Now What

Well, that fucker is on the way out. Good riddance to the darkest period of political history in my lifetime. And I was alive during Watergate and Vietnam.

As seems to be my new normal, a random ragtag collection of short notations made over several weeks. Disjointed and not particularly interesting. But I am committed to routine maintenance, even when not inspired to write. And besides, what really is going to happen sitting at home day after day after day.

I’ve gotten in some good hikes. But today is rainy and overcast and so just hunkered down.

Politics continues to dominate the media but I have checked out. Biden will shift to the center now that he is elected and disappoint me and all the others who have so much hope for a truly progressive party to emerge from the wasteland of these two parties that have held us hostage for our entire lives.

The main news is that Trump is refusing to concede the election and deliberately preventing his administration from cooperating with a peaceful transition of power. But Biden will be president.

COVID has really come back with a vengeance. Over 250,000 dead and approaching 200,000 new cases daily. All of OH is in red and at least a couple of counties purple—which they had to invent to have something worse than red status. Thanksgiving at mom-and-dads is still on for the moment. Just them, me, Larry, Terri, Shannon and Yvonne. No spouses or partners and no kids. But this is Sunday so will see what happens between now and Thursday.

So for now, I am not leaving the house except for absolute essentials and to walk.

Things in Namibia are really bad. I feel terrible for my friends there. Some of the young people are going back to their villages. There are no jobs in the cities and at their villages they can at least have porridge and a place to sleep. Frieda just received her masters degree in English and Applied Linguistics, but is living in the north in a small village. It is very very difficult for them all right now.

All of my problems are decidedly 1st world problems. I have a good job in tough times. Am mostly healthy in spite of this new life partner called Diverticulitis. COVID quarantine rules for me are probably more palatable than most since I have spent a lifetime embracing solitude. I am both blessed and cursed to not have a live-in partner. Single people are suffering, but in some cases, less than people locked up with the same person for weeks and months on end. We’ll call that one a neutral. Of course, if Little Mandela were here, that would be a game-changer, but again, 1st world problem. I am blessed.

But………

COVID quarantine does get old. I realize now that, pre-COVID days, even though I was alone most times, I was most often alone in social settings. Coffee shops, museums, restaurants, movie theaters. People-watching stimulates thought and reflection and I now realize I did not fully appreciate the importance of that. It’s affecting my writing and increasingly my psyche.

Hating Donald Trump, and trying to understand and contextualize Trump supporters is fucking exhausting. I have chased down every single potential rationale for why someone might potentially support DT and I still don’t get it. I am either too dumb or too smart.

Other 1st world problems. Health insurance in these United States is really a fucking hassle. I do not understand people who are against a single payer system. Example #1. I was recommended by my doctor to get a shingles vaccine. So she wrote the prescription. I went to CVS and they would do it for $185 and insurance does not pay for it. They recommend I go to a Cleveland Clinic pharmacy where it would be free. So I went to a CC pharmacy. Even though my health insurance is through them, they could not see the prescription because my doctor, not knowing CVS would charge me, sent the prescription there. So after 90 minutes lost at two different pharmacies I have no inoculation. So now I must call the doctors office and sort that out. And then I will have to take more time off of work to get the vaccination.

Example #2. I needed a new prescription for my blood pressure medicine. So the doc called it in. Again to CVS by mistake. So I call them back and ask them call it into Caremark instead (also owned by CVS) and is our recommended provider at CCF health care. So, 8 days later, Caremark still has not sent the meds and I am 100% out. So, on Friday I went to CVS and they no longer had the prescription since it had been sent to Caremark. They would not fill it even though they can see the prescription was put in. They recommend I go to CCF pharmacy for a few pills to tide me over. So I do that. But CCF pharmacy would not give anything. They refused to give me even a few days worth even though they are my preferred provider, and they could see the prescription was written and can see my history which shows I’ve been on this medicine for years. We’re talking blood pressure medicine here–not opioids.

So, I call the doctors office and ask them to send in a short prescription to hold me over until Caremark package arrives. They agree. I wait in the parking lot for 30 minutes and then finally go home to wait. Later, I get the text saying the prescription is ready, but it is just before they close on Friday. This CCF pharmacy, which his adjacent to and attached to an urgent care facility, is not open on Saturday and Sunday.

So fuck it. I have a martini.

And that is why in spite of living in the richest country on the planet and having a gold-plated health insurance policy I am now on day 3 of no blood pressure medicine. And have no shingles vaccine. Both issues that one could envision would easily be remedied with a single payer system with one big database.

Still, 1st world problems. I’m aware.

I had a handyman help me put in an overhead fan on my very high ceiling a few weeks ago. It worked great — for a week. Then it just quit working. I checked and there was no power to the switch, which was weird. I checked breakers of course, and no issue there. So, the handyman comes back. We spend an hour, checking this and that and rooting around in the attic to see how the wires are dispersed. There is a switch in my walk-in that controls the light in the attic. As it turns out, for some fucking crazy ass reason, the cable to the box for the ceiling fan is fed from that switch–which is on the other side of the house and not at all an obvious choice. And sure enough, the wire nut in that switch was put on improperly so the connection was not solid. So the fan worked for a while and then quit.

So it is now working again, but after another house call and time lost. 1st world problem of home-ownership, which is over-rated really. Says the guy who is not homeless.

Veterans Day is always a little complicated for me. I joined the Navy at 18. Not out of any sense of patriotism. I joined because I knew I had to get out of the little town I was raised in. No one from my family had ever gone to college and we didn’t really even know how. It sounds crazy now, but we just had no experience or context. Dad wasn’t around that much and mom didn’t drive. Besides, what did you do? Just drive up to the closest college and ask to get started? After writing a big check of course—which our family did not have.

My brother was working 60 hours a week at McDonald’s and taking a class here and there at Wright State when he could manage the time off. It would take him 20 years to finish at that rate.

At school, I brought up the idea of college a time or two at the guidance counselors office, but no one took it serious. I was an average student and they just seemed to think it was best if I applied for a job at The Armco steel plant after graduation. I figured if I didn’t get out of town, that I’d probably wind up there and soon enough have a mortgage and a car payment and probably a family that was the inevitable outcome of a night of partying.

So now, when people tell me ’thank you for your service’, it always make me pause a bit. I am grateful for the sentiment. But my service was never about anyone other than me. It was a purely selfish motivation to get the hell out of dodge and try to save money for a college degree. Something that is now so taken for granted that people forget what a coveted thing it used to be. And because it was so costly and so uncommon it had a perceived value above and beyond whatever you happened to have learned. Now a university degree is about equivalent to what a high school degree was in 1980.

Abel Ramos used to call me every year and say ‘Thank you for your service my brother’. Abel was my rugby mate. The first guy I met when I moved to Pocatello. And we hung out together. Played together. Traveled together. Partied together. He was a kind soul. A confused and ultimately sad soul. But kind and funny and sweet. Abel slowly morphed into a quiet alcoholism. When he called me it was usually from Duffy’s Bar in Pocatello. I forget how many DUI’s Abel got over the years. At least 7 or 8 I think. He was a shit driver when he was sober, so no surprise he got pulled over all the time. And his cars were always junk—missing taillights and banged up. He was not a mean drunk. He just went to his local and sat there and drank and chatted people up for 6 or 7 hours every day. Abel somehow always saw only the good in people and had an optimism that was admirable given the muddled chaos that was his life. He had a big mustache and would occasionally tell me how much he loved me and give me a big wet kiss on the lips.

I have so many Abel stories. We scored a great try together once in an amazing sequence of plays that even now when I remember it, seems improbable. For years, we would meet on Sundays at the Pressbox for brunch after a hard night of drinking following Saturday’s game and drink-up. Then we would go to every single bar in town that was open on Sundays, including the dives and biker bars where very often a drunk Mexican and a yuppie white kid were not altogether welcome. We would usually get to the Chief Lounge where Abel would fight Bardel over his love for Katie—who was Bardel’s girl. Abel usually thought he won those fights but more often it was a draw when they both got too tired to carry on. But Katie was cute and sweet and so I understood it.

Abel died this year. Just soon after we had all returned from LA for the Rugby 7’s. Someone found him dead in his car, just off the exit by American Falls. He died alone. I hope it was quick and painless. It was not really a great surprise. He had been slipping for years. The last time I saw him was the year before. We were all in Vegas for the rugby tournament. Abel always drove down. He said it was because he didn’t like to fly, but honestly I think it was because he never got his license back and didn’t have an ID after all those DUI’s. After the Saturday games, Abel and I met up with Doggie and Bill Cinkowski and Billy Snapp for a few drinks at the hotel bar. How sweet to sit and reminisce with guys you went to battle with for so many Saturdays over so many years.

Abel was never a great player. He was an average player but with a massive heart and commitment. His trademark was that he always threw up before every game. Just before play started, we would all gather together on the pitch, trying to calm our nerves, thinking about the first tackle and tactics and strategy and trying to gauge the strength of our opposite number. I tended to walk around the group with my head down. Thinking. Talking to myself a bit. But just before the whistle blew, Abel’s nerves would overcome him and he would walk to the sidelines and throw up.

Anyway, my phone did not ring on Veteran’s Day this year.

From our core group of rugby players, Abel, Greg Olson, & Lowell are gone. Spunky was never a player, but he hung around a lot and we had some history. Spunky used to love to go to Missoula with us. Sometimes he would jump in a ‘B’ side match and feign an injury after a few minutes, but could at least say he played.

Last Saturday was Diwali. Prachi and Max and Tavish dressed up in traditional Indian outfits and celebrated thousands of miles from their home. They have no family around and with COVID, could not join other people celebrating, so they sent a few of us colleagues a photo of them in their living room. They sent the picture to us because who else? What a difficult thing it must be to have these important cultural celebrations and not have people of your beliefs around to celebrate. And with all the hate of Trump supporter racist rhetoric it makes them feel even more isolated. It’s heartbreaking. They are such a good family and I feel bad for them. But they are smart and strong and I know they will get through as we all must.

I’ve used public transport in the US, mostly sparingly. The times I have lived in cities where there were good public transit options, I dove right in. But that really was mostly San Francisco and Chicago. And now Cleveland.

Overseas, of course I used it all the time. I did not even buy a car in London, Amsterdam or Sydney because transport is just so easy and available.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first major mistake. I went down to the bus stop at the usual time and got on what I thought was my bus which is 39. Turns out I got on 39F, which is the ‘flyer’. I noticed this as I watched out the window as we flew right by my exit without slowing down. And then the next two exits. When we did stop, I was 5 miles from home and the route would take me further away.

So, options were 1) catch another bus going the other direction, 2) Uber home or 3), walk the two blocks to my local for a drink. Which is what I did. I took those fucking lemons and made bourbon and a couple of beers. Then Ubered home.

My dad, 84, is trying to learn to play the guitar. He has always kept a guitar around, but never learned to play. Now, he is enormously frustrated because apparently learning to read music and play guitar at 84, at the onset of dementia and after 20 years of arthritis, is not easy. Years ago, when I was engaged to Pilar, he bought some books and was going to learn to speak Spanish. He does not speak Spanish today. I don’t expect any concerts soon either.

I respect the general sentiment of learning new things, it’s a cornerstone of my approach to life. But it needs to be embedded completely in the psyche and part of daily, weekly, and monthly routines. I also banged around a little on the guitar but at some point just acknowledged it did not fit into my lifestyle and at 57, if I were to start now, I would need to make it a real priority. A priority over nearly every other thing. So no book-writing, and no start-up camper ventures and no blog and no canoe-building. Not sure what my actual message is meant to be here. I am happy that he is busying himself with a hobby. But concerned that he allows it to frustrate him so much. His expectation of learning a musical instrument at this stage of his life is just unrealistic. So no worries banging around and trying, but he gets himself worked up with anger and frustration very easily and that is not good for him or anyone around him.

I have fallen back into my work-from-home routine now that we are no longer in the office. I am so used to being on the go. Always having a trip planned and whenever it suited me, just packing up and moving to another town, another city, or another country. But fun travel with COVID is off the table. I am getting in time reading. But basically also getting pretty fucking bored. I am not writing really, which I think for me is somewhat indicative of a slight depression. I considered myself pretty good at hermiting but am starting to get a little restless now.

Following is my reply to an on-line article with a writer on Medium. I continue to find thoughtful, well-written articles on that site.

A good article. I definitely agree the Democratic party needs to get much better at defining and aligning on their platform. It is not so clear to me that Joe Biden was the right choice. He certainly was the safe choice, and as you say, likely attracted some votes from moderate Republicans who did not like Trump. However, there are also tens of thousands of young people, and more far-left, who are not going to vote for status quo Joe. Some did this time because of the repulsiveness of Trump. But if the party does not take strong action on climate issues, and move significantly and meaningfully towards inclusive health care and progressive tax policy and get a handle on the unchecked hundreds of billions we give to DoD and spy agencies at the expense of our own children and elderly, they we will not get those votes in the future. Dems need to quit pretending to care about progressive issues while campaigning, but then governing in the middle for fear of alienating the right. The right will always fight us no matter what–at least the overly energized radicals. Their anger and resentment is what gets them up in the morning. We no longer have time for games to make real change. The clock is ticking.

On my last day in the office before we started working from home again, I slipped out at lunch for a walk and to get to the Post Office for some stamps. The lady at the post office asked me if I wanted flag stamps. I said ‘hell no, give me the Marvin Gay’s’ and I started singing ‘What’s Going On’. It’s a good day when you can get a laugh out of the desk clerk in a big city post office.

At Earth Explore, Brian is nearly done with another prototype. This one has been very difficult. Getting the parts has been tough and he’s had to make on-the-fly engineering and design alterations. But he says it is beautiful and I am anxious to see it. We need this one to be truly commercial quality. I will meet him next weekend to see for myself.

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted

First picture is drinking whiskey and watching election coverage.

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