The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I think there’s some value in putting down our own stories of this unprecedented moment in history, be they narratives, works of fiction, poetry, art, songs or any other record of the experience of 2020.  Years from now, decades from now, historians and students will look for stories, particularly first person, of this singular event.  If we do nothing else, let this be the lesson. 

Current events, specifically those surrounding the giant virus in the room, are harder to keep up with than a poltergeist. Surrounding; probably not the appropriate term – not here, not America. “Surround” assumes we’re getting our arms around it and right now our arms aren’t yet long enough. Change is moment by moment; the numbers, the news good and bad, the progress and the setbacks. The good news is that China’s arms finally grew long enough. As of this morning it is reporting no new local infections.

On the home front. Looking for things to pass the time since the gym and swinging by The City are off the approved list of activities.  You can only sit in front of a crossword for so long.  I find out that there’s free college out there – free bleeping college.  Yesterday afternoon browsing the free online course offerings from the Ivy League Universities.  Like the kid in the candy store.  Like ME in the candy store, in the licorice section, you know that black candy that nobody but me and a few select others relish.  Old people candy is how a friend once termed it.

Better late than never we’re finally answering the bell.  Gee, wasn’t it a little more than two short weeks ago that the President of the United States called it the Democrats “new hoax,” and Limbaugh bloviated something about the “common cold?”  Better late than never is about the best I can credit Trump with even if he’s still not completely getting it.   That he’s finally decided to take it seriously is something of a plus even if he bestows his lackluster, canard filled response with a score of 10 and refuses to take any responsibility (where are Lincoln, FDR and JFK when you need them).  Screw it, there is no time for this; for hashing out that part of the mess now.  For now it’s just spilt milk under the bridge.  Let history settle it – and it will settle it, oh yes it will.  We have more pressing matters right now..

I start a wishlist of classes to take.
Introduction to Key Constitutional Concepts and Supreme Court Cases
University of Pennsylvania
Moral Foundation of Politics
Yale University. Morality and politics – hmmm – must be just a one hour lecture broken up with a 45 minute break.
America’s Written Constitution
Yale University.
The Civil War and Reconstruction.
Columbia University
They might not look interesting to you but to paraphrase; one man’s history class is another man’s chem class.

Here in the Bay Area the powers that be are taking this more seriously than much of the rest of the nation. More than 8 million people are under a shelter in place order.  The local news describes the order as falling just short of a full lockdown, which would forbid people from leaving their homes without explicit permission.

Only essential businesses such as grocers and pharmacies are open while office workers and students are working from home.  You can walk the dog or run essential errands; you know, like tracking down staples like milk, eggs, butter, meat and Hot Pockets.  Toilet paper?   Get back to me on how that works out for you.  download

If the government acted too late so did the retailers.  It’s only been a few days now that the stores are restricting the quantities of essential items.  Did it never occur to them that lines of carts loaded down with 6 months worth of toilet paper was a harbinger of a problem?  More spilt milk under the bridge.  Fuggetaboutit and move on.

I’ve been struggling with a sense of vulnerability that I’ve never experienced before.  Except for a couple of medical emergencies, transient events that were briefly alarming, I’ve never had this long term feeling of vulnerability when it comes to my health.   I remember a brief  panic attack in the days after 9-11 when the anthrax scare was at its height but even that was just a passing event.

Gleeful gushing to the family over my list of university courses – then turned on the news.   My gut took a dive into despondency.
The high muckamuck, big shot, famous news doctor announced that while the number of tests available is improving there’s a shortage of the reagents required to process the results.
“How’s the clam chowder today?” asked the man sitting before the white linen topped table.
“Fresh sir,” responded the waiter in a cheery prideful tone. “Clams just came off the boat this morning.”
“Great, I’ll have that.”
“Sorry sir, we’re fresh out of bowls.”
“But that guy over there has a bowl.”
“Oh well, he’s the star point guard,” responded the waiter in a self satisfied tone. “We have to be selective with the few bowls we have,”
BREAKING NEWS: On Sunday the 15th, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Peyton “wasn’t feeling well.”  The next day he had a coronavirus test.  Today the results came in.   He tested positive.   I wish him all the best but…what the fuck.   Apparently there’s an “A” list for getting tested.
BREAKING NEWS: In the wake of some NBA teams buying tests the Golden State Warriors announced that their own team is not the cat’s pajamas.  “We’ve been told that testing’s in short supply,” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers “We’re treating ourselves like people, which is what we are.  We’re not better than anybody.  We’re not worse.  We’re just a basketball team, like any company.  Right now, we’re not interacting with anybody.  I’ve been told by our doctors that we shouldn’t be testing asymptomatic people in California.”
I just love that team and not just for what they do on the court.

I let the news continue for a bit and after it bled more liters of despair into the house I snapped it off and tuned in to something more uplifting – The Wire. You know that cop show about killing, human trafficking and drug dealing?

Bedtime, ten milligram of Melatonin and a book. Reading 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos until the Melatonin drops the book to the floor. A few random reflections before dropping off.

“Testing’s in short supply,” said Myers. Woefully. We’re bringing up the rear when it comes to testing and taking decisive, uncomfortable and difficult action. We’re at the point of deciding if we are AmeriCANS or AmeriCAN’TS.

One has to have hope. I guess if prayer is what gets you by then have at it.  Me, I’m not diggin that god that some of my friends and family are gushing about. “God is good and it’s all part of his plan,” they say.  I’m not down with his plan.  Seriously?  If this is his plan then I think we need to hire a new project manager because frankly I think his plan blows.  But that’s just me.  I gave up on religion some time ago much to Cora’s disappointment I’m sure.  Prayer or not we need to follow the rules and guidelines.

Hope and following the rules have become inextricably married to each other and in too many instances hope and guidelines are not only not married they aren’t even on speaking terms.  If we don’t follow the rules then hope continues to exceed our grasp.

Too many images of business as usual; no problem here, “carry-on.”  Maybe that’s why I have that feeling of vulnerability because the more I see of the selfish, the carefree and the quite simply unzipped, the parsimonious who declare, “Hey it’s my life, mind your business,” the less hope I have.

The beaches in Clearwater, Florida are packed.  The governor is leaving it up to the individual municipalities which are apparently leaving it up to chance. Clearwater’s powers that should be but aren’t have been huddling up to decide whether or not to shut down. Is there a question here that I’m not seeing?  Seems to me like the quintessential no brainer.  Brings to mind a movie in which the city leaders of a fictional beach town named Amity waffled about closing the beach; it didn’t end well.  Art presaging history?  Even if they close down the beaches immediately the damage is done. (As of this writing the beaches were finally closed but many of the spring breakers are doing the “what the fuck, this isn’t fair dance).

And then there’s a bar called the San Juan Club in Fair Oaks, California, a suburb of Sacramento.  The owner is proudly staying open and the patrons, thinking he’s some sort of folk hero, defend the action by insisting that if you don’t like it then stay home and if you happen to catch something and spread it, well then too bad, so sad.  The place was packed for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

New York’s Governor is resistant to the notion of putting New York City under quarantine because, “it won’t work.”  Well Mr. Governor as they say in the lottery ads, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

“It won’t work.” Is that it? Is that how it works – or doesn’t work?  The nation that was able to construct on average three liberty ships per day has a governor of one of the most populous states declaring, “It won’t work.”  It can work but I wonder if Americans have what it takes. AmeriCANS or AmeriCAN’TS?

Waking up with a sense that I’m going to have a panic attack.  Wondering about the people succumbing to this, to anything. Are they allowed to have a proper send off?  I suppose it’s all good for those who don’t have more than ten friends. Otherwise sucks to be the former you.

Get up, turn on the news.

The little crawling headline at the bottom of the screen creeps the word “reagent.”
Fuck your reagent,” I mumble and I turn off the news.

My daughter and I talk briefly over coffee.  For once it isn’t covid related.  I talk about my course list and then we talk about what to put on the dinner menu that won’t aggravate her diabetes.

With Jessica working from home I’ve made an interesting discovery.  She’s a working adult.  Yes I’ve known all along that she’s not just a loafer but it was eye opening for me to see her in front of a computer screen with graphs and all that business shit.  Makes me proud.

Yahoo News headline about an 18 month covid siege.

Deleted the article.  Don’t even want to know.  All I can do is try to be responsible and diligent.

In the shower and that headline stays with me.  Eighteen months?  If you think you’ve seen panic buying now just wait till 18 months sinks in.

A trip to the local Lucky Supermarket and I’m feeling like things are calming down a bit.   Yes many of the shelves were still empty but there were no shopping carts groaning from the weight of a year’s supply of groceries.  The checkout lines were short and people were polite and respectful. And then…
BREAKING NEWS. I just find out that while I was in the store, some two hours ago, a woman was robbed of her groceries in the parking lot, at gunpoint.  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have groceries.

Is this a Mel Gibson movie? 

14 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles

  1. And Rod Serling steps out from behind the doorway, “Presented for your inspection…“

    It is entirely possible to take something seriously and yet maintain a sense of humor. And that is highly advisable. Do your best at keeping yours. And stay well.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you Michael. I keep wondering if we’re going to degenerate into one of those movie plots about a post apocalyptic society…The Road comes to mind along with the Road Warrior movies.
      I’m tempted to take a drive into the city and take some pictures but I’m not certain if I’m violating the rules.
      You stay well also.

      1. No rule against that. Just maintain social distancing. Stay well.

  2. Well, If I may make a non Covid related remark: Over here in my country the Netherlands we are all keen liquorice munchers. I even found a store where they sell the stuff with real Acacia Gum making it hard, tasty and long lasting in the mouth, a genuine treat! We call this delicacy ‘Drop’, or rather the diminutive ‘Dropje’. I once ask a French lady in the train we were riding: Voulez vous une dropje? She accepted and ate the thing, politely trying not to puke. It’s wonderful to learn that we got dropje lovers as well at the other side of the great pond.

    1. Paulie says:

      I learned about the Dutch (is that correct?) affinity for licorice through a friend who comes from the Netherlands. Just more evidence of what an enlightened people the Dutch are.
      The licorice that we find here in the supermarkets barely passes as licorice. To get the real thing here requires a trip to a real candy store.

      1. Dutch is correct 🙂 And yes, a real candy store is recommended over here as well.

  3. SandyL says:

    Good post Paulie. A historian at the University of Virginia is encouraging his students to keep a journal of these trying days. It will serve as a record of what happened and will be reference for those ahead. Seems to me that your post is the first in your journal?


    Along that thread this letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald was recently shared in one of my feeds. You might find it interesting. It was written when he was quarantined in 1920 in southern France during the Spanish Influenza outbreak.

    Dearest Rosemary,

    It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

    The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

    You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

    Faithfully yours,

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    1. SandyL says:

      …Sorry , I should have checked my source before – but the Fitzgerald letter is not real. It was written on a parody on Dang those parody sites & the fools who re-distribute them 🙂

      1. Paulie says:

        Thank you for the link to the article on Dr. Braun at U of V. It’s helpful in creating whatever posts/journal that I do.
        It’s hard to sort out the real from the ersatz on the internet these days. Thank you for the correction. Appreciated.

  4. Scott Blake says:

    I’m not a basketball guy but was very pleased when the Warriors spoke up about not getting tested when they’re asymptomatic. It’s pathetic that South Korea was on the ball early on in testing and our president (still hurts to realize that that clown has been in charge for the past few years) refused to accept reality when by doing so we could have been more prepared. That’s what happens when a textbook case of narcissism manages to get put in charge of a country. Most people I’ve talked to and encountered are doing fairly well at keeping sane during this period. As you wrote, if it goes on for 18 months and/or gets significantly worse (as in Italy), that may be a different story.

    For anyone interested in historical perspective, PBS’ excellent series American Experience a couple of years ago did an episode on the 1918 Spanish Flu, which was the last time anything close to what we now have was going on. It is on Netflix and can be found on the PBS website at

    1. Paulie says:

      The NBA as a whole was in the front of all the other sports and it appears that the Warriors were in front of the NBA. Shortly after the Warriors cancelled two games, the NBA followed suit.

  5. nickreeves says:

    Muckamuck: is this, I don’t know, Cherokee or something? I am unaware of such a word, but it is wonderful to look at and speak! Also, ‘when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have groceries.’ Ace! Thanks, Paulie. Good luck.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you Nick for visiting and for commenting. A muckamuck is old slang for a VIP, a big shot.

      1. nickreeves says:

        I like it! Ta!

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