Essential Services

AlchoholweedjpgGun

When our state came up with their plan to shut things down, it was interesting to see what businesses were deemed essential, and thus allowed to remain open. Some were no-brainers (grocery stores) and others were head-scratchers (golf courses).

It was also interesting so see how these services adapted. Most of the local grocery stores in my area opened early and reserved the 6:00 – 7:30am time slot for customers who were over sixty and/or immunocompromised. Shortly thereafter they placed directional arrows on the floors and the aisles in an attempt to direct traffic a certain way. Most hospitals I know of, including ours, pretty much cancelled all elective procedures, and treated only true emergencies and COVID patients. Telemedicine ruled the day as far as seeing a doctor was concerned, and no dentist offices were opened.

As the novelty of this wore off, it became clear to me what industries and services were more essential than others.  This discovery was not based on scientific analysis or anything like that, but instead was based on my observations of places I have been, and whether they were filled with or had lines of people waiting to get into the establishment.

Other than grocery stores, although the traffic in these buildings aren’t nearly what they were in the beginning due to the proliferation of business that buy and deliver your groceries, the three most essential services I’ve witnessed are gun stores, package stores and the medical marijuana dispensaries.

I don’t own a gun and have no desire to, however during my travels at the beginning of the shut down I was driving along a street in a busy commercial area and noticed a long line of people meandering from the front door into the parking lot. It was the first time I had seen anything like it, and I was naturally curious. Glancing at the name of the business I saw it was a place that sold guns and ammo, and immediately thought, “Uh oh”. I haven’t been by there or any other store of that nature since, but it made an impression.

The smaller package stores I’ve driven by always seem to have a handful of people waiting in line to get inside. The larger one I frequent doesn’t require people to wait in line, or have one person at a time enter the building, but masks are a requirement (they ask you to leave otherwise) and they have those same directional arrows on the floor that the grocers do.

The dispensary had by far the longest line of folks waiting to get in. The first time I experienced this, I figured it was the day of the week (Saturday) and the time of the day (10 in the morning). Since I’m not the most patient guy in the world, I decided the next time I went it would be early on a week day. Anyone purchasing items from the place is required to pre-order and specify a time and date of pick-up, which allows them to have everything prepared ahead of time and get folks in an out of the building ASAP. So the day I selected wound up being early on a Friday morning, about an hour after they opened, and it also happened to be a grey, dreary, drizzly day. So I naturally figured I would be in and out in a heartbeat.

Boy, was I wrong. There were fifteen people already waiting at the door when I arrived, and that line almost doubled in size shortly after I arrived. We were all standing six feet apart, on a dreary, damp and overall nasty day waiting to score our supplies. It took twenty minutes for me to actually enter the building, and five minutes to obtain and pay for the goods. There were no more than three customers in the building at any one time. I haven’t been there in six weeks but will need to make a trip soon. It will be interesting to see if the experience will be different or more of the same.

Guns, booze and weed. What a great combination! Not sure if this means anything, but I have to shake my head at the implications. If I was the cynical sort, I’d conclude that people need to self-medicate to escape reality/boredom, and they also are ready, willing and able to blow anyone away who threatens them.

It makes sense when you consider there are two distinct camps who view the pandemic in a totally different light, that the forces of hate and fear are becoming untethered, that we are more politically polarized than ever, and that stories about excessive police force with tragic consequences are sadly becoming commonplace.

Who could blame anyone who wants to get blasted to escape the madness? Hopefully these same folks have the good sense to keep the guns under lock and key and out of reach while they are escaping.

God help us if they don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Generation is Rolling In Their Graves

scream

Allow me to vent.

“The Greatest Generation” was the moniker coined for those folks who grew up during the depression, endured The Dust Bowl and also endured World War Two, either as soldiers or citizens supporting them on the home front. These resilient people endured hardships and deprivations none of us can imagine. I can guess what they might think if they were here to witness what is occurring today among those who are demonstrably chafing against the states closing down and some of the rules they implemented regarding social distancing and facemasks.

I’m all for people having their own thoughts and opinions about anything. Everyone is entitled to their own belief system regarding what the government should or shouldn’t do that encroaches on our lives.

Having said that, I am nauseated by some of the stories I’ve read about citizens taking things into their own hands to protest what the states have done in an effort to protect its citizens as a whole.

Shooting people? Killing people? Resorting to violence? Literally getting in citizens’ and law enforcement personnel faces and sometimes spitting in in them? Opening and licking ice cream containers in grocery stores? When did this kind of stuff ever become acceptable?

Then there is the stupid stuff, like some guy from Long Island suing the University of Connecticut because their child isn’t getting the benefit of the full college experience. Really? Like it’s UCONN’s fault.

We’ve been at this for less than two months. Can you imagine if these people had to live through the dust bowl, or had to endure rationing for almost four years to support a war effort? They’d lose their minds. Forget riots. Armageddon would be more like it.

I know, I know. It was a different time. Attitudes were different and so were how we were raised as children. But still, when has it become okay for anyone to express an opinion in such a way that it endangers the lives of others? When did this sense of entitlement take hold?

Like I said, anyone can have their views about the pandemic, and what the states are doing.  But how about taking some responsibility and having accountability for your actions? These folks take none. Their attitudes are similar to those of the White House, who by not taking any leadership role is in a position where they can avoid responsibility for whatever happens (unless it is good, of course), leaving it up to each and every governor to decide what is best for their state. That way they can be blamed when things go tits up by reopening too soon. If the economy tanks there is little chance the incumbent gets re-elected, so the welfare of people be dammed. Let’s get the economy rolling again. Talk about having one’s priorities in order. Don’t they pay attention to the science?

Yes, these infringements on our lives suck. I’m getting impatient like everyone else. I hate being cooped up at home, and hate having to wear a mask and gloves when I venture out. I hate the shortages and the fact that so many people are struggling. But I believe in the science and believe it is all for the common good. And I would rather be inconvenienced than sick or dead, or have those I love in that position.

To say these developments are worrisome and discouraging are an understatement. I fear that throwing caution to the wind and reopening before more testing is available and all the trends are pointing in the right direction is a recipe for disaster. There are over 3,000 new cases a day of citizens testing positive for the virus in this country, for goodness sake. It is starting to hit rural America too. What will happen to this figure, in addition to fatalities by reopening prematurely? It will certainly increase, but by how much. Double? Triple? Will hospitals become so overrun that they won’t care for people above a certain age or present certain symptoms? Will the spread of the disease impact nurses and doctors so much there aren’t enough of them to handle the incoming surge? These are all fair and legitimate questions, ones I fear have more truth than not.

I’d rather be cautious and err on the side of opening up too late than too early. The consequences are too dear.

So what do we call this generation or group of people suing everyone and engaging in or inciting violence? The Whiners? The Whiniest Generation? The Its About Me Generation? The I don’t Give A Shit About Anyone Else Generation?

It’s sad, and I’m afraid it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

 

Random Thoughts 2

writers block

Emptying this cluttered mind of idea fragments and thoughts that have percolated the last few weeks.

One of the many things I am fascinated about witnessing is how we as a society and culture adjust to the new reality once this is over. Think back to the World War Two era, where our citizen’s lives were dominated by this cataclysmic event for almost four years. While this episode in our history won’t last that long, I suspect it may take as long if not longer to adjust to the new normal compared to when that war was over, the soldiers came home, and reconstruction began.

The industries that will take the longest to recover, and may never be the same, are: Sports and entertainment; the hotel/guest services industries; the various travel industries. Until a proven vaccine is created and made available to the masses, I can’t see anyone being comfortable in placing themselves among a mass of people. I’m certainly not.

Be that as it may, we know that sports will resume at some point. But what will that look like until the vaccine is available? I think the days of all the seats being filled are gone until then. Perhaps there will be mandated gaps/spacing between seats, and food services will be suspended. Either way it will look and feel completely different. I think the basketball and hockey seasons are over, and I question how much of a baseball season is realistic. The NFL? Coin flip that it starts on time.

It will also be interesting to see how or if the various sports unions and ownership groups play nice in the sandbox as they try to adjust salaries and compensation to account for the loss of gate revenue. I doubt you will see mega contracts that have become commonplace emerge for a few years. Mookie Betts and free agents like him are going to get screwed. They may be better off doing one year deals until this all gets sorted.

There used to be a buffer between the emotions I felt and what I’d show, but not anymore. I find that I am much quicker to laugh, cry, or become angry than ever before. Is that just me?

Perhaps it is because I’m more reflective and am thinking about deeper stuff as events unfold, but I’ve come up with a LOT of good writing ideas. I have at least a half dozen things I can share via this blog. It’s just a matter of taking the time to develop them. For now, I start a post, write the opening paragraph, and let it sit for future development.

I could care less about politics right now, because I really think whatever “campaigning” occurs between now and Labor Day is a waste of time. This virus and how it plays out will dictate the election’s outcome. My only concern and frustration is that the virus issue has become a political football. Those entrenched in power are screwed if the economy is as dormant as it is now, so the pressure exists to end the distancing protocols and get people working again, which would be a disaster should that occur too soon. I mean, how good can the economy be if the virus growth explodes more than it has now , and the fatalities explode with it? Unfortunately, competing camps are getting different directives, which will make it take that much longer to reach the end of this road. In todays ultra polarized environment,  politics supersedes the common good. How sad.

Can we please stop with the lawsuits? An attorney in Connecticut filed suit against our governor over a new requirement to wear masks in public, saying it was an infringement on an individual’s constitutional rights. Can we also stop the mass protesting about “freeing” our people and the economy? Even if you are true believers that this is all overkill, and media-driven paranoia (which I don’t) are you really willing to take that chance and put you and your loved ones at risk? Haven’t you ever heard of science? I don’t get it.

When we do come up with a vaccine, what are we going to do about those who don’t believe in them? I can hardly wait to read the vitriol from those who feel nobody should be required or forced against their will to get the shot. An individual’s right is secondary to the common good in these situations from where I sit, so I say tie them down, give them the vaccine, and drown out the noise.

If you had to bet everything you own on the over/under as to when this threat will over, when would that be? My bet would be November 2021. That’s a long ass time.

Of all the little annoying things that crop up dealing with MS, putting socks on is at the top of that list. I typically do this while sitting on the side of my bed, but don’t have the flexibility I used to, especially first thing in the morning.  I can’t force the issue because if I do I’ll lean forward too far and fall off the bed (it’s happened). I have to put the left sock before the right (my bad foot/leg), because if I do the opposite, the foot slides forward and I find my body falling with it. So what is the solution? Putting them on before I go to bed.

The planet is going to get a break this summer. With less cars on the road, factories not running at full capacity, the air quality should certainly be better as the amount of greenhouse gases released will be significantly curtailed. Cities whose skylines were hard to see due to smog should look clear and pristine by comparison. I wonder if this will have any impact at all on the severity of storms over the next two years. It certainly can’t hurt.

I have access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Xfinity on Demand and a host of other platforms that I can’t think of off the top of my head, and there is still nothing to watch, which is sad given the expense. Guess I’m going to have to give things that appear interesting a whirl, but guess there will four to five duds for every keeper. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?

I haven’t filled the gas tank in our two cars in over a month, and neither has much less than half a tank remaining. Bet I’m not the only one saving money like this without trying.

Am I the only one who is drinking more than before?

I was afraid that I’d gain a ton of weight while waiting out this storm, but I’ve actually lost weight. I suspect I am in the minority. It must be the stress.

Be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics

The tick bites the person, sucked deep under the skin.

We often hear this word thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? I looked it up the other day and wasn’t satisfied with the standard definition, so I broke the word down, conducted an out-of-the-box word search and learned that the word politics comes from the Greek word Poly, which means many, and tics, which are arachnids that feed of the blood of mammals and other creatures: in other words, many bloodsuckers. Yep, that sounds about right.

Before you start thinking this is going to be a diatribe on any specific person or political party, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You might see something like that as we draw closer to November 2020, but not today. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I am socially liberal but fiscally conservative, which puts me right smack in the middle of the political spectrum, as I presume most people are. I also vote for the candidate, not the party.

Our political system is broken, but judging from what I read about Great Britain and some of the other world news, I suspect we aren’t the only country that can say that. I think term limits are necessary because elections are more like auctions where the nomination goes to the highest bidder in terms of lobbying and endorsement money, and doesn’t come close to separating the wheat from the chaff.

And once a person is elected to office, is their priority to do what is right and best for their constituents?  Hah! No, the number one priority is to get re-elected, and to do that you need cash. Perhaps a candidate begins the process in good faith and with good intentions, but when the rubber hits the road, they become beholden to the special interests that fund their campaigns, got them elected in the first place, and put those needs above the people they are supposed to represent.

Politics, in theory, demands compromise, and putting the common good above everything else. Nobody gets everything they want, but gets what they can live with. Perhaps there was more of that before I came of age, but it certainly isn’t that way now.

Admittedly, the nature of politics is to obtain power to promote your party’s agenda. When political blood is spilled the sharks hone in on their target, particularly around election time hoping to rip them to shreds and kill their re-election chances.

But when did it become such a blood sport, where the only thing that is important is to kill or be killed, to say no to anything to opposition proposes, and not be willing to consider another point of view and to bastardize long-standing protocols and traditions (Mitch McConnell refusing to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016, for instance) in order to promote one’s own political agenda and ideology? When did it get so nasty and demeaning? And when, given some of the nonsense coming out of people like Devin Nunes, did we begin electing sycophants and buffoons?

Have I been asleep at the switch for that long? Sometimes I wonder because I thought Rudy Gulianni was the greatest thing since sliced bread after the nine-eleven attacks. I didn’t know the guy or his history as NYC’s mayor, but he certainly presented well as he galvanized the city and nation with his pluck and attitude in getting his city back on it’s feet. Now I think he’s a whacked-out loose cannon and bat-shit crazy.

What is going on now, and seems to have been escalating ever since Karl Rove was part of Dubya’s inner circle, is discouraging as hell. Nobody accomplishes anything,  gridlock ensues, nobody takes ownership. The other side is blamed, and our national debate devolves into name calling, outright lying, and deflecting attention away from real issues. It’s getting worse instead of better.  Some it of is so blatant that I often wonder if our politicians think the electorate is really that gullible and stupid. It’s insulting to think we are viewed as nothing more than faithful sheep who blindly buy a bill of goods without reservations or questions.

Perhaps it’s because our attention spans have shrunken to that of a gnat. Maybe it’s because in a social media and reality television-driven world, politics is nothing more than a form of entertainment for the masses, replete with heroes and villains, depending on which side of the aisle you reside in. Unfortunately, negativity sells. The issues get buried for the spectacle of the  the show. Maybe it’s because we have morphed into an it’s all about me society, and as long as our 401ks are healthy we don’t give a shit about unimportant things, like climate change.

I’m not bitter, just embarrassed and extremely worried about the sideshow we currently finds ourselves in. The level of hypocrisy is appalling, and so is the apparentl level of apathy in some circles. Or maybe it is a feeling of hopelessness.

I have tried to avoid getting caught up in the circus that is Washington DC by taking the ostrich approach, sticking my head in the sand to drown out the noise until next fall. But the drumbeat of discontent, the closed-mindedness, the unwillingness to consider  different points of view and outright hostility make that difficult.

If nothing else, I expect and truly hope that we have a massive voter turnout in 2020. If that occurs, I believe we can expect fundamental change. One would think that would be the only way the jackals in DC will get the message and (hopefully) act accordingly. But there is no guarantee of that either because when one party gets pimp-slapped the other often doesn’t learn from their misfortune, and resort to payback for all the crap they felt they had to endure under the previous administration and Congressional leadership. All that changes is one end of the political spectrum becomes a lot happier than they are now, and vise versa.

In order for this change to occur, the youth of our country need to vote in much larger numbers, and become more politically engaged. It’s their future after all, and they have a lot more at stake as far as that is concerned compared to someone in their sixties.

It’s going to be an interesting, infuriating, maddening and fascinating eleven months. When it is over, we will remain a fractured country, but hopefully have the infrastructure  in place that can being the long, hard task of healing our divisions rather than making them worse.

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

 

 

 

 

Perception vs. Reality

reality

“I wonder what people think when they see me.”

That was a common refrain of mine once the symptoms became entrenched and my mobility became compromised. I was never one who liked to stand out in a crowd, preferring instead to blend into the background. MS made that impossible. My inability to walk in a straight line, my tendency to thrash my arms about to maintain balance before the cane became a constant companion, and the frequency in which I would stub my toe and stumble forward because I refused to slow down, made it feel like the  white hot spotlight shone on me whenever I was in the public eye.

The idea that people made assumptions because of the disability used to really bother me, and on the rare occasions where I actually fell in public, I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself out of sight from those prying, judgmental eyes.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Quite frankly, I don’t care one iota what anyone who doesn’t know me thinks when they see me struggling. Having said that, not caring isn’t the same as not being curious, because I still sometimes wonder what a person’s perception is the first time they see me.

What do they see? What do they think? Are they sympathetic? Are they afraid? Do they think I’m a freak? Perhaps they are so wrapped up in their own heads they don’t notice me at all.

I try to think back of what my reaction would have been when I had an uncompromised body and was the one observing someone like me today. In all likelihood, I would have given them a casual glance and not give it a second thought. Perhaps I would have wondered what their story was, but would have spent maybe ten seconds pondering that question before focusing on the task at hand. Any thoughts I may have had would have evaporated, just like deleting an obsolete file from a computer.

I was self conscious at first because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Not wanting to appear weak or unsure of myself, I worried that the image I projected made that impossible. I was also hung up on the primary progressive label attached to my MS, which convinced me that I was going downhill fast, which only fed my insecurity.

The most intriguing aspect about having a chronic illness or disability is that you learn a lot about yourself. My self-esteem from a physical perspective was shattered, but over time I learned that physical appearances and ability are not what defines us, although it’s a pity it took something like MS for me to realize that. What I also learned is that that my priorities were wrong.

Career and money were very high on my list, you see. But of all the humbling realities something like MS forces upon you, the one true gift it provides is perspective.

In hindsight, I think family, friends and health were always important to me, but not like they are today. My career had to take a hit because I couldn’t physically handle the stress and demands of the position I was in, and with that came a loss of income, which really freaked me out because the fear of being broke had always been my Achilles heel.

But I was fortunate enough to land in a place where over time I was able to recoup that temporary loss, and the reality of not having to deal with all the crap that comes with  being a boss in a middle management position was an unexpected bonus. My ego took a hit at first, but that soon faded as the amount of stress I endured in the work place shrank to practically nothing.

Not having the work distractions I was accustomed to for over twenty years, in addition to having diminished physical abilities, made me appreciate and understand how important family, friends and health were. It’s a cliché, I know, but when your health is compromised, material things don’t matter. What matters is the love and the people in your life.

That epiphany allowed me to step back and reassess where I was and where I was going. Many of the little things that used to concern me fell by the wayside. One of those, although it took some time for me to get there, is that strangers’ perceptions of me were unimportant.

It helped that what I thought “progressive” meant in terms of how quickly my physical ability was going to deteriorate didn’t materialize. Remember, this was almost eleven years ago. I thought that by now I would be unemployed, wheelchair bound, on disability, in searing pain, and unable provide for my family the way I was accustomed to. So I am lucky in that respect.

But the not caring about what others might think evolved because I learned how mentally tough I really was. There is a line in the Shawshank Redemption, where Red talks about his future and the two choices before him: get busy living or get busy dying. I chose the former.

Self-pity wasn’t something I was going to indulge in. I was going to do whatever it took in the way of treatments, drugs, diet, and things of that nature to keep the progression at bay and live as normal a life as possible. I wasn’t going to let MS rule or define me, and a rebellious nature I never knew I had bubbled to the surface. Of course, I’ve fallen a few times, literally and figuratively, but for the most part this has served me well.

Maybe attitude has nothing to do with this. Maybe I’ve been lucky in that the progression hasn’t accelerated like I thought it would. I still think there is a very good possibility what I feared in the beginning will eventually occur, but I was planning on pulling the plug at work in five to six years anyway. I think I have that many good years left. Probably more, if I’m honest.

Having said all this, I still wonder on occasion what people think when they see me, but not for the same reasons I did eleven years ago. I’m curious because I’d love to know if their perception matches my reality.

I seriously doubt it.

 

Our Era of Intolerance

intolerance

I follow some of the social networking groups for people with MS, and a lot of what I read is sad, but not in the way you might think. Yes, it’s hard to read the about the plight of others who deal with physical pain, but it’s reading about those with emotional pain and scars that is especially rough.

I’m referring to the torment men and women feel about not being the kind of spouse or parent they think they should be. Then there are the single people who are alone and lonely, lamenting the bleak prospect that their disability might make them a social pariah for eternity. I’m also talking about people who lose the ability to sustain a job because their physical limitations prevent it, or their employers put so much pressure on them regarding unscheduled absences and lack of dependability that it isn’t worth the relentless emotional strain.

What I find incredibly sad, however, is reading posts from people whose friends and family question their integrity by suggesting or implying that they aren’t really sick, and that their symptoms are psychological.

Is this kind of callousness the exception or the rule? I’d like to think it is the former, but am afraid it is becoming or has become the latter.

For some of us, our disability is obvious. All you have to do is see the way we walk, or how we navigate our walkers or wheelchairs to recognize we are dealing with something that prevents us from being whole. Your senses provide proof that something is wrong, which makes our condition understandable and acceptable.

But for many, the symptoms are less obvious. You can’t see pain. You can’t see crushing fatigue. You can’t see cognitive fog. You can’t see depression or the general malaise that can emerge from constantly fighting a losing battle. These are not tangible things, so it’s easy and convenient for able-bodied people to be derisive and dismissive.

While I think it’s bullshit, I understand how people who are unrelated and unconnected to us can make those kinds of judgements. After all, we live in an intolerant age, at least in this country, where the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue practices and promotes this kind of thinking. What I can never understand or accept is how family and supposed friends can be so unsupportive and cruel.

Perhaps these attitudes have always existed, and I was blind to them until MS opened my eyes to the plight of others. After all, people who have been living with mental illness or who are not neuro-typical have been dealing with this kind of prejudice for ages.

Still, why is it so hard for people to accept what their eyes can’t see? What makes individuals so dismissive about anyone who is less than whole, who may be odd or quirky, or who simply beats to their own drum? Why is someone who struggles with a physical or mental/emotional illness considered flawed, damaged, and therefore less of a person. Don’t we all deserve a little respect?

Is it insecurity? Do individuals feel uncomfortable or threatened by what they don’t understand? Or do people have the need to prop themselves up by tearing others down?

It’s sad to think that people are more supportive if you are stricken with something like cancer than dealing with a condition that isn’t as obvious, as easily understood, or curable. I hope I’m wrong about this, and am allowing the grim scenarios some of these posts describe to color my judgement about the world we live in. That would be ironic, because I don’t watch news programming of any kind for that very reason. The news is so negative, and paints such a bleak picture of society today, how could anyone who constantly exposes themselves to that message not be pessimistic about the future?

Maybe I should take a respite from these sites.

I was a child during the turbulent 1960’s, so I didn’t understand or feel the civil unrest that existed during that decade. After watching a recent documentary on the year of 1968, I concluded that I would have thought society was coming apart at the seams had I been an adult back then. I also would have feared for my child’s future.

I don’t think we have bottomed out to that degree yet, but it does feel like we are experiencing a renaissance of the 1960’s and heading in that direction. Our current level of social discord permeates everything, and perhaps feeds the point of views that allow people to conclude that our symptoms are all in our head, and all we have to do is stop feeling sorry for ourselves, suck it up, and get with the program. Kindness and empathy still exist, perhaps more than we think, but it is drowned out by all the other noise, and seems harder to find.

Whatever it is that is driving this mean-spiritedness, I hope it dissolves in the not so distant furture, and we all emerge relatively unscathed.