THINKING MAKES IT SO

“ . . . for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 

  • Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act2: Scene 2

I have been thinking about this. Now I cannot say whether I am right or wrong but I will say this: This thing is bigger than each of us, but it is not bigger than all of us.  (You may quote me if you wish, just please, spell my name right.)

It is true that this virus is virulent. It travels fast, far and can be long lasting. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it, hear it or taste it. It comes stealthily in the broadest of daylights and the darkest of nights. It does not pick and choose willingly, it drops in randomly. You know, like that old college friend did for years. The one who you could never figure out why he liked you but there he was again, drinking your beer and smoking you pot. The CV is like that. Just dropping in unannounced.   The difference now is that we know that:

  1. He is in town and
  2. We can hide out.

The hiding out part seems to be occupying the minds of quite a few FB posters out there. I know that this all seems scary, yet we have tools to fight a good fight. Of course I refer to the bevy of new songs and videos that encourage us to employ good hygiene. My current favorite, for which you will thank me in the morning:

Basically, the question is not IF we face this thing but more-so HOW we face this thing.  It is in the thinking ABOUT the thing that we must master. Is it bigger than us, or are we bigger than it? And WHEN we survive the question will become: How harshly we judge ourselves will depend on the MANNER in which we survived?

We can fuel our fears with numbers that, and I sincerely promise* you this, are not accurate. OR, we can thoughtfully understand the science behind the situation, develop a plan and then work the plan.

For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Work your routine, stay in touch with your friends, employ good hygiene and take the news with a grain of salt.

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

*Let us look at what we know for sure:

  1. There are not enough kits to test everyone for the virus.
  2. The number of cases reported only represent a selection of the people who have been tested and they do not represent the number of negative test results.
  3. The number of deaths may be accurate but there is no relativity to the number of cases reported for there are many, many more people who will never be tested.
  4. Practicing social distancing and good hygiene and flatten the curve.
  5. Worrying will not change the outcome but your positive approach will: for you.

MAGA

Wait . . . that’s not what I meant.

Those of you who know of Aaron Sorkin will recognize the following line: “America is not the greatest country in the world. That’s my answer.”   In classic Sorkin fashion, Jeff Daniels rants on about what people think is so great about America. “Freedom! . . . Belgium has freedom.”  Halfway through his diatribe he picks on a lonely, young coed who asked what makes America the greatest country on the earth. After listing off that America is only number 1 in three categories: The number of people incarcerated per capita, the number of people who believe in angels, and the first in defense spending. He streams on and finishes his reply with, “ . . . so when you say America is the greatest country on earth, I don’t know what the Fuck you’re talking about . . . Yosemite?”

(https://youtu.be/wTjMqda19wk)

Guess what, Yosemite just dropped down the list. America is number 1 again. But in this case we are number one for a particular reason. I believe that reason is the one that truly makes us a great country. We are a melting pot. We are group of gatherers, a cohort of cultures. We define diversity. Other countries mock us, make fun of our growing pains and the bravado which hides our shyness and shame. They envy both our initiative and abilities. People from around the globe risk their lives daily to come here. They come here to be a part of something great.

The Tangerine man wears a red hat and dances at the end of the grinder’s leash. This is not greatness. This is a distraction. The novelty of his performance is fleeting and the organ grinder’s music has become repetitive, tedious and out of tune.  It is most definitely out of tune with the times, these times, I assure you. Our strength, our very greatness lies in our diversity. It lies in our endurance, in our optimism, and in our faith. Faith that tomorrow the sun will shine. Faith that the skies will be clear and the organ grinder’s monkey will stop dancing.

But faith, most of all, in ourselves. These times are hard, very hard. I live a life alone by my own choosing and even so, I have begun to see the edges of my psyche fray. (Routine, remember your routine Tom.) One part of my routine is to write to you each day. In essence my love letter to you all. My attempt to woo you. This is the thing I do when I am happy or sad, anxious or calm, melancholy or manic. I write. I write to reach out from my loneliness and share who I am. I write that my voice will not be lost. I write to share what I see. It is the closest thing to art that I have to offer.

We, the human race that is, have seen this before. We have seen great times of strife. We have seen death tolls rise by the thousands, tens of thousands, millions even. Yet humanity has survived. This time is interesting though. This time we are not waiting for bombs to drop on us. For each time they drop we can seek shelter underground, and if they miss us, by even just a little, we still survived. Those who did not, never knew it. Each day we wake and are met by hunger. (And an extremely uncomfortable urge to use the facilities.) Our sense of survival kicks in, and other thoughts slip away, however briefly. We begin and make our way through the day. This time there is no air raid siren wo warn us of the bombs. No anti-aircraft barrage to warn us that danger is coming. This one is silent, and the silence makes us fear even more. We fear so much that we physically avoid the ones we love. This separation is hurting us all.

But, and I rarely like to use the word but, but here it is. This time is different. This time we have the internet. This time we can connect. This time we are not alone in our cabins, in the back woods, waiting for the wolf to come to our door. This time we DO have each other. But most importantly we have ourselves. Remember, it is in times like these that the greatest works are born. This is a time to search for and develop your best self. This is the time.

MAGA is a joke. Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) was wrong. We already live in the greatest country on earth. We have the basics: food, shelter, and friends. But we also have opportunity. A thing that most nations do not, not in the way we have it. Now is the time to seize that opportunity. Tom Hanks uses a typewriter. Liberty Pierson made a You Tube video to teach us how to draw a self-portrait. (https://youtu.be/c2nq4zTsdjY)  Peter Brooks, as brilliantly insane as he is, is giving us Love In The Time of Covid, a podcast. (https://anchor.fm/peter108/episodes/Love-in-the-Time-of-Covid-319-ebmkvr)  Nicole Hodge is working tirelessly to make sure that we all have amazing, and inspiring food. (https://www.leagueofchefs.com/)

Now. Right now is a time of greatness. Right now, is the time for each of us to be great . . . and to share it.

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

DUMMY, DUMB, DARWIN

Now, I warrant you that I am by no means the smartest person on the Internet. I am, by-no-means, the smartest person in Vallejo. I would never ever refer to myself as the smartest person in the room when sitting with my friends . . . or  even alone with my dogs.  I self-describe as Okay-smart.  I have enough smarts to wake up, make coffee, get myself showered and dressed, and basically . . . get along.

I just read the title to an article in the news: Preacher Says OK To 1000 People To Come To Church.

 Let us let that one sit for a moment.

It is said that ignorance is bliss. Okay, I will buy that. As I have commented before, the more I read the more fatalistic I can become. I literally can get headaches sometimes thinking about all the . . . stupid stuff that is going on. It should not be this way. Research, study, intelligence should be rewarded with bliss, and . . . well . . . stupid should hurt. I mean it hurts when you touch a hot stove, right?  Should there not be a similar response to stupid?

If you have found some offense to your religious beliefs in what I have just written, I sincerely apologize. I do ask a small favor of you: Please read about Intelligent Design and get back to me. The Laws of Physics were written by someone.

Let us look at this again: 1000 People, crunched all together, singing hymns and bringing in the sheaves, positively rejoicing. May God protect them.  Here is where Darwin got himself in trouble with the fundamentalists. (Now feel free to chime in, in the comments section, if I misplace a comma, period or fact in this next statement.) His book, The Voyage of the Beagle, simply records his observations and theories about evolution. (Read Science here.) There was so much backlash, upon his presenting his findings, that he was forced to recant or be excommunicated from society. (Again, correct me in the comments if I got this wrong.) One thing that I look forward to every year are the Darwin Awards. A version of which may be found here: https://darwinawards.com/.  This website has a summation of things gone stupidly wrong, year by year. 

I get that worshipping together may be a very powerful communal experience, and being only okay-smart, I am unsure of the existence of a divine being. That being said, please remember what Matthew said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Take care of them, and yourself, by . . . thinking.  One award you really do not want to win is: The Darwin.

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

ROUTINE IS EXISTENTIAL

In sailing terms, the Point of Departure is not the port from which you set sail. It is the last sight of land you see as you head into the open ocean. This is significant in that, prior to this moment one would sail along the coast, or land, as a reference. In times of trouble you could always turn in to, or away from, land as you needed. Once out to sea that no longer became an option.

At home, alone, we find ourselves similarly placed as if we were in a boat at sea. At sea, all that you have is the boat and your shipmates. At home, it is the same. Some, like me, sail with their furry companions. Others sail solo, and not from their own accord. This time, I feel, is hardest for them. During my social hour, I mean when I scroll through Facebook to see the latest culinary creation or to watch the Governor’s address, I happen upon those few messages-in-a-bottle. Those conscious attempts to connect to someone, anyone. Some of our friends are having a tough time navigating this ocean alone.

Please, if you are reading this, I promise you have not reached the Point of Departure. Land is, your friends are, still in sight. We are all here. You can reach us by Facebook, by text, or even a call. Sailors at sea take great joy in greeting passing ships. Whether by flag or by radio, they reach out and share the news they know. This should be us too. We should take the extra minute to reach out to those whom we know. Maybe, especially those we do not touch base with too often.

Sailors, who must constantly fight the boredom of the sea, rely on one very important thing to keep their minds distracted. That thing is routine. While we complain about work, the routine of getting up every day, getting the household ready, and pushing ourselves out the door to work is part of what saves us. British sailors would holystone the oak decks of their ships, basically sanding them with soft stones, to keep them clean and white. This was done as much to keep the crew occupied as it was to prevent splinters.

I read a story about an artist who finally had enough time to commit himself to his passion full time. He cleaned out a room of all the junk, took down everything from the walls and painted the entire room white in preparation to create great new works. You might imagine what happened. He was not able to create anything that satisfied him. It turns out that our creative minds crave inspiration and we find it in every day experiences. He filled his walls, and room, with all of his favorite art. Immediately he felt more creative.  Even in the blankness of this unknown, we can fill our rooms.

I cannot offer much more than these last few words but I hope that you might find something in them.

  • Develop a routine: Be it coffee on the deck at the same time every morning, reading for an hour day, doing all the dishes, etc.
  • Seek inspiration: Share your work for others to see, tell your story on FB, and look to others who will share with you.

As with all things, this too will pass.  Look to yourselves and to your friends and family.

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID

The talk on the street . . . sorry, from across the street in this time of social distancing, is that they say that another baby boom will come of all this. (No pun, just punny.) How many will compete for the title of first Covid Baby of 2021, I wonder?  All cooped up and left to our own devices, this may very well be a thing. Babies born, just for the fun of it. If this does not “jump start” our economy, nothing will. (Okay, I meant that one.)

For myself, I am going to lie to you and tell you that a cup of coffee, a good book, a bit of work, a walk with the dogs, a sip of wine and a good meal will suffice. What to do with the remaining 23 hours? Sleep, I am good for a solid 8. Okay, down to 15. Work, the get a full 8. Only 7 hours left. 1 Amazon movie, a movie FROM Amazon, not about Amazons . . . that is unless, you have a recommendation. 5 hours left. A bit of manic cleaning. 4 hours. Some-time in the Garden. 3 hours. Throw the ball for the dogs. 2 hours, 45. Hmm, starting to get dicey here. Laundry! Sweet! Got it down to 2 hours.

Question: What did I use to do when I had a free 2 hours?  Hmmm . . . . Well I would hang out with friends . . . or A friend. Hmm . . . Social Distancing (does not equal) time with just A friend.  So much for love in the time of Covid. Sure I can text, or Zoom, or even old school a call but . . . not the same. The early days of AOL are gone and there-in-lies-little-appeal for me.

I wish there was a test to see if you had already contracted the virus or not.  One that proved whether your immune system was fending off that little spik-ed devil. Then, those of us who had “Immunity” could selectively gather for less-than-legal social distancing. But alas, any such forethought about pandemics was tRumped some years ago. Other than the fact that they could be spreading death by the thousands, does anyone really blame the Spring Breakers? I mean, kids will be kids right?  Alright, okay, I hear you. No really!  I get it! . . . sorry.

What to do, what to do, what to do?

(At this point I would write a line or two of lyrics from I Drink Alone by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Oh well, what the heck.)

The other day I got invited to a party,

But I staaayyed home instead.

Just me and my pal Johnny Walker,

And his brothers: Blackie and Red,

And we drank aloooneeee

(Sorry Johnny, writing about you was bound to happen sooner or later. But you knew that, didn’t you?  The whole song can be heard here on You Tube: https://youtu.be/lpzqQst-Sg8)

I have had a drink or two with Johnny. I know him to be a very nice man who does amazing things for our community. A distant, virtual, cocktail toast to you my friend.

Wait, there is one more thing to do. But . . . it will only take about 5 minutes. Hardly worth the time. Except if you like to out and out laugh. What I am referring to is a plucky new podcast by our own, insanely, talented Peter Brooks.  Love In The Time of Covid. Which can be found here: https://anchor.fm/peter108/episodes/Love-in-the-Time-of-Covid-319-ebmkvr/a-a1ns38r

Last night I all but spit out my milk listening to this. Peter Brooks, for those who do not know, is the man who saved us from Orcem. I guess knocking about for the last few months, with no windmills for-which-to-tilt, Peter has decided to unlock a corner of his imagination oft left for the cat or other lone companions. 

Peter, I thank you, you made me laugh out loud. Looking forward to future installments From Downtown Vallejo, It’s Love in the Time of Covid. (Oh, could you please repeat that Gin and milk recipe please?)

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

MOVING FORWARD

I remember going to a dinner party, some years ago now, where the host asked me how I was doing.  I told her that I was not feeling too optimistic about the future. I began to cite the futility of life as we know it, etc. She asked why I felt this way. I responded, “The more I read, the more fatalistic I become.”

“Whatever you are reading, you should stop!” she pleasantly replied. The remainder of the dinner party went off without a hitch.

I cannot say enough about Kathy, Shannon, and Angie O’Hare. They have done, as they always do, set out to keep us entertained with both back, and down, stage entertainment. Last night I was thrilled to stumble upon their brand new You Tube channel.

(https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcbLWK_GxxUY3jLs1viayYg)

Charming as always, led by the forever social Angie, the couple invited me into their home, via You Tube, and shared some of the inner workings of Obtanium Works. For those not-in-the-know, Obtanium is roughly defined as . . . well . . . junk.  But not junk. Somebody else’s junk that the masterful O’Hares turn into ART. Yes capital letter ART.  Little or nothing is purchased, so I am told, so everything that gets used has been remediated, recycled and renewed. The 3 R’s of a happy planet.  I won’t share any more but I do advise checking out there You Tube channel and subscribing for updates. In truth, it may be some time until we are all able to gather on Georgia Street again to watch the fire breathing dragons. So get it while it’s hot!

It feels like our new normal is starting to really kick in.  More cases of COVID-19 are expected so the Federal Government is sending to us, here in California, temporary hospitals with extra beds and tons of supplies. The President has also authorized National Guard Troops to assist here as well. Of course they will remain under the Governor’s control.  (Is anyone else just a little nervous that Federal National Guard troops are going to heavily Democratic States, or is it just me?)

I also noticed something else and I am wondering if you have too.  There are 7 stages of grief, and I think that I am in the middle of them right now.  Let’s look together and you tell me if this fits for you as well.

(The following is copied from https://www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html )

  • SHOCK & DENIAL-
    You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

I was definitely is Shock when I first heard about the Shelter in Place orders.

  • PAIN & GUILT-
    As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

    You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

If you read my weekend posts then you know I was surely feeling Pain & Guilt.

  • ANGER & BARGAINING-
    Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. 

    You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)

Bargaining is the way I make it through life. I did that too, with my Social Distance Driveway Cocktail gatherings.

  • “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
    Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

    During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

Thankfully, my writing to you every day has mitigated some of the depression. Loneliness, even though I am happy at home, is starting to become a thing.

  • THE UPWARD TURN-
    As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.

With the O’Hare’s example. Let us all find the tools, the ones that each of us already has, and create something beautiful to share, with the Obtanium Opportunity with which we have all been provided.

  • RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
    As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

Now here we go, it is time to work through. We have local businesses that are coming up with amazingly creative ways to keep us fed and entertained. Here’s a link to a list of some local businesses. Let’s spend our money here, in Vallejo.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T1nQ3G8pEVqdux_q1r2cIvX4KOtGjiCYl-maQx6EbjU/edit?fbclid=IwAR1lo0zGju9rThu39NTMqo3AnPopK6VHu9MG9GM4BIOk0i1XdUd7tzwSmpY

  • ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
    During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

    You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.

    You have made it through the 7 stages of grief.

We all need to stay informed. We all need to enlist best practices when it comes Sheltering in Place and to do our part to Flatten the curve.  In a speech in Cape Town in June 1966, Robert Kennedy said: There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times. ‘ Like it or not we live in interesting times.

My question to you: So what are you going to do about it?

I’m going to write. The O’Hare’s will Vlog.  Your turn . . .

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

MY DOG’S WHOLE LIFE

 . . . is in quarantine.

I have 2 dogs. Both German Shepherds.

I had had two dogs before these. A white German Shepherd mix and Wally: three parts long and one part tall. My first dog came to me when I lived in a converted warehouse in Oakland. It was the 4th of July in the year 2000. My neighbor and I were assembling a new barbecue so that we might burn-some-beef and visit with our other neighbors. As we were kneeling down set in our work, this sweet, little, skinny girl walked up and pressed herself against me. True, I had put out some food and water for her the day before. You see, where I use to live in Oakland was about 2 blocks away from the old pound. The old pound used to have lockers outside where one would take animals after hours and leave them for the staff to collect the next morning. The old pound moved and the lockers were welded shut. I am sure that many people did not know that this pound had shuttered and suspect that they just dumped their animals on the street since I had seen many strays in the neighborhood before.

So the day before I put out food and water, since I had seen her wandering two days in a row now. She was a bit skittish and would run away when I approached her. So I left the food, outside by the fence and went about my worldly ways. The next day, when the gate was open, she walked up to us and pressed herself against me. For the next few years she rarely left my side. When I moved to Vallejo she loved the open grass of the yard and this soon became our new home. Shortly after we moved in, I noticed that she was becoming more withdrawn. Some days she would wrap her paws around my leg when I was heading out the door for work. I never had a dog before but suspected she was becoming very bored. I was married at the time and I said to my wife, “It’s time for another dog.”  She said little perhaps assuming that the burden of care would be hers. The next day I came home and she handed me one of those little advertising magazines.  You know the ones that come to your door once a month full of dry cleaners and new windows for you home advertisements. In it was a picture of Wally. This happy-go-lucky, brown faced, smiling dog.

That weekend we went to Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF.)  We asked about the dog in the magazine and were pointed to an observation room around the corner. We walked up to see a sea of dogs running, jumping and falling all over each other. In the middle of this puppy mosh pit was Wally.  He was happy, chasing his tail and the tails of others. My wife and I looked at each other and asked, “Where are his legs?” He was short. Super short. But amazing. Pound for pound probably the best dog ever.  It took no time at all for my girl and Wally to be best friends. I can still feel the joy I experienced the first time I looked out the kitchen window and saw them chasing each other. Instant fast friends.

Some years later, after my wife and I split up, my old girl passed away. 14 years, long time for a big dog.  Wally was older too but he stepped right up and we kept each other company. Then it happened. Wally grabbed my leg one day before I left for work. Uh-oh. That night I start to put out feelers.   In hindsight, for Wally’s sake, perhaps I should have gotten an older dog. One closer to his age. But there came along  this puppy who needed a home. I took my girlfriend, her dog and Wally to meet him. He was only a few months old. The whole gang got along from the start. The next thing I knew, I was the father of this weet little thing. Wally did like to play but as it turned out the puppy had way too much energy from him. Wally’s mood did improve but rather than being the smiling happy dog he settled quietly into curmudgeonly old age. Kinda. The puppy would love to chase the ball inside the house. Wally would lie on the edge of living room while I would toss the ball for the young upstart. The puppy would chase and Wally would snore. Occasionally the ball would land somewhere near Wally. The puppy would approach and Wally would raise one lip give the youngster his alien face.  The closer the ball landed, and the puppy drawn in with it, the intensity of the alien face grew and more of a growl rolled forth. One time I caught Wally doing this and said something, he just turned his head, wagged his tail and smiled at me with a knowing smile. Wally was just messing with the puppy. An old man’s game.

Wally passed and before my puppy boy, now 3 years old, could grab my leg when I left the house, I began the search for another companion. Having become more familiar with the Humane Society of the North Bay, I decided that a shelter dog was the way to go. I called to see if they had any female Shepherds and they did. A poor girl who was just distraught. My puppy and poor girl seemed to get along fine in the get-to-know-you pen. No great love, but no great dislike either. She was distracted but would play chase the ball with us. This one was going to be work but puppy and I were all in.

An anxious urinater, scared of everything new around her, the puppy and I set about making her comfortable. After the pain of her spaying had worn off, new girl was feeling her oats. I was saddened by the fact that she had not taken to the puppy the way Wally had to my old girl. She was jealous and aggressive and nipped puppy boy more than a few times. 2 years of constant love, consistent training and moderate discipline, a steady meal source, plenty of walks and lots of ball throwing later, she has become a very good dog. I will never know why someone would throw away a perfectly good dog. The long and the short of it is, they play, a little, right after meal time when they both have full bellies. They are committed to each other but do not share the same bond as my previous two. I sometimes thinks it is my fault, but then I remember that the world is much bigger than me, so I just do what I can.

Puppy boy is very social and is prone to running off to greet new people. In doing so he is apt to not heed my command to return. We have worked on this and he is better. Yesterday I was sharing gardening supplies with my neighbor and the puppy followed the neighbor out the gate. Puppy was so happy to see another dog, their dog, that he immediately got the zoomies. I laughed as I watched him express pure joy running up and down the street and through both of our yards. I turned my back to let him play. He was happy, so was I. A few moments later I go to call him in and he is gone.  Just up the street it turns out. Off to visit someone else, with their dog, out for a walk.

My dog’s whole life is in quarantine. We walk, almost every day and sometimes twice if the weather is on our side. They both like Wardlaw to chase their balls, but Wardlaw is closed.  Today, puppy barely came to get breakfast. It seems one minute of freedom versus a lifetime of lockdown has saddened my baby boy. Today, we find open fields. Ticks or no ticks. Today we break out.

Until tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

MY HEART HURTS

Today will be a manic day of spring cleaning. I live alone, all by myself. (Actually, there are 2 German Shepherds here whose rations I have reduced and are an extra bit hungry. Just an FYI in case you fancy my frozen burritos or can of Clam Chowder.)  Living alone means putting off those little chores, because I mean, who cares really? My dogs do not care. I drink coffee, read, surf the net and sleep. What do I care? I will share with you that I am house embarrassed. 4 years ago now I had life threatening heart event. I spent 3 days in ICU and the remainder of 2 weeks bedbound in the hospital. The fear of death gripped me. It changed my perspective and altered the way I behaved in the world.  The effect of that year has mostly subsided with one great exception: my house. It is not suitable for company. So, follow along here, in a twisted form of logic, I will spend the day dusting, scrubbing, mopping, organizing and in every other way . . . make my home ready for guests. (Permission to laugh out loud.)

I have been accused of solving problems that do not exist. I cannot seem to help myself, I am burdened with at least 6 separate voices in my head. The old story about which is the strongest wolf? The one you feed of course. Well, my voices will feed themselves, or sometimes on themselves. True, if I meditate, I including reading as meditation, the insight I gain may perhaps quiet one, while feeding another. If I succumb to the tiresome temptations of ego and vanity; the overly bloated, fat one will whine and spit; while the angry 3 year old disgorges the patently unapproved Webster dictionary at his object of disaffection. With humble honesty, I cannot even proclaim perfection in my sleep for I snore, loudly, even before my eyes close. While I love my dogs, that too is not limitless. Coincidently, their favorite person is my favorite person. While I find them to be obnoxious, slobbering, never-take-a-day-off mess makers, I relish looking into their eyes every morning and, in that moment, commit for one-more-day, to be the man they believe me to be.

But today my heart hurts. I was born to a pale shade of life. My burdens rise entirely from my inability to read social cues. (Another voice in my head sometimes tells me that, ‘Tom, you actually do see the social cues, it’s just that the rest of us in here think they are shit.’) I had the good fortune to learn at a time when education was better funded. My mind was bent (Permission to laugh here as well.) towards those things mechanical.  With a fair grasp of the basic laws of physics I pushed forth into the world and fed myself well enough to become 30 pounds over-weight. (This last point was intentionally made to impress the ladies so that when they do notice my girth, they will see me as a good provider, dad-bod and all.)  Where the hurt comes in is in the knowledge that we have neighbors who do not have homes, whose pets are always on short rations, and who will most-likely succumb to the worst effects of any social disorder that you and I weather with a precocious glass of Grenache.

At best, their conditions are awful. I dare not speculate as to the rest. Far too many of us already socially distance ourselves from the Great Unwashed. In our minds stream visions of hobos riding the rails looking for work. “There’s work to be found!” my judgmental, pale voice cries out.  (Just for fun he said, Get a job.) “Not so.” Dog Man quietly shares. What really ever happened to, and please pardon my Western references here, the lessons we learned as children: The Good Samaritan; The Prodigal Son; and none-the-least, “What so ever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”

For the last decade or so, when I travel, and people ask me where I am from I say California. Governor Newsom correctly called CA a Nation State. We are larger than many countries and boast of the 5th largest economy in the world. With whatever grace we are blessed with I am proud to say, recently, that the State has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to address the plight of homelessness.  It is a start.  Here is where our part, the Dog People’s part, comes in. We need to put our minds together and solve this problem that does exist.

Aside: Quick question – What is unarguably the best part of an argument? . . . The other side.  I share this one thing with you all. None of us, not a single solitary soul, can make a wise decision in a vacuum. Each decision requires relativity. To a point, we must understand as much as possible by learning the other side(s) of the argument. From that, create a working plan. And when that planned path does not follow the trail? We adjust the plan.

Those most vulnerable of us will suffer this time harder than . . .  well, us. Already distant in our society, only those truly committed will brave proximity but then, only from a distance. 

For now, look to yourselves, in this time of quarantine. Reach to your friends and look to make yourselves whole. Very soon, sooner that you might imagine, we must each find that Dog Person within us. For we have so many problems to solve. So feed that part of you now. Send the child and the pale faced putz, to their rooms.  Use the tools that you have available to you right now and lend your voice to help solve crisis of humanity.

Until tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

SOME ZOMBIES CAN RUN

I am taken by the absence of sound when I walk out my door.  Each day is beginning to feel like an early summer, Sunday morning where the whole world is sleeping in and planning on attending the later noon service. Walking my dogs, I wave at a neighbor I have never met and we share stories across an empty street.  The air is amazingly fresh and clean. Honestly the only time I have ever experienced this was after a weeklong rain storm when every atom of the sky was scrubbed clean and the filth that had spewn forth from our factories, our cars, and our mouths was unceremoniously, and literally, washed-down-the-drain.

I love seeing Facebook actually work, in the way that I hope it was designed.  A forum of conversation and sharing for friends old and new.  My mouth waters at the sight of Tommy Bilbo’s Velvet Scrambled Eggs, and laugh come cocktail hour when friends gather for a virtual Quarantini! What I find palpable, in my perusal of personal posts, is the noted absence of stress. What I do not detect is any sense of resignation. No, what I sense is . . . relief. A widespread, anti-panic. (TP hoarders aside.)

Happy news! The dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice whose waters have become clear again with the absence of motorboats stirring up the silt.  In other happy news, the air quality in China has improved drastically. Some say up to a 25% reduction in carbon emissions.  Here in California we do maintain the strictest air quality standards in the US, and perhaps the world, and again I marvel at how clear each day has become.

The working from home thing has been a bit of a challenge for some companies as they scramble to purchase laptops for all of their employees. Question to business owners: Now that you have invested in so many laptops, why not keep them working? That is to say, why not have a more intensive work from home policy? America, for the most part now, is an information driven society. I was thinking about this last night as I sipped a simple, yet precocious Grenache; enjoyed with my 3 egg omelet filled with homegrown asparagus, tender avocados, onion garlic, basil and cheddar; and realized that in the past  economy of resources has driven us to congregate for work, and work related activities. Discounting for just a moment the obvious social benefits of seeing other people every day, the stark reality is that; when we were a manufacturing based society, raising cathedrals, milling lumber and spewing coal smoke, from the steam engines driving the Dickensian industrial age; the work was only ever in that one location.  Now, with computers, high speed internet and video conferencing, much of America’s work can be done from home.

But Tom! What about employee productivity? How will we ever really know if someone is working or not, since they are not in the office producing their TPS reports right in front of me? Well my goodness, it looks like managers just might have to be a little more creative about how they train, manage, measure and verify productivity, won’t they? No more walking around the office holding a narcissistic coffee cup emblazoned with the WORLD’S BEST BOSS!!  No managers will actually have to use their heads and develop ways of monitoring the quality and quantity of a person’s output.  That being said, let’s look at the other side of the ledger for a minute. If fewer people are congregating at one location, then that location does not need to be so large. Smaller office = less rent. And if fewer people are commuting to work, then fewer carbon emissions will be emitted into our atmosphere. Fewer commuter miles = lessened vehicle costs and time lost in traffic. And if I am correct in my observation that stress levels have dropped, well then, the general quality of life has improved for almost everyone. Crazy! It did not take First Contact with the Vulcans to come to the realization that we are killing our planet and ourselves. No, it took our weakened planet, trying to rid herself of infection, to show us the way to save us all.

My fear, same as yours. I cannot even bring myself to write it.

In the mean time I will enjoy the quiet and revel in the tales of friends who have driven to the City in under 30 minutes passing only the lonely security guard on their way.

Until tomorrow, please remember to shop local. Visit Vallejo has posted a list of local businesses that are still open and ready to serve you.  Shawna Gilroy at the Times Herald has offered a special advertising rate so that you may reach a broader audience. sgilroy@tmesheraldonline.com

Tommy Judt

p.s. Also, please be careful out there, where the streets are quiet, and no one can hear you scream. The dead may just be coming back to life . . . and . . . Zombies do run.

AY CORONA!

WAIT . . . STOP . . . BREATHE . . .

The last few weeks has given us so much to think about. One important lesson that I see is that of Social Responsibility combined with Enlightened Self Interest.

“O.M.G. Tom!!  Why are you talking about Enlightened Self Interest when the Shop-ocolypse is here!?”  “Hold this, I see stray roll of TP under that cart.”

It is not my intent to minimize the realities or impacts of the Corona Virus. Quite the opposite. What I would like to talk about are the larger things to be learned here: Cooperation, Community Support and the proper understanding of the information being provided.  Basically I believe that this is an opportune time to reexamine our social priorities as they relate to our individual qualities of life. A friend, as recently as last week, cautioned me on not engaging in Social-Engineering considering the impacts of CoVid19. I scoffed, what better time I quipped . . . to myself.

Predictions:

  1. Employers will begin to measure productivity with different means.
  2. Employers will begin to question the reasoning behind owning large office spaces that concentrate employees.
  3. The lessened impact of working commute traffic on our environment will become a major topic in the months to come. (Both air and car.)
  4. Employee concentrations, being decentralized, will give rise to the success of local businesses, especially cafes, as Work From Home employees seek social engagement and something other than frozen burritos and peanut butter sandwiches to eat. (My end-of-times menu.)
  5. Local gathering places will thrive as workers venture out in the evenings to connect socially with their neighbors.
  6. Fuel prices will drop with lessened demand.
  7. The race to provide high speed internet to all houses will be a frantic one.

Yesterday I did something that I have not done in some time. I purchased a cart full of groceries. (Currently I have an appropriate amount of TP and learned some time ago how to keep myself clean.)  That being said, I also went down to Moschetti’s and purchased my coffee. Fabrice, as always, happily engaged me in conversation and shared with me the effect that the restaurant and hotel closures are having on his business. In the middle of this conversation he stopped, looked at me with concern and asked, how is Nicole at Provisions doing?  I am so glad Fabrice is my neighbor. I went back and purchased another pound because I could. We often times do not realize the domino effect that something like this has on our community until it is too late.

I only have one small voice with which to share these stories. The State of California has asked all restaurants to close, except for to-go service. I know that this will affect both Fabrice and Nicole, our neighbors. While this is a small part of his business, Fabrice does have an online store where you can purchase coffee for yourself or to send as a gift. He is also selling e-gift cards for his café.  https://moschetti-online.square.site/         E-Gift Cards Moschetti

Nicole at Provisions was working late into the night yesterday trying hard, as always, to provide for her neighbors. She has to close to public gatherings BUT is offering her amazing food to-go. She also has e-gift cards available. Click here to see her menu:  https://www.leagueofchefs.com/           E-Gift Card Provisions

If you seriously want to know what you can do during this unprecedented time, then I will tell you. Shop Local. Shop online at Haute Dawgs, email your book orders to Alibi Books, and buy gift cards and food to-go from your local shopkeeper. If you want our community to thrive through this, here is the Enlightened Self Interest part, then Shop Local. Look out for your favorite vendor and boost them to all of us on social media. Share their stories and spend your dollars here.

Sincerely,

Tommy Judt

p.s. Advice for moving around in the world.

  1. The best thing that you can do is use single use towels when touching doorknobs, common telephones or surfaces. These could be wipes, or pieces of paper towels, or if you carry a properly mixed spray disinfectant, spray then wipe.
  2. If you keep your keep your hands clean and do not touch any other surfaces you can touch your own face. To repeat: If your hands are clean you can touch your own face, just do no touch any other surface as you may share your germs there.