La Cuarentena

How’s everyone surviving the mandated isolation precautions?

When this all started I had no idea if this pandemic thing was serious or not. I’ve gotten past that. COVID-19 is a particularly nasty form of viral pneumonia. I had pnuemonia way, way back when I was a kid. It almost killed me to death way back then. I’m not in a hurry to press my luck a second time with that shit.

I’ve seen people die from a cytokine storm before. It’s a terrible way to die.

But in an attempt to provide some balance in this exercise, there are worse things than contracting COVID-19. You could be a Trump supporter. People that have been infected with the Coronavirus appear to have at least a 98% chance of recovering and getting better.

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In terms of complying with the Stay at Home orders we’ve all been dealing with, I’m the kind of guy that if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to try to find a way to do it anyway. I’ve talked to a few people down here who also struggled with this when the pandemic precautions were first instituted.

You have to learn to pick your battles.

That was probably the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in my life. Russ Bacon, one of my friends and co-workers at the MVAMC told me that. Several times. Just in cases you are also someone that has had trouble with this, I’m going to give you some advice that you can ignore, much like I did for a long time:

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You’re only one person, not the US military. And even they pick their battles

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I hope you’re all doing well and haven’t gone completely batshit crazy being stuck at home with the people you love most. Yeah, those annoying assholes. A lots of my real friends and virtual friends have been complaining about being bored to death while they’ve been stuck at home on social media. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind them of something: To the best of my knowledge, you can’t actually die to death from boredom.

The entire world has essentially become the Hotel California. On the bright side, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in Iowa, now you know. And remember this, sooner or later the quarantine will end and a day will come when you wish you were still being told to stay the fuck at home.

That’s kind of how life works.

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Aside from my golf course closing for the entire month of April, my life hasn’t really been affected all that much by the government lockdown. I’m retired. I get paid to do nothing. And I’ve discovered that I’m really pretty damn good at it. If I could do my life over, this would be my dream job.

That said, it is nice to get out of the house every now and then. Yesterday, we all took a trip to the golf course so Todd and I could retrieve our golf clubs. Lea drove our new car. She loves to drive, and she probably needed to get out of the house more than any of us, if only for an hour.

Todd and I might want to practice chipping in the backyard or something seeing how we can’t play golf right now. We’re either going to end up really good at chipping, or we’re going to be replacing a few windows. Maybe both…

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Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my–sonuvabitch!!!

On the way back from the golf course we stopped at Soriana. It’s like unto the Mexican version of Walmart. We needed a few groceries. And stuff. Todd and Lea knew what they were looking for because they do all the cooking. I wandered through the aisles purposelessly while they shopped because I didn’t need anything.

I spent ten minutes seriously perusing everything in the Barbie® aisle. And I wasn’t even stoned! Or planning on buying a Barbie® doll.

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Despite my earlier stated aversion to work, even I can’t sit on my ass all day. I’ve been busy doing stuff here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. I thought I had completed all of the things on my To-Do list a couple of weeks ago, but then I remembered all of the things I had procrastinated on doing for so long that I had forgotten all about them.

They were things that involved climbing a ladder. I can’t say that I’m afraid of heights, but I’m a lots less comfortable with them as I’ve gotten older. And I should clarify this statement. I don’t have any problems climbing a ladder. It’s the descent part that I seem to have problems with.

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I’ve taken more than one misstep on a ladder in my lifetime. Based on my personal research on this, it’s true what they say. The falling part isn’t that bad. It’s the sudden impact at the end that fucks you up.

I don’t think I’ve ever broken any bones falling off of a ladder, but my right knee cringes every time it even sees a ladder. Thankfully, almost everything involving a ladder has been sorted out for now, so my right knee can relax for awhile.

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I’ve been doing a little gardening over the last couple of weeks. I used to do a lots of gardening back when we lived in Minneapolis. My lovely supermodel wife loves gardens, but she hates gardening. She asked me to put some flower gardens in the backyard for her, so I became a gardener.

Our gardens in Minnesota looked great.

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See? I told you

I attribute that to the secret formula I had developed for successful gardening:

Step 1.) Buy some plants and flowers and stuff.

Step 2.) Open a beer and start drinking.

Step 3.) Dig holes in the garden and plant flowers and stuff until you run out of things to plant. Or beer.

Gardening back then was probably a lots more fun than it is now, which is one reason why I only do a little gardening now. That, and anything that involves me having to get on my knees is a very time sensitive undertaking. That’s the primary reason I only do a little gardening.

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I started doing some housework last Saturday because we told Monica, our maid, to take a few weeks off until all this Coronavirus stuff settles down. She’s still getting paid, so you don’t have to worry about that.

It didn’t seem fair that we should just wait for her to return to work before the house was ever cleaned again. Besides, we have two kit-tens, and they shed hair like unto an elm tree dropping its leaves in October. Last week, I vacuumed up enough cat hair to knit two sweaters. It wasn’t as bad this week, and there’s a reason for that.

Unlike my dad, I have no problem doing housework. My mom had eight kids. She put us to work doing chores around the house as soon as we could walk. And I think it’s important to have a division of labor in a modern relationship. No woman ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes. Or vacuuming the floors. It’s probably saved my life more than once.

I vacuumed the entire house last Saturday. It took me two hours. I’m very thorough when I clean. I’m even more thorough than Monica, and she’s the best housekeeper we’ve ever had. It’s a byproduct of being a nurse, and working in the OR for a couple of years.

I use all of the attachments on our Dyson® when I vacuum. I move furniture. I remove all the cushions on our couches and suck up all the crumbs and stuff that collect under them. That’s why there wasn’t as much cat hair this week. I’m sometimes capable of an incredible single-mindedness of purpose, especially if I’m wielding a vacuum cleaner.

Today, I vacuumed the floors again, and Todd followed along behind me and mopped them. All of the floors are clean and the whole house smells like lavender. My lovely supermodel wife had had a few reservations about living with two guys when Todd moved in with us. But between cooking and cleaning, Lea says she thinks she’ll keep both of us around for awhile.

And no, we can’t come over to clean your house next week. I mean, we could, but we’re not supposed to leave the house…   I find doing these mindless kind of tasks is good for me. It gives me something to do while my brain, and my Muses, sort out what they want to write about.

That’s one of the downsides to being a writer. You never stop thinking about writing.

I’ve been trying to write my blog, but I haven’t felt all that inspired to write lately, even though I haven’t had much of anything else to do. It’s taken me about a week to get this far with this installation. That’s because I have been very inspired to delete everything I’ve written and start all over several times already. I’m not disappointed with this one so far, so I might actually post it when I’m done.

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One of the things that I did earlier this week when I got bored was I downloaded a bunch of CD’s onto our laptop and updated my music collection.

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I love music, but I have an intense dislike for our laptop. I should probably start spending some quality time with it. You know, get to know it better, become buddies with it; something like unto that.

I say that for a couple of reasons. One, it took me a few hours to figure out how to upload the CD’s I had ripped to the Windows Media Player® to my Google® Music account because I haven’t done it in a couple of years. And then I had to remember how to transfer the songs I wanted to all of my mobile devices. If I did that kind of stuff more often, I wouldn’t get as frustrated with it.

And it just occurred to me that it’d probably make writing my blog a helluvalot easier if I typed it on the laptop. I’m not sure if I thought of that or if someone just inserted that thought into my head because I’m evidently too goddamn stupid to think of it myself.

I’ll have to give this thought more thought…

I write almost everything on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2®. I used to use my phone, so as hard as it might be to imagine, this is actually an improvement. I’ve gotten used to it over time, and it’s not like I have a deadline with any of the things I write.

At any rate, when I finally got all of the songs ripped, uploaded, downloaded, and transferred, I decided to create a few playlists to suit the four or five moods that I apparently still have.

One classical music playlist. Two rock and roll playlists; one male, one female. One country music playlist, all women. And one easy listening playlist, both male and female artists, with music you’d play at 3:00 AM when you’re coming down from an acid trip and you don’t want to fall off the ladder. Or wake up the neighbors.

I’m listening to the Guys That Rock playlist as I sit on the patio by the pool and slowly type this. Todd is floating in the pool. Lea is sitting to my right playing games on her Samsung Galaxy Tab E®.

Our backyard runs parallel to the first fairway of the Chula Vista Golf Course. A small forest of old growth trees lines the hillside of the golf course. They keep most of the errant golf balls fired in our direction out of our yard. By accident or design, the trees have also turned our backyard into kind of a bird sanctuary.

Lea feeds the violet crowned hummingbirds. We don’t have the hordes of hummingbirds we used to have at our last house, but we have enough of them to keep her happy. Todd puts out oranges for the altamira and summer orioles, and the blue mockingbirds. Vermillion flycatchers and pink house finches flit from tree to tree in a flash of color. If I remember, I’ll try to get some pictures. 

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Evening is falling here in the Lakeside Area. The rufous backed robins are chirping in the trees, signaling the end of another day. When it gets darker, the nightjars and the whip-poor-wills will add their lilting calls to the night.

In the dead of night I can hear owls hooting in the trees, but I’ve never seen an owl in Mexico. Maybe that’s a good thing. In Native American folklore, owls are a symbol of impending death…

In the morning, the great kiskadees will erupt in raucous chorus impelling you to wake up and get out of bed because a new day has dawned and it’s time to get moving. Now!! I guess they didn’t get the memo that everyone is sheltering at home, and no one needs to be in a rush to move from the bedroom to the living room…

So stay safe, and stay home. This, too, shall pass.

And if you can’t stay home because you work in an essential business, all I can say is Thank You for the service you’re providing. And to my friends and former co-workers in the healthcare profession, we owe you a debt that cannot be repaid.

And if any of you need a vacation after the dust settles, contact me. We have plenty of room, and a pool. And stuff.

And you can choose which playlist you want to listen to…

If Music be the Food of Love, Play on

Seven years ago today, my lovely supermodel wife and I were on vacation in Durango, CO. We had rented a cabin up in the mountains outside of town. It was very peaceful and scenic. We had a great time there.

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Vacations are wonderful. They’re time-limited slices of what retirement is like. No alarm clocks. You might have something fun scheduled, you might not. You mostly do whatever you want whenever you want.

Lea and I took a lots of daytrips while we were in Durango. Like I said, it was very scenic. One of our trips was to Silverton. We had lunch at Handlebars Food and Saloon. If you ever find yourself in Silverton, it’s worth checking out. It’s like unto Silverton’s version of TGI Fridays. And the food was good.

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That’s where I met The Most Interesting Man in the World.

That’s what I called him. He never told me his name, but he told me half of his life story while Lea and I had lunch. Lea had her back to him. She rolled her eyes and whispered, “How the hell do they find you?” It’s seemingly one of the hazards of being a psych nurse. If there’s a crazy person within one hundred yards of you, they’ll gravitate towards you.

He said was a Texas oilman who didn’t want to be in the “oil bidness” anymore. He wanted to be a songwriter in Nashville. And he wasn’t the only one. Apparently every Texas oilman wanted to be a songwriter. He had some talent, he assured me. He had sent some of his songs to a Big Name country musician that I’d recognize if he told me the name, but he wouldn’t. 

I actually asked him. I don’t usually ask a lots of questions when someone starts talking to me like he did. It just encourages them to keep talking…

The Unnamed Big Name musician had expressed some serious interest in his songs. Nothing had been finalized, but the Most Interesting Man in the World was very optimistic that his songs would become big hits soon, and that he would become a rich and famous songwriter who won a lots of Grammys.

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Little Known Fact About Me: I once wanted to be a rich and famous songwriter, too. Much like my desire to be a rich and famous author, it was something I didn’t have any talent at, but that didn’t stop me from doing it. In my mid-twenties, I wrote hundreds of songs. It was something I could do without really trying. The words flowed into me. All I had to do was write them down.

may have sent some of the songs I wrote to a music publisher in Nashville. It sounds like something I would have done. Honestly, I’m not sure if I actually did that or not. My songwriting years are lost in a drug and alcohol induced fog. Much like unto the lyrics of every song I wrote.

In retrospect, there was a reason I wasn’t successful at anything I attempted in my youth. If I had become even modestly successful, I wouldn’t have lived very long.

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Most Interesting Man in the World never achieved the fame and fortune he desired as a songwriter, despite all of his vaunted talent.

I’ve been watching Country Music, the latest TV documentary by Ken Burns. It’s sixteen hours long, and I haven’t seen the Most Interesting Man in the World in it yet. Ken Burns has elevated the documentary into an art form. I describe his work as heartbreakingly beautiful. 

I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge country music fan, but I have a fair number of Country/Western CD’s in my collection. After watching this show, I might have to go to music shopping.

I love music. It’s not just the food of love as William Shakespeare claimed. It is the very food of life. 

Mr. Burns covers all of the Big Names in country music in his film, but he also highlights a whole lots of lesser known musicians who have made significant contributions to the genre. These complex, interwoven storylines are the ones I find most compelling.

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Townes Van Zandt, was a singer-songwriter from Texas that almost no one has ever heard of. He looks like a minstrel cowboy. He drank a lots of alcohol, and was a heroin addict. He was quite possibly the only musician that never wanted to become rich and famous.

Townes wrote a lots of  songs that are considered masterpieces of American folk music: To Live is to Fly. For the Sake of the Song. Tecumseh Valley. And, Pancho and Lefty. Many of his songs have been covered by Big Name artists. His musical style has often been described as darkly melancholic with rich, poetic lyrics. Someone once suggested he try writing a happy song. “These are the happy songs.” he replied.

He died in 1997 at the age of 52 from the cumulative effects of decades of drug and alcohol abuse.

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Gram Parsons was born in Florida in 1946. He was a member of the American rock band, The Byrds. He was a founding member of the country rock band, The Flying Burrito Brothers. And he released two solo albums featuring Emmylou Harris. He was the original cosmic cowboy, fusing several genres into his music.

Like unto Townes Van Zandt, Gram was also an alcoholic/drug addict. He didn’t live long enough to become a member of the 27 Club, dying at the age of 26 from an accidental drug overdose.

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Emmylou Harris was a folk singer who transitioned to country music during her collaborations with Gram Parsons. Over the course of her career she has won 14 Grammys, the Polar Music Prize, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1976, she released the album, Luxury Liner, which featured the first cover of Townes Van Zandt’s haunting ballad, Pancho and Lefty.

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Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are country music icons whose songs helped to define a generation. In late 1982, they decided to collaborate on an album. The recordings went smoothly and swiftly. The album was almost completed but, as Willie said in an interview, “I didn’t feel we had that blockbuster, you know, that one big song for a good single and a video. Then my daughter Lana played me a song I had never heard before.”

Merle Haggard: “I was sleeping in my bus when Willie started pounding on the door. He said he had found the perfect song and wanted to record it. I was really tired, so I wanted to do my recording in the morning. But Willie wanted to do it that night. So I went in the house to sing my lines. I was so tired I don’t remember what I sang, but I figured I could re-record in the morning if I needed to…”

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The song Lana played for her father was the Emmylou Harris cover of Pancho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt. The Willie and Merle version became the Number One country song of 1983 and sold well over one million copies.

It is one of the greatest country songs ever written. I get goosebumps every time I hear it. I’ll post the lyrics, but you should really listen to the song in all its versions. They’re all available on the YouTube®.

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Living on the road my friend was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene
You weren’t your mama’s only boy but her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye and sank into your dreams
Pancho was a bandit boy, his horse was fast as polished steel
He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know on the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dyin’ words ah but that’s the way it goes
All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose
Lefty he can’t sing the blues all night long the way he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south ended up in Lefty’s mouth
Day they laid poor Pancho low Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go there ain’t nobody knows
All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day
They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose
The poets tell how Pancho fell and Lefty’s living in a cheap hotel
The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold and so the story ends we’re told
Pancho needs your prayers it’s true but save a few for Lefty too
He only did what he had to do and now he’s growing old
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose
A few gray Federales say could’ve had him any day
They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose