Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
Friday, March 27th
The Butcher’s Bill 11:00 AM, PDT (only a momentary snapshot)
Cases: 558,502 Deaths: 22,251
Cases: 91,255 Deaths: 1,353
As of today there are 25 states under a statewide order for residents to shelter in place. That means 25 are not and one wonders if the 25 not under shelter in place are living in blissful ignorance. While the fine print likely varies from state to state the general message is, unless you have to be somewhere essential, (grocery shopping, pharmacy, medical visit, essential work,) then stay at home. The exception to essential movement here in California is exercise that doesn’t involve interacting with others besides your canine companion or significant other. The important maxims are to maintain social distancing and no assemblages of ten or more.
The Year of the Rat
How did we get here? In our household, covid-19 appeared on the radar in the runup to the annual Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The 2020 parade was scheduled for Saturday, February 8th. In any normal year Chinatown is packed during the weeks leading up to the big parade; lion dancers prowl the streets stopping to cavort to the sounds of drums, cymbals, and gongs, the noodle shops, dim sum restaurants, meat markets, souvenir shops and bakeries are packed with shoppers and it’s all punctuated with the popping of firecrackers.
2020 has been a different story. While the coronavirus had only made something of a ripple in the news in mid-January, it was news that was smothering Chinatown while other districts were doing just fine. One only had to cross the street at Broadway (a sort of unofficial border between Chinatown and North Beach) to notice the difference between the empty Chinatown streets and the still bustling Italian restaurants in North Beach. It was the beginning of conflating a virus that had originated in China (half a world away) with Asian people in general. Racist or not it was and still is ignorance.
Kevin Chan, owner of The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, was in the forefront of Chinese business owners encouraging visitors to visit Chinatown. In a typical year there’s a line stretching up Ross Alley to enter the little bakery to take a few photos, get some samples and buy a bag of still warm cookies. This year one could practically walk right in.
On the morning of February 8th, the day of the parade, I visited Chinatown in my own little personal show of support for a district that I love, a section of The City that holds fond memories. I came home with a bag of fortune cookies and some meat from The Hing Lung company. At Hing Lung, I talked briefly with one of the owners.
“You guys are the best,” I told him. “I’m always talking your store up on Facebook and to friends. Please do well.”
A month later Coronavirus was major news but shelter in place and social distancing weren’t, so I went back to Hing Lung for another fix of duck and barbecue pork. We’d had plans in place to go to Reno on the 17th but those plans were under a viral shadow of uncertainty.
Midweek of March 8th I asked Cora if she wanted to have lunch on Friday at Caffe Sport in North Beach. By now we were cognizant of the virus but maybe not as much as we should have been. We’d seen the run on toilet paper and cleaning products at the stores and out of necessity I’d made up some homemade disinfectant using alcohol.
“Lunch in The City can be our last little fling before going into hiding,” I told her. “It’s a calculated risk, but we should be okay.”
Caffe Sport was empty on Friday the 13th. We talked to our server about the coronavirus and the impact it was having on business. The words lockdown, shelter in place and social distancing were not part of the regular lexicon yet but that would all change in a matter of days. I left a much bigger tip than I normally would and we bid the man good luck.
While we were eating Trump was giving a briefing on the coronavirus. We’d missed Trump’s remarks but we did catch Mike Pence’s remarks as we drove home. To say that he was pandering to Trump is a gross understatement. I periodically turned the radio off whenever the bootlicking got to be unbearable. That afternoon I posted on Facebook,
An amazing thing happened today. The Vice President performed fellatio on the president on live radio. What a disgusting sycophant 🤢🤮
In a matter of hours, from an irresponsible lunch date to the evening news our little household was smacked by the reality of a dire catastrophe just brewing in the United States. It was on this day that Cora and I were struck with just how far behind the curve we’d found ourselves. The next day I called The Atlantis in Reno and cancelled our reservation.
My coronavirus lockdown started on the evening of Sunday March 15th and my response as I recall was an emphatic, “Oh bullshit.” I was, for the moment, the stubborn old codger.
It wasn’t the lockdown per se that got under my skin so much as the fact that it was for people over 65. Everyone else was free to come and go as they pleased, so why not me. I was deemed to be one of the vulnerable ones, the geezer with the elevated susceptibility. Who was Gavin Newsom to lump me in with a bunch of frail codgers while allowing a lot of frail millennials to come and go as they pleased; those thirty somethings who couldn’t walk a mile let alone run five with me. I fumed over it until the next day.
The San Francisco Bay Area Shutdown
The next day seven Bay Area counties issued a shelter in place for the young, the old, the frail and the strapping. Okay fine, now that we’re all on equal footing I can deal with it. The Bay Area’s order mandated that only essential trips to essential businesses would be allowed. All non-essential businesses would be required to cease operation. (A listing is at the end of this piece).
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a request that non-essential businesses in California shut down. The response was mixed. A woman on Facebook remarked that Gavin Newsom is an idiot and should be ignored. I would imagine that she’s changed her tune a bit.
In Fair Oaks, California just outside of Sacramento a neighborhood tavern scoffed at Newsom’s suggestion sparking a heated debate on Facebook between those who supported the tavern’s decision and those who regarded the tavern owner and his patrons to be irresponsible. Videos of a gathering at the tavern were disturbing.
California shuts down
A few days later, Newsom ordered a statewide stay at home order to take effect on March 20th. On March 19th at eleven o’clock the San Juan Club had “last call for alcohol.”
California, which was and has been taking the lead in countermeasures in the United States was 12 days behind Northern Italy in shutting down and 9 days behind the entire country of Italy which has been ravaged by the virus.
This was exactly one week after Cora and I had our “last supper” at Caffe Sport. There were those moments of pause, wondering whether a stray cough or a dry throat were a result of our “calculated risk.” Two weeks later and I’m feeling relatively confident that we’ve come from that ill conceived lunch unscathed. Give it another week and I’ll figure that we dodged the North Beach bullet.
I still wonder about the forays since and I feel as if I’m running too many errands. Yesterday I vowed that I wouldn’t go out for at least 3 or 4 days and yet I’m going to end up going out on an errand again today. When I’m out I try to be as diligent as possible but I always feel like I’m leaving cracks in the wall.
I spray the cart handle but what about the cart itself where the groceries are going and where I put my bags?
The advice was given by Sanjay Gupta (I can’t wait till I don’t see him but once a week again) to disinfect the soles of shoes. I do it most of the time but what about the times that I don’t? Most isn’t good enough. And what about everyone else who comes into the house after being out?
Last night, during some of those sleepless moments I decide to put a spray bottle at the front door and a sign requesting that shoes be disinfected before entering. (The shoe spraying had me asking Cora about the times we had been applying bleach to the bottoms of our shoes. I remembered that we’d done it in the past but why? Finally, days later, it dawned on me. Whenever we had a puppy we disinfected our shoes to keep parvo virus out of the house until the pup had completed her shots.)
Jessica doesn’t want Cora and I to run errands together but I don’t want Cora running errands by herself. I worry that she’ll take a shortcut in prevention. There are times when I wonder whether I’m being overly precautious or Cora is not being cautious enough. The news tells me that there isn’t any such thing as being overly precautious.
And yet there are the ones who still don’t get it even as the numbers soar. After the statewide order for non essential businesses to cease operations the San Jose Police had to issue warnings to gyms, salons, sporting goods stores and yes a poolhall to cease their operations.
A warning was also issued to a gunshop and the owner protested, claiming his business is essential. That’s a chilling thought. Clearly you can’t go to the range so the owner’s remarks smacked of anti-statist, survivalist notions. I’m not interested in this thing degenerating into a real life version of Mad Max. And I’m not interested in people taking matters into their own hands if they feel the state is overstepping. Let’s save the revolution for after the virus has passed.
It’s chilly and breezy today. During my walk with Lexi I try to keep more distance between myself and passersby and actually turn away from people approaching from upwind. The forecast for the next two days is for rain followed by warm weather days.
“We need about three weeks of steady rain,” I remark to Cora. “Maybe it’ll keep people home.”
What To Do
People are complaining of boredom and cabin fever. I’m not finding that to be a problem. I’ve been retired for a year and a half and stretches of boredom aren’t a new thing for me. We’ll see where I am in a couple more weeks.
The news and social media are brimming with ideas to keep busy while confined; online classes, reading, puzzles, board games (bored games), sex (a bored game? Depends on the partner I guess), gardening, home improvement, sex, binge watching TV series, spring cleaning, more sex. For those who are getting to the end of their binge watching list just wait. You know all the movie and TV filming that’s been put on hold? That bomb is set to go off in fall/winter when there won’t be anything new to air.
Whatever the case, when this thing is lifted I’m going to stay hunkered down for another couple of weeks. Let someone else play the canary.
Essential v. non-essential
Essential business included:
Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks and produce stands
Farming, livestock and fishing
Business that provide shelter, social services and food for those in need
Newspapers, television, radio and other media
Gas stations, auto supply and repair facilities
Banks and financial institutions
Plumbers, electricians, exterminators and those who provide safety and sanitation services at homes
Mailing and shipping businesses
Laundromats and dry cleaners
Restaurants — only for delivery or take out
Businesses that deliver or ship food or groceries
Home care for seniors, adults and kids
Legal and accounting services
Childcare — must be groups of 12 or fewer kids.
The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away
Gimme Shelter ~ Words and music by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards