Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sniffles, Gluttony, Virus


Virus
Part 30 of 30

It’s never part of my self-image to think of myself as a born loser. But what a month! The virus came in like a roaring lion and went out a defeated foe, and it really wasn’t that hard. Our political leaders led the way from victory to victory. They had what we haven’t seen in a while, good old fashioned selflessness, taking no account of themselves or future, but acted with just selfless giving, single-minded direction toward the common good. It’s been a blessing to behold, such a spirit radiating out from those at the top and continuing as an inspiration for everyone, from the cabinet, our representatives, all the way down to the lonely bum on 8th street. (I should take him a tract and convert him.)

I have to say, though, I'm busting with a great pride I feel for everyone -- what a country! What a world! -- but I do feel a little shame, a lot of shame and even existential revulsion that there was a time I was in a constant stir, a panic.There were times when I had my doubts, and not just split seconds of it. I was in constant mortification and desperation, oozing sweat, gallons of sweat. “What’s going to become of me? Am I lost? Is this my last hurrah? Will I die early in the month, only to have my rotted carcass blocking the door when the undertaker comes? They’ll have to push through, moving my body slowly toward the wall, blood and other bodily liquids making a mess of the living room and further shrinking the low property value the place already has. People will pass by crossing themselves, 'That’s where they found that bloated guy.'"

I should say in my defense, I am a lonely old man, single, all by myself with my fears. My imagination always gets the worst of me, and my paranoia is so crazy, running rampant to the point that with the slightest noise at the door I know I’m done for. But being old should be a reminder to me that, “What am I living for?” Am I living just to live another terrible day? No, that can't be right! Instead it's to be bold, to have the kind of mindset that I can do it, whatever it is. If others can live, breathe and prosper, why not me?

Just let me rank the enemies I’ve faced all month -- and thank God the virus is gone after today and I can get back to normal. The enemies included the sniffles. Right away when there was a toilet paper shortage at the beginning I convinced myself -- my paranoia -- that I was sure to get a runny nose. And just like clockwork, there it was. The sniffles were so bad, the sniffle molecules multiplied faster than usual, making it a torrent. I was trying to conserve toilet paper so I was using my sleeve, which tainted things even worse. I had to dig into my stash of toilet paper and took out just three or four squares. But those were quickly overwhelmed. Not being able to staunch my tears, I was completely overcome. Excuse me for saying this -- I’m usually a holy person -- but “Gosh darn them sniffles!”

Then there was gluttony, the deep seated feeling in me that I should eat more than my fill. We couldn’t get toilet paper, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have plenty of food. Canned goods, which never goes bad, except maybe after a hundred years. Every time I had the slightest pain, even my typical sore knees, I thought the remedy was another can. So I ate my fill. And with the eating only felt greater hunger, meaning I was up to my neck in empty cans. At night, after all the viral ghouls of the Big City passed by, I threw the bags of cans in the road.

Then last I faced the greatest enemy of all, the Virus itself. I made the mistake of not taking the discarded cans farther from home. Meaning the ghouls became three times as bad, craving the off scouring and even putting 2 and 2 together that the cans came from my house, so they were banging on the windows. Virus to the left, also to the right, and trying to pry into the basement and on the roof. I could do nothing but shout, “Virus! Virus!” The universal cry of taint drove them on to the next house.

In short, it was a terrible month.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Virus Is An Imp


Virus
Part 29 of 30

I’ve always been one attracted to those who know what they’re doing, knowing the ins and outs of life and are certain beyond belief, and even expand belief until it's certainty for all. Naturally, I’m talking about religion, where it’s sketched out “In the beginning” blah blah blah all the way to what is revealed at the very tip top pinnacle of the end. Everything's resolved...

The weird thing, actually, is that we know all the stuff from the beginning to the end, but we still maintain, at least fictionally, a little doubt as to how it affects our day to day lives. When, as common sense tells us, if you already have the beginning and the end, all drama should then be gone from the interim bits. If I had anything to do with it, anytime someone came to me with a problem, we’d review the opening, then the end, and the person would be immediately convinced that the interim’s OK.

But as it turns out it’s not always like that. My own suspicion is it can’t be that simple because everyone has to make a living. And what better way to make a living, perpetually, than by allowing doubts to grow up and thrive, and finally see worry ester and spill out everywhere, bearing bitter fruit. So that people are like dry plants in the desert when they should be sprouting and budding, alive with moisture and certain faith and knowledge.

It’s a self-perpetuating machine -- and there’s always room for someone else to jump on -- whereby we could, if only we wanted (and it’s easy to get crowded out if you pose the slightest threat), settle everything once for all in just a few seconds. I tend to see all sides of everything, then choose my answer and keep it to myself. Because I don’t like the threats of entrenched interests, never have, probably never will.

We always think religion is “so good,” that virtue is the default behavior. Big mistake. Every time you hear some guy in the public square calling the whole thing into question, then proposing a simpler understanding, notice how he or she’s always gone the next day. Our quick assumption is that they have such a grand message that they’re wanted in other towns, with a big demand. No, these spiritual vampires against the truth are up late at night, hustling people on to their reward, whether by drowning, stabbing, overloading them with poisons, basically everything except “God bless you.”

But thank goodness there’s still a few who not only understand it but put forth the true doctrine for people’s good, like this one guy I know whose prayers are immediately effective. His teaching is that believing your apparent symptoms is always wrong, positing as he does a never-ending series of “imps,” whom we might think of as devils or germs, but germs with a consciousness. Of course all germs have to eat, but do they have to be gluttons? No they don’t. And when they are, that’s when they need to be confronted and cast out.

His quick prayers are the prayers of power, big enough to end the virus in a heartbeat. Were it not for the others, those whose interests are behind the persistence of evil! They’d milk it forever, whereas my guy, he puts an end to suffering. People arise immediately from their so-called "bed of affliction" and march forward in newness of life. So won't you plan on it? To meet me in a dark alley near here, and bring your best offering, and I’ll turn you on as to this guy's whereabouts. Satisfaction guaranteed or a small portion of your offering will be donated to your favorite charity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Best Urn For Me


Virus
Part 28 of 30

We’re getting near the end of this dreadful series and I just want to dedicate it to the sweetest lady that ever lived, my dear Mother. When it came to ladies, I mean forget about it. She knew all the ins and outs of life and taught me the facts of life. Not just the reproductive stuff -- which has been done to death, Amen? -- but the real lowdown, the real scoop, everything from how to cut the legs out from under the other guy to how to hide the evidence.

You really gotta love her, the mind she had, able to see the details of every scheme without missing a beat. It's with fondness I remember coming home from school one day and she was on me like a ton of bricks. The teacher caught me copying another kid’s paper and I ended up with a big fat red F for my efforts. Mom was pissed, totally P-offed, and put me in one of those baby chairs where you’re trapped in the middle and encircled by a plastic tray four foot in diameter. Strangely, though, all she did was withheld my dessert, and in its place impressed me with stern eye-to-eye instruction and wisdom. “I have told you and told you, a million times, ‘The getaway is the number one priority, not the loot!”

And that’s a piece of wisdom that was attained at a high cost, missing my desert that night, so I’ve never forgotten. To help my memory, I wrote it on a 3 x 5 card and memorized it, and even swallowed it in case I forget what it said. A cough, a quick paper towel run over it and it’s good as new: “The getaway is the number one---” and so forth.)

So say I’m getting ready to scheme out a plan, you know, a job, perhaps a swindle, I think about the getaway. Some of the easiest marks in life are guys who think they know it all. Which I love. Pawn shop dealers come to mind. These guys are so cocksure that they know it all, they’re the easiest mark. They make a huge mistake with their feeling of certainty. Naturally I don’t know what their mothers taught them, and how often they’ve swallowed that advice, but it obviously wasn’t the same as mine. They’re probably thinking of the points along the way in scheming -- which generally works -- and not the getaway. I got in, already picturing my getaway and they didn’t know what hit them. I’d love to see what they upchucked. It was probably their mom saying, “The getaway is…” then there’s a gap, where she must have been on the phone and forgot her train of thought, now with the meat-of-the-goody of her advice missing.

Anyway, Mom was great and still lives in me, her richest advice as close as a cough. And I’ll never forget one of her greatest jobs -- she saw the future -- when she swindled a funeral home out of a bunch of urns, our family being quite large. We used the biggest urn for her, then since her getaway was a priority we took out her ashes and scattered them to the four winds. Whoever in the family’s responsible for my ashes, someday, whichever urn's the best, that’s what I’ll have. This might even be coming up, say the Virus gets me.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Self-Quarantining With "Men"


Virus
Part 27 of 30

The warnings have been pretty clear, the more we self-quarantine the safer we’ll be. To be alone is safer in the sense of the germs others have not getting on you. That much is common sense. But it’s still up to each of us -- having the virus as a common enemy -- to take care of ourselves while we have a fighting chance.

Of course families have to stick together. Having a family gives the benefit of being able to look after each another, a kind of holding each other to account. I heard it many times growing up, "The family has to stick together." Or as the soldiers used to say, "We need to hang together lest we hang apart." I always heard that, and that's actually one of the biggest reasons I never "served," I didn't want to hang apart. On the battlefield that'd be a lonely death until they came across your carcass one day -- three weeks dead -- hanging apart, and after three whole weeks, very much alone.

In other words, this is serious business. And that’s the way it must be dealt with, 1-2-3, stepping through it, having a certain discipline and sense of perception about the threat. It's no time for half measures or treating such serious business with anything but a serious response. Speaking for those around me, we've taken the serious path, huddling together, watchful for additional threats but for the most part optimistic that we'll make it through. You'd be proud of me. Four months into the pandemic, I got my first face-mask yesterday!

And we've had fun, actually, sheltering in place. I can well imagine such togetherness will have its additional rewards. As, say, nine months from now when the virus has passed and new people will be raised up to replace the old. (None of them will be mine. I knew it'd be tempting so I dipped my undies in wet cement, the fast-setting kind.) But for the others, this is the way of life, holding great promise for tomorrow and -- who knows? -- maybe facing a different virus on a different day. Because if you get one, there could just as easily be another million coming. God forbid, I know.

But not all of us are surrounded by people, friends or family, but instead are alone, the minutes passing slowly as they rouse into defensive posture every time they hear someone passing. "Are the hordes here to steal what’s mine, my toilet paper, my canned soup, or worse, my paper towels? Will they take my life? They may as well. Without my stuff what would I be? Withering on the vine until the grim reaper makes it official, 'He’s dead.'"

Anyway, I meant to say, all this breeding is happening where those equipped to do it are doing it. Meaning we’re just 7 or 8 months away from the dawning of the Q Generation, the Quarantiners in their youth. Their generation marked by the forever compulsion of stocking and restocking, "We never have enough! Take care of yourself with the uttermost caution. Plan way in advance. Anything can happen!"

For those who are about to pass on -- never to see the glorious days of nine months from now, let alone the adulthood of that future generation -- pass me that old copy of “Men.” Even if I'll never be a father, I can dream.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I'd Leave If I Could


Virus
Part 26 of 30

A few years ago I had a life like this, traveling the country, camping, and roughing it. I thought that was the way to go, but, like always, my paranoia got the best of me and I decided to transition out of the more hectic lifestyle into the more sedate life of The Big City.

Of course Grandma’s place was out of the question, as it had been a house in shambles, completely rife with mold, other bacteria, smelly stuff, and rot. Then the City condemned the it and helped me (they insisted on it while still charging me) tear the place down and haul it to the landfill. And believe me, it was tough watching bulldozers cover the last of the place under the soil. The only revenge of the house against them was when one workman was scratched by a rusty nail and ended up losing a toe. You take small victories wherever you find them.

Between the landfill, then, and the Big City, there was that camping/roughing it period. And I should have stuck with it. Because if there’s the slightest trouble -- and say everything else is OK with your truck, camper, health insurance, issues getting your mail, knowing how to file taxes, etc. -- you can always pull up stakes and go somewhere else. In short, any little thing can go wrong and you’re stuck. Stuck? You’re screwed. I don’t know how people do it long-term, although I’ve seen a few who have; they’re just not worrywarts like me. O! if I could do it again, but the money’s all gone...

So now the Big City has to be the focus when it comes to dealing with the virus. We’re crammed in by the millions. I see people walk by my place everyday, people I’ve never seen before. And do they all look healthy? Not by a long shot. It’s painful that there’s so much traffic. At Grandma’s old place, way back when, it was at the edge of town there weren't 20 people walking by in a month. There’s 20 or more an hour in the Big City. But where they’re going? I don’t know. I keep thinking I should follow them and find out. But I’m afraid they’d notice and I’d end up with house guests, which would be certain death.

When I was scrounging for aluminum cans a couple years ago I met a guy and talked to him. He invited me on his porch to visit and get some cans and so I did. Then he told me, with trepidation, never step on his property unless he was there and invited me. Because his son is totally crazy and would kill me just-like-that. I still drive by that guy’s house and wonder about his son. Is he watching, is he waiting? Big deal, his loss! The chances that I’d stop there now even if the dad WERE home are zero. I don’t know what the son looks like, but he about has to be huge and ugly.

OK then, here I sit, with all the dangers of the Big City and nowhere to go. Say the virus breaks out in full force: I’m dead. But say it doesn’t, say we become the safest place in the world. Then everyone will want to live here, including those with the faintest taint, and then -- because of our great success -- the virus will return and we'll end up dead.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Make Hulk Great Again

 

Virus
Part 25 of 30

It looks like there’s a lot of work to be done, if we’re up to the challenge. The world’s in a sorry state, it’s gone downhill with a vengeance. Whether by neglect or incompetence or too many bean eaters and not enough bean counters, everything’s gone to hell. I look out the window and of course it looks fine, the same old same old, as usual. But then there’s all those places where I don't happen to be, and unfortunately, due to worldwide communications, I’m able to hear how things are going, which lately has been uniformly terrible.

Certainly we’re having trouble getting people honest enough and hardworking enough to take the reins of leadership and commit themselves to doing a halfway decent job. A lot of halfwits and dumb-asses looking to enjoy the trappings of power, and of course after everything they can grab, instead of acting responsibly to do a good job with any decent ideals in mind. The way to look at it is that the world needs stewardship, good spirits doing a good job for the common good, at least a helping hand, but what we see instead is "Every halfwit for himself!", with the new standard being you’re entitled to everything you can steal and finagle for yourself. If you see it differently, of course you're one of the plunderers, or -- let's say you're not one of the plunderers (fat chance) -- you're at least tempted to put a crowbar through the hardware store window and steal something.

Yeah -- dammit -- it’s really too bad I'm not seeing the kind of pitch-in and help ideals I remember when I was a kid. Say the river overflowed and flooded the baseball field, every kid in town was down there carrying buckets of water back to the river. Then fan-drying the baseball field. Those were the days when you joined the scouts and you got a lot of merit badges. They worked us to death but we loved it. And along the way learned to tie our shoes, recite most of the numbers between 1 and 50, and could build a fire rubbing two sticks or burn ourselves trying. We learned the difference between different fish. And we could pitch a tent. Unfortunately there were a few prima donnas who could also pitch a fit if they were denied a single thing. But the good old days were good. We had a virus back then, we squished it in the dirt.

These days, the virus has some friends in high places, of course the usual crooked ones lining their own pockets from the common purse, all under the cover of being responsible, ha! Yeah, that’s how it is, but they’re not fooling me. I’m just not in much of a position for putting the clamps on 'em. I’d certainly insist on a fair trial, but then once found guilty, you know how it’d go: I'd insist on perfect justice, reparations, and prevention measures for the future. Make an example of the rapscallions and do away with their sort now and forever. And live happily ever after, dealing in the future with viruses (if any) according to wisdom and the common good, all hands on deck, with the usual cast of slimeballs sidelined once and for all.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Even Lincoln's Dissolving

 
Virus
Part 24 of 30

We know from the news on the current virus that there’s apparently no one wholly immune to it. But of course that doesn’t mean all is quite lost yet. You can get it and hope with all your might that someone just now -- preferably in your town, preferably on your block -- has come up with the antidote or cure.

The way my life goes, that never happens, but anyone else could be the first. You might remember, it seems like I blogged about it last year about this time, how I had a flat tire on the interstate. I felt the tire going rickety split and next thing I was on a particularly unforgiving narrow strip of blacktop about a mile from the next exit. I’m often afraid that’s how it’d be if I caught the virus; just my luck I'd be sidelined only to be passed by and nearly run over in the wild commotion.

Of course I have friends. And they were all very sympathetic to me when they heard what had happened. One especially helpful person said she had me in her prayers, even though the incident was past when I wrote about it from home. Still, it’s the thought that counts, and there’s no reason to open new wounds by scolding her for her callous misplacement of timing. I clearly indicated it was a past tense situation. So she’s still a good friend. But friends can’t be everywhere at once. And in that case, sidelined as I was on the interstate without notice, naturally none of them were there to help. I just don’t want that to happen with the virus.

The virus doesn’t care if you’re me, you, the last Nobel winner, the last Pulitzer Prize winner, or Moe, Larry, or Curly Joe. The virus is like the plagues of Israel, except it’s not looking for blood on your door before turning away. The virus doesn’t take breaks, coffee breaks, doesn’t stretch out in the bathtub in a hot bath, isn’t blackmailed or influenced by payoffs or bribery. It’s a steamroller, baby, guaranteed to blow your mind. Then when your mind’s blown, and you’re daydreaming all kinds of colors, visions, with such reality that you’re reaching out to them like treats from your kindly grandpa on your birthday, only to be clawed across the face by a rude viral swipe and left on the floor steaming, foaming at the mouth, and spinning in circles. Finally, you’re able to stand one last time, writhing against the wall, until you collapse and turn into a puddle of psychedelic foam, everything once straight and normal now seething and apparently distended.

Our illustration of Abraham Lincoln -- born solely to become my personal spirit animal -- is to portray this sad truth. You can be the best person in the world, or you can be half-ass, or you can be whomever-the-current president is, the virus doesn’t care. Check out his arms, the molecules are crazy, although the colors have a certain beauty; regardless, none of it bodes well for his health or future. And I might need a new spirit animal.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

BOOM! A Big Bang


Virus
Part 23 of 30

The sky was as empty as the day of creation, barely anything but a thought before The Great Mix-master, seeing nothing mixed up, bore the fruit we came to love, existence. Without fanfare, boom! Just another explosion, apparently -- a few angels went deaf -- although in this case it was the Big One and the damage was done. Existence happened, as we know it, coming into being and simultaneously also passed from being, at least in the mind of its maker. (We exist betwixt the two ends.)

So it was just another day, with the freshly minted sky showing the first word on the horizon -- BOOM! -- and everything appeared to be destruction. But it wasn't. Soon to come, then in a lingering phase, everything was an eyeful and earful, as all things were declared good in relation to nothing at all.

The same sort of thing thing happened just recently, giving us at least this month to suffer our bad fate -- O the joy of preceding generations and the misery of ours! Who knew the miseries we’d be compelled to suffer? I actually could probably come across with numerous “I told you so’s,” but if the lesson wasn’t learned the first time around, it’s unlikely that succeeding generations will know any better either.

Regardless of warnings, regardless of the spot we’re now in, what our destiny is and could’ve been, here we are. As I write this I sit in a cement chair in a thick bunker, itself encased in hardened wood, hoping to expose myself to society again someday and become once again the fount of confidence, spewing hope and grace to all who shall receive. The healing will come, and on that point I am sincere. This too shall pass, my father used to say, and a bright day of new possibilities shall be seen.

Yes, the virus is bad, plaguing the cities, plaguing the countrysides, making a mess of all our surroundings, and nothing can mask the truth. We must abide, though, whether hidden or exposed, perhaps never again to take for granted our lives and aims, until someday when it’s all passed and a new generation -- probably equally as cocksure of themselves -- shall rise and surmount our present fears.

Until then, until the blast has passed, may each of us find ourselves a secure place, apart from the rest, and do our flat-out best to pass the time, surviving, yes, but then, bit by bit, pulling together, to flourish once again! Amen?

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Virus: No Crowding Please

 

Virus
Part 22 of 30

Right this minute it’s Virus time at the OK Corral, the whole world, all of us gathered together, trying to avoid contact with the most minute creature, ants, roaches, people. Even eye contact’s discouraged because it’s a slippery slope, mostly with people. It leads to speaking and speaking to french kissing and french kissing to the rest of the slippery slope, crashing and burning at the bottom of a smoldering heap. I know if I had burning at the bottom I’d have it looked into, but with the virus it’s too late.

It’s one of the things we depend on in life, though. Not exactly the slippery slope but the many beneficial ways one things leads to another. We depend on it and make lists to remind us of the many one things that lead to others. Or we just know by experience. I don’t need a list to run my TV, although it’s a lot harder than it used to be, so many channels on numerous sources. And most of the things I eat I already know how to fix them, but if you have to juggle a dozen different things for a party, it'd certainly be a good idea to have a checklist. The more depressing the task, the more you need a list.

But also the more depressing things get, the more I’d rather deny it, change it, abandon it, and finally get the hell out of there. If they suddenly put me in charge of a prison during a pandemic, as a wild example, I’d be so freaked out I’d get the hell out of there right away. But being a prison, where they could lock you up, and say they had to poor judgment to put me in charge, maybe I’d have no right to object. In which case I’d confer with a few trusted associates and see what we could do to shut the whole place down and get out while the guards were busy shooting prisoners, essentially a free-for-all.

Like in the movies, then, I and whoever else was involved would be yelling in crazy celebration of our success while leaving, speeding past the sign at the outskirts of town, “Home of The Same Prison That’s Been Here for 100 Years.” I’m very paranoid about that prison, I think this is the second time I’ve mentioned it today. It’d certainly be a bad place to be during an epidemic, which is a given since it’d be a bad place to be anytime.

Obviously no one’s crowding in to be infected by the virus. Not now, not ever. We have a drive in us, usually, to keep going, always hoping for tomorrow and often even living for tomorrow. Which may never come, but since it always does, tomorrow will be no exception. Someday when it doesn’t come, I’m assuming I won’t notice, and my place will be taken by someone else waiting for it to come and it will. The key thing betwixt hither and thither is to avoid whatever plague there may be that’d squelch our desires. Be it plague, be it virus, even be it someone I don’t know’s birthday party that I’m inexplicably trapped into attending. That’s not going to happen, I know. But … what if it did!? The ugly fickle arm of fate would spell it out for me: “NEXT!” And there’d I go, No Crowding Please.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Virus Suddenly Much Worse


Virus
Part 21 of 30

The virus is here, of course. I think about it, a collection of germs with a nucleus, whatever, and how famous it is, even infamous. And yet in its little world it’s oblivious to its fame and the destruction we see from our point of view. In a weird way, however bad it seems to us, it’s going through its life or liveliness merely as it's compelled by its nature.

And so it goes. I sit here at this old typewriter, thinking over a few thoughts. Run to the kitchen for another pot of coffee, then I’m right back, click clack clack bing, another line of viral wisdom to calm the masses, trying with all my might to put what's going on into some context and of course struggling to make sense of what seems senseless at first blush. But it’s only senseless if our own lives of running to the store, carrying things home, fixing dinner, and going to bed at night are senseless.

We really ought to have the upper hand against the virus and probably do, if nature’s what we think it is. That is, benign and passive even if perceived to be against us. One rule has to be, yes, it’s driven toward ends, but they’re not likely conscious ends, a kind of thought like, “I need to infect 12 more people before nightfall.” That'd be terrible, the goal-driven life for viruses! With merit medals and all the rest.

We’d expect that, though, if there were aliens from outer space terrorizing us. And I’m not saying there’s not, even though I don’t believe there is. Wouldn’t that be a great talent if we could see everything revealed exactly as it is? Meaning I'd immediately discern there’s a slime monster virus on my house, not small or subtle but about a mile thick and also encompassing the Big City. If everyone could see it, we'd have an all-points bulletin, “Exercise all caution, This thing multiplies and expands based on the attention we show it.” The sergeant explains the facts of life to me and I ask the natural question, “Should we be discussing it?”

Good news, I just checked the roof and everything seems normal. None of the surroundings, nearby houses, lawns, appear to be under any unusual pressure. The grass isn’t moving in strange reactive ways. There’s no unnatural shadows. The wind is blowing and moving things slightly but nothing out of the ordinary, normal as our usual boring day.

However, I do seem to be coughing more than normal. And when I came back from the bathroom, the typewriter suddenly seemed to fall from the air and hit the table. Sort of a freakish thing to happen, but no doubt explainable. And it’s suddenly not quite as sunny out. In fact I can’t even see the light of day... And there’s big psychedelic corpuscles up and down the skin of something! It’s oozing, grasping, pressing in! The light fixtures are filling up with what looks like fruit juice! Send help, I think I’ve stumbled on something!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Flee The Medical Profession

 
Virus
Part 20 of 30

I'm giving a big shout-out to all the doctors, nurses, orderlies, and med aides out there helping us in this terrible time of Virus. You’ve been great and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that in many ways you’re risking your own good health for the benefit of others. I believe I know how you feel, “Damn Hippocrates and his stinking oath! I could’ve been an architect, or a plumber, and when a pipe goes bad you unscrew it and put in a new one! We’re not trying to save the stupid pipe; it has a lifespan and when it’s over it’s over!”

True, true. But quite foolishly you chose the foolish path anyway -- it’s terrible the ideals we dream up when we’re kids -- and now it’s too late to start over in plumbing school. It’d take an awful lot of bad pipes and a lot of misery catering to homeowners trying to talk you down to a bare nothing just to pay off your medical school debts. Not to mention your embarrassment with parents, loved ones, and your easily depressed children, vulnerable little anemics: “I thought Mommy was a healer...boo hoo.”

OK, we get it, you’re stuck in a rut. And the politics of the profession, along with the reputation of the hospital -- run by cutthroats that thankfully the rest of us never deal with -- is all at stake. And you shall do this dirty business during the Virus because you have no real choice. Say you didn’t have parents, friends, children, etc., you'd really have some options for escaping, disappearing one night and going somewhere. Say everyone knows you’re from up north, you go south, and vice versa depending on how tricky you think it’d be. Then you find an aged plumber, befriend him, and use your medical skills to somehow off his wife and children sequentially and with real stealth, and you take over the business.

But the complications are obvious. It’s like a surgery, where it’s tough to mess up, especially with witnesses, and scalpels bugged with microphones and tiny cameras recording every little thing. You’ve been so pent up with the Virus that it’s easy to go out drinking, then show up the next day -- the place overwhelmed with the Virus and yourself overwrought with worries and all these “I coulda been a plumber” regrets. It’s too much for anyone, especially with the do-gooder reputation you’re supposed to have.

Then there’s the drugs, and that’s a biggie. Pharmaceuticals, I believe is one of the in-group code-words for it. Maybe you can escape tomorrow with a little dose of something, a little mind nookie for a bad day, who’s gonna know? They’re not filming you at home. And say you unscrewed that light in the backyard, you could vanish anywhere, as long as you can shimmy over the concrete blocks stacked up between yourself and the street with the broken streetlight. Then stop by a bar and try to get in in with the real pharmacy. Now you’re lost in your own reverie, Virus be damned! See that? You’re not as trapped as you thought you were. Let the world deal, you’re free!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Afterlife's Pretty Cool

 
Virus
Part 19 of 30

O the beautiful afterlife we're all looking so forward to. I get up every morning wondering if I've died in my sleep. I look around and if things aren't heavenly and sparkly I get up and take the dog out. It’s a huge thing with me and proves I'm above-average optimistic. And it's only natural when everyday we're facing viruses and death is the main off-ramp. Or you survive and "get" to carry on with the same old drudgery, paying the bills and washing the dishes.

Then what do we do? Put on our mask and hit the local hospital to comfort a dying friend, standing 20 feet away across the room and wishing this could be one of those hospitals that doesn't allow visitors during a pandemic. And there I am, standing, my fingers rubbing my nose, trying to shoo away the virus. A nurse comes in with a glass Jello dish and it falls and cuts your foot really bad. Just another place for the virus to take root and kill me. I finally decide, next time I'll send a card.

All of us are facing the death penalty, though, sooner or later, whether we're 15 or 50 or 75. So it may as well be the virus, or a traffic accident, or we meet someone who gives us a massive hickey and turns out to be a vampire. I was surprised a few years ago to learn how many people are literally into vampirism. It makes you wonder what other abominations are out there. Although if they're doing it with safeguards, not literally sucking your blood, etc., then I’m sure it would be an interesting kink. We’re all looking for interesting kinks. Check that, my kinks are much more innocent, involving me not leaving my house and you being perpetually disease-free.

I’m fairly old here, older than average, for sure. But there’s older yet out there. I saw one old guy in the store the other day, and with the virus flaring up all around us I had to wrestle him in the aisle for the last roll of toilet paper. I was “that close” to extricating it from his feeble hands, bulging vessels, the works -- and pretty close to calling for the jaws of life against him -- when he clutched his heart and played the old heart attack ruse. The booing of other shoppers and the way the store manager ran in shrieking at me that the police were even now on the way -- they sit outside the door playing cards smoking -- helped loosen my grip. Short story end, I got up, cussed out everyone involved, fingered them with some speed, insistence and prejudice and got the hell out of there. There was a kid that took down my license number so now I’m banned. But look how nice I was. I didn’t fight till he had a heart attack, they all made sure of that.

Anyway, the afterlife’s out there. And whether you go now, today, or wait a few days, or maybe your appointment is still years away, it’ll be over before you know it. I think of it everyday when I sleep. Say I sleep eight hours at night, an obscene amount of sleep for our mortal bodies to demand. That’s a third of your life right there. And the afterlife’s always on the horizon! Then another third is spent watching TV, fixing meals, taking the dog out, etc. With the other third being spent, for those who have jobs, making enough money that you’ll have a bed to waste the first third and all the stuff needed to waste the other third on dogs, meals, and TV. Essentially life is vain, but it’s the best we’ve got.

Once we get to the afterlife we’ll likely find it’s no bed of roses either, but something else to manage the best we can. Ultimately I hope it’s not all in vain, lots of stupid tasks to waste your time. I know it’s forever -- eternal -- but that doesn’t mean we’ll use the time wisely.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Bacilli -- The Whole Set


 Virus
Part 18 of 30

I may as well confess, it’s been a long time since I did coursework in bacteriology and immunology. But when I did it -- a solid 10 semesters plus a half-page essay -- I was good. I went from bar to bar and party to party and never caught a thing, truly while having my way with the best and worst of them. You might remember my thesis: "If We Can't See It, It Ain't There -- Why Is Society So Damned Stupid?"

Of course I knew that viruses are real. One particularly bad strain of pneumococcus was going around and I followed the directions to a T: “Put a banana peel in your shorts before the party.” Nothing vague about it. That was the year the banana flu killed virtually an entire generation. My saving grace was I had the caution to wrap the peel in plastic. I needed it to keep my shorts clean, but it also kept the fatal absorption in my tender undercarriage at a harmless minimum, sparing my life while leaving me in the hospital until a healthier shipment of bananas arrived from down south. Now I’m immune.

It’s really an exciting field to be in, getting the latest lowdown on disease bacilli, especially if you load up on life insurance. I had my entire family as beneficiaries, and you wouldn’t believe the various strains they were setting by my napkin at the dinner table. But I remained well-read on the subject and thwarted all murder attempts. I developed such a confidence that I could tell you precisely how much of the most dangerous things you could eat and keep in your stomach till they needed to be expelled to save your life. But all fun things come to an end, like when friends try to go for the world record and end up dying. Unfortunately, I was never their beneficiary, keeping me as poor as ever.

These days, now that I’m much older, it’s harder to keep up on the latest specimens and research. But I keep up on it as much as I can. See the one that looks like a purple seahorse? It looks fairly benign, but it’s as dangerous as they get. Then look at the large-mouth orange blob at the top. Looks like it might eat you alive, but it’s relatively harmless, living on dandruff! So just comb your hair near it and it’s your friend for life. But let’s say you’re one of those unfortunate people without dandruff. That angers it and it’ll crawl up your nose. But don’t fret quite yet. A friend with dandruff can still save you, although, absent a friend, it explodes in 10 seconds and goodbye head.

Looking around the gallery I’m filled with lots of memories. They’re not all dangerous, you know, if you catch them out of season, if you don’t breathe too heavily, and if you have a lucky charm, like one of those pennies that’s smashed into a Lord’s Prayer. Anything like that, while not foolproof in saving you, is still better than nothing. As you’re passing on -- just like with our current virus -- the prayer and a touch of faith might keep you from burning. But your time on earth is certainly over.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Great Bacteriums


Virus
Part 17 of 30

Right up front I need to put out a disclaimer on this one, that, perhaps, what I seem to recall as “The Great Bacteriums of Old” may not have existed. They're telling me that. Yet I seem to remember the elders talking about them when I was a kid. But this other guy I know, whose great grandparents were a prominent fixture in the 1800s supposedly never told their children and their children’s children about such affairs, because this other guy never heard of it.

I’ve been mulling it over, googling to no avail, and I always thought they had such a reliable service, but so far it’s all coming up empty. And yetg it just seems to me that my grandfather, who was born in the late 1800s, had said something about something that his grandfather reportedly mentioned in some context, the exact quotation now lost. As I can put it together -- and there are blanks -- I’ve got the syllable “-teriums and the fact that one of my grandfather’s cousins died of bacteria. Poo poo it if you like but it’s ballpark close, close enough to go with.

So there it was. When people were lucky to live into their 30s and would often defer marriage till they were 35 just to be on the safe side, thanks to inheritance issues and whether ladies or guys were marrying each other for their money, they had these bacterium exhibits. With my understanding being that loving couples used these sideshows to settle inheritance issues for their combined wealth, killing two birds with one stone and hoping neither lover would die in the process. But if they did die too soon, you understand, one family would be left destitute and the other family (his) would make off with the loot. A little complicated.

I based my artist’s depiction of the bacterium based on other sideshow exhibits, leaving out, of course, women with stockings up to their thighs because our tastes these days are less carnal than they went with back then. Personally I have no issue with it, but sometimes there’s issue if I view it long enough. Depends on how hot it is, and some of those east European ladies -- thighs as big as a horse’s -- were immediately hot. Our grandpas had it made, making me wonder why all the grandmas I’ve seen, including my own beloved grandmas, had more modern thighs. My family obviously didn’t range far, or have as high of standards when it came to mating. And I guess it’s still that way. I like most things that move.

Imagine though, getting back to the bacteriums, how tough the folks of old were when it came to viruses. They weren’t fooling around. The showed the virus who was boss, and those who weren’t pushy enough, presumably, died. We could draw a certain parallel with today, too, and probably be pretty accurate. Although one of our modern prejudices is not to easily accept responsibility for our problems. But it’s definitely something to think about, how tough we are, and how supposed tough the virus is.