There I was with my wife, Marguerite, at an upscale Arden nursery. She and an informed staffer are discussing the poor tomato crop this summer and the absence of monarchs this past spring. Mizz Staffer has all three varieties of lettuce Marguerite desires: freckles, buttercrunch and allstar. They talk of fungi and how to save flora from natural invasives: Spray leaves, insert chemo plugs when sap is rising, drench roots in chemo soaks. Systemic solutions.
Thinking systemically myself, I mention the extinctionlike event, starting near Albany, N.Y., in 2007 and now throughout the Northeast, Ohio and Virginia, that wiped out bats (a fungal condition, “white-nose syndrome”). I recommend Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction to Mizz Staffer.
“We have a closing window to address global warming,” I said. “Maybe 15-25 years. In 50 years, adios most coastal cities.”
“Things have to be solved locally,” she said.
“You cannot solve a pandemic locally. Fifty states going in multiple directions has been a disaster.”
“Well, I don’t want socialism. AOC and that stuff, I’m opposed.”
“We already have socialism. When your house is on fire, what do you do?”
“Call the fire department.”
“Yes, and that is socialism.”
“I’m curious,” I say. “What is the difference between socialism and communism?”
“Not much,” she said.
A retired public education administrator, I patiently become the teacher again, explaining the differences between socialism (see Social Security checks, for example) and communism (see no Social Security checks, for example).
“Well, Biden wants to raise taxes.”
“That’s a good thing. It’s going to cost gazillions to retool the economy, rebuild infrastructure and control COVID-19. That’s just the icing on the cake. The cake is global warming.”
“Well, Biden wants to defund the police.”
It occurs to me that conversations with others are increasingly like the internet. Always something else popping up, like flipping from climatastrophe to law and order.
I defend Biden. “Defund” is Republican rhetoric, say I. A few KKK-types hide behind badges just like pedophiles hide behind rosary beads. And taxes are not what’s important; net income is, how much you have when the smoke clears at the end of the year (not applicable in California). I try to explain how taxes and net income can increase simultaneously.
“Ever hear of the Norwegian trust fund?”
“I have not.”
But we have arrived at the cashier, and, having increasingly paralyzed my wife with random political engagements since the advent of Individual 1, I see in her glaring brown eyes that my life is in danger.
“Sorry, have to go.”
“I enjoyed talking to you both. Please come again.”
“You have good listening skills. Next time, there will be a quiz.”
“Goodbye,” she said, laughing. “And God bless.”
God, the eternal pop-up.
— Joe Guarisco