Posts By The Wombat

Still Editing

I’m still editing.

Editting? Meh, I’ll have to fix that on the rewrite.

I may have used that joke the last time I wrote about editing. But right now it’d take too much damned effort to double check. Kinda like when I really don’t want to look up how I described this character 20,000 words ago. So if it’s the blond she was gonna fuck and the brunette she was gonna marry, then oh well. At least we know she was always gonna kill the redhead. While Rick Astley played in the background.

I still don’t know if I’m technically editing or writing a second draft. Sometimes those are used interchangeably, other times not. I think editing is where you get rid of adverbs and sprinkle out some cliches. Find them crutch phrases and fuck them right in their nose-holes.

Nostrils? Nah, nose-holes has more panache.

I’m not to that part yet. Where I’m writing, there’s nary a nostril nor nose-hole in sight. What I’m doing right now is closer to, “see if you can find your five worthwhile words in this chapter of drivel and then burn the rest of it to the ground.”

I know a number of real authors say they add 10-20,000 words in their second draft. Add a little foreshadowing now that you know how the story will end. Maybe add a red herring. Or make the redhead that we didn’t know she’d kill in chapter 20 back into that party scene in Chapter 2. Ooo, can the redhead be a red herring?

That’s not how I approach my second draft. If I’m not cutting 1,000 words from a chapter, then it’s probably still too goddamn verbose.

I just cut 2000 words from a fight scene. That shit was originally 5000 words. Because, you know, when a trained king’s guard is swinging his sword at you, it’s a great time to have three paragraphs of physics. What the hell was I thinking?

Actually, I know what I was thinking. That I suck at writing action scenes. But 500 words a day, yo! So let’s see, the bad guy started swinging his sword yesterday and I’ve got to move the book along today. If I can equivocate for 490 words, I only have to advance the arc of that sword for 10. The POV character, after all, is in heightened adrenaline mode. Time slows down. We notice everything. When else would he be likely to notice the morning dew condensing on a beautiful chartreuse lily? Then maybe tomorrow, a gentle will-o-the-wisp shall flitter across like a… like a… I’ll figure it out later.

Crap, will-o’-the-wisp only counts as one word. He must encounter a rare Will O’ The Wisp. The O’ the Wisp family certainly has a penchant toward a certain fist name for their male children.

I’m aware of my tendency while I’m writing. It’s the only way I ever get on with the scene. When it’s been a week and I’m still thinking about that goddamn sword, I’m like, “Okay, today I’m going to write where he rolls out of the way.” This happens on non-action scenes, too. Oftentimes at the beginning of a new chapter, especially after a major scene shift, I have no friggin’ clue how much set-establishing to do before getting into the real shit. On the re-read, the answer might actually be none. Does the reader really need to know every detail of the alleyway between dude’s apartment and the pizza place if all he needs to do is order a pizza? Come to think of it, can’t I just start the chapter off with pizza already in hand? Will my non-existent readers be tweeting me screaming, “WHY? What was his internal motivation for procuring a slice of pizza. How can I identify with him if I don’t know how many shakes of crushed red pepper he likes?”

Actually, the red pepper shakes might be some good character info. But not the number of cracks in the pavement outside. And he can still shake the pepper after the scene starts with slice in hand.

Astute readers might note that I first wrote about editing this book back in July. It’s been almost a year. How the hell am I still on the second draft? Aren’t those supposed to take, like, a couple weeks? I thought so too!

In my defense, it took me about five years to write this book, so maybe one year on the rewrite is par for the course. And during that time, the other book I was stuck on got unstuck a couple times. Of course it did. Anything that’s not the story I’m currently working on sounds super easy right now.

And no, I didn’t finish that other book when I abandoned my editing for its sultry seductions. I just made it a couple chapters longer. Chapters that I’ll probably cut in the second draft.

Hey, you know something I’ve learned from this process? One of the things all the professionals say is to let your first draft sit for a while before re-accessing it. That way you won’t remember what you were writing and you won’t be as emotionally vested in it. If you approach it as “this was written by someone else,” you’re more capable of tearing it apart and making it better.

Okay, obviously those people didn’t take five years to write the first draft. Because I totally could’ve gone back to page one the day after I finished page last. It wasn’t fresh in my memory.

But on the flip side, I totally remember writing large portions of this. I remember the major plot points. Sometimes I’ll be rewriting a scene and think “Didn’t I make a reference to xyz here?” only to find it a couple chapters later, but still in the same general area. Oh, maybe I don’t remember some of the metaphors or precise language used, but if the whole goal is for me to approach this as if it was written by somebody else, that ain’t happening. I remember precisely why every beat of the story is in there.

Which doesn’t mean I’m super tied to it. Like I said, if I’m not cutting one out of every four pages, I’m not doing it justice.

Maybe it’s because those real authors burn out a book in three months. Whereas I spent a month on this one chapter, so I remember all its nooks and crannies.

Of course, now I’m hearing that the second draft is actually supposed to be shortly after the first draft, and it’s primarily for “making the head match the ass” or “making the drapes match the carpets.” THEN you wait 3-12 month before writing your THIRD draft, which should feel like it was written while masturbating with your left hand.

Wait, I’m going to have to write this AGAIN? THEN I send it to beta readers and they tell me all the things to change and I write the fourth draft. Followed by another drapes-and-carpets run, then let it sit for… Boy, I can’t wait to start the querying process in 2050.

Here’s the strangest thing about this rewriting process though: I’m giving up at the exact same spots.

When I say it took me five years to write, it didn’t really take me five years to write. Even those long slogs of 500 words a day before I finally got on with it happened for maybe only a week at a time. My normal writing schedule was to write 10,000 words in a month or so, usually around NaNoWriMo, then to muddle through another couple months, writing once a week or so, then get discouraged for three months before rinsing and repeating.

I remember the times I walked away. Sometimes it was right before an action scene, other times it was right after. And it wasn’t always in the “this sucks” vein. Sometimes it was a catharsis. Yeah, I nailed that fucking scene. Let me replenish. The book goes through three or four arcs, as did my writing.

When I started this rewriting adventure last summer, I muddled through the same emotions I had when first writing. This sucks. I’ll never be a writer. If I’m bored by this scene what reader in their right mind would ever sit through it? That usually leads to cutting 1000 words. But then there are those times of, “Wow, this isn’t half bad. This character really seems to be earning his level-up. Awww, people are gonna cry when that character dies. If they make it past that super shitty chapter 3.”

When I approached the first major give-up point, I resolved to power my ass through that rewrite. I took out most of the inner-monologue-while-facing-mortal danger that I tend to fill my first drafts with. And you know what? It took me a week, but I finally made it through that fucker.

Then I took the next two months off.

Now I’m finishing the second major arc, and I’m running into the same general malaise I had at this spot during a first draft. I’ve heard it referred to as the mushy middle. I’m once again faced with a general boredom with the plot and the characters and an impostor syndrome that says Stephen King’s first book was Carrie, and even after I’ve fixed half the shit, this drivel ain’t even on the same fucking continent as Carrie.

I was prepared for this on the first draft. I mean, not prepared in a sense of I fought through it. No, I put the manuscript away for a year at a time. But I at least learned from other sources that the impostor syndrome and the mushy middle were things. So at least when I succumbed to them, I knew it was par for the course.

I wasn’t prepared to go through it a second time.

It might be worse now that I know where the story is going, how many more beats it has. Add to that the fact that, the first time I wrote this, the end was where I ran into more and more of those “just get shit on the page” days. I’ve heard a number of authors say they power through the end because that’s when it’s fun again. Not me. The culminating scenes, where I bring all my chickens back to shit in the woods with the Pope, are a fucking nightmare. That’s where I am on that second book that only looks good when I’m stuck on the first book these days.

Both of my “books” start out with crisp 2,000-3,000 word chapters and end with 7,000-word lardasses. And I don’t know if they’ll be any easier now that I’ve made the ass match the face.

The second give-up point is different from the first. This time, I’m going through the “maybe I should change the entire premise of the book. Maybe I should start over from scratch with a different tone. Yep, almost 200,000 words in (120,000 words on the first go through, and 70,000 words through the rewrite), I’m now thinking “eh, fuck it.” I want to make it campier, funnier. I’ve been reading “Kings of the Wyld” by Nicholas Eames. It’s a refreshing take on epic fantasy by merging it with rock bands. Maybe I should do something like that? Something to differentiate myself from everything else that’s out there.

For those who have been following the travails of this Magnum Opus, it’s a world where feudalism never ended, They’re on the cusp of the twenty-first century, but it’s filled with peasants and nobles and an absolute monarchy, nary an industrial invention in sight. Now I’m thinking of moving it from the late 1990s to the mid-1980s and drop in a bunch of real-world eighties references. Maybe all the peasants wear day-glo? A mixture of “Kings of the Wyld” with “Ready Player One.” Aren’t we supposed to use comparables in our query letters?

The problem is I don’t know if I have that book in me. I turned 15 years old in 1989, so while I remember the 1980s, it’s not like I have a font of knowledge of the decade beyond that of a child. I’d have to do some extra research. It can’t be all Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

I also wouldn’t want to go full camp. “Kings of the Wyld” doesn’t. Every time it has a chance to go more “rock band” and less “epic fantasy,” it doesn’t. Most of the band references are subtle. So maybe moving my story to the 1980s rewrite wouldn’t take a whole rewrite. But what fun would that be? If you wanna burn something to the ground, you don’t decorate it with a doily.

Then again, maybe I’m just going through this whole rigmarole because I’m in the mushy middle. My main character is really annoying when he’s still 20,000 words away from finally growing the fuck up and complete his character arc.

God, my writing sucks. Hey, this is pretty fucking good. Back and forth. Back and forth.

I’ll see y’all back here in 2023 when I hit this spot on the fourth draft.

In the meantime, my other book’s making sexy eyes at me, so I gotta go.

Camptathalon 2019

Veering away from the ‘Rona Madness to finally get around to posting the Camptathalon results from last year.

Unlike 2018, no natural disasters ruined our festivities. Unless you count “snow in May” as a natural disaster, because that did put a little hitch in our giddyup this time around. Our campsite was set to open on the Friday of our camping weekend, three to four weeks later than usual. We had reservations for that night. But a couple of us headed up a night early, figuring if the snow wasn’t going to be a problem Friday, how bad could Thursday be? Turns out the campsite needed the official blessing of the Forest Service to be opened. And we all know that nothing expedites a process like a federal bureaucracy.

But hey, I got to see a tree fall in a forest. It makes sound.

For those of you reading your first Camptathalon Blog, we keep a running log of things said and did. Most are intentionally out of context.

What is Camptathalon? Find out here.

Enjoy.

Thursday.
1:00 Campsite closed. Fuck you.
20190614_094949.jpg
1:15 Find some random remote spot. Free. That’s $24 the Forest Service will never see.
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2:49 First sighting of other human beings since we arrived at spot – PG & E Truck
3:20 Water’s fucking cold. Add Polar Bear Competition to Camptathalon? Sparky lasted 37 seconds.
5:30 Relocate to a second site because it has a picnic table and a shitter.
5:50 We fixed your fire pit for you, Forest Service. Is that worth $24?
20190613_181853.jpg6:20 Dinner: Burger & Chips
7:45 “Probably shouldn’t pee in front of that camera.”
“That’s not a camera.”
“What is it, then?”
“I don’t know.”
“We should totally zipline that motherfucker.”
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Friday
6:45 “I brought the coffee grinder because last year you brought good beans and we couldn’t grind them.”
“Oh, I brought ground coffee, because last year I brought good beans and we couldn’t grind them.”
7:40 Shitter’s closed. But the picnic table is nice.
7:50 “I just did something I haven’t done in twenty years.”
“Did you just dig a hole?”
“Nope. I didn’t have a shovel.”
8:40 Pack up camp again. Moving to third site in last twenty hours
9:00 Campsite’s still closed. But the “Road Closed” sign’s moved to the side. Hope?
9:12 Ranger: “It’s still going to be a few hours. I need to look at each campsite. Hopefully I’m done by noon. Please move your cars so I don’t have to come out and explain this to others.
9:22 Filling up ice chests with snow. Saving money left and right.
9:50 Setting up chairs across the street from campsite, like Black Friday shoppers.
9:59 Camp host drives by. “You guys waiting to get in?”
“What gave you that idea?”
10:05 “Hey, Mr. Forest Guy, I’ll give you a Dirty Wookie if you open this place.”
“Which kind of Dirty Wookie?”
(Transcriber’s Note: Dirty Wookie is the name of a beer. On Urban Dictionary, it has a rather different definition. I’ll politely not provide a link.)
10:15 Host and Forest Guy are talking loudly just to fuck with those assholes sitting across the street.
10:22 Host and Forest Guy leave. Sign’s still up.
10:40 Tree chopper arrives.
10:42 “It’s still going to be a while. You guys want to go fish or swim or something?”
“We got nowhere to be, and this is what we’d be doing if we were in our campsite. Except with beer instead of soda.”
10:49 Rick arrives. Now there’s three camp chairs sitting patiently across the street.
10:58 “I won’t reveal the Loser Libation yet, but it is much worse than Bud Ice.”
11:08 Rick has to move his car because it’s in the fall zone. Then they ask him to just block the road.
20190614_110910.jpg11:09 We’re helping. That’s worth more than a Dirty Wookie.
11:12 “You can stop blocking the road now.”
“No way. Now I’ve had the taste of power.”
11:15 Any way we can turn tree chopping into a Camptathalon event?
11:16 Camp Host takes “Road Closed” sign out to road, singing “Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs. Do you know what that means? Get the FUCK out of my road!”
(Transcriber’s Note: Camp Host is a late-60’s female hippie, looks like a grandma)
11:21 Did I hear that right? “We’re Open?”
11:31 I must not have heard that right.
11:41 Rick busts out the Fireball on the side of the road.
11:50 Fuck this. Let’s go have lunch at the resort.
12:42 “I’ve heard in religious places like Utah, it’s not good to be a ‘stone’s throw’ from anything.”
12:51 Campsite is OPEN! The watched pot thing came true.
1:24 First beer of the weekend cracked open. Not counting the ten or so last night.
1:52 Cocks flag is up. Wisconsin Lunchbox is hung.
20190614_135346.jpg
2:01 Rick christened the campsite. With urine.
2:45 It’s a quarter to three and I’m drinking whiskey.
3:13 “I’ll warm up your chili for you.”
3:42 Eternal point-distribution debate. 4, 3, 2, 0? 4, 2, 1, 0? 5, 3, 2, 0? Rick says “it’s easy,” wants 2nd and 3rd place to get 3.5 and 2.5. Fuck half points.
3:47 First Score 1989 Baseball Card Pack opened by Sparky. Best Player: Bobby Thigpen, Relief Pitcher, Chicago White Sox
3:48 People move in next door. Hope they’re cool. Confidence is high.
3:52 C-17 Starlifter buzzes the camp.
4:01 Reading 1940 Baseball review. Hank Greenberg. “I believe he was a Jew.”
5:29 Chris arrives.
5:41 “I’m going to pitch a tent. Then maybe I’ll put up where I’m sleeping tonight.”
5:50 The Pube Mixe and the cheese Balls. Still undefeated after three years.
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6:09 Concerned that Chris is the favorite for the poker tournament because he hasn’t been drinking since 2:00.
6:10 Official Opening Toast

6:17 “That’s the best Dirty Wookie I’ve ever had.”
6:21 “I would give Bea Arthur a Dirty Wookie.”
6:26 Chili dinner is served. With beans this time, so it’s proper chili.
7:07 Preparations for poker.
7:15 Chris casts deciding vote to not to reward winner. First place will receive 4 points, second place: 3, third place: 2, loser: 0.
7:20 Loser Libation is…. 32 oz. Coors Banquet Beer.
7:21 Debate over which is worse Coors vs. Bud Ice.
7:22 Toast of Fireball to commemorate fire winning Camptathalon 2018.
7:42 Neighbors left. Couldn’t handle the heat. Or the stink. Buh Bye.
7:43 Blinds raise. An intermission reading from Rimmer.
(Transcriber’s Note: We bought a signed copy of a smut book by Christine Rimmer many years ago for 50 cents. It has no rimmers.)
7:55 The Cheese Balls and Pube Mixe have been open for two hours. Do your fucking job!
8:30 Rick: “I have nothing to live for.” Wins next hand.
8:43 Sparky “wins” the Loser Libation.
9:05 How can I not be betting after the flop? I’m dealing!
9:09 Things have devolved.
9:20 Rick too tossed to play better.
9:30 Rick escorted to bed, still in poker game.
9:31 Sparky: “At least he didn’t do the Loser Libation.”
9:35 First Camptathalon disqualification ever. Does DQ drop to fourth place or still get third place?
9:47 WORST. POKER GAME. EVER.
9:50 Have we ever even raised the blinds?
10:46 Sparky didn’t finish Loser Libation. Party Foul! But he did play Rick’s hands after DQ. Party win?
11:07 Tony bets big and loses.
11:16 Standings after one event: Chris 4, Tony 3, Rick 2, Sparky 0
1:31 Chris and Tony still awake. Sparky stumbles out of his hammock to take a piss. Can’t get back in.
1:34 “You okay, Sparky?” “Yeah, I’m fine.”
1:35 Sparky goes to sleep in back of truck.
1:41 Nighty Night.

Saturday
6:15 Tony: First vomit of the weekend? No. Sparky did last night.
6:16 Black vomit. That’s a new one.
6:30 Sparky jumps in the lake.
7:46 Rick attempts to read what happened last night. WTF is all this??
8:28 Hangover competition: Tony, Chris, Rick, Sparky.
8:40 Chris reveals he’s never seen any Friday the 13th or Halloween movies. His Camptathalon Pass is now provisional.
8:42 Not even 9:00 AM and we’re already talking about jizz.
9:08 Oregon Trail
9:33 Our Oregon Trail names are: Brigham, Ezekiel, Hiram, and Doug.
9:34 First beer of the day.
9:55 Chris dies on 49th card. Outskirts of Willamette and some douchebag hipster probably could’ve helped him but his oxen weren’t organic enough.
10:10 Fuck you.
10:45 Cribbage!
11:00 Travel to the Big Fucking Rock.
12:27 Back from BFR. Growler open.
12:30 “I played with your slingshot while you were gone.”

12:35 Preparation for the Jonny Goudreau Memorial Butter Toss. We forgot a target, so it’ll be Little Debbie’s face on the Nutty Buddy box.
12:45 Sparky butters directly onto Little Debbie’s face.

12:46 Standings after second event: Tony with 6 points, everyone else in a 3-way at 4 points.
12:52 We forgot the golf clubs and bocce balls, too, so this might be a very abbreviated Camptathalon.
12:55 Event three: Home Run Derby.
20190615_130456.jpg1:12 Round One: Tony 3, Chris 2, Sparky 6, Rick 2. Rick and Chris headed to a jack-off.
1:17 First jack-off tied 2-2. They have to jack-off again, just minutes after the first.
1:21 Rick wins 3-2 to advance to second round.
1:29 Second round: Rick 0, Tony 0, Sparky 1 (retired after second out). Rick was tired after two consecutive jack-offs. Not sure Tony’s excuse.
1:31 Sparky explaining the rules of a jack-off while his dick’s in his hand. (Peeing).
1:35 Tony wins jack-off 4-1.
1:41 Sparky wins H.R. Derby 3-2 (with four outs left)
1:42 After three events: Tony 9, Sparky 8, Rick 6, Chris 4
2:04 “Can I mustard you?”
2:22 Draft 80s & 90s hotties:
Draft Order: Rick, Sparky, Tony, Chris
1st rd.  Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Anniston, Bo Derek, Denise Richards
2nd rd.  Rose McGowan, Jessica Biel, Alicia Silverston, Kathy Ireland
3rd rd.  Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Heather Graham, Catherine Zeta Jones
4th rd.  Joan Jett, Christina Applegate, Mia Sara, Selma Hayek
5th rd. Debbie Gibson, Lucy Diekens, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mila Kunis
2:34 “Is Bea Arthur taken yet?”
“It’s the 1980s, not the 1880s.”
2:41 Potential draft topics: Overrated bands, Greatest Sports Seasons (team), cocktails, Fast Food/Fast Casual, Comedies
2:55 Attempting to add Coop to Camptathalon as first-ever team competition. Winners get 4 pts, losers 2 pts.
3:22 Rick and Chris win, tightening standings. Going into final event: Tony 11, Sparky 10, Rick 10, Chris 8
3:38 Comedies Draft
Draft Order: Chris, Tony, Mark, Rick
1st Rd.  Idiocracy, Airplane!, Real Genius, Animal House
2nd Rd.  Office Space, There’s Something About Mary, Police Academy, Caddyshack
3rd Rd.  Mony Python & Holy Grail, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Young Frankenstein
4th Rd.   UHF, Fletch, Major League, Blazing Saddles
5th Rd.  Team America, PCU, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Beverly Hills Cop
3:55 Discussion of honorable mentions: all Vacation movies, American Pie, South Park Movie, Blues Brothers, Waiting
4:07 Final Event: Cards Against Humanity
4:08 But first, another reading from Rimmer
4:52 Chris wins event with “The shambling corpse of Larry King.”
4:53 Chris complains that he won three events, won’t win Camptathalon. Is reminded that he voted to not give an extra point to event winner.
5:03 Tony takes second place in Cards Against Humanity with “Not Wearing Pants.” Wins Camptathalon despite never winning an event.
5:04 Final Standings: Tony 14, Chris 12, Sparky 11, Rick 11
20190615_170844.jpg
5:56 Tri-tip dinner
9:00 Rick is the unofficial Fartathalon winner.
9:30 Made it past sunset. Calling it an early night.

Sunday
6:21 The flag comes down.
6:27 The Cheese Balls used to mock us when they emerged victorious. Now they just pity us.
20190616_063613.jpg7:27 Leave campsite behind.
8:00 Greasy spoon diner has WiFi!
Fin

***No Wookies were dirtied in the course of this Camptathalon***

 

 

Quaran-Geddon Part V: The Re-Opening

I was ready to walk away. My journals were getting redundant. The world was flooded with enough blowhards shouting out of their asses about this Black Death Zombie Apocalypse Shutdown. Who the hell wants to hear from a stay-at-home teacher who used to have too much time on his hands, but is now in charge of implementing remote learning for a kindergartner while also organizing remote learning activities for high-school students? Especially when there are such learned individuals like Hollywood actors and athletes and the president talking out of their own asses, too?

Oh, and I’ve got to do a Zoom staff meeting this afternoon because clearly my principal has lost his faculties. Shit, I hope he’s more effective at muting the nimrods in this setting than at real staff meetings. Come to think of it, can we add that “mute other’s mic” function to reality when the world comes back? Doubtful. I’m still waiting for the ability to pause and rewind live conversations like I can on tv.

Hold on a second. I need to get my two schools in order. While I’m sure my AP European History students would love to analyze “If You Give a Dog a Doughnut,” I don’t know if Daughter’s kindergarten teacher is ready to analyze the causes and effects of the Irish potato famine.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right! I was walking away. Washing my hands of the ‘Rona. I needed to get on with my blog life. Sorry Virus, we’re done. It’s not me, it’s you.

I prepared a few non-COVID posts. Random thoughts on stuff around the house, some posts I was planning to write before the world ended. Maybe I should finally get around to post the Camptathalon journal from last summer. Especially since Camptathalon might be dead on arrival this year if Governor-Commandant Newsom with his fancy slicked-back hair doesn’t open up the campsites even though camping is about as socially-distant of an activity as exists in the 21st century. But one does not become Governor-Commandant if one is willing to acknowledge nuance and/or listen to the ideas of anyone who’s not currently speaking from more than a nose’s length away the Governor-Commandant’s ass.

And I thought losing Camptathalon to a fire was bad.

But then, just like the victim of an abusive relationship, here I am coming back. You don’t understand, guys. You only see the outward signs. I know I complain about the definition of social distancing, and the constantly moving goalposts, and the toilet paper. But then he does something that draws me back in and I’m all, “WHY CAN’T I QUIT YOOOOOOOOOOOUUUU?”

The Governor-Commandant (I don’t know if this title is official yet, beyond in his own mind, but it’s only a matter of time before it gets snuck into a rescue bill that legislators won’t be given enough time to read but will be demonized for voting no on) called a press conference last week. Because he has to have one every few days or else how will he know if his hair is slicked properly? He doesn’t allow himself mirrors, as a) he can never tear himself away from their gorgeous visage, and b) seeing himself in the mirror might prevent him from holding press conferences where not only he, but his entire fiefdom, is granted the privilege of viewing this modern-day fusion of Adonis and Apollo.

But before I get to what he said, did you see that Stanford study about the COVID? No? Well do you remember when you had the sniffles back in January? Well good news! If you’re in California, you’ve probably already had the ‘Rona and are now immune. The whole state, it seems, might have herd immunity. It doesn’t mean we’ll get to leave the house any sooner, but maybe we can stop scrubbing our hands down to the bones.

Speaking of which, when I was driving in to school to pick up the next few weeks (Honestly, Herr Kommandant, I was out for an essential reason. Not that, in your wisdom, you’ve deemed education as “essential.” Can’t wait till that comes up in our next round of salary negotiations.), the Amber Alert sign said, “Soap and Water will defeat COVID-19. Wash your hands.” Um, Amber Alert dude? Haven’t you heard? Washing hands is sooooo March 20. We gave up on washing our hands long before we could determine something as pointless as if it will defeat the ‘Rona. The only way we can beat it now is by sequestering ourselves for a decade or so. And maybe by extending a governor’s term to life.

I certainly hope the Governor-Commandant doesn’t discover the Deep State rebel in the Amber Alert office or dude’s gonna get canned. Just kidding. I think I’ve written about that asswipe a few times, and I’ll be the first one donning a Brown Shirt if Newsom ensures that those signs are only used for emergency information. Of course, I only support the removal of said employee if firing employees is still the preferred method of removing non-party government officials. If we’ve already moved on to summary execution, I guess I’ll keep being electronically scolded on my commute. If I ever have a commute again.

Although now that I think about it, Newsom seems more of a Mauve Shirt kinda guy.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right. The Stanford study. I remember headlines back in February saying “Coronavirus set to hit what has already been a brutal flu season.” That flu season was BRUTAL, y’all. Why, people were having trouble breathing, with a dry cough and high fever. Then some of them died. Horrible flu season! Oh, did I mention we never actually tested any of these people to see if it was really the flu? Hmm… what else could cause those symptoms…

BTW, I googled “Coronavirus symptoms” to write that last paragraph. I’m sure I’ll be getting a friendly visit from a concerned government worker soon. After all, they’re talking about letting Google and Apple use our cell phone records to see if we come in contact with any of the COVIDs. I can’t think of anything bad that would come from giving the government unlimited access to all of our phone and location data. What’s this? Why is there a speeding ticket in my mailbox because I went 37 in a 35 zone last month?

I didn’t get this “Brutal Flu,” but I know a few people who did, and they all now swear it was the ‘Rona. The people at Stanford agree. They say nothing else explains why California’s infection rate is so much lower than New York’s. I can think of a few reasons. For one thing, New Yorkers do crazy things like come in contact with other New Yorkers. They walk on the very same sidewalks that other people are walking on. At the same time! They also commute in a giant metal tube amongst thousands of their brethren. In California, we drive by ourselves in our cars, like decent human beings. We park in the parking lot and, if you time it right and work in a cubicle, you might never come within “social distance” of another human being for the entire day.

As a result, we also spend a large portion of our time walking through a smoggy haze. It’s tough to breathe through that atmospheric soup. And I suppose if we can’t inhale oxygen, it’s tougher to inhale viruses, too. Except now that nobody’s commuting to work anymore, the air quality in LA’s drastically improved. Not that we give a shit about saving the environment, mind you. California showed its true colors when we banned reusable bags at grocery stores. We love trees and all, but as soon as there’s a 1 in 2,000 chance we’ll get sick, after which there’s a 2 in 100 chance we’ll die from it, then Woodsy the Owl can kiss our collective ass.

That’s right. At this point in California, a state of 40,000,000, we’ve had just over 1,000 deaths, making it roughly 1 out of every 40,000. This, of course, doesn’t count all the people who caught it before March when we were calling it “the flu,” but even so, it’s a hell of a lot safer than driving, which is something, last time I checked, we didn’t tell people to stop going to work over that statistic.

The Stanford study (and there’s another one going on at a Southern California university, too) posits that, since the virus originated in Asia, and a large number of Asian flights land in LA and SF, that like a Snobby Doo villain, if we could unmask that wily villain, the “Brutal Flu” was COVID all along. And he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for our meddling herd immunity. And just think, we did got through it all while still going to work and grocery shelves filled with toilet paper.

Not sure how this Stanford study will explain Seattle, since the Asian flights that don’t conclude in California gotta be going there. Sorry Portland.

Okay now, where was I? That’s what tha 2020 is like. I can’t go off on my tangents in class anymore, where a discussion about Martin Luther, Jr. posting his 95 Letters from a Birmingham Jail on the door of a Wittenberg church bombing can randomly turn itself into a discussion of how the video for John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Ain’t Even Done with Tonight” is the perfect summation of the Jimmy Carter presidency. Remember gas lines?

So right, I was talking about Herr Obergruppenfuehrer Newsom’s press conference. The one where he totally ignored the Stanford study. What else is he gonna do? The quasi-Marxist probably can’t give credence to those liberal think-tanks.

It was the first press conference I checked out in a while, because he had been meeting with the governors of Oregon and Washington the day before to hammer out “The Re-opening.” Alas, poor Oregon. Working with its two big neighbors, never realizing that when we all secede to start the New Pacific Order, they were doomed to play the role of Poland.

But nope. No reopening in sight. The low numbers, according to Newsom, have nothing do with herd immunity. Want to guess why Californians aren’t “Doin’ the ‘VID”? Because we listened to Gavin. Sure, we were shutting shit down a week before he said boo, but it’s all thanks to him. We heeded his demands!

And dammit, if we don’t keep doing exactly what the fuck he says, he’s going to infect one person per hour until he’s all the way up to the 25.5 million that he promised four weeks ago. What, you didn’t think he was serious? You doubted his ability to do basic arithmetic? Well, the second you head back to work, the CHP will pull you over and plunge a syringe of virus into your arm as soon as you roll down the window.

He set out some guidelines for reopening which make it crystal clear that we will never reopen in our lifetime. He laid out six things that need to happen, and I can guaran-fucking-tee that at least one won’t happen. Schools will need to ensure social distancing.

Now I’m not a math teacher, but I’m curious how I keep 40 students six-feet apart from each other in a room that’s maybe 300 square feet? One option would be to build a bunch of new schools. As in triple or quadruple the current number, with a commensurate addition of teachers and staff. Either that or they’ll turn schools into round-the-clock enterprises. My forty students get chopped into four groups of 10, with one having school at 8:00 AM, the second at 2:00 PM, the third at 8:00 PM, the fourth at 2:00 AM. And unless they’re planning on making the teachers stay there 24/7, they’re still going to need to hire more teachers. And I for one don’t really want to teach 24 hours a day nor take a 75% pay cut.

So it’s never going to happen. We’re never going to reopen. There is no feasible way to build or staff any school at a 10:1 ratio. I hope you’re enjoying home schooling, because that’s going to be sticking around for a while.

Comrade Gavin has made it clear he won’t let us go back to work until he can ensure that no Californian ever dies ever again. Nothing about making public transportation that would cut down on car crashes, though.

Some of Governor-Kommandant’s other “benchmarks” will be coming a lot sooner, though. For instance, his missive for “a data-tracking system that provides an early warning” of future shut-downs. That’s front burner shit for his ilk.

Comrade Gavin wants to figure out a way to go through this whole fuckamamie bullshit again. Because he might need to stop us from going to work again in the future. Not to cut down on car crashes or help the environment, but to remind us of his magnanimity. Stalin and Hitler loved making their birthdays national holidays, after all.

So one more time, but with quickness and pizzazz.

He doesn’t want us getting comfortable. Rights aren’t, you know, natural or anything. They’re given to you by your benevolent overlord.  And he’s not opposed to taking them away again it again if we do irresponsible things like purchase groceries.

And the way he’s going to do it? Why, Yep, we’re back to the whole government commandeering Google and Apple. Although maybe, if they won’t narc on us, he can devise his own system.

Like maybe a two-way television screen on every wall. With his face on it. We’d never leave the house again.

Quaran-geddon, Post IV

The world has seemingly settled into a new normal. It feels like the sparkle is off this journal. But the problem is what the hell else am I supposed to write about? It’s not like I can go out and make pithy observations of my fellow human beings. I can’t regale you of stories about those crazy teenagers in my classroom. Do you want to hear my thoughts on Frozen II? Trust me, I got plenty o’ thoughts on Frozen II.In the meantime, here are more oddities and frivolities from the Great American Stay-Home:1. We’ve been playing restaurant at mealtimes. Evidently we eat out often enough (or ate out, back in the Before Times) that Daughter feels uncomfortable without someone bringing food to the table. So she plays server. She takes our order, picks up our food (which Daddy Chef left on the counter before taking his spot at the table to have his order taken) and brings it to the table. We’ve allowed exceptions for wine and beer, which requires a grown-up “sommelier” to deliver. Not for any moral reasoning or anything, but because we don’t want her sloshing out the good stuff.The first time we did this, I said, “Garcon, coffee!” She just responded with “Okay,” not yet familiar with the proper response of “Garcon means boy.” We gotta wait until at least week four of quarantine before I make my five-year-old sit through Pulp Fiction. So naturally, she thought I was naming her Garcon. That it was maybe printed on her name tag. So now, she asks if she can play Garcon, like it’s some alter ego.She’ll be sitting at the table and realize she needs more water. So she’ll ask Wife or I to ask Garcon for water. Then she leaves the table and, wouldn’t you know it, Garcon shows up. It’s like Clark Kent and Superman. We’re supposed to tell Garcon that our daughter is at the bathroom but she’d like another water. Then when she “returns,” the drink’s there. Just like Mia’s food in Pulp Fiction. I’m tellin’ ya, Quentin Tarantino predicted my quarantine to a T over 25 years ago.She needs to work on her pricing, though, if she’s hoping to stay in business beyond the pandemic. Odd things are included and others aren’t. The coffee’s included, but not the creamer. Cereal’s free, but the milk will cost you. Our breakfast bill came out to $117 the other day – everything was included except for the bacon ($17) and the coffee ($100). I mean, at least she’s got the concept of demand down pat.2. I love all the advertisements and mail circulars I’m seeing that were clearly written before Quaran-geddon started. The first week or two of grocery store circulars were comical. Oh, they think pork is on sale this week? Have they seen their meat section? Good thing they don’t list toilet paper. They understand the concept of inelastic demand.Sorry, I’m a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now. If I don’t point out portions of our history or government or economy, I might just burst.A batch of coupons I received a few days ago came in an envelope encouraging me to tune into the XFL. That league stopped all of its games and canceled the rest of the season weeks ago. Others made reference to St. Patrick’s Day. Or “Get Out for Spring!” Or “Happy Easter!” Is Easter still happening? Can we postpone it for a few months like they did the baseball season?Of course, the obsolete advertising that I’m seeing the most is related to March Madness, the college basketball championship. Then again, maybe some ad exec knew it was canceled, but figured “Get into the Madness” still works perfectly fine.One company that seemed to miss the whole March Madness memo as Great Clips. I was near one the other day that had three postings. The first was a poster of a basketball spinning on a finger that read “This March, we’re getting in on the Madness.” Oops. There were two other sheets of paper on the door. The first, dated March 18, said that the health of their staff was their first concern, so please don’t come in if you’re sick. The second, dated March 23, said they were closed until further notice. Somebody had handwritten in “But don’t cut your hair until we’re back.” Tacky much?That’s what the NCAA gets for picking Great Clips as the Official Haircut of college basketball. Sports Clips actually has TVs where they show sports. Of course, most of the time those TVs are pointless because live sports don’t happen at the same time of the day as haircuts. But during March Madness, that’s a key selling point. But go ahead, NCAA, partner with a business that has no TVs and doesn’t show your product.3. The brewery that I was heading to for weekly growler fill-ups is now delivering beer.I’m going to let that one sink in for a bit: Hand-delivered craft beer.Obviously they can’t deliver growler refills. But two “crowler” cans has the same amount of beer as a growler. And four crowlers, which is what I ordered, equals 128 ounces of beer. That’ll keep me busy for a bit.Technically I live outside their normal delivery radius, but they were willing to extend it for me. Either because I’m a regular customer or because I just ordered 128 ounces of beer. Or because, I don’t know, what the hell else are they going to do?When the guy dropped off my beer, he thanked me profusely for the business. Like, he seriously wanted me to know how much it meant and how he’d be willing to extend their official delivery options any old time I wanted to sit on my ass and get beer.Again, I’m going to let this one sit for awhile. Some dude was delivering beer to my front door. And I was somehow the hero in this scenario!4. “Want me to brew another pot of coffee?” I ask, shaking the empty pot to indicate its emptiness toward my Wife.”Wasn’t that already our third pot today?””Yeah, but it seems too early to switch to beer.””What time is it?””10 am.”5. Thanks to Josh Gad reading bedtime stories on Twitter and Mo Willems doing lunchtime doodles on YouTube and Weezer’s hilarious video for “Lost in the Woods,” where they do a shot-for-shot remake of the scene in Frozen II in which the song appears, complete with Kristen Bell, the real-life voice of Anna, in the place of Anna from the movie, Daughter is becoming more familiar with the actors and writers behind the scenes of her favorite media.This led to the following back and forth.”So Anna’s not a queen, is she? And Elsa’s not either?””Well, they were both princesses. Elsa was queen for most of the movies. Anna was a princess who became queen by the end of the second movie.”(Oops. Spoiler!)”No, I mean that Kristen girl isn’t a princess or a queen, right? So Anna’s not REALLY a queen.””Oh, no. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are Americans. Our constitution says we’re not allowed to take titles of nobility unless we renounce our citizenship.”So, wherever you are, jut think that it could be worse. You could be quarantined with a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now, like my poor daughter.6. Okay, since I broke the seal on Frozen II, here’s a shot of Daughter watching it:You’ll notice she has an iPad next to her with a face on it. That’s her and her friend Facetiming and watching the movie together. And no, this isn’t because the friend doesn’t own a copy of the movie. This is just what they decided to do. Video call your friend, then instead of talking face-to face, turn it around and watch a movie together.Can’t wait to see what generational hang-ups will manifest themselves in 20 years. I’m already prepared for a drop in my high schoolers’ reading abilities in another six or seven years.7. Lots of parades these days. All the teachers and most of the staff at Daughter’s school paraded through our neighborhood. Thirty or forty honking cars, decorated with the school name and mascot and elementary teachers leaning out the window and shouting, winding up and down all the streets in their attendance area. Thank God my school doesn’t come up with some bullshit like that. I’m all for “show the kids we miss them,” but I can accomplish that with a well-timed reference to the Zombie Apocalypse. And explanations of constitutional provisions against titles of nobility.Then all the local emergency services followed suit a few days later. Fire trucks and police cruisers and ambulances, sirens and buzzers blasting. I guess when society shuts down, we don’t need to worry about being on-call for crime or fires or non-COVID patients requiring rides to the hospital. Ha ha, just kidding. Non-COVIDs don’t get medical attention. Sorry, grandma on Life Alert.Allegedly this was for community outreach, but I’m not so sure. I figure their income’s gotta be through the floor with nobody driving. Gone are the revenue streams for speeding or rolling stops or parking violations. And isn’t anyone who leaves their home to see the parade violating a government mandate? I figure they had a whole bunch of pre-written fines and were tossing them out like beads at Mardi Gras. I was a few neighborhoods over when it all went down, and all I could hear were sirens and horns. I assumed every blast was another $100 coming toward our fair city’s coffers.8. Corona just stopped brewing because of COVID-19. Mexico has determined it to be “non-essential.”To repeat: No more Corona because of coronavirus.I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.

Coronavirus Quaran-geddon Part III

I’ve got a shirt that reads “It’s all fun and games until the beer runs out.”

I usually wear it when I’m man camping or doing some other weekend-style, fun-time activities.

When I threw it on the other day, however, it took on quite a different meaning. The beer running out seems far more imminent a threat now than when I’m out golfing or rafting. And when it runs out, it won’t just be a temporary message that maybe I need to cut back.

That’s a lot scarier than the toilet paper situation, if you ask me.

We’ve shut down all of society to stop the spread of a disease that might kill one percent of the people who catch it,. But it probably kills substantially less because that one percent relates only to those showing enough symptoms to warrant a test. When they started testing more people in South Korea, it seems a lot of people have it but show no symptoms and probably aren’t dying. So maybe the death rate is closer to, I don’t know, one-tenth of one percent? One-hundredth of one percent? That sounds like a good estimate. That would mean that only one out of one hundred who have the virus fit enough of the tick boxes to get tested, and of those, one in one hundred die.

It isn’t so much the death rate, the experts say, as the contagion rate. Each person infects three people, whether they’re on quarantine or washing their hands or whatever. You could lock yourself in your house and that virus will jump out your window and knock on your neighbor’s door. Then those three people will infect three other people. Whereas the flu, which only infects 1.3 people, will grow to something like 14 people, the exponential rate of Coronavirus, they say, means that one infected person will infect 59,000 people by the time you’re done reading this blog post.

At least that’s how it’s being reported.

We’ve had just over 6,000 cases in California, so I guess we only started with 10% of one infected person? We’ve also had 33 deaths, in a state with some 40,000,000 people. Am I prepared to have that number double? Triple? Quadruple? When all it takes to stop that death toll is by shutting down the entire state. I mean, who cares about an extra 5,000,000 unemployed if it can save 20 lives? It’s not like being unemployed and homeless has a high mortality rate or anything.

Although, to hear those in charge, those people are losing their jobs and it’s not even helping. Nothing we’re doing is working. Otherwise why would they continue to change the rules every day? Closing all the bars and restaurants didn’t seem to work, because the next day, we were stay at home and the day after that we were shelter in place. It couldn’t just be that Newsom and Trump love nothing more than seeing themselves on tv, and people might stop tuning in to their press conferences if they aren’t making up some cockamamie new rules. f they’re we’re need to have a new press conference every day. To get eyeballs, they gotta ban something new. Gotta double down on what we did yesterday, regardless of its effectiveness.

Maybe I’m coming at this from a different angle because of where I work. In California education (and I assume education across the country, but California education burns through a lot more money), we continually jaunt and jump from one “fix du jour” to the next. Somebody at the district or county office finds somebody who’s written a book or has a website about how education can be fixed and they pay him or her $10-20,000 to come present to teachers at a specific school or district. One year we had some lady from Georgia who yelled at us about using academic language. I don’t think she intended to yell, but maybe volume modulation isn’t part of academic language. Then we had a principal from a Newsweek article who raised test scores up 100 points. At the end of his presentation, he said maybe if we followed all of his directives (and paid him an extra $100,000 to visit more often), we could be on the cover of Newsweek, too. Of course, after raising his school’s test scores 100 points, they were still 60 behind us. And since he’d started spending more time promoting himself than them, they’d dropped back down, so we were about 100 ahead of them. But tell me again how we can get on the cover of a news magazine? Another time it was a woman who said that she felt sorry for her daughter’s teachers when she goes into parent-teacher conferences, because she knows that teacher already knows who she is and that she’s such a better teacher than they are. It must be daunting. Shocking that the room full of teachers that she said this to didn’t all jump up and applaud, huh?

But I’ve sat through all of them. Sometimes we pretend to follow the new directive for a whole year. Most of the time it’s forgotten by Winter Break, because somebody at the district office has found the next manna from heaven. Or, more realistically, has found the next kickback from the next dude who’s getting $100,000 from us. Sometimes they still give lip service to the previous fix, but usually they don’t even bother. After all, this new thing is a panacea, so who gives a shit about academic language?

We never see any of these things through, even if the presenters themselves say it’ll take a few years to see quantifiable results. So at the end of the year, our test scores go up or they go down or they stay the same. But what caused that change or non-change? Who can know? Ten things changed and maybe one of them had an effect or, meh, maybe it’s just a good/bad batch of kids this year and next year, it’ll be completely different. And if it’s not necessarily a good batch, but rather something we tried for a year back when they were in third grade, then who the fuck cares? We’ll change something again next year to even it out.

That’s what this Coronavirus shut-down has felt like. Every day they come out with new things that they’re shutting down. But there’s never any data to back it up. There’s never any discussion about if anything we’ve done has been effective so far. And how can there be? We barely test anybody, and if we did, it would take too long to get the results. Any numbers they give us now are the people who felt sick two weeks ago and got tested a week ago. They were probably sick before we even started washing our hands. But who needs data?

“We shut all the schools, but there’ve been ten new cases, so now you can’t go to restaurants. We shut the restaurants, but there’ve been five new cases, so now you have to stay at home. Goddammit, people, you’re not listening to us. We’re up to one hundred sick people! Fire every single person from every single job!”

The governor actually took the nicer approach. He commended us for doing what we’re supposed to be doing before saying that it isn’t working, so we’re going to do more of it.

At least we’ve determined that education isn’t “essential.” I guaran-fucking-tee my district will use that as their opening salvo the next time we’re negotiating a raise.

I assume the reason they did this piecemeal was because they couldn’t go for the whole pinata at the beginning. If they told us to shut down on day one, we would’ve said no. So instead they told us to wash our hands and then told us that wasn’t enough, despite no evidence to back that up. The real reason we’re on lockdown now is because Newsom and Trump saw that everybody went along with it, no questions asked, then took the next step.

Great and all, if you buy their rationale, but that’s kinda what Hitler did before World War II, too.

Newsom said if we don’t follow his orders, 25,500,000 Californians will contract the virus. Despite the fact that only 500,000 people worldwide have had it. Think about that. For every one person worldwide, an extra fifty-plus people in California will catch it. And that’s evidenced by the 3,000 or so in the state who already have it.

Now he needs another 50,000 hospital beds for “the surge in cases.” What surge? Where is the evidence of this surge? The few times I drive out, isolated in my car, nobody is out anywhere. Airplanes are flying with seven passengers aboard.

Every day we’re being bombarded by reports of who has it now. Two players from a hockey team. A senator. An actor. A member of a rock band. And each one of them is treated like an HIV diagnosis in the mid-1980s. It’s a surefire death sentence. If the NHL ever comes back, how will the Ottawa Senators field a team with two dearly departed, and I’m sure the rest of the team will have it soon, too. And poor Tom Hanks will never be able to make a movie again. And the Senate… Meh, fuck the politicians. But how dare he go to work when he didn’t know he had the virus? Talk about non-essential…

My local Kaiser has stopped taking non-emergency medical conditions, so I can’t get allergy shots anymore. The last time I went in (the day before shots got shut down like I was Indiana Fucking Jones grabbing his hat as the door dropped) they greeted me at the door with soap and asked me what I was there for, then sent me around to avoid any contact with anyone. But that wasn’t enough, so they shut the shit down. My primary care physician sent a mass e-mailed saying don’t come it unless it’s an emergency. And chances are, any non-COVID emergency will be told to shelter in place. We don’t give a shit about your terminal cancer, fuckface, this county has 50 Coronavirus cases.

Wait, did I read that right? My county currently has 50 cases. Two deaths. So they shut down the entire medical facility for 50 people? How big is this hospital? The good news is that I know of a doctor and a facility that’s more than ready for Gavin Newsom’s 50,000 phantom victims.

Flatten the curve. I get it. But are we really flattening the curve? It seems to me that if we’re just pushing pause on life for three to six weeks. Then we’ll go back to giving hugs and everyone will catch the virus anew. We’re delaying the curve, not flattening it. Okay, maybe the curve will have 50 fewer people in my county.

Unless washing our hands works. Too bad we didn’t bother doing our due diligence to find out.

Maybe we’ll reopen society in stages. We could do some businesses, then the others. But how would we decide who opens first? There doesn’t seem to be gradation in essentiality. You’re either essential, in which case you’re still open, or you’re not. So then maybe we should have every business reopen with only 25% of their staff. We can have a lottery. Then, once those 25% all turn into zombies, we send them home, wait a week, and pick the next unfortunate saps. That would flatten the curve. And it worked really well in World War I. I mean, aside from the whole 60,000 British casualties on a single day of battle.

I know, I know. Y’all don’t come here for the vitriol. You come for the pithy. So let me put away my tinfoil hat and come up with some of my more run-of-the-mill observations. To wit:

– We’ve been doing some spring cleaning. What the hell else are we supposed to do with all of our time? Get to know our family? So I did a really good job of going through some of my old books to clear some space on the bookshelf. So did Wife, and even Daughter okayed a few hand-me-downs.

But what the hell were we supposed to do with these books now? All of the used bookstores are closed and something inside me cringes if I have to throw a book away. It seems so wasteful. And it takes up vital trash space for all the plastics.

Fortunately, we have a Free Little Library. If you aren’t aware of these, people build little wooden mailbox-sized houses with clear doors out where people walk. If there’s a book in there you want, you just take it, and if you have a book that you are done with, you can leave it there. Great. I can just dump all of these books there. Except its got limited real estate, and I notice that it’s filled up recently, probably because every other household in the neighborhood’s doing the same thing as me.

So now I’m like Andy Dufresne taking rubble out to the prison yard in his pants. I’m taking one or two books each day and trying to slip them in. At last check, seven of the thirty or so books came from this house. And I’ve still got a stack ready and waiting. Come on, neighbors, read the shit I’m putting out there.

That might be the motto for this blog, too.

– We’re trying our best to support places that are still open. We’re doing takeout. We’re doing drive-throughs and curbside. I keep going to my favorite brewery to refill my growler. On one trip last weekend, I ran into the Sprouts (a grocery store that doesn’t have the same foot traffic as the behemoths) while Wife did curbside pickup at Joann’s. Then she did curbside at Target, which is super fancy. You don’t have to call them or anything. Just open your app when you’re in the parking lot and Big Brother heads right out. Then I went to the BevMo to pickup my online alcohol order. They’re not quite as high-tech – I had to call somebody to meet me at the front door with my booze – but really, I was picking up booze that I had ordered online, so who the hell cares that they weren’t to Amazon Prime delivery yet. I keep wondering to myself if those in charge would’ve been so ready to shut the whole shit down if we weren’t already living in the future.

But there are other businesses that I want around after the shitshow who aren’t quite as conducive to supporting while in quarantine. There’s an Indian place with a wonderful lunch buffet. Sure, I could order from them a la carte, but that just seems wrong. Why pay for one entree when I’m used to having ALL the entrees. Plus I probably should’ve been paying closer attention to which dishes I like all those times I partook. But then, what’s the point of a buffet if not mindless scooping?

Another favorite that doesn’t have a to-go option is Mongolian BBQ. Perhaps I’m being obstinate with the Indian food, but with Mongolian, I really don’t see how it’s feasible. You have to stand in line and put your grubby paws on the same food that other paws have already grubbed. Even if I could put that into a Doordash order, there’s no way the chef’s going to know the proper number of spicy versus sweet versus salty sauce scoops. I don’t even know. It’s a touchy-feely things, like those old grandma recipes that said q.b., short for quanto basta, meaning “How much is enough” or “as much as needed.” But I don’t think Doordash has a q.b. option.

We need restaurants or businesses like this to establish Patreon accounts. I’d be willing to send them some money to keep them around. And if they want to make it good for a meal when this thing is done, great. But if not, consider it a much better pay-it-forward than buying that fat fuck behind me’s Frappuccino.

Sure, I could get gift cards in the meantime, but if the business doesn’t have an updated website (and let’s be honest, the Mongolian and the Indian restaurants aren’t likely to be the most technologically savvy), that means I have to go in. But are they even open?

So they just need to establish a Patreon. If it’s good enough for podcasts, which don’t even give me an egg roll on the side, it should be good enough for brick-and-mortars.

-The grocery stores seem to be restocking some of the staples. Bread and ramen still seem a little sparse. Meat is still hit or miss, but it’s better than all-miss, as it was a week ago. It’s almost like, follow me here, our economy produces enough for us to consume, as long as we don’t freak out and try to buy the whole goddamned store.

I’m reminded of FDR’s first Fireside Chat, after he’d closed all the banks. Well, he didn’t close all the banks, he only declared a bank holiday that ended up lasting the better part of a week. Back then, can you imagine, presidents and the government actually thought there were limits to what they could do, who and what they could command to stay indoors and close their doors. So when the banks were about to reopen, he got on the airwaves to tell the people to not be numbnuts the next day. Banks, he explained, only keep enough cash on hand to cover normal withdrawals and the rest is tied up in mortgages and shit like that. “[A]n amount which in normal times is wholly sufficient to cover the cash needs of the average citizen.” But if all ya numbnuts go and try to get your money at the same time, it won’t be there.

The same could be said for tortillas and ground beef and pasta. If we had all bought what we needed for, say, one or two weeks worth of isolation, instead of six months, there’d be plenty to go around. Unfortunately, our current commander-in-chief doesn’t seem quite as concerned with calming and quelling the populace. His fireside tweet would probably go something along the lines of, “Go Fuck yourself. Pull my Finger!”

-Somebody posited that the run on flour wasn’t so much hoarding as it was a byproduct of most Americans baking at home for once. Makes sense, since the flour that goes to bakers and restaurants is probably direct from suppliers. I don’t think Krispy Kreme is heading the the Piggly Wiggly each day.

But what does this say about the toilet paper? Are we finally shitting at home instead of work?

-Has everyone else lost track of what day it is? Holy crap!

I was thinking about buying a Nintendo Switch to introduce Daughter to the joy of video games, and possibly Wife and I to the joys of a moment of goddamn peace. Sure, Daughter’s watched me murder some nasty Brits in Assassin’s Creed III on my fancy, high-tech PlayStation 3, but maybe it’s time for her to learn of the existence of non-violent games.

Turns out there are no Nintendo Switches for sale, like, anywhere. Not available on Amazon, no Target or Best Buy or GameStop (before they closed) within 200 miles of me had one in stock. I did a little research and discovered that this shortage was coming even before people were going to be shut in for months. It was just sped along by the Quaran-geddon.

All is not lost, though. Amazon might be able to get some once they end their moratorium on non-essential restocking. The article I read suggested mid-April. No problem, I thought. Why, mid-April must be coming any day now.

What? It’s still March?

Fuck!

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Part 2

It’s academic time right now.

As I write this, my daughter is sitting next to me, working through a store-bought “Kindergarten skills booklet” that appears to have been written for kindergarten skills back when I was in kindergarten (Which is edible: paste or vegetables?), not what they’re doing now. So she’s burning through these. After all, if she can burn through a Dr. Seuss book, I don’t think having her trace the a at the beginning of apple’s going to vex her much. We’ve limited her to one page a day in some books, but we still have to give her enough busy work to get through the recommended one hour of morning Academic Time before our magical robot overlord, Alexa, tells us it’s time to move on to our next time allotment.

Such is life in what I’ve dubbed Quran-geddon(tm).

Is that how trademarks work? Can I just throw a ™ after something and now I get paid if anyone else uses it? In whatever quid pro-quo replace US Dollars in the sportless future when Alexa finally tells us it’s okay to go outside.

But just bear in mind I occasionally have to help my daughter with some of these things. So if I suddenly write, “no, baby, it’s six, not five,” assume I just gave Daughter instructions that included the “fuck-stain shit sickle” intended for this post.

I haven’t checked in since last Friday, back in the nascence of this Brave New World. I picked up Daughter from daycare and told her that her school and softball and dance class were all canceled, along with that little trip to Disneyland we had planned for this week. Then she and I spent about 72 hours in line at the grocery store in order to buy seven items, because the rest of the world was purchasing the entire store. The only thing they weren’t buying at that time was corned beef. So I figured I’d wait and come back after the weekend to buy that.

Oops.

To be fair to the hoarders, that’s totally on me, and I should know better than to wait until March 16 to buy corned beef. Although usually there’s a shit-ton of it, even on the 18th when I can buy it on sale.

My second foray to the grocery store showed some some through-lines from the previous trip and some anomalies. There seems to be a run on meat, in many ways the most perishable of items. My local store has filled up most of their meat refrigerators with salami packs, spread out so as to appear like there’s variety, in lieu of the normal beef and chicken and pork.

People are fucking horrible at hermitage. Why aren’t they buying the stuff that doesn’t go bad after a few days? They probably think they’re living off the grid by running a VPN while having their Google Maps giving them directions.

Bread and tortillas also seemed to be in shorter supply on Monday than they had been on Friday. Flour was gone, but sugar was there. Thank God there doesn’t seem to be a run on coffee or beer. All the beans were gone, too. Not sure if that’s a great idea for people with limited toilet paper options.

My family made it through the rainy weekend, but only through inertia. You know it’s bad when the parents are begging the child to watch Frozen II just one more time and the child’s not having it.

We broke the not-then-official quarantine both days. In fact, I’ve left the house for something or other pretty much every day. Usually it’s just a visit to a store or to get some take-out, and it’s substantially less than it would’ve been on normal stay-at-home days. Saturday we hit the bookstore to get the aforementioned workbooks. I also found a cool Marvel Comics 1000 dot-to-dot book. That’s for Papa while Baby works on her minuscule 20 dot-to-dots. Holy crap, they take a long time! “Daddy, I’ve already done, like, five and you’re only at, what, three-fifty?”

We also went to a furniture store to finally buy a desk we’ve been eyeing for a while. The vulturous salespeople there are annoying on a regular visit, hovering behind a nearby pillar at all times, ready to pounce with a “Can I help you with anything? Would you like to borrow my tape-measure? Here’s my card. You can call me even though I’ll never be more than six feet away.” They knew social distancing long before social distancing was a thing.

We knew going in that, with both the rain and the Quaran-geddon(tm) diminishing the quantity of customers, the salespeople would be even more omnipresent than usual. We braced ourselves and it still wasn’t enough. We finally glommed onto one just to ward off the other vampires. But their pheromones must not be working, because when she went to go check on something, they descended. Her tape-measure did nothing to ward the hordes off. All is fair in love, war, and commission jobs right before an economic meltdown.

Sunday we went to Michael’s to get more things to occupy Daughter and Best Buy to look at laptops for me. I thought about buying a Nintendo Switch, but they were sold out. I almost bought a PlayStation 4, but I’ve held out this long and the 5 is on the horizon. Fortunately I held firm, although I’m still wavering because “MLB: The Show 20” might be the only sport action I’ll be seeing for a while.

As an aside, I’m worried that MLB is one of the arbiters of when we get to go back to normal. The last time we shut down sports was for 9/11. The NFL canceled its games the following Sunday, and baseball dithered about when it should start up. One week later? Ten days? Then the NFL said they’d return the following Sunday and MLB followed suit the next day. Unfortunately, there is no NFL to act as the leader this time. Maybe the NHL will start up for the playoffs. But if not, it’s all on the MLB, and they aren’t known for being proactive. Last I heard they’re looking at June. That’s totally going to fuck up Mike Trout’s chance to win the all-time WAR title by the end of his career. I know: priorities!

Why isn’t MLB playing? It’s the only sport where players don’t regularly come in contact with each other. Social distancing? Take a look at the real estate between the average right fielder and center fielder. The only time they’re close to each other is when they’re in the dugout, but if there are no fans in attendance, they can just spread out in the first three or four rows of the stands. And they could play all day games because it’s not like any of us are at work. They’d make a killing on TV ratings.

Back to the present, I just had an argument with my daughter about an orange crayon. Because the first orange crayon I gave her to circle all the fucking words that start with an s wasn’t orange enough. It was too yellow. Looked orange enough to me, but that’s coming from a high school history teacher, not a kindergarten teacher. When did World War II start? Kinda sorta 1939, if you’re counting the main European conflict, but it wasn’t until 1941 that all of the major actors came in, with Operation Barbarossa in the summer and Pearl Harbor in December. Of course, the Pacific Theater could have been going on as early as 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

So don’t ask a fucking history teacher what “orange” is.

This has been my life this week. We’re using one of those charts that have been circulating online. One hour of “academic time” followed by one hour of “creative time.” There’s some outside time sprinkled in throughout the day, plus breaks for lunch and chores and quiet or reading time. I usually try to engage in whatever she’s doing, both for solidarity’s sake and to help stick to a routine myself. Of course, I don’t know if what I do counts as academic or creative. Most days, it’s probably neither. But the online time charts don’t put time aside for masturbatory self-flagellation.

It’s not like I can lesson plan during academic time. Well, I could, but by the time the hour was up, it would already be obsolete. The governor says schools are closed for the year and, I shit you not, I received an e-mail from my district the following morning saying, “That’s certainly his opinion.” And now it looks like the AP Test that my students have rightfully been freaking out about is going to change as well. Two separate test dates and they won’t cover anything from the twentieth century. So all of that nineteenth century remote learning I was working on can be stretched out. Plus the AP test will be online now, which means the motivated kids will spend the next six weeks trying to devise ways to cheat instead of studying for the exam. So there goes my pass rate.

I also liked how quickly the e-mails changed over the course of last weekend. Up until Saturday, it seemed like every company wanted to tell me how clean they were. They’ve been scrubbing every surface inside every business. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer might be things of the past, but there’s enough Lemon Pledge for every company, and then some. And when I say “every company,” holy crap! I didn’t even know I had done business with half these guys. How do they have my e-mail address? Has the government just provided every company with everybody’s e-mail address? It’s not like there are civil liberties or privacy anymore, so who cares what the government with our personal information?

Then on Sunday morning, all of the e-mails quickly switched from “look how clean we are” to “hey, we’ll deliver!” My favorite 180 came from Twin Peaks. If you aren’t aware of it, it’s one of those “breastaurants” whose main reason for existence is to see scantily-clad women. Oh, and maybe get some food. Think of Hooters and then take away 60% of each server’s clothing. Although to be fair to Twin Peaks, their food is substantially better than Hooters.

On Friday, Twin Peaks wanted me to know that all of their bikini-wearing servers will be on their hands and knees, polishing knobs during each shift. Wait, that might have come out wrong. They were cleaning everything, is what I meant to say. The message didn’t make me feel much better. In a standard restaurant, I only have to worry about the servers’ hands being clean. At Twin Peaks, ninety percent of their skin is touching everything. Fortunately, they did the economy-wide switch on Sunday. Turns out they deliver. But again, the food’s not their selling point. Customers aren’t missing the french fries, but rather the French maid outfits. And if the Doordash dude shows up wearing bikini bottoms, those fries aren’t going taste very good.

My county wasn’t on stay at home orders until yesterday morning. Then last night, the governor, who thinks he’s the most wonderful specimen of humanity and way smarter than everybody else, put the entire state on lockdown. A dictatorship is okay, after all, if the dictator is dashingly handsome and, let’s face it, better than you. Silly me, thinking we had freedom of assembly.

There seems to be some sort of distinction between “Stay at Home” and “Shelter in Place.” I’m not sure which is which, but the cities and counties have tended to start with one and then go to the other. Maybe one of them is a suggestion and the other is a mandate? I also have no idea which one the state of California is doing. We can still go to get food or medicine. And the good news is that beer is considered food.

I’ve actually taken my growler to my favorite local brewery to be refilled once, and I’m planning to go back. We’re also eating takeout for lunch more often than we need to. Because I’m on salary and I want these places to still be in business if we ever come out the other end of this. What’s the point of the checks that the federal government’s going to send out if there’s noplace left to spend it? Maybe that $1,000 will go to purchasing one roll of toilet paper on eBay.

Can’t wait to see the effect these lockdowns have on things like probable cause. Can a cop pull me over because I’m driving on the freeway? Do I have to make up some “essential” business I’m on my way to? I can’t give him the real answer, which is that that I’ve been stuck teaching academic time to a five-year old and wanted to listen to a grown-up podcast, which I’m way behind on because I don’t have a commute anymore.

We’re also allowed to go out to walk the dog or get exercise. If I don’t have a dog, can the cop arrest me if I don’t seem to be getting my heart into the cardio zone? “Come on, pansy, you call that exercise?”

Scratch that. The cops don’t need to catch you. Sacramento County just came out with an edict to call 311 if we see other people breaking their stay at home orders. Neighbors ratting out their neighbors. Getting more and more Stalin-y by the day.

I’ve got other things to say, but I think I need to flesh out a few thoughts. Better to post it here.

At least the rain isn’t coming back till Monday.

Coronavirus Lockdown Part 1

I’m writing from beyond the pale. I don’t know how long it’s been since society collapsed. After all, what is time but a communal construct?It all flows together once they closed all the schools and restaurants and bars and Disneyland. Since the rationing of bottled water and toilet paper. Has it been a month? A season? Would it still be the year of our Lord 2020, if we were still using those old calendars one might find on a dusty Google drive buried in the corner ‘neath Doordash coupons?

It’s only been a day? What the ever-loving fuck?

A lot’s changed since I finally decided to stop editing my last Coronavirus post to keep up. Back then I said we were overreacting. I still think we are. It seems like every day, they push the envelope. Not because there’s been a massive uptick showing the previous measures were unsuccessful, but more in a, “Wow, the people accepted the last infringement on civil liberties with nary a peep? Well how about if we call it shelter-in-place instead of martial law?”

But whatever. It’s not about us healthy people. It’s about the Baby Boomers next to us in the Target who can’t be bothered to wash their hands, because they’re God’s chosen generation and they’ve never given two shits about what society tells them to do, so why should they start now? I might get the shits, but they’ll die. Everyone under the age of sixty is a Typhoid Mary.

(We had a fix for social security right in front of us and we just couldn’t grab it…)

What was that? Did somebody say something? Never mind.

My family was supposed to go to Disneyland this week. Oops. After they closed, we managed to cancel Daughter’s independent study and her absences from day care and softball and dance. Oops.

On Friday afternoon, they canceled her school for the next month. Then my school canceled, as well. Then her dance class and her softball practices on Tuesday and softball games on Saturday and my curling canceled. Day care is still open (for now), but she only goes to day care two days a week. And let’s be honest, by the time this Friday rolls around, they’ll have joined the End of Days, too.

Which means I’m stuck with her for the next three weeks, at least. So I might as well blog about this shit, because if society isn’t ending, my sanity just might be. I don’t know how often I’ll post. Guessing it’ll get redundant pretty fast. And it’s not like my only-child is going to let me pick up my laptop. So I’ll have to plop her in front of the TV and then I start feeling guilty about my lack of parenting skills. At least until the electricity company tells all their workers to stay home.

Oh, and to add to the fun and frivolity, Mother Nature decided to get involved. We just had eight of the driest winter weeks on record, the trees in full bloom with daily temperatures in the seventies. Then, within twelve hours of schools being canceled, the rain came in. I think that’s what the Adult Entertainment Industry calls a “double-team.”

Still, I need to get some catharsis out. And if, in three weeks, they find me wandering the Nevada desert looking to drown my fears in some radiated dirt from all those nuclear tests seventy years ago, these blog posts will serve as evidence to chalk it up as another Coronavirus fatality.

This past Friday, I decided to go to the grocery store. It didn’t seem a momentous decision at the time. In fact, I decided to pick Daughter up from daycare first. She likes the grocery store, and it usually gives us a transition time before we get home. But clearly I missed the memo that this was the last time to stock up on important groceries before the impending Armageddon.

Holy shit! I expected the canned goods to be gone, maybe the long-term non-perishables. So when the pasta aisle looked like the toilet paper aisles that everyone’s been posting, I wasn’t shocked. Pasta lasts forever and you can do lots of different things with it. And even though I was annoyed that every single Kraft Macaroni n’ Cheese was gone, I shrugged and moved on. I mean, come on people, some of us have young kids and have to go through multiple blue boxes per day. What the hell are YOU using it for? Fortunately I managed to snag the last few Annie’s mac n’ cheeses. It sucks that I have to give my child something less processed. The organic ingredients might be a shock to her system. But at least I made sure some other fucker doesn’t get shit. It’s hoarding season, mother fucker!

I was a little more surprised at the carts full of chips. Really? You’re gonna hunker down with those things? How long do you expect them to last once you’ve opened each bag? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of a bag of chips as something that’s going to last me through a nuclear winter.

There was also allegedly a run on girl scout cookies. Usually the last weekend of booth sales are abysmal, as most people are chock full. This past weekend, quite the opposite. It shouldn’t seem to matter, as there aren’t going to be any cookies for sale until next January, Coronavirus or no. It’s like the hoarding instinct, once triggered, applies to anything and everything.

What I didn’t expect was the ground beef to be gone. Sure, you can throw it in with your first batch of pasta, but isn’t there some canned tuna or spam that you can throw in there instead? I mean shit, I was just looking for Friday night dinner and with the rain coming in, this would be the last grilling I could do for a while. What the hell is everyone else doing with it? At least nobody was getting fresh veggies. Maybe because they’re afraid of having to throw it away when it goes bad, which would mean they’d have to leave their house to roll it to the curb.

I’m now convinced that all those post-apocalyptic shows are bullshit. They always go on “supply runs,” which consist of ransacking grocery stores for all the canned goods still on the shelves. If this is what happens when the CDC tells us to wash our hands, there isn’t going to be jack shit on the shelves after the real end of the world hits.

More annoying than what was and was not on the aisles, though, was my lack of ability to get through said aisles. Holy crap! Despite having nothing to buy, I’d estimate that half the population of Sacramento California was in that one Safeway. You couldn’t even get from one aisle to the next if you were at the end near the registers. You’d get to the coffee and have to do a 180, go all the way back to the empty meat section, then head down the cereal aisle. But good luck making it all the way to the Kashi bars, because you’d end up running into the checkout line. And that fucker’s going to box you out like nobody’s business, because he’s been holding that spot since, like, six o’clock this morning and there’s no way he’s letting you cut in line. If you really need some Cheerios, he’s willing to set up a bucket brigade to get it to you, but that’s as much as you’re getting. Now just turn around and go on the Snipe Hunt that is the dairy refrigerator.

When I finally finished and made my way to the promised land of cash registers, the mass of humanity almost made me give up the ghost. All of the lanes were open and none of them were moving. There was a lady next to me who had enough things in her cart to qualify for the express lane. The only problem was that the express lane was number eight and she was in line for number one. She maneuvered past me (in line for register two), made it a couple more feet, then withdrew back to lane one. It was too daunting. Fortunately the person behind her let her back in. Asshole in the cereal aisle would’ve made her go back to the end. I suggested she circle around through the back of the store, but if she failed in that endeavor, she’d lose her spot for sure. After another five or ten minutes (what’s time when you’re stuck in line), she tried the direct route one more time. I wished her luck as she disappeared through lane three. As of the time of this writing, I don’t know if she made it clear to the other side. She might be wandering the Nevada desert looking for the sweet release of an atomic crater.

It wasn’t just the number of people that slowed the progress of the lines, it was what they had in their carts. To say overflowing would be a misstatement. After all, if you have two carts, each filled to the brim, that’s more than overflowing. And if both of those carts are overflowing, then I’m at loss for a descriptor. I wanted to ask each of these hoarders how disappointed they would be if they WEREN’T self-quarantined (sorry, “sheltered in place” sound so much more chic). How shitty would that feel to have a pantry full of garbanzo beans with a perfectly open grocery store a block away that you’re totally capable of going to. Come Monday, the stocks should be re-shelved and nary a customer in sight.

“Dammit,” I hear those people saying, “I’m healthy. Who wants some hummus?”

And what’s the deal with all the bottled water? We still have water flowing to our homes, right? If the Governor shuts down “all non-essential” services, we’re still going to have electricity and water and garbage, right? I consider those “essential.” He can maybe shut down the state-run brothels, though.

What’s that? Whorehouses aren’t run by the state? Was that hooker lying to me when she said it was my patriotic duty to procure her services? I knew I should’ve asked to see her federal worker badge.

Now I know I’m prone to hyperbole for entertainment value, but I’m not at all exaggerating when I say it took us forty minutes to check out once we were in line. The entire shopping process took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get maybe twenty items. Not a good bang for the buck there. Either I need to change my shopping pattern or they do. And we all know it ain’t gonna be they. So maybe I’ll come back next week and buy ten of everything.

It’ll be fun! Ten mac n’ cheeses. Ten spinach. Ten suppositories! Ten bars of soap.

Soap, you say? Yes, there’s still tons of soap. The hand sanitizer has been gone for weeks, but nobody seems to care about the stuff that works better than hand sanitizer.

After returning from the grocery store, I ventured out one more time Friday night. This time to Target for the most important purchase a family facing weeks at home with a small child can make: Frozen II. We had already attempted to buy it earlier in the week. Wife thought she found a really good deal on it, only to bring it home and find out it was the original Frozen, which I’m pretty sure we already have twenty copies of that we’ve watched or listened to ten-thousand times. Well, now we have twenty-one copies that we’ve watch ten thousand and one times. Because when we realized we’d bought the wrong one, it was already in the Blu-Ray player.

But with Quaran-geddon approaching, we opted for the real thing. We tried to be good. Wife ordered it on her Target app to pick up in-store, so we wouldn’t have to interact with the public. Then we waited for it to be ready. And we waited. And we waited. How the hell long does it take an employee to go to the back of the store and grab a fucking DVD?

Finally, Wife sent me to go pick up a copy. She could then return the app purchase as soon as she picked it up.

On my way back from the store, minutes after I’d made the purchase, Wife called to tell me the one she ordered was ready.

When I got home, I got the alert that Disney-Plus was going to be releasing Frozen II  three months early, starting the following day. So, at least in this household, Frozen II is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. Three versions purchased in twenty-four hours. And want to guess how many times we’ve watched it since then?

Oh, and while I was at Target, I also grabbed Knives Out. And some cereal. And an ice cream or two.

Gotta be prepared, after all. I may have been late to this hoarding party, but dammit, I’ve learned from the best.

So I finally made it through Friday. The self-quarantine hadn’t even started yet. Only three weeks (at least) to go.

And the rain was coming.

Coronavirus with Lyme Disease

Hold on. I’ll be right with you. First I have to wash my hands for two full minutes.

Unfortunately, I can’t turn over my one-minute hourglass or touch the timer button on my phone, or else I’ll have to start over.

And the water needs to be scalding. If all of my skin gets burned off, after all, I can’t touch my face.

Okay now, how long is that hand-washing good for? Is it two minutes under the faucet, two minutes out in the dangerous world?

Shit! Now I’ve touched my keyboard to type this sentence. And keyboards were already dirty, disgusting cesspools before the Plague-to-end-all-Plagues reared its ugly head. Nowadays, if I touch my keyboard or my face or a doorknob or a Kleenex, I’m taking my life in my hands. To say nothing of the lives of every other citizen in my house, on my block, in my city, and in my state. Not just the human citizens, mind you. All of our cats and dogs are susceptible. Put a mask on Fido! And you should probably devise a robot to feed the fish, too.

But crap, if I touch the robot as I’m building it, it’ll be just as infected as I am. So I need to make a robot that can then make another robot in a sterile environment. Based on the science fictions I’ve seen, the only way to do this is to make the first robot self-aware, and nothing bad can happen after that.

Oh, and Costco is now out of toilet paper.

Now don’t take this the wrong way, but have we lost our fucking mind?

Don’t get me wrong. Coronavirus seems like a bitch. The WHO puts the death rate above 3%, which is brutal if true. There’s question as to how many might be undiagnosed. But even if it’s not true, 4,000 deaths worldwide out of a global population of over seven billion is nothing to sneeze at. Sorry, bad analogy. But still, 4,000 deaths worldwide must be the worst disease of all time. Unlike that measly flu, which only kills… up to 500,000 people per year?

Clearly someone at CNN was absent the day their math class went over “greater than” and less than.”

But I’ve also heard that it mainly attacks those over the age of 70 with a history of respiratory issues or compromised immune systems. So is it only 3% of people who have been smoking for fifty years? Because if that’s the case, I’d really like to be able to wipe my ass again.

And if it mainly affects people that are already sickly, then it’s a good thing we aren’t letting professional athletes high-five each other anymore. I mean, just look at Mike Trout and LeBron James. Those guys look ready to keel over at a stiff breeze. Make them wash their hands every time they touch a football!

Of course, the death rate isn’t as important as the contagion rate. And the problem with the Coronavirus is that you can get it just by looking at someone with it. Or sharing the same zip code. At least as far as I’ve heard. But who the hell knows? It seems like every other headline in my news feed is about two more infected people in a country of three hundred million. So kiss your loved ones goodbye because statistically, it’ll hit you next. Your only hope at survival is to click on the link. Then go douse your infected finger in acid for two minutes.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve seen reported. Of course, all of these are anecdotal. But that almost makes it worse.

-A local school district just canceled school for a week. Not sure what good that’ll do, since the incubation period seems to be 14 days. Maybe they should just cancel the rest of the school year.

-Starbucks isn’t allowing customers to use reusable cups. Even though they wash them and hand them back to the very customer whose germs it has. This after Starbucks and all of its customers (and detractors) have spent the last decade bemoaning single-use cups as the single greatest threat to the survival of our planet. Can’t wait until California, which banned* single-use plastic bags years ago, tells us we have to start using them again.
(*N.B. We didn’t ban them, the stores just can’t give them away. They need to charge us. But only grocery stores. Department stores, restaurants, sporting good stores, bookstores, Target, and everyone else can give us plastic to their hearts’ content.)

-The four major sports leagues currently playing games have banned reporters from locker rooms. Because interviewing people right out of the shower, when they’re at their cleanest, is a bad idea. Much better to wait until you can get them all crowded into a press-conference room with carpeting and seats that have had thousands of ass-cheeks in them.

-Everyplace is out of hand sanitizer, which I sorta understand, and toilet paper, which I don’t. Even if it’s two-ply, it won’t protect you from a virus. But Costco is limiting the amount of toilet paper each customer can buy. It worked so well for Carter with gas in the late 1970s.

– We’re now assaulting people who sneeze on planes, or forcing the place to divert. Despite the fact that March is prime allergy month.

-Italy started banning fans from sporting events for the next month. Banning FANS! They’re legitimately going to be playing soccer games in front of empty stadiums. Because if so much as one virus gets loose in a stadium of 70,000, then all 70,000 will be dead by the end of the game. The team with the last fan standing wins.

-In the 48 hours since I started this post, the Italy decision has been followed by every other lemming in the world: the San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors, every event in Ohio, and probably, when opening day rolls around, the Seattle Mariners. But the Mariners are still playing in front of fans in Spring Training. But it’s okay, because only old people go to Spring Training. And their more susceptible.

-And this just in: all of March Madness! Holy shit! Bet and pick favorites. Usually the crowd likes to pump up underdogs and get behind them if they go on a run.

I’m reminded of before the Iraq War (the second one), when Colin Powell busted out his Anthrax presentation at the United Nations. He held up a vial and said a teaspoon of that will, like, crawl up inside the asshole of every infidel and treat us like 72 virgins. (I might’ve been paraphrasing). But based on the sporting bans, Coronavirus might as well be anthrax. I feel a little bit sorry for all the suicide bombers. Who would have guessed that all they needed to do to bring the entire western world to a screeching halt was sneeze in an airport.

Or maybe we could stop using The Walking Dead as a medical journal.

Because as far as I can tell, the Coronavirus is a pretty nasty form of the flu. Death rate is definitely higher. And maybe it’s more contagious? But it’s flu season. And really, shouldn’t we be washing our hands a lot during the winter anyway?

Speaking of which, are we still supposed to wash or hands after going to the bathroom? What’s a little fecal matter in the face of oblivion? Heck, it’s not like I was able to wipe with all the toilet paper gone, anyway.

The way people are acting, it’s the Black Death. If you’ve driven on the same freeway as someone, even if you’re in completely different cars with all the windows rolled up and no outside vent running, you are assuredly infected. And did you just look in the rear view window? Now the guy behind you has it. And now you’re both certain to die. Good job, asshat. How dare you drive your car? Quick, buy some hand sanitizer and toilet paper!

Because a 3% death rate means everybody dies. Said by the same people who claim the 2016 polls were wrong because someone with a 30% chance won the election. Percentages are hard, y’all!

A local junior colleges made the news because one of their medical students had been exposed to the virus. They reiterated that the county has no cases yet. So how the fuck was this student “exposed to” the virus? Is the virus going around wearing socks and a trenchcoat? Was it hanging out at the county line, unwilling to cross but waiting for a goody-two-shoes to look in the wrong direction? Seriously, how is one exposed to the virus if nobody around has said virus? Did she see a picture of it online?

I had it right the first time. This isn’t the Black Death. This is the Zombie Apocalypse.

Or maybe, with the run on toilet paper, we’re going for the Mummy Apocalypse.

I don’t want to blame this on the media. But come on, they’ve certainly been at the forefront of fan-flaming. They had such a good thing going with that whole impeachment thing. But with that gone, what’s going to get the people to click on ten different headlines featuring the same general content?

Coronavirus!

Boy howdy, that’s a catchy name. After all, we’ve gone through this rigmarole before, but back then it was called Swine Flu or Avian Flu or SARS. And those all sound comic. Scientific. And let’s be honest, foreign. But corona? That’s something I’ve heard of. SARS sounds like someone banging a gong, but I see Corona at the grocery store. It’s memorable. It’s catchy.

I bet Tecate’s pissed about all the earned media of their closest rival.

There was a poll showing 38% of people not willing to drink Corona, and the media (again, errantly) claimed this was due to the fancy new nomenclature. But if you look closely at that poll, only 4% said it was because of the Coronavirus. The other 34% are just sane human beings who don’t want to waste money on crappy beer. Have I mentioned before that beer shouldn’t need fruit added? I think I have.

Corona’s sales have actually gone up over the same period last year and the year before. Because people are nothing if not impressionable. If Tecate wants to get in on this shit, they better strike a deal to change the name to Covid-19, brought to you by Tecate. Or maybe Dos Equis can get in on the fun by calling it the Most Interesting Virus in the World. I don’t always wash my hands. But when I do, it’s because of Coron… crap, Covid-19.

Hey, did you know you can sing Covid-19 to the tune of “Come On, Eileen”? And… you’re welcome.

Here’s where I admit that I’ve been washing my hands a hell of a lot more often this past week than I usually do. Because it’s out there and it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of during flu season. But we can go overboard. At the bank, a woman demanded that they sanitize the pen before she signed her check. At my school, the librarian is making all of the teachers wash our hands before making copies. He’s got, I shit you not, four different soft-soap dispensers at the sink. I assume he watched which one I used and then used one of the others to clean its nozzle.

An abundance of caution. I get it. But I don’t think it was photocopiers that drove the Spanish Flu back in 1919. And I have yet to see a pen used on The Walking Dead. 

There’s something McCarthyist about the whole thing. Everyone’s got it except you. Greet everyone with suspicion. Wash at all costs to kill the reds, cause the only good virus is a virus who’s dead!

Perhaps we should make a list of who is suspected of having coronavirus. Shut yourself in your house and spy out the window. If your neighbor’s water meter doesn’t go up every ten minutes, then they’re a bunch of filthy coronas.

We can give said list to John Procter. He seems like he’d do the responsible thing. What’s that? He’s been dead for 300 years? Hmm, put your lists and theories out on Twitter instead. Seems just as reasonable.

So, after canceling schools and sporting events and flights (I saw that airlines are canceling and combining flights to lessen exposure, but doesn’t that just put more people on each flight?), what can we do? Some people have taken to fist bumping and elbow bumping in lieu of shaking hands. Howie Mandel allegedly only first bumps because he’s a germophobe. Um, okay but… fist bumping is still skin to skin contact. As are your elbows, if you’re wearing short sleeves. And sure, your elbows haven’t been grabbing doorknobs or anything, but you also haven’t been washing them as regularly as your hands, have you? And you had this brilliant idea to start pushing open doors with those elbows to avoid grabbing those doorknobs. In the same spot that every other Wisenheimer is putting their elbows to open the door.

We’re also not supposed to touch our faces. But come on, that’s not real, right? Everybody touches their faces. It’s instinct. Right now my face feels fine, but if you tell me I can’t touch it, there will immediately be a colossal itch on my cheek, the type that feels like an inchworm burrowing into my skull. I just NEED to scratch it. AHHHHH!

I think that whole “don’t touch your face thing” is what they throw in to avoid coming up with real answers. Hey, why’d this perfectly healthy hermit who’s been inside since the first Bush Administration contract this communicable disease? Eh, he probably touched his face.

It’s like when your dentist asks if you’ve been flossing. Because nobody actually flosses regularly. We floss when something’s stuck in our teeth and the night before we see the dentist. And we touch our face to adjust our glasses or run our hands through our hair or put an Airpod in our ear. Or, back in the Dark Ages, to cover up our mouth and nose when we were sneezing or coughing. But now I’m being told that’s a big no-no, because now those germs are in my hand. We should instead sneeze into our shirt sleeve. Somehow that’s more sanitary. Perhaps the dried snot on my sleeve will become a way to signal that I’m woke.

To quote The Verve in The Freshman,  “I won’t be held responsible. She was touching her face.” I’ve heard conflicting theories over the past twenty years that that song was about either a drug overdose or an abortion. Turns out it was a CDC memo this whole time. And I guess when the Divinyls were singing, “When I think about you I touch myself,” they were actually wishing death and disease upon you.

So now we’ve successfully “self-quarantined” ourselves from any other human contact. Want to know another word for “self-quarantine”? It’s called staying home. Just like we’ve always told people to do with the flu. But it sounds fancier now. “Stay home” is a suggestion. “Self-Quarantine” is a directive. Maybe it’s not a mandate yet, but the niggling conspiracy theorist at the back of my skull thinks the government is paying very close attention to how this self-quarantine is going. Holy shit, they’re playing sports in empty stadiums?  Just wait when we tell them that bath salts fucker was really a zombie.

And yes, the niggling woke-dude at the back of my skull knows that we’re not supposed to say “niggling” anymore.

The last time they made up this large-scale of a “quarantine” was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that wasn’t a quarantine either. It was an embargo. And this doesn’t feel like a “self-quarantine” either. The local news just reported on someone leaving a block that was self-quarantined. A block! An entire row of houses! Being volun-told to not venture out of their house. Because one person might or might not have “been exposed to” a particularly gnarly flu.

I overheard two people talking.

“I’ve heard someone might have tested positive for it in Elk Grove”

“Well… You live in Elk Grove, don’t you?”

Elk Grove, by the way, is a suburb of 200,00 people that encompasses close to fifty square miles.

Then again, they’re freaking out because Los Angeles County, with a population of four million, has twenty sick people. And they’re banning San Jose Sharks games because 50 people out of the 2,000,000 who live in Santa Clara County have it. And some 80-year old died.

As an aside, how many people have the flu right now?

And what about us poor souls whose seasonal allergies go crazy this time of year. How dare we show ourselves in public and make all those people worry? The wheezy cough. The weepy eyes. Why, I must be a zombie, mustn’t I?

Allergies, my wife and child can attest are not contagious. But the time for subtlety and nuance is over. It’s Coronavirus’s world now, mother fucker!

It’s like the old saying:

First they came for the toilet paper. But I was stocked up on toilet paper, so I said nothing.

Expletive Deleted

She kneed him in the guts and called him braggart in front of everyone.

The first part seems physically difficult. The latter part lacks punch.

Of course, this isn’t the original line. The original line, from Weird Science, was “She kneed him in the nuts and called him faggot in front of everyone.” The first part is a much more natural assault and the latter half was an insult used often in the mid-eighties despite being out of vogue these days. Although I teach at a high school, and it’s not quite as taboo as polite society would have you believe.

But the line about the guts and the braggart comes from the censored version, the “edited for content” television broadcast, of Weird Science. And I love me some edited for television shit.

Sorry, “some edited for television [shucks.]”

Why do I love them so? Because they do shit like changing shit to “shucks” instead of “crap,” a word that means the same thing but is substantially less offensive. Crap would probably fit the context of shit about ninety percent of the time. But who gives a flying [fruit] about context? Not those TV censors! Instead, they find a word that sounds similar. Grammar be [dimed.] Because lip-readers are the only ones who deserve to understand a character’s motivation.

So motherfucker becomes mother trucker, which I don’t mind. Or mother father, as in, “You tell that mother father what’s going to happen if he tries to pull that shucks again!” Which makes no [mango friday] sense.

The most famous editing was probably Smokey and the Bandit, where the cop often mutters “Son of a bitch” under his breath. It was turned into “Scumbum.” So then people started calling people “Scumbum,” because let’s face it, that’s a pretty [fruitin’] cool pseudo-insult. Heck, it’s probably a better putdown than son of a bitch. Who the hell cares if they’re called a son of a bitch? It’s an insult against your mother, not you.

I remember when “Devil Went Down to Georgia” came out, it was a big deal which radio stations would broadcast the actual lyric, son of a bitch, and which ones would sanitize it to son of a gun. Most took the latter. Nowadays I can’t imagine bitch being an issue. If anything, gun is the more offensive word these days.

But scumbum? Them’s some fighting words, mother trucker.

I think mother trucker should be used more often. It rolls off the tongue. And if you think about it long enough, it is a bit of an insult. It brings to mind Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. As opposed to mother fucker, which is an accurate describer of every father in the world, as well as a large swath of the fatherless set.

One time in the late 1990s, I saw that Pulp Fiction was going to be playing on broadcast television on a Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, I cleared out my entire weekend for that Must-See event. Think about it. How many words in Pulp Fiction WON’T be bleeped out? Half?

My favorite part of the edited version is when Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are debating religion. Jules, Samuel L. Jackson’s character, has just “seen the light” after surviving being shot at and, while he’s sitting there eating his non-pork breakfast, he has what alcoholics refer to as a “moment of clarity.”

Vincent, played by John Travolta, is not impressed, to which Jules responds, “Look, if you want to play blind man, go walk with the shepherds. But me? My eyes are wide-fucking-open.”

Except on Channel 8, his eyes were “wide, focused open.”

Not bad. The cadence works and I’ll give an extra point to the bureaucrat in charge. It almost makes sense. Odd context, a natural speech might reverse those two adjectives. And really, wouldn’t you narrow your eyes to focus? But I’m nitpicking. A solid effort on that one.

The next few make a little less sense. Here’s what it sounds like in the real movie:

“Jesus Christ.”

“Don’t blaspheme.”

“God damn it!”

“I said don’t blaspheme. Don’t do that!”

Totally works. It’s a strong indication of Jules’s newfound faith that he’s offended by two phrases that are so commonplace as to be far removed from their blasphemous roots. In fact, these phrases seem so tame that I’m surprised they felt the need to edit them out in the late 1990s. Heck, Mr. Furley was saying “Damn” on Three’s Company as early as fifteen years prior. Sure, putting the “God” in front adds some extra gravity, but this is Pulp Fiction we’re talking about. Is there some 90-year-old sufferin’ from the vapors tuning in to this broadcast?

Well, if they are, they aren’t going to hear “Jesus Christ” or “God Damn it.” Instead, they’re going to hear “Jeez, oh mighty!” and “Gosh dang it.”

But Jules is still going to respond to each with “Don’t blaspheme.”

Of course, both of those phrases have their origins in blasphemy. Jeez is short for Jesus, and throwing in the “Oh, mighty” probably just makes it moreso. And we all know “gosh darn it” is just a poor man’s curse. Kinda makes me wonder about “Gee” and “Gosh” by themselves. Am I breaking one of the commandments and taking my savior’s name in vain when I say, “Gosh, I never thought of that? Golly gee!” Because if so, then the next time a student or my daughter asks a question I don’t know the answer to, I might as well answer, “Fuck a cunt-bubble with a shit-stained twat cock if I know.” At least then I’ve kept the religion out of it.

Now that I think about it, what about the word “good?” The etymology of that word’s gotta be God. As in, God is good. Ergo good must come from God. So if someone asks how I’m doing and I say good, am I breaking more than just grammatical rules? Thou shalt have no gods before me and thou shalt not modify a verb with an adjective! Although to all the grammar nazis out there who try to correct people who respond, “I’m good,” you’re the one who’s wrong, not the utterer. “To be” is a transitive verb, not an action verb. Meaning what follows it pertains to the subject. So the “good” in “I am good” is modifying I, a noun, not am, a verb. So quit trying to sound smart when you’re not, scumbum.

But unlike good, which is so far from its roots that even Mormons don’t find it offensive, most people know what they mean when they say “Jeez” and “Gosh.” And what they mean to do is to AVOID being blasphemous. And if you then jump down their throat about it, then you’re kinda being a prick. Even as a very new born again, Jules’s reaction is a tad excessive. He could just politely explain to Vincent the origin of those two phrases. To just scream “Don’t blaspheme!” makes me think he wasn’t really paying attention to what his close accomplice was actually saying. How rude! The mother trucker.

One other edited movie jumps out at me for all the wrong reasons. Not so much for the words they used as a replacement, but because of which words they chose to replace in the first place. And by extension, which words were perfectly fine.

One of the best movies of the late 1970s, or really of all time, is The Jerk. If you haven’t seen it (shame on you!), it stars Steve Martin as Navin Johnson, who was born a poor black child. Trust me, it makes sense.

Large swaths of the film needed to be edited. For instance, he names his dog “Shithead,” which the TV version changes to “Stupid.” It works either way, as the dog got his name as a result of Navin waking up an entire hotel because he thought the dog was warning him of a fire. So props to the censors for picking a word that sounds similar but also fills the original purpose of the dialogue. If the guy at the hotel told him he should name the dog Simon, the joke would’ve been lost.

Later on in the movie, however, they make a choice that is not quite as laudable. Did you know that the n-word was perfectly fine for broadcast television in the early 1980s?

In a scene near the end, after Navin’s become a multi-millionaire (don’t ask), he’s approached by a businessman about keeping his product from the riff-raff. Only he doesn’t use the word riff-raff. The word he uses starts with an n. To which Navin responds, “Did you say [riff-raff]? You are talking to a [riff-raff].” GEt it? Because he was born a poor black child. He then tries to kick the guy in the nuts, but there’s a clanging sound, causing Navin to pass out.

On the TV version of that scene, there were no edits. Every time the n-word was used in the movie, it was said on the screen. Because who could possibly be offended by it?

But in the following scene, it is revealed that the reason Navin passed out after kicking the dude in the nuts was because the guy was “Iron Balls” McGinty. There was no explanation as to how or why Mr. McGinty had come by his metallic testicles. I’m sure there was an extensive backstory that got cut in the post-edit. Perhaps there were plans for a spinoff Iron Balls trilogy, if only The Jerk hadn’t been such a flop. It was only the… holy crap! The Jerk was the eighth-highest grossing movie of 1979? Wow. Y’all didn’t have much going for you in the late 1970s, did you? Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. But its sophomoric humor is far from cinematic gold. Last week, I wrote about UHF, a sophomoric film that came out precisely one decade later, and it came in at #113 for the year. Behind such masterpieces as Coccoon: The Return and Halloween 5 and Police Academy 6 and Friday the 13th, Part VIII. (And people think it’s only recently that Hollywood lost its ability to come up with anything new). It was even two spots behind Die Hard, which had already been in the theaters for six months before 1989 even started.

Clearly, Weird Al needed to put more n-bombs and testicle jokes in his movie. Or he needed a time machine to get back to 1979.

Not that the TV version made any testicle jokes. Like the dog, whose name changed to Stupid, Iron Balls was christened Iron Bill for the masses. Not sure why there was a clanging sound when Iron Bill got kicked in the nuts. Two totally unrelated items. Like Samuel L. Jackson screaming “Don’t blaspheme!” at someone who had done no such thing.

But “balls,” you must understand, is vulgar. It might be considered offensive. Some parent might have to turn to their child and engage in an awkward conversation about biology and anatomy and what or what is not appropriate nomenclature for the complexities of human nature and society. Balls aren’t some easy, diminutive word with a straight-forward history of hierarchy in society like… like… Hoo boy, how many times did they drop the n-bomb in the scene right before?

That wasn’t the only film with questionable censoring decisions. Blazing Saddles  was famous for cutting the farting scene. Well, they didn’t cut the scene, they just cut the audio on all the farts. So what viewers saw was a bunch of guys eating beans around a campfire with a substantial lack of ambient background noise.

But, once again, Blazing Saddles says the n-word a lot. Seventeen times, in fact. And each one made it past the censors, who must’ve just been too exhausted after silencing all the flatulence to turn their attention to a minor racial epithet.

Of course, we see a lot less creative censoring than we used to. Most media outlets don’t face the same restrictions they did in the twentieth century. There’s a good chance you’re watching something on YouTube or Hulu or even TBS, none of which are required to bleep out anything. I’m always shocked when I’m listening to Sirius/XM and a song from college comes on. Whoa, so that’s what the lyrics are? It flows do much better than blank air every other word.

Did you know that Alannis Morisette was not,  in fact, asking if you think of her while you flick someone else?

And holy crap, “Semi-Charmed Life” has this whole other verse about… um… what rhymes with safety word?

We’ve also become more lenient as a society about what does and what does not constitute a word of curse. Hence, balls.

When we do bleep things out, we don’t even bleep them anymore. Thanks to some of those 1990s alternative and hip hop artists, we’ve become accustomed to blank air replacing cuss words. If The Jerk came out today, we wouldn’t hear about Iron Balls or Iron Bill. He’d just be Iron (Dead Air) McGinty. And the dog would be named ”      .”

And if Pulp Fiction came out today, I wouldn’t have to devote a full afternoon to the viewing. With all the dead air, the edited version that aired on broadcast tv would be about twenty minutes long.

What the What is a Spatula?

I felt like a really, honest-to-goodness historian the other day.

There was a disagreement amongst a few of us as to what to call a certain kitchen tool.  In order to settle the dispute, I was able to call up a historical document that proves my side of the argument was correct. Although in all honesty, before I was able to find corroboration from the historic record all the way back in 1989, I was beginning to question my own recollection.

I’ve been living in a Mandela Effect for a large portion of my adult life. There was an object that I always called something when I grew up, but nobody around me refers to it as such. Even worse, they use that exact same word to refer to another item altogether. They’re similar, but not the exact thing. Close, but no cigarette.

Most of this difference in nomenclature probably comes from location. I grew up in Southern California, but moved to the Sacramento region for college and have stuck around ever since. And 400 miles or so can make a big difference on language.

Remember back in the day when social media was new and fun? Before we realized that there were damn good reasons we didn’t keep in touch with those shitheads from [insert city/job/jail]? Back in the long-ago when people’s asinine political opinions only came out at Thanksgiving.

Anyway, back in social media’s nascence, I remember a quiz that guessed where you live by asking you a series of questions about vocabulary and pronunciation. How do you pronounce caramel, and is tote a noun or a verb, and voila! here’s where you grew up. It gave me Anaheim and Sacramento, which was a pretty good guess for the two places I’ve lived.

It makes sense. I remember one of the questions was what you call the road that runs alongside the freeway. I answered frontage road, because that’s what they call them in the central valley of Northern California. But had I lived my entire life where I was born, I would’ve answered “I don’t know a word for this,” because in Southern California, there ain’t no such thing as a frontage road. The road that’s next to the freeway is probably another freeway. Good thing there were no questions about public transportation, because neither half of California knows what that is yet.

So, even though I cringe every time someone gives directions up here and fails to put “the” in front of the number of the freeway, I am at least able to understand that it’s a minor dialectical thing. And I can condescend that it’s because they don’t have very many freeways up here. In SoCal, your directions might say “Take the five to the fifty-five to the ninety-one to the fifty-seven to the sixty to the six-oh-five to the ten to the one-oh-five.” Try saying that last sentence without the word “the”.  If you’re only ever likely to have two freeways in any given instructions, then I guess it’s easier. Although it still frustrates me when people tell me to “take five to J Street.” Take five what? Five minutes? Five miles? Five rabid orangutans?

I also find it amusing that they have traffic on the news up here. There’s pretty much only one freeway going in whatever direction you want to go. There are no alternate routes except for surface streets. In SoCal, they can report, “There’s an accident on the ten. Take the two-ten instead.” In Sacramento, all they can say is, “There’s an accident on interstate eighty. Too bad if you’re going northeast.”

But whatever. I’ve learned to change my directions to say “I-Five” or “Highway Ninety-nine.” It satisfies my need for adding a definitive article to my freeways, and those around don’t seem as bothered as using “the,” which they associate with the water-thieves down south. Even if most of SoCal’s water comes from the Colorado River, which is why Lake Mead looks like a puddle these days.

Regardless, I now know what a frontage road is, so I guess there have to be trade-offs.

Except for this kitchen utensil that seems to broker so much confusion:

Image result for spatula

In my upbringing, I would have referred to this as a spatula. I still, in my heart of hearts, think of it as such. But ever since I’ve moved to Northern California, throughout numerous roommates and families, if I ask anyone to grab me the spatula, this is what they’ll hand me:

Image result for spatula

Sure, they’re similar, but they ain’t the same things. They serve drastically different purposes in the kitchen. If I want to flip my hamburger and I get that flimsy flat thing, the poor burger ain’t getting flipped. At best I can spread a little mustard on it.

My wife refers to my spatula as a flipper or a turner. I suppose I understand that. But her form of a spatula could just as easily be called a spreader. I mean, what the fuck is a spatula, anyway?

So I’ve spent most of my adult life living in this weird spatula world. For a long time, I didn’t notice the discrepancy. It’s not like we cooked a lot in college. I might’ve heard people say they did odd things with spatulas, but I ignored it. Could I use my form of a spatula to spread frosting on a cake? I guess so, if i were in a bind. And if I got any odd looks when I talked about flipping something over with my spatula, I didn’t notice. Maybe they thought I wanted those eggs to be over hard, anyway. Or under hard. Is that a thing? Why can’t I have under hard eggs?

By the way, the Great Californian Spatula Split clearly isn’t just a golden state thing. You see those pictures I posted above? Of a flipper spatula and a spreader spatula? You know how I got those? I ran a Google image search for “spatula” and those were the first two responses I got. Evidently both of them can be spatulas? Which, in reality means that neither of them are spatulas. There’s no such thing as a spatula! Did I just blow your mind?

This doesn’t happen with other utensils, does it? If I Google knife, I might see different styles of knives, but they all do basically the same thing. In the same manner, even. I’m not going to get a picture of scissors with a shrug of, meh, they both cut.

But after years of incomprehensive looks, and after Wife refused to cowtow to my spatula definition, I finally convinced myself that a spreader is a spatula and I was just wrong before. Like Stockholm Syndrome or Big Brother teaching me that 2 + 2 = 5, I’d learned to ask for a spatula when I wanted to spread things. Otherwise I’d ask for the turner while thinking in the back of my head that it’s a fucking spatula! But I never said it aloud, and like any totalitarian regime will tell you, once you stop saying it out loud, you’ll start to doubt the veracity of your own thoughts.

But recently the wool was removed from my eyes. Two people were talking about spatulas in different regards. They didn’t understand each other. One person shrugged and said they’d always thought of spatulas as the things that flip something over.

“Oh my God,” I said. “Thank you! That’s what I always thought was a spatula, but NOBODY backs me up on that!”

Others looked at us like we were cray. Whatever. I’d seen the outside of Plato’s cave. Sorry, Robespierre, but I remember what Sunday was. And two plus two is four!

The naysayers were still saying nay, that is not what you do with a spatula. Spatulas are flat and flippers are bent, and never the twain shall meet.

But the floodgates were open on the shitshow sieve that is my brain. Because now that I’d had someone remind me that Nelson Mandela was alive the whole time, I’m remembering other references to spatulas. A movie that documented the rightful and truthful definition of a spatula. All I have to do is whip it out to pown all of the spatula deniers. And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy…

Sorry, wrong movie. I’m not going to debate whether or not Big Kahuna makes a tasty burger. What’s more important is that said tasty burger was turned over by a fucking spatula.

Five years before “Pulp Fiction” came another instant classic from a legendary writer and producer. I’m talking, of course, about Weird Al Yankovic and his seminal masterpiece, UHF.

If you’ve forgotten the intricate plot of this Lawrence of Arabia-esque epic, Weird Al played a guy who inherited a TV station. He filled the airwaves with various spoof shows. Or maybe he filled it with shitty shows but dreamed about spoof shows? Not sure. It wasn’t much on plot. But it is where Michael Richards got his start. A few years before Seinfeld and much longer before calling out ethnic minorities in his audience. And there was an Asian dude who turned “Wheel of Fortune” into “Wheel of Fish.”

Like I said, a little short on plot. Surprising for a guy who normally only needs to fill three to five minutes of satire at a time. But the spoofy parts were really funny. At least when I was fourteen.

But one of his spoofs was a commercial for a spatula store. “Spatula City: We sell spatulas, and that’s all!”

This “commercial” showed rows and rows of spatulas. Rubber spatulas, metal spatulas, silicone spatulas. Yellow, blue, green. Slightly-bent spatulas and fully-bent spatulas. But you know what it doesn’t show? A spreader.

Check it out:

You see that? Every spatula looks the way I always thought spatulas were supposed to look. Evidence that I’m not crazy!

Suck it, NorCal. You’ve been wrong all along. I now have evidence that I’m not crazy! Google should probably just get rid of half of its images searches. Once Al Yancovic has spoken, there’s really no reason to get into particulars. After all, if a worldly figure and diplomat, an honored cultural statesman like the esteemed Weird Al can properly identify what a spatula is, then why is there even a debate?

Wait a second, where did Weird Al grow up? Downey, California? Why, that’s only thirty miles away from where I grew up. Meaning… meaning…

Dammit, social media language police! You got me again!