Saturday, July 4, 2020

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal


~~ The Declaration of Independence


Last night, like so many others, we watched the movie of “Hamilton” on Disney+. We had seen the Chicago production of it a while back and loved it, but seeing the original Broadway cast perform it was mind-blowing. The acting, the music, even the lighting, were just spectacular. It was fun to see friends who had never seen it experience it and realize how incredibly good it is. 

If I were a history teacher, I’d do everything in my power to get my kids to see this. Not only does it teach history, it teaches it in a modern way, bringing those original ideas into the present and helping people understand what a remarkable experiment our country is. 


While we watched the movie, the “president” was having a photo op at Mount Rushmore and talking about the “leftist mobs” in the country. His comments were divisive as well as dismissive of the suffering happening in our country right now. Thousands of people are getting sick and dying every day, and he chose to stoke racial and partisan anger, as well as endangering all those who attended. This so-called president might want to ignore the coronavirus, but it is not ignoring people. It struck me as a terrible message to deliver on a day that means a lot to our “grand experiment.” 


Those of us bearing witness right now will tell this “president’s” story. And it will not be kind. 


It also struck me that those who founded our country would be particularly appalled by such a demagogue. They did what they could to prevent someone like him from gaining power, but they were far from infallible. They were imperfect in many ways, but they did have a visionary view of what our country could be. We obviously haven’t achieved that yet, but we are a work in progress. We work towards a more perfect union. 


On this day, we should resolve to defeat not just this “president” in November, but to defeat this toxic form of nationalism. We know we can do better, and we must. 


Happy Birthday, America. You’re having a really weird mid-life crisis, but I’m going to hold out hope that you will learn from this and strive for better. I still believe in you. I need you to believe in yourself, the way Alexander Hamilton and others did. 



Saturday, June 27, 2020

American Idiots

Don't wanna be an American idiot

Don't want a nation under the new mania

And can you hear the sound of hysteria?

The subliminal mind-fuck America


~~ “American Idiot” by Green Day


AHAHAHAHA

I’m not sure, but I think I might have reached my limit when it comes to idiocy.

Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow but at the moment, I’m ready to break out the Rick Dalton flamethrower. Die, you Nazi bastards! AHAHAHAHA


Shit. 


I honestly don’t know how to process the sheer dumbfuckery that I’m seeing right now. A former coworker—a scientist!—posting bullshit conspiracy theories; a spike in cases in states that opened too soon; a so-called “president” who thinks that pretending that this virus doesn’t exist just makes it magically go *poof*. Presto! No more virus! No more cases! No more DEATHS. 


Blaming China like it fucking matters at this point. First of all, there is zero scientific evidence that this was engineered in a Chinese lab. Second, there is such a thing as “global travel.” People travel to and from various countries all the time, whether for business or pleasure. Third, viruses and other infectious agents don’t give one single fuck about supposedly closed borders. Fourth, it is already here and has been since late in 2019, so isn’t the whole point to do what we can to contain and mitigate it? Yes! Yes it is! 


FInally, we fucking told you so. Even little old me, just a lowly microbiologist working in a local lab, has been warning about a pandemic for years. Scientists much more knowledgeable than I have been sounding the warning for even longer. The Obama administration listened to those scientists and had an actual playbook that laid out what a global pandemic might look like and how to deal with it. Every lab I ever worked in and every company with any concern about operations in such a scenario had an emergency plan. 


The current administration basically tossed it in the trash. 


I am so disgusted and angry that I just want to break stuff. In fact, I need to pause for a few hours before I throw my laptop across the room because I am PISSED OFF. 


[break]


[three days later]


While I’m in a better frame of mind, I am still disgusted. Yesterday, we were subjected to the Idiot’s Pet Ghost VP standing in front of the American people and lying right to our faces with what Seth Meyers calls his “dumb little hyphen mouth.” The response to this has not been a success, and anyone with half a brain can see it. One of the things I find most infuriating is that they all seem to think we’re stupid and can’t see what is happening in front of us. It’s obvious that their rabid supporters are suckers supreme, but the majority of us aren’t. The polls are showing it. 


A couple of things occurred to me over the past couple of days. 


First, I’m seeing a certain subset of Americans that are practicing what I would call “toxic individualism.” I don’t know if I coined that phrase or if I read it somewhere and it stuck with me, but I suspect the latter. Either way, I think it is fitting. At the press conference yesterday, Dr. Fauci spoke truth to power and told the American people that we don’t just have responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones, we also “have a societal responsibility.” The Idiot “president” and his acolytes have severely damaged the social contract and it may be beyond repair. We’re seeing a weird evangelical defiance about gathering to worship and not wearing masks despite the outbreaks traced to church gatherings. One has to wonder about how much some of these people care about others as their god directs them to. Ken and I and plenty of our atheist friends obviously care more than some of these yahoos do. 


Real men wear masks
Second, I really think we are mainly on our own right now. The federal government has provided some stimulus and relief money for those who are suffering right now, but the lack of true leadership is painfully obvious. More still needs to be done, but they are ignoring the increase in cases and what really needs to happen in order to control this pandemic and tamp out the fires. All it would take would be for this dysfunctional administration to come out with a statement saying that it is vital to American interests for everyone to stay home if possible and to wear masks if it isn’t. And then be publicly present wearing masks. Can you imagine how much that would help?


Sadly, they won’t do that and I honestly don’t know why. They aren’t just dysfunctional. They just don’t give a fuck. They really don’t. And all those poor saps who say, “He cares about us!” are as delusional as he is. 


Also sadly, while I think it is up to us, I really don’t think we’re up to the task. The majority of us know the reality of things, but there are far too many people who seem to be blissfully ignoring reality. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for them, and unfortunately, it impacts all of us. 


I think it’s important that all of us with an ounce of reason and common sense start speaking up a little more. I’m not going to go out of my way to confront maskless people who are distant enough from me to not pose a danger, but if someone gets up in my grill or says something shitty to me, I will not hold back. Time to start shaming people, if you ask me. 


At a time when the American people need to show the resolve that we’ve been known for throughout the decades, I believe that we are woefully inadequate to the task. It makes me sad to say that, but it is obviously and painfully true. 



Monday, June 22, 2020

Boring


I won't stoop to your level
You'd have us fightin' everyday
If you had your way
I'm always wrong, you're always right
Now I'm getting on with my life
'Cause you bore me
Yeah you bore me


~~ “You Bore Me” by Blue Flannel

Hey, I'm yelling at you!
I didn’t watch the “president’s” Tulsa rally because I’m not a masochist. But I watched the coverage leading up to it and I watched clips after it. 

Empty seats. Subdued attendees. The Little Overflow Area That Wasn’t.

It reinforced something that I’ve been feeling for some time now: his shtick has gotten old. Old, boring, and dumb. Just like him. 

I remember way back in the old days of the 2016 primaries, when we watched the Republican primary debates with a weird combination of fascination and horror. What would that idiot say next? Ahh, we were all so naive then. We thought it couldn’t get worse than a candidate talking about the size of his dick on national TV. Silly young things, weren’t we? 

I think he realized how disastrous that Tulsa rally was. We’ve all seen the video of him getting back to the White House that night, getting off Marine One looking all disheveled, downtrodden, and defeated, his tie draped around his shoulders and his sad little MAGA hat crumpled in his hand. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for him. 

ALMOST. 

I don’t, not one bit. This horror show is all of his own making, his fragile, hungry ego crying out for adulation and praise and full-throated approval. Health concerns be damned. He needed his fix. When he didn’t get it, we saw the sad clown (with apologies to clowns) at the core of him. A hollowed-out shell of someone who never got the approval he so desperately desired, whether it was from his father or the East coast “elites” who didn’t accept him despite his supposed wealth. He is a sad and broken excuse for a human being. 

The whole thing was pathetic. But what struck me most about that sad spectacle was that he was so goddamn BORING. Even his die-hard supporters, the ones who were actually there, were yawning. Honestly, how often can anyone listen to his bullshit and find it even remotely interesting? It’s the same shit, different day. Yet another airing of his grievances. 

At a time when thousands of Americans have died, people of color fear for their lives from a police force that has abused its power, and our economy is tanking, he uttered not one word about the dead, the pandemic, the people who have been killed at the hands of police, or the millions of people who are out of jobs and struggling to pay bills. It was all about him. All of it. 

It was not a good look, to say the least. 

I think that a lot of people are starting to wake up to that. Even if they liked some of his policies (bless their hearts), they are starting to understand that he’s just not capable of fulfilling his duties. I know that there is a subset of people who will follow him to the end (that’s a subject for another day), but any fence-sitters or hesitant supporters are starting to grow weary of his lame washed-up comedian routine. Maybe when we boot his sorry ass out of the White House in November, he can get a decent gig at a seedy dinner theater in the Poconos. 

Even long-term comedians know that they have to come up with new material. This idiot doesn’t get that. 

I’m starting to feel a bit of a turning tide. With every humiliation, defeat, and failure, he continues his death spiral. We have months to go before election day, but things feel different now, don’t they? 

Christ, I hope so. My liver is about ready to cry “Uncle!” and I’m not sure I can take four more years. 


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Hit me with your best shot

Hit me with your best shot
Come on!
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

~~ "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar


Be Best
No, I'm not kidding. I want your best shot. 

It seems that the Idiot-In-Chief and self-proclaimed genius epidemiologist (he's really good at that stuff, y'all) has decided that we're going to have a vaccine against the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 by the end of 2020. Amazingly, some scientists are all on board and going along with that timetable, although the vast majority think that is way too optimistic. 

Count me among the latter. 

I never was part of vaccine development but I studied a bit about it and spent my entire career in healthcare. One thing I did do as part of my job was testing new methods against old methods. I.e., when a new test was developed and became available and we thought we might want to switch to it, we ran duplicate tests comparing it to our current test. We needed to make sure it compared well and that the results were shown to be accurate before we adopted the new method. 

Let me tell you...that was involved and tedious enough. With vaccine development, we're talking a whole other level of complexity. Formulating a vaccine itself isn't going to be extremely difficult; it's the subsequent testing that it must endure that takes time and large numbers of tests. The main goals are to find something that is both safe and effective. This does not happen overnight or with the snap of an artificially orange tiny finger. 

That's why I am so dubious of a safe vaccine by year's end. And you know what? If there is a vaccine, and they actually manage to manufacture it in the large doses needed, I will not be getting it immediately, and Ken most certainly will not. You all know how I am about vaccines. They save lives. That is not debatable, although many try. (They are wrong.) I know the truth of it. But I also know the consequences of a rushed vaccine that has not been entirely vetted. Some vaccines have carried the increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (the swine flu vaccine in the '70s) and some, like the first incarnation of the Rotavirus vaccine, resulted in a rare but serious condition called intussusception, which is an intestinal complication that can result in blockage and the need for surgical intervention. (That vaccine was pulled from use and another one was developed.)

To summon an Internet meme, one does not simply walk into a safe vaccine. It requires development, in vitro testing, in vivo testing in animals, and then in vivo testing in humans. The level of antibody development needs to be determined as well as how long those antibodies last, which will determine if it will confer immunity for a matter of years or only of months. Follow-up testing needs to be done to see if any long-term issues arise. 

It might not be rocket science but it's pretty damn complex in a different way. 

Rushing a vaccine to market for mass consumption is a dangerous prospect. I trust nothing that comes from the mouths of political operatives. I trust the science. If the orange idiot starts talking up this vaccine and I don't hear scientists agreeing, I will run the other way from that vaccine. 

***


Time to make the vaccines
On a related note, I watched the testimony before Congress from Dr. Rick Bright, the whistleblower who said that his warnings about the urgency of this virus went unheeded. (Quote of the Year: "We're in deep shit.") I was dismayed to see many of the Republican congresscritters trying to shield the so-called "president" when it comes to his constant touting of hydroxychloroquine as a therapy, despite no valid scientific studies being done to test its effectiveness against this virus. Most of the studies so far have shown either no efficacy or actual harm, with a worse outcome in many cases. 

But one after another, they sat up there and grilled Dr. Bright about hydroxychloroquine and "why not try it?" I'll sum up Dr. Bright's answer and then I'll give my own to that question. He said, in essence, "Your anecdotal evidence doesn't count for shit." 

My answer is that you don't try treatments when you don't know the outcomes. While the treatment has been around for a long time as a malaria drug and for some other conditions, it has not been fully vetted as a treatment for this virus. There is a shit-ton that we don't know about this virus and about the damage it causes to various tissues and systems, and just shoving a drug at it willy-nilly is irresponsible and negligent at best and downright malpractice at worst. 

Some of these people in Congress keep trying to appease the toddler in the White House and say, "It works for malaria. Why not give it a try?"

The reason I gave on Facebook is basically this: there are many treatments that work for one thing and don't work for another. A simple example is that penicillin-class antibiotics can be quite effective against some Gram-positive organisms like Staph and Strep. (Not so much Staph anymore, but that's because it developed resistance, so much so that penicillin is no longer an effective antibiotic against Staph.) However, due to its mechanism against organisms (it involves differences in cell walls), penicillin and most other antibiotics in that class are completely ineffective against Gram-negative organisms like E coli or Pseudomonas. 

So, to give a treatment example: if you had a patient who presented with septicemia (a blood infection) caused by E coli and you gave your patient penicillin, you would be causing harm because that is an ineffective treatment. Your patient would die because that is a very serious infection, one of the most life-threatening you can get. "What do you have to lose?" Well, when you push ineffective treatments, your patient could lose their life. 

Here's another very simple example: a couple of ibuprofen works great on a headache, but it ain't gonna do shit for your yeast infection, honey. But if you take enough ibuprofen, you risk renal damage. But hey, what have you got to lose, right? 

That's why it is important to conduct the studies and determine whether or not the treatment can cure, mitigate or decrease the length of illness, or if it causes actual harm. We have not done those studies on the magnitude that is necessary and it is beyond irresponsible for people to be pushing any sort of treatment without the necessary vetting. 

I know this was way too science-y but everything I'm hearing from the non-scientists in this administration is grating on my last nerve. It is glaringly obvious that they have no clue what they're talking about. 

Although I have a suggestion. Perhaps some sort of bleach injection or ingestion could help. Come on, fellas.

What have you got to lose? 




Thursday, May 7, 2020

Lost and Found

Emma ran out of the flat into the tangled weeds behind their building and made her way to the gravestone in the graveyard beyond. She needed some air. She put her hand on her big sister's stone and said, "I miss you, Eliza." 

She cried a little but wiped the tears off of her face with the hem of her dress. Her sister had died two weeks ago and Emma still didn't quite know what to do with herself. She felt lost. Eliza had brushed her hair and had made her clean her teeth. Now that Eliza was gone, her hair had gotten more than a little ratty and she rubbed her tongue across her teeth. Emma resolved to at least clean her teeth today, to let Eliza know that she hadn't forgotten her. 

She made her way back into the house, picking her way carefully through the brambles. When she entered the flat, she called out to her Mum and Dad but got no reply. She walked through the small dining space to their bedroom and stood in the doorway. "Mama?"

She got no response and walked over to the bed. She shook Mama's shoulder but she wouldn't wake up. She seemed cold so Emma got a blanket from the sideboard and put it over her Mum and Dad. She patted her Papa on the shoulder and said, "Sleep, Papa. It's okay. I know you're tired." She noticed a bad smell in the air so she opened the window a little. 

She went to the kitchen and found an old biscuit that her Mum had made and sat at the table as she nibbled it. Mama hadn't made a proper meal for a few days, but Emma was resourceful and managed to find things to eat. She wished for fresh milk but was content to have some water. 

After Eliza had died and they had buried her in the boneyard, her Mum and Dad had retreated to themselves. Emma knew that they loved her but they had gotten so quiet and they didn't laugh and play like they used to. Papa hadn't said much anyway once he got back from what Mama called the Great War, and he had left half of one of his legs over there. He also had a hard time talking to everyone, because he was always so out of breath. Mama explained to the girls that it was the mustard, but Emma never understood that, because she always liked mustard when they had it with dinner. 

As Emma nibbled at her biscuit, she heard a knock on the door. She went over to the door, taking her biscuit with her. She opened the door a crack and looked out to see who was there. When she saw that it was Mrs. Brambadge from next door, she opened the door wide. 

Mrs. Brambadge said, "Hello, Emma. How are you?" She was usually a very cheery sort but seemed quite serious now. 

Emma shrugged. "I'm well, thank you." She continued to nibble her biscuit. 

Mrs. Brambadge cleared her throat and said, "I was wondering if your Mum and Dad are about. I had hoped to talk to them."

Emma looked up at her and didn't say anything. 

The neighbor continued, "I really need to talk to them if they're here, you see. There have been some things happening that...well, I really think I should talk to them. Can I do that, love?"

Emma took her hand and led her inside. She drew her over to where Mama and Papa slept in their bed and pointed. "They're in there. But you probably should let them sleep. They've been very tired and they sleep all the time lately." 

Mrs. Brambadge looked at her and then looked up into the dimness of the bedroom. She put her hand on the doorjamb and took a step inside. Then another. Emma heard her say, "Lila? James? Are you awake?" The woman stepped further into the room and Emma heard her gasp. 

The nice neighbor rushed out of the bedroom, braced herself against the wall, then leaned over and vomited profusely, all over the floorboards that Mama had just scrubbed last week. 

She looked up at Emma, who watched her calmly. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Oh, my dear child. How long have your Mum and Dad been...sleeping?"

Emma thought about it. "Well, Mama made these biscuits a few days ago." She took another nibble and looked at it. "There's a green spot here, but it still tastes good." Mrs. Brambadge looked up at Emma from her crouch on the floor, a look in her eyes that Emma knew was one of both horror and sadness. Emma didn't know how she knew this but she supposed that she'd seen enough of both in her short time on earth. 

Mrs. Brambadge made her way to her feet, brushing away the flies that seemed to have descended upon Emma's house lately. She closed the bedroom door firmly behind her, pressing her hand to her mouth. She took a deep breath and then grabbed Emma's hand. She pulled her along behind her to the door, her ample bosom leading the way. 

Emma held back. "No, Mrs. Brambadge! I need to be here when Mama and Papa wake up! They'll be hungry."

The woman looked down at Emma, who realized that the neighbor was truly very distraught. "Oh, child," she said, her hand on Emma's head. "Come with me next door."

Emma resisted. "I told you! Mama and Papa will be hungry when they get up!"


Mrs. Brambadge peered at her. "Emma, your Mum and Dad aren't getting up. They are sleeping, yes...but they...they aren't going to be hungry if they wake up. And yes, I said 'if.'" 

Emma bowed her head and then looked up at Mrs. Brambadge. "They aren't going to wake up are they, Missus?" 

Mrs. Brambadge shook her head. "No, child. I don't believe they are." 

Emma slipped her hand into Mrs. Brambadge's. They walked outside and Emma looked up at her. "Are you my new Mum?" 

The older woman looked startled and looked down at Emma. "Why, yes, child. I suppose I am. I seem to have found you, haven't I?"

Emma nodded. "Yes, mum. Will you brush my hair?" She smiled up at the nice lady and they walked home. 




Saturday, April 25, 2020

For immediate press release

The Devil went down to Georgia, he was lookin' for a soul to steal
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind, he was willing to make a deal

~~ "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by The Charlie Daniels Band


(SNN) Satan News Network has announced that the Dark Lord has not only canceled his plans to attend and participate in this year's Fiddle Throwdown in Marietta, Georgia, the sponsor of the shindig for ten years has canceled the entire festival. 

The spokesdemon for Satan said, "In all good conscience, Satan cannot allow people to gather in large numbers, despite the Governor's relaxation of stay-at-home orders. While he is not opposed to large numbers of people dying and the possibility of harvesting their souls, he feels that it would be counterproductive to let them die without doing his dark bidding on Earth for the maximum amount of time before they die. Therefore, Satan is canceling the Throwdown." 

Satan threw down his pen on his desk, raising a puff of smoke. He looked up at his advisors. "So you're telling me that we can't do the Throwdown this year?" Steam rose from his forehead.

Vice-Lord Penemue bowed his head and said, "Dark Lord, I think we have to cancel."

Satan pounded his fists on this desk. "Why?" he thundered. "I was all set for another match-up with that hillbilly Johnny. I've been practicing!" 

The Vice-Lord cringed. "Sir, we just feel that the risks don't exceed the benefits." He pulled back the black drape over the easel beside him to reveal a graphic. The Dark Lord seemed to respond best to graphics rather than detailed briefings. He pointed at the graphic with the bone of an alligator arm, ending in a claw. "If you look at this, you'll see that the immediate deaths will far outpace the long-term benefits of people who come over to our side and do your work for the years they are living. They would recruit many more if they lived longer." 

He revealed the next graphic. "As you'll see here, the souls we will benefit from with the Throwdown are considerably less than those that will join us and spread the Word." He pointed with the alligator claw. "Here are the addiction benefits we would reap if people don't die." He pointed again. "And here are the relationships destroyed by behavior at the Throwdown. We're talking divorce, affairs, you name it. All of these will be wiped out if people attend the Throwdown and die quickly, which the medical experts predict will happen if we allow it to go on as scheduled." 

Satan put his hand on his forehead, between his horns. "Beelzebub Almighty." He looked up at Penemue and sighed. "So what's the financial damage?"

Penemue said, "I'll let Advisor Mammon address that." 

Satan said, "Fine. So what's the damage, Stefano?"

His chief economic demon, Mammon, cleared his throat. "Well, as you know, our investments in the stock market have already taken a hit." 

Satan yelled, "Yes, I know!" A hot wind blew from his mouth and washed over Penemue and Mammon, singeing their eyebrows. "Tell me what we're losing on the festival!" 

Mammon said, "Seventy billion." 

Satan's eyes bugged out and smoke billowed from his ears. "You have got to be kidding me." 

"No, sir. Between the cost of the drugs we bought from the Mexican and Chinese drug cartels, and the security detail from the Yakuza...well, it all added up. Then there are all the girls. As you have repeatedly said, only the best quality when it comes to temptation. We didn't hold back this year and our losses will show it." 

Satan said, "Well, fuck." He looked at the fireplace in the corner of his office and the kindling and wood set there burst into flames. The glow filled his office and flickered on the faces of his advisors. He sat back and crossed his arms and looked down petulantly at his desk. He had a copy of Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" underneath the glass on his desk and it usually cheered him up. Not today. 

He looked up and stared at Penemue and Mammon, his eyes blazing. They both looked down. "Praise me." 

They both immediately fell to their knees. Penemue spoke first. "Thank you for your leadership, Dark Lord. Your guidance has been perfect. Your response to this has been perfect. Every phone call you've ever made has been perfect. YOU are perfect." 

Satan waved his hand and Penemue immediately stopped talking. Satan had grown tired of his obsequiousness. He was still a loyal demon, but fucking hell, what an ass-kisser! He looked at Mammon. 

Mammon spoke up and said, "Your leadership is unparalleled in the history of Hell, my Lord. Your guidance has led us to the best economy Hell has ever had. It's only a matter of time before we'll put this behind us and move on to the next crisis." He realized what he had said and abruptly stopped talking. 

Satan glowered at him but then smiled, his fangs flashing in the firelight. "Yes, of course. As long as I run Hell, there will be another crisis. And I'm not going anywhere soon." 

***

This little story was inspired by the meme my friend Toni posted (seen above). Thank you for being my muse, Toni! Love you lots! 

As much as I dislike this song and this band, there is still no better version of this song, in my opinion. 






Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A melancholy lament

Hey I guess you're lonely when
I gave you all it took so then
Stranger than it's ever been

~~ "Godless" by The Dandy Warhols


We had an email yesterday from one of our favorite restaurants downtown, LaSalle Grill/LaSalle Kitchen and Tavern. (The Grill is downstairs and is the fancy place that has the wine dinners we occasionally go to and is considered one of the best restaurants in town. Its upstairs companion is more casual and we go there more often for dinners before a show or a drink after. They share the same kitchen, though.) They were offering a dinner for curbside pickup consisting of Wagyu beef burgers, their wonderful mac n cheese, a couple of other things, and a 6-pack of good beer. It was a great price and it was hard to say no, especially when we're doing what we can to support local restaurants. 

Our last night out for a meal was March 7th, when we went to dinner before a show, so we jumped on the deal. I just told Ken that I wanted to ride along when he went to pick it up. I've been out a couple of times to the pharmacy and the store, but I find that when I'm driving, I feel oddly on high alert, like someone is going to plow into me at any moment. Considering our rural area, it could even be a plow. So I feel very weird when out driving right now. I was looking forward to just riding along and seeing our beloved downtown. 


I didn't anticipate how utterly sad and emotional it would make me feel. I mean, I really did not see that coming. I thought it was a chance to get out and enjoy a little ride on a nice sunny day. The first hint I had was seeing a fence along the main drag into downtown where someone had woven into the chainlink "Stay Strong USA" with a heart. That's when I started getting choked up. It only got worse as we got into downtown. There were still cars out and about but they were much sparser than an ordinary weeknight evening. 


I saw so many familiar places and sites but everything was closed down. No one was bustling about going to dinner or grabbing a pint at Brew Werks and the marquee at the Morris was dark. Our usual haunts seemed...well, haunted. 


By the time we pulled up at the LaSalle, I was feeling genuine anguish. Because I was the one curbside, I put my mask on. When our server came out with our food and put it in the back seat, I said, "Stay strong! We love you guys!" and I felt a tear fall out of my eye. Then another server brought out our 6-pack and put it on the floor of the backseat and I said, "Hang in there!" and we thanked him. 


As we drove off, we went by Fiddler's Hearth and Madison Oyster Bar. No inside patrons. No one walking on the streets. Speaking of that, even the streets of South Michigan Street (what could be considered our small red-light district) were empty, and The Torch and Peaches were closed. I said, "Man, you know it's bad when even the strip clubs are closed!" 


What I thought would be a pleasant little drive downtown—and my goodness, I'd forgotten what a simple joy I felt as a kid when my parents would say, "Let's go for a drive!"—turned out to be something that made me feel really sad. It made me think of all the fun times we've had downtown, out for dinner, out to see a show, out to take visiting friends to show off our Riverlights or to have brunch with the Kansas City/Chicago Crew the morning after our annual house show, out to take in a South Bend Cubs game on a warm summer day, out for the Riverlights Music Festival, out for Art Beat, running into friends and family, sharing hugs and laughs...all the little things that make my life so enriched and joyful. 


I miss them. I miss them all. 


So tonight I'm going to allow myself to feel sad and mourn those things. I know they're not gone forever and I know we'll get back to enjoying all those things and more. We'll make new memories. But I don't know when that will happen. At the moment, things feel broken, and I feel like the repairs will be slow and sometimes painful. Will some of our favorite places survive? 


It pains me to say it, but I just don't know. I hope so.