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Tyko Blake Eskil Raboff 1967-2003

This photo is probably one of the first I’d ever taken. It was likely shot on a simple Kodak Instamatic. The moment was captured in my parent’s bedroom on 849 North Alfred Street in West Hollywood, California.

My father is holding my brother Tyko who was probably 2 years old at the time. The year would then be 1969. I have no idea what time of year I took the photo at – but because of the pajamas my mother Ina (Solveig) and father Ernest (Ernie) are wearing, it was likely winter. Within a year, my father would leave us, move out and eventually start a whole new family with Adeline, a young, troubled woman from Alaska more than half his age. She was a tenant living in the upstairs apartment of our house at the time they met.

I don’t remember much of the actual divorce other than the yelling. I can only assume my father one day packed a few things and just left. Unfortunately, the aftermath of my parent’s divorce, more than 50 years ago, still impacts me. Especially today.

Where I somehow managed to compartmentalize much of the trauma that ensued and live a relatively normal life, my brother Tyko was unable to. The accumulative impact from those formative years would eventually overpower him emotionally to the point where all he wanted was for the pain and suffering to stop. And so, in January 2003, he took his life in a hotel room in Paris.

I write something about my brother Tyko every year on his birthday. I do it to honor him, to remember him, to share my thoughts about him. Still, after all these years, I feel so sad that I never got a chance to talk to him out of his decision. On this day, more so than on the day he died, I feel a little sorry for myself. I feel so alone in my sorrow. Some sadness can be shared. Not this kind.

I had a dream about Tyko last week. The scope of the dream was a bit absurd, but in it, he was crying. I want to think it was a cry of regret.


Listen to Tom Hanks

It’s perfectly clear that in order for him to put Americans through another four years of crazy-ass, un-governing fueled by erratic populism, Trump has to recoup at least some of last year’s financial momentum and reduce the massive post-shutdown joblessness. So, like a mobster, a likeness I think he would be perfectly comfortable with, the douche-in-chief is putting the squeeze states, cities, schools, and businesses all the while ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence how bad it already is and how easily it could get much, much worse. Clearly, his MO is to rely heavily on statistics that show how most people that catch the virus survive it without (at least as far as we know) long-term consequences. As usual, Trump’s rolling the dice. But make no mistake, behind the scenes, he’s simultaneously making sure he has a barrage of scapegoats and fall-guys when his gamble fails. The Hammer and the Dance theory has proved frighteningly accurate, however hard Trump tries to ignore it:

Tomas Pueyo is the author of the “The Hammer and the Dance” — an explainer article on “Medium” that has been viewed millions of times since it was posted in March and translated into dozens of languages. He has famously dubbed the period of lockdown to squelch the disease as “the hammer” and the subsequent period of living with it as “the dance.”

I read the New York Times religiously. It’s biased, I know, I know. But I still think the paper’s journalists are doing a Nobel Prize-worthy job sifting through and compiling numbers provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Here’s news on the seriousness of the situation in some of the southern states along the sunbelt.

As President Trump continued pressing for a broader reopening of the United States, the country set another record for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with more than 59,000 infections announced and some states’ final numbers still unreported, according to a New York Times database. It was the fifth national record set in nine days. The previous record, 56,567, was reported on Friday.

Tom Hanks has a new WWII movie out called Greyhound. I listened to Conan O’brien’s interview with him yesterday while manually mowing our giant lawn. Tom and his wife Rita were possibly the first celebs to catch COVID-19 and here’s what he has to say about not taking the pandemic seriously.

Although the screen icon believes the “vast majority of Americans” understand the importance of protecting themselves and others from COVID-19, he didn’t mince words when laying out the dangers some have chosen to ignore.

“Look, there’s no law against ignorance. It’s not illegal to have opinions that are wrong,” Hanks said. “But there is a darkness on the edge of town here folks, and … let’s not confuse the fact: It’s killing people. … Yeah, that’s right. It’s killing people.

The shot above is from a sacred bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan.


Back in Vejby Baby

Feels good to be back in Vejbystrand. Especially now when we are alone again. The consequences of precautionary safety measures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic made living together (multi-generationally) increasingly challenging.

Now that Charlotte’s parents generously retreated back to Göteborg, the serene calmness I’ve always associated with being here on our own has once again returned. We already have plenty of demands on our shoulders. Not having to compromise with our time and space makes carrying them a little less laborious.

I’ll be busy for most of the next few days with all the film and stills I’ve brought with me from the near weeklong “island-hopping” along Sweden’s west coast archipelago.

Above: “Storm Horse” captured a few summers ago on the meadow.


Bang! Bang!

After living with so many months under the shadows of big, bold headlines conveying disaster, tragedy, and destitution related to the pandemic, you end up expecting nothing less when you log on to NYT, SVD, or LAT. Classic conditioning. Our unconscious friend is still unconscious and we are still hoping for a miraculous turnaround – but preparing, mostly subconsciously, for sadness.


Infected Friend & Chaos

A composition I located yesterday on yet another anonymous, interesting surface somewhere in Lund, Sweden. The layered, cluttered chaos intrigues me. I suppose pieces like this attract me as I live – elastically – between a reasonable amount of structure and uncontrollable chaos. Creatively, that is.

Mere days after pointing out here that I have yet to personally know of anyone that had been infected by Covid-19, did we learn that a friend is now hospitalized, unconscious, and breathing through a respirator.

We haven’t seen him or his wife since last spring, when Elle graduated High School, but this very sad news obviously shoved Charlotte and myself into a state of shock – just as I assumed it would. Our hopes and thoughts are with him and his family. Everybody, please be safe out there.


Idiocy & Kleptocracy

Ok, here we go…my Tuesday rant…

You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon, a political science major at a community college or even a uniquely intelligent goldfish to grasp that Donald J. Trump is failing miserably and will prove to be the worst possible president a country, any country, could ever have during a crisis – any crisis.

Not only has he consistently politicized his more or less coherent virus briefings, some of which have been chock full of thoughts, ideas, and analysis that make the man seem as if he’s been snorting huge quantities of bleach, he is now also attempting to cleave the nation even further by openly deciding which states to provide financial aid to based on if they are red or blue. Really? The reoccurring question: is there really no limit to how much shit a 73-year-old can discharge?

From today’s New York Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio accused President Trump on Tuesday of “stabbing his hometown in the back” by saying that states hit hard by the virus and run by Democrats should not count on what the president called “bailouts” from the federal government.

In an interview with The New York Post published Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said that it would be “not fair to the Republicans” to give large infusions of aid to states with Democratic governors “that have been mismanaged over a long period of time.”

Like almost no other country in the world, the United States has been hit remarkably hard by the Covid-19 virus. And now, as the pandemic is spreading throughout the country, way beyond big cities and their urban sprawl, some predict that the worse is yet to come.

And while Trump & Co are trying ever so hard to deflect their gross negligence and cavernous ineptitude by blaming China as well as the Dems (clearly interchangeable enemies), the weight of the country’s fragmented, profit-driven health care industry is clearly showing an inability to provide necessary help to the tens of thousands of diseased patients – many of which are among the poorest of the poor. Which in itself is probably the main reason why so many have been so incontrovertibly devastated by the virus in the first place. I mean, it’s not like the healthcare was functioning before this all happened, or, that there wasn’t already an opioid epidemic, a mass-shootings epidemic – not to mention a poverty crisis which has largely been driven by racism – which in turn has only been made worse by the current bigot-in-chief.

It seems pretty clear to me that if a country like India has the ability to contain the virus more efficiently than a developed nation like the US of A, the world’s (former?) most powerful economy, there’s something fundamentally awry with the management team running said country.

Sure, we can all play along with the blame game and point fingers at China, Iran, or even North Korea until doomsday knocks on our doors. But it still doesn’t remove the fact that it was Mr. Trump calling the shots from the Oval from the getgo – and that he has proven time and time again to be too asinine to helm the country – even under “normal” circumstances.

Let’s get one thing straight. I think the United States of America is a great country. I mean that with 100% sincerity. The US has always been a fabulously interesting experiment with tremendous ambitions, incredible successes, and a plethora of unbelievable failures and ongoing shortcomings. The cultural multiplicity and geographical diversity are among many, many allures. But politically, at least on a federal level, the country is in really, really bad shape. Not just because the dude in the White House is a narcissistic kleptocrat, either. Much of those on either side of the aisle in Congress are so out of touch with reality, at least the reality that most Americans live within, so filthy rich and corrupted by their power addiction, they are clearly disinterested in creating any real change that will provide long-term, positive impact. Congess is too focused on reelections, pleasing lobbyist, and political mud fights. And I think millions of Americans are getting to the point where they’re just fed up with well-crafted rhetoric and the political tug o’war that leads absolutely nowhere.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if when fall nears and the election craze kicks into full gear, there will be social disruption like we’ve never ever seen before. And I’m actually a bit worried, cause I don’t think it would be beyond Trump to ignite a fire in order to stay in power – regardless of how it goes for him electorally. I’m predicting here and now that as we move closer to November, we’ll also see several political movements stemming from States that are seeking to sever ties with DC and secede the union. Why wouldn’t California or Texas want to become independent nation-states?

I don’t know exactly why, but somehow the Guggenheim in New York photographed October 2018, seemed like a fitting image to accompany today’s rant.

Avoiding Handy Handles

Without even realizing this before, it turns out that I am somewhat of a germaphobe. Not so much at home or when I am with family and close friends. But in public spaces, avoiding door handles, stair rails, elevator buttons or any type of knob is something I’ve been doing automatically for as long as I can remember. I can’t explain why – other than that my notoriously vivid imagination can easily envision how grimy and filthy the fingers and hands of the person before me were. Especially when it comes to men – which I know from half a century of experience of visiting public bathrooms – do not care nearly as much about cleanliness as they should.

Some men, not all, seem to think that at least part of their maleness lies in an ability to completely disregard personal hygiene or consider the implications their neglect of it could have on others. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a dude come out from a toilet stall in an airport or restaurant after “discharging” and then leave without even glancing at the sink or thinking of cleaning his hands, it would certainly be a tall pile of bills.

So, being extra precautious about touching stuff in the public realm isn’t much of hassle for me. All things considered right now and for the foreseeable future, having a hands-off and cleanliness approach will hopefully be the new normal for most people around the world. But hopefully, we’ll all be able to give and receive hugs more generously within the not-to-distant future. I miss them hugs!

Shot these handy door handles in Málaga a few months ago.


Forgetful Yet Uneasy

Thanks to or because of, depending on your choice of perspective, my current workload distracts me from thinking too much about the pandemic and the tsunami of physical, emotional, and financial implications it carries with it. For hours on end, I am so immersed in my work, I can totally forget about it all.

Like most folks that have yet to know anybody that has been directly hit by the virus, it’s the indirect impact I hear of; from one friend in Malmö whom will likely lose his expansive restaurant business, to another pal, scared and hiding in complete isolation deep in one of Los Angeles sprawling suburbs.

The weirdest part of this unfolding drama is our collective uneasiness. We, including all the self-proclamied experts, still don’t know squat about how this craziness will actually conclude. Antithetical to an earthquake and other natural catastrophes, where there usually are plenty of historical precedents and aggregated statistics to help fill the void, map the scope (and to cope), here there are just too many puzzle pieces missing to provide a full picture of what the Covid-19 pandemic will look like going forward. Is there going to be even more radical plot twists? Like not becoming immune even after recovering from the disease? Or, that even if you only experience mild symptoms the first time you contract the virus, will they worsen the second or third time around – after your immunology has been compromised and exhausted? 

To put our current situation in a comically contextual perspective, it’s kinda like having a really bad stomach flu. Even several days after the last time you had diarrhea, you feel uneasy about letting out the tiniest fart. It’s just so friggin’ hard to relax these days.

The above photo of a pineapple themed tapestry is totally unrelated to this post but works as a decorative featured image nonetheless.


Slow Coffee & Drip Life

I shot this one morning while we were living on the outskirts of Hoi An in central Vietnam. We continue to make our coffee this way, but man, that trip feels super distant right now. Not just because of the time lapsed from October until now. The whole world was different back then. Nobody had any concerns about spreading or being infected by a virus. No hidden suspicious or irrational fears. A time when handshakes and hugs were abundant and generously shared. We shopped at open-air markets, enjoyed street food and didn’t wash our hands more than before meals and after toilet visits.

I doubt there has ever been a time in the history of our species where humans have been more preoccupied with self-negotiating and micromanaging our lives. Here in Sweden, where there is no lockdown, shelter in place or judicially enforced restrictions, we are admittedly more or less free to go wherever we want and socialize, albeit in small groups.

Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone is concerned about making decisions that could either be potentially life-saving or life-threatening. From what I have seen in Ängelholm, Malmö and Lund, few people, particularly younger folk, seem to take much notice of what’s going on in Spain, Italy and the US.

I totally get that the younglings feel invincible and that life seems blissfully eternal. They should absolutely feel this way – it’s like a prerequisite for their age and enables them to reach further, jump higher and instantly bounce back when they inevitably fail and fall. And I like to think that to a degree, I still have that mentality in place. But, being a middle-aged man with a mild case of asthma and a father that definitely wants to experience what it’s like being a grandfather, I am one of those paranoid dudes that constantly self-negotiates and weighs pros and cons of many of my most rudimentary daily decisions. Perhaps not so much while being fairly isolated here in Vejbystrand. But I am super-conscious of how I am feeling and even the slightest hint of a headache, sniffle, cough, or, really any strange feeling that occurs in my body, puts me in a state of hyperawareness. Oh, did I mention that I have a mild case of Hypochondria?


Leaning Left

Though a capitalist out of necessity, I am clearly a left-leaning liberal at heart. Honestly, I can’t understand how you could possibly be anything else. I sincerely hope that once we see the light at the end of this dark, threatening tunnel, that a considerably more humane, empathetic perspective emerges among those in power.

The picture above is composed of photos from within my archive.


Dualism

As I mentioned just before canceling my accounts on December 31st, 2019, I no longer participate in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform. Yet I have somehow managed to persuade a few fine friends and chosen family members to communicate with me via iMessage, email and WhatsApp. I don’t mind having to switch between the three. But if I had my way, we’d all use email. I love writing and receiving emails. Writing an email feels close to old school letter writing – which I did a lot of in my younger years. Which kind of makes me feel ancient.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted so many people’s lives, including ours. It’s hard to grasp the scope of it yet. I think we might just be seeing the very tip of an enormous iceberg – the beginning of a multi-year, planet-wide, chain of events that will have a seemingly endless ripple effect on most everyone. How folks in the developing world and the poorest are going to be able to cope is a question I keep asking myself. There’s no optimistic answer, I fear. So many countries around the world are run by a bunch of autocrats, dictators, and despots, men that are either suppressing virus facts and stats and/or just looking the other way, ignoring a problem they are incapable of addressing. Their biggest concern is not the health of the country they strongarm but rather how the crisis might affect the power they wield.

Shot the above image somewhere in Asia a few years ago.


The Crusher

Charlotte and I have been to a large recycling facility today. We actually made two visits there and have will probably be back there tomorrow. I got lucky during our second visit as it was time to turn on the oddly pleasing wood crushing machine when we were at the wood station. A friend pointed out how watching this brutal machine is satisfying somehow. I agree. Now if only someone could invent a way to crush COVID-19…


Summer Time

When I opened my eyes this morning, I saw a sliver of bright yellow sunlight protruding through the blackout curtains hanging over our bedroom window. I went to sleep unusually early last night and felt initially a little confused by the light. Had I slept in? It was Sunday, so no big deal if I had. For some reason, I remembered about the time change, that we are now officially in the summertime.

Though the pandemic is omnipresent online and in much of everyday small talk, I find that it still easily falls out of focus. I suppose that’s because we are here on the coast in Vejbystrand, so near to nature in an environment barely stirred by humans. I’m thankful that the reminders are few, at least when compared to urban dwellings. On the other hand, we kind of miss the “comfort” of having an abundance of neighbors – to share fears and hopes with – and we are at least a half an hour from the nearest ICU, if or when the shit really hits the fan.

Aside from probably lacking the emotional capacity and having zero skills, I still wish I had something to contribute to the healthcare field with right now.

The other day, a friend pointed out an interesting aspect of the unfolding situation to me. During her maternity leave, the restaurant she worked for as a manager went bankrupt. Just as her yearlong leave was about to end – but before the coronavirus took center stage – she had several interesting job offers, was hired by a bakery/café chain and set to go back to work in early March. Three weeks ago, her new employer laid her off. But with the fallout from the virus, she now feels somewhat relieved for having an unquestionably valid explanation of why she’s still not able to find a job.

I think we’ll be hearing more of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s thoughts on “UBI” a Universal Basic Income, a citizen’s dividend where a government guarantees that everyone receives a minimum salary. Defining “citizen” will obviously become a sticking point and while I think most sensible people in the world will abide and adjust to just having enough means to survive, it’s going to be really tough for most Americans to grasp what the concept of “basic” even means.

Shot these Easter flowers during a long beach walk the other day. Heard via the BBC that Kenya’s flower industry is disastrous with approximately 500.000 directly and indirectly affected and now out of work. As if life wasn’t already tough enough for them. Fuck.


Hugless, Kissless and Shakeless – but not Hopeless

Wow, are these weird times, or what? Who would have thought that streets in entire cities would be more or less empty, seemingly abandoned? That even the most basic human social behavior would take such a colossal hit? Are we the last of those that will remember what a superficial cheek kiss, a fleeting hug, and a vigorous handshake feels like? Will this make even the slightest physical contact feel forbidden and therefore somehow even erotic? Post-coronavirus social ordinance might just well dictate a whole new set of judicial and social rules to abide by. Or, to totally disobey. If the virus is really a threat to our very existence, then I think disobedience is the only option. We’re fucked, so who cares, right?

Seriously though. This pandemic will probably leave long-term social and financial disruption in its wake. Social distancing, virtual offices, online meetups as well as homeschooling will leave the fringes and likely become preferable and dominating alternatives in our new, hunker down, shelter in place society. Maybe we’ll even abandon our megacities and migrate en masse back to the countryside, where a rural, agriculturally focused and physically demanding, yet healthier lifestyle, awaits. Or, maybe we’ll stay in our urban environments but isolate ourselves even more than now. Transform our apartments into bunkers that we rarely leave.

Speaking of bunkers…

The above collage is from photos I took at an old Stasi headquarters on the outskirts of Leipzig, Germany that I visited a few years ago during a press trip. I shot most of the photos deep down in a bunker intended for polittruks in Erich Honecker’s DDR. Interestingly, there were exercise bikes hooked up to supply electricity to the bunker’s phones as an alternative to the facility’s diesel generator.