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  1. Once upon a time we were strangers instead of friends.
  2. That changed as we grew to know each other. You had secrets, and 
  3. so did I. Then we had the talk. That might have been a mistake,
  4. it feels as if I have made a lot of those. Now I am thinking back to
  5. those parking lot conversations, the time I said that this was the 
  6. worst haircut I have ever had, and you told me that you agreed.
  7. I still remember talking about suicide, and how you told me that I
  8. could always reach out if there was a need. But of course I didn't,
  9. and won't. It's just the way I'm wired I guess. I never told you this,
  10. you didn't ask either, but before there was you, there was someone else.

 

  1. And he's not like you with your beautifully organized life, he's not as tall,
  2. he doesn't have that bald spot on the side of his head the way that you
  3. do, and he's told me some personal things about himself that would make
  4. a lot of people run, or judge him. He scared me; it may have looked like I
  5. was walking down the center aisle that we crossed so many times before,
  6. but inside, I was hiding, because I never want people to know, or to see,
  7. the real me. Now we are strangers again, and may never talk, text, or 
  8. see each other in person. I may never see him again either, I did something
  9. crazy, and sent him a card. Christmas never comes in April, but I wanted
  10. his kaleidoscope eyes piercing something other than my frothy bleeding heart. 

I would just like to say that I will personally pay for any noder to get a full boob job if they agree to let me fish around with my unwashed hands in their brain for one week. This deal expires.

"Paul, please go to aisle three for customer assistance. There's a lady by the icing sugar."

Shopping on the world of COVID-19 resembles some bizarre chess game. You move through aisles and around stalls, attempting to remain at a safe distance from the other players. Where necessary, you pass without breathing. Someone blocks the path to the broccoli. Do you wait, or negotiate around the organic produce table and hope you can make it before the elderly woman heading for the fish counter gets too close? It has brought out some interesting characters, ordinary folks transformed into Coronavisions of alternate identities.

Here are a few I encountered while making a morning run for the week's groceries and some alcoholic beverages:

Countess Dracula: she moves about without any sort of mask, but she feels she requires one whenever anyone approaches. To this end, she pulls her long black scarf across her face in a manner that recalls Bela Lugosi, and sweeps by.

The Immunized Lord of the Sith: a number of people wear masks, but this menacing figure, with his black leather jacket and sophisticated respirator device really stood apart from the crowd. I fully expected him to ignite his lightsaber and inform the stock-boy that, no, he was his father.

The Welder: With full face-shield, the welder walks in assurance that no stray spittle shall ever spread pestilence to their body.

Weed Granny: the grey-haired woman who saw the marijuana delivery car park in the lot and wondered aloud if they were going to come into the store to pass out free samples. I'm sure that wouldn't be legal. Free samples are a pandemic era health hazard. Sometimes the Weed Courier is just picking up groceries.

The Ski Pro: Although he had no mask upon his face, he had ski goggles over his eyes. I suppose that affords some sort of protection. Perhaps he lost the nose-and-mouth covering during the final slalom.

Mr. Grim: with the skull-rictus covering over his own mouth, he makes a frightful sight as he stalks the cold breakfast cereals and instant soup mixes. Perhaps he'll upgrade and go classic next week, with a full Plague Doctor outfit. I find myself wondering now if he just chose the covering for the times, or if he had the mask in store, at ready for just this occasion.

Lady Content Warning: the clerk at the LCBO door who goes through every single guideline as you enter-- "...and we prefer credit or debit, but we will take cash if that's all you have"-- and ends, at long last, with strong encouragement (not that she means to be rude) to shop quickly so as to make way for others. I would be midway through my run if she had just let me pass.

The Lord of Merriment: upon seeing just how far the spaced-out line-up to the liquor store stretched, along the wall and around the corner and, finally, into the sketchy realm behind the plaza where cars rarely go and weeds grow through cracks in the pavement, he laughed gleefully and then made his way to the very back. Really, does he need to spend any more time at home? Maybe he'll find a new friend during conversation across a safe distance. Dig that fresh outdoor air. Invigorating, isn't it?


Vera Lynn is alive at 103 and participating in a duet to raise money for health care in England. Whether she will actually sing, or they will repurpose an old recording (as was done on the album released for her 100th birthday), is something I do not know. But she survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic, sang comfort during World War II, and sounds perfectly lucid in 2020. Dismiss her signature song as cheese if you like, but it's no less true for most of us: we will meet again, our pandemic identities largely put to rest, some sunny day.

UPDATE: Dame Vera Lynn passed away June 18, 2020, at the age of 103. Rest in Peace.

What a weird world it's become. I don't like it at all. Not the isolation. I can handle that. It's that the customers at work have become crazier and more picky, if that's possible. Yes, we have a plague on, but sure, twenty pounds of ground beef in half pound packs. Yes ma'am!

How is everyone? I've been busy working on projects. I've started a longish work on Hamlet which is more like a fugue meditation on what the play does to my brain than an actual work of criticism. I estimate it will take six months to write the rough draft and probably clock in at 70k words or so. While doing this, I have a novel in the works which is basically CSI in a 1920s fantasy setting. Watching CSI (and Star Trek too!) there is a lot of techno-pseudo-forensic babble and I thought, "You know, I bet I can create the same sort of babble but with magic." So, you set up a character with a degree in forensic thaumamancy or whatever nonsense and have her solve cases by finding out what spells killed whatever poor sap is the victim of the week: “You can tell by the praecantatio cerebromedullospinal pseudocoma. This leaves the patient brain dead.” “So you can’t get a witness statement?” “No, but given the state of the body, we’re looking for a sorceress with a yellow magical aura.” Or something like that. Canned dialogue that should be pretty fun to read, even if it is nonsense.

But, what people tend to forget about technobabble is that it often does actually mean something in context of the story. Or at least the good kind does. The offender “modify the phase variance” which is dragged out as the standard for this trope (and I believe comes from a Star Craft cheat, originally) means that you are altering protein expressions to avoid needing to evolve new traits to rapidly changing environments (in context of the Zerg, this means your now unlocked buildings allow you to bypass the tech tree, so the code is accurate to what it does).

A Star Trek gem: “The temporal surge we detected was caused by an explosion of a microscopic singularity passing through this solar system. Somehow, the energy emitted by the singularity shifted the chroniton particles in our hull into a high state of temporal polarisation.”

This isn’t nonsense. I mean, it is, and high Trek nonsense, but it actually means something. “Time went funny because of a tiny blackhole exploding. Time particles polarized and moved us forward quickly.”

I’d contrast this with something that doesn’t mean anything or at least seriously misunderstands what its own words mean. From CSI: “I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic, see if I can track an IP address.” GUI is a graphical user interface, Visual Basic is a programming language, and an IP address is an Internet Protocol address. So far, so good, I suppose. But the term GUI interface is redundant, why Visual Basic specifically, and why would you need to have a GUI to track an IP address? The problem here seems to be that because the writer is using technical terms from the real world that he or she doesn’t understand, the sentence gets a little silly. Personally, I’d just call the killer’s internet provider and have them find his IP address. No need for all the work.

And while on tracking killers, because the story is set up in a 1920s era world, I looked up how one would track a phone call in 1920. Turns out it’s actually easier than you would think; Killer calls from a local diner, maybe to taunt the police at their own headquarters. The police then call the telephone operator back, find out which switchboard the last call came from, then talk to the operator there, and narrow the call to a few city blocks, or in smaller towns a single building. Then they send out foot patrols to canvas the area. And because this is a Twenties Crime Drama with Sorcery, the cops beat the shit out of the killer while cracking wise and we’re totally on their side.

Anyway, have a good year y’all and Happy birthday. To me. 35? SHiiiiT.

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