THINKING PAST AND PRESENT

The concept of the drive-thru is beautiful in its simplicity. First for burgers, then donuts, carwash, and now in our clean cars, we sit for precious (monetized) minutes waiting for a macchiato – extra sweet.

~~~

I was a mad-hungry freshman, rubbing last night’s party from my irritated eyes. The fall of 1969: Saturday morning, leaving McDonald’s with my breakfast, I stood on the paper-strewn corner kicking aside shredded protestations for peace. I waited for the light to change, barely noticing the air until I opened my mouth and stuck out my greedy tongue for a salty-sweet hit of those fries. I didn’t get it. Just a bitter sampling of leftover mace, telling me that this was the intersection that ended a peace march the day before. Mace had been successful in dispersing the peace-mongers.

 It would be years before I would connect our drive-thru lives to the forces behind the mace – that clung to the air that angered me for not tasting like fries.  

Converting my guilt to shame.

~~~

Six months into Covid – it is a Saturday morning and I’m driving mad and unmasked to the store. According to county health officials, this epidemic was going to be a long haul. I live in a blue state but in a red county where obedient people listen to a president (who likely failed chemistry) wax poetic and pathetic about science. I turn into the shopping center parking lot, halted by the line of cars patiently waiting for a turn at the Dunkin-Donuts window. Not me! I pull out of line, opting to circumnavigate the deserted K-Mart building, creating a lateral line of attack on my destination. I wait for a few shoppers to withdraw, increasing my chances of surviving what I’m sure will be a pandemic—four people exit. The coast is clear – I don my mask and make a beeline to the front door, where I grab a cart. I breathe shallow dizzying breaths – as I study the store’s arrangement. I am cautious as I approach the domestics on the left, where, after a brief reconnaissance, I make my way out of the Finger Lakes, grabbing a few bottles of good whites. I stand for a moment in the archway leading to the reds. I know the need for urgency but linger anyway at the mercy of ratings. I am deaf to the sounds of my bacchanalian brain stuttering at the sight of French, Italian, Portugal, South African, Spain, and Venezuelan reds– mesmerizing blood-shot pinwheels in a firefight – hand-to-hand combat for space in my cart.

In my obedience to Doctor Fauci’s biblical warning that this plague will be a long haul, I fill my cart – my private Arc – two bottles of each.

~~~

My Spectrum service is broken – I mean down, not working, caput, fin, nothing. For almost ten days, I’ve watched a platoon of Spectrum trucks trace and retrace the road in front of my house to no effect. My hope for a temporary outage had sprung eternal. But now I see the drive-bys as a ploy –like a Russian May-Day parade – a show of strength offering hope where, only a few know, there is none. The outage has been long enough for me to finish Johnathan Foer’s beautiful five-hundred-page tome on love and Judaism. And long enough for me to fear my unread emails growing to legion; so many requests for my dollars to save dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, and sometimes people. Should I worry?

Spectrum seems not to worry. The billing department is sanguine, telling me I will be reimbursed ten dollars for every four hours I’ve been without service. For the first week, Spectrum outage was never, like it is now, continuous. It was more like three-hours of outage interrupted by twenty minutes of service. Even if I had the internet’s stupefying privilege of a misinformed populace right now, I could see the hand of capitalism slapping me in the face with “free enterprise.” I am free, I’ve surmised, to go without or pay dearly. I know where I, the consumer, stand. I even know where I’ll fall if I tumble down my stairs. I may or may not survive Spectrum or my fall – who knows? My cellphone won’t – having been rendered useless in an emergency because of this Spectrum outage. 

MAYBE

It has occurred to me

That 

I may not live long enough

To love my neighbor

Indeed

We may all perish if we don’t learn (quickly)

To love one another

And maybe this is the deficiency – like the dinosaurs

That will bring about our extinction

GROWNUP FRUSTRATION

 

STAT OFLIB LIGHTENING

There’s frustration in behaving like a grown-up

It’s knowing that the lie told against you this morning

Has spanned the continent twice by the

Time you awake

         But you carry on as if it hasn’t

There’s frustration in being the grown up

When grown men fight the way they do

In suits armored with dollar signs

        But you carry on as if they don’t

There’s frustration in behaving grown up

When the agony of the human condition

Is reduced to excuses

And blame

        And you carry on as if it isn’t

There’s frustration in being grown up

When the door to respond-in-kind

 Is locked just by decency

        Yet you pull on it anyway –  as if it isn’t

There’s frustration in being grown-up

Where relief is found in dreams

Ungovernable desires

For the “blood-dimmed tide”

To drown the babble

AND the rabble

        But you desire it anyway

There’s frustration in being grown-up

In knowing the constancy of  war

Is but subliminal chaos disguised as

A throw of the dice

From congressional pits

        And we carry on anyway

         we adults

        As if it isn’t

Dragging care-worn, frustrated hearts

Across mountains of tyranny

Through valleys of decorum

We’ll wrest the locks from ballot boxes

        And slay the lie

        Leaving no weapons

        To defend it

ON BIG PINE KEY:   QUARANTINED WITH WORDS

cropped-florida-sunset.jpg

     My words,

They’ve marched in on dreams,

Printed conversations with those

Who’ve mastered their form

They’ve fallen from my tongue in hailstorms –

WTFs after reading NYT’s homepage

     Today, I am stuck at the intersection of

“If only” and “Where to now?”

30 minutes ago, over coffee and sunrise

I knew where I was going

 Now, not so much

     We walk the dog

I look for the cardinal who had

Been singing his bright red song

For weeks now

He’s gone – beating the lockdown

Finding a mate who loves his music

     But I am still here

Quarantined in paradise

Wrestling with each letter

Clanging demands

Words; unheard cries

Unraveling the earth

Before it dies

 

 

QUARANTINE: Week Two

    cropped-sunset3651.jpg

Like our electronic toys

The world has a reset button

When we ignore her overheating

She admonishes with flames

When we foul our nests

She sends the oceans in retort

And when we ignore the world’s health,

Its inhabitants’ well-being,

Choosing to chase vicious luxuries

Because – we can

She sends the enemy invisible

The virus incurable,

Barely namable

Scoffing dreams and schemes

Our world has reset

An algorithm for stimulus

Six-degrees of separation

Leaves room for empathy

We leave food for the hungry

We drive the immobile

We care for the sick

We handsomely tip the daring

Souls who venture into the

Empty streets of commerce

Bringing food to those of us with money – to eat

But, the natural world wants us

To open our eyes

She wants us apart enough

To see those lives

That will never change – even with

A conquered virus

She wants us to see the fallacy of

Putting profit before people

She wants us to see those

Who have always been

Quarantined by poverty

In spirit and in purse

Yes, the world has reset.

Sadly, the culling

Won’t be equitable

 

Reset people

Reset!

 

Aisle 17 at the Big Pine Winn-Dixie

winn dixie

 I walk the aisle in awe

Stripped of bum-cleaning supplies

People fearless of bums rubbed raw

Toss in single and double-ply

Stocking up in preparation

For coronavirus’ hit

When needed is just separation

And reliable testing kits

Don’t tell that to these locals

Who’ve survived Irma’s rage

They’re more apt to get real vocal

And war they’re willing to wage

So I am quiet as I judge

The woman who’s caught my eye

As she swipes the last Scott Tissue

Both single and double-ply

I’ve pondered such movements rarely

Overreaction — I guess is fine

But by the time I get to dairy

I turn and head for the wine

THOUGHTS FROM THE CENTER RING

well of sorrow

             It is inaccurate to say that I hate
             everything. I am strongly in favor
             of common sense, common honesty,
             and common decency. This makes me
             Forever ineligible for public office.   H.L. Mencken

I’ve written about my perception of decency and, it appears, I am writing/preaching to the choir. My friends feel as I do.

As for people who see things differently there seems no “healthy” debate available to them. So far, it’s all been name-calling and put-downs. People who want healthy debate, it appears, are having that debate somewhere other than on social media. And, honestly, I’m not so sure decency should be debatable. Aren’t there are rules already set for what is decent in a democracy?

There are recognized standards for decency. There is the recognized standard of what is proper and in good taste. And we live in a democracy in which our representatives are expected and elected to adhere to a certain standard of decency. I find it difficult to understand those who support elected officials who fail to follow even the faintest path laid out by (what used to be) our collective decency.
In 1954, as an amazed television audience looked on, Boston Lawyer Joseph Welch – after one of his associates was accused by Joseph McCarthy, of having communist ties – responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career:

 
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” 

What has happened to our collective sense of decency? When did it become okay to be cruel and reckless with the lives and well-being of American citizens and other people around the world?
Where is our sense of decency?
This is a question that should haunt us because the answer will certainly define us as we move forward.

CIRCUS FAMILIAR

I’ve come to accept the spectacle

The morning face that stares back at me in the mirror

Large pores packed with night-sweats and frustration

There’s lots to do but nothing to say

That will ease the guilt of not doing

Most likely I’ll clean my keyboard

remove the fingerprints

angry smudges that dappled my screen with hope.

I’ll open the Times app before adjusting a pillow behind my aging back

I’ll sip some tea as I consider the tilt of the screen and font size

I’ll search for good news as if

I’ve not already thrust my chin up to the edge of humanity

To improve my view of its destruction.