Walking These Days

I’m a walker. Mornings between 7- 9 am, I walk before work, walking to clear my head, walking to increase my oxygen intake after sitting at a computer for 2 hours, where most of my circulation centers around my head, while my fingers pound away, tackling job tasks. Oh yeah, my creative work too. Yep, I’m a walker.

When the Covid restrictions came crashing down, I took a whiff of smugness. I already had a walking routine. I already knew the ropes, the “rules,” as few as they were.  I never thought about walking having “rules.” But in retrospect, I can name some of them: Be polite, nod, say hello to the neighbors, smile at the dogs, the babies, “oh, so adorable.” Keep going. But stop and smell the roses, cringe at the cliché, notice the seasons changing, the leaves falling, the lawns, the weeds.  Tell a neighbor, “I love your garden.”  It’s the truth.  And it’s polite, even loving, a morning gift.   

I walk so that I can muse.  I need to free myself from all that early morning cognition and caffeine buzz. Most of the time I listen to “old” music, remember an earlier self; sometimes I sing along. 

It’s different now.

Today, I’m out for one of my regular walks; I pass pretty houses and gardens in my neighborhood. Yes, my neighborhood has a decent “walking score.” Yes, this missive describes a 1st world problem, yes yes yes,  So shoot me now.  Stop reading. Protest.   

I head for the tall trees in an old,  small city park.

3 raggedy guys  are parked right in the middle of the path. No trace of masks;  they don’t even have scarves around their necks.  They’re yakkin…good for them, being social.

They don’t budge.  Do they see me?  Yes.  They still don’t budge. 

I walk around them, clearing them by 10 feet, at least.  6 feet feels way too close. The distance between me and others is growing.  6 feet feels almost intimate. I give them their space.  It’s polite, it’s polite, it’s the right thing to do.   They do not budge,  they do not lift their heads or nod, no “thank you.”

I see a young man with a dog.  So many dogs these days. And strollers. “Oh, so adorable.”  He has stopped at the edge of the grass.  He  glares at me.   What did I do? I’m just walking. He pulls out his phone and starts talking, still glaring at me. He holds still.  The dog poops.  The young man ignores his dog’s business.  He’s on his phone, still glaring at me.  Okay okay, don’t worry, I’m going around, I’ll cross the street.  One of the rules seems to be that if someone has a dog, let them stay on the sidewalk, don’t make them go out in the street.  Make room for dogs to stay safe.  Makes sense.

I want to walk under the trees, but it’s way too crowded under the canopy—4 people!  A pretty pregnant woman is walking, yakkin on her phone too.  No mask, but I see she has the requisite scarf around her neck, and I see that it matches her lovely maternity exercise wear.  Maybe she’s talking to Labor and Delivery.  Maybe her water broke at home. She lifts her chin to notice that I’m sharing her pathway.   I give her extra wide berth.

I leave the park and resume walking past houses.  There’s a lemon tree with a dangling sign that reads, “DON’T STEAL MY LEMONS!” Okay okay…sorry for thinking about it.  Really. I’m so busted. 

I approach a father and his toddler on a mini-wheel vehicle.  We’ve seen each other before on this block.  I nod.  Smile.  (did I smile?  I hope so, I usually do.)  I pull my bandana up over my nose and mouth, I walk into the street. I think, “no kids in the street, keep them safe.”  Makes sense.  Kids and dogs.  “oh, how adorable.”  The dad does not wear a mask but looks at me and rolls his eyes, smiles, gestures to his face as though he is apologizing for his naked chin?   We don’t speak, of course.  This is not the old days.  We’re safely away from each other.

I keep trying. I turn up the volume on my oldies. I try to find a stretch of sidewalk that doesn’t have any other humanoids.  I turn left.  Nope, the old man is taking in his garbage cans and he’s slow slow slow.  I’ve seen this old guy before…I think I’ve offered to help him with his big cans.  Not anymore.

I turn right.  Ahh, ahh…open.  Free.   I start singing.  I’m good now.   I’m walking off my life. I’m almost lost in reverie. Wow… five whole minutes. 

Oh dear, here comes another woman walking toward me– she looks like me.  Same yoga pants, light sweat jacket, light vest with cozy pockets. The uniform. She’s wearing a mask. I pull up my bandana.  We’re within 50 feet of each other, so we say “hello,” which means our eyebrows lift, just a tad. We don’t speak. We slow to a stop. Oh no!  who’s going to yield?  “Go ahead.” “No, you go.”  “No, that’s okay, you.” “No…that’s okay, I can walk into the street.  There’s a bike lane, it’s fine, really.”   None of these words are spoken.

We’re stuck there on the sidewalk for split second.  It’s an eternity.  Completely apart. Completely incapable of making a decision.

__

I finally walk into the street.  I think I hear her laugh a little.  We’re all good. 

But I am not good. I look at my watch.

I have to get to work!  It’s time to go home. To. Work. To Zoom.

I have not gotten my walk at all today!  My feet moved.  I was outside.  

But my mind….my mind… 

I love you JJ

you are not a god.

Either am I.

I tried. I failed. I will try again.

But too hard.

Staff is working for Liz

Warren

Dad

Picasso

Shakespeare

CHabot

Clare

MM****************

limits

social media

email

okay, okay Stop with the shit

We all have it. COVID 19 REVISION

This is a revision of “We all Have It: Covid 19.” Posted more than 2 months ago. If you want to skip to the major revisions, read the last few sentences. Smaller revisions are within the body of the text.

The hardest part of catching a virus is when it’s coming on…you feel terrible, you start making all kinds of plans to deal with getting sick, cancelling obligations, re-arranging work.  Your head buzzes with infection. You panic You’re mad and sick at the same time;  you’re mad at yourself for getting sick, for having a break in your immune system. You curse your army, your fortress of protection for failing at their jobs. Your soldiers have fallen down on the field, even though you’ve worked hard to keep them in shape.

You’re mad that you have to do all this scrambling. So many details, you’re overwhelmed in 2 seconds. You don’t know how long it’s going to last. And you’re sick. You feel like shit. You’re weakened, compromised and confused.

You try to stay calm. You know that viruses run their courses. You tell yourself to surrender to mother nature, look forward to immunity in the future, the silver lining because you know that’s all you can do.  You try to hunker down and accept the fact that you’re sick.  Just BE SICK, and accept. Try to think of it as an new way of being, a new organization of the self, perhaps opportunity for reflection, even reflection.

You try. And you try some more and this just makes it all worse.

This feeds the fever–it’s getting worse.

The virus blossoms to its full self… you lose more sleep, you lose a few pounds, you lose your pride, you lose all semblance of “joie.” You curse and complain,  you whine, you feel sorry for yourself.  You blame others! Shame on all of them! all of THEM. You wonder if this virus will kill you?   You begin to think it’s your fault, because you skipped that extra workout at the gym, you shouldn’t have eaten all those Dorritos. You feel like a failure. You’re sick. You fall. Into Depression.

You worry about others in your immediate circle… you want company because you feel so shitty, but you don’t want to be a jerk and ask people to expose themselves to your illness.  You don’t want anyone to bring you any new germs either. You have no energy to do anything, you lament the hours you’re “wasting.” You watch TV, but that makes you feel worse for lots of reasons. The people on daytime TV seem to know you’re laid up and they play to your worst impulses — pummeling you with ads about medicines and filling the screen with insidious programming. They feed your fever and they numb you with narcotics.

You’re sick.

You’re almost dysfunctional.

A day passes, a week? You lose track of time.

You hunker further down — surrender responsibility. You start praying.

But then…something happens…you imagine something. Something in the future. You begin to hope that…

You sweat. Something breaks… the fever.  Some destructive pattern is waning. .

The army is more efficient, the fortress walls are getting fresh brick and mortar. There’s a bit of a lift in your heels… small energy pockets are renewed and released into your bloodstream.  You’re getting an organic blood transfusion as your army gets on their feet, weapons in hand, ready to tackle the enemy. The battle continues, but something is different now. Your foot soliders begin to get the upper hand.  You can feel the rush of fresh energy. It’s called Hope. You want this hope…

The hope builds upon itself, and soon the soldiers are pumped with enthusiasm – they fight with vim and vigor, getting the advantage in the fight. Hooray ! Joy! Maybe a thrill.

You start to be assured…yes! I have resistance…I have regained control Yes! Yes! …I will beat the enemy. Yes! I will win. We will win. We will triumph! Mother nature? Bah! Humbug. Fuck the science! we have WILL POWER. We have the NARRATIVE

in our imaginations.

We have the hope there too –this confidence has its own momentum, it defies physics –or– does it obey physics? either way, we don’t care, as long as it WORKS.

ACTION/REACTION. The curve begins to have a completed shape…Another rise, another fall, symmetry in nature. It’s a rhythm thing.

It’s a vibration, a sound wave, a moment to realize: we’re lucky. We can heal.

May 20, 2020 BIG Revision here— see strike throughs above.

Forget the Symmetry in Nature! It’s less clean, less predictable, less clear. The curve has not fallen in direct response. It’s still action/reaction, it’s still a rhythm thing. But it’s no symmetry baby… we so are fucking lopsided now, we’re swimming in confusion.

And pain.

And loss.

And this song, this “rhythm thing” is no ballad, nor an upbeat melody today. It is a dirge.

We’re NOT lucky. And we don’t know …how, when, and IF we can heal.

Still…we hope. And construct another narrative. We revise and revise and revise.

The House Vote — Relativism and Righteousness

December 18, 2019

The most serious questions raised in the US House Vote for Impeachment are these:

Are we incapable of reaching beyond our own narrow views of “reality,” in order to truly consider that we might be “wrong?” Is it possible to consider that, perhaps, we have been blinded by something, by someone, by our own selves?

Is it possible to escape our pre-conceptions, our deeply blind need to side with political narratives, bent on distorting the truth in order to preserve a foundational perception of our Selves?

How far have we come into a world of Post Truth?

Are we, as a culture, finally embracing the idea that there is no such thing as Truth? Is it time to accept that all of our truths may be dependent upon our singular perception? Is this not what Hume postulated a long time ago?

Is this a response to perhaps an over-zealous age of scientism, objectivity, big data, “realism,” a quest for a unanimous agreement on basic principles of truth.  Is this a response to Neitzche’s claim that “God is dead?”

Is this the fall of the use of a capital letter T when it comes to truth? Are we finally going to accept that no capital T belongs on the word, that our leaders and lawmakers can so completely rip our bodies politic in twain?

I wonder if my fellow artists, intellectuals, and soul-searching human beings, are contemplating the profound sense of confusion that is blanketing our nation’s capital.

Have we slid so far down the slope of Relativism that there is no climbing back up the hill?  What now?

__

I am ashamed of them all.  I have not heard one voice today that speaks of a middle road of any kind. Is there not one person in our body politic who has the guts to admit to complexity, admit to the possibility that this is not a melodrama for children, but a layered and nuanced discussion of perception?

Maybe this is why I have always been so suspect, even disdainful of politics—this need to vilify, this need to create a divide in order to take action? Maybe this is why I have been reticent to march in the streets, or carry signs for political action.  Maybe this is why I believe that we create division in order to more fully develop our own identities, because we have failed to do so without these external differences. We have not yet looked inside for our sense of Self—we only feel alive when we are in opposition to someone else?

I have no affinity for Donald Trump. I actually believe impeachment might be called for. But I am more disturbed by the division than anything else. I drive to work today—down the highway I go in my  2010 Toyota Corolla, on my way to a modest college in a modest town, where mostly working class families are trying to feed their kids and pay their bills. I do not live large, but I recognize my place of privilege in the middle class, my adult years dedicated to economic stability for myself and my family.  I’m a pretty ordinary person, on her way to work on a rainy Wednesday morning. I listen to public radio as I often do…I can name the major players in the big news stories of the day. Yes, I am informed, yes, I’m eager to listen, lean in, and learn… and yes, I have my opinions. In fact, I encourage my students (and myself) to have opinions about everything. “Stand up and have an opinion.”  It means you care.

But today, the vitriol, the hyperbole, the righteousness of the US House of Representatives has finally pierced my skin.   I am deeply troubled.…I hear no humility, no self-awareness, and finally, no Truth.

If this were couples therapy, I’d applaud the arrival into subjective terrainld, exploring experience over “fact.” But this is not therapy. This is business. This is taxation, this is governance. I believe in some old fashioned ideals from the 18th Century Founders. Forgive my romanticism for a moment? I know how to seek revisionism, and reading Zinn’s tome is an important reminder of our dangerous need for fairy tales.

Is this only history repeating itself? has it always been like this? Is my own naivete? I know politics has always been fractious…duh. But have we come so far as to seem ridiculous? Or have we always been ridiculous? Have ideologues always been this blatant in their righteousness? Do I have some kind of Romantic vision, guilty of believing that “it didn’t used to be like this?”

I want to be able to see this for what it is…

And I want to be able to admit that I might be wrong.

Following up on Match.com(mentary)

Finally, someone has sent me a note!  I had just upgraded a few photos, revised my summary to sound more charming and less intense (I’m a playwright, after all, fitting the word to the action is what I do),  Intense is scary, right? 

Look!  a word of sweetness in my Inbox…

We start to email back and forth, like “normal” adults…a few questions here and there, the usual.  I am a careful wordsmith, never saying anything too revealing…pretty funny, eh?  what with this blog, seen by millions? (okay, 10) … “He” gets intrigued… I think, “Of course he’s intrigued, I can spin a phrase, dangle a few metaphors, what else is more attractive than that I wonder?” (don’t answer that) “He” leans in—spills a few  gushy words in my direction.  My ego is fed. Maybe I’m not a loser after all,  ugly, old, boring.  

For a few days, I am slightly atwitter about my Inbox… checking it a bit too often.  I write a note.  He writes back.   We’re  getting to know each other in written notes? How delicious is that?  That’s 90 percent of why I write a blog,  why I write or read anything… I hunger to know.

 But it hits me – you can see where this leading if you notice my quotation marks. Something’s amiss…It’s all in the language!  It’s in the punctuation, the nuance of curves, the commas are so revealing…  maybe even some topsy-turvy verbs.  I had already reminded myself not to be too harsh about grammar, etc…maybe I’m dealing with  English as a second or third language…  But no…that’s not it.  He’s not really responding,  he’s pretend responding.  

There is no “He.”  “He is an “It?”  

My friends tell me that he’s probably just a weirdo with poor language skills,  playing his hand clumsily.

No,  I think it is a chatbot.   Pure software.  Reeling in those of us iin need of connection – that would be all of us—this will lead to asking for money, no doubt. …augh, I’m hurt, I’m aghast, I’m even horrified.  The very concept turns my stomach. But I’m also a little ashamed of myself,  blinded by my vanity, my wanting?  “When you prick us, do we not bleed?”

 Rejected on the personal front, I get intrigued by the technology. Do some research.  Of course…this is it!…an attempt at human communication.  Wow…I love this, what a world to explore. I know we’re hard at it right now, simulating human communication…I’ve “chatted” with online assistants, inspiring a play about a lonely woman finding a sweet word from someone in the Xfinity chat box, looking for love.  

 The bot took “his” profile down from Match immediately, duh… Match is off the hook.  That’s your problem now, idiot. I stopped responding…nary a word. Without a cue, how will the software respond?  

 It’s a new experiment now. 

Okay, no one likes me on Match… but I’ve got new material.  Maybe that’s all I want anyway.

Got Weeds?

 Beautiful? 

Ugly?

If we didn’t know…if we didn’t surround our vision with…”understanding, contextualization, knowledge, experience”    then could this field of yellow blossoms just be beautiful?  Bright, delicate, nature’s greeting, whispering sunshine, a reminder of eternal rotation, repetition, renewal?   

But no.   They are weeds.  We know this.  Symbols of neglect, stubborn roots, plants to destroy, clear away, make room for the ones we deem…correct for gardens, suburban luxury, even privilege?

How do we free ourselves to just see things? Free ourselves to see freely…dandelions?

If we could…we would be free…but never notice our freedom.  Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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