Oof. That last year was rough.

So, I basically didn’t have a birthday last year. Not that I’m so obsessed with having something like cake or presents or anything like that; or even celebrating really, but it was weird. The Pandemic wasn’t a concern until it was, and it hit hard and fast, and by the 14th there wasn’t anything open and everybody was social distancing.

There’s no real point where I could say, “Uh oh, this thing is serious.” I vaguely recall being somewhere back in December 2019 hearing about COVID hitting China and thinking nothing of it. I remember SARS well enough, and a rumor of disease wasn’t enough to make me-- or anybody else-- nervous.

By March, however…

I work at a small family run meat market in an affluent part of Albuquerque. The prices are a bit high, because the people in the area are rich, and a lot of them subscribe to some weird combination of liberal “I care way too much about what I’m eating, OMG GMOs” and conservative, “We’re rich and fuck anybody who isn’t.” It’s an excruciating combination exacerbated by the owner’s desire to bend over backwards for any customer’s whims no matter how absurd or impossible.

When the pandemic hit--

Wait, so, there’s this game called Pathologic. It came out in 2005, or there abouts. The game features a town in the middle of a plague and is notable for its super difficult mechanics. One of the aspects of the game and its pseudo-remakePathologic 2 is that once the plague comes, the price of items in the in-game shop shoot up to astronomical levels.

So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

-- When the pandemic hit, we were swamped. Our busiest time of year is Thanksgiving and Christmas, where we’ll be packed with people wall-to-wall. Thanksgiving isn’t too bad, because most people aren’t suffering from holiday burnout. Christmas is bad because the customers are sick of the holidays and get mean. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, so the progression of days is fairly predictable. We take orders all month, mostly for turkeys, and we’re busy with non-stop customers from Monday to Wednesday. Christmas’s day varies, so the amount of time we’re busy also varies, but generally you have a three day crunch.

The pandemic was like Thanksgiving and Christmas everyday for three months. We never ran out of meat, but it was a close thing. The prices kept jumping up and down on anything that wasn’t strictly grass-fed. (US beef standards for Choice usually have the cows fed grass up until the last 90 days, when they’ll be switched over to grain or sillage.) Things like buffalo and lamb maintained their prices pretty well because they don’t eat grain, but because of grain shortages, the regular beef would jump two dollars or more, sometimes twice a day, and then crash at the end of the week. The demand for ground beef was so great that meat which would normally be used for steaks was getting ground causing the ground beef prices to skyrocket. At one point it was cheaper to buy ribeyes than get hamburger. A grocery chain might have been able to manage these prices and keep them steady, but a family-owned business that operates their own farms? Not at all.

The high prices didn’t deter anybody, though. We were slammed morning to night, and had to put people on a three day waiting list for freezer orders.

I don’t want to do anything like that again. Three months of that shit.

To add to this, I am basically an extrovert by nature with short periods of introversion. I’m not depressive by nature either, with my default being somewhat happy, but not overly so. That is to say, my “mood baseline” is basically happy. I do like to be alone, but it’s draining, and if I don’t interact with friends, I start to feel unwell. Customers and coworkers don’t count.

Not seeing any friends for an extended period of time causes me to do weird things like not responding to messages in a timely fashion, and sit in bed all day and zone out. It’s not healthy and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was a sign of depression.

On the plus side, the Pandemic is making me rich. I’m not out of work, so those stimulus checks go directly in a savings account. Oh boy. A millennial with money. Still can’t buy a house or do any of those other things people say a successful adult of 36 ought to be able to do, but whatever. We take it one day at a time, and I’ve still got plenty of stories in my head to write, and as long as they get written, that’s success in itself. And people seem to think I’m okay at this writing stuff, so that’s going well too.

I don’t want a repeat of this last year, but it was an interesting year. Perhaps the most interesting year of my life. Also the most stressful. And the most boring. And the most frustrating. And the most...

I dream of crowds all the time

Until this pandemic began, I had no idea how important being around people was for me. It was so draining for me so much of the time, I couldn't tell how much I needed it.

Last night, I dreamt that I was in a bus station. Every bus was full and people flowed on and off when they stopped

Most days, I just see my wife and kid and nobody else. I miss sitting at the office and casually being in the presence of my coworkers. Running into them in the kitchen. There are no acquaintances right now.

Often in my dreams I get lost, and I'm anxious. When I wake up, I know where I am and I'm anxious

I've come to think my younger introversion was actually partly dysphoria. When I was around people, I had to keep my carefully-constructed facade of masculinity in place. Now I don't and it makes things easier.

Dreaming of people doesn't make me feel better

I'm not doing especially well lately. Restrictions are getting stricter again here and they weren't very relaxed to begin with. It's hard to do things, even necessary things, even things that don't require leaving the apartment. I never thought just surviving could be both this hard and this boring, but here we are...

On December 24, 2020, several of us decorated our ageing, ailing neighbours' back porch. He died at the end of March. His wife was in the hospital undergoing treatment for an unrelated ailment at the time. COVID-19 considerations meant we could not attend the funeral.

The house was empty for the next two weeks. Later, their family gathered there. Their age and health meant they would not be with us much longer, and the street will be poorer without them.

He made us a wine rack once as a gift. He was that kind of guy.

It's an interesting street.

Yesterday, I posted a not especially popular daylog that played a game. Six listed items were actual, recent weird dreams. One actually happened. It occurred, in fact, on the pavement, just before midnight.

I wonder if the widow next door would have enjoyed the cheerleaders. I think he would have.

A weekend from now, I will participate as a panelist at virtual Penguicon, kept online for the second year running by this pandemic that's really taking its time about ending. Last year was last-minute, ad hoc, and free. This year they're charging a fee and trying to provide something akin to a convention experience.

I have a reading and four panels, three of which I pitched and will chair. Let me know if this sort of thing interests you.

Friday April 23:

Sub/Urban Folklore and Online Mythology

I've given variations of this one many times before, as a solo presenter or part of a duo. Audience involvement, slides, and video play key roles. It's a skeptically-leaning discussion that examines the role of contemporary folklore in life, literature, and media. Depending on audience inclinations, we might cover anything from misrepresented news stories (see: Kitty Genovese, James Dallas Egbert III, or the Columbine Shootings) to Bigfoot and Michigan Dogman and Slender Man to online conspiracy theists. In recent years and months, that last topic and the pervasive influence of folklore have displayed their more sinister aspects

Saturday April 24:

Building Better Aliens

Kathryn Sullivan runs this one. I've created an extra-terrestrial or two, and I'm sure we can have an interesting discussion. One of my co-panelists is Stephen B. Pearl, with whom I share a publisher.


I have to decide what to read, and I am looking at the two new stories that will bracket my forthcoming collection. The opening of "Flying Whistle Stop" reads well, it would give an opportunity for my wife to sing during the reading, and the aliens and alt-history clearly place in the science fiction genre. It would only be a portion however, and, as my editor notes, it will be nine months before anyone can read the rest. "Live Nude Aliens" would just fit in the reading slot, giving the audience a full story, and it connects directly to my novel The Con. However, it has that same SF/not SF ambiguity that may not be what these con-goers seek, and reading it will leave no time for questions.

To Boldly Seek Discovery in the Expanse: The Voyage Continues

I've run this one at a Toronto con and at last year's ad hoc online Penguicon. I'll be joined again by aerospace engineer/author Eric Choi and GoH Larry Nemecek, and by author/polymath Derwin Mak, who attended last year but was not a panelist. This very strong panel will discuss the various space-related series that (more or less) carry the legacy of the original Star Trek, and what each of us might include if we were running such a series.

Sunday April 25:

Fandom as an Opera

Three panelists will examine the depiction of fandom in books and other media. Novels such as Among Others and Bimbos of the Death Sun, (among others), have attracted readers inside and outside of fandom. We've seen the savaging-from-within of the subculture's worst aspects in The Eltingville Club and Comic Book Villains. Free Enterprise gave us a fannish comedy flick ("Love Long and Party!") while One Con Glory, a nerd romance novel. We've also had documentary efforts, such as Trekkies, and memoirs, including Trina Robbins's Last Girl Standing.

Was the popularity of The Big Bang Theory a positive or negative thing? Does media and literary exposure create understanding for fandom or turn it into a public spectacle?

Some behind-the-scenes issues affected the Media Track, so that I was the only one initially on "To boldly..." despite having had earlier confirmation from the others. Fortunately, we settled that the same day. It cannot be easy to organize a convention when no one can occupy the same space, and at a pandemic can quickly remove people from the equation.

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