Sunday, July 5 2020
Today began with yet more socially-distanced socializing. Gretchens former prisoner-student Jule, along with S___, the clemency advocate who helped get both him and Powerful paroled, drove up from Manhattan and arrived before 10:00am. Gretchen made scones and a french press of coffee, and we hung out for awhile on the east deck. Initially the conversation was interesting, as the formerly-incarcerated talked about about their views of the crimes of other prisoners. Powerful, Jule, and S___ have all been in prison (S___ most recently for a parole violation), and S___ told of the game she used to play guessing the crimes of new prisoners in her prison. The soccer moms were usually there for drunk driving, whereas nervous women who kept their arms close to their body had probably been convicted of sexually molesting a child in collaboration with a male friend or spouse. Jule said that at some point in his prison experience, he decided that he no longer wanted the crimes of other prisoners to affect his opinion of them, even in cases where they'd been convicted of sex offences. Often, though, he noted defects with the personalities of sex offenders that made them fundamentally unpleasant. Jule said that part of the reason he'd come to feel this way because he'd been convicted of being an accessory to murder, and some prisoners find murderers to be particularly loathsome because there's no way to undo taking a life. Gretchen disagreed, saying that often (as in the cases of Jule and Powerful) they hadn't actually committed the murders themselves, and in any case sometimes murder can be justified. It's much harder, she said, to claim, "I had to rape her."
Later S___ told us the ordeal she's expected to go through to visit her son in Connecticut, since crossing state lines requires the sort of paperwork that takes all day. Since her son lives only about 900 yards outside New York State, she simply powers down her cellphone and visits him directly, not bothering with the paperwork.
Later Jule talked at great length about some not-especially-interesting tsuris he'd had with his boss at the job he'd just left. His monolog on the subject was so long that I felt trapped, but eventually I found a suitable moment to grab the dirty dishes, and I disappeared into the kitchen. I then went up to the laboratory to have some me time for awhile.
After Gretchen and the others got back from a fairly long walk with the dogs in the forest, she whipped up a quick lunch of pasta salad and crepes. (Oddly, though, Jules was observing a fast related to his new job, and would only drink beverages.) When I came down to join the lunch, I was disturbed to see everyone was dining in the dining room instead of practicing social distancing. I didn't want to rock the boat, so I didn't say anything. But I didn't sit at the table long; I was sitting about three feet from S___, and she'd just been telling us about her job as a contact tracer. Contact tracers, for those who don't know, locate and physically visit people who have possibly been infected by a communicable disease (in this case, coronavirus) to determine who they also might have infected. S___ is careful, but her job is inherently risky, and there I was not practicing social distancing with her. Later this evening, on a walk with Gretchen, I gently brought up the lunch and how I thought perhaps Gretchen was letting down her guard a bit too much. Gretchen was astounded; she'd totally spaced out on the whole social distancing thing, and it hadn't even occurred to her that she needed to continue observing it by that point in the visit.
S___ and Jule headed back to the City just as Gretchen was about to leave (with Powerful) for a truncated shift at the bookstore.
I avoided all drugs and alcohol today, allowing the hangover I'd been kicking down the road to finally catch up with me. By late this afternoon it had me feeling so debilitated that I spent a couple hours in bed with the ceiling fan on full blast, listening to music on YouTube (classic Moody Blues from when they made heavy use of the Mellotron, and also from Justin Hayward's recent solo tours, where he's been performing mostly that material). The only real work I was able to achieve today was testing various Linux distros on a Starling Netbook. As usual with distro-testing jihads, few of the distros actually worked after a default install. The only working ones were Debian, whose WiFi failed to get a DHCP address, and Peppermint, which couldn't show a screen wider than 800 pixels.
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