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Numb and Number
If you’re like me, you find it easy to make an emotional connection with a letter. They do mirror our words and thoughts, after all — almost as if they were a part of us. If one of them is going through a rough patch, we automatically feel their pain. They are almost living things — like beloved family pets.

Take the letter Q, for instance. You would have to be pretty cold inside not to feel some kind of compassion for this hapless glyph. For starters, it can hardly go anywhere without U tagging along. It’s not as if U needs the work; it’s a vowel, for gosh sake. But there it is, crowding into the picture almost every time Q gets a chance to shine. And on the rare occasion when Q does appear on its own, it is almost always as a pathetic attempt by our alphabet to mimic a sound from another, foreign, set of letters — like the Hebrew letter qoph. Or qajaq, a Scrabble word with no meaning at all. Sad.

It is also a bit of an afterthought as a letter, looking, as it does, like an O that has left its pants unzipped. It all seems so unfair. But at least Q is a letter. In its alphabet-universe there are only 26 such characters. Even Q can think of itself as something special is such elite company.

When it comes to integers, though, it is quite a different matter. There are an infinite number of numbers, so no one would blame you if you felt nothing at all for any one of them and whatever tough circumstances they might find themselves in. Having feelings for a number is less like caring about an old and beloved dog approaching its last days and more like sympathizing with your laptop when it crashes. It’s that hard to relate to a number.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Recently, I have been experiencing profound surges of empathy for 2020.

Think of 2020 before the year began. It held a position of representing almost unparalleled excellence as a measure of eyesight. 20/20 vision is not perfect, but it is the ideal level of visual acuity to which we all aspire. To many of us, 20/20 is an unattainable goal even with corrective lenses or surgery. How many numerals have a credit like that on their resumes?

Apart from that association, 2020 was also on its way to an achievement of numerical niftyness that would have been rare indeed among other dates on the calendar. It would have gone into the books along with 1010 and (someday) 3030. The coolness of such dates easily outstrips years like 1818 and 1919 or any other every-101-years occurrences.

All of that, of course, came before the actual transpiration of the year 2020. You don’t need me to tell you what it’s been like, but I will anyway: COVID, job loss, eviction, schools under threat…okay, I’m getting tired of it already. Except one last thing: corrupt and uncaring governance. Oh yeah, and now a giant, killer heat wave in the West, which has now been followed by the historically awful and destructive fires currently afflicting the entire Pacific Coast of America.

Whatever 2020 might have had going for it on January 1, it’s all gone now. In my opinion, it is in the running for the worst year ever, and maybe even the worst number ever. That is a long fall for any symbolic character. There is only one thing that could make it worse.

Please, don’t forget to vote.
Living in an Evacuum
Full disclosure: I am an evacuee. That’s my official excuse for failing to update timeagan.com for the last few weeks. Yes, the wildfires that have ravaged large areas of California have driven me from my country home.

I’m spite of that, I will confess that it is not much of an excuse. My house is still standing, after all, and so am I. Furthermore, I was not among the heroes who stayed behind to fight the fire and save their neighbors’ homes. I hightailed it off the mountain as soon as I got the call.

My only real excuse is that I have been unable to return to my computer which is the normal transmission point for these updates. The fact that you are now reading this puts the lie to that rationalization.

Even so, I am in no mood to apologize. On the other hand, I can’t complain, either. My dislocation has been a colossal pain in the ass, but a mere flea bite compared to what some of my fellow Bonny Dooners are going through.

I could keep my mouth shut, I suppose, but then there would be no Eaganblog at all. We can’t have that. I will keep it short, though, and just mention a small news tidbit that gave me some joy this week.

Perhaps you saw it, too. The pro-Trump boat parade down at Lake Travis just north of Austin, Texas? Five of the motorized pleasure craft sank, two of them all the way to the bottom. The lake is a reservoir, so there were no tricky tides to contend with. It was a sunny, windless day — great for power boating and summer fun. The happy event, however, began to generate panicked distress calls almost as soon as it began, and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and local firefighters were forced to spend much of the afternoon hauling waterlogged MAGAheads out of the drink.

None were killed, which makes the story even better. I can enjoy my schadenfreude absolutely guilt-free. What’s more, I am allowed to ponder the metaphorical beauty of this tale without a hint of mean-spiritedness. The swampings suffered by these Trump enthusiasts came as a result of the amalgamated backwash from their own propellers. There was no evidence of foul play by the Deep State, or George Soros, or any other shadowy, antifa-loving forces. They were done in solely by their conjoined (let’s just say it, shall we?) stupidity.

Many of the boats that took on water featured large flags with pro-Trump slogans. One called to “Make liberals cry again.” I can’t say that this story made me cry, but I did mist up a little at the sight of these boneheads stepping in, and slipping on, their own do-do.

See you next week.
Freenosers
I’ve been getting some strong urges recently. I try to ignore them, but it’s hard. Judging from the citizen-on-citizen confrontations I’ve been reading about, I’m not the only one who wants to be a vigilante.

I‘ve mostly resisted the temptation so far. I did mention to one woman not wearing her mask in the store that it was my hope not to die in the plague. She was right behind me in line, so to illustrate my point, I left my goods on the counter and left the store empty-handed. Judging from the glassy look on her face, I doubt that my message got through.

Even more irritating to me than such refusals to wear a mask, however, is the propensity of some to wear it wrong. And by wrong, I don’t mean wearing a white mask after Labor Day (although I do strongly advise against such a fashion blunder). No, I am talking about masks that are intentionally worn to cover the mouth but not the nose. It seems that the people who wear their masks this way are thinking that they are in compliance with the rule. They are not.

I guess these people have chosen to let their beaks hang out like that because it’s easier for them to breathe. That is no doubt true. It’s so easy, in fact, that they are doing all their breathing through their noses — and so spewing just as many globules into the air as if they weren’t wearing masks at all. Worse, since these freenosers believe they are being good citizens, they feel free to ignore social distancing guidelines. Not only are they spewing, then, but they’re doing it right next to you.

I am not sure what to do about freenosers. I get that strong vigilante impulse every time I see one. They are, I think, an even bigger menace than their maskless cousins. But then I stop. For one thing, I don’t like control freaks and I want to avoid becoming one if I can. For another, the vigilante path is not without its dangers. Although publicly calling someone on their inappropriate behavior is not exactly a citizen’s arrest, it carries with it the possibility that the perpetrator may not take kindly to being told what to do.

Just a couple of days ago, I saw a story about some old guy in Spokane, Washington who scolded a women about her failure to wear a mask. She did not argue, but she did advise her misanthrope boyfriend of the incident. Gramps ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw. When I had my moment with the woman in the store, her husband was present. Apparently, he did not suffer from the same stupid-with-a-mean-streak affliction as the Spokane guy. Lucky for me.

Bottom line, I do not want to go to the hospital either with a broken jaw or a case of COVID-19. I guess I’ll have to stay home all the time. Either that, or I can start hanging out with a mob of my fellow vigilantes — just for protection. At a proper social distance, of course.
COVID Kitty
I want to make clear that I never promised that I wouldn’t blog about my cat. Even after this essay is released into the wild, I will not vow that I’ll never do another. That said, I know that cat-blogging is sometimes seen as a sad reflection on one’s seriousness as a social commentator.

I have decided to risk the judgment of the ages. We have a new kitten, and he is adorable. There was no temptation to name him Covid, though that might have been appropriate. We have since learned that COVID kitties are a thing, along with corona pups and other pandemic pets. If you were very near to a decision about getting a pet, this shutdown, shelter-in-place, socially distant world we now live in has probably nudged you (as it did us) to finally make the commitment.

We are currently in the prime pet enjoyment phase of our relationship. As with most animals, the earliest stage of life is the cutest. Besides the appeal of big-eyed, vulnerable smallness, there are also the wild scamperings, the goofy acrobatics, and the sudden bursts of exuberance. Just the thing for bored, slightly morose humans who aren’t going anyplace anytime soon.

Perhaps most important, though, is the addition of another spirit to the household. Even though he doesn’t enjoy quite the same standing as the other beings around here, he does offer a separate presence and a distinct point of view. He is, moreover, a life form we can touch and interact with in what used to be the most ordinary ways. Such opportunities are rare enough these days of separation from friends and family,

I will say, then, that I endorse the concept of the Covid Kitty and his ilk. He knows nothing of the virus, or of the convulsions of our economy, or of the damage inflicted on our society by an awful leader. He is just a normal cat whose life is not touched by any of that. Perhaps that is his greatest asset as a housemate. In this time of turmoil and uncertainty, he is the normal one. It is good to know that such a state still exists in this world. It is good to witness it every day and to watch it grow and thrive. Someday, we hope to join him there.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon