Mid-Term Debacle

The silliness of manipulating timekeeping is upon us. Clocks ahead. Clocks back. So today we got an extra hour of lie-in. We took advantage. 

Brit and I did a little day-drinking yesterday, which we are prone to do when the opportunity arises.

I had to order a custom closet for Black Dog Ridge so we did that first. Then we hit Pies and Pints for some slices and brews and then downtown to The Understudy. Cool place—set in an old schoolhouse. We sat on the back patio since the weather is unseasonably warm at the moment. But it was also pretty windy. And as we were enjoying our beer on the patio along with 10 – 12 other folks, we heard a loud crack, followed very quickly after by a large tree crashing down. The tree fell away from the patio, fortunately, and was cradled about 1/2 way to the ground by its sibling who groaned and creaked but shouldered the weight of its brother. It was the talk of the bar; we took pictures and thought about if the tree had been leaning the other direction. We studied the trunks of the other trees surrounding the patio and looked for escape routes. 

The question remains about whether a tree screams when it falls and there are no witness, but definitively, if there are witnesses, there are terrifying sounds. 

Last Saturday I took mom and dad to a local winery. It was a stunningly gorgeous, warm, sunny fall day. Perfection. We drank wine and sangria and ate snacks on the patio and had a grand time. It reminded me to get them out of the house more. It’s easy to pop over for coffee or a beer, but they love to get out and have new experiences.

I’m now on the back patio. With Belgium Trappists beer and a cigar and John Irving. I’ve been reading Irving now for 35 years or so I would guess. I think I’ve read everything he’s written. He’s a fav. Beautiful developer of characters and teller of complex stories of human interaction. This book, his latest, called ‘The Last Chairlift’, feels like a Swansong. I think John is over 80 now. The hardcover is beautifully printed on thin, expensive paper. Perhaps a tribute to the man who has brought so much enjoyment to so many over all these years. 

Carla bought this book for me. When she was still here, on our last night, we went into Barnes & Noble and both bought a handful of books. Then, after I had checked out, we saw Irving’s latest in hardcopy and so she bought two copies. Our relationship has always revolved mostly around books. With Errol it was more music and blue-collar, beer-drinking philosophy. But with Carla always books and writing. 

I woke early this morning. Brittany’s house is near a busy road so there is always noise if the windows are open. The Jungle Fox likes to look out the window and occasionally bark at something she sees, or thinks she sees, or smells, or thinks she smells, or something she hears that alerts her hyper-sensitive sense of protection and early warning. So I was also a little on alert much of the night—but mostly to calm Marti if she started get into protection mode. 

In those last moments of complete darkness, as I drifted along in that thin quarter between sleep and consciousness, I thought I crafted a beautiful poem. But when I woke, it was gone. Perhaps drifting along in the ethos where someone else would later find it. 

Many years ago a friend of mine criticized her husband’s poetry. Which admittedly was bad, but it still felt a bit harsh. Since that time, I never bring a poem to the party. I will sing poorly but loudly to anyone and everyone. But poems are just for me and occasionally Marti if she seems interested. 

I was at Strong’s the other night picking up take away. I usually go once a week and have a beer with Amanda while waiting on my order. This night an older couple, perhaps a bit younger than me, was commenting on the badass jacket I bought at the Columbus Coffee Festival. But the language the lady used was interesting. She said “I love that jacket. It’s really embellished nicely”. I thanked her and we agreed it has a sort of high-end western ski-town sort of vibe. Something you might see in Jackson Hole or Sun Valley, worn by a poser wearing cowboy boots and trying to pass as a local rancher rather than a rich tourist. 

But I found the word embellished an odd choice. I asked her if she felt that was the right word. I was thinking more like adorned. We battered that around a bit but generally found there are not many choices in English language for that situation. So I allowed embellished to stand but personally would have gone for adorned. 

A big step this week. I changed the background photo on my phone from Mandela to Marti. It seems the little dog is coming along nicely and I find our relationship strengthening. I like to think I am earning her respect as a friend and I am definitely becoming very fond of that little Jungle Fox. 

I awoke in middle of night a few nights ago and felt like writing a bit. But Marti had put her paw in my left hand and fallen asleep and it felt too good to wake her, so I stayed still and read newspapers using only my right hand on the mousepad.

My neighbor is a farmer, among other things, including schoolteacher. This time of year farmers often work late to get the corn and beans in. So as I was going to bed, Doug had his big John Deere in the field picking corn and moving it into truck beds for transport. Harvest season. Threading the weather needle to leave crops to grow as long as possible but getting them in and to market while prices are up.

I’m taking it slow with ‘The Last Chairlift’. Savoring it I suppose. Plus, it is a monster book as his stories tend to cover a lot of ground.

Many of John’s books have central male characters who were raised fatherless or sometimes as orphans. In this book, the male protagonist was raised by a single mom. The moms are usually quirky and attractive and the novels are usually set in Vermont and New Hampshire. Same. It’s his trademark. Very often the boys go to Exeter Academy. John has many very good books but ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ and ‘Cider House Rules’ remain favorites. I’ve read both several times along with ‘Hotel New Hampshire’, ‘The World According to Garp’ and ‘A Son of the Circus’. He’s a master craftsman—doing the hard work of developing complex interesting characters where so many modern writers only skim the surface and reduce their players to stereotypes.

It’s the political season in what feels like a historic election—as they all seem to be in these crazy times. We collectively struggle to choose light over dark. Positive actions over regressive antiquated thinking, racism over equality, environmental awareness over destruction, compassion over greed. I will vote today but my vote will be drowned in a flood of MAGA sympathizers who I choose to believe are more ignorant than malicious. These are neighbors and cousins. The price I pay for living near my mom and family in a small town in the midwest. 

It’s still difficult to fathom the depths of apathy and indifference and in many cases the sheer meanness that permeates our country.  How many of us go about our business thinking someone will solve all our problems—even while many are focused on exasperating our core issues. Thinking our governments; our pathetic, self-serving, neutered politicians will pull a rabbit out of the hat. I think we all know that’s not happening. Those of us over 50 will probably avoid a good bit of the craziness that is sure to come in the next several hundred years.

Is it true that those of us who understand our trajectory is fatally off course can’t do something. Governments have been toppled using social media. Mass protests organized. Change feels possible. But. But….we are all too busy watching the World Series. Or the college football nonsense. Or any other manner of manufactured distraction to keep us sleeping. 

What If we all shut off our tv’s and entertainment streaming for a week. This would be a massive economic disruption and give us time to collectively focus on real issues.

Mandela organized huge bus boycotts which changed the conversation immediately. We have massive economic and social power if we all just come together. Fight for equality in education and social policy and serious and immediate reduction in fossil fuels. It should be 50% cheaper to buy an EV today than a gasoline powered car and there should be as many charging stations as gas stations. We should demand the end of coal production and we bind together to help each other get through the 12-48 months or so it would take to create a new energy economy. We shortened the time required to develop and test a vaccine for a major virus from around 8 years to 15 months or so—can we not put our shoulders to the wheel for our other obvious social ailments. I’m fucking in man. All in. I will give what I have to help. I love a challenge. But who will lead us?

If it weren’t for those damn sports, and sales at Nordstrom’s, or Netflix binges, we might yet rally a few souls who are ready to mix it up. For this is what revolution looks like in modern times. Economic warfare. It’s actually not a new concept. Mandela and the ANC understood this as did Ghandi. It was not military means that brought down South Africa apartheid, it was economic pressure. Peaceful protests. Same with Indian independence from Britain. Night after night. Economic disruption and the constant pressure that slowly drains the affluent until they switch sides. They might still make some money on the other side, but at least we will find some breathing room. All those rich assholes who’ve exploited our corrupt political system and created the unjust social policy and brought us to the brink of devastation will almost certainly exploit us on the other side too. But letting them get rich on solar power investments and renewable energy and even privatized social programs feels like a step forward. And maybe a saving grace from a mass extinction event. 

Yesterday was my knee surgery. Finally. After fighting my insurance company and actually paying for my own MRI to prove to them it was medically necessary. It’s more of the same ranting that fills these pages. Insurance companies routinely collect premiums and then often take every available step to not pay legitimate charges. The system is so transparently corrupt that when the hospital found out I was paying for my own MRI, they dropped the charges from $2,000 to $450. Nearly an 80% reduction. The medical providers rip off the insurance company and the insurance company turns around and rips off the consumers. What what are we to do? Who has the time and resources to sue a major insurance company? Decent lawyers don’t work for blue-collar wages and don’t take cases they can’t win. 

And it’s institutionalized. What I mean by that is that the corrupt and unjust policies are fabricated by senior executives whose compensation is based very largely on stock price or other metrics that do not measure the true value of an enterprise. Simply short term greed. But. But……the implementation of these criminal policies falls on the front line workers who pay the emotional price but need the job. So it’s a $18/hour CSR telling you that the soulless greed-heads at corporate are denying your medical procedure—the same procedure your doctor recommended from an actual in-person consultant. Or another poor service agent telling you at Lowe’s that the standard door that you ordered but they delivered the wrong door could not be returned because the order had ‘timed-out’. The companies deliberately under-staff service centers so you simply get tired of waiting on hold for 45 minutes — or more likely you have to get back to work.

These are very real and concrete examples of a society in decline. I for one have a very difficult time imagining an optimistic future for our country, or even for the world for that matter. 

But for some zany reason. I still find fun times. I am not oblivious to the issues we face; as any reader of these words knows. It’s just that I feel mostly powerless to affect change. I write these words. I read and educate myself. I try to engage in meaningful dialogue with willfully ignorant dummies—which is fucking exhausting actually. I vote. What else can I do?

Have a martini on Friday’s for one thing. Make our own fun. Good meals. Travel. Adventures. Good Books. Cook killer meals. Mingle around and look for beauty where it can still be found. Enjoy friends and family. 

In spite of the craziness and a very dim long term outlook, I choose to enjoy every moment while I can.

It’s election night now. I was there when polls opened. Surely the only liberal in this farm town. Early exit polls are not favorable. So it appears we will enter two years of legislative darkness. No real surprise as this how how mid-terms go. But still disappointing.

No other news of note.

Humbly Submitted.

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