Calm Before The Storm

I was reading some excellent poetry but a line or two took me way back. The lines were talking about solitude and what it means to us. We are pack animals, but even animal families require thoughtful time.

When I was young, around 8 or 9 and an early memory, I bought a transistor radio at a garage sale. I remember that it cost $2. It was a pretty standard item back them. Small, white, and square with a little round dial to change stations and a slim wire and a single earpiece. Back then, I knew radio for music or listening to Cincinnati Reds. And at that time I listened to country music because that is what mom listened to. But it was also the first time I came to know that there was a thing known as talk radio. Where people talked about things, and other people listened and sometimes called in to participate. And this is the first time I remember deliberately stealing away to be alone–with my little radio. To find time with myself. To think and to listen and think some more.

Back then, the Vietnam war was still going on. And in those days, the news reporters gave a report each night about the number of VC killed and the number of American GI’s killed. Even at such a young age, I was struck by how could it be that night after night, we killed so many more of them than they killed of us. And yet the war had been going on for so long.

I wonder, if someone was in nature, seeing some amazing, spectacular view, and then, they received a terminal diagnosis of some disease or another, and then when back to the same view, if it would look even more spectacular. It would seem that if you knew your time was limited, perhaps senses would become more acute. I’ve heard something about this from people who have written on it from first-hand experience.

It seems that lives must be mostly relevant to our circumstances and our surroundings. Imagine a child raised in Manhattan, in wealth. With a nanny and private School and perhaps a chef and a dog walker. And then imagine a child raised in an Amish community, with all of the seeming limitations of that environment. And then, we apply the normal human propensity to embrace what we know, even while also indulging a curiosity about what we don’t know. The Amish child will feel like they have a gifted life, but also wonder about things they have no access to. The wealthy child will, perhaps to a lesser degree and perhaps more sub-consciously, be curious about a different sort of life. One without the trappings that they feel.

I woke up early this morning. Listened to a little Prine and Goodman. We could use John now. He was one of the early and high profile victims of COVID.

Jerry Jeff Walker died the other day. I saw him 3 times. All great shows. First time was in Pocatello at the Chief Theatre. Probably around 1992 or so. Next time was when I lived in Chicago and saw him at the Hard Rock Cafe; that would have been around 2004. The last time was just 4 or 5 years ago. September and I saw him in Belize. I think it was in March of 2015. It was one of the last decent trips we had together. We both knew our marriage was ending but we had not yet gotten around to talking about it. Jerry Jeff was pretty cranky that time. His health was failing and he complained about that and his guitars not staying in tune in the humidity of the Caribbean. But we had fun still. Sitting outside on the beach listening to Jerry Jeff and some others who had brought guitars to sing along. I did some diving and a lot of long walks on the endless beaches.


Eddie is the guy who collects the toll at the parking lot where I park on the days I drive. Super nice guy–always a big smile and asks me how my day is going. We usually have a little chat if there is not a car behind me. I tip him $1 and he always says ‘thank-you for the blessing‘.

Friday morning he told me he was going engagement ring shopping after work. He is 61 and his wife to be 31. He seemed happy and why not?

I have a friend who is pretty well off but going through a hard time. Or at least really struggling with the social implications of COVID. She makes a good living, but lately has just gotten really negative.  She is ‘so over it‘ and complaining about restaurants and bars being closed and implying we need to forgo social measures and get back to normal ‘for the sake of the economy‘. Her ‘economy’ is fine. But she misses her active social life. It’s not an uncommon sentiment right now. But I am intrigued by the juxtaposition of Eddie, in his toll collecting booth at a small parking lot in downtown Cleveland, who is always smiling and positive and now telling a stranger about his pending engagement to a new love in his life. While my friend with more money than she deserves cannot seem to find a reason to at least not complain too loudly at a time when so many others are hurting so badly.

Things have turned beautiful in Cleveland. Trees are in full color spectrum and falling in droves. I took a long walk around Tremont after having a nice lunch at Treehouse Tavern on Saturday. Guinness with eggs and gravy and potatoes. That was after a nice massage and I followed that up with a nap. I felt sort of king-like that day I guess. Did little to add value to the world, but definitely worked on the art of relaxation. Maybe tomorrow I will do something meaningful. But definitely not today.

I don’t care about football. I don’t care who wins or loses. But I do like on occasion to sit at a dive bar and drink beer all of a Saturday afternoon. And pretending to like football is a great excuse for sitting at a local neighborhood tavern and drinking away the day. Just a good ole boy supporting the local gridiron, and ostensibly even basking in the benevolence of advancing higher education for the good of humanity. It’s a noble thing sitting around drinking beer and watching those young men giving each other life limiting concussions for our entertainment.

Last weekend felt like true Autumn. Temperatures are now in the 40’s and it’s clear summer has departed. I’ve not been terribly productive in my time off lately. More reading and less writing and haven’t been out to the canoe for weeks. But I’m here. I am used to movement and am bit confused by this sedentary moment in time. I always assumed I would keep traveling and keep stirring shit up until I got too old for movement. But now this. I can’t even drive over the state line to New York to visit.

Well, nothing to do but hunker down. Burn the fires at night. Sip whiskey and wine and keep a steady supply of good books.

November next week. Thanksgiving followed straight up by Christmas and then 2021. It’s been a long time since I felt the need to reflect on a year. Time is fluid so this arbitrary measure has rarely interested me. But this year was special. Trump crazy train at warp fucking crazy; COVID; massive wildfires; worst hurricane season in a generation; mass unemployment; shuttered bars and restaurants; empty downtown streets; perpetual protests across the country at police brutality. We are shuttered in our homes. Afraid to even visit our parent’s for fear of infecting them with a disease we know is out there but can’t see.

Next week is Election Day. It needs to be over. 320 million people are on the edge of their seats. And another few billion around the world are hoping to see US come to our senses. Biden seems like a lock, but of course that’s what we thought about Hillary. No one is taking it for granted this time, but still. You never know. There is no bottom to human ignorance it seems. But we need the Senate too. Otherwise McConnell will just return to his old ways of fucking us by obstruction. I really really hate that guy. I am not a violent person, but I could be motivated to visit some pain on that guy. For all the heartbreak and trauma he has caused others over his long career in government thievery.

I’ll be working the polls on Election Day. Should be interesting. Definitely will be busy. I voted early. Needed to get it done so I am not bothered with trying to fit it in while working on that day. The line appeared long, but they were super organized and it only took about 15 minutes to get inside and another 5 minutes or so to get processed and through.

I talked on the phone last night for nearly 2 hours. First time I have done that for a long time. But good, interesting, thoughtful & passionate discussion around politics and current events.

By the time I post again, we will know if we have to live with 4 more years of insanity in the Oval Office.

The nights are long, but the sun eventually comes up. We’ll get through this.

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