A Reader’s Guide to Interpreting White House Reports

Amidst the turmoil of this news cycle I had a sit-down with Pandemic Journal’s White House reporter to get the skinny on how she plans to cover what will be, whatever goes down, a massive shit storm of obfuscation and misdirection.

I poured myself a tumbler of pure grain alcohol with a squeeze of lemon and settled into my Barcalounger. “How in the hell are you going to do it?” I asked her. “I’m counting on you to give our readers the truth, or at least an entertaining semblance of it.”

Here is her formula for cutting through the crap:

One, be aware of Kayleigh McEnany’s tell. If she says, “I will never lie to you” or refers to her stack of file folders, she’s lying.

Two, gauge the fear in Peter Navarro’s eyes. The man has survived years of being wrong about literally everything there is to be wrong about, and yet he has a job. If he looks like his next stop is a bread line, that’s a red alert.

Three, take the average of Mark Meadows’ and Larry Kudlows’ opinions and throw it out.

Four, if Rudy Guiliani appears at the White House and makes comments like “I’ll do for America what I did for New York,” start writing the lede for a story about an unsuccessful coup attempt.

And five, pay close attention to Twitter. Tweets from the president that lack words in all caps or exclamation marks suggest we are about to be presented with a Presidential Stunt Double, in which case the press pool should ask this potential lookalike the names of his kids. If he can answer the question correctly, we are in a full blown Constitutional crisis.

A Brief Statement from Pandemic Journal About the Welfare of Our Editorial Staff

Readers have faxed and telegraphed messages of concern about our editorial staff’s well-being after news of an outbreak of COVID-19 among the flat earthers who run this once-proud nation. Our readers have seen our masked scribes in close proximity to these yokels and worry that the spread of disease to our newsroom might interfere with publication of “Just How Much Does Melania Fucking Hate Christmas?” which we teased on our Times Square billboard.

Never fear.

Our staff epidemiologist immediately broke the glass on her emergency plan, which has been sitting in a dusty case waiting for just this moment. In a fashion that would make an Olympic-class synchronized swim team proud, we first pink-slipped all writers who had been in close proximity to anyone named Trump, so they might experience the American healthcare system from the perspective of the uninsured and write about it. Second, we tested all remaining members of our staff and their family members, and are relieved to report that every last one of them tested negative for sympathy.

Rest assured that publication of Pandemic Journal, including the upcoming photo feature of Letitia James smacking an eerily familiar piñata with a baseball bat, will continue without interruption.

Pandemic Journal Answers Readers’ Questions About Last Night’s Debate

An outbreak of alcohol poisoning and melancholy sidelined everyone on Pandemic Journal’s political beat after last night’s hootenanny in Cleveland. So I’ve turned to other sage voices to offer royalty-free answers to readers’ questions about the flaming mess we all witnessed.

Does Chris Wallace regret his career choice?

Per Cormack McCarthy, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

Rudy Guiliani was in the audience, and contrary to my expectations he was neither gagged nor bound to his chair. What’s up with that?

As Anton Chekhov observed, “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

The Proud Boys got an unprecedented endorsement from a sitting President. Did I really witness that or was it a hallucination?

Eric Hoffer once wrote, “Nationalist pride, like other variants of pride, can be a substitute for self-respect.”

There go the suburbs. Amiright?

In Charles Kuralt’s words, “It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.”

What do I make of the word salad that spewed across the stage any time the President was asked about his plans?

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” That’s Isaac Asimov, by the way.

Are they really going to do this again? Twice?

Winston Churchill once said, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.”

Setting the record straight about the banana stand

“There’s always money in the banana stand,” Pop-Pop used to say. His sage advice stuck with me during the years the banana stand grew like wildfire, fueled by consumers’ insatiable appetites for frozen, oblong treats and Pop-Pop’s money laundering. His wisdom stuck with me when the banana stand burned, fueled by hastily hidden and highly flammable legal tender. And his wisdom lives in me today, guiding my stewardship of a global empire of wildly improbable, not to mention unprofitable, banana stands in far flung locales like Panama, Moscow, Scotland and Kiev.

Yes, although these banana stands are black holes for local currency, revenue-producing marketing deals mint mountains of cash for my web of enterprises. Every time my name and face are slapped on another Tiki hut staffed by teenage contractors hired by licensees, my banana stand empire shifts into a higher gear, sluicing dollars, euros and rubles through hundreds of interconnected offshore companies. It creates a lot of wealth, believe me.

Banana stand brand licensing and merch, as well as my star turn on the CW Network’s reality show “Top Banana” have made me a billionaire. Modesty prevents me from saying how many billions, but there are a lot. Many, many billions that I have had to protect through legally-dubious, one-sided agreements with a long list of ex-wives, bastard kids, hookers and mistresses.

Normally, I would let my billions speak for themselves, but news vultures have been flooding the zone with stories about me, the banana stand empire, and my considerable wealth. Based on dubious sources like public records and government documents, it is alleged that bad things were done. I’ll counter that they weren’t, or in the worst case, mistakes were made.

So I am setting the record straight on a number of points.

First, I am a billionaire. Would I say I’m a billionaire if there weren’t millions of banana stand customers who line up each day to attest to my wealth, genius and handsomeness?

Second, allegations about my paltry contributions to the US Treasury are false. The best taxes are no taxes, any taxes make my stomach hurt, and I have a perpetual stomach ache and uncontrollable flatulence every day. So I must pay a lot of taxes!

Third, I’m personally hurt that nasty people on the Internet say I’m a bad businessman. I’m a very, very good businessman and it’s only natural that when you’re trying to keep a thousand balls in the air–each of those balls representing an obscure LLC that serves as a financial conduit for ever-larger corporations’ cash flows–one of those balls, like a banana stand-themed casino, will eventually fall to the ground and take down a local economy. That’s not my fault.

Finally, it is not true that the banana stand is a house of cards backed by unknown actors who hold a fiscal sword of Damocles over my head, and that my only way out of financial ruin is to co-opt the operations of a good sized government and start squeezing ’em for cash. No, this is not true at all, but it’s an excellent idea.

Getting Back on the Bike

Twenty-plus years ago, I rode a motorcycle. I used it to commute, have fun and occasionally travel. The bike itself was a ’79 BMW R100/7, which was a combination project, time machine for many people I encountered (I remember when…), and semi-reliable way to get around. I sold it a few years after moving to North Carolina.

The pandemic got me thinking about riding again, as a means of getting out of the house for a few hours and visiting sites around the Piedmont I’ve been wanting to see and photograph. I’m old enough to know that riding a motorcycle is a perishable skill so I decided to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider class again. Finding a class nearby that wasn’t fully booked was a challenge, so I used that as an excuse to take the class at the BMW Rider Academy in Greer, SC. If you’re thinking about taking the MSF class and are anywhere near Greer, I can recommend it.

I rode a nearly new BMW G 310 R instead of the clapped out Honda from my first class. It’s a light, agile bike with a single cylinder engine, six-speed transmission, TFT instrument display, inverted forks, rear mono shock and ABS. It’s not ideal for a person six-plus feet tall, but it wasn’t uncomfortable to ride.

My bike for a couple of days.
No dials on this bike.

I mentioned that motorcycling skills are perishable? Mine were. The class starts with very basic skills – finding the clutch friction zone, balancing and manipulating the throttle before moving on to actual riding. Most of the exercises happen at relatively low speeds (under 30 mph), so spills (and a few classmates had them) aren’t serious. U-turns, figure-8s in a confined box, braking (and panic braking) in different situations, swerving and other fundamentals kept us busy for most of two days.

Another thing in favor of taking the MSF class at BMW: Fantastic food for lunch. I had baked cod the first day and pork chops the second. And no, the class isn’t any more expensive than taking it at a community college. Plus, BMW offers some financial perks for those who choose to follow up by purchasing a new BMW motorcycle.

The conclusion of day two is the skills test. Those who lack a motorcycle endorsement on their license can pass this in place of some states’ skills tests. We quickly went through five tests to assess our ability to control our motorcycles. Drop the bike, stall more than three times, or rack up 16 penalty points and you fail. I’m happy to say I didn’t stall or fall, and had plenty of points to spare.

What’s next? I need more practice, but I need a bike first. And I kind of miss having a BMW boxer, which was a lot of fun and easy to ride. Maybe I’ll look for something like this R nineT.

A Pandemic Journal Update for Our Print Subscribers

Pandemic Journal was born during the halcyon years when politicians didn’t mess with those of us who purchased ink by the barrel, and readers had to put pen to paper to tell us what was on their tiny minds. The Internet may have turned this all bass-ackwards, but believe it or not we still have readers who like to perambulate to the end of the driveway or post office to retrieve the words they’ll sit down to consume with a Scotch chaser.

Six of them, in fact. I know their names, each and every one of them, and I’ll be damned if they don’t keep re-upping their print subscriptions just to piss me off.

But times are changing and so is the manner in which each weekly copy of Pandemic Journal will be conveyed to these Luddite dead-enders.

You’ve probably heard that the US Post Office is evolving – similar to the way your neighborhood ice cream shop evolved into offering a subscription model where the only flavors are Shit and Death. We’ve gotten a memo outlining how the new order will affect subscription delivery, and for the six (or maybe five, because Ted has been knocking on death’s door for a while now) readers who like to stain their hands with ink, I’ll offer an update.

Beginning this week, each print issue of Pandemic Journal will be one page, full of four letter words, stuffed in the smallest envelope we can find. We will post these envelopes each Monday for delivery at some random date in the future. Or never.

The fine people at the USPS tell me that each issue will now follow this route, on the way to subscribers’ doors:

A man driving a red, white and blue truck will pointedly ignore your issues for a minimum of five business days. Those that don’t end up behind industrial shelving will eventually be shoved into bins, loaded on the truck and dropped off at a multipurpose processing center, where mail goes for sorting and chickens go to be parted out for McNuggets. A woman named Cheryl may take one or more of your issues home to read.

If the processing center doesn’t burn down due to the historical neglect of routine maintenance, chicken-slime coated issues will be placed in a briefcase and hand-carried to randomly selected fields, where contractors selected for being the lowest bidders will send (via hot air balloon, I think) our carefully crafted prose in the general direction of our subscribers.

Schoolchildren across the nation will eventually find these issues, emblazoned with a notice of reward for swift return, spread across balloon wreckage sites. We will receive these returned issues via FedEx.

Finally, a representative of Pandemic Journal will call each subscriber with a delivery confirmation.

We hope that our six print subscribers will appreciate this enhanced service. In order to support this improved delivery initiative, we will raise the print subscription price by a modest amount – roughly 948% per annum. You’re welcome.

Pandemic Journal Presents Our Newest Feature: Knowledge Without Limits

Dear reader, as the publisher of Pandemic Journal, America’s leading record of social commentary, I keep an ear to the ground for rumblings of change in how my fellow citizens digest their news. I’ve watched with no small amount of interest the growing trend of news and information whose genesis is whimsical ideas, magical thinking or misinterpretation of third-grade science. My immediate instinct was to monetize this nonsense.

My god, I thought, it’s not enough to simply amplify the ravings of people whose idea of scholarly accomplishment is skimming Facebook Groups while sitting on the crapper. There’s a greater opportunity, and that is to manufacture knowledge.

That’s why I immediately fired my hotshot team of editors, tore down the walls of our office to create a bullpen, and populated it with an army of writers whose only credentials are cocksure confidence and an attraction to the mildly plausible. I have fueled these drones with black market hydroxychloroquine and am paying them by the eyeball to saturate American culture with knowledge about every subject under the sun.

There is almost no beat we don’t cover. Astrophysics and celebrity marriages are the province of writers 86-133 (in this brave new world of information, bylines no longer matter); 22-76 will tell you everything you want to know about NASCAR, cat food and venomous insects. The breadth of our coverage is almost as wide as the world itself. The only subject beyond our grasp is vaccinations, as Jenny McCarthy and Charlie Sheen have this covered and have explicitly warned us to back off. However, we share one thing in common: Editorial standards that require only that enough people believe us to pay the bills.

So get ready, America. We’re turning up the news to eleven!

Chincoteague Island, Pandemic Style

The family and I have been traveling to Chincoteague Island, on Virginia’s eastern shore, for several years. It takes us about seven hours to drive there but it’s convenient for Beth’s sister, who typically joins us. We picked it as our pandemic vacation retreat for a few reasons:

  1. Socially distanced beachgoing isn’t too difficult. The beaches – an island away on Assateague – don’t see the kind of crowds we get on the NC and SC coasts. Plus, because the beach at Assateague Island is a National Seashore, there aren’t any condos and houses crowding the waterfront.
  2. Fresh seafood is bountiful and good. There’s no reason to go out.
  3. It’s cheap. House rentals can be surprisingly affordable.
  4. The eastern shore has good places to explore.
Island Theater

A few highlights and lowlights from our week on Chincoteague Island. I’m going to rate each of the businesses mentioned from one star (lousy) to three (good job!) based on how well people were behaving themselves, distance and mask-wise.

It was hellishly hot. Too hot to go to the beach hot. Too hot to go running before dawn or after dusk hot. Yeah, that hot. Only one day did the temperature dip to the point where we were tempted to go back to the beach, following a brief trip early in the week after which we returned worn out and savaged by sand flies. We gave into temptation and had a great time – temps were in the low 80s and the ocean felt nice and cool. We swam and swam some more. It was glorious.

Swimming

Janes Island State Park is a jewel. It sits on the Tangier Bay side of Maryland and has one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve seen in a state park. Yeah, it’s seven hours away but I’ll drive seven hours to camp there, do some fishing, and go kayaking on the canals and bay.

Janes Island State Park

We explored a small park on the Atlantic side of the eastern shore, as well as Deal’s Island, which answers the question, Who’s ready to sell their house due to rising water? (Answer: Every other person, it seemed) Rising seas at Tangier Bay threaten local communities, including Tangier Island, and on Deal’s Island this was on full display.

Deals Island Deals Island

Eat & Drink on Chincoteague Island

I mentioned seafood, right? Gary Howard Seafood*** and Ricky’s** were our go-to places to get fresh seafood. We had tuna steaks, shrimp and scallops from the former, and a giant pile of local oysters from the latter. We tried to shop at SeaBest Seafood*** but the owner got wound up and shouty when I said the word “ceviche” while scoping out some fish. We got the hell out of there.

There’s a small market*** on Maddox Avenue (the main drag). I didn’t get the name, but if you look on Google Maps for the Banana Hammock you’ll find the location. Apparently, frozen bananas are less appealing than a great selection of seafood, meat, and produce. I bought some pork chops and the ingredients for killer gazpacho. We shopped there several times and the owners treated us right.

Chincoteague Island has a newish brewery and it’s good. Black Narrows*** brews some tasty beers. I’ll vouch for their Sit a Spell IPA and Salts tart oyster wheat (that’s right). They offer crowlers to go, as well as indoor and outdoor seating. I didn’t take advantage of this, but they deliver.

Beach vacations demand ice cream and Mr. Whippy*** is my place. Chocolate, vanilla or a swirl are the only choices and that’s the way it should be. The family likes Island Creamery*** and it’s good, too, if you prefer your ice cream fancy.

Amarin Coffee*** serves, you guessed it, coffee. The beans are from Vietnam and you can order a perfect Vietnamese coffee. The only thing bad about them is that they don’t have an outpost in Greensboro.

Lilly’s Little Mexico*** is in a food truck park on Maddox. If you are in a hurry you might want to go elsewhere. If you are patient and like good food, it’s a great option. And if you’re with someone who loves BBQ and COVID-19, you can send them across the way to Woody’s*, where the owner’s not a fan of masks. Plenty of people were waiting a half-hour plus to get their orders from Lilly’s, while I saw two customers at Woody’s.

SeaStar*** is a reliable take-out sandwich shop. I’ve eaten many sandwiches there and have never had a bad one.

I don’t know how we missed this place during previous trips, but Beach Road Roundup*** has a hell of a breakfast. They have great food, and funny and cheerful service.

There is an outdoor tiki bar* in Chincoteague. We checked it out. I won’t name it but it’s the only tiki bar on the island and trust me, you can skip it unless you like mediocre, watered-down drinks.

Scorecard

Books read: 1

Movies watched: 0

Heat index: 108

Delmarva fox squirrel sightings: 0

Times I went running: In that heat? Are you kidding?

The Statue of a Doberman in My Front Yard is About My Beloved Pet’s Legacy and Not His Repeated Mauling of My Neighbor’s Grandmother

There are two facts that protestors in this otherwise quiet neighborhood choose to overlook: Firstly, when our family purchased our three bedroom/2.5 bath ranch in Siesta Acres, there was nothing in the HOA covenants to prevent us from breeding a series of increasingly unhinged and dangerous Dobermans. Secondly, the warning signs (“Walk Slowly and Do Not Turn Your Back on Our Dogs”) that we stapled to front doors on our street were not in jest.

We issued reasonable warnings about the consequences of checking one’s mail, going for a walk or climbing into a car without looking around first, but here we are. Besieged by a savage mob who mistake our love for our now-deceased pet with the memorialization of its habit of stalking and taking down – eventually for good – our neighbor’s 88 year-old Nana.

Yes, there is no doubt that Frank, our beloved dog, was responsible for the demise of Martha. She was old and didn’t put up much of a fight which tells us her time was running short, and though we paid our debt to society we still maintain that Frank was just doing what came naturally and was to his core a very, very good boy.

That’s why we erected a bronze statue of Frank in our front yard. The artist depicted him in his final moments, a powerful paw against Martha’s throat and a police officer drawing his service revolver. It was, to all of us who mourn Frank, a solemn reminder of his tragic end. We hoped that its placement, facing Martha’s grandson’s front door, would be a symbol of our shared grief.

I’ll admit I probably got that wrong.

Each morning the greatgrandkids left the house, sobbing most terribly. Serious sideeye and a restraining order told the rest of the tale.

But Frank’s memory deserves to live on and we refuse to remove his monument. Not even when all our neighbors have shunned us, the HOA has issued a notice of violations, and the local constabulary has said, “You’re on your own with this one, buddy.”

But if we have to stand alone, alone we will stand. Frank is part of our heritage, and easily-triggered survivors don’t get to write history. Unless the HOA makes good on its threat to fine us, Frank’s monument isn’t going anywhere.