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A penny for your thoughts.

Covid plays God

Carolle has found an occupation, she is cleaning my sloppy grouting after tiling our renovated bathroom. I have some excuse for it, we only took possession of the loft in September, and we had plans to visit Nice at the end of November. Although the loft looked clean and ready to live in, it quickly became evident that the bathroom had to be remodeled. Carolle, with her experience in architecture, drew the plan, and I was the contractor. I had help from my friends Larry and Lou who demolished and removed the debris, Mike the plumber installed the new tub and I worked the rest of the job. The plan consisted of small marble squares for the tiled floor, all four walls clad with large ceramic tiles, floor to ceiling, a new toilet, new lavatory, new door etc… something I knew how to do as I had remodeled several bathrooms in the past in the different house we owned at one time or another.  All was finished, except for the grout, only one week before departing for France. Because I did not want to come back with an unfinished job, I grouted the tiles a couple of days before leaving, tired and exhausted from the past eight month ordeal of moving, that in retrospect feels now a bit like a cataclysm. I can’t think of how I would have done if covid had appeared around the time we sold the house. Poor folks left in that situation now. The cleaning should keep Carolle busy for a couple of days. I’m not getting in her way. I offered to help a couple of times and was denied.

It has been a month now since returning from New York City. I have not had any sign of covid, no symptom, my friend Dan, with whom I was that same day, is also fine. Since we haven’t heard of anyone in our close business relations infected with covid. The administration has flipped on wearing masks, now telling anyone who would listen, to wear them in public, specially grocery shopping. Covid numbers are creeping along, the map showing the darker spot near us growing ever larger as the contagion progresses. The color fades gradually to pink the further from the city one lives. We live two hours away from New YorkCity, in the lighter pink part of the covid map in the North West corner of Connecticut. Our county is adjacent to Fairfield County, the county bordering New York, north of the city, where the virus has hit worse in Connecticut. We don’t feel safe even though we are far away. I think most of us wish for a coordinated national effort from the administration to the top down. We want it but we fear it too, specially with the team we have now, and frankly with any team. Ceding states rights is contrary to our democracy. But should we play the same rules during a catastrophic event like the one that’s plaguing us now? I think not. In times like these, the country has to accept uniformity in decisions and actions. Can you keep a ship from sinking plugging one hole on the side of it and ignoring another couple of breaches on the other side? I think not. Instead, states are left to their own decision, and in some cases , their own devises to fight covid. Again, some say the president is, like that well known head of states a few thousand years ago, washing his hands of the whole affair. Can’t put the blame on him if he is not in charge, right. But if he is not in charge then, why do we need him?
As of today, 332,594 cases of covid-19 have been detected, 9,504 have died and 17,018 have recovered in the United States. Giuseppe Verdi’s Opera, Macbeth is on as a background.

This month of semi confinement has passed rather quickly, we try to economize on the small projects left to finish the loft, trying to keep one daily and taking our time to do it, why hurry really, time is cheap today. Yesterday, I took the telescopic 14” ladder out and changed the fastening screws holding the storm windows (a retrofit installed inside instead of outside), with flat head screws instead of the knobby ones provided by the manufacturer. Their large size, useful if one has to remove the window,  put them in the way of the ten feet vertical blinds covering the windows, catching the last long blade and leaving it unnaturally twisted. Shorter screws were the solution, all three windows provided me with exercise, Carolle was happy, the thing bugged her since I installed the new set of blinds, the old ones brittle with time, some blade missing or damaged, but mandatory for the esthetic look of the building, a uniform window dressing for the whole complex.

So far, our lockdown has been fairly uneventful, life as usual without the luxury of socializing. That is physical contact face to face socializing. Online socializing is another story, my mobile informs me everyday that I have spent quite a bit of time on my device, more than usual. It seems that a lot of the president’s apologists are even more vocal than ever. People seeing  what is happening during this catastrophic time, are pushing against a lot of disinformation and misplaced blame. I confess I am one of the folks pushing against the base. I believe the apologists are a minority, but a minority with a strong voice that they are not shy of using time and time again, to extol the president’s actions or inaction, blaming the opposition’s impeachment or other far fetched nonsense. The president did not seem that busy during the impeachment proceedings, he was golfing as usual telling everyone who would listen that all was good, that it was not worried because, anyway, the all affair was a Democrat hoax. Sounds familiar, another hoax, just like covid, a Democrat fabrication was his modus operandi. But the president’s base is pushing, most times with made up figures and falsehood, to remake history. They deny having downplayed the pandemic as a hoax, back pedaling to fit their new message, that Trump is doing a great job and nobody gives him the credit he deserves because they hate him. I don’t hate him, I just think he is not competent to lead our nation, never was, and it is more evident now with his reaction to fighting covid. Our most danger now is that he is in charge. But that has nothing to do about hate. Take the face mask debacle, and we know that no CDC decisions are not vetted by the president. The masks are now recommended, a whole month after the epidemic in New York, for everyone in public, a sudden volte-face after the blatant lies they told the public not even a week before. It was possibly more dangerous for the public to wear masks, they said at the time, with no data to sustain the claim. In the meantime, the president is doubling down on pushing treatment with drugs used for other viruses, against the recommendations of his health team. Again, his mind is influenced by individuals with no medical knowledge, but he listens hoping for a quick fix to the crisis. He keeps on telling us, and having the health experts in charge of guiding him and the country, that a lot of folks will die from covid, a lot of people he emphasizes, and in the same breath, he encourages churches and places of worship to continue as usual, instead of forbidding large gatherings, the path to stopping infections from spreading further. For heaven’s sake, even the Pope closed the Vatican, what does the US religious leaders know that the boss in Rome does not?

It’s about time we tax organized religion and churches, we cannot exist as a nation when privileges are accorded to this or that group of citizens. We, the people should not pick up the tab for a huge amount of the free loading businesses, churches and their founders. We cannot survive when rules of conduct, designed to keep people from getting sick, are totally ignored by groups like some southern churches goers, putting all in jeopardy. When exception are allowed, folks die and covid runs amock. There is no more a separation of church and states when churches are not following sanitary rules. There is no more separation of church and states when big mega churches see the president as a messiah, and preach his virtues at mass. Some church leaders are paying an ultimate price for the poisoned gospel they preached. Covid has taken a few, and with more of their flock members infected, death is not done yet. And that’s a problem as parishioners move freely around their communities spreading the virus to countless victims.

We hear stories about folks out of luck in Missouri who had utilities cut before covid arrived. How do you expect they keep clean? How can they wash their hand for twenty seconds, as the good doctor tell them on the tv, before electricity is also cut off? How many of those folks are around in the country? I am sure more than is told on the news. Statistics tell us that 38 million people live at or below poverty level. When you add these 38 million people to 170 million middle class, it leaves our country with 138 million upper class of various wealth. It would only take 3.473684210526316 rich folks to bring 1 person out of poverty. Would that be too much to ask? It could be done as a real life tv show, Adopt a Poor, but that would be crass, wouldn’t it be? Not that we have not had our share of crass shows, like the homes of rich and famous, or the various bachelors or bachelorettes, the naked and afraid and duck dynasties and other degrading shows of the past few years. I still think taxes are a better way to correct a situation that is unsustainable, the recent events been a clear indication that the time has come.
The wealth amassed by the top earners has tipped the balance so much toward the bottom that the ”angle of repose” is breached and the old middle class children’s, with practically no wealth passed down, are falling into poverty faster than ever, nothing to grasp on, the slant too step. The people working two or three jobs, some living in their car or vans, the ones basically swindled by the various services and the job providers (some exempt of contributing to taxes unlike most of us), are the ones paying for that. Kept in modern slavery, living pay check to pay check and working for the company store. Of course, when they are not useful, you cut the utilities, first, then you repossess their dwellings,  and you see them on the streets, or camped in the woods. That’s what’s tipping the balance of our economy, not covid. Our president was right when berating the homeless situation in California, the poverty in Baltimore, now it’s time he acts on it. If he is not interested, someone else has to do it. In the richest country in the world, we should not have such rampant poverty juxtaposed to the ostentatious wealth allowed to flourish unfettered and untaxed.

The system is broken and fixing it will take a strong political will. Folks are going to start thinking about priorities. Will people go back to the party in charge now, the party fighting tooth and nail against just about every social advances, the party whose solution to all ills is to cut founding for services or social security, while largely distributing tax refunds to the same folks who are tipping the balance? Will people, for once, not vote for politicians working against their own welfare.

Covid numbers are climbing in the USA, 10000 deaths and 360000 infected. Bellini’s Norma just finished, with another doomed love and a fiery death finale. Death is inevitable and it’s an anticipation we all experience, we expect it, sooner or later. Still when someone you know dies, you are not ready to believe the news, most times you are shocked. I just learned that one of my old customer died a few days ago. She was extremely wealthy and could have chosen, like some other wealthy clients, to deal with me through an intermediate (I had another equally wealthy client during the same time that I never met). Instead, she would receive me and we would briefly discuss the project and from then on, I had free reigns on the finished product. I appreciated that and the work I did for her was some of the most satisfying if not challenging I created. I could work unfettered and from my own designs. She had impeccable taste, an art benefactor and a beautiful woman. There is no indication she died of covid, and I am glad if she did not. The English prime minister is ill with covid, in intensive care, the Queen of England spoke to her subjects, telling folks to stay put, that there will be better days to come.
Covid, like a malicious god picks his victims blindly.

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A penny for your thoughts.

One day at a time

In France the numbers are frightening. With half of covid infected patients needing hospitalization, 1 in 4.5 patients dying in hospitalization and 1 in 3 patients dying in ventilation and reanimation. It’s not a good sign for the USA, France has been in a country wide lockdown for over three weeks and considering more time before returning to ordinary life. Here, we are just haphazardly self confined based on each individual’s belief in the disease and it’s contagious threat. The folks living in the hot spots areas are taking covid seriously as the deaths increase. In France, trials with hydroxychloroquine, the medication for malaria are on the way, but with alarming results. It’s seems that the medication, used together with others, result in cardiac malfunctions for some patients treated with the drug. To add to concerns about using that drug is that it seems the virus not only attacks the lungs, but also attack the heart. The medical community is working by the seat of its pants.
Notwithstanding, at daily briefings, our president is still pushing the use of hydroxychloroquine, museling his covid health advisor when question about it’s use and efficiency arises. He does not tell us about a more promising treatment like the antiviral Remdesivir, a drug that has worked on a similar virus but set aside for several years. Is it because he would profit from the other drug, hydroxychloroquine? Apparently, he does. There are memes online depicting him as a snake oil salesman, denouncing his stakes in the drug maker company, Sanofi, the producer of hydroxychloroquine.
Talks about starting the baseball season surface from the president, wishing to normalize life, is just another arrow pointing to the cluelessness of a leader faced with a worldwide pandemic, “like you never seen before”.

Today should be a shopping day as we have run out of essential staples, but we will make do until the morning, instead we will take a walk after today’s entertainment. Carolle is happy because Verdi’s Aida, is on today, and it’s one of her favorite Opera. I must say that could not agree more, the sets, The costumes and sometime the very familiar music is a spectacle to enjoy even though it’s another very sad love story. A scene looked like several hundred actors were on stage at the same time, Carolle says that’s when the chorus is really useful when the director needs bodies. It made sense to me, still I was quite impressed by the whole production. The victory parade with two cavaliers on horses and the various regiments marching behind was not only impressive but also beautifully orchestrated. Every day, after the last curtain falls, we get to meet the different cantatrices, the sopranos, baritones and tenors, the stars of the show. They give us anecdotes or talks about how they approach a scene and all kind of trivia. They make for a wonderful group of people, on and behind the scene.
We enjoy our almost daily walks and today we walked the wood path to it’s end, behind the guardrails at the end of a dead end street. Dead end for vehicles, but with a path beyond it leading to the shopping plaza. It’s a well travelled path. At that point, we took the street toward Red Mountain street, a street climbing north. For about ten or fifteen minutes, we followed, at a good distance, an older until he reached his house. At some point, even though he walked with the help of a cane, he gained ground on us. That surprised me as the hill is quite steep and we were not walking that slow. We walked further on but did not reach the top and turned around after a few minutes. We returned using the path to descend to a mostly deserted shopping plaza, taking the sidewalk all the way home. Pedestrians have always been sparse during ordinary times, but today we only saw one on the opposite sidewalk. On Red Mountain road we saw a trio of older boys play ball in a driveway, some folks on porches, a couple of guys sharing a beer by the garage door and only a few cars until we reached Main Street heading back home.
Earlier in the morning, I had gone to the post office, with my usual protection, the customers seemed too close for comfort, a few with masks and some not protected . I was glad to see masks on the faces behind the counter. I gathered the mail from the post office box and placed it as usual in a box for later sorting and cleaning. My Monk gets into gear when I bring anything home, unless I know where it was stored before covid. My new method, with gloves on, is to separate the junk mail, like all the political letters and store coupons and place it in the recycle bin, together with magazines and other irrelevant mail. The good mail goes back into the box, sprayed with ethanol and left at least two days before handling it. The mail in the recycle bin can be handled a few days or a week latter, retrieved before disposing of the recycling. Pretty anal but I think necessary. We can’t help but getting more news of drama in the government, the last one about the acting secretary of navy resigning because he relieved an aircraft commander of his duty (most likely by orders from the top), for alerting the authorities of a covid outbreak on the ship. He called him an idiot and charged him of dereliction of duty or some other nonsense, for blowing the whistle, for protecting his sailors and soldiers, our brave military. So here he is resigning and really taking the blame for the big boss, another sacrificial lamb. In New York City, covid victims are dying every two minutes, seven hundred since yesterday. If that does not scare everyone to literally to death, in the rest of the country, what will?

Early in the morning, from eight to nine, the club store I went to is reserved for senior, and I could see at the parking lot that more people wore protection, kept distances respectfully and cleaned the cart handle or wore gloves or both. There is now only one entrance to the store, and only one exit, and that’s a good idea, diminishing customer’s encounters, making it easier to keep folks six feet apart. In the store, people without protection make perhaps half, with the other half wearing some protection, most wearing masks or improvised bandannas, scarves down to a large folded handkerchief, folded in a triangle and tied around the head. The last one probably only for moral comfort than actual protection. At lest this person showed some care, if not for himself, for others. And there was the opposite laissez-faire attitude of a tall man, probably thinking that the virus laid only below his head, not paying much attention about social distancing, and wearing no protection whatsoever. He was not shopping alone, a younger man was pushing his cart, also without protection. He seemed a bit more cautious, keeping distances. He was not alone, an older couple, shopping in tandem unprotected, were wandering around the aisles as if all was normal. But couples made the exception, the majority of unprotected shoppers were singles, including the staff. Some stores in Connecticut have temperature check points before entering and crossing their door. That would be a good step to implement in the large shopping centers, but, it would only keep people suspected of being infected from entering the stores. The problem is that not everyone infected shows symptoms right away, asymptotic they can spread the virus. I know a bit about viruses having been attacked by one that nobody knew existed less than thirty years ago. Many first aid responders, were unknowingly infected by it when in contact with blood from infected people, during trauma or treatment. Until the virus was identified, like me they had not inkling that they were sick. Now everyone knows about this virus and takes precautions handling blood and bleeding patients. Since, there is medication to render it basically dead but it took several years for that to happen.
The virus was killing me slowly without showing any signs or symptoms, for years, until my doctor, prescribing a new test for that recently discovered virus, found that I was infected by it. At the time there were no medication to treat the virus. I literally went through trials and error to trial and success, finally healing with the drugs killing millions of unit of the virus destroying my body. A grueling treatment, a cocktail of three different medicines administered weekly and daily, that lasted eighteen months, and made me extremely weak. That virus changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. It did not kill me, even though it was the most severe mutation, but it tried hard. I would have been dead now if my doctor had not prescribed the test. I thank doctor Stephen for saving my life.
Doctors are working hard to save lives today, with a lack of tools and remedies and unfortunately not able to heal many infected with covid. Fort Bragg, the military base in North Carolina where my daughter is a doctor, is sending medical personnel to New York to help the stretched medical teams as the epidemic claims many victims daily. I try not to think too much about the danger she is in this pandemic, but I can’t avoid it.

Today’s opera is on to distract us, The Girl of the Golden West by Puccini, the gold rush, pioneers, saloon and cards games with cheaters, a good brawl stopped Minnie making her entrance shooting a long gun, and later on, a stagecoach pulled by a solid white horse. An elaborate set were Minnie runs the show and reads the Bible to dusty cowboys. Opera meets spaghetti westerns, it’s not my quote, this one is borrowed from the aficionados. As usual I expect nothing really good will happen, someone will suffer, death is looming, it’s par for the course. But to my surprise, the ending turns out fine, not wanting to spoil the suspense, I’ll write no more about it.
The news are not as rosy, unfortunately. Evangelist are saber rattling with China, egging the president to punish the country for covid. Those preaching for Agamemnon are pushing for a conflict with China. Looking for The Rapture? When ideology transcends politics, we are in trouble. Considering the elections are coming quickly and that the cards dealt to this president only have bluff power, smashing his legacy (the gains in the stock market) to smithereens, how can his ego be wounded so badly without him taking even more irrational steps than he has taken now. It’s a fear that should not be ignored and a situation we should never have been subjected to. Our acting president and his acting cabinet secretaries are improvising a dangerous dialogue, a modern comedy of errors that involves all of us and for which million more people will suffer.
As usual, when catastrophes occur, the most disadvantaged take the brunt of the shock. Covid is killing more minorities than the rest of the population. That fact underlines the problems these communities have to rise above poverty, when challenged by one calamity or another. Today, it’s also because of poverty that covid is more deadly for these folks. The ability to vote for these poor people if often made difficult, squashing their voice in the political world. It does not help when the Supreme Court’s decisions works to impair voting, specially now that social distancing and staying home is so crucial to attain the plateau, when contagion levels off and ceases, by refusing to postpone some elections until it’s safer for folks to get out to vote. It’s no secret that Republicans in general, don’t like too many voters casting ballots. For some reasons, they believe they would lose elections if they encouraged voting. But with the Supreme Court taking that position in a pandemic, bringing the ideology to another dangerous standard, there is no hope on the horizon that things will change anytime soon.

At dusk, April 9 2920, the numbers grow, Coronavirus Cases: 435,167; Deaths:14,797, and that’s only in the United States.

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A penny for your thoughts.

The Life Line

Stocks jumped today on the announcement of the feds picking up the tab for the covid bailout, but so far the banks have been dragging their feet, responding slowly if not at all to the SBA. In the meantime, the same banks bombard us with propaganda, in the form of advertising, informing us of all the good they are doing for us. But, in fact, they are doing precious little, laying in wait for another government bailout. Perhaps now that the feds are giving them over two trillions dollars, perhaps then will they open the purse. But there no insurance of that unless laws tell them to do it. We have seen the scenarios, not so long ago, when banks collected the bailout money while foreclosing or refusing to renegotiate loans. And we wonder why we have an uncontrolled homeless situation. Any reason the two would be related? I think the homeless situation it directly connected to the banks failure after the last bailout. Will it happen again? Will the banks hear the laments of “too large to fail” corporations but be deaf to the small businesses and the millions of self employed workers, the core of the machine that’s enriching them? Will they be blind and ignore the cries for help? Will they have to be shamed into helping the folks that made them so wealthy, the little guy? Or will they start collecting and foreclosing as soon as covid is gone and everything is declared normal? Why not, if the government doesn’t step in with laws to prevent them from doing just that, with laws that make sure that there is a moratorium on foreclosure during the time it will take for banks and clients to design a payment plan,  for back due mortgage payments, or even better, a mandatory remortgage with low interest rates offered to all afflicted. If the banks do not play nice, the homeless population we see now will seem very small in years to come. The SBA, overwhelmed by an inundation of applications, is not responding and working with an antiquated system and database that is probably overloaded, leaving loan applicants in limbo. All that will make recovering difficult for small businesses and the economy in general. Of course, we have never been in a situation like this before and predicting the future is pointless, all the norms are gone and awaiting rebuilding. We have to take life one day at a time, waiting for the storm to settle. Since our semi confinement I have done no business and have had no extra income. We can survive like this indefinitely, lucky enough to be able to, on a fixed income. It is actually a very nice feeling to avoid thinking about business, something I have spent a good deal doing during my life. It’s a liberation of the mindset, guiding my thought to a certain introspection, with a mix of emotions and guilty feelings associated with well self been. On paper, it reads like a cliche, but in person it’s a conflicting tug on the conscience. The homeless camp in the wood, only a few hundred yards away from the loft were we live, is a recurring reminder of that battle, together with flashbacks to my travels around Europe, when I was young, with a backpack only holding necessities, a sleeping bag and later on, a guitar, my sole possessions.

It’s a cool rainy day today. Falstaff, is playing, the second of Verdi’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s good fun, no drama or dying hero, no blood or gore, just plain fun, a Keystone Kops Opera with great music and voices. During the opera, thunder came and went, and by the time it finished, sun showed up. We took our thirty minutes walk around the blocks of houses lining Main Street, noticing more forsythia in blooms and more life coming out here and there, glad to see Spring is not on lockdown. The walks are pleasant, with sometimes surprising  architecture displayed in the diverse styles of houses lining the street. The wind picked up and both our hats took off at about the same time, sending me scrambling to retrieve them. Today we both wore fedoras and there they were, like two wheels let loose and aloft, rolling at a good pace ahead of me. It looked as if I was trying to catch chickens. Anyway, I fought the hats but finally caught them and we both had a very much needed laugh. Small pleasures of life makes a difficult time bearable. We took a shorter walk today, but it did us both good.
The news keeps on giving us higher and higher covid numbers, our country taking the lead in infections and death. As we woke up almost half a million people have been ill from covid, seventeen thousands have died. The global infections are tallied at 1,617,530 with 96,940 deaths.

Churches in Texas and Florida are deemed essentials, against all common sense in light of the high rate of contagion covid is proven to have. With a total lack of respect for the rest of the community, they are allowed to endanger lives. Where is the Christian spirit? But is it really a surprise, to see religious leaders and their flocks so blatantly tossing their first commandment “tho shall not kill”, when they also support the death penalty? The hypocrisy is nauseating. Of course, the president is letting it happen, still not really grasping the severity, I assume, as his daily briefings are still filled with lies and unicorns. I remember New Yorkers in the eighties and nineties, the time I lived there and were my Studio was located. It did not matter if your business was slowly sinking, what mattered was to put a positive spin to it and claim to everyone who may listen, that business has never been that good and that you were making more money than ever. The image was more important than reality and facts, looking good and looking wealthy was the idea. The president is a product of that period of time in New York. The tragedy is that he has not escaped that trend, leading us with bad decisions and false hope, all in hope that his image and chance of reelection remain intact. The result translates to unclear messages or reversals of his recommendations and proposed solutions, leaving folks scrambling for alternatives that are either not available or in short supplies. Historians are already awarding him the prize for being the worse president ever, pushing over Buchanan for his place at the top. He has a few month left as president, giving him a chance to redeem himself, but I have better chance of getting a Nobel in physics than for any redemption and redress of the mess he has created. If his businesses history serves as a litmus test, his chances are very dim. Four more years of incompetence at the helm of our nation is not something we are looking for. And I am not alone to fear another four years as, lately, articles from the otherwise very conservative newspapers, are denouncing the blatant incompetence of the president and basically stating that they’ve had enough, that the direction this leader is taking the country is unsustainable. Covid is making holes in our social fabric as easy as moth on fine cashmere. Dismantling the government turned out to be a major mistake whose consequences are felt now and will be impairing us for a long time, and even when covid attacks blindly with no regard to race, age or genders, it kills more disadvantaged, poor and blacks and hispanics than whites, healthy and wealthy folks.
Do we think the president cares if a few thousand Hispanic die? Do we feel that he cares at all for anyone of us?

Weather in New England is highly unpredictable and today we have a taste of it. Snow is falling, only a few flakes that will not stick fortunately, but the sky is grey, looking as if we will have more to come. Maine has seen a foot of snow a couple of days back, I hope we don’t see that. The trees outside our windows are leafing and buds are present in abundance, a bad cold spell would temper the bloom we are impatiently waiting for, and it would be a setback for the birds wintering of coming back as the trees bearing permanent fruits would only offer a diminished amount of food. Together with gloomy weather, another Wagner is on the program, Parsifal, four and a half hour filled with background music for me. Carolle is watching but I finally start listing items online. I had stopped before the lockdown, thinking that folks mind was not on superfluous purchases, the stuff I peddle is not essential. But now, I figure, folks are starting to get bored and ready, on the anticipation of getting government money, to please themselves. So I listed a few inexpensive items, as a test to the market. If there is activity, I’ll list more expensive items. Selling is a game, the field has to be just right for business to flourish. A bump here or there and one takes a dive, wasting time and money. Luckily, the money made on my online sales is not needed for our day to day living, it’s only play money enabling me to buy more stock. Before covid, my Saturday’s were mostly devoted to visiting the various estates sales, garage sales, flea markets and group shops and antiques shops. Before covid, I would rise early and scout the papers for tag or estates sales, then I would do my rounds of flea markets, starting with the one downtown were my friend Dusty is a manager, then drive up route 4 to the round about were my friend Brian keeps an antique shop in an old building once used as a general store. Then I would drive by my friend Lonnie whose antiques barn would be closed as he probably doing the same as I was, looking for stock to fill the barn. I would stop by on Sunday afternoon, say hello and chew the fat or if I’m lucky, buy something. His barn is on the way to the church were April and other volunteers run a bookstore stocked from donations, the only bookstore around for miles, were once I found, on open shelf, a signed Ronald Reagan biography for only a couple of bucks. Not my favorite president but loved by many others and highly marketable. My last stop would be the Barn were I have a booth, a group shop set in an old dairy barn. Years back, the Barn was the gathering place where town youth would dance to the music of local bands. The owners also offers lunch, Jim, a retired teacher, behind the counter, his wife Carol, a great cook with Italian genes, providing soups, baking goods and good humor. I have frequented the Barn for at least twenty years. Some vendors have set up at the barn for even longer that that. Way back,  Janet’s father used to tend the counter while also tending a booth. Janet, also a retired teacher, took over her dad’s booth and duties after he died. I still remember him, we had pleasant conversation, our political differences did not keep us from enjoying time together. Times have changed… Janet’s dad passed away and so did Bill, a big man with a much weathered leather hat always pinned to his head. I have no memory of Bill’s naked head whatsoever. Bill had the last booth way back in the barn but his favorite spot was the very right side of the counter. He would hold court there, sipping coffee while telling jokes that sometimes tended to be politically incorrect, but also funny at the same time. We all miss Bill.
And on this Saturday, I miss my weekly routine. Not that I need stock, I have overflowing stock and could spend the rest of my life just listing the stuff I already have. What I really miss is the people and the dance of finding, recognizing and bargaining for the items I think I should buy. I miss the people most, they are all hard working folks, good Americans, may all of them be healthy when covid is gone. The people we know are our real life line, the human experience, the interactions between folks, the cup of coffee at the counter, the small talks and the proximity are all taken for granted, until the necessary six feet of space between bodies and the closure of public spaces forbids social activities. Our life line is badly damaged and for some poor folks, totally broken, covid killing and maiming at will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A penny for your thoughts.

The first 2000

Two thousand people died from covid in the USA yesterday. It’s the highest daily casualties number since covid started spreading. Our small town is not spared, the amount of people infected tripled in a week to 83 cases. The wave has not passed yet and we are expecting the numbers to grow. Our opera theme this week is Shakespeare and we set to watch Romeo and Juliet by Gounod. Sad sad sad story, this one set in the eighteen century in elaborate costumes style Court Marie Antoinette. The settings for that ageless story could take place in any époque says Carolle, reminding me of West Side Story, our modern Romeo and Juliet. I found it difficult to watch, not in the mood for tragedy and in need of a happier ending. Disney should remake the script. I keep busy, my attention deficit disorder helping, jumping from one project to the other, small tasks requiring little attention, compartmentalizing ideas until they fit together like a 3D puzzle, into a finished product, a vision or a thought. We took a walk again, on Main Street to the trail behind the box store, and up the woods. This time, instead of taking the trail leading towards the Mill, we took the left trail in the direction of route 4. There were remnants of railroad ties left over from the time railway cars delivered to factories. The trail ends at route 4 but can be seen going further, all the way through town. It would make a wonderful urban trail, a bit of cleaning up would help, unscrupulous people chucked TVs and other unnatural objects and have used parts of the trail as a dump site. Our town has so much untapped potential for urban development, with little new infrastructure to be built, using the existing structures that are underused now, like the empty factories left semi abandoned. It has been done in other towns all over the country. It could be done here as well, if there was a will.

Easter Sunday came and went with a car drive around the country side, something we had not done since getting back to Connecticut, our entertainment today consisted of Don Pasquale, a very funny comic Opera reminiscent of Comedia del Arte or Boccaccio, after that, a recent remake of Jesus Christ Super Star, finishing with Colombo, the Monk opposite.

We woke up with new numbers from covid and its havoc on society. Inching towards twenty thousand, the death count rises together with the number of infections. Today Carolle went to another big box store up the hill. She was disappointed to witness the lack of precautions taken by the company to protect their employees and the customers. Practically no workers wore masks and to make matters worse, did not respect distances, there were no shield at the cashier, overall a dangerous lackluster attitude towards the danger we have all been faced since the start of the pandemic. It’s mind boggling to see folks risking their lives, when the danger is lurking everywhere, so foolishly. I went to the official town website and saw a generic link to a page listing several states and federal announcements, some dead links as well, and a link to a cookie cutter Declaration Of  Local State Of Emergency. I did not see a front page message urging people to take precautions or giving advice, nothing particular to our town, business as usual, or so it seems looking at the opening page of the site. Where is the leadership? The numbers are climbing in our town with 110 recorded infected people from zero three weeks ago. The covid wave is expected to hit us in a few weeks, wouldn’t it be good for the folks in charge to take a more proactive actions, like making sure the stores apply recommended safety measures. Unfortunately, our town government is not alone, the chain to harness covid has many broken links and the numbers of infections continue to rise and they will rise until a unified plan is adopted. Republicans elected officials are starting to complain about the shutdown and ask for a speedy return to normal. One of our elected politician, owner of half dozen non essential businesses, wants to reopen sooner than later, money lost is more important than lives lost, it seems. He is not alone, nine governors, all Republicans, are pushing against total lockdown.

Carolle is done with cleaning the tiles grout, it took a week to finish the task. Now she is building the LEGO Guggenheim that my daughter gifted some years ago. She is pretty fast and will finish quickly, but for now, she is having a good time, not thinking about covid. I was thinking about covid, angered by the scene at the big store down Main Street but today’s Opera quickly made me forget. Finally, after weeks of Opera and hours of Wagner, I got to see a work by Mozart. And what a production, set on Coney Island and the amusement park, together with flame eaters, sword swallowers, contortionist, a tattooed man, all performing around the singers, in a Cosi Fan Tutte that Mozart would have been proud of. I had a good laugh when Carolle told me about the plot. It’s a recurring theme in Opera she explained, folks disguised themselves and appears as someone else all the time, to lovers, would be lovers or whomever the story needs. Gullibility rides a long way with operatics. The story takes place in the 1950’s with all the appropriate wardrobe, jeans, Bobby socks, sequin jackets and a lemon yellow zoot suit (one of my favorite color), worn by the schemer in chief. I sat and enjoyed the whole show, Mozart’s music in the background discreetly ceding the show to the singers. Carolle had seen this production a couple of years back, first time for me, we both enjoyed it immensely.

But covid is never very far and the upsetting scene at the market surfaced again with images of an unprotected couple nonchalantly strolling through aisles, touching products and shuffling them on shelves, not respecting social distancing. More infuriating and frightening are the posts on digital town boards, from people still not believing the crisis is serious or thinking that they don’t have to follow recommendations. I should not get involved in those conversations but I do, pushing against made up conspiracy threads and other nonsense aimed at belittling covid or the fight against it. There are still people, after the daily announcement of infections and deaths, who think covid is like the flu, and acting accordingly, ignoring safety recommendations. Of course, the deniers and covid conspiracies trumpeters (pun intended) are all apologists for the president and his handling, or lack of, the crisis.

Stubborn to the point of stupidity, that’s what people thinking it’s a hoax or that it will not affect them or whatever nonsense, are. Teenagers die here and in Europe from catching it, no one is immune. You would think today’s number would bring some sense into their thinking or actions. Twenty thousands people have died from covid, and not all death are counted. Conspiracists question the number, not believing, saying that hospitals state covid as a reason for deaths, just to get more founding from the federal government. With attitudes like that, we are not out of confinement before a long time. News reach us that the church bishop claiming that god would defeat covid and  church gathering should go on as usual, died of covid yesterday. His wife, also infected, is now warning parishioners that covid is real and it’s a threat to their lives. A bit late, how many other folks from that house of prayer are infected or have infected others? The Supreme Court refused to let some election be postponed amid the pandemic, forcing citizens to literally risk their lives for the right to be represented. Is that what the founders of our country envisioned for the future of the country they had fought so hard to create? Six thousand cars lined up in Southern California to receive emergency food, not even three weeks into the semi lockdown. This was only anecdotal as it’s happening in different degrees of severity In other part of the country.
On the other end of the spectrum, another news story tells us that a business owner, with a net worth over 4 billions, and employing 45000 workers, is furloughing them early, as a favor (so they’d be first on line at the unemployment office), to collect unemployment, after sending a memo telling them their health benefits will be terminated, he must have had pushback from his public relations team as the memo was rescinded afterward.

I was not much in the mood to watch Opera these past couple of days, yesterday was Dvořák’s Rusalka, beautiful scenery but another sad story, and today, Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky an adaptation from Pushkin, another rather sad and dark theme, that I could not concentrate on. My thoughts and my aim for the day was  to understand why our official website front page does not have one thing about recommend etiquette during the pandemic. Idleness is dangerous as we know, specially when one post sensitive town issues on town boards. I have the feeling I’m not making friends, having had very few answers on a posts featuring health workers getting sick and dying of covid. Nine thousands so far, twenty seven died. I admit that I hijacked the post to point out the importance of protective covering, together with a question about the town website which I found lacking of urgent messaging. Why did one have to fish deep into a website to find safe advice on staying healthy and not contaminating others, why not inform folks of the proper etiquette during a pandemic as deadly as covid is. Why not having that information on the front page? Wouldn’t it make sense? I sent a message to the Mayor’s social board and I am waiting for an answer.
The Governor has mandated the use of masks within forty eight hours. The decree is for the public in shopping areas as well as for workers.
On the covid daily graph, the line is going straight up, infected folks have reached six hundred thousand cases in the United States alone, two millions in the world. The global number of deaths is hundred thirty five thousand. Twenty nine thousand people have died here in our country. Still, there are people like the fully armed band of white guys who besieged the state Capitol of Michigan because the governor’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the coronavirus outbreak, refusing to abide to their civic duties. The image of that group of white guys, armed to the teeth, on the steps of the building, left unfettered makes one think of what if. What if that group of people was not white, what if that group was, let say, African American, would such a group allowed to roam the Capitol armed with AK 47 and other military grade weaponry? Why should this group of people acting in total defiance of public safety be let to freely roam the streets? Is there a thing called civic duty, and what does it mean? Well, hold and below, yes, there is such a beast, it’s called Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities, it’s on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. One of the civic duty is for citizens to “Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws”.
With citizens rights comes citizens responsibilities, it’s not one without the other, the second amendment is not designed to allow folks to break laws. The laws should be applied to all, equally and without favoritism or privilege, and citizens should obey the law without ganging on the Capitol steps. Why were they not arrested?

The leader of our country is acting more and more like a king, claiming total power over Congress, threatening to adjourn both chambers, something no president has done before, claiming he has power over States, using daily covid briefings to further his political agenda and campaigning from the pulpit, opportunistically showing propaganda video montages of himself and all the good stuff he has done so far. The Grand Old Party, the political right, the same folks who decry too much government and have been fighting government all their lives, is all in that new trend, following a leader who is grabbing powers that are not stipulated in the Constitution, with total disrespect to the laws and the system in place. They are abdicating their civic duties and veering the country towards a dictatorship, one lead by a several times over failing businessman turned tv show host, with no government experience except for the myriads of law suits he has been involved in.
In the meantime, testing for covid is still at a minimum and the lockdown is basically ignored by folks because some leaders are not pressing the urgency of the pandemic, and people are getting infected and dying.

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A penny for your thoughts.

Smiling Again

Amongst the flood of bad news comes a smidgen of good ones, small victories, and it happened today.  I had read last week that a store was implementing a system to keep covid cross contamination to the strictest minimum in the worse case, or to zero for the best scenario. Customers will be checked for temperature before entering the store, masks will be required, shields are placed at the cashier and one way aisles indicated around the store so shoppers do not cross path. I suspect the others stores will have to follow. I would do my shopping there before going in a store not taking the same precautions. That’s good news, although some folks are pushing against rules and recommendations, for fear of been robbed of their personal right, and will be reticent to comply. I am particularly happy today because I am having an intelligent discussion about that dilemma on a social platform. My position is that every citizens have a right, but it does not comes free. To enjoy those rights citizens also have responsibilities. It’s called civic duty. After a bit of back and forth, I used the Blitzkrieg and England in World War Two, when citizens were asked to blacken their windows and dim the lights at night so German bombers would have a hard time finding the towns and targets. Folks did that, they were not saying “the heck with it, it’s my right to not do it, I’ll keep the lights on and screw the rest of the town, let’s the bombs fall”. He liked the analogy but was still concerned about individual rights, thinking they would be eroded and eventually be stripped away once the problem is gone. I said I understood the fear of government overreaching, but with a Supreme Court leaning right, I don’t think anyone should have any worries that the liberties granted by the constitution would be stripped away overnight. I would be more worried about a leader claiming powers he does not legally possess during a national crisis that is still running its course. So yes, our war is different, but now our war is against a new disease, silent, invisible and extremely deadly, a virus that is spreading fast and furious and will continue to spread if mitigating measures are not taken now. With rights come responsibilities, when a law to keep a virus from killing people is enacted, all citizens should follow and work together to defeat it. Responsibilities trumps rights.
I take advantage of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website that as a taxpayer, I also own, to post this paragraph along with my social media answers on civic duty:

“Below you will find several rights and responsibilities that all citizens should exercise and respect. Some of these responsibilities are legally required of every citizen, but all are important to ensuring that America remains a free and prosperous nation. “

Information for New Citizens.

Rights

Responsibilities

  • Freedom to express yourself.
  • Freedom to worship as you wish.
  • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.
  • Right to vote in elections for public officials.
  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Right to run for elected office.
  • Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • Support and defend the Constitution.
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
  • Participate in the democratic process.
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
  • Participate in your local community.
  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
  • Serve on a jury when called upon.
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.

That’s what candidates for naturalization are given along with booklets telling about laws and other needed informations one would need to pass the exam to become a United States citizen. When I was naturalized (sounds like some medical metamorphosis, I would like Americanized better), the office of naturalizations gave me booklets to read and learn. They were cliff notes of American history, the Constitution, the laws, and your rights and obligation as a citizen. Declaring allegiance to the United States, I was told by the interviewer in charge of accepting me as a citizen, meant that I had to abandon any title of nobility and any allegiance to another country and swear upon it. I do not have much recollection of the exam but I passed. I am now Americanized, and as a citizen of the United States,  I relish my Rights and accept my Responsibilities.

Puccini’s La Rondine is playing, the setting is Paris Art Deco, the flappers era, with all the appropriate costumes and painted sets. Nicely done, reminder of places I visited before, a restaurant above Gare de Lyon, a Paris train station where the trains to South of France leave several times a day. Outside, the tree is very slow to give us a show, the buds are a plenty but taken a long time to bloom fully.

The days pass and we are getting almost comfortable in our routines, sleeping is another story as the lack of exercise leaves our bodies less fatigued. As usual, I open my eyes around five thirty most morning. I try to convince myself that it’s too early and succeed, from time to time, to go back foe a bit more snoozing. Covid is so much present that it’s also in my dreams. Covid flushes out the real characters of well known and until now well like folks like the host of a tv show, who is said to have a network of half a billions dollars, whose income last year was eighty millions. She employs over thirty people for producing the show, they were left in the dark for at least two weeks without news of their employs since been furloughed, finally told their paychecks will be sixty percent less during the lockdown time. To add insult to injury, the show’s recurring theme is “love” and the motto is “ be kind”. Other tv show stars are paying crews out of pocket, showing a real understanding of what it is to be kind. News about lockdown deniers, influenced by networks loyal to the president and the right wing of the Republican Party, are coming in faster and is taking root in the “freedom fighter” groups, the maga hats wearer, encouraged by some politicians, even by a tea party favorite, who had been infected with covid and recovered. Some other politician, also on the right, posed in the Capitol Rotunda for a public relation photograph wearing a n95 mask, improperly placed upside down on his face, and pushing for the reopening of the country. Cruise ships companies were hit hard in February by covid but it did not stop them from cruising until March and resulting to more than 1,500 positive infections and at least 39 fatalities. One of the large box store club, reticent to apply safety measures for workers, kept a sick employee working with the public, a negligence that resulted in her death two days after her last time at work. She did not die alone, she also infected her sister and her mother, all sharing the same apartment, and alas sharing the same fate. A nursing home in New Jersey, afraid to attract the authorities attention, kept their deceased occupants in a makeshift morgue consisting of a box truck, for days. The facility house five hundred residents of which one hundred are infected with covid and thirty nine have died.

I could go on and on, one horror story after the other, stories of preventable death that should not go unpunished, in the best of worlds. Stories of debased humanity and selfishness. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of untold stories as well, there are folks dying alone in their homes, forgotten until found, stories about wasted lives and lost opportunities to minimize the deathly toll covid is piling up.

Of course, a lot of the deaths could have been prevented if the country had been placed in an active alert mode, but the pushback by the president, egged on by the most conservative politicians and right wing talk shows pundits, and by corporations looking at the bottom line and seeing it getting further down into the red, kept most the country in a business as usual attitude, wasting precious time while covid keeps on spreading.

Today, April 17, over a month after our self imposed lockdown, the CDC informs us that:

  • Total cases: 632,548 (632,220 confirmed; 348 probable)
  • Total deaths: 31,071 (26,930 confirmed 4,141 probable

On the CDC the small red dots on the United States map are getting larger and darker everyday. Texas is now a dark red spot, together Florida and California. When one factors in the early precautions California has taken and still apply after a month of lockdown, I fear for the safety of its citizens, and for the pandemic to spread quickly. To make the situation worse, the leaders of the two states are not only leaning toward the deniers,  with lackadaisical attitudes and lackluster actions, with the Texas DHSH website finally showing proper etiquette and means of protection, after clicking a link to a child page, under the fold. Again, shouldn’t this information be the first thing folks see when they go to the website? The Governors who want the country opened as soon as possible are part of the problem, are the least aggressive on prevention and they are enabling covid to flourish. It defies common sense to risk citizen’s’ lives for political ideology and loyalty to a leader who is waffling, shuffling his feet and babbling at a podium about executives or corporations, loudly naming them for this or that “great thing” they agreed to do to fight the pandemic, only to hear from the same executives and corporations the very next day, that they had no idea what he was talking about, having received a vague memo from the White House, only a couple of hours before the announcement. Most folks are baffled by some happening at the White House, where truckers and a few executives of trucking companies were invited together with big rigs of the country’s major shipping companies, and where the four truck drivers were presented with gold keys. Nobody really knows why the gold keys. When asked, a spokesman for the White House elaborated: “The key was a memento from the president to the drivers to mark the occasion and to thank them for their amazing work on behalf of all Americans.”  Knowing the president’s well documented love for gold, I am not surprise about the gold part, the key part is anyone’s guess. Wouldn’t it be nice if the keys were cast in solid gold, it would be an unexpected perk for the drivers, with spot price for gold over $1500, it would make for a useful stash if the industry suffers so much from covid that they find themselves unemployed. But knowing about previous history about the master of the Art of the Deal, I would not be surprised if they were made of fool’s gold. And news that only the top and middle earners in the industry have received stimulus money before it ran out, leaving thousands of small trucking companies and freelance drivers with their own rigs out of luck, may put truckers jobs in limbo. There were no mention of help for them at that photo opportunity  in the gardens of the White House. The propaganda machine churns its banners, conservative media extolling the virtues, without or barely mentioning the keys, or the lack of funding.

Our Mayor likes the suggestion I mentioned, and agreed it would be beneficial to inform the public. The last answer from the Mayor:

”Thank you for the suggestion………..I’ll add the message to the City’s Webpage too. Hoping you are being safe and staying healthy.”

I am glad our Mayor is taking steps that will enable us citizens to be informed on the proper way for each to minimize exposure to a silent killer, I wish other town leaders would follow her initiative. In our new world ruled by covid, we need leaders who are pro-active on precautionary steps to encourage the prevention of spreading the disease.
Unfortunately, good news fade fast to give way to unsettling and saddening news. The smile on my face is quickly erased to the new deaths numbers in Connecticut.

In my beautiful state, covid killed over 1000 people so far.