My New Friend — Tushy

“After the rise of Barack Obama, large numbers of white Americans became convinced not only that racism was a thing of the past but also that, to the extent racial prejudice remained a factor in American life, white people were its primary victims.” Adam Serwer, The Cruelty Is The Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump’s America

Today I experienced a significant DIY accomplishment. All by myself I installed a bidet called a Tushy. For a competent man installing a Tushy would be a tension-free breeze, but when it comes to plumbing, tools, measurements and the like, I’m anything but competent. I usually have an ordeal, a confrontation with all my limitations, and a tango with the tarnished angels of my nature. F-bombs fall. My temper flares. I actually attempted to install the Tushy the day before, but could not get the hose connections to stop leaking. I followed the provided directions, full of pithy sayings about taking a poo, to the letter, and I looked forward with anticipation to the Tushy bathing my butt in cool water. Ha. Not so fast. After sopping up water with towels I put the Tushy back in its box, dead set on returning it from whence it came. But my failure nagged at me and I resolved to take another shot at the installation. This damn thing will not defeat me was what I was thinking. After taking a relaxing spin on my bike along Cabrillo Boulevard, I was back in the bathroom, resolute and determined. Lo and behold, a miracle, a domestic triumph, I successfully installed the Tushy — without uttering a single curse — and now our butts will be washed clean.

This morning my wife informed me that our bank balance is a slender $114 until she gets paid again. Jesus, only my second week of retirement and already broke. I’m still coming to terms with the idea of “retirement”, preferring to think of this period as one of transition from one form of life to another, with more time, less work, more life, and less money. I realize the inherent limitations in this formula. I’ve applied for part-time jobs at Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods; we’ll see if anyone wants to hire me. In the immediate, we’re fine, comfortably housed, well-fed, healthy. And now we will also boast clean asses! Life is good.

I’m sitting on our secluded patio, under a red market umbrella. It’s a warm afternoon under a cloudless sky. The ice is melting in my G&T. I’m being pestered by an aggressive fly. My wife is inside, taking a nap. She’s developed a new affliction: she smells tobacco smoke when it’s not there. I forget the clinical name, but apparently this isn’t uncommon, and in fact is a side effect of a blood pressure medication which my wife has been on for years. What she believes she’s smelling manifests in irritated eyes and mild headaches.

What were most Americans thinking about in 1851? What was the burning political issue of the time? What kept escalating, becoming more tense? Slavery. The Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act. Did a man who owned another man have a right to pursue and apprehend his property in a free state? If a Negro escaped his owner and made it to a free state, was he assumed to be emancipated? What about compensation for his owner, the insurance companies and the banks? The business of slavery had its own infrastructure, one piece dependent on another. Big, fraught questions that lingered, then flared into controversies every few years. In the free states the slavery issue was vexxing, an annoyance. Many citizens objected to slavery, but that didn’t mean that Negroes were welcome; they weren’t. No open arms waited. They were the problem as much as the people who owned them — and were determined to continue owning them. I’m sure there were many white people in free states who wished the Negro problem would just go away. It’s like our own time when half the country wishes that Donald Trump would just go away. But it won’t happen. Trumpism will be with us for a time. This is a divided nation. In thirteen Southern states 66% of Republicans support secession according to polling by Bright Line Watch.

I hate to be a downer (I know, I know, this blog is usually a downer) but I think we’re headed for a period of armed confrontations between Trump’s insurrectionists and federal, state and local authorities. Political violence runs through American history. But if ever there was a terrible time for the country to be so bitterly divided, this is it, facing as we are two related crises: the pandemic and global climate change. The American west is bone dry and afire; parts of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are under water. Climate change is happening now, not down the road. It’s fucking scary.

My New Friend