I miss my bar, Pt. IV: Three years of this

What to say. It’s the third anniversary of my Last Normal Day, so I have to say something. I did go back to my barbershop for that haircut last year, but then the numbers went up and I haven’t been back since, it’s just clippers and enlisting my partner to help with the scissors whenever I can’t stand how shaggy I’m getting.

2022 was not a good year. A sudden loss in the family, topped off with a health crisis for one of our cats which has drastically shortened his life expectancy, and also no one with any power to improve anything about Covid has seemed the least bit interested in improving anything about Covid.

Oh yeah, also there’s the first major land war in Europe in generations, the fascists are still trying to take over the United States and do genocide to queer people, a bunch of people I had previously thought better of decided that participating in a doxing and harassment campaign fomented by the neonazis at KiwiFarms was just fine if the target was someone they already thought was “cringe”, and Brendan Fraser, whose comeback everyone was rooting for, destroyed all that goodwill by starring in a feature-length adaptation of Monty Python’s “Mr. Creosote” sketch, which I can only assume Darren Aronofsky and/or A24 straight-up bribed reviewers to call “sensitive” and “humanizing”.

Fraser, naturally, won an Oscar for being sad in a fat suit, less than two weeks after James Hong’s touching speech about how when he started out, white actors would tape their eyelids up and affect stereotyped accents to play Chinese characters. But the speech and the Oscar were this year, so I can’t leave them in the 2022 paragraph.

You know how sometimes when things are pretty bad, it’s not really clear that anything you, personally might have to say would be any use toward making them better?

As I write this, ultra-wealthy fascist techbros have also just openly engineered a bank run in order to hold the entire economy hostage, and thereby succeeded in getting the federal government to agree to the principle that ultra-wealthy fascist techbros have a fundamental right, which the state must protect at all costs, never to lose money. Plus, everyone’s either been hoodwinked by the mystification, or is just too starry-eyed a dreamer, or is in on the con, so we’re all pretending that glorified big-data-scale Markov chains are probably brand-new sentient beings, maybe, and anyway we’d better shove them into every software product whether or not there’s any clear reason to think it’d be an improvement. But at least no one’s talking about NFTs anymore.

There were a lot of headlines a little while back, when the administration made the announcement, to the effect of “Biden: Pandemic Emergency to End on May 11.” Of course that’s absolutely false, and (as is often the case) the patently disingenuous framing and credulous reporting drove me up the goddamn wall. What is ending on May 11th is the federal state-of-emergency declaration, and with it the last tattered shreds of a semblance of an effort to look like the government cares about controlling the spread of this highly contagious and potentially lethal virus which is known to cause serious long-term disability including damage to the lungs and brain. The actual emergency will, in fact, remain ongoing, and is all but guaranteed to worsen, and the White House saying “everything’s fine now!” will do nothing at all to dissuade SARS-CoV-2, which being a virus is even less sentient than ChatGPT and is unaffected by whether or not people are worried about it or are tired of the pandemic or whatever.

Finally, thanks to decades of sabotage largely, but not exclusively, by Republican governors, Boston’s MBTA transit system is in the worst shape it has pretty much ever been. Certainly the worst of my lifetime! Perhaps they’re simply trying to do their part to ease the housing crunch by driving property values down.

This one’s been kind of a bummer, friends! We’ve got a nor’easter coming through right now, and very loud rain pounding my bedroom windows all night did not a restful night make. That’s where I’m placing the blame. And hey, at least I finally managed to quit twitter for good. I gather they’ve fucked their API stuff all up over there now, so maybe WordPress won’t be able to auto-post on my account anymore, in which case I should probably just go ahead and delete it entirely.

Let’s try again next week, then.

(Oh yeah, I still miss my bar.)

I miss my bar, Pt. III: Two years of this

In which I commemorate the second anniversary of my Last Normal Day, and wax doomy about the state of the pandemic. But nothing lasts forever.

So it turns out getting back into the blogging habit is harder than I thought — failing at my attempt to quit Twitter didn’t help — but here I go trying again. The pandemic has, as I think for many people, scrambled my sense of time anyway. It feels like it must somehow still be 2020, but also like it’s been a lifetime since what used to be “normal”.

It’s March 14th, 2022, the second anniversary of what I think of as my Last Normal Day, when I walked to the barbershop and had my last professional haircut. I’ve been making do at home with clippers and my partner’s assistance, but in a fit of likely-premature optimism, I did book an appointment for this week, so I’ll see my barber again for the first time since then. Still masked, of course; I’ll stick to trimming my beard at home for a while longer, that’s much easier to do anyway.

Pretty much every jurisdiction in the US has dropped mask mandates now, as far as I know, though they’re still requiring them on planes and trains for another month (I’m sure compliance will be even worse than before). In Massachusetts, the average test positivity rate is down around 1.5%, which is great compared to the peak of the Omicron wave (officially 23% in early January, a figure well past the “we cannot possibly accurately measure how much of this shit is out there” threshold) but not great at all compared to last June’s low point of below 0.3%. I miss my bar, but for a glorious couple of weeks there, before even Delta, let alone Omicron, I felt like it was safe enough to go back a few times.

But if letting our collective guard down last summer when case rates were so much lower, because we figured the Alpha wave was done, left us so vulnerable to the worse variants to come, it seems flatly insane to be ending all mitigation measures even though the rates are higher and the new variants are more transmissible. Not to mention insisting on the importance of “getting back to the office” and proclaiming COVID “endemic”, as though the bare assertion would make that true despite over a thousand deaths a day in the US alone. As I said on Twitter a few days ago, it’s like deciding we’re tired of putting out a fire and we need to get back to stacking oily rags everywhere, and those smoldering embers in the corner are probably just going to quietly go out on their own, so we need to just learn to live with constant smoke inhalation.

Medical consensus is growing that somewhere in the range of 10 to 30% of COVID cases result in “Long COVID” chronic post-viral illness, which can be debilitating for some; it also appears that even mild cases can cause physical damage to brain tissue that is visible on scans. The risks of both scenarios are probably reduced by vaccination, but public health officials insisting that it’s silly to try to reduce cases to zero makes me feel like either they’re completely detached from reality, or I am.

What a happy note to end on! I suppose this was always going to be a gloomy anniversary, but I will try to get back to posting a couple times a week. I have other things I’d like to talk about. Keep wearing the highest quality, best fitting masks you can afford whenever you might be indoors with other people outside your own home, use rapid tests (and get your second set of free tests from covidtests.gov, if you haven’t — or your first and second, if you haven’t gotten either! — a measly eight tests per household is wildly inadequate but they won’t do more if there’s not even a demand for this) if you think you may have been exposed, get a PCR test if a rapid test is positive or you have symptoms, get vaxed and boosted if you haven’t, and try to protect the unvaccinated and vulnerable people in your life, since the government has decided that’s just not really their job.

I said up top that my sense of time is scrambled, and I have that Groundhog Day-like feeling that it’s both been forever and no time since the world changed, but a while ago a friend said something I’m holding on to: “Nothing has ever lasted forever before.” Everything ends, and the pandemic will too, but it hasn’t yet; and the more we act like it’s still a real danger, the sooner it will be over.

Enough rambling for now. Maybe next time I’ll talk about guitars. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my cat.

Moss, a small black long-haired cat, sitting in a sunbeam on a rug. A guitar amplifier is in the background.
This reminds me I really need to vacuum the living room rug.