Category Archives: Health

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

Today, South Carolina can be proud of one of our own

File photo: The last time I saw Beasley was at the State House in 2015. He's been busy since.

File photo: The last time I saw Beasley was at the State House in 2015. He’s been busy since, doing good work.

Today, we can be proud of one of our own: Former Gov. David Beasley, who runs the U.N.’s World Food Programme. Today, his program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

This just cuts through so much nonsense.

The last time this prize was in the news, it was because a right-wing nut in Scandinavia was recommending Donald Trump for it. This week, we’re all wrapped up in whether or when there will be more presidential debates (I, for one, don’t ever need to see another one like the one we’ve seen), the plots of nutballs in Michigan, and who is or is not “likable” enough.

And now this, which reminds us what is important: Feeding starving people.

We used to yammer about nonsense when David was our governor, too. But now, he spends his days laboring in a higher calling than any in which I have ever engaged, and I expect y’all would say the same.

The challenge is immense, and in large part the Nobel committee gave the program this prize to call the world’s attention to it — and tell us to rise up and help. Here in America, we have amazingly idiotic arguments over wearing masks. David Beasley, who experienced COVID himself several months ago, gets up every morning and tries to meet the broader disaster this pandemic has visited upon the poor of the world:

Last month, the World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley, warned of a wave of famine that could sweep the globe, brought on by a combination of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic. He said WFP needed $5 billion to prevent an estimated 30 million people dying from starvation. Beasley pointedly noted that there are 2,000 billionaires in the world, and asked them to help.

“Humanity is facing the greatest crisis any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” Beasley said.

Because of the coronavirus, the agency estimates that the number of people facing food insecurity will double, to roughly 270 million. Lockdowns and weakened economies are undermining a decades-long — and largely successful — effort to reduce extreme poverty. The World Bank projects poverty levels to rise for the first time since the 1990s….

“In the blink of an eye, a health crisis became an economic crisis, a food crisis, a housing crisis, a political crisis. Everything collided with everything else,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in a recent report. “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.”

Millions in Syria and Yemen depend each month on WFP for survival. The organization says that more than 800 million people are chronically hungry, most of them living in conflict-stricken areas….

We must join our former governor in meeting this crisis. How? I don’t know. For starters, of course, we can vote for leaders who don’t call the places where the starving live “shithole countries.” But as individuals, as a country, as a community of nations, we must do more than that…

Mali,  Koundougou village, Mopti region, 20 May 2018 The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, travelled to West Africa, where more than five million people in six countries of the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal - could go hungry this year.  “In the Sahel, low rainfall has hurt harvests and reduced fodder and water for livestock, making lives harder for people there. WFP is working actively to help, and I am looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Senegal, Mali and Niger to reinforce our commitment to support their response plans. Our work in this region also includes long-term programmes that help communities help themselves, and I am looking forward to meeting men, women and children who are participating in these efforts.”      WFP urgently requires US$165 million to meet the needs of 3.5 million people during the lean season.  WFP is also working with partners and national governments on plans to scale up resilience to create jobs for young people; rehabilitate land and restore ecosystems; and invest in health, nutrition and education for a sustainable future.  In the Photo: WFP Executive Director David Beasley warmly welcomed by the community in the village of Koundougou, where WFP provides humanitarian assistance to address urgent needs during lean season, along with resilience building activities for long-term food security. Photo: WFP/Cecilia Aspe

Beasley in Burkina Faso.

NYT runs out of room for the people who are NOT sick

Tuesday chart

Yesterday morning I screenshot an interesting graphic from the NYT. It showed people in the White House who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and on the bottom line showed some people in the drama who, thankfully, were still officially OK — such as Joe Biden, Mike Pence, and so forth.

You can see that Monday-morning chart below.

Anyway, they’re still running the chart, but now it doesn’t have any room for well people. As you can see above. The new one has newer cases of infection, such as Stephen Miller and Adm. Charles W. Ray. I’m not sure why it says “And at least 8 others” when there was still room for three of them on the chart. Maybe the guy in chart with the graphic was having trouble keeping up.

To me, it’s sometimes helpful to see a chart. This is sort of one of those time. If you want to dig further, click on the chart above and go to the page where the movements — together, off and on — of these people are tracked over a number of days…

COVID chart

 

 

 

Well, he’s got it.

3D_medical_animation_corona_virus

Thought I’d better put up a post in case y’all want to discuss Trump (and his wife, and Hope Hicks, and who knows who else) having the coronavirus.

Joe said about all that really needs to be said:

But of course, a lot more will be said. And we’ll have a lot to think about. Some of the things I’ve thought include:

  • I really hope he doesn’t die. I hope that about anyone, of course, but such a private tragedy would in this case lead to a chaotic situation at a particularly chaotic moment for the country. I could probably write a couple of thousand words about the political possibilities, but I won’t. I’ll just hope and pray he gets better, and we can go ahead and have this election, and get a rational, sensible, decent person into the Oval Office.
  • At the same time, imagine what happens if he has one of those super-light “mild-cold” cases (as people around him, so far, are suggesting). This would confirm him in his “it’s no worse than the flu” carelessness, which would be bad for us all, and likely lead to a lot more people dying. As awful as it is to hope someone feels bad (and it is), other people’s lives depend on him realizing, for the first time, that this is a serious illness. So… I don’t know what to think or say along these lines. As for his wife, I hope she suffers as little as possible.
  • I’m glad Joe and his wife tested negative. Although you can’t really bet on negative tests. Fortunately, we know Joe will be careful, as always, not to infect others.
  • Of course, if Joe did get it, we’d know how it happened. It happened from you-know-who shouting at him across a stage for an hour and a half. Sure, they were technically “safe-distanced,” but since Joe is careful, when else has he been exposed like that?

Anyway, I’ll just stop now, and let y’all share your thoughts…

I think the snake made me forget the rules

The distracting creature.

The distracting creature.

I kind of lost my head last night. I walked up to two people, and got right in their faces, and none of us had masks on. My wife witnessed this, and said she was really surprised to see me do something so careless.

I blame it on the snake.

We were out walking around the neighborhood, at dusk. There was still enough light to clearly see the snake on the road right in front of us, but I didn’t, until my wife warned me to watch out. Which is weird. My brain must not have been functioning right, because I don’t like snakes at all, and the sight of one, even a photograph, usually sets off alarms. Any such movement — and there’s nothing else on the planet like the movement of a snake — in any corner of my field of vision should have had me on full alert.

It was interesting that we saw it right there, because it was only a few yards from one that had been run over a couple of days earlier. Its flattened carcass had still been in the street when I had walked that way earlier in the day.

But this one was very much alive. And we stopped to observe it and debate its nature. I immediately said “copperhead,” but admittedly I tend to call almost anything that has a visible pattern of those colors a copperhead. My wife said its head lacked the menacing triangular shape we tend to associate with pit vipers. I acknowledged this, but stuck to my standard policy of treating it as a copperhead until proved innocent. Which meant staying away from it.

I assure you, I used the limited zoom feature on my phone to take the above photo, which I thought came out rather well, considering the low light. I still don’t like looking at it.

Anyway, about a block and half past that, with the light further dimming and the shade of trees lowering it further, we saw a blackness in the middle of the road that looked remotely like it could be another snake, curled up. A bigger one.

As we cautiously approached and debated, and I had just about decided it was a clump of foliage of some kind, someone asked what we were looking at. It was a teenaged boy who I think had just rolled a garbage bin out to the street. I told him. And I told him about the snake just up the street — well, the two snakes, counting the dead one. And he seemed interested. And I thought, Maybe this is one of those people who are into snakes, and maybe he knows something…

So I said, “I’ve got a picture. Want to see it?” When he nodded, I walked straight over and showed it to him on my phone. Only when we were looking at it with our heads about a foot apart did I realize we weren’t wearing masks.

Then a woman — possibly his mom — arrived and asked what it was, and I immediately forgot what I’d just realized, and went over the show it to her. Only this time I handed the phone to her rather than standing next do her. Still, too close, not to mention handing the phone back and forth.

I don’t think either offered any expert advice. I didn’t get a ruling on the type of snake it was.

Do y’all know? I’d send it to Rudy Mancke, but I don’t think anything this common would interest him.

Anyway, I waited until we were about half a block away before expressing to my wife my surprise at myself for having forgotten basic COVID precautions. She said she was pretty amazed, too. I don’t think she had fully realized what an idiot I can be.

I blame it on the snake….

Five Points, Columbia, South Carolina, 5:48 p.m. today

Five Points in Columbia, SC: 5:48 p.m., 9/9/2020

Five Points in Columbia, SC: 5:48 p.m., 9/9/2020

This seemed to provoke some interest on Twitter today, when I posted it a few minutes after it was taken, so I thought I’d share it here for my readers who don’t do the tweeting thing.

The picture above was taken at 5:48 p.m. today in Five Points.

As I explained on Twitter, the kids weren’t waiting to get into Subway. They were waiting to get into the bar next door. As I said, I don’t think Subway serves beer. Although why they don’t, I don’t know — look at the crowd they could gather!

No, they were going next door.

One friend who was recently in college herself expressed some surprise at that, saying “They don’t even have a great selection!”

Yeah, well. I don’t think think they were lined up for “selection.” Unless you mean “natural selection.”

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? They think they’re invulnerable. Using the term “think” loosely, of course.

The tweet drew reactions from Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross, Phillip Bush, and “Mayor Bob” Coble. But I think my favorite was this one:

He thought I’d be interested, and he was right…

without

I was doing one of my walks around the neighborhood yesterday, and a guy in a white pickup truck stopped beside me. I figured he wanted to ask directions or something, but that wasn’t it.

A selfie I shot on the same walk. How could he tell I'd be interested?

A selfie I shot on the same walk. What made him think I’d be interested?

He said that looking at me, he thought I might be interested in seeing something his wife had made for him.

I said “Sure,” and he put it on.

Above you see him without it. Below you see him with it.

Pretty amazing, huh? When I got home and showed my wife, on the small screen of my phone, she couldn’t even tell at first that it was a face mask. I had to point it out.

Don’t know how his wife did it. Maybe took a picture of him, and sent it off to be printed on cloth? I should have asked.

In any case, I was suitably impressed…

with

 

OK, so I’ve done ONE thing in the orange zone…

This morning, Mandy shared this “very helpful chart.” The guy she retweeted had said no one will catch his family “engaging in anything in the yellow or above.”

Yeah, well, I can’t quite claim that.

If y’all recall, I went and got a haircut a couple of weeks back. I investigated before going and thought it was a safe bet under the circumstances, but I think it will be awhile before I do so again. I’m thinking about ordering a barber’s clipper set from Amazon, and learning to cut my Dad’s hair as well as my own.

Anyway, I thought y’all might find it interesting, so I pass it on.

There’s one thing you’re not seeing, of course. It’s at the bottom. You just can’t see it because it’s in the infrared zone: “Attending a Trump rally.”

COVID-19_Risk_Chart_Full

 

Anybody having intense stress dreams lately?

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

I ask because someone told me that a lot of people were having these during the pandemic. Apparently, this is a thing. Although the explanations I’ve seen don’t really work for me. I know a lot of people have been stressed by quarantining and all, but as I’ve said, I haven’t.

I was told about this when I mentioned some super-weird ones I had back after my stroke. They weren’t so much stress dreams as obsessive dreams. I found myself in different universes in which it was necessary that certain things be done a certain, specific way or else, I don’t know — the universe in question would stop operating properly.

I figured I was having them due to a change in medication. I described one or two of them to one of my kids, and was told lots of people were having stressful dreams that were being chalked up to the coronavirus.

I’m not going to describe any of them to you because they’re so weird, just explaining one would be too much trouble.

I’m just asking whether y’all are having any. If so and you want to share, and what you share is interesting, maybe I’ll try to share one, too.

If I can remember. I’ve actually sort of stopped having the unique obsessive ones — the ones that were a new experience. Lately I have had a stressful dream or two, but of the ordinary sort — the kind that are closely related to the common “it’s the last day of the semester and you’ve supposed to take an exam but you’ve never been to the class and are afraid to ask where it is” dream that everyone who’s been to college has. (For me, those particular dreams are not really symbolic, but sort of based on literal experience.)

Anyway, share if you feel like it. I’m curious…

Well, I went and got a haircut. Here’s what happened…

long

Over the past month, my hair was pretty much out of control. For months before the pandemic, I’d been getting it cut really short — too short to comb — so as it grew out, it grew out kind of weird.

Finally, I recognized it.

Finally, I recognized it.

But it started looking sort of familiar. Finally, I recognized it: Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments!” Too bad people don’t make biblical epics in the 1950s style any more. If they did, it could have been my ticket to stardom, with Heston no longer around.

Anyway, a few days ago, I heard some encouraging news: A friend told me her husband had taken their son to another outlet of the same barber shop chain I go to, and had been impressed by the COVID security — everybody in masks, people not entering the shop until it was their turn, dividers between the chairs.

For the past year, I had been taking my Dad to get haircuts at that chain. It worked for us because we could just go when it was convenient for both of us — no appointment. You sign in on an app before you leave the house, and by the time you get there it’s your turn.

And I had come up with a system that meant it didn’t matter which barber I got — use a No. 4 clipper guard on the sides, and a No. 7 on the top. My haircuts would only take a few minutes, it took almost zero time to wash it in the shower, and I never had to comb it — I just let it lie down kind of like a classical Roman cut. It was veni, vidi, vici — I had the grooming thing beat. Et tu, Brad.

So this week, I decided to give it a try — alone. If I was impressed with the procedures, I could take my Dad another time.

Here’s how it went:

  • The shop we usually go to was closed, according to the app. Fine. I went to another that I’d never been to.
  • At first, it was awesome. Although when I left the house the app said I had 15 minutes to my turn, when I arrived it said zero, and I was the only customer there. Two women were at the counter, and both had masks. One of them accompanied me to a chair. Before we got started, she explained that she used to work at the shop I usually go to, that it would be reopening Saturday (so, today), and that she hoped to go back.
  • There was some confusion before starting because the computer told her to cut all my hair with a #3. I said I couldn’t imagine where that came from. It was a 4 and a 7. No biggie. She said she’d fix it in the computer.
  • Now the real concern: She had on a mask, but it was pulled down so it only covered her mouth. Every time I looked at her, I was looking up her nostrils. I didn’t say anything. I’ll try to explain why in a moment. I, of course, was wearing a mask, properly. I asked whether it was going to be in her way, and she said no, she was used to working around them. Fine.
  • Second problem. She did the sides and back with a #4, but then started working on the top entirely with a comb and scissors. Which meant it was going to take three or four times as long as usual. She asked if it was short enough at one point, and I said I didn’t think so, and mentioned, in a nice way, that maybe she should try using the good ol’ #7! She responded by, after trimming some more, taking the #7 and holding it to my hair to make sure it was the right length. I got this vibe that she was trying to show me how careful and skilled and artistic she was — something she had time to do, since there were no customers waiting (someone came in at one point, and I think the other woman handled him). I think she thought this was a good way to make a good impression on the client. But this was not what I wanted.
  • Why was I so reticent? Well, she spent the whole time telling me what a rough time she’d been having, and was still having. She couldn’t work for two months. She was still waiting to get her unemployment (she had finally learned, several days earlier, that it had been sent to her old address). She was also still waiting for her stimulus check (I was about to ask whether she’d checked to see whether that had gone to the old address, but I got distracted and we never got back to it, so I feel bad about that — surely she’s thought of that, right?). And the whole time, her landlord was being a total jerk and threatening to evict her. How big a jerk? When she learned a new unemployment card would be sent to her current address but would take seven to 10 days to arrive, she eagerly went to tell her landlord, who said, “I don’t see why it would take that long.” So, that big a jerk.
  • Also… sometimes I don’t trust myself to say things in a nice way. I had noticed that my hands were really tensed up under the sheet they put over you. Not fists, exactly, but tense. I know myself well enough that I didn’t think I’d be able to say, “You need to cover your nose with that,” or “Could you do the haircut the usual way so we can get done?” in a tone, or in the words, that would produce a constructive result. And I was very conscious that she was pouring out how she’d had a tough time. Now that she’d finally gotten back to work, I sort of figured she didn’t need the final straw of her one and only customer telling her she wasn’t doing the job right. I didn’t want to  be another landlord in her life.

Maybe I was overthinking it.

Anyway, I got home and figured my mission was accomplished when my wife laughed at me and said, “Your beard is bigger than your head now!”

But I don’t think I’m going to go back for another cut soon. I may not wait another four months, but I can wait a while

short

 

So much for ‘the common sense and wisdom of the people’

Henry still

Last night, Mandy tweeted this:

I had to respond, “Does that mean his ‘faith in the common sense and wisdom of the people’ has been shaken?” (Y’all remember that, right? It’s the underlying idea in everything Henry has done — and especially in what he has not done.)

Perhaps it has — but only shaken, not abandoned. He’s clinging to the notion that people will spontaneously coordinate collectively to do what needs to be done to turn back the resurgence of COVID — the resurgence which daily asserts itself, with today’s total of new cases again being the highest ever — with nothing from him but occasional verbal encouragement.

In SC, we continue to set new records for coronavirus cases

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia./file

Just thought I’d post this, and see what y’all think of it:

Here are some more details on that.

As for what I think of it — well, I think people trying to go back to “normal” is crazy. Of course, I’m one of those people who could stand to keep going like this pretty much indefinitely — as long as I could hug my grandchildren.

We have really nice people in Columbia, just FYI…

screen

This was nice.

I was reading along through the Opinion section of The New York Times this morning when I found this piece headlined, “What It’s Like to Wear a Mask in the South.” So of course I had to read it. I mean, when the NYT makes the effort to offer something from a Southern perspective, you’ve gotta check it out.

It was written by Margaret Renkl, who “is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.” She’s apparently from Nashville.

I was reading along and thinking, “I wonder if our friend, regular contributor David Carlton, knows her.” Because, you know, writers and college profs sometimes cross paths within the context of a community.

But then, I forgot about that when Ms. Renkl turned her column over to blurbs from other people around the South, and suddenly, there was an old friend from right here in Columbia. It was Allison Askins, who in a previous life was one of our two religion writers at The State. (Yes, there was a time when The State had not one full-time religion writer, but two. We were rather proud of that.)

Allison’s was the very first blurb. Here’s what she wrote:

“I have been making masks for two groups our church is providing them for — an organization that aids the homeless and the Department of Juvenile Justice. I try as I am sewing to be intentional about the act, thinking about who might wear it, hoping they are protected in some way by it and lifting up a prayer for their life, that it might somehow turn for the better in spite of this experience. I find it so sad to think that there are people who maybe are not wearing them simply because they do not know how to get them, can’t afford them or maybe really do not know they need to. It is these among us who I believe most deserve our mercy and our love.”

I just wanted to pass that on because Allison is a very nice and thoughtful person, and I thought, you know, it’s always a good time to stop and take note of the nice and thoughtful people here among us.

It’s a wonder we have any trees left at all

boxes

It’s been perfectly fine with me to order even more stuff from Amazon during the pandemic, rather than going out to stores. I’m far from alone in this, of course. Completely sensible, and defensible.

Except for one thing: The packaging.

Today, we broke up some boxes as we prepared to put out the recycling. They come on Tuesday, normally, although we’re not entirely sure they will this time, on account of the holiday.

What you see above, in the midst of being dismantled, is the packaging for one item we ordered from Amazon — a new lightweight vacuum cleaner. We hadn’t bought one in quite a few years, and the old one had worn out. So, you know, defensible.

Except for the blasted packaging.

The machine was in the broken-down white “Shark” box at right, wedged into place by the shaped-cardboard thingies sitting atop it.

That box was in the one to its left, which was only slightly larger.

That one was in the huge box at far left, with additional packaging to hold it in place.

Not so defensible, I suppose. It’s a wonder, after all this pulp, that we have any trees left…

The word I couldn’t remember for days

I had no trouble remembering "Acme," although I initially thought of "Ajax." Don't know why...

I had no trouble remembering “Acme,” although I initially thought of “Ajax.” Don’t know why…

I’m embarrassed to confess this weakness. After all, words are my thing. Something I’m good at. I’m not much of a basketball player or a musician, and for that matter there are plenty of wordsmiths who put me in the shade, who utterly dazzle. And not just Shakespeare or Twain, although I find it hard to believe they were merely human.

But years and decades and more of everyday use have shown I’m better at words than, I don’t know, 90-plus percent of the population. However badly this blog post is written, I know that is generally the case. It’s been tested too many times.

It’s not much, but it’s something. And it bothers me to be losing it to any degree. So I hesitate to share the fact, but I’ve got this journalistic urge to document this thing frankly, so…

Anyway, it’s a thing I hate to see slip away at all. I’ve noticed my writing isn’t all that great since the stroke, especially on “fatigue” days (hence my self-conscious apology above for this post), but that’s a subtle, subjective thing that comes and goes. Not too worried about it, yet.

Not being able to think of a particular word is more definite. Feels more like a landmark — look what you’ve come to, dummy.

Usually, it’s not so bad. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with someone at ADCO about a press release I was putting together, and I couldn’t think of the word the folks at ADCO use for that blurb at the end telling about the company. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the structure of press releases, but at the end you’ll have a line that says, “About Acme Corporation,” and it will be followed by a paragraph of basic stuff you’d want the recipient to know about the company but didn’t mention in the main body of the release. (Like, “Acme is a worldwide leader in producing a stunningly diverse assortment of products that are not normally associated with killing or capturing roadrunners, but can be used for that purpose.”)

I thought of it as a “footer,” which is more of a newspaper word, one applied to those italic things at the end of a story that say things like, Staff writers Joe Blow and Susie Q also contributed to this report.

I confessed my problem, using the word “footer” to explain, and after a second Lora said, “boilerplate?”

YES! Boilerplate. Why was that hard?

Anyway, I’ve had a number of “boilerplate” moments lately. And I think they’re because of the stroke, but I don’t know that.

And occasionally, they’re way simpler, far less esoteric. For instance… there was this theme music to a movie that I had heard a couple of times recently, and something on the radio reminded me of it — something extremely repetitive, I suppose — and I wanted to mention to my wife that it had recently occurred to me that this song was the MOST mindlessly repetitive in human history.

And for a second I couldn’t think of the name of the song, which didn’t bother me. What got me was that I couldn’t think of the name of the movie. And this was bad not just because it’s an EXTREMELY popular movie that is currently back in the news, or because I’m kind of a movie buff. It’s because I knew the words were extremely simple. I knew exactly what they referred to, since they combine to form the nickname of a real-life institution that looms large in naval culture — at least, in a certain part of the Navy. (Not the part I grew up in, thank goodness — more Bob Amundson’s part.) I could remember scenes in which the name was used in dialogue in the movie, and how important it was to those scenes. I could see the captain telling the two heroes that he was sending them there, even though he didn’t want to…

Yes, I was trying to think of “Top Gun” (and that maddening song, “Danger Zone.” Really. Go read the lyrics, all the way through. Listen to the last half of it.). It came to me within, I suppose, a minute. But it was an excessively long minute.

A minute, however, is better than several days.

Twice this morning, I tried to think of a word that I’ve been trying to retrieve for, I don’t know, two or three days. I didn’t especially need it. It wasn’t important to anything I wanted to say. But it really bugged me that I couldn’t think of it.

At one point today, I was responding to a comment in which someone described his post-stroke symptoms, and it motivated me to mention how fortunate I was that most of mine had gone away. I no longer have a problem looking down. Of course, I still have this fatigue thing. And there’s the forgetting-words thing. And then I tried to trick myself by just going ahead and typing the word I’d been having trouble with… and it didn’t work. I had to admit, “Like… dang. There’s a word I haven’t been able to think of for days, and I thought if I just snuck up on it, it would come. It didn’t…”

At that point, I went out to my wife who was reading on the deck. I told her I couldn’t remember this word. It wasn’t something common like “top gun,” but it was common enough in political speech that I should have no trouble with it. Or at least it had been, within our lifetimes.

I said it was a word feminists had popularized in the ’70s — a time when we were both in college, and then I was starting my career as a journalist, and this word was huge back then. It had been colored by that use to the point that people started using it only in that sense, rather than in a broader way.

The word referred to being too loyal, or attached to, some group to which one belonged. To one’s country, or something else with which one identifies. It was about thinking too highly of that identity, and having a tendency to look down upon people who didn’t share it.

I said it had come to be sort of synonymous with “sexist” because of the way it was used in that period. People might use it this way: They might say, “(blank) pig” instead of “sexist pig.”

I also said, erroneously, that I thought it was very close to some other, far more common, word, only being different by a letter or two. (There were two other things I was thinking but didn’t share with her. I thought it was from French, which was more or less correct. I was also thinking it started with a J, which was wrong. I kept straining to see the word, and I was seeing something that looked kind of like “jeune.” I don’t speak French, but I knew that meant “young.” I also knew it wasn’t the word, but I erroneously thought it was close. Maybe I was reaching for “jejune,” but I don’t know why because I’ve never used that one.)

My wife couldn’t think of it, either. I went back in, still trying to come up with it. I had thought about Googling for it, but I knew that would be tricky. Finally, I Googled “word that people use to mean sexist.” The first link I got was a page that offered offered 25 synonyms including “bigoted,” “discriminatory,” “dogmatic” (dogmatic? really?), “intolerant” “intransigent,” “one-sided,” “opinionated,” “racist,” “xenophobic”…

Completely useless. I’ve always wondered why some people find a thesaurus helpful. I never have. But then, I usually use fairly common words, and I think of them myself (I’ve always sort of thought that if I couldn’t, they were too obscure to use)…

I scrolled down on the page, though, and saw a separate list of words associated with “bigot,” and there the stupid word was: chauvinist.

YES! No J, but definitely French! And definitely the word I’d been looking for.

I went and told my wife. She objected that it wasn’t used to mean “sexist,” and that the common usage she remembered was quite correct: Back in the ’70s, a lot of people said “male chauvinist.”

Yes, I agreed, that was correct, because it explained the type of chauvinism being described. But I’m sure that during that period, chauvinism got to be so tied up with the male variety in a lot of people’s heads that it became common to use it for “sexist.” And when I tried to proved it by Googling “chauvinist pig” and telling it to leave out “male,” I got 284,000 responses. Millions would be better, but I think it backs up my memory.

Which is good. Because a memory that can’t remember “chauvinist” is a memory worth worrying about, if you value words.

 

 

I could be wrong about that, of course, but I’m not wrong about “top gun”…

Turn the danged lights down!

dilated

Had an appointment with an ophthalmologist today to check my eyes out after the weird thing they did when I had that stroke.

Not to go through all the details again, but basically, for two days, I could not look down. Yeah, I told you it was weird. But I’ve been mostly fine since then.

I checked out OK, but of course we had to do the dilate-your-eyes thing. So today has been sort of unreal. Good thing it was cloudy.

By the way, I cropped that selfie above (sorry about the poor quality) to zero in on the eyes.

Uncropped, you can see that after these months of working from home and not getting haircuts, I’ve got a little bit of a Gandalf thing going on.

You shall not pass!

uncropped

A header from another time

another time

Just noticed this at the top of the blog.

Obviously a header image from another time.

At least, I HOPE the beach doesn’t look like this. This was taken several years ago in front of the Conch Cafe, located where Surfside Beach and Garden City come together.

And then there’s that ad — does Sting have Alzheimer’s? (No, he doesn’t. I can’t click on those ads — Google Adsense would have a fit — but I looked it up.)

 

You anxious to ‘get back out there?’ I ask because I’m not.

Maybe I'm kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel...

Maybe I’m kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel…

Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? It seems like everything I read and hear is based on the assumption that we’re all anxious as all get-out to, well, get out again.

Even the sensible folk who tell us it’s too early — and it is — seem to assume that we all want to get back to our usual routines as soon as possible. Hence all the news stories and features about folks who want to get back to their gym, or get sports started back up, get the kids back to school or see our streets busy again, or whatever.

Not because they’re worried about the economy or people’s jobs — although they may be concerned about those things as well, and understandably — but because they and other normal people want to be normal again.

I don’t claim that I was ever normal, of course, but I thought I’d speak up as a guy who’s in no hurry at all, just to see if anyone else is as messed up as I am.

I’m anxious to do one thing — be able to see and hug and spend time with my grandchildren. I miss that a great deal, and only a return to normal will fix it. But the rest? I can wait.

I realize that several factors contribute to making me this way, and some of them are what some might call privilege-related. Not from being a white guy or anything obvious like that, but from the fact that due to what I do in my post-newspaper career, my ability to bring in the same amount of income as before the pandemic is more or less unaffected. It would be way different if I were, say, a waiter. Or, for that matter, if I had any of those newspaper-editor jobs I had over the years, especially given the technology we had then.

That’s huge. But there are other factors as well, and here are a few of them:

  • I’m an introvert. Like seriously, extremely. I’ve been tested. I’ve never felt that deprived by a lack of physical contact with most of the human race. Being alone in the company of words feels fine to me. Occasional quick Facetime meetings, with phone and text and email, more than meet the need for the interactions that are needed to get work done. I spend essentially zero time getting to work and getting home — since I do all my work at home. This is more than awesome to me. The time I spend, for instance, not shaving is greatly appreciated.
  • I had a stroke, right in the middle of all this. I told you about that. I tell everybody, in case someone missed it. It’s helpful. I say “I had a stroke,” and people are willing to tolerate all sorts of things, maybe even my lack of interest in getting back out there. I recovered from the overt symptom (my strange inability to look down) almost immediately, but I do have days when I’m weirdly tired — actually, sort of every day, but some days are worse than others. Everyone has been enormously patient with me as I deal with this, but it would be harder for them to do that, and life would be a LOT harder for me, if we all felt the expectation to get up early and shower and shave and drive through the traffic and get breakfast and figure out lunch and meet with people and stop at the store on the way home … I get really tired just thinking about it. I found the PERFECT time to have a stroke, I figure. I’ve never been known as a great time manager, but sometimes I’m smart like that.
  • All of that last bullet said, you should go back to the first one and remember that stroke or no stroke, I like almost everything about working like this better than doing it the usual way. Things get boiled down to essentials and you just do the work. The stroke thing has just heightened that. (I’m not doing quite as much as I was, due to the stroke, but I’m building back up and I think I’ll soon be there. And doing it this way helps enormously in meeting that goal.)
  • There’s just my wife and me, and other than my stroke, we’re both doing pretty well, and we get along great. Like the guy in the Thomas Hardy novel said, I like knowing that whenever I look up, she’ll be there, and vice versa. I’d honestly rather be stuck on a desert island with her than with anyone else, and this is a reasonable rehearsal for that. (Don’t ask her if she feels the same; I’ll be happier assuming that she does. But not shocked if she doesn’t. The fact is that she is very tolerant of me, so hanging with her remains very pleasant — for me. And for her, I very much hope.) Having to spend all my time with her is a huge plus. If we could get back to normal with our kids and grandkids, things would be perfect.
  • Maybe this, and all the rest, boils down to that first bullet, but I have never, at any point in life, been someone who is looking for the world to entertain him. (As a newspaper editor, I was always flummoxed by conversations about the Weekend section and when it should be published and what it should contain — I could not imagine being a person who needed a published guide to tell me what to go do. My life was full.) As you know, I can take sports or leave them alone. Yes, if I’m going to miss a sport it’s baseball, but I figure it will get rolling again at some point, and whenever it does will be soon enough. I’ve always found books, TV and movies to be more diversion than I have time for in my life. I would have to have the rest of my life off from all work and spend 18 hours a day reading (which would be awesome) to make even a significant dent in the books I want to read and have not yet — even if I denied myself the pleasure of rereading the books I already love, which to me is one of life’s best things. Why, if I had enough time, maybe I’d even write a book myself in addition to reading them — but I’d need much more time than this pandemic is thus far giving me.
  • I live at a perfect time for all this. Not only is the kind of work I do easier with today’s technology, but the ways I like to spend any free time I have — books, movies, etc. — are all easily within reach. Ebooks, streaming and whatnot. This would not have been the case, to this extent, even a very few years ago.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you the idea.

Do I feel guilty not being in a hurry to get back to “normal?” Yes, if you talk about the pain suffered by people who really, truly hurting financially or otherwise. I am extremely mindful of how lucky I am in this regard. And if we need to get back to it in order to help those folks, then let’s do it.

But I thought I’d be honest about the fact that from my perspective, I’m enjoying this while it lasts. I figured I ought to admit it. The Bobs will understand, won’t they?

Toilet paper: The surest sign that we’re back to ‘normal’

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart in early March.

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart in early March. And pretty much every day since.

Right now, there is a lot of debate going on about when we should return to “normal” as a society. This debate takes two forms. One is the usual stupidness that is the particular genius of Donald J. Trump. You know how that goes: If you’re a sensible person, you want to continue the social distancing. If you voted for Donald Trump and would do so again, or want people to think so, you might tend to scream until people let you resume doing stupid things.

There’s another debate going on, but it’s harder to hear because the first one is so loud. In this one, more or less reasonable people try to figure out how to determine when it is safe to go to work, to go shopping, to get a haircut, etc., the way we used to. This debate has a reasonable basis, because we know those things will happen someday. Even the Spanish Flu ended. So how will we know when that day has arrived, or for that matter, when it would be safe to step carefully in that direction?

Well, I’m going to tell you right now that the day has not arrived, and it’s not even close.

I could use all sorts of standards for this. I could say, the day will not be here until we’ve gone several days without a single new case of COVID-19 in South Carolina.

But there’s an easier standard than that, and I think it’s perfect in every way. You don’t have to monitor the entities keeping count of the sick, or pay attention to the frequent briefings involving governors or you-know-who.

If you or someone in your family is making periodic, careful trips to buy groceries — and I think most of us are covered by that, or else we’d starve — you’ll know when it happens.

I’m talking about the day that you go to Food Lion, Walmart, CVS or wherever, and the toilet paper shelves are full. Like, the way they were six months ago full. And they continue to be that way. Then they take down the signs that beg you to take only one package.

All sorts of factors go into this, and a lot of it has to do with something like crowdsourcing. When the A-holes who bought all the toilet paper to begin with stop buying it, and the rest of us stop making a practice of buying ONE package when we see one, it will indicate that everyone is pretty sure we’re safe. It will also indicate that our commercial distribution systems have caught up and are again able to do something that — compared to all the way more complicated things our modern economy does all the time — ought to be pretty simple: keep the supply of a basic, simple commodity that doesn’t rot or otherwise lose value while sitting on a shelf flowing.

When we can manage all that, we’re ready. The public is ready. The economy is ready. We’re clear.

Until then, we need to maintain our distance. It doesn’t matter how badly you need a haircut — if we can’t keep toilet paper on the shelves, we’re still too messed up. Use a comb, creatively.

Anyway, there’s your standard.