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Greetings from “shelter-in-place” California

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We’re all going a little stir-crazy in the Bay Area. The shelter-in-place means that no one is allowed to leave their home, except under very limited circumstances. Even if we could leave, there’s not much to do: gyms and movie theaters are closed, ditto for restaurants, bars and coffee shops (except for takeout), and even the malls are shut down. Freeways are empty; public transit is running, but no one is taking the buses and trains.

I went to Whole Foods yesterday; it’s just around the corner. For the first time, I wore my face mask. Many shelves were empty: frozen foods, canned goods, rice, noodles and, obviously, paper supplies. No prepared foods or bulk foods—I wanted to buy some almonds or cashews, but couldn’t. Oh, well, it’s not the end of the world.

I see Trump every day on T.V. He said the other day he’d give himself a “ten” for his handling of the pandemic. I doubt if anyone else would. I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t his fault—he didn’t start the coronavirus. But he’s been an abject failure as a leader. His pathological lying has come back to haunt him. It’s called karma: for the last four years, he’s lied, and lied, and lied about everything, small things, big things, stupid things, important things…and now that we need a leader we can trust, we don’t have one. Well, I doubt if Trump has the self-honesty to understand why no one thinks he’s going a good job. And I doubt if the people around him are telling him that he brought this lack of trust upon himself.

I thought Joe Biden had the Democratic nomination all locked up, but with yesterday’s primary fiascos—shortage of poll workers, polling places closing, Ohio postponing, misunderstanding and confusion among voters—Bernie Sanders could say, “Wait a minute! We haven’t even had legitimate primary elections in major states. This thing isn’t over!” It’s so important for the Democratic Party to unify, but party unity may be one more victim of the coronavirus. Lord help us if we have a fractious Democratic Party going into the November election, the way we did last time. Circular firing squad and all that.

It’s impossible to play this thing out. Maybe coronavirus will dwindle away during the summer. Maybe it will come roaring back in the fall. In the 1918 pandemic, everybody thought the flu was gone by late summer. No such luck! There was flu 2.0, and it was worse than ever. That’s how viruses behave. COVID-19 is a brand new virus and disease, and nobody knows what it’s going to do next.

I have a confession to make: I wept yesterday. It was during the afternoon. I’d been sheltering in place, like most folks in the Bay Area. The T.V. was on to a news station. Somebody was talking about the economy cratering, and what that’s going to do to America. It took me back to Bernie Madoff, all that exhaustion and fear and panic. I just don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want America to go through this bullshit again: first Sept. 11, then the Great Recession, now coronavirus. It’s just too much. Too much. And despite myself, I wept. What’s happening to America? What have we done to deserve this? Why are we being tormented again? What is it doing to us, individually and collectively? Why can’t things get back to normal? Why can’t we have some years of respite? Why is it always something? Why, why, why? My tears only lasted for a few seconds. Gus was watching me; I scratched his head, and he rolled over for a belly rub.

And now, Gov. Newsom tells us that schools are likely to be closed throughout California for the rest of the school year. Wow. We’re not only getting sicker and poorer, we’re getting dumber. How does a civilization endure?

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “I see Trump every day on T.V. He said the other day he’d give himself a “ten” for his handling of the pandemic.” I agree, if we’re using the same type of 100-point system as is used for wine.

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