I've discovered the source of yesterday's misery. It was my neighborhood's water supply. They have been digging trenches for days, placing tubing to carry the fiber optic cables and power lines that the city is burying. It has made a mess of things. The night before I got sick, in an effort to curb my insatiable alcohol intake, I was making tea in the wonderful teapot that Ili had bought for me so that I would drink more healthy stuff. You just put the water in and hit a button that says"green tea" or "herbal tea" or "black tea" or "coffee" and the thing brings the water to the correct temperature in a flash. It is one of those magnetic induction things, whatever they are called. It was one of the nicest presents she ever bought me. So that evening, I was sucking down tea made with water heated to below boiling. I had a full glass of water before bed, as always, with Emergen-C vitamin powder. Twice during the night, I got up and drank a glass of water. I had a big pot of coffee made with water from the tap. In the morning, my stomach sounded like the trombone section of the orchestra warming up. My entire being felt off. I couldn't concentrate to write. I was wondering if I had had a minor stroke. It has been on my mind because a fellow I worked with, a fellow straw-boss, a thin, fit son of a bitch younger than myself, just did.
I decided to go to the gym and try to work it out after ten or twenty trips to the bathroom. I was dizzy and out of it, but I went. I didn't have much in my tank when I got there, though, and largely I simply went through the motions sometimes fearing I'd soil myself in public.
When I got home from the gym, I pulled the glass blender tank and its lid out of the dishwasher I had run the night before. Milk, protein powder, peanut butter, yogurt, and a bunch of ice from the freezer. Well. . . of course from the freezer. I put it in a cup I had pulled from the dishwasher, too.
I sat down at the computer to check my messages and saw a notice that a package had been delivered. It would be on my front stoop. I hardly ever use that door as I come and go through the kitchen door most of the time. I had seen a flyer stuck in the handle of my front door knob the day before when I walked to the garage, but paid no attention to it thinking it was an advertisement of some sort. When I opened the door to get my package, pulled it from the door and looked at it. It was a boil water notice from the city.
Oh, yea. . . I had brushed my teeth several times, too. The mystery was solved, of course. It wasn't the arugula salad that did me in nor my store bought smoked chicken. It was the city that had made me sick. What the fuck! This is how you alert people to a potential health hazard? You stick a rolled up piece of paper on a door? You don't send text messages? You don't put up big red signs in the street? This, I knew, was ridiculous. I texted friends to let them know. I got back all sorts of horror reports on antibiotic resistant bacteria that had been detected. I got messages about shinghella.
Knowing I was screwed, I showered and went bed.
I, of course, did not go to my mother's that afternoon. I was still feeling lousy and thought a Campari and soda might help. I mean, what the hell. I took it to the deck for some air. A couple from down the street walked by. They asked me if I had water. I asked them if that little rolled up piece of paper was the only way we'd been notified. They said yes. I told them my tale of woe. They, like everyone else, said I should go to a doctor and get antibiotics. I wanted to hold up my Campari and rattle it for them. Then I remembered--oh, shit--I had used the ice in the freezer. Again. . . of course the freezer.
When the drink was done, I got into my car and drove to the grocery store. I would need to buy water. I bought big gallon jugs. And a loaf of sourdough French bread. And some Amy's organic vegetarian gluten free enchiladas. Just in case. I didn't want to eat much, but I thought I should eat something. I poured some good olive oil into a ramekin, added a touch of Balsamic vinegar, some chopped garlic, and a dash of Kosher salt. I broke some bread and poured a glass of cabernet. That would be dinner. And it was until I microwaved the enchiladas.
I turned on t.v. I decided to watch "All's Quiet on the Western Front" since it is Women's History Month. Sorry. I can be a comedic asshole sometimes.
Earlier, at the gym, my Tennessee boyfriend had come back from building his twelve A-framed houses on a hillside parcel of land in front of a low mountain in the Cherokee National Forest that he intends to rent as vacation homes. We chatted for a long time after we walked out to the parking lot together. He often brings up reading, writing, and education in general. He was a college athlete and likes to refer to himself as a knuckle dragger with ADHD who doesn't read and can't write. His wife is super smart, he says, and so is his son who is in college. I told him about the article I just read that predicted the end of English as a major. In the last ten years, the number of students majoring in it has been halved, and it wasn't that large to begin with. Something like 3% of graduates are English majors.
"What can you do with a degree in English?" he asked.
"In the beginning, universities were for the wealthy elite. It was like finishing school at a higher level. They didn't go there to make money. They already had money. They went to be enlightened. You didn't want to be the dunce of an elite, well-bred family, of course. Now you can't throw a rock without hitting some sort of college. Kids from poor families aren't going to gain enlightenment. They want to get good jobs. They major on 'money.' Business schools and computer colleges are booming. What can you do with a degree in English? The same thing you do with a degree in anthropology, political science, zoology, sociology, music. Only 20% of college graduates ever get a single job in their field. Zoologist don't make any money. Maybe a chemist. College wasn't supposed to be vocational training, but that is what it has become."
My buddy got into his expensive car and drove off to collect money from the many buildings that he owns. That wasn't what he learned to do in college.
All the money boys at the gym are developers of one kind or another. None of them have degrees in "Developing." Half of them have no degrees at all. They have "licenses" though.
I need a license.
Watching "All's Quiet," I thought about our conversation. In all likelihood, most people would have no historical connection to the movie. They don't have a recollection of what the social milieu was before the war, what the war was like, what it cost, nor what society was like afterwards. That is because they don't read. We have, at best, a trained rather than an educated society. But that is no different than it ever was. The film, however, accurately portrayed the soldier's misery. WWI was, in most ways, the most brutal war. There was enough technology to allow mass destruction, but not enough to counter it. It was the first time you could bomb people from afar and from the air. It was the first time for chemical warfare. But communications were poor and there were no good ways to get supplies to the troops. They slept wet in the freezing. They drank bad water, worse than I had drunk, and had bellies far, far worse. They hardly slept and fought on as sleepless zombies. More soldiers died of diseases than from bombs and bullets. The food, when they had any, was rotten. The conditions for those soldiers are unimaginable, even if you had read much about it and had drunk neighborhood water that should have been boiled.
The other thing the movie brought to mind was the largely American invention of "Whiteness." Europe was not filled with White Brotherhood any more than Africa thought of itself as "Black" people. Those were later inventions. Europe, like Africa, was tribal. The Germans looked down upon the French and vice versa. Nords were not in favor of Anglos. Hell, the Swedes hated people from Norway. After the war, though, people in America saw themselves as "White." Unless they were "Black. There is a wonderful book called "Working White" that explains how people--Jews, Irish, Slavs, Italians--once considered outsiders and minorities, were able to "work themselves white." Only Blacks have never been allowed in. Again, largely an American convention.
Too much reading, too much information. People, by and large, will prefer to watch Marvel Universe Superhero movies. That is the world they prefer to know. They love vampires and sci-fi. Trump knows that. He has recently promised people they will have those flying cars we all desire (link).
I'm feeling fine this morning, I think, though it is weird to wash dishes in a pan of water I have boiled. It is a good reminder of how truly easy life has become. I will work in the yard today, a big chore for me, but after watching "All's Quiet," I think I can man up a bit.
"Man up." That is a cancelled phrase, I'm sure.
"Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Notes: Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” Owen's death is especially tragic as the armistace was declared just one week after his death resulting in the end of WWI