A Typical Day in Late Summer 2020

Roanoke, Virginia

“Like a bird on a wire. Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.” ~ Leonard Cohen

I am still unemployed but we are okay. I opted for early social security a year ago and Rich has work, lots of work. Well-off second homeowners are fixing things up around here. Preparing for something the rest of us don’t know yet. Like when they arrived in Vermont early in the pandemic, leaving New York City with hordes of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, to hole up in their ski houses, safe from the rising cases of coronavirus in the Big Apple. The New York Times reported on the emails that began to circulate in their private groups. — “A friend just alerted me that her friend who works in the emergency management team at the N.Y.P.D. plans to put containment actions in place this weekend.”

And now, according to local news WCAX the demand for houses is incredibly high across the state of Vermont. I’ve read articles about rising home sales in Upstate New York, Long Island, and the Berkshires.

“Many buyers are paying over asking price and taking big chances. People are buying houses without even seeing them. And not just locally, but long-distance,” a Vermont realtor said.

I’d like the buyers to be screened for their politics, after all Vermont is the home of the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders who is well loved here and I’d like to keep it that way but that wouldn’t be democratic, would it? I don’t know, you tell me. I don’t know what our democracy stands for anymore. I thought it meant we would always preserve our Constitution. After four days of the Republican convention, particularly Thursday night, I no longer believe that is true.

I did not watch the convention in real time but each morning I watched the clips and read the commentary and news articles. I am heartsick and fearful regarding what lies ahead.

Each morning I also read Heather Cox Richardson’s daily email. She is an American historian, Professor of History at Boston College, and has authored six books. If you are unfamiliar with her you should definitely check her out. We can all use factual history lessons.

She reports that political scientist Norm Ornstein, from the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, said this: “The activities at the White House tonight violated the Hatch Act. This was the most blatant abuse of power and legal authority for partisan purposes by far than anything we have ever seen by a president or an executive branch.”

Richardson points out: Violations of the Hatch Act are supposed to result in removal from office, but punishment for the numerous violations in this administration has been minimal.

The sad truth is many Americans know nothing about the Hatch Act. When the George W. Bush administration removed the requirement of Civics as a necessary part of public education and attached it’s removal to the No Child Left Behind bill, he left the nation with uneducated voters who have no idea what the Constitution stands for and the laws of our land. Schools in places like Texas request their own doctored text books that leave out the parts of our history that Texans and other red states find offensive to their conservative ‘values’.

An average day in Vermont

From Wallace Stegner to Terry Tempest Williams to my own book Life Is All This – which I need to refer to as I’m writing a sequel – along with scribbled notes and cups of coffee, the jumbled mess on the coffee table in our living room is a sample of my far more jumbled mind.

Every morning I make Rich breakfast. He makes the coffee. We watch Morning Joe but if Joe starts ranting and repeating himself Rich switches to the Golf Channel. Then he leaves for work and I finish watching Morning Joe then make the bed, clean the kitchen, and finally sit down to write.

There are days like today that I am distracted with long conversations on Facebook or with my sisters or my daughters. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is nervous about the virus and the future and the lunatic in the White House.

In the beginning, when we were in Roanoke for three months, it was hard to write. Rich was working where we were living. I was cleaning a huge mess. Life was uncertain. None of us knew how this virus would play out. What lie ahead.

When we returned home to Vermont in late May something clicked and I am now dealing with a manuscript 141, 573 words long. I see so many writers on Instagram who say they can’t write during these days of the pandemic. I’m not one of them.

Any literary agents out there reading this? I’m almost ready to talk to you.

There are days I fall down endless rabbit holes when trying to write. I google something. I fact check something else. There are strange mysterious days when it seems like I’m coming across cryptic messages that lead to other things.

Yesterday I was editing a chapter in which a character is thinking about a song by Dispatch titled Only The Wild Ones. The character is a wild thing herself. I go to You Tube and play the song. There is a lyric that catches my attention. In the attics of the city night/We talked Corso and the MC5. I don’t want to give anything away but the attic is significant.

I remember a day when Rich and I were in Half Moon Bay and met a Spanish guitarist in a bar in town. Back in the old days, before Covid19, when we enjoyed talking to strangers in bars.

He was having a beer in-between sets and I told him we were planning to visit La Honda because I was a fan of the Beat Poets and the Grateful Dead and in the ’60’s all these folks hung out in this magical place in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Our new friend told us about a gig he had at a general store/book store/tavern in San Gregorio. It was along the scenic road we’d be traveling and he invited us to drop by. Some of the surviving beat poets who knew Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and Corso would be reading poems between sets.

General Store – San Gregorio, California

The guitarist on the right is Gary Horsman. The one on the left is Bill Haines. Gary gave me a copy of his latest book of poems – A Second Breakfast.

I got up from the couch where I was writing, went to the bedroom to get the book, and slipped down another rabbit hole to read a few of Gary’s poems. Then my thoughts drifted back to the Dispatch song and I googled Corso, and came upon this:

America Politica Historia, in Spontaneity

O this political air so heavy with the bells
and motors of a slow night, and no place to rest
but rain to walk—How it rings the Washington streets!   
The umbrella’d congressmen; the rapping tires   
of big black cars, the shoulders of lobbyists   
caught under canopies and in doorways,
and it rains, it will not let up,
and meanwhile lame futurists weep into Spengler’s   
prophecy, will the world be over before the races blend color?
All color must be one or let the world be done—
There’ll be a chance, we’ll all be orange!
I don’t want to be orange! – Gregory Corso

That was the 1st cryptic message of the day. It was the orange man in the White House I was thinking about. Corso wrote this poem in the early 1960’s. How did he know that our demise would be instigated by a man who brought a tanning booth into the White House? The man with the orange skin and the white circles around his eyes from the goggles he wears while tanning.

In another poem titled The American Way he wrote this: America today is America’s greatest threat. Yes indeed and so is the orange man. Some people see things long before most people do.

You can find the entire America Poetica and other poems here.

Before the pandemic I had never had so much time to spend with me, myself, and I. Left to my own devices my mind wanders. It questions. It searches for answers. It seeks information. I’ve discovered I enjoy my own company. For me it’s not a time out of mind. It’s time alone with the thoughts in my head.

Before I went for a walk I played Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man. A sad song with a happy beat that plays like a lullaby. Little did I know the song would send me down a rabbit hole that would delay my walk for another hour.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship
My senses have been stripped
My hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade
Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it
~ Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man

There was a stanza missing from the version of the song I was listening to. A stanza about a clown that is so relevant to the past four days of madness that ended on the front lawn of the White House aka the People’s House. I scrolled through numerous videos on YouTube and all of them were missing this stanza:

Though you might hear laughing, spinning, swinging madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone
It’s just escaping on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facing
And if you hear vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time
It’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seeing that he’s chasing
~ Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man

I tried several other versions of the song on You Tube. They were all missing the stanza, even the one I listen to most often – Dylan at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

I tried to come up with the right search words so I could get to the bottom of this missing stanza. Ragged clown. Bob Dylan. Lost lyrics. My search led me to another blogger on WordPress who shares his interpretations of Dylan’s lyrics. He posted the blog three years ago but was still active on his site. I sent him a comment asking if he knew why this stanza was left out of so many renditions of the song.

With my head full of words and confusing inspiration I finally took a walk. I had forgotten it was Friday. Cars with out-of-state license plates were whizzing by. I usually head down the dirt road that leads to the dump but today was also trash day so that road was busy too. Although the final destination is the dump, it’s a quiet walk through the woods and you never know what you might find.

Like these chairs that I suppose came here on one of the days when the dump was closed and whoever brought them didn’t feel like coming back another day so just threw them in the woods. As Rich and I often say, with a sigh, “People”.

There’s an overgrown driveway I have been curious about so I headed down that path hoping I wouldn’t run into a bear or some hillbilly recluse out on the front porch of an old cabin with a rifle in his lap. To the rest of the country Vermont may seem to be a hotbed of leftist commies but we do have our share of Trumpsters here.

There was no sign of life at the end of the trail, not even a dilapidated house. Just a large pile of rocks and the birds.

Abandoned driveway – Higley Hill, Vermont

And the white-striped Black Trichodezia albovittata moths who have been leading me along all the trails I have walked this August. And yes, when I got back to the house I wasted more time on Google trying to find the name of this moth that I first searched as a butterfly.

At the end of the driveway where this moth and I stopped to check out the view of Haystack Mountain.

The Dylan student of cryptic lyrics had replied to my comment. He thinks it might be due to parameters – YouTube may have limits to how long a song can be. Otherwise he said he didn’t know why they would be missing. I eventually did find a version of the song that had that missing stanza that has been haunting me since January 20, 2016. And on Saturday morning after Rich left for work it came to me again.

Though I know that evening’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming
~ Bob Dylan

It was this daily email from Heather Cox Richardson that triggered it:

Hi folks, Four nights of the Republican National Convention combined with prepping for the start of next week’s classes have just about done me in. I actually want to write about the question of who gets to commit violence in our society, but if I start now it’ll be another 4:00 morning, and I just can’t do it. Tomorrow, okay? ~ H.

It felt so sad and ominous. She writes these posts everyday. It was a reminder of how so many of us are tired and exhausted. We all feel we can’t do this anymore. Our weariness amazes us. Even the Redneck Liberal, Trae Crowder, is sick of it all.

I don’t know what we do if Trump wins or more likely steals this election. He has now banned the Congress from participating in daily briefings on election interference. Now why do you think he would do that? Nancy Pelosi et al need to storm the doors where the meetings are held,

Three days into my attempt to collect my thoughts and write a blog, on a Sunday morning on the next to last day in August in the year 2020, I wake to this horrifying news from the New York Times:

A man was shot and killed Saturday as a large group of supporters of President Trump traveled in a caravan through downtown Portland, Ore., which has seen nightly protests for three consecutive months.

The pro-Trump rally drew hundreds of trucks full of supporters into the city. At times, Trump supporters and counterprotesters clashed on the streets, with people shooting paintball guns from the beds of pickup trucks and protesters throwing objects back at them.

A video that purports to be of the shooting, taken from the far side of the street, showed a small group of people in the road outside what appears to be a parking garage. Gunfire erupts, and a man collapses in the street.

The caravans have arrived but they’re not the ones Trump warned of us back in 2016. Those just seem to have gone away, just like he said the virus would.

I have a small group of young women who chat with me on Instagram Message. They are concerned about the future, their friends, Black lives, climate change. One of them is a Lithuanian immigrant, a friend of my daughter Chelsea, whose grandmother still lives on a large farm in Lithuania. Yesterday she told me this:

“I’ll smuggle all of you in. We’ll have to go though Scandinavia. Most people are very nice, they wouldn’t hesitate to help us. After we make it to Lithuania we’ll be good.”

Somehow this crazy, far-fetched plan gives me a sliver of hope if it all goes to hell in the next few months. Prepare yourselves, try to get some sleep, eat well. Bourbon helps when all else fails.

VOTE BLUE VOTE EARLY. VOTE.

How are you holding up in these crazy days we find ourselves living in?

4 thoughts on “A Typical Day in Late Summer 2020

  1. Not holding up well at all. I am like you, tired and discouraged, scared and disgusted.

    And then this:

    “What do you call that building,” the soulless monster occupying the Oval Office asked.

    The WHITE House.
    Her turned back to the crowd.
    “We’re here and they’re not.”
    Laughter.

    I am sick at heart. I want this nightmare to be over. I want that monster out of our lives.

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    • Connie, I do too and if he somehow steals this election (I can’t stomach the thought that he could actually win and that there are that many of our fellow Americans who would vote for him) I’m not sure what to do. My daughters are very open to leaving too. I don’t think I’ll ever have grandchildren, I’ve been a vagabond all my life. I just don’t know if anyone will take us. It’s very sad. I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states. I love America but she’s not what she used to be. I’m embarrassed to be an American.

      Like

  2. Glad to know you’re doing okay during these trying times, Sheila. I don’t understand why no one can enforce the Hatch Act. Most the checks and balances I thought we had here in the U.S. have seemed to disappear into the wind.

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  3. Becky, I think it is due to the fact no one on the Republican side has the will to enforce anything from impeachment to the Hatch Act. They are Trump”s puppets who is a puppet of Putin. The Democrats all know it will die in Mitch McConnell’s Senate so they step lightly. It’s truly a lack of leadership and our democracy is slowly, well quickly now, falling apart. I am okay but not much better than that. I had a crazy dream last night and I’m trying to start another day in this troubled nation. I’m looking forward to reading your post of a dream story when I’m little more awake and alert. Talk to you later over on your comments. Thanks for stopping by.

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