Funk and Fugue

With the inauguration now in the past the world exists in the consensual illusion of having returned to something like normal. That is absolutely not the case of course, and it will be a long time before we even have an idea of what normal looks like. It certainly won’t be what things looked like on this date four years ago, or even one year ago.

On this weekend in any other year I would be at ConFusion right now, hanging out with old friends, meeting new friends, talking about reading and writing and past cons and publishing and not getting published, and drinking and carousing and enjoying being in the company of good, smart, talented people.

Of course ConFusion is cancelled for this year, and I think ConFusion 2020 was the last normal thing I did before lockdowns began last March. I miss the experience terribly, but it is not as bad as it would be if it were going on and I was not there.

Right now I am sitting in the waiting area of a hospital, waiting on test results for a family member who is in poor health. This is part of a process which has been ongoing for some years now, so while it is not unexpected, it is also not a thing which could be predicted in any meaningful way.

Thus even though the exceptional chaos of the past four years is over, we are still awash in the ordinary chaos of daily life here in the cyberpunk hellscape that is the mid twenty-first century.

Anyway.

It’s been a quiet week for books here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. One book arrived – War Stories, an anthology courtesy of my subscription to Apex Book Company.

I am almost done with Democracy, Incorporated, and am about 120 pages into The Brothers Karamazov. I plan to round out the month with short stories before I pick up another book to follow the Wolin.

Writing is still going nowhere, though I can feel the knots in my mind loosening up and the creative juices beginning to flow again.

In the absence of ConFusion for inspiration I will need to rely on the mundane chaos of the world.

Breaking Cat News!

We have achieved cuddling! I repeat – we have achieved cuddling!

Poe and Pepper are getting along famously. Zyra and I started letting them interact under strict supervision about a week ago. Two days ago, after the usual running and tussling and what-not, they fell asleep near each other on the floor. Then last night while Z and I watched a movie, the Orange Ones climbed onto the sofa with us, piled up, and fell asleep. Then this morning, with the whole house and its innumerable nooks and crannies available, The two of them chose the same shelf and fell asleep.

2020 In Review

Oh, what a year was 2020. This is a post I have planned to do annually for approximately the 20-year life of this blog, but I don’t think I have ever done a comprehensive year-in-review. Though all subsequent annual round-ups may seem boring by comparison to 2020, this is a good place to start.

The State of the World

While it may be tempting to call 2020 a “Black Swan”, there is nothing about 2020 which was unexpected. COVID-19 was recognized in late 2019 (thus the “-19” part of its name), and alarms were raised anywhere people would listen. Of course very few people listened, or they did and reacted stupidly, and thus the rest of 2020 turned out the way it did. As of the writing of this post (December 31, 2020) I know at least a dozen people who have contracted COVID, some of them severely, though none have (yet) died of it. The United States passed 343,000 dead in less than a year, and who knows how things will continue into 2021; though with the ominous groundwork laid here so far, I can only imagine that bad things will continue, and also get much worse before they get better.

I adjusted quite easily to social distancing and quarantining myself, mostly because I seek solitude, but also in part because my job does not require that I be any place in particular. Thus I spend the majority of each day in my office on a laptop, staring at JavaScript until it makes sense or goes away.

The 2020 general election was a colossal shitshow, as is everything which emasculated manbaby Donald Trump, patron saint of Daddy Issues, touches. The existential stress the past four years came to a head on election day as the American electorate turned out in unprecedented numbers to kick Trump to the curb. The fact that there was any doubt at all that this would be the case is a terrible indictment of the USA, even worse than that there are enough racist, misogynistic, gleefully ignorant voters to put Trump in office in the first place. But to attempt to do so a second time is absolutely mind-boggling.

Relationship

2020 was the first full year in which I lived with a significant other. Zyra moved in in mid-summer 2019, after spending most of her time here anyway, due to terrible weather and the fact that four or five of her tiny apartment could fit in my average-sized house.

What can I say? Things are going well so far. We work well together, and we are also respectful of each others’ space, which is so very important here in the plague years.

The biggest change for both of us (other than co-habitating) was the arrival of Poe, our small female ginger cat who arrived the day after Christmas 2019.

Thee second biggest change for us (other than co-habitating and the arrival of Poe) was the arrival of our new and incredibly fluffy ginger kitten Pepper. Pepper arrived fresh from the same farm in the upper peninsula which generated Poe. As near as we can tell they are cousins, but with isolated colonies of feral cats, the lineages tend toward brambles instead of trees.

Martial Arts

In past years, Master Lee’s school has held or participated in four events annually – a Chinese New Year dinner in early February; the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts and the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival in June, and Sifu Day in late July or early August, depending on the specifics of the Lunar calendar. In 2020, due to COVID-19, every event after Chinese New Year was cancelled. This was certainly for the best, as our class, though overall much healthier than the average of the West Michigan populace, also skews toward the older end of the spectrum.

I wasn’t particularly upset about the cancelled performances, as we have participated in the Festival of the Arts every year it has been held since the late 1980s, and a break to reset the psyche can be welcome.

The cancellation of Sifu Day, where traditionally the entire extended class, as well as friends and family, gathered for a huge potluck, hurt. It is my favorite of the annual events and we were not even able to visit with Master Lee, though we did a drive-by visit of sorts and dropped off food and gifts for him and his wife.

The downtown YWCA closed, so our classes moved online, with senior instructor Rick Powell running Zoom sessions at our normal class times. This took some adjustment, as suddenly he was doing all the teaching himself, with no assistance from any of the other instructors. And Master Lee of course was not able to teach through zoom due to not having the technology available to do so.

But we persevered, and when the weather grew warm in June we moved classes to Wilcox Park in the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, where we practiced in the grass and under trees until the end of October, when due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases we returned to exclusively remote classes.

I expect that as weather permits we will move back outdoors, possibly as early as March. It all depends on the state of COVID.

I loved the outdoor classes. In past years I have spent most of every weekend at the Lake Michigan lakeshore or out and about in the various fields and forest and trails with my camera, enjoying the beauty of natural Michigan. With travel sharply curtailed by COVID, my girlfriend’s sprained ankle, and the existence and proliferation of violently stupid conservative anti-maskers in Michigan, we decided to stay around the house. And with the downtown office closed so I wasn’t walking the mile to and from work every day, the enforced outdoor slow-time was much appreciated.

Reading

This will be covered in more detail in other posts, but in spite of the shakeup to the schedule, this was a great year for reading. I completed something over 80 books, primarily thanks to a deep dive into R.A. Salvatore‘s Forgotten Realms novels in July and August, and to participating in the Sealey Challenge in October, where I read a book of poetry a day for a month. Those two reading events added up to over fifty books, and the rest were a scattering of fiction and nonfiction from March to December.

2020 was also the year where I focused my attention on short stories, and though I fell far short of my goal of reading at least one a day for the entire year, I did manage to read slightly over 100. Most were genre, though I did skip around in the literary fiction realm. For the first two months of the year I focused exclusively on short fiction (other than finishing a book I had started in December), and it wasn’t until mid March that I picked up longer works again. I read primarily fantasy, thanks to picking up a big old pile of books at ConFusion in January. Many of the books were self-published, and this prompted me to throw caution to the wind and write a fantasy book of my own.

It isn’t done yet.

Writing

I hit the ground running with writing this year, and though I did not meet a single self-imposed deadline I managed to complete a few short stories, multiple poems, and a little over 25,000 words of a new novel.

Then, somewhere around the beginning of October, I hit a wall and didn’t write anything other than journal entries for the rest of the year. So while I wrote quite a lot, at the moment I feel like I didn’t really accomplish much of anything.

This is, of course, inaccurate. In April Portage Magazine published my poems “Afternoon Traffic” and “Percussion”. In September I was notified that one of my short stories, “Occupied Space”, will be published in January 2021 by Coffin Bell.

These are my first non-solicited works to be published since 1999. In any other year this news would have increased by an order of magnitude my writing drive, but here at the end of 2020 my drive is at an all-time low.

The novel is one I was inspired to write after spending most of ConFusion 2020 hanging out with a group of authors who have found success self-publishing their work. They introduced me to the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (or “SPFBO”) which is currently in its sixth year. To cut to the chase, I am now completely sold on self-published books of any genre. The winners (and also most of the runners-up) of the SPFBO are every bit as good as any fantasy novels published traditionally, and in many cases are even better, with the added feature of not being hindered creatively by the need to satisfy a corporate bottom line. So if and when I complete this book I will go the route of the self-published authors, of whom I am now an avid fan.

Family

I don’t see much of my family anyway, so this year was no different. My nieces are growing like weeds, and my brother contracted COVID though his symptoms were mild and his recovery rapid. My mother and step-father are in their mid 80s and dealing a wide variety of health issues so I saw even less of them this year than usual. As for my extended family, I never see them anyway so this year was no different from any other.

Work

The downtown office closed on March 15, 2020, and I have not been back since. Working from home is not difficult for me, though when the weather is nice I do enjoy the walk downtown, and I do miss the mid-day walks along the river.

The year started with the last few weeks of a year-long project which was actually interesting and fun (for certain work-constrained values of ‘fun’), with an excellent team of folks.

Then I was on a month-long project in March in which I was cheerfully thrown under the bus by the project lead.

In early April I was assigned to a project which had me working third shift, 18:00 to 06:00, four nights a week for five weeks, then second shift, 14:00 to 00:00, five nights a week for five weeks, then first shift, 09:30 to 18:30, through the end of July. Let me just say that third shift was a whole lot easier when I was 21. And yes, on third shift those were twelve-hour days.

I spent much of August and September taking classes toward getting certified in one or more AWS Cloud specialties, and then I was assigned in rapid succession two projects, one of which is currently underway.

All of which is to say, work in 2020 was eventful.

To Sum Up

2020 was difficult. Not as difficult for us as for many, but not easy by any means.  My brain is still in a fog and I find it difficult to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. This makes reading and writing especially difficult, but helps when dealing with a new kitten.

I am glad 2020 is over. Though arbitrary temporal divisions have no physical impact on life, being in tune with the zeitgeist means that midnight tonight is a good time to let go of a lot of psychic baggage and try to regain, cautiously, some sense of optimism that, if 2021 will not necessarily be appreciably better right away, it will stop getting worse at such a rapid pace.

And it that leaves a lot of room for things to still be pretty bad, it also opens the door to hope, which is the thing with feathers, beautiful and delicate and always in danger of being eaten by feral cats.

Introducing Pepper

On December 27, 2020, a year and a day after returning from the Upper Peninsula with Poe, we returned from the Upper Peninsula with our new three-month-old ginger kitten. World, meet Pepper. Pepper, this is the world. Or the parts of it with access to the internet, anyway.

Right now Pepper is in internal quarantine in an enclosure in my office while we wait to take her to the vet for a checkup and shots. We should be able to allow them into the same space together starting in about ten days. She and Poe have exchanged chirps and growls under the door to my office, and already Poe seems to be getting used to the idea of no longer being the only cat in the house.

Pepper is Poe’s cousin, from the same colony in a farm in Rudyard. She is sweet and crazy and affectionate, thanks to attention from the various children and grandchildren who helped to socialize her over the past two months. She weighs about three pounds, though with her fur she occupies approximately the same volume as a Volkswagen Microbus. We gave her a bath the night we brought her home, and when soaked she was about the size of a chicken drumstick.

The English language is inadequate for accurately describing the floofiness of our new kitten.

Summer Done Gone

This is a photo of Poe sunning herself in a west-facing window, atop a pile of curtains which coincidentally are the same color she is. Maybe she thinks I can’t see her. That would explain why she attacked my hand when I reached down to scritch her.

We had our first truly cold nights this week, with lows in the upper 30s, Fahrenheit. We have managed to not yet turn on the furnace, but those days are coming to an end. Fortunately the rest of the month looks to be bright and sunny during the days which means my big old house will store enough heat to last us through the longer nights.

No new books arrived this week, which is happening more regularly as I regulate my book-buying habits, what with a global pandemic and employment uncertainty bringing to the forefront of my attention the necessity of frugal behavior.

In reading news I finished Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow which left me feeling rage, sadness, depression, despair, and a sullen bitterness about the entrenched sadism which is one of the keystones of the American psyche. TNJC, along with Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism, and the first few essays from Captivating Technology, have me further convinced that complete prison abolition is the only equitable response to the overwhelmingly racist (by deliberate intent and design) carceral state which is one of the central, defining characteristic of American society here in the post-Civil War USA.

Anyway.

To cool my brain, I am reading Dyrk Ashton‘s magnificent Paternus: War of Gods, which brings to a close the Paternus trilogy which Ashton began with Paternus: Rise of Gods. I am a little over a third of the way through, an I am getting to the point where I may need to take half a day from work in order to get through the rest of the book, because I seriously don’t want to put it down. Ashton’s work is just that good!

On a related note, Dyrk has a Kickstarter running right now to print the second book of the series, Paternus: Wrath of Gods, in hardcover. In addition to being excellent reads, the artwork for the books is gorgeous and the books as physical artifacts are well worth owning.

In writing news, I ended the week just shy of 25,000 words in my work in progress. I have the current scene all sketched out and the first few hundred words written, but I hit a minor bout of writer’s block which, rather than trying to muscle through, I sat back and let it run its course and accepted that it might leave me a little shy of my goal for the month of 40,000. Better a blown deadline than burning myself out doing something I love. I can always make up the word count, and the schedule and deadline are mostly arbitrary, beyond that I would like to complete the first draft before November 1.

If you are curious, here are some of the things I am researching as I write my book:

labyrinths, memory palaces, traditional martial arts training techniques, phytoremediation, river ecologies, genetic engineering, mantras, mudras, mysticism, resonant frequencies, resource depletion, peak minerals, repressed memory, symbiosis, salvage, biomaterials, ceramics

With a little luck, when strung together by a narrative framework, it will make a good story.

It Is Done

At long last, after ten weeks of second and third shift work, fifty hours a week, the project from hell is done. I got out of bed around noon today after shutting down my workstation at 11:00 last night. I don’t remember the last time I was this tired, or burned out, or otherwise completely done with the world. Early February 2013 maybe, or mid-May 2009. Something like that. The difference here is that, other than the crazy work hours, it was not a negative or traumatic experience; simply a lot of work across a lot of hours at a time of day when I am usually asleep.

In the last ten weeks I have lost around 10 pounds, most of that muscle mass as far as I can tell, from the complete disruption of my workout schedule as well as the lack of sleep, which is now well into the territory where if it were being inflicted upon me by a government agency it would count as cruel and unusual punishment. Since it is instead being inflicted upon me by capitalism it is considered being a good employee and contributing member of the team.

The part of my life I have missed most, and which I most look forward to, is waking up before the dawn, after a good night of sleep, and practicing tai chi on the front porch, then relaxing with a cup or two of coffee and reading and writing as the world wakes up around me. Three hours of quiet time before work is the bare minimum to keep my head on straight, and I have not had that since there was still snow on the ground.

So here we are in the last full week of spring, as the days are just about as long as they will get before the night starts creeping in again, and now I get to start enjoying the warm weather.

Being well-rested and healthy will also certainly be of benefit to my relationship in any number of ways, not the least of which will be that when Z proposes that we do anything at all, I will feel something other than depressed and tired at the idea of having one more goddamn thing to think about. I look forward to looking forward to things again.

Only one shipment of books this week, from Zombies Need Brains LLC, a small indie publisher which runs an annual Kickstarter where they fund and call for submissions for a trio of anthologies of varying themes. This is the second of their Kickstarters I have funded. I submitted a story to the previous round of books, and though it was not accepted for publication they sent an encouraging rejection letter. So I will try again, if and as as I have time to write.

Speaking of writing, I have a steadily growing pile of handwritten notes for the book I plan to write this summer. The plot is coming together, as well as a couple of the primary characters – protagonist and antagonist. I like the feel of it – secondary-ish world fantasy, post apocalyptic; though with enough history in the world, everywhere and everything is post- some apocalypse or other. Or mid-, or even pre-apocalypse. Kind of like right now here in the real world.

In reading I am partway through Derek Künsken‘s book The Quantum Magician, and really liking it so far! I met Künsken at ConFusion a few years back, and his book has been gathering dust on my shelves until last week. Like the other small press and self-published books I have read this year, it is really good! I look forward to snagging the sequel sometime later this year.

Now off to get caught up with the world, which seems to have moved on without me over these past two and a half months.

51

As of today, I am no longer 50. I am now “in my fifties”. These things tend to sneak up on a person. This post is a reflection on the past year, a sort of “what I did when I was 50” instead of “what I did before I was 50”.

My fiftieth year started on June 5, 2019, with a surprise party at Riverside Park coordinated by my girlfriend. Over a dozen of my closest friends showed up, and there was much cake and beer and whisky. It was wonderful.

A few weeks later, in July, Z and I flew to San Francisco for a week of food, walking, food, exploration, food, City Lights Bookstore and food. It was glorious! We stayed in the Warwick San Francisco, where we stayed in 2018 as well, and walked everywhere we could, and when we couldn’t walk, we caught one of the ubiquitous ride shares which account for approximately 10% of San Francisco traffic.

In late July, Z moved in with me, which was a first for us both. Fortunately neither of us have a lot of stuff, and I have a lot of storage space in my house. Once she settled in we enjoyed a couple of peaceful weeks before she returned to teaching. After almost a year of living together, everything is still going great! Even with the enforced close proximity due to the CoronaVirus lockdown, we still welcome and treasure each others’ company.

In September, the members of Caffeinated Press decided after five years to close down the company, and in late October we released our last publication, the twelfth issue of The 3288 Review.

In November I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the seventh year in a row, and hit 55,000 words with over a week to spare. I have the bones of a good novel, and individual chapters can easily be turned into standalone short stories. So I have a pile to work from for the foreseeable future. One of the few good things about having a terrible neighbor is that I always have something to write about.

In December, Z and I drove to the Upper Peninsula to visit her family, and came home with a small orange kitten we named Poe. She is absolutely the love of our life, cute and affectionate and playful and cuddly and with an impressive vocabulary. After almost twenty years without a cat in my life, I suddenly wonder if I could ever go back to a life without one.

At the beginning of 2020 I decided to make a concerted effort to get something published. Every morning, after morning workouts, I sat for at least an hour and wrote, or edited, or submitted work to the many magazines on the list I had compiled over the past several months. This lasted until approximately the end of March, when the world became suddenly chaotic.

In January 2020 I attended the annual ConFusion science fiction convention, where I volunteered for setup, spoke on a couple of panels, saw many old friends and made many new friends, and generally had a fantastic time. ConFusion is one of my favorite events of the year, and I am more than a little worried about how it will survive the current state of the world.

In March, the statewide CoronaVirus lockdown began. I started working from home and have been since then. The downtown office may reopen later this year, but I likely won’t see the inside of it until at least September. That same month the downtown Grand Rapids YWCA, where we hold our kung fu and tai chi classes, closed for the duration of the quarantine period. We moved to online Zoom classes and those seem to be going as well as can be expected though of course nothing is as good as in-person classes.

In April, for the first time in twenty years, someone published some of my unsolicited writing. Portage Magazine graciously included two of my poems in their 2020 issue, and I have been floating on air ever since.

Also in April I began a project at work which had me working some insane hours – 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, Tuesday through Friday, for a 48 hour work week. After a month of this the project was extended, and we moved to second shift, 2:00 pm to midnight, Tuesday through Saturday, for a 50-hour week. This is projected to go on for two more weeks, which means I will return to something like a normal schedule right around the first official day of summer. Without going into too much detail, though the work is important, the schedule sucks and I want my life back.

To add to the chaos, not long after I started the crazy hours, Z and I were practicing and she sprained her ankle quite badly. She is recovering nicely, fortunately, and hopes to be back to full function by Autumn.

This past weekend Z and I spent a few hours in downtown Grand Rapids, helping to clean up after an absolutely chaotic night of riots and vandalism when a group of agitators moved in after the Black Lives Matter march and protest rally. Nationalist hate groups had been planning this disruption, and whoever the final actors were, they made a mess of the city.

So there, in a nutshell, was my fiftieth year. It started wonderfully, and became gradually more chaotic as the world became gradually more chaotic. I would wish for my 51st year a return to normalcy, but there is no telling what normalcy will look like after the past four months. It certainly won’t look like it did at this time last year.

For the first day of my 51st year I have spent my spare moments loving my girlfriend and our cat, and donating to the various businesses, groups, and artists who have been hurt by the quarantine and the riots. I will likely continue this as long as there is a need, and I have funds available to do so. I have a good life, and the best thing I can do with it is offer my support to the world.

Shifting From Third to Second

Poe in her perch

No new reading material this week, so here is a photo of Poe in her element.

In reading news, I just finished Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, and it was magnificent. I now feel compelled to seek out the rest of the books in the series, as well as the rest of her writing in general.

I have also found myself thoroughly sucked into a re-read of R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels, which I first read as they were released in the early 1990s through early 2000s. They are fun reads and definitely lighter than my usual fare, and I will probably skim through them much faster than I would through something opened for the first time. I enjoy seeing how much Salvatore’s writing improves as the series progresses. It’s also interesting to see how much the (viewed through the lens of a reader in 2020) cliches and tropes endemic to the genre thirty years ago change over time. I offer kudos to Salvatore for keeping his writing fresh over a long and productive career.

For my own writing, I am gathering notes to begin a novel and/or a series of stories based around a particular idea which can be explored in a wide variety of settings and genres. Or a setting which can be explored through a wide variety of ideas and genres. Like I said – gathering. Not organizing. When I begin my work in earnest I will post more specific comments.

In an effort to stay engaged in the book reader/writer/lover community I have started to regularly post to Instagram (@johnfromGR). I have never really engaged that platform in any meaningful way, though at first glance it seems much less toxic than Facebook and Twitter. Time will tell.

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues here in Michigan I can feel my life fraying at the edges. For the past month I have worked third shift, 12-hour days, four days a week, on a project at work. Starting tomorrow that will move to second shift, 10 hours a day, five days a week. This will last through the second week of June, at which point the project will end and I will rejoin the waking world, in whatever form that may be. As I said before, third shift was a whole lot easier when I was 21.

One of the unexpected benefits of my new schedule is a slow but steady loss of weight. I am not working out anywhere near as much as I usually do so I assume the change is from loss of muscle mass combined with only eating two meals a day, along with some healthy snacks. I don’t know if ongoing sleep deprivation also causes weight loss, but if so, I may have discovered a new diet regimen.

Seven Weeks In

No new books arrived this week, so here is a post about my life under quarantine.

It’s been approximately seven weeks  since Governor Whitmer issued the first of her executive orders to begin the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020. And, it scarcely needs to be said, things are strange.

Two weeks after the lockdown began, my girlfriend sprained her ankle while we were working out. She has been in an air cast for the whole month so far, and due to her limited mobility all of the household chores have fallen in my lap. This wouldn’t be a problem, except I am in the second week of a new project at work which has me working third shift four days a week, 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. This project is projected to run to the end of May, by which time I suspect I will have regressed to being able to communicate only by grunts, gestures, and tactical odors.

I haven’t worked third shift since I was 22, and that nearly killed me. Of course that was assembly line work in a factory, and this is computer work sitting in my home office. But I am 50 now, and sleep, always in somewhat short supply, is suddenly an exceedingly rare commodity.

The Grand Rapids YWCA, where I teach and practice kung fu and tai chi, has been closed down since mid-March. Our senior instructor Rick has put together Zoom classes which are surprisingly well-attended, which is encouraging. I have not been able to attend these classes since (of course!) they take place during my new work hours. I do what I can to practice on my own, and my girlfriend is slowly adding the various exercises to her daily practice as she heals, but so much of class is person-to-person training that I can feel myself growing slower and weaker by the day.

I can feel myself…aging.

Another casualty of the stay-at-home order is our kitten Poe, who is tired of having humans around all the time, and is deeply confused by having at least one mobile and interactive person around 24 hours a day. Usually she has the nights to herself, but now she can come in and knock over plants in my office into the wee hours of the morning. Our preferred method of discipline is a spray bottle, so Poe spends a not insignificant portion of the day being slightly damp.

I expect that when the extended stay-at-home order expires in three weeks Poe will undergo similar confusion and trauma, except in reverse. She is already showing signs of separation anxiety when we close the bedroom door in order to save our toes from random attacks in the middle of the night. Once Z and I head back to remote work our poor Poe Kitten will be bouncing off the walls. So, a lot like now, but will different subtext. And no audience.

Z and I are cooking a lot more, which is wonderful since Z is a virtuoso and she is keeping us very well-fed. I pitch in when and were I can, mostly breakfast and various snacks. Z is using this as an opportunity to practice her recipes and I have been the eager tester and grateful recipient of the results of her work.

Surprisingly, I have more time to read since so many of the events and responsibilities which take me out of the house are currently on hold. And though the influx of new books has slowed to a trickle I am placing regular orders with our remarkable local independent bookstore Books and Mortar, the owners and employees of which are doing a stellar job of keeping West Michigan supplied with reading material in these uncertain times.

So here we are. Two more weeks of lockdown and five more weeks of third-shift insanity. Z is healing and growing stronger by the day as Poe and I slowly go feral.

The world will look much different in June than it did in March.