November 10, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is five hours, forty-seven minutes.
I close the box.
Algo runs its complex calculations, decides that I am eager to watch videos of simps bouncing on state-of-the-art, spring-loaded tubes, then shoves Pogopalooza through the digiport.
Algo hits the mark since I, too, am a simp. My will has been eroded during months in quarantine so, these days, Algo is rarely wrong.
I finish watching an hour of Pogopalooza action, and ask myself if I want to continue to live.
This is what it’s come to: a cluster of schlubs elevating on high-tech pogo sticks, and an old feeb clad in a high school wrestling team sweatshirt and plaid pajama pants, sitting in a basement, wasting hours of what is surely a limited future, watching guys as they elevate and pretend to be athletes.
These featherheads are doing “tricks.” They do the “tricks” on boxes, platforms, ramps, etc. made of plywood and covered with garishly tinted indoor/outdoor carpet.
Many of the twerps are members of the Xpogo Stunt Team, the X denoting the “extreme” nature of the activity. X (extreme) versus, I suppose, R (real).
These are the guys who were thrashed by real athletes in high school, then shoved into lockers where they often spent the night. They’re the guys who didn’t have sex, with another person, until they were well past 25. Probably a lot older, judging from appearances.
I can’t be too critical. I pause the video to consider my situation.
It’s pretty clear: isolation-addled, I am a willing captive of nonsense. I can’t escape. It’s an idiotic display. I’m in neck deep, and sinking fast.
I return to Pogopalooza.
My favorite part of the broadcast involves a brace of mooncalves attempting a high jump on their high-tech pogo sticks. The commentators are breathless, sparked by anticipation. Will Biff Hutchinson’s record of 11 feet, 2 inches be broken?
You bet it will. But who’s gonna do it, and when? It’s enough to drive a person crazy! Who gives a shit about global warming, North Korean missile tests, or Iranian patrol boats firing on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz? This record is going to be broken! And quite possibly by a guy who dropped out of school in the 11th grade for fear of being shoved into a locker…again!
How about the record for Most Successive Bounces? Any guess what the standing world record is? Huh?
That’s correct: there’s a vapor-locked upper middle class mutant from a Virginia suburb who decided it’s a great idea to bounce up and down on a pogo stick 88,047 times, and now there’s a crew of similar nitwits, each determined to outdo him.
Who can beat the standing world record for the pogo stick mile? That record time is 7 minutes, 40 seconds. I’m impressed. I can’t walk a mile in less than an hour. Actually, I can’t walk a mile, period. I make a mental note to walk upstairs and prepare a grilled cheese sandwich for an afternoon snack. I’m pretty sure a glass of a Cahors Malbec will serve to wash it down in fine fashion. I know where to find the bottle.
Highest Front Flip? Michael Mena’s 10 feet, 2 inches. Will it stand? The tension is incredible as we fans wait.
Wow! Is there any record that will remain in place? Perhaps forever? If there is, it is likely to be Dmitry Arsenyev’s nine no-handed backflips in a row.
Hard to imagine isn’t it? Dmitry seems to be of Russian origin. Given the severity of winter in Russia I wouldn’t think that pogoing is at the top of the list of things to do outdoors from September through April. Where does Dmitry practice? Are there indoor pogo facilities in the former Soviet Union? Perhaps at abandoned nuclear facilities? If so, how did Dmitry get so damned good at this without growing a tail or an extra head?
Who will emerge as the all-around champ, the greatest pogoer of our era?
Will it be the inimitable Dalton Smith, he of the sparse mustache and the rumpled but cavalier short-sleeved, button causal wear? Dalton is a three-time world champ who promises to stun the sparse competition audience “before waxing philosophical about the ephemerality of existence.”
Who wouldn’t jump in on Dalton’s side? This stud’s a philosopher. Hey, Spinoza … give it up and stick to polishing lenses, there’s a new brainiac in town and he’s thinking big thoughts while bouncing with the best of ‘em!
Will it be Harry White, he of the glittering gold crash helmet, the sparse mustache and weenie’s goatee? Harry came to the pogo arena after four years as a college cheerleader. He’s known for “smooth Madonna grabs,” “epic supermans,”and “huge flip dismounts.” I imagine that Harry had plenty of chances to perfect his dismounts while rooming with his male teammates during his many cheer road trips. Harry often sports a tiger-stripe tank top when he competes.
How about Dan Mahoney, the gaunt master of the advanced Vertego stick? Dan is said to be “very passionate and always thoughtful,” and is known for his love of “trees and tea.”
Can a sensitive-but-gaunt lad triumph? Can an eco-vegetarian tea sipper rise to the top? Why not? If a guy can’t set out to manifest his best aspects, what’s the point of pogoing in the first place?
I’m betting on a dark horse: none other than the 28-year-old wily veteran Colt Fake. Granted, Colt looks like the guy you don’t want at the party but, in fairness, he looks like the guy who doesn’t want to come to the party because he’s in his room at his parents’ house, playing online video games with kids twenty years his junior. Colt’s bio indicates he is known as “Mr. Realest,” and is an ex pro “BMX athlete-turned-pogoer.” This specimen has worked up a “hard-hitting approach” that “creates a jumping style all his own.” His bio goes on to tell me Fake is “fearless” and has “never lost a staring contest.”
Now, that is impressive.
Fake is my guy.
I make another mental note: to call my bookie and see if the line’s set for Pogopalooza 2021. I need to put some money on the Fakester.
I also need to practice staring, just in case a pro league is formed. I can be the best.
After all, I’m an athlete.
November 18, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is 6 hours, 19 minutes.
I close the box.
I go to Wal Mart to pick up a prescription. The store’s drive-up vacuum tube delivery system is out of order. There is a handwritten note taped to face of the machine: “Cant not Werk cum in.”
Once inside the store, I am but one in a multitude of cells floating in a cloudy, nutrient rich environment, part of an experiment being conducted by a malevolent immunologist. Aisles are crowded with shoppers whose idea of a suitable pandemic mask is a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans bandana worn loosely around the neck.
I have the urge to scream: “Did you dimwit fucks skip science class? Do you think you’re safe because you shot a load of Clorox along with your meth after our enlightened prez said bleach might be the remedy?”
I restrain myself, hustle to the pharmacy, and wait for my prescription as a guy with a bandana hanging around his neck coughs on the back of my head. I wait in a cloud of droplets.
I’ve got it.
It’s been a week since my Wal Mart visit and, to this point, I’m not showing any of the common symptoms. I haven’t lost my senses of taste and smell, my breathing is not labored. I’m not suffering from body aches other than those I normally experience. I don’t have a sore throat or a headache.
But, I’m host to Covid 19.
I’m asymptomatic; the effects of infection-by-Wal Mart droplets will show up in several months. I’ll have a heart attack, cough up a chunk of lung, or my dick will fall off. Maybe all of this and more. I can afford to lose the dick, since it doesn’t work all that well these days and I’m a big fan of catheters, but the heart is said to be important. A chunk of lung? Sure, but losing more than that is worthy of concern. Regardless, something bad will surely result from the illness. Like death, or a sudden-onset cheddar allergy.
I’m justifiably concerned. As a result, I keep a Covid Log, taking note of changes in habits, physical and emotional condition, sensitivity to light and sound, fear of Azerbaijanis, etc.
I understand viral infections, and how to track their progress through a community, a nation, the peoples of the planet, the shoppers at a Wal Mart. I did not skip science class. I flunked the course, but I learned the value of data and of its careful analysis.
I take my temperature every hour or so, and enter the readings in the Log in the following manner: Tuesday — 7:30 a.m., 97.5; 8:15 a.m., 97.7; 9:21 a.m., 97.3, and so on, continuing the readings and entries until just before I fall asleep at night.
I keep the thermometer on the night stand next to the bed, and take at least two readings after retiring. I have a hunch the virus waits to strike until a victim is tipping into Slumberland and is most vulnerable to an assault. There are those who claim a virus is mindless. I beg to disagree.
I sterilize the thermometer with denatured alcohol after each use. My father was a doctor and regularly reminded me and my siblings to keep our instruments in top shape, ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Kathy says this morning that she’s feeling a bit under the weather. She asks if she can use my thermometer.
As much as I love my wife, I say “no.” My routine would be interrupted should she misplace the thermometer or, perish the thought, break it. I suggest that she purchase her own thermometer, perhaps the snappy “Accurate Readings In Two Seconds” model I obtained online. The thermometer is guaranteed for six months, and its accuracy is touted in testimonials by five Taiwanese experts — one a long-term employee at an herbal remedy dispensary, the others working as dental hygienists.
After I deny her request, Kathy throws a book at me: the latest Carl Hiasson novel, hardback edition. Very light reading, incredibly heavy book.
Once I regain my bearings, I take my temperature.
I fire off a text to Wanda, my personal physician.
“I have contracted a case of Covid, no question about it. I went to Wal Mart. Enough said, eh?
“I am asymptomatic and have rigorously monitored my condition for the past week. I’ve taken my temperature every waking hour or so for the last seven days and have dutifully recorded the data in log form so that I can send the information to you for a professional examination and opinion.
“I’m sure you’ll agree with my diagnosis. You are, after all, a noted practitioner, and I am the son of a (late) respected member of your tribe.
We have much in common.
“My situation reached a tipping point at 10:09 a.m. this morning when my temperature was measured at 98.3. A reading taken approximately an hour earlier pegged the temp at 97.5. My first reading of the day, at 7:44 a.m. was 97.1. The trend is unmistakeable, and ominous.
“The writing’s on the wall, isn’t it? Don’t go easy on me, don’t soft-peddle the prognosis. I’m doomed, aren’t I? That is, without a prompt and extreme medical response.”
“Surely there is a drug cocktail that, coupled with employment of radical and as yet unannounced technology, can pull me out of this frightful spiral. The stooges at Walter Reed saved that dork Donald Trump (or so he says). For god’s sake, Wanda, I’m a fat fuck, but that Queens-bred clod makes me look like an amateur. With your help, I should have a good chance at a full recovery. I at least now and then include vegetable matter in my meals and, aside from those occasions when I suffer a transient ischemic attack or attend a kid’s birthday celebration, I avoid eating at McDonald’s.
“I’ve done research and I’ve given a bit of admittedly hurried (but intensely focused) thought to this dilemma. I need your feedback regarding a treatment regimen I think might work.
“First: Tito’s Handmade Vodka surely slows a viral invasion. How could it not? After all, it’s handmade. It might not kill off the entire horde, but it can turn the tide of the offensive, much like the British army did in its valiant effort against the Afrika Corps at the Battle of Alma Halfa. What say you to me doubling my daily intake of Tito’s miracle elixir? This will exhaust most of my monthly Social Security check, but what better use for the money? What with the pandemic travel restrictions, my planned trip to Amsterdam during peak tulip season is on hold, and my Basque tapas adventure has been postponed, so there’s no need for extra cash.
“Second: A positive attitude is a potent ally in the fight against any disease, is it not? And what is better at boosting said positive attitude than a dark chocolate edible loaded with 4mg THC 2mg CBD, and a smidge of Rhodiola? I think one every two hours should do the trick, moodwise. Agree?
“Third: Enemas, the classic folk remedy. Two per day ought to be enough, wouldn’t you think? What are your recommendations regarding additives? I imagine coffee would counteract the edibles, and I’ve never been a fan of wheat grass. Suggestions? A peyote slurry? Ayahuasca?
“Fourth: Application of a poultice on the chest just before bedtime.
I read a fascinating article (though clumsily translated, with few verbs) on a site devoted to traditional Armenian medicine. The author swears that everything she recommends can be verified by indigenous healers, given you can communicate in Eastern Armenian. The poultice contains the feces of the Mouflon, one kilo to be precise, into which is introduced the pulverized seeds of Khorosan wheat and the freshly pressed juice of ripe Vosehat grapes. I intend to zip to Amazon later today in order to acquire these ingredients. Wise idea, eh? Can I borrow your mortar and pestle?
“So, to skip to the chase: what type of little-known, advanced treatment can you bring to the process? Something to tip the scales in dramatic fashion. I’m thinking a lengthy course of Ketamine treatments, one per day, max dosage. Please arrange ASAP.
“I am including the latest triple-spaced version of my Covid Log. I have no doubt that you’ll appreciate its clarity as well as the readability afforded by the 20 pt. sans serif Proxima Nova font. I know you’ll want to examine the data and ponder the subtle patterns that only a med school grad can discern before you create a unique mix of procedure and products certain to help me through this crisis. (Do you need a reminder forwarded regarding the Ketamine treatments?)
“Get back to me, stat! I need to figure out how much Mouflon shit to order. This is going to be a tricky venture, since I’ve learned that the Mouflon herders have no access to refrigerated or insulated containers, and I will have to arrange for three-day shipping. From what I’ve read, Mouflan droppings are profoundly disgusting when first deposited. After more than three days in a cardboard box … well, anything is better than dying at Restful Acres, a ventilator rammed down my airway, waiting out my last moments in double room with a fellow inmate who tells the same Vietnam war story again and again and again, leaps from his bed in the middle of the night screaming ‘Incoming, incoming” then staggers to the hallway, there to be brutalized by a trio of bored and burly attendants.
“So, make haste.
“I am, as always, inspired by your professionalism and your concern for my health,
I receive a text from Wanda four days later.
“Why do you send me this crap? One crisis after another, a near-death experience every couple of weeks. Will this ever end? What was it last week? Killer mold in your homemade sauerkraut? Deep Vein Thrombosis? West Nile Disease?
“Well, you are going to die at some time in the future, no question about it. But your life will not end because of Covid — not unless you go to Wal Mart again.
“I realize it’s difficult for you to understand, but I have patients with real problems, a couple of them with Covid. The real thing! Do not send me any more logbooks detailing the results of your obsessive temperature-taking and, whatever you do, don’t show up at my office in your bathrobe, like you did last month. Two of the workers at the reception desk resigned after you demanded they inspect your prostatectomy scar.
“I didn’t read your log; I don’t need to read it. I am well aware of your condition, hypochondria aside. You are 74 fucking years old! Don’t take all those extra edibles, you do too much of this stuff as is. Don’t drink more than you already do, and do not — I repeat, do not! — send me samples of animal feces and the juice of strange grapes.
“Incidentally, it’s time to schedule a CAT scan and an MRI so we can monitor that cancer of yours. You remember the cancer, don’t you? The real disease you have? We need to find out where it has set up shop. And no poultice is going to help.”
“Hope all is otherwise well with you. Now, leave me alone,
“P.S. I won’t lend you my mortar and pestle. And no Ketamine!”