By Bruce A. Smith
As my second week in quarantine comes to a close, I feel a great calm emerging upon the land. Life is simpler, the world quieter. There is less traffic, less air pollution, less hustle and bustle. Maybe people are stressing less in some collective way – saying goodbye to the gotta get to work, gotta pay the bills, gotta take care of the kids hub-bub and just focusing on the basics of life, like food.
These past two weeks, I’ve driven to Eatonville every three or four days to get meds or food, and I can see Mount Rainier more clearly. All of nature seems in sharper focus to me.
I’m hearing it from others, such as my friend Jeff in Austin, who wrote me to say he is reveling in the quietude from a drop in nearby road traffic. Further, yesterday’s poster Gayle, told me that one of her kids with ADHD was really quiet one day last week – a remarkable change from his normal behavior.
I mentioned these musing to my friend Ray, who confirmed that he too, is sensing a quieting. “Maybe people are facing their mortality for the first time in their lives,” he mused. “That can be sobering. Maybe they are awakening to the scariness of life, which in turn can lead to a deeper appreciation of life.” Ray is not called the Mystic Dog of Graham idly.
Not everyone is calming, though. A bunch of Hell’s Angels roared past me in Eatonville last Saturday. Clearly, they are not sheltering-in-place. When I told my buddy Dan, he shared that he had seen the informal parking lot for the Mashel Falls packed to the gills. The Falls is Eatonville’s unofficial rowdy spot for partying, and often receives serious police interventions. In fact, the WA DOT trenches the shoulders of the highway every summer in an effort to block the party-goers. But they fill in the ditches, or just drive their 4x4s over the berms. Eatonville’s good ol’ boys are just gonna have their fun, regardless.
Similarly, the Covid response nationally seems to be fracturing along political lines. The Atlantic magazine in its current issue discusses how the Covid pandemic is centered in Democratic cities, along with a robust health response led by the mayors or state governors, most of whom are Democrats.
However, the health response in Trump Country is far less urgent. In fact, today’s MSNBC news declared that Trump’s tweets today signal the development of a “Let-‘em-die” strategy as he contemplates encouraging people to go back to work to save the economy, even if it means the virus infects everyone. Trump, of course, is rolling the dice for the sake of his political legacy.
So, we could have an intense polarization of the country along medical lines: Democratic cities in extensive lockdown with no one working, and suffering thousands of fatalities but eventually recovering by August. In contrast, rural and unprepared America, aka Trump Country, would go back to work but could eventually resemble Italy. That might result in an estimated 2 million dead by the end of the year. That number was projected by the Imperial College of London in a study released several weeks ago, and it was touted as helping Boris Johnson in the UK and Trump in the US pivot in mid-March from publicly downplaying the pandemic.
As for Italy, it is now the global epicenter of the pandemic, and the hospital system is reeling. In Cremona’s hospital in northern Italy, over 20% of the clinical staff is currently infected with Covid. Worse, those folks cannot sustain 12-18 hours work days indefinitely. But a compilation video of the mayors of Italy disciplining their constituents is heart-warming – and funny. Grazie, mille.
Here in the US, many folks are going into isolation but grumbling about it. My friends in the DB Cooper research community, particularly those of a conservative bent, are telling me that they are “sick and tired of hearing about the coronavirus” and want more DB Cooper news. As a result, we’re getting more action in the Cooper chat rooms and in Cooper podcasts.
However, for those of us in partial quarantine we are settling into comfortable seasonal routines. I prepped my onion beds last weekend, and shifted the last of my potatoes from the refrigerator – where they were tapped to be eaten in the next few weeks – to become my seed potatoes since I don’t want to venture into the world just to find sprouting taters.
Along those lines, my ex in NY, Rachel, called to say that she is employing the delivery service from Whole Foods to supply her, warning that the lead time to get food at her door is over two weeks. But she’s keeping safe in total quarantine, and is conference-calling with fellow writers, and utilizing ZOOM to participate with her Jewish synagogue, since the shule closed its doors a week or so ago. “We even did Torah study,” Rachel exclaimed. Hence, contrary to what Michael Medved is saying on TV, Jews do worship online.
My efforts at ZOOM have been mixed, though. Yesterday’s rehearsal for Resi was fraught with technical difficulties. One actor didn’t have visuals, and I didn’t have audio. My ZOOM “help” button told me I needed to download Chrome, as my Firefox was inadequate. But my Windows 7 didn’t interface properly, I suppose, and I was unable to get Chrome. So, I listened to my rehearsal via the phone. It was a grind for three hours, but we made theatrical progress.
As for the nitty-gritty of living, Kirk’s, my pharmacy in Eatonville has instituted curbside pick-up service. So that’ll be one less store I have to enter.
I also got a letter from the Mason County Court this week announcing that my court date to contest driving too slowly in Shelton in early March has been postponed to June 1 due to the coronavirus. I suppose my ire will resurface by then.
Also, I hear that schools and YMCAs are re-opening as re-purposed childcare centers to minister to the kids of health care workers and other parents in priority positions. Eighty-three schools in NYC are reportedly participating in this program in some fashion.
Locally, Carol Wright, the Director of the Graham-Kapowsin Community Council reports that her group of volunteers is dropping off 600 backpacks of food each week for kids in the Bethel School District to supplement what the children are missing by not eating at school.
One dilemma I haven’t totally figured out is laundry. Usually, I head to the laundromat in Yelm every month to wash my clothes. However, a laundromat could be a veritable petri dish of virus particles, so I’m washing clothes at home in the kitchen sink in a piecemeal fashion. It’s a real chore, but it sure beats pneumonia.
Another new kitchen routine is finding ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’m long outta Oreo’s, so I’ve been using some recipes I received from trailer park folks in Nashville, such as “Instant Cake,” which is a slice of white bread with some whipped cream or frosting on it. I’m outta those toppings, too, so I’ve been substituting Hershey’s chocolate, or just lathering a slab of butter on it. Yum.
I’m also drinking a lot more coffee. I find that I am drawn to my computer for more hours – writing this journal, replying to emails, exploring life’s mysteries with friends and family. It’s satisfying, but it entails four cups of java daily. So far, though, I don’t think it’s affected my sleep, nor impacted my acid reflux.
Another local dilemma is the fact that state officials are telling Washingtonians not to get Covid testing unless they are actively displaying symptoms. The idea is to save face masks and other protective gear – the current shortage is that critical.
Today, I see that the Dems are holding up the stimulus package in Congress. That’s the money to bail out corporations and also deliver $1,000 checks into the hands of most Americans. But I don’t qualify, as I didn’t make enough money beyond my social security. I’m part of the 40% of Americans who only, or mostly, live on their social security check, and we’re being cut loose from this deal. Unless Schumer and Pelosi can wrangle the Republicans into giving us some money. If not, Delta Airlines will get 50 billion dollars and we’ll get zilch. That’s the Donald Trump I know.
Further, for folks who would like a mellow review of the Covid pandemic, including a superb discussion of ideas to create something new and wonderful in our time of isolation and calm, I recommend Gregg Braden’s video.
Braden suggests that Covid will change us for the better in many ways, including compelling us to develop localized economies, live healthier lifestyles, and learn how to “go within” more fully.
Lastly, those readers who would like to peruse a factual, comprehensive and detailed presentation of the many facets of the Covid pandemic, I strongly recommend The Atlantic Magazine, at:
Washington Governor Jay Inslee just announced a mandatory stay-at-home order for the state for two weeks, until April 6. I guess the Angels won’t be ridin’ this weekend.
Covid Picture Gallery
Thanks to the creators of these wonderful visuals from the Internet. I trust they will allow the Mountain News-WA to use them here in the interest of giving us all a good laugh. BIG THANKS to Victoria from Yelm for her sense of humor and thinking of us.
Special thanks for the above to Kevin Siers at the Charlotte Observer.
Yours truly, bird-watching at the Nisqually Wildlife Preserve in 2015. Photo courtesy of Karelina Resnick.
Covering a G-KCC Spaghetti Feed for the Mountain News in 2016. Who knew these were normal times. Lastly – if you’d like to see a funny, pointed video on the current state of the US government’s response to the Covid pandemic, see below. Warning, it contains a lot of raw language.