Several weeks ago, I gave myself a haircut. Not a good idea. On the side of my head, just a little northeast of my left ear, it looks like some golfer left a large divot with a sand wedge. Well, ordinarily it would have been a big deal, and I would probably have been forced to wear a beanie or some other kind of a hat to cover up the disaster area. But since I was holed up – sheltering in place, as they say – this haircut misadventure (hey, maybe I shouldn’t have used those hedge-trimming shears) won’t have any major repercussions. Why? Because nobody will ever see it. And that’s a good thing. Living alone, self-isolating it turns out, can be advantageous. Yep, it’s true, and something I know about. How do I know? It’s because basically I’m a hermit.
As a hermit, I’ve renounced all worldly pleasures with the exception of watching Leave It To Beaver and Perry Mason on the tube, and eating those ‘vanishing’ cookies, of which the recipe appears under the box top of oatmeal with the smiling Quaker guy. Thanks to COVID-19, I’m climbing higher up that spiritual mountain, Lord. I’ve entered this ethereal dream state. (Editor: could be insanity.) Never been higher. Practicing strict self-denial. Living the ascetic life. No potato chips. I don’t even buy Diet Coke when it’s on sale! I just feel free. Sort of like Kramer, when he stopped wearing underwear on Seinfeld: I’m loving it, Jerry! (Hey, definitely time to go Commando!)
I’m not just an introvert, I’m a bona fide hermit. That means I have the qualifications, the credentials for mentoring others on how to cope during these pandemic days. Who would know better than a hermit, someone who’s been secluded for most of his life?
Now, staying home does create problems and challenges, some of which are psychological – a result of not having the opportunity to attend our Parkinson sessions and playing ping pong. We all have to recognize those first; can’t be in a state of denial regarding the effects of the self-isolating, self-quarantining situation for us all. But then you have a choice: You gonna listen to the psychologists on the tube telling you about the new reality, or you gonna listen to Lao Du? (Editor: He’s referring to himself in the third person – beware!) Who really knows about getting real, Lao Du or some money grubbers like Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew and the rest of that pack of media charlatans?
They’re gonna give you all of that humanistic hooey. They’re gonna say that human connections are required for emotional well-being, that a sense of belonging is an essential human character. Sure, sure, sure, and they’re making it sound like it’s a scoop, like they were the first to discover this. To make it sound more scholarly, they use words like relatedness. Real profound, huh? But then they back up and say there’s too much relatedness, what with the Zoom, the Skype and the Cisco Webex etc. And they correctly point out that there’s a lot of friction among couples forced into the lockdown. People are fighting over music, what TV programs to watch, doing the dishes, walking the dog … not putting the cap back on the toothpaste. But where they go haywire is when they start spouting their erudite (i.e., trite) recommendations. They offer you enriching activities to foster harmonious tranquility (not). Here’s some of the BS they’re pushing. They’ll start out by having you schedule your bathroom and kitchen time – sort of staggering it – so that you don’t run into the person you’ve sworn to have and to hold, for better or worse, until death do you part! Same thing for chores: alternate walking and feeding the mutt, for example. If those thoroughgoing ideas don’t work, they council taking a time out! Such JUNK! C’mon! You think that’s gonna work when you’re forcibly subjected to endure someone at close quarters for what seems like an interminable time. Look, affection is likely to decline precipitously – especially if one of you is cleaning his toe jam at bedside … with his partner’s toothbrush. This will most likely lead to friction – ultimately involving lawyahs – and is best avoided by grabbing the reins on your most trusted steed and hightailing it outta town prontito.
Oh, yeah, that’s just the beginning. To avoid emotional depletion (they must be making this stuff up, I never heard of emotional depletion, have you?), they’re telling you to take deep breaths, jog in place and take a warm bath. Well that just aint gonna cut it, believe me. And when they propose doing the time out thing, it’s truly barf time. Time out???? What, is this, the 1930’s with dunce caps and stools for bad children to sit in a corner for the full humiliation effect? Time out? Jeese, so infantilizing. Ultimately, they chime in with the touchy-feely stuff. Take a warm bath, drink some herbal tea – that sort of thing. All mawkish malarkey.
They keep saying “Connect with Others,” even with strangers. Okay, if they insist on that, then go call your fourth grade teacher and tell her she had a tremendous impact on your life relating to her teaching you how to do fractions. If she’s dead, call up your 6th grade teacher, and tell him how learning about the Pioneers has helped you immensely in pitching a tent in your living room and pretending you’re Kit Carson. Now the connecting with a stranger advice can be a little risky. Make sure he/she doesn’t have lice. And, of course, make sure he/she doesn’t come too close. Carry a 10 foot pole with a bayonet on the end. Tell ‘em you’re so sorry that he’s lost his/her job, that his/her family has thrown him/her out and he can’t find his/her regular drug pusher. Tell ‘em you understand, but due to circumstances – the market going down – that you can’t give him the usual quarter you allot for derelict panhandlers (I used to use it as a tax deduction). When he/she says they need the money for “food,” tell ‘em that he/she shouldn’t buy that gut rot, the cheap fortified wine. Tell him/her that he/she should put his/her money in some money market funds – ya know, the ones with government backed securities. And don’t forget to tell ‘em that the pandemic won’t last forever, that they’ll be back sleeping on the subway again before too long. Yes, provide these people with some hope. It’s the humane thing to do – to comfort your fellow primate.
When the self-appointed, self-anointed experts go into their so-called practical living rifts, that’s when they offer up the most senseless and trivial ideas – ideas your prepubertal children could have told you. Do you really have to be told by this time to buy cleaning supplies including alcohol, bleach and hand sanitizers? Jeesh! Who needs this stuff if you’re on your own anyway, living like Jeremiah Johnson. You only need a horse and a couple of beaver pelts (to trade with the Indians). Simplify!
All of a sudden, everybody and his uncle, these so-called mental hygiene professionals in the media, are advocating this mind-body stuff (meditation, prayer,) They want you to take notes and make lists of positive things that happen to you during the course of your day, which is most likely one of quiet desperation (Thoreau). I say forget mind-body medicine. I believe in mindlessness. (Editor: and, believe me, he practices it, too.) Being impulsive and reckless will take your mind off things that make you feel pressured all the time. It works.
The mind-body stuff would have you concentrate on feelings. C’mon! They would have you engage in guided imagery and reciting mantras in painful yoga positions that would most likely cause horrible cramps for the average sexagenarian. (And why in the world do they call these people sexagenarians when they probably aint doing it anyway?) We don’t need none of that crap. (And what the hell is guided imagery, anyway?) Go out and chop down a tree or, at least, split some wood. Or, go down to the pond and spear a fish. Thoreau said look to nature for relief and relaxation. Going Primal – that’s the road to take. It’s not necessarily primitive and uncivilized. Get your slingshot, your bow and arrow and look for that bobcat or coyote that some dame reported seeing down the block attacking her two Shih Tzus. Go get some maple syrup out of a tree. If you can’t find a maple, or you don’t have any, try ‘oak syrup’. Just drill a hole in the frickin’ tree for crying out loud, and wait. Whadda ya got to lose (as someone says all the time)?
The TV psychology wizards are ridiculously suggesting that by using distraction you will be able to stop your preoccupation with negative thoughts, which they say leads to depression. Distraction??? Really? Well, that’s what they say. Okay, maybe I can buy into some of that, but let’s not beat around the bush. You want to be distracted? Okay, take a hammer and hit your thumb a few times. You’ll be distracted. Works for me. Or try this for distraction: Light a fire on one side of your house and then try to put it out with your garden hose. It’s a brief distraction, but it will get you not to want to be distracted anymore afterwards. But … for the full distraction effect , you’ll want to burn your whole frickin’ house down … and then have a cup of tea (personally, I like Bromley’s Green Tea, 40 tea bags for 2.79 at Shoprite).
Another one of the things they say is keep to a schedule. It’s more BS. Make sure you don’t miss any Leave It To Beaver episodes – that’s the only schedule I keep.
And watching too much cable can also be a source of stress. Try not to watch the oil futures on the business channels. Try not to listen to politicians who tell you 6 feet separation is adequate – it isn’t. The truth is, we need to be separated in light years. We really need to evacuate this planet and find a place, hopefully in this galaxy or one close by, where they don’t have any Joysey drivers or TV programs with the wretched denizens from that state – like the The Real Housewives from New Joysey. (God, I can’t stand that crap.)
And there’s more junkola – unsolicited, mind ya – which comes in large daily doses over the internet. I chuck this garbage mail into the delete pile as fast as it comes in. (The problem is, when I unsubscribe they re-subscribe me immediately.) Who are these people that are dispensing this inanity? I dunno, they all seem to think they know everything. They promote doing something meaningful, doing something creative, keeping a journal, doing a home project, listening to music or even composing music, learning a foreign language … or two, getting yourself in shape with a physical fitness program. And, of course, there’s always the reliable meditate and communicate with your significant others, they say. My advice is that you might as well call some insignificant others, too. Why not? They don’t matter anyway, so you got nothin’ to lose. Call them up. Bug them a little. Come on, everyday it’s the same superficial pretentious JUNK! Mundane pablum, and from scores of unnamed sources. We don’t need it.
You wanna do something meaningful? I’ll tell ya how to do that. Well, forget about organizing your closets and doing the decluttering thing these astrologizing (Editor: Lao Du makes up his own words) fortunetellers are embracing. Just put some distance between you and your loved ones – especially your partner. Leave! Say bye bye and leave. Make a horse your new best friend. A whinny is better than a ninny! And, by the way, your new equestrian friend won’t care if you don’t smell so good. Why? Because, lucky you, he probably stinks worse than you (in most cases). That’s why!
When they say create something, you almost expect they’re goading you tocreate a more perfect union – with a spouse or other unofficial, unsanctioned, unlicensed and unauthorized partner. Foe-get it! Thanks to COVID 19, you just discovered you’ve got a compatibility situation going on with your roomie. Just thank the virus for saving you and skedaddle. Fast! Be happy you’re no longer with the harpy. Leave already!
You wanna create something? They’re telling you to get one of those painting kits with the lines already drawn, and then all you have to do is fill ‘em up with the right color (they even tell you what color). I, myself, painted an impeccable Blue Boy by the numbers 65 years ago. But is that really creating something … even if you don’t go over the lines or anything? Thomas Gainsborough would have possibly conceded that my Blue Boy was better than his, but do I have to tell you it’s a copy? I’m pretty sure that he did his without the numbers. Probably. Hey, I truly believe that I could also do a Mona Lisa by the numbers that would be just as good as the one they’ve got up there in the Louvre. But it wouldn’t be original – don’t these jugheads know that? It’s not creative! Oh, brother!
Okay, then, you want creative? I’ll give you creative. Do what Van Gogh did – cut your ear off – but instead of giving it to a prostitute (hey, I didn’t make this up), use some epoxy and paste it on a canvas upon which you’ve splashed some paint. Now, that’s more imaginative, right? And you can start a new art movement. We can call it the school of Abstract Realism. Yeah, I like that. (West Marine epoxy putty stick: around 28 bucks. Expensive, yes, but it’s enough epoxy since you’re only cutting off one ear. Note: Cheaper epoxy sticks are available at Walmart, but if it were my ear, I’d want the best. You’re not gonna want your ear falling off your painting.)
Now for the music thing. Just follow in Beethoven’s wake, and write a 10th symphony. Or, maybe it would be better by turning to Mozart. Wolfgang wrote so many (41), nobody will know if you add another to his stuff. Yeah, go for it. These mental health experts are saying it’s just a matter of releasing your artistic potential. Yeah, please! Good luck with that.
As for their advice on writing a diary or journal, they’re making it sound like you can be the twenty-first century’s Ann Frank. I say don’t bet on it.
In regard to home projects: Oh, sure, put an addition on your house. How ‘bout a tower? You can, ya know – Home Depot is open. They’ve got special hours for alta kockers who are adding extra floors onto their houses. ‘Course, when these dotards (old farts) find out that a 2×4 doesn’t cost 99 cents anymore, and that a sack of Portland cement costs more than a half a buck, they may have second thoughts.
The one thing these mental health intellectuals are half right about, is physical activity. You should be involved in an exercise program – everyone should. Where they get derailed, however, is their idea that you have to open up a gym in your house. You don’t have to be a Vic Tanny or a Jack Lalanne with all the gym equipment down in your basement. If you really wanna know the truth, lifting barbells is for dumbbells. And treadmills are for mice. Do you really have to have a Stairmaster or a Fitbit? Come on! It’s just more junk! For millennia man (and some women) exercised by doing WORK! They fetched water from a well or a lake or river, they chopped wood for fire, they chased deer and antelope (where they played). Later, in the 60’s, people got their exercise by Simonizing their cars for… well, to keep them from rusting.
I’ve got a better idea than biking on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere, or rowing when you’re not in a boat. And I have a much better idea than “doing cardio” (I detest that expression) in a smelly gym with a bunch of virus superspreaders. What I’m going to suggest is a multi-faceted workout that will be good for your body and your brain. I recommend that you get outside (where you’re less apt to catch the Corona pathogen) and rob a bank. No, no, no – don’t put it down so fast. Consider this: There are lots of skills involved in pulling off a heist. It’s especially good for People with Parkinson’s Disease, because it involves physical as well as cognitive skills. Take into consideration the fact that you’ll be walking to the bank and then most likely running when you leave. That’s aerobic, baby. Yes, this kind of cardiovascular activity is a vital component toward maintaining aerobic and psychological wellness, for sure. Now, the cognitive aspect involves planning and organizational tasks. And the fact that you will have to move fast in the bank will strengthen executive function, according to all the research. Concentrating, by watching the bank guard (guy with the gun), will be another crucial and fruitful exercise. I can’t emphasize this item enough: Keep this guy in the uniform under strict surveillance (remember, he’s got a gun) while you hand the teller a nuanced note – well-written and concise – demanding that she turn over all her moolah, be fast about it, and no funny stuff or else … or words to that effect. Since our fluency and written expression (grammar, punctuation, spelling) worsens with age, this will be a very valuable component in the overall exercise (i.e., the bank job). Also, use your facial muscles – a must for PwP – by forcing a smile as you prosecute the stick-up, as this may delay the teller from pressing the emergency button which will silently alert the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that the money your withdrawing is not yours. After you receive the bag of cash, I recommend High Intensity Interval Training as soon as you leave the building. And don’t forget to try to breathe with your diaphragm – all the yoga people will tell you that, too. All told, you probably will improve your lung capacity by at least 10 percent if you rob, on average, 2 or 3 banks a week.
You know what they’re saying now – that we may have to practice social distancing for the next year and a half. If that’s true, I recommend that you consider packing some extra cans of baked beans into your backpack when you hunker down up there on Bear Mountain. And you know what else they’re saying? That the pandemic is gonna have profoundly damaging ramifications. It’s not just your physical health that’s being altered, it’s your economic and social health also, not to mention the suspension of education at all levels.
Now in regard to the economy and its financial effects, ah, just calm down. Hey, ya don’t need any money up in the high country. There won’t be any more compelling urgency to watch the oil futures on the business channels. Sell your stocks, or just throw them outside in your compost pile or let the birds have them. They’re gonna be worthless, anyway – the economy is tanking.
And social stuff – foe-get it. You aint gonna be socializing with bears or bobcats. Ya wanna make a friend of a squirrel or a skunk, that’s your business. Educational? Foe-get that, too! You graduated over 50 years ago. You don’t have to take no more tests. Look, nobody – and I mean NOBODY – uses sines and cosines. NOBODY! Exceptions: lawyahs may have you cosine some documents and papers they shove in front of you. Sines? Sometimes you might see them on the highway. (Editor: Lao Du thinks that’s funny.)
Whadda ‘bout technology, you’re asking? Do we really need more bytes per second? Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky? C’mon! Do you have to have a 5g network? I don’t even know what a 1g network is, why would I need one as high as 5? We don’t need those gadgets and gizmos. Throw ‘em away. All of ‘em. Humans have been around for 200,000 years without an ipad. Chuck ‘em. Chuck it all. (Except, maybe keep the air fryers – I like my phony hamburgers made by that thing.) Ya know, the Paleolithic Age was characterized by the use of stone tools. Later our forbears (who were not bears – they were apes, so maybe we should rightfully call them our forapes) used wood and bone tools. Must we now rely on micro waves? Now, all of a sudden we need this electronic/digital crap? Wood and bone tools were enough. Simplify!!
Think about this: You think computers and your iphones are keeping you socially connected? Are you outta your mind? It’s just the opposite. Playing a video game for a couple of weeks with your eyes popping outta your head is not gonna get you any “social connectedness.”
You don’t need the techno stuff if you’re independent, self-reliant and self-sufficient. You’ll see. In the mean time, gather yee some wild plants, go fishing and hunting or try scavenging for some recently run over wild animals (you may have to fight crows and vultures for carrion). What you don’t want to do is be looking for special meat cuts at Costco. Try the roadkill instead. It’s more convenient – just down the block. And it’s cheap and all natural – free of hormones and antibiotics. Cost you nothing, too (but just remember to wipe away the flies and maggots).
Please, don’t think of social separation as social deprivation. See it as an opportunity. To be Free. To be rid of all the technical doodads that nobody needs and which don’t contribute (quite the contrary) to achieving happiness and self-actualization (Maslow – Hierarchy of Needs). And to be rid of the person you’re with whose driving you up the proverbial wall – that would be a positive. How do you accomplish these things? Well, for starters, you can hope to reach your full potential by leaving Westchester civilization. After departure, I assure you, you won’t have to be watching the Dow Jones Industrial average. You won’t be fearing the Corona virus. It’s possible that you could be mauled by a beer or a bobcat or even a skunk with a bad temper (distemper) once you leave Westchester for the wild and primitive Rockland and Fairfield Counties, but you won’t have to see the Housewives of New Joysey anymore, so it’s worth taking the risk. You want to stop this merciless scourge? Follow me. Be a hermit. You’ll be ahead of the game. Social distancing will be a cinch. No big woof. You’ll find your Walden Pond.
And think about this: Do what I say and you won’t have to worry about being hacked. You won’t be receiving any of those scam calls from Nigerian princes. You don’t have to watch the Batchelor, anymore, nor the Housewives from New Joysey. Disssgusssting stuff! Who needs that crap? C’mon, Simplify. Get a divorce, or just leave your partner. Solitude. That’s where the comfort zone is. You can put the Kingston Trio on the Victrola instead of having to put up with Taylor Swift’s squeaks and shrills. Relax – not from Yoga, or Mindfullness, Tai Qi, or whatever else they’re selling these days with those diet/supplement gurus on PBS. Just you get away from the rat race and you’ll have peace of mind without a ‘certified’ life coach. (What in tarnation is a life coach, anyway? It’s absurd. What, they’re gonna tell you how to breathe in and out? I got news for ya – I already know how to do that, and it didn’t cost me anything.)
Are you a sheep, or a lemming running after the sheep or lemming in front of you? Must you follow the herd? Is there an ounce of independence in you? Do you have to “go along”? Aren’t you tired of being a wuss? Of being someone’s doormat? You always wanna be Mr. Milquetoast? C’mon – grow a pair, for god sakes. Lift yourself up offa that couch and shut the tube off. Put a few cans of sardines into your backpack, maybe some Del Monte fruit cocktail, too, and take to the hills. Get outta town. Be a mountain man (okay, with a cable hook-up). Find your Walden Pond or a mountain retreat somewhere.
The truth is, I don’t miss human “connectiveness.” You won’t either. In fact, it’s a relief not to have to deal with some of the shmoes I used to have to indulge. You don’t have to worry what you look like, either. No need to get your hair coiffed. Throw out the Listerine – the bears won’t care if you have bad breath. No need for narcissistic appurtenances like mirrors. Chuck the aftershave. Who’s gonna see ya? Who’s gonna smell ya? A porcupine? A chipmunk? Beavers? Weasels? Hey, they’re rodents (maybe weasels are not rodents). If you start to look like Robinson Crusoe, nobody will care. You shouldn’t even give a hoot if you transmute to a Howard Hughes look alike (when he was in his unhinged last stage with the 6 inch fingernails). Hey, nobody gonna see ya when you’re busy trapping beaver in the sticks near Tuckahoe (well, maybe only a few people with keen eyesight driving on the Saw Mill; just give ‘em the finger, because you won’t care anymore).
I say, wash your hands . .. of everything. Become a hermit. Be a Thoreau disciple. No nagging wife, no robocalls, no internet scams or hacks. No tax on Coca Cola.
They say “Stay Active.” Fine. So, this is what you should do: Get in your car and go to the Ping Pong Club. The door will be locked, sure, but at least you were active in going there. You could go for a walk around your neighborhood but, better yet, go for a walk around the club building while stewing about not being able to play ping pong. Keep walking around until you’ve worked yourself up into a seething high dudgeon (you’ll know you’ve arrived when you froth at the mouth). When you get to the front door, bang on it and start yelling for them to let you in. Hey, someone’s in there – you can hear a ping pong ball being batted around. Just keep screaming ‘till you hear the siren from the cops’ car. Then skidaddle. Go to Bear Mountain and have a hike. Oh, wait, it’s closed. Go back to the club and bang on the door again. At least you’re protesting. At least you’re declaring that you want your ping pong rights recognized and restored. And next time bring a battering ram. Using it will firm up your biceps. When you get home, try using Facebook or Zoom. If you’ve never heard of those things – or have no idea how to use them – just stick your head outta the window and scream something like I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore! (Howard Beale/Peter Finch in Network 1976) “All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I wanna play ping pong! Open up! Now! Ahora!
ADDENDUM: Oh, I forgot to say this. All of the stuff above, is just some notes I wrote in my journal as counseled by my shrink. He says this is a good type of coping skill that I should practice during this pandemic, and that I might find it very relaxing and rewarding to keep a diary. Only thing though, I haven’t discussed some details with him. For example, the fact that I’ve devoted 12 pages to how I can’t stand this SOB, and that I’m harboring felonious intentions which I’m having difficulty controlling. And I’m also considering not paying this arrogant butthead ever again.
Editor’s Note: I’ve allowed Lao’s Du doctor ( his shrink) to offer a rebuttal.
Doctor’s Rebuttal: I told him (Lao Du) that all of his neuroticism and neuroses stem from his troubled relationship with his parents. It explains why he’s so perverse. For example, one seminal experience he suffered with long lasting emotional trauma, involved a birthday gift his parents gave him, in which Lao Du deduced that his only value to his mother and father was as a tax deduction. Turns out, they gave him a jock strap so that they could prove to the IRS that they supported him. And he was 43 at the time! As expected, and true to form, Lao Du complained that the jock strap was too small. Always complaining. A crybaby. I hate patients like that. Their tears stain my couch. Costs me a bundle in cleaning services.
Some may consider this an ethical lapse in my revealing something so personal as this in public, but this guy – who only aspires to be a hermit, he’s not a Real Hermit – is just an out and out cheapskate and he should be exposed before he perpetrates a similar depravity on the next therapist. Eh, maybe I should say he’s only parsimonious, I don’t want to come down too hard on him. But, despite what he says, I never used the term cheap bastard. (I just said he was cheap one time, and I might have called him a bastard at some other session. Listen, this freeloader hasn’t paid me in 3 months.)
Lao Du responds: I’m waiting for my stimulus check to arrive from the government. I might give him a few bucks. Maybe. Maybe not. LD