Tribal Masks

This time last year, the only people who wore masks were surgeons, bank robbers, people who wanted to add some forbidden fruit to their adult activities and the Lone Ranger.  How times have changed!  These days, we all have one.  (Of course, there are people who don’t, but I’m not going to antagonize those folks: they’re oddly aggressive about it.)  Personally, I think there’s a major upside to everybody wearing a mask.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  There’s that whole health thing, but in these tribal times (we all seem to belong to an identifiable group!) it’s a cool shorthand to recognize who you’re dealing with.  Here are just a few examples.

Not The Nose – These are the people who genuinely want to follow the protocols but haven’t quite figured out that the nostrils are connected to the lungs.

Neck-warmers – Apparently, some people believe that the mere presence of a mask anywhere in the vicinity of the face will stop the virus – sort of like a string of garlic wards off vampires.

The Paper Pusher – These are the folks who bought a package of 10 paper masks at the drugstore back in April, and even though it’s a little dirty and the elastic’s kinda worn out, are still using the first one.

I Have A Message – Sometimes these masks feature innocent stuff like sports logos or brand names, but there are also a bunch of other itty-bitty walking billboards out there with an in-your-face/on-your-face political or social agenda.  Okay, folks!  I’ll tell you what: right now, I’m trying to navigate my way through this godawful pandemic, but the minute I do, I promise I’ll “Make America Great Again,” “Save The Whales,” “Defund The Police,” “Stop Climate Change” and “Free Ed Snowden.”  I will!  Really!

The Virtue Signaller – These are the people whose mask was woven by Syrian refugees using a traditional Bedouin loom.  It’s made of sustainable wool from a free-range desert flock and features an ancient geometric folk pattern.  The problem is despite its morally superior lineage, it looks just like every other mask.  This forces the wearer to annoy everybody with a detailed explanation of the who, what, where and why of the damn thing.  (Thank God for social distancing!)

The D.I.Y. Guy – This fellow made his own mask in his workshop out of a reclaimed wooden pallet.  It took him three weeks — evenings and weekends — and didn’t cost a cent if you discount the 22 thousand dollar investment in power tools.  It has a beautiful, high-gloss butterfly burl wood finish, weighs 2 kilos (5 pounds) is utterly useless and looks like Bane (from Batman) has a younger brother. 

The D.I.Y. Girls – The younger ones made their own masks out of spare pieces of fabric they had left over from their on-line multi-media art workshop.  They’re put together with bits of twine from an old macramé hanging basket and there are other individually handcrafted ones (including child sizes) available on Etsy.   The older ones made theirs out of a used milk jug and the plastic rings from a soda pop six-pack.  They were cut out with an Exacto knife, hot-glued together and decorated with spray-painted macaroni.  There’s a How-to video available on YouTube — if you’re so inclined.

I’m a Patriot – These are the flag guys — and they’re mostly guys — mostly American and mostly a pain in the ass.

I’m Rich – These are the people who wear the Burberry tartan, the Louis Vuitton fabric or a discreet YSL logo on their cheek.  Nothing says “I’ve got more money than you” than paying $150.00 for a 5-by-10 piece of cloth and an elastic band — when you can get the same thing on Amazon for 12 bucks.

I’m Really A Funny Person – These masks are the facial equivalent of the Dad joke.  They have such hilarious features as buck teeth, a handlebar moustache, fangs, cigars and wandering tongues.  Like the toilet paper jokes, these things were slightly cute last summer, but here in the winter of our discontent, they’re just annoying.

And finally:

I’m a Badass – These are the guys who found an old bandana in their underwear drawer and thought (despite tons of evidence to the contrary) they should show the world just how kick-ass cool they still are by wearing it instead of a mask.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing quite as sad as seeing an aging Easy Rider climbing into a minivan at the Mall.

Pure Sex – These are those hyper-female women who’ve decided masks are actually lingerie.  Hey, ladies!  Unlike man-catcher underwear, lace is not that effective in this situation.

Parsley — My New Life Coach!

Here — in the dreary winter of Covid-19 — I’ve decided to quit listening to the news, the pundits, the experts, social media mavens and those lower-than-low-life influencers.  From here on, I’m taking my life strategy — from parsley.  No, I haven’t become a Lockdown Loonie.  Nor have I gone mutant Dr. Doolittle and started talking to the vegetables.  But I’m telling ya for a fact that parsley says all there needs to be said about how to live life in these troubled times.

First of all, you need a little background.  We live in a large urban area, but my wife is originally from cattle country.  (Where she’s from, they eat steak for dessert.)  Unfortunately, the only wide-open space we have is a medium-sized balcony/deck.  But rather than bitch about the lack of “land, lots of land, ‘neath the starry skies above,” every year, my wife rounds up a bunch of pots and creates a herb ranch – the “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” variety.  We eat like medieval kings, and she gets to channel her inner Jesse Chisholm.

Okay, so today, after what seems like a lifetime of gloom with an extra portion of doom thrown in, I was looking around for something to satisfy my optimistic soul.  Good luck with that!  Anyway, by pure chance, I noticed the parsley.  It’s been sitting there on the deck, in its pot, nice boy, since last spring.  It’s part of the landscape — like the rosebush, the patio table and that gate slat I haven’t fixed (OMG, has it been 2 years?).  But – here’s the deal — it isn’t supposed to be there.  It’s winter: parsley dies in the winter.  And in Canada, we do winter like nowhere else on this planet.  Think Siberia, and drop the temperature by 10 degrees.  Our polar bears get frostbite, for God’s sake.  There are parts of this country that are colder than Mars.  (That’s true, BTW.)  Even here in Vangroovy (the garden spot of the Great White North) our below zero can be double digits.  So, what the hell was the parsley doing there?

They say a good leader always leads by example, and what better example of straight in-your-face badass is a plant whose lifespan is April to September, still green as moldy cheese, in the middle of winter?  Even Vin Diesel isn’t that tough.  This little guy is defying the laws of Mother Nature, Father Time and Old Man Winter — just by being there.  Whether his purpose in the world is getting chopped up for soup, sprinkled on mashed potatoes or used as a decorative garnish to be thrown away without another thought — he’s doin’ it.  He’s doin’ it every day — without fail — to the best of his ability.  Without fanfare or flourish, that parsley plant is telling the universe “I’m still standing.”  And in these dismal dark days, that’s pretty damn good advice.

Signposts Of Life

The “Life is a journey” cliché has been done to death — but it’s there and I’m lazy, so what the hell!  People say life is a journey, and it is — but it’s not a straight-and-narrow, or a super highway or even a twisty backroad to heaven.  It’s a wilderness, and we poor mortals are forced to navigate it the best way we know how.  That’s why our more than benevolent society gives us signposts.  These are big, simple, well-lit markers that we can clearly see as we’re speeding along at 200 KPH, going – uh – wherever it is we’re all going.

When we’re babies, the first signpost we get is “NO!”  This keeps us away from dangerous stuff, disgusting stuff and stuff we really shouldn’t put in our mouth.  Easy!  But it doesn’t take us long to discover that some “no’s” are more important than others.  For example, when we ignore, “No, don’t pull kitty’s tail!” we end up with lacerations. However, “No, don’t throw your food on the floor.” Is nothing serious.  (After all, cleanup is not our problem.)

From there, the signposts get a little trickier.  Sure “Play nice!” is relatively easy, but “Share!” comes with a double-edged sword.  There isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t run into the “share” conundrum.  Meanwhile, this is when we realize that — even though the world is full of signposts — some people don’t feel any obligation to observe them.  It’s a hard lesson when we’ve “shared” our cupcake with Sally, but Sally has decided to keep her cookies to herself.

Then the signposts start coming faster, and they’re a lot more complicated.  We learn there are certain words that are off limits, even though they’re surprisingly fun to say and actually quite common during times of parental stress.  We also learn “Don’t lie!”  This is a biggie.  However, it comes with a number of caveats that aren’t always obvious to the untrained eye.  For example, Uncle Jake’s Special Spaghetti Sauce might honestly taste like dirt, but if you say so there will be consequences.  Here’s where we find out that even though the path is always clearly marked, on occasion, life is a lot easier if we simply look the other way.

Teenage years are full of signposts that are basically contradictory.  “You’re young: have fun!” is diametrically opposed to “You need to study, or you’ll end up a crack whore like your cousin Jerry.”  Plus, we’re starting to get the feeling that some signposts are deliberately misleading.  Some, like “Algebra is important!” are there to keep us on the path whether we like it or not, and others, like “YOLO,” are trying to lure you into the weeds.  Then there’s the uber dangerous “Ahh, come on!  It’ll be fun!” which can go either way.  Follow this one too far and you could end up either hosting multi-level marketing seminars in your living room or sittin’ in an alley somewhere, smokin’ crack with your cousin Jerry.  It can happen!  Luckily, most of us manage to get through the 12-to-20 labyrinth and come out the other side as Adults.  And here’s where things settle down a bit.

As adults, we all see life’s signposts, and we all kinda know which direction we’re going.  Plus, even though we sometimes don’t admit it, we all know where the edge of the path is.  Mainly because, at some point in our lives, we’ve screwed up and found ourselves stumbling around in the weeds.  It’s not very pleasant.  That’s why, even though “Love thy neighbour” doesn’t apply to Fang, the 24/7 Death Metal music freak down the street, we don’t go down there and beat him over the head with his sub-woofer.  That’s off the path, over the hill and down the other side.  And we know if we go out there, there’s always a chance we won’t find our way back.  So, from time to time, we might covet our neighbour’s wife and her ass, and maybe even her riding lawnmower but we don’t do anything about it.  We just glance up at the signpost, look at the snarl of brambles and thorns and weeds beyond it, and roll over and go back to sleep.