Today in October, 2022

And then, suddenly, two years had passed.

732 days.

It’s clear from the persistently high numbers of people hospitalized and dying in the U.S. that Covid is doing great. It’s also clear from the drop in number of cases that people with symptoms aren’t being tested, or they’re doing their testing at home.

As we arrived, our wet brakes locked and ineffectually screeching at the end of a blind turn in a downhill, damp, humid October, out from the shadows of the Twitter timeline lurched the hulking, monstrous news that thanks to the threat of the U.S. legal system actually somehow applying to some of the people some of the time, the weirdo bajillionaire who’d troll-threatened to acquire Twitter and was taken seriously and is now apparently its owner. I’m pretty confident that the stated goal of making profits off the hell-site is impossible to achieve, and they’re starting with lots of firings, humiliating code reviews, and half-assed tweets about making people pay to keep their verified checkmarks. Fun stuff (as long as you don’t work there)!

I have something a bit different in mind for November. I dare everyone to stop getting Covid so I can stop making these.

Today in September, 2022

September had several Thursdays, and I meant to write about them, on them, near them, and for them, and may have even written something and squirreled it away somewhere, but it isn’t finished. Meanwhile, I got up every day and did one of these.

Every day, when I write the year, I always carefully say “2020” in my head before I write “2022.” 

I have been trying to live more like we used to, planning short trips, accepting a dinner invitation, squeezing in the new, bivalent Covid booster late one afternoon like it’s no big deal. It feels some kind of way. I can’t quite name it.

Early in the month, I painted too many skulls over too many faces, and I had to stop.

We went out of town for a weekend, and saw some people it was very good to see, and, in retrospect, everyone seemed just as subdued as you might think they would be after a few years of a pandemic.

People seem weary, yet happy to have made it thus far. One friend was telling me that she had to stop drinking. I told her that my new migraine meds meant I hadn’t had any desire for alcohol in about 10 months. She said she only missed it when she had pasta. I agreed that pasta without a nice glass of wine is just noodles.

On the 29th of the month, I passed day 700 of this project.

Why did I start? Why have I gone on so long? When will I stop? What will I do with them?

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.

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.

Last Year, Today Again in December

About 434 days ago, I started writing down what day it was, because I was having trouble telling what day it was.

We’ve had only a few days of genuinely cold weather this winter, and one snowy day. Otherwise, it was mud, mud, mud outside at the end of 2021, that very long, very strange year.

Some nights I dream about making paintings. Once, I dreamed I was in a great gray void with a long, long brush that was two or three times as tall as me, and a clanking tin bucket of black ink hanging on my belt, and I danced across a great, undulating sheet of soft, thick paper as it floated on a shallow sea. The paper wanted to curl into a scroll before I could finish writing the numbers, trapping my feet between the two tubes.

Thanks to the arrival of the omicron variant in the U.S., on top of the reluctance of about 40% of America to bother getting vaccinated, we ended 2021 in the U.S. with an explosion in the number of infections. There may not be enough test kits available to measure the cases.

I had an impulse to paint over the 20th and it became the 27th. I also painted over the 26th, and it became the 31st.

Today Again in November

Yes, I am still making them.

Did I think, last November, that I was starting this at the beginning, middle, or end of the coronavirus pandemic? Did I imagine the pages would get bigger and bigger? That I would use yard signs and cereal boxes? That there would continue to be inconsistent messages to Americans about wearing masks? That so many people would forgo being vaccinated in favor of just being demonstrably stupid?

Add to this the fact that our least democratically chosen and highest court in the land is now hearing another challenge to Roe v Wade and it looks like the decision will be in favor of the special religious interests and against the poorest women in America, who apparently do not deserve bodily autonomy.

I went to bed angry last night. And I woke up angry.