The Mystery of Masks

The culture of masks, here in California, truly has been a mystery. On again, off again, on again, off again. Masks are like a psychotic high school girlfriend.

You have to wear a mask when you’re walking into a restaurant. But, as soon as you sit down, you can take the mask off. Does that mean the little covid virus particles only exist at higher altitudes of 54 inches or above? But what if you sit at a bar on a stool and your head is equivalent in height to the average standing head? Should extremely short people and small children be allowed to walk into the restaurant without a mask, as their standing head height is equivalent to the average sitting-at-a-table head height?

Fairly obvious insanity.

We’re all painfully aware of the blatant hypocrisy of the elites swanning about their soirees (I would love to work the word “sauna” into this sentence but I can’t figure out how [other than this parenthetical]), sans masks. Garcetti at the ballgame, Newsome at the French Laundry, Pelosi staggering through her salon, various stars (what a strange use of the word star) at their sparkly galas, wait-staff obsequious and objectified in their muzzles, hovering around the fringes with platters of champagne in hand.

More insanity, but so tedious and grating.

Children in schools, anonymized and de-individualized, transformed into pairs of eyes blinking above fabric. The treatment of children in schools is a painful one to watch. I remember quite well the loneliness and uneven isolation of public school. Eddies of cliques washing around you like a cold North Sea tide. Uncertainty of self, uncertainty of purpose, uncertainty of meaning. The psychology of most children is delicate enough as it is. But to add in daily masks and the ensuing separation?

Insanity and abuse, wrapped up in a teachers union-approved recyclable bow.

In moments of sanity, why do we ever wear masks? When you’re out at night asking strangers for candy. When you’re Batman. When you’re in a burning building. When you’re demoing walls full of asbestos. When you’re touring Chernobyl. When you’re the Phantom of the Opera. When you’re welding. When you’re deep-sea diving. When  you are a dead pharaoh. When you’re robbing a bank.

Brief interactions of sanity and masks, all of them. Except for the Phantom of the Opera. He was clearly a sad nut.

Which brings me to story (of course). The lunacy of the whole thing (complete with shrieking harridans in grocery stores “Put on your &*#$ed mask! Do you want your grandma to die?!”) begs for an explanation. A perspective from 30 miles up that makes sense of all the idiots in government, the sheep-like people, the liars in the media, and all the rest of the poor, huddled masses, yearning for uninhibited breathing.

Perhaps an invasion of the body snatchers style infiltration of certain people’s brains? Aliens exerting mind control over society for some nefarious, future purpose? A witches coven in the highest levels of government and business, grooming the world for mass child sacrifices that will enable the opening of a door between dimensions? Nothing good ever comes through those kinds of doors. Or perhaps a secret society of Malthusians bent on turning the masses into mindless slaves with forced sterilizations and drastic population reductions as the next steps?

There could be some interesting stories here.

The Night Thieves

Do people steal more at night? That’s what I’ve always thought. Maybe my assumption comes from years of reading mysteries and thrillers, in which most skullduggery seems to occur under cover of darkness.

Stolen catalytic converter.

At any rate, someone, or several someones, just stole the catalytic converter from the spare truck at my office. As you can see in the photo, they simply sliced through the exhaust line and made off with their loot. From what I’ve read, a really good thief can remove the converter in about 60 seconds. Slower thieves can take up to 10 minutes.

Why? #$@% it! Why?

Because of the rare metals in the converter. Catalytic converters contain rare metals, such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. These are necessary for the oxidation process of carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. So I’ve read. I remember basically nothing from high school chemistry class. All I remember is, once, igniting the experiment table on fire once, much to the mixed horror and hilarity of my lab partner Sherri.

And, of course, rare metal prices are high these days.

This is why I’m in favor of Congress passing a bill allowing all households to obtain and keep trained attack-skunks or similar nocturnal animals that would be happy chomping on thief ankles at night. Or spraying them with their skunk chemicals. I could go for a well-trained pack of feral chipmunks roaming the property at night. Hungering and thirsting for rare metal thieves.

Have you seen what the cost is of installing a new catalytic converter? Ouch. That’s life in sunny California, the year 2022. Don’t even get me started on Union Pacific and what’s going on along the train tracks of Los Angeles.

Winter Strawberries in the Salinas Valley

In the dead of winter, the strawberries are already planted here. They’re waiting for spring and proper sunlight. Once that gets going, they’ll start producing fruit, which will end up in stores across the country, as well as beyond our borders.

The Salinas Valley is an open-sky factory. That’s really what it is. No walls, no roof, just a huge factory floor crawling with machinery and men. Production, twenty-four hours a day. Lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, artichokes, wine grapes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, onions, tomatoes, bok choy, radicchio, etc. The list is quite long.

Southern Pacific railroad, about a hundred years ago, first coined the term “Salad Bowl.” I think they did so because salad in bowls worked better on moving train than salad on plates. The railroad was instrumental to putting the Salinas Valley on the map in terms of moving product to market. Later, I’m not sure when, the larger phrase “Salad Bowl of the World” was adopted for the valley.

I live in the middle of the factory. Winter time means mud, lots of bare, brown fields, the plastic-covered rows of the strawberry fields, and dreary grey skies, most days. The upside is that things are a bit quieter than the other eight months of the year. No field crews firing up in the early morning. Fewer tractors rumbling back and forth. No harvest trucks rolling down the road, stacked with cartons and heading for the coolers.

Waiting for spring. But, in the meantime, tempus fugit.

So, get things done.

Love in the Time of Pandemica

One of my main creative outlets these days is writing and recording music. It’s faster than writing books, in that I can sit down, write and record a song over the space of a couple hours. Walk away with a finished piece at the end. I can’t exactly articulate it, but there’s a certain psychological satisfaction in that. Finishing something that becomes its own entity.

Anyway, I’ve finished recording an album of ten songs with the Inflatable Hippies. That’s the occasional music group I’m part of. IH floats between electronica, folk and rock. This album is just rock. The songs seem to exist somewhere in the space between Seattle grunge and the Cranberries. Plus some odd folk influences here and there.

The title is (tentatively) Love in the Time of Pandemica and should hopefully be easier to get through than Love in the Time of Cholera. I still need to do the final mixes and mastering, and then get them up on all the streamers, Apple, etc etc.

Stories in the Trees

Sunday, the day after Christmas, we went outside to find stories in the trees. North a ways, past Santa Cruz, is Henry Cowell State Park. The park is known for a stand of coastal redwood trees. Massive, towering specimens brood together along the river. The day was cold and rainy, the ground muddy. We bundled up in jackets and sweaters (except for the smallest rebel, who seems to have an internal core temperature similar to a young star).

A Tree Slab Like a Wheel

Near the ranger station, a slab from an old tree stands on end like a wheel. Probably six feet in diameter. Across the different growth rings, little identification placards mark various historical events: the Magna Carta, birth of Christ, invention of the printing press, etc. Contemplating the span of years is humbling. I imagine there is a galactic equivalent somewhere–an enormous slab of strange, interstellar alloy rotating slowly in the darkness between the stars. The birth of the universe is marked on it at the middle. The birth of galaxies and stars and planets are noted at different spots. The marker for homo sapiens is on the slab, but it is so tiny that you can’t see it unless you’re an eagle looking through an electron microscope. Or, of course, if you have the eyesight of God.

Our lives are quick. Like wildflowers.

Speaking of stories, we later went to a restaurant in Capitola, close to the beach. I won’t name the restaurant because, after all was said and done, they were apologetic and nice to us. The meal started out promising but then fell apart, once a server accidentally dumped a bottle of beer on small rebel number two. The staff apologized. Oddly, they said they would only comp small rebel number two’s drinks. Which was not enough, of course.

What Should Not Have Been in My Meal

Then, I found a large piece of well-cooked plastic in my tacos. I first thought it was extremely well-done carne asada, but it proved unchewable. The wait staff by that time became profusely apologetic. A succession of assistant managers, and then the manager herself, approached our table like pilgrims tiptoeing into the shrine of a dangerous god. More apologies, the meal was completely comped, free desserts for everyone, unspoken pleas to not write a review on Yelp, etc etc.

The smallest rebel and I left the scene at that point, our appetites (even for desserts) gone. We walked down the esplanade to the beach and found that the winter storms had deposited vast piles of driftwood everywhere. People had built huts and teepees and small fall-out shelters from the driftwood. He and I spent an agreeable while building some sort of soldier shelter out of the wood, as, lately, he’s been reading books about World War II. Then, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and bought churros. Made on the spot. That definitely pulled the afternoon out of its culinary nose-dive.

There are stories everywhere.

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