Sunday, April 05, 2020

My Sunday Not Much To Report Feeling

Let’s see.  What did I do last week?  

Not much.  Took walks.  Went to the driving range 2-3 times.  Did a Zoom meeting.  Practiced law.  Read magazines.  Read books.  Watched it rain.  Talked on the phone.  Texted.  Emailed. Instant messaged.

Like I said.  Not much to report.  

And with that, I will sign off.

Take care of yourself.  You’re the only one that can.

See ya next week.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Sunday Socially Distant Feeling

Finally, some halfway decent news.  Golf courses and driving ranges are opening back up.  The USGA put out some guidelines a week or so ago about how us hackers can return to stinking up the real estate consistent with safe practices during the current plague. 

In general, courses are confining folks to one in a cart.  The flags are to be left in.  Bunker rakes and ball washers  are removed.  Starters are sending folks out every 10 minutes instead of 5.  Clubhouse access as well as food and beverage service are curtailed.  People playing together are expected to keep their distance.  

This is doable.

 I went to the range twice last week in an attempt to reconstruct a swing.  The guy nearest to me was 50 yards away easy.  I wanted to actually try to get in a round yesterday but I didn't feel like getting caught in a rainstorm.  There will be plenty of opportunities.  Especially since there's nothing much else to do.

It was good to be out there.  It felt like normal.  Like life as I knew it had returned.

Obviously, that's not true.  But it was good to let my concern limit itself to why I keep pulling everything with the new driver.  If only for a little bit.

As for us we are doing OK.  We have a big house.  So we can practice social distancing even for anti-social reasons.  The Deacon has kept busy with her school stuff.  I have been busy actually practicing law.  And Joe will start his online classes next week.  It's good to have things to do.

In fact, the biggest problem I have encountered is that the present crisis must have rendered my speech unintelligible.  At least my speech while ordering take out.  The last 4 orders I have placed have all gotten screwed up.  As far as problems go, there are far worse.  I know.  And I'm not complaining.  The restaurant folks are under stress of the worst sort.  They are doing the best they can.  But still.

As far as the virus directly affecting me, as far as I know I don't know anybody that has tested positive.  My brother Bob doesn't have any cases at the hospital.  Yet.  That will change.  It is bound to.  But so far so good.  

Like you, we are inconvenienced.  We are bored.  We are probably a little more apprehensive than we would like to admit.  We are ready for this to be over even if we know intellectually that we cannot know the day or the hour.  

There was an interesting piece in the paper yesterday written by some military type.  He was writing about which POWs did worse in captivity during the war with Viet Nam.  He wrote that it was the guys who always looked to a date certain-Christmas or Easter say-for their release.  He wrote that the guys who fared the best were the ones who remained hopeful but did not repose that trust in a date on the calendar.  

I think that's the best way to approach the present crisis.  Which of course is precisely the opposite of what the Moron-in-Chief has floated recently when he said he wanted folks back to work by Easter.  According to what I've read most public health experts find this to be a dubious proposition.  So naturally, he will probably ignore them.

Going back to golf, here's my prediction.  I predict that that the PGA and LPGA will be the first professional sports back.  For the same reasons that golf courses and driving ranges are coming back on line.  Golf can be safely played given rudimentary sanitary precautions.  Now there may not be any spectators allowed to walk the course with them.  But I see no reason why professional golf can't start staging events in front of cameras. 

I believe Major League Baseball will soon follow golf.  A prominent epidemiologist was quoted in last Sunday's New York Times that baseball could be likewise safely played in outdoor venues with no spectators in the stands.  That may be true.  And spitballs would be cut way down if for no other reason than catchers won't want to have to throw them back.  These issues could be worked out in the locker room.

So there are my predictions.  About things that don't much matter all things considered.

I also predict that someone other than me will be phoning in the takeout orders around here for the foreseeable future.  As far as problems go, we don't have any.  



Sunday, March 22, 2020

My Sunday Shelter In Place Feeling

I have a rule of thumb when it comes to technology.  When you need it to work, it will not work.  Last night my iPhone caught the coronavirus or something and went flatass dead.  And two days before that, my printer, which has been acting up off and on for a couple of years finally pissed me off for the last time when the scanner tried to eat a K-1 I was attempting to send one of my brothers on behalf of the Trust.  

I am mindful of the fact that we need to practice social distancing during this crisis.  And part of that entails not making unnecessary trips I get that.  But you need a phone that works, especially during a national emergency.  And I have paying customers who expect me to get stuff done next week.  In the age of electronic filing you need a scanner that is on speaking terms with the computer that is creating the docs you are getting paid to crank out.

Apple Stores are closed nationwide.  So I went to the AT&T store up the road.  Quite frankly I dreaded it.  I have never gotten in or out of one of those places in less than an hour.  

As I got out of my car I noticed a handsomely dreadlocked employee standing out front.  He held his hands up in the universal "stop right there" gesture.

"Sir, is this an emergency?  All we are doing is emergencies until further notice."

"My phone is dead."

"What do you mean 'dead?'"

"As in it won't turn on."

"Let me see it, please."

He took the inert iPhone from me.  He fiddled with it.  He put it close to his face to see if he could discern any signs of life.  Evidently he could not.

"Oh yeah.  This ain't good. You need a new phone.  This ain't fixable. Come with me.  We'll see who's available."

Thus did I pass consumer electronics triage as practiced by  AT&T.  

The young fellow that assisted me found me an IPhone 10.  I had no need for an iPhone 11. Even if it has what Apple refers to with in all seriousness  as a "telephoto" lens. Anyway, the young technician got the data transferred over from the dead phone to the new one. I noticed that over by the front door people were being turned away.  Some of them were not to happy about it.  Especially the guy who was wearing the surgical mask.  Anyway eventually the young man set me up on a new plan that he assured me would save me money.  After we both had a good laugh over that one, we touched elbows and I was on my way. 

Concerning the printer, as far as I can tell I bought the last HP 9015 to be had around here.  The big box office supply store was out of it and many other consumer grade HP printers.  I found one online at a sister store west of here and headed out there to pick it up.  

The pickup area was full of people waiting to take delivery of orders they had made online.  A nice clerk wandered among the assembled throng to remind us to make some room between us.  Social distancing and all.

It was pretty interesting as a matter of sociology.  People were buying office chairs, desks, computers and, well, printers.  

It's really true.  America is working from home.  Now this is a good thing for people that have jobs that can be done over the phone and Internet.  But there's an unfortunate ripple effect for others whose livelihood depends on folks like me being downtown.  If I'm working from home I'm not likely to walk over to the diner to get a sandwich-albeit a takeout sandwich-at lunch.  My car won't be parked in a parking lot or garage.  I won't drop my clothes off at the laundry on the way in.  No need to dress up.  The judge doesn't know if I'm wearing a suit during the teleconference or if I am in a my golf stuff.  Nor does she care.  

It really is true as the Moron-in-Chief is learning to his sorrow.  Everything is connected. Commerce.  Finance.  

Viruses.  

How this all shakes out is anybody's guess.  But as I have said before I fear that things have changed in this country.  We shall see if any good possibly comes out of this terrible terrible time.  

As for me, I've got the new phone synced up with my car.  If you send me a text while I am driving Siri will read it to me in an Irish accent.  I scare myself. 

Perhaps I will ask her about the Troubles.  Maybe she will put things in perspective.  

Beats turning to TASS, I mean, Fox.  




Sunday, March 15, 2020

My Sunday Death In Venice (Or Hillcrest) Feeling

I'm sure I've never seen anything like this.  I remember some kind of flu going around during the Ford Administration where there were mass inoculations performed the government.  I caught that bad flu that was going around about 2000 or so.  First (and so far only) time in my life I couldn't get out of bed. And that was after taking the flu shot.

But the recent coronavirus, or rather the government's inept response to it, has produced an economic and social disruption on a mass scale.  The stock market tanked, grocery store shelves are bare and toilet paper is damn near legal tender.  And for the second time in my life, the first being 9/11 I can't find a ballgame on the tube.  In March.  When generally all kinds of cool stuff is going on.

But I also realize that not being to watch the NCAA Tournament is nothing in the vast scope of things.  This pandemic has the potential to strain the medical system in this country out to the max.  People infected here in Little Rock will die.  Not many more than likely.  But people will die.

I am not typically an anxious person.  But I have the same sort of free-floating angst that I experienced during 9/11.  Only maybe a little worse now.  I can't really figure out why.  Maybe it's because I've been a little sick with a nasty case of bronchitis that is only now starting to clear up after two weeks of shots and horse pills.  Maybe it's because it is because I have a family now and feel th need to protect them.  Although it's not like I can go out and buy a gun or something.  Although I've never gone through quite anything like this, I'm used to slogging through major problems by myself.  I feel a greater responsibility than I did.  indeed, Joe will be back home tonight.  Hendrix College shut itself down for the remainder of the semester.  The family that pandemics together stays together.  

Maybe it's because I am in the so-called group most that is most "at risk" for an unfortunate outcome in case of an infection.  I'm in my sixties and I have asthma.  I do not need this.  No I do not.  

But am I in a panic?  No.  I'm pretty good at keeping my eye on the ball.  Apart from my lousy upper respiratory system I enjoy robust good health.  Up until I was struck down by my latest spell I was exercising regularly.  I'm married to a medical professional who is also an ordained minister of the Gospel.  That's pretty strong ju-ju.  And while the word "pandemic" is kinda scary, I know it refers to spreadability of the virus and not its lethality.  If I catch it I am unlikely to croak.  


I think if I take sensible precautions I will be fine.  I like where I live.  I stay here a lot anyway since I don't have to go into an office on a daily basis.  We eat here a lot.  That's one of the side effects of having a vegan wife.  She cooks a lot.  I am by my nature a clean person so I don't worry over much about picking something up off the street.  Especially since I don't work in a government building anymore where every malady known to man comes in and drinks from the water fountains.  And the Deacon and I have already been practicing social distancing of a sorts and have tended to keep to opposite ends of the house during this amusement.  I've been coughing and she treats germy little kids.  It just makes sense.  My doctors don't have time to fool with my nickel and dime problems.  

And although it is really strange not to be able to watch sports, it won't be so bad.  I got plenty of stuff to read, movies to watch and law to practice.  Nobody has said that getting out in the fresh air is incompatible with social distancing.  In fact, if the weather is pleasant I will spend most of my time on my front porch and take walks so I can get plenty of it.  

But my God.  There's no denying the hardship all of this is putting on people.  Churches are shut down.  In Lent they are shut down.  Schools all over the country have closed.  Which means folks that can't afford day care will have to stay home from work.  Some kids may not be able to get the one solid meal their school provides them per day.  State and local governments are scrambling to try to provide services against an enemy made up of many moving parts.  And the fingerpointing and paranoia on social media has reached radioactive proportions.  Real scientists are forced to slug it out with amateur epidemiologists who got their degrees from Facebook.  The scientists seem to be finally getting up off the mat . So far.

Maybe the anxiety in the back of my heart has to do with the feeling that nobody at the top levels of government seems remotely competent in its response to this crisis.  And even though it is ramping up now, the reaction up until now has been slow and inadequate.  Thank God we have a sensible and pragmatic governor in Asa Hutchinson who thus far has hit all the right notes and has provided calm and steady leadership.  Unlike our alleged Commander-in-Chief, whose occasionally unhinged worldview world and concerns extends no further than TV ratings and poll numbers.       

This is the greatest country in the world.  And its being run like a kindergarten.  I take that back.  A kindergarten run in this fashion would lose its license.

But there's nothing I can do about that.  At least not until November.  

Joe will be home tonight.  This means, God help us, we will have to go to the grocery store because pandemic or no pandemic the boy consumes mass quantities.  And we don't have sufficient provisions in the commissary yet.  

We will get through this.  We will return to a patchwork normal.  But I fear that this pandemic has changed us forever.

And maybe that is where the anxiety is coming from.     




Sunday, March 08, 2020

My Sunday Feeling

I came late, if not completely unannounced, to the world of stepfatherhood if that's a word.  Around 2 years ago I inherited an 18 year old boy and a 21 year old girl.  As I have written before, I really don't think about it all that much.  My duties in this regard, such as they are, are mainly ceremonial.  Much like a white trash version of the Prince of Wales.  I mainly show up on time.  Keep my mouth shut for the most part.  Come off the bench when somebody gets hurt.  

You get the idea.  I don't place any inordinate importance on my role in the great scheme of this particular ecosystem.  Everybody has their job to do.  Mine is pretty much to merely serve when called upon to do so.  And I'm good with that.

But there are moments when the wonder of it all comes down from wherever it is that wonder resides until summoned.  It happened twice last week.

Despite sounding like a candidate for tuberculous due to a nasty cough I spoke to a group of kids at the end of Career Day at Hendrix College last week about "Your Rights in the Workplace." Joe had told me that he planned to attend.  But Joe being Joe, I figured I would see him if and when I saw him.  

Some things don't change.  I sat there at the lectern in a lecture hall in the Mills Center with the nice lady from Career Services or whatever they call that office now.  

"They will run about 10 minutes late," she said.

"Twas ever thus," I replied.  

Eventually they started trickling in.  Most of them were evidently taking directions from their smartphones.  I thought to myself "Was I really ever that young?"

"Remeber me?" I heard a familiar voice up in the back say.

And down the steps came Joe.  The big galoot hugged me there in front of God, his buddies and the nice lady from Career Services.  

The heaviness was not lost on me.  Boom. Reality flipped. There I was back in Lecture Room "C" at good old Hendrix College.  And there was my kid.  I used to be him. Now he is mine.  Whoa.  

I glanced at him from time to time as I was casting forth my pearls of wisdom before his peers.  He had this look on his face like "Damn.  He's good." Then again, it's not like technical expertise in Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act is required in my typical discourse with him.  Then again, I don't think it hurt a bit for him to see that the guy that lives with his mom still has a fastball.  It doesn't really help.  But it don't hurt.

The day after my ponderous lecture the Deacon told me that Sarah had been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.  Not that I get a lot of information around here but last I heard she had been thinking about law school.  

Are you kidding?  Anybody can get into law school.  God knows I am the living proof of that. Not everybody can be a Fulbright Scholar.  

The heaviness was not lost on me.  5 years ago she was a door slamming dervish who 90% of the time (I am being generous) barely tolerated me.  The day I married her mother Sarah told me she loved me.  Now she is my kid.  And my kid is a Fulbright Scholar of all damn things.  Boom. Reality flipped.

How about that?  How about the wonder of it all?

Not that I bear any responsibility for the way those two have turned out.  I just show up on time.  I keep my mouth shut.  I come off the bench when somebody gets hurt.  They are the product of their raising to which I contributed little.  I mainly apply the Hippocratic Oath to this endeavor and strive to "do no harm."  It's a low bar.  But I think I've accomplished that.

During my talk back in Mills one of Joe's classmates asked about what law school was like.  I told her that one of my former law students described it as "like being in kindergarten but with sociopaths."  

I turned to Joe.  "You've lived with me.  Am I a sociopath?"

"Not too bad," he thoughtfully replied.

"You know I can change the locks," I said.

"I think he's serious," the nice lady from Career Services said.

"He is," Joe said.

How about the wonder of it all?  
















Sunday, March 01, 2020

My Sunday Sick Unto Death feeling

It’s either a bad cold or the Coronavirus.  Either way, I ain’t in the mood.

Wash your hands until I get back.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

My Sunday Feeling

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Arkansas writer Charles Portis.  I, of course, had read "True Grit" and watched both of the movie adaptations of it.  But I also knew Charlie a little bit.  

It was back in the eighties.  I had just returned to Little Rock and had begun my illustrious and distinguished career with the government.  My friends and I used to hang out in bars in those days.  This was primarily because there was absolutely nothing to do in Little Rock back then.  There was no River Market.  No Argenta.  No Chenal Valley.  Hell, there probably wasn't an I-630 back then.  It was not unusual to see Bill Clinton jogging by himself downtown.  Or to see Hillary walking alongside little Chelsea on her trike.  

It was a different time.

Charlie and I lived in the same apartment complex.  And we both hung out at a steak joint where the Sonic on Cantrell is now located.  It was maybe a half mile from where we lived.  I hung out there because my brother Bob tended the bar.  Charlie told me he hung out there because he knew he could always make it home.

It's not like we were close friends or anything.  He was a solitary sort although he resisted being referred to as a recluse.  Anyway, I respected his space and always let him initiate the conversation.  We tended to talk about the stuff guys talk about.  Namely sports and politics although we never talked about women.  Not that I can recall in any event.  He was interested in the law and we talked about that.  Or mainly, I talked and he listened.  And he was a deep and active listener.  I would imagine this trait helped inform his voice.

As did perhaps one of his earliest journalism gigs.  I read in one of the numerous excellent obituaries written about Charlie that back when he was at the University he was hired by the Northwest Arkansas Times to edit the dispatches that came in from the communities around Fayetteville.  I remember this type of homespun journalism well.

My grandfather Bivens subscribed to the Cleburne County Times (I think it was called).  There was always a section in every edition where folks would report the goings on in the towns around Heber.  They would typically begin with a Bible verse.  Births and deaths were noted.  Revival meetings were announced.  If a particular preacher gave an inspiring "message" it was duly recounted. And "visits" from out-of-town guests were always dutifully recorded on history's immortal scroll.  Or at least history as it obtained in Pearson, Quitman and Drasco.  

I made the Quitman report at least twice that I know of.  The first time was when I got accepted to law school.  The other time was when I passed the bar.  I can assume that Grandmother Bivens was the source for these reports.  I can't imagine Granpa having any use for such foolishness.  I also made the Heber Springs section, along with a female college classmate who grew up there,  when some sharp eyed correspondent saw us strolling down Main Street.  

They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true.

The obituary said that it was Charlie's job to turn these dispatches from the hinterlands into english.  This evidently was not a high priority for the Cleburne County Times.  Anyway, I have absolutely no evidence for this.  But I would like to think that somewhere in the process of defanging the language contained in these missives he found the voice of Rooster Cogburn or any of the other eccentrics and cranks that he brought to life in his writing.  

Grandpa read the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat.  They merged into the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  His Cleburne County paper is no more.  There is now the Heber Springs Sun-Times.  And as far as I can tell from my recent examination of the same, the rural dispatches from the amateur correspondents are no more.

It was a different time.

I had heard a couple of years ago that Charlie had slipped into dementia.  I had lost track of him after moving from the apartment into my first house.  The notion of that sharp quirky mind being lost in the fog grieved me not a little.  

I remember my last conversation with him.  He used to eat breakfast in the diner by the Federal Building.  One morning some 20 years ago he was coming out as I was heading to work.  We stopped and exchanged greetings.

"Mind if I ask you something?," he said. 

"Not all I all,"I replied.

" I just read where they are calling United States Magistrates United States Magistrate Judges  now.  Why did they change that?"

"I have no idea."

"OK. Thanks.  Good to see you."

And away he went.

It was a different time.