Love In the Time of Corona: The Magic Telescope of Zuma

I was just on the phone to Tater, my husband out there in California. Actually, he’s my husband everywhere so, not just my husband in California but my worldwide husband who’s at work today in LA. He’s an essential worker. He’s an Electrical Engineer for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and helps to manage the electrical grid for the Los Angeles basin in real time. It takes a lot of spark-power to keep Tenseltown tenseling even under normal circumstances but right now keeping hospitals in power ranks right on up there with, yeah, that’s pretty much gotta happen or even more people are going to die than are already and that’s a lot. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital in South LA has had patients in the chapel and in the gift shop.  Right now the Angels in the City of Angels wear scrubs. Hospitals are having to turn ambulances away. A lot of people at Tater’s work have had COVID and some are out now under self-quarantine because of “possible contact with someone with Coronavirus.” There are only a finite number of people who are trained in these positions so Tater has been asked to pick up as many shifts as he’s willing to. You wouldn’t believe the number of times he’s done two sixteen-hour shifts in as many days. That means he gets home one night at 11:30 pm after working sixteen hours and has to leave at 7:00 for the next sixteen-hour day. He grew up a Mormon Idaho farm boy and that work ethic is no-shit. I want to become a rich and famous writer, actor, producer so that I can tell him he can retire early and have anything his heart desires. That’s what I want. 
An Art fellowship I was receiving that was possibly going to be two years turned into one and most of the grip and grunt work I was doing inside the Industry (hanging lights, art department, set carpentry) ended abruptly with COVID.  Within a couple of months, my income dropped by between three and four thousand a month. We needed that money. Even so, Tater wasn’t too keen on my leaving the house for anything since I’d had a heart ablation only a month or two before. To say that he is protective of me is an understatement. So he had groceries and liquor delivered to my door there at Bastion where I continued to try to, uh, 
This is what I was afraid of. This is the most mundane, pedestrian, amateurish writing I’ve ever—well, maybe not the most. 

Here are some interesting facts about electricity and the City of Los Angeles.   

We get power from as far away as Washington State, it’s hydro. I heard they had a lot of water up there in the Pacific Northwest. We get both Coal and Wind from Utah. The Wind makes sense because (insert joke #a something about there being a lot of hot air coming down from the Utah State Capitol or #b something-something tilting at windmills). The Coal part makes sense because except for that big blue Liberal dot over Salt Lake City, the international headquarters of the Mormon Church [I bet Brigham Young never saw that one coming. when he said “This is the place” I doubt he meant “This is the place where there should be a lot of gay bars and coffee shops.” Mormons don’t drink coffee or allow for willy sucking among men of the same gender and/or sex)] most Utahans are proud Republicans and no state could seriously consider itself Republican if it didn’t join in the worship of that oily black brittle we like to tickle out of Mother Earth because now, you see, it’s “clean coal.” This from me, the hypocrite who is all-too-willing to flip on our air conditioner in Hollywood and burn some of that good Utah coal if the Pacific breeze hasn’t sufficiently cooled our East-facing apartment that day. We get our nuclear from Arizona. There have been several members of the International Council on Conscience who have written letters to the Main Governing Body making the case that The Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, 45 miles from Phoenix, be permanently closed, not because there have been indications that the plant is traditionally unsafe (i.e. unstable reactor, contaminated leakage) but however, given the number of Republicans who live in Arizona and given how very far down the Capitalist food chain they are compared to where they think they are, this clearly demonstrates a high level of cognitive interruption so of course it just logically has been supposed that the plant is radiating in some other way, perhaps not radiating in the regular radiation sort of way, but in some way that it is rendering the people there stupid. I am not without sympathy for these poor desert dwellers who have to suffer intellectual necrotizing but hey, I like my ice cream kept cold in Los Angeles so Thanks Martha McSally!  Oh wait, she gone ain’t she? 

Sunny Southern California isn’t called that for no reason (double-negative) and we also get heaps of solar from Northeast of Los Angeles and also from our neighbors next door in Nevada (the middle syllable of the name of their state is pronounced “ADD” as in NeVADDuh, they will quickly remind you). 

We can get off Carbon-based energy sources. We can. If you think we can’t you’re wrong. We can do anything we set our minds to and commit to do together. 

I’ve always thought we could come up with some way without killing wildlife to put some kind of floating atoll in the ocean, manmade, anchored but able to move somewhat with the shifts in tide therefore providing the strength that flexibility provides and on the bottom of the atoll would be large propellers that might be described as underwater windmills that could harness the power of the great currents beneath the surface of the world’s oceans. On top of the atolls could be windfarms. The coolness of the ocean cools the turbines so there is less concern of wear from heat. And I think they should remake To Kill a Mockingbird and let me play Atticus Finch. I would knock it out of the park. 

My mother’s fellow teacher and longtime friend (now mine too) Donna King holds a nightly devotional on Facebook. She reads a chapter from the Bible and then discusses it. Her approach to scripture is like her approach to life as I have observed it to be, full of kindness and love. I know people from all over the world. If I just said to most people who know me, “Alabama woman, White, Christian” and then asked them to write a paragraph about what this person was like, I bet they’d miss on a good bit of it. I know there are a lot of people who love and respect Donna who wouldn’t necessarily care too much for my politics or for that matter the fact that I, as a Marine, married a Sailor. Just kidding. I’m talking about “the gay thing.” There’s a whole bunch of folks back there around where I grew up in Alabama who would not be signed on to the fact that I’m married to another dude. But when Matthew and I got together, Donna prayed in earnest for him and me, that night among all the other requests for healing and help. It touched me in the center of my heart and all it makes me think is that there is a Christianity of profession and there is a Christianity of demonstration. I don’t really care so much to hear people tell me what they believe; I’m more interested in having people show me what they believe and Donna prayed so fervently for my relationship with Tater and that we “might find a home in each other.” I thought that was so beautifully put and her prayer was answered “yes” and I have found a home in him and he in me.  When we were trying to buy the house in New Orleans, she stood in faith with us that that goal could come to fruition. I’m writing to you from my office in that house now. We live here and in Los Angeles and I love both our homes and both our hometowns but I enjoy them most when I am with him. So, I’ll go to his side on Tuesday which is where I intend to stay until it’s safe to move about the planet again. 

I came here to New Orleans this time, I thought, to see my friend Jim. He’s been very ill. Tater, whom I have to run out of the kitchen so I can cook his supper (he just wants to be by me, he just wants to be by my side), said, “I think you’ll regret it if you do go to New Orleans to be near Jim.” One of the only two things that could pass as arguments that Tater and I have ever had was because I offered to go to New Orleans a week early to get the place ready so he could just relax. You would have thought told him I didn’t want to be around him for a week when the absolute opposite is true, as much as he loves being near me, I love having him near. We decided to come to New Orleans at the same time that trip. We worked on the house together for the first two days, made love through the first half of a hurricane and stood naked in the yard during the eye, fell asleep in each other’s arms for Zeta’s second act and finally her departure. So when this man volunteered to be without me so that I could go to my sick friend, I took it as God speaking through my husband and I was on a plane the next day with the intention of one of my dearest friends who was struggling.  That was not to be, not physically anyway. Change in COVID restrictions made it possible for only one visitor per day at the hospital where he was and no visitors per day at the physical rehabilitation facility where he is now. As I said we were not able to visit physically but I’m convinced we had some metaphysical tête-a-têtes while I’ve been here. In meditation I imagined entering through his hospital window (a physical impossibility) in hopes of recreating what had been our actual last in-person visit. On that day, I’d given them no real indication when I’d be coming to the hospital but moments before I arrived Jim announced to his husband that I was walking into the building and described what I was wearing. His husband told me that Jim had told him how I had come to visit him through the window which sent chills down my spine. As far as (most) everyone is concerned, this is all chalked up to the delusional misfires of a post-infarc’d brain. I say “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt in your philosophies.” Anything real I can do for Jim’s benefit for the near future I can do from Los Angeles. And as with so many things in life, I only thought I knew why I was here. More, always, shall be revealed. 

Wow. And as Providence would have it. I just got a text from Jim. A single photograph. Jim, over the past couple of years, has made a great passion of photography which he then uses computer manipulation to alter the original in a way which makes it into an entirely new work of art. Jim has an eye for seeing the beauty in the ordinary and the extraordinary. This photograph, just texted to me, is of his right foot. The poor circulation has caused discoloration of the toes. It looks painful. Jim’s manipulation of the photo has also turned it into a beautiful work of art one might find hanging in the MoMA. I’ve often described Jim as my “bro-dad” and he has been both these things to me to be sure. Here, even while infirmed, he demonstrates what Artists do. Artists make art. I’m not (any longer) one of those who believes that great art requires great suffering. But I do believe that when suffering comes along, the true Artist must then become the Alchemist as well, not for their own benefit but for all of ours. The best writing I ever did was while I was squatting in the desert at war grinding sand between my teeth trying to scratch out with dried up ink pens what I considered to be my own spiritual epiphanies and wondering if each entry might be my last. I don’t want to have to go to war again to be able to write. What am I saying? We are at war. Look about. But it does me well to remember that the battles of the spiritual warrior are always, always with the self. 

I realize this isn’t my best writing but I’m compelled to share it as if it were something I was particularly proud of. I must build some new inertia. I’m coming to a place in my life where I definitely don’t think good art has to be pretty but I do think it has to be honest. This is who I am. This is where I am. 
As I said when I began the blog today, Tater and I had just gotten off the phone. We were fantasizing about a motorcycle ride we’ll make next week, he on his V-Max and me on my Monster. We’ll take 10-West out to the ocean and then head north towards Malibu. We might or might not stop at my favorite sitting boulder just above Santa Monica but instead just ride on up Pacific Coast Highway a bit, maybe straight on through Malibu and farther north. “You reckon you can still ride out to Zuma Beach?” I ask which I guess is a pretty silly question since I probably would have heard if it washed away. “I haven’t been there in years.” I tell him. “Don’t know” he answers. 

During my 30s, back when I had my old Ducati, right after I got back from the war, on many days I’d ride alone up to Zuma. If you walked far enough down the beach there was an area where people shucked off and sunbathed au natural and so did I. Cher’s house was far above on a cliff. Years later I heard it had been threatened by fires. I hope it survived. I’ve met Cher, I like her. Sometimes when I’d be sunning my buns on that beach, I’d wonder if Cher had binoculars or even a special short-range telescope (which she could easily afford with all her Cher money, “Chers” I think it’s called in Stock Market terminology) so that she could look out over the sea or down to the beach. I wondered if she ever saw my naked butt and if she did, if she found me beautiful or perhaps had no judgements one way or another. Maybe when Tater and I ride up there next week, we’ll shuck off our motorcycle gear and air our differences before God and the Mighty Pacific. Maybe if Cher’s place did burn she’s built an even bigger and better castle and maybe she’ll come out and look through her magic Cher telescope and cast her gaze down on Tater and me, now two butts instead of one. And maybe she’ll find us beautiful.  

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