Oct 16, 2020

TEN THINGS - the list


1 - About seven months of sheltering at home as I write this; it probably isn't much different for you than it is for me. Sometimes boredom, sometimes depression, maybe a little despair here and there, or a minor breakdown. And also some occasional disorientation. Is it Thursday? Again? Already? How can that be? Is it really October? How can that be? Time doesn't feel exactly the same to me anymore. Maybe it time was never real anyway. An illusion, a non-reality.

2 - I have found a TV channel that shows old Westerns, both movies and TV shows, and I have become somewhat obsessed by the incredible amount of racism in that programming. White guys playing Latinx people and Indigenous people, in dark make-up, speaking in ridiculous accents. The stereotyped personalities for the various races, the stereotyped names. Johnny West. Running Bear. Paco. The woman, Belle or Mollie, who always needs to be saved. The gunfighter who is just isn't allowed to 'hang 'em up' forever because 'some kid is always gunning for him.' The sheriff who lives by a code.

3 - I've been dealing with depression since I was a child. For most of my life, that meant just not dealing with it at all, and being depressed, with the occasional swings the other way, being ridiculously 'up.' From my thirties to my early fifties I was in counseling, and that helped a little. I was still dealing with depression, but I wasn't screwing up and doing stupid things because of it. At sixty, our youngest child, then 25, died from congestive heart failure due to drug abuse. From that point on I was taking a daily antidepressant. I had also been meditating for about a year at that point, and I still do. I wish I could tell you I was 'fixed,' but it doesn't work that way. I'm a little better, and the grief didn't drive me to suicide. How's that for living?

4 - Fascism and racism are either growing by leaps and bounds or coming out hiding at increasing rate, one or the other. It's everywhere. White men with guns who claim patriotism is why they oppose the People Of Color who refuse to accept any more injustice. Police who seem to be able to murder Black Americans with impunity. "But he had a record!" the white people say, as if that justifies an execution without a trial, without an arrest, without Miranda rights. Federal and state governments are doing everything they can to smash the voting rights of anyone who isn't a Republican, especially People Of Color, even closing polling places in a country of over 300,000,000 people.

5 - The coronavirus pandemic is again growing and months into this the federal government still hasn't even bothered to put together a plan to fight it. Over 200,000 dead in this country as I write this. The emergency rooms again filling up as we ease into the cold and flu season, when any cough or sneeze might further the infection rate. A President who lies about it, day after day, month after month.

6 - My wife and I, after decades of not playing games, now daily play cards, Monopoly, Jenga, etc. I find myself getting irritated if something interferes with game time. How long, I wonder, until we sink into video games like teenagers?

7 - My Dad abandoned us when I was seven. He left my sister, my mother, and me in a bus station in a strange city to shack with a barroom pick-up. A relative took us in, thank goodness, but it was hard, and I didn't really understand what was happening. That is, I knew he was gone, and where he went, but I couldn't figure out why. I didn't see him at all for two years. Not a card, not a call. I used to pray at night, in bed, to die. I would pray for Jesus to come and get me, take me to heaven. Yeah. I lost a lot of faith in Jesus at seven. What? Heaven didn't have room for one small kid? Maybe the depression started then. My memory for that era isn't that clear. I do remember that bus station, though. I can see it clear as day.

8 - I am the Poet Laureate for the city where I live, and I have no idea what to do with that. It's a pandemic; what can I do? Zoom readings? Ugh. I am writing and editing more than ever. I must have over thirty coronavirus poems, and maybe eight thousand poems in total. The idea of counting them is rather depressing, and I am depressed enough already.

9 - With Dad gone, Mom got violent. She had always spanked the hell out of us, afterward crying and saying that we made her do it, but with Dad gone, it was belts and hairbrushes and spatulas, not her hand. It was hard slaps across the face for great offences like eating with an elbow on the table. In my forties, with Dad long dead, I confronted her about it. She denied it totally. She said I got away with murder. Both parents are dead now. I do love them, but I do not miss them. Not ever. My wife and I never struck our kids. No spanking.

10 - As soon as I was old enough to leave I began to move around a lot. I lived in different cities, sometimes hitch-hiking across country, sometimes taking the bus, sometimes I had a beat up car (my cars are always beat up) and just drove. I lived in my hometown, Baltimore three or four times, several places around Texas, Dallas often, New Orleans, and several times in San Francisco, which was always my favorite. Sometimes I would stay someplace a year, but usually it was far less. After I married in San Francisco, my second marriage in all this, we settled in the Sacramento area, and we still live just outside of Sacramento in Davis. Before Davis, I liked a lot of places, loved a couple, but never truly felt at home. Davis my home. We're coming up on twenty-five years here. We raised kids here, lost one here, grew old here. I'm sure it end here for us. Of course, with the pandemic, that's a real possibility.


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