Wednesday, March 25, 2020


This morning when I went out to the front steps for a smoke, there were crows overhead. The poor birds are not taking this social isolation thing too well. Normally they feast on slices of stale pizza and bits of discarded fast food left on the street overnight by the drunken twenty-somethings from Polk Street, these days they must forage, which depresses them.

So to every one working at restaurants that are still open, please consider leaving your garbage bins unlocked; the crows will thank you. As will the coyotes which are finally returning to urban environments at night.
And the raccoons.

Things aren't normal anymore.

"Gram'pa Thingpuckey", kids will say to me, "how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?" And the short answer to that question is that I don't. When you have a certain level of OCD, aren't really social, and because you're somewhere on the spectrum there are counting routines, mental lists, things that cannot be done until other things are done, and urges to straighten corners, place stuff at precise ninety degree angles, and sometimes make sounds that originated in Bloom County ("oop ack"), as well as talk back to stuffed creatures, sanity is a very malleable concept even at the best of times.

By the time I've finished saying that, the little blighters will have run off. They don't have much of an attention span, darn it, and there was something blinky over there.

Maybe they weren't even anywhere near me.

There are daily routines that must be done precisely right.

1. Two cups of coffee, several cups of tea.
2. Deal with the garbage before the first pipe.
3. Argue with a stuffed animal.
4. Select a pipe, fill it properly, light it.
5. Read the news and the covid count.
6. Think bad thoughts about politicians.
7. Consider cheese.

8. Attend to reading material: this includes texts that work the mind, as well as stuff that inspires a mood.
9. The necessary actions in 'that' room: shave and shower so that I look decent. This is a matter of self-respect.
10. Walkies. Keeps the joints limber and the circulation going.
11. Clean something. Not everything.
12. Interact with a few people (nowadays via the internet).
13. Fill a saucepan with water, add half a dozen dried zizphus (棗 'jou') and some slices of ginger. I use both red ziziphus (紅棗,雞心棗 'hong jou','gai sam jou') and black ziziphus (黑棗 'hak jou'). This simmering concoction will disguise the fact that I have been smoking my pipes inside, so that when my apartment mate returns at the end of the day I can act totally innocent. Which is very important! It tastes good, as well as being mildly healthy.

14. Tea. Either Pu Er ( 普洱茶 'pou nei chaa') or black tea. Strong.
Add milk and sugar as required.
15. Cook something with curry and chilies. Same functions as the ziziphus and ginger decoction.
16. Do mathematics in my head.
17. Practice or study calligraphy; like the math, it's mental exercise.
18. More reading material.
19. More pipe smoking.
20. Consider cheese.

21. Make lists.
22. Straighten out and unfold corners of paper things.
23. Inspect right angles.

24. Carefully attend to the rims of pipes with a slightly damp tissue, and, if they have a smooth finish, touch them up very lightly with micro-fibre pads. Whoever gets my briars when I die will have clean pipes with crisp lines!

"Gram'pa Thingpuckey, how do you keep your sanity when everything around you is collapsing?"

I don't. There was no sanity to begin with.
Don't let it worry you, kid.
Count stuf.

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