Monday, February 22, 2021

Jamming Out to Make My Bones Rattle

 "What are we listening to? Is this your music?!? Tom, you're so old..."

I love these comments. I treasure them. I revel in them. 

I've had a string of trainees at work who are young enough that I probably could have had them in class when I was teaching at the high school. I have enough new music on my playlist that they're cool with me playing DJ at work, but then I bust out with some early Panic! At the Disco or My Chemical Romance and the trainee tells Old Man Lutes that they haven't heard this song in forever... So when Hendrix and the Stones come up in the queue, they think I inherited this mix tape from Jesus himself, when he was doing his emcee thang...

But it's all a joke. I find it very entertaining that I have apparently achieved "old" status at work. But I don't feel old. When I turned 30, I actually told people that I still felt like I was speeding up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Is It a Bug in the System? Or a Feature?

 So today is Ash Wednesday. And once again I find myself unprepared for Lent.

I'm sensing a pattern emerging in myself.

Monday, February 8, 2021


 The past few days I had been planning on coming in, writing a piece about my frustrations at getting people to do things. Specifically, trying to get a group of well-meaning white folks off their butts and into the work of solidarity and equity.

But that suddenly pales today, because I learned today that a friend of mine has passed. 

Now admittedly, this was not someone I've known since childhood. This was someone I've met in the past year. A friend who served their community as a firefighter and as a paramedic, and who bore the scars from that work.

This friend and I had plans. We were going to start making training videos to be available online, for anyone to learn from. And then they disappeared, went out west I learned later, to help out at the end of the summer. When they came back to Minneapolis/St. Paul, we picked up again and started talking about training. We ran together, trying to keep each other and our community safe. 

I found out today that my friend died of an overdose, shortly after the last time that we ran as medics together.

It was more than a week ago, the last time I heard from my friend. They had disappeared again, but I figured they had gone up north, just like the last time they had gone out west. Just up and disappeared for a while.

I feel guilty.

I feel angry. 

I feel powerless. 

I feel numb.

A different friend of mine reminded me that we can't torture ourselves with hindsight, thinking of what we might have done, trying to identify all the warning signs we may have missed. Easier said than done.

But what is left for us to do? If I cannot look backward, then I should look forward, right? Continue the work of solidarity and equity. Trying to continue to do what my friend would have done, were they still with us here.

So maybe this one is about getting well-meaning white folks off their butts and into the streets. To do the work of solidarity and equity. To raise a black flag. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Frustrated at the Pandemic and a Lack of Resolution

 This is a story of outrage... and whatever comes after that. 

Earlier this week, some friends invited me out for a social/fitness event. Admittedly, it was an event at a gym that was taking COVID precautions (mandatory masking, limited capacity, scheduled workout start times, etc). They invited me and I did want to go, but I realized that I did not have the spoons to take all the required steps to participate. So I made my apologies and asked whether there was another day that would work.

Later that same day, there was a knock at the front door and Amanda answered it. There, standing (six to ten feet) outside our front door was some dude. As the dog started unloading all her ferocious barking in this guy's general direction, the guy began his story about how he had a bunch of extra steaks after a delivery run, and did we want to purchase any of them "at a total steal!"

Did I mention that this winner was not wearing a mask?

After these interactions, I was feeling filled with something that I may have called righteous indignation. How dare people try to do things during a pandemic! I'm taking it seriously! I've taken all kinds of steps to do what I need to do, at home! I'm quite happy at home, thank you!

Despite this indignation, I did make an effort to keep a level head. I told the guy selling steaks door to door during the pandemic that no, we just stocked up and we didn't need his steaks. And I asked my friends whether we could have a Zoom call to try to find a better time.

Like I said, I think this gym that my friends wanted to go to is doing a good job of adapting to fitness during the pandemic. I did want to find a time to go there with my friends, and they were gracious enough to meet me online to talk about it. 

But as they shared their availability, I came to realize that they had already picked the best (almost the only) time that worked for them to go. With all kinds of family responsibilities that continued during the pandemic, they had kept this night of the week open for them to do something fun. And here I was, asking whether I could do this thing with them on a different day of the week, at a different time. 

I was rebuffed. And I started to wonder whether I had asked for a bridge too far. 

I don't know whether this story has a resolution. I mean, the guy selling steaks door to door? Him I sent away because he was being ridiculous. But my friends? I wanted to see them as much as they wanted to see me. And I found that the circumstances we found ourselves in presented so much more of a hurdle to seeing each other than I had conceived of.