Disparate Tales, Disparate Telling

It is possible to recover from job loss. It is not possible to recover from death. Chaotic economic calamities can be overcome; not so, death. Hundreds of thousands of people out of work and in dire financial straits is a scenario from which those hundreds of thousand of people can emerge. There is no emergence from death.

Apparently, though, the prospect of shuttered hair salons, pizza parlors, and shopping malls is far more dismal and depressing to some than is the idea of morgues stacked to the rafters with full coffins or mass graves dug, in an attempt to cope with volume, in lieu of individual burials. Weighing the options, though, might simply be a matter of playing the odds and taking measured risks. “I’m willing to risk the relatively unlikely possibility of dying against the likely possibility of being unable to buy food.” Put another way, “I’m willing to put the lives of people I love at risk in order to take home a paycheck.” Yet another symptom of testosterone poisoning, I think.

Maybe, though, it all boils down to brainwashing and distrust. In spite of 70,000 deaths and 32,000 new cases per day, some still believe COVID-19 is a “hoax.” Governmental actions taken to reduce the number of infections and deaths are not steps to protect the people but, instead, dangerous overreach by a “deep state” dedicated to perpetrating a “scam” on the populace. Paranoia and conspiracy theories grow like bacteria in a petri dish awash in nutritional agar.

I sometimes—often—think it is impossible to repair minds so badly wrecked and fractured that they are receptive to wildly absurd ideas and theories. Allowing these damaged beings to roam free in society is dangerous and potentially deadly, but making it illegal to entertain certain thoughts and ideas is anathema to freedom. So what is the solution? I wish I knew.

Perhaps the best solution for me is to avoid social media, news, and thinking about COVID-19. I sense myself growing angry and feeling hopeless, an ugly combination that can lead to nothing good. It’s not the virus that makes me feel this way; it’s the way I see people reacting to it. Blaming medical professionals and healthcare workers and grocery store clerks. Strutting into state capitols carrying guns and congregating on beaches and deliberately spitting on people whose opinions differ from their own. I am near the boiling point and I dare not allow the red hot anger to turn to steaming rage.  So I will steer clear of triggers. I will avoid reading or listening to (and engaging in) irrational rants.


If I lived alone, I would have a pet. A dog. He or she, in silent adoration, would be a soothing influence on me.

Absent having a real pet, I will create an imaginary dog. Her name is Luna. She is relatively small, but too big to carry around with me, though she fits nicely in my lap. She daydreams while I watch mindless television shows designed to make me laugh and forget the world around me. She follows me out onto the deck and sits near me and watches me as I sip my coffee in the morning or my drink in the evening. When I go into the garage, she spins in excited circles, hoping she can ride with me in the car. When I drive, she places her paws at the base of the window on the passenger side door and puts her head out the window, taking in the wind and all the delightful odors it carries to her nose. I wish I could understand what she is thinking. And I wonder if she can sense my thoughts. She seems to know when to nuzzle my neck and when to give me a wide berth. She reads me like a canine novel.

Luna understands, or seems to, that I am more comfortable talking to her than to humans. She listens to me as if she understands me. When I blather on about bacon or cauliflower, her eyes sparkle and she drools. Yes, Luna is in love with cauliflower. It’s the crunch, I think, and the fact that the florets spray like bursts from an exploding bubble when she bites into them. Bacon, though, is her favorite. She wolfs it down as if it were trying to escape; she must consume it quickly in order to prevent it from getting away.

People tell me pets restrict one’s freedom. They say you can’t go out of town on a whim because you have to make arrangements for the pets. Not so with Luna. I simply give her a set of keys, and leave instructions for her:

  1. When you go out in the yard, take a poop bag with you and, when you’ve done your business, tie the bag closed and put it in the poop bag bin; make sure to close the lid tightly.
  2. Eat no more than one can of Hill’s Science Diet every day. There’s Purina Pro-Plan dry in the pantry; use your judgement.
  3. When you give yourself water, be sure to turn off the tap; no drip, drip, drip like last time.
  4. If you take the car out, be sure to wear a fedora so you look more like a human. Be careful and don’t speed!
  5. You can binge-watch House of Cards if you like; just be sure not to erase any episodes because I haven’t seen them all.
  6. No guests while I’m gone, please.

Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t want to leave without Luna! She would go with me. We would stay only in dog-friendly motels and eat in dog-friendly restaurants. Luna told me about a website that caters to dogs and their people, bringfido.com.

I didn’t mention yet (on this post, anyway) that I attempted to start a city-specific pet products and services guide when I lived in Chicago. Well, I did. I tried. I had visions of a paperback directory that would have, at the time, been the only thing of its kind. I had neither the marketing wherewithal nor the necessary financial backing to make a go of it. I solicited help, through a want-ad in the Chicago Tribune, with the upfront aspects of the guide. A woman, her first name was Sarah but I do not recall her last name, responded. She was a fierce dog-lover and a seriously neurotic creature who had made a practice of suing past employers for perceived discrimination. She had never won a suit. At any rate, Sarah helped me create a business plan of sorts and worked on building a database of prospective advertisers and content-suppliers for the guide. Eventually, after having no success whatsoever in getting either advertising or content support, I dropped it. Sarah was, by the time, gone. I suspect she was busy seeking employment that might one day turn into a money spigot. My company name (the company that never really developed much) was Anthem Group. The only product I ever produced was the Green Book Directory of Industrial Medicine. I produced two or three annual editions before deciding it was not sufficiently profitable to warrant continuing. At least I learned a lot while I was doing it.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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