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Blink
Just in case you weren’t paying attention last week, I didn’t post anything new here on timeagan.com. That was the first time in seventeen years that that has happened.

In other words, I blinked. Even though seventeen years is a long time to keep your eyes wide open, I was surprisingly casual about the lapse — especially since (I should tell you) it could mean an even longer hiatus for my political cartoon, Deep Cover. I’m not sure how long this will last, but when I got to last Tuesday afternoon, when I normally would have begun to focus in earnest on putting the cartoon together, I found that I wasn’t really that interested in doing it. It seemed like a good time to stop and think, so much so that I decided to let Subcon and Eaganblog go, too.

The juice just wasn’t there, and I’m not really certain why. I hope it’s not because of the depressing, relentless trend we all see in the news. I hope it’s not my own disillusionment with our democracy and the cravenness of our politicians. I hope it’s not a sign that my view of humanity, which I thought was balanced and clear-eyed, has changed to something darker and less optimistic. And I hope Trump hasn’t driven me out of the political satire game.

I don’t think he has, given my long history as a political junkie. But I can’t deny that some of the fun has gone out of it. Hundreds, if not thousands of children are being hideously abused in my name (and yours) at the border. Cruelty is mistaken for toughness by the President’s followers. Indeed, cruelty is seen as a good thing in and of itself by some of those people. Beyond that, incompetence and corruption and rampaging abuse of power are shrugged off by the same party that honors Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt in its hall of heroes. And no end in sight.

It is a dark time, no doubt, and maybe this is just the time I should be digging deeper for that one, deeply incisive cartoon that cuts to the heart of some universal truth and changes the world. And maybe that will still happen…sometime. Just not right now. I’ve got to save myself, or I won’t be ready for that moment of clarity when it comes.

I’ve posted a Vintage Deep Cover this week, just to keep that consciousness alive. And maybe I’ll post an original now and then if it strikes me. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Subconscious Comics goes on forever — in a world all its own where blinking isn’t even possible. And Eaganblog, too, as you have just discovered. See you next week
Big Doug
There is no denying that the Douglas fir can be a beautiful tree. It grows tall and straight and reassuringly symmetrical like any good conifer. It grows fast, too, making it a favored source of building materials. Truckloads of doug fir studs and joists and beams pour out of the Pacific Northwest to building sites around the country.

It supplies the bone structure for my own home as well, and its strong silhouette joins the local redwoods and oaks to form the woody horizons around my mountain community. It is a familiar and plentiful cohabitant of my world. But the Douglas fir is no friend to me. Indeed, by some measures it is my mortal enemy. Or more precisely, my nemesis.

Still, I have no choice but to coexist with it. Doug fir is everywhere, and there are many more of it than there are of me. There is one growing in my front yard now that is thirty feet tall. It appears to be healthy and well on its way to 200’ or more…if it is allowed to live.

Its future was not always so promising. During its early life, it lived in the shadows of several large tan oaks, and had a spare, spindly look that seemed to foretell a short stay here. But through the years, the tan oaks came down one by one, succumbing to to the ravages of sudden oak death and infestations of bark beetles. Their passing let the sun shine in fullness on the fir, and it responded vigorously. The trunk is now quite thick and it has branches and needles in abundance. It will be a shame to cut it down.

I had chosen to let it grow because I was charmed by how it responded to its sudden change of fortune — struggling against the odds in its early years then seizing the opportunity fate had given it. And, as I have said, I had already decided to live peacefully alongside its species when at all possible.

But it would be foolish to ignore our history with the Douglas fir here on the mountain. It has proven to be an unpredictable and dangerous neighbor — like the time thirty years ago when a big one tried to kill my wife.

We had been hit by a particularly strong storm that spring night, one that carried lots of water and the high winds that can whip up to 60 mph or more along our ridge tops. This Douglas fir snapped very close to ground level, at a place where the tree was nearly five feet across, so it must have made a terrific noise. The wind and rain were making a racket of their own, however, so I never heard it.

I could not miss, however, the blow it struck across our roof. The whole house shuddered. The door to our second floor master bedroom flew open, and my wide-eyed wife charged out and down the stairs. “What the hell was that?”

We tentatively ventured out into the storm and found a tangle of limbs and a cracked tree trunk wedged against the house. “A doug fir,” I said. “Where did that come from?” I didn’t recognize the tree. Not from our property, anyway.

By morning, the storm had passed, and the sobering truth was revealed. The 120-foot-tall fir had stood up the slope from our home. When the high winds struck, its rotted bole had split, hurling the massive tree toward us. As it fell, gravity kicked in, accelerating the fall. If it had struck unimpeded, it would have made short work of the doug fir skeleton of the house, even the big four-bys. At the very least, it would have blown through the rafters above the top floor and demolished the entire second story bedroom. Right where Jane had been sleeping.

There had been only one object in the path of the falling fir. A mature madrone, perhaps twenty inches in diameter, grew at a slight tilt at the edge of our property. Its hardwood trunk t-boned the fir as it fell, taking on a big part of its momentum and slowing it enough to save our home…and the life of my beloved.

Now, all these years later, we still have reminders around us of this event. There is a long, straight dent across the ribs of our steel roofing., The carcass of the fir itself still lies in the woods, finding its way back to the earth. And the madrone — whose mighty trunk had been flattened in its heroic effort — now sends up a host of saplings from its root ball.

As if I needed a reminder. The Douglas fir is my nemesis. Its soft, pitchy wood is a worst-case wildfire waiting to happen. Its straight, healthy appearance can be a lie, concealing a rotten core. It is a killer, lying in wait to crush unwary humans or assist in their incineration. Let it flourish along a distant skyline. Let it provide the framework of my home. But it should not grow here.

So, this plucky survivor growing in my front yard — so blessed by fate and my own forbearance — will fall soon. There will be no remorse, no wistful remembrance. Just a pile of chips and another rotting carcass on the forest floor. Good riddance.
Come Fly With Me
He’s in here now. I can hear him buzzing. It’s the deep, lazy sound that only a big, old fly makes. I’ve seen him a number of times around the house, sometimes hidden from view, sometimes right in my face. He doesn’t do it taunt me, I know, so I don’t take our interaction personally.

Buzzing, landing, taking off again. Some time soon, I know, he will land and wait just a little too long. When that happens, I must try to remain calm. The swatter must come down forcefully, but I need to maintain the icy resolve of a killer so that the death stroke will be both swift and sure.

He will probably die soon of natural causes, but I can’t wait that long. I keep picturing him walking all over my kitchen surfaces, including on my food. And on my butter…my butter! Who knows what else those filthy feet have walked on? He’s probably been up to his ankles, or his knees, or even his hairy thorax in all kinds of unsavory muck — and then tracked it through my precious butter.

This is unacceptable. I could, I suppose, open the doors and windows and trust that the big buzzer could find his way out. He thumps against the windows again and again and again, so I assume that he yearns to go outside. On the other hand, he is a housefly… musca domestica. Maybe he’s right where he's supposed to be: in housefly heaven, where it’s warm and windless and there’s butter aplenty for food or frolicking.

I am told that the lifespan of your average housefly is about 28 days. This one, though, is the size of an Atlas Airbus. He’s two months old if he’s a day. And that buzz…he is an old lowrider of an insect in need of a tune-up…a tune-up that will never come.

For now it is his time to go. My guess is that flies are not the smartest of animals, but I can’t help thinking that he knows the end is near. Perhaps he even welcomes it. And perhaps, at some level, he realizes that it is I who will be cast in the role of Death in his life’s final drama.

It is in both of our interests that I make this quick. He doesn’t want to suffer needlessly, and I don’t want bug guts smeared all over my stuff. But neither of those things will happen. He is nearby now, circling lazily by the big window in the living room. If he lands, I know he will be too slow to lift off in time. And when he does land on the window, on the sill, on the countertop — anyplace, lord, but on the butter itself! — I will have him, and this show will be over.

But he does not land. He is drawing out the last few moments of his life on Earth. That, of course, is his privilege. If he chooses to gaze wistfully out of my window at the sunny summer day, those few moments are his to spend. But I am not beholden to his schedule. I am Death, and I have other appointments to keep. A full calendar of duties, in fact. I cannot wait for a convenient landing. I must act, all the while remembering that I must take no pleasure in this duty. The fly and I are as one, partners in the cycle of life. Well, his cycle of life anyway.

The swatter flashes, almost imperceptibly to the human eye, catching the big bug midflight and full-on. There is no squirming, no unseemly entrails to wipe up. I swaddle him in his Kleenex shroud and honor his passing with a solemn burial in the place he loved so much in life — the garbage.

But our bond has not been broken. The fly and I are brothers, joined by death and a deep love of fine, Grade A butter. I think of him even now as I stand by the same window where he breathed his last. It’s almost as if he’s still right here with me.

What’s that buzzing sound?
Joe Biden
Before I get started on Joe, let me get my first prediction for the 2020 Presidential election out of the way. In case you were wondering, there will be no President Biden. Even though he would, if elected, be 78 when he took office, I do not rule him out because he is old. Rather, I do so because he is old news.

That was one of the things that hurt Hillary, too. Besides her other drawbacks as a candidate, she had simply been in the public square too long. People were tired of her, and I think Uncle Joe is in the same situation. He’s more simpatico than she is, and more bluntly honest with his feelings, but those assets won’t be enough to overcome the fact that his political career is now well past its expiration date.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Joe isn’t a nice guy. Like all of us, however, he is at least in part a product of his time. He has made mistakes, especially when viewed in retrospect. We could choose to forgive him for those errors and move forward from there. But why bother if his shelf life has run out?

That said, I do think that Joe still has an important function to perform during the debates and even into next year’s primary season. His role, as I see it, is as an avatar for the past, particularly the good things that existed when the world was young (way back in 2016). Let him talk about working with the Republicans, just as Obama did. Let him point to the flawed-but-aspirational world leadership we offered before the current collapse of honor and decency. Let him harken to a better time, because we might want to return to that old order once this dark time has passed.

And let Joe continue to attack Drump, not by giving back those childish personal insults, but with an honest assessment of the poisonous effect the Orange One has had on our fragile democracy. Each of the new kids, meanwhile, would be left free to talk about policy and make the case for their own brand of leadership in this brave new world. And as they do all that, they will become better known and begin to rise in the polls against the President.

There will come a time, I believe, when Joe is no longer useful as an active candidate. Attrition will claim him, probably well before the convention. Even if he is still around, hovering like a ghost over the campaign, he can still be our avatar for the past. To me, that is a fitting and even noble role for the former Vice President.

Fortunately for the nation (and planet Earth), Drump has developed the same problem that Joe has. By inserting himself into every news story, no matter how petty or lame, he has committed a sin worse than being despicable. He has become tiresome. He too is now old news — which brings me to another prediction: there will be no second term for President Trump. Maybe a prison term, but that is not our concern here.

So if not Biden or Drump, who will be moving into the White House in January of 2021? Who will appoint the Attorney General who arrests Drump as he tries to escape through the side door of the oval office? Who will be in charge of cleaning up the mess in D.C. and everywhere else the infection has spread? Who’s got the brains and the fight and the moral strength to pull it off?

It could be any of these contenders, I suppose. To me, however, the last prediction is the easiest. President Warren, guaranteed.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon