Red, White and Blue Rockets

Monday

It was already daylight by the time I got home on Sunday. That meant I spent half my weekend sleeping, which I might’ve done anyway thanks to the bonus hour and also because I’ve grown increasingly slothful as my brain prepares for the cold, barely able to reset the clocks that hadn’t already switched automatically. Which is funny, sort of — temperatures were supposed to be in the 70s all week. For most of my life, that wouldn’t have been unusual. I had no excuse other than the one everyone uses: psychic browbeating.

But I did remember I’d seen my ballot in the mail when I walked in the morning before, so when Monday morning returned and work forced me to leave bed again, I was doing so with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to wait in line that evening, nor would I deal with the crowds on Election Day. I did my homework on down-ballot judges and the Fair Tax Amendment between edits. I used black ink. I filled, folded, sealed. I finished the day, brought my ballot to the box and dropped it off so easily that I will never do it any other way again if I can help it, then went and polished off a pizza with roasted garlic, jalapeño pesto and bacon. I have no idea why I thought that sounded good.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa promised the MotoGP season finale at Portimao would go ahead behind closed doors. A whale saved a traincar. Sean Connery’s body grew stiff.

Tuesday

We’d all agreed that publishing anything significant for the week would be idiotic, so work was mostly focusing on lingering longer-term projects, tasks ideally suited for days when there was absolutely nothing else going. Which is funny, sort of — the idea that there was absolutely nothing else going inside, while outside the sun shone and people worked themselves up to a fever pitch.

I’d like to tell you John King’s hands were as enormous as they ever were, but I only tweeted about it. I never saw his hands; maybe they shrunk. I’d like to tell you I saw anything, actually, even the Cincinnati Zoo’s #tongueouttuesday diversion, but the truth is that the day was one ugly smear of hours. There was nothing to see. I read more of Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches and went to bed around 11.

Wednesday

Table, Donkey & Stick wasn’t open on Monday or Tuesday, but they were back to serving (and back to serving the ‘nduja pie, importantly, which had been missing for weeks beforehand) on Wednesday, so there was really only one thing to do: Drink it with the 2020: Welcome to the Sh*tshow can I’d gotten the very last one of at Stillmank in Green Bay back in August; the bartender had found it in the back by accident. As the Green Bay Press Gazette noted in an article I found much later, it was hardly the first beer to capitalize on the theme of a lousy year, but in any case, it was the first one I’d seen and the artwork was memorable. Got a sticker out of it, too.

Originally, the plan had been to eat some feelings on Tuesday and toast to whichever way this junkyard dream of a democracy was headed next, but with the election still in the balance and work once again mostly consisting of other people doomscrolling to update me on states that had only started counting ballots the day before, or Georgia, or Nevada, my attention turned in another direction: Valentino Rossi’s latest COVID test. I woke up to the news that Rossi had tested positive Tuesday after two weeks of quarantine, but he needed two negative tests to compete in Sunday’s European Grand Prix at Valencia. With Jorge Lorenzo woefully unfit to race after being way off the pace at Portimao testing and Red Bull sponsorship conflicts keeping Toprak Razgatlıoglu from a shot at the factory YZR-M1, Yamaha announced American World Superbike rookie Garrett Gerloff would be called in as a replacement. Gerloff had stayed in Europe after the end of the WSBK season in October and was at the ready should Rossi’s follow-up test also be negative. Odds were good for Gerloff, who was largely a mystery before Europe gave him a ring for 2020 but well known in the States for taking the fight to Cameron Beaubier and Toni Elias in MotoAmerica.

The suing started. The future waited. A coworker played “Bohemian Rhapsody” on piano via Google Hangouts and I watched someone else play Flight Simulator on the clock. I ate pizza. I drank plum sludge. I read witches. I hear a sound of an abundance of rain. I hear a sound of victory. The hours were a honey drip. Did you know kangaroos can only legally be owned without a permit in South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin?

Thursday

More perfect hammock weather, more perfect everything weather. The leaves outside my window were so yellow, it was like an all-day golden dawn. Which is funny, sort of — all this natural beauty going on while Denmark announced it would slaughter 17 million minks on 207 farms due to a mutant strain of COVID and the line out the new Portillo’s drive-thru was down the street and in any given group of 10 people getting together in this city, there was a 1 in 3 chance of someone having it. Cases were worse than in the spring and best I could tell, less people were wearing masks. But how many were dying?

At midday, Gerloff was announced as Rossi’s replacement for the press debrief. The short of it was that Rossi would have to get his test back before FP3 on Saturday in order to compete. Iker Lecuona, who I will now forever associate with a cousin of Casey Stoner’s who sleeps around the paddock and apparently hates him for being a misogynist jerk, tested COVID-positive thanks to his brother ahead of what should’ve been his best races of the season. And a bombshell that suddenly held the championship in balance: Yamaha potentially violating engine allocation rules. The confusion took all day to clarify and few were satisfied with the result: The manufacturer had used illegal valves in its M1 engines following the Jerez opener, where it had suffered a number of mechanical issues and subsequently modified them without approval from the other MotoGP manufacturers. Yamaha was sanctioned 50 points for “failing to respect the protocol which requires them to obtain unanimous approval from MSMA for technical changes” due to “an internal oversight” and its two teams also suffered; the good news was that, for the rider’s title at least, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales and Franco Morbidelli would live to fight another day unscarred. But the dark clouds had already gathered and there was a sense that the walls were closing in.

Here, screaming sunshine, brilliant fall foliage, light breezes. There and everywhere else, howling rain, big flashes of lightning, thunderclaps. The bodies were scattered. I didn’t count, but there were a lot of them. The load transported.

Friday

In Georgia, they put champagne out at the Kroger as I woke up an hour behind the latest East Coast tallies. Georgia was flipping, Pennsylvania too. I wondered if I should call my parents on Saturday or Sunday and learned a fox laughs like a demented child, which is funny, sort of. I went to Alulu for the first time in I don’t remember how long, sat in a wooden box as the night cooled off and got pizza — this time chorizo with jalapeño salsa that resembled no salsa I’d ever eaten, even the chunky ones — for the third time in five days. Some people talk about how they wish they could just eat pizza all the time or how much they love pizza and can’t live without it or how they always seem to be eating pizza, but I’m out here living that life and let me tell you: Twice a week is inadvisable, but the third time you resign yourself mentally to another night of slices, something crushing takes over. It’s not a good feeling.

They had to make it official at some point, though they waited until the last possible moment to call it: Garrett Gerloff would ride the first two free practice sessions in place of Valentino Rossi, the first American to ride in the top class since Nicky Hayden at Phillip Island in 2016. Rossi would take over for the remainder of the weekend after his third test came back negative, but for a brief moment in FP1 on a wet track with no experience whatsoever in MotoGP before, Garrett lapped in the top five and America looked respectable out there. Eventually, he finished about 1.6 seconds off Jack Miller in both practice sessions, good for 16th and 19th overall in the sessions. Who knows how much he’d have improved had they let him ride out the weekend, but the point was made.

Hedonometers and Tesla Tequila. Bandcamp Friday and Babenzele Pygmies in the mushrooms. “Clipper (Another 5 Years)” and Igora Drive. Now I’m heading to nothing ’cause it’s no more fun.

Saturday

It doesn’t feel like much of anything when you find out the results of an election at home alone in relative silence. Outside, birds quipped. There were cheers and parades elsewhere, a few scattered fireworks distant on the other side of the day, but this didn’t feel like much of anything. Republicans hadn’t conceded. Nothing was over even though so many people wanted it to be.

“For sure, we have pressure,” said Suzuki’s Joan Mir in Saturday’s press conference. “We are playing with our lives and for sure, we have to be really, really focused in what we do… but it’s our job in the end. I think what is real pressure, that luckily I don’t have because if this year I win, will be super good for me in all the ways; if I don’t win, will be also good. So, I mean, it will change something, but not a big difference.

“But that people that can’t pay the rent because of these conditions with the coronavirus and all of this — these type of people that can’t bring food at his home — this is real pressure that is actually not good.”

Only Sunday’s morning warmup would be dry, which is funny, sort of: All weekend you work toward getting a wet setting right and then the world goes and dries on you. You think it’s going to break one way until it breaks the other. How many hot takes does the world have room for? How many times can you zoom in and out of a map? Let us count the ways. Here, sunshine coming through. There, sunshine coming through. Finally.

Sunday

Speak this to yourself
Until you know it is true.

I believe that I woke up and my lungs were working, miraculously. I remember the phone call covering trolls and states and vineyards and adventures in limbo. Hansel and Gretel, thinning boreal views. Alex Trebek’s body grew stiff. I remember the dust collecting on the window sills. Koldunya of winter and willows. Geometry and repetition, porcelain and the lexicon. I remember thinking the work is far from over. I remember leaves tickling the glass as they dropped and scattered. The gradually crystallizing comedy of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.  I remember pet milk and petrichor and my insides raining from the inside out and then I knew again we go swimming. After Pol Espargaro called the Suzukis blue rockets and after Alex Rins said he had nothing for him, I remember Joan Mir’s first words to the world after he scored his first win: “I feel the same.”

I believe that the sun shines,
If not here, then somewhere.

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