Category Archives: Social Commentary

Corona Chronicles – Ghost Train: Part 3 – Purgatory

railroad tracks in city
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Olya awoke as she heard a whistle blow. Ah, yes, as her eyes opened, she was on a train heading north. She furrowed her brow as she looked out the window of the train.  It was not quite night. It was the time of day called “twilight” when the trees starting looking like large beasts with long arms and sharp nails; and cows became bears; and silos became turrets on castles. It was a time of day when things that had been quite real were now looking not so real. She felt quite groggy. Where was she? She suddenly realized that nobody even knew she was on a train except for her sister Irina who was safely ensconced in her home in the far north with the Ice Queen and her loyal dog Fred.

“Fred?” she queried.

“No, Sugar, it’s Marilyn,” said the beautiful dark woman standing in the doorway of the room. “Checking to see if there was anything else you need tonight.”

Daphne shook herself further awake and sighed. That’s right. She must have nodded off. And time to stop daydreaming that she was a Grand Duchess living in reduced circumstances. She was not the Grand Duchess Olya. She was not in Russia. She was not time traveling back to 1917.  She was in the year 2020 and she was on “The Empire Builder” headed to Montana to hunker down on a cattle ranch until this whole thing blew over.

“A cup of hot water would be grand, I’m mean great,” she said with a bit of strained cheeriness.

“I’ll be right back.  The pot is still hot!” said the woman and disappeared. Poof!

When the woman returned with the hot water moments later, Daphne sighed again, “Very kind. Thank you.”

“You have a good sleep,” said the woman and then she also let out a long sigh and was gone.

“I must write down some thoughts before bed,” Daphne said to herself as she dunked the tea bag into the hot water and plumped the pillows on her bed. It had been another strange day. And a bit foggy, but she would try to recall the highlights.

————————-

Continue reading

The Tao of Cow – Cows Don’t Mope

Some have called the Covid-19 virus “The Honey Badger Virus” cuz Honey Badger Don’t Care.   But I wont give it that title or that power.   How about we call our fearless first responders, docs, nurses, truckers, and custodians in NYC  and other hot spots, the “Honey Badgers of this Crisis”  title instead and not give the title to this  g.d. virus.   And some more advice from the Tao of Cow;  don’t be a mopey dopey cuz Cows Don’t Mope.  So eat some grass (grassfed burger or a salad, if you are a human);  drink some water (or a good Bordeaux or even some cheap shit, if you are a human.). And just get on with it and keep moo-ving forward.  P1000961

Note:  Evie Taloney has some advice too.  You know who else don’t mope?  The beekeeper in the great documentary “Honeyland”.  Highly recommended for quarantine watching.  I won’t give it away, but try to guess what she buys when she goes to the city to sell her honey.   It’s something I’m thinking about a lot.

 

Tao of Cow: Don’t Do What You’re Told

Another thing you can learn from the Tao of Cow…Boy is to not do what you are told.

Well, don’t do it unless you’ve thoroughly thought it through.  My career has profited by my not doing what the producer or a client told me to do.  More often than not it would have been a knee-jerk reaction.  And quite often wrong or ill timed.  Think it through first.  It’s amazing how many “problems” solve themselves.

It’s kind of kin to my advice to “not take my advice”….

unless it rings true

when you thought it through.

DSC00082 When Cowboy Clay is leaning back in his recliner with his eyes closed, I often ask “Are you asleep?”

“Nope.  Just meditating,” he’ll murmur.

I think to myself, ” Oh c’mon,  he’s  sleeping.  But then what is sleeping on it but a long meditation?   It’s taking the time to ponder and wonder.”

Right now, in these days of love in the time of cholera, we have been given the gift of a big time out.  May we use it wisely to think things through and then act up.

 

The Clues are in the Conversation

A few months ago on a website an Australian called the U.S. a “mediocre country”.  There are a lot of USAians who would take an exception to that.  In fact, most presidents wax eloquent about how  the U.S. is the only indispensable nation. Of course, that would make all other countries dispensable.  And most countries would take an exception to that.

I often say when speaking to Europeans that the U.S. is an unsophisticated country and not all that smart although most USAians think they are super smart.   It’s kind of like being sophomores in the history of the world.  We think we know everything.  But prime examples of being not so smart is that the U.S. doesn’t have some kind of universal health care system or a decent pension system.  It also has stopped making practical stuff and thinks that gambling is the answer to almost everything.

One big reason for this lack of sophistication and smarts is that we don’t engage in dialogue except on rare Websites that have civil discourse or at a town meeting.  A lot of USAians talk amongst people who they agree with rather than at “a town meeting” or cafe or watering hole where one must look neighbors in the face and try to make a point and to try to see their point.  The French, on the other hand,  have their cafe society. They do their duty as citizens by talking “politics”. (“Politics” is a discussion, not a shouting match, of the way we wish to live our lives and what we enjoy and what gives our lives meaning.  It has little to do with our politicians who seem to not have a clue or simply not care what the polis is or wants.). The French leave work and go out to a cafe and argue about life and art. They engage in conversation and often use dialectics in search of clues to the mysteries of life. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.  When I was in grad school at the University of Michigan, after play rehearsal we would go to a bar, order pitchers of beer and discuss how we would save the world through art.  When I did Off-Off Broadway theater in New York City, we would adjourn to an Irish pub around the corner from the theater and argue about the choices our characters should make.  We loved to look at all the angles and the contradictions.

But somewhere along the line those personal confrontations became fewer and fewer and didn’t seem to translate into our public lives as citizens.  Historian Christopher Lasch in his book “Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy” has a chapter called “The Lost Art of Argument”.  In it he writes that “what Democracy requires is vigorous public debate, not information.  Yes, we do need information, but information that is “generated only be debate.”  So he kind of takes the “information revolution” and turns it on its head.  Information in and of itself is worthless without being debated.  “Information , usually seen as the pre-condition of debate is better understood as a by-product.”

And how do we gather these clues to the mysteries of life?  By asking questions.  We try to have what Suzuki calls “the beginner’s mind that is not a closed mind.”  We take our ideas and subject them to somebody else’s arguments.  If we passionately engage with an eagerness to learn, we may instead of changing somebody else’s mind find that we have changed our mind.  So we  must listen carefully and be willing to challenge our own beliefs and to say “Maybe what I believe may be wrong.”  How exciting and far less dull than passively taking in information from some newspaper or from some pundit.

Lasch gives a shout out to the social historian Ray Oldenburg’s “The Great Good Place” and with Oldenburg mourns the passing of the local watering hole, the cafe, the hair salon, the soda fountain steps and other places between work and home where conversations used to flourish.  These were places like the soda fountain steps  where kids listened to their fathers debate a local policy with vigor and good-hearted disagreement.  Those places where professions mingled as equals are hard to find in the suburbs, but they still exist in small towns and big cities.  I was lucky to spend the last twenty years in a small town where wisdom came from caring for cows and not from a book.  It came from stories and tall tales told with gusto like the one about a cowboy being out lost in the cold with only two dogs for a Three Dog Night.

Democracy dies if we hide in cul de sacs furtively taking anxiety meds as we peer out of the drawn blinds or retreat to cocktail parties where everybody is of the same class and tows the same party line.    So I suggest this year that you get out and find a Cheers bar in your neighborhood and strike up a conversation with somebody who may see things differently  than you do.  If you don’t have one of those, then go to the nearest town that has one and adopt it as your own.  And for heaven’s sake don’t get your information from a newspaper.  You can get your questions there though.  But also think about this. There may be no answers anyway, only clues.