Is your kid on fire?  No? Then, you’re doing a good job: The Essential Work of Parenting as Part Of My Ongoing Chronicle.

This writer and I have been searching for truth in the same sandbox for many years together.  She took time offline from work/mom-ing to paint a picture of the everyday of raising two boys (six and nine) during this crazy time.

“…Might be interrupted at any time inevitably, but… I mean, where do I start…?  There have been so many different things, hard to put it into one thing.  It’s been extremely challenging, right, but there’s also been really great moments we wouldn’t have otherwise as a family… I don’t even know why I’ve started crying…”

She sets her tears aside to engage with one of her boys who asks if they can take a break now.  I thought of my own mother on the phone talking with Faye who only lived down the block and the time I put a Walt’s shopping bag over my head to jump off the kitchen steps ala Superman and ended up with stitches for the umpteenth time. You got to take advantage of those moments when mom is on the phone to do serious permanent damage.

“It started off, they were saying two weeks (the school),  but I knew it would be longer than two weeks, because we live close to the school and the sign out front said, ‘closed till further notice.’ We knew it would be longer, sure,  and some of our friends who maybe paid more attention and knew,  were saying  they (the kids)  are not coming back this year–  and I was like, ‘that’s crazy, that’s insane.’ I didn’t believe it.”

“We took our kids out the day before school closed actually.  We had plans to see my mom in Chicago.  She was supposed to come here, but then when things started happening, we figured it would be safer for her, for us to go there.  Then, of course, we canceled that trip and took the kids home and said, ‘we are doing it, we are staying home.’

“It was really hard. Immediately.   I was like, ‘I can’t be a home-schooler.’  I have friends who do it, and I admire them, greatly, but I’m also trying to carve out times to write, and rewrite, and the business of writing, you know, networking, and pounding the pavement, all the things that it takes to be a writer… Maybe that’s why I love summers when the kids are home, but I struggle with it, too,  ‘cause I have to give up a lot of my creative time.  And I am someone who if I’m not writing regularly… it has proven to be an anxiety trigger, and just me, as a person, when I feel I have no control over my life or a situation… so I was just immediately confronted by this…’

“And I am aware of these things. Awareness helps. I have a great partner who is able to work from home, able to keep his job, I have a therapist I can still… and then, I got sick.  I didn’t know what it was.  And it was so emotional.  And as you know it’s a hard time to just be sick. I had a lot of anxiety, I was like I have to be around, you know, for my kids and then, my doctor on tele appointment thought I had strep.  So, I took a strep test, got penicillin and I was in a room, isolated, then I got better and my husband got sick.  So, it was so much laundry, so much cleaning, so many dishes- added on top of everything, you know, just trying to disinfect everything…”

“And this distance learning is challenging in many ways – and you find it out at different times.  As you go.  My older son is nine, he’s in fourth grade, and now that all of his work is done at home, alone, it is very isolating and It’s… lonely.  For him.  When you are struggling with a particular problem, you are not in a room where other kids are raising their hands saying, ‘I don’t understand,’ so he feels that he is the only one not getting it.  He can’t see the questions other kids may have, when their hands are in the air and they may not know; that group-learning thing is helpful for my kid, and it is missing and it is really hard.  I hadn’t even thought of it, then it was like a light bulb.  So it’s an added layer that makes it harder…”

“And the teachers and principal are great, district-wide it’s been… the grades can’t go down; they can improve, but they can’t go down.  His teachers have set everything up, but he’s left to his own devices a lot because I have a six-year-old who needs my constant attention, all– day— long.  And the teachers give these worksheets – he hates the work sheets – he’s in kindergarten.”

“The whole Zoom thing is really hard… he’s in kindergarten.  So my struggle with that is, ‘how do I keep him on track? Keep him emotionally supported and make it fun.”  So we play games for math that keep it fun.  I told the teachers, ‘listen, he is not doing the work sheets;’ sometimes he is, but I can’t manage it and I don’t want miserable kids… like he’s got this addition game we got him for Christmas where the problems have a lock and each number has a key and he has to learn which key unlocks which lock and he loves that, so we do that.”

“The principal and his teacher said ‘focus on their emotional development and we will catch him up academically in the fall,’ but it’s really tiring… I mean, today?  I am really tired. Some days are better than others. Spring break I set aside all of my own stuff.  I said I am going to just make it fun! We were going to go down to San Diego be with family, but that couldn’t happen, right, so instead I came up with a theme for each day; one day was pirate day, one day was medieval day.  I built a pirate ship out of boxes, and for medieval day we made swords and armor, and watched movies, like Shrek, and whatever film fit for the day,  and that was so fun… That was something I would never have done.  I am not a crafty mom, but we are home, and we were like let’s make it fun and memorable, and I was excited about that, but I can’t do that every day, I still have to keep up with my work…”

“This is such an unprecedented time… Such a weird time.  I feel like all these things that are hard…?  It’s okay that they are hard right now.  And I have friends who remind me of this.  My brain is wired for perfection, and it’s just how I am, if I’m not perfect, I’m a failure… but this … it’s crazy what we are dealing with.  Friends remind me, ‘it’s okay, it’s okay it’s okay.’ A writer friend who is also a parent posted this thing on Facebook in response to some fear of… ‘what if I not doing good with this home schooling,’ and it said, ‘is he on fire?  No? Then, you are doing good.”

I hear her son ask if he can play outside in the pool that is not a pool.

“It’s a little plastic thing, you’re supposed to put sand in then fill it with water and call it a pool – well now it’s filled with sand…it’s crazy…”

“My son has all these I.E.P. (Indiviudalized Education Program) appointments, and O.T.  appointments, speech therapist, extra supported learning, and it’s all on Zoom, we just heard from his –“

There is a question about bubbles and something to do with the garden hose from her youngest. I hear her futz with some kind of toy bubble gun.

“And I have this ready bubble kit ready to go – stroke of genius…”

She pours fresh bubbles in and continues…

“So we heard from the speech therapist, and it’s another zoom call  and this isn’t-“

She gets a delivery and asks me to hold. I hear her teach her son to keep six feet away and not touch the box…  There’s  a mini-meltdown about not being able to open the small grill her husband bought

“My youngest gets real upset, hates the mask, and when we go for walks in the neighborhood, he gets frustrated that he can’t touch things.  He likes to touch things all the time… Back to what I was saying, the point is the I.E.P. — there’s no real support for I.E.P. learning right now – and I don’t know how people are doing that.  To do a Zoom for him with someone he’s never met before, ‘cause his regular I.E.P. is on maternity leave, I don’t know… so again, if it creates misery around him wanting to go to speech therapy that is not gonna help – so we are gonna watch, and if it doesn’t help, we’ll pull him out and wait till the fall when his regular speech therapist returns.”

“And the district won’t let the school therapists meet one-on-one with students on tele-health, open Zoom sure, but not one-on-one in… It’s just.. and all the emails, every day, from the district, the therapist, and the I.E.P. team and it’s just too much, I’m  just trying to get through every day.  And when I do get in bed, I’m so exhausted.  The feeling of being behind on everything is—  and me,  who has had a hard time with that feeling in general,  and having it be just okay, you know?   ‘Cause it’s not going to be forever…  And trying not to be crabby and short –  even when I am feeling… like the other night;  my husband puts this small fire pit we have in the driveway, so we can roast marshmallows, and I just … couldn’t be around people – I love my kids, but I couldn’t be around them anymore.  They were being just awful, all day- constantly yelling at me,  and I didn’t blame them at all,  because this is hard, but I was done!  And I got into bed.  It was like eight-o’clock.  I was like, ‘see ya!’

“Thankfully, my husband was like, ‘do it, I got this.’  We understand each other. It’s much easier when we both don’t need that at the same time… I feel really really lucky to have my husband, and we are a real good team–  my heart goes out to single parents,  or… parents who have one kid!   It’s harder when they’re on their own.   I can send mine out to play together, and yes, it turns into fighting in five minutes, but they have each other.  There is a lot to be grateful for.  But we are learning a lot.  Every day.”

“I miss my family. In Chicago and in San Diego, and not being able to see my mom– we see each other once every two /  three months,  so, those things are really hard… ”

“And thinking about what the future holds… on The Daily the other day they were talking about,  ‘how this can be, is going to be, a lot longer…’  I try real hard not-to-go there.  The things that help me the most are being present with my kids– AND they help me with being present because they demand my presence. I say, ‘I’m busy, I’m doing this or that,’  but my little one has trouble wiping his butt, so that brings me back to the present moment and there is not a lot time to hang out mentally in the what ifs.”


The Best and Worst Times to be a Thief. Essential Worker Profile #5 Police Patrol Officer.

I can say many things about this Patrol Officer as a way to introduce them but wouldn’t want to leave too many bread crumbs to point toward their identity.  They work nights in a Metropolitan Division of a major American City.

“I’m out there, walking out there, all day as a police officer with a mask on… it’s crazy! I mean… stick’em up, right?  And I’m the police!!”

He stops to talk to his daughter to offer encouragement and a school project, then continues:

“Listen, Matty, desperate people are getting more and more desperate; the ceiling is being met – no matter who they are or where they are… I mean, normal people are already doing crazy things,  know what I mean?  Normal people. That haven’t had to stay home with their spouse for weeks on end ever, and their patience level is very short.  I mean, in society we know, traditionally, that people lash out at who they are closest to.  And now… because of the stress, so much… lack of knowledge, of what the next day will bring, plus health and economic insecurity… you get a lot of people who have, you know, sleepless nights, and they’re frustrated from sitting at home with people they are not used to sitting home with… Most of the calls we are experiencing are domestic calls.”

“Normal patrol coppers are dealing with domestics; battery, assault, or potential domestic violence… are up thirty- forty percent.”

Thirty to forty percent.

“I would say a majority of our calls are still transient related calls.  Nothing’s changed, in that regard; except, now… it’s always an emergency code three call, which means somebody is throwing rocks or bricks at cars passing by, for example, basically, they are out of control and you can’t talk sense into that person.  That’s it.”

“We have less people in _____ (I blur the division of the city and district to protect their anonymity here) then we have had in years because of the shelters, but… the homeless we have left on the streets are only the one who refuse to get any type of help.   Plus, on top of that, people who have been moved to safe shelter…?  Well, a good portion of them? Don’t want to be there.   So… it’s a tremendous amount of wackiness going on in there – anything and everything… I mean, people who are crawling out from under a park bench where they were sleeping or coming out from the alcove they’ve been in and they find…”

“Here is the economic structure of a transient trying to survive, today.  The absolute knowledge is that a good portion are mentally disabled. And even in normal times they are trying to find a way to survive, in some way shape or form… grabbing recyclables, begging for wares, at the off ramp,  and in many cases are stealing in one way shape or form; breaking into cars, stealing a bag, whatever the case may be… but now… the potential victims of street thieves—- they are gone. There are no victims on the street.   So,  that means desperation for our street thieves. It’s all perspective.”

“Like professional athletes are still making millions of dollars, sure, but a waiter in a restaurant can’t work, and well the homeless person begging can’t support themselves either, because there is no one to beg.  The only non-transients we see on the street are negligent and naïve people.   Irresponsible people who are walking in groups without masks.  Who fail to listen to and abide by stay at home orders. We still got people coming down as tourists. To come down and hang and chill!  I mean…”

“The ____ Police Dept are issuing 1000.00 citations for people who are not wearing a mask.  And all we are doing is educating.  We haven’t been mandated to enforce in a stringent way.  I’ll say,  ‘you have your mask, right?’  ‘In my pocket.’   ‘Why don’t you put it on and take care of everybody- do the right thing.  I always say,  ‘do the right thing.’

“There is gonna come a time when we are gonna have to start enforcing at least the mask rule.  Whether we believe it or not. It is what we are being mandated to do by state government.  I don’t necessarily like to wear mine, but I’m a government official.  So, everything begins with the example I produce and promote for the rest of the community.  So, I never get out of my car without my mask.  If I know I’m gonna be around a bunch of street traffic in the car – I want to promote and be a good example of that,  so I’ll keep it on in my car even.”

“This is the thing.  If you compare my department to New York… Those cats have been decimated.  By the virus.  __PD to date, we have only had _ sworn and civilian personal  infected out of _____ if you count civilian based personal – that’s incredible.  (The numbers he used showed that they were fortunate indeed).  A good number of that _ have already gone back to work. Less than ___ at home under quarantine.  That’s way better then we expected.  And what I’m praying… and I agree we have to open up, in some way shape or form soon… but, once we open up… there’s a horde of people at the castle gate.  ‘Cause there’s been a fire, right?  Then when we open it up, a couple-people-at-a-time, it means the gates are gonna be run over and, and… the gates will tumble down.  The fire for society is that people want to be free – and maybe no one is going to take into consideration… listen, if we don’t somehow try to get the economy started up again, we know we have to – but the ceiling of patience is being reached….”

“And everyone is trusting, me I’m trusting, we’re almost like the typical victim who gets victimized, right? Everyone’s so trusting everything is gonna work out, but yet, at same time… in another month, say… we’re gonna have people not have any idea how they are gonna pay their mortgage, their back rent,  two- three months of bills, forget about it… we might not be out of this by November– and if they let the gates open and the mass of society runs through the gate… we will be at peak levels right away.”

“Listen, Matty, no one wants to think about worst case scenarios, but there are a lot of worst-case scenarios out there.  Talking serious law enforcement stuff where I have to arrest people for not staying inside.  That’s hard core.  If you’re an officer and your job is to reduce crime and make certain there is no public disorder and community members are safe and secure and can enjoy a quality of life, well…. it’s … the ceiling is being reached.”

“I mean, the dynamic, in ___, prior to Covid,  if I arrest you for selling narcotics, you will be out of jail tomorrow; seven years ago– that was a felony; ten years ago– possession was a felony; five years ago– it was a felony to have meth— now…? It’s a misdemeanor.  Everything up to two pounds of dope is an infraction.”

“If I find you with a weapon in your car and even if that weapon is not registered to you, you can still be out of jail the very next day.  Not serve any time.  The D.A. might not even file.   The D.A.s are so inundated with so many different crimes, they wouldn’t even be able to file them.  If I’m addressing an individual on the street and they sock me in the jaw, that individual will be out of jail the very next day.   That is pre-Covid.  Now, post-covid, I can’t even arrest you.   We arrest people, and a lot of the reasons originate from traffic stops P.C. (probable cause) vehicle registration or someone unregistered, etc – we can’t even do those stops.  Now we can’t do that because the state said, ‘don’t worry, nobody can stop you if you have a late registration or bad license.’ If we run you and you have a thousand dollar warrant, we don’t do anything,  we can’t take any risk to bring anybody else into system, because of risk of exposure.  Maybe a five hundred thousand dollar warrant.”

“And you know, like your CVS or the local Rite Aid is your homeless person’s personal kitchen.  I’m serious.  This is pre-Covid.  Now it is twenty times worse. Your Rite Aid over at ____  they are gonna walk into that CVS and grab what they need and walk out to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for each location.  But today, if you go to, you know like, your Ross Dress For Less and Loss Prevention catches you for stuffing a bunch of clothes up your shirt and I show up, I arrest you and I book you, nothing’s going to happen, except I walk you out of the door in an hour and a half.

“Previously, you stayed the night in jail, and at least saw a judge, but now… if you steal a car, if I catch you stealing the car, and I take you into custody, and you start pretending you have a cough and sneezing and say you had a temp two days ago, I’m not gonna bring you to jail out of fear for contaminating the police station… Before–  you would meet with my Superior and we start the two hour booking procedures… now my boss comes out, meets me at my car, stays ten feet away and asks a few questions, and then I drive you downtown (to a detention center) and we stand in line, me and my partner and my suspect, and we are like in Disneyland, but like six feet apart, waiting for a ticket to get our turn to get inside,  and then you get up there, and you know, if the suspect is really smart… he sneezes and coughs, no one is gonna let him in and we do nothing.”

“Listen, Matty, we drive around in our vehicles doing nothing, we can’t stop anybody, and then if you have a vehicle code violation I can’t pull you over because of the mandate– and there’s no more people on the street to steal from, but there are still thousands upon thousands of vehicles just sitting there, vehicle thefts have increased twenty five percent… and now, all of a sudden, there’s a stolen vehicle activity call, so  we got sixty patrol cars zooming over to get in on the activity, because they have nothing to do…. Listen, Matty, they make fun of me all the time, they call me..  “I’m like Driving Miiss Daisy,  ’cause I don’t drive fast unless it is an officer needs help call– ’cause it ain’t worth it.  The public doesn’t realize the liability of bringing on the lights and the sirens– normal people don’t understand the liability those two officers are now facing.   If they get into a collision, if someone is hurt or killed, the department is gonna do all they can to NOT take care of you.  Capital N. Capital O.  Capital T.  So, I drive super slow.  I do.  I don’t really give a fuck.”

“This is a normal day occurrence in ____, seventy percent of our radio calls have to do with a transient, okay?  I mean, if I give you the company line, say I’m interviewing for for a promotion, I say, ‘we have to realize that we are not only responsible for our residential and business owners but also our community members who are experiencing hopelessness- that’s what I say at the interview,  but the truth is.. I’m not flying through traffic at a hundred miles an hour because  two homeless people are attacking each other with huge lead pipes – and every unit in the area is flying from an emergency call at 100 miles an hour… except me, I’m going 20.  The safety and security of my family,  I can lose my house, and everything, if something goes wrong… because of someone who can’t take care of themselves?  No.  I go super slow.  Can’t buy into it.”

I ask him again to talk a little more about the uptick in domestics. 

“The truth of the matter is in our society – we have both parents working.  Most people are ships passing in the night.  Many times, people haven’t shared four days together in the last ten years, and now they are forced to be together; or one, or both, are basically unemployed and you are faced with that person all the time… Then you throw on top of that dynamic…. an increased frustration, lack of clarity, desperation on how you are gonna feed your family, keep a roof over head, the car payments, or all of the above… It adds to the frustration and desperation in that home dynamic.  If you already have a situation where there is a challenging relationship to begin with, now it’s increased exponentially.

“Listen, Matty, many of the residences we go to are very small apartments with eight to fifteen people inside.  I mean this is a studio apartment with ten people living in it. Fights are going to occur.  And frustration.  People who are not living under the best circumstances already are faced with even more challenges.  And these domestic calls…  across the board – and society says it should be just men – but it is a fifty- fifty, baby.”

“And then we are also seeing an influx of… let’s say irresponsible people  finding ways to throw parties in ___.  Primarily through AIRBNB networks. (..)  Last weekend, we raided a number of different house parties.  There was a shooting at one.  People are throwing parties for money.  It’s crazy. And the people throwing these parties are facing huge fines.”

They had more to say about the ways people are scrambling to make a buck and how sometimes that runs into the law along with a brief description of the way infected people are coughing on each other as a weapon, but because of the strict codes of silence that they are forced to live under behind the blue wall, we chose to trim a lot. 

“Matty, the general public doesn’t know the kind of scrutiny we have to live under.”

I reminded them that the aim of our conversation is to hopefully bring dimension and humanity to the real lives of people too often reduced to click bait and sound-bites.  But in the end, we chose to blur some details that could be traceable to them.   I walked away once again learning more about the nuanced truth beyond the Google search by simply listening. And… I also, personally, felt safer about enduring these crazy times because of the very things and phases they wanted me to edit so they wouldn’t get in trouble with Internal Affairs. 



The Guy You Thank Through the Closed Door. Essential Worker Profile #4

E. is a veteran and a recent graduate of film school.  Bravely joining students half his age and making a thesis film about being reunited with his son.  He’s famous for his buoyant sense of optimism and lightheartedness.    Here he describes his day-to-day delivering for Doordash in the Northwest San Fernando Valley.

“I put on the work gloves and a handkerchief I have in the kitchen – one that says, “I love you,” I got left over from Valentines.  I would cover myself from head to toe – was a little bit in fear… When I was doing deliveries in the beginning, I was cautious, but I don’t think I was in gratitude so much. I would get a lot of those three-dollar deliveries and wouldn’t accept them.  I would only accept eight- or nine-dollar deliveries, but then, one day – I heard the news that in my apartment someone tested positive.  It was the moment I paused…”

“And I did a delivery that day.  Someone was so grateful I was able to do a delivery.  That it kinda sorta changed how I was looking at it…Oh, I can be of service this way.  That is interesting. So, I started doing the three-dollar orders, ’cause maybe someone doesn’t have the money  to pay more than that.  Especially with everything that is happening.  Which led to more tips.  Like I gotta nine-dollar tip. On a three-dollar deal.  It doesn’t always work out… I still don’t accept anything less than three dollars, ’cause business-wise it doesn’t make sense.

For those unaware of the devil math of the modern app based rake – believe me, they stick it to the delivery people, the stores, and the customers.  For drivers– The price -per-mile is often at or below the standard deduction you would use on your income tax return. He breaks it down further:

“Seven miles for three dollars…?  Which is really like fourteen miles, ’cause you have to go there and back, you know… it doesn’t add up.  Business-wise.  I try not to do three dollars for three miles ’cause then I lose money.  Paying for gas and the car.  But I’ll accept a three-dollar order for 1.5 miles.  If it is on my way to another delivery, I’ll do it. ”

“Lately (the delivery charge) has gone up.  Everyone’s drinking alcohol.  So, I’m delivering a lot of alcohol.  I deliver from a place called Total Wine. A lot.  It will say 12 dollars delivery charge – but I know, that for whatever reason – people who order alcohol love to tip – the lowest you get is a twenty-dollar tip for booze.  One time I made fifty-five dollars.  Go figure.  They’ll order cases – whether it’s like… hard spirits and beer, cases of beer, along with a case of wine…”

“And then there’s basic foods.  Like Chili’s.  Where we will wait outside in our cars- we don’t even go in anymore- and they bring the food to us. Same as Wood Ranch, Red Robin – people don’t make contact at all.  Basically, I deliver from the restaurants, where I don’t go inside, and then I drop off at the door.  And sometimes there is a little note that says, ‘thank you, worker,’ or, ‘thank you for what you are doing.’ And I really appreciate that.   It makes me feel – that I am doing something for people who really won’t go out of their house.  And I do it without so much fear now.  I feel better about it since I started feeling grateful… I still put my gloves on and my mask on, and when I get home I take off all my clothes – I air dry my mask… with a hair dryer… I do what I can do ’cause I have a four-year-old, you know.. I do what I can control.”

“I tend to call customers on apartment buildings ’cause they are difficult to get into, and what I hear now,  it can exist in the air; so… I try to meet them outside the building.  I just deliver out front now.”

“I deliver to what was a college town, by CSUN (Cal State- Northridge)… by the dorms, but the dorms are now empty, which is weird,  and I deliver at Porter Ranch, and that’s a nice little drive, and I leave it at the houses, you know.  I hear, ‘thank you,’ from the inside of doors.  As I’m dropping off I hear a muted thank you and the kids echo, ‘thank you,’ and it’s adorable.”

“Reseda and Northridge.  People and families – usually, I don’t see any people.  The other day, I was leaving at the door, and I saw a lady come out, and she was not able to pick up her order and– I can’t help myself – I help her get her order in the door.  Whatever I can do to make it easier.”

“I used to take my girlfriend with me, before,  but I don’t anymore. Or my son. Before all this.  The big deliveries – catering companies, things like that, sometimes I would have my son,  so I take him out with me, and he’s four-years-old, and he carries some of the utensils, and they say,  ‘look at our little worker!’ And they give him a little tip.  My little mascot… he looks adorable.  I used to do that.  But I don’t get to do that no more.”

“I listen to different music.  I’ll listen to N.W.A. from back in the day, to country music — Don Williams and Dolly Partner,  retro Techno, then we’ll go back to EMINEM and Metallica… It depends.  And sometimes the meditative stuff;  some good mind-altering  alpha waves… while I’m delivering.  Sometimes, I just want it to be quiet.   And it’s relaxing.  Or the Black-eyed Peas will be going, “Tonight Is Gonna Be A Good Night” when there nothing to do that night.  … I been caught rocking out in my car by a couple people and they just watch me – well, what are you gonna do. ”

He explained the next part as if traffic I never encountered before.  It did feel oddly foreign to me in this new normal. 

“Before, when there was a lot of traffic, sometimes it took a while to make a delivery and I would only do the weekends, and on the other side (of the hill in Hollywood, or etc)  you can’t park anywhere… but lately, after the Covid,  there’s times when there is nobody around.  On Devonshire… in the evening … and you’d only see one or two cars. All alone.  And the only cars you see are probably delivery drivers, too.  It’s a trip.”

“In Porter Ranch, I like it when you go up there at night, and you get a view of the whole valley.  All the lights.   I’d like to stop and just look – it’s a beautiful view but I don’t stop, wish I would though. But I don’t.”

“Today, I go from three pm to ten pm.  I like to do the evenings a lot more.  I try to hit the rush hours between 5 and 8.30 pm.  Go to a certain spot.  And there will be days where I just start from my place and wait till I get an order.  And head on out.  I usually love Sundays because that is when we get the most orders.  I  take Mondays and Tuesdays off.  And usually do Wednesday through Sunday.   Yeah, but the best days have always been Sundays.  It’s just been a great day.  They stop from one to four, but then start ordering again. Even when things were… normal, there wasn’t a lot of traffic – but now…”

“You know, it’s not the career I want, but it’s not stressful.  And on some days, it can be okay. You zone out. Sundays are my favorite. Let’s put it that way.  If I were to become a millionaire I would still go out and deliver on a Sunday. Go out and deliver some things on Sunday.  Go out and deliver a pizza.”

“It’s not like you meditate, but you are in a place of peace.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s not always like that, but Sundays… and, you know, I think lately with everything… Here’s the thing: you are in the car by yourself.  And your head gets to you…”

I once heard it called windshield time by a truck driver I knew.  A thing.  Like every job, there is a callus. 

“And sometimes… you’re having an argument with someone who isn’t there, you know…? But, for the most part, it is a place to zone out and be like….One.”

“Before this whole Covid,  I felt people were really ungrateful for what you did.  You would feel the snobbishness.  Not appreciative.  One thing was always a pet peeve… it was the whole tip thing.  The app showed me whether they tip or not, you know.   I don’t care if it is twenty-five cents,  but when you don’t tip at all… I feel it is such a slap in the face.  Twenty-five cents or fifteen dollars, fifteen makes me want to work harder, of course, but even if you don’t have anything… a dollar…? What’s a dollar…?  But, when you don’t tip anything… you are not showing any consideration for the driver out there.  And that is why I would cancel on the three dollar orders ’cause it usually meant they wouldn’t tip.”

“I got three deliveries at the same time.  One time.  Cause they were low on drivers – I did a complete mix up and gave the wrong delivery to the different people… and I felt so bad about that.  One of the people I delivered to was super nice – and the other one was a teenager and snooty, and no matter how much I apologized, she said “how can you do such a thing,’ made me feel like a chimp.”

“Stuff like that I never understood.  People make mistakes, I took responsibility.  I even told them, you don’t have to pay me, I just want to fix it.  One time I spilled stuff, it was all over the bag, and I didn’t see it, and you have to man up.  I almost delivered a thousand – close to a thousand– nine hundred deliveries.  I’ve had my mistakes here and there – but less than fifteen, for sure.  I only remember three of them.”

“The tipping has been better recently.  People have been more appreciative. I mean, I want things to go back to the way it was before, obviously, but… it has been easier.”



Let Them Eat Cake. The Feds Have Failed Us, But At Least I Get To Watch British People Bake.

The Inaugural season of The Great British Baking Show (Beginnings) did more for me to recover from Covid-19-like symptoms than the sum total of the federal response of the supposed greatest democracy that ever was and so-called leader of the free world.

Mary Barry and Paul Hollywood guided me through  the eye of the storm far better than a healthcare system that began to rot in 1968 or so when Nixon made a deal with one of his chums.  Further, Sue and Mel brought more kindness and sanity, based on an actual meritocracy, to give me trust in the order of things and the power of a good recipe for success.  The hard-nosed truth is that the pinnacle of modern science could do nothing to combat a less than single cell organism once it is introduced like a bingo ball into one’s immune system.  We play bingo with ourselves and anomalies pop up all over.   It is a lottery.  Whether we like it or not.

Anyone who has intimate knowledge with Covid-like symptoms knows that we want our immune system to work, but not overwork, because what makes this wee fucker so fucker-ish is that it causes our natural defenses to go haywire and turn against ourselves.  And no one knows how each individual will respond.  There are trends.  Yes.  But there is nothing but uncertainty.    My very own doctor repeated over and over again when asked question after question, “we don’t know.  We just don’t know.”

Which is why the contestants on the Great British Baking Show staring with hope into their ovens gave me the comfort I lacked from a nation’s government that lacks all compassion.   Even in their most dismal failures, it was still something sweet.  And no one was pitted against each other.  The only thing they had to contend with was the intemperance of English summers and what looked like an infestation of dandelions in the English garden behind their white tent.

And unlike our current political cast, the contestants were chosen for their skill rather than their predilection for drama.   I believe in The Great British Baking Show as a necessary medicine in the ongoing battle against a worldwide pandemic.   And would vote for any of them to lead the U.S. federal response, or at least some kind of symbolic cabinet position of human kindness and sweetery.

Learning what a bain-marie was brought me and my immune system the much needed distraction in my ten-eleven-day cycle of freak out, watch people bake, meditate, pee, repeat so I could advance to the recovery phase of this whole thing.  Learning about what piping is and that meat pies once contained eel was much better than learning about the death toll and whether we were flattening the curve

I recall U.S. Grant would take to whittling a stick when his soldiers were in battle.  There is a famous anecdote of just such behavior on the high ground above Cold Harbor.  Because he knew he could do nothing.  His plans were in place and the thing was under way.  Fighting a virus with no known cure except blind faith in your own system and your generals requires that kind of mindless and totally unimportant thing to focus on.  Without a stick to whittle, I took to learning the concepts of baking and English nomenclature.

In any meditation, mantras or focus points, mudras, or even just focusing on the breath- it gives us a diving bell.  Into ourselves and relaxation and peace.  And encouraging Cathryn to believe in herself as she made sweet and savory bakes was just that.  And for that length of time, I was exempt and unexposed to the vector of infection of deception and conceit known as the President’s daily briefings.  I had to get really sick to feel free from his insane vitriol.   Getting the thing (we think) brought a welcome respite from baring witness to the slow-moving train wreck of the single worst governmental leadership since Nero.   And just like the disease itself, Trump deceives in his attempt to get the system to turn on itself.  An irony not lost on me.

But the credit must be shared with honorable mentions going to Zero Zero Zero, Derry Girls, and our nightly bedtime story of catching up on how Marty and Wendy Byrd were doing.

Yearning for the normalcy of the Byrd family in Ozark where they only had to survive a war between the KC outfit and the cartels and not the insanity, ineptitude, and cruelty of a nation that no longer serves in the best interest of its citizenry helped alleviate the minor symptoms of inflammation that could prove dangerous when Tylenol or Chinese Curing Pills could not.   And watching the ingenuity of Brandon, the dignified imp himself, navigate all the world’s challenges of making a good bake with gentle Hobbit-like jurisprudence and innocence lends a much needed and neighborly sweetness to an otherwise improbable time.  For we are all in the baker’s oven right now, regardless if we know it, or not.  Whether we will we rise or fall is entirely up to how well we have been proven.

After thought: So I guess, A. was right when she spotted me making coffee in the traditional way and helping with the dishes that I am starting, “to feel feisty and artfully complain” and therefore must be doing better.

I guess I’ll make this one about me. And all of us.

Before I got Covid 19, a half marathon was the longest race I’ve ever done.

Quiet streets interrupted only by the siren doppler effect take on a whole new meaning when you come down with the fever. There is a bit of false flag deception built into this from the get-go with common symptoms of anxiety-attacks that painfully mirror real symptoms of the thing itself, but I knew, nonetheless, the weirdness I was experiencing and the stingy nerves was something abnormal.   It was also something I used to pay good money for.

A. was basting a whole trout in olives and tomatoes and herbs and maybe I was just frightened at trying something new, bones face and fleshy cheek bones and all. It was late on Tuesday last week and we hadn’t eaten dinner, so maybe I was just hungry.  I get kooky when I don’t eat.  Just ask her.  Slowly, one by one, the rule-outs began, leaving me with nothing but questions and a fever of 102.

The first night was a shroud of uncertainty and night sweats.

The  next morning I noticed, after the fear spiked, was that there was a sense of peace that came over me in knowing.  Knowing I probably got it, and there was nothing I can do to change that. The fear came much later. Days later. In between, there was the steady counterpoint of Derry Girls on Netflix and Zero zero zero on Amazon and a near constant pot of chicken soup fortified by home-made bone broth that A. made.

The triage nurse on the phone chuckled when we asked about self-isolating in a studio apartment and he confirmed what we already knew.  We were both, more than likely, already exposed.

As a point of reference:

We were literally washing the things we bought from the store when I first noticed something was up. This was after seventeen days of staying at home and wearing gloves and masks before it was cool.  A. and I were ahead of the dawn of awakening that finally penetrated our Great American Exceptionalism mainly due to A.s self-admitted paranoia and ours having relatives in Italy.  We had a glimpse inside the time machine from the get-go.   And none of that changed anything.

It’s amazing how many of my loved ones were medical experts when I trusted them with knowledge that I was sick.  Everyone wanted me to get tested.  As if it was an easy thing. The cold hard truth is due to the shortage because of the Federal Government’s incompetence and cruelty- public health mandates that only severe cases and essential workers can get one… with the only exception being celebrities.

I was a celebrity at one time – but only a minor one, so that doesn’t qualify me.

And speaking of truth…

A positive or negative test (or false negative / false positive – who the fuck knows -see earlier articles yadda-yadda-yadda ) doesn’t really change anything that can be done.  I have a friend with a friend who works ICU at County and they keep their patients on fluids and make sure they stay on their stomachs and sides to stave off pneumonia that this thing likes to gift us after a few days.   Before this all began, I was seventy percent water or so, now I am fairly certain I am water.  And I pee a lot.  I mean, a lot.  When this is all over I’ll go get tested for antibodies, but for now it is rest and fluids.  So please don’t leave links in the comments of what to do.  You may, for the first time in your post-Google life not be an expert.

But there are a lot of mild to moderate cases / unconfirmed but suspected blah blah blah cases- like my own that need to follow a few things in order to stay out of the hospital and keep it from being clogged up for the inherently more critical.   As the news states, a lot of young people ended up in the hospital, which I am not surprised by having now experienced it.  The amount of rest and humility it demands for your body to have a singleness of purpose to defeat this fucker, and the sustained effort of nothingness is incongruous with what it means to the vigor of youth.  But it will take you down if you do not lie down and stay down.   Period.

And manage your fear.  No joke.    The hardest part is managing the fear.  And knowing when to cry.  Which I think must be the gift built into the DNA coding of this wee little fucker.   A chance for all of us to lie down and do nothing and look at our own fear.  For a week or two.  Think of as a vacation.  But a really shitty one.

If I may get like zen-light for a moment… I think having a mild case of the plague taught me even more about the nature of impermanence.   That the ride of the fever rises and falls… That’s what it does.  Like all things.   It made me think of that thing I heard on my ten-day meditation retreat.  From the teacher. Over and over again.  “Everything rises and passes away.” Over and over and over again.  And somehow I didn’t get it till now.   Now, I  directly experienced it.  In between episodes of Love is Blind on Netflix and minor panic attacks.

This wee little fucker can teach you this and other lessons the hard way or the easy way.  That’s entirely up to you and your willingness to stay down.  Again, I’m speaking to anyone who isn’t in our most vulnerable population.  Inflation, like all pain, teaches us to submit.  But modern culture especially American, pipes us with messaging of the opposite.  But I think what I’ve learned is that maybe  we all should be like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and just stay the fuck down.


Breath is life and this thing literally takes your breath away.

In the end, all I can say is … these times require all of us to be brave.  And bravery enters only with fear.  You can’t truly have one without the other.  So anyone who says you can’t have faith and fear at the same time probably has never been frightened.  And I believe this pivot point in humanity will bring us each in our own way to our  very own private breaking point.  And I say let it happen.    It might come from the kids being brats with their homework under house arrest, or not being able to sleep because of an unnamed worry, or a friend being sick, or you being stuck in limbo, or not knowing if you are getting better or worse.  If now is the time to go to the hospital or a time to practice box breathing.  But it will happen.  And it will happen for all of us on earth.  And I say that is a good thing.  The only thing. And I stand behind that one hundred percent.

A friend who is HIV positive and lived through the AIDS crisis and admits to being, ‘very good with criers,’ says, ‘he relaxed when he learned he got HIV.”  I totally understood.  In an era where the lived-in experience of how to ascend the mountain and get back down safely is limited, I was in need of a sherpa.  And the sherpas come in all forms.  In my case, a queen from Australia.   That kind of fellowship helped relieve the strain this put on my own lady as she made various kinds of soup and tried to deal with me.

Having trench buddies helped me days in for the critical moment.  See, this thing gives a false victory.  It makes you think you are getting better, and you are, in fact, getting better, but that is exactly when it leaves lung problems behind in its wake.  If you don’t stay down.   The way back down the mountain, as any experienced mountaineer knows, is often where people get hurt.  Because they are weary and filled with a sense of that false victory and think they know the way.  So, if you get this, or someone you know gets this, please insist they do as my friend who practices Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and plays he flute suggests – stay down.  For two weeks.

I don’t know how people do this alone.  Or without some kind or blend of Ayurveda -Chinese medicine – Jewish penicillin diet.   And A. jokes to being built for the post-apocalyptic end times, but my love and gratitude for her knows no limit.  In a month or so of seclusion here in a small studio, we haven’t said a single cross word to each other.  And laughed more than our share.   And that is something indeed.  The only thing.

I didn’t miss the junk mail in my inbox from how to clean my gutters and I can’t even begin to comprehend that my favorite song writer, and personal poet hero John Prine is dead and gone.  All I can say at this point, and there will be more later I am sure, is that I feel our conversation needs to shift to not how do we not get this, but what we do when we, or someone within our we, gets this.  It will happen.  it’s already happening.  And none of us can do it alone. Or in the words of my dearest love, “we are all in this together, but separately.”

With gratitude day by day for our personal grocery delivery angels, E and his father  (and the tongue photos he interpreted)  and the Chinese herbs and encouragement to stay calm amid it all.


PS In my humble opinion, traditional modern western medicine must bend an ear to five-thousand-year-old practices of boosting our chi and immunity when there is no cure.  And maybe that is why the lack of critical cases in Korea is so low.  I don’t know.  But that is a topic for further discussion down the road.  In the meantime, back to rest and The British Baking Show.