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.

2022 Vizsla National Specialty: Part 1, Getting There

It was going to be a three day drive: 1,200 miles, and Eggi, Fellow, and me, the only driver, because you know what? Dogs don’t drive. Without them, I could picture maybe, like, I dunno, doing it myself in two days, but, ok, the dogs were the point of the trip. So, a three day drive, with regular stops to smell the grass.

There is also the issue of wanting to be two states away the first night, because you aren’t making progress across this enormous country of wackos if you can’t get two states away from home the first day (sorry, Western/Midwestern America), so I simply had to get through all of Pennsylvania the first day. I don’t make these rules, they just are.

Something I brought plenty of: dog kibble.

Something I should have brought more of: familiar-tasting water from home.

Packing for the dogs: grooming stuff; two crates for riding in the car, two portable crates for sleeping in hotels, two wire crates and crate pads for the show; leashes and collars for walks, slip leashes for agility, show leashes; treats, poop bags, toys.

Packing for me: overnight bag for travel days with sneakers and clothes to compete in agility; two choices of outfits for obedience ring, plus shoes; three choices for conformation ring, plus boots; dress for banquet, plus other boots; raincoat, down vest, sweater, parka. Food, colored pencils, pens.

There used to be things to say about road trips across America. Regional sodas. Billboards for miles exhorting us to See Rock City. Now, we drive thousands of forgettable stretches of highway, following the blue line on the navigation app of the thousand dollar Chinese-made mobile device, hooked up to the car with the special white cord that always frays in the same place, jammed mindlessly on cruise-control between enormous trucks full of toilet paper and game consoles, great long reaches of endless pavement interrupted by exits for towns still named for native tribes long ago chased off the land by whites, but today a couple of streets, some potholes, a few sad but familiar fast food chains, and a drab purveyor of fuel and plastic-wrapped snacks as unmemorable as any other town on the way.

My traveling companions need to visit the rest areas to do their business, and we gain efficiency at every stop. Sometimes other people at the rest areas want to tell me things (my shirt matches my dogs), or ask me things (are they hunting dogs? is he a stud dog?). I walk them one at a time to control the chaos. But I wish I had found time to practice walking them together more, and I wish Fellow wouldn’t try to pee on his own legs or on Eggi. I say things to them about it. You could aim that, I say. Remind me I need to scrub those legs, I say. No one wants you to go there. Ok, good job, thank you for that, let’s go.

They get good at jumping in and out of the back of the big Ford, at waiting to pee until I encourage them to, at pooping every day at around 11 a.m.

The gas in Ohio is a dollar cheaper per gallon than everywhere else.

The dogs are good in the hotels and I didn’t do such a bad job of picking places the first two nights.

On the second day we arrive early enough to look for a park in Beloit, Wisconsin and actually go for a walk. The dogs are wild and hard to keep up with.

Anyplace I wear a mask, I am the only person in a mask. I am relieved to find that people are less likely to talk to me if I am wearing it.

The first day of showing will be agility. I have each dog signed up for three classes, two which count towards their point totals in the Iron Dog, novice standard and novice jumpers with weave (poles), and a third, which is called FAST, an acronym that means something like Fifteen and Send, where you do obstacles for points and have to send to a required element. The FAST event will be held first, and I intend to use it to familiarize the dogs with the venue and the equipment.

Fellow and I went to the Vizsla National Specialty last year, and he and I took an agility class at a big, new, unfamiliar place with strange (endlessly barking) dogs, a different instructor, and regulation mats and equipment for a few weeks in preparation. So, I am pretty confident he will get around the courses ok. He is game. Eggi is a year older, but is more sensitive, and has not had the experience of classes outside the supportive, familiar backyard place where we have been going since she was a puppy. I wanted to take her to the same class as Fellow, but I hadn’t been able to get it organized.

But, anyway, I make it all the way to Minnesota, and it’s still cold and windy at the end of April, and I marvel that I’ve signed myself up for this, and come all this way by myself.

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.