Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

New Rules for NYC – Courtesy of the Yankees & Mets $$

In the most expected outcome for us stalwart cynics, the New York Yankees and Mets used their hefty financial clout to bypass health mandates for vaccinated workers in New York City, something not available to the over 1,400 workers sacked due to their refusal to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated millionaire baseball players can now ply their trade come this week for opening day as people who make something in the ballpark (pun intended) of $30,000 to $60,000 a year stay unemployed by the same city. In a world filled with examples why things ain’t fair, this one is a doozy. Especially for those who believe, as we do here, that rules for the rich and famous – also massive corporations like Major League Baseball teams – do not apply to the rest of us.

This was the week of the infamous Slap Heard Round the World, which I was tempted to write about – saw it live and found it hard to fathom even after watching uncensored versions of movie star Will Smith assaulting comedian Chris Rock on live TV – but then I thought, if two men in their fifties can’t control their school-yard level teasing and vengeance, why should I comment? Shit, this is a space written weekly by a man in his fifties who challenged a sitting U.S. congressman to a fist fight ( in print. Cops were involved. Campaigns were upset ( . It was a merry time of misrule, but I had enough clout to get away with it ( , so I am the problem as much as the solution.

I am not saying I am rich (I am not, by Smith, Rock, or baseball standards for sure) nor famous, but if you have the First Amendment and the guise of satire behind you, there is some rope provided columnists that you might not have if you are not a member of the Fourth Estate and threaten to pummel politicians with their phone. Just ask the suckers on their way to jail for January 6.

Speaking of which, consider the ongoing mess that is Donald J. Trump, who has committed more crimes than any politician in our lifetimes, and that’s before he became president of the United States. Can’t seem to get an indictment on this guy. More investigations. Sure. Investigations. Ha! We understand that means – rich and famous people don’t get busted for shit that would put us in jail for years. That’s how it goes around here (Cue “God Bless America” while throwing up) The Academy Awards Committee (whatever the fuck that is) is investigating an assault every human has seen a dozen times all over the planet. What is there to investigate? They should have ushered Smith out of the building into a police car. Just like they should have impeached and removed that thug Trump when he was in office and then ushered him into a police car. You know that would have happened to 99.9 percent of us. But that’s not how the world works.

What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it.

Back to the Yankees and the Mets, who convinced the city of New York, one of the most hardcore purveyors of Covid-19 rules in the United States (I need to show a Vax card to get a slice of pizza), to toss its stringent restrictions so unvaccinated players can make that money. It doesn’t hurt that many of them are top stars. The Yankees best player, Aaron Judge is allegedly not vaccinated and didn’t plan to be, and as many as ten Mets, including the games’ best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, are also reported to not be vaccinated. Keeping them from filling the stands and bloating the TV and radio ratings won’t do for multi-million-dollar entertainers. So, the Mets new billionaire owner, Steve Cohen, who incidentally donated (invested, it turns out) $1.5 million to the current mayor’s 2021 campaign, got on the horn and made some inquiries. So did Yankees President Randy Levine, esq. (the key to that prior sentence is esquire), running interference for billionaire son of George Steinbrenner and current CEO of the Yanks, Hal. They both worked Eric Adams like a hand puppet for weeks to get this new ruling.

To bury the lede, Mayor Adams held a press conference to lift health restrictions for all of NYC’s “entertainers” everywhere (good cover to lump in mimes and buskers with MLB power) at the N.Y. Mets’ Citi Field. No more blatant spit in the face of health concerns and the ignoring of the 1,400 city workers could have been conjured by a Hollywood PR firm that frantically tries to paint Will Smith’s brutish behavior as a noble attempt to protect his wife, his race, and his profession’s honor by acting like a jabbering ass-hat.

I jest in place of rage. This is a fucking travesty. What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it. Cash. Not science. Not health. Not the greater good for the community or the city. Nothing. This is as craven a cash grab as can be displayed in broad daylight. (Cue “Money Makes the World Go Round” while you go fuck yourself).

And let’s face it, who cares about sanitation workers, firemen, cops, and the rest of the city’s civil workers when we can see baseball? I mean, I don’t live in NYC, and I am barely part of the human race, much less a functioning citizen of this long-line of bullshit country, so if I can see my Yanks and my friends can see their Mets, then I guess all is good. But is it, really? Is it more of the hold-your-nose kind of thing we’re doing with the evils of the NFL or college sports and the moral sinkhole that is the Olympics? Or the NBA, for that matter, as the Brooklyn Nets used several lobbyists at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars harassing the mayor’s office for months to get their flat-earth jackass point guard, Kyrie Irving back in business.

So, the answers are: Yes, all is good, and: No, hardly anyone one cares. I haven’t seen much outrage for this than usual. I think maybe a boycott might be in order for those who move with the whims of the almighty dollar, but, alas, I only watch the Yankees now. That is what is left of my interest in sports. So, fuck it. If this is how NYC and Mayor Adams wants to play this, I shan’t argue. Free market capitalism at its best.

When nurses ask me why people playing a child’s game make fifty time what they do, I point to the utter, sad, fucking horsecrap hypocrisy of this. Because that’s what we do here, make it clear we are all full of steaming shit. So we can go back to watching the curveball snap and someone go yard. Let us all bask in its obvious disregard for sanity, comportment, morality, and reason.

And play ball!

Or… ahem … pay ball!

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

How Putin’s Folly in Ukraine is Systematically Destroying Russia

Things are actually going worse than I predicted two weeks ago (PUTIN’S FANCY CLUSTERFUCK) when this ill-conceived and badly figured military invasion of Ukraine began for Russia. Vladimir Putin’s utterly insane idea with no rational endgame to occupy a neighboring nation with a subpar, hardly motivated army, (more confused by the reasoning for the fighting than motivated to “win”), has turned into a bloody stalemate that will only worsen when the tough part of the war inside the urban slaughterhouse commences. The Russian Army has been exposed as ill-equipped and badly led. The entire enterprise has caused a once proud nation to be dragged into economic and moral calamity. It, and its beleaguered tyrant president, has been summarily shunned by the rest of the world. It would seem Russia is on the brink of complete anarchy in less than a month, purely on the whims of a madman.

Putin has done what no NATO coalition could have done. He has doomed Russia. The country is bankrupt, ostracized from the 21^st century global economy – more than 400 hundred western companies have abandoned it, throwing thousands of citizens out of work, and in the process dragged the last thirty years of progress and assimilation since the fall of the Soviet Union into a new dark ages. It is so bad Putin is forced to beg China for much-needed help and then take to the airwaves to shout about “traitors and scum,” many of whom cling to a harsher reality of food shortages, gas hikes, and an isolation from the goods and services in which they rely.

That is to say nothing of the Russian troops who routinely abandon tanks to run scared into the Ukrainian forests or put down their weapons in an open act of desertion. And who can blame them? According to Pentagon officials quoted in a recent NY Times article, more than 7,000 Russian troops are already dead, a greater number than American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. To gain a starker perspective on this, the article goes on to state that “in 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin’s military has already lost more soldiers.”

General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

And through the “fog of war” these are conservative estimates. Some in the U.S. military have been given greater numbers of deaths, which they describe as “staggering.” As many as 10,000 Russian soldiers have likely been sacrificed for this boondoggle, due to Belarusian morgues filling up daily with the slain.
This nearly one-month offensive, predicted by Putin’s brain trust (many of which have likely been executed by now or thrown in prison) as originally taking three to four days, has eviscerated Russian troop morale. Motivation for this mess was already shaky due to soldiers having to murder many of their fellow Slavs for what sounded to them and the rest of the planet as a goofy propaganda ego-circle-jerk by a mentally challenged dictator. The general rule of war is that a ten-percent casualty rate, which includes wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks. The estimate so far is nearly 21 thousand total wounded, which is nearly ten percent, as there are reportedly more than 150,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. And the kicker might be that four Russian generals have also been killed, a number that usually hovers around zero for generals. General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

Considering a lunatic like Putin won’t be quitting this folly anytime soon, he has upped the ante on this losing bet by slaying civilians, using illegal weapons, calling in mercenaries from Syria and the black ops the Russians normally used to assassinate journalists and dignitaries. A kitchen sink tossing is sure to follow. These are desperate times for a despot living in a fantasy.

Ever more galling to Putin is Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former comedian and TV star, being the toast of the western world and recently enjoying a standing ovation during a speech to the U.S. Congress. Zelenksy has made a very public mockery of the false bravado of his enemy, as women, children and young civilian men join forces with the undermanned Ukrainian Army to thwart the “mighty” Russian Army that staggers around looking to move forward while barely holding flank. And all of it is televised 24-hours a day and flashed on social media: The failures, the embarrassment, the eventual surrender.

While invading Ukraine was never going to end well, not even I could have predicted that there is a chance that Putin may actually lose this war. The longer this bloodletting and destruction of the Russian Army continues this is becoming more of a reality. As stated here a month ago, even if he eventually holds out, after thousands and thousands of his troops are slaughtered and he massacres thousands of Ukrainians, implants a puppet government, and claims some kind of empty victory, then he becomes nothing more than a flaccid occupier, continuously fending off insurgencies and domestic terrorism. All the while continuing this dance of economic suicide with his people and the rest of the civilized world.
Putin is going to lose this eventually, be tossed into the rancid dustbin of history like all the crazies who attempted this stupid shit. But what is to become of Mother Russia, its people, and its general standing in the world, economically, politically, morally? What of the people who endure the last vestiges of this maniac, who has gambled their fortunes on a losing and deadly proposition?

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check
James Campion
A Saint Jack Commemorative 
Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac was born on March 12, 1922, the same day, decades later, as my mother’s birth. This was a long-standing joke of mine for years: Both gave me life. One literal. One inspirational. It didn’t come right away with Saint Jack. His was a gradual nudging. Sure, it was immediate when I read On the Road, the same boring story that every young man told in the mid-to-late- twentieth century. I was nineteen. It was the late-winter, spring of 1982. Maybe March. I can remember first cracking it. I was at college in Trenton, N.J. My friend, and soon roomie, Jake Genovay gave me a copy. Or maybe it was his twin brother, Joe. I don’t remember that. I do remember the zang! of it. It knocked me back like a gust of wind or a glancing blow. This was writing as music; strange, intangible music that had meters and melodies from places that I had not visited before; even considering my high school affections for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Slaughterhouse Five. Kerouac’s free-flow dance electric word boogie was as arresting as its themes in lust for the spirit of living, freedom as sacrament, and grief as promise. But it wasn’t perceptibly permanent in my maturation as a writer, so much as an evolution of being, and not just this amalgamation of youth-orientated ego-boosts – rock and roll being one of those that had the most lasting effect – but the frame of being less boy than man.

Although now thinking about it, I did not get Bob Dylan until I read On the Road, as I always equate stepping through a secret invisible door when Dylan songs began to open me up. Dylan was my gateway from monosyllabic sex-metaphors riding irresistible gut-rhythms to the insular wandering through cerebral puzzle prisms, and thus, an awakening of sorts. This is what happened to a young Robert Zimmerman discovering Woody Guthrie in 1959, a year or so after digesting Kerouac’s mad stream-of-consciousness that took the author six long years to realize. Begun in 1951, before the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (the year Elvis Presley shook his ass on national TV and corrupted a generation of pimply-faced, white, middle-class, sex-crazed teenagers – one of them being Zimmerman), Kerouac’s On the Road captured the final leg of American progress that F. Scott Fitzgerald tuned to a high white note in his pristine ballad to our sins, The Great Gatsby.

But by the end of the 1950s, when the novel was published, the idea, the plan, the geography, the very landscape of America had been homogenized. The towns and roads Kerouac molded into lore began to fade. Our path west, a Manifest Destiny of carnage and mayhem, was complete. The American Century had arrived with a vengeance. We now drove through our past as afterthought, and Saint Jack sang its requiem.

It was this distillation of prose-tune that I came to define as the first pangs of maturity, or let’s say an emerging from youthful illusions to aging crystalline that confronted Zimmerman in 1959 and Campion in 1982, thanks to Saint Jack.

Kerouac was arguably the most famous of the Beats (with props to Allen Ginsburg and his fierce, queer, yawping siren, Howl). Beat is a generational humdrum moniker best described by Wikipedia these days as “the rejection of standard narrative values, making a spiritual quest, the exploration of American and Eastern religions, the rejection of economic materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.” But this is true of every generation. I can tell you (a man who hails from a generation without a fancy name) it sure as hell was my truth at nineteen. But for Kerouac, Beat meant the spiritual connotation of Beatific, while also being beaten, torn to shreds and left to rot. And in the course of this existential tumble, there is an element of exhaustion, ala beat.

If you are a testosterone-addled, faux-cowboy, plastic-bravado dickhead like all boys, and most men, you are turned sideways by Kerouac.

On the Road, a book I have written about more than any other since I started this column in August of 1997, runs a course through the author’s halcyon period; a productive fuck-around in an unhinged religious and social ad hoc existence that resulted in his early New York City quadrant of novels, The SubterraneansDoctor SaxTristessa, and Desolation Angels that have not had the legs of his 1959 masterpiece, but have moments, like Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” (and pretty much everything on the Boss’s first two albums, which sound like a beatnik primer set to noisy passion). Kerouac, a confessed jazz addict and devout Catholic who off-and-on lived with his mother until his untimely but predictable early death at forty-seven in October of 1969, became the reluctant literary godfather of the rock era, notable for post-be-bop-aloola mind-screw lyrics and psychedelic resin that continues in some form even today. Much to his lasting chagrin, Kerouac was worshipped like hedonistic catechism by the Boomers, who would go on to dominate culture, politics, and America’s long descent (ascent) from the post-war traumas the Beats spun into gold.

Kerouac was a rambler in both life and verse. He is the sentient conundrum of the early twentieth-century American man – born in New England, son of immigrants, escaped to the Big City, played football for Columbia University, became a U.S. Merchant Marine, was arrested, ran away from home, and then ran from that home (the road) and searched for things beyond his grasp to find bi-sexuality, drugs, Eastern philosophy, random bouts of violence, and misogyny. The most significant being a weirdly constructed idea of First Thought/Best Thought, often contributed to him and not Allen Ginsberg, who heisted it from Gertrude Stein, a woman, who in many ways is the godmother of the Beats. No one, in any generation, save for maybe Ernest Hemingway (who learned this from Stein) or Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (who got this from Papa), understood the role of writer as icon, symbol, celebrity and myth-maker better than Gertrude Stein. Not that Kerouac could sell this concept like his forebears, in fact he was shy, mostly drunk, incredibly conflicted about his influence, and exceedingly insecure. And that is the nugget in his writing you don’t get anywhere else – if you are a testosterone-addled, faux-cowboy, plastic-bravado dickhead like all boys, and most men, you are turned sideways by Kerouac. There is vulnerability in those early books and definitely in the cries for help in On the Road often missed at nineteen, but glaringly obvious when read in your early thirties and conveniently dismissed as claptrap, and then rediscovered in your forties as holy scripture.

When I began writing what would become my first published book, Deep Tank Jersey, in the spring of 1995, I was just merely, and badly, aping Kerouac. I have written about this before and admitted it sheepishly in interviews over the years and with friends who care to enter the confessional, (I even came clean in the foreword to the twentieth anniversary of the thing in 2016). But I learned during those months to steer away from the Kerouac, as all writers in his thrall must. Although, I did read Big Sur for the first time that summer. Big Sur is my favorite of Kerouac’s work now. Because of everything I penned above, sure, but mainly for its dreamy acceptance of the escape methods used by Kerouac in life – primarily alcoholism, Buddhism, and other isms the author battled with in relative isolation in the most beautiful place in this country. It may be the most beautiful place in the world. Moreover, it is as far west as one can go in the continental United States. The Kerouac of Big Sur is the hazy vestige of the man who sought out the road in 1947 and ended up in deep contemplation and deeper depression (consolation) in the autumn of 1961, one year before I entered the human sprint – the book actually hit the shelves two days (9/11) after my mom gave me my first and most important birth (9/9) in 1962.

And this brings us back ‘round again. The circle in writing is something I certainly did not learn from Kerouac. He was never linear and did not care for silly concepts like narrative or plot (when I first gave the book to my wife-to-be, she wondered aloud more than once where this thing was going), he only cared about the music of the prose, which is what anyone worth a grain of salt in this craft can hope for. Make those words dance, I like to say when I start a writing project, and when I am inevitably stuck in that writing project. It is what a generation of seekers turned into the really good music and to some extent really good writing. It would take another fifteen hundred words, at least, to list all the writers trying to be Kerouac over the years, so I will leave us with Big Sur and this photo I had in front of my writing desk when I worked on my first three published books – an aging, bloated Kerouac clutching his beloved cat, looking into the lens as if a man who had too many stories to tell and not enough speed, grit, pulse, and beatific allusions to get down.

Here’s to Saint Jack, who came, and saw, and made the words dance.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Stark-Naked Emperor Stumbles Into Infamy
 Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
                                       – Michael Gerard Tyson
 What the fuck is Vladimir Putin doing?

This is not rhetorical. I have no idea. And from all I have read, heard, and/or deciphered from this Russian invasion of Ukraine, no one – and there has been nothing viably coherent from the man himself – has a goddamn clue. We are a couple of weeks into this ill-conceived, terribly executed military mission, and despite becoming an international pariah and sinking his nation’s already anemic economy, this entire mess has done nothing but effectively lift the veil on whatever myth the Russian president has been concocting for decades: He is shrewd global manipulator.

Suddenly, the man looks spectacularly stupid and embarrassingly weak. Add in a sprinkle of pettiness, a dab of irrationality, and top it with pure idiocy. Certainly, our politicians, including our last president, who carried the tyrant’s water bucket for four years and just this week called him “a genius,” figured this guy was shrewd and cunning. Fox News spent the past few weeks ejaculating over his brilliance as a proud world leader with his finger on the international pulse, understanding the brutal nuances of world politick and acting with swift and measured precision. Wherein our old, clueless president is unmatched. Shit, say what you want about cranky Joe Biden, he has played this like a champ. So far, he has rallied the world to put the screws to Putin’s hubris move. If anything, it has revived his nearly flat-lined presidency.

It is an understatement to stress that now in the wake of this super-botch, everyone may have miscalculated Putin. That is except Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Putin has turned into a rock star and the world’s superhero – another hidden prize of his grand blunder. Let’s face it, Zelensky’s defiance has turned this into a hack move made by a third-world chump, as if Saddam Hussein had come back as a bald, fat goon, whose only hope for anyone to pay attention to him is to bully the country next door. Putin has created a quagmire of human misery and destruction that has the distinct look of a man trying to open a tuna can with sledgehammer. Four days into this, even Donald Trump was faking love for NATO.

The confused torpor that was George W.  Bush suddenly looks like a mighty warlord compared to this stooge.

Vladimir Putin was supposed to be our worthy adversary, akin to Rommel vs. Patton instead of Mike Tyson vs. the town drunk. He appears to have no endgame beyond what he, I guess, claimed was defense against NATO’s influence too close to his border, but instead has created the worst possible scenario: An angry and motivated enemy at his border. Dead mothers clutching charred infants have a way of getting the locals riled. He thought no one would have the stomach to oppose him, and before the week was out, everyone did, even China, who acts like an ally but would just as soon move on as a solo act, and Saudi Arabia, who positions itself to absorb Putin’s fleeing oil customers.

Of course, any act of war is going to bring hardship. But most dictators worth a shit would have weighed this against what riches and real estate might be available once the carnage is done.

To wit: One can deduce the actions of Adolf Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland in five seconds. It was horrible, immoral, and world-shattering, but it made military, economic, and national defense sense for Germany. What does Russia get out of “owning” Ukraine? A money-pit headache. Moreover, Hitler’s burgeoning economy was built on a war machine that not only revived the nation’s solvency but had already done some nasty shit for months before this. It appears the lapdog generals in charge of this operation did not have what it takes to tell Putin his heretofore latent army sucks ass.

The Hitler comparison makes Putin uncomfortable? Okay, take Napoleon in the opening years of the nineteenth century. The French had been preparing for war for decades and possessed what turned out to be an unstoppable force to expand the parameters of his rule in Europe. Putin’s army has had a hard time even getting a foothold in the country across the fucking street. He could have gotten a Northern California biker gang to pull this off quicker. So, now he has exposed his military as wildly overrated and undermanned, and his generals as stupefied neophytes. If Stalin had this force, the Nazis would have glided into Moscow in 1944, Russian winter and all.

I don’t know who talked up the Russian invading army as potentially impressive, but Jesus Bicycling Christ, this whole thing is a stumble-bum fiasco manned by frightened nineteen year-olds with no over-arching plan to refuel vehicles, secure flanks or deal with street-to-street combat. The first week of the invasion will be studied by war historians as a primer on what not to do – overwhelming the botched United States Iraq invasion in the early aughts. In fact, I would say the confused torpor that was George W.  Bush suddenly looks like a mighty warlord compared to this stooge.

And so, predictably, desperate and exposed as a fraud, Putin “readies his nuclear capabilities”. Yawn. The oldest and laziest Cold War maneuver. This is what you do when you fail to learn your own nation’s military history, which would have clued Putin in that both Napoleon and Hitler were eventually defeated by fucking Russia! And mainly because they could not occupy nations that didn’t want to be occupied. Failing that, all he had to do was call up Dick Cheney. The former VP might have told him that the place you are wrecking will not likely be welcoming you as liberators.

But, of course, history is pretty much bloated with tales of once powerful nations taking over other nations who did not like that so much. Soon, there will be, for Russia, the exhausting task of fending off insurgencies and weeding out coups. This is far more difficult than poisoning journalists in London, jailing Pussy Riot, and fucking with other country’s elections. Those things gave him an air of invincibly that this invasion has summarily obliterated.

So far, just moving in has been a humiliating slog against civilians brandishing homemade weapons, further revealing half-assed Russian ground-war capabilities. It has alienated the only economic partners keeping Russia a viable nation, unleashed crippling international sanctions, and ceased a crucial oil pipeline partnership with Germany. Remember, Putin is pulling this horse-turd under the auspices of a global economy that his country relies on desperately. Hitler and Napoleon had no such troubles. They were self-contained nations built for war. No oil money. No Russia.

Invasion is the easy part. Occupation is where things get hairy.

Again, I state, this makes zero sense for Russia, and even less for Putin, who clearly has never given a flying mist-fart about Russia. He has a raging hard-on for the tattered myth of the Soviet Union, conveniently forgetting that what ultimately sunk it was stretching its lust for colonization, which is what also sunk every world power since the dawn of civilization.

Putin has made the ultimate mistake of the grifter, believing his own con.

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SADIE – 2006 – 2/22/22

Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

SADIE – 2006 – 2/22/22

My thoughts recover
The days that are over,
And I weep.
        – Paul Verlaine

And though she be but little, she is fierce.
               – William Shakespeare

It was a day I have dreaded for years. You can say, even mentally and emotionally prepared for. It came. And none of that mattered. When my wife and I took our sixteen year-old feline lady of the house, Sadie to die at the West Milford Animal Hospital, it took pieces of me I don’t believe I’ll get back. I have never decided that something so dear, so seminal in the ecosystem of my family needed to die. She suffered these past few weeks, but even until the last moment I wrestled with this and thought how can any human do this, never mind willfully hunt and kill an animal? Because they don’t name her and live with her and cuddle her and sing songs to her and watch her capture the essence of your daughter from the moment she slept in the crib with her, and then on the day she dies, Scarlet, now thirteen, tearily says, “She was my first friend?” Then you can kill them? Well, good luck to you and your soul. It took everything in me not to grab her little, barely breathing body and run for cover. Let her die at home, naturally. But that is selfish and stupid and very human. She did not deserve another long night of pain. She deserved peace. She gave that to us for sixteen years. We had to give it back, in the most horrible of circumstances.

Sadie was, as I wrote when her brother, Salinger died six years ago, a “two-for-one deal that my wife, of course, talked me into – little black cats jammed into a box together, licking each other and snuggling and biting and fighting and being a classic duo.” They were our Little Pishers, who breathed new life into things around The Clemens Estate after the untimely and mysterious death of The Gueem. We were unsure even then that Sadie would make it through that first year, making so many days to an animal hospital up in Newton, that when Scarlet was born, in a “people hospital” up there, I got to know that run so well, it was a snap.    

Sadie led the way.

This made more sense, as very soon, she and Scarlet would be inseparable. Nothing made my daughter laugh or gave her such joy. These last few years Sadie roomed with her. She had to. The invasion of the once feral cat, now a member of the family, Bukowski terrorized her, and she found refuge there. Every morning when I would wake a grumpy Scarlet for school, Sadie would be at attention meowing, doing her thing. I would implore her, “Wake up your baby sister already!” She would look at me as if I were mad; “You know who this is lying here, right?” I could almost hear her say. “She hates school and loves sleeping; good luck to ya.”

Sadie always found a way to communicate to us. I know I have waxed poetic in this column over the past twenty-five years about the passing of our cats (the aforementioned Gueem, Salinger, and our beloved Queen of Vernon, Mazzy), but none of them had the communicative inter-species talents of Sadie. The second you were in her space, if you approached her, or you did not get that she needed water or maybe a treat, or the desire to sit by her cherished fireplace (man she liked it warm – watching her turn her face to the sun in summer was a transcendent experience) she’d let you know it. There was very little guessing with Sadie, there was within her, as Ernst Hemingway once mused in his cats, an “absolute emotional honesty.” Papa should know. He owned dozens of them.

Sadie was our constancy, our north star.

A key aspect of having a cat for sixteen years (a record around here) is that there is a pure lineage to it. For instance, Scarlet did not know a world without her, and just this morning my wife said,” When I lost Gueem, I had Mazzy, and when I lost her, I had Sadie, I feel like I don’t have any comfort now.” Of course, I argued for the boys, but Mo, our gray cat of thirteen years and the new guy, Bukowski do not make themselves available – they are in and out and all around, disappearing to do God know what. Unless food is in the offing, other than that, it’s freewheeling. Sadie was our constancy, our north star. When we went away, she would have that look that let you know you were leaving her and the home, and when we returned, she had that pissed countenance, like, “How dare you?” But she would be here waiting. Patiently. To be Sadie.

I was doing what I call “cat math” with my extended family this past weekend in Syracuse. And I have come to some harsh conclusions about how many of these felines I have left in me. If I get a kitten this year – and you can bet your ass it will be a black male that I have been waiting for since Salinger ditched me – and if the little bugger lives as long as Sadie, I’m looking at seventy-fucking-six. And if I’m still writing this column then you can drive me to the vet and let me go quietly. There won’t be any goddamn eulogy for him.

Okay, it’s getting late, and I have to end this. But I don’t want to. I want to keep writing about Sadie. Makes me feel less sad. It is, as my managing editor wrote me this morning, cathartic for writers to deal with grief. I’m reminded of what Charles Bukowski wrote about his cat, how “it walks with a surprising dignity” and think of how elegant Sadie was until the end, trying to be Sadie, as her body failed her. She never wavered from being her.

But I guess I’ll leave you guys now and keep writing and talking and celebrating the sixteen special years we had this magnificent creature.

And while I do that, hug your pet.

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

How We Got Here & Where We’re Going

For about a week at the beginning of February 2022, the Republican Party pulled back from the brink of insurrection.

Flirting with this concept since the domestic terrorist attacks on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, a majority of the party in both houses of congress and throughout the country, in the media and in the halls of state governance, have either dismissed or supported the horrors of that day, which resulted in seven deaths, 769 criminal charges, and over 70 convictions thus far. This includes the former president of the United States, who perpetuated this lunacy by telling the great unwashed that the election was stolen, inviting them to Washington D.C., promising via twitter to “Be there, will be wild!” and then once they got there armed and riled up by crazy talk, encouraging them to “March to the Capitol and fight for your country.” This ridiculousness is ongoing, as he announced at a recent rally in Arizona that he will pardon the convicted if re-elected. But until three words were part of a Republican National Committee resolution last week, all of this was partisan rhetoric, political grandstanding, and genuflecting to the 70-percent of Republican voters who continue to believe this nonsense.

It was then the RNC censored two GOP senators on the bipartisan January 6 Committee, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger. This too could have been seen as mere politico shenanigans, until the 168 members referred to their supposed insubordination to the party for “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

That, apparently, was the game changer.

Legitimate Political Discourse.

Those three words could well go down in history as the moment things began to shift in the Republican party. That day, actual “ordinary citizens” who are not white supremacists brandishing weapons, demanding the heads of the Speaker of the House and the Vice President, while smashing windows, breaking-and-entering into a federal building, and beating police with Trump flags, stood up and said, “That’s enough.” Even Republicans who heretofore watched in silence as its party was being hijacked by the insanely seditious goofiness that passes for “the opposition” started to backtrack. This was ultimately the Right dismissing its fringe, as the Left did with distancing itself from the “Defund the Police” movement in 2020. This last-ditch effort kept the Republican Party from being an enemy of the state because that is what that statement underlines. Supporting terrorism of any kind is a bad look, even for fun and argument, especially when representing the entire party’s stance.

When Georgia Congressman Andrew Clyde, five months from the insurrection, noted that it looked like “a normal tourist visit” most people were horrified, but Clyde is just one idiot, and although there are plenty of those in congress, when the RNC, essentially representing the whole of the GOP, frames a violent mob trying to overthrow a national election as Legitimate Political Discourse in a signed resolution, it ropes in every Republican.

For a few weird days, it looked like one of America’s two major political parties was exiting the framework of the U.S. Constitution. That is fairly big news, for it is equivalent to either party supporting al Qaeda. It wasn’t long before at least a few GOP voices put the brakes on this as quickly as you can Osama bin Laden.

Supporting terrorism of any kind is a bad look, even for fun and argument

Legitimate Political Discourse was announced on Friday, February 4, by Tuesday, February 8 (to be honest a tad too long to address the rhetorical rejection of the rule of law and American sovereignty, but he got there) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced it. While he did finally agree that water is wet by calling the events an insurrection, which is what it was, he tamped that down with procedural blather. “The issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,” McConnell said in his damage-control press conference. He conveniently forgot to mention that the Republican Party was sanctioning the murder of police and the attempted harm of members of the U.S. Congress. But it was a start.

This was followed by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin praising “my Republican colleagues who have been willing to speak the truth in the last few days,” while also castigating his party by admitting that for months now “the vast majority of my Republican colleagues remained silent while the party leaders declared Jan. 6 legitimate.” Maine Senator Susan Collins echoed this by calling the entire RNC resolution “absurd” and that “every moment that is spent re-litigating a lost election or defending those who have been convicted of criminal behavior moves us further away from the goal of victory this fall.”

It is important to recall when all three of these senators, all of whom publicly blamed Trump for his role in the riot from day-one – McConnel said he was “practically and morally responsible” – had a chance to vote to impeach him when he still held office and did not.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who announced this hot mess, also began running for cover, claiming the phrase Legitimate Political Discourse was not in the original draft of the resolution. This was quickly backed up by the man who wrote it, some cheap political MAGA hack, David Bossie. For his part, the former president called McDaniel to congratulate her for the resolution and for bravely reframing the horrors of January 6 as patriotic protest against government aggression.

Swap the name Donald Trump for Jefferson Davis and you get the picture.

For his part, House Minority Leader Mike McCarthy, a very silly man, has tried to play this as close to the vest as possible. He knows he may be on the brink of becoming the next House Speaker if things go the way of first mid-term elections for unpopular presidents, and Joe Biden certainly is one (41-percent approval at the time of this writing), so he has cover. McConnell is not so fortunate. With most of the potential Republican candidates laying in wait to run this November being a rogue’s gallery of knuckle-dragging psychos, it will be tight, and even some indicators are pointing toward the Democrats hanging onto the Senate.

Let that read that political expediency is now at the forefront of the party – not that it wasn’t at any point – but Legitimate Political Discourse has set the bar. Let’s see if the party nominates the man responsible to run for president again.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
In Praise of The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five and a Discussion with its Author, Tom Roston 
The most difficult highwire act for a writer is taking a well-worn and beloved subject and weaving something new and insightful into it. Author Tom Roston has accomplished this with his new book The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five by getting behind the celebrated novel’s humor, pathos, and charming storytelling that would make the 1969 anti-war, science fiction mind-bender a Twentieth-Century literary classic. For the first time, we meet the many faces and moods of its author, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who for many, including yours truly, has marked the time of our intellectual and cultural awakening. The best compliment I can offer Mr. Roston is that I have learned why I loved Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade from the moment I cracked it open at fifteen and why it keeps speaking to me more than four decades hence.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Slaughterhouse-Five arrived as a mighty yawp from the bow of the counterculture, written by a wise-cracking forty-six year-old curmudgeon who had survived one of the most horrifying fire-bombings of World War II as a prisoner of war in 1945. After the devastation of the cultured German town of Dresden, Vonnegut pained to create something of worth from its ashes. And for Roston, and those who adore the book, Slaughterhouse-Five reverberates with mental and emotional trauma, an artistic endeavor to quell its author’s demons, while struggling to fit madness into a logical construct (spoiler alert: Vonnegut never finds any logic in war – “poo-tee-weet” – because it doesn’t exist).

This is where Roston began his journey, oddly spurned on by the whims of weird rumor.

“I knew I wanted to confront PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the book because that just seemed like a clear prism through which Slaugherhouse-Five is understood,” Roston shared with me. “But I just didn’t know how I was going to approach it. And then, as you read in the first chapter, what really got me going was when I got wind of this cooky, implausible story that Vonnegut may have committed a war crime.” Roston playfully dubs Vonnegut, Nazi Slayer!, the central figure in a dubious yarn of the young writer and fellow POW searching out their former Nazi guard to enact vengeance upon him. Roston concludes this never happened, but… “It got me energized, and then I started thinking, ‘Why is this relevant?’ And, to me, it was very relevant because it helped address what I felt, and what I feel people feel in general: they’re excited by war, because they don’t understand war. That, to me, is what Slaughterhouse Five is about – trying to explain what war feels like, which is terrible. But a person like me, who has never experienced it, can never really understand that.”

Thus, Roston fills the pages of The Writer’s Crusade with the voices of those who have experienced war (from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan), and moreover, wrote about it in essays, articles, and books, and in one case used painting as an outlet to face living with it. But at the same time, while providing a useful history of how the medical community and the U.S. Army dealt with the soldier’s mental traumas over the years, Roston is careful not to succumb to lazy syllogism. He warns that it is not even certain Vonnegut suffered from PTSD, something the author denied throughout his life, despite bouts of depression, alcoholism, and an inability to connect with people, specifically his family. This is the avatar Vonnegut creates in Billy Pilgrim, a POW, who experiences the same Dresden trauma and the ensuing life of listless inertia, where he becomes “unstuck in time.”

If you’re fully delusional, and you think you’re talking to a porn star or to God, and it makes you happy, perhaps that’s okay, by you.

“I discovered Billy Pilgrim to already be insecure and kind of a little bit messed up from the start,” says Roston. “When he first enters the war, he’s wandering around, letting himself get shot at – he’s lost in it, ridding him of his humanity. War will do that to anyone, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

And so, one is led to ask, and Roston does so in his book: Is Vonnegut using his protagonist, Pilgrim to work out a delusional construct – being “unstuck in time” and traveling to the planet Tralfamadore to live with a porn star in an id bubble of “happiness” to deal with his trauma. Or are these fantastical things really happening to him? Vonnegut provides clues that these events are indeed figments of Pilgrim’s imagination and merely a coping mechanism, which in turn, gets Roston and readers of Slaughterhouse Five to surmise that its author is using the novel for the same ends.

“No, I don’t think it’s actually happening to Billy Pilgrim, but then that leads us to the ultimate question; does it even matter?” asks Roston, who reasons that if you’re fully delusional, and you think you’re talking to a porn star or to God, and it makes you happy, perhaps that’s okay, by you. “It’s the only bit of happiness poor Billy seems to get,” he concludes.

Roston also deconstructs Vonnegut’s aim to create in Billy Pilgrim a character not unlike Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where there are no ups and downs in his storyline. He is not only living in a fantasy, but also impassive, removed from humanity. “If you drew an emotional line throughout the play, Hamlet just goes straight across. I think if you look at Billy Pilgrim, it’s the exact same thing, it’s just straight across. I mean, in Pilgrim’s mind, maybe things are getting better, but I think Vonnegut’s point was to write a story with a character whose life never gets better.”

Ironically, it was the success of Slaughterhouse-Five that would make Vonnegut’s life better. He was now a famous and wealthy author, and yet, Roston found this to perhaps be the most interesting part of the author’s catharsis. “Before the success of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was always trying to merely pay the bills, until he wasn’t, and then once he wasn’t, I don’t know if he was that happy writing, because he wasn’t writing good stuff anymore. So, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think he may have been the happiest when was working on his masterpiece from 1968 to 1969. Maybe he was feeling everything that he had hoped for an artist to feel, because he knew he had it. I would love to think that. His letters suggest that’s not the case, but his focus during this period created something lasting and great.”

What Roston does not want us to forget, and I could not agree more, is that Slaughterhouse -Five, like Vonnegut’s entire canon, is damn entertaining stuff. It is funny, thought-provoking satire, social commentary with the kind of wit and page-turning drama that made it a best-seller and continues to dazzle readers today. Despite using his work to find light at the end of the tunnel, the author found a relatable voice. I know I related to it as a teenager and still do, as the book has grown along with me into my years as a working writer. I cannot say that about all the books that jazzed me as a kid. And I thank Tom Roston for reminding me of this.

“Almost everyone who I talked to read it in their teens, and they read it the first time as just being a fun, goofy, crazy book,” concludes Roston. “They didn’t read it as being a book about trauma or a book about war or anything, it was just this wild ride.”

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Let’s put this out there first: No one thinks engaging in a war with Russia is a good idea. Not even those who claim to think it is a good idea. And now that most Republicans are pro-Russia thanks to the last president, who was Vladimir Putin’s bitch, we don’t have as much rooting interest from the hawk camp as we did during the Cold War. (You know you have lived a long time when things shift this dramatically – if you would have told me in 1985 that Democrats were the anti-Russia hawk party, I would have assumed you were experiencing crack shivers). And let me also state for the record that despite the cheering and victory laps the West did after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Russia has never not been armed to the teeth with nuclear war heads and is now run by a psychopath, who has been mostly unchecked by the loyal opposition for close to a decade.

Our current president has been all over the map here. A change from the last guy who stood on foreign soil and sided with Putin over the American intelligence community. Either way, that lapdog is gone now, reduced to screaming to the great unwashed that he won the last election from his golf bunker in Florida. The guy who did win, Joe Biden wanted this gig – and the shit storm that is coming down now appears to be far more important than his botched exit from our endless military bullshit in Afghanistan or exploding inflation or even the zig-zag pandemic mandates we continue to endure. He needs to steer this one clear of military action. Period.

The day before I am writing this, the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank released satellite imagery on the Russian build-up in Ukraine showing “a significant and sizeable presence of Russian ground troops, tanks, small arms and mobile artillery.” It states: “If peace talks fail, an escalation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia could extend well beyond Eastern Europe and include retaliatory measures that are global in nature.”

No shit. We didn’t need a fancy international think tank to come to that gory conclusion, but thanks, nonetheless.

The Russians are moving troops to the Ukrainian border (which the Kremlin calls “exercises”) and although, again, we get the predictably bold talk mixed with calls for cooler heads from our president, the Pentagon has been alerted to ready 8,500 American troops to enter the region should an invasion move ahead.

It is never a good idea to engage in any kind of direct military kerfuffle with Russia.

Let me repeat for anyone not yet fully comprehending it: Going to war with Russia is not an option. This is why Ronald Reagan went nuts and outspent them ten-to-one on defense, forever bloating the military budget, which is the main reason we are in horrible debt today and will continue to be unless we address the federal government’s upside-down budget – which we won’t, but that is another column for another day. I just mention it because the narrative has been for my entire existence on this planet (coming up on six decades this September) there has been Total Annihilation or Bust. Skirmishes in the Baltics is so 1917. You can fuck with Russian-backed dictatorships in the Middle East or even try to upset U.S. dictatorships next door to those other dictatorships, but moving in on Russian military shenanigans in Eastern Europe is not an option. Ever.

I am not suggesting that Putin should be left to his own devices. This is a tough call, because, again, Putin was coddled and sucked up to so embarrassingly for the four years prior to Mr. Biden’s arrival, there is an issue with what Russian thinks is our “resolve.” (Should we mention the stupid and very public shake-down of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by Donald Trump to withhold U.S. security aid unless he dug up fantasy dirt on then candidate Biden’s son, Hunter?) But that is, again, in the rearview. This is Biden’s call now. His approval ratings have tanked and show no signs of improving in time to stop what is certainly going to be mid-term spanking this November. And unlike previous years when presidents and the military get nearly one-hundred percent support for any action, this is a different time. There is no stomach for this outside of a few voices. And that is a good thing; because I don’t think it is remotely redundant to again point out that it is never a good idea to engage in any kind of direct military kerfuffle with Russia. Ever.

Making matters worse is that Ukraine is playing this very “Czechoslovakia circa 1938,” fobbing it off as business as usual – all talk/no action Putin – something South Korea never does, despite the almost incessant non-aggressive aggression from the North and whatever chubby nutcase is engineering it. It also doesn’t help that no one in Europe, least of all France and Germany (and Germany has made it clear due to pipeline oil issues, it does not want to side with the U.S. in this affair no matter the threat to its border interests), is remotely excited about a twenty-first century ground war.

For whatever it’s worth, which if recent history is any indication, is nothing, Russia has publicly stated through its venerable Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov that they have no intention of invading Ukraine. “We do not want wars, but we won’t allow our interests to be rudely trod upon or to be ignored,” Lavrov, who is also Russia’s representative at the United Nations, said this week. Much of this rhetoric stemming from talk for months of Ukraine joining NATO, a George W. Bush 2008 dream that got under Putin’s skin, which eventually led to the Trump-backed anti-Bush, anti-NATO wing of the Kremlin during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For its role in all this, the Ukraine has no plans to join NATO, something Biden has acknowledged.

All of this provides insight into Putin’s gambit as ill-conceived and not entirely supported by his faux government. So, it might eventually need diplomatic face-saving. Not to mention that Russia’s current post-pandemic economy is weak, far weaker than ours, and needs European oil dollars to subsist. Wars are costly. And Putin can’t afford it.

Not sure who said that “history finds us” or how “we don’t choose our moment it chooses us” or whatever paraphrase you’d like to cite in that direction, but this is where Joe Biden stands now. Thank goodness we have a functioning State Department again. Talks are ongoing, and it must be clear to even a loon like Putin that this is not a wise move. There should be a sign above his desk that reads the mirror image of my stance: War with the United States is never an option.

Yeah, going to war with Russia is not an option.


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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Diary of the Infected & Discoveries Along the Way
The mystery is over me. On the third day of January 2022, let the record show, I became one of the statistics you read every day – the growing cases of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. I am counted among those who have finally fallen to the bane of the early 2020’s – our pandemic, our Great Depression, our WWII moment. This is the one where as much as Americans hate to think we are in the same boat, we are here. Whether you choose to believe or accept or whatever the rationalizations you tell yourself, we are in this deep. To what extent, I don’t know. Scientists don’t know, then I don’t. Doctors are calling audibles, so I shan’t offer a half-assed opinion. This is, of course, not the first time I’ll be writing about the Coronavirus, but it is the first time I’ll be doing it as its victim.

FILE PHOTO: A woman takes a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a pop-up testing site as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 27, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

To begin, I had it pretty bad – chills, fever, headache, bouts of dizziness, sore throat, coughing, the whole thing. My wife had it worse. At least three days of high fever and severe coughing ever since. My thirteen year-old daughter had glassy eyes, some fever and felt mostly achy. We were all extremely fatigued throughout. (Note: All of us are fully vaccinated, but were awaiting our turn at a booster, which did not come in time). It has been about eleven days since my first symptoms, and I am still kind of woozy and still need to take a seat more than I normally would and even find myself wandering away from this word-machine here. The girls are recovering slowly but surely. This was a bitch for sure, but all in all, no issues with the lungs or worries about a hospital run and we have our taste buds and smell intact. We also have the blessed antibodies. Now that it is over, I can say it is worth that, at least.

But, again, the mystery is over for me. The stigma of thinking, “I can’t get this” or after a while, “Fuck it, if I get this.” You know. We have mostly lived our lives carefully here, and our circle of friends and certainly family for the past almost two years now. Sure, we would get together, play music, drink, hang, travel. I have traveled to South Padre Island, Texas, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and Austin, Texas since March 2020, and we did our Long Beach Island shore run both years. We have attended and played in our local (and traveled to) music fests – mostly outdoors, but some indoors – over this time. We have masked up, used our hand-sanitizers, washed our hands, took our vitamins, and lived our lives. This worked for way longer than I would have imagined. There was not a time after the initial shut-down that we overdid our quarantine thing. We lived. And even spent the 2020 holidays heading up to my extended family in Syracuse and bringing my mom in for summer and holiday visits. This time around it got us. Not my mom, who by the way will murder me if I print her age, but let’s just say I am pushing 60 later this year and she is about four-foot nothing and 74 pounds and was with all of us and went back to North Carolina with nary a symptom. She did a few tests and came up clean. She is likely at yoga or kickboxing right now as I write this. I am convinced she is a cyborg and having always assumed she would bury us all; I think I have my answer now.

Last thing on the family and the getting together for this past New Year’s Eve, which is what sparked this thing: Of my immediate family, (twelve in all, not including the maternal cyborg) seven of us got taken down. Now, this doesn’t mean all of us tested positive. The opposite. My wife and daughter did Rapid (two negatives) and my daughter did a more conclusive one through the nose (negative). Once I had the same symptoms as my bother-in-law, who called me the Monday after New Year’s Day to inform me of his infection, I went to get the two big tests – molecular (RT-PCR) tests that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. It was saliva. Took nearly a week to get the results: Positive. But we already knew.

I think it is important we be careful, and be responsible, and get vaccinated

To that end, I think it is important I report that any Rapid Test you may take for the Omicron is mostly bullshit. I have heard from friends and colleagues who have had this variant that they had to take rapid/home tests three or four times to get a positive result. I would say, in my experience now, and those who have shared it with me, if you were with someone who has Covid, and you have symptoms, you have Covid. Period. Even two nurses and my doctor said it is almost impossible with Omicron to be near someone who gets it, and if you have similar symptoms, escape unscathed.

I can also state that while this variant and the times we live in now with vaccines (I had my first two doses done in June and was due for my booster in December, as mentioned, but there were none to be had until mid-January anyway), plus post-infection medication (I took an antibiotic prescribed by my doctor), it is still very serious. I blanche at anyone undercutting the importance of not getting this and taking care to not push yourself if you do. And while I have gigs that allow me to continue to be productive from home, there is still, as mentioned above, a period of rest that must be adhered to. This thing sucks, no doubt about it.

I do not regret living as I have the past year-plus with this thing all around us. I would do it all again, even New Year’s Eve. I think it is important we be careful, and be responsible, and get vaccinated, and if choosing to not get vaccinated then at least respect those who might be concerned to be around you. Whatever you decide, and however this turns out for you, please know that it is serious, and that we all do not know its after-effects and what is coming around the corner.

But, for this writer, the direct experience fighting off this virus has been nothing like the flu or a bad cold. Everyone that has had it that I’ve spoken to has shared unique symptoms and experiences. Everyone’s response is different. Some worse. Some less so. There is no standard for this. It is Covid. It’s its own thing. Know that. And proceed accordingly.

And please stay safe and healthy and think of others the same way.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Thoughts from a Parent on the New Violence Normal
Okay, so the morning I am writing this (December 17, 2021) I get a text from one of my daughter’s eighth-grade friends at around six am on whether the young thirteen year-old in my care is going to school today. I must admit (bad parenting 101) I was unaware that there was a warning out there about some National School Bomb/Shooting Day floating around the Internet thanks in no small part to a Tik Tok/Snap Chat social media viral frenzy over a few days in mid-December. This was, as I have researched, the bizarre but expected offshoot of a hoax perpetuated by some enterprising urchins in the Midwest trying to get schools to shut down “for fun.” But, well, in this era of the weekly school shootings, and being a parent of a middle school kid, this was, to say the least concerning.

Spoiler Alert: We sent our kid in. Packing.

Well, not really. It is just something I write to be pithy and to allay my growing fears about what the hell is going on, but unlike many of my fellow Americans, I am not in the “What Have We Become?” camp. This has been the America of my fifty-nine years of breathing. In the 1960s, there were weekly bomb threats to my Catholic School in the Bronx, NY. I was in first grade, and we were routinely waltzed into the playground behind the school. Interestingly, one time I was standing back there and noticed the shadow of the school engulfing us tikes as we waited for the bell to usher us back into the joint. I decided that any detonated bomb would likely rain rubble down upon us. I turned and walked home. I got a lot of shit for that, but at six, I think I possessed enough self-preservation to consider it again the moment I heard they’d announced in the towers on 9/11 that everyone should not panic and stay in their cubicles. My guess is I would have turned and walked out. But who knows?

Anyway, it totally sucks that we must be wary of our children walking into a school that may or may not be shot up or blown up today. Right? Whether you support full gun rights or fear every kind of terrorism or believe some other thing, we can agree this ain’t cool. This is not Jerusalem, after all. When I went to Israel in 1996 the main response to what had been going on there for decades (centuries?) was “We just want our kids to take the bus in peace.” – Palestinians and Israelis.

I live in the mountains of New Jersey, and although there is the usual congregation of gun-perverts you expect up here, I think it is a fairly benign region. But then again, these sleepy towns are the ones with the neighbor’s kid who decides he’s had enough.

But getting back to this morning’s drama, before the fancy tweet from Governor Phil Murphy, “While there are no known specific threats against New Jersey schools, the safety of our children is our highest priority and we will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and remain prepared,” I received several texts from other concerned parents. By the way, as an aside, I think this whole using Twitter to make serious government-related announcements should stop. Another fantastic legacy held over from our previous President Idiot. What if you are not on Twitter? Your kid doesn’t count? You think I follow Murphy on Twitter?

“We just want our kids to take the bus in peace.”

– Palestinians and Israelis.

Doing some research on all of this, there have been, according to Nassau, Long Island Police Chief Patrick Ryder, a 148-percent increase in school threats this year. It is a thing now. So “a thing” usually ends up being exploited on the Internet. This, I think, (Jesus, I hope) is what we have here. I have prided myself in not living in fear – of viruses, terrorists, evangelicals, fringe movements, the government, Major League Baseball, big cities, traveling abroad, mainlining absinthe, and the like. This was a tough one. My daughter is more important than anything on planet earth, as I am sure your offspring is. But how are we supposed to live (function) in this “new normal” environment of violence-first? I wonder back to the Pilgrims and those lunatics who started building houses on Native American land, or any number of crazy violence-related shit Americans have been dealing with since we decided to stomp around here as if we owned the place?

I suppose there is no answer to any of this when you consider our legacy of violence. And now our ability to post some madness out there that gets reposted and reposted. How do you think you end up with the kind of street riots of 2020 and, most egregiously, the January 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol in broad daylight? The Internet is our playground. And every playground has those kids, you know those kids. The ability to communicate the idea of violence, insurrection, destruction is so easy now. And so is complete and utter bullshit. The crazies count on the bullshit. And although I do support every kind of free speech, this equates to shouting fire in a crowded theater. Causing panic is terrorism. So, if you forward this stuff, are you a terrorist? I am still formulating my opinion on government officials who support those who caused January 6, including President Idiot, so I’ll get back to you on that.

And, let’s face it, it is all well and good to use this space to parse these social aspects of our collective damaged psyche for a lark, however, this is my kid. These are your kids. Are we forced to live in an armored compound and stock up on canned goods?

I say, nah to that. But I guess I cannot fault anyone for going full-on “Check Out” when this kind of thing hits home. It can change perspectives. Fast.

I always say Expect the Worst, Hope for the Best. I guess prepare for all of the above is the best answer to any of it.

And by it, I mean, reality.

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