This Is Me Being Uncomfortable: September 2020

Been here before? Pick up where you left off by clicking the below links to jump ahead.

Author’s note
September 10, 2020
September 11, 2020
September 12, 2020
September 13, 2020
September 14, 2020
September 15, 2020
September 16, 2020
September 17, 2020
September 18, 2020
September 19, 2020

Author’s note

I know this may come off as navel gazing to some, so let me be clear: you’re probably right. But we’re living through an extremely atypical time. Some/many would even say crazy; and I haven’t seen my counselor since February before the madness began. In conclusion: I need an outlet to get my feelings and thoughts and prayers and observations into the ether that is the world and humanity.

For the month of September, this post will be one giant blog post. Here’s the link. October will follow in the same fashion as will November, December, and so on. I’m repurposing the name of my once considered podcast for this project and this project will be known going forward as This Is Me Being Uncomfortable.

This Is Me Being Uncomfortable will be updated daily with the hours thrown in for good measure. You will not receive an email every day when it’s updated, so you’ll have to check in often to continue reading. Bookmark this page. As far as email updates, I will send one a week (on Tuesday). Let your inbox rejoice.

Inspirations for doing this: Steven Arcieri and Brad Listi. I wrote about what Steve’s doing on my blog a few months ago, which is: he’s writing a single sentence every day of the month for ten years archiving his observations for a book that will be known as Decade. What a hell of a time to start a writing project such as this?

Brad Listi started back blogging again. I love his Otherppl podcast, but I’ve missed his words over the years. He writes books, too, of which I own them all, including Attention.Deficit.Disorder; the rare This Is What My Head Sounds Like; and Board with Justin Benton, a work of experimental fiction taken from The Nervous Breakdown comments section, which was my Internet watering hole before social media decimated blog comment sections.

In a nutshell: I’m inspired. This is what blogging and the decentralized web once was before all the social media flocking and posturing and Internet real estate grabs by Silicon Valley. At one point in time, on my old defunct blog, this is the way I wrote. I’m looking forward to it.

And, I hope you enjoy it as it’ll be about the closest you’ll ever get to how my often anxious, hyperactive brain perceives the world.

***

September 10, 2020, 6:12 a.m.

There’s something oddly satisfying about chronicling daily life. In a way, it’s hard to understand yourself to the fullest degree when your thoughts are locked up inside your head with no way to escape, which is how I often feel. I want to get at what’s up there, examine it, hold it close in front of me with a scalpel; and yet, try as I may, I feel as if the key I’ve been given is the wrong fit. The ridges and teeth all wrong. Writing alters the notches and lets me inside. Putting it down in letters and sentences and paragraphs unveils so much like a cloud crossing the sky, blocking the sun, and then on the move again. Blue sky to gray to black to rain and thunder and lightning, then sunny again.

I woke up this morning with a blurry left eye. Season allergies. Grass springing up and mold spores fluttering about after the rain last night. Yesterday, I saw what I can only come to believe was a golden eagle. It was the most majestic bird I’ve ever witnessed. The presumed golden eagle flew down into the wooded area behind my house and perched on a fallen pine until the HOA lawn care company raced by and scared it off.

I tried to get a video, but to no avail. It was up and away before I was able to pull out my phone. After the sighting, I sent an email to the Monticello Bird Club in Charlottesville:

Any recent reports of golden eagle sightings in FL area of Charlottesville? I wasn’t able to get a photo because a lawn mower spooked it but I have every reason to believe a golden eagle briefly perched in the wooded area behind my house.

It was no turkey vulture and dwarfed any neighborhood hawk. I’ve never seen a bird that large in my life. I had been hearing bird vocalizations I’d never heard before all day.

I’m quite in awe of what I saw and got a really good look at its face and beak and vast wingspan.

Quite amazing.

5:37 p.m.

It’s such an unusual moment in history we’re living in. This may sound bananas to many reading this, but this weekend was the first time I’d stepped foot into a convenience store since March when the pandemic brought the world to a halt.

We’ve had a few outbreaks here and there in Charlottesville, and being home to so many travelers and a major American university and hospital is a far cry from the mostly isolated rural setting where I was born and raised.

It was a simple trip to 7/11 to get my kids a candy bar. Yet, I felt as if I participated in some weird act of liberation in doing so.

Odder, perhaps, was that no one else was in the store or parking lot save for a single gentleman pumping gas and the 7/11 clerks — one of which was wiping down countertops and refrigerated cooler windows. The other awaited me behind plexiglass at the register. I wore a mask of course, and afterwards, sanitized my hands in the car. When I got home, I scrubbed my hands with soap and warm water while singing Happy Birthday to myself.

All for a candy bar.

September 11, 2020, 7:05 a.m.

Today marks nineteen years since September 11, 2001. Half my life ago. I was nineteen years old at the time and working in construction in Southside Virginia.

Unlike most construction crews, we rarely turned on the radio while we worked. Instead, we’d bullshit with one another and tell hilarious stories to make the day go by. Most of the stories were from Austin and Jay’s formidable youth spent as members of the rock band Uncle Screwtape.

My contributions centered around my own experiences in Anti-Lou or girls. Always girls — who I was dating, who I’d dated, or who I wanted to date in the near future. I was nineteen after all. My life revolved around music and girls, and little else. Austin and Jay, being a dozen years my elder, were married. These talks were therapeutic for us all. It was a symbiotic relationship.

The three of us were oblivious to the September 11 attacks which began at 8:46 a.m. that morning. This was an era before heavy cell phone use or texting. And, we were hundreds of miles removed from the terror and nearly two hours into the work day.

It wasn’t until we ducked into Taco Bell in Farmville for lunch that we discovered the news. The staff was frantic. One of the cashiers, a young black woman, was pacing back and forth in front of the overhead menu. Then her cell phone rang. We caught wind of part of her conversation. Apparently, she was in the reserves or some other military unit, and was put on stand-by.

“Oh my God,” she kept saying.

“Oh my God.”

“Oh my God.”

“We’re at war. Oh my God.”

We weren’t entirely sure what was going on until Austin asked the cashier what was happening.

“New York is under attack,” the cashier said. “They hit the Pentagon, too.”

“Who,” Austin asked.

“Terrorists.”

In total, 2,977 lives were lost that day when the World Trade Center towers came crashing down in Lower Manhattan. When United Airlines Flight 93 fell from the sky in Pennsylvania. When the Pentagon took a hit on its west side in Arlington, Virginia.

I didn’t know a single one. Yet, much like every other American, it felt like a part of my soul was ripped from my body all those years ago.

It was a day we worked late, too. After finishing up in Farmville, we drove to Drakes Branch to install gutters on a house. I wanted to get home so bad. We’d been listening to the radio ever since leaving Taco Bell. But the radio only brought on more anxiety. I needed to know what was going on and not from a radio broadcaster’s voice. For some reason, I needed to see it. I don’t know why.

And while standing on a ladder holding up a gutter to be screwed into fascia board, I peered into the owner of the house’s window. She was glued to the television in her living room. They kept showing the World Trade Center towers being struck over and over again and the billowing smoke.

Then there were people falling from the sky. Human beings end over end who had jumped to their death instead of burning alive.

I felt like I was going to throw up. And, I had smoked probably two packs of cigarettes that day, one after the next, as the news trickled in.

12:30 p.m.

The deer where I live are not afraid of humans. No one has ever pointed a gun in their direction. City slickers, my dad would probably call them if he were still alive. Their biggest fear is less us and more our machines they have to dodge on the regular while crossing the road.

I tend to believe all animals would be justified in their terror of humans at all times. Generally speaking, even the most well intentioned of us, are unpredictable and we destroy the environment in the name of progress on the daily.

While walking along a nature trail last week with my family, four deer presented themselves. My daughter started to panic a little when they kept coming toward us. There was no hesitation in their step.

My wife turned to my daughter and said, “It’s okay. The deer won’t approach us.”

As she said this, the fawn approached my wife. She could have pet the fawn on the head it was so close. The fawn sniffed. At that moment, our dog dug its paws into the ground and let out a fierce bark and the four deer scattered into the woods, disappearing.

My grandfather on my dad’s side was once attacked by a deer. “Attack” is an inaccurate portrayal. The deer jumped through the side window of his vehicle while he was driving, got caught in the window, and went into full-on freak out mode. The deer’s hooves did a number on him and broke his collarbone if I remember correctly. He had gashes on his arms and face like he’d been in a knife fight.

It makes me wonder who would win a title bout fight: Mike Tyson in his prime or a cornered deer? Not even a buck, but a doe. My money is not on Iron Mike.

September 12, 2020, 8:45 a.m.

In thinking back to what I wrote yesterday, I’m starting to overthink, assuming that someone reading this will assume I’m somehow afraid of deer. That I shake in my boots whenever a deer comes into view.

I’m not afraid of deer, nor do I tell my children they should fear the deer. My point in that little story is amazement and wonder and respect for nature — its gentleness and capacity for raw strength if called upon.

I’m not supposed to tell you what my point is when I write. You get to form your own opinion on what my point is. But somehow I feel the need to point this out: that deer are beautiful and docile but could still f—k you up in a heartbeat if they really wanted.

1:23 p.m.

I heard back from a guy at the Monticello Bird Club regarding my presumed golden eagle sighting earlier this week. His actual name is Guy. He responded:

That’s cool. While not likely, it is possible. Goldens do migrate down the ridge and are observed from the top of Afton Mountain. Usually they would be later in the fall. See this timeline.

It sounds like you had an enjoyable encounter!

I’m not a professional birdwatcher by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a bit of an amateur. So, there’s the possibility what I saw was indeed a golden eagle. It’s possible it also wasn’t.

Again, it was no turkey vulture. Not even the Brad Pitt of turkey vultures. No offense to turkey vultures, but they are not the most beautiful creatures of the sky. And, the bird I saw was striking in its beauty and strength. The bird’s face was dark and its eyes sharp. The bill was powerful, light yellow with a sharp black tip. When it launched from its perch, its wingspan was a solid six feet or more across and dwarfed any of the hawks common or even rare to the area.

I walked back into the woods after the suspected golden eagle flew away hoping to glance a view of it in another nearby tree, but the bird was long gone. The engine of the lawn mower roared in the distance.

Here’s a video of a golden eagle trying to steal someone’s kid at the park:

5:29 p.m.

I set out to write on the topic of police reform. Sweeping changes were just passed in the Virginia Senate. While doing so, a squirrel fell twenty five feet from a hickory into my backyard. The squirrel looked rattled by the plummet and subsequent crash. Then he shook it off and walked away gingerly.

I’m reminded of a squirrel murder I once witnessed when I was a student at the University of Virginia. I was walking back to my on-campus apartment at Gooch/Dillard when a commotion in the trees above brought me to a standstill. Two squirrels were chasing one another in the canopy. Then, while confronted on a branch in a giant oak, one squirrel appeared to push the other from the limb with its tiny fore-paws. The rival squirrel tumbled to his death and smacked with a loud thud on the paved walkway before me. It lay still and blood ran out of its mouth. Its butterscotch teeth shown.

“What the f—k did I just see?” I said aloud to no one.

The remaining squirrel then let out a harsh vocalization from above and frantically shook its tail.

In 2006, on MySpace, I posted a photo I found hilarious of a squirrel with gigantic testicles. Some species of squirrels have huge balls to increase sperm production and up their chances of siring offspring for generations to come.

I was reported for violating MySpace rules by publishing inappropriate imagery.

September 13, 2020, 6:29 a.m.

I fell asleep last night at 7 p.m. and went into a drug-induced coma. The drug: Benadryl. Nothing turns me into a zombie faster than Benadryl. A first generation antihistamine: diphenhydramine.

I was sidetracked in my Wikipedia research by a news article that officials warn of a new TikTok challenge for teens called the “Benadryl Challenge.” I guess eating Tide Pods has lost its luster.

The goal of the Benadryl Challenge is to get high as a kite from Benadryl and start to hallucinate. I’m not a doctor, so best not to listen to me about anything other than punk rock recommendations, but a word of advice from someone who occasionally takes Benadryl to treat pulsating headaches caused by seasonal allergies: never take more than two Benadryl at a time ever. Two Benadryl a day spaced out over eight hours is all anyone should ever take.

What happened to your basic teenage stupidity like rubbing a hole in your skin with a pencil eraser? I guess no one uses pencils anymore. Everything is digital.

I would be remiss to act as if kids didn’t do stupid s—t when I was growing up. There was this guy in my high school nicknamed Hambone who used to roll up into our town after school and try to get some of my friends to suck down whippets in the back of his truck on a back road. Whippets, to the uninformed, are cartridges of nitrous oxide used to charge whipped cream dispensers. There’s apparently a way to pull the nitrous oxide from a store-bought whipped cream canister and kill millions of brain cells in an instant.

I never gave whippets a whirl because it seemed dumb and dangerous, and the near equivalent to huffing gas or sniffing glue.

But the people who somehow think this type of thing is a generally solid idea to get high still exist. The Hambones of the world now have TikTok.

1:52 p.m.

A wheel bug greeted me as I sat down in my workshop to write. We had just returned home from a family walk in the woods and finished off lunch. My post-lunch companion slowly crawled up the miniature snake plant on my desk.

An adult wheel bug sighting is rare, as most often seen are the tiny nymphs — slow moving ant-like creatures with a fire orange-reddish bottom. I called my son and daughter out to take a look.

The name “wheel bug” is misleading, as is the insect’s slow robotic like movement. A member of the assassin bug family, the wheel bug is considered an apex predator in the insect world. Even the praying mantis, which can lay waste to mice and hummingbirds quicker than the blink of an eye (twice as quick actually), often steers clear of the wheel bug.

In a Q&A session with Richard “Bugman” Fagerlund, the author of Ask the Bugman states that he’s been bitten or stung by copperheads, moccasins, rattlesnakes, scorpions, centipedes, fire ants, hornets, velvet ants, and so on. And “without a doubt,” the wheel bug delivered the most hurt. So much so he likened it to a gunshot wound.

In “Wheel Bugs Are The Most Terrifying Thing Ever,” Earl Swift writes in Outside magazine that:

tucked beneath [the wheel bug’s head is] . . . a mouth in the form of a powerful syringe, with which the bug injects its prey with an enzyme-busy squirt of saliva that liquefies meat—then sucks up the resulting goo like a milkshake . . . and that meat it liquefies includes ours.

A reaction to a wheel bug’s bite can last for several days, including the area of the puncture wound going numb for up to two weeks due to the enzyme injected.

Though wheel bugs rarely bite humans unless threatened, I gave my new friend a wide berth until I could move the miniature snake plant from inside my workshop to outdoors.

Because they fly, too.

The wheel bug that came to visit

7:23 p.m.

I don’t view the future as bleak. Saying this alone will make some cringe because they may come to the assumption I’m not mad enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth. But in a way, it is — because at my core I’m not driven by anger. I have my moments I must reel back in, of course. But at the end of the day, I’m driven by compassion.

I tend to believe in the goodness of people. That good people with good hearts and good ideas prevail. That sometimes we f—k up, and sometimes in a major way, but we find a way to overcome, to move forward in our collective resilience. The reason for my believing in this is part Buddhism, part Star Wars.

Hatred and anger are all consuming. Together they are a wildfire that will burn everything in its path.

As Darth Sidious said to Luke Skywalker:

Good. I can feel your anger . . . Take your weapon! Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!

In a preemptive counter while Luke trains to be a Jedi on Dagobah, Yoga says to the son of Darth Vader:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Will the future be bleak? I tend to think not.

But impossible to see, the future is.

September 14, 2020, 7:15 a.m.

When I set out to capture my daily thoughts and observations, my assumption was that I would weave in current events more so than I am doing.

But that’s not where my mind goes each day when I wake. Instead, it goes to my immediate surroundings:

  • My wife
  • My kids
  • My dog
  • The birds, especially the crows, who are the city rooster that caws the start of a new day each dawn

For the sake of my mental health and my ability to stay present in the moment, I’ve programmed myself to be this way.

Reaching for my phone to start my day is an option. But it’s an option I choose not to opt into. Instead I opt out. I’m a conscientious objector to daily hysteria.

I know what awaits on my phone if I click for the news:

  • Trump did or said something divisive, ignorant, dangerous, or inept.
  • The news reported it.
  • Trump denies it and says the mainstream media is painting him in a bad picture.
  • Or he says it’s fake news. Or the media is lying, don’t believe them.
  • He will say or do this even if he’s captured on video, audio, or has written it on his Twitter account.
  • Rinse, repeat.

Which is precisely why I deleted the Apple News app baked into the iPhone. It’s the reason I customized a block list on my phone to prevent me from viewing any news from any major news media website, including social media.

I don’t want a news media organization or any individual playing with my emotions. At the end of the day, it’s not a news media organization or individual that has to deal with the collateral. It’s my family. And, my family doesn’t need that.

When my dad was laid up in a hospital bed dying from leukemia, he told my mom to turn off the television. He was watching the news, much like he always had over the years.

“Turn it off,” he said. “I don’t want to see that mess anymore.”

On occasions when I find myself looking toward the train wreck, I remind myself of this.

Turn it off.

Better yet, don’t even turn it on.

September 15, 2020, 7:15 a.m.

Back in January, I hit rock bottom in what can only be described as a breakdown. I felt my life was falling to pieces in so many ways, personally and professionally. To those on the outside, my life may have seemed perfectly fine. Inside, however, was an entirely different story playing out and I couldn’t fully explain why.*

Then, one morning, as I sat on my back patio with tears welling in my eyes, my face buried in my hands, a bird flew up in a tree. The swoosh of the bird’s wings released me from my state.

It was a crow, an American crow.

Crows have fascinated me since I was thirteen years old. Back then, I used to sit at the picnic table at B&D Mart in my hometown of Phenix, Virginia, and watch their curious and clever ways of scavenging food. I named one French Fry because he was forever flying off with a greasy fry from the trash can or picnic table, cawing about as he ascended into the nearby trees.

I’m thirty eight now. Married. Two young kids. It’s been nearly twenty years since I gave much thought to a crow. And, while I’d never really studied the patterns of a crow’s behavior outside of a passing observation of their eating habits when I was young, this beautiful black corvid in my oak tree begged me to do just that.

He hopped down from his perch and made a rattle and a coo (something I didn’t even know crows did at the time), then bounced down into my yard and strutted about ten feet from where I sat, stopping and cocking his head at me on occasion.

My tears began to dry up and I felt the faintest tug of a smile on my face.

“Hey, buddy,” I said to the crow.


*Seasonal affective disorder likely played a role along with my usual anxiety. I was also experiencing a lot of day-to-day pain due to a skateboard accident I suffered three months prior in which I re-tore my shoulder labrum and rotator cuff. In some ways, it was less the pain I experienced from this injury and more of the limitations it forced that was taking its toll on me.

Basketball has always been my saving grace. And, while I had run some pick-up one-handed a handful of times, the slightest bump to my shoulder would have me reeling in pain. So in December I called it quits on pick-up until I could heal. But as my wife can attest: basketball is my anti-depressant and I have to take it daily to function. And when I can’t, it’s apparent.

September 16, 2020, 12:06 p.m.

Kang and Kodos, is that you?

The tiny creatures stopping by my house keep getting weirder by the minute. Just a few minutes ago, during lunch, my family and I were in the back eating pizza at our picnic table. When this fell on my wife’s plate:

Octopus looking bug joined us for pizza
Here’s a closer look. Appears to be a monkey slug caterpillar, or hag moth larva (Phobetron pithecium)

Looks like Kang and Kodos Johnson from planet Rigel VII. That’s a 1990 Simpsons reference (“Treehouse of Horror”) for those not in the know.

Was moving at first but has since died from the fall. Blood was coming out of what looks like a giant eye. I believe it’s a monkey slug caterpillar (hag moth), but not 100% sure. Never seen anything like this before. Fell from an oak tree.

Is it what I think or is it really the offspring of Kang and Kodos? Or, have octopus made their move to land and we must begin our retreat?

September 17, 2020, 6:45 a.m.

Trump’s America

ICE detainees allege forced sterilization and hysterectomies

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp . . . It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”

12:08 p.m.

Military Confirms It Sought Information on Using ‘Heat Ray’ Against D.C. Protesters

7:48 p.m.

Michael Caputo, appointed by Trump in April 2020 to be assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for public affairs, who recently posted a Facebook Live video warning of an armed revolt and insurrection following the coming November election, has a connection to Vladmir Putin. Surprise. He also accused America’s CDC scientists of sedition. Here’s a snippet from his bio:

Caputo was employed by a Moscow-headquartered subsidiary of Gazprom, Gazprom-Media. He was contracted by Gazprom in 2000 to work for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. His task was to increase Putin’s public relations standing . . . He moved back from Russia to the U.S. in 2000.

9:31 p.m.

Surely it wasn’t intentional 😉

Trump ad asks people to support the troops. But it uses a picture of Russian jets

9:44 p.m.

Trump’s moves are right out of the authoritarian playbook

September 18, 2020, 7:04 a.m.

I quit drinking in April. When you make a statement like “I quit drinking,” people assume you had a problem with drinking or that you were an alcoholic.

I can’t say I was either.

When the pandemic began, however, I found I gave myself an excuse to drink a little more than normal: “It’s a global pandemic. I need a beer.”

I even stocked up on alcohol because I thought it may go the way of toilet paper. When my surplus of beer began to run out, I stocked up on more by calling up a local restaurant that was being hit hard by the pandemic. They were doing take out beer, and since my family and I could no longer eat there, I wanted to find a way to get money into their pockets.

One of the precepts in Buddhism is not putting poisonous substances in your mind and body. This includes alcohol as well as abstaining from things like watching or listening to television or radio programs which stoke division or mistrust in your fellow man. Fox News, cough.

At one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s talks, a woman visiting Plum Village said she enjoyed drinking a glass or two of wine each night to relax. She was not worried about drinking to excess. Thich Nhat Hanh’s response was that while she may not have the seed of alcoholism in her, one of her children, who sees her drinking each night to unwind, may very well have this seed within him. He may grow up to drink alcohol to unwind. And while his mother may not be worried about drinking to excess, he can’t help but to drink to excess over time.

I thought of my own kids in this moment. I thought of my own friends with kids. Some of these friends are bonafide alcoholics now. It started off harmlessly with a beer or two after work or a few beers on the weekend. Then, it became impossible for them not to have a beer or two after work. A six pack over the weekend then became a twelve pack, plus some.

And now, they are addicts. They are helpless in the face of alcohol. And they don’t know how to stop. Some are aware of alcohol’s power over them. Some aren’t.

Either way, it was a decision I made in April to quit drinking.

It’s not a decision I want to make a big deal out of. I’m also not an absolutist in that I think if someone drinks a beer or two or a glass of wine that they are somehow a bad person setting a bad example. For me, it was a personal decision.

I may drink a beer again one day. I love a good sour ale — Victory’s Sour Monkey to be precise. But right now, it just feels like a bad idea with everything going on in the world.

For me, what I found when I stopped, is that it’s more about flavor and being bored of water. I like something that awakens my taste buds much like why I enjoy spicy food.

My beer now is not beer at all. It’s Health-Ade Kombucha, specifically Cayenne Cleanse, which has a bite. You may be surprised it’s that simple. I did. I feel like a different person as a result.

A kinder person.

September 19, 2020, 12:35 p.m.

Our over-the-range microwave went out two weeks ago. This morning we had a small electrical fire in our oven in which the heating element snapped. Last week the motor in our outdoor HVAC unit went on the brink and had to be replaced. The double sink upstairs is pushing up funk into both sinks, so today I’ll be attempting to fix it, again. Fingers crossed.

From a home maintenance standpoint, I need a break. And, even though I don’t play the lottery, if I could somehow win it, that would be fan-diddly-astic.