Half Way Through

July 4, 2020

Not like me.. but I’m adding another blog post on the day.. and yet another not written by me. But I like Michele Norris’s summary of the year thus far and her reflection on where we are this Independence Day. I used to listen to Michele on All Things Considered; she left NPR a few years ago and is now writing for the Washington Post.

This ran in the Post today:

2020 is Halfway Done. Let’s Define What We’ve Just Survived

Opinion by

Opinions contributor and consultant
July 3, 2020 at 4:49 p.m. PDT
We’ve come only halfway through 2020. It already feels like a decade.
Make that several decades — and maybe make a drink while you’re at it. I can’t be the only one trying to get my bearings.
This is a year when life is whooshing forward at warp speed, and yet so much has been placed on hold. It is a year that wants to hark back to 1918, 1929 and 1968: Protests on top of a pandemic inside of an economic disaster adjacent to an upcoming election endured by an anxious public led by an impetuous man who wants us to believe it will all just “go away.”
You may be fortunate enough to avoid covid-19, but we are all experiencing some kind of vertigo.
As the kids would say, 2020 was already extra before the pandemic hit. Massive Australian brushfires. The botched count in the Iowa caucuses. President Trump acquitted on articles of impeachment. An Iranian missile attack on bases housing U.S. troops. Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing into a mountain. And that was just the first eight weeks.
It has been a season of retreat where most of us, against our instincts, have tried to watch the world from a distance. The dispatches arrive on screens that serve as windows to a world gone sideways. There is a segment of society still going to bars and getting haircuts without donning masks or gloves or apparent concern for fellow human beings. Those “happy-go-luckys” don’t seem to believe in the science that says social distancing and protective gear will save lives and flatten a curve that looks like a steep stairway to heaven.
When we finally emerge on the other side — whatever that looks like — we’ll have a lot of work to do. As we go through the mental scrapbooking in an attempt to take stock, what are the images or moments or actions that will best define what we’ve just survived? Here’s what that catalogue might include so far:
●Health-care workers in head-to-toe protective gear.
●The long lines at the food banks.
●The banging of pots at 7 p.m.
●The face masks.
●The ventilators.
●The elbow bumps.
●A family talking to Grandma through a closed window at the nursing home.
●Mass graves for novel coronavirus victims.
●Political rallies despite calls for social distancing.
●A presidential candidate speaking to the world from his basement.
●A president barking at the world on Twitter.
●Funerals where no one can get out of their car.
●Empty subways, empty stadiums.
●The grocery store with empty shelves that used to be filled with paper products or dried beans.
●The essential workers on the early bus.
●The grocery cashiers behind plexiglass.
●The cops in riot gear. The tear gas in the streets. The attorney general in the park. The National Guard.
●Falling statues.
●Burning buildings.
●Protesters. Oh, so many protesters. Some carrying signs. Some carrying guns.
●The jogger hunted by the pickup truck.
●The Wendy’s parking lot.
●The violin-playing introvert stopped by police who injected him with a dose of ketamine.
●A knee in the neck. A face on the pavement.
●The gasp — “I can’t breathe” — from the victims of police violence. From the victims of covid-19. From the masses facing a stack of bills they cannot pay.
●The gloved hand.
●The raised fist.
●The raised Bible.
●Black Lives Matter in massive yellow letters.
●Black. With a capital B.
It is easier to focus on the intensity of a single moment because it feels less relentless that way. It is unrelenting nonetheless.
There are blessed moments of whimsy, resilience and character. We spy them in our partners and spouses and co-workers — and in perfect strangers. We send up a little mantra of gratitude when we witness them.
We see how confinement has stoked creativity: We see choirs singing together in a trellis of little videos, we hear DJs who turn the world into their dance floor, we “go to” Zoom parties, and we watch TikToks of families dancing in unison with skill and abandon as if James Brown and Fred Astaire had traveled back to Earth for private lessons.
We have taught ourselves how to adapt. How to survive. How to sacrifice. How to find laughter despite despair. How to find courage. How to remain tethered in our collective solitude, which has been so much easier for some than for others. There are too many without food. Too many have lost jobs. Too many who will face eviction. Hopefully, that won’t be another outrage normalized.
As we celebrate the anniversary of our independence this year, that word serves up extra helpings of irony. We are all chained to new rules, new mandates, new markings that tell us where to stand, where not to sit. We are also realizing as a nation that we are chained to a difficult history that has caught up with us amid a global standstill. A long-armed ghost that demands a reckoning.
This virus reminds us that we are connected to each other. Our history is shared. Our survival depends on collective action to protect ourselves, to protect others, to protect the idea of tomorrow or next month or next year.
But first we have to get through the rest of this year.


What He Said

July 4, 2020

Sometimes, I just feel nostalgic and aching for words of wisdom from old guys who’ve been around a while, who are decent and optimistic and seasoned. I’m cool with modern thought, ready for younger more energetic people to take the reins. But I also ache to be comforted, or reminded, or schooled by the elders once in a while.

Cue Dan Rather.

This July 4. My 88th Independence Day. I have seen a lot. I have never seen anything like this.

This is a time when we usually gather with friends and loved ones. We can’t.

We often hit the road, or the airport. We don’t.

A parade. A ballgame. A sense of security. Mostly just faint memories, and fervent hopes.

(Even the fireworks, should they come, won’t feel that special since many are being bombarded with loud shows of light evening after evening in our locked-down nation.)

This is a Fourth of July of pain, of anxiety, of uncertainty, and also of reckoning, with the injustices of our past and the terms by which we will define our future. Celebrating America in 2020 feels off, no matter the inborn pride many of us feel for our country. We don’t look much like a “city on a hill” in relation to the broader world, as our national leadership throws up walls of hate, and lies, and cruelty, and our reckless response to the pandemic has the world shutting us out. And we are being forced, yet again, to confront the fault lines between reality and rhetoric which have shaken our nation since its founding. The protests that have taken to the streets, the difficult but necessary conversations over race and privilege and justice taking place within institutions, and businesses, and governments, and families, and social groups, come once again in the wake of tragedy and death that has been part of Black America since before that first July 4.

This is an age of crumbling, of our sense of ourselves and our relationship with our nation. We see statues crumbling, and tropes, and the simplistic narratives that too many of us have used to shield our eyes from the truth.

But here is why July 4 should be especially resonant in these times. It doesn’t signify a victory. Far from it. In 1776, the chances of a republic by and for (some of) the people was far from assured. It doesn’t signify a finish line. We can see in the words of the Declaration of Independence tragic irony for a nation of slavery authored by slaveholders. It does signify a beginning. A hope. A journey forward for our nation’s people to plot, generation after generation. It is a journey towards that famous and fraught phrase from the Constitution, “a more perfect union.”

Today, that union seems far from perfect. Is it worse or are we finally seeing what was always there? I suspect a bit of both. On this July 4, I pause with open eyes, but also an open heart. I am listening. I am moved. I am angry. I am determined. I see many reasons for hope. I see action and ingenuity. My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, to thee (to all of thee) I sing.

Not only was this the quietest 4th of July I’ve probably ever experienced, it’s also probably the most boring day of the pandemic to date. And maybe that’s because the boring factor is directly proportional to one’s expectation for what this day is supposed to be about. If I said that right.

Anyway. Yawn.

A wee workout, some hammock time (where I might actually have dozed off for a few moments, I’m not sure), some Spider (more than I’d like to admit) and made progress in a new book.. not the one I intended to read today.  (Intended to start Unrigged; instead, took another crack at Little Fires Everywhere.)

And may I go on record to say that reading is disorienting? It is quite disorienting. Especially fiction. Maybe only fiction. It takes me away from my present, away from my center, and I find that a bit destabilizing. It takes my feet out from under me.  Like, who ARE these people, this place, this time period. They’re total strangers in a strange land.  Why do I care about this story?

Weirds me out sometimes.

Maybe my reaction to this whole blah day is exacerbated by how otherworldly our existence is right now. Our lonely little isolated, removed existence. Maybe today felt extra weird because on top of a global pandemic that continues to unnerve the whole world, on top of the fact we’re not doing anything on this holiday (a holiday typically stuffed to the gills with tradition), on top of just feeling blah and bored… our soulless, nutcase of a psycho president (not my president) delivered a pair of speeches over the last two days that were so dark and so desperate it just leaves me feeling wasted and anxious.  Not that I listened. I mean, I can’t. He’s just too ridiculous and disturbing. But I heard and read enough about them. On a national holiday, supposedly a celebration of, you know, our great country (forgive my cynicism), the supposed leader (he’s not a leader) of the country pits us against not a common enemy (that’d be inappropriate enough on what’s supposed to be a giant birthday party of a day) but against each other. His people are good, the rest of us are evil. We, who stand up for civil rights, social and racial justice, inclusion, love.. we’re the enemy, out to take your freedoms away, indoctrinate your children, and god knows what all. Yes he (well, Steven Miller) said all that.  And never mind that while he spewed (and none too smoothly) all that garbage, he flouted all the sensible (essential) measures needed to stem the rapidly increasing transmission of the virus. Of course. The numbing stupidity continues.  Good effing lord. Must we be tortured and so ill-served by this poser all the way until November? That’s FOUR WHOLE MONTHS AWAY!

It’s no wonder I’m feeling so messed up today.

Oh, and I just listened to Paul Simon’s An American Tune. Gut punch.

Dunno. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. Maybe, out from under a holiday, tomorrow won’t be so disappointing. No unmet expectations. And maybe my book will seem like fun, light, escapist fare instead of weirdo strangers imposing on my world. And maybe Trump will STFU for a day.

We shall see.


Okay. Change of topic and mood. I have a few pics to post of our new coffee table!!  Yes, TWO exclamation points. Thank goodness for Jim. He’s been Mr. One Foot In Front of The Other on this coffee table for weeks and today, put the final touches on it. It will look even more fabulous in its new habitat, but the grout is drying and it must remain perched on sawhorses in the garage for one more night. Tomorrow, she’s carried to her new home, where, in context and surrounded by complementary colors, she’ll really shine. And for sure I’ll post a nice photo and more details on the table making process.

But for now..

IMG_6876 2


Very good way to end the day!