Ad 2:
2020-04-08 16:08:04 (UTC)

To My Italian Penpal

I have a penpal in Italy. She and I began correspondence In early 2019, and after maybe two messages there was no response. It was months later that she responded to me to let me know she had been going through some intense personal life events and her focus shifted away from penpal writing. Upon the advent of COVID-19, she's shared with me some details of the challenges of living and attempting to work in northern Italy, in the city considered the epicenter of the European epidemic.

Yesterday I wrote to her, with the hopes of helping her sublimate some of her troubles, at least for a while. This is what I wrote.

Man, life is tough for so many people right now. I have it so easy in comparison.

Hello there, [friend]--

Sending you greetings from the 'States. I hope you have been faring well through all this. It seems like the virus is the only thing people want to talk about these days, and doubtless you've dealt with as much where you are. So let me do my part to sway your thoughts away from it for a while.

So I'm currently working at home, and I think I've met a new neighbour...! Today a little house spider kept wandering around my desk, investigating my notepad, wandering over my microphone (I've been doing a lot of audio recording lately so it's now a fixture at my desk), warming up on my lamp, and even scaling my computer monitor. There were a couple times I ushered it back down to the floor because it was being so nosy. But we were otherwise courteous with one another, and apart from it not respecting my personal boundaries on occasion, I think it and I will get along quite well.

I looked it up online today, with the hopes I could figure out just what kind of spider it is. It's some species of jumping spider. It kind of looks like a very, very small tarantula (maybe 2cm "from nose to tail"), dark brown in colour, with some orange markings along its back. I couldn't find any pictures of it online, so I'll just have to toss and turn at night, wondering what species of Salticidae it might be.

I've also had some spare time to catch up on recreational reading. For some time now, I've been reading various graphic novels and comic books. Upon the recommendation of a friend, I picked up a series from the mid- to late-1990's called "The Invisibles." To sum up the theme, it's like superheroes crossed with the X-Files and HP Lovecraft mythos stuff. There's apparently a "shadow war" between two factions. One worships the alien "Elder Gods" or "Forgotten Ones," and they want to open up a gateway between their nasty dimension and ours. These folks have infiltrated the highest and most-classified levels of government worldwide, ushering in an age of darkness that includes a misshapen monster of a prince of England (complete with a tentacled, shadow-shrouded face) living in this shadow dimension, emerging in our world through a magic mirror to feed on human flesh.

At the same time, The Invisibles fight against them: a ragtag, horizontally-organized group of anarchists and trouble makers who started off just dissatisfied with the way the world was going, until they actually found out about the nefarious plot in motion. The story follows one cell of The Invisibles, and pretty much goes all over the place... Back in time to meet the Marquis de Sade (there's a certain windmill that happens to be a time machine), to outer dimensions where voodoo spirits dwell, to seances with the jet-set, to the British countryside, to Area 51, to the jungles of Central America... It's a mishmash of folk and fringe religions, conspiracy theories turned absolute truth, interdimensional shenanigans, and more.

In short: it made for a fantastic comic book story. I'm even more curious about the writer: Grant Morrison. Ever heard of the guy?

Meanwhile, I've been converting a lot of my day-job curriculum and lessons to an online format. I have a few weeks to finish a project before we try working with clients again. After work is done, I typically play video games, write, use my exercise bike, and catch some sun in the backyard. I visit the grocery store once a week at about 11:30pm when barely anyone is around. My diet currently consists of rice cakes with peanut butter and trail mix, the occasional veggie burger, lots of coffee, bananas, apples, and a dinner of rice, lentils, and some kind of salsa. I'll sneak in a cookie or two occasionally, if I'm feeling feisty.

So the day job is hanging on, and there's been plenty of coffee flowing in-between times.

Hopefully this has proved a suitable - or at least passable - diversion. We never really had the chance to kick off what I imagine a "typical" penpal correspondence would be. This is an attempt.

Absolutely no pressure to write back any time soon. But just know there's at least one more person on the other side of the world, wishing you well and wondering how you are. Take care, [friend]!