It's very late, or very early, depending on your point of view, in the far far West.  The streets are quiet and there are some frogs or toads or some other amphibians gurgling a few feet outside my window.  In the distance I hear motorcyclists chasing each other on what must be our deserted COVID-quieted freeway. The sound carries well in the night, and I know it's a rush for the riders as long as they don't take too high a line into a big curve and drift into the concrete median. I've actually  heard that happen a couple of times, on other nights, where the high pitched whine suddenly stops and I read about why in the next day's paper. Tonight, though, the noise doesn't stop and I'm grateful for the sound of youthful energy reaching my ears. 

One night, when I was in college in eastern Washington state (past reality), I took a friend's Honda 650 for a ride. Not the biggest bike, but still dangerous if not handled properly.  It was late and there was a mid-March chill, but the roads were deserted and bare.  I was throttling up and down, enjoying the speed, the ripping wind, the dark solitude.

The only sign of the past winter, aside from the biting air, was the gravel the snow plows had dumped on the roads to improve traction in snow and ice.  Traffic had pushed most of the gravel to the sides of the road, but there was also a strip of gravel a few inches wide that had collected on the centerline.

I ended up riding on this long straightaway wrapping the revs higher and higher, my speed well beyond the road's limit.  I got to a spot where the road rose to go above some train tracks and as it rose the road curved to the right. I kept my speed up but then I felt the bike slowly start drifting beneath me, sliding to the left, toward the centerline and all that loose gravel.  I gently backed off the throttle but it was too late and the bike kept drifting left.  And then I was in the gravel and the rear tire started to fishtail and I had to decide whether to hit the brake or lay the bike down or let the thing continue to drift into the oncoming lane in the middle of a blind curve. But luck shined on me, or God's grace, or maybe it was simple physics and logic.  I guessed correctly that if I didn't try to stop the bike's drifting I would make it through the gravel and eventually be on dry, clear pavement, even if I ended up heading in the opposite lane.  And logic prevailed as well: it was in the middle of the night and there were no headlights coming toward me. If I could just gently slow the bike down and if no one was coming at me with their lights off, I was going to be okay. And that was what I was able to do. I got through the gravel and slowed the bike down.  No one was coming toward me.  My heart  pounded and my adrenaline might have been in overdrive, but I was safe.  I rode back to campus under the speed limit the whole way and had the strangest sensation of being very, very small and enclosed, as if wrapped up in a cocoon. That feeling lasted until the next day, and I didn't ride again until ten years later.

COVID has made me reflect on stuff I haven't thought about in decades. It has made me fearful and reminded me of other times I've felt this way.  But those other times lasted seconds or minutes and I didn't ruminate on them.  This situation often feels like dread is perched on my shoulder.  I eat dinner with my wife and boys and much of the talk is normal. Teasing banter among the brothers. Questions about classes or the latest version of Call of Duty. Arguments over the All Decade NFL Team. But there's a stack of masks and a box of surgical gloves by the back door.  There's a grocery shopping trip that feels like a battle plan. There's Clorox wipes everywhere.

And then one of the boys asks a sincere but kinda dumb question like is Barcelona in Europe, or how big is a moose, or another one mentions how surprised he was at how intense the teammates are at his east coast school.  "No one's chill, Dad," he says.  And these moments make me almost indescribably happy. I never want them to end.  They are creating memory, something that will be nostalgia in the not-to-distant future, something that I will look back on and enjoy with a bittersweet pang of love and hope and a little loss because I know these times won't last forever but if I can just think about it hard and long enough maybe time will stop and we'll all be safe and we'll all hear a mitt catch a ball,  and see teams warming up in the distance, their sharp white uniforms glowing in the springtime sun.

Here's a story by Raymond Carver that's worth a read, if you have the time and inclination. It's about a reality we've all faced in one way or another, and it gives  me hope. I promise: it's not a sestina or a villanelle or a limerick.  It's just a story.


Was she very beautiful?  She was Queen of the Netherlands....  Buckaroo Banzai


Last edited by smokeminside
Original Post

Great news! The IHME model reduced it’s death estimate 25% to 60k this morning. 

By date:

Apr 1 - 93k

Apr 5 - 81k

Apr 6 - 60k

Go44dad posted:

Great news! The IHME model reduced it’s death estimate 25% to 60k this morning. 

By date:

Apr 1 - 93k

Apr 5 - 81k

Apr 6 - 60k

 They started at 200K+

Last edited by RJM

Please, I'm begging, no more reality.  I want to go back to blissful ignorance, watching my kid and his teammates play games.  It's was my place where nothing else mattered, most of all reality.

BTW - I've ridden a motorcycle most of my life, dirt as a kid, street as an adult.  We've all had that close call.


With both of you.  When I was young and stupid versus just stupid, I did some crazy stuff on a bike.  Rode a crotch rocket at 187 mph on a public road.  Went back down it later and realized how many potholes and rocks there were that I didn't hit.  Rode a drag bike a couple of times down the strip at 200+.  The guy who was looking for a driver because he had wrecked it and was broken all up.said I did great.  I said that's great but not gonna do it again.  I'm stupid but not that stupid.  It is out of our past that we understand our future.  Because we have made it through the tough times of the past that we can understand we will make it through this and more.  If not, then for some of us our time finally caught up with us.  I have used up 20 or more of my 9 lives.  I've done some stupid things in my past that God let me live through.  So when He does take me it will be after many acts of grace on His part.

thanks for the story


Great storytelling, Smoke! 

Like 9and7 says, we've all had that close call.

Here's one that happened very recently in Central Park. It was a glorious but crowded Sunday on pretty much the last carefree day before the shit started getting real here. My wife and I were out for a long walk and, tired but not wanting it to end, we stopped to rest on a bench adjacent to Turtle Pond. For those of you who have spent time in NYC that's the small lake by the Delecourt Theater and Great Lawn.

There's a pretty good incline in the path from there leading up to Cedar Hill. Looking in that direction, we saw a family of four - a tall handsome couple in their early 30's and two beautiful little girls, both on scooters. One girl was about 4, and she stuck close to mom and dad. The other girl was probably 6, and she was testing her limits. As her scooter began to accelerate down the hill toward us, she got further and further away from her parents, who were yelling for her to slow down. Then they started to run. The girl looked determined, even defiant at first, but you could see fear bloom on her face as her scooter began to oscillate back and forth. You could almost see her making the calculation, like you, Smoke, of whether she should jump off or keep trying to maintain control. Having seen one of my own boys in the same situation, it was clear to me that she had lost the struggle and was one more oscillation away from wiping out. I thought it was going to be pretty ugly. At the least, a lot of scrapes and bruises, and quite possibly much worse. 

But before that happened, another young woman walking the other way swooped into the girl's path to whisk her off the scooter. It was a quick, athletic move like one trapeze artist catching another high in the air. Her boy friend grabbed the scooter before it could careen into anyone.

The girl started wailing, probably from a combination of shock, relief, pain and embarrassment. The next thing I expected to witness was her parents profusely thinking their daughter's savior, but nope, they did not, not one bit. As he picked up the crying girl, the dad said something like "That wasn't necessary.  She was going to be fine."  Mom gave the woman a withering look, the family moved quickly away, and that was the end of it.

My wife and I caught up with the other couple as we headed toward 5th Ave. We struck up a conversation and told the woman that we had witnessed the rescue, and that we had absolutely no doubt that she had done the right thing, and the parents should be thankful they were not headed to an urgent care clinic right now. This was not the same as the thanks she deserved, but the couple seemed to appreciate having impartial witnesses confirm that the girl had been saved  from a whole lot of hurt.

Am I wrong to think that’s an NYC moment?

 I love the place but I’ve seen some stuff there that I’ve never seen anywhere else. We were in town for a Yankee game and we had to catch a subway from mid town to the Stadium. Our timing was bad (typical tourist mistake) and we tried to get on the subway around rush hour. The car was packed so we decided to wait but this guy in front of us went up to the still open doors and started screaming for everyone to move in. He was right in the face of this very pregnant woman and she started yelling right back at him. This is happening with the usual clackety clack and horrific metal on metal scraping of other subway cars going by plus all the other sensory overload that NYC subways bless you with. These two are still going at it when this very urbane-looking gentleman next to the woman looks down at the screaming guy on the platform, casually waves his hand toward the people already in the car, and calmly asks, “Where, sir, would you have us go?”  

I thought he was gonna ask the guy on the platform if he had any Grey Poupon. 

Well, since Smoke brought up the good Doctor, everybody who loves motorbikes and Gonzo journalism needs to read this:


[Originally published in CycleWorld Magazine, 1995]

Photograph: Hunter S. Thompson, with “the” Ducati

Graphic: Ralph Steadman


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Great stories, thanks.  Somebody jinxed me.  Yesterday was beautiful in Virginia after an early morning rain.  Decided to go for a short ride to help clear my head.  When returning home, a UPS driver stepped out in the street, without looking either way.  We would have collided fifty feet ahead if I had not locked em up + gotten a little sideways.  He just stepped behind me, as I was stopped in the middle of the road breathing heavy, and went on his way like nothing had just happened (or it was an everyday occurrence for him, no big deal).

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