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Iím looking out into the dark. The heat of yesterdayís wars is gone now, perhaps to return tomorrow, perhaps not. It is time to gather the calm, to let the muscles slack, to clean off the blood. There is grass for the floor of the tent. It is still green. The tent has not been here so long. This ground doesnít stink the way it will by the end of the week. A fresh wind blows through and the sounds of the horses snorting and of two men arguing in the distance. I can almost hear what they are saying.
None of us is without our own worn and clumsy baggage. Sometimes I will audibly whimper for no reason at all. Thereís a reason, but itís not always obvious, even to me. Things in my brain are hurting me when I do that. It is pain. It is like pain. It is no one elseís pain or no one elseís fault. It is real, nevertheless. Pain evolved in organisms for a reason. Evolutionarily it keeps us from repeating actions that may harm us. It doesnít always work correctly. Define correct. Define action. Define real. This is all so very complicated.
Now I am focused on finding a place to live. But I stumble at first, backing off, thinking that I have options here. I can live almost anywhere. I could go to another country. I could go spend time with my daughter in New York. That doesnít seem healthy. I could go stay with my sister in Ohio. That may be a little healthier. Iím not sure, however. The advantage of those options is that they let me leave here more quickly. I could either rent or buy a place. I could go back to Brighton, or even Ann Arbor,
There must be answers to these questions. I insist on it. The answer tonight is simple: I say it is 15. I have fifteen minutes left. So why are there not other simple answers to other questions? If you say it is because the questions are complicated, then I say simplify them. Break them down into their component parts and tackle each in turn. If this requires more resources, get them. Surely this approach will yield significant results. Alternatively, we can just feed all available data into an AI and wait for it to spit out the inevitable answer, ď42.Ē
It is very dark outside. It seems unusually dark out there. Maybe it is the wind heaving around the building the way it does in the spring, getting ready to move the cold weather out lifting the house so it can get its fingers under. It was cold out there today. It may not have been cold according to the thermometer, but it felt cold. It was the wind. I had the drawstring on my hoodie fastened around my chin as I walked around the park. The trees swaying against the sky. Oh my tight bondage will soon be released.
Iím a little twitchy, a little flinching, tonight. There are some random electrical impulses firing through my spine. They give me great shaking ambling denim routers of blood and pain. There is a twist in my neck; a pain in my head. Maybe I have been grinding my teeth. The television has stayed off tonight. It was remarkably simple. I turned it off, and she has not yet turned it back on. I will rejoice in the freedom of its silence. I will seep in the peace of quiet reflection, of music and literature. I may even write 100 words.
The wind is blowing through a torn, ice-covered barn. It smells like old hay in here. Everything is covered with a uniformly brown layer of fine dust. But this ad is about Covid-19. For just 19.96 a month you can adopt your own Covid-19 virus. You will get a picture of your virus, and a t-shirt. Your money will go to feed and clothe the Covid and you will be secure in the knowledge that you are doing your part to help this cause. Just look at the little fellah shivering in the cold in this dark and lonely barn.
How did you come to be in this place? I remember as well as I remember anything. I felt I needed someone to dial 911 if I had a medical emergency. I was afraid. I was afraid of dying alone. I was afraid of dying sooner than was necessary. I understand that now. I am not as afraid of that as I once was. It still figures into my decisions. Perhaps there is still time to connect with someone who matters, someone who improves my life. Someone who improves me. Is that necessary, or is that some irrelevant millennial crap?
Some other things that I have considered include my sisterís location. Going there temporarily will make it more likely that I take up permanent residence in that town. It will remove me from my younger son. It will complete the dissolution of my nuclear family. Staying in this area gives my children a home to look to, excepting Amanda. She has a new home now, one of her own. Michael may want to stay here. Tom may return. I think Daniel is gone. So, this what keeps me in this area now? It is history. I need to consider this.
Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Leningrad have announced some startling news. They have actual photographic evidence of Covid-19 viruses trying to communicate with humans. Apparently, a sample under a microscope actually arranged itself to spell out a message in Russian which can be roughly be translated to ďWe come in Peace.Ē This was such a shock to the head researcher at the university, Dr. Leonid Kim, that he repeated the experiment that produced these results several times. Each time the viruses arranged themselves to spell out a similar message. The results are to be published in this monthís JAMA.
There is a problem with this and that is I basically do not want to move. This has come up repeatedly over the past year. She has been restless, wanting to move, seizing on opportunities to throw up her hands and move out of here. In the past, I thought she wanted to leave here for other reasons. She tends to get into fights with the condo association. Then she reacts and wants to move. In the past she seemed to want to take me with her. I kind of resented these decisions because she did not really consult me.
I havenít touched the piano for a couple weeks now. It is the Covid thing. It is a couple separate things, but they are both due to Covid virus. It is interesting how it has fingers of effect stretching into such remote and varied aspects of our lives. Because of the virus schools have been shut down all over the world. Because the schools have been shut down there is a greater demand for online classes. Because of the demand for online classes, my employer asked me to help out by taking on extra students. I now have less time.
At this point I fall into considerations of the meaning of life, of existence, of reality, and of awareness. I fall into a well of water that is over my head, and I find comfort in this well. I can float. I can breathe. The walls are well-constructed and I think about the person who laid up the stones for this well. I think about the person who dug this well, escaping just as the water started flowing in from below. At that time things in life were done so slowly, with such deliberateness. At this point I canít think.
I slept in this morning. There I was, by myself curled in a semi-fetal position with the rags of bedding wrapped around me, with my smart phone and ear buds on the nightstand. My head was on the stack of pillows. I wonder sometimes if the stack of pillows is a good idea. It seems to bend the neck in an unnatural way and that canít be healthy. But when I go back to one pillow, my head is not high enough, and my neck has to bend at another unnatural angle. Two pillows are too much. One, not enough.
My car sits in the driveway by itself. It is covered by a thin film of brownish gray brittle dust. It doesnít get used much in this time of Corona. It is nine years old and has accumulated a total of seventy-one thousand miles so far. So, even In normal times it did not get used very much. Iím used to driving my cars thirty or forty thousand miles a year or more. When I worked in the city I would commute a hundred miles a day, minimum. I would wear out a new car every three years like that.
The oil is just one of many impossibly large issues The President must deal with. He starts early in the morning hearing problems and barking out orders. He must rely on the instincts he has developed over a lifetime of scamming others. He goes into another meeting about another crisis, this one perhaps about a new disease killing people by the millions. He is a container for a lifetime of talent that now gets used up by the country. There is a spigot on his ankle, attached to a tube and it waters the land from sea to shining sea.
The train begins to slow. The engine, already a quarter mile away, is approaching the curve into town and the overpass there. I grew up within eye-shot of a railroad. There were, I believe, two railroads that intersected one another in that town, and perhaps that is what initially gave it life there. One of the railroads was de-comissioned and completely removed ten years or so ago. The land was sold off. I donít think that was what killed the town, but it was certainly a sign that things were going bad. We curse industrialization but therein our society thrives.
I had a toy train when I was a boy. It was electric, operated by a large heavy transformer with a lever that was not very precise. The train would pretty much either stall or race and dive off the tracks at the first curve. The transformer was connected by little wires to the tracks. The locomotive would pick up electricity through contacts that rode along the rails. The rails would tarnish and conduct electricity badly, so I would periodically have to sand the oxidation off them. I think I spent more time polishing tracks than I did playing engineer.
I have always been fascinated by steam locomotives, by steam engines in general. They are from a simpler time and they are easier for a simple mind to comprehend completely, end to end. Well, some modern engines are fairly easy to comprehend too, some internal combustion engines and electric motors. DC motors are not too difficult. I built a couple DC motors when I was a boy. AC motors are a different and a more arcane art that push the limits of my imagination and patience. I get the concept, but not necessarily to the point where I could build one myself.
I think my first sobering moment was Maybe in January. I was looking through some Korean papers for background for my class and came across a brief article about the early infection in Wuhan. There was a picture of Chinese guys in full hazmat suits hosing down the streets. It was a chilling thought that the Chinese were taking this small incident so seriously. By the next week stores in Korea were flooded by Chinese buying up all the masks. The Koreans were a little upset by this, and many criticized their president for not shutting off travel from China.
Over there, people are used to wearing masks. The pollution is so bad in China you literally cannot breathe, worse than LA used to be here. They also often wear masks when they have a cold as a courtesy to others. I have seen pics of fashionable women in Bejing walking fashionable dogs, both the dog and the woman sporting N95 respirators. Some of the women admit to liking the masks. They donít have to put on lipstick or worry so much about make up. They can continue going to work even after some cosmetic surgery without people seeing it.
I can think now about what I want to write about today. I was talking about people wearing masks on the other side of the world. It is different there. The population density is a lot higher for one thing. Korea, for example, is about the size of Michigan, but they have five times as many people as we do in Michigan. Of course we have high-density populations in some places in the states, the same places we are and will be seeing high rates of infection by Covid-19. The high rates seem to also cluster around water. I wonder.
You see, the thing is that the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in the U.S. on the same day as the first case was diagnosed in Korea. In the U.S. it was ignored. In Korea it was aggressively, relentlessly hunted down. Why was it so obvious to the Korean government while our government was so oblivious to it? I think it was because our government no longer cares about reality, only caring to manipulate perceptions. This is the thinking that refuses to allow infected cruise ships to dock because it will increase ďour numbersĒ and make us look bad.
It is this concern for appearance over reality that has characterized the response of countries like Japan, China, Iran, and Russia. They are still misleading their citizens about the true impact of the virus. Our government is doing the same thing. Korea responded with aggressive testing and follow-up of Covid-19 cases. The United States, at the same time, kept our infection rates low by simply not testing for the virus in the first place. But reality is catching up with us. Soon the number of infections for Michigan alone will exceed those of Korea who has five times the population.
Of course the Covid-19 story is more complicated than all that. There are forces at motion here. Take the population density, for example. It is no accident that the virus started in one of the most densely populated countries on earth. As population densities increase the opportunities for the spread of a new virus increases. It is natureís way of thinning the herd. As one of the herd, of course, I resent this thinning, particularly since I am one of the likely targets. The younger and healthier individuals are not as concerned. I think this is the way things work.
I was initially angered by our presidentís embracing of this idea. I was angered that he attempted to solve the problem by identifying the problem as an economic problem. He falsely identified one of the symptoms as the problem itself once he realized there was a problem at all and moved to treat the symptom and not the cause. Meanwhile the cause, the virus itself, outflanked him and created even more havoc in the economy. Now the economic problem has gotten to the point where he may not be able to fix it, and we still have a medical problem.
Thinking about the thinning of the population leaves me thinking about the nature of death itself, about the nature of life itself, and about the nature of consciousness. It is natural for living things to want to survive just as it is natural for living things to replicate. This is how they have survived in the first place. This is how they got here. The living things that did not care, consciously or unconsciously, about survival did not survive. We now have a basis for life that is persistent enough to survive transitions of entire planets and no doubt galaxies.
Before I go spinning out of control here about a basis for life that transcends the existence of entire galaxies, I should point out that this in no way affects the transitory state of our own consciousness or galaxy or universe, even that of the transcendent life form itself. I am pretty sure that all states have an end, be they mammals, galaxies, or even universes. Is that true? Do I need to put a bookmark here and come back and explore this assumption? Of course I do. The complexity of things exceeds our imagination. Itís not bound by rules.
Somewhere in all this mess I lost track of my notes. There was something about trains. I remember I was writing about trains, about steam-driven locomotives, got lost in a song about the simplicity of these machines. The churning boilers pressing against those pistons, turning giant steel wheels against rails of solid steel. There is one of those, the Pierre Marquette, that makes an annual run behind my house every summer. Maybe not this summer. This will not be a normal summer by any measure. The weeds will grow up between the ties on the tracks. The creosote will melt.
I look out the window and it seems from the light that it should be winter out there. I know it is not. It is spring in Michigan and probably sixty degrees out there. Sixty degrees is a relative thing and I suppose in some places it would be considered cold, but in Michigan a sixty-degree day this time of year. Spring comes a little later here. The saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb is more apropos to April here. April showers that bring May flowers? Flowers donít bloom until June here.
My car sits in the driveway unused. There are cars all over the country sitting like that. Meanwhile the Russians and the Arabs start pumping more oil like two boys seeing who can piss the furthest. The world economy, already stretched beyond the breaking point gets punished even more. The Americans seeing that some of them are losing money in this petroleum bath start buying up more oil. The boys keep on pissing. The oil begins to overflow the storage tanks and the ships at sea. It puddles up in little places here and there that soon become larger places.
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