Juke Box

Juke Box – Cowboy Take Me Away

Too much to do in this short life. Time enough for a cover of this song though.

Living in Society

A Suppressing Rain

Seedlings in the greenhouse.

It rained overnight, just as the man at the fertilizer place in Monticello predicted yesterday. We had a long conversation about rain, as rural folk often do. It’s something to talk about, something to which we can all relate. I asked him to load the two bags of fertilizer in the back seat so he wouldn’t notice my Biden for president bumper sticker that read “Build Back Better.” I went there for fertilizer and for weather talk, not for a political conversation.

The other kind of rain is figurative. It’s raining Republican legislation to suppress voters going forward. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 47 states have filed more than 361 bills to restrict access to voting. Any state that signs such a bill into law will be sued, Democratic attorney Marc E. Elias said. Lawsuits are already pending in Iowa, Georgia, Montana and Florida. Republicans have determined they can’t win elections at the ballot box and are rigging the system to retain power anyway.

It was bad enough President Trump was impeached for fanning the flames of insurrection when the Congress was tallying electoral votes from the November election. Under normal circumstances, a president with as poor a record as Trump would be fading from view. Democrats gained control of both chambers of the legislature and the presidency on his watch. He is not fading. Republicans have a different agenda, though. It has to do with gaining and retaining power, no matter what. Any jamoke with autocratic tendencies will do, I suppose.

It’s not just me who thinks this. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney had this to say:

Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 5, 2021.

Cheney voted with Trump 93 percent of the time, so she is no liberal. Her punishment for making such statements and mounting a campaign for a return to law and order centered on the U.S. Constitution is expected to be removing her from her Republican leadership position in the House of Representatives. She’s in a minority of Republican colleagues regarding the future of the party.

The days after my retirement from outside work were supposed to be a time to take it easy. When it’s raining voter suppression, how could I? America is in dangerous times, with our Democracy at stake. Every person will be needed for the struggle against taking away the right to vote from so many.

I’d rather talk about the weather and our need for literal rain. That’s not the task that presents itself.

Living in Society

Will the Pandemic End?

Plot #5 after Friday’s shift.

People are uncertain about resuming pre-pandemic social relations.

Yesterday on a Zoom meeting with 60 participants, the moderator took a poll of our vaccination status. About 93 percent of participants were fully vaccinated, everyone had a plan to get vaccinated, and they are looking to meet in person again soon.

Thursday my spouse and I attended a funeral service for a neighbor on line. No one inside the church wore a mask. The preacher mentioned it was the first time in a long time people could gather together for a funeral because of the pandemic. There were more people attending on line than in the image transmitted from the church.

During my shift at the farm we worked outside. All of us have been vaccinated, although we still wear masks when working inside the greenhouse. Outside, no masks are required. It felt good.

On a long telephone call with a friend, they said they wouldn’t go out again after the pandemic. At least not to the kind of event frequented before.

I organize our home owners’ association monthly meetings. Since the pandemic began we’ve held meetings via conference call. When the city library begins renting the meeting room again, that will be my sign it’s okay to meet in person again.

Uncertainty abounds in all of this.

The pandemic is real. People I know got sick and died from COVID-19. The same is true for almost everyone I know. Because of our pensions, our household can survive without outside work. We used to get so much of our lives from work, yet suddenly it wasn’t as important as staying healthy.

I like not being sick since the winter of 2019-2020. That’s a result of personal hygiene practices in play because of the coronavirus pandemic. I won’t abandon my face masks when going to the grocery store post-pandemic. If I take a job, it will be one in which I can avoid daily, random contact with people, or maintain proper protections when in person. It’s becoming a weird world for which I am not ready.

For now, the pandemic continues, and with it, social protocols. What worries me is not this pandemic, but the next one. People smarter than me say more are coming. Will we have learned anything from our time since WHO declared the global pandemic on March 11, 2020? The last year has not provided much hope we will.

Living in Society

Being Sexagenarian

Pears forming.

People don’t use the word sexagenarian much. Because of lack of use one associates it with being a sexpot or something related to youth. Let’s face it. After turning sixty aging accelerates. Most of us are not as sexy as we may think, despite genetics, efforts, and vague intentions. It’s more like we are clinging to youth rather than embracing our experience.

My sixties have been about life after the big job. During my last year in transportation and logistics I was tracking to make more than $100,000 annually. Since then, it’s been about making do on a much lower income. I turned 60 more than two years after leaving my career and despite a couple of bumps, have been okay financially.

A person who said being sexagenarian is about getting ready to turn seventy would not be wrong. Septuagenarians and octogenarians have to make do with less. Practice makes perfect, or rather semi-perfect. Life is what you make it, they say. I’m spending more time doing what I want. 70 is coming right up and I haven’t thought about life as a septuagenarian. Having given up on youth, I suppose I’m clinging to middle age. I need to let go of that, too.

In graduate school we studied aging in America and part of aging is being a survivor. Since 2018, too many friends, mostly younger than me, have died. More than a dozen neighbors died during the last couple of years and only one of them from COVID-19. Should I survive, being a survivor is going to get worse. Planning to survive is part of being a sexagenarian.

The decision to retire at age 58 was sound. Had I continued, the kind of stress I experienced would most certainly have led to a premature death. After losing interest in my career, I luckily recognized it was time to go and did. As a result, I’m here to tell about it and using my sexagenarian years to prepare for and live a more varied retirement.

However, the word sexagenarian just sounds wrong. I’d rather have no part of it even though I’m close to outliving those years. Like with anything, we believe the best is yet to come, regardless of the weight of an aging frame. A sexagenarian knows better.

Living in Society

Nominate Meghann Foster

A special election for Johnson County Supervisor is the epitome of insider political baseball. Both Republicans and Democrats must call a special convention to nominate their candidate for the June 8, 2021 election. Democrats meet on May 11, Republicans May 8. Individuals can also get nominated by petition.

Our county is heavily Democratic so the likely winner of the special election will be the Democratic nominee. There are at least three candidates, although we won’t know the final number until we get to the convention where floor nominations have been popular and relatively frequent. Recently, a Democratic nominee lost the special election, so anything is possible.

I’m supporting Coralville City Councilor Meghann Foster as the Democratic nominee. She’s solid, and the best of the announced candidates. Learn more about her here and decide for yourself.

I am an alternate delegate and will work to get seated as a delegate. Since the convention is in person this time, all delegate slots are not expected to be filled. Like the caucuses, getting to a specific place at a specific time excludes people. That’s how it’s done, however. It’s insider-oriented, like it or not.

Living in Society

Zany Times in the Second Congressional District

Woman Writing Letter

When Jim Leach and Dave Loebsack were our congressmen we didn’t have to lookout for daily zany stuff from our congressional office. Now that Mariannette Miller-Meeks is in the Congress, we do.

Her latest caper was in the April 30 Iowa City Press-Citizen. She sported a mask with a “6” to let folks know she won the district by six votes. She also threw out alternative facts in the article:

“Miller-Meeks said she felt former President Donald Trump wasn’t receiving enough credit for the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly Operation Warp Speed, which she said, “’miraculously gave us three safe and effective vaccines in just nine months.’”

As a physician, Miller-Meeks should know that creating a vaccine takes anywhere from 5-10 years. The scientific industry began testing a decade ago when SARS ravaged China. That is the reason we “miraculously” have three vaccines. Further, Pfizer did not join the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.  The pharmaceutical company self-funded. (AP Fact Check, 3/13/20, “Trump wrongly takes full credit for vaccine”).

Saying Trump should be credited for getting three vaccines rolled out in nine months is disingenuous and wrong.  Her misinformation can confuse folks.

We need better from Congress.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on May 5, 2021.

Juke Box

Juke Box: Blue Sky

Partly cloudy sky, April 29, 2021.

It’s Friday with big load of work ahead.

In 1972, seven days after the Allman Brothers Band released their third studio album, Eat a Peach, they appeared at the University of Iowa Field House. We didn’t know what to expect since Duane Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident Oct. 29, 1971. I worked a carbon arc spotlight for the show and it was a stunner. Eat a Peach was the last album on which Duane Allman played. This is a recording from it.

Hope you have a great Friday!

Living in Society

Leaving Walt Disney World

Seedling trays at the farm, April 23, 2021.

I won’t likely be returning to Walt Disney World, yet not for the reasons you might think. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the consumer experience was shattered and one of the broken pieces is doing whatever we did for entertainment. Most of us won’t be going back to the way things were.

When our daughter was 11, I felt an urgency to provide her a theme park experience before she got too old. We went as a family, even though we couldn’t really afford a trip to Orlando. It was new even though it was the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World. I remember it as a hot yet fun time where we could be ourselves. It was meaningful visiting Universal Studios and Walt Disney World together.

Lately folks are politicizing visits to Disney. Partly they accuse the corporation of playing politics. Please. Corporations have always played politics better than most. What is concerning to some is Disney recently announced cast members are permitted to display tattoos, wear inclusive uniforms, and display inclusive haircuts. I knew about the “Disney look” for many years and couldn’t see how they found enough non-tattooed people to staff the positions. Supposedly cast members being themselves has broken the willing suspension of disbelief many visitors bring with them to the park. Life is apparently crappy and folk need to travel to a theme park to forget about it. That’s a hella way to build a life.

There have always been guests at theme parks with grievances and disappointments. The new grievance of having one’s immersion into make-believe broken because Disney removed the Song of the South from Splash Mountain is something else. Something is missing.

I have no regrets about my trips to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Sea World, Universal Studios, and the rest. It is a part of my privilege that I was able to go. So many were doing it, theme park trips came to be perceived as a norm for people who had the means.

What the coronavirus pandemic taught me is the important part of visiting theme parts was doing something as a family. It didn’t matter what we did and maybe that’s the point about Disney. Mickey Mouse is getting long in the tooth and society is ready to move on. The coronavirus pandemic changed several Disney employees I know… permanently. They are little different from the rest of us.

I’d like to suspend my disbelief in society’s promise. It’s okay with me if it’s with or without the Walt Disney Company. However, the pandemic taught me there’s a better way in sticking close to home.

Living in Society

Low Information Consensus

Lilacs leafing out, April 15, 2021.

An administrative law judge ruled in favor of a bar and grill employee who quit and filed for unemployment because supervisors would not follow protocols for operating their business during the coronavirus pandemic.

She requested the workplace follow COVID-19 guidelines, they didn’t, and she quit and filed for unemployment, according to Clark Kaufmann at Iowa Capitol Dispatch. The judge ruled that a reasonable person would have believed that the working conditions were unsafe and detrimental. She was awarded unemployment compensation.

Owner Kevin Kruse’s quote in the article is telling:

“I think this whole COVID thing was blown out of proportion for no worse than what it was,” Kruse said. “To me, this virus was not scientifically identified and the media just ran off with it like they did. People that would have had it — it would have been no different than having a bad case of the flu. And that is the common consensus of everybody that has come into this place throughout this whole last year.”

Clark Kaufmann, Iowa Capitol Dispatch, April 13, 2021.

This bears repeating: “the common consensus of everybody that has come into this place throughout this whole last year.” While not an example of scientific methods, this is the way many Iowans make decisions. A majority that includes folks like Kruse elected Republicans in the 2020 general election.

There is a utopian impulse in American life in which groups seek to separate from broader society to survive and thrive on their own. It shows itself in the manifest destiny myth, in our outlook toward business startups, and in things as simple as setting up a home. We have a fundamental belief in systems and our role as chief actors in them. The example of Iowa’s remade landscape and the farms and businesses that now populate it offers no more perfect example of utopian creations. I don’t know Mr. Kruse but it sounds like his business was founded on such a utopian impulse, whether he recognizes it or not.

Utopian impulses are commonplace, yet utopian projects or communities, for the most part, have not been enduring. While people continue to make life decisions based on the “consensus of everybody that has come into this place,” the inherent denial of the rest of society will bring with it a reckoning. The insular nature of enclaves like a single business or social gathering, especially as it excludes tolerance of diverse beliefs and adaptations based on scientific inquiry, will reduce the longevity of such groups. In the meanwhile it can be hell to live where such views dominate, as the judge affirmed.

The freedoms of living in the United States include the freedom to be poorly informed about society writ large. To the degree I respect and tolerate low information consensus, I hope its hegemony will be suppressed. I trust society can and will shake off such views.

I also hope my trust is well placed. As English theologian Thomas Fuller noted, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”

Living in Society


Tree bark on the state park trail, April 6, 2021.

For the first time since February 2020 I got a haircut at a professional shop. Despite two home haircuts during the coronavirus pandemic it was shaggy.

It felt good seeking a professional now that I’m fully vaccinated. The mask-wearing stylist asked me how I wanted it cut. As usual, I didn’t know. I suggested we look at the various sized combs that go with the electric clipper and she pulled four of them out of her drawer. We settled on number six.

My instructions were the same as always: tapered in back, a part on the left side, and cut it short in front so the outdoors wind doesn’t blow it into my eyes. We both wore masks during the session.

Getting my hair shorn was a welcome break from a year of contagion.