How I’ve been dealing with Covid19

Like all of life, there are goods and bads about isolating from the Covid19.

The bads are obvious: I’ve had to stay out of movie theaters, bars, and the gym. 

Actually, I don’t go to the movies that much anyway. The theaters are frequently filled with hard-of-hearing old people who like to talk as loudly watching movies in the theater as they do watching TV at home. 

So, I decided to just stay home and watch TV. The dog doesn’t seem to mind my talking loudly at all.

And I miss the bars, but they are really loud, don’t you think? All those “Gen -whatever’s” talking and laughing so loudly. No respect for us elders.

And what’s with all these new wines?  What happened to “scotch and soda… jigger of gin”?

As for the gym… I was just kidding. 

I haven’t seen my kids in forever, which has not been easy. On the other hand I don’t have to hear my questions from  their college years coming back at me. Are you getting enough sleep, Dad? Did you remember to change the oil in the car, Dad? You didn’t call last night, Dad; where were you?  

Speaking of which, I’ve discovered a new diet. Eating my own cooking. 

I’ve also been watching a lot of old TV shows, like Andy Griffith, Cheers, Friends, etc. 

It’s fascinating. People were so naive then. They sat next to each other on the couch, on the subway, and in restaurants. They even walked next to each other – side by side – and nowhere near 6 feet apart! 

Some people actually stood and wrapped their arms around each other – and smiled! Or held another person’s hand in theirs …and… shook it! 

You know what was the most shocking? Some people pressed pressed lips with each other then… on purpose!  

Those old 20th century customs were so darned weird. 

Although, strangely, I felt a subtle kinship. Must be proof of a previous life.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

How About Taking A Gap Year, America?

During my sophomore year at a college far away from home, I visited a friend in El Paso for spring vacation. On the last day of vacation, instead of going back for the spring semester, we impulsively (and very sophomorically) pooled our meager cash and went to Mexico (Note to any imlulsive or sophomoric readers: This was WAY before Mexico got dangerous). In those days, you could get chicken soup (with lots of chicken) and tortillas for a peso, roughly 25 cents at the time. That was our meal of choice…for nearly every meal. By the end of the trip I could cluck with a Spanish accent.

We met all kinds of people during this gap semester, from hookers on a train (who taught me the real meaning of Mexican word “casa”. And no, dirty minds- we just talked) to a guy who owned the third biggest liquor import/export business in Mexico, and helped make Kahlua world famous. We rode in 3rd class sections of buses and trains, stayed in cheap hotels or worse, and had a ball. When we got back to the border, we not only couldn’t prove we had had small pox shots, we didn’t have enough money to pay for them. The border patrol gave us the shots anyway.

We learned more in those three months than I ever have expected. No lectures. No classes. No homework. Instead, all three in one never-boring, always fun (if scary once or twice) three month learning curve. The lark had turned into a lesson. 

But you know what was really weird? Once we got back to school my earlier C’s and B’s became almost all A’s. And I took as many extra courses as I could.  

A gap semester, a gap year, can be good. There’s a lot to learn outside of the classroom. Get out in nature, read, take on-line courses, listen to Ted Talks, volunteer, journal, paint or draw, watch Youtube or other other streaming sites, learn about everything from drawing to knitting to insects, birds, rivers, lakes and oceans, to history, to writing your first great novel. Play games, like bridge, checkers and chess, even backgammon. It is all good for the intellect and the soul.

And the best part: no grades; it’s like going back in time to when you were a kid and learning anything – from whether dog poop was edible to… how to escape a really angry mother – was pure fun.

Who cares if kids graduate a few months or a year late? The school of life will make up for it; I promise.

In the early days of the country and for generations before, students frequently had one mentor who gave them lists of books to read. That was it: books. That’s how people from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln became so smart. They read books, by themselves, without chalkboards or team learning or SAT exams.

And think of the lives you might save by taking a gap year. Until we have a vaccine or a treatment for COVID19, we’re nearly helpless. Despite every avoidance trick in the book, from just closing our eyes and refusing to accept the danger of Covid19 to trying to reopen the economy, seeing a spurt of new cases followed the inevitable “Oops!”, and shutting it back down, we can’t make this disease go away. 

Distancing and masks are the only options. The only ones. 

Now, if you think it’s your right to go without a mask, be my guest. Please. Hang out at the nearest bar or concert. Take your like-minded friends with you. Have fun. Hug each other. Slap each other on the back and raise a glass to your American exceptionalism. And, after you’ve had so much fun, go home to your family and friends and give them them hugs, too. And mentally or otherwise flip-off people like Cuomo and Fauci, because of their total lack of macho.

But remember, macho doesn’t allow tears when that crowd you hang with, the tight-knit family you cherish including your favorite grandparents, thins out permanently.

No tears allowed when, instead of a gap year, you have a big, yawning, gap in your life.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Breath Through Your Nose

A number of years ago, on a documentary shoot I was directing, a new assistant was chattering anxiously at the crew. She was so intense, it was hard for them to concentrate. Finally the sound man said, “Terry, breath through your nose.”   

I thought of her this week after reading these headlines:

“Enraged woman accused of hitting partner with car caught on video spitting, yelling at motionless victim” 

“Man walking with wife in Bronx fatally shot for flicking cigarette butt”

“Portland protesters use mortar to launch fireworks at cops”

I think these illustrate where the country is right now – we’re so riddled with anxiety and anger, it’s almost funny.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t say that being cooped up for months is leading to a national temper tantrum.  I’m not a political scientist, so I won’t say that four years of political acrimony has, not just divided the country; it has brought the guns out. 

And I’m no teacher, so I won’t say which is more stupid: Democrats calling for the removal of entire police departments (Seattle, Washington last week) or Republicans calling Democrats Fascists and Communists (Attorney General William Barr in a Fox interview last Sunday).

(Hey Bill, Fascism is an autocratic, top-down control of classes. Communism – which has never actually existed – is a classless economic system. The two are almost diametrically opposed.)  

I’m not including here the multiple videos and additional news stories about people doing stupid things. Like shooting each other over masks, for example. Masks! Little pieces of cloth!  Those things what we all love to wear on Halloween.  

What’s next? My beard’s too scruffy? Your lipstick is too red?  

It is the ultimate face-off between two groups of children who can’t read, write or do ‘rithmatic.

If someone had promised to give this to Putin for his birthday, he couldn’t possibly be happier. 

We don’t live in a black and white world, although you wouldn’t know it from recent news stories (by the way, if we’re trying to mitigate the differences between blacks and whites, why capitalize “White” and “Black”?).

I don’t like Trump. But I know people who do. They are not bad. In fact, some are really, nice, (if misguided – OK, had to slip that in). 

My guess is they feel the same way about Never-Trumpers  and Democrats they know. You know why? Because there is more to life than politics. They are good neighbors, good friends, good bosses and employees, good sports fans, good mothers, fathers, grandparents – all of it.

Politicians, the news media, Putin, etc… benefit if everyone hates each other. Politicians get elected by riling up voters and getting them to the polls, the news media gets eyeballs and clicks (money!) from the same people, and Putin gets revenge and power. 

They’ve turned the two parties into two opposing religious cults. As we get sucked in we get anxious, scared, and angry. We do stupid things, as exemplified in these headlines.

I am not suggesting we ignore political differences. I am suggesting we motor down about them. Even though a good friend of mine likes Trump, I have not hired an assassin. (I am hoping he feels the same way.) Instead we discuss policy differences. It’s much easier on the nerves than the Fox vs MSNBC arguments. 

I’m not going to shoot him if he flicks a cigarette butt (I might chide him for smoking, though). Neither of us have ordered mortars this week. And we’re keeping our cars on the road ahead.

I will work hard to get rid of Trump and all of his cronies. But I will continue to follow that sound man’s advice.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

I See Light. And People. And A Much Shorter Tunnel.

The “Trump Is Losing” polls are mounting. Who’d a thunk it, even a year ago?

Anti-Trumpers don’t trust these polls. They remember 2016. 

But there are some real differences between then and now.

First, Trump was untested then. Now he is well tested. And his failures are everywhere, from the high turnover of White House and Administration staff to the many thousands who have died of Covid19.  

Second, even lifelong Republicans, the ones who remember when Republicans had integrity, are starting to see some light. 

One example: the men behind The Lincoln Project who are producing anti-Trump ads that Democrats could only dream of producing.

There are all those books written by Trump insiders, heavyweights like FBI leaders James Comey and Andrew McCabe, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, even lightweights like Sean Spicer or Omarosa Manigault Newman. 

There is one upcoming tell-all by ex-consigliere Michael Cohen and another by retired General H.R. McMaster. That’s a lot of anti-Trump books in just three years, in spite of Trump’s massive efforts to quash them. 

“Reading all these books, one after the other, is like swimming for days in a greasy, brackish canal whose bottom is teeming with shards of broken-down old industrial equipment“,  wrote one reviewer. 

But what’s more important is this: they were all Republicans before Trump, before Republican became a code word for bigotry and unfettered greed.

Third, Trump is the essence of everything that has gone wrong with the Republican Party, going all the way back to the “Southern Strategy”, which was originated by a Democrat, believe it or not. The language of Democrat George Wallace’s 1968 campaign was softened by Nixon and Atwater, but the essence was the same: divide the South between Blacks and Whites.

While some Republican leaders have voiced more inclusive themes since then – both Bush’s, Reagan, and others – Trump has ramped up and broadened the “Southern Strategy” to include Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, the poor, and refugees. The Party’s appeal to racists, Evangelicals, and the forgotten Whites, those who had been bypassed by the rising economy, is foundational now. 

Fourth, from the trillion dollar debt of his initial tax cut to bypassing Congress with myriad Executive Orders to breaking the Emoluments Clause, to alienating most of our allies (even deserting them on the filed of battle), he has virtually buried traditional Republican orthodoxy: fiscal restraint, lowering national debt, personal responsibility, and a foreign policy based on sustained international relationships and alliances.  

Fifth, he has attracted power-hungry, ego-driven, me-first, partners. Each time he turns one out, another, more sinister replacement arrives. Witness Louis DeJoy, the most recent head of the US Postal Service, with no experience beyond donating to Trump. The Postal Service is dying in front of our eyes, even as the coming election is generating a need for more and better service. Or Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, who is actually shrinking Public Education. Or… the list is long and depressing. 

Sixth, he has brought foxes into the chicken coop. Heavyweights  like Mitch McConnell who has rigged the justice system for the next 40 or 50 years.  And lightweights like Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump who are simply on a sustained money grab.  

Seventh, the degree of corruption in his administration is historic. Forgetting Trump himself (at least until he’s replaced), Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulus, Michael Flynn – all have been indicted and convicted of federal crimes.

There is a hidden benefit to all of these flaws, however. As polls now indicate, more and more Republicans are shrinking away from Trump. And more and more Republicans who stay are losing favor with the electorate. Across the country traditional red states are turning purple and even blue.  This despite the general incompetence of that herd of cats called the Democratic Party.

As the Republican party has become more and more a reflection of Trump, I have been sure it would take several election cycles of Democratic wins to force Republicans to clean house and restore traditional Republican values to the Party. 

I was wrong.

Trump is bringing down the entire structure now, today, with every decision he boots, with every interview he fumbles, with every garbled thought he utters. It’s Trump’s Party of power-hungry sycophants and he’s a one man demolition machine bringing it down.

Yep. The light in that tunnel is a lot closer than anyone thought.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)