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Blue Star



By Scott Sullivan


Come & Gone

Nothing is as it seems. Take coronavirus. Who knew social distancing I don’t need to practice because I’m an expert, would be so prescient.

Then there’s social media. What’s social about trolling others while you’re secluded with a screen and keyboard? Where safer from viruses than online?

It is almost as passive-aggressive as writing, printing and not being present when people read it. Write like me, you will understand why. It’s not about trying to dodge blame, even though it is; it’s a mental health measure. Communication by not being there is the way to go.

A recent story about events postponed or canceled in Grand Rapids brought home the magnitude of this pandemic:

  • “The Price is Right Live!”
  • “MasterChef Junior Live!”
  • Alice Cooper.
  • “The Bachelor Live on Stage.”
  • Pink Floyd tribute band Brit Floyd.
  • “Baby Shark Live!”

Think of the money, hours of distraction and loss of brain cells deferred or scrubbed clean by these things not happening. As Americans we now have fewer options we are free not to choose. So what if this sucks? Embrace it.

It’s not new we have met the enemy and he is us. In Ann Arbor, an argument between roommates over COVID-19 restrictions ended when one came at the other with a crowbar and was shot to death. Coronavirus doesn’t kill people; people with crowbars, guns and crazy inside kill people.

I did lose an opportunity to deliver my first-ever invocation: Yeats’ “The Second Coming” before a Saugatuck-Douglas Rotary Club lunch on Friday the 13th. Given the poem’s metaphors — “things fall apart” … a “beast slouching towards Bethlehem to born” — have held up since just after World War I, they are sure to later. The time is always ripe for apocalypse.

Shutting down outer worlds drives us inward. Commerce is calm but outside it’s still spring. Birds and buds are returning. What’s dormant inside reawakens too.

Another boon has been family bonding. My daughter, wife and I watched a horror film on Netflix and laughed our heads off at all the decapitations, blood, gore and dialog.

Political prattle was as ludicrous as ever, but at times showed sobriety that brought to mind winemakers who are now joining beer and cider peers aging potions in bourbon barrels.

Why, when bourbon notes argue with wines’ fruit flavors? Because people buy it. It is heady stuff. Drink enough at a bar they would carry you out; now there’s carryout.

Even Marge’s Donut Den, a favorite haunt for Wyoming seniors, was closed. My daughter and wife used to send me there to grab glazeds and get me out of the house. It was typically packed with traditional elders who fear God and love being with each other; everything I’m not.

As I fled I’d have nightmares about backing over one of two roadside statues Marge has of veterans holding American flags on sticks showing her support for our troops to motorists zipping by en route to fast food on 28th Street; patrons would pour out and pray for my soul. Now she’s closed, I have lost that too.

I could see eating pastries with Alice Cooper, who also is old, now his Grand Rapids show was canceled. Maybe he’d tell about the “Chicken Incident” that launched him on a shock-rock career that included onstage beheadings.

During a 1969 show in Toronto, the story goes, someone threw a chicken onstage. Detroit native Cooper presumed that because it had wings it could fly, so he threw the chicken out to his audience, who tore it to pieces.

The next day Frank Zappa, one of Cooper’s mentors, asked if stories he’d read about Alice biting off the bird’s head and drinking its blood onstage were true.

When Cooper replied they were fake news — they had that even way back when — Zappa said, “Well, whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you didn’t do it.”

We could all use this kind of advice. Having come back from Marge’s with only donut holes, the women dispatched me to seek toilet paper, today’s version of a vision quest. “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name …” I recalled Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean Well Lighted Place” invoking.

I came home empty-handed but had them to send me away on another vain mission. Not everybody does.