She was indeed looking like she might do exactly that, and I hoped fervently for both our sakes she wouldn’t. Because if she had, I would’ve conked her over the head with the second or fourth glass cake stand I was holding that day. Because, you know, those can’t go to Goodwill, seeing as how they are so decorative and versatile!  Yes, aren’t they, I agreed nicely, when what I wanted to snarl was that she was not the first being on the face of the earth to ever MOVE, or pack crap not needed into storage, where in all likelihood the damned chopsticks or linen napkins would never see the light of day again.  This was all racing around my mind without a drop of Anger ale in my bloodstream, but she kept going on about what I perceived as nonexistent predicaments.

“Choosing which condo to buy and what to do with your house in Arizona and which consignment shop to take your shit to, and whether you should donate your designer purse, are not problems!” my inner snarling continued, as I dumped more of that same shit into containers.  I mean, I guess they are.  But at that moment, amidst the crystal conundrums, I am thinking about Mat’s family and their Gofund me efforts to raise money for his cremation, I am thinking about his heartbroken aunt, a hardscrabble woman who raised him and has known more than her share of hardship, and it’s all fueling my sadness and irritation.

Thankfully she managed to stave off her tears, and I gritted both my teeth and my imagined scolding into obscurity. I finished helping her, because I’d said I would.  Truly, on any other normal day, I would’ve just laughed it off later and not given it a second thought.  To be fair, she’s not been immune to her share of burdens; she and her husband have faced grave health challenges, and it’s partly why we are quick to assist them in any way we can.  It’s that the “woe is me” act hit the wrong nerve at the wrong time.

The clichéd truth is this: with loss, and the threat of it looming, you should gain perspective and clarity about what matters.  You would think that death or disease would be a “great equalizer,” as it’s purported to be.  I don’t know about that.  Money and status can’t keep illness, tragedy or death at bay, but it can’t be denied that having it in abundance makes all of those things a whole lot easier to bear.  I feel like, in many cases, the insulation wealth brings can dull one’s senses to what authentic suffering really is.  Of course, a debate could be made about who defines “authentic,” but I won’t go there.  It’s my blog, and I define it, and I say giving up a Gucci bag ain’t it.  As ruler of the world here, I  also don’t mean to dismiss or minimize what someone may be going through, or to engage in denial, or to yell that my owie is bigger than yours.  It’s reasonable to expect room for improvement in our government, our lives, and have a (little) pity party once in awhile.  But my patience for artifice and drama, while NEVER sizable, is thinning as fast as my hair these days, I’m sorry to say.  One more neighbor example and I will shut up.  Maybe.

It was something like 8:30 at night when she knocked at our door a couple days ago.

“I am so sorry to bother you,” she said.  She is inevitably polite, and ever grateful, if I haven’t said.

“You’re not,” I said, and it was the truth. We were just laying around watching tv.  “What’s up?”

“It’s my arm.” She pitched both arms up at me. “I kind of knocked this one into the wall, and I want your opinion. Do you think it’s broken, or looks swollen, compared to the other?”

It didn’t, and I said so, but she was visibly upset.  “It just hurts so bad!”

She was bending it effortlessly, and I said although I was no medical expert, I was pretty sure if it was broken or fractured, she wouldn’t be able to do that without unbearable pain.

Again, the intense helplessness: “Oh, I don’t know what to do! I can get in tomorrow in the city, but what if it’s broken?”

“I don’t think it’s broken.”

“But Ellen, feel this bump on this arm, the one I hit.  Please.”

“Okay.”  I obediently touch the spot.  It feels like regular cartilage to me, but how the hell would I know?

“Now, feel my good arm.”

I acquiesce once more, feeling foolish, and I make a snuffling sound.

“It’s not funny!” She actually whines. And I know it’s not funny in any way, because she’s told me before she has severe osteoporosis. But here I am groping her arms, and it’s beyond weird, and I am beyond done.

“Listen, I’m not a nurse,” I say, possibly not very kindly. “Go to the ER if you’re that worried.”

She responds with protests about how they’d never be able to find it, (Fuck me. Really? Who doesn’t have Google Maps?), and how would that work with follow-ups, and blah, blah,blah, and all I can think about then is my other neighbor, my beloved friend of many years who has just been told his cancer is closing in, and I bluntly said: “Well, good luck,” and its all I can do to not shut the door in her face.

“Okay, pray for me, please.  Pray,” she intones as she leaves the steps.

No, pray for me, I think, feeling peevish all over again.

I know, this sounds bad.  I am normally quite a compassionate person. But as I inferred before, life hasn’t been normal lately, whatever that even means.  People are viciously battling over Confederate statues, and reeling from hurricanes and wildfires, with children and animals terrified and lost, and every single second, death is stealing the future’s promises. So, pardon me if I don’t brim with sympathy right now.  Pardon me if  I don’t care about an arm that will most likely be just fine in the care of the best insurance and medical care money can buy at the University of Chicago or Rush or wherever the fuck she goes. (And, guess what? I was right about the damned thing.  She texted me the next day to tell me).

Their move is done, and they are gone, and I can honestly say I probably won’t hear from her again unless I can fulfill a request from one of them. Believe it or not, I do wish them well. Tomorrow, maybe, when the Anger has worn off..

Friends, I wish you all well too, with or without my ale coursing through my veins.  And in these precarious, worrisome times, I paraphrase Zac Brown:  I hope this finds you with everything you need and nothing that you don’t.  (Of course, an amply supply of Michigan craft beer is in the “need” category…but other than THAT, the rest is a lot less than you might think…)