Post-The-Rona

The weather here in Columbus, Ohio is currently engulfed in a civil war. One side is fighting for all things sunny and flirty and beautiful; the other is hell-bent on thunderstorms and gloom, which has a beauty all its own.

Which side will win? It doesn’t matter.

Our household is slowly coming down from our brief experimentation with Covid. Both Jess and I are largely feeling much better. I’m still experiencing some general fatigue, and have a persistent headache and some body aches, but it’s been manageable and I was able to work most of the week. If we had to get Covid – and let’s be real, we were bound to get it eventually – I’m grateful that it was now, three years after the rona first reared its ugly virus face. Now, after we’ve been vaccinated and boosted, and things like antivirals exist and, in this country at least, are readily accessible. Paxlovid can be a bit of a motherfucker while you’re on it, but its efficacy at reducing the length and severity of Covid, as well as lowering the risk of experiencing long Covid health issues, has made it, to me, worth it.

All told, the last two weeks could have been a lot worse.

ADDENDUM: I wrote the majority of this post on Saturday morning, which apparently was interpreted by the universe as me giving it the finger. Because on Saturday night, Jess developed what is colloquially referred to as “rebound Covid.” Apparently, in 4% of people, five days of Paxlovid isn’t a sufficient length of time, and their Covid symptoms return. In theory, those symptoms are supposed to be mild, but we shall see. In the meantime, our household shall live with the fog of Covid a little while longer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It be like that sometimes.

Here’s what I’ve been up to the last couple of weeks.

I finally finished THE GLASS HOTEL, by Emily St. John Mandel. This is the second novel I’ve read by Mandel, after SEA OF TRANQUILITY, and I can quite honestly say she has become one of my top five favorite authors. THE GLASS HOTEL is set before, during, and after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. A key plot element involves a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme collapsing, and those both involved in and impacted by it, but that’s not the main point of the story. The narrative is not linear, continually jumping all over the timeline and switching points of view. It’s occasionally jarring, but by design. This could be annoying and confusing in the hands of a lesser writer, but Mandel is the opposite of a lesser writer. A subtle feeling of the surreal threads throughout the book, especially in the last seventy pages, which gives it a dream-like quality that just enhances the story. Mandel’s writing is gorgeous and haunting, sharply funny at times, and very easy to get lost in.

Watching:

BONE TOMAHAWK: A gritty, character-driven Western for the first hour that turns into a brutal horror movie for the second hour. It’s really good, but some of the more horrific scenes are hard to watch. Kudos to the sound design team, though – while you might be able to close your eyes, you can still hear everything, in vivid, squelchy fashion.

DO REVENGE: A darkly funny teen/revenge film loosely inspired by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and every teen comedy you’ve seen from the past 30 years. This makes for a hilarious and chaotic viewing experience. I loved loved loved this film. And it boasts a killer soundtrack, to boot.

Wanting:

I’ve long admired the work of Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck. One of his more recent pieces, THE EQUATION, is quite stunning and will one day find a home on my wall.

Listening:

I was out somewhere a while back and heard a song that I vaguely remembered from my youth. Didn’t know the band or song title, only that it was from the 90s and had the line “I only wanna do bad things to you.” I googled it and all the results were for some shitty Machine Gun Kelly song. It took a ridiculous amount of detective work (10 minutes on Google and Wikipedia), but I eventually found the song I was looking for. Turns out the actual lyrics are “I never mean to do bad things to you,” and my brain had just misremembered them. In short, the shitty MGK song included interpolated lyrics from the 90s song I was thinking of, which is what was confounding my google search. Apparently, both my brain and the songwriters of the shitty MGK song had independently arrived at the somewhat hornier lyrics of “I only wanna do bad things to you.”

Anyhow, that’s my long-winded way of saying I’ve had Fastball’s “Out Of My Head” stuck in my head for a while.

And Kirby:

While Jess and I may have not felt great the last two weeks, Kirby has been having a marvelous time being connected to his mom’s hip even more so than usual.

J’en Suis Certain

Took three years, but the rona finally caught us.

While we don’t feel great, we could be much worse off. I am supremely grateful if we had to get covid, we got it now, three years into the pandemic, and not a couple of years ago, before vaccines and antivirals were widely available.

Regular service at josh bales dot net should resume next week. In the meantime, take care of your bad selves.

Forty-One

The 11th of March marked the terminus of my 41st revolution around the Sun, and the beginning of my 42nd. That’s an extremely cool and in no way dorky way of saying I turned 41 yesterday.

I started the day off with a very large cinnamon roll for breakfast — made even better because it was a “yesterday’s cinnamon roll” from Kittie’s and only cost a dollar. Spent the majority of the day hanging out with Jess and Kirby. Then last night we were invited by friends to a fundraising dinner for Niche Seekers, a newer non-profit with a really cool mission. The cause was good, the company great, the drinks very strong, and the food very elegantly delicious. There was even a mashed potato bar!

Purple potatoes: Tasty treat or a key element in the secret Eucharist rite recognizing Grimace?

And of course, we had to take the obligatory selfie as proof that we really do leave the house and do stuff sometimes.

(Quick aside: While we were taking the below photo, I realized I now only own one nice shirt that can be tucked into pants. I wore it for my Cincinnati Dinner Train birthday shindig last year, then again for a funeral last October, and now last night. The in-office to remote wardrobe evolution is real, y’all.)

I’m happy and smiling, I promise.

To cap this birthday week off, later today we’re going to get Mexican, where I may or may not drink a margarita the size of my head. All in all, it’s been a fine way to begin this next year.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Working my way through THE GLASS HOTEL. It’s quite good, but this week’s been busy with other stuff, and I just haven’t been in the mood to read as much.

A fascinating look at Arnold Schwarzenegger at age 75.

Watching:

THE INVISIBLE MAN. This was so hard to watch. Two hours of watching this poor woman be gaslit and emotionally tortured by her “dead” but invisible ex, an abusive piece of shit of the highest caliber. Murder really should be legal sometimes.

Watching INFINITY POOL was just me saying variations of “what the actual fuck?” over and over again for two hours.

Wanting Acquired:

My current media center is eight or nine years old, and has been a solid comrade during that time. But it’s old, tired. Its OS is no longer supported. It periodically can’t find one of its hard drives (I can relate). It’s time for it to retire and move to Arizona, where it will spend its golden years living on a commune with other retired computers, growing apricots and weed, and making hemp bracelets to sell at the farmer’s market.

I’ve backfilled its position (har har) with a Synology NAS (networked-attached storage) and an 8 TB hard drive, which, paired with Plex Media Server software, essentially create a compact, powerful media server connected to my network and that can stream to any device in the house. I was wary about setting it up — it seemed like it was a bit above my weight class, but it was ludicrously easy to set up. Took less than an hour. Now I begin the arduous task of converting my physical movie/tv collection into digital, because I doubt I’ll ever want a wall of Blu-rays in my house ever again.

Listening:

The new Miley album dropped Friday. I’ve listened to it once so far. It’s no BANGERZ, or even YOUNGER NOW, but I dig the vibe.

And Kirby:

Kirby and the neighbor boy, Alfredo, saying hi. Right after I took this photo, Kirby marked his territory on the fence line. And right after that, Alfredo marked his territory in the same spot, but he is so much taller that his golden arch of urine landed on Kirby. And after that, Alfredo did that instinctual, ground-kicking thing dogs do, and kicked a few pieces of mulch onto Kirby’s head. Alfredo is the sweetest boy, I think he just doesn’t know what to do with a tiny, blind, old man of a dog. Kirby was over the whole experience, and I nearly expired from laughing so hard.

In German, San Diego Means

I flew home from San Diego this past Tuesday. It was a smooth and easy travel day, especially in comparison to my outbound trip the week before, which was full of things like bad weather! canceled flights! unscheduled stops in Phoenix for fuel! dropped pretzel bites from Auntie Anne’s! In the end, the important thing is I did make it there and back again. The rest of this week has been about easing my way back into the real world. Coming home to Jess and Kirby helps.

This was my first time in San Diego since 2019. Up til that point, I had been at least once a year since 2012. I was scheduled to make my annual jaunt on March 19, 2020 — flights were booked, plans were made — but that didn’t happen for reasons that rhyme with “bran gimmick.” 2021 and 2022 were also clustercusses of a year, so I didn’t go then either. This year, I was determined to go even if it meant shipping my dead body in a pine box by cargo train, like some kind of Midwest, knock-off brand Dracula. Rail freight transport ain’t cheap, so thankfully that scenario didn’t prove necessary.

Being back in San Diego felt good, like a power-up to the soul. The weather wasn’t what one typically associates with Southern California. It rained several days — one inch on Saturday — and was generally chilly. There was one pleasant day when I was able to feel the sun on my face. None of that really mattered, though. I don’t go to San Diego for the climate. I go there to see one of my favorite humans in the world. So long as that happens, the location, while lovely, is irrelevant.

This time ‘round, I watched a bunch of movies, dined at Jeune et Jolie, my first time at a Michelin star restaurant (my closest encounter with one previously was Gabriel’s restaurant in EMILY IN PARIS), saw COCAINE BEAR, played a Buffyesque version of D&D — my drop-in character, essentially a guest star of the week, was a lockpicking cheerleader named Sheena — got a Thai massage, watched more movies, and generally just hung out.

It was a goddamned delightful time. I can’t wait to return next year.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

I didn’t read for most of the trip, then read Jane Pek’s THE VERIFIERS in basically one day. I love detective fiction, especially when someone has a clever take on it, which Pek definitely does. THE VERIFIERS is set in the world of the dating app industry, and the protagonist, Claudia Lin, is a detective of sorts for an agency that folks hire to verify the identities of people they’re dating. It’s a fun concept, but what really makes the book stand out is Claudia’s family. They’re complicated, funny, and feel very real. I enjoyed the bits with them just as much as the overarching “mystery.”

AI is magic, but the bullshit kind.

Watching:

COCAINE BEAR is everything you could want from a movie called COCAINE BEAR. Even better, the characters are generally well-drawn and interesting, which is unheard of for most horror movies. Also, the kids actually talk and act like real kids.

I watched BEVERLY HILLS COP on the outbound flight to San Diego. It had been years since I’d seen it, but I was confident it was a safe bet to watch on a plane, and if there were anything too risqué, then Delta would surely edit it out. Reader, there was and they did not. There’s a whole scene in a strip club that I had 100% forgotten about. The uncomfortable experience of watching this five-minute scene, full of shots of topless women with big 80’s hair dancing badly, was shared with the sweet old lady seated next to me, who in theory was watching THE BIG BANG THEORY, but was also definitely glancing at my screen.

THE MENU: holy shit was this good. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this, and I mean that in the best way possible. We watched this after dinner at Jeune et Jolie, so I was able to better appreciate things like the amuse-bouche.

Wanting:

A new computer chair. Mine is ten years old and has been steadily sloughing off its skin for the last six months. Considering I spend at least 8-10 hours a day in it, it’s time for it to go live on a nice farm upstate with other aging computer chairs. I’d like to get one that is more ergonomic, and also not shedding. I have no idea what to look for in a chair, beyond not shedding and [waves hand vaguely] “ergonomic.” I am open to suggestions.

Listening:

“Thunderclouds”: What a chill, lovely, catchy song. (Yes, I realize it came out like five years ago. I don’t care. Shut up.) This week I watched its music video, which operates on an entirely different level, for the first time and under ideal conditions. Hypnotic, beautiful.

And Kirby:

Patiently waiting for his dinner. Photo by Jess.