Décolletage but Above the Neck

Week before last I was in an office for an appointment. We each observed physical distancing and wore cloth face coverings. We had an animated discussion. As the young professional talked her mask tended to slip down along her nose, caused by her jaw moving no doubt.

In larger enclosed spaces, stores to be clear, I get offended by people being half-assed about their Covid-19 protections. It’s either on or off, buddy, any other way makes you susceptible to any of MY germs but mainly I’m worried, with your attitude, about what YOU might be spewing toward me.

That’s not what I found myself thinking about her, though.

My shy self so far has never confronted people in stores to mask up. I’m there for peaches not provocation. Get my groceries and get out. A couple of times I’ve just left for another store. The first rule in real martial arts is when facing a confrontation and whether to fight or flee, first choose the latter.

That earns me a black belt in the art of chicken.

My second feeling in her office turned out to be empathy. She had a lot to say, forcing her to keep adusting her mask to stay up. Can’t be helped, and she knows the need for all of us to follow health guidelines.

Actually, my inclination was to study her nose and cheeks. Nice skin. Do I remember what her lips look like, her chin, from previous appointments? So I tried to picture her whole face.

That brought on guilt. These face coverings turn out to cover bodily contours, rendering them interesting if not, ahem, attractive.

It brought to mind a great line from Seinfeld: “Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don’t stare at it, it’s too risky. You get a sense of it then you look away.”

Later, reflection. In the days since, while my wife and I stay home as much as possible, we risk excursions occasionally. I’ve been looking at people with a new focus: What’s under the mask? Would I like to see? Sometimes the answer is, oh yeah.

As far as I know, and I’ve been worried about this for years, face to face you can’t read my thoughts any better than I can yours. Unless you’re obvious with the drooling.

That appointment that brought the revelation that the novel coronavirus 2019 has brought something else to ogle. I know she saw me staring at the top of her patterned cloth mask, but for all she knew I was mentally criticizing her for not using a fully strapped-in, molded Puritan sort of mask.

I hope.

Never suspected the separation of nose to cheek is a form of cleavage (PG-13 Wikipedia entry). Ogling is a form of harassment. I’ve been guilty of it.

There are places where looking at bodies is normal and expected for anybody, both men and women — watching acting, music shows, beaches and pools. …

I saw the legitimacy of discrete ogling ages ago. We were in San Diego with my sister-in-law and her late husband, watching a suburban performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. One of the stars wore a tailored white silky dress. The production got boring, so I spent some time simply enjoying her dress. Shame on me I guess, but the costume was deliberate, to emphasize her attractiveness. Indeed. 

Until limits are crossed. At a grocery entrance yesterday, a mom, dad and two children walked past me with the woman obviously referring to our governor’s new face-covering mandate, muttering to her spouse: “Monday they’ll start making us wear them.”

As I continued through the store I spied two women, separately, with their masks covering only their mouths, their virus-aerosolizing noses fully exposed.

That is too much skin.

Copyright 2020 Ben S. Pollock Jr.

No Scents, Nonsense

A "Danish dough whisk" is a wise investment.

Coronavirus Disease 2019? We Don’t Have Much Time So Call Me Covid-19 for Short

News from a few days ago alarmed me until I thought it through. In June 2017 at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, I brushed against a rosemary bush for sale and found I couldn’t smell that strong scent. I checked myself for the next days. Basil I could distinguish. Chocolate had diminished — still sweet and fun but dimmer. Similar for other food odors and tastes. As it was smell, my taste was muted, too, maybe by a third?

My physician gave it a name, anosmia, but also had me take meds to lower allergies and cure any thrush. The drugs had no effect, so he suggested an ear, nose and throat doctor. The otolaryngologist ordered an MRI of my neck and head and found no “unusual abnormalities.” He recommended a neurologist to see if it was nerve-related. I chose to live with anosmia but kept the names he recommended.

Some smells and tastes have returned in the last couple of years but not at full depth. Every so often the an odor comes through full strength, and I rejoice. Even when it’s animal poop.

Anosmia has joined fever and dry cough as a symptom of coronavirus 2019 disease (though Slate.com is skeptical). Wait, was there a Covid-17? No, not one that caught, so to speak.

Let’s chalk up the dulling of my tongue and nose to being on the far side of middle age. I started needing hearing aids 15 years ago. Eyeglasses were prescribed for this boy at age 8. I’m getting old.

I have a couple of the risk factors for getting hit hard with Covid-19 but not the worst ones. So My Beloved and I work on computers from home, thankful for jobs that allow that and with them health insurance.

I am sure I will get infected at some point despite the recommended precautions of cleanliness and distance. I go a hair further in caution at her insistence.

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Resilient Hombre

Mani, summer 2009
Mani, summer 2009

“Nine percent. He shouldn’t even be here, sniffing my hand and looking around, at 9 percent. He’s clinically dead.”

Our vet knows that my wife and I want her to be candid. She is.

At this point in the clinic visit, we’re learning that the lymphoma has progressed to where Mani the Tibetan terrier has anemia. The only thing that could remedy anemia this severe is a blood transfusion, but the cancer stops that option.

We know the dog overnight has taken a turn for the worse, that’s why we’ve called for an appointment on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He’s down to 18.1 pounds where his weight for most of his 10 years was 22-24 pounds. It began dropping on the Aug. 10 cancer diagnosis; we had brought him in because he stopped eating.

A dog’s red blood cells should be 35-37 percent of his blood, so the 9 percent worse than bad anemia. She took the sample after a chest X-ray. The liquid in the vials we saw was like berry Kool-Aid, so thin was his blood. The X-ray showed a lymph node in the middle of the chest had swollen to the extent it pressed against the heart, which isn’t so harmful, but was displacing his trachea (windpipe) a good inch. That’s sizeable, in a beagle or cocker-size dog as TTs are.

We thought Saturday’s might be That Visit to the doctor. The last one.

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2020 Vision in 2018

Arkansas flag
Wikimedia Commons

Remember Conner Eldridge? He was the Democratic opponent to Republican Sen. John Boozman in the 2016 general election. Because Republicans are hot stuff these days and it’s tough to tackle an incumbent he lost. He’s back to lawyering.

There’s any number of good people like Eldridge who at least for the moment end their political aspirations once defeated. This is why I’m not stating which candidate I will choose in Tuesday’s party primaries.

Also, my record on endorsements and election predictions is under 50 percent so I likely could jinx my pick.

Over the weekend, I posted a problem on Facebook. My neighborhood is in the 86th District of the Arkansas House. If you’re on the liberal side of things, we rock: It’s so traditionally Democratic there’s no Republican candidates. Whichever Dem wins the May 22, 2018, primary heads to Little Rock in January.

[UPDATE, May 22, 2018: I was reminded at the ballot box today that we live in the 85th District, represented by Democrat David Whitaker, who faced no competition today and has no GOP opposition in November. Otherwise, the rest of this column is cq.]

This time out, the 86th is considering two similar candidates, Fayetteville City Council member Mark Kinion and community organizer Nicole Clowney. (Names are linked for their vitals.)

Both would be strong legislators for Northwest Arkansas.

The response was lively. Supporters of both, and opponents of either, wrote in public comments and private messages.

A third side also wrote in, calling for “strategic voting.” As Arkansas has open primaries — a voter asks for the party ballot on signing in, rather than being on the record as D, R or I — we can for the moment belong to the other party. In this case, choose a Republican to the right of incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson and one to the left of 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack. This mid-term year has few contested races. In this neck of the woods, little might be lost by crossing over this time.

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Created Bill in ’88, Met Him in ’99

Here’s a funny thing about these B.Y.O.E. events, that is, Bring Your Own Eulogy: So much of the time those anecdotes are maybe a bit more about the speakers than the, er, guest of honor. If you’re in a down mood today — and a memorial generally is NOT a happy hour — you could say that once again here’s another example of the me-me-me 21st century. Yet, how can you tell stories about another person without you as the narrator, you as the re-actor or even you as the “inciting incident”?

Perhaps more than other people, one part of William Mayes Flanagan‘s artistry is how he brought out the life spirit in others. This Happy Hour has begun.

In 1988 I created Bill Flanagan. In 1999 I met Bill.

In 1988 I was in Little Rock, responsible for national and international news at the Arkansas Democrat. On the side, I began a humor column. It was published in a weekly mailed edition of the newspaper. Being a student of the genre, my humor pieces went all over the map — essay, satire and narrative. The last really is a form of “flash fiction,” as in ultra-short made-up stories.

Illustration by Vic Harville of "End Time Finally Comes for Mister Hapgood," a Mirthology column by Ben Pollock, published Sept. 21, 1988, in Mid Week Magazine, a publication of the Arkansas Democrat.
Illustration by Vic Harville of “End Time Finally Comes for Mister Hapgood,” a Mirthology column by Ben Pollock, published Sept. 21, 1988, in Mid Week Magazine, a publication of the Arkansas Democrat.

That fall 29 years ago I introduced a character who was middle-aged; opinionated; encouraging and happy; a groundskeeper and a watercolor painter. Indeed!

Now, a few weeks ago, days after Bill passed, I ran into Emily Kaitz in the parking lot of Ozark Natural Foods. I told her this anecdote, that it was not authentically, obviously about our friend Bill Flanagan. Also, this has a clairvoyant, ESP quality to it, and we’re rationalists. But Emily disagreed. She advised that this is the story I need to tell. Because she feels it. She can empathize with the deja-vu-ness of it. Continue reading

Tear Down This Wall, That Wall, The Other Ones

Mr. Developer,
Tear Down This Wall.
Pull over the other walls. Haul off the rubble and rebar.
Thank you.

Looking northwest at the side of what's left of the Mountain Inn, downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 21, 2016
Looking northwest at the side of what’s left of the Mountain Inn, downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas, March 21, 2016

It’s a straightforward request but due a complicated, expensive and apparently years in length answer. Thursday (March 24), I made the request to the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, that something be done about remains of the Mountain Inn, left vacant for ages then partly razed a few years ago. Some three stories of wreckage remain at the entrance to our restored and popular downtown.

[See the end of this column for updates.]

An entity named NWAP LLC of Mountain Home in 2014 bought the property, on the southwest corner of College Avenue at Center Street about a block east of the historic Square. (Mountain Home by the way is not a suburb but 122 miles east.)

Before, the Mountain Inn extended a block south of Center to Mountain Street. That half block of 1960s-ish building, an eyesore for years, finally was torn down, left as a hole for some time but now is a parking lot. A strip of land about 20 yards wide along College (U.S. 71) next to the ugly part has been landscaped with grass and a few shrubs. The front though is nice.

A summary can be found at the Fayetteville Flyer’s May 2014 “Mountain Inn Property under Contract in Downtown Fayetteville” and from July 2014 “Ex-Developer Richard Alexander Still Keen on Mountain Inn Site” in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. The latter is about the immediate previous owners, partners planning a new hotel who bought the site in September 2007 — yes, right before the Great Recession, which explains what happened then.

All that makes sense, and our right course should be empathy and patience. Within reason. This past Feb. 1, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette began, “Publicly announced plans to remake the derelict Mountain Inn building downtown haven’t yet happened, and a representative of the property’s owners said it could be still longer before the owner makes any substantial changes.” That article is behind a fee wall.

The newspaper included a timeline: Continue reading