Friday, November 27, 2020

Sights in the City

We heard the drums as we turned the corner and came upon a gathering in the park. An awesome explosion of color, such are the sights in the city.

sights in the city

The first thought was that The Village People had mounted a revival in a covidious time but the rhythmic prowess of the drummer - or lack thereof, indicated otherwise

sights in the city

They wore masks but hearkened back to gladiators or carnivals of yore. One felt that some dragons would be surely be appearing shortly, given how they were festooned with spikes and feathers. We watched from the side of the trail.

causing a commotion

Many families with young children frequent the Boggy Creek trail, the morning walks are a good way to relieve the covidious monotony and get their energy spent. We do 2 hour walks on weekends. And so we settled to watch the strange happening with other passersby. It sounds better in French: cette histoire insolite.

sights in the city

The spell was broken when one of the warriors, the sun goddess as it turned out, stepped out of formation and approached the gathered onlookers. She uttered the dreaded and immortal spoiler: "Do you want to make a donation?"

sights in the city

The reaction was swift, it didn't need to be said out loud but it was a collective thought. "Don't come any closer, lady, it's a pandemic. You may look other-worldly, cool and all, but do your pagan routine or photoshoot over there". The curious watchers started to disperse.

sights in the city

"Yeah, yeah... We'll look you up..." Head nods. "Instagram... Facebook... Twitter... Venmo... Yeah, yeah" Mutter, mutter. Some, the mask wearers - only about 50 percent, this is Texas after all - adjusted their own masks reflexively. Others simply took a few steps back or aside. We all perform modern masquerades.

sights in the city

And what of carnival life these days?

Now this winter of our discontent
Has gone on long past than the month of Lent
Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year was a superspreading event
We're measuring the cost in excess deaths - a great amount.
We also know that after the earlier Sermon on the Mount
Came the reaction from Judas Iscariot, the young disciple
Our own Caesars obviously think they are nigh invincible
Free to discard the cautionary warning of The Mosquito Principle

Herd Immunity

A sigh. The escape from our routine was over. The kids weren't impressed in any case, and had started walking away unbidden. We'd have to find something else to pass the time. We got back on the trail, we'd be home in half an hour. Back to life, back to reality.

Sights in the City, a playlist

A soundtrack to this note (spotify version)

Sights in the City

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

For Want Of A Bolt

For want of a bolt, I planted a flower garden
Packed up the push reel, no more mowing the lawn
Back to basics, I planted yams, herbs, flowers, and even tried corn
The zinnias, cosmos and basil took - it was an unexpected dividend

Some of the seeds had arrived in a dubious package
Labeled as wiring cable no doubt to pass through customs
Even though they claimed to be creeping thyme
Seeds and crossed wires an apt parable for globalization
Amazon has now brought this seed trade to a full stop
Buying into fearmongering about sowing the Wuhan crop

Regardless, I've been slowly digging up the grass in the yard
There was a temporary setback, a hail storm disposed of my seedlings
Almost nothing survived, I felt like I missed the growing season
We'll try again next year, nature, as ever, is a wild card

zinnias in effect

For want of ballast, it's been weeks of cooking in the near dark
The kitchen's lighting situation now reminiscent of a well shaded park
The prospect is of a rewiring job without a certified electrician
Circuit breaker peril, unlike Lord Finchley, you should reward the artisan

For want of a dryer, we've been hanging it all on the line
The mildew protocol, we're worried about the creeping signs
The cause was a rattling sound, a spinning mechanical disaster
Still, with the pandemic we've been afraid to call in a repairer
On the off chance that we'll invite into our house a superspreader
The paradox of these times is how to adjust to all this uncertainty
Sometimes you need a live human to exercise the terms of your home warranty

my glorious flowers that someone just walked away with

For want of a policy, we've had wishful thinking
Porous rules and regulations and magic realism
Many rulers don't want to consider social living
And ignore The Mosquito Principle in favor of solipsism

For want of a vaccine, they're pursuing herd immunity
And bristle when questioned on their lack of integrity
Quack cures suggested and curious distractions
From the matter at hand: public health interventions
We got presidential obfuscation, and sleight of hand so sublime
A surfeit of mixed metaphors in a covidious time
Still, the second wave is coming, as is the bread line
Rent is due, and what about those evictions?
Moratoria were mooted without income support provisions


For want of a public health intervention, we've been painting the fence
Self isolation and social distancing our only defense
From the plague of incompetence from a parade of political actors
Instead of a plan, "We would have anticipated that the private sector..."

A mantra based on evidence-free ideology
As if viral RNA cared a whit about "the economy"
A curious narrative of inaction would then unfold
It was reminiscent of when Alice went down the rabbit hole
Certainties and wonders, all the rigged bets were off sadly
For we're in the terrain of the science called epidemiology.

Lockdowns couldn't be avoided even if delayed by dereliction
We heard firm pronouncements of control, there were hopeful predictions
But it was hard to reconcile the reality with the advertised glories
It was global narrative collapse, the tale of the lost stories

Still, for some it's been a tonic to embrace the new normalcy
All the while knowing that our frontline workers tread warily
Doing the essential work of fighting this grim disease.
That the virus sets the timeline is cause for much unease:

Not too virulent like Ebola or polio to cause sheer panic
But not too easily dismissed to be waved away by gaslighting magic
We've seen the incoming blows approaching but insouciance was a master
This covidious business has all the makings of a slow moving disaster

The contrast in human lives couldn't have been more stark
Wet work in meat packing plants or homebound in Noah's ark
Some have to deal with Tyson's reassurances
   or Smithfield's bromides
While others complain about the nuances
   of the mute button before zoom asides

The 5 year old brought the iPad over
   for you to "fix the internet connection"
While you were in the shower! 'Twas a flash of fleshy insight
You might have given her zoom classmates an early anatomy lesson
This modernity, first world problems can be hard to describe

me clearing garden

For want of integrity, you bear the country's leaders a deep-seated grudge
What? The only order of business in the Senate was to appoint judges?
In the long game of thrones, all that matters was to pack the courts
To safeguard capital and reverse social welfare proposals
A few gambling debts paid off
   - blind justice, judicial votes can be bought
If you control the referees and the commentators,
   it's easy to assign blame
It's worth restating the contention:
   America's real herd immunity is to shame

The United States only has interests, and narrow ones at that
Her firm pronouncements of solidarity must be taken with a grain of salt
Cock and bull stories,
   Hollywood fictions sold with Madison Avenue's sheen
Are wearing off now, doused down by concoctions of hydroxychloroquine
But it's hard to market the lifestyles of the rich or operational excellence
When preserving human life doesn't appear to be a core competence

The parable of the sower was also a prescient tale from Octavia Butler
But even with the gift of prophecy,
   she was trumped by this kind of grim reaper
The bodies continue to drop, their burden barely helped by the ventilators
That a president dithered
   to even invoke the Defense Production Act to procure
His conception of his office, as throughout his life, was as a sinecure
Preferring sweetheart deals and monopoly rents
Instead of securing personal protective equipment
Say nice things about me and I'll grant you items from my "free" market
A distinction without a difference, call it by its name: a protection racket

It wouldn't hurt if, at least, lives were being saved in short order
But they're not and, goddamn, he dares mention law and order
There's no comfort to be living not a dream but a lie
At evening's end the daily toll unfailingly makes one cry
"It is what it is", but the sad fact is hard to deny:
For want of a conscience so many people have had to die

growing puna yam in my covidious backyard

And all for want of a bolt...

flower garden

Soundtrack for this note

See previously: Nuts and Bolts

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

A covidious folktale, call it the first draft of history...

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Truth and Reconciliation

The statues have been coming down of late
Their existence is at least contested these days
The shadows of impunity that were proudly erected by History
Are later seen as blind spots, per Auden's Archaeology
The legacies of men reexamined in a crisis's light
A change of perspective that provides newfound insight

That while one's forefathers may have looted and wielded the whip
It's no minor proportion of humanity that is descended from Genghis Khan
One needn't have been bloodthirsty to be a slaver in days of yore
We know foundational framers owned sour property on their sugar farms.
But wilful ignorance of sins past is quite the strange fruit
Turning your nose up at banana republics while forgetting your own crops
'Tis a blissful privilege to live, as the song goes, in unfinished sympathy
And to have to be actively taught about the importance of empathy

Recall that well before Winnie's husband had assumed the mantle,
Long before the ink was dry on South Africa's new constitution
Their spokesmen were already calling apartheid ancient history
And, well, de Klerk would later join Kissinger in the rogues' gallery
Call it, of cold blooded murderers that have won the Nobel Peace Prize
The three musketeers of fate: irony, infamy and goddamn lies

In my own life there was neither truth nor reconciliation
Our philosophy of survival meant that my countrymen rather embraced fictions
True, we always sought consensus and shared humanity
And our preferred political tactic was conversation
Yet this has meant a fraught and enforced civility
So even with my keen outrage - it comes with the territory
They're an open wound: those provisions of that amnesty
The depth of my feelings towards someone I used to call Uncle
The revulsion towards the Flight Lieutenant might prove to be a mistake
So while I view him as a sinner who drips blood in his wake
A living testament to unresolved matters of justice
His every utterance contemptible and scornful in practice,
That he still walks around unencumbered is too hard to handle

Still, I'm minded that my cousin once fell for one his daughters
The heart wills it wants, I heard the news and broke into kotokious laughter
Indeed, how could I even have forgotten? I was once her babysitter
It's just flesh and blood, hell, my mum was the woman's godmother
It just goes to show that social interplay is complicated
This is as it should be, harken back to Tristan and Iseult
Or Montagues and Capulets, wherefore art thou, Oduro
Inconvenient truths, and that modern saying, entanglement
Or rather that uneasy phrase, structural adjustment

The good professor would ask: is democracy of universal application?
The self-appointed general merely laughed at the quaint suggestion
An article of faith in the conqueror's catechism:
Impunity first, we'll loot to demonstrate dominance
The lessons of brute force, our country has learned in spades
We've been treated to imperialism, militarism, and even consciencism
The die was cast, I'll say we earned our lost decades
But those painful interludes were a temporary inconvenience
True, it wasn't easy living under rogue authoritarians
Yet history's arc would shift us away from those blows of providence

It all now falls to the next generation
To enact cultural revival and a quiet revolution
Yes, blood and sin remain at the heart of the matter
As, indeed, do cultural universals and particulars
The perils of greed and opportunism we'll have to suffer
And irony will linger as life's key register
The roots of our conflicts have always proven to be bitter
The search for a blanket of soul, a soothing balm for painful chapters
What profit a man? In this life, we're all political actors
Forgiveness and love, the anthem of Bloodbath, South Carolina

Containers: Bitters

Truth and Reconciliation, a playlist

A soundtrack to this note, a meditation on secrets and lies. (spotify version)

Photo credit: DK Osseo-Asare

I nominate this note for The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of The Rough Beast, which asks: who is writing the script?

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Sunday, November 01, 2020

The Closing Ceremony

A covidious closing ceremony
For the mortgage game of thrones.
We needed her stamp of approval
To buy a loan for our current home.

In front of our house, we staged the chairs
And tables, and offered some face masks.
She said, "Come near, it's too hot,
I don't have the time to go back and forth"

Perplexed by the stance of this notary public:
Forgoing social distancing during a pandemic?
"I beg your pardon, Ma'am, I didn't catch that. What did you say?"
"I don't know about y'all but I have my temperature checked every day."

Suffice to say, there was visible unease
"It's not that we're anti-social, Ma'am, we're just anti-disease"

Also immuno-compromised, you see
Your daily temperature checks don't mean a thing
When asymptomatic transmission is key
And the source of much superspreading

"I teach the history of disease", said the Wife, "it's our duty of care"
"Well I had some nurses sign for me last week, and they didn't care"
"Well, we'll stay over here at a distance, we're happy to go back and forth
Right there on the table are our drivers licenses, the check, and the passports"

What's this? You're really threatening to leave in a huff?
About to dial the title company to call the whole thing off?
Packing the precious documents and unlocking your car
A performance worthy of a b-movie star

Enough already, that wouldn't solve a thing
And, really, you're uncomfortable with our social distancing?
Think, lady, you'd go home and lose your commission
And we'd merely rage at the micro aggression.

We're protecting not just each other
But also our loved ones, do consider:
Those two terrified kids up there looking down
From behind the bedroom window glass
I'm trying my darndest here to remain calm and to not frown
Thinking of a broken health system and The Grand Reopening of Texas.

At length, she relented and deigned to stay.
I think my level headed posture saved the day
Somehow the sparkle in my eyes was up to the task
Seeing as my usual smile was hidden by my face mask

But, still, as the signing proceeded there was no small amount of tension
With The Wife, strained and visibly upset, throughout the interaction
I took the pen she offered. The Wife brought out her own.
Ah to be a middleman in this business, I just needed a loan
Refinanced promptly, a house is not a home.

Poised between capital's representative and my lover
It was just a few weeks earlier, if you remember,
That we read about the incident with that bird watcher
Threatened on the nature trail: a tale of two Coopers
But the front of my home is not a park, it's quite a flight of fancy
To have to sit here and appease the whims of Notary Nancy

It was hard to break the ice, I hasten to mention
Quite a struggle to complete this real estate transaction
At times, I must confess, it was touch and go
Gruffly she barked, "Sign with full name and initial any typos"

But where The Wife was getting increasingly alarmed
I was rather focused on turning on the charm

I read the fine print and saw that I could walk away for any reason
"Ma'am, does anyone really go through with this... recission?"
"You'd be surprised, it's your right, that's what you sign on the line"
No wonder the mortgage company has you on speed dial.

The closing ceremony involves notarization and liens
The whole process can make you feel like an illegal alien
15 years a debtor, you harken back to the plight of some ancestors
But it's worth going through this business, they say it builds character
You sign your life away for want of a stamp, it's quite the show
I've packed my bags already, Ma'am, they call them Ghana must go

You had confused me at the outset with that other Ghanaian
You dealt with earlier in the week named Ofosu
What are the odds of this out here in central Texas?
The name's not too common back home, but there are quite a few
Well, I hope that his experience notarizing with you
Was better than mine for, straight out of the gate,
What we've had here was a failure to communicate.

There's a nagging thought at the back of the mind
That perhaps our interaction might have gone much smoother
If only our names had been Chuck and Julia
And looked a lighter shade of brown
But no matter, the deal is done
I'm sure you're happy to leave this open air station
Let's double or triple check to see if any papers were missed.
I had to call The Wife back to clear up a form before we were dismissed

Our rituals are in upheaval
What paradise have we lost?
I wonder if the two percent interest rate
Savings we got were quite worth this cost.

The Wife was done, she couldn't end this business fast enough
Couldn't feign your African nonchalance, she wasn't that tough
She wears her emotions on her sleeve, I feared she'd go beserk
For even with my patience, I'll say you were a piece of work

A historian, though, she was thinking about preserving the moment
And to protect herself in case you later escalated the argument
Thus she took a surreptitious photo to document
And even transcribed my parting comment:

"You know, Ma'am, I find your job quite interesting
I'm curious about how those in your profession do your magic.
I should also add, for the record, something that I bring
To the table: I have a patent disclosure on the digital notary public".

mortgage refinancing home closing with notary public

Soundtrack for this note

A closing ceremony playlist, notarized to make it official. (spotify version)

Previously: America's social studies syllabus teaches some of us mandatory lessons in civility.

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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