Bless your own damn bike.

This Sunday should be The Blessing of the Bikes at Vermont Lutheran Church. The minister is supposed to bless our bikes and we’re supposed to eat a pancake breakfast that can’t be beat, with the first taste of this year’s maple syrup, and mediocre church basement coffee.

Vermont Church

But there are no group rides, and there are no church basement breakfasts, and there are no crowds of bicyclists having their bikes blessed whether they believe in such things or not, because it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride and the road up to the church is great and the minister is a funny guy and the church members lay out a great spread.

And tonight should have been the first Wednesday Night Potluck of the season, which means Dave should have made his famous asparagus and I should have baked the first rhubarb pie of the season and we should have sat by the stone wall, sipping a beer and watching the sun set over my favorite stretch of road as we watch the last riders struggle up the hill on County F, our adopted highway.

But instead it was a solo ride, and I climbed that hill into a 20 mph wind with no leaves yet to block the wind or mar the view of the barren fields. And I got home just ahead of the rain and I drank wine with takeout Laotian food instead of beer at a picnic.

And it’s all because of this damn virus. And our State Supreme Court, in its Infinite Wisdom (and infinite is no different from nothing), has decided that the Safer at Home order is null and void, that the Director of Health and Human Services has no authority, and the state and all of its businesses are henceforth allowed to return to their pre-COVID state effective immediately, and we can gather in crowds as big as we want, and share that virus freely, because we are Americans and we are Free, and they trust business owners to Do the Right Thing because we know that business has our Best Interests at heart because what’s good for General Motors is what’s good for America and the god of quarterly profits must be appeased by human sacrifice and Give Me Liberty or Give Me a Virus that doesn’t really cause any symptoms and we only have 15 cases and that’ll be down to zero in a few days and when spring comes it will miraculously disappear and what’s a hundred thousand or so deaths among friends and we don’t need no stinkin’ rules.

The court ruled that the order wasn’t an order, it was a rule, and an unconstitutional rule at that; because this is Wisconsin and out constitution says we are “endowed with certain inalienable rights, and among those rights are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of drunkenness in a crowded bar.” So folks bellied up to the bar in large numbers within hours and you can’t drink beer with a mask on so of course no one wore masks. I shouldn’t complain because crossing county lines to get drunk in bars is what makes my livelihood. I should be in those bars, making sure everybody has their keys and that they understand that the faster they drive the less their chances of getting caught by the cops for drunk driving. The trauma unit has been quiet the past two months.

But the county I live in decided to pass its own rule within hours, so we still have safeguards here. They just end at the county line, so like in the old movies where the bad guy just has to cross the county line to escape the cops, this virus just has to escape this county and is then free to wreak havoc but that’s okay because it’s all China’s fault so it doesn’t matter if we’re irresponsible because it’s all China’s fault.

IRS scam?

If you have been waiting patiently for your stimulus check, wait no more! While we have been led to believe the payment is automatic, it ain’t necessarily so.

If you haven’t already received a payment, log on to the IRS website (irs.gov – don’t trust this link, type it in yourself – it’s not hard) and click on “get my payment”. When I did that, the site informed me that I am eligible for the payment, but they couldn’t process it because they didn’t have my bank information. I have been filing electronically for 20 years and using the same bank account for that entire time. I filed 2019 taxes and received a refund to that account, so I know they have that information. Nevertheless, I filled out the form. They will ask for your social security number, date of birth, and address. Then they’ll ask for your bank routing number and account number.

Once you’ve done that, keep checking back. Eventually you will get a notice that includes the date they will deposit the funds. When that date comes, check your bank and check their site again. The date for my electronic funds transfer has come and gone, but no funds appeared in my bank. Going back to the IRS site, I now have a date that they plan to mail my check. There is no mention of what happened to the electronic funds transfer that was supposed to have occurred already. I won’t be holding my breath.

BREAKING NEWS: According to the Washington Post, if you don’t notify the IRS of your bank information by Wednesday, May 12 at noon, you could be waiting until June or July to (if you’re lucky: ed) get a check. (And, as noted above, notifying them is no guarantee of an electronic payment.)

Old White Men

Donald Trump’s base is said to be old white men, particularly in the midwest. I take that personally.

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and I’ve written about our progressive but now sullied history. Among the same people who are old white men now were the leaders of the new left 50 years ago. Granted, the new left was a campus fad 50 years ago, and there were people posing as leftists then who, had they been ten years younger, would have been going to toga parties. (Or younger yet – doing the Macarena, wearing silicone wrist bands and thinking that was changing the world; or older – swallowing goldfish, going on panty raids, stuffing phone booths…you get the drift.)

Many people have been quoted erroneously as saying something like, “If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.”(While a version of this has been attributed to Winston Churchill, there are variations going back centuries.) I would add, “If you’re not a socialist at 60, you haven’t integrated the two.”

We didn’t all turn to the Dark Side when our hair turned grey. To be an old white man is not to be a follower of He Who Must Not be Named. I wish that didn’t need to be said.

I was just reading an article in my wife’s therapy trade journal (I doubt they call it that; but that’s what we called the magazines about the industry I read – and wrote for – when I was in the grocery biz) about toxic masculinity. The possibly fictionalized man was spouting the usual “kids these days” claptrap, using air quotes around the term “gender-fluid”, and lamenting that he used to know what it meant to be a man and now he’s confused. Hmmm…seems I read the same kind of stuff about 45 years ago at the height of the second wave of feminism. Does that mean this guy somehow slept through the second and third waves, and fourth wave feminism suddenly has him confused? Does he not remember his life until now?

While the term gender-fluid may not have been around 45 years ago, I remember being mistaken for a woman by a car salesman who approached me from behind and saw only my long hair. (He still got the sale.) I remember my housemate’s rejoinder to a guy in a bar who said, “I can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman”. (“Why don’t you suck my dick and find out?”) The term then was androgyny – still binary but acknowledging a world between the poles.

I went to a talk by Ram Dass, who described various levels on which humans can relate to each other. The first level he described as one on which everyone is a potential, a rival, or irrelevant. A brief version of that talk is found here. He talked about changing the channel, and there being more than one way to relate to others. It seems some people are still stuck on that channel. And it’s no wonder. That is the channel that most advertising is tuned to, the channel our society seems pretty stuck on. It appears that marketers are all 13 year olds. My apology to many 13 year olds. (If we broaden this to mainstream culture in general, we have to add our glorification of violence, or “Sax and violins”. How many cops shows can you count on TV? Not enough fingers to count them all. They only shoot bad guys and they never miss. Ever notice how TV doctors are way more fallible than TV cops? Seems that in TV-landia, all the best and brightest become cops. Those who can’t get into the academy settle for med school.)

An aside: We have a term for hatred of humankind: “misanthropy”. We have a term for hatred of women: “misogyny”. I never hear the term for hatred of men: “misandry”. We have a term for having multiple spouses: “polygamy”; but we usually use it to describe a man having multiple wives, which is actually: “polygyny”. And we seldom see the term for a woman having multiple husbands: “polyandry”.

Is masculinity really so fragile that any deviation from the norm is threatening? And I know Norm, he’s pretty deviant. I guess it’s about as fragile as whiteness (see White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo).

The Joys of Home Ownership

I’ve written checks for $16,000 and most people looking at my house wouldn’t see any difference – replacement roof, gutters and downspouts, furnace, and air conditioning. All maintenance items, not home improvements. All to keep entropy at bay.

Written while furloughed. A single day furlough, with more to come.

One day at a time –
A) to spread out the pain,
B) to make sure I don’t apply for unemployment and make my employer look bad,
C) to allow the employer maximum flexibility to adjust to day-to-day staffing needs,
D) all of the above?

(Furloughed: off work without pay, but still on the payroll and eligible for benefits
Laid off: off work without pay, off the payroll, with an expectation or possibility of rehire
Fired: off work without pay, off the payroll, no expectation of being rehired.)