A penny for your thoughts.

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens Died today April 21, in 1910, over hundred years ago. If he was alive today Mark Twain would be totally immersed in the covid saga. It would not have been his first pandemic, in fact he wrote about his experience in Germany.
According to Wikipedia:
”American author Mark Twain, an avid traveler, visited Hamburg during the cholera outbreak, and he described his experience in a short, uncollected piece dated “1891–1892”. Therein, he notes alarmingly the lack of information in Hamburg newspapers about the cholera event, particularly death totals. He also criticizes the treatment of the poor, as many, Twain says, were getting “snatched from their homes to the pest houses”, where “a good many of them … die unknown and are buried so”. (Blount, Roy K. (2010). A tramp abroad ).
Twain concludes by lamenting the lack of awareness worldwide, especially in America.”

In the The Innocents Abroad, Chapter XXX, he paints a portrait of Napoli and its inhabitants that would be less than politically correct today, but worth reading if one wants to understand why epidemics rage against elbow to elbow gatherings. Mr. Twain did not think twice about breaking a quarantine in Greece, to visit the Parthenon under moonlight  clandestinely, after bribing the guards, almost getting picked up by the police.
The international cholera pandemic Mark Twain experienced lasted fifteen years and killed over a million people. Still, the same resistance to civic duty flourished then as it does in our pandemic.
An article published in the New York Times in 1893, during the cholera pandemic, describes in bloody details the mobs protesting the health measures:

”HAMBURG, Oct. 10.—Another fatal riot occurred last night in St. Pauli, a suburb of this city, growing out of the attempts of the sanitary officers to enforce the regulations for the prevention of the spread of cholera. As in the previous riot, when a policeman was brutally kicked and stamped to death, the scene of last night’s trouble was in one of the districts of the village inhabited entirely by the poor and ignorant classes, who seem to have a horror of being compelled to observe cleanliness and the ordinary sanitary regulations. When the sanitary officers attempted to put extraordinary regulations enforced trouble at once resulted. The sanitary officers were accompanied by a number of policemen, but the presence of the latter had no deterrent effect upon the violence of the mob that quickly gathered when it became known that the officers were about. The mob made a descent in force upon the police, stoning them and using clubs. The policemen were unable to quell the rioting; in fact, they could make no attempt to do so, being compelled to fight desperately to protect themselves from the fury of the rioters. While some of the mob thus engaged the police, others devoted themselves to a furious onslaught upon the sanitary officers. One of the latter was captured by the crowd. His comrades could make no attempt to rescue him, as they had all they could do to defend themselves. The officer in the hands of the mob was struck on the head with a large stone and knocked, to the ground. Then the mob jumped on him and kicked him about the head and body until life was extinct. In the meantime the crowd had succeeded in knocking a policeman down, and he, too, soon met his death, the rioters kicking his face until it was a pulp. Even after he was dead some of the mob danced upon his body. The fight was waged desperately, with the odds in favor of the mob, when a detachment of troops, who had been hastily dispatched to the scene, arrived. The officer in command ordered the mob to disperse, but it paid no attention to the command, and continued its attack upon the policemen and sanitary officers. An order was given for the troops to fix bayonets, and when the gleaming steel blades were fastened to the muzzles of the rifles, the soldiers were ordered to charge the mob.
With bayonets lowered, they moved forward on the double quick, and the rioters, seeing a bristling wall of steel advancing upon them, attempted to disperse in short order. They ran in every direction, save in the direction of the troops, and disappeared in alleyways and the doorways of the tumble-down tenements with which the district is filled. Many of them, however, were not quick enough to escape the police, who began to chase them the moment they saw the crowd beginning to break up. At least a dozen of the mob were arrested. The bodies of the policeman and sanitary office; were taken to the police station. Since Oct. 6 there have been reported at Grimsby, Lincolnshire, five cases of choleraic disorders. Two deaths from the same cause have occurred there since the date mentioned.”

I’m sure Queen Victoria did not encourage the Grimsby, Lincolnshire populace to revolt against the town elders’s measures to fight cholera. If a real Queen would not do it, why should a wanna be king do it?

Carolle is watching Der Rosenkavalier. The comic opera by Richard Strauss has the familiar disguise trick with a twist, the young lover part is a pant role (in the later interview backstage “trousers” was used instead of “pants”), who disguise “himself” as a maid to confuse a rival. Opera never ceases to amaze me, it really brings one to alternate reality, something dearly needed these days. Before she settled I changed the two old outlets by the kitchen counter. I was surprised to see that they were two different lines, each with its own breaker. Not that it changed anything, but with only twelve inches between the two, it seemed redundant. The first part of the job was the hardest and most frustrating, with the top retaining screw of each cover stuck in the outlets. The bottom screw were fine and a couple of screwdriver turns did the trick, but the top ones took ten minutes of my time. Mind you, I have adequate tools, so the problem was not the tools. After two or three turns of the screw driver, the screw froze and refuse to move further until I applied pliers to it, it took a couple of minutes each screw. When I finally extracted the nuisance it came clear that the screw did not come from the manufacturer, longer and with a different thread, it had been forced in and jammed tight for the next guy to deal with. As it turns out, I was the chump.

The markets are open today and US oil prices plunged falling below $0 a barrel. I assume that people are not driving as much because of the covid restrictions. I can only imaging the phone calls from the oil industry’s big wigs to the White House, crying that they are too big to fail. In the meantime folks are still trying to secure loans to save their businesses. In a good and inspiring gesture towards fairness, one of the large New York restaurant chain with more than 500 employees is giving back the 10 millions stimulus check they had received. Their numbers of employees technically above the quota. Another company in the same bracket has not returned the 20 millions they received. A bit of hope amongst all the discouraging news assaulting us daily, hope that there will be enough of these loop holes loans returned to the proper beneficiaries. Only a president can do that, if not congress should. We will see were greed leads us. I searched online for “Mark Twain & greed”, curious about what our famous Dead of the Day thought about “greed”. This one sums it up for me:

“A little more kindness, A little less speed, A little more giving, A little less greed, A little more smile, A little less frown, A little less kicking, A man while he’s down, A little more “We”, A little less “I”, A little more laugh, A little less cry, A little more flowers, On the pathway of life, And fewer on graves, At the end of the strife.”
Mark Twain

Double checking on the veracity of that quote and the tie to Twain, I found the same quote, verbatim, in a 1924 issue of the The Conductor and Brakeman, Volume 41, page 464, credited to E. J. Stiles, Southern Labor Review, and under the banner “What the Brotherhood Members Should Practice”. A pardonable plagiarism, when a bit of research shed light on the possible culprit. There is a E. J. Stiles found in Civil War records, enlisted in 1865 in the Missouri Confederate Army, Third Battalion, Infantry, P-Y, Third and Fifth (Consolidated) Infantry. If he enlisted at twenty in 1865, or perhaps even younger as the military was always looking for warm bodies to feed the carnage, he would have been no older than seventy-nine in 1924, the years of publication of the trade union magazine. The old man must have been moved by it. It would not be surprising for someone, who may have witnessed brothers in arms slaughtering other brothers arms in the killing fields, to have adopted that Mark Twain quote. Even if he was never at the front, a possibility in view of the late enlisting date, the magnitude of the desolation was his daily panorama, the disfigured and dismembered survivors burying their dead while the town was burning. Is this what our president wishes for?
Not if our Governors have any say in it, and they are not backing down, that’s the good news. The bad news is, our state is in the mist of the president’s calls to insurrection with protesters brandishing “My body my choice” signs. It’s the same folks denying women their choice for their bodies, treating women like vessels to carry babies for their religious agenda but taking no responsibility as a society, to ensure that the child is fed, housed or that the mother can provide for it while having to work as soon as possible after giving birth. The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven! So far only seven states have mandated wearing a mask in public gatherings, the folks pushing against that mandate should think about the parents of the five year old girl, the daughter of a First Responder, who died on a ventilator, nursed by a helpless and distressed human been dressed in a hazmat suit. With no human warmth and comfort, can anyone imagine the fear this poor child must have experienced, the only contact with her loving parents through bandwidth. It’s not a question, when the resistance brandish slogans like “My body, my right”, they should be told ‘what if she was your child’, or your brother or sister’s child, or spouse, wouldn’t you want to do anything in your power to make sure they don’t catch covid?

I keep on checking the town official site only to find it unchanged, I have the feeling that I was told of changes just to shut me up, that obviously would be a mistake, as I plan to be vocal about it and press further for action. I am firmly convinced that I am doing the right thing, to ask that town officials inform and educate citizens while explaining what’s at stake. Information is the most important weapon against covid and the most important figure in a small town, is the mayor. It’s the person citizens go to when in trouble, they to Town Hall. They go to pay taxes, get permits or announce events, it’s the center of a town life. A detailed message with recommendations from the mayor on the first page would make an impression on people, perhaps then, would they take the pandemic seriously and start protecting themselves and others from catching covid. I have a hard time understanding why that would not be a benefit to the community. Unless of course, politics are involved. If that’s the reason, I’d like to know what politics have to do in a state of siege, because, like it or not, that’s where we are now, in fact, isolated and deprived of liberties, not by another human, but by the vicious covid virus.


A penny for your thoughts.

The Mask

I picked up a discarded mask laying on the parking lot’s asphalt top. It had been there overnight and I saw it on the same spot today. After going to the loft for proper protection, rubber gloves, something I rarely use, relying now mostly on washing hands instead, or viricide if soap and water is unavailable. But the necessity of gloves was necessary for the task, I use a mask stepping out of the front door of the loft religiously and without thinking, it has become a part of my wardrobe. So equipped, I grabbed a plastic container from our recycle bin and went on my way to carefully collect the offending mask. After placing it in the container, I disposed of it, together with the gloves, it the appropriate trash bin. It’s my good deed of the day, a small gesture without little consequence, and I felt good vibes from it. Carolle is online trying to buy coffee filters. Apparently, there is a shortage of coffee filters, and if I had to bet, masks have a play in it. I doubt folks are drinking more coffee, specially when they are told to stay confined. Not that coffee consumption has declined, as I’m sipping a cup now, one of our daily diet, but some folks may not want to be energized when there is little to do. Unless the recent uprising is comprised of people so pumped up on caffeine that their energy is turning them into violent thugs, from all the coffee they drink. Doubtful, they are only a minority. The good thing now, something those thugs have miscalculated, is that there is so many clear images of all of them, that, for sure, they are catalogued in a government database. It’s inevitable with the face recognition system the world has adopted and it’s ironical that a group of folks intent on breaking the government to ‘regain their freedom’, and breaking the law all the while, would assemble like pins in bowling alleys, to be identified and prosecuted, worse, to be declared a home terrorist group, and loose all liberties. Perhaps that’s what the president has in plan. In any case, I’m pretty sure the protesters will be watched closely. They should all have worn  masks, one of the mandate some were protesting against. Mark Twain would have made some humorous remark on the protesters and their mottos and banners, and the nonsensical messages they convey.  He would have found the whole affair ridiculous and fertile with anecdotes, albeit the seriousness of covid, to spin yarn onstage in his one man shows around the world. He would have been very distraught as well, furthering his dim view of humanity in general.
The Opera today is another Richard Strauss work, Elektra adapted from Sophocles, a Greek tragedy involving untimely death and despair. Compared to that, our lives are pretty rosy, or it was before covid descended on us. Our stimulus check from the government has not arrived. Carolle says she will start a GoFundMe for our local food bank and use the money as a seed. I’m not sure that I can give the whole amount, but I can make a contribution. That’s if we get any money, we should as we are below the limit, but who knows. I only believe I ’have’ money when it’s in the bank, learning from the experiences of having made or sold stuff and never been paid, that promises are cheap, specially when they are never kept. We will see if the promises of adequate testing for covid are kept, but so far, what we see from our confinement, is utter confusion, litanies of statements often refuted by health experts, while governors are scrambling to keep their citizens safe and try to restart business. I suspect that we will see a second wave of infections in the coming weeks. I want very much to be wrong about that, it would make me extremely happy to have erred on that assumption, my humble ego would not be chattered. But I would be surprised, specially if travel resumes and folks think they can move freely. Would New York want visitors from states that still have a covid problem, without properly testing the visitors? Should only people who have been tested negative be allowed on planes or other means of transportation?

Unfortunately we don’t hear much about details and although some states are syndicating, there is no coordinated central effort, and while those states have taken measures to combat covid, others are anxious to reopen the economy, tossing aside the health risk and hoping for the best. The gamble could undermine the work done in the lockdown states if covid is allowed to travel. Imagine the Apprentice on a grand scale, the United States Of America is the stage, the States are the players and we are collateral. And the show host is passing the blame.

Thirty five people died in one nursing home in our state, twenty six in only one week. The facility was vigilant, checking workers for signs of contamination and careful about cleaning, but perhaps too late to stop covid from spreading. At least four news reporters have gotten sick with covid, First responders, some complaining lack of protection at work, are also catching the virus. The death toll in Connecticut is approaching 1500 and there are 20,000 confirmed infected folks. Country wide, the number of death is over 45,000, with 824,00 covid patients. There is no good news on the spread of the virus, for now, it’s part of our lives.

The economy’s near future is in serious jeopardy, a problem made worse by the flagrant greed exposed during the distribution of the PPP money. The details are in the news and have been checked, trickery was used for the large corporations to syphon a big part of the money to their coffers. And people wonder how we have gotten ourselves into that quick sand, when the answer is right in front of everyone’s eyes, today, as covid flushes out the generosity and the greed, it’s evident generosity did not place us in the situation we are facing today. Greed takes the blame, sometimes masked as benevolence by the propaganda machines, but greed is the culprit.
We see it now with the PPP program when corporations worth billions of dollars are using loopholes to grab as much wealth as they can while the small businesses, the heart of or economy, are left with an empty purse. There lays the source of our problems, the road of this brand of capitalism is plagued with potholes and has led us dangerously close to the cliff. We don’t need socialism, in fact it’s already here in one form or another, we need a better capitalism with a better distribution of money.
First pay folks living wages and provide universal healthcare, notice that there is no reported food lines in Europe like there are here. It goes hand in hand with the lack or underfunded social services in the USA. Adding insult to injury, the money is sucked by the runaway capitalists, aided by the government in generous tax breaks gifts. The solution is simple, scrap this capitalist system working for the few privileged and replace it with a capitalism that benefits all. Greed is not in our country’s interest, it undermines our social fabric.
Twenty years into our millennium and our system of capitalism is still anchored in the twentieth century. Hopefully, our kids will boot it out soon when they see the poisoned fruit their elders left them with. It’s in their interest, for their society’s future, and for their own well been.
I am afraid the calls to reopen the country is more linked to greed than to necessity, the irony is that it probably will not work. Covid is now scaring people, I may be overly cautious but I don’t see myself out of lockdown for at least another month. My trips to restaurants will only be memories until an efficient medication or a vaccine is developed.

Today is Earth Day. Carolle marched at the first one, in New York City, fifty years ago in 1970. I remember a customer coming to the store we had downtown, her and her late husband had a shoe store in Greenwich Village, during the march, and she told us about selling a lot of ‘earth shoes’ at that same time. It had been three decades but the two of them remembered the large crowds and the significance of the event. Fifty years later, our president is doing his best to walk back on conservation and preservation efforts erasing safeguards to protect nature and people, all in the name of greed. One step forward, two steps backwards, Sisyphus is dangerously close to ground level.

The sun has come back this morning and the tree outside our widow is showing more bloom, not peeking yet but putting on a better show. April can bring strange weather patterns, today, Mother Nature sent us flurries together with rays of sunshine. It lasted only a few minute but the white blossoms of our tree and the white flakes seemed to work in unison to add to the confusion, making the scene an optical illusion of blossoms floating towards the blue sky. Mother Nature is playful on this Earth Day and the spectacle lifted my spirit.
After watching La Tosca, another Puccini Opera where the main characters die in surprisingly quick deaths, we took a walk that was shorten by the cool air pushed sporadically by the breeze. The sun on our shoulders was not enough to keep us comfortably warm,  had we not been walking, the shadowed part of the sidewalk with a noticeable drop in temperature would have felt like winter was still with us, that’s the weather in New England. We both wore masks and it helped keep our faces warm, a small perk for a rather annoying obligation in the days of covid.
The weather kept us inside for a couple of days and I have not gone grocery shopping in a week. I suspect we will be fine for a few more days. Carolle has bouts of cabin fever, and our walks are an important routine to attenuate the feelings of imprisonment we all experience. To keep an illusion of normality, we dress everyday, make the bed everyday and have kept our meal schedule unchanged from the time before covid. The discipline seems to work and the days past without too much changes from our ordinary life. The thought is a bit unsettling, probably placing us squarely in the boring folks section of the population spectrum. The motto “better bored than dead” fits perfectly for curing cabin fever, and we are intent to stay alive and working hard at it.
As the day fades, new figures from the covid Pandemic in the USA are posted online,
covid-19 cases total: 802,583,

covid-19 deaths total: 44,575

There is no way to mask the tragedy.


A penny for your thoughts.

Have a Cigar

Covid has a way to surprise us daily and if it wasn’t for the reality of it, one could find humor in our predicament. We hear and see leading proponents of the magic potion our President was promoting, the drug with a name no one can pronounce, backpedaling at Olympic speed, to refute its benefit.  The President, after pushing for the reopening of States, reprimands a republican governor for declaring he would reopen his state.  A political volte-face, a tool to deny accusations of having enticed militias and citizens to disobey governor’s authority? Another tragicomic episode of the Apprentice displayed on national news.

A southern newspaper in France reported that only 5% of hospitalizations due to covid were smokers, and studies are been done now with nicotine patches. For something that usually kills you to develop into a life saver is a though concept to grasp, an alternate reality, a macabre Russian roulette each and everyone is faced with since covid took over our daily lives. The old magazine advertisings with the good doctor encouraging smoking, before tobacco ads were verboten, may be revived. Think of the money tobacco companies could rake in, forget the death warnings printed on the pack, all replaced with the product’s benefit to fight covid. Lawsuits against the companies tossed on merit in light of the new beneficial use of nicotine. Have a cigar.
Not so fast, the FDA has contradictory guidelines. Other news are more worrisome, concerning individuals with high blood pressure and their medications. Covid seems to use the same path as drugs designed to treat hypertension and that could facilitates infection, according to the author of an article in  Infection Control Today “hypertension may be a primary risk factor and driver of the severe symptoms of COVID-19”.
I am on the dangerous side of the scale and thinking about changing medication and I am seeking advice from my physician.

Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann first scenes displays a bit of flesh, and promises of magic eyes glasses. The main character’s view through theses magic glasses alter his perception of reality. I am afraid a lot of folks are wearing the same glasses today, with all the dissent around the best way to combat covid, and living in an alternate reality. That’s my view from the bottom of the pile, and I am fortunate. Daily checks on the bank account we use for tax returns have not changed, we are still waiting for the check.The official website just gives us a canned answer. On the other end, dead folks have been receiving checks, perhaps the admin is waiting that we croak, after all, we both are in the critical age group vulnerable to covid.
We are not anxious but for all the talks of getting the money ‘soon’, so far we are on the side of ‘later’.

Carolle is very creative with food and cooking, and it comes in handy during our lockdown. The bulk of our trash is recyclable, the rest is minimized to a few vegetable peels and dinner plate scraps. Leftovers become another dish when judiciously combined. No need for magic glasses, the meal is real and delicious. Looking at the food again, I probably was conservative in my need to visit the store again, my food anxiety must have kicked in.

Another day gone and another bad news, Remdesivir, the drug I had so much hope on to fight covid, is not giving hopeful results, in fact, it seems that trials involving the drug are closing.
But there is still hope for new solutions, the most genius minds are digging at all possibilities. There is no limit to the thoughts our president gather to find a cure for covid. His sources for research are deep and complex, his advisory newsfeeds totally attuned to covid and how to get rid of it. Covid is not so tough against a myriad of ordinary cleaning products like chlorine. We know how much our president abhors germs, all gold has to shine in the tower, wouldn’t want it to look like dull brass. Gold, the warn shiny metal that makes him mellow, and chlorine, the wonder and miraculous killer of germs, two of the best human invention after the horse, both yellow, must have untapped benefits ready to be reaped. It’s not a coincidence that they share the same spot on the rainbow, perhaps even the intention of the creator, the one who works in mysterious ways, chlorine may be  as good as gold. After his disappointment with chloroquine, in part because it seems to kill the patient, the president’s stable genius went into full gear, and faster than a Tesla, proposed a well thought train of ideas.

“I see the disinfectant that 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. As you see it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
Donald Trump

What an idea! All it took is a little thinking. None of the virologists thought of that, no wonders scientists are the first folks sent to the scaffold during uprisings and change of regime, all a bunch of useless alchemists! All it took is the smartest president we ever had, a studious reader of Dr. Mengele’s textbook on human experiments, to come up with the brilliant way to cleanse covid. The only missing detail is, how are they going to inject the wipes with the chlorox.
Now the official word is the president’s quote was meant as sarcasm, that’s food for thoughts. A bit of search and one finds presidential sarcastic quotes, I did not verified the veracity, but they seem to fit:

From Jimmy Carter, after his presidency.
“My esteem in the country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now that when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.”
That’s witty and quite humbling.

From Ronald Reagan, during his presidency, oh man do I miss him, I did not know at the time that we would get any worse:
“I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.”

From Abraham Lincoln debating Stephen A. Douglas:
If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?
Pretty good for a rail splitter!

Or course, comparing these three good Presidents to the one we have now is like comparing apples to bitter oranges (pun intended). Sarcasm without wit is just….hard to come up with a word…but it could be all the words the thesaurus web site offers, the most pertinent at the top of the list:

Take your pick. I like corrosiveness, goes well with chlorination. Following the thesaurus words brings you into a maelstrom of mostly  unflattering traits tied to “sarcasm”.
It is surprising that the Republicans, usually so crafty with words, very good at branding with words that stick, would have chosen that word to repair an already chattered image, a president uttering nonsense on prime television time, during a pandemic unseen in a hundred years. Perhaps they’ve had enough, and may be they are looking ahead and have no appetite to govern in a deep recession. It would not be the first time, the scenario has been played before. But the damage is still not done, covid sees to that.


Renée Fleming will entertain us in The Merry Widow, by Franz Lehár. The stock market is up, I have ceased to to look at the covid numbers, just another day in confinement.

A penny for your thoughts.

The Bump

Today, March 26, the headline in my Google newsfeed, tells me that Global cases reached at least 416,686 and Global deaths about 18,589. Here in the USA, the Center for Diseases Control, claims that total cases of infected individuals is 54,453 with 737 death.
Of course, the nation is still short of tests kits and the numbers of people tested is still very low. When more testing is available, we can expect the curve on the covid-19 graph to rise considerably, just as it did in China, Italy and Spain. That curve on the graph will continue to rise until folks really take this illness seriously, or, when scientists find a vaccine or a cure. So far, there are no projected time when that will arrive. We have no vaccine and we have no pill. The healthcare community is despondent in face of this pandemic. Our President, who I am pretty sure has no training in medicine, advances hopes that a medication for malaria could well work against covid. It has already lead to one death, a couple on hearing the name of the drug decided to self medicate with a bacteria killer used for Koi’s, because the product shared similar ingredients with the meds mentioned by the president. The wife lives to tell us that they got the idea watching the daily briefings from the White House. Her husband died. The daily briefings continue, although a couple of news networks have dropped them from their broadcasts on account of the blatant lies and the propaganda the President of the United States is delivering us. His constant hyperbolic rhetoric, and the grim faces, some often looking at their shoes, of the various experts on the podium with him, together with the body language, shoulder down or hands held prayer like, is anything but reassuring that this epidemic will be gone in two weeks, as he is inferring. Most experts warn us that it’s not so and from the ways some folks are acting, literally putting the community in mortal danger, this lockdown will eventually last much longer.
So here we are , waiting for the bump, we are watching the covid graph, the chart with the curve determined by the health data generated by the spread of the virus. The important curve, the one on the graph pertaining to the number of folks infected, must reach its apogee before we can expect any sort of grasp on the disease. We are looking for the bump on the graph and hope it will show up sooner than later.

Another day, another chore, today is shopping. Usually Carolle does the shopping, she knows what she wants and practically do all the cooking, and even if I tag along from time to time, I am not a savvy shopper and I need a list. As it turns out, making a list of the items you need before leaving the house is what is recommended to do, as a precaution. The gist is, if you have a list, you can zoom to the item, grab it, place it in your caddy, and go on to the next item on the list, saving store time exposure. That’s pretty good in theory, the practice is chancy.

Shopping requires special precautions like gloves and a mask. It’s uncomfortable but I believe very prudent. In this environment, real Monk would not go out without a hazmat suit. The gloves are utility gloves that I sanitize with alcohol after use. Call me crazy. Perhaps. Anyway, here I go, list in hand, to the big box store up the hill. As a club member, I am greeted by two employees, one with mask, the other not. I zoomed to the first item on the list and went on according to a well laid plan. It turns out the list probably cost me more time in the store. I really had no idea where anything was and had to wander around aisles, two or three times, before I could spot the item I was looking for. Then I spotted an item on the list, tucked in on a refrigerated shelf in one corner of the store, the chicken section. I was looking for chicken thighs to complete my list, and had to hold back on account of five or six people definitely not six feet apart, taking their time in that rather confined space of the store, a corner. It’s the last item I laid in the caddy that by that time, was already full of stuff. I didn’t not spent anymore time on the carrots Carolle asked for, small and with the leaves still attached. I did not opt for the finger like orange plugs that stores bag as carrots, never trusted they were, and really never enjoyed eating them. I did not get the soup either as I could not fit anymore in my caddy. I could have, if I had a larger caddy, or if I had shopping bags, but I forgot to bring bags. Could have had more room to spare if the items I was buying were not family sized. Six chickens were sacrificed for the only size package left on the rack, the two dozen eggs package and the two double size cereal boxes practically filled the caddy with little room left.
Most shoppers tried to stay away from each other, with various amount of success and sometimes caught in a spot, like it did by the chicken shelves. There was a young man wearing a construction mask, often on the phone and probably asking advice, shopping, and seeming as disoriented as I was. I saw a young couple wearing latex gloves. I had already seen them in the parking lot, cleaning the store cart handle with wipes. I saw an older person do the same on my way back to the car. Otherwise I did not see other folks taking extra precautions. It was time to pay and I chose the far self register. It turned out to be an annoying automat, sometimes repeating several times instructions that you understood perfectly well the first time you heard them, and, because the encumbrance  gloves and mask of my hazmat outfit, it made it difficult to scan each item in a timely matter. The silly machine asked to place the item on the adjoining table after scanning. Could I do that without knowing that surface was clean? Who knows really, seeing the lack of concern of some of the shoppers. I asked (nicely) one of the idle cashier to  clean it before I would proceed. Yes, call me crazy. At first she dismissed me saying that it was clean. When I insisted, she obliged, altogether telling me that she was pretty sure it was clean. I told her I was not that sure and thanked her for the cleaning. Not only was I Monk, but I was becoming a pain in the ass Monk. Nevertheless, I felt better when I saw the spray squirt out of the cleaning bottle and the disposable wipe the nice lady used, altogether wishing the spray was adequate.

Scanning the items with my hazmat suit proved to be a laborious process. With impaired vision because of the mask, in competition with my glasses that fogged up periodically, the gloves and the size or shape and weight of the item, made it difficult to scan according to my plan: not having the item touch the sku reader plater. The more time it took for each item, the more the robot cashier felt it should remind me that it I was done scanning, I ought to choose a form of payment and finish my transaction. Let me tell you that’s downright annoying. And it happened every two items , or so it seemed. Anyway, once done, I placed the purchases back in my caddy and headed to the parking lot and home. The greeter at the door kept her distances and let me through without foraging through my caddy. I was glad for that and wished her well.
Wagner’s Valkyries was still on the tube (isn’t that very twentieth century, my hey boomer moment), four and a half hour of a pretty intriguing plot that includes incestuous twins, brother and sister. Wagner is complicated. From the singing, one feels great drama for the gods and the various characters, their wife’s or daughter’s. Besides the entertainment and the background music, it’s not easy to stay focused for such a long time, specially for me, but it’s comforting to see that gods have bigger problems than I have.

A long due walk to the post office, after the opera played its last note and the credits scrolled down to the bottom of the screen, gave us the chance to exercise and get some fresh air. When we visit Nice, we walk everyday everywhere, or we use transportation. Here, we use the car to go everywhere. The walk from the Mill to the Post Office takes about 15 minutes, straight down Main Street then left past the Police Station. About a mile long, the walk is easy and pleasant. The sidewalks, some neglected and showing it badly, are otherwise walkable. Once arrived at the P.O., I told Carolle to stay put outside, as a matter of prudence, forty feet away from the entrance, and I went in to collect the mail, and gloves on, placed it into the shopping bag I had brought for the purpose. I would later on, in plain air, separate the junk mail to recycle, and keep the important mail to bring home, about three to one ratio. Perhaps this pandemic will make advertisers think twice about stuffing our mail boxes with junk mail. That goes for political mail as well. Describing my triage process would be too tedious and frankly just boring. Just imagine Monk doing the task…
Returning home, we took a different way, continuing past the Post Office to the next street and turned left towards home. The walk through the street gave us a glimpse at spring finally waking up, and the first blooms of the year. Crocuses in full bloom and daffodil leaves are trying hard to break the monotonous bland backgrounds of winter cityscape. Their scarcity still bring us joy at the sure sign of a warmer weather to come, dissipating the angst we share about the pandemic if just for a moment. Walking a neighborhood opens your eyes to more details than driving by. The mostly Victorian houses, vestiges of a more opulent era when the town was a hub of industries, line up the streets in different states of  grooming. Some not quite blighted, most decently kept and other pampered and quite beautiful. The later usually have more bloom showing in the manicure yards. The streets crosses a couple of small streams, most likely small confluents of the East Branch of the Naugatuck, the mighty small river flowing along side of our Mill. I have becomed attached to that river. The house we owned on Main Street had a large back yard with 150 feet frontage to the river. When we bought the house, one of the first chore (actually a lot of fun to be wadding in the water), was to clean my stretch of water of debris. Shopping carts, half a dozen of them, in various shapes of disrepair, tires, plastic bags, cans, bottles and whatever gets dumped up steam. I call it a mighty small river because I have witnessed its strength. In five years I witnessed a four hundred pound granite stone travel fifty feet down the river bed. In very cold winters, the ice engulfing these large stones and boulders literally gives them buoyancy when the river level rises, inching the blocks of granite along the river bed.
The walk did us a lot of good, when we returned home, I noticed the ornamental cherry trees, growing outside our ten foot tall factory windows, were showing buds. Mother Nature does not give a dam about covid, no lockdown planned for Spring!

A penny for your thoughts.

Who is that Masked Man

A pleasant surprise today, instead of an opera the Metropolitan Opera is taking us to the artists homes where they perform a short piece of their repertory for a At Home Gala. The entertainment is international and intimate, the backgrounds as different as the artists themselves. Most Opera singers had a piano to sing along, one from Poland had an accordion player to accompany him, another a harp. Unlike the news reporters broadcasting from their dwellings, the walls were lively with art or posters, books were also prominent. A fish tank here, a plant, and furnishings of all periods produced good human vibes and more appreciation for the artists belting arias with very little background music. It’s A patchwork of musicians, playing their instruments from home, filled our tv screen, a virtual orchestra conducted over the bandwidths, the technology of it baffling but welcomed, and  we watched, listened and enjoyed the show immensely.

It kept us entertained for a couple of hours. Afterward we took a well needed walk with the purpose of getting a pie and a couple of loaves of bread from the pizzeria on Main Street. It’s a 15 minutes walk and long enough to open our appetite. We passed by our old house and I was filled by memories of buying a neglected fixer upper, only to sell it only a year after we finished its 15 years rehabilitation. A dwelling becomes part of its inhabitants and the emotions run deep when memories are brought back. The daffodils we planted years ago on the frontage were showing an abundance of yellow against the grey clapboards walls, it was a warming sight on a rather cloudy afternoon.

The pizza was delicious, the thin crust helped by a few minutes on the oven stone to a crispy layer upon which laid a nutritious mixture of cheese and vegetables. Reading, listening or watching covid news I am always finding new facts or new ‘tricks’ to lessen the risk of contamination. Today, it’s the use of nylon stockings fabric as an extra protection for face coverings, making the mask fit tighter around one’s head and reducing air gaps around the face. I will definitely destroy one of Carolle’s pair for the cause. Bad news arrive faster than good ones, infected folks who recovered from covid infections are not immune, according to the experts. That’s distressing and will further people’s anxieties and fears to get back to normal, specially that testing is still far from been adequate, in fact it has been dismal. More alarming news about covid and its killing skills, is that it attacks several organs of the human body, brain included. Covid has a bad effect on blood, the worse adverse effect is unusual clotting sometimes leading to strokes in patient young and old. A young man in our town died last week of a stroke, a strong and reserved teenager well liked by his peers. The newspaper article does not mention covid, but death is always tragic and unjust when young people die, covid or not, and the town is saddened by the news.
Getting precise figure on covid death in our small town of 34,000 inhabitants is a matter of news links gymnastics. As far as I can gather in Connecticut we have seen 24,582 infections and 1,862 deaths. In the micropolitan Litchfield county spearheaded by our town we count 834 infections and 73 dead from covid, and so far 22 still hospitalized. That’s if you trust the numbers in light of the testing fiasco and the underreported deaths at home or elsewhere. With news of another milestone, I am again paying attention to the latest numbers of global deaths. Two hundred thousand folks have succumbed to covid according to the latest data. That’s a large number, but we are bracing for more while covid is on the run, the chaotic responses to the pandemic enabling its spread and, as sure as the sun will set this evening, the numbers of casualties will rise quickly until a magic bullet is found. Thought and prayers are not gonna be enough. After the first reported local death due to covid, March 6, the response of our town officials sums up the degree of urgency they perceived and their reaction to it. “It’s very sad,” the Mayor said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this individual”.

That’s nice, everyone should have thoughts and prayers, even the fiercest atheists should. But in my opinion, a strong alert to the pandemic should have been raised in our town, instead of sticking to the president’s playbook of diminishing the threat of infections and adopting the do nothing or do little (too much government) often seen from conservative politicians. When I contacted town hall to raise my concerns of an inadequate first page in pandemic times, I did not do it out of political reasons, I really could not care less whose party is running the town, progressives or conservatives, none of that mattered, what was important was the education it would have provided town folks, because many are still not respecting the protocols mandated by the health officials. It has been over a week since I contacted the mayor’s office when I was told:
“I have our city clerk working on the page modification. Again, many thanks for the suggestions! It’s all about the message!!”
You would think that a week time would be enough, in light of the seriousness of the message. After all, as a crude example on how quickly and with rudimentary knowledge of html, one can create a functioning website in less than one hour, and that’s with securing a new domain name. I know because I did just that once on the way to a show in Allentown, my friend was driving and I built the website on my mobile phone. By the time we reached our destination, we had a searchable front page. And I am not a wizard at html, been self taught, but the task of adding information on a page should not take more than ten minutes once one knows what to publish. Why is there reticence to inform the citizens of our town to pay attention to the severity covid presents to all, and to advise them of the proper protocols? Some politicians are walking the line not realizing that lives could be spared by raising awareness in the public when catastrophes fall upon us. At least our elected local leaders are not pushing for bleach injections, that would be more deadly than the unfortunately inadequate warnings to our citizenry.

My two requests to the company managing our building have so far received no response. The brick holding our front gate open, a gate made of heavy steel with a rather recalcitrant lock that unlocks only when the key is in a certain position, has been taken away twice. The brass handle shines from its constant daily use by the dwellers of this 120 units complex. Some folks want to keep that gate open, thus eliminating contact with possible traces of covid. Granted that copper alloys have germicidal properties, according to science, any brasses were almost completely bactericidal at 4 °C within 180–360 minutes, still the immediate danger exists. Thankfully, the rear of the parking lot has a good pile of bricks left over from a long over project.  But aside the tenants and units owners precautionary steps, no other means of protection and no cleaning in the common areas has been done since our confinement. Can the neglect be called a dereliction of duty?

The number of covid related deaths will soon surpass the numbers of American deaths during the war with Vietnam, in less than three month. The sad part, besides the lives lost and all the misery around it, is that we are in the mist of the pandemic, this is our war and it is not over, it only started, and we can expect more deaths from covid. The more I write about covid, the more repetitive I sound, not by design, but because the news keep on publishing the same alarming informations of supplies penury and shortage of already exhausted first responders.

Our Sunday was busy, and for the first time since our lockdown, we did not watch Opera. We spent time tying up the loft, rearranging and reorganizing the pantry, keeping busy to spend time. The weather is not getting better, intermittent sleet and rain kept us inside and with nowhere to go we are creative with our time in the loft. I finally wired a new outlet to the pantry, and took advantage of the easy access under the staircase to change a recessed single outlet to a quad. The small distance between the new quad, the feed for my new line, and the closet made it easy to conceal the line in the wall, an esthetic must for Carolle. She keeps a part of her shoe collection on the pantry’s top shelf and 21 shoe boxes have filled the shelf. She took the opportunity to cull some, a pair of Ralph Lauren bought in the 70’s, resoled at least once and showing quite a bit of wear, another pair of RL, this one pink sandals sporting thin high heels, together with another dozen pairs she does not care for, or should I say, she cares less for. There are more shoes stored in the various bins still unopened since we moved. For a woman with only two feet, she sure has a lot of shoes. Notice that I am only mentioning shoes, we did not get into boots this time, we still are in a lockdown, time is on our side.
When I went to buy electrical supplies for my closet/pantry project, the store at the hilltop was adhering to the recommended precautions, people wearing masks and keeping distances, same for the employees except one happy go lucky greeting shoppers around the aisles. I told him he ought to wear a mask. The public was respectful keeping distances as well as was feasible, all in a courteous way. I took advantage of  my roundabout to stop by the large store nearby to get milk, fruits and batteries. Most folks wore mask, except for a couple of youngsters, but the  most disturbing was mothers or couples with children shopping together. The employees, except one tall guy, were wearing masks and there was an employee cleaning carts as they got back from the parking lot. It made shopping way less stressful when all people are aware of their environment in the time of covid. The view outside our windows would be gloomy if it was not for our tree now in full bloom, its white flowers and greenery more visible against the grey sky. The good thing is, no one wants  to frolic around in bad weather, staying inside is not so bad.

With more folks wearing face coverings we are becoming a faceless society. Strangely, now people are looking more like me, as I have worn a mask for six weeks. Then my attire must have made a strange image in some folks minds, but now I am part of the norms. There is something satisfying about that, a new sense of belonging, something I had not felt in quite some time, before covid.