Happy New Year, the World is Ending

I started writing this back in January, right after Kobe Bryant died. Much has changed since then.

2020 started with an impeached President, dire climate warnings, and the death of a beloved basketball star. It can only get better from here. [UPDATE: actually, it can get a lot worse.]

I read this article imagining that the world population finally gets its shit together in the next ten years. It shows how, with radical (though very doable) change, we can make our quality of life so much better than it is now. Also, I found two articles dealing with possible cures for cancer. One comes from T-cells that latch onto cancer cells — and only cancer cells — while the other comes from a man’s very aggressive T-cells, which have shrunk life-threatening cancers in his system and rendered masses that should be cancerous, non-cancerous.

With John Bolton’s “bombshell,” the Republicans might actually have to follow the Constitution and the rules of a trial and actually call witnesses [UPDATE: not happening because Republicans have had all their spines removed, minus Mitt Romney). I’m not holding my breath that two-thirds of the Senate will vote to remove him, but anything is possible [UPDATE: also not happening]. Hopefully Pence also gets caught up in this scandal and is removed. More likely is that people who usually don’t vote in elections get so pissed off that they vote in this next one and remove all Republicans from power [still waiting on the update for this one, but their handling of COVID-19 is making this scenario look more and more likely].

MARCH 2020: I wasn’t sure how to proceed with this post after the Senate didn’t do its job and remove a criminal President from office (nor censure him), but then a pandemic came along. Gatherings have been limited since last Wednesday. I’ve been out of a job since Friday the 13th (they closed the theaters where I work). Restaurants and bars have been closed since Tuesday, except for take-out and delivery.

I’m in the middle of writing diary entries about the approaching pandemic, and if it gets worse, I’ll have even more time to write about it. In the meantime, here’s what supermarkets around here look like:

At a local Safeway on Tuesday of last week
At a local Fred Meyer late last week.

Grocery stores and hospitals seem to be on the front lines of this pandemic. Many stores have reduced hours, and/or offer senior-only shopping hours early in the morning. If we’re really 10 days behind Italy, a complete lockdown (or as close as can be mustered) might be in our future — unless our experiments with social distancing and hand-washing work. Some people are paying attention, but looking around Seattle, I see many people who walk around as if invincible. Even if the symptoms of the disease are mild (and mild only means “no need for hospitalization”), having any kind of flu (particularly one that could lead to pneumonia, which could lead to death), is not something I want to risk, even if I’m young and healthy.

But there is hope. Helpers are everywhere. For cinema staff who were furloughed along with me, our GoFundMe campaign raised $20,000 in less than two days (and it’s still going). People I hadn’t heard from in ages offered aid, advice, and empathy. I received texts and messages from so many people that first weekend that I spent most of that Friday and Saturday crying at their generosity.

Also, while COVID-19 is much worse than the flu (for starters, there is no vaccine or cure), it’s not as bad as the Black Death (which wiped out almost a third of Europe) and it isn’t targeting young, healthy individuals, like the second wave of the Spanish Flu did (though the mortality rate is about the same). Maybe, too, people will realize that healthcare should be a right, not a for-profit business, and people who are trying to profit off this tragedy will be thrown out of Congress. Maybe we’ll start taxing the rich more so that we can have emergency funds stowed away for these types of emergencies, rather than send people a one-time payment for less money than most of them pay for rent. Finally, at some point, this virus will be beaten by herd immunity and/or a vaccine. In fact, I hope this disease is a death-knell to the anti-vaxxer movement.

I leave you with this: one of my friends decided to play all 24 studies in J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 as a Lenten project. She began posting videos right before COVID-19 jumped to American shores. As a balm to the daily updates of death, infections, and incompetent leadership, they are essential listening. Enjoy.

Follow Kristina Lee on Youtube for more: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCchfWQB20iXHsXdjtmjxn2g/playlists

Elementary School in the 80s

When I went to elementary school, teachers could still smoke in the teachers lounge. That rule, in fact, changed while I was in first or second grade.

The lounge was in a room off the cafeteria. We students could either buy hot lunch in the cafeteria or bring our own. If we brought our own lunch, we had places to keep it in the classroom, along with our coats and bags. There weren’t any fridges, so lunchboxes and thermoses were our friends, though some people brought bag lunches. Lunchboxes showed off popular cartoons or TV shows. My first lunchbox was a metal He-Man one. I later got a plastic one that had a plastic clasp instead of two metal ones. I don’t remember what was on that one.

Hot lunch cost one dollar. At some point, it increased to $1.10, though that might’ve been in middle school. Near the end of the lunch period, the cafeteria ladies would sell ice cream in the middle of the cafeteria and students could line up to purchase it. I think they initially cost 50 cents to buy. I believe this price also increased once before I left. 99.9% of the time, I’d get an ice cream sandwich. I got it so often the lunch lady would just ask me, “Ice cream sandwich?” when I got to the front of the line.

There were two lunch periods. The first lunch period was first through third grades (kindergarten was split into morning and afternoon classes and so didn’t have a lunch period). The second was fourth through fifth grades. There was a microphone that the teachers could use for announcements. The first through third graders had recess while the fourth and fifth graders were eating. After they went in for recess, the fourth and fifth graders went out for theirs. When I went to Japan, I was happy to discover that recess continues through ninth grade. In my school, it ended after fifth grade.

If we were being too loud, one of the teachers would get on the microphone and tell us to be quiet. Except Mr. Lessig. He was a fifth grade teacher. He’d just walk into the room and the kids would shut up (he only did this in the fourth and fifth grade lunch period. No need to scare the little kids). When I was in third or fourth grade, they installed a stoplight in the cafeteria. If volume levels got too high, it would change from green to yellow. Way too loud, and it’d jump to red. If it stayed on red more than a few seconds, an alarm would sound, and recess would be canceled. That only happened once or twice while I was at school. Even so, Mr. Lessig was a better deterrent than the stoplight. Ironically, he was actually a really sweet man who passed away while I was in high school.

Kindergarten didn’t have recess. Instead, we had play time. There was free time in the other grades, too, where you could grab a book and read if you finished all your work ahead of time. We had indoor recess if the weather was bad, so each of the rooms had games you could play. I remember there was a game called “Hi Ho Cherry-O” that I misread as “Hi Ho Cheeri-O.”

For outdoor recess, we had a playscape built for us between my second and third grade years. They’ve since torn it down due to worries about pressure-treated wood and splinters and put up a plastic piece of crap in its place. Adults always know how to make childhood less fun. It had a tire swing that kids would spin other kids on so much that for large chunks of time, it would be off-limits. They spun one kid so much that he threw up.

Recess attendants (who were teacher aides) would blow two short bursts on a whistle if they caught someone misbehaving during recess and give them a warning. Bullying still happened, though. A long blast on all the whistles meant we needed to line up to go back inside. When we lined up in the classroom to go anywhere (lunch included), we did it alphabetically by last name. For recess, we’d do the same, lining up by room. Or maybe we all just lined up together. It’s hard to remember what archaic activities we had to do back then, especially when they became second-nature.

I have many more memories of elementary school: of gym class and plays, of the book fair they’d have every year (I still have all of those books) and the Scholastic Book Club (I also have all those books somewhere), of the animated movies they’d show after school on what must’ve been 16mm with the sound turned way up (terrifying when watching boys change into donkeys for Pinocchio), of the short films they’d show in class, which was more likely 8mm (including a b&w version of A Christmas Carol and some Halloween shorts by Disney). In second grade, Miss Fisher drilled it into us not to clap after the movie was over. Luckily, I’ve since unlearned that practice, particularly for film festivals.

Ten-Year Milestones

On May 30, 2009, I posted my first blog entry (note: the link on that page no longer works). Back then, I was writing on blogger, living with my parents (to be fair, I had lived in Japan for three years prior to returning home), and unemployed. None of those things are true now. Nor is it true that blogs are a major “thing” anymore. Several of the people whose blogs I used to follow have gravitated to other platforms or vanished altogether, while a select few still write as regularly as they did in the blog heyday. As for me, I’m somewhere in the middle. If you look at my blog posts, you’ll see that I never published regularly. Some months I posted like a madman, others I wrote nothing. Still, I used to write more, and only recently have I started posting as regularly as I used to.

I passed another milestone on October 22 of this year, which is the day, ten years ago, that I moved to Seattle. I originally stayed with friends for a couple months. I’ve since moved three times. The first two places were houses, the second two were apartments. When I moved here, I was 30, single, and unemployed. Now I’m 40, in a long-term relationship, and a lead at work. We also have a cat.

Some things remain the same. I still haven’t finished the novel I started writing back in 2002 (it changes more than a chameleon changes its colors), and now I’ve started a second one. I’ve been collecting together my best poems for a poetry collection, but so far there’s only the one that I’ve published. I still cover the Seattle International Film Festival (and just celebrated my 10th festival this year).

Anniversaries like these make me reflective of all that has happened in between. It’s amazing to think I have over ten years of memories to sift through for both of these milestones. And how I wouldn’t be speaking of these milestones if I’d lived my life differently, ten years ago.