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Wearing a mask makes you more attractive.

If you’re into looking sexy or searching for a meaningful relationship, wear a face mask in public.

You will look like you care about:

People who have special needs

Older folks

Black lives

Setting a good example for kids.

A mask will make you look mysterious and compassionate at the same time.

It show you care about accessories.

It shows you know what’s important

It shows you could probably work as a team member in a relationship or a job

A person wearing a mask in a public place just seems smarter than the average bear.

I will be looking for you, smiling behind my mask.

Spring fever!

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I got the bike out today to deliver my municipal ballot to the deposit box at the library. Said box looks suspiciously like a dumpster. I was beat by the time I returned to what I call my Hunker Bunker.

The wind was blowing street dust at a good clip but the ice was gone from most of the bike lanes. I made it up the Arctic hill with a clearer sense of my mortality, a sense I wish the users of the Chester creek trail in Anchorage shared. In case you haven’t heard, the area near Westchester Lagoon is now the de facto place to meet your maker. Come mingle with literally hundreds of families running, biking, and walking without masks either because they emulate our president, they choose not to watch or read the news, they have not a single scarf or bandana to their name or perhaps they are all somehow related to the Grizzly man or that kid on the bus.

My friend and I thanked the one young person on a bike who was wearing a mask but we think they may have stopped to take it off as they did not continue past us. It was after all an oppressive 30 degrees.

Alaska does not require motorcycle helmets nor asks residents to pay taxes in order to help those less fortunate so I am obviously the dumb one here. If there was a voting box at Westchester lagoon, I have no doubt who would win the presidential election. Luckily the box is in the library parking lot which is not frequented by people who can’t read.

I am striving to turn my focus to what I can do to make the world more livable amidst a death spiral. I can avoid the trail by getting on the bike. I ordered my groceries from Carrs/Safeway which was way too easy. They are one of the more expensive stores, so no one else is ordering from them. I spent my “would have been shopping” time making some crude masks for myself and my roommates.

Lots of pink going on here

Then I made an effort to relax. Note to self, effort is the opposite of relax. It has come to my attention that being positive and relaxed are traits that may serve one well in a long siege. Although some have called me upbeat the word “relaxed” has never been uttered in regards to me. “RELAX” has been screamed at me many times however, to no effect. My relaxation tools include lying in bed with a Nobel prize winner’s book about Chernobyl and a pack of mini Reese’s cups. The Reeses were terrible by the way. They tasted metallic like they had absorbed something from the Easter colored foil or I had absorbed something from the book.

One of my health measures is to gain 10 or so pounds so I won’t melt away if I do get sick. It’s working although it also requires that I bake every other day which is a bit of a workout. Cookies, pies, banana bread. So much time, so little energy.

I have been successful at watching short stand up comedy excerpts. The Brits are top notch. So is the Queen by the way. I bet she could trounce Trump in both a niceness as well as an insult contest. Trump may have “the best words” bit his tone betrays him and she has hats.

As night falls here in Anchorage, I think on how an animal may respond to captivity. We find creative ways to be alive despite restrictions on movement and loss of rituals. Some people rebel at restrictions and grieve losses then there are those of us who wonder why everyone else just noticed the arbitrariness of life. With that I leave you for another trip to the kitchen of my hunker bunker. Happy eating to all and to all a good night.

Bond with neighbors – through your windows

I had pneumonia once as a child, in the days when the doctor still came to the house. He told my mother to isolate me from my sister’s so they wouldn’t catch it. My mother wound up buying me the most elegant battery operated Regency phone set so I could talk to my sisters down the hall.

My favorite phone of all time

You have to wonder if this gift made my recovery longer than anticipated because of its magnificence.

Today I find myself in an equally difficult communication conundrum. I’ve started blogging a bit more and making calls but I want a loudspeaker to shout my support for all the patience and care in my community. Instead of singing, which would put the focus on me, I painted a message on my window.

Challenge your out of schoolers to reach out to their neighbors whilst practicing their reverse lettering. Have fun!

Paint a message on your window!

My neighborhood is very popular for walking. There is trail etiquette, then there is social distancing etiquette. Today I found myself stepping off the trail into deep snow to let a large family group pass unmolested by my breath. This time of year my eyes are often turned towards the ground which is slushy and slick. Instead I now have to pay attention to my social distancing as well as keeping my balance. I figure if I’m going to multitask I might as well bring my phone/camera. I am one of the few remaining Americans who does not practice “Have phone, Will travel.” It’s heavy to carry and really takes one away from the walking experience. But sometimes there are pictures which must be taken.

Here is the small lagoon directly at the end of my street. The first time this year for open water finds the ducks not harassing passing humans for food.

These are scofflaw ducks who refuse to fly South for the winter and live off stale white bread which in a pinch can be used for toliet paper.

I am in the habit of coming home from work and checking out all the bad news I can before taking a walk to see the sunset at 8 pm. Here is the sun setting over the trail leading to the bigger, Westchester Lagoon.

After this natural beauty I was surprised by a litany of snow creatures who were created on the ice for the enjoyment of passersby.

As there was still about 20 minutes of light left, I made a small one of my own. I tried not to get frustrated because the snow was not the best for sculpture, nor I the best for sculpting.

If you are wondering, it’s a duck, in a nest. I intended to make ducklings but the duck itself had a barely recognizable mass so I told myself, “leave the ducklings to someone else.” This is a nice way of saying, “The head will have fallen off in the morning. Someone can build something entirely new on top of it. I will not compare it with this shoe or the following whimsical persona.

I don’t hear Alaskans banging pans or singing Amazing Grace to honor their healthcare workers. For one thing we don’t have many balconies and when we do they are all on the Southside so no one would see anyone else. We also don’t have a ton of bad pandemic cases yet. We are all in the same boat as far as toliet paper.

Technically I am a healthcare worker but I am under little risk as we are solely focused on keeping Covid-19 out of the building rather than treating it. I work with the aged in a capacity which is really too fun to be considered work. Indeed, most of the residents believe I am a volunteer as no one would possibly be paid for acting like I do. As long as people don’t get sick, I’m doing my job. If they do get sick, all bets are off.

Maybe I will paint a message on my front window to thank my neighbors for staying inside away from me and the older folks -something like “Thanks for being lonely on my behalf,” or “Cabin Fever doesn’t kill!” I’ve noticed newer houses don’t even have front windows. What a loss for the community.

Here is a photo of what some less fortunate folks who have no work may feel like.

No one out here but us social distancers

I am so lucky to have work, even though I am exhausted. Not knowing how long our residents will have no visitors or whether we have missed some protocol that could put them in jeopardy makes me try harder to cheer people up. That can make me a bit intolerable. But they only have to put up with me for so long. The sun will set. I will go home but Trump will be on FOX all night long. That’s one good reason to get out for a walk.

Walking is essential, especially if you work in healthcare. Give each other space and paint something on your front window if you have one.

Just for today, I can smell the Sh*t

As you have probably read, a new diagnostic criteria for Covid-19 has been discovered. The sudden disappearance of one’s sense of taste and smell bodes badly for us all. It comes before the headache, sore throat or cough. But at least it will save you from taking more people on your ride down to Hades.

I spent the day smelling things. Fried chicken aroma from an unknown source, bleach water, the floor beside my toliet. This is a sense I have taken for granted. Alaska smells bad in the spring but we aren’t quite there yet. There is still enough cold that rotten things have not turned into the soup that will feed our giant weeds and tiny trees.

I was outside my home today on a mission to find a spray bottle and paper towels as I am also aware that poop is something I don’t want to share with my roommates anymore. I’ve put up a sign asking for us to spray down the toliet seat after pooping. It carries the virus, not that I really liked their poop before. Don’t you hate it when the toliet seat is hot or wet? I want to pretend that no one else has sat there recently. I want to believe the seat is white because it is pristine. Those days are over.

Every surface is suddenly disgusting. At Walgreens I was rewarded for my 9 am arrival on the day after the barge from Seattle docked by a four pack of paper towels, a spray bottle and some toliet paper. Unfortunately, I was also surprised by a check out clerk who while he was handing me my change told his friend on the phone that he “wasn’t feeling that good and would probably be leaving early.”

FUCK THAT! Looking at the change in my hand I wanted to toss it back in his face but it was too late to give back the germs. And he had touched my fancy cleaning supplies to boot! I could have asked, “What are your fucking symptoms dimwit?” But instead I minimized my contact and trudged home in the snow with my hands away from my face, sniffing like an angry pug.

I washed my mittens, cell phone, keys, reusable shopping bag, hands, and the money. Then I thought about how futile this all is. We are all so connected even though we pretend we are not. Our shit goes through the same sewer pipes. Our mail goes through the same post office. My roommates make social choices I may know nothing about but they and I have fewer options each day. We’re stuck with each other.

One desperate measure I have embraced is a great social distancer. I have started playing a Broadway musical each day and singing the whole score. People keep away from shit like that. Yesterday it was “1776”, from “Sit Down John” all the way to “Crossing the Rubicon.” It’s the first original Broadway cast show I ever saw, in Waltham, MA, 1977 for The New England Theatre Conference. Today it was the Hugh Jackman version of “Oklahoma.” It was indeed “a beautiful day.” Everyone stayed in their rooms where they belonged.

I am not very good a social distancing in general because I like to talk. I am good at making room for others on the trail but it’s not like I’m counting off 6 feet. I’m just aiming for spitting distance. Here are some social distancing examples from the trail today.

Healthy social distancing

Extreme social distancing
Existential social distancing of the end days

I try to keep my sense of humor but find it more difficult to tolerate the normal irritants of life. I want my end days to be magical or dramatic, not spent glued to some streaming series or stuck listening to small talk. I really don’t mind the news updates because these are the kind of things I read anyway.

I currently have a book about Chernobyl to read before bed. I just ordered a kindle copy of The Year of Wonders, a fictional take on the real town of Eyam in Great Britain, where the villagers walled themselves in rather than spread the plague. That is what we are doing, I think. That’s what I try to do when I’m sick or in a bad mood but I don’t always succeed because people appear and get too close to me. I may want to kill them in a way but not really.

So keep on risking your lives by going to work, to the store, for a walk, sharing your life with others but take some time to wonder about how filthy, messy and wonderfully smelly it all is. And for both of our sakes, stay away from me and my shit!

Need some hope? Watch “Give Me Liberty”

It’s crazy chaotic and just the thing you may need to realize that this virus and this president are nothing compared to what a bounty we have been given in our lives. If you don’t see yourself or your family in this film then perhaps you don’t exist. It’s a carnival of people in wheelchairs, with developmental disabilities, immigrants and people of color on a wild ride through a day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Did you know that Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country? Apparently it’s also the home of some great filmmakers who produced this gem last year in 10 days. You will hear a Russian choir, a woman singing Elvis and a man singing Springsteen. You will visit a Community Center Talent Show and a Belarusian Jewish funeral. You will rejoice as most people on Rotten Tomatoes did. But perhaps you’re allergic to unresolved but happyish endings like the reviewer at RogerEbert.com. I think they would have liked at least one death, as if enough hadn’t gone wrong. Some folks are disappointed when there is too much happiness, humor or lightness in a bad situation. But liberty is like that – light yet impossibly heavy to carry.

Best off, this movie is available on DVD at the Anchorage Public Library so if you do wind up in quarantine with your Coronavirus and 10 cases of toliet paper you can watch it without having to pay a fine since APL is now fine free. I wonder if there are hundreds of magnificent little films being made each year that I have missed because the big ones hog all the media. That’s why we have librarians, to deliver them to us after the fact.

Enjoy this piece of moving Americana. Even if there’s only one copy at the library, share it at a party. There’s enough love to go around.

Happy Essential Tremor Awareness Month!

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You might better know this as National Cheerleader Safety Month or maybe you’re geared up for Tsunami Awareness Week, (the 4th week of March). The number of celebrations is overwhelming, with National Teenager Day and Supreme Sacrifice Day in the same week!

I have never been diagnosed with Essential Tremor, but believe me, you all have let me know I have it. You’ve probably noticed that I nod my head and neck, that my arms, hands and at times my whole body shakes. You probably thought I was nervous then wondered how and why I would choose to get up in front of groups to speak, let alone sing or otherwise perform. You are right in the sense that I do have anxiety that can be overwhelming at times but I also shake when I am hungry, cold, tired, worked up and especially when given novacaine at the dentist’s office. No one goes to the doctor for shaking unless it gets out of control and they fall down or can no longer do what they used to do.

But what if you were always bad at tying your shoes or putting in earrings or you got reprimanded for poor penmanship. What if your hands shook when you attempted to play guitar or paint and you had to come up with your own style? What if you made a key decision to quit biology because you couldn’t help shaking and screwing up the measurements in lab, especially shoving samples in those really tiny bottles!!! I fooled myself for years into thinking I had poor eye/hand coordination.

Essential Tremor runs in families. Ozzie Osbourne has it. John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Quincy Adams had it. My father appeared to have a tremor as does my nephew. I’ve never been to a doctor for it but I am considering doing so now for a couple of reasons. One reason is that in order to donate your brain to science for the study of Essential Tremor, you must have a doctor’s diagnosis. There’s no real test. Your own life experience is taken into account by them while they rule out other diseases like Parkinson’s or thyroid issues. I don’t need medication or electrical stimulation of my brain. What bothers me about it is that other people feel sorry for me. They can just fuck themselves.

People can lose their jobs because of tremors. On the International Essential Tremor Foundation website, https://www.essentialtremor.org/ you can read about a man who was considered “weak” because of his shaking and was canned because his voice was shaky. I don’t fear losing my job but I am caught off guard by helpful people who ask what’s wrong with me. Today a woman asked me about my shaking because she had just started shaking a couple of years ago and was going to a doctor for it. This was a pleasant but unsettling conversation. I don’t want people to notice this part of me. Notice my blue hair, my funny jokes, my outrageous fashion choices. (Someone told me I appeared to be dressed as Pinocchio yesterday.)

Once I was at a leadership workshop and feeling pretty good about myself when two nurses at my table questioned if I was ill because they said were good observers of behavior and saw I was shaking. It made me wonder if their diagnostic skills were on par with their social skills. Did they think I never noticed this myself?

Honestly, I don’t think people who know me well care about my bobbing and weaving but people who don’t know me find it unsettling. I am oft disappointed in myself as well. It seems to be an unattractive habit. Also I have been taking time off from sugar in solidarity with my sister for Lent so I was disappointed but not really surprised that this made absolutely no difference. Avoiding sweets just makes me more depressed so it will not be a long experiment.

Another reason I might go to the doctor is that I’ve just become a Union Member so I have better insurance. Time to go before I get on Medicare, which is better than nothing but just about equal to the coverage I’ve had the last four years.

I’m glad National Essential Tremor Day let me take your mind off the Novel Coronavirus for a few minutes. Shaking hands takes on a whole new meaning.

Ice Baby, Ice in beautiful Anchorage

It’s been a good temperature for winter sports. The day starts out at 10 degrees and may reach 20 or so until it drops back down at 4 pm. Lot’s of folks out this weekend. Here’s the sledding hill at Kincaid Park. It comes with it’s own snow maker. It’s a freaking huge park. I arrived here thinking I was going to Cross Country ski near the chalet and but there was a big race going on so I retreated to The Raspberry Parking area where the old and slow were gathered.
So the chalet is near the water and wound up the turn around point for my ski. I had no desire to go down the big hill here and wipe out a dozen or so people on the way. I already had a good crash at the beginning of the day.
This is what happened in the beginning. The glasses are where I face planted in the snow going down a hill that was just too steep and icy for me. I didn’t even notice my glasses were gone until I was on my way again. I was on a one way trail but decided, F* that. I’m going back because there’s another ridiculous hill ahead of me, I’m old and alone and I’m going to break your stupid rule. So I backtracked off this trail called the “Lake Loop” and followed some people my age to the very mellow groomed sidewalk back to the chalet, about a 3 mile loop.
This new WordPress editor thing is driving me crazy. The picture is no longer an “image” it’s a “block.” I can’t seem to turn it. Bear with me and just look sideways. These were the animals spotted this week as recorded by visitors to the chalet. The next photo shows an average page from July.
So the chalet is great to begin and end at or to stop at half way because there are bathrooms and a delicious hot beverage machine. I love that they don’t pretend that there is any cream available. It’s “lightener.” Somehow I doubt that the chocolate is from Switzerland.
This photo was taken on Friday night at The Muldoon ice park which is down the street from where I work. I was the only one skating as it was cold but look how nice the ice was. It goes uphill too which is kind of fun. The lights turned on just as I was leaving and reminded me of being a kid and needing to get home when that happened.
Here’s a bit of Alpenglow on The Chugach from Westchester lagoon. The lagoon made a list of best places to skate in The World. I looked again for the site so I could post a link but all I could find was lists of the best outdoor skating “rinks” like in Vegas. Lame! I think even The Trump rink was included. Remember when ice wasn’t groomed unless with a zamboni, usually on a rink. Here they use these really slow old water trucks with wet canvas hanging off the back. I hope they get paid by the hour.
That’s a puff of Denali on the horizon in this zoomed in crunchy view. It’s really far away so it looks tiny. I like how all the ice in The Knik Arm looks fractured and the water looks flowy in an exaggerated way.
On this day last week it was below zero which is why no one was out. It had been warm the day before and all the roads iced up making walking and driving difficult but beautiful. Who needs to climb a mountain when you can break a leg or get frostbite right near your own home?
Not to sound too ignorant but I’m hesitant to name this range you can see over the Knik arm. It looks so close one would doubt it is The Aleutian Range, but then the cold can play games with size. God knows I can never figure out where the Tordrillo Range which you can supposedly see from Anchorage but they are “small.” The Chugach Range is on the East, or “land” side of the city and The Talkeetnas and Alaska Range are North, I think. The Kenai range is South but sometimes looks like they are on the West as does Denali over the Knik arm. This is pretty much a view West. Look, I can only ski on the flattish sidewalk around the road in Kincaid park so what do I know about mountains? Go ahead and try Mr. Google. He didn’t help me at all.

Come visit Anchorage and figure it all out for me. The skating is hardly ever crowded because there are so many choices and the hockey players usually go to rinks. The cross country skiing can be challenging or relaxing, whichever you prefer just don’t stay inside too much. You’ll freeze from sitting still.

What you missed by watching The State of The Union Address

I got in line at The Beartooth Movie Theater just in time to miss the address. I was not disappointed.  My ticket was for the Oscar nominated short documentaries.  These pieces are paradoxically effective in that they address immigration issues and gun violence in  a riveting yet nearly hopeless fashion. So you could have watched these honest pieces of art and arrived at the same world view you got by watching by watching the piece of work who gave you The State of The Union.

There are five films in this category so they show them on a dvd together. Some are more intense than others because of their tremendous tragedy as well as how well we get to know the people involved.  Most of these stories I was aware of to some extent but seeing the actual people was shocking. It wasn’t just me either. I apologized to the friends I invited as I imagined it might be a fun evening together. It wasn’t a drag but they probably won’t let me pick out the movies anymore.

The most difficult for me was the interviews with the immigrant families in Sweden whose children suffer from Resignation Syndrome. The adults have been imprisoned, tortured, raped and now  while begging for asylum, they find their children  reacting to a complete loss of control by becoming basically comatose. If and when asylum is approved, the children slowly recover but what kind of God would allow this kind of suffering? This syndrome appears in  immigrants to Australia as well. When studying family therapy we discussed one child taking on a symptomatic role so the family could get help  but I never imagined this. The psychiatrist is spot on when she reminds the parents that their child has found a way out of suffering by falling asleep. The parents however do not have that option.  Still the world turns more xenophobic with every revolution. The film is called Life Overtakes Me. Here is the trailer.

The next film takes a look at The Sewol ferry crisis and its aftermath in South Korea.  I cringed at the well documented footage of officials waiting for a command to rescue the many students aboard and asking fishing boats to desist. The command comes after the ship has sunk.  The government divers can not handle the task of retrieving bodies. The civilian divers are asked to desist.  The outrage builds until at least one official is taken down. It’s hopeful that the people rise up eventually but hardly satisfactory that so many young people had to die. The film is called In the Absence. Here is the trailer.

St. Louis Superman chronicles the life and times of Bruce Franks Jr. who becomes a State Representative in order to confront gun violence. His older brother was killed in childhood by someone who used him as a human shield . The effort to pass his anti-violence initiative and the persistance of gun violence in the life of his family and friends nearly costs Bruce his sanity.  Superman can not do it alone.  Perhaps this is why the ferry story was more uplifting to me.  I have never been one to believe trauma is best addressed alone or in a therapy office. I feel a full complement of peers who can hold each other together while transforming the feelings of powerlessness to shared power is most effective.  Then again, there are always cultural and personal preferences.  Here is the trailer.

The documentary about Skateistan, a school which teaches reading, writing and skateboarding in Kabul had more humor to share than the aforementioned films. We see girls laughing, cowering and arguing while they learn the rudiments of skateboarding. It’s clear that it takes courage to pursue almost any interest outside the home if you are a girl in Afghanistan, yet they persist. What made the biggest impression on me was the social services worker at the school.  She reported that years ago under the Taliban she had been without a headscarf in her own home. A man came to the door and berated her for doing so. She slapped him in the face telling him that she had only one husband to tell her what to do and it wasn’t him.   Her husband might even have to follow her lead occasionally  as you don’t get much more badass than slapping The Taliban in the face.  If you can believe it, this came across as one of the feel good movies of the bunch.

The last movie made me cry. Maybe all the hatred and violence built up. Perhaps I just identified with the older people in the film. Two immigrants who escaped the Vietnam War dance the dances they missed in their youth. In the final scene they appear aging and ageless in their choreography to We’ve only just Begun by The Carpenters. Their story of being lovers who became strangers who worked to be able to love again mixes well with the song which always reminds me of the sadness behind Karen Carpenter’s voice.   I recall a story about American therapists who travelled to Africa to help deal with trauma. They were met with dismissal, the jist of which was – why should we sit alone with you and talk when we can dance together? Here is  a segment from the New York Times on the film.

Opening myself to the vast pain of the world can be  an invitation to depression and anxiety but that’s why I’m writing this post. It also opens me to the ability of art, play, and also patience to mitigate even the greatest of losses. Resilience is a quality that can be nurtured but will tested to some degree in us all.  There is not yet a proven therapy that works for everyone in every circumstance to throw off the effects of oppression. It’s up to us to find our own way out together. Perhaps these documentaries will give you some hope as to the tenacity and creativity of the human spirit.  Catch these in theaters now.

Desperate Measures for the 2020 election

We can’t let The Trump machine defeat humanity again.  If we’re willing to use any means to win, I have a candidate who can beat him at his game. We’ll have to admit that our country is not ready for any of the Democratic candidates we currently have at our disposal, even though any of them could run the country in a more sane manner than our present despot.  My candidate, however could win over Trump’s legions as well as bring out the vote of many Democrats who usually stay at home on the internet.   Be ready to suppress your gag reflex, although gagging might be something she would encourage in order to lose weight.

I’m talking of course about Gwyneth Paltrow. She of the Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow Hollywood royal dynasty. She looks like a princess, she hoodwinks people into spending lots of money. She does not appear to have any idea what science is and is a prolific author, singer and actress.

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Looking presidential in a subtle tribute to Georgia O’Keefe from the GOOP website.

Donald, You’ve met your match.

Gwyneth gets bonus election points because the name of her company “GOOP” appears so similar to “GOP” that she might grab conservative folks who are texting while voting, (not yet a crime in Alaska).

There appears to be nothing this world loves more than a crazy rich person, especially a white one.  But for a twist, I suggest as a running mate – Markiplier! Not so white, complementary marketing , gamer and even a democrat.  In case you don’t know, he is an “Influencer”. This is a popular social media person who has 45.3 MILLION Followers. Trump has 55 Million so we’re getting close.

Perhaps these two would be willing to fill their cabinet with our current democratic candidates so that their tenure has more weight than a helium balloon. Too risky? Am I positing an unethical choice here?  You want to win- or what?