Consider this my RSVP. I won’t be attending the celebration. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise to those who know me, particularly my wife. To say that I’ve never been a big party person is a gross understatement. When I was still working, many were the times when I would stay at my desk while the rest of the staff celebrated a birthday or anniversary in the break room. I missed the last Christmas luncheon along with the QC Director as we worked to finish an outline that some corporate big shot who needed it NOW didn’t even bother to look at while he took his Christmas break; or any time after that. I’d always thought of him as bullshitting empty suit and in the end he didn’t disappoint. And weddings? I would feign serious illness, even coronavirus if it had been available at the time, to avoid going to a wedding. Whoever came up with the little ditty, “Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you,” probably had me in mind. So you’re all going to have to excuse me if I poop out of the current COVID-19 has been eradicated party
Okay, so that’s a bit of hyperbole. Nobody is seriously proposing that the virus has been eradicated, gone the way of other diseases like Polio, Dracunculiasis, Rinderpest and Iowa Congressman Steve King. Still, more and more businesses are opening up with governmental consent if not outright encouragement. All of this despite new rises in the coronavirus.
They’ve thrown open the doors to the barber, the manicurist and the gym. The Wynn in Vegas is going to be reopening its buffet so now you can enjoy a virus to go along with the bacteria in your lukewarm Hollandaise sauce. If slurping wine is more to your taste you can once again go to the wine country and swirl, sniff and sip. That’s of course without a mask because you can’t properly sniff and sip with a mask and not dribble down your shirt front. A note of caution, if you swirl the wine and you don’t smell the advertised hints of oak and berry and your wine tastes like water (a sort of reversal of the old Biblical tale) then you should try to arrange for a coronavirus test (which is not a slam dunk – stay tuned). I’ve not checked in with Nevada’s bordellos but if they aren’t wide open yet, so to speak, it’s surely just a matter of time.
Two weeks ago here in little Hercules the picnic tables at the city park were coned off and you could’ve thrown a hand grenade into the middle of the big grassy area and not scratched a soul. Last weekend the parking lot was packed; picnickers were out in force, a wedding party was being photographed and the air smelled of burgers on the barbecue. The dog park is open as well.
I will admit to having gone to the dog park but it was just me, Lexi and the dry weeds (The city certainly didn’t knock itself out keeping the place maintained). A half hour of canine romping yielded over an hour of brushing and a sizable pile of burrs, foxtails, twigs, weeds and other assorted vegetation and souvenirs from Lexi who came from the park looking like a four legged ball of sagebrush.
Cora and I watch the contradictory news of the grand reopening followed by reports of rising cases and then we just look at each other, “Did we not get the memo?”
Weeks ago as the reopening gained unexpected momentum here in California I offered, both at the dinner table and on this site, that Gavin Newsom was capitulating to the protesters and all of the suicidal people who went back to business as usual in bald faced defiance of regulations. The inmates overthrew the asylum keepers. What else could the authorities do? It’s not a good look to arrest people who want a shave, a haircut with just a little taken off the top or a Brazilian wax that leaves just a little on the bottom. Clearly public shaming of demonstrators and scofflaws wasn’t working either.
One of the more disturbing aspects of this revolution for the rights of simultaneous self determination and self flagellation has been to scare the shit out of the public servants. This week the news reported that some local government healthcare officials have quit their jobs. When they took jobs meant to promote public health they didn’t sign up to have a rabble issue death threats and stage protests in front of their homes for the inalienable rights of playing cards or going bowling while willy nilly spreading an as yet incurable virus.
Even in our own home there’s been signs that the domestic unity is cracking. My daughter and I were on the same page a month ago but recently we’ve been exchanging annoyed words and the looks that go along with those words. While she’s not been flaunting the rules set up by the powers that be she has been on the fringes of what our house agreed was safe. Knowing that Cora and I are of that older, supposedly more susceptible group she’s trying to balance our safety with some personal desire to loosen her own restrictions. Let’s be clear, she has our best interests in her heart and we’re, if not on the exact same page, in the same chapter.
That she and her ex have split custody of their kids doesn’t make things easier. He’s been more than fair as far as respecting the safety of our household even though on occasion we’ve had questions. There was supposed to be a group discussion about what’s acceptable and what isn’t but in the end I didn’t feel like going there. My feeling is that I’m not going to apply rules to responsible adults. They can do what they feel is safely appropriate and I have to have a level of trust that those who are close to us will do the right thing. If I die because somebody broke the rules of reason I’m just going to haunt the shit out of that person.
A recent discussion with my daughter had us at odds over the numbers. I mentioned that the estimates are for an average of over 13,000 deaths per month between now and the end of September. We kicked around the debate over what constitutes a death directly due to COVID versus a death from some other cause that COVID simply hurried along; a talk that led to a disagreement over the possible cooking of the COVID mortality books. It was a deathly depressing back and forth until we reached a mutual silence of frustration.
One discussion ended in my angrily saying , “You know what, if we’d all behaved when we were supposed to, we wouldn’t be seeing the numbers go up again. We’d be past all this. But no. People were feeling ill used, whining that their liberties were being taken away so here we are again, on the brink of stepping back in time to March.”
We’re in agreement on the point that we’re regressing due to bad behavior. I wonder how many households are being strained not so much by the virus itself but by the differing ideas about which precautions are necessary and which are not. How much tension swirls in the household that debates deep danger versus deep state? This is America, a place in which even a virus is a cause for political and ideological controversy.
So what if we are opening back up too soon? What if we spike back up again? Is there any sane person who thinks we can just decide to close up shop again? That’s one genie who isn’t going to go quietly back into the bottle.
The mob is not going to give up the park, the restaurant, the bar or the barber for two or three more months. They’ve tasted “freedom,”are revelling in that new nail color and are happy for the return of the mullet. More ominously they’ve seen that they can defy stay at home orders with impunity. Once the all clear, or the well maybe it’s kinda-sorta clear, was issued business owners reopened their shops and bars and then some closed up again in short order when employees and customers got sick. Those are individual decisions but any future attempt to return to government mandated shelter in place is going to be, and please excuse the ironic pun, dead on arrival.
Just this week I was tested for coronavirus, an experience that was as interesting as it was uncomfortable. I never had any symptoms, unless you count the sore throat that I’ve had on and off since this whole thing started months ago. It’s a sore throat that’s really just been in my head and not my throat. Yes, I’m a hypochondriac which is the very reason that I rarely pay a visit to the Mayo Clinic website or WebMD.
I asked for the test because we were going to have a weekend get together with extended family from different households. The plan was for those who have had the most outside of the home exposure to get a test and once the expected negative results came back we’d have our get together.
I emailed my doctor who might be the coolest doctor in the entire Kaiser bureaucracy. She navigates the Kaiser maze which can be as thick and unyielding as a brick wall and immediately gets me appointments, referrals and tests that under normal circumstances might take weeks. If I asked nicely it wouldn’t surprise me if she could arrange to have a medium rare burger and a stack of onion rings served to me in the waiting room.
I could’ve lied to her because after all if that’s good enough for POTUS, right? I could’ve looked up the symptoms, copied and pasted Wikipedia and sent her a frantic email; I’m roasting with fever, my throat feels like I took Trump’s advice and swallowed bleach, a pepperoni pizza is tasteless to me and I can’t smell garlic burning on the stove. Instead I tried something novel and told her the truth (Something of a rarity these days. More on that later – stay tuned).
The next day I got a call from a Kaiser minion who asked me which facility I wanted the test done at and then she asked me the year, make, model and color of my car. What day and time did I want the test done? Everything was quickly settled and she sent me an email with the complete details.
It’s a drive up test, no kids or pets in the car please, have your Kaiser card and ID ready and don’t roll down your window until told to do so. I’d heard that the test can be uncomfortable and right up until the end I thought about bailing out but if I guy with a serious case of bone spurs can do it….
At the appointed time I fell into a line of about half dozen cars and watched the lead car closely to get some notion of what was going on. At the very least I might get some indication of how long the actual torture lasted. I couldn’t make out anything as a knot of nerves gathered in my gut and I felt the onset of jittery gas. Well, at least the tech was wearing a respirator.
As I waited I watched some cars that arrived after me. One SUV contained the dog that wasn’t supposed to be in the car with its head out the window that wasn’t supposed to be open. Another car, a convertible not only had the windows rolled down, it had the top down as well. Go ahead, piss off the person who’s going to stick an 8” swab up your nose.
When I pulled up to the testing station a person held up a sign asking me to show my card and ID and instructing me to keep the window rolled up until told to lower it. Then a young woman who was dressed for a spacewalk showed up and asked me to roll down the window and recite my name and date of birth before she gave me the instructions. The first swab would be in my throat. Stick out my tongue, say “ahhhh” and if I felt like I had to gag, sneeze or cough turn the other way. It was uncomfortable and did produce some gagging and the need to catch my breath but I knew that the worst was yet to come.
The tech the asked me to put my head back, breath through my mouth and relax as she put a swab up my nose. The automatic response is to tighten your whole face right down to your ass but she told me to relax as the swab seemed to approach my cerebral cortex. She completed a nostril and I thought it was done but no, she wanted to do both. There was that temptation to tell her to fuck off and then burn rubber and get out but what the hell, in for a dime in for a dollar.
Many years ago there was a sitcom called Welcome Back Kotter, about a highschool teacher and his wild and crazy students. One student was a suave, cool guy named Vinny Barbarino played by a very young and not yet portly John Travolta. He was a sort of contemporary of Fonzie in Happy Days. Travolta went on to bigger and better things while Henry Winkler sort of languished into Fonzie-hood and infomercials. One of Vinny’s stock lines was “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” That is the essence of the coronavirus nasal swab. Who knew that Vinny Barbarino would be a man before his time.
I’m happy to say that the next day the results came in negative which as the president said is positive but not really positive but negative in a good way. Or something like that. I’m not really conversant in gibberish.
In the end we won’t be having the family gathering. One household surprisingly refused to test. My son and a brother in law, each of whom went to a protest, were refused tests even though anyone who went to a protest was encouraged to get a test. My daughter who is classified as being in a susceptible category was also denied a test. Out of the group I was the only one who was granted a test which brings me back to the point about testing and the truth.
You might recall that at the beginning of March the President of the United States, while visiting the Centers for Disease Control, said, “Anybody who wants a test gets a test.” That was a lie of course. He knew it was a lie when he said it. His entourage knew it was a lie. Everyone from the CDC who was present knew it was a lie. His lapdog who yips on command and is named Pencie, knew it was a lie. His press secretary knew it was a lie. The press knew it was a lie. Even St. Peter looking down from above who chalked it up in his Big Book of Lies knew it was a lie. The only people who didn’t know it was a lie was that vast group of people who, for god knows what reason, have an undying faith that this particular president isn’t going to escort them off the cliff. Of all the many lies that this man has told, and it’s hard to keep track even for St. Peter with his Big Book of Lies, this is one that is high up on my unmitigated gall scale. It’s one thing to bullshit about the size of crowds or the size of anything else for that matter (Only Melania and a handful of paid off porn stars know for sure), but to lie so blithely about a matter of world health is unforgivable.
Strangely enough I’m waiting with baited breath for Trump’s rally that’s coming up in Tulsa where the coronavirus seems to have settled in for a comfortable stay. No serious person in healthcare seems to think that this rally is a good idea. In fact no serious cab driver, ditch digger, barista, auto mechanic or electrician seems to think that this rally is a good idea. No serious firefighter, traffic cop, airline pilot or man/woman on the street thinks this is going to turn out well. Notice I use the word, “serious.” But there they are, some lined up for days in anticipation, lined up at the venue wearing their Trump regalia and their MAGA caps and carrying Trump signs.
Morbid curiosity is going to have me watching part of the rally, not to hear what Trump has to say. I already know that it’s going to be a mixture of self-serving bullshit, rudeness and various and sundry slanders all played to the tune of Trump’s concerto for dog whistle in e flat whatever. I’m just curious to see if there will be masks and any pretense of social distancing. It’s sort of like slowing down to see the flaming car wreck on the side of the road. Will this lead to the tipping point in two weeks? Is Trump going all in with a mega/MAGA bet? What happens if by mid-July that rally has spawned a mega spike? How do you bullshit your way out of that?
But enough of the world of the completely bizarre, let’s shift to the marginally bizarre. The grandchildren got their report cards this week which unlike normal report cards, these didn’t have grades. Instead the teachers issued written evaluations and both Jack and Lucy received exemplary remarks. They’ll move on in the fall, Jack to the fifth grade and Lucy the fourth but what they’ll physically graduate to is still up for debate. If there’s a god in heaven these babies will go back to healthy normalcy.
The two kids are farming on a small scale. I’ve planted some tomatoes and Jack is working on some bell peppers and jalapenos. He likes my homemade salsa and is hoping to be able to have some that’s not just homemade but home grown. Lucy is a carrot fan and the other day after smushing soil to eliminate clods and then mixing it with soil that she said smelled like poop, she planted a row of carrot seeds.
I haven’t seen granddaughter Sophia since Super Bowl Sunday. For the past year or so she’s been taking guitar lessons on an old acoustic. Today my son texted me a photo of a brand new Fender electric guitar. For a short time anyway it’ll take away the sting of being cooped up in the house.
Cora and I are plowing through TV series after TV series. We just started watching The West Wing. Yes, I know, we’re late to the party, the show has Gateway computers and rotary phones and when it was shot it wasn’t done as a period piece. I’m not quite sure if we’ll get through to the end. During episode three I turned to Cora, “ Now I know why nothing gets done in D.C. Nobody sits at a desk and actually works. All these people do is walk around chat, grab a pastry and then meet up with another colleague and walk some more to the next pastry table. In the evening they drink.”
Episode four, more promenading and Cora said, “This is bullshit,” which comes out very cute in her Filipino accent. In any event if the president’s staff doesn’t start doing less walking and talking and more working we’re going to impeach the whole lot of them and move to another show.
Whatever happens I hope we don’t go through another episode of hoarding. Toilet paper and sanitizer are plentiful but we still can’t find yeast which isn’t altogether a bad thing. Jessica is going on weekend baking binges and it’s all I can do to keep from overeating and blowing up like a 50 cent balloon. Whipping cream is still hit or miss. We are though, pardon the pun, flush with toilet paper.
I would like to say that the photo below proves that we’ve learned to breed toilet paper and the rolls on the right are juveniles that will grow up to be adult rolls like the one on the left. Sadly that’s not the case.
The roll on the left is what one would buy at the local supermarket. The rolls on the right were shipped by an Amazon vendor and took two months from order date to delivery. I must say, they are cute little tykes if you ignore the cost of 30 dollars a dozen. You’re welcome Mr. Bezos and please do choke on that 30 bucks.
We all have some skin in this miserable game; lost job, no income, boredom, frustration, doubt and an infinite number of other concerns. Me? I’ve got two missing lower front teeth. I have an implant that was supposed to receive the crowns over a month ago but now I’m on the reopening wait list and I’d sure like to have a burger or a super burrito that are both off the menu now. I have a torn rotator cuff in each shoulder, each waiting for surgery and both hurt like sons of bitches every night. With the backlog I’m looking at autumn before I’m scheduled but a new lockdown will push it further out. But the teeth and shoulders are secondary for me. I want to take my wife, a devout Catholic, to see Rome and meet my family there. Coronavirus has this all up in the air and we all are in doubt as to when the things that we want to do can be done or will be done. The annoying commercials say that, “we’re all in this together.” I just hope that here in America, we can all figure out a way to all be in this together.