Cabin fever

Well, most of us have been on lockdown for a few weeks already and you know, there isn’t really a lot that has changed in my life. Well, other than the soul crushing loneliness sometimes. And when I say sometimes, I mean it. It isn’t a continual thing. There have been times when I have gone days without speaking to another person. Even on my trip to the UK last year, other than the person I was ordering food or coffee from, I didn’t speak a lot to other people. When I did, sometimes I would feel a little bit awkward, as though my words were just a jumble.

I feel like that a lot lately. Sometimes it gets to me, like the other day when I was walking around campus for some exercise and I ran into Larry the Cop. I’ve known Larry for a number of years, but other than him recognizing me, I don’t think he even knows who I am. I hadn’t spoken to many people at all by then. Maybe my gf or my mom and dad on the phone, but that was about it. This was the first person I had spoken with face to face in many days. I pretty much unleashed a whole weeks worth of information on the poor man.

Then, I was fine. I went home, I wrote. I cleaned house. I was productive. This working from home thing has been awesome. I can get everything done without distractions. I don’t have to listen to every stupid story or exclamation about the weather, or worse yet the all-knowing/all-seeing weather app. You know, rather than just looking outside.

On Monday, we got our notice that our jobs were ending. They gave us five days to apply for the new positions, and like the dutiful battered spouses so many of us on campus are to our jobs, 90% of us were interested in fighting for those crumbs. You see, the deal is to consolidate 65 jobs down to about 12. You won’t have a pay increase for the additional duties and training, and there’s no guarantee that the university will even be there in two years. But like the person who walks around with a shiner and makes up an excuse for their abuser, everyone was willing to go back to the piece of shit.

My state of mind lately during this quarantine and these layoffs hasn’t been that great, but it could have been worse. Usually I look at my housekeeping as an indication of my state of mental health. I let the dishes pile up in the sink. I haven’t folded laundry in days. But every once in a while I’ll tackle a problem that hasn’t been looked at for a while. The other day, I cleaned my oven. Today, I shampooed my carpets. Then I cleaned out the steam cleaner and I did it again. The carpets which have been looking like the floor of a crack house because of my son’s potato chips and my indifference to garlic and onion skins which drift in and out of the kitchen needed to be addressed. I did it. I shampooed the damned rugs.

I’ve been too busy lately with paid writing assignments as I get ready to transition over to writing full-time. Sometimes it is difficult to not become distracted. I mean Facebook is just a tab over. There’s instagram, twitter, and emails. But all of those are wearing thin these days.

I went on a walk today because I need the exercise. As a person with asthma, I need regular exercise or else my lungs feel kinda junky. They’ve been like this since September when I had pneumonia. With this pandemic, I can’t help but feel like I’m susceptible for pneumonia again, which isn’t anything I ever want to have to deal with. So, I listen to my body. It says I’m getting fat eating pasta and bread at home all day, so I get up and I do something about it. I take a walk and immediately feel gassed. With the layoffs coming, about a month ago I let my gym membership lapse. So, no eliptical for me these days. No twice-daily walks at work. I pretty much walk about ten feet in any direction and spend the rest of the day sitting. Or eating.

To make sure I don’t get sick, my gf and I just talk on the phone. I miss the hell out of her. But she’s protecting me, and that feels wonderful. My ex-wife, in a less altruistic turn, hasn’t let our son come over to my house for three weeks. She has claimed that the kids have all been sick with COVID19 and sends me lectures on hygiene and epidemiology to shame me because we all are supposed to recognize that she knows more than the doctors and isn’t she just the better parent?

I’ve missed my son. Yes, even though he plays a lot of video games and he’s hitting that age when he just wants stuff like Pokemon cards and food and entertainment, I’ve missed him. I can’t imagine what things are like for him over there right now. His mom is a known hypochondriac. This is like when a prepper sees that comet headed for earth and weeps tears of joy because they finally get to use their bomb shelter and eat all those beans they’ve been stockpiling for years.

With this pandemic, I can honestly say, I am sick of dried beans. I’m sick of pasta. When this whole thing blows over, I want to sit in a restaurant and order appetizers and an entree and my lovely gf and I will sit and listen to conversations and make comments about the sad choices being made all around us. But it will be nice because in a weird way, I sorta miss people.

As much of an introvert I am, I do still miss seeing people. Lately, with the empty streets and cancelled plans and shelter in place, I feel a little lost sometimes. I have railed against social media in the past. About how it is neither social nor the media. But right now, it’s all a lot of us have. It’s a small window to the world and so many people who are scared or lonely are hitting the anger phase of their mourning of the life they used to know.

Some are drinking a lot. Some are talking politics and dropping blame on a President, hating him for not saving us from this sooner…forgetting that a kangaroo court of impeachment was going on at the insistence of the established ruling class, who all hate a man who keeps saying “We need to start making things in America again.” Yes. Like medical supplies. That’s biggie. I’m just dumbfounded that nobody has talked about how the country where this crap originated has not only lied about the severity of it, but is providing all of our medical supplies to fight it.

But, maybe that’s just part of the mourning. Bargaining. Anger. Blame. Eventually we will all hit acceptance. In the meantime, there is Tiger King to distract us. At the end of this, so many of us will be without jobs. The way we interact will probably be scarred for many years. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to burn the whole thing down, remove the aristocrats who have ridden this country into the dirt, we’ll continue to just patch things together, distracting ourselves with outrage. Kardashians. Mourning the lives of the old and young alike that we lost over these months. Ignoring the fact that our government doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

Ignoring the fact that our world is changing in the blink of an eye.

Being stuck at home can give you too much time to think about things. Maybe I should start cleaning out the fridge.

The world is moving on

Today was sunny for a change. Winter had a hold on this place for a long time. Last summer was only four months without a snow storm. This winter has been a creeping grey death since October. I am not a fan. Maybe it’s a sign of my age. Maybe it’s something else.

So today I went outside to walk in the sunshine. I’m tired of hearing about COVID-19. Schools, including mine, threatening shut downs after Spring Break. As if enough communicable diseases don’t get passed during that week normally. Meetings are being cancelled left and right. The WHO is calling it a pandemic now.

Combine that with the layoffs we are facing. It makes me wonder if there will even be a job to come back to if they close up shop at this campus. And if so, why?

So, as I stood outside, feeling the sun on my face, I thought about how things have changed over the years. I’ve been a fixture on this campus for 25 years, as a student then as an employee. I watched the students file past. How many years of that? In a weird way, it feels like the same kids, the only thing that really changes is the clothes they wear. From army boots and sun dresses to hip huggers and crop tops to this new androgynous look with the chunk black-framed glasses. The ubiquitous college guys in their shorts and baseball caps haven’t changed at all in 20 years though. But I do feel a change coming.

I’ve noticed the beginnings of transhumanism here. When I was a student, the most reliance we had on technology was someone who walked around with their walkman earphones on constantly. Now, everyone on the quad was staring into their phones. I see it on the road too, everyone driving like they are dead drunk, and only when you pass them is it revealed in crystal clarity that they are just staring into the screen on their phone. That’s what everyone does who was walking around campus today. Walking, staring at their phone with the intensity of a carnival fortune teller scrying arcade wisdom from a crystal ball.

I think dating apps might be the only thing that allow humans in the First World to continue to breed. And if you think about it, it is all based on an algorithm. Machines are determining who is compatible enough to screw and perpetuate the human race.

Even my own job has taken a hit. A big reason that the workforce of the University is no longer sustainable is because of online classes. Honestly it doesn’t say much about the quality of education either. If you really break it down, who is to say that you even need a professor. Why not just watch a series of YouTube videos and take a test at the end? Well, who would be the gatekeepers then? Who would profit from withholding knowledge?

But the world feels like it is changing. I wonder if this is how people in the early 20th Century felt? Horses began to be replaced with automobiles. The main method of getting around for the last several thousand years vanished overnight. There are many people who have never ridden a horse, much less touched one.

The world changed. And I can’t say really if it was for the better.

An entire century of warfare changed the world and made a more global community than an insular one. Today, we are all freaking out over a virus (which was probably engineered for whatever reason) and somehow wonder how this could be happening when we live in UV-glass protected, hermetically sealed buildings, using touch screens instead of interacting with others to get the job done. Phone trees or customer service, prepackaged food that comes from god-knows-where, and everything is made someplace else, and nobody seems to have a problem with that. Concepts such as gender are now up for debate. The rivers are full of anti-depressants and other chemicals that can’t be filtered out by water treatment. Climate change. The religion of Climate Change. The religion of Social Justice. Coronavirus fears are shutting down travel between states…but borders with other countries are considered racist and oppressive.

Just wait until your employer can quarantine you for being sick, without pay, control where you can go. How you travel.

The world is moving on.

There are days I wish there was a small pocket of the world that was still a place from someone like me. An anachronism, a relic of an expired age. To live in a place that doesn’t encourage everyone to live like a germaphobe. A world where the Media doesn’t control the narrative with fear and controversy and polarization.

A world where people aren’t directed by their bells and whistles of their electronics devices. A place where we aren’t all a bunch of rubes buying whatever snakeoil the hucksters want to sell us.

I see a world of empty streets people used to walk, but they are all safe inside their homes, attached to their electronics. Believing all the horseshit they are fed.

If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention

My son, who is hopelessly addicted to electronics–just like everyone else these days–asked me if we had the book Shiloh at home. I told him we did, and asked him if he remembered when I read it to him a few years ago. He did not, which was a shame, since I did all different voices with the characters and everything.

I found the book and gave it to him and to his delight, it didn’t have “tape” on the words.

I asked him what he meant by that. My thoughts went immediately to how schools are underfunded and have beaten up old books that have to be cobbled together. We take care of our books in my house.

No, he told me, the school had gone through every copy of Shiloh and used white out tape to cover up any mention of the words “gun,” “rifle,” or any other firearms related term in the book.

This fucking country, man.

I get that there is a crisis going on, with kids getting a wild hair up their ass and deciding to go to school and shoot a bunch of people. My son has regular lock-down drills. He’s a third grader. The way that these drills are handled is horrifying. The teachers basically just start yelling to get down or lock the doors or whatever. This usually results in some kids bawling their eyes out because they are terrified.

Some schools are giving kids their own baseball to throw at an attacker. Which to me is ludicrous. Oftentimes the gun debate leans towards the prospect of arming teachers, which many reject outright. “We aren’t trained Law Enforcement who can deal with an active shooter!” No, but apparently, arming a bunch of 4th graders with sports gear is an acceptable solution when using deadly force. I’m gonna go on a limb here and say that getting pummeled with 30+ baseballs would suck, but I doubt we have any Nolan Ryans in the classroom who would do much more than put a bruise on someone’s leg. And besides, do we really want to encourage what is essentially stoning in our schools?

I mean, these are the same kids who can’t throw rocks at each other at recess without expulsion. Do they have the training or wherewithal to even direct a projectile at another human being in this way? Remember how badly Dodgeball is treated in schools?

I remember when I was a kid, we had fire drills. The alarm would go off. We would feel that rush of adrenaline in our stomachs, and in spite of our first reaction to scream “Yay! The school’s on fire!” we would just stand up, line up at the front door and calmly walk down the hall and then spend the next ten to twenty minutes milling around outside until the alarms were shut off in the building.

My son informs me that active shooter drills are the students huddling together in a corner of the room in absolute silence, other than the occasional child weeping uncontrollably in the reading nook, shielded by volumes of Dr. Seuss books and censored paperbacks of Shiloh. This can go on for upwards of half an hour. Of course nobody acknowledges the fact that drywall is not anything more than “light cover.” My son is split between two schools of thought. The side that they tell kids to fight off the attacker, and the other that says to hide like little mice and not to make a sound.

He asked me why adults won’t answer his questions about any of this. I told him, “Son, it’s because they are scared and they don’t know.” My suggestion to him was if there is an active shooter and he can get far, far away safely. Do that.

But the adults aren’t talking.

Here’s the thing that made me mad. At recess, my son and his buddies love to play combat. The resort to finger guns and sound effects to play exactly the same way kids have been playing in schools and playgrounds for hundreds of years. They are sneaky about it too. They also fill their brains with just about every damned thing they can about the military and are absolutely fascinated by it. A big reason they are fascinated by it is because the schools have made it a taboo subject. They have completely mystified gun violence.

They have removed firearms from the discussion completely. Which worked wonders with Prohibition, the War on Drugs, Rock and Roll, cigarettes, sex, witchcraft, and just about anything else the establishment has deemed as “forbidden.” It has gotten to the point that kids can’t even ask questions about Why something is happening or Why this is being done. Kids love to ask Why. They never accept “Because I said so” as an answer.

Which is why we have had people walk on the moon.

People absolutely SUCK at taking “because I said so” as gospel. Which is why we have so many religious denominations as well, because people kept looking for answers to their questions. This is also encouraged in analytical thought, or should have been, since Plato. When people stop asking questions is when things get dangerous. Questions such as “Why is it okay to buy and sell those people whose skin is darker than mine?” Questions such as “Why are we all getting on these boxcars again?” Questions like that.

Here’s my question: How does this make any sense at all? For the last 20 years, America has been in a “forever war” in the Middle East. In some cases there are active duty military personnel who are fighting alongside one or both parents. That is how long this war has been going on. The military is also a viable option for many people to find a career, or at the very least get training for a vocation or college funding. In case you didn’t know, the military is part of the Government. You know, the same government that runs schools, law enforcement, firefighting, roads and bridges, and everything else we pay taxes for. It’s the same government staffed by figureheads we argue about on facebook every day, plaster their faces on posters and lunchboxes, and demonize when our guy loses and theirs wins.

But guns are bad. So evil that the word needs to be removed from a middle-reader book. Even though when that kid is 18, they could enlist in the military or a police academy, and be turned out on the world with a totally evil and awful gun in their hands. Or you know, hunt for their food if the government fails them, much like what the poor white trash kid from Shiloh has been doing to help feed his family.

I guess it’s okay if Katniss Everdeen does it with a bow. But you have to white out “.22” when it comes to Shiloh.

But, kids who have an interest would already be considered social pariahs and at risk because of their interests. At some point, we start looking at things like classism. Aptitude testing. Psychological profiling. Filling the ranks of our police and military with kids who show a disposition for “Violence” and “Psychopathy.” Because that always ends well too. Let’s just profile people due to a perceived disposition for violence and put them into facilities or vocations.

Maybe what should be considered in censoring Shiloh is that a kid with nothing but a gun never considers using that gun on a man he considers vile, who has abused the only friend he has in the world, which he loves more than anything. At the heart of this story, there is love. Never once does the kid decide to go on a rampage. Instead, he works off his debt to earn his dog, and in the process, he earns the respect of others.

What the kid, and the cranky-ass old man learn, is compassion. Grace. Patience. Tolerance.

Removing guns from the discussion won’t solve anything. Removing discussions from the discussion is even worse. This is why people have championed against censorship throughout the history of this nation. Why it is the FIRST Amendment in our Bill of Rights.

It just pisses me off that the same schools that have “Banned Books Week” have the balls to ban words in those books. When you censor the individual words, you leave a blank space that is open for anything else to get in. Because nature abhors a vacuum. And when you can’t supply children with answers to their questions, they come up with their own.