When they started dating, they drank sodas in her Mom’s kitchen. On the sly, they would taste each other’s sugary drinks whenever they kissed—which was often.
In college, they explored each other’s tastes in movies—she would pick one on one date, he would select one the next date. They enjoyed sharing snacks as they watched videos in his apartment. They were in love, and they couldn’t find faults with each other.
Two years and a little boy later, she wonders if there is anyone on the planet who can eat chips louder than her high school sweetheart.
This is a story about Sunny, the pound trash tabby that stalked mice when the sun went down.
This is the story of Sunny’s owners, who often got little sleep when Sunny brought in half-dead mice so his owners could try to catch the lame rodents. Or to have their morning appetites dashed when they found a mouse in the kitchen, decapitated—it’s brains eaten out of its skull.
This isn’t a story about finches or full-grown owls, either, but Sunny dispatched them as well.
If only Woody Guthrie was around today I’m sure he would have a song or two about Donald Trump–he had one for his father. Arvind Dilawar interviews Will Kaufman author of three books on Guthrie for Jacobin.
Legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie is best known for his anthem “This Land Is Your Land,” which can come off as an innocuous ode to America if you aren’t listening closely. But the singer-songwriter was a lifelong socialist. Woody Guthrie, 1970. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images) I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just…
Larry liked the convenience of the corner cafe—it was an easy walk from his home. The problem was the baristas always made the coffee as hot as molten lava. Many times he asked if there was a way to make the drinks less searing, but he would receive the same icy, “No.” He was tempted to reply, “If only you had a button on that La Marzocco that reflected your attitude, that would surely cool down my macchiato,” or, “The beans are already roasted, buddy, there is no need to boil them.” Alas, he held his burnt tongue.
“Just look at that young man in that cowboy hat,” she whispered to her husband. “He should remove that when he’s in church.” “Times change. Younger generations don’t seem to care,” her husband replied indifferently. Then, suddenly objecting, “How come it’s okay that women can wear big fancy hats? Doesn’t the Bible say a woman’s hair is her crowning glory? And why can’t I wear my New York Mets cap?” The wife, flipping through the hymnal, sighed, “Yes dear, but the Bible also says a woman is to cover her head during worship. Anyway, God’s not a Mets fan.”
The hollow in the old Silver Maple had been home for squirrels. These critters angered the dog, who treated the critters as invaders. Now colonies of bees made hives in that hollow. The dog did not protest to the new tenants. The dog’s owner noticed the beauty of a muted pooch, then the beauty of a natural beehive.
Now, the dog owner takes an active part in preserving this repurposed hollow. He calls beekeepers when each hive swarms. He also discovered the wonders of a beekeeping store. The dog’s owner only hopes his family doesn’t mind candles for Christmas.
Steve Williams, one of my favorite bloggers, posted a video on his Scooter in the Sticks blog on July 13, 2020. His silver GTS 250 and the Pennsylvania countryside are his palette. Though I don’t ride as much as I used to, I still love the idea of riding. Perhaps, when I retire–which will be soon–I will return to my weekend rides along the Sacramento and American rivers. Until then I enjoy Mr. Williams’ posts.
After a three-month-long order from Governor Gavin Newsom to close all gyms in California, the governor lifted the closure order on June 15. Though I only practiced yoga once at home during that time, I still felt wary about going to any place where there might be a lot of people breathing hard in a small room. During the second week of the reopening, I had to get back on the horse, even if I didn’t feel entirely comfortable doing so. My wife jumped right in and reported to me how things are at the club with the group exercise schedule pared back quite a bit. In the meantime, I found a video on the club’s Facebook page explaining how the gym is addressing reopening during this time of COVID-19.
So, on the second Thursday after the reopening, I attended one of the new yoga classes offered. There are new rules that give the gym a less than warm feel to it. Still, the staff is as friendly as ever, even if you can’t see their smiles under their PPE.
When I arrived, I immediately noticed social distancing sandwich boards and other cautionary signage, a closed-down snack bar, and a friendly masked face behind the front desk that was barricaded with end tables against it to ensure I kept my distance. The nice young woman did walk up close enough to take my temperature with an infrared thermometer, though. I tried to surrender my membership card per procedure, but the young woman pointed to the scanner at the corner of the desk. It was now the member’s job to scan in their card. The lobby was as vacant of people as my office, where most of us are now working from home. I currently work once a week to perform tasks I can’t do remotely.)
I approached the locker room wondering how the social distancing was going to work there. But if the lobby seemed sparsely populated, the men’s locker room was virtually empty, which is nice because I recall many times being uncomfortably packed into the locker areas and the showers. I’m still emotionally scarred over the time I was trying to open my locker with someone’s penis inches away from my face.
When I got my locker open after having to get the combination from the front desk, I noticed a giant hole in my mesh laundry bag with my boxer briefs halfway out of the bag. My gym shorts and shirt were gone. The standard procedure when this happens is to go to the laundry room and have someone from Housekeeping help me find my stuff in their dauntingly large bank baskets full of wayward sports garments, but my class was starting soon. I’m glad I keep two sets of gym clothes in my locker.
I dress down, put my mask back on, and head for the yoga studio all the while wondering if I will have to wear my mask during yoga. Breath is a big part of yoga, and, when I can remember, I practice Ujjayi breathing when I practice. That could lead to a very hot mask during practice. (If you want to know what Ujjayi breath, or and some aptly call it, “Darth Vader breathing,” check out one of my favorite teachers show you how it’s done.)
Entering the yoga studio, I find a bunch of Stages indoor bikes in the room. I check the group exercise bike studio and notice it now only has about half of the bikes, and they are all six feet apart. My yoga studio is now a stock room. (I would later find out another group exercise studio, as well as the once busy elliptical exercise room, had both suffered a similar fate.) Where will I be practicing yoga tonight? It turns all of the group exercise classes in these COVID-19 days are taking place in—the basketball court.
The Right Temperature. I’ve practiced in a studio that was too hot. Well, a couple of times, then management brought in this massive fan, the teacher turned off the music, and we practiced to what sounded like a being in a hanger with a running P-52. As for the court, the temperature was about right. PASS
The Right Lighting. Standing at the door to the gymnasium watching two guys. dribbling and shooting hoops, I was at once struck by how tranquil this environment wasn’t; the lighting way too bright., but it was perfect for shooting some hoops! FAIL
Aromatherapy. As for this element, I usually don’t care too much for how a place smells, just that it doesn’t, but if there were a bunch of sweating basketball players finishing league play it would have failed at this element miserably. I have only attended one class where a teacher, with an exotic scent, visited every student during Shavasana and rubbed the necks and shoulders of each student with eucalyptus oil. I could see how aroma could benefit a practice. I’ll give the room a PASS on the aromatherapy.
Peace & Quiet. I couldn’t meditate before the class: the cacophony of two arrhythmic bouncing balls and the THUUUNNNGs of the vibrating basketball rims ruined any chance of preparing for the practice. “That’s it,” said a fellow practitioner as she abruptly ended her pre-session warm-up. “I can’t take the basketballs!” and left, returning just when the class started. But, to be fair, when the class started, I did experience “peace and quiet.” I’ll give it a weak PASS
Neat & Clean. A “neat and clean” environment was debatable, It was clean, but the towels, sanitizing spray bottles, and stacked steps and raisers (used for other classes here) made it seem more like a basketball court/storage area during a viral outbreak)Another weak PASS
An Inspirational Place. The place did not fill me with “inspiration,” it’s a regulation NCAA/NBA 94’ x 50’ basketball court with about ten feet extra past the sidelines and baselines, not a yoga studio, which usually fills me with inspiration. FAIL
Enough Personal Space. While there was plenty of “personal space,” the 6-feet markers for the mats did not make the experience intimate. But “intimate” was not a criterion, so PASS.
Appropriate Music. Appropriate music is more critical than someone not into yoga might think. I’ve attended classes with teachers who believe somehow MC Yogi is suitable for a yoga session. (Yeah, I know the rapper is a yogi, and I enjoy his music, but that doesn’t make his music appropriate for practice. My first class back at the club had no music, which was better than the wrong music. The second class featured music and was low enough for me to hear the teacher in the cavernous space. PASS
Therefore, the new “yoga studio” gets a barely passing grade on the Do You Yoga’s test with a 75 percent. Not great, but we’re talking about exceptional times, and my health club is not exclusively a yoga studio. I’ll have to make do with what they can offer its members. Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if dedicated yoga studios have either gone out of business or cut back on their services.
We rolled out our mats over the designated spots—no chance of accidentally touching a fellow practitioner during a supine trunk rotation. Moments when you inadvertently play handzies with the student next to you were now geographically out of the question. After we warmed up, we executed a seated spinal stretch to the left. That’s when I noticed there are ten other members spread out so far that one of them was near the opposing goal line. There was one of the club’s trainers taking in the class at the free-throw line (Center), another two at opposite sides of the three-point line (Guards), another near the far baseline across from me. (That would make us both Forwards, I guess.) And five more near the mid court line and back on the opposing goal line. When I stretch the opposite way, I saw the barrel of basketballs near the door where we came in, and at once, I thought, “We have enough bodies in this gym for a pickup game!” Meditation didn’t go out the window; I never even began to go down the mindfulness path. Looking back on it now, I could have used “Alley-oop” as a mantra.
My favorite teacher, Heather, who used to teach classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, was not present. Nor was she on the schedule. Heather bailed early–a week before the club closed three months ago. In her place, now was Robert. Many yoga students and teachers have told me that Robert is one of the best yoga teachers in Sacramento, and I have practiced with more than one teacher who calls him either mentor or teacher.
He had a class at this club before the shutdown, but I had only attended it a couple of times. Many yoga peeps have told me that anyone can walk into a yoga studio never having practiced and do a session of Power Yoga or advanced Vinyasa Yoga–you just go at your own pace. But I have tried practicing in advanced classes and found it too frustrating, having to take multiple breaks and feeling as if every eye is on me–the loser (though know no one is looking at me; “no judgments” is a common motto with most, if not all yoga teachers). Still, I find trying to practice yoga above my abilities quite the opposite of beneficial and not blissful or inspirational. Anyway, Robert’s pre-COVID-19 class was too advanced for me.
For anyone who reads this blog, they might remember Robert as the kind teacher who was leading the class where I cut a loud fart. I don’t know if he recognized me as the guy who fouled his practice. Still, he did make an effort to talk to me after the class just like he hung around the front door of the club, post poot, possibly to catch me and tell me I was doing a good job [Read: “Don’t worry, Grandpa Sphincter, that’s your Root Chakra, tooting its appreciation for your practice!]. That embarrassing moment was so long ago I only hope Robert forgot about it.
One of the many amenities found in a high-end club like this one is that the establishment provides mats, blocks, rollers, straps, and as many towels as you need (or don’t need, but feel so entitled to use anyway). But these days of the novel coronavirus, the club, like everywhere else, is practicing “contactless” service, so it expects members to bring their mats. Thankfully, the front desk keeps a few mats for dullards like me. I’ve always wanted a folding mat but had only frivolous reasons to invest in one. I finally broke down and bought one, and yes, it is quite portable, but the two milometer-thickness kills my knees!
On my way out, I spoke with Housekeeping to see if my missing gym shorts and shirt were in the laundry room. My items appear to be lost; casualties to the three-month closure and a worn-out laundry bag. They gave me a new bag, but I’ll need to bring more duds.
That’s my yoga practice in a basketball court story. As I post this, COVID-19 cases have spiked in California. Governor Newsom is shutting down bars and restaurants–again. I’m guessing gyms will soon follow. (Though here’s an NPR story about how to work out as long as your gym stays open.) Perhaps I need to start a home practice, though I have mentioned on this blog countless times how undisciplined I am about following through. Just think, Jocko, you could build your own yoga space! Use the “8 Ways Your Surroundings Can Make (or Break) Your Yoga Session.” and your copy of the glossy coffee-table book Yoga At Home: Inspiration for Creating Your Home Practice by Linda Sparrowe as guidelines. I could even rub my shoulders and neck with eucalyptus oil. If only I knew how to, I shut up my chronically barking dog I might achieve zen in the middle of a pandemic!
I heard on the political podcast Left, Right, & Center that some millennials are referring to COVID-19 as the “Boomer Remover.” Of all the horrible things this virus has created, at least it has inspired someone to create a funny joke about it. I like that–and I’m one of those Boomers. I am one of the lucky ones: I’m a civil servant whose executive management has directed me to work from home. I’m not spending my days trying to get through to the Employment Development Department; monotony is the main challenge I need to overcome.
As bad as things are in this country right now, I see an opportunity for positive change. A few things have to happen first to create this opportunity. First, we need a new president. Bernie Sanders would have been perfect for this opportunity, but we may have to settle for Joe Biden–a neoliberal. Second, we need more progressive lawmakers. Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Katie Porter are not enough. Third, we need to vote out the egregious politicians like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Steve King, to name only a few. If we can achieve this in the next three elections, we could create a new America that would fix the economy, creating new initiatives, much like how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) helped usher in over 30 years of prosperity. The change could be/should be the death of neoliberalism and the resurrection of the long-dead benevolent government that lasted from FDR through Richard Nixon. (Yeah, I know those past administrations were racist and sexist ones, but the new one doesn’t have to be.
We can re-enact the Pre-Reagan 70 to 90 percent marginal tax rate, bring back the estate tax, and put teeth in Ocasio-Cortez-Markey Green New Deal. It was the Great Depression that shook this country up and resulted in a government that addressed the needs of its people. Now is the time for significant change. Now it is critical. The only thing that needs to change is the lawmakers and a catastrophic event to make it happen. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the novel coronavirus epidemic.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we get four more years of Donald Trump. (God, it hurt to type those words!) We may not have discovered, mass-produced, and mass distributed a vaccine for the virus until Trump is well into his second term. In the meantime, we will have to be vigilant by following what is now become as common sense as not running with scissors: practice social distancing, wearing personal protection equipment (PPE), using hand sanitizers, sheltering in place, if you can, and if you feel sick stay home. Below is my own experience over the first 53 days of sheltering in place.
Back to work—sort of. My office is easing into returning to work. Right now, only one person from our analyst crew are allowed on-site, so we are rotating. My building is a frigging ghost town. My office is easing staff back into work. As of this posting, each of us is only putting in one day of office work. Not at our desk, but a post, no one likes but receives a lot of traffic with long gaps of inactivity. It’s a challenge trying to stay busy at this post at this time. Ironically, it reminds me of the first week of teleworking. What’s worse, I cannot leave this post. (This isn’t my usual job, nor is it my cubical. I don’t know when I will be able to return to my regular job.
On my break, I notice the coffee house that I used to frequent isn’t open yet–maybe it never will re-open. In early April, when the shelter in place commandment was in full swing, whenever I would ride through town, it looked like a scene from the Walking Dead except there were no cars in the middle of the road helter-skelter. (There were simply no cars at all.) It looked like the homeless had successfully overrun the town, and now they owned it.
Sacramento has one of the worst homeless problems in California, but you don’t know just how bad it is until you remove everyone else. Returning to work five weeks after the initial stay at home orders, I see more workers milling around and more cars on the street, but it is only a fraction of what would be typical. I’m sure this pandemic initially won’t help the homeless crisis. It will make it worse for them. More people—the people who could barely make rent and feed themselves—will end up on the streets. I say “initially” because I hope and believe–especially if we can replace the person in the Oval Office and some of the legislative representatives in Washington, we can usher in a new egalitarian society that will care for the least of us.
In the meantime, we will go through a series of shelter in place orders, followed by the opening up of businesses, followed by another spike in COVID-19 cases, followed by another shelter in place order, who knows how many times. The fastest time we ever created a vaccine and available to the public was for Mumps, and that was–wait for it–four years! Currently, labs like Johnson & Johnson are cutting corners to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of this novel coronavirus) that causes COVID-19 (the disease). Still, there are no guarantees the labs will find a vaccine that works any faster than four years or that doesn’t have horrible side effects.
But let me close with some good news, something I touched on in the beginning of this post. After the Great Depression and World War II, not only did the economy bounce back, but the legislation that was passed into law in the dark days of the 30s and the 40s created the greatest era in this country’s history:
The Social Security Act of 1935 gave all American workers 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (aka the GI Bill) gave needed assistance to veterans coming back into the marketplace.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provided workers a minimum wage to an untrained workforce.
The Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934 for families needing assistance getting back into homes after losing theirs in the Great Depression.
Americans needed affordable health care and almost received it in 1945, but the GOP and the American Medical Association prevented the bill from becoming law. The fear at the time, as the Cold War began, was that it was a step towards Socialism. However, in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid. (Perhaps this pandemic would have been administrated more efficiently if the nation had a single-payer health system. As it stands now, people of color are the most adversely affected by this pandemic.
As challenging as this pandemic is, I like to think we have a chance to make some positive changes to our country after a vaccine is found and administered. In the meantime, stay vigilant, stay inside if you can, practice social distancing, wear a mask when you should, sanitize your hands, and praying wouldn’t hurt.
My father died on December 11, 2014. I want to get that out of the way. The post below was originally published on August 19, 2014. (His obituary can be found here for anyone who cares to read it. I wanted to re-post this for four reasons:
It’s been nearly five and a half years since the original post, and I feel the age difference. I feel more vulnerable with each passing year.
Despite its brevity, I think it is a serious post with a funny story in it worth sharing again.
I’m trying to become a better writer, and looking over some of my older work frustrates me. I’m not claiming this a significant literary work, but it is an improvement over the original 2014 post. By the way, feel free to comment on my writing. Seriously!
I haven’t posted anything in a while, and I occasionally re-post just to add activity.
Recently, my father spent a night in the hospital. His illness is not uncommon for a man his age. My brother had surgery a day or two before that. Then there’s me with some weird strain of chronic vertigo and skin cancer. It always comes in threes–or wait, is that fours? That’s dark. Still, when this stuff happens to you and the people, you love it reminds you how we are not invincible. It also reminds me of my youth. While I was so afraid of baseballs traveling in my direction in what I believed to be at a lethal velocity or riding my bicycle or trail bike faster than a crawl for fear that a limb would tear off, some kids I knew were fearless.
Enter Stewart, the next-door neighbor who held the record for most trashcans, successfully jumped with a bicycle (at least in our neighborhood). Stewart wore an old-fashioned “brain bucket”-style helmet he got from my father who no longer used it. After my dad tore up his ear while racing in an enduro or a scramble, he moved to a three-quarter Bell helmet. Stewart re-painted it and, using a magic marker, created his new personae right on the side of the helmet, “Super Stu” with a four-leaf clover for luck. As far as I could tell, he needed that charm. It scared the shit out of me seeing him start in the street, peddle like a madman jump the gutter with only a split-second to re-gain his form before his front wheel hit the ramp.
The passing of this helmet and this trashcan jumping is relevant to the hospital story. My father raced cars, boats, and motorcycles. He found enjoyment in pushing his body. He almost died in a boat racing accident years before he got into racing dirt bikes. He wasn’t a daredevil, but he had injured himself enough to know his body had limits, but that’s about as far as it went. Super Stu was just crazy, but I like to think there is poetry in the passing down of a helmet even if it is not to his son, who, let’s face it, was a pussy.
I don’t know why we set up the ramp in the area we did. While the landing zone was on grass, that’s about where the OSHA-mindfulness stopped. There was a precious little real estate at the end of the last trashcan before Super Stu’s family fence (and surely the Grim Reaper) stood. Super Stu had to hit the breaks the second his back wheel gained purchase. He only had one contender (read: someone stupid enough to try to match his record). But Dan didn’t ride a Schwinn Stingray like Super Stu and everyone else, for that matter except for Dave, who had a Huffy. (Poor Dave, always the one with colored socks when everyone else had Adidas and Puma white sweat socks, green cords when everyone else had blue jeans, loner parents whereas everyone else’s parents were social.)
Dan had a route bike. Basically, a beach cruiser with a significantly longer wheelbase than a Stingray and heavy racks in the back and on the handlebars for his newspaper sacks. I suppose Dan could have used one of the stingrays that we were all sitting on in kind of a “festival banana seating” fashion, but then again, I doubt anybody would have agreed: “No man, I’d be in Dutch if you died on my bike. I’d be grounded forever and ever.”
Dan had plenty of room for his approach, but he mistimed his peddling—hitting the gutter with one peddle down, creating a rooster-tail of sparks behind him! The gutter/peddle business made him lose his balance, and one foot and hand slipped off his bike. He shot by the ramp, missing it by only an inch, and hit my parent’s Albizia tree carving a large chunk out of the trunk. In my later years–when Dan had moved down to SoCal, and he was now only a memory to me (to manipulate in my mind at will) I used to fantasize about him not missing the ramp, but hitting it—launching him with one hand and leg flailing—into what would be the closest thing I would ever see in-person to the remarkable footage of Evel Knievel’s legendary 1967 Caesar’s Palace jump and wipe-out landing.
Super Stu once told me that he thought he was immortal, that he couldn’t die (unlike Dan or my mother’s poor silk tree, or me and my skin cancer and vertigo, or my father with his medical condition). I don’t know if Super Stu was joking or if it was pure hubris, but when he decided to do some urban skiing behind my brother’s Kawasaki 80, he found out that at least he could bruise. His crash and resulting rash were spectacular! I only wish I could have seen it up close and not from down the street.
Which brings me back to how we all are mortal—even Super Stu, whether he believed it or not. Sitting in my father’s hospital room hearing about his ailment and how he has had problems over the last few years or so and has just adapted to them rather than ask a doctor about them, I am reminded of how growing old is a tough business. My father has adapted, but there will be a point when his body finally fails. I don’t like to think about that. My family is taking it very well including me though I had broken down and cried a couple of times when I was alone. When that time comes, we will be left with precious memories, clear images that will stay with us the rest of our own moral lives, just like Super Stu’s record trashcan jump and Dan’s near-colossal fail!