“I didn’t want normal until I didn’t have it anymore”
~ Maggie Stiefvater, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception
Same old same old new normal
Thirty-five days sheltered in place; or is it 33? 34? 38? A borderless block of time. We have to look at our phones to figure out what day of the week it is. Remember when the phone was that ugly thing on the kitchen wall that served no other purpose other than talking to the neighbor or the person trying to sell you insurance? You talked on the phone and looked on the calendar when you needed to know the day of the week? Now the calendar is almost worthless as the days melt into a shapeless slab. Is it Wednesday or Friday? No Monday blahs or hump days or TGIF. You can still have taco Tuesday but Friday Happy Hours at the bar are relics of the old normal.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued his weekly update and much to everyone’s disappointment there is still no real timetable for starting to reopen the state. That’s not to say that the flicker of light isn’t getting just a smidge brighter. Newsom announced that hospitals can “can consider resuming medical care that residents have delayed during this crisis, such as heart valve replacements, angioplasty and tumor removals.” I don’t need any of that work done but just the fact that overhauling hearts is back on the schedule then how much further out can fixing up a rotator cuff be? Sooner than later I hope because just putting on a shirt is a new experience in pain. In my case soon is still no sooner than October at best, but at least they’ve allowed me to fall into the queue.
While most of us were disappointed by Newsom’s briefing, the anti-vax group that’s been ramrodding some of the irresponsible protests around the state must be apoplectic. It shouldn’t surprise me that the rabble rousers are anti-vaxxers. Public health hasn’t been their strong suit so why change over a pandemic. If the anti-vaxxers can’t kill society with measles they might just as well give coronavirus a shot – wait, they don’t like shots.
Doesn’t it seem like only yesterday that we started shelter in place? Okay it seems like five years. Back when becoming a homebody became the law I discovered that a number of universities are offering online courses for free. It took me a month but I finally signed up for one, The Moral Foundation of Politics from Yale University. I know that the words moral and politics are rarely found in such close proximity to each other but after two sessions I’m finding the class fascinating.
I graduated college in 1976, when professors performed in front of a live audience and term papers were started in an afternoon, and completed as the sun was rising the next day, after hours of pounding away and cursing at a typewriter. And so an online class is unlike anything I’ve experienced before except in one respect. An optional book, naturally the one written by the professor, costs 118.00 dollars. Some things, like the usury price of a college textbook, never change. I did find the book on Amazon for Kindle for a mere 9.00 dollars. Another optional book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, about the trial of the Nazi S.S Colonel, Adolph Eichmann was also available in electronic format. I downloaded the book on Audible. I listen to the book while I’m digging up the front yard. Listening to a book and trying to absorb it is something of a new challenge. Getting accustomed took three passes of the first chapter.
Coronavirus is introducing me to a whole new world of social separation as I had my first video consultation with a doctor. A week ago Lexi got excited over a squirrel or a bird, or a wind blown leaf or maybe just had a quick touch of the zoomies. Whatever it was that set her off she pulled on the leash that twisted around my finger. It’s broken, the finger not the leash, but not so badly broken that a splint is required. Two torn rotator cuffs and a broken finger and yet given the global situation, I feel fortunate.
The “new normal” has upended what two months ago was the normal budget. We won’t spend more than 50.00 dollars on gas this month. With the additional need to wash clothes the water bill and power bill have gone up. Per the advice of Dr. Birx of the coronavirus task force we’ve strictly limited our trips to the store to only once per seven to ten days and the monthly grocery bill has plummeted. We found that the almost daily little trips to the store for odds and ends that we really didn’t need were death by a thousand cuts to our bank account.
An Excess of Ineptitude
The original plan for this post was to steer clear of pandemic politics but the President of the United States couldn’t avoid sowing a field of poppycock. The daily coronavirus briefing, which rarely fails to produce a rumpus, turned into a theater of the schizoid last Thursday.
It all started innocently enough with William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate explaining some research findings. Among the discoveries Bryan explained that coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat. The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.
Everything would have been comfy dandy had President Trump contained himself, but that’s like asking a wave in mid-curl not to break. Donald Trump seized on Bryan’s main points and as he so often does, he extemporized. And so the world watched the sitting President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world, float the theories of the damned.
“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light…supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way.” He then appeared to ask Doctor Birx, a genuine scientist, “And I think you said you’re going to test that too.”
Trying to light the body from the inside while preposterous seemed relatively harmless but “Doctor” Trump wasn’t done, “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? So it’d be interesting to check that.”
But what’s cake without icing? With a finger to his noggin, Mr Trump went on: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”
With that, Donald Trump had lit the fuse. The eruption was felt from coast to coast and around the globe. The president had hinted strongly (or as he might have said “bigly”) that injecting disinfectant might just be THE elixir vitae. I went to bed figuring that nobody could possibly be stupid enough to take a syringe and try mainlining Chlorox until I was nutted by the reality that, wait a minute, people voted for him.
For her part, while Trump spun twaddle, Doctor Birx did her damndest to sound and look diplomatic (she handled the former well enough when asked her opinion by “Dr.” Trump but failed on the latter as she looked like someone who wished to fall through the floor); a tactic that didn’t sit well with Lawrence o’Donnell who hosts an opinion show on MSNBC. O’Donnell tweeted,
This is the week when Dr Birx solidified her value as a Trump campaign asset in the daily Trump campaign rallies.
She didn’t object when Dr Trump suggested people should poison themselves.
She violated her medical “duty to warn.”
She passed the ultimate Trump test.
While in some respects I agree with o’Donnell, Doctors Birx and Fauci are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They have every reason to sternly rebuke Trump but to do so would likely have them cashiered with the prospect of true Trump sycophants being called up from the bench. The apple burnishers who come immediately to mind are Doctors (and I use the title loosely) Oz and Phil. Let that possibility sink in. Birx and Fauci must feel that they need to push back harder in meetings, possibly working through Mike Pence in order to keep some semblance of backroom sanity while being publically diplomatic. It must be galling.
When I turned on the news the following morning I found that the team of attorneys for the Lysol Company had felt compelled to issue a statement. “As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),”
Lysol’s statement was only one of a number of warnings that were issued by corporations and health departments, each, to my knowledge, diplomatically leaving out a clause stating categorically that the 45th president is a dumb fuck.
Other reactions ranged from criticism by news outlets (although I’m not certain of the Fox News reaction which may have been, “What’ve you got to lose?”) to public ridicule to stark terror from the scientific community. Social media is an amazing machine. Within hours memes sprung up lambasting Trump.
This morning the White House crew was working hard to bind a hemorrhaging wound but they couldn’t even get that right because Trump and his own press secretary hadn’t settled on which lie to use. Trump claimed he was being sarcastic, because what’s a pandemic without a little biting humor from a world leader. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a long time unrepentant sycophant insisted that her boss was taken out of context. Fine then, out of context sarcasm.
Cora and I and most of our friends have been laughing this off but in the end it’s dark humor. That the president made a fool of himself and embarrassed America has become a regular exercise, almost superfluous. That last Thursday caught the president so far out in left field, so bereft of any semblance of reason makes me wonder when the Vice President and the Cabinet will decide that it’s time to employ the never used but now required section 4 of the 25th Amendment. Section 4 stipulates, in essence, that when it’s determined that the president is nuttier than Aunt Maggie’s fruitcake it’s time to remove him from office. This of course will never happen because the good of the country has long ago been tossed to the curb in favor of the Grand Old Party.
Katie and Cooper
Katie Coelho lost her husband to coronavirus. On Friday evening Anderson Cooper interviewed the young mother of two. She told Cooper that at one point, “Jonathan seemed to be getting better and doctors had discussed taking him off the ventilator last Thursday or Friday.”
And then she got a call from a nurse telling her to come to the hospital. By the time she arrived her husband had suffered cardiac arrest. He was gone.
“They brought me into his room and he was laying there and he just looked scared,” Katie said. “He didn’t look peaceful and I just kept saying ‘I’m sorry.'”
As she went through his belongings Katie found that her husband had left her a note on his cellphone that began, “I love you guys with all my heart and you’ve given me the best life I could have ever asked for.”
Jonathan was a probation officer and so was classified as an essential employee. After coming in contact with someone who had tested positive, Jonathan was tested and found to have coronavirus. He was admitted to the hospital on March 26th. 28 days later, 20 of them on a ventilator, Jonathan passed away. Katie wanted Jonathan’s story told to demonstrate the reality of the danger of going to work.
Throughout the interview, Anderson Cooper was visibly struggling to hold it together. Appearing to be on the verge of tears he asked the right questions in the right tones and in the right manner. He paused often, sometimes to let Katie gather her thoughts and at other times to keep his own composure. He was sympathetic and kind and gentle.
It was a hard thing to watch and Cora had to step away. What we saw was Cooper exhibiting sincere depth of feeling for the death of a human being and the devastation to his young wife. It’s the story of two young children who will never know their father except through pictures and stories. Contrast that to the likes of Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and the Fox talking heads who focus more on the virus plaguing the economy; men who are perfectly willing to offer up lives for dollars.
Belling the Cat
We’re five weeks into shelter in place and people are pissed. They want a haircut. The group of guys who I saw headed to the local high school soccer field wanted to get a game in. Guys want to bowl and the girls want their nails done.
I say fuck your haircut, your soccer game, your bowling and your nails. Why? Because in doing all of those things, in being the entitled American you’re essentially saying to me, “fuck your health and fuck your life.” If you could be self-indulgent, spin the chamber and pull the trigger in a bullet proof bubble I would say knock yourself out. But you can’t. Those young men going to the high school to play soccer probably go to the Lucky I go to, get their hardware from the Home Depot that I go to and fill up at the same local Shell station that I do. That they’re so cavalier with their own well being means that mine is completely meaningless to them.
Today is day one of Brian Kemp’s experiment. Kemp, the Governor of Georgia is turning his state into a laboratory and the good citizens into a control group. Kemp has loosened the reins of closure in his state allowing everything from retailers to tattoo parlors to open up, with the stipulation that social distancing be maintained; difficult but not impossible for the former, outright magic for the latter. He’s turned his state into a petri dish and if you don’t want to be a test subject in mad scientist Kemp’s experiment then you can continue to follow the guidelines that Kemp severed but how much good will that do you? You can stay home but at a certain point you’ve got to buy the essentials, you’ll want to take a walk or you’ll need to go to the doctor. Maybe your boss thinks Kemp’s idea is just splendid and require you to go to the office. Or you can move to North Carolina where Governor Roy Cooper has extended stay at home regulations in that state but fears a comeback of the virus in Georgia might cross the border. One wonders whether or not there’ll be recourse in civil court if Kemp’s scheme unleashes hell.
But, you see, the theatre is not always art in America. ~ Beatrice Wood
I treat all this like theater; the president playing the mad monarch, Fox and the sycophants playing the loyal subjects and everyone else playing the oppressed intelligentsia. But it’s not theater, it’s sad reality and 50,000 cast members and counting are dying; fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.