Mercury is in retrograde; take cover

Strange stuff is happening.

Credit: Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe
Credit: Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; AdobeLesley Becker/Nadezhda Bolotina - stock.adobe.

Does it seem like things have been going haywire lately? Water in your basement? Black cats wandering onto the football field? Fault-finders poking holes in your “perfect” phone calls?

You might think this is a run of bad luck, but — Mercury is in retrograde.

Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury appears to be moving “backward” — east to west, instead to west to east — across Earth’s horizon. Astronomers call this Mercury in retrograde, and astrologers call it “Watch out!” It has not gone unnoticed that strange stuff happens during these three-week periods.

The website Mental Floss explains that Mercury retrograde has been linked to heavy rainfalls, magnetic storms, disrupted messages, missed flights, computer crashes, and tension at the workplace.


According to a not-very-authoritative-sounding article in Prevention magazine, Mercury retrograde can affect your health in numerous ways: “You feel like no one understands you.” Check. “Hitting the gym is harder than usual.” Check.

The magazine suggests avoiding “heavy relationship chats or signing contracts at this time.” Shall do.

The lunacy is ubiquitous. Why in heaven’s name is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg so eager to woo presidential primary voters in Arkansas, a state where, I suspect, his name recognition is knee-high to a grasshopper?

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett recently rolled out the welcome mat for the Pride of Medford: “Bloomberg mainly would take this fine mess of a Democratic presidential primary — with unelectable leftists paired against a teetering center-leftist front-runner — and make it messier.”

Welcome to Little Rock, Mike!

The stars seem equally unaligned for fledgling author Donald Trump Jr., who has been hawking his book “Triggered: Insert Liberal-Baiting Subtitle Here.” Trump fils showed up for a book event at UCLA and got heckled by right-wingers! The voluble “alt-right trolls” apparently had a beef with the just-not-right-enough organizers of the UCLA event, and basically shouted Donald Jr. off the stage.


Welcome to Brentwood, Don.

Backward Mercury has also yielded up the Apple TV+ series “Dickinson,” a writers-room-on-acid reimagining of the life of Emily Dickinson. Apple’s Emily is, like, pretty gay (“A Sexy, Queer, Millennial Gothic Sitcom,” describes Vulture) as she may (or may not) have been in real life. Apple’s Teenquake Emily calls people “Dude,” lives life to a hip-hop soundtrack, and explains that she and a friend “hang out, like, all the time.”

Apple has commissioned a second season of “Dickinson,” and the Harvard University Press has rush-ordered a special printing of 100,000 copies of “The Collected Poems.” First part true, second part not.

How has Mercury retrograde been for me? Thanks for asking, as they say in Brookline. I’ve been fine. I’m not that big into astrology, but it is true that my mother had a chart cast on the day I was born. It predicted that her son would become Pope Alexander IX, which sounds far-fetched, our family not being Catholic and all.

But on the other hand, I have led a saintly life, and if a sleazy real estate developer can make it to the White House, it’s not inconceivable that I might someday become Bishop of Rome.

Welcome to Vatican City, Alex. All things come to those who pray.

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.