Getting Fed Up With or Without the Feds

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Sunday, April 12, 2020. I had to attempt a post on the dgmlive site; as much as I respect Fripp and company’s intelligence and their otherwise mindfully communicative curiosities and idiosyncrasies, all in good fun, I think that as people of influence they ought to promote a more balanced perspective on this silly virus mass-hypnosis. Which amounts to paranoia. I’ll likely be moderated into oblivion but so be it, it makes me feel better to get it off my chest and for better or worse I’m including it in my weblog today. I’ll let posterity be the judge.

I’m not intending to inflame. DGM is a free speech and at-will experience, you folks can post whatever you want, all good. But contributing to the silly paranoia regarding the virus perhaps is something that isn’t good. People of influence with no interest in the scientific facts ought not to be fanning the flames of unreasonableness bordering on paranoia. The virus is not fatal. The virus itself doesn’t kill people. That is to say, Covid is not a cause of death. In rare cases it’s merely the unfortunate tipping point, health-wise, for folks already in very poor health. Which is the case for influenza in general, year after year. And this respiratory flu doesn’t contribute to any more deaths than the more historically common versions – each year, according to the CDC in the USA, some 16,000-61,000 folks perish in the USA with the flu having contributed to their already very poor health and eventual demise. Akin to AIDS, the virus isn’t air-borne, it’s not akin to a microscopic particle, asbestos, say, floating through the air – that is, exchange of bodily fluid (saliva from sneezing, etc.) is the means of transmission. Somebody sneezes and you ingest their saliva or touch the drinking glass they sneezed on and then put your fingers in your mouth or rub your eyes before washing your hands… that kind of thing. A habit of six-foot personal distancing, then, is an arbitrary number, something suggested by the Center for Disease Control in the USA, for example, that unfortunately people seem to have gotten carried away with – walking down the street and swerving to avoid people, absurd. The virus is not flying through the air in that manner. Masks, then. First, there are particle size and configuration ratings for masks (NIOSH rates them in the USA); the versions available at the hardware store, for example, are rated, typically, to block ingestion of sawdust and attic insulation-size particulates. Some masks are rated for effectiveness against variously smaller particulates and even different air-borne fluid droplets (oil or water-based mists, for example). Which is only to say that the mask you’re wearing is likely ineffective or only marginally so against a virus which, again, is a fluid-borne, otherwise microscopic thing transmitted in very close proximity under generally exceptionally unhygienic conditions. Unless, perhaps, you indeed have the virus and it helps prevent your sneeze-mist from wider dispersion. So, if you indeed have COVID and want to go out to the store, perhaps wear a mask, or just be sure to sneeze or cough into your elbow, facing away from things. Otherwise, don’t bother with a mask. These are facts. So that wearing some otherwise worthless mask or gloves in your backyard or your car or on the street or in the grocery is, well, silly. Are you washing your gloves each time you touch something? Probably not. Perhaps it makes some folks feel safer nonetheless. Perhaps it’s in line with your particular vision of appropriate social relations. But it’s still silly in scientific and risk management terms. Which isn’t anything to get worked up about until it causes people to acquire the age-old us-versus-them attitude borne of fear-based irrationality. You may get the flu. My wife had a nasty version in January. She toughed it out, didn’t go to the hospital, didn’t visit a doctor because, well, people get little illnesses and your body is designed to handle most of them. If not, oh well, bad things happen. But odds are – and statistics are important here – you won’t get the flu and if you did you’d get better in a few days or a week or even two on your own. And you could stay at home for a time, if your job allows it, to minimize the odds of pestering somebody else with the flu. My point is that we need some balance. The media is hyping things to absurd levels of sensationalism. We need to remain rational. Go ahead, wear your personal protective equipment in your backyard or even in a public park and avoid me on the street and cherish your time off from work, or what have you. But don’t assume that your overzealous personal idiosyncratic methods of risk minimization ought to be the rule. Because the scientific facts say otherwise. So, DGM, cancelling the tour, though an extreme response, is probably a wise business decision if nothing else. Meanwhile, let’s live and let live and do our best to remain reasonable.

It’s funny. I’m actually a little nervous about going into the new job tomorrow for the several hours of onboarding. I can imagine the computer-based indoctrination that will occur, perhaps even some material handling equipment training. Then the nightshift hell will begin. Why hell? Because it’s just time away from my proper life in the name of money. Which I need, I get it. But I don’t have to like it. What I’d rather like is to be selling enough books to pay for things, to have my writing and publishing pay for itself and on a good day, something more than that. It may happen someday and boy, if I manage to overcome my own statistics and I’m still at the job when it does then quitting will be a beautiful release, let’s put it that way. I may even stick around until the end of the shift. But, ugh. The compromise is going to be one. I have my proper work and diverting my energies, even part-time towards things I have no interest in is akin to trying to redirect a river: a lot of energy is wasted to little legitimate effect. Except for the money. Money, money, money. My money dragon. But I won’t go on about it, not everyone suffers the schism I do regarding employment.

The vision, then, for next week and beyond:

  • Keep tracking my authorpreneur data
  • Keep posting the weblog
  • Keep editing TC2
  • Keep cooking
  • Keep walking
  • Keep listening to music
  • Keep reading and writing
  • Move forward with the audiobook version of TC1
  • Do my best to keep my job in its proper place

DOP1 (2021-11) VINTAGE POST:

Hold Fast

A busy night and day just to get open and sell $114 worth of food. But it was a transcendentally pleasant Fall day: warm, with bright sun and a sky of vibrant blue. Such days have always made me feel both physically charged and contemplative all at ounce – it’s the unique affect of a fine Fall day. It makes me wonder how bad things could really be, on such a glorious day? I find a way to remain in a funk over the USDA challenge as much as I try to kundalini through it. It’s a weakness certainly and a flaw in me and something I might work to overcome for the rest of my life, so it’s not a strength of mine to stay open and unattached. As such, I won’t spend all my time and effort trying to improve, incrementally, one of my weaknesses when I can, in the “strengths finder” way, focus on what I’m good at. Yes, I get maybe too focused on outcomes that I cannot control, and I’m impatient as hell when I know what I want, but that is a source of power and energy.

To the surprise of Jay S., I received an order of pig heads today – another twenty-four! I think he thought I was quitting for the year. But like I told him – it’s for USDA production man! It’s always good, and I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s just good that I get the heads in and have them and work with them. I’ve wrote about this before in this book I know, but with all this casting about in the waves, calm seas, dead seas, tossing seas, steady winds and buffeting winds, confidence and self-doubt, the pigs and the headcheese just seem to steady me. A customer said today that “It tasted good, which surprised me, given the name.” This response – of liking it despite the initial trepidation, is to me, a hallmark of something genuinely good – and it makes sense because it’s not like I’m trying to do something completely original, which is always a cheffy lie, but that, like ZCoB, I’m just trying to purvey the best version of a heritage food item that I can. It’s been around for so long because done well, like anything that has stood the test of time – it is memorable and restorative thing to eat. How can it not be, being made by hand, simply and in a straightforward manner? It’s honestly good.

So the heads, and by extension of course the pigs, are sustaining me again. It all seems pretty bleak sometimes, and I’m trying to remain unattached yet focused at the same time, but I’m disappointed with the delay from the spice company, who’s obviously got other things to work on besides my shit. It’s jacking up my vibe and the vibe of others too, for whatever reason – Mark H. asked me to communicate the status of the situation to Sans Street and Lunch Room because he thinks K at Washtenaw County Health Dept. is still squirrely about what my headcheese production will do to the business of Union Hall Kitchen. Ludicrous and ridiculous, her sticking her bitchy nose in to my fucking business and trying to regulate the future. I really do suspect her of poisoning my progress and negatively influencing “Dijon” from USDA-EIAO into thinking I’m not a sanitary operation and should be denied a Grant. I will persevere. Pressure and time. Holding fast to the purpose and goal in the face of resistance. This is my dream, my purpose, not anybody else’s, and they will relent in the end because I have more energy to dedicate to it than they ever will. Why should I pursue such a thing as wholesaling my headcheese in the face of opposition? Because it’s good food. And it means more to me – the headcheese – than I can explain. It’s my expression of my belief in the welfare of the pigs, I can’t say it any plainer.

I do feel these days that I’m on borrowed time. Angie is carrying us because hh isn’t, and I can’t see anything in the near future that indicates that it would. This work is going to go unrewarded for long enough to severely test everybody involved – just like so many other fiascos I’ve generated. My family and friends will be tested to the breaking point and already have. It doesn’t end when it’s reasonable. The “testing fire” just keeps burning and consumes so much in the process of the creation of a biz from scratch. I wish I could something that came easier; that seemed to click better, but that is something I don’t see myself ever being fortunate enough to accomplish – clicking my life’s purpose into that of the rest of the world. My biophycomythology will take time – maybe the rest of my life – I hope my life doesn’t get cut short because I need time to work. Or course why should such thoughts affect the eternal? Anyway, there’s life in hh yet and I don’t think I’m desperate or grasping or in denial. It just hasn’t played out yet. This can be the hardest part. The dead zone. The in-between days. The part of your life when things hang in the balance, and you’re not in control, and they could go either way – success or failure – and you must hold fast, alone, because nobody else will or should be expected to hold fast to your dream. You have to carry it through the bad times and the dead times, when it seems to all others that it’s over. Only I can keep the hh headcheese dream alive and that’s how it should be. I can ask for help, but now it’s not needed. I’m sledging on this rock alone, trusting that it will crack, and I can’t expect anyone to wait around for me to crack it. It cracks when it cracks, and all I can hope is that I stay alive long enough to make it happen.

Rewards commensurate to my efforts. That’s still one of my big dreams. This food cart is just another in a very long line of fiascos, which I at least partially define in terms of the efforts versus rewards “equation.” Whether I’m on the wrong end of vacuum truck hose sucking oil off a river at 3AM or hauling dirty dishes back to the kitchen for the millionth time after a slow day of sales, I use this equation to decide whether to continue with my dreams. They become fiascos, maybe they all do at some point, but a true fiasco translates to me as a dream/enterprise/adventure that has reached its “vanishing point” (a phrase I’m borrowing from some artist guy that worked for Tiffiny’s and appeared in a New Yorker article in the nineties). The vanishing point is just that – you know it when you see or feel it – the dream/myth has played out – it’s time to move on – there’s no more effort to be dedicated to it, no more legitimate energy left to apply. I’m pretty good at knowing when the vanishing point is reached and the adventure has become a fiasco. I know I’m not there yet with the Grant of Inspection.

October 5, 2011. The spice supplier that has been so cooperative called me after I sent an email questioning the status of the answers I need to the USDA questions. I was told they don’t in fact do any sampling of spice lots. So the information, from a huge supplier, doesn’t exist. Fuck the USDA and the horse they road in on. I’m not giving up. I asked for a letter from the spice folks at least stating that they don’t do sampling and maybe why (because it’s not a regulatory requirement maybe?). I can at least show the USDA that.

Without the “support” documentation these assholes need (I swear they’re making this shit up as they go along) I’m left with no choice but to give up or fight with increased fire power. I contacted a guy who wrote a book on food regs – I was referred to him by a food regulations lawyer in California – I’m calling him “Mr. California” – that I found on the web. This regulatory “guru” and author is based out of Michigan State University, so it’s funny that I contact Mr. California to end up back at MSU. Anyway, this guy at MSU – I’ll call him “Neely” – is also a lawyer but, as I already knew from the other guy, he isn’t interested in taking my case. Rather, he referred me to a HACCP consultant – a woman I’ll call “Cally” – who is not a lawyer but, according to Neely, is “A meat product expert who knows how to talk to FSIS.” I hope she’s considerably cheaper than a lawyer.

A side issue is the Washtenaw County Health Department, which is also against my progress and whom, as I said, I suspect of sabotaging my USDA progress by communicating bad things about Union Hall to them. “Miss K” is the bitch from hell at the Health Dept. who is too big for her britches and needs a big time smack-down. If she actually trashed me and Union Hall to the impressionable “Dijon” (dumbfuck) then I’ve really got a case on my hands. Maybe I’ll sue the USDA, use that as a platform to get this book published and made into a movie and live happily ever after. Fucking stranger things have happened….

Lest anyone think I’m making this shit up, here’s some correspondence from a fellow carter:

“Hi, Thank you for sharing the information on your progress on USDA with us.

“While I agree with you that the county healthy dept has no basis for being concerned about our menu or Lunch Room’s catering because of your USDA process, the plain fact is that it is concerned and communicated as much. It comes up every time Kristen responds to any of our inquiries verbally or over email. So while it may not be right, it does affect us. You may not care because it’s just not right and because it does not affect your business as much, but it affects us and it’s not easy for us not to care and be bothered by their reactions, however baseless they may be.

“Please do not feel like we were asking you to do anything other than to share information in a shared kitchen. M and I are planning on talking to K about their heightened scrutiny of Mark’s Carts, which will affect our next season too, and I am trying to collect all the information we need before we go to them. Thank you again for sharing all the details and please let us know if something changes.

“Thanks, Kitchen Manager”

I’m baffled, biophycomythologically, why these people and events have appeared in the middle of my myth, seemingly with the sole purpose of jacking it up. Where is the support of the universe? Of course, despite my incorrigible rage, I know these are just trials within the hero journey. I sometimes think I’m at the stage where I’m brining back my “boon” and then it seems like I’m still embroiled in the battles and struggles of the adventure, which of course I am. The monsters just seem to keep coming. Knowing this however doesn’t prevent me from gettting really tired of the “how bad do you want it” scenario, because my life is going by while I get beat up and knocked around. People have wasted their whole lives fighting city hall so to say and I don’t want to be one of those tragedies. Fading into history as a nothing and a nobody who never got their shit straight and never caught a break and just took up space and then died is not my mission.