Mark’s Covid Diary…. May 17

A week or so ago, I tried something different here, and just gave myself a set amount of time to write about things going on in my life, without giving too much thought as to what was happening in the outside world. Well, as I really enjoyed the exercise, I thought that I’d try it again. And, yes, I know that Donald Trump just fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick without cause, shortly after it became known that Linick’s office had opened an inquiry into the misuse of government resources by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan, but I just can’t bring myself to think any more about the corruption of the Trump administration right now. I need to spend some time filling my mind with other things…

The Lao-Maynard family is holding up alright. We bought a hammock, which has helped. I’ve also started making stuff with my hands again in the evenings, during the narrow sliver of time between my real job, and my imagined one, here on the website, and it’s been nice. I’ve begun building a structure in the yard, weaving together tree limbs, harvested bits of grapevine, and the occasional cluster of roots that I’ve dug up while tending to the garden. I know it’ll eventually dry out and collapse in a pile of dust, but I’m enjoying the solitude of it, and being away from my computer. And the garden seems to be doing well. The kale is thriving, and the cucumbers have now all volunteered and come up. [It’s not a phrase I’ve heard much since childhood, but my great grandmother in Kentucky would talk of plants volunteering to come up in the spring, and I like that idea of them all talking underground, and deciding which one should pop her little green head through the soil first.]

On the subject of living things in my yard, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here, but there are three trees in my yard that I’m particularly fond of. One is a dawn redwood that Linette and the kids got for me one Fathers Day about four years ago. One is a redbud that I liberated from the backyard of a friend’s house in Ann Arbor, when Clementine was just a toddler. And one was grown from the seed of a white oak on the property of Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky. I’ve raised them each from babies, and love them all. [I have an unusual fondness for trees and ferns.]

I just had a nice walk with my son along the Huron River today. It’s been difficult for him, I think, being locked up for so long without his friends to chase and wrestle around with, and we enjoy our occasional escapes from the yard. [It’s hard to quarantine the energy of an eight year old.]

One of the biggest joys of this past few weeks has been witnessing my son’s sense of humor evolve. I’m not suggesting that he’s a comedy prodigy or anything, and I’m sure what I’m seeing is completely normal for his age, but it delights me to see him starting to make connections that he wouldn’t have made just prior to the pandemic. A few days ago, while playing badminton in the backyard, my daughter told us the story of a kid in her school who once, by accident, swallowed an entire butterfly. Or, at least, he claimed to have. And Arlo responded by asking if he was more nervous now, what with the butterflies in his stomach. And, today, while walking along the river, after a brief conversation about graffiti, he went off on a beautiful little riff in which he envisioned a conversation between a police officer and a graffiti artist who had just spray painted an anti-graffiti message on a wall. The routine needs a lot of work, but it showed quite a bit of promise, and I’m glad to see some light at the end of the comedy tunnel that we’ve been in for these past several years. [He’s been reading a lot of really terrible “knock knock” jokes this past year.]

For all the disagreements that we’ve been having over his excessive use of video games during the pandemic, he really does seem to be growing as a little human being. His math skills and his vocabulary both seem to be growing by the day. Today, when I asked him if he wanted to walk by his school, just to peek through the window and see his old classroom, he responded drolly, “That chaotic place?” If you know Alro, you know how out of character that is for him, not just because it’s not a word that he’s ever used before, but because, to be honest, if there was chaos in the classroom, he was likely involved. It was just a weird, little moment, like he stepped out of time for a second, and was talking with me from a dozen years in the future. He then started talking with me about the impetus behind restauranteurs wanting to open places in different cities. It was strange. [I think we need to have more walks in the rain like these.]

The moments with my daughter, because she’s almost 16, are coming less frequently, but they are happening. We’ve had our share of decent conversations about the prospect of college, and how this unexpected hiatus from high school is changing things for her and her classmates. But she’s not at a place where she really appreciates my counsel. She’s actually doing everything that she can to lead a separate, parallel existence alongside the rest of us, getting up at about 1:00 every afternoon, and staying awake until about 3:00 in the morning. And, when our waking hours do overlap, she’s usually in her room with the door closed. I don’t begrudge her the desire to have her own space. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through this as a teen. But it does make me a bit sad that we can’t make better use of this time together to get to know one another better. We cook together occasionally, and we’ve had some good laughs, but I’m thinking that it would be nice if we could do something more, like work together on a zine or something. [Maybe I’ll propose that to her.]

A few days ago, at dinner, I retold the story of how, when Clementine was just a baby, I’d interceded to stop a car theft in progress in front of our house, approaching two men attempting to start Linette’s Saturn, and demanding that they get out… only to have it dawn on me, several moments into our tense exchange, that Clementine was strapped to my chest. I can remember it occurring to me that she was there, between me and these two much larger men, and slowly beginning to back away. [They got out of her car, claiming to have mistaken it for their own.] I swear that I’ve told her that story before, but she reacted in such a way that I’m not sure. At any rate, I wanted to record it here, so that she’d have it when I’m gone.

Speaking of the kids, I found some old photos of them not too long ago… If you read this site often, you know that, generally speaking, I don’t post photos of my kids, as I think they’re entitled to their privacy. With that said, though, I think maybe it’s alright to share old photos of them, seeing as how they now look like completely different people… These were taken about five years ago, when I was doing my old radio show, the Saturday Six Pack, on AM 1700.

Speaking of the old radio show, I’ve been thinking lately of trying to bring it back is some way, maybe as a Zoom talk show. I don’t know. I just think there’s a place for discussions like those that I was having with people. Between work, family commitments, and other projects that I’m working on, though, I just don’t have much time. Still, I’ve been finding myself daydreaming lately about the kinds of discussions I’d be having if I still had a show. And I think the Ypsilanti community could use another local news source right now…

OK, my time is up. I hope you’re all well. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Oh, and it’s being reported that Donald Trump will be visiting Ypsilanti on Thursday, so we’d better start working our on signs, folks.

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  1. Sad
    Posted May 17, 2020 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    That was very pleasant.

    Do you use any string in your back yard assemblage?

  2. iRobert
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Does anybody have a complete collection of the Saturday Six Pack posters? Are there full cinema-size versions out there? I’d like to see a gallery showing of them all some time.

  3. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Sign ideas:

    “Russia, Russia, Russia…Now that we have a narrative don’t let go”

    “Comey Has A Posse”

  4. Lynne
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I really loved The Saturday Six Pack and would love to see its return albeit not so much that I am willing to do the work involved myself! haw! I am not entirely sure how it would work in this day and age of quarantining but I have noticed that other radio talk shows seem to have been able to move their staff to home and conduct interviews remotely.

  5. Grandma
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I loved this. A journal during this time is essential for you, Mark. I love your words and I so love and miss those precious kids!! You all stay healthy, well and sane! Love and Fun! Grandma!

  6. Eel
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    What does it mean to like ferns? Is that code for something?

  7. Erin
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Always love your posts, Mark. This one was much needed for me this morning. Thank you.

    Trees. I can relate. I got a sapling when I was in kindergarten. When I was in third grade, we moved. My tree was still small enough that my dad transplanted it to our new home. It’s huge now. I’ll be sad when the day comes when my parents are no longer in the house and I can look out in the back yard to see my “Whitey” white ash tree.

  8. Demetrius
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I have a pine tree in my back yard that I transplanted from my parents’ home in northern Michigan nearly 25 years ago. My parents left that house a long time ago, and my dad’s been gone for almost 16 years – but I still feel like that tree gives me a sense of connection to that time and place.

    I also have some irises that my aunt gave me when she was thinning them in her own yard – a place where I spent a lot of happy times when I was a child. She’s been gone for years, as well, but I like that I still have them.

    Maybe it’s because they’re living things (that seem to die off, or go dormant, then return to life each spring) that trees and flowers and whatnot seem to create such strong connections to people or places we’ve lost.

    I also love ferns …

  9. Anonymous
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I see a segment called “Between the Ferns”. Oh wait, somebody took that one already.

    On another note, I’ve found that driving somewhere with my teenage daughter frequently gets her to talk about all sorts of interesting things. By driving, I mean her driving and me supervising, with a big STUDENT DRIVER magnet on the back. There are a lot of student drivers out now, accompanied by the braver parent. I never thought I’d travel over the center of a traffic circle, and now I have.

  10. TeacherPatti
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I loved the six pack show! I think I promised Jean Henry that I would do a cartwheel or something in exchange for something from her but now I completely forget what. (Or am I imagining? Didn’t you have people offer up goodies in exchange for things?)

    I’d watch a Zoom talk show!

  11. Jane Schmiedeke
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    If you need more grapevine, I’ve got a bunch I’d love to be rid of !

  12. Anonymous
    Posted May 18, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I remember an episode of Cheers where there was a discussion about putting a fern in the bar, and people said that doing so would send the signal that it was a gay bar. This would have been in the mid to late 1980s.

  13. Bob
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    In today’s sitcom you would know it’s a gay bar not because of the fern but because HW and EOS were outside protesting it in their MAGA overalls with their AK-47’s

  14. Lynne
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Bob, that comment feels like you are trying to insult HW and EOS with an implication that they are gay. Being gay or being called gay is simply not an insult but your comment makes it seem like you do. Gross.

  15. Bob
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Lynne, I’m not the greatest writer but it seems pretty obvious to me that I was saying they are racist, homophobic, NRA nutballs who would be showing up with guns to intimidate gay people. It was satire. Why is it none of you people have even a tiny fraction of a sense of humor? As usual your misreading of everything is gross. Thanks for playing though.

  16. Lynne
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Bob, I am sorry. I misunderstood you. Thank you for clarifying!

  17. EOS
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:17 pm | Permalink


    Satire? Well, we all know that you are a wife beating, pedophile, psychopath. How do you like that satire?

  18. Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Sad, I know a bit about visionary, self-taught art. I don’t know Judith Scott, though. Thank you for the introduction to her work. [It was along time ago, but, in my youth, I sold artwork though a few small galleries that focused on self-taught artists. I miss painting and making things. When I was doing it, though, it was pretty all-consuming. It wasn’t good for my health, either mental or physical.] And, to answer your question, no, I haven’t been using any textiles. These things I’m making all all root, branch and vine constructions. I’m hoping to put in an hour tomorrow night.

  19. Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for the kind words about the old show. [I have some of the posters, but not all of them.] I do think about bringing it back in some way. I’m not drinking much beer these days, though, so I’d probably want to find a name other than The Saturday Six Pack. Maybe The Tuesday Evening Thimble Full of Wine. I’ve got good ideas. It’s just a matter of time, like everything else. [I’d also like to write a book and make a movie with my family.]

  20. Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    “I never thought I’d travel over the center of a traffic circle, and now I have.”

    That’s a riot. I’ll have to tell Clementine.

  21. Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Jane, I’ll write to you about the grapevines. Thanks.

  22. Posted May 19, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    My dad read this post, and emailed me the following about my great grandmother, who we called Ma Florian, using the phrase, ” volunteered and come up.” “I remember that as well,” he said. “I can take you back to the exact location where she had flowers and I remember her saying it.” Hopefully, once Covid is behind us, he and I have a chance to do that.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted May 19, 2020 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Judith Scott was a Creative Growth artist.

    Creative Growth is an amazing gallery workspace for artistically-compelled adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities. It’s just incredible.

    I always thought this community had the creative capacity to pull off something similar.

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