Thank the universe I live in Chicago

Yesterday, I was shopping at at a grocery store. In the checkout line, I was struggling to find my six feet wondering when it was appropriate to place my three items on the conveyer belt. Suddenly a male voice behind me asked, “Hey man, do you mind if I cut in front of you? I only have two things and I’m trying to get up to the protest.”

I looked down at my three items again and thought, “Yeah, why not?”

“Sure, man. Go ahead.”

So he jumped in front of me with his two boxes of Capri-Suns.

“Where is the protest starting,” I asked him.

“Up at the Riv,” he responded.

“Okay, cool. Do you happen to know which way it’s going and how far?” I asked.

“Um,” he paused and checked his phone. “It’s going from the Riv to the Sheridan Redline stop and back up to the Riv area.”

“Okay, cool,” I said.”And thanks for doing what you’re doing. It’s important work.”

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m one of many.”

“One of many doing an amazing service and necessary act for this country,” I said. “Stay safe and have a great day.”

Later in the day, I talked to my best friend in NC. He asked about the protests and riots. I told him that it felt more tame on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was still happening. “I’ve heard the flash bangs every night.”

“Get your ass back down here asap, brother,” he said.

“Nah, man. I kinda like it here.”

“Oooo-kay,” he eeked out.

I’m not sure I got a chance to really explain. But I somehow feel safer here than in NC at times. My parents don’t believe in masks. North Carolina has been back to “normal” for a few weeks. People are likely out spreading the disease more than they think.

Not to mention that here in Chicago, we have much more diversity and intrigue.

It’s summer-time temps. People are out in abundance and it makes me so happy. I love being in a place where expression is vast and frequent. I love living in a city where protests are massive. Where people are creatively writing signs and holding them high over their heads.

A city where I get texts saying, “Be careful out there. Traffic is a nightmare and exits on the highways are closed.”

I love life in North Carolina, but it just can’t compare to the adoration I have for Chicago … especially in warmer temperatures when the variety of our neighbors is in full view.

The riots and violence are part of our fabric. I’m not sure why I’m able to accept it. I don’t stare at it in complete horror.

Destructive protesting has a much louder voice than we imagine.

I have a temper. And that fucking temper gets the best of me. But you know what? My temper has forged longtime relationships of iron strength. It’s also removed relationships that, for fuck’s sake, I didn’t want in the first place.

People reminded me with broken record advice, “Do not cry in public. Do not lose your temper in public. Do not show a temper tantrum emotion. That’s bad. Expressing anger is negative. It’ll get you no friends. It’ll produce no good.”

But the truth is the opposite.

Anger is an expression of vulnerability. And when seen in a certain light, it breaks down barriers. It exposes raw, animal-like behavior. It humanizes us. And ultimately, it binds together groups.

I don’t believe that the cops who are committing atrocities toward black people and people of color are angry. I think they think they are intelligent and superior. Their group think is to control others anger. Their approach stems from ignorance and lack of self-awareness and self-control.

The result of their behavior is anger by onlookers. And anger must be expressed. It is natural. It is honest. It is requisite to a sound mind.

Sure, peaceful protests are preferred. But if destruction creates awareness. If it sparks conversation. If damage provokes an iota of thought. If it seeps into every conversation and overshadows all other discussion, then yes. Riots and looting is somehow a version of acceptable.

Our black neighbors need to be heard. Give them voice and lend your ears. And if they start shouting, banging drums or smashing windows, or drumming doors down … they are playing the music that you desperately need to hear, dear reader.

Please listen.

As cacophonic as explosive tempers seem … it is a song that seriously needs amplification.

Inhaling, exhaling, smokers, sneezers, bad breath, olfactory nerves, coronavirus and you

When I see runners up and down the streets of Chicago who are not wearing masks, I repeat the same line: “How fucking irresponsible.”

Perhaps runners think, “I must be healthy. I show no signs of disease. I obviously don’t have a respiratory illness; I’m running and my lungs feel fine!”

Or maybe a collective apathy toward self-protection is on the rise.

Or maybe runners are assholes.

I’m a runner. Runners push air from their lungs with much greater force than walkers. And from what we know of the spread of this respiratory disease (e.g. here, here, and here), inhaling droplets infected with the virus is one of the quickest ways that it spreads.

Not only am I breathing out harder, I’m inhaling deeper. This puts my risk level higher, I would imagine.

My runs have been between one and two hours, and I’ve worn a mask the entire time or most of the time. If I’ve pulled down my mask to help catch my breath, it’s because I don’t see anyone around and I feel I can do so. But at street corners or passing another biker, runner, or pedestrian, I pull my mask up. It’s a curtesy to them and a precaution for me.

Do I feel like some masked vigilante at times with my sweat-soaked bandana swinging around my neck like a turkey waddle? Yes. Does it make it difficult to breathe at times? Yes. But it’s not impossible.

During the run, I also try to sense which way the wind is traveling. If I’m running into the wind, I make sure my mask is pulled up. I wonder how far droplets surf on invisible wind waves and a neurosis take over my brain.

One of the thoughts that keeps coming to mind is the distance cigarette smoke travels from a smokers exhalation. This is an unscientific observation. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside somewhere, and I smell cigarette smoke long before I see a smoker. I look around and sometimes they are 30 to 50 feet away. Maybe more.

Or you exit a building where smokers are huddled 15 feet from a doorway and you suddenly remember the bar scene before January 1, 2008.

Again, not scientific, but the smoke I’m smelling is coming partly from exhalation. Does that mean I’m recognizing the possibility of droplets because one of my senses is recognizing it? I mean, minutes after someone smokes pot, you can smell it. Hell, sometimes a bathroom carries an odor of its previous occupant for up to how long.

Is olfactory sensation an indication of airborne droplets?

Just this week, I was cooking a garlic-y meal. I had to take my dog outside to go pee. Outside, I could smell garlic. When I walked back in the front door on the first floor, it became much stronger. Walking through the front door one flight up, garlic slapped me in the face.

We can’t smell halitosis from certain distances, but if we had dog noses, could we? And what would that mean for the length of time droplets can float before gravity pulls them to the ground?

Science has recognized that sneezes throw droplets farther than we can really measure. Runners exhale with great force. A cough also pushes out air with force.

We can all relinquish care and assume we are all going to get the virus. And maybe that is driving the drop in mask use around town. Or maybe I’m misinformed and need another lesson what is and what isn’t safe.

I guess one point I’m trying to make is: if you could smell coronavirus like you can smell cigarette or pot smoke, would more people wear a mask. Would it make it more real if one of our available senses could identify it?

Just a thought or two to start your Saturday.

Thanks for giving me a platform to express my neuroses and curiosities.

Oh, and wear a fucking mask.