We've Got the Funk and You're a Fucking Idiot

True, the weather forecasters had called for pounding rain, but at 2pm, it was just byooo-tee-full—blue skies, full sun, 80° temperatures.

My new resolution is that whenever it is sunny, I will get out of the house. No matter how lazy I feel. (Which is usually plenty!). I will store up full-spectrum sunlight! I will have a profitable new sideline renting myself out to circuses as “The Human Battery.”

Headed out to one of my favorite six-mile loops. Some of the trees were turning color, but most of them looked like this:



Also, pine trees seem to be losing their needles this year:



Shed pine needles littering the ground:



Now, I’m not the world’s most observant person plus I grew up in a big city, so the ways of Nature are ever mysterious. (The first time someone took me camping in Yosemite so I could witness the true glory of the night sky, I exclaimed in ecstacy, “Why it’s just like the planetarium!”)

Nonetheless.

Pine trees aren’t supposed to lose their needles, are they? I mean, they’re called “evergreens” for a reason, right?

###

Speaking of being unobservant, I was on the one-mile home stretch, prancing along to George Clinton and Parliament. We’ve got the funk! Party, party! You don’t got it, we’ve got it, and you’re a fucking idiot (okay, I was improvising the lyrics there) when I happened to glance up and—Man, that sky was dark!

Out of nowhere, a wind blew up.

The brown leaves, the shed needles, began dancing before me in gusts of some 30 miles per hour, and the sky grew ever darker.

Reader, I ran that last mile to my car! In record time!

I even turned off my phone lest thunder and lightening ensue and the phone battery attract lightening strikes. I mean, I don’t know if phone batteries actually do attract lightening strikes, but it seemed logical at the time, and I wasn’t taking any chances.

The rain broke when I was still some distance from my car, but the hard rain held off till I was safely behind the driver’s wheel.

So, I got soaked but not drenched.

At the casa, an impromptu party was taking place that included Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor Ed who had also gotten stuck in the rain albeit at a different hiking spot. We ate pumpkin pie and dripped all over the furniture together.

Then I retired to bed where I watched Todd Haynes’ documentary on the Velvet Underground.

I was not and am not a fan of the Velvet Underground.

In particular, I was not and am not a fan of Lou Reed.

But man, that documentary is genius though I don’t have time to describe it at all since shortly I must dash out to catch the Parade of the Llamas, Alpacas and Fiber Goats at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Unscratched Itches



The corn maze was different from what I expected.

Of course, I’d never been to a corn maze before.

So, what did I know?

But I was expecting something greener. Somewhere where the Children of the Corn could camp out comfortably, and wandering zombies could make tamales when they ran out of human flesh.

The corn stalks in this corn maze were really fuckin’ old. Withered and dry.





I did like how each stalk’s exposed roots looked like chicken feet:



And, of course, the withered corn stalks made a fabulous backdrop for the fabulous pix [profile] asakiyme and I took of each other:







Mostly the corn maze was an excuse to hang out with [profile] asakiyme.

[profile] asakiyme is one of my only two friends who are professional writers, and it’s a joy to talk comma placement with her! And also, we are more or less in the same place on the political spectrum—meaning we’re people whose innate sympathies should place us on the Left but who are becoming more and more alienated with the Left.

Anyway, Good Time, All Had, and as an extra added bonus I got to drive through True Autumn splashing itself all over northern Columbia County and western Massachusetts.

###

Night before, I was randomly scrolling through FB, which is something one should never do because when you’re in that random scrolling mood, you are very permeable.

Amaryllis had posted a link to a piece she had written on how Bruce Springsteen had saved her from her crippling depression and subsequent adult ADHD diagnosis, thereby giving her the Will to Live. The piece is entitled: My Mental Health Issues Have a Name: Bruce.

The piece had been published in the New York Times.

I scanned the piece.

Amaryllis is an excellent writer, but the piece was that kind of gushy, gurgley confessional I loathe, very twee; plus, of course, professional envy (Question: Why aren’t I published in the New York Times? Answer: Because you haven’t cultivated the right contacts, thilly girl!).

Amaryllis has about a billion FB friends, and they’d all commented on her posting containing the announcement.

You’re so brave!

You’re so fabulous!

You’re so fearless!

Better living through chemistry!

Very nice! At. This point I’m suspicious of anyone who’s NOT medicated.


I had to stop reading at that one.

I kinda-sorta know the woman who posted that comment. She’s another old Wellie. A teacher, went through a bad divorce. She has absolutely no sense of humor, so her comment was deadly serious.

What the fuck?

What kind of Harrison Bergeron world are we living in?

I think therapy is great for the people who can benefit from it. I’m more ambivalent about SRIs and other pharmoactive antidepressants, primarily because I believe the brain is a supple organ that can reprogram itself through a variety of different methods, and that antidepressants are over-prescribed as the easy fix.

But I recognize their efficacy. I have one close friend who’s so affected by psychotic depression, she’d be dead were it not for an arsenal of pills she pops every morning.

But, man.

To define the Armies of Light as those fearless warriors who’re on antidepressants and the Forces of Darkness as those craven orcs who are not?

That is just beyond crazy.

###

Kinda reminds me of an interview I did back in the 90s with a woman who was the highest ranking person with a disability in the California State administration at the time. Was she the head of the Department of Developmental Services? I can’t remember now.

This woman had had polio as a child and used a wheelchair.

Anyway, during the course of the interview, I asked a question about vaccines.

And she remarked—on the record, mind you—that she was very ambivalent about vaccines.

I was too much of a pro to let my mouth drop open.

But, of course, I asked her, Why?

And she said, Because vaccinations ensure there won’t be any more people like me.

You find variations on this conversation in the deaf community every now and then when the topic of cochlear implants is raised.

###

The other thing I ran across FB-cruising in my oh-so-Permeable Mood—Friends! Don’t Do This at Home!—was a posting from the one-time lover with Stage IV melanoma who is coming to terms with his mortality.

I’ve earned the right to feel a little smug about having lived my life in such a way that I’m not dying with a lot of unscratched itches, he wrote.

Oh, Peter, Peter.

You have. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

The Song the Canaries Sing From Their Their Coalmine Cages.




I was ten miles down the road toward the Best L’il Corn Maze in the Whole Wide World when [personal profile] asakiyume began texting frantically: The corn maze isn’t open today!

We rescheduled Big Corn Maze Fun till Friday, and I drove on to the village of Rhinebeck where I treated myself to breakfast and bought a bunch of stuff for other people at over-priced stores.

I’m generally very sympthetic toward over-priced stores in tourist meccas having once operated one myself.

But the over-priced store owners in Rhinebeck can be pretty fuckin’ rude.

I mean, granted, I dress like a homeless person, so it can be difficult to read my socio-economic cues. But I like to think of that as a test, a modernization of Ovid’s preachy Baucis and Philemon fable.

Over breakfast, I eavesdropped on two married couples, about my own age. They were having a conversation about Medicare options. The conversation went on for half an hour.

I thought, Huh! Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me! I don’t have enough conversations about Medicare options! And the ones I do have aren’t long enough.

Rhinebeck! Ever a pit stop on the Road to Greater Self-Awareness.

###

On the drive home, I noticed all the election signs that have begun popping up on people’s lawns and public byways. The vast majority of them tout Republican candidates.

Labels like “Republican” and “Democrat,” of course, are fairly useless at a local level in a small village where the big issues tend to be trash collection, hunting permits and potholes.

Still. I can’t help hearing the song the canaries sing from their coalmine cages.

I suspect the local Republican candidates are gonna roust the Democratic candidates from office come November 4th.

The big question is to what degree will this presage a similar turn of events in the midterm elections one year from now?

###

I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

I think the current two-party system in the U.S. is a duopoly. Rabid parisanship on one side or the other is kind of like a Holy War between people who drink Coke and people who drink Pepsi.

I voted for Biden because Trump was such a trainwreck. Subsequent events on January 6th and insane fixations on a “stolen” election have only strengthened this conviction.

But I have no illusions about Biden.

I do admire him for ending the war in Afghanistan.

I like his child tax credit.

I myself will be a beneficiary of his 5.9% COLA increase for social security in 2022.

And I realize the ask is never the nut, so the payload on the $3.5 trillion budget was always intended to be $2 trillion.

The thing that’s making me reconsider whether I’d vote for Biden in 2024 actually is the item he slipped into the current budget bill requiring that banks report all payments of over $600.

Yes, I know it sounds trivial.

But to me, this is a very blatant signal that the Democrats intend to go on squeezing $$$ out of the ever-shrinking middle class to fund their pork, and this enrages me!

Go after Amazon, I’m thinking. I could make an alphabetical list of companies that paid taxes on paper and then got porkbarrel rebates that essentially increased their profit margins: Archer Daniels Midland, FedEx, Nike… Those are just the easy ones I know without Googling.

Biden won’t go after these companies, of course.

Because the Democrats don’t really give a fuck about the ever-shrinking middle class. Or about social security recipients or children living in poverty either if it comes to that. These are merely strategies designed to cement the 2024 vote.

The Republicans don't care about them either, of course, but at least they don't pretend to.

At this point, I’d vote for Biden again if the alternative is too terrible.

But I won’t be voting for Biden in that case. I’ll be voting against someone else—which is essentially what I did in the 2020 election.

I wish the world were a place where I could vote for someone because I admired them.

And that the Birthday Fairy would finally bring me a pony!

(Too bad, Bernie Sanders is so obviously on the spectrum. For the most part, I agree with his agenda.) Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Vaccination Refuseniks

Shortly I must dash off to meet the fabulous [personal profile] asakiyume at the world’s most fabulous corn maze, so I am scribbling in haste.

When I was out tromping yesterday, I got a better view of how this weird, weird autumn is progressing:



These trees are on the west bank of the Hudson, and you can see clearly that anywhere between 20% and one-third of them are completely bare. The leaves just… dropped off. They never changed color. Very weird, although I suppose the phenomenon would have to sustain for a few yesrs in a row in order to be statistically significant.

What else?

I spent a large chunk of yesterday on the phone with Ichabod who was driving his new-to-him wheels up from Tustin to Ukiah.

People need to be kept amused and diverted on long car rides.

We talked a lot about “vaccine hesitancy.”

I’m more tolerant than most of people who for one reason or another don’t want to get vaccinated.

I mean, not to the assholes who have chosen to turn a public health crisis into a holy war between the Forces of Individual Agency vs. The Dark Armies of Collective Domination.

But to the refuseniks with healthcare backgrounds.

There are a fair number of those, and you really can’t dismiss them all as “ignorant.”

I got into a debate a few weeks back with an aquaintance who worked in the pharmacology industry for many years. The debate was mannerly; we are both grownups.

Her objection to vaccination was that natural immunity is more effective and that vaccine-bolstered immunity will only lead to more and more domination by unscrupulous Big Pharma companies.

“Of course, we should vaccinate our most vulnerable!” she said at one point.

I frowned. “But if you’re talking about vaccinating our most vulnerable, you’re talking about 70 percent of the population,” I pointed out, “since ‘most vulnerable’ includes people over 65 and people with significant co-morbidities. The most significant co-morbidity for COVID is obesity. Something like 48% of the U.S. population is obese.”

To that, she had no answer.

I labored more on the current Remunerative Project, which is very difficult to write on account of there’s no data for me to crunch.

And generally remained in an upbeat, happy mood because it was a sunny day.

This, of course, is the classic Seasonal Affective Disorder presentation. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Migration

Deep Springs, Ichabod’s unique, innovative and altogether amazing college was profiled on 60 Minutes:



I don’t watch network television myself. I learned about this only because John L_______ texted me shortly after midnight Sunday night, awakening me from a dream in which a band of Super Seekrit oracles, living in Oakland, California, were forecasting the future by analyzing stories in The Daily Mail.

(In John’s defense, he’d probably gotten so-o-oooo excited, he simply forgot about the New York/California time difference.)

###

What else?

The sun was out yesterday, and the temps were a lovely, low 70°-ish.

I tromped six miles or so along the railroad tracks that edge the eastern bank of the Hudson River:







It was quite the lovely day though when I looked across the river, I could see that roughly one-third of the trees along the west bank highlands were bare.

Those trees never had show autumn colors.

People who live north of me tell me that the leaves are turning color there, so I will take it as an article of faith that autumn leaf color changes are not yet a relic of the past.

###

Once home, I labored on the current Remunerative Project.

It’s hard to write because there’s simply no information out there on its topic—which happens to be the causes of the dizzying shifts in Ph.D. in Social Work salaries from state to state.

I am positing the salary differential is somehow correllated with the amounts that individual states spend on public welfare services. (The vast majority of public welfare services are bankrolled by the federal government, but states pitch in some of their own $$$$.)

The topic is complicated by the fact that there are two doctorate degrees associated with social work, and neither is what you would call a terminal degree. The MSW is the terminal degree, the one that’s necessary for licensing and certification.

There’s no earthly reason that I can understand why anyone in their right mind would pursue a Ph.D. in Social Work.

But—I must make a case for it.

Zzz-zzz-zzz-zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

###

You can still hear birds in the morning.

The calls of migrating flocks of geese.

Not cheerful little robins hunting for worms on your front lawn. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Gi Gwyneth Dream

Dreamed I was sharing some kind of dilapidated group housing with Gwyneth Paltrow (WHAT?) and also with a passel of children who turned out to be my children though I didn’t feel the slightest emotional bond to them.

Gwyneth Paltrow was in the Army, and was involved in making some sort of recruitment film. I asked her when she was going to be discharged and she told me, In two weeks.

I was trying to get her to hire me as the writer for her recruitment film, setting up all sorts of insinuating lead-ins, but the resident Male Person, her manager or whomever, kept heading me off at the pass.

The three youngest children were RTT and two little boys who were born after him. One of them had just recently died, and I was trying to figure out why I felt absolutely nothing about his death when the people around me—most notably Ben—were eaten up by sorrow.

Mostly, I just wanted to get the hell out of the dilapidated group housing.

###

I stuck my head out of my burrow yesterday, and it was raining—not honest rain drops but pinpoint pricks of drizzle.

I suppose it wouldn’t have hurt me to tromp in that, but I thought, Fuck this.

I’ll try again today.

There are some blue patches in the sky. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

The Ozymandias Factor (Reboot)

Completed the dreaded To Do list item. It was, at the same time, both easier and harder to do than I had anticipated. The ease was the logistics; the hard was the memories and emotional associations the task dredged up.

But anyway, it’s done.

Go me.

###

Over morning coffee, I read that Lebanon’s electrical grid has collapsed.

This news filled me with the weirdest feeling.

As recently as the 1970s, Beitrut was the Middle East’s center for finance and banking, a playground for wealthy Arabs and Westerners alike. Fifty years really isn’t so very long ago—although I get that it may seem so to people young enough so that half a century is not a fraction of their lifetime.

Once again, I am reminded how I ended up in Sarajevo some time in the late 1960s. Some pals and I were traveling overland to Greece; Sarajevo is where the van broke down: We stayed a couple of days.

I remember being utterly flabbergasted by how sleek, and Western, and modern the little city looked! I mean, it was spelled funny, right? Didn’t that mean it should be old-fashioned and exotic? (In my defense, I should mention I was still in my late teens at the time.)

I wandered around for a couple of days. The city actually ended up reminding me of Oakland—not the tech-Bro paradise that Oakland is today but the shabby industrial city that Oakland was while I was going to UCB and for which I have considerably more affection.

Anyway, I was quite stunned when in the early 1990s, Sarajevo became Ground Zero for a brutal civil war. Everything was blown up. The city was practically razed.

How could this happen there?

I imagine observers of the London Blitz got a similar hit.

When it happens, it’s gonna happen fast. And it will happen.

Call it the Ozymandias Factor.

We flip through 1,500 channels of streaming entertainment without ever really finding anything we want to watch.

But some primeval cautionary instinct whispers, Toilet paper! Hoard it.

So, it’s not as though we can pretend we don’t know.

###

What else?

Mostly, I labored over the Remunerative Project in Process yesterday.

It was cold and grey, so I was disinclined to leave the house.

It’s cold and grey today, too, but one mustn’t encourage incipient agoraphobia, so I will go tromping though likely I will hate every moment of it. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Those Classifieds in the Daily Circus Planet

Life continues to be uneventful.

I’d been debating One More Road Trip—but now I’m thinking, I won’t.

Like I said, that winter dullness, inertia, and lack of interest in my own life came on early this year.

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in months: I ate lots of sweets.

One day of eating sweets isn’t gonna derail me from the straight and narrow, of course, but that’s how habits always begin, isn’t it? You do something one day, and you think, It isn’t gonna hurt me to do this one day. You get the little dopamine hit, and then, you think, It probably isn’t gonna hurt me to do this two days.

Next thing you know, you’re scanning the Help Wanted: Fat Lady classifieds in the Daily Circus Planet.

###

I resumed taking down the garden. Problem is the pepper plants are still fruiting, still flowering if it comes to that, and I hate to root up plants that are still in the prime of their lives. Pepper yield is less than it was last year but still more than I can use:



I’m still going through the hot sauce I made last year. Making more this year would be… redundant.

(And I just used the word “still” four times in the last two paragraphs. Bad writer! Baaaaaaaad writer!)

Started the next Remunerative Project.

On the creative writing front, I’m writing that part of The Novel where June is whatever the 1950s version of 5150’d was at Bellevue where she’ll shortly be receiving electroshock treatment.

As you can imagine, this is unpleasant to write. I don’t want to research anythng about electroshock treatment, so I’m more or less dredging the descriptions out of my own imagination. Not fun. Fortunately, this is all close 1st person POV, which means I can telescope those descriptions since I seem to remember people who go through this contemporary variant of medieval torture don’t remember it in any kind of organized manner.

The Franzen novel is good.

The offspring are doing well. RTT recovered from his respiratory crud of earlier this week, and it wasn’t COVID.

There’s one item on the To Do list that I’ve been staring at all week without To-Doing. I’ve gotta tackle it today, sigh…

And also, I’ve gotta process the rest of the basil into pesto because, you know, it’s a slap to God’s face to grow something and not use it. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Confuse the Innocent, Protect the Guilty

Met with new ESL student Marissa for the first time this morning.

Name isn't actually hers: She’s from mainland China and has deduced her real name will not play well in the U.S. of A.

(Name isn't the actual pseudonym she goes by, either. Confuse the innocent, protect the guilty! is my motto here in Online Journal-Land.)

“Is it Marissa or Melissa?” Lois Lane asked because due to a much-satirized Chinese-to-English phoneme issue, it can be hard to tell.

It is Marissa.

I liked her!

She is fluent, focused, and very no nonsense despite the fact that she’s living in a shelter for domestic violence victims: Her American husband—scion of a rich Milbrook family, Lois told me afterwards—bashed her head into a brick wall one night when he was drunk, causing a significant brain injury.

It takes a lot of guts to leave an abusive situation like that even when you’re not an immigrant.

I can’t imagine how hard it was for her, knowing absolutely no one here—she had one of those husbands who did his damnest to cut her off from everyone and all potential resources.

When all is said and done, I’m pretty hard-headed, I guess.

Because that’s what it takes to survive, and I’ve had a lot of practice surviving.

My eyes glaze over whenever anyone who hasn't served a combat tour evokes the acronym “PTSD.”

The truth is unless you’re very, very lucky, and there’s someone who loves you, no one apart from enablers or professionals who want to get their hands on your money gives a shit about your PTSD. And that’s show biz, kids!

PTSD is some weird 21st century version of sentimentality.

If you’re serious about survival, you learn to stash "PTSD" on the back shelf, and you focus.

Marissa is very focused.

She wants to become an ultrasound technician.

I can help her with that.

###

Yesterday, I hung out with BB, which was the Big Fun as it always is.



We had a fabulous lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant in Rhinebeck:



And then we hit my favorite art supply store, the Best Chocolatier in the Universe, and Oblong Books where I discovered Jonathan Franzen has a new novel out. Which I bought. In hardcover (ulp)—Jonathan Franzen being one of those writers whose every book I read.

Then we went for an invigorating tromp in Poet’s Walk, which is a very pretty place and also the site of one of the tales in my Livingston Ghost Story Cycle. (It’s the place where starving 18th century Palatine child meets wealthy 19th Century Livingston child through some time travel mechanism I haven’t quite finished finessing.)





A good time was had by all! Though it was a gloomy day weather-wise.

###

Oh, and Buff Ken and Loraine entertained a guest yesterday:

Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Fabreze as the Ultimate COVID Test

Dreamed I was on a photography road trip, and my camera got stuff inside of it, so I was taking it apart to clean it.

I’d never taken a camera apart before, but I figured, How hard can it be?

I disassembled the camera, spread its various components on the type of long table you use when you’re having a garage sale, and started cleaning those components, one by one. There was all sorts of stuff in them, but mostly pollen grains that if you looked closely enough were tiny little flowers.

Some people came up to the table.They were completely oblivious to me and began dumping stuff on the table, on top of my carefully disassembled camera.

I objected.

A man glanced at me carelessly and said, Why should you get to monopolize this table? It’s a common space.

This made sense to me although, of course, it was a pain in the ass.

So, I proposed that I’d get half the table, and he could get the other half of the table.

I began to move the components over—carefully, carefully, to keep them in the order I’d have to put them back into the camera.

The man asked me what they were, and I began to tell him, getting really into the story, being very cute and vivid in my choice of words, when I realized, Wait! He doesn’t give a fuck. He asked you because he sees you as someone he’s graciously being nice to. Later he will tell his friends, “I was nice to the old lady.”

There was one more component to clean and put back in the camera. I wasn’t quite sure how it fit, though.

###

You don’t have to be Dr. Fraud to plumb the depths of that dream.

I’ve been nervous about The Novel. Thinking, You’re old; you’re irrelevant. Nobody will want to read it.

What was really odd about the dream, though, was that it was the third in a series of four dreams I had throughout the night, a dream polyptych as it were.

Each of the dreams was extraordinarily vivid. You’ve gotta remember this, I would tell myself when I woke up from one.

But I didn’t write any of them down because I wanted to go back to sleep.

Not sure how I managed to remember this one.

###

It was grey and gloomy all day yesterday.

Did I want to tromp in that?

No, I did not.

So, instead I pursued the elusive dopamine hit by getting my hair cut:



Quite the improvement, this.

My hair was getting terribly long and weedy.

###

Also RTT texted me in the morning: Can you bring me soup and rub my back? I’m really sick.

Some kind of respiratory thing.

I reeled off a long list of Things He Ought To Be Doing For Self-Care that ended with, And you really need to get a COVID test—

Oh, I have a can of Fabreze, he told me. So, every hour or so, I spray it to see if I can still smell.

Of course, as his mother and a former member of the medical profession, I could not approve of that.

But it did make me laugh.

And secretly, I thought it was kind of clever. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.