Email to Customers About the Coronavirus From That Weird Junk Shop Run By the Guy Your Dad Knows From High School (Plague Diary, 2)

 

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Folks,

Here at Jim’s Funky Junkatorium, our customers and associates are like family. Or at least people we see every now and then and may have followed home one drunken night last Christmas. Anyway, in the last few weeks, we’ve been laser-focused on the health and safety of our friends and loved ones.

We want JFJ customers to know that we’re following federal, state, and local agency guidance regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s an evolving situation and we are on top of it!

Steps that JFJ is taking to protect our customers and staff:

In-store

  • Cleaning common areas as well as the freight elevator where our cashier Brad spanks the spigot every day at 1:30. (Yes Brad, you funky-handed scamp, we know.)
  • We’re disinfecting our cash register and credit card terminals; we’ll also no longer accept cash pulled from between boobs or buttcracks.
  • We sanitize the restrooms whenever Pasty Pablo or Stinky Lucy aren’t in there providing “carnal concierge services.”
  • We’re periodically wiping down display items, baskets, dollies, carts, and Brad. Mostly Brad.

For Employees

  • We encourage all JFJ associates to be vigilant about their health. No one is allowed to play snot-rocket bingo in the breakroom anymore.
  • Associates should follow the CDC’s suggested hygiene practices to the letter
  • Asking associates to stay home if they, or a family member get sick. They may also choose to set themselves on fire.

For Customers

  • We ask our customers to follow the CDC’s suggested hygiene practices to diminish viral spread
  • Just a reminder – stay out of the freight elevator.
  • Questions about inventory are welcome! Call our hotline.
  • When shopping, avoid eye contact with Brad.

These are terribly uncertain times. The world has grown wicked creepy scary. But we’ll stay open providing you premium pre-loved goods that have definitely not been stolen or—in the case of personal items—looted from funeral homes. Promise!

We’re open every day, 8 am till midnight or whenever we’re sure Brad has gone home and isn’t watching.

Your JFJ family

Plague Diary, 1.

And I, Agnolo di Tura, called the Fat, buried my five children with my own hands. And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city. There was no one who wept for any death, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world. This situation continued [from May] until September. ~ Agnolo di Tura, Siena, 1348 

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A medieval Plague Doctor (Wikimedia)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Agnolo di Tura, called The Fat.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic. In fact, I very strongly doubt the world in the grip of the Coronavirus Pandemicwill be anything like the graveyard that was Europe in the wake of the Black Death. Most things will go forward. There may even be opinion pieces written later about how it was all overblown.

One hopes, anyway.

I began with the passage above because this sentence is like a prose earworm in my brain, some days: “And I, Agnolo di Tura, called the Fat, buried my five children with my own hands.” If you read all of Agnolo’s narrative, you’ll see this is how it begins:

The mortality in Siena began in May. It was a cruel and horrible thing. . . . It seemed that almost everyone became stupefied seeing the pain. It is impossible for the human tongue to recount the awful truth. Indeed, one who did not see such horribleness can be called blessed. The victims died almost immediately. They would swell beneath the armpits and in the groin, and fall over while talking. Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through breath and sight. And so they died. None could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship…

You can read the entire piece here.

There are other readings as well, but the image of Agnolo, a fat man struggling in the heat to bury his children under a merciless sun, has never quite left me. The simplicity of his narrative has always struck me as sorrowful in a timeless way. The kind of devastation that has no point in history because whatever the year on the calendar, it would be the same for anyone in similar circumstances. The words of a man writing nearly 700 years ago, and it’s almost as if you can still hear him sigh.

I’m mostly just following the brush with this post, which is being written on the kind of day that has always given me the creeps, because it is so like bad dreams I had as a child.

It is windy and a little chilly outside. Clouds are rushing by, white and gray, and the sun isn’t really out but I can see blue sky as well. The evergreens that rise behind the houses across the street are restless in the wind, which doesn’t moan so much as it murmurs.

I had a lot of wind-filled nightmares when I was a child.

One that I never forgot came shortly after watching the 1964 film version of Richard Matheson’s I Am LegendThe Last Man On Earth, starring Vincent Price. In that nightmare, I woke to a murmuring and constant wind pushing its way through my childhood home, which was in ruins. One of my sisters was just a mummy in a creaking swing on the back porch. I found myself outside then, and I stepped over two mounds in the driveway that I realized were my parents’ graves.

The wind never stopped, and I know I thought that whatever happened to everyone had come with the wind.

The dream ended at my elementary school, with me standing outside my kindergarten classroom, which was in shambles. I heard the distinctive ringing bounce of a red gym ball on the cement behind me, as if someone had just dropped one, and I turned to see a ball bouncing away, but there was no one there who could have dropped it.

And so I come back to this wind outside today, and all the coronavirus news skittering across my Twitter feeds, on my big-screen TV, and the Agnolo di Tura in my mind, hunched and sweating over the dead.

No one wants to know that kind of sorrow. No one wants to know how alone the man must have felt.

So I guess even the worst-case scenario imaginings in my mind regarding coronavirus are enough to shake me a bit, to rattle my cage.

There are probably many lessons to learn from Agnolo di Tura. The one that will not leave my thoughts today is something that first occurred to me after my brother committed suicide 20 years ago. Then again after my sister died from septic shock in 2016.

Sometimes it is a curse to survive.

Blogs out there in the ether

Blogs out there in the ether

I never use my personal blogs but I can’t let them go. That’s why I spend money on the damn things.

So I dropped one of my writing jobs to have extra room for stuff like this. Will I use it? I’m typing this on the physical keyboard that comes with the BlackBerry Key2 and thinking the crackberry combined with this easier to use keyboard–and I’m sorry, it is easier once you get used to it–I just might.

I’ve also said I won’t use social media so much. Why? Blogging like this feels like something of a lost art.

But I don’t know. I’m a flighty fucker and have done this before. I also have a Medium and a Blogger address. Time to experiment.

Blogging and me

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I first created a blog in 2000. My wife got me started and I learned some early blogging conventions I still use today from her.

By 2005 I was a professional writer. I didn’t expect to become one, even though I’d dreamed of it as a kid. It happened after I’d spent 5 years honestly just blogging about whatever the hell occurred to me. I wrote about a ton of subjects, from personal stuff to the paranormal, just whatever hit me as interesting. Eventually I settled in the groove of just crime blogging and that was what led to the paid work—which eventually was the main thing I did.

I’ve maintained a couple of WordPress sites—this one and a crime blog—in spite of rarely using them. I may have used Medium more in recent years. I’ve been unsure as to why, the whole time.

I write up to 18, sometimes 20 blog posts a week. They are all for my work as a contributing writer and the weekend digital editor for Maxim magazine. It’s all content only appropriate for Maxim, subjects of interest to the mag’s readers. Subjects that don’t necessarily always interest me.

When this has occurred to me and I’ve considered blogging about whatever I’m really into there’s been this feeling of “Ugh. I write all the time. My brain can only handle so much.”

But not lately. And Twitter, which I unapologetically use a lot, doesn’t always cut it.

And the thing is, I feel like I found something in those early days blogging. I don’t mean writing ability or anything, but a freedom inside my brain that I have since reeled in, for some reason.

Maybe I’ll resume with the memory of those early blog days in mind. Plenty of people read my paid work now, but few read this. That’s a freedom I should take advantage of. Especially since I turn 50 soon.

Living half a century gives you just enough to talk about it might be worth the trouble.

Huh

I should probably use this since I’m paying for the URL, huh?

I read a pretty good blog post today that said we should just blog for the hell of it. My job is blogging.

Still I rarely get to blog about whatever the hell I want to. And there are other things. So.

Thinking about it.