Lockdown: Who are the trusted?

David Letterman took some time off from The Late Show in March 2003. I was nearing completion of my first year teaching at Assets, still young enough to stay up for Letterman and be among the first teachers on campus early the next morning.

Letterman had a stye or a cyst or one of those eye ailments I only know the names of from doing crossword puzzles. While he was out, he had different fill-in hosts each night, something he did a few times. I thought it was best when Paul Shaffer was the host, and Bruce Willis did a great job on almost no notice the night Letterman’s son was born.

Second best fill-in (sorry Bruce) was Elvis Costello. He was the host and the musical guest on March 11.

We were in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, a military action I was opposed to from the beginning. I swear I took this position long before Farenheit 9/11. I could sense it on September 12, actually, that America was gunning for a war when I was still teaching at HBA, and changed my voicemail greeting at work to “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

We talked about the impending invasion of Iraq in my tenth-grade homeroom. There were a few pro-invasion students, a few anti-invasion students, and a few who didn’t care much. They were high-schoolers. I tried to allow as much free exchange as possible. I made my position clear, as did my MIT-grad homeroom co-teacher, but we let students have most of the conversation.

The United States invaded Iraq on March 20.

On March 11, Elvis Costello introduced himself as the musical guest on Letterman. I thought it was pretty cute, the intro. Look at the first minute or so of the video.

“Please play ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding,'” I said aloud to my television.

And he played it.

He was at a different place in March 2003. That month, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in May, he would announce his engagement to Diana Krall (tangent: nicely done, Elvis). He was no longer the young, skinny, irony-spitting, racist punk he was in the 70s. He released his cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” in 1978 (a B-side, believe it or not), half his life before.

I needed Elvis to bring it back. I wanted to be assured that under the years of success and the nice suit and straight teeth was still the punk. Not the racist; thank God he grew out of that.

And he did, and while the performance is not as ironic as Elvis’s original recording, something took irony’s place: desperation. Listen to him sing it here. The punk is still there, screaming to get out, right around the 3:06 mark. I sang it with him, with as much desperation as Elvis seemed to communicate.

Elvis performed with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra on March 31 and April 1, 2005. I bought two tickets to each show. It was a pops concert, and Elvis alone was singing with the orchestra, not playing his guitar, and not accompanied by his band. He was in kind of a jazzy standards period.

I tried to convince R to go with me. I think she was offended. She was dating that guy, or possibly engaged already; I can’t remember which. I was stupid enough to think we could still do things as friends, and I knew she’d love an Elvis concert.

I was working on my master’s then, and I took a woman from my cohort, Willow, to the first show. Then Penny, my reliable concert buddy, to the second.

The shows were great. Nearly identical sets. He didn’t do his rockers, explaining he was “in a different place,” as if I didn’t already know. He did sing “Alison” and “Watching the Detectives,” which fit perfectly into the format.

But I could see it, because of his Letterman performance. The punk. It was still in there. And he was ready to unleash it if he needed it.

I write all this to say that “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” is bringing me some amount of peace on this Wednesday morning as I write about my Tuesday. I encourage you to hit PLAY on the video if you could use a little bit of comfort.

As I walk through this wicked world
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred
And misery?
And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I wanna know
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

I woke up after just a couple of hours of sleep and took advantage of the hour to make a run to Long’s. I would have hit the supermarket but the first two hours after opening at five are for seniors and other people needing time and space. Grabbed enough Diet Pepsi to tide me over and picked up a few other supplies. Strangely, I bought some cookware. From the drugstore. It was there. A small non-stick frypan, an 8×8 Pyrex baking pan, and an 8-inch Pyrex pie pan. Not for pie. For eating. I love the rimmed edge for regular dining. I have another such pan somewhere else but I can’t find it.

I struggled to get up for work Tuesday morning, but I got rolling as soon as I got to my desk. Returned emails. Took notes. Set myself up to write one of my stories, based on the emails I received overnight. Posted a story on the website. The web posting is going much more quickly now, and I’m sticking to a certain standard I’ve set for myself. The social media stuff takes as long as it always has.

Then I asked for the second half of the day off. I was more sleep-deprived than I could handle. And stressed. So I took a nap, left the TV off, stayed off social media (mostly), and did a few chores. Met with the NaNo Skype group and banged out 2100+ words. I decided sometime in the evening to take advantage of one of my built-in laundry cushions, pushing the chore off until Wednesday night.

This let me take care of some stuff without rushing to bed, including making some kind of abbreviated grocery list. Which I’ve yet to do as I type this.

And as I walk on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted
So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony,
Sweet harmony?
‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away
It just makes me wanna cry
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

In addition to the Skype time with fello NaNoers, I texted with Sylvia about her old position no longer being listed on our website. Too late to turn back now! I sorta taunted. There was brief election talk in the Suzanne-Cindy-Julie group text. Melody texted for the first time in years to ask if I knew who won the mayoral race. It was only 8:30, and although I had only peeked in on social media, I knew that people were still in line to vote, so the printout would be delayed. Jennifer sent me a link to an article about the Oxford comma. I’ve seen most of them but I hadn’t seen this one. I only skimmed it because I was still working on my NaNo goal.

Oh yeah. Breakfast was McD’s. On my way home from Long’s (and just before a short return to bed) I had a Local Deluxe platter AND an Egg McMuffin AND a hash browns. Eating my feelings again.

Lunch was leftover Portuguese bean soup. I skipped dinner but I did have a slice of apple pie and more than a generous helping of Lay’s kettle-cooked jalapeno chips while I wrote. Writing is so fattening.

I seldom drink alcohol when I’m doing creative writing. The depressive effect on my already morose personality doesn’t lend itself well to the energy required for putting sentences together quickly. So far in these first three days of NaNoWriMo, however, I’ve been stirring little mixed cocktails between bursts of writing, and they’ve actually done the job. I have too many nearly-finished bottles of spirits in my cabinet and I need to make room, so I’m trying to retire these soldiers and lay them to rest.

The first night I had some Suntory Toki, which I’ve written about. The second night it was Monkey Shoulder, a Scotch whisky I really don’t care for on its own and am not too impressed with as a mixer. It was decent, though, for writing. I added bitters, simple syrup, and lots of ice. Last night I finished off a rather old bottle of Jonny Walker Black, with ginger beer, bitters, and lots of ice. It was sort of a horsefeathers cocktail without the citrus. I had a lemon in the fridge. Wish I’d thought of it. It was nice to toss the bottle!

If mitigation anxiety or election anxiety have you feeling a bit disconnected, I’m here for it. Leave a comment and I’ll send you my info. I don’t know if I can text you down off the ledge, but I’ll keep you company up there.

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