Some number of deaths some horrific massive number with real gravity to it

Another voice in the churning ambient chorus of suffering

This piece appears in my book Lockdown in Hell World. It was written in May 2020 when a then shocking 100,000 Americans had died.

I guess the Trump administration’s plan is to hide the bodies and pretend they’re not piling up like we did with Iraq?

I briefly convinced myself that there is some number of deaths some horrific massive number with real gravity to it that demands attention and action a tipping point type of number that we might reach whereby Republicans and “open the economy” types might stop acting like they are now. Is it 500,000 I wondered is it a million but if we’re being honest no such number likely exists. Instead what will happen is we will come to accept thousands dead every single day as another voice in the churning ambient chorus of suffering we do our best to tune out already much like with gun violence or unnecessary deaths due to the cost of healthcare or the thousands our military kills around the world. Many of us even the “good ones” like me and you already have started to do that in a way right or else how would we manage to function on a daily basis? How do you get up and measure out the coffee and heat up the water and poke your stupid face into the fridge for a nice piece of fruit every morning without pretending if at least for a while that no one is dying outside your walls?

I said this about gun violence back in August of last year in between the shootings in El Paso and Dayton—do you remember which those ones were or did it take a second?— and I suppose it’s just what deaths from the pandemic are going to be like going forward.

“It’s just like a weather report for a state you don’t live in at this point.”

Until it happens to you or someone you know and then it’s real.

I hit a weird sort of wall the past week where nothing really matters much and nothing brings me any sense of relief or pleasure. I’m not taking any solace from reading or watching TV or drinking or making dinner or sleeping or going for a run or jacking off anymore it’s all bountiful and constantly available and so the things we look forward to under normal circumstances have kind of lost their luster. More than usual that is because that’s sort of how I’ve always been as long as you’ve known me. This has all been like finding a separate basement in your already spooky basement that leads to a sub-subterranean chamber and you’re not entirely sure you want to find out what it holds. It’s the same way I’ve always known America was a charnel house of horrors designed to torture the poor but I somehow know that more so than I did in say February. And that’s all while living at home farting around on the computer all day so I guess I should shut the fuck up and enjoy my good fortune.

After I wrote that I watched a video of a bunch of people in Florida protesting that they can’t go to the gym to exercise by exercising . . . outside of the gym.

They said there was the possibility of a tornado ripping through the state yesterday and I didn’t believe it because I’ve never seen a tornado which means they aren’t real. I went about my day with the impotent tornado buzzing around in the back of my mind sowing no destruction and leveling no homes and carried on with my normal routine which is to sit here not thinking about anything besides the one thing we all have to think about.

Does anyone else think about this shit pretty much non- stop and still somehow manage to not actually grasp how much it’s going to fuck everything up for years at best and maybe forever?

I read an interview with Werner Herzog just now and the writer goes to him he goes it must be very frustrating to have to isolate like this and Herzog goes:

“No, I can live with it. Everybody has to live with it and I’m no exception. I do the most aggression against the virus by hunkering down. Which sounds like a paradox, because hunkering down is defensive. But we have to starve the fucker.”

Later on last night a bad storm started and I thought maybe tornados are real after all but I was wrong it was just some explosive rain and lightning and thunder and wind and we turned the TV off and watched the lightning and I said wait do you start counting after the lightning strike or the thunder and Michelle said whichever the right one is I already forget and we counted one Mississippi two Mississippi etc. until the storm got closer and then got further away and it was thrilling in a way like we were children how they’re bemused by everything in nature how they’re experiencing everything for the first time always and I wondered if the rain and the wind and the lightning was destroying anything somewhere else and if it was realer for people other than me for whom it was just a new thing to look at for a while until it was gone and not my problem anymore.

I saw a picture of people spilling out of a bar in San Francisco and a video of a MAGA pud at a crowded bar in Florida saying it’s all fake and so on and the president retweeted it and I saw bars packed in Wisconsin and I saw that Texas which opened up a couple weeks ago just had their highest single death total in a day and I read a story in Airmail the newsletter for rich psychos about underground speakeasy clubs in New York City where the invincible and decadent and unbothered youth were dancing and passing around drugs.

“Tequila shots and dry martinis were being passed around, sweaty hand to sweaty hand. Drinks were $10 a pop, cash only. A long-haired man snorted cocaine-and-ketamine swirlies off of mirrored platters lining the sides of a profes- sional D.J. booth. Behind it, a D.J. maneuvered vinyl discs of tech-house records. A good-looking couple passed around props—cowboys hats, studded crowns; I even glimpsed a bright-pink wig—while a brunette girl sat on a floor pil- low, licking magic-mushroom chocolate out of an artisanal packet. A supermodel and her boyfriend I recognized from Instagram downed shots—‘Cheers to corona!’ they said, glasses clinking. Two guys next to me did the elbow bump before laughing and embracing. ‘We don’t do that!’”

Then I remembered I’d been meaning to get around to rereading The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe so I did that just now while the coffee machine was sputtering and whining in the kitchen like it was lonely.

It’s the end of May and America is open for business and back to doing what we do best baby and if you need evidence of that look no further than the shooting at a naval base in Texas on Wednesday of this week or the shooting at a mall in Arizona on Thursday. Mercifully no one was killed in either attack I guess our mass shooters are a little rusty like the rest of us but don’t worry because the big boys in the government got up to some killing of their own by conducting the first execution of the pandemic. Nature is healing itself.

Walter Barton was put to death on Tuesday for the 1991 killing of a woman named Gladys Kuehler in Ozark, Missouri a crime for which he was tried five times over the decades and for which there was as there often is considerable question about whether or not he actually did.

“Mr. Barton has maintained his innocence since day one; because the case against Mr. Barton was so weak, it took the state five tries to actually convict him and sentence him to death, ‘improv[ing its case] time after time because they find more snitches’—and, even then Missouri’s highest court affirmed his conviction only by the narrowest of margins, with multiple justices strongly dissenting,” the Innocence Project wrote in a request for an independent board to review his conviction.

“His conviction rests entirely upon evidence now known to be two of the leading causes of wrongful conviction: incentivized jailhouse informant testimony and blood spat- ter evidence, an infamously unreliable forensic ‘science.’ Today, there is new, reliable evidence, casting even more doubt on his already troubling conviction. Mr. Barton’s case is marred by prosecutorial misconduct, as well as ineffective assistance of counsel, from beginning to end.”

“Mr. Barton’s case has the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction,” they wrote.

I guess they had to take extra precautions for the witnesses to the execution on account of the pandemic. Karen Pojmann a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections said they “planned to divide witnesses within three rooms” and that “everyone would be given a temperature check before entering and provided face coverings and hand sanitizer.” So that’s good. You wouldn’t want anyone getting sick at the execution. You wouldn’t want them taking anything home with them that they couldn’t recover from.

Not too far away from there over the weekend as the Covid death toll odometer inched over 100,000 Missouri was also open for business in its own way with hundreds of revelers packed into a crowded pool bar on the Lake of the Ozarks perhaps silently and invisibly executing each other via partying.

Have you ever been to a pool bar like that they always seem like they’re designed by Dante just layers and layers of despair. Speaking of which I watched this movie over the weekend called Antrum about a brother and sister who try to find their dead dog by digging a hole to Hell. At the beginning the boy asks his mother if Maxine the dog was in Heaven now and the mother says “No. Because he was bad.”

It’s not just in places like Missouri that people are itching to get back to business there was a shitty little stunt protest in Brooklyn last week held by people who think getting to the salon is more important than other human lives.

“My fingernails are breaking, I’ve got hangnails, I’ve been getting my nails done for 14 years . . . I’m very much into yoga, I can’t go to my Bikram yoga studios, I can’t go get my eyelashes done, I can’t go and socialize with the people that are my friends,” a woman from Mississippi named Hillary Angel Barq told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s led me to depression, it’s made me not feel sexual—I mean it’s awful.”

It does sound awful not going to argue with her there.

Anyway I don’t care about that I just wanted an excuse to share this with you the best sentence I’ve read in all of Covid and maybe all of my life from a story about the protest.

“Frank Scurlock, a former candidate for mayor in New Orleans and heir to an inflatable bounce house fortune, was arrested in 2017 for allegedly masturbating in the backseat of an Uber in California, for which he pled no contest in 2018, according to a report in the Times-Picayune.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the loudest voices when it comes to reopening and getting everyone back to work are usually people like that people who are the heirs to bounce house fortunes and not the actual workers who will be putting their lives at risk at the bounce house factory.

I don’t know why people aren’t scared to get into a pool with a hundred strangers right now maybe they just love the thrill of gambling. I can personally attest to the high of risking like $50 on a hand of blackjack so can you imagine how much more exciting it must be when you’re risking your whole entire life and the lives of everyone around you?

Or maybe a lot of people aren’t scared to mingle in the piss and beer water stew literally and metaphorically speaking because our brains have been softened up by too much misinformation just a constant pummeling to the dome every day for years by the news media trustworthy and otherwise. A recent poll by Yahoo News/YouGov for example found that 44% of Republicans believe that “Bill Gates is plotting to use a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people and monitor their movements.” Democrats are much smarter of course only 19% of them believe that which is . . . uh 1 in 5 Democrats. Not bad!

I don’t know why so many people feel the need to divert their very natural and instinctive disdain for the ungodly abomination of billionaires like Gates and George Soros or whoever into believing in made up conspiracies when they could very simply despise them for being billionaires in the first place and doing the actual real life things that billionaires do.

More from the poll:

“The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that this ‘choose your own reality’ effect is distorting perceptions of nearly every aspect of the pandemic, from reopening to vaccination to the official death toll. A broad majority of the public is either ‘very’ (56 percent) or ‘somewhat’ concerned (30 percent) about ‘false or misleading information being communicated about coronavirus.’ That sentiment, at least, is not partisan: More than 80 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents agree.”

“Yet blame for these concerns varies greatly by political affiliation. When Democrats are asked to select the top source of false or misleading information about the coronavirus, 56 percent pick the Trump administration; that number rises to 69 percent among Hillary Clinton voters. Republicans, how- ever, point to the mainstream media (54 percent) as the primary culprit; 61 percent of Trump voters say likewise.”

“The result, in many cases, is two different sets of ‘facts’—only one of which resembles the truth.”

They also found that only half of Americans say they intend to be vaccinated “if and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.” 23% said they will not. Get in the fucking pool baby.

That film I mentioned Antrum comes with a sort of Blair Witch/The Ring style meta framing which I found pretty corny. The idea is that the actual “film” within the film is so horrifying that anyone who has ever seen it dies and they have “experts” and shit talking about it in a fake documentary. I sort of wish they had skipped that and just released it as is because it’s pretty unsettling and gets more so with each successive layer of Hell the kids dig themselves into. At a certain point they realize that they’ve fucked up and might not be able to turn back at all.