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Journal 2020: The First Year of the Pandemic (complete book)


This book is a history of one year in a writer’s life, as well as the country’s life.  It’s about what went through Joseph Sutton’s mind while COVID-19, George Floyd’s death, Biden vs. Trump, and the birth of his first grandson took place.


Thursday, January 16, 2020 – Upcoming Impeachment Trial

       Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in the middle of December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  The Senate will hold a trial starting next week.  If witnesses are allowed, it might be a fair trial.  If witnesses aren’t allowed, it’ll be a sham.  It’s the third impeachment of a president since our country was formed 240 years ago in 1780.  The first impeachment trial acquitted Andrew Johnson in1868.  The second acquitted Bill Clinton in 1999.  Most politicians in Washington know how corrupt, immoral, and unethical Trump is, and that includes the Republicans who know better but are afraid to admit it.  The Senate needs 67 votes to convict.  It’ll be a miracle if the Senate convicts the Bully in the White House.

       The San Francisco 49ers will be playing the Green Bay Packers this coming Sunday to see which team will represent the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl on February 2.  The day before that my wife Joan is going to throw a baby shower for our daughter-in-law Ashley, who is expecting a baby boy in mid-March.  He will be my first blood grandson.  Olby, my seven-year-old step-grandson, lives in Chicago with my stepson Sol and his wife Jang.  He calls me Grandpa Joe, which warms my heart.

Friday, January 17, 2020Ants

       There is so much to do during the day.  One of them is getting rid of the ants in our kitchen.  I’ve tried a couple of poison baits, but the ants, they just keep on coming.  They’re relentless.  I could kill a hundred of them in one fell swoop and they would still keep coming.  According to Google, ants have been on Earth for at least 90 million years.  They’re a very strong species.  I’ve tried to stop their onslaught for over a week, and they’re still streaming in.  I wish I could find their entry point.

       The ants have taken up hours of my time.  Every time I go into the kitchen, it’s hard for me to leave, for I am constantly killing twenty, forty, eighty, hoping that will stop them.  There’s no end to them.  Maybe they’ll leave me in peace when the weather turns warm.  I have to tip my hat to them, though, they surely don’t give up easily.

Friday, January 18, 2020My Brother Maurice

       My brother Maurice, who passed away a day before Thanksgiving 2019, would have been 83 years old today.  What I truly learned from him took place in his last days when I visited him at his apartment in Los Angeles while he was being cared for by his daughter Jo-e.  It was the way he faced his oncoming death.  He wasn’t upset, nor did he fret about the kidney failure that was taking his life—he faced the inevitable calmly and peacefully.

       Growing up, I used to share a bedroom with my brother in our house on Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood.  Without fail, after getting in bed, he turned on the lamp that was on a dresser between our beds, and would start reading.  Sometimes he read for a short while, other times, even when I tossed and turned in bed because of the light in the room, hinting for him to finish reading already, he would still read till he got tired.

       I worked for Maurice many times in his children’s wear store on Broadway and 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles.  He was an honest businessman and a crackerjack salesman.

       When I developed asthma my last year as a teacher in 1984, I needed to find a job that wasn’t as stressful as teaching in order to support my family of four.  Maurice came to my rescue and turned me on to Jack Levine, who ran a small costume jewelry company here in San Francisco called JPR Jewelry Company.  Jack hired me on the spot due to my brother’s recommendation.  I must admit, I became a damn good salesman in my four-year sales career.

       I loved Maurice.  We never fought either verbally or physically.

Maurice Sutton

My brother faced death in a very calm manner.

A most brave and humble man he was.

Under a tree, I’ve been told, his ashes will be buried.  I

Remember a thousand things about him, things 

I will never forget, such as his business acumen and reading in bed at night.  I

Can still hear his voice and see his image.  His 

End was a great model for me to emulate.

Sure, I’ll miss my brother who never failed to be a true brother.

Uplifting he was and still is

To me.

The angels sing

On for my brother who is

No more but still remains by my side.

Monday, January 20, 2020Old Age

       Today I spent a couple of hours, climbing a ladder, clipping the branches of the tree in front of our house so it would be clear sailing for me and anyone else walking on the sidewalk under it.  I expended a lot of energy clipping, raking, picking up, and sweeping.  I came inside and had to sit down for maybe twenty minutes to gather my strength.

       After lunch it was time for me to leave for my dental appointment.  After my teeth were cleaned, I started back for my car.  Going uphill for two long blocks, I had to stop and catch my breath three times.

       Old age—it creeps up on you.  At the YMCA, where I do my water aerobics exercise, I used to go full bore for 45 minutes.  Oh sure, I’d feel tired when I got home and had to take a nap after lunch, but as of late I go half speed in the pool and I’m still tired and need a nap.  I don’t walk as far as I used to, either.  I used to walk four miles in an hour, now it’s three miles in the same amount of time.  Old!  I see old people nowadays supporting themselves with a cane or a walker.  I don’t want that happening to me.  Hey, man, I was once a tricky running back who ran for daylight instead of plowing through tacklers.  I was also a sprinter who could probably run faster than 95% of the people in the world.

       Old!  I wear glasses, I need a hearing aid, and I’ve had two hip replacement surgeries.  My right knee is arthritic—it tightens and swells up on me every so often.  Both of my shoulders are arthritic.  I’m bald on top and the hair on my temples and mustache is gray.  I take a statin every night to keep my cholesterol down.  Oh, and one more thing:  I have to get out of bed two or three times every night to go to the bathroom.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020Donald J. Trump

       The impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump is taking place in the U.S. Senate as I write.  It began yesterday.  I watched all of yesterday’s proceedings that lasted almost 13 hours.  The Democrats are laying out a case against Trump, whereas Trump’s lawyers are just saying he did nothing wrong when he tried to influence the upcoming 2020 election by extracting information about Joe Biden and his son Hunter from Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky in June 2019.  The Democrats are also pointing out that Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to let anyone in his administration testify before the House Judicial and Intelligence committees.

       There’s great division in the country.  It’s almost palpable.  It seems, from my point of view, as well as with a little more than half the American public, that Trump is the most destructive president our country has ever had.  He lies, he cheats, he fights back tenaciously, just like his lawyers are doing.  Tenacious in that they are shameless in what they do and say.  Just like Trump, they’ll lie and cheat and bite your ear off, kick you in the balls, stomp on your head when you’re down, and they’d get a hammer and crack open your skull if they had a chance.  They’re unrepentant.  They’re telling us that what we see and hear is not what we see and hear.  Whereas the House Democrats managing the impeachment are just pointing out the facts, ma’am…just the facts.  They’re not hitting below the belt like Trump’s defense team.  And because of the division they are stoking around the country, we’re in danger of losing our democracy to a man who wouldn’t hesitate being a dictator.  Trump salivates when our country is divided.  Why?  Because almost half the country believes his lies and shamelessness.  His followers don’t rely on facts, they rely on their prejudices, irrational thinking, and hatred of “the other.”  The Trumpers are afraid of the future.  They see that the majority of Americans will someday be people of color.

       Oh, America, I hope and pray you wake up to Trump’s lies, cheating, and bullying before it’s too late.  Please wake up.  That’s what the Democrats in the impeachment trial are trying to point out without having to use the words liar, swindler, demagogue.  Trump is not what a president of the United States is supposed to be.  He’s fascistic.  He’s Hitlerian.  He’s Mussolinian.  And the 53 Republican senators sitting and listening to the strong evidence against him refuse to hear the prosecution’s arguments, even though most of them know that Trump is a cancer to our democracy.  They couldn’t care less about the oath they swore to uphold when they took office:  “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  Instead they’re kowtowing to a tyrant.  What is their reasoning for fearing the carnival barker in the White House?  Could it be that they don’t want to give up their majority in the Senate if they convict him?  Are they afraid of being ridiculed by the criminal in the White House?  Do they see Trump and his cult threatening their careers?  What I really don’t understand are the handful of Republican senators who are retiring, they have nothing to lose and they’re still kissing the Emperor’s ass.

       Yes, I’m prejudiced against the president.  I can see through his underhandedness, his vindictiveness, his bravado.  I can see his cruelty, boastfulness, egotism, narcissism, and sociopathic behavior.  And to think that 45 percent of the voters of this country love what they see in him.  I’m ashamed of the country I live in that nearly half the voters can be so blind to what’s going on.

       Mark my words, Donald Trump will someday go down in history as the most dangerous man to ever reside in the White House.

Sunday, January 26, 2020Writing Project—My Journals

       As I was walking along the shore of Ocean Beach today, this thought, from out of the blue, came to me for a writing project:  go over my journals, one year at a time.  Each year will show what was going on in my mind and what was going on in the United States at the same time.  A sort of history of my time on Earth.

       News Flash.  I just heard on the radio that Kobe Bryant, the former basketball star of the Los Angeles Lakers, along with his teenage daughter and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in Southern California.  Kobe was 41.  It’s a stark reminder of how our lives can be extinguished at any moment.

       I got a lot done today.  I read the news of the impeachment trial, did my laundry, washed the dishes, swept the kitchen floor, got rid of a large number of those pesky ants, vacuumed the main floor of the house, went for a walk, and while on that walk I came up with the idea of making a project of my journals, one year at a time.

Sunday, February 16, 2020Jury Duty and Alan Blum

       I had Jury duty last week.  Along with about 200 other people, I sat in a large assembly room and watched a video on how important the United States court system is, and to feel proud that we live in a country where everyone has a right to a fair trial.  A woman then started calling the names of about 65 people.  I was one of them.  We were told to go to a courtroom across the hall.  When we were all seated, the court clerk called the names of 24 people to sit in the jury box so the judge could explain to them that they should hold no prejudices against the defendant who was drunk, high on drugs, and drove onto private property where the police arrested him.  Some people in the jury box showed some prejudice against this man of Latin extract and were immediately replaced.  The questioning of jurors by the defense lawyer, a woman, and the prosecuting attorney, a woman, went on for two hours.

       After lunch, the two attorneys questioned prospective jurors for another two hours.  The defense attorney kept reminding the 24 seated in the jury box, “It is up to the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that my client is guilty.”  She was a thin woman, maybe in her late-30s, short blonde hair, wearing a two-piece blue suit with a tight dress and high heels.  The prosecuting attorney, a young Latin woman wearing a dark blue pantsuit, didn’t take as long to question the jurors as the defendant’s attorney did.  The judge, in my opinion, a very fair man—short, a black beard, Latin—did extremely well explaining the law to the 24 sitting in the jury box.  Twice he conferred with both lawyers in his office.  Each time they came back out, they dismissed several jurors and had them replaced.

       After the two attorneys decided on twelve jurors, plus two alternates, the rest of us who weren’t called to jury box were dismissed.

       Our good friend Alan Blum’s Memorial took place yesterday.  Steve Dessy told us that Alan died on February 2, the day the 49ers lost the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs.  Steve was the one closest to Alan in the last few years of his life.  Steve, who lives in Reno set up Alan at a nursing home there.  What a great and loyal friend he was to Alan.  All the men present, except for my son Ray (who considered Alan an uncle), were members of the Royal Flush poker group that Alan started way back in 1981.  I’ll never forget the year it started because it was the same year Ray was born.  The original members were Alan, Jerry Lipkin, and me, and then along came Harry Fish, Ralph Yanello, George Krevsky, Norm Gilbert, and Steve Dessy.  When Harry, Ralph, George, Norm, and Steve dropped out for one reason or another, along came Don Ellis, Don Leaman, Rob Plath, Manny Weiss, and Nick Sullivan.  All the present and past members of the Royal Flush met at the Yanello household in Danville with our wives.  Ralph and Teresa had an abundance of hors d’oeuvres and later served a dinner of pasta, sausage, and a tasty, rich tomato sauce that was simmering on the stove the whole time we were there.

       The most important part of the Memorial was when we all sat or stood in the living room and talked, one at a time, about Alan Blum, the man, the gambler of lotto and the lottery, the man who was always broke, the draftsman, the man who could never settle down with a woman because he sought perfection and never found it, the man whose only family was the Royal Flush, the man who was a very creative person, the man whose interests were history, sports, and politics, the man who loved weekend breakfasts in his neighborhood with his close friends, the man who loved to sing, and the man who possessed greenish-yellow eyes that attracted women to him.

       Ralph knew Alan the longest.  It was he and Alan who moved from Miami to Berkeley in 1963.

       It was a special day yesterday.  We all laughed and cried in our remembrance of our good friend, Alan Blum.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020The Pandemic

       February has not been a good month for me, physically.  As of right now, I feel very weak.  A few days ago I had to go to Kaiser’s Emergency Room for a very sore, painful, bloated stomach.  Oh, how my stomach ached.  They took a bunch of tests along with a cat scan and it turned out that I was constipated.  What I think caused the problem was going to Bill Rothmann’s birthday party at Cafe Europa on California and 6th Streets the night before.  I ate too much.  I ate the wrong foods.  I drank too much liquor.  I ate a lot of Swiss cheese and crackers and other hors d’oeuvres, I ate part of the main servings of fish and chicken, and I topped it off with cheesecake and champagne.  I had really overdone it and couldn’t sleep that night.  I suffered the next day and sat in the living room most of the day or lay in bed and was still feeling awful.  I finally decided to call Kaiser’s advice nurse and she told me to have someone drive me to the Emergency Room.  Joan was out with a friend, so I texted a Lyft driver, and in a few minutes I was sitting in his car as he was driving me to the hospital.

       Even after it was found that my bowels were blocked, they wouldn’t let me leave the hospital.  Joan was there with me.  They told me to drink a lot of a substance people take before they go in for a colonoscopy.  I drank a half gallon and I still couldn’t move my bowels.  They put me and Joan in a cold room with a bathroom and I tried to go several times and still nothing.  I, a man, felt like I was giving birth to a baby.  I kept pushing, pushing, and nothing.  Joan finally left to go home at 2:30 a.m.  My stomach was so bloated and sore.  I was really suffering.  I was transferred to another room that had the right room temperature and I had to go through six enemas over a period of a few hours before something finally came out of me.  I was at the hospital for a total of 14 hours.  Joan drove me home and I ended up in bed for the next 18 hours.  I still feel weak two days later.

       Here’s what I learned.  I overdid it.  I’ve been overdoing it with food for years.  I have to stop this madness.  I’ve eaten very little since coming home, and hope to eat very little in the days and years to come.  I weigh too much (208) for my height (5’10”) and age (79).  I’ll be 80 in August.  I hope by the time August rolls around I will have lost a considerable amount of weight.  I’m going to have to cut down on the wrong foods and drinks.  I’m determined.

       The people at Kaiser treated me extremely well.  Four doctors came to see me.  I had four nurses watching over me.  What did it cost me for the treatment I received?  $96.  That would have cost someone under the age of 65 at least $2000.  Thank goodness for Medicare.

       And now all we hear in the news is a new virus going around the world:  coronavirus.  Everyone has to be aware of it.  It’s cut down on plane travel and cruise ships and a lot of businesses are losing customers.  The stock market, so far, has dropped 2000 points.  The coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, is turning out to be a pandemic.  Thousands of people, especially in China where it started, have died.  It’s spreading rapidly to other parts of the world.  It’s very scary.  People with the virus have to be quarantined.  We’ve been instructed to wash our hands as much as possible during the day and report a fever and runny nose to our doctor.

       Our country isn’t prepared to tackle this pandemic.  Rush Limbaugh, the famous right-wing personality, broadcast on his radio show that the virus is “just a cold.  Get over it, people.”  That man belongs in jail for saying that.  And Trump belongs in jail because he has cut the amount of money going to disease control.  This is what we, in this country, have to deal with:  two imbeciles who have great influence over the irrationals of this country.

       All this is going on while my son Ray and his wife Ashley are expecting a baby boy in the middle of March.  They told me they’re going to name the boy Joseph.  It’s a Syrian Jewish tradition to name the first born after the father’s father or mother.  Joan and I named Ray after my father.  What an honor it is to have a baby named after me.  That kid Joseph better be a healthy baby!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020A Dramatic Comeback

       It’s been quite a week for me and the country.

       As for me, I developed a large rash on my stomach and back this past weekend.  All of a sudden, one night, I woke up itching.  Red blotches on my stomach, back, and upper thighs were showing.  What the fuck!  This had never happened before.  What could have caused this crazy-looking rash?  I called Kaiser and made an appointment to see a doctor.  When I saw her, she said it was possible I was allergic to the dye they gave me when I had a cat scan last week for my stomach pain.  The doctor gave me a couple of prescriptions to ease the rash.  One was a pill to prevent allergies and the other was an ointment to rub over the rash three times a day.  Joan has helped me by applying the ointment to my back.  This was a few days ago.  It seems like the rash is subsiding.  Isabella, my regular doctor’s nurse, called me the other day and said the rash might last a week.

       One of the most dramatic political comebacks in American history took place this past Saturday.  Biden won big in South Carolina’s primary.  It was all due to an impassioned speech that Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina gave the night before the primary.  Clyburn’s endorsement vaulted Biden over Bernie Sanders and everyone else in the South Carolina race.  And then a day before yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic presidential race and endorsed Biden, which again helped Biden win a bunch more states over Bernie Sanders in yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary.

       Yesterday I voted for Elizabeth Warren, although I was torn between her and Joe Biden.  Bernie won California and Elizabeth lagged far behind.  Mike Bloomberg dropped out, which showed that money can’t buy an election, even though he put a half billion dollars into his campaign.  He said he’s going to back any Democratic candidate over Trump, but much prefers Biden.  Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang dropped out.  Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and  Beto O’Rourke dropped out.  Now it’s a two person race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.  I’m for Joe Biden because I think he’ll have a better chance of defeating Donald Trump.  Bernie’s ideas are fine with me, Medicare for all, tax the very wealthy, but he’s unwilling to bend, his stances are too rigid.  It’s going to be a tough haul to convince Bernie’s backers to vote for Biden if Biden wins the Democratic nomination.  They have got to vote for Biden if we are to hold onto our democracy.  Biden is not perfect.  Neither is Bernie.  Trump is the absolute worst.  America will have a choice between democracy vs. autocracy in November’s election.

       The coronavirus is changing a lot of ways of how we live.  I wash my hands as much as possible.  I try not to touch my eyes, nose, or mouth.  Joan got some vinyl gloves to wear, especially when we go shopping, to prevent other people’s germs from getting on us.  I have alcohol hand wipes in my car and on my desk.  This virus is a real killer and is spreading like wildfire around the world.  Italy has been affected badly.  They had to close all schools and cancel many events.  China, where it all began, is trying to stop the spread by telling everyone to stay home.  They seem to be doing a good job of it.  There have been 11 deaths in the U.S. so far, most of them in Kirkland, Washington.  Close to us, there has been a case in Berkeley and a few cases in San Mateo.  People are very aware of what’s going on.  The other day I went to Costco and they were completely out of toilet paper and paper towels, as are other markets I’ve been to.  People are preparing for the worst, of actually quarantining themselves if necessary.  The word is out that the virus is going to pick up in April and May.  Oh, I feel so sad for Ray and Ashley who are expecting a boy to be born in maybe ten days.  I hope and pray the little one will be healthy and vibrant and that all precautions will be taken at the hospital.

       As for my writing project, I’ve been working on Journal 2007.  I’m going over it for the first time, and I’ll probably go over it a few more times before I’m finished.  Then it will be onto other yearly journals.  I’ve got to finish as many journals as possible before my ashes are buried in our backyard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020Dad and Mom

       I was talking with my good friend Charles Lewman on the phone yesterday and we happened upon the subject of parents.  As best as I can remember, I’d like to put down what I told Charles about my parents, Raymond and Jean Sutton.

       My dad was quite the breadwinner.  He owned a small retail linen store on 7th and Hill Streets in downtown L.A. for as long as I can remember.  What I really want to get across is my great admiration for him.  He worked six days a week, opening the store at 9:00 a.m. and closing it at 6:00 p.m.—except from the day after Thanksgiving to the day before Christmas when closing time was 9:00 p.m.  Most of the time he ran that little store by himself.  Then he took in my brother Dave as a partner.  My brother Dave and his wife Bertha had two sons.  Two families were supported by that one little store at 417 West 7th Street.

       Dad gave Mom a weekly allowance of $50.  That’s the amount she worked with to buy me and my brothers clothes, shoes, and food.  Dad, a man of 5-foot-5, was a quiet man.  He rarely communicated with me or any of my brothers.  He was from Aleppo, Syria.  I have no idea how far back our family history goes in Aleppo.  I can only go back to Dad’s parents, Shaul and Luna Sitehon.  Dad’s mother gave birth to eight children.  His father died in his 50s, and so Dad was responsible for bringing his mother, three brothers, and one sister to America in 1919.  One brother came earlier to America by himself.  Dad had two sisters whose marriages were arranged with men who lived in Mexico and Argentina.

       What a great salesman Dad was.  A lady would walk into his small linen store to buy one initialed handkerchief, and thirty minutes later she’d walk out with a half dozen initialed handkerchiefs for herself, a half dozen initialed handkerchiefs for her husband, two different sized damask tablecloths, and an organdy hostess apron.  He taught my brothers Dave and Maurice his business knowledge.  I never had any interest in being a retail businessman.  The same for three of my other brothers.  Charles became a journalist.  Bob turned to acting.  Albert moved to Israel to become a Jewish spiritual leader and author.

       Dad took in, on average, $100 a day in his small linen store for about 10 1/2 months.  During the holiday season it was $1000 a day, give or take $100.  That’s when most of the family would help out.

       Dad never drove a car in his life.  He took the bus to work six days a week.  When he and Mom went out, it was she who drove our 1949 Plymouth.

       Dad would come home from work with the Herald-Express in hand around 7:00 p.m.  As soon as he walked in the door, my brothers and I would welcome him with a kiss on the cheek.

       He never ate much.  He and Mom would always be fighting about the skimpy amount of food he put into his stomach.  I think the reason for his loss of appetite was depression.  For many years he had a drinking problem.  He hid whiskey bottles in closets and dressers.  Mom would always find liquor bottles and ball him out in front of us.  I grew up with this tension going on between them.

       Dad wasn’t out to be a millionaire, he was just out to support a large family in the middle of the 20th century.

       Mom was born in Brooklyn of Syrian Jewish parents who came from Aleppo in 1905.  What I remember most about her was that she ran our house on Fairfax Avenue like an army sergeant.  She taught me and my brothers teamwork.  She had us set the table, clear the table, wash the dishes and pots, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, and cut the hedges.  Every Sunday we’d have to change our sheets, vacuum our mattresses, vacuum the carpet, and dust the furniture in our rooms.

       Mom was not only a leader in showing us how to keep a house going, she was a fabulous cook.  For years and years she cooked dinner every night for as many of us who happened to be in the house at that time.  She worked like a pack horse, shopping, cleaning, laundering.

       If my parents were alive today and stood behind me at my desk that I’m sitting at right now, I’d spin around in my swivel chair, get down on my hands and knees, and thank them with every ounce of gratitude from every pore of my body for giving me and my five brother’s life, shelter, and sustenance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020This is a Serious Virus

       An announcement came on the news today:  the coronavirus is truly a worldwide pandemic.  Millions of people around the world will be infected and die from this virus.  It could be very serious for people over 60, the category that Joan and I are in.  The virus is picking up steam at an exponential rate.  Tom Hanks and his wife have the virus.  Rudy Gobert, professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz, found out today he has the virus.  The NBA has suspended all games indefinitely.  College basketball might do the same in the next day or so, suspending the March Madness tournament.  What’s going to happen to professional baseball?  No one knows yet.  The world is shutting down to combat this virulent disease.

       Joan is worried sick about what’s happening.  She asked me a half hour ago, “Will we get the virus, Joe?” and I emphatically said, “No, we’re not going to get it,” and that made her feel better.  What should my wife and I do?  We have to stay put.  No more bus, streetcar, or BART, no more YMCA, writers group, or poker games.  No more driving down to L.A. for our annual family reunion in April.  No more of anything.  The country is in lockdown.

            South Korea is testing thousands of people every day, whereas here in the U.S. we don’t have enough testing equipment.  So far we’ve tested only a thousand people.  Something is rotten in the U.S.  We can’t blame Trump for the virus, but we can blame him for not being prepared for the onslaught that’s coming.

       Joan and I can still go for walks in the open air.  We can work at home, me on my yearly journals and she with online Zoom meetings with her Greek group and her San Francisco State Greek and Latin classes.  Online might save a lot of people’s lives from going to work on public transit and working with others in close proximity.  Twitter, for example, doesn’t want anyone going to the office, they want everyone to work from home.

       Schools are closing.  No more sporting events.  No more political rallies for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.  The world is changing right before our eyes.  We have to be vigilant.  We have to wash our hands every chance we get.  We have to clean doorknobs and stair railings in our house.  If we go out to buy an essential item we should wear vinyl gloves and a mask.  Businesses are closing shop.  We have to adapt.  Mayors and governors are starting to do something about it, but not the president of the U.S.  He thinks the virus will just fade away.  He won’t listen to members on the White House coronavirus task force, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, both advising him to tell the country to shelter-in-place.  This is a pandemic, this is real, this is a serious virus, there is no fooling around with it.  Millions of people around the world are going to die from it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020The Twilight Zone

       San Francisco has made it a law that all stores must close except markets, post offices, gas stations, and drug stores.  Bars and restaurants have to close.  No more congregating around people.  Gyms are closed.  You have to stay home if you don’t want to come down with the virus.  This is real, my friends, don’t go out of your house unless it’s to get food, gas, or go for a walk or run to get some exercise.  That’s it.  San Francisco and the surrounding six counties in the Bay Area are in lockdown.  New York City is in lockdown.

       The elderly are truly susceptible to the virus, especially if one has diabetes, a heart problem, or lung problem.

       Joan didn’t feel well yesterday.  She was having chills.  She called Kaiser and talked to a doctor who put her mind at ease.  Our son Ray brought over a thermometer (drug stores are completely out of them) so she could take her temperature.  Thank God it was normal.  This disease is not only physical, it’s psychological, especially with my wife who is a great worrier, and also with me at times.

       I went for a walk a few hours ago and the streets were almost empty of cars.  I have never seen more people out for a walk.  People have to get outside, to breathe fresh air and move their muscles.  I felt good out there.  I felt strong for the first time in a long time.  All told, I walked about three miles.  The air was brisk on this St. Patrick’s Day.  I thought of a lot of people who have recently passed away, people like my neighbors Bernie Schneider and John McDonald, my brother Maurice, a few old timers at the YMCA, and I thought how lucky they are not to have to experience this pandemic.  The whole world is on edge.  The only way to rid of this virus is to find a vaccine.  A lot of people can’t go to work.  A lot of people are losing their paychecks and can’t pay rent or the mortgage.  How are they going to survive? The stock market has plummeted eight thousand points in two weeks.  No one is flying on the airlines, no one is going on ocean cruises, very few people are using public transportation because the virus is EVERYWHERE.  We’re living in what I call “The Twilight Zone.”  We’re going through unprecedented times.  It’s like the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 50 million people worldwide.  We don’t know how many millions will die from this particular virus.  It could be a huge amount until a vaccine is discovered.  It’s been estimated that it might take over a year to find a vaccine.  Then, get a load of this, the vaccine is going to have to be given to over SEVEN BILLION people on Earth.  This is not just San Francisco or California or the U.S., this is the whole world that is being threatened by a very pernicious virus.

       It all started in Wuhan, China, a city of over eight million people.  The Chinese government held back from warning its people.  The Chinese doctor who discovered the virus was prevented from warning the people of Wuhan about it.  He died of the virus either late last year or early this year.

       Why did I have a nasty cold from early February to late February?  I had it when I went to jury duty in early February.  Could I have had a touch of the virus at that time?  It started in China in the winter of 2019.  We didn’t know about it until late February.  I watched the Super Bowl between the 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs with my son Ray and several others and shook hands with them.  No more shaking hands, now it’s only washing hands.  This coronavirus spells death.  Instead of going shopping for food or essentials, people are ordering online and having it delivered to their door.   Joan takes care of the ordering business in our house.

       We’re living in “The Twilight Zone,” except this is not science fiction, this is what is going on TODAY.  No one knows who’s going to live or die in this pandemic.  Joan and I will survive, and so will Ray and Ashley and their baby who is due any day now.

Monday, March 23, 2020The Virus is Getting Worse

       We’re living in a new world.  Unemployment, as I write, has never been higher.  We’re close to Depression numbers.  My stepson Sol is not making any money in his graphic design business.  His wife Jang, thank goodness, is teaching online at DePaul University.  My son Ray might lose his counseling income.  His wife Ashley just had a baby three days ago:  Joseph Raymond James Sutton, 6 pounds, 14 ounces.  Cute kid from the pictures we’ve seen.  We can’t even see him in person for God knows how long.  We were thinking of driving over to their place in North Beach and having them bring the baby down to show us while we sit in the car with the windows closed.  That’s what’s going on.  It’s a new day, a new age, a new world.

       My work now is revising my yearly journals.  As of this writing, I’ve been going over Journal 2007.  I was thinking of having my editor Don Ellis read it and giving me his honest opinion.  I don’t know if I’m on the right track or not by working on my yearly journals.  I’ll be 80 in August.  I don’t know how much longer I’ll have in this world because of this pandemic.  No one knows how long this virus will last.  Every day is a new day to wake up to.  Thank goodness Joan and I don’t have any symptoms like a fever, sore throat, or the flu.  But who really knows if we have the virus or not?  A lot of people have found out they have it even though they’re asymptomatic, like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.  He has to be quarantined for two weeks now.

       We don’t know many things about this virus.  If we have it and recover from it, will we catch it again?  No one knows.  Most of the states in the country are in lockdown or quarantine, meaning no one should leave their house or apartment except to buy food, get a prescription filled, or go for a walk or run.  Joan and I have been going for walks, either together or separately.  If we come across someone on our walk, we’ve been told to stay at least six feet apart from them.  I met Mark Berman and his wife Joyce on West Portal Avenue the other day and we kept at least six feet apart while conversing for maybe 10 minutes.  The streets are empty.  It’s eerie out there.  I hear birds singing on my walks, something I rarely heard before the pandemic started.  The air is much cleaner.  On a sunny day I can see the Farallon Islands 30 miles out in the Pacific.  Joan and I don’t drive anymore.  We don’t go to the market.  She orders all our food to be delivered.  It’s a scary time in today’s world.  Joan and I could catch this virus and actually DIE.  Many people in China and Italy have died, and many more in the U.S. are going to die.

       There are no sporting events going on.  Japan is contemplating postponing the Olympics.  No one should be in a crowd until a vaccine is found, and Japan is still contemplating?  Call the damn Olympics off already.  No baseball or basketball games are being played.  Football might not be played this year.  The radio sportscasters I listen to have very little to talk about.  This week, all they talked about was Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots after 20 years and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Thursday, April 2, 2020Still the Virus

       The weather for the past week has been extremely clear, cool, and walkable.  When the sun is out I can see the Pacific Ocean sparkle two miles away from where we live.  I say hello to those I pass on my walks, six feet apart, of course.  The city has hunkered down.  We’re still being fed bullshit by Trump who has been taking center stage every day.  Joe Biden doesn’t have the media coverage that Trump has.  Biden, we all assume, will be the Democratic nominee.  Bernie Sanders, if he holds off too long from conceding, will kill Biden’s chances of beating Trump.  There probably won’t be a Democratic or Republican Convention this year.  Most every state now has shelter-in-place orders.  The delivery people, the ones who deliver food to our door, are like transit workers, mail carriers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, doctors, nurses, hospital staffs, newspaper delivery people, and the newspaper, radio, and TV reporters—all of them deserve medals for their service to keep people living, fed, and informed.  Most retail stores are closed. Restaurants can only cook for takeout or delivery.  Millions of Americans, like 20 million, are without jobs and have applied for unemployment.  Shaking hands is forbidden.

       I go for a walk every day.  I feel my legs getting stronger because the YMCA is closed and there’s no pool exercise for me to do.  I walk at least two or three miles in the neighborhood, sometimes four.  I talked with my brother Albert and his wife Esther in Israel this morning on FaceTime.  I went to the post office on my walk today and paid $24.50 to send them my book that came out in November, In the Time of My Life.  We get to see our grandson Joseph almost every day when Ray calls on FaceTime.  I emailed my Journal 2007 manuscript to Don Ellis last night.  I wonder what he’ll think of it.

       It’s the year 2020, my grandson was born on March 20, I was born on August 20.  When he’s a year old I’ll be 81 years old.  My maternal grandfather David Shabot, the only grandfather I knew, died in his 80s.  I was in my late teens when he passed away.  He visited the family on Fairfax Avenue one time.  All he did all day was play solitaire on the breakfast room table.  I don’t know how old my grandson will be when I die.  I hope I can see him when he’s old enough for me to communicate with like Sol’s son Olby in Chicago.  Olby is seven and communicates with Joan quite a bit on FaceTime.  She reads books to him.

       I will now pour myself a small glass of Evan Williams bourbon, sit in my living room chair and watch Rachel Maddow and/or Anderson Cooper tell me what’s going on with the coronavirus.  New York City, by the way, is really having a bad outbreak.  More people have died there than any other place in the world.

Sunday, April 5, 2020Every Day the Same

       Joan and I have been in lockdown mode for three or four weeks.  Every day I wake up I check to see if I have flu symptoms.  Thank goodness I’m OK and our family is OK.  New York already has close to 10,000 deaths in the past two weeks.  The U.S. is still in the early stages of the pandemic.  We have the most deaths of any country in the world, more than China.  It seems like the curve has flattened some in China, South Korea, and Singapore.  Everyone has to shelter-in-place if we’re to curb this killer virus.

       Oh, dear God, if Trump is elected in November we are going to be in deep, deep trouble.  All he cares about is to be re-elected so he can tear down the pillars of our democracy with his authoritarian rule.  It would be such a great relief to see him exit the White House, retreat to his Mar-a-Lago compound, and play golf till his dying day.  But that surely won’t happen because he will always crave the spotlight, he will never cease to be the center of attention until he’s six feet under.

       I eat a hearty breakfast of two fruits (usually a banana and an apple), cut them up in a bowl, add a cup of oatmeal, and then add two dollops of non-fat Greek yogurt.  I also drink three cups of used coffee.  Used means that Joan grinds the coffee beans, puts the grounds in a filter, and pours hot water over the grounds into a coffee pot for her one cup of strong coffee in the morning.  I mosey on into kitchen, boil water, and pour three cups of water over Joan’s used grounds.  While eating oatmeal and drinking coffee, I’m reading the San Francisco Chronicle.  When finished, I wash the breakfast dishes and then go straight to my office.  Late in the afternoon I’ll go for a walk of two to four miles in the neighborhood or along the beach.  Sometimes I’ll walk down to West Portal’s business district and pass by empty storefronts.  I always see this older Black man—Roosevelt is his name—sitting in his favorite spot next to Walgreen’s on West Portal Avenue, and usually give him a dollar or two.  I don’t know if he’s homeless or not.  He always has a smile on his face and greets me with “Hey, Joe.”

Sunday, April 12, 2020Groundhog Day

       Every day seems like it’s Groundhog Day.  It’s the same thing of waking up, getting out of bed, washing, eating, and reading the paper while listening to Murph and Mac, the sports radio hosts on KNBR-AM.  It’s eating lunch and working in my office and going for a walk and eating dinner and watching the news and then going to bed around 11:30.  It’s the same routine every day.  In a way, I’m catching up on my writing and reading.

       I believe it’s going to go on for a long time, this social isolation, this not getting out into the public for fear of catching the virus.  Today I thought I had it.  I didn’t feel well.  I didn’t say anything to Joan because I didn’t want to worry her.  I felt weak and achy.  I didn’t go outside the whole day, even though the temperature was in the low 60s.  I did quite a bit of work vacuuming the downstairs yesterday and then going for a four-mile walk.  Maybe that’s why I felt so tired today.  So I rested by reading most of the Sunday New York Times and the Chronicle.

       My mom and dad lived through the flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919.  So did Joan’s father and mother.  Anyone living today has come from strong stock.  You know how we’re going to get over this coronavirus?  We’re going to have to be tested to see if we have it or not.  And then, when a vaccine is developed, everyone in the world will have to be vaccinated.  It’s going to take a giant effort for 7 1/2 billion people to get vaccinated.  It’ll happen.  It has to happen, because I ain’t gonna to stay cooped up in this house for the remainder of my life.  By the way, the virus has so far killed over 20,000 Americans.

       The reason why it’s the same day in and day out is that we can’t go to restaurants, movies, museums, sporting events, parties, or anywhere else.  I can’t play poker with my friends.  I can’t meet with my writers group.  It’s dangerous to go shopping.  If we do go into a store or market, we have to wear a face mask.  We can’t make doctor or dental appointments.  We can’t go out with a friend for lunch.  We can’t do water aerobics at the YMCA pool.  There’s no social contact other than saying hello to another person or a pair of people while we’re outside walking.  That’s the only social contact we have.  A lot of people are suffering, especially those who are living alone, like my cousin Vic in L.A., he’s been all by himself for a month.  No one to eat with, no one to watch TV with, no one to order food with, Vic has no one but himself.  Yes, it’s Groundhog Day, the same thing every day for God only knows how long this virus will last.  Thank goodness Joan and I have things to keep us busy.

       I haven’t even sent an email about In the Time of My Life to most of the people I know.  I’m waiting for the right time.  Would people be interested in my book now or later on in the year, or even next year?  I don’t want to burden people with another bill, even though I’ve reduced the price of the book from $25 to $20.  They can order through PayPal.  There are six boxes (165 copies) of my book sitting in the basement.

       Over 30 million people have signed up for unemployment in the last two or three weeks.  This is going to be worse than the Great Depression.  There will be more robberies and break-ins.  Renters will be evicted.  Homeowners will lose their homes.  There’s no baseball, basketball, or football to watch.  No one can go into a stadium without endangering his or her life.  No one knows if the person they’re sitting next to has the virus or not.  That’s why the whole world will have to be vaccinated.  Our lives will change for sure.  No more handshaking, no more hugging, no more mingling in big crowds.  It’ll only get worse before a vaccine is developed.

       Our little grandson Joseph, that little peanut, when we see him, is mainly sleeping.  I wonder if Joan and I will ever get to hold or talk to him.  It’s not a good time to be born.  But Ray and Ashley will do a good job of raising that little boy to be something special in this world.  I only hope Joan and I will be able to see a part of his growth.

Friday, April 17, 2020Trump on My Mind

            The other day on my walk around the neighborhood, I passed by a man welding metal parts together in his driveway.  I stopped and asked him what he was making.  “I’m making an electric chair for the orange guy.”  “Who do you mean?” I asked.  “Trump,” he said.  It was so nice to meet someone in the neighborhood who wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion of Donald Trump, the narcissist who cares more about himself than our country.

       Trump, I read in the paper today, is abandoning all regulations on the environment.  He wants more coal and fracking for oil.  Why does he want to spoil the environment?  Is it because Obama was for protecting it, and that anything Obama did is anathema to him?  Or is it that Trump wants to stay on the good side of the coal and oil people so he can rely on their support in the presidential election.  I repeat, the man doesn’t care about the country or the health of the population, he couldn’t care less about climate change.

       I guess there’s a certain type of person who prefers unscrupulous renegades like Trump.  Like yesterday on my walk, there were four of those bikes that people pay to use and then leave on the sidewalk for the next person to use.  Well, every tire on those four bikes was slashed.  Why would someone do that?  To be a nuisance and a renegade is why.  It’s the Neanderthal, stupid, troublemaking mind that likes to screw things up for others.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020Journal 2007

       Journal 2007 needs a subtitle.  So far my choices are The Swift Writing Journal of a Writer or Doin’ What Comes Naturally.

       I called my editor Don Ellis and told him I was going to leave the manuscript as is, and for him to send me a bill.  He wanted me to break up Journal 2007 into categories like Politics, Writing, Exercise, Baseball, Football, Death, Friends, Diet, Teaching, Poker, Self-Publishing, and Family.  In my opinion it’s one piece, not a bunch of pieces.

       Here’s my plan:  I’m going to go over Journal 2007 maybe one or two more times, figure out a subtitle for it, and then put it on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.  It will need a Synopsis before I put it online.

       What will the Synopsis be?  Well, it’s the journal of a writer writing for 84 days straight in 2007, most of the time writing swiftly without stopping.  The book is about who the writer is, his philosophy of life and death, and his interest in the sports teams of the Bay Area.  It’s about his friends, family, the universe, and exercising.  It’s about a writer taking a leap into self-publishing.  It’s about a man spilling his guts onto the page.

       I go for a walk every day.  San Francisco is like a ghost town.  The air is clean and clear due to very few cars on the streets.  Everything is closed—retail stores, restaurants, bars, sporting venues, barbershops, hairdressers.  Joan’s hair is getting longer.  My hair doesn’t grow that much except for the hair on the back of my neck.

Sunday, May 10, 2020A Dilemma

       Joan and I are still sheltered-in-place as the coronavirus rages, mainly in hot spots like New York City, Connecticut, and New Jersey.  Each day rolls into the next day.  Sometimes I don’t know what day it is.  I have no appointments to keep, no YMCA pool to exercise in, no business to attend to except working on Journal 2007, going over it, and revising it for the third time.

       The country is being torn in two.  A lot of people want to get back to work and earn a living, but if they do, that means a lot more people will die if we open businesses too soon.  I don’t know what to think when people start gathering in large groups, most of them unmasked, to protest in front of state capitols or city halls so they can get back to work again.  Right now there are millions of people unemployed in the U.S.  What’s more important, living a home-sheltered life without dying or playing Russian roulette with your life so you can return to work to feed your family and pay the rent or mortgage?  Really, what’s more important?  Governor Gavin Newsom wants to slowly phase in businesses.  He wants to open things up within reason.  He doesn’t want large gatherings, like in ballparks and presidential rallies.  The president wants to go much faster.  He wants rallies.  Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, two public health experts, two voices of reason, want to slowly phase in opening up businesses.  It surely is a dilemma.

       Most of the country is for going slow.  Those who are for Trump want to go fast.  They don’t even want to wear masks in public and couldn’t care less about following safe distance between people.  They want their “freedom.”  Is it freedom if you give the virus to someone or catch it without wearing a mask?

       As for Joan and me, we can afford to shelter-in-place.  We order our food and other things to be delivered to our house.  We’re being very careful.  There are days, though, I feel very weak.  When those days come, I’m thinking, “Do I have the virus?”  That happened to me a couple of days this past week.

       Joan and I don’t want to die of the virus.  We want to see our grandson Joseph learn how to walk and talk and play and read and write.  We want to see Sol’s family and Ray’s family thrive.

Friday, May 22, 2020One Book Sold

       Last week I sent out 150 emails about my latest book, In the Time of My Life.  Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Friend,

            My latest book, In the Time of My Life (390 pages), encompasses my body of work that I began 50 years ago.  It’s a collection of stories and chapters that I’ve selected from eight of my previously published books (three novels, three story collections, and two non-fiction books).

            If you go to my website you can find out more about In the Time of My Life.  Once it’s in your hands, I’m confident you’ll find the stories and chapters captivating, insightful, humorous, and inspiring.

            Wishing you strength and health in this extraordinary time of our lives, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Joe Sutton

       What I got out of that email letter was one reply, from my cousin David Shabot in Long Branch, New Jersey.  That’s it, one book sold.  And today, outside, talking to my neighbor, Terry Baronsy, he mentioned he got my email, and I said I’d be glad to give him a copy for free, and he said, “No thanks, Joe, I have a whole stack of books I have to read.”

       And here I thought it would be a good time to inform my friends about my book while in lockdown.  I guessed wrong.

       In response to my email, here’s an email letter I received today:

Dear Joe,

            While I may not arrange to get to see your book (and your life), I still want to stop to recognize what you’ve done to write and publish all these “word pictures,” this valuable history of you.

            Above and beyond the actual contents of these writings, is the significant position of your looking back on your writing and your life and wanting to share both with others.  Wow!

            And, to the extent that I am, in a few small ways, like you, I want to tell you that I honor your endeavor and your accomplishment:  recording and documenting YOU and the thousands of days that you occupied.

            Here we are in our 80s looking back on our journey, our trip, our mistakes, our stupidities, our learnings and our accomplishments!

            In a sense, WE MADE IT to where we are now. That’s clearly something to be proud of.  I recognize and congratulate you on where you are, what you have come to, at this time in your life.

            Fraternally and with recognizing the efforts, frustrations, perseverance, and wisdoms that are in your writings, I say thank you…for being an inspiration and model for how to get to being the one who has done it.

Sincere best wishes,

Shlomo (Sheldon) Kreitzer

       Here’s another email letter from a friend in my water aerobics class who bought my book when it first came out several months ago.

Hi Joe,

            Hope you are doing well!   I miss the pool so much and am at the point that I think this “sheltering in place” will kill all of us.

            Just to let you know that I finished your wonderful book In the Time of My Life.

            I really loved it and found it a good preview of your repertoire of your writing career.

            I will admit that I especially enjoyed the part of the book about your family.  Your family was unique and I

would imagine there are a lot more stories than you have written.  You might think about this.  I would love to read a beginning, a middle, and an end to your family saga because I have lots of questions:  “Whatever happened to your Mom and Dad?”  “How did you start teaching high school?” “What about your own family life?”

            I did enjoy the full range of what was included in your book and found something good about each part.

            I hope to see you in the future at the pool and hope we can get our old life back soon!

            Meanwhile, I am the most rested person in the universe and have discovered YouTube and all its diversity.  I need to be careful because once I get on it (with its interesting documentaries, recipes, classical music performances), I have a hard time getting off.


Leo Catalano

       What the hell am I going to do in this time of COVID-19?  I can’t give my book to San Francisco’s libraries, they’re all closed.  I can’t leave my book on consignment at bookstores, they too are closed.  It’s a tough time to be living in this pandemic.  It’s similar to 1918-1919 when the Spanish flu hit the world.  Over 670,000 Americans died and an estimated 50 million people around the world died.

       I found out today in an article by Chronicle sportswriter, Ann Killion, that Babe Ruth—at the time a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox—caught the flu twice during the 1918 baseball season.  He was laid up for several weeks.  It was the last year the Red Sox won a World Series until 86 years later.  People wore masks in those days like they do today. They threw them away after the first wave was thought to have ended, but then the second wave came and more deaths piled up.  It was similar to today, where people want to get out of their houses and apartments, they want to start working and socializing again.  You can’t blame them, but there surely will be a second wave if people don’t use their brains.  A lot of people aren’t going to wear masks or stay six feet apart like they’re supposed to, and because of that, the virus will start all over again.  That’s how stupid some humans are.

Sunday, June 14, 2020Systemic Racism

       I picture writing teacher and author, Natalie Goldberg, sitting in a coffeehouse writing nonstop whatever comes to her wild mind.  I think of writing teacher and author, Julia Cameron, just getting out of bed, staggering to her desk, and writing her three morning pages without stopping.

       Natalie and Julia, in their books, have influenced my writing by making me write swiftly without thinking.  But they never mention making something out of their speed writing.  That’s what I try to do, make something of my speed writing.  As Dr. Richard Vogel, psychologist, once told me, “Joe, you’ve taken it a step further than Cameron and Goldberg.”  That’s the project I just finished, Journal 2007:  Doin’ What Comes Naturally.

       Protest marches have been going on around the country, and the world, because a cop killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.  George Floyd, a Black man, prone on the ground, his hands handcuffed behind him, one cop with his knee on his neck, another with his knee on his back, and a third with his knee on his legs.  George Floyd yelled, “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  Mama.  Mama.”  That’s how he died, his face to the ground, a knee on his neck.  Thank goodness a teenage girl of 17 took a video of his death and everyone in the country has now witnessed a shameful crime of racism.  George Floyd’s death has started a revolution of the young in this country.  They have been peacefully marching for two weeks straight about the systemic racism that’s been going on in police departments around the country.  Not all the protests have been peaceful, because at night there has been arson, smashing of windows, and vandalism going on by none other than the troublemakers of the world.

       And then two nights ago another unnecessary cop killing of a Black man in Atlanta that was shown on TV.  The poor guy was sleeping in his car at a Wendy’s drive-thru line.  He was drunk.  The cops awakened him.  Rayshard Brooks did everything one cop asked of him by having him follow with his eyes the cop’s finger in front of him for much longer than was necessary.  You could tell the cop was treating him unfairly because of the color of his skin.  Rayshard Brooks couldn’t take the questions and other tests he was asked to do any longer and he stupidly broke away from the cop and was eventually shot twice in the back.  All this for just sleeping in his car at a drive-thru line at a fast-food restaurant.  Why do some police refuse to learn?

Monday, June 29, 2020Choice

       While out for a walk in the neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny, and slightly breezy day, I felt compelled to sit down and write a poem.  Here’s what I wrote:


Every second in our lives we have a choice

as to what we think and what we do.

Every second!

I have a choice to keep on walking

or to sit on a bench.

I have a choice whether to think of

my dying cousin on his hospital bed

or to change the channel of my thinking.

Everything we do and think is a choice.


Yes, if we’re out for a walk,

we can cross this street or that,

look this way or that,

smell this flower or that,

think this song or that.



And because of this freedom

of the five senses we possess,

and this freedom of thinking

50,000-80,000 thoughts per day,

we, the human species, have shown

our creative abilities from the days

long before we even lived in caves.

We are the only species to speak, write,

read, build, destroy, pray, doubt, hold,

play, smile, laugh, cry, perform, lie,

cheat, hoard, give, help, hinder,

regret, share, hate, and love.

Monday, July 13, 2020Confederates

       I have a new name for the followers of Donald Trump:  Confederates.  Yes, I’m naming them after the Confederates of the Civil War era.  Our country hasn’t changed.  We’re still living in a divided nation.  The Confederates are the 2nd Amendment people who want to own semiautomatic rifles.  They’re climate deniers.  They’re white nationalists who are against women having the right to control their own bodies.  They’re the religious fanatics and anti-Semites.  They’re the ones who think President Obama wasn’t an American.  They’re prejudice against Muslims, Hispanics, Asians.  They hate homosexuals and anyone who’s a part of the LBGTQ community.  They’re ill-informed.

       Have I covered the whole spectrum of those who support Donald Trump?  Are there anymore Confederates I haven’t thought of?  It just shows that since the Civil War the Confederates are still very much alive and kicking, all the more so because they’re being spurred on by none other than the president of the United States.  Yes, the Confederate traitors of the 19th century, their kind is still alive in the 21st century.  They’re a stain on this country.  It finally came to a head with the video of George Floyd, handcuffed, face to the ground, a knee on his neck, back, and legs by three officers of the Minneapolis Police Department.

       This slavery issue has been going on for far too long—since 1619 when Africans were chained and transported to be used as slaves.  It’s time to end this injustice, this cruelty to a race of people who didn’t ask or wish to come to the Western Hemisphere.  They were forced like beasts of burden to work for no wages, to build this country into the most powerful country in the world, and what have they gotten for it?  Police harassment, police brutality, unemployment, poverty, jailed for no reason in many instances, forced to live in ghettos, barely surviving, living unequal in a country where everyone is supposed to be the equal of everyone else.  We whites can’t conceive of what the Black people have had to endure.

       The time has come to throw away the shackles of slavery once and for all.  The time has come for racism to end.  It’s time that Black men and women are treated like human beings, where they can live in hope instead of despair, where they can walk down the street without worrying about their lives or their rights being abused.  The time is NOW, not tomorrow, for African Americans to be treated as equals with the full rights and privileges of what any human being should be accorded.

       What more can I say about our Black brothers and sisters who have been living a nightmare for 400 years.  They were chained and shackled and sold to the highest bidder.  That’s how cruelly we human beings have treated other human beings—like cattle.  A disgrace.  The white man figured out a way to actually make slaves of other humans.  No conscience, no compassion, no feelings for other human beings with a different color skin.  Underneath, don’t we all bleed?  Don’t we all have feelings and a heart and legs and arms and hair and what does it matter that some people have skin that is a different color than white?

       How about the Native Americans?  They, too, were used as slaves.  They were eliminated as the white race moved west.  Think about it, a whole race of people almost annihilated.  It’s so sorrowful to think of what the Native Americans and the African Americans have had to cope with.  Both races are still feeling the effects of it.

       We Americans should be ashamed of what a large segment of our country has turned into—racists, haters, irrational thinkers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020The Little Tyke

       About an hour ago, I talked to my cousin Vic in L.A. about his brother Joe, three years older than me and a great cheerleader for me throughout my life, who is on his death bed in the hospital.  I’ve talked to my son Ray about how proud I am that he and Ashley are such good, patient parents to their son Joseph.  I’ve talked to my friend George Krevsky about going for a walk, something we haven’t done in a while because of the pandemic.  And I’ve talked to Jerry Lipkin, another good friend of mine, about how happy I am that he’s getting back to work as a lawyer and going off unemployment.

       I never imagined I would be a grandfather.  Olby, who just turned eight, calls me Grandpa Joe.  But Joseph, born March 20, during the worst pandemic in 100 years, is my only blood grandson.  I hope the little tyke will be strong, resilient, smart, a leader, and a good athlete.  I hope he’ll be happy and know where he’s headed in life.  I hope he’ll be a leader and not a follower.  I hope he’ll be tolerant and open to new ideas.  I hope he’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do in life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020Masks

       I finally finished putting Journal 2007:  Doin’ What Comes Naturally on the internet as an e-book.  What I have to do now is let people know about it.  They can pay $3.99 on Amazon Kindle or $2.99 on Smashwords.

       I’m free.  I can now write again in my journal.  I’ve only written in my journal twice this month.  Working on Journal 2007 took up so much of my time.  I proofread the manuscript five or six times.

       I was at a small group meeting of six water aerobics people today (sitting outside, wearing our masks, socially distanced) at the Lake Merced Picnic Area.  Bill Hellums said we’re living our lives like the movie Groundhog Day, where each day keeps repeating itself.  No deviation.  Wake up, eat breakfast, read the paper, go to my desk, eat lunch, go back to my desk, go for a walk, eat dinner, watch the news on TV, go to bed, to be repeated over and over again.  We’ve been living through this virus for five whole months.  In the U.S. more than a half million people have contracted the virus and 150,000 have died from it.  We’re leading the world in cases and deaths.  The reason being, we’re getting mixed messages from the president and the scientists.  The scientists say don’t congregate with people, wear a face mask, stay socially distanced, and wash your hands.  Most people are doing that, but there are those who refuse to follow those directions.  They’re the ones who are most susceptible to catch the virus, the schmucks.  Even when we someday get a vaccine, there will be people who will refuse to take it.  They’re called anti-vaxxers, and this will lead to more cases and the filling of hospitals and people dying, all because they want their freedom and to hell with everyone else.

       And since so many people are out of work and schools are out indefinitely, there are protests going on around the country about Black Lives Matter.  It was the blatant killing of George Floyd by mainly one cop, Derek Chauvin, his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while Floyd was face down in the street, hands handcuffed behind him, that has led to these protests, where provocateurs and anarchists around the country are having a field day vandalizing retail stores and setting fires.

            When I go down to the Great Highway for a walk, it’s pretty crowded with people jogging, walking, skating, biking.  But in my neighborhood, it’s oh so quiet.

The Quiet

I start out on foot from my house.

What do I hear?


Very little sound of cars in this crisis.

It’s oh so quiet.

The virus.

       It’s the beginning of an abbreviated major league baseball season.  The Giants have two wins and three losses.  The Miami Marlins recently had 15 players and coaches come down with the virus.  I noticed some of the Giants’ players not wearing their masks or distancing themselves in the dugout.  Johnny Cueto, the Giants’ pitcher, was standing shoulder-to-shoulder to one of his teammates and he wasn’t wearing a mask.  Sad.

Sunday, August 9, 2020Getting Things in Order

       So far, in the U.S., 160,000 people have died from  COVID-19.  The number keeps rising.  We are far from getting over this pandemic.  The only way to conquer it is with a vaccine.

       It’s overcast again in the West Portal District where we live.  It’s summer, which means it’s overcast or foggy throughout most of July and August in our area of the city.  Overcast skies are depressing.  One has to get out of it once in a while to not feel depressed.  Why are gray skies over a prolonged period of time so depressing?  Because the mind sees gray and gray is dull and blah.  The only good this grayness does is to keep the temperature in the 60s, otherwise we’d be boiling in 80, 90, or 100 degree temperatures.  Sometimes the sun breaks through.  When it does, we San Franciscans are still lucky because the temperature rarely gets into the 80s.

       I’m now working on Journal 1970-1972:  A Beginning Writer.  After I make an e-book of those years when I began my writing career, I’ll have to figure out what year or years to work on next.  What I’m trying to do is get my journals in order before the Great Equalizer says it’s time for me to go.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020Saroyan the Great Salesman

       I’ve been reading around in a very large, limited edition of a hardbound book that my friend Bobbie Manoogian Dittes loaned me.  It’s called William Saroyan and Archie Minasian:  The Complete Correspondence, 1929-1981.  The book’s dimensions are 14″ x 11″, 368 pages.  Big.

       William Saroyan, my favorite writer of all time, became very famous.  Archie Minasian (Bobbie’s uncle) was a poet who couldn’t break into the Big Time like his cousin William did.  In an article in the San Francisco Examiner, after Saroyan died in 1981, Minasian related what a book editor once told him:  “You have to sell your book to me, Archie, like Saroyan always sells his books to me.”  In other words, William Saroyan was not only a great writer, he was a great salesman.  Archie Minasian was a great poet (I’ve read a couple of his small press publications that Bobbie loaned me) but he wasn’t the great salesman like his cousin was.

Saturday, August 15, 2020The Bully

       Yesterday I had what Kaiser calls a “procedure.”  There was a cyst on the top of my head the size of a large pea.  It was there for several months.  It took Dr. Gupta 45 minutes to remove it.  It was pretty painful after the anesthetic wore off.  I had to take four Tylenol/codeine tablets over a period of 12 hours to ease the pain.  There’s a big patch on my scalp that I’m going to have to keep dry for the next eight or nine days.  Then I’ll go in and have the patch and the stitches removed.

       The Giants lost a heartbreaker last night to the Oakland A’s.  They were ahead 7-3 when the A’s scored four runs in the top of the ninth, and then the A’s went on to win it in the tenth 8-7.  The stands are empty in all the major league ballparks.  There’s a Designated Hitter in the National League now.  If a game is tied at the end of nine innings, each team puts a man on second to start the tenth.  The A’s moved the runner on second to third on a groundout and then the runner scored on a sacrifice fly to right.  In the bottom of the tenth, all three Giants struck out.  Johnny Cueto pitched admirably for the Giants.  He’s the only decent starting pitcher on the team.  The Giants in this pandemic-shortened season are in last place, six games out of first place.  They’ve played 21 games out of the 60 that will be played before the playoffs begin.  It would have been nice if they had beaten the A’s, but it’s just not their year.  Maybe next year.  The Giants cut former heroes Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence from the team.  New blood has taken their place.

       The demolition of our democracy is taking place with the Bully in the White House.  I won’t even mention his name.  Now he wants to defund the post office.  Because of that, people will have to wait in longer lines to vote.  He doesn’t care if they get the coronavirus by standing in long lines.  He has to win and there’s nothing that’s going to deter him from using every ploy in the books.  He’ll cheat and scratch and lie to get re-elected in November.  He has a following who will refuse to take a vaccine if and when it’s ever approved.  He blatantly lies when he says to his followers that Joe Biden will abolish religion and take away your guns.  The Bully will do and say anything to win the election.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020The Virtual Democratic Convention

       The Democratic Convention started two nights ago.  There’s really no convention, but with COVID-19, no meetings of large groups are allowed.  Virtual is the only way they can do it.  The first night, Monday, Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama gave speeches.  One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard came from Michelle Obama.  Tears almost came to my eyes it was so good.  Bernie made a great speech, too, trying to bring all the Democrats together to VOTE against that menace in the White House.

       That menace in the Oval Office is a salesmen for the very wealthy.  He does what they want by making it so they get tax breaks.  He’s also making it comfortable for the oil industry to rake in great profits by denying climate change, lowering the standards of gas mileage, standing up for fracking, and opening up oil fields in natural reserves.  Greed and power—will it ever end?

       I weighed 208 this morning.  If only I can get down to 200.  I find it very hard to reach that goal.  I just read what I wrote in a June 2015 journal entry.  I weighed 202 at the time.  I was so close to 200, but as Charles Lewman said to me, “Joe, you slip-slided away.”  Charles took “slip-slided” from a Paul Simon song, meaning I didn’t watch myself as much as I should have.  Yes, I slip-slided away, and now five years later I weigh six pounds more.  I’ve got to make a more concerted effort to lose weight.

Saturday, August 22, 2020My Grandson Joseph

       Two days ago, August 20, was my 80th birthday.  A lot of people reach that age nowadays, for as the saying goes, “80 is the new 70.”

       Ray, Ashley, and five-month-old Joseph came to the house for a birthday dinner.  Because my son and his family and Joan and I have been especially careful following COVID-19 guidelines, we have formed a virus-free pod.

       The little boy is the cutest little kid you ever saw.  He smiles and laughs and is full of pep.  Joan and I love him so much.  He’s so nice to hold and be with.  You can see the curiosity of a five-month old baby.  You can see he’s learning something new almost every day.  He almost turned over by himself from back to stomach.  He tried and tried but didn’t succeed.  The important thing is, he didn’t get frustrated or flustered.  That was a sign of a positive attitude.  Here’s hoping he’ll keep that attitude for the remainder of his life.  He’s a bundle of joy is what he is.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020Another Black Man Shot

       The NBA players decided to discontinue the playoffs because a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot an unarmed Black man seven times in the back.  Seven times!  The Black man, Jacob Blake, didn’t die but is now paralyzed.  The Black players in the NBA are saying, “Enough is enough.  We’re tired of our Black brothers and sisters getting shot by the police.  We’re tired of seeing this continually happen, therefore we’re going to protest by sitting out the playoffs here in Florida.”

       In another 15 minutes the Giants-Dodgers game will start.  Last night the Giants won a fabulous game over the Dodgers.  They came from behind four times to eventually win in the 11th inning by the score of 10-8.  Donovan Solano hit a two-run walk-off home run.  Brandon Belt belted two homers and got two doubles.  It was a great comeback win and the Giants extended their winning streak to seven games.  The Dodgers, by the way, have the best record in the majors.  They’re favored to win the World Series in this crazy pandemic year.

       If the Giants win tonight, they’ll have a chance to make it into the playoffs in this shortened 60-game season.

       I turned on the TV at 7 p.m. and the Giants game was cancelled due to Jacob Blake being shot three days ago.  Thank goodness someone took a video of the shooting to show that racism is still prevalent in this country.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020Emily Pappert Williams

       I received a letter today from Joan’s friend, Emily Pappert Williams.  Here’s what she wrote:

Dear Joe,

            I just (early this morning) finished reading In the Time of My Life:  Selected Writings.  I read it cover-to-cover, and loved every page.  I could hear your voice throughout.  The entire experience was very comforting, especially during these strange times.  The pieces about your Black students in L.A. seemed prescient in this moment of Black Lives Matter, or maybe things just don’t change very much over time.  I am eager for more, Joe, so please keep me posted.



Wednesday, September 2, 2020Highway Sailor

       I think of my grandson, Joseph, and smile to myself.  He has great parents who will prepare him well for life.  They’re so patient with him.  I wasn’t as patient with my son Ray as he is with little Joseph.  Ashley, her voice is like the voice of a goddess to the young tyke—it’s so calming and reassuring.  I see Ray’s great love for his son as the protector, the one who thinks of everything to keep his son safe.

       I’m still working on Journal 1970-1972:  A Beginning Writer.  If people ever come across this journal, they’ll read about the hell I went through to finish my first novel, A Class of Leaders.  And then, when I kept sending it out to publishers, all I got were rejections.  I was depressed quite a bit in those days.  Sharon Murphy, who I lived with at the time, had to put up with my depression, the poor woman.  But I stuck to my guns and kept writing in my journal to find out what my next novel was going to be.  The answer didn’t come until Sharon and I split.  It was a breakup that was brewing for maybe a year, when one night, because of a misunderstanding, the floodgates opened and all the negativity in our relationship came spewing out.  I took the breakup hard.  To overcome the heartache, I hit the highways of America in my VW bus.  Out of that five-month journey came my second novel, Highway Sailor.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – Myself Upon the Earth

       There are many fires and a lot of smoke in the three western states of Washington, Oregon, and California.  All that smoke won’t let the sun shine through.  It’s actually nighttime at 1:15 p.m.  I’ve never experienced darkness in the afternoon.  I have to turn the lights on in whatever room I go into in our house.  First it was the coronavirus pandemic, then the closing of businesses, then last week one hundred degree temperatures, and now heavy smoke preventing the sun from shining through.  Crazy.  Weird.  Eerie.

       Our grandson Joseph was here with Ray today.  The kid, you can’t take your eyes off him.  He’s a wonder to watch.  Today he sat up by himself and was playing with a small box when he fell backward and hit his head on the wooden bookcase behind him.  There was a long delay and then real, painful crying.  But he got over it and soon I was holding him and he was standing on my lap.  He turned over by himself, the first time Joan and I have seen him do that. Someday soon he’ll start crawling and a whole new world will open up to him.

       I read a William Saroyan short story today:  “Myself Upon the Earth.”  Great writing.  No writer has ever written like Saroyan.  There’s a quote above my desk, by Chateaubriand:  “The original writer is not one who does not imitate others, but one who can be imitated by none.”  No one can imitate Saroyan, nor can anyone imitate any other great writer or artist.  All writers and artists must remember that quote, for if you are completely yourself as an artist, no one will ever be able to imitate you.  I loved “Myself Upon the Earth.”  In it Saroyan wrote something that resonates with me today:  “How can one living man possibly be greater than another?  And what difference does it make if one man writes great novels which are printed and another writes great novels which are not?  What has the printing of novels to do with their greatness?  What has money or the lack of it to do with the character of a man?”

       Saroyan, in the story, mentions the date he wrote it:  Monday, September 25, 1933.  The first time I read his story was while I was living in Eugene, Oregon.  Here’s what I wrote in my journal on Friday, June 9, 1972:  “I just finished reading William Saroyan’s ‘Myself Upon the Earth,’ a short story about a young, starving writer.  The writer is hungry and tired of being poor in 1933 San Francisco, so he pawns his $65 typewriter and gets $19 for it.  He treats himself to a huge meal that costs $2.  He tips the waiter, pays for a shoeshine, goes to watch beautiful women in a Hollywood movie and ends up walking the ‘dark streets, the streets where the women are.’  Going a month without his typewriter, he realizes he can’t do without it, so he goes back to the pawnshop and buys it back.”

       I wrote those words 48 years ago.  What I’m trying to say is, I got so much out of the second reading of “Myself Upon the Earth.”  Saroyan wrote a lot of what went on in a writer’s mind.  That’s why I love reading him.

Friday, September 18, 2020 – We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

       The election is coming up on November 3.  Biden wears a mask everywhere he goes, something Trump doesn’t do.  That’s why 40-45% of the eligible voters in this country love Donald Trump.  He’s a rebel in his own government.  Gentleman Joe Biden is the opposite.  He’s thoughtful, he doesn’t hold rallies, or if he does, people are separated, they wear masks, they’re careful that they don’t catch the killer virus.  At Trump rallies, most people are mask-less, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and don’t seem to care about the virus.  The country’s virus death toll is closing in on 200,000.  Almost a thousand deaths a day and Trump doesn’t urge his followers to wear masks.  Wearing or not wearing a face mask has become a political statement nowadays.  Attorney General Bill Barr came out yesterday and equated wearing a mask to slavery.  Insane.  He and Trump, I hope, end up in jail for decimating this democracy of ours.  We’re finding out that all it takes is one man to topple a democracy.  His fervent followers will do anything and everything in their power to keep him in office.  Who knows what he’ll have them do if he loses the election.  He’s already said it’s rigged.  What I’d like to know is, “How can the election be rigged before anyone casts a vote?”  That’s why I sit here and wonder what’s going to happen to this country if he wins or loses.  We’re in deep trouble either way, because that man will not go away, he loves being the center of attention.  He’s found a racist, irrational, close-minded element in the American people and is riding it to the hilt.  It reminds me of that famous Pogo cartoon where Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – The Russians Are Coming

       I have 25 minutes before I’m off for the Lake Merced Picnic Area to eat lunch with several of my water aerobics friends.  Every other week we bring our own food and chairs, sit six feet apart in a circle, and discuss what’s going on in our lives and the world.

       Yesterday I went to a weekly get-together at Susan McGregor’s house, where seven of us meet in her garage with the garage door open.  We wear masks and are socially-distanced from one another.  What did we talk about?  None other than Donald Trump.

       It dawned on me yesterday that it’s not only Trump who is dividing this country, it’s also the Russians.  I’d bet the Russians have propagandized a large number of Americans through social media about the pandemic being a hoax, about not wearing a mask, about not taking a vaccine, about Bill Gates wanting to make money on developing a vaccine.  Trump goes along with the Russians just so he can be elected for another four years.  He’s even hinted he wants to be president beyond eight years.  I believe it’s both Trump and the Russians who have fed the Trumpers the Kool-Aid to be as brain-dead as they are.

       I got my first haircut in eight months today.  Jennie, my barber, knew what to do with the elastic strings on my mask that were around my ears as she was cutting my hair.  She did a great job.  Haircut $15.  Tip $5.  Joan, this evening, mentioned that it looked like I lost weight.  She was surprised when I pointed out that I got a haircut.

Saturday, October 3, 2020Poetic Justice

       A couple of important things have happened this week.  One, the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place.  Two, Donald Trump has come down with the coronavirus.

       Donald Trump getting the virus is poetic justice.  He’s touted to his followers for the past six months, against the advice of his science advisors, that wearing a mask was their choice to wear or not.  And so what happened?  Not only did he get stricken with the virus, but several people in his circle have caught it:  his wife Melania; his adviser Hope Hicks; his campaign manager Bill Stepien; and Chris Christie, who advised him before his debate with Joe Biden.  All this has happened with a month left in the campaign.  It’s not nice to wish that someone has caught the virus, but Trump flaunted it, he led many to believe it was a hoax.  A true president would have said, “If you go out of your house, wear a mask, not only to save your life but the lives of others.”  Donald Trump finally got his comeuppance, and rightly so.

       Trump was so aggressive in the debate earlier this week that he wouldn’t let Joe Biden finish a sentence without interrupting him.  Biden finally had to say to Trump, “Will you shut up already,” and telling the moderator, “Will you shut this clown up.”  What a disgusting display of bullying and over-aggressiveness on Trump’s part.  It has been said that it was his plan all along, to get Biden to lose his temper by constantly badgering him.  Plus, there are two very important points that came out of Trump’s mouth in the debate.  He degraded the election by saying he wouldn’t comply with the results if he lost because it’s already rigged against him.  In other words, according to Trump, if Biden wins the election Biden still doesn’t win.  Secondly, he wouldn’t denounce a white racist group called the Proud Boys.  He said, “They should stand back and stand by.”  What should they stand by for?  For intimidating people at the polls?

       One more thing.  In Cleveland, where the debate took place, people in a group or a crowd were required to wear masks.  In complete defiance of the law, Trump’s family and entourage didn’t wear masks throughout the debate.

       It’s been quite a week.  The president (I cringe when I say Trump is the president) is in Walter Reed Hospital and the doctors say he’s doing well.  The news is, he’s been given a couple of strong concoctions for patients with severe virus infections.

       My grandson Joseph, who can cry and smile in a flash, was at the house all day yesterday.  Ray brought him over so Joan and I could take care of him while he did his therapy work on the phone with teenagers he counsels.  Little Joe needed constant attention.  Taking care of a baby is one of the hardest jobs in the world.  To make matters worse, the temperature was in the 90s.  The smoke from the wildfires prevented us from opening windows or going outside.  The heat, the smoke, and the absence of fresh air made for a very uncomfortable situation.  It was like hell in the city.  But the little tyke got through the day with his smiles and crying and Joan entertaining him by singing and playing her ukulele and playing John Philip Sousa military marches on her cell phone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020The Election

       I’m very disappointed in the country I was born in, grew up in, educated in, and have worked in.  We haven’t learned!  Donald Trump, liar, cheater, bully, racist, misogynist, divider, megalomaniac, narcissist, psychopath, sociopath, a denier of climate change, an immoral and unethical man, is still in the running for president of the United States at 11:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.  I’m ashamed of this country that the election is as close as it is.  Even if Joe Biden wins tomorrow, or three or four days from now, I’ve lost faith in this country.  It’s beyond me how anyone voted for Trump.  After watching and hearing his assault on democracy for the past four years, it’s a crying shame that so many can’t see how toxic he is to this country, that after 160 years we’re still fighting the Civil War, where so many still want to press their knees on the necks of “the other.”

Sunday, November 8, 2020We Won!  We Won!

       All day yesterday I had the TV on because I was watching the news of Joe Biden winning the presidential election.  In all the big cities of the U.S. there was celebration.  It was similar to what the celebration was like when World War II ended.  Large crowds, mostly young, 90% of them wearing masks, were celebrating and dancing in the streets.

       Joe Biden made so much sense in his speech last night.  But not everyone is going to believe him.  He’s going to have a rough go of it when he’s sworn in as president on January 20, 2021.  There’s no telling what Trump will do to stay in power.  He’s already declared himself the winner—by a landslide, no less.  He’ll never admit defeat or a wrong.  He could be found in bed with a woman other than his wife and he’d swear there was no woman in bed with him.  In my book, he’s the worst president the United States has ever had, worse than George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Andrew Johnson.  To think that 74 million people voted for Trump.  If that’s how many votes he received, we are presently a very sick nation.  But last night, during Biden’s speech, levelheaded words were spoken—something we haven’t heard in the past four years.  Joe Biden spoke about hope and unity and equality and getting back on the right track after experiencing the disaster of Donald Trump.

We Won!  We Won!

My wife, upon hearing the good news, 

          ran out of the house and down the street.

“We won!  We won!” she shouted.

It doesn’t matter that no one heard her.

What matters is that hope was in the air.

On TV—mostly masked crowds celebrating and dancing across our land,

      I see an aging Black man, a large American flag in hand.

We can breathe again.

The nightmare is over.

Don’t you understand?

We have replaced a megalomaniac and divider

      with a healer and uniter.

There’s still work to be done.

A pandemic, climate change, a divided nation,

      racial injustice, economic depression.

So much to overcome.

Don’t succumb.

Hear my wife.

“We won!  We won!”

Thursday, November 12, 2020A Craftsman

       I’m still working on Journal 1970-1972:  A Beginning Writer.  I’m nearing the end because I’m getting tired of reading what I’ve written over and over again.

       While we were talking on the phone, after I mentioned my constantly going over Journal 1970-1972, my friend Charles Lewman said to me, “Joe, you’re a craftsman.”  Charles is always praising me for one thing or another.  I usually don’t take what he tells me too seriously.  But now that I think of his “craftsman” statement, he’s right.  I write, revise, and keep revising until I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve written.

       I met my YMCA friend Otho Middleton on the promenade at Ocean Beach today.  He was on a bike and recognized me, even though I was wearing a mask.  He too was wearing a mask.  He said he recognized me by the way I was walking.  “You have that athlete’s walk,” he said.  I understood exactly what he’s saying because I used to plant trees with Tony Wolcott, a horticulturist with Friends of the Urban Forest, an organization that plants trees around San Francisco.  One day I told Tony that he walked like a man who used to be an athlete, and he said he was a former basketball player.

       Otho and I went to the University of Oregon, at different times.  He was a basketball player; I played football.  That’s our tie—Oregon.  We hadn’t seen each other since March.  He was a water aerobics exerciser like me before COVID-19 shut the Y down.  I wonder how much longer we’ll have to wait till we get back into the pool again.

Sunday, December 13, 2020Lemmings to a Liar

       Joan and I visited Ray, Ashley, and their nine-month-old son Joseph today.  The kid is the cutest kid you ever laid eyes on.  We love him so much.  We are watching a young infant grow and become a unique individual.  To me, it’s like watching the Greatest Show on Earth.

       The 49ers are out of the running to get into the playoffs.  Half their first stringers on offense and defense are out with injuries.  They’re a shell of what they were when they went to the Super Bowl in early February.

       Almost 300,000 Americans have died of the virus and 20,000 each day are coming down with it.  “It’s all a hoax,” says Trump, and his people actually believe him!

       Trump will die someday, but his cult of racists, gun-toters, anti-abortionists, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, climate deniers, and white nationalists will be around for a long time to come.  I am so ashamed that this is happening in the land of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  None of those presidents were without their faults, but they stood for democracy and decency.  It seems, with Trump’s cult, that there’s no respect for truth and decency anymore.  How can so many people be lemmings to a liar?  Why are they such uncritical thinkers?

Saturday, December 26, 2020Two Vaccines

       Trump, true to his character, still hasn’t conceded and probably never will, although he LOST the electoral college vote 306-232 and the popular vote 81 million-74 million.  He is the first president in our country’s history who is unwilling to pass the torch to the next elected president.  He still claims, like he did before the election, that it was rigged.  You just can’t win if you run against that man.  I can see losing candidates in the future saying the vote was rigged, further weakening our hold on democracy.

       Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have come up with a vaccine for the virus in record time.  Doctors, nurses, and hospital staffs are being vaccinated as I write.  For those in Joan’s and my age group, we’ll be one of the first to be vaccinated.  Many people are anti-vaxxers.  They refuse to be vaccinated because of at least three theories that I know of so far:  One, they believe Bill Gates has caused the virus and has implanted a microchip in the vaccine so the government can keep track of them.  Two, the vaccine will cause a mental illness of some type.  Three, the vaccine is a product of the devil.  Those who believe such conspiracies will rue the day when they come down with the virus.

       Joan is keeping busy studying Greek and Latin.  She is also making and sending out beautiful, colorful masks to both her friends and my friends.


       On January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol building, the symbol of American democracy, was breached and ransacked by thousands of rioters.  It caused five deaths (including one policeman) and injured 141 Capitol and District of Columbia police officers.  At noon that day, Donald Trump, President of the United States, gave a speech to a very large crowd at the Ellipse behind the White House, saying the 2020 election was stolen from him.  He told the crowd to march down to the Capitol, that he’d be there with them (he stayed in the White House), urging them to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.  He spurred them on with the following words:  “…if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”  One week later, Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting insurrection.  The Senate, on February 13, three and a half weeks after Joe Biden was sworn in as president, acquitted Donald J. Trump.  The vote was 57-43 in favor of conviction, but was short of the required 67 votes to convict.

       Joan and I and our family got vaccinated except our grandsons who are below the age of 12.

       Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis policeman who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, was found guilty and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.

       I started working on and finished Journal 1994.

       COVID-19 and its Delta variant still rages on because millions of Americans refuse to get vaccinated.

       My grandson Joseph (18 months) is walking and running and is on the verge of talking.

September 2021