rambling

COVID, The Expanse, and Me

As folks who follow my blog may already know, I tested positive for COVID-19 twelve days ago. I quarantined myself for approximately ten days, waiting to test negative and for my symptoms to subside. Around the five-day mark, most of my symptoms were gone. Yet the older CDC guidelines state that a person infected with “moderate COVID-19” should quarantine for ten days. Now, in light of the new CDC guidelines that suggest a mere five day quarantine, I figured I might be safe after five days; however, I also tend to agree with many that the CDC has shown itself to be a pawn of capital and a danger to workers everywhere. These new guidelines which claim that folks are safe and non-contagious after five days seem tailor-made to send workers back to their jobs too fast, putting their coworkers and customers at risk. So, I chose to ignore the new guidelines, and I quarantined for ten days. My symptoms may have been gone around day five, but I wanted to play things safe. I am immunocompromised, after all; type 1 diabetes and illnesses don’t mix well together. It takes my body a while to kick invaders out. So I stayed inside my room and made sure I tested negative and kicked my symptoms away before I walked around and did anything even remotely close to other people. Naturally, this gave me plenty of time to watch a lot of YouTube, to finally embrace a podcast, to watch the Netflix adaptation of that podcast, and read a book I’d put off for too long. What are all these things, you may be asking in your head, and I’ll tell you about one of them for now. The book I put off was Leviathan Falls, the final entry in the much-loved series The Expanse. The series has been about a decade in the writing, though the final book is the ninth book, so the pace of development was not slow at all. By the time I started reading the books, I believe they’d released five out of the nine planned novels, so I had a good amount of material to get through. Sometime along the way, SyFy decided it was time to develop a tv show based on the books, and I’ll get to that later; all you need to know for now is that I dutifully avoided the tv show as I read through the series, and I kept television’s beautiful but tailored imaginings of the books out of my brain. Anyway, back to my quarantine and the final book of the series.

A Long Time Coming and a Short Time Remembered

Perhaps the first half of the header above is unfair; not many of these books were a long time coming, as the authors collaboratively referred to by their pen name James S.A. Corey completed a nine-book series in the span of, let me check … yep, ten years, give or take. That’s about a book a year. The first novel released on June 2nd, 2011, while the ninth and final novel released on November 30th, 2021. I realize that they probably took some time to write the first book, so it’s probably more like an eleven or twelve-year process for the whole series, but still … even for crunchy-sweet science fiction, nine books in more or less a decade is pretty good. The potential math behind the creation of The Expanse is unnecessary and overly geeky at this point, so I’ll stop that train of thought; while it’d be fun to play around and figure out just how many words a day each of the series’ two authors wrote, it’d just be an exercise in self-amusement for me. What matters most to this discussion is the descriptor I used to talk about the series: crunchy-sweet. It’s a fancy way of conveying what I say to people when I talk about the series in real life: that the books are long, but they go fast like candy. Sweet, for how easy it is to consume them, but prefaced by crunchy, for the weight of the character development and the moral quandaries explored within their pages. Crunchy-sweet, maybe like peanut brittle, or something. Tasty so I remember that I ate them, but I can’t always recall the exact ingredients of the candy. There’s a funny phenomenon I experienced while reading the series: I could recall important vibes, like general emotions associated with plot advancements, but I couldn’t always recite important details. The specifics of situations and their space opera gravity fell away like a ship pulled into orbit, while the general feelings stayed like so much starlight. POTENTIALLY BIG SPOILERS AHEAD: I would always remember things like “The second book is when Prax goes searching for his missing daughter” and “The third book is the one with the slow zone and that one asshole who tries to take over the big ship.” The fourth book is the wild west one where the main players are stuck on a planet way out in one of the galactic frontiers. Book three to four is a big change; book six to seven is an even bigger change. To be honest, I hardly recall book five. It’s just the one where some of the characters are on Earth, or something. There is something stupefying yet beautiful about how easy it is to forget the specifics of this series, and I’ll go into that now; it’s about time I talk about The Expanse as a tv series.

Painting in Broad Strokes: Why Television Doesn’t Have to Hammer Home All a Book’s Details

Okay, now that I’ve drawn a line in the sand, let’s discuss the interplay of books and television. When I was a younger man, I leaned hard into books as the superior storytelling medium in comparison to tv. I love(d) to read, and whenever the books I enjoyed were turned into something filmic, I inevitably cried foul at the tv adaptation’s omission of certain details, and/or the weakness of film for not allowing time or space to accommodate all of a book’s complexities, as in characters, storylines, et cetera. Fuck, that’s a huge et cetera. In the words of one of my favorite college professors, “Your sentences are too long.” Actually, I’m paraphrasing, forget the quotation marks. Eh, I’m too lazy to go back now. Anyway, overly long sentences aside, this piece would be over. Okay, stop with the jokes, “writer.” So I used to get upset when movies and especially tv shows butchered my favorite books. That’s because I was looking for a 1:1 conversion, when, naturally, books and televisions shows are different mediums. They will present information differently, and when done well, each will play to their respective strengths. When I got upset at tv shows for not being as comprehensive or detail-rich as books, that’s because I was judging the filmic medium unfairly; I was using the strengths of books as my barometer for quality, when tv can’t be expected to be a book. In the last five or so years, I’ve softened my stance on the books versus tv debate, mostly because I’ve started accepting each iteration of a story as its own thing: sometimes so similar it’s hard to tell the difference, but usually different enough to warrant different criteria for judging quality. That’s my overly fancy way of saying that books are books, tv shows are tv shows, and expecting adaptations to be 100% faithful to their sources is foolish. Most importantly, those expectations detract from the enjoyment of each medium, usually to tv’s detriment; most of the time, they’re books that are adapted to the screen, not the other way around. So television gets shat on when it doesn’t necessarily deserve that.

What the hell was I on about? Oh yeah, The Expanse. The best part of each book’s details being easy to stick in a random corner of my brain, and my unwillingness to watch the tv adaptation until I’d finished the book series, is how it made the tv show’s interpretation of events look fresh. Thanks to the crunchy-sweet sci-fi that comprises the book series, the big story beats are easy to convey while details that would convolute the limited time and space of a tv show are fairly simple to repackage, repurpose, or right-out ignore; the people that make the show can go all protomolecule on the books, taking them apart and using only the bits that are actually useful to their overarching purpose. This isn’t to say that I’ve watched the whole show, but I did binge the first three seasons at the tail end of my quarantine. I’d finally finished the book series, and the time had come. I could watch the show without getting too hung up on details.

While some characters are way too young to match their book counterparts, and other characters are left out completely, and still other characters are merged with different ones, the general feeling of each character is conveyed surprisingly well on the screen; although I got used to Amos being a little older than his crewmates and Alex being a paunchy former marine well past his prime, the demeanors and motivations of these characters stay true to the overarching vision of the books. Besides, as it goes with candy, the moment-to-moment details, the minute pieces of the books, they don’t matter so much as long as the general themes and messages are shared. Honestly, after the first book, I mostly forgot how the writers described the crew of the Rocinante; the show’s versions of the characters could look however the showrunners wanted them to look, as long as they felt like a crew. As long as they hit the important story beats. As long as I felt something while watching the show. And, to my pleasant surprise, I did. I felt strong emotions, just like I did while I read the books, and I found myself gasping in delight at certain character introductions, and crying like a baby during particular developments. The show captures the vibes of the books perfectly, at least as far as season 3; I haven’t watched beyond season 3 yet, but I hold out hope that the rest of the show will affect me just as much. This is the beauty of forgetting and/or storing a story’s details: an adaptation or a re-imagining has a chance to affect the audience just as well as the source when the source is used as a skeleton. The flesh of the adaptation can be molded; the framework is all there, and now it becomes whatever the new medium’s creators want it to be.

Hope for Filmic Re-visions of Genre Fiction

There’s another show I watched recently that blew my fucking mind. I don’t think the show was an award-winning kind of endeavor, but it managed to make me laugh and cry and gasp, and have a damn good time while I watched it. That show is Shadow and Bone, and POTENTIALLY MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR SHADOW AND BONE AHEAD. Shadow and Bone or, more apt for the whole series it spawned, the GrishaVerse is a fantasy remaking of real world sorts of conflicts that are made more dramatic by the small science, which I will now insultingly call magic; I’m so sorry, Leigh Bardugo. What non-Grisha (read: non-magical) individuals see as magic is actually the in-universe study and application of theories called the small science. Basically, the small science proposes that the building blocks of nature, life, and the universe may be manipulated by those who are gifted, these gifted folks commonly being referred to as Grisha. I’ve now gone on a long tangent explaining the general makeup of the series of novels collectively called the GrishaVerse, novels which started with the Shadow and Bone trilogy, which is the very same trilogy on which the Shadow and Bone tv show is based. Only, I just lied: the show weaves other books and story arcs into its creation, in the most creative way I’ve seen it done. While the general arc of the Shadow and Bone book trilogy provides the skeleton of the tv show, a duology set in a different part of the GrishaVerse is also infused into the show’s storyline. Characters who initially operated outside the original Shadow and Bone story are now artfully mixed into the Shadow and Bone narrative, in a way that strays from the path taken by the books but still delivers a satisfying and believable story for television. I, as a reader and a viewer, am aware of these huge deviations, yet rather than shaking my fist and shouting at the showrunners for going off-book, I grinned at the confident beauty of this maneuver: my favorite characters from that other storyline are now involved in the show, and it actually makes sense, and it’s really fucking cool to watch.

This is why books and tv shows must be judged on their own merits; although prior knowledge of a book series may feed into the enjoyment of an adaptation’s creativity, I believe Shadow and Bone may still be enjoyed by those who didn’t read the books at all. I’m grinning because I know all these characters from the books and I love them; I’d hope a total newbie to the series would still grin, because the characters are compelling and clever and cool as hell. I think I’ve learned something, or maybe, I’ve accepted something: tv shows don’t have to follow their sources beat-by-beat. They can do their own things, and still be good in their own ways. I’m happy I’ve experienced a lot of television adaptations in the past few weeks, because they’ve shown me what is possible when tv and books are judged based on their own merits. Happy reading, happy watching, and happy living to you all.

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Uncategorized

Random Quarantine Thoughts

Today’s the day I get “Down With the Sickness” by Disturbed stuck in my head. It makes me laugh every time I sing it, ’cause I really am down with the sickness. Feeling better today, and laughing about a lot of random stuff. Thank the maker I’m easily amused! Also, note to self: Super Auto Pets is hard. Or perhaps I’m not clever enough to come up with a winning strategy? Halp!

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rambling

My Time With COVID-19

Yep, I caught it. I’m still well enough to record some of my thoughts. Here’s a log of my recent COVID experience, starting a few weeks before I caught it. Jesus, it sounds like a fucking Pokemon, and it shouldn’t. Anyway, I’ll update this as things develop.

The New Year: December 31st, 2021 Leading Into January, 2022

I have friends. This may seem weird to some, since I tend toward introversion and I’m not easy to get to know, but I have a group of people with whom I enjoy spending time. My friends and I made plans to ring in the new year. We’ve been relatively safe about the virus: we’re all fully vaccinated, we all wear masks when we go out, we wash our hands. We figured we’d be fine.

These details only become relevant in the aftermath of the New Year’s Eve soiree. See, we all drank that night. I’ve never gotten shitfaced, and I didn’t get shitfaced that night, but I drank a little more than I usually do. A lot of champagne. Okay, I had two glasses of champagne, max, but my brother went hard on the champagne. We all stayed awake until 4 AM, watching Return of the King (we primed The Two Towers so we’d hear Theoden say “So it begins” as soon as 2022 started, and we kept watching from there). We should have gone to bed sooner. All these minor-yet-unhealthy decisions will make sense in the aftermath of the soiree.

So, after the soiree, my brother felt sick. Like, not “I drank too much and gotta barf” sick, but a combination of a hangover and a respiratory affliction. Ah, there it is: a respiratory affliction. My brother immediately starts saying “Oh shit, [our friend who’s a nurse] might have brought something to that get-together.” Now, I saw his logic, but I didn’t buy it. Our nurse friend is careful. We’re all careful, but we can’t account for other people. The impropriety and carelessness of other people will become relevant in the aftermath of the aftermath of the soiree.

The First Week of January, 2022

Alex (my brother) decided to stay home from work the week after the soiree, afraid he might have COVID and not wanting to infect anyone. We all masked up in the house. He ordered a test from a pharmacy to be sure of his condition. Our stepsister was in town, but Alex wound up quarantining and working from home so he didn’t see her much at all.

He finally goes to get tested on Friday, telling us he won’t get results until 4 PM Saturday. We keep wearing masks. We avoid each other’s company. He gets the message from the pharmacy: he’s COVID negative, all activities may resume. Whatever cold-like illness he had was just that: a cold-like illness not as threatening as COVID-19. The timing is pretty good; our sister’s birthday was on Friday, and our family was making plans to celebrate. There’s a restaurant we all like in midtown, and our sister asked if we’d all go eat there with her next Friday, the 14th. We agreed. We’d been to the restaurant before, and it seemed safe. Everyone there wore masks, we wore masks, and so on.

A quick aside from me: I realize how messed up it is for people to go to restaurants in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not one of those “Gimme mah FREEDUMS” Americans, though I’ll admit now that I haven’t been as careful as I could be. I’ve gone to restaurants for birthdays and such. I am, in fact, part of the problem. I, and everyone else, should have just stayed home for months. Like, literally, stayed inside. Yet such extreme measures are untenable within a capitalist system that demands people still pay money for shelter and food. If the government had provided people a lot more money, and a lot more resources, to stay home and prevent infection, we likely wouldn’t be in this mess. But perhaps my solutions to the real capitalist plague that’s killing us are best left for another time. Back to COVID, I suppose.

The Second Week of January, 2022

Things were looking up. Alex tested negative and so he returned to work that week. I showed up to work a scant few times, for reasons unrelated to sickness, which I won’t go into here. Okay, I’ll touch on it a bit: I work at a non-profit, and funding is everything. You have funding, you get paid. You don’t have funding, you don’t get paid. There’s definitely funding to pay me for my work, but due to some assumptions on my part, the account from which I get my paychecks wasn’t added to my timesheet. I assumed my boss was too busy to handle this problem, so I reached out to someone else … it became a whole thing when it didn’t have to, and now it hardly matters ’cause, well, COVID. Work can wait.

Anyway, back to COVID. Alex went back to work, I went to work, everything seemed fine and dandy. What I didn’t know was that Alex was still experiencing symptoms of whatever cold-like illness he’d caught before. We lived as though everyone was well: we ate in the kitchen together, we talked about random shit, and when we went to the restaurant for our sister’s birthday celebration, I sat between Alex and our sister. Alex drove us there. I wore my mask the whole time, unless I was taking a bite or a sip. I was trying to be careful. The dinner was great, and things seemed so good. We went home, and did our respective things.

The next day, Alex had plans to go shooting with our friends who hosted the new year’s eve soiree. They went to a shooting range in the morning, then Alex went to a flight class in the afternoon. He came home, made dinner, and he and I and our roommate all sat down to eat food. After dinner, I went upstairs to play video games, and Alex left to hang out with the same friends with whom he’d gone shooting. I didn’t know they’d planned an evening get-together, but I shrugged and went back to gaming. That is, until my phone rang.

I joke that Alex doesn’t call me unless someone’s dead or deathly ill. We’re not really that extreme, but still, we hardly call each other. So I answered the phone, expecting bad news but not expecting this bad news. “I took an at-home test over here and I tested positive.”

Oh fuck. Maximum quarantine initiated.

The Unraveling

Alex stayed in his room all weekend, and if he went into the kitchen to grab anything, he disinfected the stuff he touched. Our mom dropped off five at-home COVID tests along with supplies for Alex, and we all divvied up the tests. I took one, our roommate took another, and Alex took the rest. I don’t know why he took the rest, he’d already tested positive. He tested himself again to be sure, and again, it was positive. I tested myself: negative. Our roommate tested himself, also negative. We seemed fine, though we still lived in an infected zone.

I resolved to test myself every two days, to be sure I was in the clear. The virus takes time to incubate, and in an infected house, I’m susceptible to illness. Tuesday (yesterday) was the big day: if I tested negative, I’d be able to dogsit for a friend, as I agreed the prior week. I’d already reached out and told her that Alex tested positive for COVID, and even if I tested negative, I may be a carrier. I didn’t want to bring anything into her home. She told me not to worry, that she and her partner could take their dog on the trip. That was all very good, because I started feeling a little sick on Sunday. On Monday, I felt a little worse, and on Monday night when I tried to fall asleep, I felt fucking awful. I don’t know if it was real or if it was me having a panic attack, but I had to consciously think about breathing while I sprawled out, trying to fall asleep.

So Tuesday morning, I felt awful. I mean, I’ve been telling people it’s like “a bad cold,” and that’s not wrong. But in my vulnerable moments, it’s not fun. I got myself a cup of coffee downstairs and grabbed one of our at-home tests, then brought it to my room. I went through the whole procedure, pretty sure I knew the outcome: it’d gotten me, and my quarantime had begun. I was correct. I tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, a Tuesday, the 18th of January, 2022. I didn’t think too clearly at first. I wondered “Where do I brush my teeth?” (I share the upstairs bathroom with our roommate.) “What will Willow do?” (My cat loves my room because I’m there, but her food and litter box are downstairs. She’s so skittish, she usually won’t go down there unless I’m nearby. I can’t go down there, not with COVID.) I carelessly left my door open while I contemplated these issues, and my roommate passed by, asking how I felt. “I feel bad, man. I got it.” He responded “Oh shit. Please close your door.” Yeah, you right.

So I closed my door and hammered out the details of my banishment. Willow had been cool upstairs before; while I don’t like confining her to one room, as long as she has all her stuff, she’s happy. So I masked up and ventured downstairs to grab a bunch of supplies. Willow’s food and water bowls, her litter box, a towel to put beneath the litter box, her big bin of food. Paper towels, tissues, and a trash bag for all my infected shit. I filled my water bottle. I took my toothbrush and toothpaste downstairs, into Alex’s bathroom, since he’s infected already and we can share the sick zone.

It’s Wednesday now. I actually feel better today than I did yesterday, though I’m pretty sure I’m still super contagious. A lot of good people have sent well wishes, and a few have offered to drop off care packages and/or send things to us. I appreciate all the love and support, and I think, thanks to the vaccine, I’ll get through this without too much trouble. I am a type 1 diabetic, which is not great when it comes to viruses and sicknesses. My immune system is compromised … so thank the scientists and researchers and testers for the vaccine. I believe it’s literally saved my life.

I plan to update this post as things develop. When I’m recovered, you’ll all know. Thanks for reading this far, if you have … I didn’t intend for this to go on for so long. It was meant to be a quick logbook, of sorts. Now it’s like a public diary entry haha.

A Note Regarding the Source of our Woes

So naturally, as soon as I started feeling super sick, I thought back on the interactions I had leading up to this. I went to work a few times last week, but only interacted with one person. We had masks on and my co-worker is careful. Diligent. I don’t believe I got it from her – it just wouldn’t make sense. The timeline points to Alex getting it first, then passing it to me. So the real question is, where did Alex get infected?

The bummer is that after that fake-out negative test two weeks ago, Alex thought he could return to work safely. I mentioned way in the beginning of this post that people’s impropriety and carelessness would become relevant in the aftermath of the aftermath of the new year’s soiree. Well, Alex’s return to work is that second aftermath. Yesterday, we met in his ultra-infected bathroom to talk about things. I mentioned that I’d been trying to trace my illness, and he said “Well, I shouldn’t have gone back to work. Most people there are good with their masks and everything, but this one guy who I worked close with, he kept removing his mask and when he put it back on, he didn’t cover his nose.” So there you have it. I wouldn’t string this dude up in front of a firing squad or anything, but I would berate him for being an unconscientious prick. The random dude who probably infected my brother last week is one example of the people who are prolonging this pandemic, people who don’t trust science or don’t think about the health of others when they make decisions.

I said earlier that I’m part of the problem. I realize now that chilling in a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, vaccinated and masked up as I am, is still not smart or kind. The virus mutates, and all it takes is one carrier to spread that shit like wildfire. I can only hope that Alex didn’t infect more people at that restaurant. I’m fairly certain I got it from him while we sat next to each other that evening.

Going forward, I’m not going to restaurants. I’m not going anywhere public for fun, unless I’m hiking or doing something outside. I’ll shop at grocery stores again, once I’ve recovered, but only because we all need food to live (gods, I need to learn to grow my own food). I don’t want to spread this thing. I don’t want to pretend that nothing is wrong, when clearly, a lot is wrong with our systems, and the ways we’ve been forced to live our lives.

On the Mend

Today is Friday, January 21st, 2022. At one point, this was the release date for Elden Ring, but that’s neither here nor there; the game releases in about a month, and I’m glad the team has more time to work on it. Sorry, I’ve been sidetracked by entertainment, as always, and I’m supposed to talk about my illness. As strange as it may sound, I believe Monday night was the worst of my illness; it’s when I pushed myself too hard, stayed up way too late, and had trouble falling asleep due to respiratory trouble. I don’t know if I was actually having trouble breathing, or if I was panicking about COVID, but it took me a while to fall asleep, and the next day I tested positive for the virus.

Since then, I’d say I’ve gotten a little better every day. Our healthy roommate disagrees (please read healthy as “COVID-less,” since this dude somehow eats a slightly worse diet than I do and also doesn’t exercise – healthy isn’t a descriptor of his lifestyle, it’s a descriptor of his condition relative to my own) and he says my brother and I “sound like shit.” He hears us coughing through the walls, and he’s not wrong; while I generally feel better each day, when I cough, it sounds like melting garbage. That’s what I’ve been telling people and I’m sticking to this disgusting imagery, since I imagine that’s the hell to which my lungs are subjected during COVID time.

So while I feel better in the immediate times, I wonder about the long term effects of this virus. I’m a type 1 diabetic, and sickness kicks my glucose testing into high gear: my blood sugar hasn’t been this consistent in a long time. Yet I know that my immune system is compromised, and my being alive to write this is all thanks to the vaccine. If not for the vaccine, I’d be dead; Alex, despite having no comorbidities (apart from stress, perhaps), believes he’d be dead too. So we thank the vaccinators for their work, and for literally keeping us alive.

The long game of life is best played moment to moment, with a quick smile and a laugh for the enjoyment of time. It’s bright and sunny outside, and my windows are cracked a little to let in fresh air. I hear a few birds chirping, and an hour ago, children were running around somewhere and having a good time. I want to go to France. I want to go to Germany, and Italy, and China, and Cuba, and Brazil, and Argentina, and Morocco, and Russia … I want to go to as many places as I can. I understand the virus makes this difficult. Before the virus, it would still have been difficult, since I’m not flush with cash. Again, capitalism weighs heavy on my heart and my potential.

I return to my quarantine, to sip coffee and order food and play games. I’ll be back to update you all soon.

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Poetry

Fuzz in the Time of Cholera

I sit near the cat tree downstairs and I wonder,
what does Willow make of me wearing a mask?
The mask is literal this time.
My brother caught COVID-19 sometime last week,
after he tested negative the prior week, but
continued to feel sick afterward.
We’re not sure from where he got it, and
it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.
What matters
is that he’s quarantined in his room,
and if he needs anything, I try
to get it for him. Or he leaves his quarantine,
mask on, gloves on, with disinfectant wipes in hand,
and he cleans. Everything. He touches.
That’s what I’ve seen, anyway.
I shouldn’t be down there, I should
lock myself in my own room,
for my own safety,
but as it was before,
I’m the only one
who will clean anything around here.
I did it to myself: every time someone asked
“Do you want help with the dishes?” I’d say
“No thanks, I got this.”
So I washed the dishes yesterday. In the kitchen.
Which is definitely where most people wash their dishes,
but my brother’s room is way too close for comfort.
I know 6 and more feet of distance should be enough.
I know we’re masking up, and disinfecting, and
we have doors between us. But now,
with the sickness in the house,
I don’t feel safe.
So I wash my hands after I touch anything,
and I wear my mask all over the house,
and Willow looks up at me, doing what
she usually does,
but I swear I notice a slight pause
as she registers the strange thing
on my face.

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Another Anti-capitalist Rant

A Note From the Author: I started writing out this critique on January 10th, mostly off the cuff, after seeing posts addressing the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin treatment. I think I meant to take it further, but I stopped ranting and just saved it as a draft. I added one sentence for clarification, but really, who stops to clarify their thoughts in the middle of a rant but the most self-critical, anxious overthinkers? Oh yeah, that’s me … but anyway, here we go.

Can you imagine being a person who witnessed the discovery of insulin and thinking “Oh great! Now that diabetics can live, how can we charge them money for that luxury?” Yes, to profit off misery – I fucking hate pharmaceutical companies. I just heard tell of people in California pushing for an affordable way to synthesize insulin at home. I also know there are researchers out there who are trying to create tools that will make insulin accessible and affordable to everyone. Bless them, for they are saints. Medicine and healthcare should never be out of anyone’s price range; capitalism is twisted, and sick, and demoralizing, and destructive, and poisonous, and insidious, but it’s also been hilariously obvious how its shortcomings far outweigh its benefits. Wait, what benefits? That’s right, capitalism has no fucking benefits. It tricks people into believing their worth is tied to their work, and if you’re not productive, then you’re worthless. Somber news flash that’s actually decades old: our productivity has skyrocketed while our wages have stagnated. Now, CEO pay has also skyrocketed. Hmm, a coincidence? Fuck no, friend. The people in power, politicians and executives and management types and grifters (whatever, they’re all grifters) who have all the money and power hold the strings of huge fucking purses, and they shower coins upon anyone who will help them squeeze every last drop of value from exploited workers. We’ve been exploited, time and again, by people who already had way more money and opportunities than us, to grant themselves even more money and opportunities, while we waste away in the shadows. Can’t afford healthcare. Can’t afford a vacation. All the god damn money that “bigwigs” and “fat cats” get paid in humongous bonuses, payouts, and disgustingly large salaries? That’s money that could be paid to workers. Which would then be pumped back into the economy as we all pay for the shit we need to live healthy, happy lives. We shouldn’t have to pay money to live healthy, happy lives.

I don’t want money to be the crux of a good or a bad time. I don’t want a dollar value to be assigned to anything. I want necessities given free of charge, and I want people to care for one another, and I don’t want to hop back and forth on Venmo to make sure I’ve paid all my dues. Money pits us all against one another. We should target the bastards who take what is ours. Rise up, and throw the bigwigs down. Bring them to our level. But it’s too late for the bigwigs: they’re too sick and twisted to withstand the continual trauma inflicted upon the oppressed. The nerve of them, to grease their ways into safe havens.

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Poetry

Mental Gymnastics

20, 19, I count down the slices of kielbasa as I eat them. 18, 17, I never told anyone about slipping and almost falling down the stairs, and how I stopped my fall with my right foot, and my long right toe has been in mild pain ever since. 16, 15, okay, I told Joe ’cause he was staying in town and he was on our couch at the time, so he heard it happen, but no one else knows why the hell I’m walking so funny. 14, 13, 12, I don’t even think anyone has noticed that I’m walking funny. 11, 10, my right ear is still clogged or blocked or something, even after I cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide, and lately there’s an incessant ringing in it, and last night I woke up after sleeping three hours to the thought of “I think I’m hearing things that may not be there.” 9, 8, I braced a big green suitcase with my right leg at work and the suitcase slipped and bashed a spot above my ankle and it scraped some skin off and I started bleeding so I made a makeshift bandage with paper towels and tape but it didn’t wrap around my skin so well, so I had to search the first aid kit anyway, and that’s in the hall where there may be people and it’s a pandemic and my fucking fingers were all over that kit. 7, 6, 5, I washed my hands before and after I handled the first aid kit, but I still felt funny about it. 4, 3, it’s been a little over two years since I started buying Wal-Mart insulin ’cause my introverted ass wouldn’t drive to the doctor’s office and get my prescription refilled, and it was probably the second or third time I’d canceled the appointment last-minute, and I’ve never been great at going out in public, even before the pandemic, but I really fucked up with that one. 2, 1, sometimes I wonder how much sugar has coursed through my blood and ruined vital parts of me, and this line keeps going through my mind, it says “Mints won’t fix my rotting mouth,” and that’s just my fun way of saying I need to see a dentist too. Zero, I ate a whole kielbasa sausage (it was more than 20 slices but I liked starting there for the sake of poetry) and the whole time I cooked it all I could think was “This is a depression meal, what if someone walks in on you forking kielbasa slices right off the pan?” but I quashed that thought, then I realized that I really don’t wanna see anyone right now, which is when it became clear to me that I hardly ever get time to myself, like true “me time,” not since the pandemic started, and I think that’s why I’m sad right now, but my longer sadness is something else and I really need to stop counting down kielbasa for fun and start thinking about how to find a new doctor.

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Poetry

My Morning Reverie

I woke up thinking about coffee.
Coffee is usually drunk in two scenarios:
one is working, or
one is relaxing.
Yet its potential goes beyond those two possibilities.
What if I wanna sip it while I
climb a mountain?
I guess that’s work.
What if I wanna chug half a mug
and get frisky?
Fuck, I guess that’s work with a moment of relaxation.
What if I wanna reveal my true inner workings
in a handful of phrases
while I drink coffee slowly?
I hate this assumed beverage binary.
“Some drinks are for hard work,
others are for chillin’.”
Maybe some situations require a different composition of
feelings, sensations, and actions.
What do they say?
All work and no play … it’s not very fun.
What if I wanna hide near the top of a tall tree
after scheming my rival into an ill-advised hike
and wait until they crest the ridge down there
then BLAM, that rival’s gone?
I detach my thermos from my belt
(or jacket or backpack or whatever handy outdoor gear I have)
and open it, take a few sips of the steaming coffee inside.
Maybe this is my origin story.
This is work, and play, and doubt, and devotion,
I assure you it’s fiction with a non-committal motion
(one could call it a shrug);
I’m not that angry and I’m not that violent
and I’m not in the habit of gathering rivals.
It’s not that I’m that good,
it’s that I try to get along with everybody.
Every body needs a sip of something,
for a panoply of reasons.
It’s not all work, it’s not all play.
But damn, the coffee is fine.

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Poetry

Flow

It’s a stream-of-consciousness kind of day,
and my brain just won’t
stop telling me
how sad we are.
While I calculate
how long this sadness will last,
I remind myself
that I only slept
about six hours last night,
and I’d had a bit to drink,
and although it’s not deadly,
it’s enough to put me in a mood.
A bad place.
A dark time.
Maybe it’s time I admit
that the more I tell myself
“Plenty of people sleep less than you!,”
the more okay I become
with denying myself
good health.
In the spirit of optimism,
I’m going to bed.

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