Here we go again

At this moment in history, in these United States, we must search very hard and very deep for optimism. COVID is surging again. And people are tired. Exhausted. Worried. Frustrated and angry. Is there no end to this? Experts are predicting continued increases in cases. More deaths. More hospitals struggling under the strain and of course continued masking, retail closures, and social-distancing.

And the election is looming. Both sides feel like this is a turning point and the stakes are enormous. Trump fans, inexplicably, cling to the ridiculous notion that the country is better off now than it was 4 years ago. This in spite of a massively botched COVID response. Increasingly erratic weather patterns due to global warming; fires, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes. There is more of everything bad and social interactions are limited to few, far-between, and minor in scale. And of course the daily barrage of lies and misinformation and general fucking lunacy that is the Trump man-child.

And Biden fans, are absolutely certain we must have the executive branch back in the hands of someone who is not crazy. I don’t think anyone expects great things from a Biden administration; we just want to stop the craziness. United States, never really having ever achieved that shining star status that we’ve always aspired to, will almost certainly continue the downward slide towards former global superpower status, albeit at a slightly decreased rate of decline. I don’t know of anyone who is overly excited about a Biden presidency, but everyone I know is voting for him. Voting against Republicanism up and down the ticket.

And, under the right scenarios, which is entirely feasible, the election is close and due to high numbers of mail-in ballots, hotly contested. Trump will almost certainly resist conceding the election. Lawyers will get involved, but there is unlikely to be clear consensus. Lower courts will falter and cases will get escalated to the supreme court, which now will be 30% Trump appointees and 6 conservative dicks against 3 reasonable judges.

The Senate is possibly within reach of Democrats—but, those races are also going to be razor-thin and it could be days or weeks before we know who won. And, again, there could be recounts and lawsuits.

Trump’s evil lackey’s; stupid, thuggish, heavily-armed militia groups posing as patriots will be out in force, looking to bait someone into a fight so they can use their guns.

It will be a scene man. A wild, surreal, 3rd world, banana-republic spectacle of biblical proportions.

I remain largely detached from the whole fucked up scenario. Living alone, I just do my thing. Take the bus to work in the morning. Take the bus home in the afternoon. Take a long walk every day. Read, write, cook; take care of the house; talk to the folks. Start all over. Aside from the hassle of strange restaurant rules, I am largely unaffected in day-to-day living. I am perpetually happy because my life is so simple most times anyway, that these social changes have a minimal effect. If I lost my work, that would be a serious impact. But hoping to avoid that.

I’ve started a list of places to visit as soon as travel is feasible. Namibia and Amsterdam of course. Overdue on both of those. Scotland for whiskey and rugby during 6 Nations tournament. Madrid and Seville—maybe Lisbon and Porto if time permits.

I’ve gotten in some decent hikes lately. The weekend past a good long hike in Brecksville on a beautiful sunny Autumn Saturday afternoon. Sunday was chores at home. I bought 1/2 cord of firewood from some geek in Medina. He assured me it was seasoned and ready to burn. He lied. It was probably still bearing green leaves 30 days ago. It refused to burn last night; just sweated water and smoldered. So I will have to buy some truly seasoned wood and very slowly filter this stuff in so that it can dry and slow-burn next to a very hot fire. What kind of asshole sells green wood as ‘seasoned’?

I made a masterful quiche and corn chowder on the weekend. Delicious.

When we look back through the violent history of these lands, and if we are willing to embrace complete honesty, we cannot distance ourselves from the stark reality that from the time Columbus stumbled on these shores, white people have employed despicable acts on every race that is not white. We immediately enslaved, tortured, raped, imprisoned, and attempted genocide and we’ve never stopped.

Even before Trump, we watched as the Bush administration abandoned Geneva conventions to imprison and torture people at will. We showed complete disregard for rule of law or respect for human decency. We chose stupid vengeful acts of senseless violence in our desperation to hurt someone; anyone, after 9/11. We indiscriminately bombed people in many countries, not just Afghanistan and Iraq. Our bombs killed tens of thousands of innocent people while they were at weddings or at funerals or having dinner or praying.

In other cases, we simply chose to execute ‘high-value targets‘. And always we did it without first allowing them the benefit of a trial, as our code of conduct demands. And we very often did it with drones; killing innocent people while our pilots sat safe and secure tens of thousands of miles away. Dropping bombs on whoever; based on incomplete data, imperfect technology, and questionable intelligence. We have become so accustomed to America waging war on anyone and everyone, inside our country and outside of it, that it is just woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We accept that we will kill anyone our government deems must be killed. Or, if not killed, definitely made to be subservient to white, male dominant power. We are so inured to violence from our government that we simply don’t notice anymore. Violence is in our DNA.

People are still burning black churches. Police are still legally shooting blacks. 40% of the nation wants to build a massive wall on the Mexican border and take steps to stop virtually all immigration. This country, this government, is simply toxic in character and in structure. I doubt it can ever be reformed. We would be better off if someone put us out of our misery so we could not do more damage to the planet. To other people and other species.

Then came Trump craziness and we got significantly worse in character as a nation.

Where am I wrong in this assessment?

Back at Parnell’s on Friday night. Sort of becoming a habit. My martini was an old-fashioned. Felt like something different.

I’ve been following a few writers on medium. There are some good writers out there. Lots of people putting down their thoughts on important topics. Many who are very eloquent and creative in their craft, which is inspiring.

I was all set go to go Holiday Valley to ride the mountain bike last weekend. Then the hotel I booked called and said that I was not allowed because Ohio had been put on the travel ban list. Or, more precisely, I could go, but once I was there I would have to quarantine for 14 days in my hotel room. This is for a 2.5 hour drive over a completely arbitrary border.

I am for sensible policies to try to stop this scourge. But this policy seems woefully poorly thought out.

Examples.

I could drive across the border into New York and go to 6 or 8 restaurants, some coffee shops or wherever, infecting people right and left. As long as I didn’t check into a hotel. Or, when they called, I could have told them I had been working remotely and living in New York for many months; my credit card billing address was Ohio, but I had in fact been living for many months in Buffalo. How could they know? If I were to decide to go, perhaps next weekend, I would just make a booking and use that one as an explanation. Considering I live alone, and work for a very responsible company that makes me get tested every 30 days and has extreme safety measures in place at work, I am probably lower risk than most of the maids they have cleaning the rooms at the hotel.

But there is no playbook. Mostly people are doing the best they can–even if that includes policies that have not been well thought out.

Family drama continues. I can’t put it down here in public. But it is causing a lot of anxiety and that is not helpful right now–coming off a diverticulitis attack that is known to be exacerbated by stress. Not much really stresses me out. But family matters do. It’s my connection to this existence and without it, I would drift away.

So with an out of town trip off the calendar now, I will do some chores around the house. Maybe go for a long ride tomorrow down near Canton where there are supposed to be some good trails. I need to get back to work on the canoe. If I am going to get the inside fiberglass and epoxy on, it must be done before temperature drops too much. I can’t put the epoxy on with the garage doors closed or I will die. So best to do it with the doors open, but temperature needs to be above 60 degrees.

A few more people on the bus this morning. Good to see. I like the thought of public transportation being well-supported and financially viable.

There was a stark and startling presentation from Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse about the judicial inquiry for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to Supreme Court Justice. I have included it here because it is just that amazing. Basically, Whitehouse systematically characterizes how dark money has bought and influenced the current conservative court. To the tune of 80-0 on key cases–all decided by a 5-4 vote from a Conservative Supreme Court. And these decisions have all been about preserving power by suppressing minority voting and gerrymandering. The goal is continued favorable tax credits for the wealthy, subservience to corporate interests, and taking away affordable health care. Basically anything that is actually good for the masses is severely curtailed while enabling already sympathetic policy for the wealthy. Unfucking-believable what this country has become. As noted before, we were never that great to start with, so we are just on a dark and heart-breaking path to more vicious and evil policies designed to keep making the rich more wealthy at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised.

America has always been defined far more by her potential than by her reality. But to see this kind of backsliding from the small gains that have been made is thoroughly disgusting.

Panhandlers. They are everywhere and Cleveland is no exception. It’s always a tough thing to get the right strategy here. I don’t like to make broad assumptions about anyone’s level of need. One person might be scamming, not really needing the money, while the next person may be sleeping under a bridge and hungry. I hardly ever know what money I have in my pocket. I hate to reach in and my smallest bill is a $20. I never have change. I am often carrying something, which means I must stop, not just slow down. But stop and jockey things around to dig into my pocket to get some bills. That sounds harsh—like I am too busy to help? That makes no fucking sense.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a selfish person. But it is just interesting to think about how we deal with the every day reality of people asking for money.

What is the humane position here? I suspect most are seriously down on their luck. But how to decide who to give to and who to ignore? Maybe take quarters and give a quarter or two to everyone? Or pick one person and give them a $5 and check the social responsibility box for the day? Spread the love with a small amount or pick one lucky winner and give him/her a tidy amount? And how to reconcile against the other monthly contributions. School fees in Namibia, Namibia general welfare since COVID started, Cleveland Food Bank, NPR. I generally rationalize giving nothing to panhandlers by telling myself I am doing my bit in those other areas. But we can always give more. And worst case is, we give a few bucks to someone who doesn’t need it–who is just truly lazy and taking the easy money. I don’t really care and anyway, I suspect this is a very small percentage of panhandlers. I would imagine most are not in a good place.

It seems like just getting a job at Home Depot would be easier than standing on a corner trying to get money from people—assuming you are capable and not mentally deficient. So my assumption is that people who are looking for a handout, most likely need it. You gotta figure mental illness is a big part of this group. How many people simply are not capable of managing a job or a place to live even if they can get the money. But they do not have other options. Then you add in alcohol and drug addiction.

The other day, in Ohio City, I was climbing on my motorcycle when a guy spotted me from across the street. He came over as I knew he would after we made eye contact. He had a cheap little faux leather box in the shape of a bottle that he called a wine case. He tried to sell it to me. It was very ugly and completely shit design and, as I said, fake fucking leather tacked on to cheap wood with a cheap little carrying strap. Probably $8 in a Chinese discount store. I declined to buy that gem, so then he just asked for a little something because he was hungry. I said ‘Sorry mate, I can’t help’. Which we both knew was a lie. As I climbed on my highly engineered German luxury motorcycle in my expensive leather jacket. Of course I could have afforded to give him a few bucks. I chose not to. I rationalized it away, but also I didn’t like that he had crossed the street to target me. That seems outside the rules. I think if we walk by, that’s the game and we are a fair target. I am prepared for that. After I declined the donation, he said ‘guess my skins the wrong color’. Well, of all the reasons I can manufacture to not give, that one is not legitimate. But how would he know. Middle-aged white dude—probably odds would be that he was correct.

Today I slid by a guy asking for a money and I just held my hand up as I walked by. Didn’t say anything. He said ‘Okay. No problem. God Bless’. Well, that’s not really fair. Sort of passive-aggressive to ask god to bless me when I just cheeked him. He’s not supposed to forgive me. I prefer to be damned.

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