A Mild Case of Plague

It seems that, despite my mostly radical precautions, I have caught the virus on everyone’s mind (“mostly,” I guess, is the key word, my Type One diabetes warning to into masks and gloves whenever I step out of the car, should I venture out at all).  This will be a brief descriptive passage because I am tired and uncomfortable and forced to compose this on my phone (I hate writing these pieces on my phone).  So here goes:


I awoke a few days ago feeling terrible.  Now I had no particular fever (the highest to this point has been a little over 99°), and I could still breathe clearly.  But I was very congested.  My body was sore all over.  I had uncomfortable chest pains and my gastrointestinal system was fucked.  I was coughing and sneezing too, but this seemed more a wet, mucus-splattering cough.  I figured I had a nasty cold–maybe even the flu!  I took some Theraflu and nodded off.


The next time I awoke, beyond some additional groggyness, I otherwise felt the same–not in terrible danger, just like the puddle of oozing shit I expelled several times a day). Annoyed I realized I needed to get tested for COVID-19.


I was furious, as I told one of the hazmat grabed workers at the drive thru testing site outside a hospital much farther away than the two local joints within 20 miles of my home.  I  said, “It’s just great that now, when you have a cold, you have to get two sticks shoved up your nose into your brain.” She managed to gargle a laugh through the filter of her mask.  Her cheeks betrayed a smile when I asked her if this was the best experience she’d had since she started her job (she said that it was at least better than when she’d started, cleaning bedpans and wiping the asses of those with illnesses and injuries that prohibited their ability to care for themselves).


As I moved up in line (it was like an old-time carwash that you drive through) I could hear the driver behind me shrieking with desperate hysteria, which the lovely nurse handled as adeptly as my frustrated sarcasm.


So I got there, and the med school intern kindly stabbed my nose with long wooden swabs in both nostrils (this is a remarkably unpleasent experience), then told me to go home and isolate myself from my family until the test results were in in “24 to 48 hours.”


My wife and children were/are understandably pissed off (although my daughter kindly feeds me and even chats with me through the bedroom door).  My wife has been kicked out of our bedroom, forced to toss our son downstairs onto the couch so she has a bed to sleep on (he hardly cares, sturdy and with a TV for his playstation, busy after his vague online schoolwork). She now sleeps in the filth left behind by a 14 year old boy.  She has been cleaning up his mess, something she hates, while busy with her suddenly even more difficult teaching job during the daytime.


When the results came in I was more angry than scared.  As my title implies, my case is comparitively mild.  Sure, I feel like shit, but hardly worse than previous illnesses not wracked by non-stop news coverage and a variety of conspiracy theories, something I collect for several different projects that form the basis of my professional life.


You know what the worst part for me is (something that for many you certainly do)?  That work, those outside projects, are unavailable to me for the shortly foreseeable future.  I cannot work and I had been furiously productive of late.  See, I’m very particular about my writing process and will not compose outside of a specific program unavailable to my phone or someone else’s laptop.  Sure, I have numerous accessable files, but am very anal about where I sit and how I work.


And so I am hammered in here, just as angry as my family, waiting for the end of two weeks when I can get jabbed up the nose again and told I’m all clear.  I guess I’ll just write a few more bitter posts while continuing to mostly avoid the news.  Stay safe and be well.  This might be the only time I wish this on all of you.




The Swallow of Sadness


I am not a happy person, or hardly ever.  Much of my outlook is bleak, especially for myself.  No matter how hard one tries at something, they usually offer some sort of failure.  Even the greatest successes are surrounded by innumerable false starts, and abandoned projects, and the broken promises that often intervene.  But I am not here to whine, and it certainly isn’t my nature to offer encouragement, or a story about how I overcame misery.  Because I can’t.  Because I am still here, being swallowed by ethereal sadness.


I can’t really pinpoint why this comes and goes with such overwhelming passion, this despair.  I don’t have a bad life.  But I keep getting frustrated and irrationally angry.  I hear things and see things and sometimes those voices and visions try to convince me of things beyond my ability to know.  And of course this sounds crazy–it is crazy, and believe me, I have talked with doctors about it.  And I am fully aware that it’s nonsense, that it is chemical imbalances or a panic attack, or any of the other psychiatric explanations for irrational thinking, but none of this changes the fact that these problems continue.


Writing seems to be my best therapy, working out of troubles that are otherwise overwhelming.  My thoughts are hardly violent in the real world–no plots or plans or even wishes against people I despise.  But in the writing everything is one form of apocalypse or another, whether personal or universal.  Even many of the pieces here (outside of these occasional journal entries) are about the collapse of some form or portion of the world, about the devolution of civilization and civilized behavior.  And I see all of this going according to my ideas, in the real world, and I find it frightening.  I do not believe I am causing it, or anything else, but such prognostication of my once gleefully horrible thinking is what is causing such strange voices and visions and ideas.  I am not religious, a vocal critic of all organized religions (yet I am not so presumptuous to dismiss the concept of a sort of universal center sparking the wonder of life–I might not believe in it, but would be willing to take my lumps should I prove to be wrong about something that can never be proven), and it is very confusing that my insanity can mix in these clearly religious ideas into a nervous suggestion of prophecy.  I have great interest in the development of belief throughout all human history.  It is probably the most significant social influence on society over the past 4000+ years.  Before that, at the dawn of imagination, a lone creature stuck its head out of its cave at sunrise, unhappy as always, and thought to itself there has to be something more.


This joylessness I suffer–a pain that isn’t and most of the time shouldn’t be taken as an illness, is a plague nevertheless.  It seems like there is a lack of control over such thinking.  The words roll over and roll off in a stream-of-consciousness (my standard method, followed by usually deep editing–Recording Editorial History has sometimes published sloppy first drafts as I moved along to something else), vomiting out any thought.  This is how many of us think in the age of social media, thinking ahead while still involved with something else.  It is why we’ve lost so much meaning.  It is how we have all become so divided, this random self-direction, this self-absorbed manner of walking in the street while texting, bumping into someone and blaming them for interrupting you.  This is our attitude and I suppose I find it depressing.  It hits deeply.


In the end I see the reason why I sometimes get this way, these crazy, manic episodes.  It is because I see the world so harshly, and too many times the world proves my visions true.


Are We Too Far Gone For Reconciliation?


Sitting around all day with no one to talk to has many benefits, especially if you live and work as I do.  I write, all the time, endlessly, bouncing around between voices and faces and perspectives, never truly being exactly myself.  This, I find, is an ideal way of working: the silence, oh the sweet silence.


And yet now, with all this time to spare, quarantined and all, with all my loved ones wandering aimlessly around our home, work for me is much harder.  I do not feel lonely.  I am never alone.


So let us articulate how loneliness can be beneficial.  It can give you deeper focus, can give you insight into whatever you have to say, never having another to bounce your ideas off.  With a noisy crowd around I find myself staying up later, into the void of exhaustion, wondering if what I was considering earlier might continue the dazzle of the original idea from interrupted hours before.


Of course ideas change, get altered, the circumstances of your surroundings interfering, or at least influencing, every thought in your head.  While before I may have been thinking, “Hey!  I should have a drink or four!” now I play with my children instead, traipsing through board games and movies I don’t want to see.  The conversations are good–things that we as a family look forward to, and yet eventually, selfish writer asshole that I am, I wish for silence, like I used to have during the daytime when my children are in school and my wife at work.  My dog doesn’t bother me when I am here in front of the computer, and once the cat is fed he shuts the fuck up (for an hour; he is a fat, greedy thing).


And so I suffer, sometimes, with too much exposure to the people I have lived and worked for, and who form the core of my being.  There is no hatred nor anything outside of love directed towards them, although that love sometimes is expressed with irritation, with impatience, and with strong occasional desires to be alone.


Being alone is not torture the way some directionless people find it.  Being alone offers you the greatest self-direction, gives you the meaning of your existence, often offers you thoughts on how best you can please your family.  Without it, well, you know.  All of you know in those aggravated moments of the recent past.


How many of you over the past few weeks have started to realize that your children can be assholes?   That your spouse is frequently insufferable?  I understand that for some people time spent with your family is the best experience you can have, but even for those of you following this religion, there must be times when you only want to be alone.  Alone with the television, with a book, playing solitary games, or staring at the blank emptiness that passes today for the outside world.  All of us want this from time to time to time.


So right now everyone in my house but me is asleep (the dog and cat too, but they sleep most of the day, lazy, lazy beasts).  And right now, exhausted with the constant exposure to other people’s thoughts, frustrations, and ideas on how to pass the time, the only thing I can come up with is this bitchy little commentary.  And for this I apologize.  I can get back to politics and horror stories about politics and human civilization, or any other concept I have worked hard on throughout the entirety of Recording Editorial History.  But now, now . . . now this is all I needed to say, like a cheap diary entry on what is meant to be larger than a selfish diary, more complicated than a Facebook post with pictures of my kids and an articulation on the four things I ate today.  It is meant to be more than mourning a loss, or joyous rapture over some little success.  This is meant to be a full-scale discussion of things that affect all of us.


But . . . we are all isolated, all trapped in the prison of our choices and our own making, whether there is a toxin in the air or not.  We are all caged, ultimately, by the burden of our lives.  Maybe this is one of the benefits this horrorshow tearing the world apart can offer.  Perhaps we might get to know ourselves better, outside of our partisan biases and self-absorbed fixations on other people’s thoughts.  Is there still a chance for human redemption, or at least a settling of rage, hollowing ourselves out of the idea of hatred in an effort to help everyone through our daily pain?  But I don’t know, none of us really knows.  Are we too far gone for reconciliation?



The Day I Quit Smoking


It was a windy day in Philadelphia when I decided to quit smoking.  I was standing in my backyard, creeping around (the rear of my house, back then, was a tiny stone enclosure surrounded by my neighbor’s fences.  There were weeds sprouting flowers invading all over the place.  There were times I thought one would bite me).


Anyway, there I was, trying to make smoke rings, something I had never done.  I gave a little cough, afraid I would wake my then eight year old daughter, whose window faced the back.  I rushed around the side and then took a final puff.  I said to myself, I need to quit smoking.


The next night was windy too, and I made the same vow: Once I finish this new pack I bought today, then I’m done.


Three packs, five days later (I was pleased that I was smoking fewer each day), I had had enough and I broke however many were left, spitting out a stray shred of baked tan and brown stuff I wasn’t even sure was tobacco, spitting the burned leaf into the trashcan.  I went inside, washed my hands and face, then brushed my teeth.  I was done.


It was surprisingly easy to stop, three days of on edge irritability, complete with some fights with my wife (she was quitting smoking too, unrelated to my accomplishment).  After those three days, my wife cheated a little, but I remained pure.



It was a year and a half later, and I attended the latest NFL fantasy draft with my for-money league of friends (I have previous written on the bottom feeding petri dish that are fantasy sports.  I called it “Fantasy Sports: The Lowest of the Low of Human Ambition,” 9/22/2019)  The previous year I had been unable to make it, and allowed a roster to be selected for me (somehow my team made it all the way to the league championship, where I was crushed, earning the lesser windfall of a few hundred dollars).  This year I attended, a six pack plus of beer, an occasional shot of bourbon, pasty hot wings and cold pizza; chips, someone’s seven layer dip, and the cocktail meatballs and rolls offered every year by out host.


On the first break, I followed my friend outside, where he and a few others were smoking.  It took me less then a minute to ask for one.


After this I was back to hidden smoking, out walking the dog with a pocket full of gum and mints.  I would stay up late at night just to have one or two more, my daily consumption sometimes only those two outside with  my occasionally friendly neighbors.


Again I grew sick, done with smoking and done for the last time.  Fuck those things, I can’t even enjoy them anymore!  They’re expensive and I have a growing family.  No more.  Done.


My irritability was no more than my usually surly temperament, annoyed by many things, all of us bitching and clawing at the air.  I had no interest in smoking with them.  I could even stand with smokers and not become one of those born-again assholes, preaching about the dangers and exaggerating coughs.  I could just stand there, perhaps weening myself off through second hand smoke.  The conversations continued with the same complaints and arguments the group of us were making.  We usually left such gatherings liking one another less.


And so I quit smoking, stayed off the fumes for seven years.  Then came the stress of economics, and distant rumors of the latest killer disease, all this infecting us with panicked paranoia; with a newfound thread within the conspiratorial culture now buried on the surface of people who have no idea what is true any longer.  I raced the fuck out and bought a pack of cigarettes.  I smoked through several that first day, not bothering to conceal it.  I was lectured by my family but I didn’t give a fuck.  I was terrified the closer the virus came, my bleak prognostication coming horrifyingly true.  So I smoked and smoked until the day came when we were told to stay inside.  I wasn’t about to go out and buy another cigarette–I bet those unhealthy smokers are all gonna get it!  And I stayed at home, a number of weeks now, staggering out with a mask impacting my breathing, running uncomfortably around on days now sometimes reaching the middle 70s.  People are all rushing around, sometimes bumping or slamming into you and then, in terror, both of us wiping ourselves down with the disinfectant wipes each of us clutched in our gloved hands.  Sometimes you think you smell the cigarette on them.


I wish I could say “so today I quit smoking.”  I did briefly smoke again, my wife having a hidden pack and handing me one (different brand and flavor, and unpalatable to me).  And since then I have completely stopped, my surly demeanor thoroughly enhanced by fear.  And then there is the sometime aggravation of being around your family much more than you’re used to.  It has been weeks since I quit smoking.    I’ve decided to quit smoking.  I have decided (again) that I’ve smoked my last one.




A Commercial Break: Do You Need a Mask?


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See the source image


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