Plague Diary 9: Chinese Virus Torture

LA Times Photo of Bus Riders

Looking back on yesterday’s very pessimistic post, I wish I had not posted it. And while I’m in an apologizing mood, I wish I had not used the title “Chinese Virus Torture” for this post—except, as you will see, it is oddly appropriate.

While I could see that COVID-19 is the news story of the century, I am appalled that the news media are pre-empting all other news to strike heavily and again and again and again on the subject of the virus. Almost as if it were a form of Chinese water torture. (I will not otherwise use the racist term Chinese Virus, much beloved of our Orange Führer.)

I think that, at this time, people should learn to laugh again, to remember that, yes, there will be life after the coronavirus slinks away. Other than five or six basic facts such as washing your hands, maintaining social distance, etc., there really isn’t much else to be said. When the broadcast media become all virus all the time, the result is to strike fear among the population.

When toilet paper suddenly disappears from the shelves of our supermarkets, it is an indicator that the news media is presenting an out of balance picture that creates an environment of irrationality and panic.

If I were in charge of programming, I would not replace the endless news cycle with some entertainment. Right now, it is difficult to avoid the talking heads drumming death into our eyes and ears.

The mess we are in is going to last a while. My post yesterday was a sign that the virus news hammer was starting to get to me. Today I feel a little bit better.




Plague Diary 9: What Comes Next?

My Real Worry Is How We Transition Back to Normal Life

Eventually, the COVID-19 curve will flatten and the number of new cases will decline. I expect millions will die, in prisons, in refugee camps, in nursery homes, on aircraft carriers—everywhere where people are forced to live in close quarters. The economy will not simply bounce back: There will be a lot of casualties. They will include hospitals; many of your favorite restaurants, bars, and clubs; thousands of retailers; hundreds of companies across the country, large and small; numerous airlines and (I sincerely hope) ocean cruise lines. The notion of democracy in the United States will likely be in shambles, what with the millions of brain dead who rely on Fox News and fundamentalist Evangelical ministers for the “real story” of what happened.

Will the 2020 presidential election even take place? Or will the orange-haired dictator be crowned king?

People who live paycheck to paycheck will be thrown out of their jobs and be cast out into the streets, unable to pay the rent. Some movements are afoot to prevent this from happening, but I suspect the growing numbers of indigent will just be too much for the system to bear. If things get particularly bad, I may be one of the victims.

I don’t think the present leadership of this country is even marginally competent. There are some governors of populous states who have braved Trump’s displeasure, but the Feds themselves are a sad crew, what with the evil McConnell at the helm of the Senate and circus clowns running the Executive and Judicial branches of government.

My feeling as I look to the future: Dread.



Plague Diary 6: Good News from My Dentist

Watching the News These Days Is Like the Dance of Death

There’s nothing like a spell of plague to make one doubt one’s sources of information. And mainly, I mean the news.

On Saturday, I bit into some fruit, only to have one of my dental crowns pop out. Inwardly, I cursed. Can the crown be glued on? Will a new super-expensive crown be necessary? Or is the underlying tooth rotten, requiring an implant? Fortunately, my dentist was able to see me today. It looks like I’ll need a new crown.

During our conversation, I learned a few things that seem to go against most of the news stories I’ve been seeing lately about the coronavirus. (And really, it seems that over 75% of the news is about just that.)

My dentist came in just for me, her office being closed for more routine dental procedures. So the atmosphere was more casual than usual. We started talking about the “plague” that is gobbling up all the news services. She expected that she expected that the virus would be old news within a couple of weeks. All viruses have a life of somewhere around four to six days. The two weeks isolation described by the news services was because many people are infected by contact with multiple carriers of the virus.

It turns out that the UCLA Dental School, with which she is affiliated, will be re-opening within a couple of weeks. Why would they do that if there is any substantial danger to the dentists?

She re-iterated the usual advice about washing one’s hands, but added one very useful piece of information: Be sure to dry your hands. Viruses like a moist, warm environment.  Social distancing generally works. The main danger is being in close contact with someone who cynically does not believe in changing his or her lifestyle, which is a danger to the sick and elderly, who are most likely to die of the virus.



Plague Diary 2: Empty Shelves

It’s Bad All Over: The Above Picture Is From the UK

Last night I called my friend Bill Korn, who warned me that the supermarket shelves are likely to be all picked over by hoarders. As I do my main food shopping on Monday, I started the day with apprehension. I woke at 7 am to get to Ralphs Supermarket (owned by Kroger) by the 9 am opening time. When I arrived, I had trouble finding parking, could not get my hands on a shopping cart (except the one they always have on hand with square wheels), and found very little of what I was looking for.

Fortunately, I was able to find some ground turkey—seconds before the hoarders descended on it. Then I joined the checkout line that wound up and down the store aisles.

Later, I stopped at Trader Joe’s on Olympic Boulevard and found a similar situation, though the well paid staff was much better at restocking the shelves.

The dish I prepared was a non-spicy keema consisting of the ground turkey, various Indian spices, and a selection of frozen vegetables from my freezer. If this situation prevails over however many weeks the plague restrictions are in effect, I will have to be highly creative in my cooking. It’s already difficult to cook for Martine and myself because there are relatively few dishes we can agree on. It’s like the Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
But, together both,
They licked the platter clean.

Rather than fight with Martine about what I cook, I will gladly arrange for her to have any take-out meals she desires. She is considerate enough not to over-abuse this privilege.

Other than food shopping, I viewed a classic psychological horror film from 1943, Val Lewton’s The Seventh Victim. And I read about a third of Jan Neruda’s excellent 19th century Prague Tales. Jan is not to be confused with Pablo Neruda, who hi-jacked the Czech writer’s last name as his nom de plume.

Strange New World

Who Could Have Expected This?

When I returned from Mexico on February 7, it was to a vastly different reality—one that grew increasingly strange with each passing day. With the cancellation of music festivals, sporting events, live audiences, and even schools and libraries, it is a strange and unexpected new world in which I find myself.

Tomorrow night, Martine and I are attending an event given by the Kárpátok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, which we both love. It is not a large event, and Martine and I plan not to stay for the socializing after the folk dances. Even a week ago, I would not have been so conscious of the danger of contracting Covid-19. Now, alas, I am: I am a walking encyclopedia of pre-existing medical conditions, including panhypopituitarism, type II diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and a few others not so prominent. If I caught the virus, I would likely be at risk not to survive it.

It has been a particularly strange week, partly because of the draconian measures to minimize casual social contact, and partly because of a rare week-long “Pineapple Express” rain event which is leaving us with a certain degree of cabin fever.

At present, an average of 350 people per day are officially identified as having come down with Covid-19. I suspect the number is actually much larger because of the nationwide shortage of test kits. Supposedly, something is being done about this—but then I don’t usually expect competence or any degree of helpfulness from the Trump administration.

The only good news about the coronavirus is that it has all but chased the 2020 presidential election from the news. But it has not replaced it with anything more palatable.



On Panic Buying

Actually, Stupidity Renders One Particularly Susceptible

Yesterday as I went food shopping at Ralph’s Supermarket, I noticed several shopping carts with multiple packs of toilet tissue. Typically, I could not resist commenting aloud, “I didn’t know there were so many asswipes in Santa Monica!” (Strictly speaking, that isn’t true: I consider the City of Santa Monica to be densely populated with asswipes, but that’s another story altogether.)

Actually, the panicked grocery shoppers of Santa Monica are part of a confusing global trend. Some of the funniest toilet paper memes are from Australia and other countries.

Please explain to me why toilet paper is effective in preventing COVID-19. Unless, perhaps it is used in this way:

The Curse of the Mummies?

And it’s not just toilet paper. There’s a run on liquid soaps and hand cleaning solutions. That must mean that I’m particularly susceptible: I don’t like washing my hands with liquids, preferring instead a good bar of soap. And yet, there doesn’t seem to be a run on soap bars. Curiouser and curiouser.

Well, It Is Sort of Ring-Shaped