The scene was as sad as it was sincere. Thousands packed into the first outdoor concert since the pandemic. Middle-aged, middle class middle Americans swayed to the rhythm, their bodies accessing a muscle memory long dormant. On the ground below, zoomers gossiped the latest drama in their lives, aware of but not engaged with the overpowering bassline. Both parents and kids sported appropriately optimistic tattoos: intricate butterflies, inspirational words, and ironic cartoon characters circling personally meaningful dates. Some were more faded than the others.

“I smell that marijuana!" came from the stage to middling applause.

In any other year, that’d…

“Tales from 2020” is my on-going attempt to relay some of the more surreal moments from this surreal year that will never be done justice by the history books. Although…

April 2020

It had been a week or so since the store became a fortress. Massive make-shift 2x4 barricades, obstacles (riding mowers), and reams of tape covered the front facade. We had all been given official “I’m an essential employee; don’t arrest me” documents to show the police should we get pulled over for breaking curfew. There was now only one entrance and one exit on each side of the building. Things were tense, to put it mildly.

The first day of Fortress Depot, they very smartly put me to guard the lumber entrance. Contractors — especially ones who hadn’t…

Since I’m a folklorist I should probably know where the whole “Friday the 13th” thing comes from — if it’s about the 12 disciples, or the Templars, or witches, I dunno. But by now it’s ubiquitous and ingrained into pop culture, even becoming a kind of celebratory event.

Before we knew 2020 was destined to be a schism in time’s sanity, some even looked forward to the poetic alignment of the calendar: two Friday the 13ths, both Halloween and July 4th fall on a Saturday, Cinco de Mayo falls on Taco Tuesday, New Years and Christmas on Fridays, etc. …

Afternoon. March 15, 2020. One day after Virginia’s first coronavirus death.

Mr. Heinz was a bulldog of a man — short, squat, and mean. His uniform rotated between a set of dulled-down red shirts and khaki pants frayed and dirty from years of abuse. His mug was constantly crowned with a yellowed white hat bearing his personal logo: a simple, stylized “Heinz’s” in impact font.

Most tried to avoid interacting with him, but if Mr. Heinz spoke to you he was direct and demanding. His belief in transactional relationships meant that the more he spent, the deeper the connection —…

Morning. March 9, 2020. Three days before Virginia declares a State of Emergency.

“Things are gonna get bad.”


“You hear what they want to do? Strand all those people on that ship.”

“The cruise ships? I mean…”

“Yeah. Now how they gonna do that in the land of the free? It all started with the Patriot Act, you remember that?”

“Yeah, I’m not a big fan of that law…”

“Real Americans aren’t. But this corona? It’s only going to get worse. What else can they take from us? You gotta look at who benefits…”

“V. I., Vladimir…”

“They’re already…

Late-night. January 22, 2020. Pre-pandemic.

Travis was a good kid, but untravelled. He hadn’t seen Raiders or Lebowski or GI Joe Retaliation. And he certainly hadn’t seen Tombstone.

“The one with Angelina Jolie?” He corrected himself: “No, that’s Tomb Raider.”

I sighed, my amusement turning quickly to annoyance. “It’s about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral.”


Oh ffs, Travis.

Daniel, the middle-aged redneck who knew everything about everything and once spent 15 minutes extolling to me the virtues of full-figured women, overheard the conversation and limped over. He turned down the 90s British technopop blaring out of his walkman…

Dusk, March 7, 2020. Pre-lockdown.

Wind-sheared and worn-out I surveyed the scene, silently counting down to the end of the shift.

A sound from behind snapped me back. “You the boss?”

I turned around and it was one of the back-office ladies, no more than 5' tall and staring right at me. “Y’know, the boss — working with the workers.”

No clue.

“You never seen Undercover Boss? I swear you the CEO or something — you taller than everyone else here.”

She does that cliche drop your glasses so your eyes can convey seriousness move.

“You taller than every-one-here,” she…

The following op-ed was written in fifteen minutes.

The power of the brand. It’s what propelled Donald Trump into fame and celebrity and ultimately the Presidency.

His facade of financial prowess afforded him a level of respect and admiration and even worship from millions. After all, Bernie’s hopes and dreams aside, America is and always will be the home of capitalism and what is more capitalist than a vulgarian with no qualifications, no moral compass, no ideas or originality, and no skills beyond promoting himself, rising to literally the highest office in the history of the species. …

Here we go, folks.


Three things I like

The future! Oh look, all of my aesthetic and creative complaints have immediately gone away. Shocking! Who could have possibly guessed that? Oh and it was smart to address the “Temporal Wars.” It was a dumb idea when Enterprise did it and I’m glad that they dialogued it away.

Series Reboot! The end of season 2 was the finale of a failed experiment. I know it, you know it, even that fuckwad Kurtzman knows it. So they correctly rebooted the series — it’s still all about Burnham and it’s still overwrought with unearned melodrama, but now…

John E. Price

Academic and Trekkie. I talk about the politics of culture, review nerd stuff, and golf a lot. Co-host: @podmeandering, #TopFive, @folkwise13

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