Today in August, 2022

I found another mangled cereal box in the recycling bin the other day, flattened and then bent in half. Of course, I’ve asked the one other person in the house who eats cereal to save me empty cereal boxes, but I guess they forgot. Really, I should stop using cereal boxes. They have creases. The ink sometimes peels off in a layer. It takes many coats of gesso and paint to cover the printing, and sometimes it still shows through. But something about re-using the cereal boxes–and then turning them over and using the other side–feels like we are trapped in this 80s museum in Bedhead Hills, waiting for the end of the plague, making due with whatever we have on hand.

Because we are. We don’t know which small decision, which quick errand, which trip to town leads to getting Covid. I don’t know many people who haven’t had it yet, but I do know some. I think it’s still worth trying not to get it. I am not ready to give up.

Sometimes I save newspaper photos of famous people that I like so that I can make them into skulls. Sometimes I save newspaper photos of famous people I don’t like so that I can make them into skulls. Most of the skulls are people I don’t feel one way or another about, and not all of them are dead yet. But everyone dies.

But not everyone has to get Covid, and so, not everyone has to die from Covid.

On the 26th through the 29th, I wrote down the number of total Covid deaths in each of the 50 U.S. States (and also the places like Guam and Puerto Rico that were listed along with the states), copying them from a list where they were in order of deaths per capita. I imagine it would be interesting to study the differences between Mississippi’s coronavirus response, where the deaths have been 430 per 100,000 so far, versus Vermont’s, where the deaths number 113 per 110,000. Maybe it’s their vaccination rates (Mississippi 53% vs. Vermont 83%), or maybe those rates reflect the efficacy of the states’ respective health departments. Mississippi’s many public health challenges predate the pandemic, though, and correlation does not imply causation.

It is so scary and frustrating to know that an American’s chances of getting through the pandemic unscathed is going to come down to being lucky enough to live in the right state in the first place.

Today in July, 2022

Oh, hey, remember the other pandemic? The one that used to be called Covid-19? The one that two American presidents claim they’ve beaten, but is still killing hundreds of Americans every single day?

Yeah, me neither.

I went to a dog show with my dogs and made some new friends in July, and it was really fun, and I did that pathetic thing where I showed my new friend one of these and he said, “Oh, you’re an artist,” and I didn’t say, “Yes.”

I thought about that on the 19th, when I was painting.

Which is funny.

After they found a guy with polio in Rockland County last month, the New York State Department of Health started doing wastewater surveillance, and other other detection efforts, to check for signs of the polio virus.

“Polio is a dangerous disease with potentially devastating consequences,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “In the United States, we are so fortunate to have available the crucial protection offered through polio vaccination, which has safeguarded our country and New Yorkers for over 60 years. Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible.”

My grandfather had polio as a child and died of its long-term effects his early 70s, suffering serious, debilitating medical problems during most of the years that I knew him.

Covid is still killing over 400 Americans a day, and has already killed almost 1,000 American children under the age of 11.

Today in June, 2022

June started out nice enough, with a bunch of Americans being jollied by the gate agents to form disorderly lines, shuffling with two personal items onto overbooked airplanes, occasionally being met by just enough staff to actually fly them, and jetting off to attend the improbable graduation events of their amazing relations capable of finishing degrees during Plague Years. Sure, a bunch of people got Covid, some of them for the second or third time, but by the end of the month no one would be talking about it. Not a word.

Why would anyone talk about an airborne virus we could keep from spreading by wearing the right masks, running a few tests, and taking common-sense precautions to isolate ourselves when we have six berobed demon overlords who have seized control through irreversible lifetime political appointments to the highest court in the land who, in the last couple of weeks, have ghoulishly weighed in on everything from whether women are people (no), whether states like New York should be able to have different laws about guns (no), whether gerrymandering is ok (it is if it oppresses non-white people), whether some bullying loudmouth coach can force his football team to pray to his god (heck yeah), something something Miranda rights (whatever favors the jackbooted totalitarian regime), and strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the ability to protect the motherfucking air (why not).

It’s absolutely fucking nuts.

Today in May, 2022

At the beginning of May, I was on my way back from Minnesota, and I had such a big adventure I am still working on writing about that.

The United States passed a million documented Covid deaths this month, and if that fact was officially recognized, I did not hear it. Everyone seems to have completely lost interest in Covid, as if the pandemic is over. It isn’t.

And then, our beloved old dog Captain went to bed one night and didn’t wake up the next day.

I make room within myself to accept the arrival of more bad news, like it is normal, and expected. Captain’s cremated remains wait for me at the emergency vet, where my son and I took him on that bad Saturday. Maybe I will go on a day where the U.S. Supreme Court leaks yet another opinion that I am not a person worthy of bodily autonomy, or a day where a guy with a car full of military-style weapons goes to a supermarket or school to shoot up and kill young children or elderly shoppers. You know, just another Thursday in America.

Today in April, 2022

The light changes in April, and the skunk cabbage comes poking up out of the mud in the swampy woods, and the grass in Bedhead Hills becomes vivid green. Daffodils do their daffo-thing. It’s nature’s sleight of hand. One day it’s late winter, and the next, the birds are screaming, my eyelids feel like sandpaper, and I’m running Covid tests because I forgot about spring and I forgot about allergies.

All those years ago when my mother did us the disservice of dying in April, she should have picked a more dismal month, like February or November to ruin. Better still, she could have refrained from dying at all, and stuck around for the death-fest that is Life in the Time of Coronavirus, when hundreds and thousands die every day and no one cares. Then, we’d have spent every day of the last two years worried for her safety.

If, in the past, I felt peaceful making these, I have lost that feeling now. It might come back. I’ve saved it a seat. Meanwhile, I am still doing it automatically, without asking myself to do it. It is a daily practice. A chore, even. An obligation. To what? To the horror? To something I started and don’t know how to finish?

The totals go up. The daily deaths and cases got pretty low, but they didn’t go away. And then the cases started going back up again, despite the fact that no one seems to be counting anymore. A new variant is just around the corner.

In the spirit of “Everything is Fine,” I spent the last six months getting ready to go to the Vizsla National Specialty Show in Shakopee, Minnesota, and on the 23rd of April, I loaded the car with a lot of stuff and two dogs and hit the road.

I did not miss a day.

More about my trip next time.

Today in March, 2022

Almost no one seems to be paying any attention to the pandemic right now, which must be very frustrating for the people whose job it is to save people from it.

Around the first of the year, I dreamed I made a neatly striped painting, and I finished it January 18. When I went to varnish it, I used the wrong kind, and watched as some of the ink lettering dissolved. It felt like I had done the violence to my own work. I removed all of the ink (a wildly, intensely, inkily messy process), repainted many of the stripes, and let it sit until I was less upset about it. Then, I gave it a fat grackle, and got happy about it again. With the bird, it is not the painting from the dream; but, is anything working out as planned for anyone anymore?

And then the total number of global Covid deaths passed six million, and did anyone even shrug?

I am finding myself so conspicuously the only person with a mask on in public places I feel pressured to remove it. I have been asked why I (still) wear one when I don’t have to. I have responded with a polite, upbeat, serious answer. It is astonishing what near strangers will ask in the time of covid.

Another milestone I passed this month is 500 of these works.

Yesterday was exhausting; I pack my Wednesdays so that enduring the worst day of the week is a mild frenzy of (mostly) dog activities. The reward is Thursday: the best day of every week. Thursday has good posture. Thursday always sings on key. Thursday knows all the words. Thursday can spare an extra dog-doo bag. Thursday remembered to take out the trash and paid the electric bill on time. Thursday waves at the guy who brings the mail. Thursday heard it might rain but went for a walk anyway. Thursday might get wet, but Thursday doesn’t care, because Thursday always wears a raincoat.

Soon, it will be time to start cutting the grass again.

Today in February, 2022

This year, February was like I dunno about four days long.

On the first day there was a football game. The exciting games had already happened and we didn’t see them.

Then, on the second day, with the Winter Olympics and its quadrennial doping scandals over, and football finished, the infinitely short American attention span glanced briefly at some famously ignorant guy with a podcast who got a lucrative contract from an online streaming service despite building his career on stupid ramblings, racist remarks, and inviting onto his platform windbags, charlatans, anti-vaxxers. know-nothings, and snake-oil salesmen to promote the important work that the coronavirus is doing killing and disabling people both here in America and all over the world. So some of the few remaining musicians with actual control over their recordings quit the platform in disgust, while others just had to say, yeah, we would if we could.

On the third day, I was cleaning up my art materials because the cat gets into my shit and I didn’t want him to cut himself and when I went to slide the safety cover over the blade of the circle cutter I cut myself pretty well.

Next, on the fourth and last day of February, the Russians, who had waited patiently until after the Olympics, started a war on Ukraine. We have all forgotten entirely about international games of peace (which they were not officially allowed to compete in), dopes, doping, masks, and vaccines.

Almost everyone everywhere is horrified, heaping sanctions large and small upon Russia. And people are moved by the desperation of the Ukrainians, some of who are staying to fight, while others are fleeing the military invasion. We, as Americans, spend almost all of our tax dollars on our military, so we probably could step in. But we don’t, because that would be World War III.

February 2, 2022

On this day, Wednesday, the 2nd of February, in the last month of the 2nd Year of Our Pandemic, 2022, I recorded the data published by the New York Times on four boxes that fit together.

The outermost box is covered in obituaries with painted skulls. Inside surfaces are painted paper collage.

Total worldwide cases as of this date, 381, 675, 145. 5,686,747 total worldwide deaths attributed to Covid-19.

3,262,391 new cases per day, worldwide average. 10,234 new deaths from covid, in all its variants, each and every day.

10,101,836,424 vaccine doses administered worldwide so far.

On this day, 295,3374 new U.S. cases were found, and 3,579 dead were reported.

805,00 vaccine doses are going into Americans each day.

128,284 Americans currently hospitalized with Covid.

(Only) 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

75,285,898 total U.S. Covid cases have been counted so far.

889,522 total Americans have died of Covid as of February 2, 2022. In the week since, the U.S. has passed 900,000 dead.

On this day, 214 new New York deaths counted. 6,267 New Yorkers hospitalized with Covid.

6,468 new New York cases just detected.

4,796,000 total official New York cases of Covid-19 as of this date.

64,461 total New York deaths from Covid.

In Westchester County, New York, where I live, 6 new covid deaths reported on this day, and 257 new cases. 242,283 total Covid cases so far, and 2,622 total deaths.

The finished larger box also has room for all the boxes I made in earlier months.

Today Again in January

People are saying it’s now the third year of the pandemic, but for me, it started March 14, 2019, so we are still in the second year, and closing in on the end of the second year.

92 skulls this month. No pandas.

I remembered to do a tea box again for the first time in many months. Big numbers, little box. Eggi was very helpful in the demo.

I used both sides of 5 cereal boxes this month, something that wasn’t necessary, but it was possible. As it is, you have to flatten a cereal box to put it in the recycling, so there you are, cardboard in hand, deciding if you could re-use it.

Grackle was a regular pest in January.

People on Twitter had things to say about the stripes. Here’s what I can tell you: I dreamed I did it.

Idaho should not feel singled out; I found a box of maps. If you have an old map of a state you’d like me to feature, maybe we could work out a trade.

The 20th, below, became the 25th, and then became the 26th. Shit happens.

Those paintings are still there; you just have to see them with your mind.

I feel I have a new relationship with the color yellow now.

Because I write these numbers down every day, when we passed ten billion vaccine doses administered worldwide on Friday, January 28, it was cause for exclamation. I yelled, like, “holy fuck,” or something. That’s a lot of shots. There are still plenty of Americans yet to get theirs, and if you know some, I’m sorry.

Pretty soon I’m going to have to buy some more paper. I’m thinking about making these smaller for a while; I’m not sure how that will work.

The Turkey

[NOTE: Yucky photos of a turkey carcass, but no guts or anything. Just dirty meat.]

Somehow, last Thursday I forgot it was Thursday and I didn’t write anything.

I have been staying busy doing nothing, trying not to get the Omicron variant as the entirety of America seems to be working on getting it. No one outside of my paranoid household and any given hospital ICU seems bothered by this, though. Half of America still won’t get vaccinated. The other half of America might definitely sometimes wear a mask, mostly covering part of their face, at the doctor, when they go to the movies (ok, until it’s like dark anyway), and when they walk into restaurants (but obviously not when they’re eating). They’re uncomplainingly sending their kids to in-person school, taught by whatever random substitute is replacing their usual teacher (because she’s out with COVID), and they’re just so psyched for when this whole thing is like over and we can like just go back to like normal.

Last Friday I passed some garbage on the side of the road near my house, which is, in and of itself, a remarkable thing. I live in a community with both paved and unpaved roads, all lovingly maintained by our taxes to preserve the rural flavor. The local Department of Thoroughfares is quite responsive if alerted to a downed limb or illegal dumping, and typically the roads stay clear. Those of us who walk our dogs around here pick up errant trash when we see it and this corner of Bedhead Hills stays picture perfect.

So when I ran out again to mail a letter, and it was still there. I slowed and rolled down my window.

The turkey, out of its wrapper

It was a turkey.

Not like a wild kind of turkey that lives in a flock in the woods around here. It was a naked, plucked, legless, headless, ready-to-be-salted-and-peppered-and-roasted kind of bird. It was raw, and not frozen. It had slid out from its butcher paper wrapper, and bounced, out of whatever vehicle it was being delivered by. I imagine it was in the way of something else that had to be delivered, and it got moved, and then it slipped out. It was abandoned in the gravel at the side of the road, and easily a 20 pounder.

Now, whoever dropped this turkey obviously messed up. Big time. Maybe the turkey escaped without notice. Maybe the turkey exited the vehicle with a dramatic flourish. Either way, someone around here did not get their 20+ pound fresh turkey delivered Friday. It was a turkey they were waiting for, that they had special ordered, that they weren’t expecting to need to defrost; this wasn’t an easy to replace item. This was dinner for 12, plus a weekend’s worth of leftovers.

All I really wanted to see happen next was the sad turkey accident going to a good re-purpose. Sure, it wouldn’t be feeding the neighbor’s weekend houseguests, but maybe the crows would find it. Or the coyotes I sometimes hear yip-yipping in the woods. We’ve heard stories of the bears down the hill, and I’ve even seen their poo around here. Would a bear eat that? Might they come up this far? And when the deer died in our wetland, we had a great congregation of vultures gather. Would there be vultures?

Friday night we had a big wind storm, so I drove down to check the carcass late and didn’t get out of my car. Saturday morning it was very cold, so I put Eggi in her jacket and she and I walked down together first thing. She noticed the crow in the tree before she saw the turkey, and they exchanged insults. The crow was still shouting at us as we retreated homeward through our woods.

That day was very, very cold. I assumed that whatever was scraping away at the turkey wasn’t going to be able to move it, since everything was frozen solid.

Sunday afternoon, I took Eggi for another walk to see if it was still there.

It was.

By Monday afternoon, the snow was very soggy, and the turkey was turned over, but it was still there. The Bacon Provider ran out to mail something and said he saw buzzards in the road, but didn’t get a picture.

Tuesday, I took Eggi to obedience class, and the turkey was lying on its back again in the middle of the road.

Ew

A few hours later it was out of the middle of the road but not quite to the shoulder.

Had something attempted to carry it, and failed?

Yesterday afternoon, before we got more snow, the carcass was to be found over on the shoulder, and was looking pretty stringy and dirty.

At 11:45 this morning, Eggi and I saw that it was in similar condition, under fresh snow.

Today at about 5 pm, I drove down to try to see if I could find it before I lost the light.

All that is left are the two big thigh bones, the spine, and the pelvis. And, of course, the plastic hock lock, because plastic is forever.