It took until about noon before I knew it was another bad-air day. I didn’t even have to leave the house. I just got dressed, ate a late breakfast and made sure to secure my own mask, just like the airlines tell their passengers in those safety videos.
Part of the reason was the fires still burning to our north. Another part was smoke from the Bear Fire drifting up the Peninsula. Another part was the 100-acre Fallon Fire that broke out in the afternoon east of Dublin in the Tri-Valley.
That’s more than enough parts to make a whole mess of a day’s worth of breathing. Still, the mask did its job and I did what I could of mine before going home.
By mid-morning, my chest hurt when I breathed deeply. I fitfully sipped at my morning water and coffee. Dreading another day of stressful breathing, I went to the grocery store. Not even the usual store-playlist trainspotting could distract me: oh, huh, that’s Seal’s “Crazy” followed by The Beatles’ “Come Together” and a half-dozen false starts on The Emotions’ “Best Of My Love,” before settling on REM’s “Orange Crush.”
So I was pretty happy when I got the call back from the family-run chain hardware store in Jack London Square. True to their word, the owner’s son rung me just as we got to the checkout counter: their latest shipment of masks had just arrived. So we went over and I bought a box. Then I went home, read the instructions, and took their admonitions seriously enough to shave: goodbye, goatee!
Then I went to work, settled in at my desk and masked up. After several hours of breathing with reasonable levels of comfort, I ate lunch and thought about how odd it felt to wear this thing on my face. I’m not anywhere I can’t be mistaken for anyone else, I’m not hiding my identity, and I can still answer phone calls. I’m just breathing easier.
It can take a long time for a proper future to get the showing it deserves, one both highly plausible and impeccably attached to an earlier vision. Tonight, it took almost three hours. But here A and I were, spending Cinemark XD money (unicorns and all) to see how things turn out and what more is still left to learn.
I was less spooked by the new characters as doppelgangers to earlier ones than I was by the cities and the climate, and the gaps that viewers are left to fill in, the history left to infer. That leaves at least threemorevideos to finish watching, as well as whatever useful video essays come down the assembly line.
It was one of those most wonderful times of the year: the opthalmologist visit. It’s when I get to see what I’m going to look like for the next year or two or longer after picking out new frames. It’s also when I get a decent sense of how my eyes are holding up under the strain from all the tiny screens and bad lighting and poor information-consumption choices. Nice as the glasses look like they’re going to be when they’re ready in a little more than a week or so, it’s the contacts that are most exciting. I spent most of the day walking around in a trial pair and even with the left eye’s prescription seriously underpowered, my fit felt really comfortable.
After I finished work, I swung around from one side of the lake into downtown and slipped into Bar 355 to wish a musician I know happy birthday. As it turned out, a guest of honor was at the bar: a veteran bartender from previous watering holes who had moved to Hawaii but was visiting. On top of that, it felt good to see a couple of the folks I’d hit it off with at other places last year while A. was out of town, like the DJ spinning tonight who put on Toto’s “Georgy Porgy.” Places pop up and go under, but I’m glad the bar and the people have stuck around. I guess I shouldn’t make it so long between visits.
I had it for years. I’ve fallen off it hard and gotten right back up and kept going. I spent the last five months getting serious about tracking my trips. I was seeing more and more of my city. I had a way to get around that didn’t require gasoline, but balance and effort and sweat. I actually started losing weight and gaining strength. But you took it off my second-floor apartment’s porch in seconds. It was mine. It didn’t belong to you. You’ve made me feel safe where I live and less trusting of my neighbors. I hope somebody finds my bike and brings it back to me. I’m going to stop writing now before I actually say what I hope happens to you.
My favorite DJ was spinning the Police, Steely Dan, Tom Petty and a few other sublime slow jams at a bar I hadn’t officially been to in four months. Then there was a burrito, just extra carnitas, beans, rice and cheese, and a really low-hanging, tiny swollen moon on the western horizon. Eventually there was sleep.
I woke up under too many blankets. They wouldn’t stay put in one place, so I folded them and propped them up on the rolling chair in front of my desk. I drank much more water than I usually do. I was much more grateful than I usually am to live in an apartment that gets no direct sunlight after 10:30 a.m..
At the end, there was a trip to the grocery store and an extra trip around the lake just for spending an extra fifteen minutes in air-conditioned sixty-five-degree comfort, followed by a falling-through of plans and a run-through of the album I expect to spend a lot of the autumn digging.
I appreciate reporters. I still can’t believe I am one. I never feel more like one on days like today. Everyone is watching things happen and trying to make sense of things.
Some of us are cracking jokes. Some are waving notebooks around and apologizing for brushing politicians in passing. Some of us are trying to walk the line between observation and commentary. Some of us are just trying not to open their mouths until they know the shot.
Can I be trusted? Almost always. I don’t have much room to get it wrong about a dead body or a crashed car or a fire. Independently observable and occasionally natural phenomena offer their own proof. More often than not, it’s easy enough to get out of the way of people intent on arguing with reality.
The bike share station that got installed a couple of blocks away from my apartment this week is not for me.
I have a bike. I have a car too. I use the bike mostly for exercise. The car is for driving to work and back and to run errands. Most of the time it’s parked in the space below my apartment. When I work, I park it in the next block or two over since the bike share station that arrived two weeks ago took out the parking outside the newsroom.
None of this should be skin off my nose, given that the newsroom is moving a mile or so away next month from our ground-floor former bank across the street from a Sears-turned-Uber-rehab site to a third-floor building suite with a lakeside view and even scarcer streetside parking (and a bike share station steps away).
As it turns out, I can walk to the new newsroom. I’ll still have to drive there in case I’m asked to go out to cover some stories in person. But it feels weird, and I feel weird about it feeling weird. It’s just more change, steady, inexorable and most likely uncomfortable.
The bikes are here. I didn’t choose them. They spook me because they’re not meant for me, not even if the mini-billboard next to them features a more handsome and helmet-less demographic doppelgänger. Maybe there’s a market, and the people who can actually afford the newer apartment rents or latest mortgage payments will take to them. It’s not like I have a lawn I can tell it to get off, right?
Who thinks about how a post-carbon future might look until it lands on the edge of their block and says there’s an app for that?
We could’ve gone and visited the city of a thousand planets, but I don’t think either of us has gotten over paying good money a couple of years ago to see “Lucy.” Plus, my schedule change earlier this year made a matinee easier for both of us, and we figured we’d support the Grand Lake Theater. So we went and were amused by the cousins on-screen and annoyed by our brothers off-screen who talked through trailers and couldn’t keep pace with the plot’s advances.
Fortunately, there weren’t any bad actors in front of us. Andy Serkis will pull down awards somewhere if there’s any justice, and so may Woody Harrellson. But the ones sitting a few rows behind us could’ve used a strong dose of the simian flu, or whatever variant of disease wound up playing a pivotal role in this version of the film. Burroughs said that language is a virus. He wasn’t wrong about that.