Friday 5/29: post a blog about race stuff. Interested parties hate it. It’s probably because of a collision of factors: A) I enjoy pitting myself, as a writer, against hostile pacing, schedules, environments, expectations. I’d rather write poorly every morning than write well on a blue moon. I don’t know if that makes me hard, or soft. B) I’m about 1000% more interested in everyday, applied mysticism / faith-keeping than generating more social analysis discourse, which it seems there’s plenty of. C) I hate a bully. And our entire PC culture feels like a bully. I used to advocate for it as much as anyone else, but you know what I realized? Political correctness kind of feels like gun laws: it’s not going to stop the bigots for one second, and the reasonable people don’t need it. Meanwhile, it’s that much harder to keep tabs on the bigots. D) Race is in the air, so why not ex-rospect on it a little — I mean what’s the worst that could happen, a national witch hunt? At the end of the day, though, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with sensibilities at play, including mine — I’m just not a good enough writer, sometimes, to capture the essence I sense, which is why I try to work at it. E) I was very aware of, and frequently uncomfortable with, my race as a white kid growing up on the Rez, and had cause to speculate deeply and at quite a young age about racial signifiers and how they play out amid other social power dynamics.
Saturday 5/30: travel day, can’t write. We check in to a little roadside motel, late. Clerk gives us keys for an occupied room. My enormous boyfriend and our two little dogs and I scare the bejeezus out of a naked old man in his bed — we flip the lights on like we own the place, and he scrambles to defend himself. We apologize. New key, new room. The new little dog lived in a basement the first 3 years of his life and wasn’t prepared for this many changes of setting — the traveling, the visiting, the stairs, the wrong room with the wrong naked man — Milo is overwhelmed. Shitting on the carpet is his only recourse. He’s very small, and it’s only a minor mess to clean.
Sunday 5/31: travel day, can’t write. Arrive in St. Louis very late, visit sober friend at the large downtown bar he ironically inherited from his alcoholic father. For the first time in months, we sit inside a building (technically the “beer garden”, which is why it was allowed to be open) and eat food, in public, with other people around. Unbelievable — like a pre-COVID flashback.
Monday 6/1: try to write. Argument with boyfriend, conflict of priorities. Writing serves no purpose, generates no income, attracts very few readers, likely antagonizes a number of them, never seems as important as x y z pressing issue. It’s just that I’ll fall into a funk if I feel unable to give this to myself — you know, question my entire identity, my life choices, my relationship choices, why god has cursed me, what’s wrong with me that this is what I want to do and I’m not even that good at it, the usual. I take many naps that day and excuse myself from activities. Boyfriend is like “holy shit, maybe I really should just let her write”.
Incidentally, I make a post on FB sympathetic to the plight of truckers attempting deliveries in the context of national unrest, peaceful protests incited or infiltrated or both, to violent extremes. I’m thinking of Reginald Denny in the LA riots of ’92, which a number of my coworkers also drove through, in the course of making their deliveries.
Tuesday 6/2: try to write. It’s only half-cooked by the time I need to motivate on to other things. We do a deadlift workout and I catch up on my missed bench press sets from the day before. The equipment is in our friends’ garage and it’s sweltering in St. Louis — air you can wear. The little dogs loll, exhaustedly, on the slightly cool concrete floor. I have to change from shorts to pants because the bar sticks to my thighs when I try to pull a deadlift — it’s that humid.
The little dogs are interested in the enormous pit bulls but everyone’s leery — won’t take long to find out what happens, but it’s tough to intervene in the case of a bad outcome. Eventually we all end up out in the glorious green back yard, and no little dogs die in the process. Milo challenges the male pitbull to a game of fetch, and wins. Male pitbull is shocked — licks his own butt in confusion. Buffy barks at anyone having fun.
It’s time for the sober friend to leave and go to the bar. He and a Vietnam vet are going to post up on the roof with firearms. Quite a few businesses were looted the night before, he tells us, and he lost $73k in the month of April alone, with the lockdown. He’s not interested in losing more.
We head out. Sirens everywhere, freeway all but closed, we squeak past. Decide we should probably Google the news. Retired St. Louis police chief David Dorn was killed the previous night, we learn, right there in St. Louis, standing between looters and his friend’s pawn shop. His ten-ish minute long death was streamed live on FB. Apparently career criminal George Floyd is a martyr, 38-yr public servant David Dorn is collateral damage, and feeling dismay about that means you’re not hip to the cause. I have mixed feelings about the cause by this point, which are later attributed to my white privilege by other privileged white people, who also helpfully point out that this is no time to dilute the cause’s message through tone-deaf appeals to the plight of truckers in riots, which is in itself an micro-aggressional gaffe which only an oblivious whitey wouldn’t understand.
So anyway we stop at a KOA. The little dogs are amazing — they stay quiet, close, calm. They like being in the tent, amongst the parents and the sleeping bags. My boyfriend points out that, if we become counter-culture enough, we’ll have to become fugitives: new truck, new cell phones, new little dogs. The thought of getting “burner” cell phones and “burner” little dogs is so funny I can’t get to sleep, in our tent, because I keep chuckling about it. Political correctness fugitives. New little dogs.
Wednesday 6/3: travel day, can’t write. I try three times to craft a text to a friend, about the controversial truck driver FB post, and can’t. I abandon the effort. My boyfriend complains at one point that the sun is shining right on his dick, no matter which way the road twists, and when I look, that is indeed the case. The crotch of his shorts is soaked in sweat and I laugh. He’s chagrined but can’t help but laugh too. We’re traveling southwest, and the southwestern sun is indeed a dick burner. I love the warmth, as it dries out mile by mile.
We stop early, at another KOA, so we can get in a lift. We check this city’s riot status, but it’s Texas where everyone owns a gun so shit is pretty tame. The squat workout goes well but then I’m heartbroken when they close the pool early as lightning approaches. The hot drive, the workout — I really wanted to swim, but I settle for a shower.
That night, we’re awoken by, for all I know, a tornado — the wind sounds like an actual freight train, the lightning throws our shadows every which way, and the thunder is a hammer falling, over and over. The little dogs tremble in silence, and we put them between us and hold them very tightly.
Thursday 6/4: travel day, can’t write. We make it to the home we aren’t, actually, able to occupy at this point — our medical-type landlords needed it as a COVID quarantine space, but we secured permission to change out a few possessions. We drove East two months earlier, amid coronavirus, and now back West amid corona-riots. Our ICU nurse landlord has been bach-ing it up in our house, and it’s an uncharacteristic mess. The new little dog, Milo, is enchanted. We missed home, but we can’t stay.
We head out again. It turns out Love’s truck stops sell microwaveable vegan chickpea masala wraps — this is an epiphany. We drive several hours to a campground that turns out to be closed. Undeterred, we find a side road and a forested clearing. The night is so incredibly still — it’s a deafening silence, in fact, that presses both hands over your ears. It’s high desert, with that silky, silty dirt that gets inside your shoes and that cold, crisp air that gets inside your lungs. The little dogs are amazed — “Maybe we’re animals!,” they seem to think, looking at all that dark forest. “Or maybe we’re people,” they amend, toddling into the tent and the heaps of soft fabric.
Friday 6/5: travel day, can’t write. A FB friend informs anyone who’s interested that all pigs are trash. I served with quite a few cops in the Guard and respected them immensely, and I also wish the word “pig” wouldn’t be used negatively as pigs are wonderful creatures. I inquire, and the friend recalls that in grad school my advocacy for state sanctioned violence and, oddly, veganism, were well documented. I remember the second part, not so much the first. What about black cops, I asked? We’d run across a video of several white Black Lives Matter protestors beating the shit out of a black cop — whatever psychological gymnastics are required to get there, I don’t got it. Black cops are trash too, he said. Actually it was more wordy than that, presumably some spittle flew against his screen, but you get the gist. Sometimes I like to use the Socratic method to approach what I assume must be the kernel of truth within even the wildest doctrines, but unfortunately he only spun himself up, accused me of trolling him because he was so spun up, and then blocked me. I became somewhat glum about social media at this point.
We arrive at our destination: my father’s house. Grandpa wastes no time feeding tiny slivers of bacon to the little grand dogs. Grandpa is not a vegan, and they like Grandpa very much. It’s a wonderful day. My father is enormously kind and enormously kooky and enormously disinterested in anything resembling a mainstream narrative.
He told my boyfriend some Army stories — the private ordered to run around the barracks in nothing but his skivvies and combat boots, M-14 held aloft over his head, screaming “I am a chicken shit! I am a chicken shit!”, for not having his bed made tightly enough. Meanwhile the drill sergeant had everyone else at attention and scrutinized their faces, looking for the slightest hint of a smile. All the barracks windows were open and the designated chickenshit could be heard approaching and then departing each open window area, in his circuit. Eventually someone, desperately, horrifically, smiled, and then the drill sergeant had him out running behind the other, in the same attire, screaming “I am a chickenshit catcher! I am a chickenshit catcher!”, and continued inspecting faces.
I told my dad the story of the new butter bar in the parking lot of the PX. Newly commissioned lieutenants, or “butter bars”, are notoriously touchy about having everyone salute them, finally. A private in the parking lot failed to salute him, so the butter bar made him stand there and salute 100 times. A passing Command Sergeant Major, though, carrying a 6 pack of beer back to his car, noticed the affair and commented, “You know you need to return his salute 100 times, there, don’t you sir?” So the two stood, idiotically, saluting one another in the parking lot, for quite some time, as an amused crowd gathered.
We take the day off lifting as my boyfriend is concerned that snatching 155 pounds up into the air and back down onto the concrete of the carport will startle my father.
Saturday, 6/6: with a generosity of spirit unmatched by any living being since Mother Teresa, I offer to forego morning writing in favor of showing my boyfriend the really nice trail by our house. He asks: “Are you sure.” I am. We hike, and the little dogs marvel at everything from their vantage point three inches off the ground.
We squat, and I’ve hit a weight, 160, where I’m experiencing deterioration of my form. This is a good thing — I squatted 160 months ago, but wasn’t getting enough depth, and backed up and backed off to recapture a much deeper descent. Lifting was hit or miss, in the pandemic, until we bought a bunch of stuff off Craigslist, and we’ve had our own gym ever since. My form has been rock solid all the way back up, but tonight was 160 once again, finally. Depth is good but the bar gets out in front of me. I’ll need to repeat that weight next week. We finish with three sets of volume, eight reps of 125 each for me, and sleep hits us like a drug shortly thereafter.
Sunday, 6/7: I try to write but it’s undercooked, so I back off. I return to the thoughts later, though, and spend three hours in the afternoon crafting a blog I’m quite pleased with, quite excited about, despite or perhaps even because of the level of controversy, micro and macro. I always express myself best in writing, however poorly that may be. The trial software I was using, Scrivener, ate my draft as I applied the final punctuation and it’s unrecover-able.
Monday, 6/8: The morning was unavailable, due to frenetic fire season employment related activity, but the afternoon opened up. I open my computer and have no idea what to write. I’m still raw about the annihilated document yesterday, those thoughts that felt so good to formulate a first time but less so in a rerun. I crave the new thought, always the new thought. I deleted quite a few of my FB friends, while I waited for my piss test at Concentra. Nothing against them, but I want everything in my life to be as fun as possible. Social media, blog, work, love, life, money, all of it. The worse I feel, the less use I am to myself or anyone, and the things we need to do to feel better aren’t always logical or measured. Luckily, individual wellbeing is not a democracy — it’s a dictatorship of one, and I’m determined to be an inwardly benevolent one first, and a useful/smart/talented/articulate/informed one a distant second if at all.