“The best offense is a good defense, but a bad defense is offensive.”
~ Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun
“The best offense is a good defense, but a bad defense is offensive.” wrote Gene Wolfe in his book The Urth of the New Sun,” unwittingly summing up the current strategy for dealing with the coronavirus. There isn’t much choice in the matter according to Doctor Anthony Fauci, our medical covid-19 guru. There are of course the holdouts who disagree most notably some ultra-conservative pundits, a whacky ministry of some right wing preachers, a handful of out of touch governors and all their nitwitted sycophants. If I sound bitter, I am. It’s these heretics that are keeping the virus alive and virulent and helping to extend the lockdown.
Muhammad Ali taught us in the Rumble in the Jungle when he rope a doped power puncher George Foreman, that a little patience and some well executed cover can tear victory from apparent defeat.
And so we remain patient and wait for coronavirus to punch itself out. What choice do we have at this point? A good offense would assume a cure or vaccine and those are months or more than a year away (despite the ravings of a looney president).
Rope a doping covid-19 has changed the way in which we exist in order to maintain existence. For some, those who heal or whose occupations require serving the public the changes include varying degrees of risk. The rest of us? All we have to do is stay home and whenever we go out treat our fellow humans like, well, the plague.
What sorts of changes? As I jot down notes for this piece I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of the vet’s office. Lexi is having an ear issue that seems like an infection. The veterinarian has changed the protocols that we’ve always followed when taking a sick pet to the doctor. The new waiting room is my car. The new protocol is to park, call the receptionist and wait for a tech to come out to the car. The tech and I review the reason for the visit and then Lexi, with tail firmly between her legs, follows the tech into the office. After the exam the doctor calls me, explains that Lexi has a slight infection that needs treatment and once Lexi is brought back to the car the receptionist calls, takes my credit card information and then Lexi and I head home. My bank account is $200.00 lighter – some things don’t change.
For some, change includes random acts of stupidity and selfishness. On the way home from the vet I take a glance in the rearview mirror to see a large pickup bearing down. He approaches to within a few feet of my rear bumper, swerves right, passes me and then swerves two lanes over to the far left to pass more cars. Looking ahead I see him weaving in and out of what traffic there is doing what must easily be ninety miles per hour. As a part of the new normal with most of the population doing jigsaw puzzles in the living room the freeways are largely empty and a few of the selfish and irrational are treating the roads like they’re NASCAR tracks. Since the lockdown there’s been an uptick in solo spinout accidents caused by excessive speeds; accidents that divert EMTs and police and impact already chaotic emergency rooms. Poetic justice might be to hand the reckless driver a roll of bandages, a splint, a few aspirin and let him fend for himself. We’re too busy to deal with your stupidness.
My granddaughter Lucy turns 9 this weekend. She was supposed to have a Little Mermaid themed birthday party with her friends at our house but of course that’s out of the question now. And so we’ll make a video of birthday greetings for her, spread out a blanket and have pizza on the lawn and celebrate with a Little Mermaid cake that my daughter Jessica will bake. If we’re back to a semblance of normalcy in the summer Lucy gets to have a pool party in the backyard. Whatever happens she’ll have a helluva story to tell her children and grandchildren about her ninth birthday.
The disorder has introduced a whole new order. Signs are all around admonishing us to practice the obvious. Restaurants don’t hang out the welcome sign and there’s no hostess to ask how many in your party. Still as often happens, discord brings with it acts of kindness
Stadiums and public buildings are being lit up in blue to honor healthcare workers.
Those with means donate money to causes that help those who’ve fallen on hard times.
Quarterback Drew Brees donated five million dollars to the city of New Orleans to help deliver meals.
Tyler Perry paid the senior-hour grocery bills at 44 Krogers in Atlanta and 29 Winn-Dixie markets in New Orleans.
There’s the paradox of community in a forced state of isolation.
From Wall Street to corporate ledgers to checkbook registers on the kitchen table finances are orderless, inverted and, unless you’re in the toilet paper business, turning varying shades of red. Our own expenses have taken some odd turns. During the severe hoarding period when we had to keep up with the hoarders our grocery bill spiked.
Now that the hysteria has levelled off a bit we’re working down the excess inventory and the grocery bills are decreasing. Still you find some helter skelter pricing beyond the capitalism gone wild profiteering. You need a bank draft to get a dozen eggs but oddly enough the bottom has fallen out of the price of the egg’s BBF (breakfast best friend), bacon. If you don’t need to watch sports to enjoy chicken wings they’re a bargain at one dollar a pound.
The Saudis and the Russians picked one hell of a bad time to get into a pissing contest over the price of oil. A gallon of gas costs $2.89 (cheap for the Bay Area), making it the perfect time to take the road trip that you can’t take because road trips are against the new rules. Our total fuel bill for the month should be around fifty dollars which is what I used to spend weekly on my Challenger. Rumor has it that with people driving less some of the insurance companies are mulling rebates, a phenomenon that I’ll have to see in writing before I believe it.
“X” marks the spot; the spot where one stands in a line. At store checkouts the floors are marked by a series of taped X’s spaced at six foot intervals to remind customers to maintain the six foot social distance. X marks, strips of tape, signs admonishing social distancing and retail workers disinfecting shopping cart handles and customer’s hands are the nouveau protocols of shopping.
While the practice of hoarding has finally been consigned to being a breach in shopping etiquette a trip to the market is still challenging. A recent trip to Foodmaxx got me almost everything on my list along with something I wasn’t shopping for – a 45 minute long checkout line. Normally I would simply bail out and come back another time but I’d already invested a good hour in just finding what I needed. Still by the time I reached the counter my frozen burritos had thawed out.
Yes, frozen burritos; part of my own new normal. It had been decades since my last frozen burrito and then the manic hoarding began. One afternoon as I picked through the ravaged remains of the frozen food section I saw a few scattered frozen burritos and was suddenly swept back to my younger, unmarried days when frozen burritos smothered with canned chili were a staple. Now we have an ample supply of frozen burritos but I’m eschewing the canned chili in order to avoid being banished to the couch. Yep, there’s nothing like a frozen burrito, and there’s different ways of interpreting that statement.
My sudden craving for frozen burritos must be my own personal manifestation of a covid era phenomenon. People are falling back on their guilty pleasures to relieve stress. At least that’s what the news reports tell us.
The local news is also reporting a 42% rise in alcohol sales in the Bay Area which one would assume means a 42% spike in drinking. A little Makers’ Mark warms the belly and the soul and laps away the bad news in an amber wash. It’s the new chicken soup – “couldn’t hurt.”
The news is a crapshoot these days, one moment encouraging with a seeming light at the end of the tunnel and then in a blinking it’s gloomy with no endgame in sight. Great news, the curve is flattening, fewer cases, no need for all the ventilators that the National Stockpile boys hadn’t stockpiled anyway. But not so fast, don’t expect normalcy for a month, two months, well into the summer, into the holidays.
Santa Clara County executive officer Dr. Jeff Smith made a prediction that we will be lucky, LUCKY, to have sports in that county by Thanksgiving. And if that holds true for Santa Clara why should the rest of the nation be any different? It’s not that I’m having sports withdrawals. I like sports but if it permanently drops off the face of a reordered Earth, I’m fine with that. If a return to sports is a milestone for normalcy and that return might not come until the middle of the holiday season does that mean we’re going to be looking forward to Christmas before we’ve had our first barbecue of the summer? Ugh.
When I do watch the news it’s not without a fair amount of skepticism. CNN panders to my political leanings but that doesn’t mean that I’m all in with their reporting and so, as I wrote in a previous post, I’ve put CNN on a short leash.
If CNN is on a short leash, their anchor Wolf Blitzer (How do you get such a name? Was his dad a panzer commander?) is on a choke chain for his flair for asking questions with self evident answers. Earlier this week Blitzer reported on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s sudden admission to intensive care for coronavirus. He went on to ask CNN’s medical guru Sanjay Gupta, “What does that tell you?”
With a slap to my forehead I turned to Cora. “Jesus H. Christ, Blitzer asks such probing questions. Here’s what admitting Johnson to the ICU says. It says he’s fucking sick.” (I’ve seen more than I want of Dr. Gupta. No offense to the good doctor but I figure that once his regular usefulness is gone, we’ll be in a relatively healthy place again).
But if Wolf and CNN are on a short leash, Fox should be put down for being the diseased, rabid beast that it is. Earlier this week on Sean Hannity’s show, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly dismissed the dead and dying victims of the coronavirus, saying that they “were on their last legs anyway.” How very Karl Brandt of you Grupenfueher O’Reilly (Karl Brandt was tasked by Hitler in 1939 to implement a program of involuntary euthanasia of people considered to be incurably sick or as the Nazi’s liked to say, “life unworthy of life.”).
With shelter in place some of the news, particularly local news, is being broadcast from newscaster’s homes. There’s a common formula for the reporter’s backdrop, that being a neatly arranged bookshelf. No slap dash stacks, no half eaten sandwich on a plate, no half empty pint bottles of cheap vodka or random toys left by a bored child. Most certainly the books that show up on camera have been preselected to reflect sophistication, intellect and enlightenment. No Jacqueline Susann or other trashy fare. Is it a downside or an actual benefit that I find myself distracted from the actual broadcast by browsing the book collections?
Covid-19 has mainstreamed terms and concepts that most of us used about as often as we’ve used Latin, which is to say, never. “Social distancing” is the practice that will help us “flatten the curve.” What exactly is THE curve? THE curve is an exponential curve which to someone who was a history major means absolutely nothing. After an internet search I found that the graph with the curve that we see every hour of every day represents the two equations, y1 = abx1 and y2 = abx2. This could be true or it could very well be an alternative fact because during my school years I avoided math as if it were a virus. Every website explaining the curve might just a well have been written in hieroglyphics so I picked one that looked legit. In any event we’re told that things won’t open up and show some semblance of normalcy until sometime after THE curve has been flattened.
The scientists are calling for robust testing to determine the proper time to, as Trump likes to put it “open the country.” Trump is dismissing the notion of testing as the final barometer yet continues his puffing about testing in the U.S. during a press briefing. “We have a great testing system. Right now the best testing system in the world,” brags the man who stood stock still and looked around confusedly when the starting gun went off. When he touts the two million tests performed I turn to Cora, “Well, only 298,000,000 more tests to go, because way back when he told us in no uncertain terms that, ‘Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.’”
When Trump was asked what metrics he would use to make the decision on reopening the country he pointed to his own head, “The metrics right here. That’s my metrics.” The blood ran cold and I wondered if my will is in order.
In the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali let big George Foreman pin him to the ropes and pummel him for seven rounds. In the eighth round only after sensing that Foreman had punched himself out and was vulnerable did Ali pull himself off the ropes and hit Foreman with a barrage of punches that ended the fight.
We don’t know what round we’re in and we don’t know when we’ll get to our own eighth round. We don’t know when we can get off the ropes or what our counterpunch is going to be. We have capable, dedicated men and women working on that counterpunch.
Ali had one manager, the great Angelo Dundee. In our fight we have a committee of managers that more often than not seem to be at odds. In the end it seems that it will boil down to either the scientists or Trump and his clique. The scientists want us to keep up the rope a dope for as long as is necessary while the president seems to want us to get up off the ropes, put down our guard and risk getting hit with a knockdown blow. I think we’re best served to rope a dope rather than heed a dope.
“They call it the rope-a-dope. Well, I’m the dope. Ali just laid on the rope and I, like a dope, kept punching until I got tired. But he was probably the most smart fighter I’ve ever gotten into the ring with.” ~ George Foreman