Stuck in Whiting Without Fresh Fish

Yep, this SARS 2 virus has docked our fishing fleets leaving me without any fresh Salmon or Yellow Fin…and I am stuck in Whiting. Well, haddock and pollock I can tolerate, but raw salmon or tuna…Yum! One last comment on fish, this virus seems fishy with more people dying of the Flu and Flu Like Illnesses, but that is not the concern of this article.

The purpose is that I gave up a town I had lived in for 30 years where at one time I just had to head out my door and within minutes I could find a conversation. A half-hour walk took an hour due to all the conversations you found along the way. Walk into a bar and at least 50 people knew your name, but times have been different.

I blame it on the movies. Originally I thought it was quite interesting to see all the films that used the North Shore of Boston as locations. Watching the grips and carpenters setting up for shots…then I realized that the area has befallen the same fate as London.

Think of all the movies over the years filmed in London from Sherlock Holmes to Harry Potter; London I think is the second most expensive city in the world. Well from The Russian’s Are Coming, The Russian’s are Coming to Hubie Halloween the North Shore has befallen the same fate. It cost more to Live here than in New York City. We just can’t afford to live here anymore.

That and the corporations and universities attract a whole bunch of people, without having enough homes in the area to accommodate them all.

So what does that add up to? Me going 4 years with only talking to people 3 days out of the week. Pretty bad when you know 5,000 friends…

When I  bump into one of them and I ask how they have been the usual answer is that they have been working. Which is a horrible answer. It doesn’t even answer my original question. The right answer would be…lonely.

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that the word “loneliness” appeared infrequently in books until the early 19th century, when it steadily increased in relative frequency to the late 1960s, shooting way up until the early 1980s, then declining roughly to levels that prevailed between the 1930s and 1960s.  AARP, Harris Poll, UCLA Loneliness Scale, United States Joint Economic Commission, and Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated in an article that “[l]oneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”

So maybe the SARS 2 epidemic will cure the loneliness epidemic? 

I had a teacher who lived in New York City and taught in Whiting NJ; he never went to the Statue of Liberty. He said it was going to always be there and there was no hurry to see it. The good thing with friends is that they are always within one phone call or a mile away. Most people figure that their friends will always be there; well I have been gone from Salem now for 4 months and most of my friends think I will always be around.

So the blessing of this Lockdown? The lesson that your friends will not always be there. We have a national mandate not to visit your friends. We are forced into isolation. You can be arrested now if you choose to visit a friend, but why would you want to visit a friend? You have not wanted to for years now; well at a frequency that really just doesn’t add up to much. So how could this lesson turn into a blessing? It might create a desire for something that is denied to you…

For many years we have been like the frog in a pot where the temperature has been slowly raised; if left there long enough you will boil.

Which leads me into another parable:

Once upon a time, there was a nonconforming sparrow who decided not to fly south for the winter. However, soon the weather turned so cold that he reluctantly started southward. In a short time, ice began to form on his wings and he fell to earth in a barnyard, almost frozen. A cow passed by and crapped on the little sparrow. The sparrow thought it was the end. But then the manure warmed him and defrosted his wings. Warm and happy, able to breathe, he started to sing. Just then a large cat came by and hearing the chirping, investigated the sounds. The cat cleared away the manure, found the chirping sparrow and promptly ate him.

So the lesson is that everyone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy and everyone who gets you out of shit is not necessarily your friend. So if you’re warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut.

I have no idea why I mentioned that parable.

Oh yeah, the virus has just thrown you into a boiling pot of hot water. It has turned the water REAL UP! Do you wait for the fox to lift you UP?

No, you jump OUT!

Get OUT and visit someone.  Be Careful, but get OUT! Eight feet is better than miles of coaxial or 3G waves. Go see a FRIEND! Especially since they are trying to tell us we are all going to be dead in a few months…I have lost at least one friend during this Lockdown, of Lung Cancer. She proved that she will not always be there; which leads to a loss for all of us.

There have been studies that those people who have a natural tendency to have peak experiences will have even more when they are around others with the same tendency. The opposite can happen as well. Those people who tend to have more peak experiences when around depressed people will have more sad events than they could of had with a different population.

I will not say the people we associate with around the water cooler are not good people, but the nature of work is you are there to work which puts limits upon how deep a friendship can develop. Some of us are lucky enough to meet someone at the water cooler and develop a good friend, but they must be invited into our homes and break bread with us on a regular-bases to break that barrier that work instills.

So at the water cooler is a bunch of guilt-ridden people who are overtaxed and are not refreshed by the joy that seeing a good friend can create within your soul! As Bob Seeger had said within one of his songs; Seeing an old friend is good for the soul!

Aquaintances can act as MREs , but eventually we all need a good steak!  Or salad for you vegans. Steak or salad, we all need our friendships we have developed over many years. Friendship is the salary we have received for years of labor. Just remember women go into labor to give us all the blessings of life. They do not work at it. There is a difference. We work to keep acquaintances; we labor to develop friends.

So remember your mother labored for 9 months to give you life, so you better not work it away and disregard their efforts!

I wish for many of you not to befall the fate of my friend. Three boys grew up on farms next to each other and went through Kindergarten to High School as best friends. Two of them became the third’s best man at his wedding. Then…

Life.

They moved away from each other and worked for 30 years. Now when their joints are stiff and their hair gone, they labor to get together twice a year to go fishing. First problem: why did they wait 30 years to go fishing? The second: why only twice? That man who got married; his father worked two jobs and said he would enjoy himself in retirement, got sick and did not enjoy his time in the later years of his life.

So our lives were frozen in our loneliness and the virus…it has just shit on us. So can COVID-19 be a good thing? Yes!

In a strange way, the Avian Flu ended WWI.

The Lockdown gives us time to reconnect to hobbies or develop them in the first place. It has us spending more time with family. Many children are going to look back at this time as a great memory. They are going to remember the summer vacation that their parents shared with them. They are going to remember all of the fishing trips, the hikes in woods, the balls tossed, the stories told, and smiles shared. At the excuse of our children, we might reconnect with all those hobbies that feed our soul! At the excuse of our children.

So remember if we ignore our friends, family, our hobbies…ourselves; our children will grow up and do the same.  How did this happen? Remember that Ngram? As we became an industrial civilization and moved away from the labor of the farm we moved to the work of the factory without our childhood friends and family we labored to develop. So from the dawn of the 19th century till the early 80s loneliness strived in our society taught from parent to child.

The Wizard of Oz.

So you might think that reference came out of leftfield.

There was a man within his teaching of the meaning of the book described the Tinman as the factory worker who left his heart back on the farm.

So what happened in the 80s?

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows that the word “loneliness” appeared infrequently in books until the early 19th century, when it steadily increased in relative frequency to the late 1960s, shooting way up until the early 1980s. So what happened in the 80s to slow this trend? Downsizing. The Tinman went home.

Look at pictures of yourself or your parents from the 80s. We looked horrible. We all looked older then than we do today 40 years later. I have seen this fact in hundreds of people’s photos of then and the person who stood in front of me recently. The downsizing led people to reevaluate. It might of led some to return home and reconnect. It slowed down our economy and…our lives.

As we shut down the economy, many younger people in our population will return to their families and see those friends they labored for. The shut down also has forced many to work from home. Imagine if we could get a large bunch of us to telecommute:

  1. It would possibly get rid of the rush hour.
  2. Many could lose the hour commute daily.
  3. The environment would improve.
  4. The removal of our dependency on oil might end some wars and our soldiers can come home.
  5. We would have less roadkill.
  6. The burden on harbor cities would be diminished reducing housing costs throughout the country.
  7. Homelessness could drop.
  8. With housing costs dropping people will have more time to gather with each other.
  9. The amenities we move to large cities for can be developed even in the most rural areas for the economy to support them will be at hand. The difference? We would actually have time to use those amenities.
  10. Our dependence on acquaintances would drop for the need of real friendships. The isolation of working at home will lead many to get out of the house and socialize after dinner.
  11. The possibility of those people who tend to have more peak experiences can teach others how to have them.

Now another lesson I have gathered from The Wizard of Oz is that Dorothy was at a precarious point in her life, like many fairytale adolescents… her life is on the razor’s edge influenced by memories of her mother expressed by the polar opposites of the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch.  Your children will also find themselves on the edge of a cliff wondering what to do. What have you taught them to help their leap of faith into their adulthood? Will their memories of you be split between the good witch and the Wicked witch. This forced shut down is letting them see the good witch and you will have fond memories of this time for years to come.

So will we pass on the virus of loneliness for the next generation? How long can this pandemic spread?

I have friends from Senegal who have fond memories of times before the 80s. In their neighborhoods, they were still traditional with traditional communities.  They lived in traditional homes that didn’t change within the last hundred years. Their children roamed the town. Then at dinner time; they never looked for their children. They knew somewhere in the village they were being fed and it would be a great insult on their friends to call their children home. In the 80s they got European homes and European traditions. They said things changed, they had become modern.

So the people in Senegal are still traditional fishermen, but their lives got fishy too. The industrial world has spread the pandemic to the Traditional World.

You turn on the news now and all you hear is how they want to cure the SARS 2 pandemic, but I say how do we end the loneliness pandemic that has been growing unchecked for 220 years? Can one virus kill another?

So many things can happen at this time. Do we feed the Good Wolf or the bad Wolf? The bad wolf  would be that we come out with low employment, lower wages, the primaries suffer and the wrong candidate arises, we can have a dictator, Habeas Corpus does not get restored, the virus was timed by the Russians (who dropped the cost of the oil, created the Brexit issue and Trump through Cambridge Analytica, Britain’s break from Europe 2 weeks prior to the pandemic, created the precipice Europe sits on through Trump’s Trade War that the Pandemic just pushed them over), house foreclosures, failure of small businesses, and an ever-increasing debt which splits us further from friends and family as we are forced to work longer and harder pushing us further into the loneliness pandemic which will kill more than COVID-19 can ever kill in the next couple outbreaks.

So I ask, are you the frog that kept his friends and family within the pot or do you all jump out now that the virus has set the pot to a boil?

As a nation, do we feed the Good Wolf and end the pandemic forever!

If so, my travels might end sooner than later and I might just go back home to my friends. If not I will be finding new ones, I hope.

So I hope you will learn this last lesson from the movies, most of Netflix is filled with B-rate movies. So get out of the house and have your own real adventure with your community of friends and family! Increase those peak experiences!

 

Good Times

I have lived on the North Shore of Boston, mostly in Salem, for almost thirty years. While there I have made over 5,000 good friends. Salem was a very walkable town in which a fifteen-minute walk could take up to an hour or more. Every fifteen feet there was another friend and another conversation. In the early 90’s there was a community of a few hundred, between the ages of 21 and 60, that would gather to dance and listen to some of the finest live music in the country. Just in Salem, we had 12 venues within walking distance and about 7 others within a 10-minute drive. In any of these places, you were guaranteed to see at least 50 familiar faces. Planning your day was not necessary, you could just walk out the door and know you were to meet someone you knew and have a grand time.

Then beyond the public sphere, we would entertain each other in our houses with holiday parties and gatherings just to share food and conversation, just because. Ivan would drop a side of beef in my fridge the night before and a case of Nantucket Nectars. Then we would invite 20 people out of a group of 50 that would rotate through for his dinners. He would cook and I would entertain and clear. Many people would stop and chat Ivan up when he was cooking, but he was doing something he loved. Especially since he did not have to fly out into the pasture and butcher a stolen cow in Bolivia like his old group of friends would do. Drinking some malty dark ales and my homebrewed melomel, mead brewed with fruit juices, the conversations just flowed. Then I held the annual Jul time Glog Party where they would bring something goofy to hang on my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Metal fish, condoms on a stick, barbed wire Christmas wreaths, broken sunglasses, and people on a coat hanger hanged or hung from the tree. That would be followed by the Queercorn Parties. Aquarius/ Capricorn group birthday parties for about 8 of us that shared this celebration month.  On our 40th my friend John Archer let us borrow his mansion that was written up in the New York Times, The Salvaged Mansion,  for the party as Steve and Downey cooked for us all with food from his catering company. Many fine and hilarious moments we shared through time.

Beyond that, we went hiking and swimming. Behind an old mansion in Ipswich we found an old picnic lodge on a Native American spiritual site where we crafted tables and benches within, around a massive fireplace. We sat after hiking and told stories and shared jokes around the fire. This was a place we came out to for a few ‘after family’ Easter gatherings; like old tribes from Norway and Ireland would of done in days gone by. In Boxford, my friends would dress up with capes and swords and sneak through the woods to ‘The Rock’ and set a fire with a goose on a spit. There were many great castles to drive to. Driving up Rt 127 or RT 133 was a way of life. Just follow any state route 1, 1A, 97, 127, 133, or 35 north and you were to find some of the best country roads and attractions for a good old day trip you could hope for. In the winter it might be a sledding park with Greg and his nephew and niece. In the  Spring one of the many fruit stands with fresh bread, fudge, apple turnovers, and such. In the Summer there were trips to Tod’s Farm to pick through their massive antique market spread out on a small farm. Visits to Castle Hill where Pete would stand above a castle wall and ponder the possibilities of his minions gathered on the lawn below. Then fried clams at Essex Seafood and more antiques in Essex on 133. We swam behind the castle of Gordon College and Hood’s Pond in Topsfield. Dove off Thunderbridge. Mountain Biked along Rt 128 in the woods. Walked on Viking ships or seen them sail in the distance. Then in the Fall, we would hit Connors or Russel Orchards for cider donuts and harvest outings. Eerie Events behind the Phillips Library with a fire and ghost stories; we were always up to something after work. We didn’t wait for the weekends.

Then on Tuesdays, we had a roundtable of five or so friends talk over history, current events, alternative history, quantum science, and more laughs and beers. We would sit back in the Irish/Scottish Old Spot by the fire and just enjoy ourselves. Some really good minds expounding on the finer points of life. Just some really good conversation on a quieter night. Fire or campfire, we were not that picky. We just liked the company.

Even beyond this, I recall my mother’s stories. She grew up in Norseville where the Norwegians moving out of Brooklynn built up bungalows on the weekends until they could move in full time. They had a local church that organized their social life. Strangely enough, the church was not that churchy, but a community center. They put together the roller skating and bowling night weekly. They had the dances you could meet your spouse at. The harvest home carnivals that brought the town together. The Norwegian dinners with the young girls dressed in traditional dresses serving their elders who missed Norway. In my time so far, I have not experienced this. I have not tried the Mason Lodge, the PTA, the Elk or Moose, Book club, or food pantry. I mostly have experienced the organic social gatherings outside of an organization. Now I am wondering if that is all that is left.

For there is no more time, at least that is what the people I know think. No longer do we gather at each other’s homes, hike, or swim. I drive or more often than not bike alone up all of those routes. Antiques are left for later generations and Tod’s Farm has gone out to pasture. I see most of my friends yearly and ask what have they been up to; working is the usual answer. Which makes catching up easy… People don’t call, but text. You feel connected to them through their posts. Those few friends I get out, is after several false starts. It does make me feel much more grateful for my Wednesday lunch with Don and my Thursday game of pool with Roger which are always steadfast. I just have Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where the biggest conversation I have all day is ordering my Lapsang Souchong tea.

Somewhere in between a hope and a joke I wish I was a horrible person and all of these great people I have called my friends are having great adventurous lives without me. That I was so horrible that they just can’t put up with me; because that would mean they were not just working and sleeping their lives away. That social activity was not displayed within a 6′ x 3′ device, depending on your wifi signal.

I have read the secret to having peak experiences is to be around others that are having peak experiences. So I am about to set forth through America and see where I would like to build a home. A place where they still see their close friends weekly if not daily. A place that has time for each other. After the light is returning after the Winter Soltice of Christmas I am looking for a rebirth this Spring as I head out around Easter. I will be looking for those people who are having peak experiences. I am not sure if I will find it, but I am looking for Northern Exposure, Evening Shade, The Goonies, the cèilidh in Nova Scotia, the family Pow Wow (Not the trinket variety), the lake where everyone gathers, the wood everyone tromps through, the porch with the fiddle and flute, the midnight Yahtzee game, the Callaloo with the endless pot of rice, the tea kettle left behind the open kitchen door waiting for friends when you’re out.

If you interested too, follow this blog and see where I have been and the people I have met. Maybe I will come across a place you might have been looking for? Maybe a place you felt like you have been to already, maybe not in this life though. Somewhere just out of reach of your memories. Somewhere you almost could touch. I will be posting pictures of the places, the events, and the live music. I will also be posting about the great souls, musicians, authors, inventors, and the like when I come across them. Maybe I will even get to the strange places Tyler Franks keeps posting about…

So keep following this blog. Who knows you might find a community too!

Cheers,

~Chris

P.S.~ The funny thing is, most of the good times were before we had cellphones to capture the events ad times we had. So the really good times are just left to our memories. Strange all of the gatherings stopped happening after we had easy means of recording them…