By Bruce A. Smith
Another beautiful day in Paradise! Nights are nippy, though, dipping down to the low 30s. But daytime temps here in Eatonville are hitting 60. If it wasn’t for Covid, I’d be worried about climate change and our unusually dry spring weather.
This is Day 10 of my self-quarantine, Wednesday March 18, 2020. It’s also Day 7 of the National Emergency that President Trump declared last week concerning the Covid outbreak. As such, I think it’s time to take stock of our situation, globally, personally, and materially.
Nationally, the country is in crisis. According to the New York Times last evening, the thousand-bed naval hospital ship Comfort will soon be enroute from Hampton Roads to New York City to take care of non-Covid patients who can be transferred out of city hospitals to make room for the growing influx of sick New Yorkers. Similarly, the hospital ship, Mercy, will be sailing out of San Diego to either Los Angeles or Seattle. But final decisions have yet to be made, and Trump hasn’t given the order to sail and nobody on the news knows why. NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio is clearly pissed about and said so in his nationally televised press conference today.
Similarly, my NYC cousin Gayle called to say, “It’s like a war zone here. Everything is shut down. The streets are empty – it’s worse than 9-11.” Gayle told me that her life has been turned upside-down. On Monday, she lost her job as a tour guide, and her social world of singing in her church choir and volunteering in a museum has collapsed as everyone has closed their doors.
To reassure her, I told Gayle that Trump is going to send us each $1,000 in early April. “That’ll be nice,” Gayle replied. And I hear we’ll get another thousand in May.” So, she’s keeping up with the news.
Next, I called my Mom on Long Island and first spoke with her caregiver, Emily, for a few minutes. “It’s bad here, Bruce,” she to me. “The grocery stores are empty. There’s nothing, or what they have is strictly limited. Stop and Shop even has security guards now, and I could only buy one gallon of water for your mother. Milk – it was the same thing. I could only get one gallon for her for the week. There’s no chicken, no meats. Nothing. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
When I did speak with my Mom, though, she said that she felt “content.” Continuing, she added: “We’re taking everything one day at a time here. It’s all we can do. But we’re okay for the moment.”
Again, I shared that the government is issuing $1,000 checks to all Americans in April. “Well, that’ll help, won’t it, Bruce. But don’t spend it all at once. Save it. You might need it later.”
Mom and I then got philosophical about her situation. “You know, Mom, the rest of the world is beginning to live like you have for the past couple of years – in a health quarantine. It’s just that you can’t get around too much because of your arthritis and knees, and everyone else wants to get out and do things.”
“Yes, that’s true,” she replied, “but I like the quiet. Always have. That’s a big difference.”
Along those lines, MSNBC is reporting today that one-fifth of America is in self-quarantine. Some places are already in a total lockdown, such as San Francisco and Chicago.
In addition, De Blasio announced today that NYC is now the “epicenter” of the Covid pandemic in the United States, with over 5,000 confirmed cases. That’s one-third of all afflicted individuals nationwide. As a result, De Blasio pleaded with all non-essential workers to stay home.
Most officials are saying it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and even the feds are saying we could be on some level of isolation for months, perhaps to August. In the meantime, it seems that New York is just shy of a mandated lockdown.
Those dynamics are inspiring my world to reach out to each other.
My ol’ Boy Scout buddy, Jeff, called today from City Island, NY to say that “all is calm here.” But he needed a special kind of peace to make the call and headed down to the waterfront to talk. Nature sure does nurture. Always has. That’s why Jeff and our crew worked all those summers at Camp Wauwepex.
Similarly, another Wauwepexer, Jim, now in Massachusetts called a few days ago to check-in with me and share his views on Covid and Life-in-General. Like me and many in America, Jim has been in quarantine for a while – but his has been for over two years now, as he protects himself during his chemotherapy treatments. Those sessions have stripped him of much of his body’s immunity, so he hasn’t been in any social gatherings during that time, except to see us Wauwepexers in a summertime reunion back in 2018. Nowadays, a big day for Jeff is when his son drives him to Dean’s Beans & their fresh-roasted, black Sumatran French Roast and he sips a cuppa in the car.
But Jim is in good spirits, and welcomes the spring – keeping me and our BSA brethren posted on the arrival of red-wing hawks and gosling, and the blooming of his Hawthorne trees.
Another Wauwepexer, Francis, is an attorney in Manhattan and is worried about his firm. It’s totally shut down and he frets about payroll, maintaining his clients, and who-the-hell-is-going-to pick-up-the-mail if NYC goes into mandated shelter-in-place.
Another Wauwepex buddy, Mick, aka Michael, emailed me to say he’s basically okay in his home north of Seattle, tending to the little ones in his adoptive family. He goes for walks every day and reads three-four hours. In fact, he sent me a lengthy list of suggested reading that was akin to a resume from a prospective Ph.D. literature candidate. It included both plot synopses and writing style analysis.
Others, too, go about their lives relatively unaffected by the Covid. My next-door neighbor and friend, Dan, is a “green man” and prunes fruit trees this time of year.
“It’s just me and the trees,” he told me yesterday. “I never have to interact with anyone, so life is normal for me.”
Yet, some of my storytelling friends seem to be struggling. Sherry from OlyWa has written explicitly saying she’s lonely and misses our story gatherings immensely. In response, she’s the first one I send this missive to. Cousin Gayle is second.
Others, like Paulie C, I worry about. I email and call, yet have not received any response. That’s not unusual, but in these days it is worrisome. Fortunately, he finally emailed me yesterday. His psychic powers must have kicked in after I sent him healing energies in my morning meditation.
Some folks sound okay, I think. Cousin Bob in Paris says that all is well although he admits it’s strange to see empty streets in the City of Lights. However, he’s got three kids at home, with another coming from college along with a roommate. That’ll make a total of seven in the house. With France in total lockdown for Gawd-knows-how-long, I’m beginning to wonder if Bobby might be the kind of guy who would describe WWII as a “severe misunderstanding” between the Germans and French.
Lots of friends and family check-in with me to share health tips. Victoria in Yelm sends me missives by the dozen, as does Joannie from Minnesota. Vic sent one that I have found particularly useful – Qi Gong lung-stretching exercises with an Asian guy who resembles Richard Simmons after three cups of coffee.
Nevertheless, the fellow calms down leading these exercises, and I thoroughly enjoyed following along in my chair as I watched my computer screen.
Adding to the notion of calm, air pollution is down significantly in many parts of the world. Not only in America’s cities as car traffic plummets, but in China and South Korea especially, as manufacturing has ceased and satellite photos show about a 90% reduction in noxious emissions.
Along those lines, I’m saving about forty bucks a week in gas by not driving to Seattle and Tacoma for rehearsals and shows. Still, I really could use that $1,000 from the government to ensure that I don’t get my usual end-of-the-month-blues as I await my social security check on the 3rd. Further, as I read the fine-print on the governmental bail-out I see that I may not get the full thousand, or even any money at all since the moolah will be based upon 2018 tax returns. Then, I only made a few hundred bucks above my social security dealing blackjack for my party company. But this week I received a gift of a couple of hundred dollars from a Mountain News reader, so I’m good. Elated actually. We really are helping each other. Not only is the money welcomed, but the respect and the acknowledgment of these writings’ value is even more important to me.
So, my biggest worry may end up being: Am I going to gain weight by siting around and eating Oreo’s all day long? Or, will I lose weight over many months in quarantine since there might not be much on the shelves in the grocery stores and I’ll be scraping by on rice and beans?
A true American Existential Dilemma, eh?
To see all of these Covid Journal stories, click here:
Update – 8pm Friday, March 20, 2020:
Health Care Workers and Grocery Store Personnel Eligible for Covid Testing at Tacoma Dome
The Tacoma=Pierce County Health Department will be conducting Covid testing for all health workers, first responders, and grocery store personnel at the Tacoma Dome starting tomorrow, Saturday, March 21, and extending through mid-week. Here is their press release with details.
Sent on behalf of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
Media partners – Apologies for the late evening information.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health is establishing a testing site starting tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9 a.m. for first responders, medical professionals, employees in critical infrastructure roles, such as public works and grocery store employees. These participants are coming after being screened online via a survey and receiving a confirmation number for testing. This testing site will operate until Wednesday. Here is more information.
Yours truly, wearing my pink pussy hat back when we were marching. Ah, the good ol’ days, eh?