Saturday, July 24, 2021

Can Do


Hold onto yer britches, I'm a-comin'! I'm just wiping down the counter. I put by twenty pounds of broccoli, or maybe thirty, I'd have to put my cheaters on to tell for sure. It was nothing! Just a little can-do Sunday activity. Pick, cut, clean, blanch, cool, dry, freeze. The broccoli? Just the four plants, and no, I didn't start them from last year's seed this time. I've never done that, actually, because they come all ready to go in a plastic four-pack at the garden store down the way. Real good crop so far. Real good, and still coming on. Come on in, set a spell. I'll see can I fetch us some sarsaparillas.

It is a little close in here, isn't it? Picked the hottest day of the summer so far to be b'iling water but you can't argue with a harvest. Leave 'em another day and they'd be fixing to bloom. Just look at all that bounty! Why, pop me in calico and slap my fanny. It's that round squishy bit right there below the bow of my flour-sack apron, and I don't mind if you do.

It's no big deal. It's just a matter of self-reliance, and Lord knows we could use a lot more of that these days, if you don't mind me saying so. People these days aren't willing to put in the work. Expect other people to take care of them. They're going to be lost some day without the thrift and know-how that I personally demonstrated by putting by all that broccoli.

There's nothing to it. You just make do, you fend for yourself. How did I know what to do, you ask? I come from good Norwegian stock, farmers they were. It's in my blood.

Also, I looked it up on the youtubes to be sure.

I mean, no reason not to be modern. You don't want to rely on such a thing, but it's nice. Still have to use your common sense. Oh, and another little tip of the bonnet to our chest freezer and stovetop and all that hydropower. Well there's some hydropower for sure, the mighty Columbia River, and sorry to all the salmon, but if they were sturdy self-sufficient sorts they wouldn'ta been hatched when we was trying to make electricity out of the very substance they need to live. They'll adapt. Maybe 99% of them will die but one of them will love hot shallow water and slicey turbines and that baby's gonna thrive. Anyway. A little nod to the hydropower, plus the buttload of coal plants up north that also apparently figure into our power. Okay, mostly it's coal plants. But water too. And speaking of water, thanks also to all that water that come right out of the tap because of the good people that dammed up our natural reservoirs at Bull Run--it's a mighty slick system. It's so slick we flush poop with it.

Oh, I'd like to give a little shout-out to that Salad Spinner too. Of course, I could have put my broccoli in a bit of cheesecloth and whipped it around my head, but the Salad Spinner is so much easier, and maybe it'll take a few thousand years to degrade, but I only had to buy it once.

Sure, I could've gone to the grocery store, three of which are in walking distance, and bought plastic bags of frozen broccoli, but I take care of myself. I don't depend on other people. The store is for buying animals someone else has jammed into a pen and slaughtered and scraped the fur and feathers off of and wrapped in plastic. Not frozen broccoli, because I can do that myself. Because I am a can-do person.

I'm self-sufficient.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Nincompoopidemic


The governor of Florida hawks "Don't Fauci My Florida" merchandise. The Conservative Political Action Conference attendees burst into applause because COVID vaccination rates are not as high as Biden had hoped. So it occurs to me, well, golly! Maybe people just don't understand what a virus is and what it does for a living. All I need to do is 'splain it and then we can all move on. Right?

Viruses are itty bitty. There's some argument over whether or not they're alive but they definitely get around, and want to. They're like every other bit of protein on this earth: they want to keep themselves going. Trouble is, they can't live on their own. They die without a host. They absolutely require cushy digs such as your lungs to invade, replicate, and go forth and multiply like God purportedly intended, in another context. Once they're done killing you, they'd be dead themselves if they couldn't somehow jump onto the next host over and keep the whole operation rolling. So the viruses that cause you to hork and schnozzle and smear your effluent all over other folks are super successful. There are lots of those kinds. Colds. Flu.

They're not equally bright. Like any other group of protein packets, some of them are writing sonnets, some are dominating their school teams, and some are eating library paste. COVID-19 is middling smart. Not as contagious--read, athletic in host-to-host gymnastics--as some, and not quite as likely to slay their own hosts. But impressive nonetheless. Just think about how in March 2020 there was, like, one dude in America who had custody of the virus, and the scientists said it was going to flash-over like a burning building to threaten everybody, and then it totally did. So kudos to the clever virus, and more praise to the scientists, who have been vindicated at every single step, no matter what else you've read.
 
Scientists were well prepared for this, and because of new mRNA technology and genome mapping they were able to produce effective vaccines in record time. Doggone! Ever since the first one, vaccines have proven to be a beautiful thing. We have conquered plagues that vexed us for thousands of years. Do you see this on my arm? It's my smallpox vaccination scar. Must've been a doozy of a shot to still be visible. If you're younger than fifty you don't have one. Because we fucking killed it, by not giving it a place to land. That's right. After at least three thousand years of smallpox, there's no more smallpox.
 
That's how it works. We'd have polio conquered now too if we could get those last few pockets of humanity in south Asia vaccinated. Similarly, if everyone in the world could hunker down inside with a jar of peanut butter for two weeks, COVID-19 would be gone from this earth. Poof. That's a fact. That's something we can't manage to do, of course. But we do have vaccines. So victory is at hand!
 
Oh. 
 
Well, it's hard to imagine how anyone who is not irretrievably around the bend could be against vaccines. As if we could somehow thwart viruses by ourselves with our own virtue and certitude. We can't. We've had thousands of years of proof of that. Viruses have been perfecting their game for billions of years. We can protect ourselves from them but it turns out we can't protect ourselves from con artists who want to befuddle us just to gain or maintain power. What if this whole miraculous scientific breakthrough is just a conspiracy to enslave us? What if we catch autism, or our dicks fall off, or we summon aliens? Santa Claus is coming to town! Bar the door, he probably has a gun. The coronavirus is coming! We'll leave the light on for you.
 
We didn't use to be so foolish. That's why most of you do not have a smallpox vax scar. That's why there are fewer than a hundred polio cases in the world today.
 
Weird thing is, conservative mucus membranes aren't any damper or more receptive than liberal tissues. The virus is not biased. If there's a political aspect to this pandemic, it's because the virus is going to stampede toward those who refuse to protect themselves, whether or not they hate abortion or immigrants or colored voters. Bummer for them, but also for the rest of us, who have a grasp of the concept of public health, wherein we all thrive, or for that matter survive, and we're not willing to risk ourselves and our fellow human beings for the freedom to infect.
 
We actually are in this together. That's how it works. The virus does not care. The virus is a teeny tiny boll weevil. Just a-lookin' for a home.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

My Personal Mediterranean


I had to go to the bathroom the other day, which I am grateful to say is not ordinarily a noteworthy event. In this case, I was all set to walk through the laundry room to the toilet when I encountered a wide, unnavigable azure-blue sea, a veritable Mediterranean, where none had been observed before.

Not a problem. We have two doors to that bathroom, which has occasionally led to embarrassment when we have company, but which now seemed like an excellent design feature. I went around.

Still. This new development wasn't something that should be ignored for long.

I recognized the new feature as the entire contents of a brand-new vat of Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent, set free, and I paused to admire the levelness of the floor. No pooling was observed: the floor was able to accommodate the detergent over the broadest possible expanse given its native viscosity and local conditions of temperature. In other words, it was every the fuck where.

No real mystery as to what happened. My washing machine attains supersonic spin speeds and could rattle the dingleballs off a passing dog, and I'm used to it, but my new tub of detergent must have been terrified, and leapt off the dryer. My washing machine, in fact, is tectonically walking across the floor at a rate of about two inches a month. Next year this time we'll be able to load 'er up without getting out of bed.

I'm sure there are better ways of contending with this, but the only thing I could think of was to scoop all the detergent I could into a dustpan and dribble it back in the container. Sure, there will be dirt and dust in there, but it's detergent. It should be fine. Then I sopped up the remainder with towels and old sheets. It worked passably well. I took the towels and sheets out to the yard to hose them off, but it soon became clear that soap was going to keep coming out of them until the end of time. You don't need much High-Efficiency detergent to clean a load. It's packed with soapy goodness. My towels are now soap bombs. My new plan is to dry them on the garden wall and then snip them into tiny squares like panes of LSD. Pop one in every laundry load and hope for the best.

But there's still a film of soap on the floor. Soap is slippery stuff, and has been ever since it was made from dead fires and animal fat. Slipperiness is sort of the point of it. HE detergent just amps it up. That stuff is slipperier'n a goose's gut.

How do you clean up soap?

"Why is soap so slippery?" I asked the internet. The internet replied that soap is slippery due to a lack of friction. Also? The sky is blue from a lack of orangeness. I still don't know how to clean it up. And half the floor is now stained slightly blue. I don't know why they had to add that much dye unless the original concoction is the color of baby diarrhea.

The clothes dryer has no opinion. I fired that appliance years ago. It's just there as a companion animal to the washer.

HAPPY 38TH ANNIVERSARY TO DAVE! OH, AND ME TOO!



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Screwed In The End Times

An Early Fall

Yes indeedy, those of you who subscribe to Murrmurrs have probably noticed I've signed on with a new subscription service called follow.it. I had no idea it would send out such an alarming spammy-looking initial email, and if it made you suspicious and you unfollowed me, well, you can always sign back up again at that <<--new box in the left margin under Pootie's handsome mug. It's actually a pretty spiffy outfit and gives you options of how you want your Murrmurrs dose, such as to your phone, to your email, to your mama, up your butt, or dropped by drone on your front porch. It also makes it super easy to unfollow. Horrors! And now, to really test your-all's loyalty, I give you a new, super-bleak post with no humor in it whatsoever. I don't want this to be a trend either, but I had to get it out of my system. Thank you all for coming. And caring.
 
................

Let me set the whole sorry scene. We're in a major drought. It's worse every year. Large trees were already visibly suffering. We just had our three hottest days ever recorded, and by a long shot. Four trees on my alley turned brown literally overnight. They clatter in the breeze.

This year there seemed to be a consensus that fireworks would be a very bad idea. They've been banned in the whole state. Some teenager burned down most of the scenic Columbia River Gorge with a firecracker a few years back. Last year the parts of the state that weren't on fire were smothered in acrid smoke for weeks. This shit is real.

I say there seemed to be a consensus because for the days leading up to July 4th we heard maybe one or two bombs bursting in air, which is way under our traditional mayhem. People would talk about it on the street. Hope no one sets off fireworks. How stupid would they have to be?
 
And so we got all the way to about 8pm on Independence Day before the first one went off, and it was a doozy. Sparks flew a hundred feet high. Two more followed. You could feel the outrage igniting from inside every shaken household. And then one of our neighbors went screaming down the street like an avenging angel in the direction of the noise. That's illegal! What the hell do you think you're doing? Hey! And so on.
 
Only takes one such soldier and suddenly I, nobody's vigilante, had jumped out of my chair and bolted off to offer support. Of course, I had no idea who was setting off the fireworks, but I figured a posse would be helpful. On the way I passed another neighbor, an 80-year-old gray-haired woman in a bathrobe and scuff slippers, shuffling the same direction, loaded for bear. By the time I got to the blast zone, there were about fifteen of us arriving from all directions. All of us women. All of us old.
 
There was my dauntless neighbor, loudly explaining about drought and fire danger and the fact that a nearby apartment building had burned to the ground from fireworks the previous night, killing two. And that the governor had banned them. She was nose to nose with another woman yelling even louder.
 
And that's when things got ugly. Rather than the twenty-year-old drunken yahoos I was expecting, our miscreants were a Black family, one of very few in the vicinity. There was a lot of hollering. Mainly it was the two women nose-to-nose, but people had their backs up. The fireworks lady said they'd been shooting off fireworks for fifteen years and they weren't about to stop now. Everyone yelled back that this is not a normal year. Someone said they'd had a death in the family and they just wanted to cheer themselves up. Someone else said maybe they could do that without burning the place down. Everyone was yelling at once. Within minutes our old-lady posse had been pegged as racist. There were ugly accusations. The avenging angel continued to insist this was not about race but about fire. Her adversary laughed in her face and said "Just look around you. Look at the demographics here."
 
I walked away. What was clear was that nothing good was ever going to come from this confrontation. I knew a lot of facts about the situation, but they wouldn't be heard here. One: yes, all the complainers were white, because that's pretty much who lives here. That is a problem, but it's a different problem. Two: we had converged on this family because they were the ones setting off fireworks. Three: as far as I could tell, most of us had come from two or three blocks away, and had no idea who was responsible. Four: I know the avenging angel well. She is the original Anti-Karen. She wouldn't call the police on a Black man if he was threatening her life; she doesn't trust the police to behave. By confronting the other woman, she was treating her exactly as she would have treated anyone else doing the same thing. Five: she shouldn't have come at her so hard. Nobody likes to be charged and yelled at. It didn't help. It made things worse. Six: she did it because she had just plain lost her shit. We were all crazy with worry over this. That. And all the other Things.
 
All the other things.
 
And that is why, as I lay in bed later listening to the bombs going off, from that unrepentant corner and from one street over in the other direction, for hours, with my window open in case I smelled smoke, I finally burst out sobbing. I've done well holding it together, but suddenly it all was so hopeless. My own personal troubles, which are not trivial. The impossibility of communication when we're all stoking our own private fires. The drought. The three days of insane heat that, frankly, shook me up more than I could have imagined. The quickening tumble toward climate catastrophe. Extinction. The coming water wars. A world in migration. The sheer stupidity, at every level, of our kind. We're face to face with it, now. Nose to nose.
 
I'm as well-rooted as anybody but sometimes I feel myself clattering in the breeze. 



 
 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Fumous Posthumous

Way More Flowers, Please
It's not that I haven't written about poop. I have. In a pinch I can squeeze out a poop post almost at will. The problem with writing about poop is you're never quite sure when you're finished.

For example, I never learned anything about corpse poop until just recently, and that was only because of this service I subscribe to that sends paying writing jobs. They'll send things like 25 themed calls for magazine submissions. 15 pitch opportunities directly from editors. Two journals willing to part with a nickel for your poem.
 
You can flip through the magazine possibilities pretty fast. Sojourners covers faith, politics, and culture from a biblical perspective. They aren't going to want mine. Anti-Racism Daily is accepting stories of LGBTQ+ experiences as a person of color living in the Midwest. Pass. Post45 Contemporaries' editor is seeking pitches about the state of TTRPG. I don't know what the state of TTRPG is. Maybe it's in the Midwest.

But this one caught my eye. The Order of the Good Death is accepting pitches. This is "a group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality." And I'm all for that. Fear of death may be normal, but it sure takes a chunk out of living. I thought I'd have a look at the site.

I'll say up front I'm not the right writer for "Gentrification and funeral homes" or "How death positive women kickstarted a civil war." So I will probably not pitch them anything. But I did enjoy the Ask A Mortician section, presided over by the perky founder of the Order, Caitlin Doughty. This is where I learned that caskets can indeed explode, which would totally be worth the purchase price. And I also learned what else we might pass when we pass away.

Corpses very commonly poop. It doesn't always happen. Elvis should only have been so lucky.

But it's not really intentional rudeness on the part of the deceased. It's more like what happens with a caulking gun. You've pulled that trigger for the last time and started in on tidying up your job and next thing you know there is caulk all over the place. If you have just perished and you're still full of...personal caulk, your retired sphincters have a statement to make.

I like it though. People think it's undignified but there's something to be said for accepting what you cannot control--death, for instance--and corpse poop pretty much epitomizes things you cannot control. Morticians, however, can. They use butt plugs. Actually they're called A/V plugs because they can be used in your A and your V, if applicable in your particular situation. It's just a way of allowing people to keep some things to themselves.

People don't like to think about corpse poop because they don't want to be a bother upon death, but face it--you're a corpse, you're already a bother, and by comparison a little leakage is small potatoes. Or something similar.

But I'm all for it. I hope it happens to me. Life needs punctuation and at a time it would otherwise peter out, like ellipses...I hate ellipses...a good post-departum poop is an exclamation point! If it is reported that I launched a dookie after I died, which I anticipate to be the extent of my afterlife, please crack a smile, and raise a glass. And thank a mortician.

.................

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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Looking For Love?


The reason people get a dog is they want something to love them. They might also want to love something but those are two sides of the same biscuit. Dogs satisfy a human need and sometimes they do it better than other humans do. Or, at least, more reliably.

In fact, you don't even have to do much for a dog to love you. You just have to be that dog's person.

How much a person needs love can be reflected in their dog situation. Some people who need a lot of love get a lot of dogs, but it isn't necessary. They could just get one Golden Retriever. Because some dogs, like Golden Retrievers, need our love more than other dogs. Our old dog, for instance, was perfectly suited to us. Our dog loved us and enjoyed our company and also enjoyed the company of anyone willing to share their breakfast, so she wasn't an exclusive sort of dog. And we didn't want to be looking after our dog's emotional needs every second of the day. 
 
We spent a lot of time training her when she was a pup. She trotted at heel without a lead, sat when we stopped, stayed when we told her to stay, and came when we called every single time, even if she didn't really want to. What we didn't think to teach her was "Don't climb the fence paw-over-paw" because we didn't think she could do that. But a five-foot fence was no impediment whatsoever to a twelve-inch dog if she was on one side of it and the neighbor's plate of sausage and biscuits was on the other side.

She took care of her own needs.

And--this is probably telling--we didn't necessarily notice when she was missing. Once, during fireworks season, which used to last three months around here, Dave's mom called from a mile down the hill. "Is Boomer with you?" she said, and we said Yeah, we think so, although we couldn't actually lay eyes on her right that second. "Because I think she's at my back door," she said. And she was.

It was a little embarrassing the number of times people returned our dog to us when we didn't know she needed returning.

Anyway we were emotionally a good fit. A Golden Retriever would have been too much dog, needing too much affection. On the other side of the scale, there was my friend Fred, who lived with a perfectly wretched bunwad of a Pekingese, a flat-fronted wheezer with an asthmatic growl, a dog that would sneak up on you just to staple you with its face. Sometimes it bit Fred. "Why do you like that dog?" we asked, because he did, and he said "Well, if this dog likes you, you know you're really special." And after its own fashion, that dog did like Fred. Fred was chewy.

People have different emotional needs. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to get a dog so something loves you. In fact, it's the best reason. You shouldn't get a dog to threaten other people. Or to guard the yard on a long chain. Or to match your purse.

But if you really want affection, if you really need affirmation from across the globe, if you want to be an object of desire, if you want to get fan mail all day long and be pursued by millions, without feeling any obligation to reciprocate? Skip the dog.

Become a literary agent.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Dispatch From The Warm Front


Dateline: Tuesday, June 29

Well, it's only supposed to top out at a nippy 98 today. Yes, the tryouts for Satan's team lasted three days and we don't like to brag but we're pretty sure we're going to make the squad. The predicted high of 118 on Monday did not pan out, but the 116 obliterated the previous record of 112 set the day before, which smashed the previous record of 108 set the day before that. We made it. And Studley made it!

We made it without air conditioning. We were not especially comfortable but we most certainly survived, and during much of the time we weren't even that miserable. Contrast that with folks I saw complaining bitterly about how they weren't able to get their houses below 80 even with AC. And their swimming pools were too warm.

Of course, we're retired, and nothing was asked of us other than to sit quietly and not die. Our mailman, on the other hand, was sent out with a full load and instructions from the boss to also not die, but when he showed up in his salt-encrusted hat we gave him a tank of ice water and turned the hose on him and sat him down until his cells reinflated. As for his boss's instructions, it looked like it could have gone either way.

One friend up north reported that it had gotten up to 110 in her house when all the AC crashed the power grid. This is what I'm talking about: we've lost our skills. Hell, on our hottest day even the upstairs never got above 98. We exhaust all the air we can overnight and then button up the place tighter than Mitch McConnell's asshole. Sunday night I opened all the windows and pointed the fans out and took a cold shower and went straight to bed soaking wet with another fan on me, and I slept very much like the dead.

Part of the skills involve being able to tolerate a much wider range of temperatures than most of us have come to expect. We've become a shorts-in-the-winter and sweaters-in-the-summer kind of people, and we have nowhere to go when the system breaks down, which it is going to do.

The newspaper helpfully provided some tips for surviving extreme heat. For instance, it is suggested that you wear loose clothing to bed. Check! I've been wearing the very same suit to bed since I was fourteen (don't tell Mom), and it's gotten plenty loose. Portions of it are slouched up against other portions of it. At this point the underboobular area is my primary repository for perspiration but I have auxiliary folds in the back for off-site storage. I'm all set.

Here are my tips: sure, it's tempting to open some veins to let the heat out but be advised the relief is short-lived because the blood evaporates so quickly. So if you try this hack, you're going to want to really go for it. Similarly, you could stretch out in a kiddie pool, but remember you can drown in as little as four inches of water, so be sure to put in at least six to be on the safe side.

Better yet is to go to the source of the problem and eliminate Republicans. They've signed off on this entire debacle. As long as their preferred solution to the climate catastrophe is to make fun of Greta Thunberg, it will be crucial for us to take them out of circulation altogether. The liberal-softie way would be to vote them all out, but if they're bent on stealing an election, which seems to be their plan, stronger measures must be taken. To that end, please note that a shot through the heart is not recommended; the target is far too small and the bullet is likely to exit harmlessly straight through the spinal tapioca. Much better is to aim for the head, and possibly take out Trump's ass at the same time.

Wait! Am I inciting my followers to murder Republicans? Ha ha! Of course not! I'm kidding! Stand by.
 
In other news that should surprise no one, an enormous comet is heading our way. They're made of ice. I can't wait.