One of my favorite songs ever – written by Michael Peter Smith – depicting an elderly couple who are living with the infirmities that come with aging.
We have the flu. I don’t know if this particular strain has an official name, but if it does, it must be something like Martian Death Flu. You may have had it yourself. The main symptom is that you wish you had another setting on your electric blanket, up past “HIGH,” that said: “ELECTROCUTION.”
Another symptom is that you cease brushing your teeth because (a) your teeth hurt and (b) you lack the strength. Midway through the brushing process, you’d have to lie down in front of the sink to rest for a couple of hours, and rivulets of toothpaste foam would dribble sideways out of your mouth, eventually hardening into crusty little toothpaste stalagmites that would bond your head permanently to the bathroom floor, which is where the police would find you. You know the kind of flu I’m talking about.
I spend a lot of time lying very still and thinking flu-related thoughts. One insight I have had is that all this time scientists have been telling us the truth: Air really is made up of tiny objects called “molecules.” I know this because I can feel them banging against my body. There are billions and billions and billions of them, but if I concentrate, I can detect each one individually, striking my body, especially my eyeballs, at speeds upwards of a hundred thousand miles per hour. If I try to escape by pulling the blanket over my face, they attack my hair, which has become almost as sensitive as my teeth.
There has been a mound of blankets on my wife’s side of the bed for several days now, absolutely motionless except that it makes occasional efforts to spit into a tissue. I think it might be my wife, but the only way to tell for sure would be to prod it, which I wouldn’t do even if I had the strength, because if it turned out that it was my wife, and she were alive, and I prodded her, it would kill her.
Me, I am leading a more active life-style. Three or four times a day, I attempt to crawl to the bathroom. Unfortunately this is a distance of nearly 15 feet, with a great many air molecules en route, so at about the halfway point I usually decide to stop and get myself into the fetal position and hope for nuclear war. Instead, I get Earnest. Earnest is our dog. She senses instantly that something is wrong, and guided by that timeless and unerring nurturing instinct that all female dogs have, she tries to lick my ears off.
For my son, Robert, this is proving to be the high point of his entire life to date. He has had his pajamas on for two, maybe three days now. He has a sense of joyful independence a five-year-old child gets when he suddenly realizes that he could be operating an acetylene torch in the coat closet and neither parent would have the strength to object. He has been foraging for his own food, which means his diet consists entirely of “food” substances that are advertised only on Saturday morning cartoon shows; substances that are the color of jukebox lights and that, for legal reasons, have their names spelled wrong, as in New Creemy Chock-’n’-Cheez Lumps o’ Froot (“part of this complete breakfast”).
Crawling around, my face inches from the carpet, I sometimes encounter traces of colorful wrappers that Robert has torn from these substances and dropped on the floor, where Earnest, always on patrol, has found them and chewed them into spit-covered wads. I am reassured by this. It means they are both eating.
The Martian Death Flu has not been an entirely bad thing. Since I cannot work, or move, or think, I have been able to spend more Quality Time with Robert, to come up with creative learning activities that we can enjoy and share together. Today, for example, I taught him, as my father had taught me, how to make an embarrassing noise with your hands. Then we shot rubber bands at the contestants on “Divorce Court.” Then, just in case some parts of our brains were still alive, we watched professional bowling. Here’s what televised professional bowling sounds like when you have the flu:
PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN: He left the 10-pin, Bob.
COLOR COMMENTATOR: Yes, Bill. He failed to knock it down.
PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN: It’s still standing up.
COLOR COMMENTATOR: Yes. Now he must try to knock it down.
PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN: You mean the 10-pin, Bob?
The day just flew by. Soon it was 3:30 P.m., time to crawl back through the air molecules to the bedroom, check on my wife or whoever that is, and turn in for the night.
Earnest was waiting about halfway down the hall.
“Look at this,” the police will say when they find me. “His ears are missing.”
(Dave Barry is a syndicated columnist who has been a source of mirth for me for many years. Here is his take on ‘Death Flu’. I am posting it here for posterity, because each time I go look for it, it gets harder to find. Note to Dave: This gets shared with folks who are currently experiencing something similar to this, and sure could use even the tiniest smirk right now. Y’know – that whole solidarity thing.)
There’s been a lot in the news lately about fake news, exaggerated issues, inaccuracy in the media – all sorts of stuff that points to the fact that there is a lot of misinformation floating around, and plenty of people who simply accept that misinformation at face value.
It happens on all sides, and we have to be smart about not accepting it.
Today I received the following missive from an organization called ‘Democracy for America’
Before there was Donald Trump, there was Paul LePage.
Maine's Tea Party governor has a trail a mile long of saying and doing horrible, bigoted things -- and, so far, he's getting away with it.
And now -- with Donald Trump's election -- LePage has been emboldened.
On Election Day, Maine voters approved an increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour, a major step forward in the fight against income inequality. But LePage told his Department of Labor not to enforce the new $12 minimum wage law.
Defying the voters of his state, LePage won't punish employers who won't comply. If the government doesn't enforce the minimum wage, employers will simply not pay workers what they've earned. He's even calling the initiative a "recommendation" -- which, under the Maine constitution, it isn't. It's law that must be enforced to benefit workers.
This is outrageous. This is lawlessness. And it's grounds for impeachment. LePage was nearly impeached twice in 2016 -- but legislators let him off the hook. Until they act, LePage will continue to say and do terrible things.
»(link to petition)It's time for Democrats everywhere to stand up to right-wing extremists -- from Donald Trump to Paul LePage. Sign the petition and tell Maine legislators: Impeach Gov. LePage!(/link to petition)«
This isn't the first time LePage has nearly been impeached. In January 2016, several Maine legislators called for impeachment when LePage was found to have used state money to intimidate his political opponents. Unfortunately, the legislature voted against impeachment.
In August 2016, LePage once again made racist, bigoted statements about people of color. When a state legislator criticized him for it, LePage called the legislator and left a threatening voicemail. Democrats demanded his resignation, and LePage said he was considering it. But legislators didn't impeach him, wouldn't even censure him, and LePage stayed in office.
The lesson is clear: when someone in a position of power repeatedly abuses that power, and legislators refuse to act, that person's behavior and abuses will only grow worse.
Paul LePage should have been impeached a long time ago. His latest offense -- refusal to enforce the laws of the state and undermining a higher minimum wage -- is clear grounds for impeachment.
If legislators don't act now, LePage will feel he's above the law and can act however he wishes -- just like Donald Trump.
Sign the petition: Tell Maine legislators to impeach Gov. Paul LePage now.
Thank you for standing up for workers against Paul LePage -- and striking a blow against Donald Trump and Trumpism.
Robert Cruickshank, Senior Campaign Manager
Democracy for America
In reality, a quick trip via Google to the maine.gov web site reveals that the “Labor Department will take temporary non-enforcement position on tip credit and minimum overtime-exempt salary pending legislative or federal action”, and not begin enforcing an increase for restaurant workers and other ‘tipped’ employees until Jan 31, rather than Jan. 7 – a delay of three weeks. It has zero affect on folks who can expect an increase to $12/hour.
Maine.gov press release »
A quick trip – also via Google – finds this Boston Globe article that states the reason – however cockamamie – and that folks affected will be eligible for retroactive reimbursement.
Boston Globe article »
So here’s the thing – this is akin to running into a crowded theater screaming ‘Fire!’ because someone lit a match in the lobby. That’s all. Shame on Democracy for America. For that matter, shame on Fox News, Daily Kos, Breitbart, CNN and the whole lot of ’em for doing the same damn thing every day.
Folks need to settle down and do some fact checking. Plain and simple. Do not take someone else’s word for something – take three minutes and do a little research before letting your knickers burst into flame. Seriously these organizations are simply fanning the flames in order to get you to send them money. Do some fact checking and let your cooler head prevail. It will ultimately save you money *and* frustration. 😉
By the way – here is my response to Robert at Democracy for America:
Hello Robert and Democracy for America,
Actually, your letter is misleading. LePage has said that the Maine DoL will not begin enforcing the the minimum wage increase for tipped folks (restaurant workers, etc) from $3.75 to $5.00 until Jam. 31, three weeks after the mandated effective date of Jan 7, and has no affect on the rest of the workforce, who will still see $12/hour starting Jan 7.
While this is indeed egregious, your exaggeration of fact has seriously tarnished your credibility, at least for me.
Please remove me from your mailing list.
Take Your Shirts Off! Let’s Go!!!!
Hey kids – Sojourn of Sparrows will be rocking it out at The Bathtub Gin with our good friends The Goodnight Brothers Band on Friday, May 20! Come on out and heckle – and get ready to make some racket!