Fresh Out of Constitutional Freedoms to Disregard, Trump Eyes Other Notable Lists

WASHINGTON, DC—On Sunday President Donald Trump signaled his desire to continue flouting the world’s lists, whether they be secular or sacred, hallowed or utterly trivial.

Installed in the White House for just over a week, the Trump administration has already managed to breach most of the Bill of Rights.

“With his executive order on immigration, the President finished laying waste to the First Amendment,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “That’s not to say it was easy.”

According to Spicer, President Trump had planned on simply lumping “a bunch of terroristy countries” into his 90-day ban. However, the White House legal team noted that more explicit religious discrimination might be required to, as Spicer put it, “take a truly hot dump on the Establishment Clause.”

“So we decided to add that part about Syrian Christian refugees being cool,” said Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor.

Steve Bannon, Senior Counselor to the President, had begun the White House’s assault on the First Amendment earlier in the week. On Wednesday Bannon told a New York Times reporter that “the media should keep its mouth shut,” presumably after the newspaper had printed his words alongside the one photo that didn’t make him look like every town’s Peeping Tom.

[Not this photo, obviously]

“Tell you what,” said Bannon, who was appointed to the National Security Council on Saturday. “Compared to the First, the Eighth Amendment was a snap.”

“As a candidate, Trump was already on the record supporting torture,” Bannon explained. “He just needed to casually espouse the government’s use of cruel and unusual punishment while in office.”

Bannon was referring to Trump’s joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, when he offered this word salad-cum-policy announcement: “I happen to feel that [torture] does work, I’ve been open about that for a long period of time, but I am going with our leaders and we are going to win with or without.”

According to Kushner, after signing the immigration order, President Trump found himself casting about for additional freedoms to trample.

“Dad got a little carried away,” Kushner said. “He was asking, ‘What’s #2 about again?’ At that point, Wayne popped in from his executive lounge in the Roosevelt Room.” Kushner seemed to be referring to Wayne LaPierre, President of the National Rifle Association.

Bannon elaborated: “Ol’ Wayne shouldered the Remington he was cleaning.”

“Scared the piss out of Pops for a second,” Kushner said. “But we all had a good laugh about it when he realized his mistake.”

It was at this point that Bannon suggested other noteworthy legal frameworks. “Nobody’s really paid attention to the Code of Hammurabi for millennia,” he said. “Seemed like low hanging fruit.”

“It’s not our style to go soft on the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing,” Spicer said.

So, according to Bannon, President Trump instead opted to violate Hammurabi’s 127th Law, which governs the treatment of faithless wives. Both Bannon and Kushner declined to elaborate.

[Had the Babylonians been serious, they would have carved it into 24K gold]

“The Ten Commandments were next,” Kushner said. “But Dad got bored after ticking off the one about graven images.”

“Naturally, a nude bust of Vladimir,” said Spicer, rolling his eyes.

“If I recall, it was Ivanka who thought of the Buzzfeed lists,” Kushner said.

“Stroke of genius—the president hates those guys,” Bannon said, alluding to the website’s publication of unverified reports describing lewd acts in Russian hotels.

“We just started scrolling through odd-numbered lists,” Kushner said. “You probably saw Dad’s tweet repudiating ‘17 Photos That Prove Cats Are Just Adorable Assholes.’”

Spicer shook his head. “They’re even more misleading than the Park Service’s shots of the Inauguration.”

[Perhaps thinking the right to assemble had already been revoked]

Bannon described a break the group took to receive a phone call from Kim Jong-Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. “He wanted to congratulate President Trump on his progress,” said Bannon, adding that Chairman Kim jokingly described the rapid dismantling of American freedoms as “beginner’s luck.”

“He was particularly impressed by the detention of immigrants with valid Green Cards at U.S. airports,” said Bannon. “Apparently, it took Kim more than a month to suspend habeas corpus.”

Kim ended the call by exhorting President Trump to “pace himself.”

“Between the swift erosion of a great democracy and Dad’s even more outrageous hairdo, it’s understandable that Kim’s jealous,” said Kushner. “There’s a new guy in town.”

[President Trump exhibiting his complete indifference to America’s founding list]

Innovative Addiction Treatment Program Promises to Aid Local Artists

GLOUCESTER—Starting in July, concerned Gloucester residents will try out a new program for managing a pervasive and seemingly intractable social ill.

“This addiction is tragic—and it’s a blight on our city,” said Dorothy Pendleton, president of the Rocky Neck Art Colony, one of several local groups supporting the experimental initiative. “But rather than stigmatizing the victims, we’ll give them the help they need.”

Pendleton delivered her remarks on Tuesday at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, where artists and other representatives from Gloucester’s creative class had gathered to announce their plan.

“I know all too well how easy it is to slide into a fixation on nautical themes and marine imagery in one’s art,” she told the audience, which responded with a chorus of amens.

“It starts with a lighthouse, a lobster trap, or a gaily colored dinghy bobbing in the harbor,” she said, her voice rising to a fever pitch. “And you think, Just this once. Just to score some easy cash.”

ColorfulDinghy[The grim consequences of addiction]

Pendleton trained as a sculptor at Montserrat College of Art, graduating with her BFA in 1977. For years she occupied a studio on Rocky Neck, where she produced sleek, minimalist works in aluminum and epoxy.

But when the market for such conceptual sculpture collapsed in the mid-1980s, things went downhill.

She explained: “On a lark, I used some leftover resin to fashion a stylized anchor. It was hideous—and just so cliché. But I hung it in the window, and a buyer walked in the same afternoon.”

“That was my gateway to homogenous beach art,” Pendleton said, shaking her head at the memory. “Within six months, I had sold off my old materials and begun to churn out whimsical mobiles from driftwood and sea glass.”

DriftwoodMobile[Rock bottom]

According to Daniel Sizemore, a painter and board member of Cape Ann Artisans, stories like hers are common, especially in Gloucester.

“Our city has a long and sordid history as a hotbed of maritime art,” he said, pointing at a framed print of two schooners skimming over a choppy green sea.

“Fitz Henry Lane was the original kingpin,” Sizemore said, his eyes narrowing. “With his rakish frock coat and luminous sunsets.”

Pendleton elaborated: “Lane and his minions established a culture of nautical addiction in this town. So it’s difficult to escape the motifs—coiled rope, billowing sails, mirror-calm coves lit by low-slung crescent moons—that have dominated the vocabulary of the Gloucester artist for almost two hundred years.”

FitzHenryLane[Lane, plotting the consolidation of his artistic cartel]

Others place the blame on the steady stream of money coming across the Piatt Bridge.

“We wouldn’t see this habit-forming behavior if it weren’t so lucrative,” said Dexter Gee, a member of the Gloucester Arts Guild and a recovering photographer of the relentlessly pounding surf.

He explained: “Tourists from New York and Boston generate the demand. They come to Gloucester, waving their platinum cards, clamoring for low contrast images of breakers rolling onto Bass Rocks.

“And if the Twin Lights loom in the background, they’ll pay double or triple,” Gee continued, his shutter finger twitching restlessly. “For a photographer who’s barely getting by, it can be hard to resist.”

According to Pendleton, the cumulative effects on a community can be devastating. “Rocky Neck Avenue is starting to look like the hallway of a Motel 8 in Ocean City,” she said.

Sizemore admitted that for years he and other artist-vigilantes had tried to shame the creators of maritime kitsch into reforming their ways. “We’d drive to their known hangouts—the Back Shore, Eastern Point—and heckle them as they captured the sunlight staining the clouds crimson.”

But it never worked—and now, rather than shunning the nautically obsessed, Pendleton and her partners are extending a sympathetic hand.

“We are inviting all affected artists to come down to the Cultural Center here on Wonson Street,” she said. “And with no judgment whatsoever, we’ll begin the rehabilitation process together.”

That process entails the safe disposal of finished beach art, as well as any associated paraphernalia. Pendleton listed some possibilities: “Watercolor sets, moveable easels, and floppy straw hats for those tawdry plein air sessions.”

PleinAirArtist[Image obscured to protect privacy]

Gee elaborated: “The Cultural Center will also pair you with a patron from the community who has agreed to purchase your first piece of clean, cliché-free work.”

“It could be almost anything,” he said. “An abstract canvas. A photo of a squalid gutter. Heck, even a naturalistic portrait.”

“Except no hoary sea captains,” Pendleton interjected.

Gee confirmed that their program is based on other local initiatives, which have used a compassionate approach to successfully address more significant addictions.

“If it can work for black tar heroin,” he said, “then there’s a chance it might work for pastel-tinted nautilus shells.”

Most exciting of all, according to Pendleton, is the potential for growth beyond Gloucester.  Artists’ collectives throughout the region have expressed interest in the plan’s radical, outside-the-box methodology.

“We’re getting calls from lots of seaside towns struggling with the same issue,” Pendleton said. “Apparently, the compass rose is absolutely rampant on Cape Cod.”

Gee described just one disappointment with the plan’s design and execution thus far. “We approached the Rockport Art Association as a potential partner,” he said. “But they insisted their town doesn’t have a problem. In their minds, the addiction is ‘only a Gloucester thing.’”

Imacon Color Scanner[Green and purple regions untarnished in any way]

Beauport Hotel Opens Doors to Birdseye, Frozen Food Pioneer

15gloucester(2)-14A

[The Beauport Hotel, open for business]

GLOUCESTER— On Saturday evening, visitors to Gloucester’s brand new Beauport Hotel found themselves gawking at more than just glorious views of the city’s outer harbor.

Propped up on a chic striped chair in the hotel’s lobby was none other than Clarence F. Birdseye, the 70-year-old founder of General Seafood Corporation.

Originally occupying the hotel’s 2-acre footprint on Pavilion Beach, the General Seafood factory processed locally-caught fish using a flash-freezing technique pioneered by Birdseye himself. The factory iced its final fillets in 2003 but stood neglected—a monument to Gloucester’s declining fishing industry—until August 2014, when a wrecking ball made way for the Beauport.

gloucester-1

[Birdseye’s old stomping grounds, Pavilion Beach]

Allison Hartwell, a hotel guest from Peoria, Illinois, spotted Birdseye as she and her husband passed through the lobby on their way to the elevator.

“At first I thought he was just another stinking rich old guy,” she said. “You know, sneaking a nap after a long day on the water.”

“Rich and stinking, turns out,” said her husband, Ron.

Birdseye, whose company was eventually sold for $22 million to Post Cereals, suffered a heart attack and died in October 1956.

Clarence Birdseye

[Clarence Birdseye, prior to fatal heart attack]

Per instructions in his will, Birdseye’s remains were sent to the Gloucester factory, where he was treated to the same flash-freezing that had preserved so many a cod.

Birdseye’s technique, designed to cause less damage to frozen tissue than slow-freezing methods, was eventually applied to fruits and vegetables as well, revolutionizing the business of convenience food.

“I’m in auto sales,” said Ron Hartwell. “So I don’t know much about tissue damage at the cellular level. But this guy looked a little worse for wear.”

Birdseye’s defrosted remains had been dressed in smart linen trousers and a ‘Viva!’ tee-shirt from the Beauport’s gift shop. Yet, according to Allison Hartwell and other guests, these efforts were insufficient.

“His color was off,” she said. “It screamed ‘meat locker,’ rather than a sun-kissed Gloucester afternoon.”

“Plus, there was the puddle at his feet,” her husband added. Called “leakage” in food industry parlance, this liquid can be indicative of improper storage.

“I’m not sure if the hotel was going for a kitschy Weekend at Bernie’s vibe or what,” said Hartwell. “But to me the guy was creepy.”

11eb8babec9938640be1dc8640eb0a86

[Same deal, minus the mob subplot]

Asked to comment on their half-thawed guest of honor, hotel general manager David Conti explained: “Look, the idea was part of our commitment to honor Gloucester’s traditions.”

“We already wanted to display old-timey photos of Mr. Birdseye and the factory, plus a microscope he owned,” Conti said. “So when we discovered his cadaver had been sold along with the property, it seemed like a logical extension.”

The hotel’s other nods to local history include the name of its restaurant, 1606, the year Samuel de Champlain sailed into the harbor and named the area “Le Beau Port.”

Still, Conti admitted that the staging of Birdseye’s corpse had not been well received. “Good idea,” he said. “But poor execution.”

“If it had been up to me,” Conti continued, “we’d have dressed him in period attire—say, the double-breasted suit and Trilby cap of Birdseye’s heyday.”

Speaking under condition of anonymity, another Beauport employee elaborated on the hotel’s motivations: “Let’s just say the investors have been pretty desperate to get locals onboard.”

The anonymous source seemed to be referring to the contentious debate surrounding the sale and development of the waterfront parcel in Gloucester’s Fort Square neighborhood. In 2013, many residents fiercely protested the City Council’s decision to approve the hotel.

Despite the boost to the local economy, including nearly 200 full and part-time jobs, objections persist.

“Trampling on our history is what it is,” said Leo Palmieri, who owns a home adjacent to the hotel and obtained his first job at the General Seafood factory in 1951. “I remember Mr. Birdseye,” Palmieri continued. “Hard as nails and bald as a badger’s ass.”

Having learned that Birdseye was on-site, the former employee stopped by the Beauport lobby on Saturday evening. “Looked like he needed a drink,” Palmieri said.

Palmieri explained that he’d tried to shuffle Birdseye up to the hotel’s rooftop bar, named Bird’s Eye Lounge in honor of the frozen food tycoon.

“We were turned away,” Palmieri said. “Overnight guests only.”

Conti, the Beauport’s manager, admitted that the hotel had enforced the policy, notwithstanding Birdseye’s status as the bar’s namesake. “Really, it was more of a health code thing,” he said.

Reflecting on the tensions between Gloucester’s past, present, and future, Palmieri offered this final assessment: “Mark my words. The fishing industry will be back and better than ever.”  He raised his eyes to the outer harbor, empty aside from the merry bobbing of a few pleasure boats.  “Just like ol’ Birdseye.”

beauportroof

[Serving Corpse Revivers, but not to actual corpses]

Skadi, Norse God of Winter, Gets “Do-over”

ASGARD—After lengthy negotiations over the weekend, Skadi – divine ruler of Earth’s frozen reaches – has been granted another chance at summoning snow and ice to produce, per Odin’s decree, “something better than this half-assed winter.”

Loki, Wizard of Lies and the chief god’s diplomatic envoy, confirmed the arrangement on Tuesday. “Nobody was happy with Skadi’s initial efforts,” Loki said. “Least of all Odin.”

Across much of the Northern Hemisphere, the months of December to March were characterized by warmer than average temperatures, as well as a lack of snowfall.

“On March 8, it was 77 degrees in Boston,” Loki said. “Don’t get me wrong: like all randy Norse deities, I savor my first glimpse of pink chambray draped over winter-pale human thighs. But early March? What the actual fuck?”

According to another source within his retinue, Odin was particularly miffed at media coverage chalking up the warm temperatures to anthropogenic climate change.

The anonymous demigod explained: “If he’d seen one more Mother Jones think-piece attributing the heat to something as silly as carbon emissions, rather than the whims of omnipotent gods in iron helmets, Odin would have flipped out.”

The impact of the weekend’s deal was immediately evident, with New England experiencing a series of freak April snowfalls, followed by a plunge in temperatures.

“Finally, Skadi’s got his head in the game,” Loki said.

10751442_06385ad711_z[Skadi, bringing the motherfucking pain to this daffodil]

Loki may have been referring to the rumors swirling around Skadi’s whereabouts during the key months of January and February.

“Legend holds that the guy dwells within eternally frozen mountaintops,” the anonymous source said. “So what’s with the monkey business in South Beach?”

Until recently, numerous Miami residents reported seeing a beefy, bearded slab of raw Teutonic force lounging on area beaches. “He looked to be about 8-foot 4,” said one woman. “But I was blinded by his divine aura and the flash of his ice axe in the noon sun.”

“It’s hard to say if it was actually Skadi,” the woman continued. “Or just Viggo Mortensen.”

Another resident says she heard the fellow’s sonorous voice. “Ya, he talked to me and every other girl in a bikini,” she said, “offering free rides on his ‘trusty long-haired yak.’”

Freya, Goddess of Beauty and Fertility, mused on the rumors. “Skadi was always a bit of a cad,” she said. “But it’s hard to consummate your desires when you’re languishing in obscurity among the glaciated wastes.”

ullr[Skadi, like ‘What now?’]

According to Idun, Goddess of Spring and Eternal Youth, things changed a year ago, during the winter of 2015. “With the record snowfall and his ruthless exercise of the polar vortex, Skadi got a lot of press,” she said.

Freya elaborated: “He started to hang with Thor and the other A-listers, who let him tag along on their odysseys of seduction in the human realm.” She absently scratched behind the ears of her boar, Hildisvíni. “I guess it all went to his head.”

In compliance with his pact with Odin, Skadi could not be reached for comment.

Odin pointed his spear northward and noted: “That guy better be standing tits deep in an icy crevasse, unleashing Arctic fury on some hapless populace.”

On Tuesday, there was still some dispute over the details of the new seasonal arrangement. In particular, it was unclear whether Skadi’s do-over would reverse the forward march of time, allowing other beings – divine or otherwise – an opportunity to correct their own royal fuck-ups.

“We’ve fielded a bunch of inquiries about this,” Loki said. “Mostly faithless husbands, hard-luck gamblers, that sort of thing.”

“But also one hoarse, out-of-breath call from the office of Governor Chris Christie.”

chris-christie-donald-trump

Cold: Why I Won’t Be Celebrating Spring Just Yet

sneeze-04Daylight savings may have docked an hour from their sleep, but the Gloucesterites who thronged Stacy Boulevard on Sunday were in fine spirits. Cousins hugged; neighbors shook hands; even perfect strangers leaned in close to chirpily observe, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” It was as though the entire city had survived a harrowing plane flight together—one where oxygen masks deploy and grown men whimper—and now, dazed and giddy, the passengers were congratulating one another on their luck.

In this case, the danger averted was meteorological, rather than aeronautical. Notwithstanding a blustery weekend or two, Gloucester has landed safely in mid-March with a fraction of its average snowfall—and its first 70-degree day already in the books. But the city’s collective sigh of relief assumes that snow and ice are the worst, most treacherous features of winter.

As a germophobe of the highest order, I know better. And, frankly, I found the scene on the Boulevard appalling. Was I the only one who spent the morning over coffee, a Danish, and the CDC’s weekly influenza map? Did no else realize skin-to-skin contact is the surest transmission route for the human coronavirus? In my mind, the city’s touchy-feely celebrations were not only premature, but also likely to prolong our misery.

usmap09[My web browser’s home page]

Because what the winter of 2016 lacked in ice, it has made up for in communicable disease. My next-door neighbor—a man generally too busy being handsome and talented to get sick—was recently stricken with pneumonia. His skin now hangs pale and slack over prominent cheekbones, and he hasn’t the energy to continue carving that marble bust of his daughter for her sixth birthday. On Friday another local friend woke up, yawned painfully, and discovered that his entire household had contracted strep throat. Since then, he has also learned:

  1. Harvard Pilgrim does not offer a ‘fourth one’s free’ deal on prescriptions of amoxicillin.
  2. Rather than keeping up with precise dosing schedules, it’s simpler just to distribute pills around the house in glass candy dishes.

As a schoolteacher, I’m on the front lines of every cold and flu season. Lacking immunity and the faintest regard for hygiene, children are the hardest-hit among us. This winter, I’ve found myself discussing poetry with half-empty classrooms. I exhausted my annual allotment of Kleenex boxes in February. And although I haven’t kept precise epidemiological records, I’ve noticed a surge in the volume of mucus left behind on my desktops, stranded and quivering like beached jellyfish. This is bad news for the rest of us, the caregivers and parents, who must herd damp tissues and administer rectal thermometers.

cimg0220-1[Worse for desks than your standard penis doodle]

I haven’t always been so fearful of viruses and bacteria. As a toddler, I lolled in every available sandbox, snacking on whatever bits and bobs I could grasp between my thumb and forefinger. As a teen, I rarely turned down a sip from a communal Budweiser. But things changed in February of 2002, during my junior year at Dartmouth College, when an epidemic of bacterial conjunctivitis swept campus. This wasn’t your garden variety pink eye. Victims of this particular strain discovered their condition as soon as they awakened, terrifyingly conscious but unable to open their eyes without the aid of a flat-head screwdriver. For the next three to five days, they shambled around campus in rarely-worn eyeglasses, their scarlet eyelids issuing a fluid as viscous and yellow as pine sap. Classmates recoiled, and friends treated them with the same compassion they might offer a smallpox blanket. As painful as the inflammation was, we students generally agreed that—aesthetically—it was better to suffer a bilateral case. Those with a single afflicted eye took on the lurid, asymmetric appearance of certain Picasso portraits.

06379b2ed6130eb556b92acfdd2dd992[Nothing a little bacitracin can’t handle]

After a few weeks, the outbreak got so bad that it drew the attention of the national media and the Centers for Disease Control, whose agents descended upon tiny Hanover to swab our eyelids with Q-tips. Long lines formed at the doors of cafeterias, where stern women in lab coats demonstrated proper hand-washing technique. Desperate, we complied, which meant preparing to handle a peanut butter sandwich as though it were the still-beating heart of a transplant patient. Yet their efforts accomplished little. The pink eye abated only when spring break intervened and we all left campus.

The following winter, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated the total number of cases in Dartmouth’s Great Pink Eye Epidemic: over 1000, on a campus with a population smaller than Rockport’s. Of this 1000, I personally accounted for no fewer than five, with each bout flaring up a few days apart. After my third case, I refused to leave my dorm room except for three obligations: attending class, going to work, and restocking my mini-fridge with Magic Hat. “Most likely,” my doctor told me over the phone, “you’re re-infecting yourself.” I pondered this, imagining how I must have absently rubbed an eye with some contaminated item. For a moment, I considered wearing an upside-down lampshade, like a sad, post-surgical terrier. After the fifth case, I was prepared to light a torch and treat all my worldly possessions to the full Velveteen Rabbit.

velveteen[You’re dead to me.]

Since then, my germophobia has settled into a way of life. It rarely keeps me from doing things and going places, but I do confess to taking elaborate precautions and maintaining a vigilance that would make Louis Pasteur proud. Most of all, I continue to make a point of washing up before handling anything I’ll eat raw. If I so much as open the refrigerator after peeling an orange, I’ll scrub my hands once again. Because I do a great deal of eating, my hands remain forever chapped and red, as though they’re ladles I use to serve boiling pots of chili.

Shopping for food is sometimes a vexing experience. If I’m in the produce department and I overhear a teenaged employee sneeze, I’ll promptly decamp for another store. I’m unable to take the risk that, at some point during her shift, a tissue was out of reach—and she improvised with the broad leaf of my Swiss chard. Not long ago, I had a remarkable experience at a grocery store that will remain nameless. Ready to check out, I had unloaded my basket onto the conveyor belt and stood in line, pretending to ignore the headlines on the cover of Us Weekly. The cashier was a young fellow whose beefy thumb pierced the cellophane covering the final item in the order ahead of mine: a value pack of Perdue boneless chicken breasts. When the cashier lifted and tilted the Styrofoam, it left behind a glistening slug’s trail. Briefly, the boy and I made eye contact. He looked down at his fingertips, from which dangled strands of chicken slime, like bunting at a party whose guest of honor is diarrhea. The cashier looked back up at me. Then, to no one in particular, he called out: “Can I get a squirt of Purell?” I stood there, paralyzed, calculating the monetary value of my groceries and the likelihood they’d have to be discarded. At length, the boy shrugged and merely wiped his hands on the shirt stretched taut across his belly. Then he asked: “How are you today, sir?”

Often, I marvel at others’ apparent appetite for germs. Recently, I was standing in line at my favorite fishmonger, and I noticed a shallow bowl of those pastel ‘conversation hearts’ on the counter. It was well after Valentine’s Day, long enough for the candy to have accumulated the uric tang of ripe haddock, not to mention an array of microbes. Yet here was a well-dressed woman rooting through them with manicured fingers. “Be Mine?” Nope. “Kiss Me?” Nuh-uh. “True Love.” Pass. “Hep A?” Yes, please! If she lived, I assumed her next meal would be a burrito at an area Chipotle, where, while she waited, she’d lick the length of the stainless steel prep surface.

[Again? Guess I’ll have to stop by my local cruise ship.]

It’s easy for me to spot my fellow germophobes, and I’m always on the look-out for new techniques. For instance, there is the fit older woman at the MAC, who drapes a plastic bag over the spot where her delicate neck meets the squat bar. And it’s never been a mystery to me why paper towels often collect in a mound beside the doors of public restrooms. These are hiking cairns for germophobes. We grasp the handle, drop the towel, and mark our passage—finding validation in the knowledge that others have deemed the space just as squalid as we have.

Whether it’s my habits or my schoolteacher’s superhuman immune system, I don’t get sick much anymore. But when I do, the viruses—spurned and thwarted for so long—really make themselves at home. It’s like the video footage of ordinary Libyans who, after decades of tyranny, streamed into the travertine palaces of Muammar Gaddafi, overturning vases and relieving themselves on his Oriental rugs. In fact, I’m just getting over my first cold in ages, which for ten days rendered me a feverish, hacking mess. I was at my lowest on the day of the Massachusetts primary, but I managed to crawl out of bed and hobble to my polling station just up the block. On my way out, I spotted a small group holding signs for Donald Trump. And so I performed my second civic duty of the day: stopping by for introductions and long, moist handshakes.

But when it comes to exposing others to my germs, I normally try to follow the Golden Rule. So while I’ve ended my self-imposed quarantine from my wife, it’ll take some time to go over every inch of our apartment with a sponge and a 2% bleach solution. Perhaps when I’m done, the weekly flu statistics will have declined—and I’ll be ready to join the end-of-winter celebrations. I’ll be the one smiling and waving my chapped hands, all from a safe, sanitary distance.