The last few leaves from a tall maple outside my windows were cascading to the ground on a rainy, windswept, October day. I was learning to transfer myself, unassisted, from my bed to a wheelchair. Someday, I might be able to stand up again, and learn to use a walker. The staff nurse brought in a box wrapped in silvery blue foil, adorned with a wide, navy colored, metallic ribbon, tied in a bow, a present from my biker buddies. It was my birthday, and I was confined to a hospital bed on the 4th floor of a building that overlooked Pearl Street in Burlington, Vermont. COVID prohibited personal visits, so I unwrapped the box alone, and found it to contain a new Dell laptop. But that new machine connected me with the entire world.
A year later, I ran a mile on a Sole E35 Elliptical trainer, and joined the middle class by purchasing a membership to Costco—then, I walked around the massive warehouse store for a few hours pushing one of their standard, over-sized shopping carts. I wore a black mask and was observing the other shoppers with much more interest than I paid to the myriad aisles of merchandise. I came to buy a set of Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 snow tires. COVID was causing a nationwide tire shortage and I wanted to be prepared for the forthcoming Vermont winter.
A mighty squall was slatting the warehouse with driving rain, yet inside the shoppers were collecting mass quantities of essential items. I ate a $1.99 slice of cheese pizza and watched the same Filipino threesome that I had repeatedly seen in the last hour, seeming to echo me once again, seated at the next table, their round faces chewing similar slices. What was the significance of this coincidence? An hour ago, I was selecting shoes while the mother and grandmom helped their rotund teenaged son to do the same. A hundred yards away and forty-five minutes later, we met in the food aisle. Now, we were sitting at separate tables in the silent cafeteria, shopping done.
Is there something else that lies beneath the skin of what we see and experience, something that lies beneath the reality we take for granted? I had recently become a TikTok-aholic, a compulsive witness to the extreme socialization of disruptive behavior that is eating away at the fundamental constructs of “normal.” In the not too distant past, modesty was the norm. Now, assaulting modesty with a vengeance has become the new normal. Greed was once considered a vice. Now greed is just a way of life. Making war was once an irregular exception. Now, just war is endless and normalized.
I drew a random card and began to write…
Change strikes the Tower with a bolt of lightning, sudden and unexpected. Otherwise, it moves slow and steady like rust, like fermentation, or rehabilitation, the growth and decay of living organisms. Words tumble into a virtual page. “I missed my garden, the smoke and fire-making, the wet leaves, the shortening of sunlit days. I wait in a cocoon, safe, well-fed, and protected while outside, the homeless huddle on the sidewalks like clumps of trash.”
The Tower is collapsing, illusions swept away like clouds that pass to reveal a mountain that was always there. Either we never knew or forgot when last we had seen its hard granite face. Perhaps some simply knew the mountain was there all along and preferred to ignore it or pretend not to believe in mountains. Selection is the process by which we construct beliefs, the magazines and media we subscribe to, the voices we follow. Some choose religion, others observe sports. I buy Poetry Magazine and seek my news in a spoonful of daily aphorisms: “If you leave things in the same place long enough, they become invisible.”
Yes, there is a Heaven. Everyone goes there in the end because ignorance is the Hell wherein we dwell. Enlightenment, remains a sweet enticement to move in a graceful and heavenly manner. Concentration and visualization keeps my eyes on the prize. Now, I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. When I awake I want it back, my soul, my choice, my freedom to speak.
And then Came Omicron…
According to Greek mythology, Omicron was a Greek God who was unhappy when people lived in peace, working harmoniously together to maximize their collective well-being and happiness. That shady fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet that now follows delta, is a hurricane in the Bermuda triangle. Alpha, beta, gamma, the proverbial law of three that spawned the 4th in the shape of a triangle, delta. Then, in walks epsilon, just arrived from Pakistan. Scientists say epsilon was born in Southern California. Scientism says, “Get a shot or be shunned,” and withered old Chomsky nods in agreement. Enforce new rules, isolate non-believers.
We hold these truths to be self evident. There’s a mindless man who pretends to be president. Wear a mask and get a poke but epsilon laughs at this sad, new joke. He, she, it, or they are vaccine resistant so they say. Endemic or pandemic, who’s to profit? Scandinavia decides to simply drop it. St. Fauci is caught killing 44 puppies in Tunisia, his lies about Wuhan revealed. Gain of function in a mad, mad world wherein truth sneaks in by way of the back door, daily discredited as conspiracy theory. The mask rips off, the sounds of a cackle, the Joker grins in the faces of the faithful.
Cruel and unusual punishment to be a captive beagle, injected and force-fed with experimental drugs, only to have sand flies eat your furry head. It’s the ritual of worship that we call science, an experiment costing $1.4 million tax-paid dollars. Who’s the lab rat in this class photo? Tim, the robot-building freshman with the bow tie? Or Nellie the TikTok tit-shaker? We’re all rodents running in a maze, seeking the cheese in a toxic haze. Push those carts stacked with essentials and turn a blind eye away from elementals. The rain falls on bottom-rung encampments where residential hangers-on are hung, while their last ditch canvas-pitched homes, a room with a view of the well-off few, gets bull-dozed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, a mindless man pretends to be president. And what about those UFOs? Another lie or so it was told. There’s no such thing as a UFO, and therein truth twists slowly at the end of a rope hung high on Gallows Hill.
“What will you be this Halloween?” he asks the quirky trans queen.
“I’ll be a man,” she chuckles. “Let’s go Brandon.”