In the midst of a summer of house renovations, and personal renovations that included recovering from a broken hand, a broken molar and blood-test results that prompted Doctor Jerry to say, “I can’t believe you’re walking around,” I decided a slow-down was in order.
Take it easy. Stop typing so much. The world can go on for a while without The Critical Mass.
“And no alcohol,” Dr. Jerry said.
Now the broken hand is somewhat healed. The new molar is at the Tooth Lab, getting built to my jaw’s specifications. My last blood test showed a significant drop in my cholesterol, blood sugar and vampire-attraction levels.
A glass of wine or two has been approved.
Thank you, Dr. Jerry.
Life, uninterrupted. There is no longer the need to constantly monitor the television news channels. A lying, corpulent, corrupt, poisonous, psychopathic presence has been pried loose from the White House. Adults are once again in charge. No matter how bad the exit from Afghanistan was, was it any worse than the last 20 years?
I feel like… typing again.
So here we go.
Inspiration comes to me like a torn pieces of paper swept up by the wind, swirling, darting, tumbling, until I snatch them from the air, and read the words:
Why do we even care which celebrities bathe? An investigation
That’s a headline from one of the web sites I check every morning. For real. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Is the dearth of celebrity bathing an issue? How do we measure the current levels of celebrity bathing? Which authorities are in charge of the investigation?
If this is the road journalism is taking, I must be out of touch with mainstream America. And physically, I have been. I’ve avoided crowds for 18 months. Until that Brandi Carlile concert earlier this summer (Although I actually went for opener Ricki Lee Jones). I’ve seen Carlile maybe a half a dozen times over the last decade, and have gone from sorta ambivalent to somewhat appreciative. But on this night, I was alarmed. Sitting in my third-row seat, I was surrounded by thousands of maskless Carlile fans bellowing along with every song. Spraying COVID-19 droplets into the summer night’s air.
I was thinking: Should I even be here?
Now I am more careful about the company I keep. For live music, it’s been just a handful of shows by local musicians; generally friends who have shown me their proof of vaccination papers. For rare appearances at restaurants, it’s been late-night reservations, past the time when normal people eat.
When venturing out into the pandemic, I am the guy you see wearing a mask even when pumping gas at the gas station. It won’t end soon. I fear the anti-vaxxers’ work won’t end until we run out of Republicans.
I prefer the safety of home, peering out the front windows as the FedEx and Amazon Prime trucks pull up in front of the neighbors’ houses. Everyone’s buying cool stuff they’ve seen in TV. Except us.
No, there’s this: One of this summer’s home-renovation projects was erecting a gazebo on the deck. The gazebo came from Wayfair, the company that until recently was airing a seemingly endless big-screen TV barrage of commercials featuring a happy couple whose lives have been improved dramatically by acquiring material goods. The jury is still out about dog bowls in brilliant colors inspired by Vincent van Gogh paintings. Dogs are generally colorblind. But the gazebo has improved my own life dramatically. It’s sturdy, with a brown-tinted plastic roof that keeps the sun off my head. When it rains, I feel like I’m living in a tin-roofed house from a Steinbeck novel.
The dog and I lounge on the plush deck furniture. At 13, she’s a well-practiced lounge act. She snoozes, I read The New Yorker. I recently renewed my subscription after it had lapsed for a few years. It too has improved my life dramatically. The George Saunders short story in the issue dated Aug. 30 (My birthday, thanks George!) is brilliant. Who else can write a tale questioning our commitment to justice by opening the story with a talking can opener?
We invite people over to spend time on the deck in groups of four, maybe five. Seems like a pandemic-manageable number. On one afternoon, My Friend Carlos cooked paella on the charcoal grill. It was marvelous, he said it was in the top three of all time that he’d ever made. Carlos is a paella authority, he’s from Spain.
My Friend Reo stopped by the deck one evening. The cicadas were filling the night air with that whirring mating call of theirs. I don’t respond, especially after Reo was inspired to describe how the “cicada killer” (Latin name: sphecius speciosus), a female wasp that uses its sting to paralyze a cicada, then carries it to its nest, rips the head off the cicada and deposits eggs in the body cavity. The hatching larvae feed off the carcass.
The inspiration for sci-fi stories. Perhaps most memorably the 1979 film classic “Alien,” when the creature – after a period of incubation inside its host – bursts out of John Hurt’s chest.
Dr. Jerry did not warn me of this possibility. A horror that spawned many sequels. “Alien 37: The Pandemic Summer,” now showing. Perhaps forever.
BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Go to the “Subscribe” button on the web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.