September 13, 2020

STAY CALM ( but don't breathe so much)



It is September, Fall is here, and Wildfire season is a bit late this year.  In our neck of the woods, Wildfire season usually starts after Spring, but August is often Wildfire month.  Last year was relatively good, but the two years previous were bad.  Air is full of particulate this year.  We have wildfires not coming from the Interior or Alberta, but from the south.  The west coast of the US is on fire, Washington, Oregon and California.  There is an incipient civil war, an incendiary President, and a pandemic featuring symptoms of loss of breath, with the feeling that your lungs are full of jello.   

A few months ago, George Floyd was murdered by 4 policemen in Minneapolis. One stood on his neck while he said he could not breathe.  George Floyd died because he could not breathe, because a murderous racist cop was standing on his neck, because other racist cops watched, and did nothing to stop his death.  

Breathing, and not breathing, are the real issue of this unsettled year.  Sure, we still live in fear.  Fear of contagion, virus, election results.  Businesses have shut down, some re-opened, and many remain closed for good.  Some people are working again, while others are still out of work.  Rents were frozen for some, but those rent-freezes are thawing out.  We are about to experience a flood of homelessness, hunger, increased addiction and never-ending unrest.

For the last few months, during all this upheaval, the sky was blue and birds were singing. The surreal duality has been messing with our minds, causing  increased mental health issues. An epidemic of loneliness is also in season. 

But now, we are deep in wildfire season. The air we breathe is almost unbreathable.   Air quality is two times worse than what worse is supposed to be.  Eyes burn, throats are raw, and I have had a headache for over 2 weeks now.  There is something in the air.

Life itself is breath.   

We are alive as long as we can breathe.  

When breathing stops, it becomes a question of time.  

If one stops breathing for more than 3 minutes, the result is brain injury.  

Over 5 minutes, and life itself stops.  

Many people have shortness of breath right now, and for some people, their breathing regularly stops every night as they "sleep".  I put "sleep" in quotation marks, as eyes may be shut, the room may be dark, it might be night, but often sleep, actual sleep is elusive.  

Certainly the quality of sleep suffers when one cannot breathe properly.  I suffer from sleep apnea, where I regularly stop breathing for periods of time while I sleep.  I remember sharing a room with my boss once in Seattle for a trade show.  He did not want to pay for two rooms, so I had to share a room, although thankfully, we had separate beds.  He was so parsimonious that the next morning when he saw the prices for a hotel breakfast, he suggested that we share an egg!   

He was a famous snorer, and would even fall asleep during meetings in the daytime.  Also while he was driving.  The night I shared a hotel room with him, his snoring was so loud, I started counting the seconds between when he breathed out, and then abruptly, made the snore sound that announced he had once again restarted breathing.  His breaths were about 45 seconds apart.  Counting seconds of a person "sleeping" is not similar to counting sheep; in fact, it is very hard to go back to sleep when another person is not breathing well in the bed next to you.

My own sleep apnea is worse when I have extra weight, or have been drinking.  My poor wife has suffered with me for over 40 years now.  I have tried CPAP machines, that regulate your breathing while you sleep, but the apparatus is so foreign to sleeping, that I always ended up quitting.  

Breathe-Right strips help a bit, but fall off during the night.   Nose breathing is apparently healthier, but breathing through your nose is not as natural as breathing through one's mouth. 

We breathe in , and we breathe out.  The lungs fill, and empty with a regularity, as our hearts keep the beat. One of the ways that I deal with stress is to sing.  All my life, I have gone for walks, made up songs, and sung them to myself.  Over 40 years ago, I started singing those songs for other people.

One cannot sing without breath, although God knows, I have tried.  When one runs out of breath, the words start to fail, the delivery falters, and the tone becomes impaired.

It may sound strange, but there are other ways to breathe, besides the old in/out. 

"Circular breathing is a technique used by players of some wind instruments to produce a continuous tone without interruption. It is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks."1

The concept of circular breathing was made  popular by Frank Sinatra, but was practiced for thousands of years by didgeridoo players.   Sinatra adopted this technique from Tommy Dorsey, big band trombonist, to improve his tone, delivery and stamina.  

Angus McPherson describes this technique in an article he wrote for Cut Common Magazine, "An air of mystery surrounds circular breathing, as if it's a special club that only the worthy are allowed to enter."  2

Even though I have played music for over 40 years, I have always thought of myself as a non-musician. (Those who have heard me would probably agree. Pa-dump.)  Michael Blake, famous NY saxophonist once remarked, "Dennis doesn't play the sax, he owns a sax." 

Ouch!  

I guess I am a Marxist in that respect, a Groucho Marxist, as Groucho once said he would "refuse to join any club that would have him as a member."

I am no longer a member of the Musician's Union, I still can't do circular breathing, and I still own a sax.   

The sky is yellow.

Coffee is black.

I'm a bit blue.

_ _ _ _ _ _.


What should the last line be?  

I feel like a kitten in a sack....

Keeping it clean I'll just say fack....

Feeling like I want my money back....

Winter is coming.  ( I know it doesn't rhyme. )

I am reminded of wise words from the song Jack You Dead by the great Louis Jordan.  So I will give Mr. Jordan the last words:

"When all the breath has leaked out of you

bomp bomp bomp

Jack You Dead."  


1 Wikipedia

 https://www.cutcommonmag.com/the-seven-worst-things-about-circular-breathing/

September 5, 2020

Watch all passengers with a veiled wariness



"Everyone knows, from books or experience, that living out of sight of any shore does rich and powerfully strange things to humans.  Captains and stewards know it, and come after a few trips to watch all passengers with a veiled wariness."1

The week starts on a Monday.  For many years now, the week starts on a Monday.  Monday is the Day of the Dread, the day that comes prematurely. Monday cannot help itself.  It just gets excited.  All that resting on Sunday, and Monday is excited to get going, can't wait.  You can't sleep knowing that Monday is coming.  Have you ever heard anyone say Thank God It's Monday, except perhaps with their tongue firmly in your cheeks. dripping with irony. 

Is Monday a fresh sheet of paper, or do you feel Monday is like waking up in the middle of night, confused as to where you are for a moment, one foot in the dream, and one foot poking out of the warm, somnolent covers, the only limb left outside, unprotected, unloved, a cake in the rain?  

Monday comes first, with anxiety, filling you with a dread that however hellish Monday may turn out to be, it is just  the first day of what will be a whole week of days, each with their own name and personality.  During this pandemic, the days blur.  There is even a day of the week that we  call Blursday.   

It is always Happy Hour in Blursday.  Blursday is the day in which you forget just what day it really is.   Have you experienced Blursday yet?  I often have my Blursday moment on Whensday, as in when is this day?  Lately, When Is This Day is the day formerly known as Tuesday. Just wake me up when it is Thursday, or as I like to call it, False Friday.   

" They do things calmly that would be inconceivable with earth beneath them: they fall into bed and even into love with poignant desperate relish and complete disregard for the land-bound proprieties; they weep after one small beer, not knowing why; they sometimes jump overboard the night before making port.  And always drink with a kind of concentration which, according to their natures, can be gluttonous, inspired, or merely beneficent."1

We are all passengers on this manic pandemic cruise ship.  We are not officially lost at sea, but our movements are restricted. Still, we feel the need to make an effort to reach the shore.   Life on the HMS CORONA, is very confusing, as we can take a stroll on the poop deck, we look up at the enormous blue sky, the only view being sky and water for as far as we can see.  Will we ever find the land again?   Is the shore a real thing, or just a word we dimly remember, a distant dream, a foggy notion, an implanted memory in a soggy impaired brain?  

"Sometimes, if people make only one short voyage, or are unusually dull, they are not conscious of sea change, except as a feeling of puzzlement that comes over them when they are remembering something that happened, or almost happened, on board ship.  Then for a few seconds, they will look like children listening to an old dream."1

Dreams can take us on voyages that cannot happen in real life.  I have had a multitude of strange dreams. Do you remember the flying dreams you had as a child?  The dreams of climbing ladders in dark, dusty warehouses that lead to nowhere?  You can't get back down, and yet, you can go no further.  The dreams where people you love disappear, and you wake up crying, not sure if they are really gone.  Or the dreams where those who have really disappeared come back.  You are 17 in the back seat of the family car, except you are really 62, and why are these dead people driving the car?   

"Often, though, and with as little volition, people will become ship addicts, and perjure themselves with trumpery excuses for their trips.  I have watched many of them, men and women too, drifting in their drugged ways about the corridors of peacetime liners, their faces full of a contentment never to be found elsewhere."1

What does Donald Trump dream of?  Do we even care?  Surely, he dreams of himself.  He dreams of drowning in money, like Scrooge McDuck. He dreams of  glorious Russian pussy, showering on him so many gold coins like a winning slut machine.  

He dreams of winning the big jackpot, the biggest jackpot ever. 

See Little Donny sitting on his jackpot tweeting, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

He calls out in the night, raging, screaming.  Did you see Daddy last night?  He came home late, and he was wearing a white wedding gown with a pointed hat. Not a Pope's hat, but a pointy hat like I get to wear at school.  Except, this pointy hat fits his pointed head so perfectly.  It was the pointiest of pointed hats.  

And Daddy was so mad at me, he was raging "All Lives Matter."  Bad Daddy woke Little Donny up, he slapped me, "wake up dummy, wake up, they are coming. "

Who is coming?  Are the Russians coming?  

"They are coming, and we have to be ready.  Grease the guns, grab the pussy, and support your local white police.  You can forget the generals and the troops- they are not worth your support, Little Donny.  They are just a bunch of losers, suckers, nobodies, wasting their lives in shit hole countries.  Who would do that?  What kind of dummy does that?  Just the thought of it makes my blood boil and my bone spurs hard."

He wakes up, feeling like he is drowning, and he is wet.  The sheets are wet.  His pillow is wet.  With tears? Soaked in blood?  No, just the acrid smell of Slavic urine.    


1. MFK Fisher - The Gastronomical Me 1943


August 30, 2020

The Courage of the Coward

I was punched in the gut the other day scrolling through Facebook. A friend made a post about Anthony  Bourdain, the chef and author, who took his life two years ago. 

Then I made the rookie mistake of reading the comments section.

It was there that a nasty comment jumped out, and shook me to the core. In these dark times, we are drowning in stupid comments , but this comment was one that was particularly stupid and heartless.


This guy, who I did not know, said something like this “ I loved all of his shows and read all his books, but man, he was a coward who took his own life. “ 

The implication was that Bourdain didn’t “man up.” He was "weak" for quitting. He was somehow less of a man, he was a COWARD. This was a comment that showed no sympathy for Bourdain's pain, nor any understanding that judgement is the last thing we need when discussing suicide or the vast reasons people choose to live or not to live. The comment was dripping with toxic masculinity. 

This concept of calling someone a coward, because they choose suicide is disgusting.  First of all, nobody knows why someone is compelled to make this very personal and fatal choice to live or die.  Is it cowardice to not want to continue living?  What if the person had terminal cancer? What if they had suffered untold pain, and felt they had no one who could help? Why is it that we accept poor health but not mental health as a factor in the decision?

Cowardice is supposed to be the opposite of courage. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a “failure of character in the face of a challenge. One who succumbs to cowardice is known as a coward.” A coward is a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.  What if the dangerous or unpleasant thing is life itself?

There is no question that suicide is hardest for those who are left behind, the loved ones who have to sort through the reasons and the wreckage, the ifs and whys, the blame, the shame, and in the end the thoughts that never end - ‘what could I have done to prevent this from happening?  

This is from a blog post that I wrote 6 years ago,  when Robin Williams died.

"Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain."    

"That's all it's about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn't even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights... no matter how much you want to remain standing. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could. "

"Don't accept it if someone tells you, "That's not enough to be suicidal about." There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain. "

"When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.

You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things:

(1) find a way to reduce your pain, or 

(2) find a way to increase your coping resources. 

Both are possible. "

http://www.metanoia.org/suicide

And I have had friends who ended their life.  When someone gets to my age, that is inevitable. I can rationally accept that this is a choice that people make in desperation.  And I am haunted by the loss.    But the use of the word coward seemed so callous, so unsympathetic, so dismissive of a decision that is deeply personal.  

So I was reminded of Vic Chesnutt, who committed suicide on Christmas Day in 2009. Earlier in 2009, Vic Chesnutt released his last record, At The Cut.  It featured the song I've Flirted With You All My Life, a song he described as a song about his relationship with death.  

But the album starts off with the song COWARD.  Vic starts on acoustic guitar and then we hear him say “The courage of the coward is greater than all others.”   

Coward

The courage of the coward

Is greater than all others

A scaredy-cat'll scratch 'im

If you back 'im in a corner

But I, I, I, I am a coward

I, I, I am a coward

Courage born of despair and impotence

Submissive dogs can

Lash out in fear and be

Very, very dangerous

But I, I, I, I am a coward

I, I, I am a coward.

    Vic Chesnutt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNJKL_6MwT0

Cowards are not normally thought of as courageous.  And yet, it takes great courage to live our lives. We have to understand that  people at the end of their ropes, may think that in the act of taking their own life, they are relieving others of the burden. I am not claiming that the act of suicide is an act of bravery, but that it is one of the unexplainable things in life that is so personal, we don't really get to have an opinion. Because even though the act affects us all so deeply, it is not about us.

Perhaps it is that feeling of impotence, lack of control that is hardest to come to terms with.

In his final interview, which aired on National Public Radio 24 days before his death, Chesnutt said that he had "attempted suicide three or four times [before].

It didn't take. "

Patti Smith said in a statement, “He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind,” He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself. Before he made an album he said he was a bum. Now he is in flight, bumming round beyond the little room. With his angel voice.”

After his death, his close friend, Kristin Hersh wrote a book titled Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt, which was published by University of Texas Press and released on October 1, 2015.

"The effect is extraordinarily powerful — it gives Hersh a way to express both the love and the anger that Chesnutt inspired in her. And anyone who's lost a close friend or family member knows what that mixture feels like. It's irrational and confusing, and Hersh captures it perfectly. "[Y]ou started with a broken heart and blamed everyone you met after that for breaking it," she writes. And then later, nearly broken under the weight of her grief: "Fallen, but not in free fall: in misery, but still singing. 'I am not a good ... man.' No, not always. But you were maybe a good angel."

Hersh writes, "Sometimes we wanna die. And sometimes we watch each other live through it. This is maybe all the saving anyone ever amounts to."

 


August 22, 2020

I Don't Believe in a Cure, but I Do Believe in Bacon, and that is Cured.

"The more sincerely he tried to explain things, the more a fog of insincerity came to hang over everything."  Haruki Murakami

I was speaking with a business colleague yesterday.  He lives in California.  He said Hello from Covid California.   We talked about how life had changed since the pandemic.  He said he wasn't too excited about getting a vaccine. He thought a treatment was what was needed. 

I said to him, you can wait forever, but a cure will never happen. The common cold is a coronavirus.  Have "THEY" cured that?  HIV is a virus- have we cured that?  Cancer is not a virus, but we have been raising money to find the cure for many, many years.  Are the treatments better, do people live longer, or are we still shouting Fuck Cancer?   

The entire medical establishment and big pharma are not programmed for cures.  They are programmed for treatments.   The money is not in a cure.  The money is always tied to the prolonging.  

I started wondering about the word "cure" and how the origin might differ than the word secure.  We seem to be obsessed with the ideas of cures and security.  Kind of like Hopes (cure) and Fears (security).  The word "cure" was in usage before "secure" by a couple hundred years.  We had the cure before we were secure.  We had hopes before fears.   We had Obama, whose brand was hope, and now have Trump, whose brand is fear.  

The word Cure comes from the Latin word cura,  meaning "care, concern, trouble." Later, it came to mean "means of healing" and even later as " successful remedial treatment of a disease."  

Let's not forget church and state. Cure is also related to the word Curate from the Latin curatus, past participle of curare, meaning " to take care of".  Sure, that is what the church does.  Churches or religions, offer hope as their drug of choice.  But if the hope isn't selling, advertisers never fail to use good old fashioned fear as their motivator.   Hell was not invented for fallen angels.  Hell is the repository of our fears, the sweet home Alabama for our Mammons and Data.   

Around 1743, the word cure also came to be associated with preparing for preservation by drying, salting etc.  This is widely used in relation to fish, pork, etc.  The fish and pork were not healed, they were preserved.   They were not safe and secure, nor were they very hopeful, as they were already dead.

But they were given a new life, a second chance to please, preserved from the dangers of rotting, preserved for another time, blessed with an extended shelf life.  We did not "cure" them, but improved their Best Before date.   

Is there evidence of preserving humans with salt or brine?  Many of us are working on a home pickling project, but there is little proof that a pickled man lasts any longer than a non-pickled man.  In fact, pickling in that context, rarely leads to longer life.   Neither does smoking, although many people smoke fish and meat for preservation purposes.  

Please note that there is very little ancient connection of the word "cure" to the word "physician." More typically cure was connected to "conjurer."   So is a cure more of a magic trick of smoke and mirrors? Call the doctor or the Witchdoctor?  Which is witch?   Are you a good witch or a bad witch?  

Is this the demon seed of the rampant disbelief in science?  Or is that more rooted in the old mama/daddy authority issues?  

Did you know that the word "ill" is a contracted form of "evil"?  

Johnny: Mother, I am feeling  ill.  

Mother: No Johnny, you are feeling evil.  Learn the difference.  

Is the virus evil, or is evil the virus?  Which is witch?  Is the cure worse than the disease?   The word disease literally derives from dis- and ease, or the absence of ease. Perhaps we just need some more elbow room.   Being quarantined in a small apartment can cause some dis-ease.  We define Elbow Room as the adequate space to move or work in. (e.g. "the car has elbow room for four adults." )  Please cars were bigger at one time.  In today's cars, 4 adults is not a good example of social distancing.

Somewhere in my memories of useless old aphorisms, is this: When you find yourself living in a shoe, move to a boot where you got more room.  

There is an old country song written by Sara Carter of The Carter Family called 50 Miles of Elbow Room, that expresses the yearning for heaven, or to update it -  perhaps just a bigger apartment. After all, times are tough, so we have to lower our expectations in 2020.  "There'll be room to spare when we enter there. On the right hand,  on the left hand, 50 miles of Elbow Room." Here is a nice version from Helen Carter, daughter of Maybelle Carter. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm8rt5EqiV0

The word "secure" comes from before my time, or more exactly the 1530's. Secure means "without care, dreading no evil", from the Latin securus. Se cura, from se (free from) and cura (care) - see cure."   Of persons, free from care, quiet easy", also in a bad sense, "careless, reckless."   

Free from dis-ease. Full of ease.  Soaking in ease.  Easy Street.  In regard to all things material girl in nature, secure  means "tranquil; free from danger, safe, easy."  Easy Breezy Beautiful Cover Girl.  Bada-bing-bada-boom.

Security!! Security!!  We must secure the perimeter!  Are we free from the cure?  Quick! Remove the mask, she can't breathe.

I  believe security will be called.  I don't believe they will discover a cure.  There is too much money to be made in not finding a cure.  We are happier being secure ( free from cure).  We are looking for treatments.  (from the word treat and mint, a minty treat)   I remember my five year old daughter instructing me on the difference between a treat and a snack.  

All is not lost, as I still have a strong belief system.  I still believe in Bacon, and that is cured, although bacon can become an addiction, and that is hard to cure.

"By this time, I had read the same line in my book a couple hundred times."  Haruki Murakami

August 15, 2020

THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE, THE ORBIT OF YOUR SOUL


The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?  Oscar Wilde De Profundis

It's only rock'n'roll, but we like it. Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones

Truth. The final frontier. dense milt

When someone dies, we write what we call an obituary. But when that someone is still alive, if they write about themselves, we call it autobiographical, or memoir. Memoir is from the French memoire- meaning memory. Memoirs are thought to be factual, although James Frey challenged that notion with his "memoir," A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club pick which was revealed to contain some content that was invented, or made up, to create a more salacious and profitable read. In other words, he lied, but he didn't get away with it.

At densemilt.com, we state our motto at the very top: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." We do not play the ball where it lies around here. If we need to kick that ball onto the green, well, we kick the ball. Not in an obvious way, of course, more of a side step, or a sidekick, which is more than the monkey to the grinder. But you know what they say- no monkey- no money.

Creative non-fiction like it's cousin, the autobiographical novel, offers a more transparent form of augmented memory. But since the whole world is on drugs, and almost everybody is subject to some kind of false memory, or especially memory loss, what is "truth" anyway?

It is said that we are living in a post-truth world. We play it safe, we play around with the facts, we know what we like, we eat what we want, we just get 'er done, and we are not afraid to lie to get where it counts.

I am calling this game what it is, and it is a game. It is a performance, sometimes well rehearsed, and sometimes, improvised. Improvisation is making do with what you have on hand, creative reinvention. It is resetting the tables that have turned, it is making it up as you go. Is it as Conway Twitty once said, 'only make believe? ' Are we all just marathon dancers in the make believe ballroom? What is the truth anymore? Is our very existence now nothing more than a travesty of truth? Is this is the orbituary of the soul, the run-around the rosie, the new truth of how we get around, how we are sharpening our survival skills, how we circumvent our venting, how we deny, deflect, and ultimately use the dodge to get out of Dodge?

So here I sit typing away on a cynical sunny Saturday, my chores half done, messing around with words, when I should be out soaking in the sun. Oscar Wilde wrote De Profundis, the words at the top, when he was sent to prison for the crime of loving another man. Laika was sent out in space by the Russians to prove the superiority of the Soviet system; poor Laika had no choice in the assignment.

Mick Jagger is closing in on 80, proving rock n roll is no longer a young man's game. Past his prime, he was Best Before. They forget to refrigerate after opening. While it is easy to make fun of the old guys, they still rock. They still roll. I see you rolling your eyes. "Oh, I didn't know that, but then again, there's only one I've met. An' he just smoked my eyelids An' punched my cigarette."

We are all looking for meaning, especially during this pandemic, when all the old rules are replaced with the new rules. The new rules aren't much different than rules they suggested back in 1917-18, during the Spanish Flu, which truth be told wasn't Spanish after all. Apparently it came from Kansas City. Kansas City Flu did not fit the narrative, so a sidestep. A shuffling of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Now the bricks lay on Grand Street where the neon madmen climb. They all fall there so perfectly; it all seems so well timed.  And here I sit so patiently waiting to find out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice. Bob Dylan.





August 9, 2020

Are You Still Counting To 20?


"As cognitive scientists who study the human mind, we suggest that this tendency to see human features everywhere is an innate human characteristic, one that automatically alerts you to signs of other people- and helps you make sense of a confusing world. "

From The conversation.com- \humanizing the coronavirus


Back in the late 90's I became the Manager of a bakery called Uprising Breads.  It was a Worker's Cooperative governed with a democratic management structure, which meant that the workers were the true owners; I was hired from within.  I was hired as a baker, worked the counter, did dishes, disastrously drove the bread van one day, took on the role of expanding the wholesale business, and finally, was hired by the collective to manage them.  This was a role of leadership, with limited authority bestowed upon me by the workers whom I managed.   

As such, it was a role that required all the diplomacy I had acquired growing up as the number five  son in a family of seven kids.  I served at their discretion. As the governed were the true owners, all decisions needed to be somewhat transparent, and negotiated.   Truthfully, the role became very similar to that of an elected official.  My authority was consent based; consent was not implicit, but had to be gained through discussion. I was responsible with preparing a better vision that the group would accept.


Let me back up and say that I had no formal training for this position; I am a high school graduate, who had taken acting classes for 8 months.  (Much later I took some courses in copywriting, sales, marketing and purchasing, but my knowledge has always been self taught to some degree.)  


It is said that good judgment comes from experience.  And experience comes from bad judgement.   Another favourite aphorism of mine is "It is the early bird that gets the worm, but it is the second mouse that gets the cheese."  Being an innovator is not always the easiest path; often it is better to come after, and learn from other's mistakes, rather than making them yourself.


Regrets, I've had a few.  Drinks as well, I've had a few.  It is funny at age 62 to ponder the concept of a career.  My job life has always been the means to an end, something I fell into, like hanging with the wrong crowd.  When  I managed the bakery, it was the early 90's.  I managed it for seven years, until the workers had to bring in private investors because the capital needs of one of the businesses had grown beyond the comfort level of investment the workers were prepared to make..  The investor said at one point that the bakery was not "core" to his acquisition strategy, so he offered it to me  for sale.   For many reasons, I chose not to buy the bakery, and it was sold to one of the workers whom I had been managing.  

Now the workers were very confused.  I was still the Manager, and the new owner was one of them, but he had a different vision of how the bakery would run.   I stayed on for another 6 months, until he called me into his office one day ( my co-worker in the office left early that day, and she never left early), and gave me a letter.   In the letter was his offer for me to go away, with compensation, as I was being terminated without cause.  I said thank you, I would consult with my lawyer.   This statement took him aback a bit, but we soon came to an agreement.  And I stayed for another two months and then left.  

I fondly remember this experience and have many memories.  The neighbourhood was working class and left leaning.  As a near original punk, I was familiar with concepts of anarchy, and one of my favourite buttons was QUESTION AUTHORITY.  That was almost a mantra.   Another button said "We don't want the crumbs, we want the whole damn bakery."  


One afternoon, I was having a work meeting with one of the teams on the lawn across from the bakery.  I was trying to make some new policies clear, and gaining approval ( in my mind).   One of the workers disagreed with my idea of starting their shift earlier, and called me a fascist.  I said no, I was far from being a fascist, as real fascists actually killed people. I was just proposing a new work schedule.  Later, we would laugh about the conversation.  


We had a suggestion box for customers to let us know their thoughts.   One customer wrote an angry diatribe against us. We had named a multigrain bun, rolled in sunflower seeds a Hedgehog roll.   He felt that this anthropomorphism of naming a bun after an animal, was indicative of a larger evil.   Such were the daily challenges of running a hippie bakery in a post-punk time.  


For some reason, this trip down memory lane was sparked by the quote at the top in regards to how we try to humanize this virus, COVID 19.   The President called it our Invisible Enemy, and perhaps for a change, he is right.   Since 9/11, and War on Terror,  the US has been chasing phantoms, fears and invisible enemies.  Since fear is such a great motivator, it is important to always have something or someone to fear.  This new enemy is kind of perfect, in that it is invisible.  So the battle against it has become a war of words, a war of ways of life, a war of public health vs. warped concepts of freedom and liberty.  A war of facts, of who one chooses to believe, with various "news sources" competing for ratings, and pushing their own agendas of fear. Now anonymous YouTube videos are being held up as authority to believe in.    


I am reminded of the concept of "when everything is a priority, then nothing becomes the priority."  More importantly, nothing gets done if everyone is staking out positions, with no agreement even on what constitutes reality anymore.   No wonder we are all starting to feel like we are losing our minds.

In a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci was speaking about the anger and death threats he and his family are experiencing, and said "One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are - for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable - they just don't believe science and they don't believe authority."


I think Fauci is on to something here.  There are so many people who deny the reality of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists believe this threat to be real and credible.  More and more, we are seeing alt-this and alt-that, conspiracies galore.  

Three years ago, I wrote a song satirizing these conspiracy theorists called ICEWALL.   The lyrics are almost tame now with the current level of crazy going on.  I wanted to write a love song from the point of view of a conspiracy theorist.  My daughter had introduced me to the concept of the Icewall, which flat earthers believe surrounds the flat earth, keeping all the oceans from falling off the edge.  


My lyrics:


ICEWALL


Let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love

I will hold you like the icewall holds the sea and stars above

And I know you believe me

Unless you’re part of this vast conspiracy

So let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love.


Remember 911 was an inside job

That’s what I learned from my Uncle Bob

He should know it’s true, he was there that day

When the CIA shot JFK

And careful, chemtrails make you gay

But liberal women like their men that way

And sex with animals, that’s ok

When they look at you that certain way.


Remember Jimmy Hoffa, he was never found

And DB Cooper never hit the ground

A tree falls in the forest- no sound

And some fools say the world is round

Round here we don’t take vaccines

Don’t want to wind up like Avril Lavigne

What Chad Kroeger did to her was so mean

When he made her his lizard queen.


The world ends and what happens next

You were my world til you sent that text

Said you don’t love me and please don’t call

Don’t want to hear about my damned Icewall.

I hear Donald Trump has aides

Who make him swastika pancakes

And sex with Nazis, that’s ok

When they look at you that certain way.


Let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love

I will hold you like the icewall holds the sea and stars above

And I know you believe me

Unless you’re part of this vast conspiracy

So let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love.

Dennis Mills all rights reserved.  2017.(c)


Early on in this pandemic, we were told by Public Health officials to wash our hands for 20 seconds, and maintain social distancing.  These officials are scientists, with training in epidemiology, viruses, and prevention.   
Should we question their authority?   
Does some angry guy on YouTube really know more than someone who has been studying and practicing this type of thing for decades?   
Are you still counting to 20 when you wash your hands? 

August 2, 2020

The stages of pandemic grief


THE STAGES OF PANDEMIC GRIEF


In the stages of pandemic grief, I went from anger to fiction without stopping at denial.
Or so I glibly remarked on a recent Instagram post.  A friend asked me to expand upon this remark.
So let me attempt to shine some light on the daylight darkness we are all living in.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (pardon the lack of umlaut- I have no idea how to pull that up on this platform)  postulates the five stages of grief as being a series of emotions that one goes through in experiencing grief:



1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Why only five stages is the first question?  If a man wrote this, there would be at least 10.  The Top Ten stages of Grief.   So what would the other five stages be?

1. What the fuck?   Denial
2. I am so pissed off!!!! Anger
3. I will trade you this goat for 3 chickens or a bucket.  Bargaining
4. Why a goat?  Why a goat?  What? All I get is a fucking goat?  Depression
5. Ok. I get it. A goat.  Whatever, might as well be a goat.  Acceptance
6. Magical Thinking-Fiction vs. Non-Fiction. Expectations vs Reality. 
7. Science Fiction- Alien Goat sucks souls for breakfast ( on a planet, somewhere, who cares)
8. Secondary Depression.  I mean, I bet you can't just have one.  More like wild mood swings with brief moments of clarity.
9. Science. The science of why- Why?  I mean Why??? For fuck sake WHY!!!!? (contrast with those who do not believe in science- FREEDOM, GUNS, WHITE GOD, KITTENS, KAREN'S, SUPPORT THE TROOPS, TRUMP 2020, CHURCHES SHOULDN'T PAY TAXES, WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR A MASK, WHY CAN'T I EAT FRIED CHICKEN, BACON AND PEANUT BUTTER IN WHATEVER ORDER I CHOOSE EVERY DAY)
10. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. What? Again? Another loss?  Is anybody keeping score here?  Goats, anyone?

So back to the initial remark.  Pandemic times are so upside down and topsy turvy that we can't even grieve in the right order.  We can't grieve what we are losing, because we are still in the process of losing it.   Who has time to stop and count, take stock, reflect?   Everything is so random.  Former pillars of strength are weeping in a corner.  Everything must be sanitized, torn down, defunded.  The only way out is through it.  The revolution is not being reported on.  The situation is not reflected in the news we are fed.  Queue up, download, ZOOM ZOOM.
Why look what we stepped in here?   It is firmly entrenched in every groove of our shoes, every strand of our hairs, every thought, every day, 24/7, non-stop. 
I am writing this on a computer that my daughter gave me. I guess I gave it to her first, but she gave it back.  My IT guy at work had to set it up twice, because I couldn't remember the password I used in the early months of the pandemic. 
So far in the writing of this rant, I have apparently been subject to two virus attempts, which some program successfully thwarted.  It is almost as if someone was reading my mind.  Or my mail. Or scanning my iris, drawing my blood, drawing me a bath, handing me the razor and saying enjoy the water!   The water is warm.   The water invites.  The water is always waiting and watching.
So back to the initial remark.  The reason I glibly tossed it off was that I could not bring myself to pour my  heart out, and go into more detail. 
In the early days of the pandemic, I had some very dark thoughts.   I was working through the lockdown, going to work every day, taking all the risks we thought we were taking, while my wife and daughter were in lockdown in the 2 bedroom apartment with the dog.  8 legs waiting for me to come home.   Waiting for me to come home and possibly bring the virus back with me, infecting them and as a result becoming responsible for their life or death.  Everyday, taking off my shoes, leaving them outside the door, taking off my clothes, showering, so much soap, so much lather, so much rinsing and repetition. 
They had each other.  I felt as if I needed to ask permission to come aboard, everyday, in my own house.   And I did.  I did need to ask, and I did ask, and I came in and hopefully did not bring this virus with me. 
And there were days when I would feel I was very hot, and I had a cough or sneeze ( that may well and most likely was allergies), and I would try to sleep, thinking I fucking am responsible here, because I am out there, and they are in here.
The daily routines continued, with new rules and alterations.   We had to wash all the food before putting it into the fridge or cupboards, even the cans, bottles and packages.  Throw out the plastic bags.   Fuck the environment, this was an invisible enemy that could kill us. 
As a 62 year old man who had a heart attack at 49, I knew I was dead meat if I caught this.  After about two weeks, I remember one night when my dark thoughts took hold, and ........Well, I don't have to spell it out, do I?  I am no stranger to those kind of thoughts.  When you live with what they call depression,  not just stage 4 and 8 of the above lists, you get used to having those thoughts. 
That is why we medicate, either prescribed or non-prescribed.  That is why we should probably meditate.  One day, I will get around to that. 
That night was about two weeks into what is now about 24 weeks, and seemingly there is no end in sight.
In a pandemic, we grieve for the lives we thought we had. We grieve for the plans that have been changed.  The trips we can no longer take.  The jobs we no longer have.  The jobs we are stuck in.  The songs no one will hear.  The hugs we want to give.  The smell of the crowd.

Normal  meet The New Normal.  Old injustice meet the New injustice.  Old racism and sexism meet the New racism and sexism. 
Life is a process.  You breathe in.   You breathe out.  You break in.  You break out.  You cry in a corner.   You scream in the middle of the night.  You shout out against the shuttering, the shuddering, the smouldering fire that is still burning in the pit of your stomach.
 
So this is shout out to all the shut-ins, all the little people, all the beautiful people, even...even all the ugly people who are rotting inside with their fictions and  ugly fake truths.  This is a shout out to the users, abusers, losers.
This is a shout to the wanted and the unwanted.  The born and the mercifully unborn.  The people whom I love and adore and treasure, who are so very dear to me, and for without them,
life would be so very much less than it is now. 
All we can do to survive is to love, and be kind, and try to make all of our lives better, and the  lives of others better. 
Because,  I truly believe, that is why we are here. 
To bring a little light into the darkness.