February 19, 2021 Edition

Last week, I bemoaned the fact that dreary middle February usually ruins me. This week, all I have to say is SNOW. My car is buried outside my front door, snow drifts and piles are running a cool (heh-heh) 7-10′ and my socks are constantly on this side of damp. June has yet to find a new “going” spot since grass has become a long-lost memory and my living room floor may have as much salt on it as the sidewalk outside. Winter hath come to Chicago and so with frozen fingers and a kind of permafrost of the soul setting in, I bring you the summary of week that, though snowed under, still had some moments of light and life.

best unexpected source of daily sanity: Daily White House Press Briefings with Press Secretary Jen Psaki

The White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, on her first day of third grade.

I mean, dear god, could we have anything more satisfying at the WH Press briefing podium than this woman? This picture really says everything about these press briefings that have become must-see, live-streamed, YouTube tv in my often gray week days. All I see here is an eagerness, wholesomeness, friendliness, and gosh-darn “I wanna do a good job for you,” that you want the main public communicator of the People’s House to have. As a teacher, this picture is of a student who not only will be but wants to be my favorite…and I’m here for it. I literally watch every single one from start to finish, mostly with an air of amazement at the following list of regular occurrences:

  • The Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, appears and sounds intelligent and knowledgeable about what government is, what her administration is and is not doing, why, and what the expected outcomes are and are not.
  • A standing promise to always tell the truth and/or to not lie (if you really want to get nit-picky and of course you do) to the press and the American public.
  • Sharing of a relatable (and at the very least recognizable) perspective based on her her own experience with regular acknowledgement of her roles as wife and mother and also as a person and woman of a certain privilege and power
  • Routine respect for the reporters questions, responding to them as colleagues, professionals, and intelligent people trying to do their jobs
  • A regular through-line of briefings including but not limited to: foreign policy, domestic policy, lawmaking, Congress, COVID-19, homeland security, immigration policy, and the economy and such
  • FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, SIGN-LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS TO MAKE THE BRIEFING MORE ACCESSIBLE (genius) and the promise of more of that to come
    • Last week, the Mayor of Miami addressed the press corps and (gasp) spoke in Spanish from the podium. I could almost see the ghost of Kellyanne Blondface recoiling in racist horror.

As I make this list, more bullet-points are coming to mind and it feels like the beginnings of overstating a point which is: it sounds like government is at least doing work again. Noticeably missing from these daily briefings are: acknowledgement of conspiracy theories as basis for potential policy, overt racism, hatred of the press, lies, a worldview shaped by corruption and other forces of evil, bleach blonde of any shade.

Regardless of political party, I hope many can agree that the Txxxx white house was a carnival of grossness, full of carnies that you hope are only at your Home Days for 24 hours or less. There’s a certain greasiness that settles in and clogs your pores. And they were stupid and lazy and expected that we all were too. I, personally, am glad that this main communication channel appears to be back online and that’s what I consider important; I want government officials to take their jobs seriously and from the looks of this briefing, I feel palpably relieved that I shouldn’t be driving over there to step in because the wheels aren’t just coming off but the driver of the car is un-screwing the lug nuts as we speak.

Also, Psaki’s jewel-toned and very stylish but not- too- expensive blouses are just the bright light of hope one needs at 1pm every gray weekday.

most satisfying nerd-fest of the week: The WH COVID-19 Task Force Virtual Briefings, featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci and Co.

There’s my guy. How do we get this man on a stamp?

This crew is a cool runner-up to Jen Psaki’s briefings. I watch these twice weekly as they happen and, oh my god, the amount of scientific brainpower and logistics is enough to make you simultaneously laugh and cry. But it’s the synchronicity and organization of messaging by the NIH, CDC, WH Task Force, etc, that soothes a weary COVID-ragged soul.

Don’t be fooled, these can be incredibly boring but I realized that is my own evaluative measure of how well they’re handling things. If you’re deep in the weeds talking about sub-numbered, co-named variants and rates of morbidity, y’all got this and I don’t need to worry about it.

Is it me or does Fauci look like he’s enjoying a Renaissance of sorts? He looks good…

most striking moment of my week that I’m still working through: Not to toot my own horn, but if you haven’t caught up on my story about Carmen and her groceries from yesterday, please have a look. I continue to be shaken by this. Something profound happened there.

best tech moment of my life thus far: Loyola’s IT Help Desk and Amir the Wonderboy

Last week I had a streak of mysteries hanging on that I was able to solve and it was so relieving. This week, in pursuing documents for my taxes (ugh), I ran up against a hurdle that has been plaguing me for SIX YEARS: I lost my password for my Loyola accounts, within which lies a W-2 that always takes 7 steps to get my hands on because of this password lacuna. Seems easily fixable but once a year since 2014, I’ve called to the IT help desk to solve this and am taken through a labyrinthine journey of half-interested undergrads and graduate supervisors of undergrads who all “have to talk with my, like, manager.” It’s been an inverted bureaucratic hellscape of Dante’s Inferno, apparently, that ends in a robot voice telling you you’ve dialed the wrong extension. That can be the only true answer.

This year, when the Groundhog Day-esque wheel of events started again, I expected nothing different. I dialed and after 7 rings a voice lightly tinted with an Indian lilt picked up and I just said, “I have a huge problem and I need your help.” Amir set out about solving not just two of the main issues but a third congruent issue that required a VPN, of all things, and now I’m pretty sure I can access the official records of the entire school and have an alumni email account. Who is this purveyor of competence and possibly black magic?!? 6-year-old problem: SOLVED. I’m gently weeping even as I type this. Loyola, you’ve restored my faith in you. Amir deserves some tech medal of the year.

greatest thing for which I offer no apologies: My Christmas tree is still up and proudly lit and I’m loving every second of it. I also applaud the neighbors two doors down who still have outside lights up. It makes no sense to me to TAKE DOWN AND STOW AWAY LIGHTS in the darkest part of the year. Somewhat akin to Mary Poppins, when the time change comes, they’ll go. For now, spit-spot, they’re here to stay.

best seasonal benchmark: Today June and I were out on our usual late afternoon walk that has been shrouded in darkness and chill for months when I realized it was 5:30pm and it was still fully light outside. Spring is coming or, at least, March 14 is coming.

And with that I bid you adieu. Looking back, for a dreary mid-February week we were full of random glory and for that I’m thankful. Lent is upon us now, should you need to add to your suffering and darkness, but the best part of that story is the promise of Easter and new life on the other side. I just scheduled something for April 22 so…eventually…we’ll get there. The real challenge is finding the joy in this minute now.

I’ve got a whiskey and ginger within sight range. This moment’s looking good.

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