Thursday, May 28, 2020

i think that as the quarantine goes on, people will get a little batty. it's intense, because we sense we are being lied to every day, we know the deaths are just beginning to pick up, people are going out without masks or concern, numbers are picking up, yet for us who are staying home it's getting harder. we're cooped up, more and more worried about contact, and finding increasingly fewer options out in the world.

i can live without meat, as i should probably have been more worried about the conditions that they used to get me my meat in the first place. now people don't want to work in a meat factory, and i can't blame them, because that's almost certain death. and in a way that's on us, because we are so used to having meat all packaged just so, and we are also used to it being clean and presentable, and not having to skin the animal ourselves. maybe my solution should be to just go out there and get everything myself, in situations where i don't want to support a murder factory, although it's the murdering part of hunting that i really don't like anyway. just eat beans and peanut butter, like i did in the old days.

i've gotten more into twitter bombardment of pop art related to my different publications: short stories, haiku, non-fiction, quaker plays. the pop art is an ongoing, evolving public relations factory but it all seems to be for very little result - not many people are seeing it or responding. this may change as one thing i've noticed: people do like the art. you have to work with very thin odds. a thousand see it, one will click on it. a thousand click on it, one will buy something. a thousand like the art, but they are a different thousand from the ones who actually read the book. but the pop art has its own function: it keeps me sane, or at least helps me in the process.

one thing people do way too much is read the news, or watch it on television. that's what's really driving me batty - watching the president lie and cheat and steal, and watching him get away with it. so we're all home alone, squirming at watching the country go to hell, and this asshat just taking advantage of it to make his buddies rich. hydroxychloroquine. drinking bleach is good too. oh yeah sure. by the way policemen should be able to kill whoever they want.

i am out in the country, and have taken to walking the dogs every afternoon. up a dirt road - we have two properties after us, actually, before the end of the road. one is unoccupied but had a couple of campers one time. the other, a guy is moving into, gradually, but he's still gone most of the time. i walk the dogs up that little hill, and it's all quiet and mountain forest most of the time, and they smell the deer poop and whatever else, before we turn around. no matter what else i've done, i've at least got out and got some fresh air.

mostly i've been working on the writing - quaker plays, genealogy, mcdonald's short stories, in that order more or less. i have a lot to write. i imagine catching that virus every time i take a teenager to go see a friend, and try to conjure up what i'd like written before i'm gone - and i still have two or three on my list, unwritten, waiting for my attention. the two on top of the list are autobiography, and language as a self-organizing system. hopefully i will get to them soon.

so it goes. may in new mexico is like every other may - it's the dry season. not a drop of moisture but an occasional set of clouds that blow over and tease everyone. and then, june is the cruelest month - more of the same, only worse. the "monsoon" starts in july - then we get all ten inches, all over the course of a couple of months. in this time, i want to produce. i really feel like i might be gone at any time. and what i have out there - i want more. i'm just not done yet, and the clock is ticking. if there's a time to get this done, now's the time. i've grown impatient with the news.

Friday, May 22, 2020

my great-great grandfather was born in maine but his father brought him out to southwestern illinois when he was four, in a wagon with his two brothers and his mom, 1600 miles across the country. his dad was determined to be a farmer someplace where things grew easily and illinois was much better than maine. some depressions hit but they lived way out in the country and there was usually enough food. his father was really good at building and built a school that lasted many many years.

when he grew up he had the inclination toward english and literary pursuits but the west, illinois and iowa, wasn't interested in english teachers, so he rode a wagon out west looking to settle in the nebraska territory. actually he got up a band of people to go out to pike's peak but that didn't work and they ended up in southeast nebraska, near the missouri river and the border of kansas and missouri.

so there was this wagon train full of people settling southeast nebraska, when many of them intended to get gold out in colorado and just wandered off because it was too hard to sit still in a place like southeast nebraska. but there was a problem - the civil war was just coming up around those parts. there was a trail that ran down into kansas and the jayhawkers and the border ruffians were always fighting over free-state this, slave-state that, bleeding kansas and all that. and nebraska was truly nowhere land - it was just a territory, not a state, so people fought like crazy in that part of the country.

my great-great grandfather eventually had himself a house and slept next to his gun every night. he determined to bring his wife out to nebraska and went back to get her. they brought their first daughter cora out to nebraska as soon as they were able to travel. their little town, salem, was a windswept little place not far from the river or the kansas border, but it was his home.

so two of the ruffians that were hanging around bleeding kansas at that time were john brown and wild bill anderson. john brown was an abolitionist who shot up kansas a little - he was responsible for some killing. but wild bill anderson was even worse and he was on the other side. as a rebel, he robbed anything having to do with the government or the yankees in kansas or anywhere else, kind of like jesse james. just a mean old violent outlaw.

so these were the kind of people that were coming through salem nebraska at that time, about eight years before the civil war. the year after they got there john brown came up through salem with 11 escaped slaves and intended to take them all the way through to ontario, slipping around missouri by taking the lane trail or the road north out of lawrence through salem nebraska. lots of people were after john brown and eventually they got him though not in kansas or even nebraska. he was one of those people that lived by the gun.

my great-great grandfather was eventually to have nine children, but that first one, a baby girl, died out there in salem and they buried her on the prairie. they got tired of all that violence and decided to go back to illinois. but on the way back they got robbed by wild bill anderson himself, who if he couldn't rob a train would just rob some yankee out of general principle. they gave him a couple hundred in cash and some jewels, but they didn't tell him about the sixteen hundred they had hidden and in the end they were proud to get away with something. you get robbed by one of those border ruffians you're lucky to get away with your life.

as i said he went on to have eight more children, born in illinois and wisconsin, and then he lived in south dakota for a while and then kansas and then back to missouri. by the time it was over he was dealing in furniture and all kinds of stuff; he'd been in the lumber business for a while and actually ran the literary part of a newspaper "with some success," he said. He never let go of that literary side of himself even though by the end he was dealing in lumber or furniture or fruit. one time in south dakota the panic came around and there was this big run on the banks and it ruined his business, but fortunately he had friends down there in kansas and the corner of nebraska, and worked down there for a while.

i don't totally know what to think of him. when he came across the country as a four-year-old, he had his five-year-old brother with him, as well as a two-year-old younger brother. the younger brother became a farmer and farmed most of his life. but the older brother died in a cholera epidemic when he was about twenty-four, and i think that made an impression on him. that, and losing his first daughter, out on the prairie, just burying her on the prairie and moving on. when he had to join the war he did, and as part of the illinois cavalry went all down to alabama and mississippi but the war was almost over then - he'd spent the meat of it out sodbusting in southeastern nebraska. and war was nothing compared to what he'd already been through. all of a sudden when there's no money around, and you have to live by your wits, that's when farming skills become good and help you through. he could always rely on farming skills even though maybe the house he built wasn't as good as his dad's school on the plains outside quincy. the mormons were traveling around all through there those days - quincy, nauvoo, iowa city, out to nebraska and beyond - but these guys were farmers, and cared more about the price of corn than anything. that and how you keep feeding nine children when you live out on the windswept plain.

one of those children was my great-grandfather - he may get a book of his own. and his father, hoo boy, i think i'm good for about three books, until i get to my own parents.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

keep your sanity

about four thirty in the morning. i had wild dreams and woke suddenly, then was unable to get back to sleep. it's possible that a teenager also came in about that time, maybe three thirty, needing something, and this woke my wife up; she too was having trouble. so i got up and got out the computer to calm down my mind. my usual trick is online boggle. finding words in a little cube of five by five letters, i actually find relaxing in a kind of busy way. but the internet kept shutting down my computer. so here i am.

whet triggered my bad dreams is this. i am writing a book about my great great grandfather. he grew up on a farm in southwest illinois, not far from quincy, but at one point he went to college. he had an inclination toward being an english teacher, but illinois was in its early days, and that often didn't pay enough. besides, he wanted to go out to nebraska and settle in the new area. when he went to settle nebraska, he found only one student, and turned around and came back. next time he got there, he just stayed - but, it didn't work. the civil war, which was being fought on the border of kansas and missouri, caught up with him. he had to sleep with his gun in his hand, and eventually came back to illinois.

but here was the kicker. he had an older brother, one year older, who he grew up with. they had traveled by wagon 1600 miles from maine, when he was four and the brother was five. when it was time to go to college, both went; they went to shurtleff college in alton. he went back to madison university in new york to finish his degree, while his brother stayed in illinois. but the brother contracted cholera and died; he was now maybe twenty or twenty one. i can hardly imagine.

somewhere i read something where the brother was desperately traveling across illinois to get home before he died. maybe he knew that cholera was fatal. but i lost whatever it was i had read. the two sources that i am using - one was written by the great-great grandfather himself, the other by a newspaper - do not have that part. but i know i read it somewhere, and i'm trying to remember where.

and that's a problem. for some reason my mind took off from that little story and applied it, and it woke me up in the middle of the night.

i think this covid stuff is hard on everyone. i know i can't read the news to distract myself from daily life; the news is worse than anything i've ever read. as for the kids, we let them be with their friends, but we feel like we're in danger most of the time, because we don't fully trust them to keep six feet all the time even though as far as i can tell they are doing their best, and their friends are trying as well. they are trying to pass school when all they have is us reminding them and they have programmed themselves to ignore us. clean their room? sure they'll do it. feed the cats? sure they will.

but in my dreams they are out there and bad things are happening. or they're happening to someone, i can't quite tell, because i woke up. it was not good though. i think a lot of people are in my position.

my friends in texas are in much worse shape than i am. they live in a crowded city and virtually nobody wears masks. sure there is a public recommendation that everyone wear one. but no one does. and they have trouble even getting groceries without running into people. live is going back to normal - people are taking care of their pets, for example, or fixing something around the house. but if every place that does business is dangerous - what do you do? it's choosing between staying cooped up and moving on. and moving on can be fatal.

the influence of disease on these families is already becoming bigger as i write. i am also doing research that i like, about the settlement of the west, about quincy as a frontier town, about the early settling of nebraska (these guys were there in like the year omaha became a city) - and i'm working that information in there. but that means i have to find out about who had cholera in illinois in the mid-1800's. the year my great-great-grandfather got there, cholera took 6% of the city. that's a lot. and, he had to live in the city.

he lived right on maine street, which he spelled main street at some point, or someone changed in the typing. this was in what is today the historic district of quincy. at the time, remember, he was four, his brother was five, and there was a younger brother two. a sister was born while they were in the city. mom got measles, but after the sister was born. the baby got one measle and lived. they considered themselves very lucky. nobody got cholera. within a couple years, they moved out to the country and never came back.

quincy was right on the river across from hannibal missouri. at that time, 1834-36, one could already sense the coming of the civil war. elijah lovejoy, a fellow mainer, had already been killed in alton. illinois was the free state side.

and then on top of that the whole mormon thing happened. the story as i know it is something like this. mormonism had become quite big especially back in kirtland ohio, but there was a branch out in western missouri, independence to be exact, that was having a lot of trouble. joseph smith was at the time a leader but brigham young appeared too. brigham young brought a group back from missouri to illinois, and settled in quincy but then moved a little north to nauvoo. meanwhile joseph smith was killed up in carthage illinois, which wasn't far from quincy either, maybe a little farther than nauvoo. so brigham young took over the leadership. people objected to the mormons, and eventually ran them out. but they actually did better in quincy than in most places.

during this time, the family was all farmers. they lived out in livingston township, and had less and less to do with quincy itself, or the politics of the day. they did carpentry or whatever they had to to make money, but by staying out in the country, they avoided some of these diseases for at least as long as they could.

all my years in southern illinois, eighteen to be exact, and i never saw downtown quincy. i'm kind of sorry now that i never had the chance. it has a reputation of being a little of a shell of a place - but i may be wrong about that. it may have more life than i was thinking. i just don't really know.

i did however visit alton, where there is actually a leverett street, right in the middle of shurtleff college. and shurtleff college is now the southern illinois university dental school. a pretty little brick street runs right through the old houses.

in these coronavirus times i hurry to write everything i've ever wanted to write. i am crystallizing my desire to finish this genealogy in at least the best way i know possible. it's somewhat hurried to research these jayhawkers and border ruffians on the border of kansas, missouri and nebraska, for example, when what i'd really like to do is just spend some time doing it, and learn a little more about what it was really like out there. something i read said that their first baby died, and they buried her out on the prairie in salem nebraska, the first person in the salem cemetery. but i checked both cemeteries and found nobody by her name. and i read something else that said she died in transit, on the way out there. there are some mysteries i have to get to the bottom of.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

without belaboring a lot of political points, we have the wrong leadership in this country to get out of this covid deal quickly and easily. it is going to be a long haul and, though we will go over a hundred thousand soon, we will keep going up over time until it gets bigger and bigger. it's just the way it is - lots of people will die.

so history will look back at this era as a time when the people who lived furthest in the country had an advantage; people who tended to stay home and limit interaction had an advantage; people like my one son who has a wife and young baby - advantage, because they don't really need to go out all that much. people like my other son, single, disadvantage. he'll have trouble staying out of social venues.

and this will go on for years. yes each state is different. texas is spiking now, and will spike more in the next few weeks - georgia, wisconsin, mississippi, same. no telling whether it will just end with the good weather, or other states will spike as soon as they reopen, or when masses of people hit the beaches. those of us way out in the country, or with very young families - we'll be ok. we are not relying on heavy social interaction to get from day to day. we have changed our lifestyle, but you have to look at the money to see what else will change and how it will fall out.

for us, personally i think most of the changes are good, but that's because i am very stingy. if i am stingy about my driving to town, and we've cut gas consumption by 50 to 70 percent, that's good. if we take a cold look at how our meat is processed and turn to the local farmers for a side of beef (that might be a ways off), that would be good too. if we cut our own hair, or learn to entertain ourselves better out here in the country, as a more self-sufficient entity, that's good. lots of it is good. it might be bad for nail salons, barbers, malls, j.c. penny, etc., but it's good for the earth, and good for the general health of the people.

yes it causes widespread economic turmoil. i think millions of us were living on just spinning wheels. if you run a tattoo parlor or nail salon, i don't really feel sorry for you. hotels, airplanes, cruise ships, we can take a break from this stuff for a few years. i'm sure all these people will be dunning trump for a handout. but they've been riding high for years, riding on fumes. that's especially true of the stock market. he gives them a thirteen trillion tax break, yeah, party all around, confidence, high stocks. they're passing money around. if we are just getting by, out here in the countryside, getting to the next generation, we're a little better off, because we're not relying on that false sense of security that comes from having paid off the government.

easy for me to say - i rely on the government anyway, for social security, and i'm aware that they'd like to take it away from me, but i also think that as long as i have my health, i'll be ok. and that's why i'm basically altering my lifestyle. twenty to thirty percent of us - not going into the convenience store, skipping the greasy spoons. either they serve it to us outdoors, or we make it ourselves - and that second option, though they wouldn't want us to know - is actually much healthier.

Eighteenth Century Leveretts - A genealogist's journey

paperback on Amazon $8.40 + shipping
on kindle $4.99

Tells the story of an incredible family - actually several families - that lived through the times of hardship in Boston before the Revolutionary War. It was an uncertain time - some records may have been lost during the witch trials, and again during the revolution itself, but this book tells how the families intertwined and finally came to leave the city.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

so i'm indexing my latest book, but i'm bogged down - it's tedious work. i've finished about 139 out of 239 pages, so i'm actually making fair progress, and should have the book published in a few days. it will be the second in a series about my ancestors on my dad's side, who came down through the early puritans (that was the first book) and then, these eighteenth-century folks, and then through the pioneers on the prairie.

one of the early ones was john leverett of harvard, who wasn't an ancestor directly but was pretty close. he changed harvard from a divinity school to a secular school, thus thumbing his nose at cotton mather. john actually designed massachusetts hall, which was the main building of harvard college for many years, and he put it at the site where he himself lived while he was president. i didn't make such a big deal of that in the book, but looking back, it really is pretty remarkable.

then there were the quilt makers - like john, relatives but not ancestors. they got fabrics from around europe and put them into this intense quilt. we were lucky here because the saltonstalls were better at preserving such things than we are. i have lost a couple of quilts myself, yet, the saltonstalls, and the peabody essex museum, managed to save this one, which is the oldest known quilt from colonial america.

but then we have a couple of guys who lived through the times of hardship. that's what they call the years of occupation before the revolutionary war, when boston was a rough town to live in. these two brothers grew up in the early 1700's and their dad was poor, though he was a talented metalsmith. the boys, thomas and john, went into the printing business and at one point benjamin franklin sold them a couple reams of paper from philadelphia, which got lost in transit. thomas was the one who was most into printing - he'd print psalms, almanacs, grammar books, anything. and he made a goodly fortune.

at the time there was even better money in importing the newest fabrics from london, so that's what john did. he started out printing with thomas but then moved over into the town dock where he sold his fabrics and sewing supplies - and he too made a goodly fortune. but history caught up with him. when the british occupied boston, there was a series of events - occupation, seige, boston massacre, boston tea party, you get the picture. times were bad; it was the times of hardship. one thing that was happening was that ships were just taking people out of the streets and docks and i suspect this might have happened to my relatives. but in any case john, who had this warehouse, lost it and quit. i think it may have been ransacked by anti-british rioters though this one author says it was sacked by the british troops themselves. why the british troops would sack a warehouse, i don't know. it seems to me the anti-british import crowd (like at the tea party) had more of a reason.

in any case john became an overseer of the poor, and rode out the rest of the times of hardship overseeing the poor. somehow his son ended up with a decent fortune and didn't have to work, but i suspect that fortune came from the warehouse, not from being a social worker. as overseer of the poor he would wander the poor neighborhoods of boston making sure the widows and single mothers were still eating.

there's actually quite a bit more to the story - both died soon after the war, and their sons, john and thomas respectively, carried on. thomas was a surgeon, but made the mistake of getting on the wrong boat, one that was captured, during the war. the british were cruel to their captives. they let them rot in the hull of a ship parked in brooklyn harbor. unbelievably squalid conditions. young thomas the surgeon ended up dying early for his trouble.

both had gone to harvard in the class of 1776. that year, the year the war broke out wholesale, harvard moved up to concord. they did not have a wonderful time, as concord was cold, and their quarters were make-shift, and the classrooms weren't so great either. it was kind of like this year - they threw some work at them and then gave them a pass. thomas was trying to be a surgeon, while young john, his cousin, was in law. but john never ended up in law. he became a gentleman farmer, raising like eleven kids on a farm in windsor vermont.

i can relate to john the young guy, who ends up raising way too many kids out on a farm, and writes a lot and is mostly into ideas. when the war came 'round his cousin signed up and paid for it with his life, while john was out in connecticut taking care of his parents, who were old and sick. so john basically got out of the revolution which is why i sit here today probably. no i take that back, my true ancestor was probably the guy who signed up - he also had eleven kids - and was an officer in the battle of monmouth and the battle of rhode island. officers didn't get paid so well but at least they gave the orders, so it was other people who got killed. he survived and went home to tell the tale.

that's it, it's all in the book. read it and weep.

Friday, May 08, 2020

a cold spell came through and i can't just sit on the porch without getting a few more layers on. it's kind of like winter, with everyone crowded in the house and making too much noise.

we are in an ok groove at home, with four kids way out at the end of a mountain road, only one of them seriously set back by it. That one has a lot of issues, but isolation is hard for every teenager, and he can't be faulted for being seriously hurt, enough to possibly ignore sensible warnings. if he manages to get his mom to let a friend come over, it will be under massive quarantine restrictions, as she is probably more careful even than i am. and i am careful, or rather, afraid of this virus. i am not eager to have these kids over to our house.

it is technically against the law, or at least the governor's restrictions, to have friends over at this moment. yet it's almost a mental health issue, and, out in the community, people are loosening restrictions all over the place. the town is not being too careful, with its teenagers or with anyone else. people are coming and going from stores, bank, post office, you name it. if you are polite you wear a mask.

some say the mask has become politicized, to the point where you wear one if you respect the coronavirus, and you don't if you don't. i don't really know if that's true for everyone. one day i went into the family dollar and forgot my mask - does that make me a rebel? a mountain man? one who spits on fate and goes boldly out into the world?

i wonder about this "right to infect" crowd. it's standard wisdom that the virus will be traveling around this crowd soon enough, and the rest of us better just hold still until the dust settles. i'm ok with that. i'm in no hurry to go anywhere. i'm abour ready to settle down, and just live someplace. out at the end of a mountain road, up against the national forest, not far from the mescalero apache reservation, it's as good a place as any.

unfortunately we are not so clearly "right" on our "stay home and don't go anywhere" side - although my reasons are different from most people. i am not a big fan of the big waste economy - gyms, nail salons, hairdresser, cruises, i could live without all this stuff. i don't even go for music concerts or basketball games where spectators are all crowded together. if some of this stuff changes toward the mellow, cheaper or even online variety, we'd all be better off and the world would breathe better. and i think, starting with us, it's not all that bad to stay home, stay outdoors, and entertain ourselves. especially since we're able to do it.

but i am very mad that so many people have no choice. go back to work at a meat-packing plant? or a theater? i can't see risking one's life for the kind of wage you're talking about here. i don't know that these people have any better choice - but i would get a "contact tracer" job if i were one of them. first, to help out. second, to not die. third, to have security. this contact tracing business will be going on for quite a while i think. and since coronavirus caught the health care industry by surprise, and we lost a lot of health care workers, that will be another job that will open up soon enough.

but that's a very cynical view. we don't really want people to die. and that's a good enough reason to slow down. don't get in people's faces. don't even go into the store if you don't have to. and my kids, too, need to learn that and just adjust. they have internet. they'll live, and we'll try to make sure of that.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

so i've embarked upon some feverish marketing, but as usual it doesn't amount to much. about the time i started i actually got a few bites on the line - people were reading my books (see below) - but i have a sense that it is more because one had "covid" in the name, and it was a new amazon offering - so it was more amazon's marketing (putting it under new) than anything i did.

i market in five places really, blogs, facebook, twitter, linked in, and instagram. i am not quite onto how to get something good up to instagram, so as to have hashtags and really reach everyone. i can put the photo on instagram, on my phone, as you must - you can't do it by computer. but then everyone seems to add all these words to their posts, and i also would like to, but can't seem to do it. i'd like to link it, for example, to the fbook post or blog post

i finished two books recently, hands off that pear, a book of short stories, and all from before is now obsolete, a book of kaiku about the covid crisis. the second one was calle post-covid haiku but was rejected by amazon for having "covid" in the title - i think they did not want to be involved in publishing non-scientific things about the covid. it gave me a chuckle because it was haiku. as such it was very personal and expressed some of my feelings about the world being turned upside down. but it goes to show, if you were going to foment revolution, maybe the way to do it would be through haiku. not that i have any such plan. in fact, though, you get into haiku, and, because you have to apply your mind to reading it (as you do all poetry), you rule out 90% of the public right there.

so i do all my statistics - kindle rating, special kindle rating, paperback rating, special paperback rating. right now i have a book in the top hundred of one of the specials - it's good to be in the top hundred. but it won't last. by a couple of days it'll be down in the two or three hundreds, then over a thousand. some of the ratings are over fifteen million. most of them are in the three or four million range. not that impressive really. i'm lucky if i can keep one below a million, and most likely i can't. with the special ratings (for example, u s short stories) they hopefully stay below a couple thousand. i jealously check to see whether anyone actually reading them has any effect on the numbers. sometimes i come in from the top and buy one of my own (as i need to have my own anyway....).

i get "author's copies" cheap, but that doesn't affect the ratings. you pay a couple of bucks each but then you pay shipping which is hefty. when you come in from the top you get free shipping (as my wife is a member of prime), but you pay full price for the book. then of course i get some piddling amount of royalty, and i get to watch the effect it has on the numbers. this is an interesting game. but since it all doesn't amount to a hill of beans (i'm not really getting what you would call "good sales," i might as well just do whatever is cheapest.

lots of authors hire people to do all the marketing. they have a more professional look about them and they are aggressive on places like twitter where it seems these marketers are searching out opportunities and hitting them methodically with a strategy and an aggressive plan. i always feel like somewhat of a wildcat out there, being much more sporadic, and only spending free time at times like this. and i also feel, there is very little return here. you make a lot of noise on twitter, and what do you get. a lot of noise.

it's my grown kids who are on twitter, though. so that's why i've started making the hashtags into secret messages to them. #readindie #shortstories #shortfiction #americana #stayhome #dontdoanythingstupid.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Hands Off That Pear
& 23 other short storiees here
All from before is now obsolete
100 Haiku
Now available on Amazon $4.29 + sh
and on Kindle $2.99

These haiku were written in a single week of April 2020 that represented a massive transformation in American life and culture.

Post-Covid Haiku

Available on Kindle $3.29

This was the original volume and represented the 100 haiku straight from the single week of April 2020. Not all had perfect kigo, that is, no traditional season clue as is expected in traditional haiku. The volume was accepted for Kindle but rejected by Amazon which (I suspect) was hesitant to print anything with Covid in the title. I rewrote the haiku to a higher standard (see above) and changed the title. This volume is still available.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

so tired tonight, but just not able to go to bed. one reason is that i need a shower, but i'm too tired and sore to get up and do it. i've been working on a deck. it's hard carpentry but kind of fun in its way. it's been sunny and part of my problem is a bit of sunburn.

the scrap wood comes from our old deck in the village, and was just brought out here where it's been kind of sitting around, in the way, for a while. finally i got started on it today, and ripped out a rotten part of the old one so that i could start in on the new one. then i sawed about eight boards and nailed about five in. altogether, maybe about an eighth of the deck.

it's really quite beautiful out in our front yard, and i have a good view of everything while i do it, but i was a little concerned about getting it right - measurements, nails, that kind of thing - and i didn't appreciate the beautiful day as much as i could. during this pandemic crisis, a lot of us are staying home a lot. time to develop these skills that one can only get by staying at home and working on them. my wife is working on her cooking and baking - an endless cycle, with lots of dishes - as we get used to basically not going out like we used to. a week at a time, in one place, with our single trip into town (see last post) full of getting everything we need.

i think there are tragedies the world over, that i'm trying to simply avoid. there are multiple deaths in all states, all cities - mostly friends of friends so far, no one i know well - but i think it's getting worse, not better, so i'm riveted to the news these days. who will it be next? elizabeth warren's brother, or, my sister's former colleague and his mother, or, the cousin of an old friend. like i said, it's mostly friends of friends so far. and the locals (our county still only has four, officially) who are related mostly to each other and not to anyone out of town - well they hardly know anyone.

but i think what they say about economic pain is more than real too. we here have enough money - we can go to the store, get groceries, come home, eat for a week. we are not in any danger of starvation or pestilence. we are vulnerable to the virus, so we're avoiding contact. but i was about ready to do that anyway, being sixty-six and all. but what i was going to say is that in a lot of these countries, being forced to stay home is the same as being forced to starve. with no money, and no ability to get out of the house and make some, people don't have much choice, no future, no food, no life. they can up and walk back to some village where presumably some relative has a garden. but even that is little comfort in this world. if there is no economy, then this huge underclass - which includes musicians, ubers, etc. even in this country - has no income. money runs out fast in this sector. countries can print a few trillion, and pass it around, but that will cause trouble too, eventually. it's a kind of mass chaos, but with mass starvation right around the corner.

and then there's still war. news comes today that the u s is still bombing people in spite of the coronavirus - so they have two pestilences, with us being one of them. do we have to bomb people? it was never really clear why we were doing it in the first place - these are for the most part undeclared wars - everyone knows we hate the islamic insurgents - but, i guess what that means is that someone is going to get hurt. coronavirus and bombing to smithereens.

thinking about my mom tonight - she was the one who told me never to drink bleach. that was when i was maybe two or three. that's all i'll say about the news. i think it's more complicated than that, drinking bleach, but i'm voting life this time, and staying away from it. off to take my shower. it's a fine spring evening, and we can finally leave a window open.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

we go to town once a week these days, and i may talk to as many as six or seven people each time. i've gotten to figuring out risk for each exchange. it's all things we need; lots of "non-essential" things are going by the wayside. but yesterday, i talked to maybe seven people. they ranged from virtually risk-free - like the walmart pickup - to dicey, like the purified water.

at the walmart pickup, the woman never got within ten feet of me, and we were outside. she just put the groceries in the back of the car. she spoke loudly and i agreed that she could sign for the purchase for me, and she did. it was a warm sunny day and it didn't seem like the covid could come anywhere near me.

at the mcdonalds there were two people - after i gave them the order. the first took the credit card and handed it back with a receipt. i'm not sure if she sanitized after handling those credit cards. but i sanitized after getting it back. she wore a mask. i'm trying to figure out if you can physically hand something to someone - like a card - at six feet, because it seemed to me that it was about four. there was air between us, and a hot sunny day. at the next window they gave two sacks of food and the drink tray with all the frappes. once again, hand san - assume they've got it, and they're assuming i've got it. only three cases in all otero county so far, but we're all still assuming. i use hand san and then eat the food. i don't think the virus is living on those mcdonalds sacks, or the coffee cup for that matter. but the kid with the hands, i'm not sure. once again, less than six feet, or there's no way he could have handed it to me.

next was the tire place. the tire place had customers waiting outside, in the sun, while they took tires off, filled them with air, patched them, handed back the truck. they agreed to take my tire and i could come back in an hour. they were doing a brisk business, and customers, waiting in the sun, were friendly. i still had two places to go, though.

first was what i call cadillac water. fine filtered water through a faucet into three five-gallon jugs. the building is big but you still have to go in it and breathe people's air. they had a plastic screen in front of the worker - apparently they didn't want people to come up to her/him and breathe anywhere near. all i had to do was yell though, my name and the fifteen gallon part. i was able to stand in the open doorway for part of it.

i considered getting water at the outdoor faucets for a while. you pay a lot more that way, and i've already paid for the fills in the building. so i decided to chance it, in the building, but i'm not totally happy about it. maybe if i can reduce my risk by paying outside, that's a better method. reducing risk is what it's all about. i kind of see that virus hanging around that air as one of the three otero county victims could have walked in at any moment.

then back across town to domino's pizza. there the lady said she'd bring the pizzas out to us. once again we handed card back and forth, had to be less than six feet. when she handed me the pizzas again, less than six. i'm sure she had a mask, and i might have too but i can't really talk through a mask. besides i'm from the mountains, haven't been down for a week, and know in my heart i don't have it yet. could have got it back at the water place, but even then i wouldn't be busy giving it back away. i figure i'm clean, it's her i'm worried about.

back to the tire place. this time i had to come into their building to pay them. i couldn't quite hear the guy because i was trying to stay six feet and i can't wear both mask and hearing aids, so i had a mask. i don't think it helped. i stood in a doorway as i paid and then we loaded the tire. when we were loading the tire we were out in the high afternoon sun and i think it was no problem. when we were paying i got the sense that i was breathing what everyone who was walking by was breathing. i didn't like it. that there is risk. not from the guy itself, but from the doorway. i tried to keep it short and grab that card and run, and then, hand san.

up the hill we had to stop at the fam dol. this is in a small town, 8700 feet, at as far as we know doesn't have a single case. but my wife and sister also say that if there are three official, there are probably at least thirty in the county, and i would go further and say if it's anywhere, then it stopped in this high mountain village on its way from here to there. so it's only a matter of time, and we're all being cautious.

this family dollar is in a huge, fifty-foot high pole-barn, but has narrow isles. one of the sets of customers were two older ladies that had masks; another were slightly younger ladies who couldn't stop talking, more or less to each other, which is less than six feet. one thing about six feet is that you have to shout, and in my case i have to have hearing aids, or it just isn't going to work. normal conversation distance is like two to three feet, i believe, so being six is not easy. and not that i have a ruler either. but i want to be respectful and not threaten these poor people who just have to work, or have to get their groceries.

they rang me up and put my stuff in sacks. i think we were less than six, but she was wearing a mask, and i was trying this time not to sneeze or cough or do anything like that. their life is hard enough, as i've said, that i don't need to come in there and give them stuff to worry about. dying, that's what we worry about. i don't want to do it; i'm not ready. we're hoping this virus just passes on by.

groceries in the car, we set off. car was pretty full, with a truck tire, three five-gallon jugs of cadillac water, a week's worth of groceries, and four pizzas. not to mention three teens, all of different races, which i think made the police look, as rowdy crowds aren't supposed to be driving around having too much fun. there we were. three of the kids came, because they wanted the mcdonald's and they wanted to get out and see who was out there. town was kind of empty - not many people were out there. it seemed like there were plenty of cars around, but at the same time it seemed like a lot of things just weren't open, or up as usual.

today's news is that the governor has extended our lockdown into the middle of may. nationwide people were talking may first, or earlier, but it's not looking like that. most of us would like to see those death numbers do something besides climb exponentially. we'd like to know that there's a hospital bed out there if we need it. i talked to seven people on this trip and have to trust each of them that they've been keeping good distance - as all civic-minded people should do - so as to not carry that virus to each of a string of customers. but i didn't know any of them from anybody. on my part, i simply had to trust them.

they trace viruses, generally, back to places where people shared the same air. it is not so much food being handed off in a sack, or groceries. it's air, and air in enclosed places. i'm convinced of it. that's why i rate that water place and the tire place riskiest. it's not the people i talked to - it was the air that i breathed.

but, so far, as far as i know, all clean. no dying around here, yet. i've had the same cold for about a month, but that's always been here, and i rate that as seasonal, allergy related. my family keeps asking me about it. as if it's going to change, or go somewhere, or isn't part of just the usual seasonal events. it seems people are highly conscious of every temp variation, every cough, every sniffle, like everything is a sign of something. it probably is a sign of something, but who knows. it's probably always been this way, even with the seasonal flu, and we never even paid attention.