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." 


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

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