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.