The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #7

On the optimism of risk

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 1170 confirmed cases (up 130 from yesterday)
  • 87 confirmed deaths (up 12 from yesterday)

After a couple of days with a low “new death” count, we’re up 12.

Bridge cam

To recap, in case you missed my bonus post this morning: West Seattle is cut off! It’s just another thing that seems horrifying up front, but will wind up being not very interesting in the end. It’s of a piece with the whole “the world will be a different place when this is over” trope. I’m hearing that more and more, and I just don’t know why anyone believes it. Different how? We’re going to go back to work and school, and in 6 months we’ll barely remember the Coronavirus. There will likely be businesses that don’t survive this, and life will be different for those people, but this is not going to shift us into some new global existence of…of what, exactly? Nobody seems to have gotten that far yet. That’s because all of the fun is in the prophecy – the fulfillment always just feels like December 26th (unless that’s your birthday).

We all love to feel important, and because we have a hard time getting that feeling from our everyday lives – from the mundane and decent moments – we imagine doomsday scenarios and great changes. We manufacture tragedy where it doesn’t exist, farming it like oysters in the brackish waters of our boredom and banality. Nothing’s more dull than stagnation, so we want to believe that something different’s coming to stir us up. It isn’t, though, and that’s the best part. We’re too good at civilization. The plague can’t ruin us with toilet paper and sanitizer shortages, and it isn’t going to forever change our way of life as we come out the back end of it (in a couple weeks or months or whatever). We’re too resilient and our systems are too redundant, and we’re just too big. You can’t turn an aircraft carrier in a phone booth.

The governor also laid out some “enhanced strategies” yesterday. I see now that there’s a slogan attached to it: “Stay home, stay healthy.” Fine by me. It may actually be a misdemeanor now to be within 6 feet of someone. I don’t see much chance of that being enforced with anything more than a shout. Inslee has avoided calling directly for a shelter-in-place, which I think is a pretty savvy move. The public has been calling for it and predicting it (so that later they can say they were right) for a while now. It’s been an unavoidable term in an unavoidable conversation, and the Governor won’t be sucked in by the sheepish momentum. Possibly it also leaves room for escalation. After all, what if you order a shelter-in-place and things get worse? Where do you go from there, Martial Law? He’s at least buffered and slowed the lockdown process with an additional step this way, and perhaps has significantly (smartly, invisibly) staid the hand of public panic by avoiding the language of school shootings and severe weather.

Or maybe it’s just politics, distinguishing himself from the New Yorks and Californias, hoping that in the end he can look at his voters and say that he was right. It’s his own low-risk bet on future validation. He’ll be able to stand there and say that he successfully fought the plague without resorting to the draconian measures of the other states, all the while doing essentially the same thing they did, only using different words.

Either way, I say “Good job, Jay.”

BUT…

There is a line now at Trader Joe’s. They’re doing the one person out, one person in thing, with a max capacity of 20 shoppers. I came down the stairs from the parking garage yesterday, saw that the line was 7 or 8 people deep, and decided not to wait. I like Trader Joe’s. It is easy to ignore their shortcomings, given the low prices and some of the goodies that are unique to their stores. But I’m not waiting in line for it, six feet away from the next person.

I went back to my usual store, closer to home anyway, and found myself with an unexpected sweet tooth. Bought two kinds of cookies, a tub of ice cream, and even a package of ladyfingers for some reason I can’t explain (except that I turned towards the shelf and there they were). They are not very good. Clearly Tiramisu is the best thing that ever happened to them. Toilet paper was still out, as was the yeast. I’ve been looking for yeast since this thing started, and in the meantime managed to forget my lack by making soda bread. Yeastless and delicious, with a little rosemary to make it classy.

Soda Bread

I’ll make another loaf today, as well as a large vat of chicken and noodles, which is the only thing I can think of that qualifies as a family recipe for us. My grandma used to make it when she visited, especially during Christmas and Thanksgiving. My mom made it when grandma wasn’t around (and after she died, of course), and I’ve been making it ever since I moved away from home, such a long time ago. Everyone loves it.

………

So, as we’ve already explored, things are very serious. There’s hard lessons to be learned! Life as we know it will be forever changed! Well, I took a walk the other day with a friend who recently found out his 8 year-old son is dying of a rare condition, and they caught it too late. They could still have years to go, but most of them won’t be good. It was a walk in a park that made us part of the unperson population, being too cavalier about social distancing, and apparently putting everyone at risk with our irresponsible behavior. Risk. My friend and his family are a thousand tragic steps beyond risk. They are living with something far more sinister and damning: certainty. He would joyfully replace that certainty with the welcome possibilities of mere risk, rather than knowing so plainly the hell that is coming. So he is understandably unmoved by the moralizing masses in the comments of the Governor’s twitter feed. Tell him, and the rest of his family, that going to the park is dangerous and irresponsible. That the world’s going to be different when this is over. For them, yes, very. But not because of quarantines, closed bridges, or government decrees. Not because we “came together as a community” and “supported local businesses” while we looked at the suddenly clean air of our cities and “finally learned a hard lesson about climate change” (yes, people are saying this). Nope, all the people in a situation like my friend, who are plagued by reality, are just trying to find the importance in the mundane and decent moments of the life they have left, before it changes for real, forever.

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update:

Goot morning from ground zero
Anyone know of a place to pee inside?

That’s a concern of an unbridgeable kind. I’m usually less troubled by his troubles than I should be. It’s comments like those that remind me not to go around manufacturing tragedy where it doesn’t exist.

— Give me six feet, comrade citizen! —

YOU SHALL NOT PASS

It’s going to come to this eventually:

The city of Seattle – mainlanders, as we here on the peninsula of West Seattle will be referring to them soon enough – has seen fit to shut down the West Seattle Bridge. The usual alternative, known colloquially as “the low bridge” (poetic as hell, I know), will be restricted to transit, first responders, and freight.  The low bridge also happens to be a draw bridge, adding hilariously to the complications. This means a significant southward detour for 80,000 residents, via and onto roads that are laughably unequipped for heavy traffic volume. But Governor Inslee simultaneously issued a state-wide “please stay home, and stuff” order, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Right? Right. He didn’t use the mot du jour, shelter-in-place, but that’s because it’s been said so many billions of times over the past week that it’s literally impossible to say anymore. We’re just fresh out. Instead he issued a – and I’m quoting here – “stay at home order to fight this virus.”

They’re going to be assessing the bridge due to cracks that they’ve openly admitted to having known about for several years. It’ll be closed as long as it takes for the assessment, and remain closed as long as it takes for repairs. Or, as the SDOT director said in a garish flourish of education-proud degree speak, “until further notice.” The bottom line is that as far as West Seattle is concerned, this here quarantine can go on as long as it wants. We’re going nowhere, and we have everything we need right here anyway. Heck, there’s times I’ve gone weeks without leaving this peninsula, and that’s when we don’t have a plague to celebrate. So roll on, quarantine. Carry on, stay-at-home order. And claim your victims, Coronavirus. We’ll gladly hole up here “until further notice.”

bridge
WS Bridge, and its little brother, “the low bridge.”

But be advised, mainlanders, one day you’re going to want to come back across that bridge yourselves, to enjoy the beauty of Alki Beach and Lincoln Park, our attendance at which has drawn your ire for a solid week now. You’ll want to take in the best views in the city while hoping to bump into Eddie Vedder. You’ll want to stroll through the Junction, shop at the last Easy Street Records, grab a cone from Husky Deli, and watch the sun go down over the Olympics from Three Tree Point.  And we are going to refuse. You will march pathetically through the rubble, over our glorious bridge that you say is barely holding itself together, waving your white flag (check with the Seattle City Council, they have extras from that time they were on Sawant’s side about the head tax), and begging us to let you surrender. We will respond as succinctly as sir Anthony up there, by simply telling you to “Go to Hell.”

White Center will happily (and quite easily, you’d know if you ever deigned to go there) hold our Southern border. That town has resisted white people’s best efforts at gentrification since before Richard Hugo called it home, and it’s residents will be finished with you before their pho gets cold.

last days

 

 

 

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #6

With Monday comes the tedium

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus

IMG_3217 (2)
Crowds? what crowds?

Today’s numbers:

    • 1,040 confirmed cases (up 106 from yesterday)
    • 75 confirmed deaths (up 1 from yesterday)

The care center in Kirkland where this whole thing kicked off for us has leveled off in terms of body count. For the first couple of weeks, nearly all of the new fatalities came from that one place, but it’s been a few days since the last one. Hopefully the worst is over for them. It must be frightening to be there, elderly and not wanting this to be the way your number is delivered. I can’t imagine. I suppose some are ready, and some are not, just like always.

Quarantine weekend was (dare I be so droll?) nice. I hesitate to over-sentimentalize things, but it would be shallow of me to ignore the fact that we have good neighbors. I don’t want to say “community” because I think that word is somewhat weaponized – a virtue grenade lobbed from dubious moral high ground. “I love this community,” “the strength of our community is…” etc. It’s nice, but I think a little vapid, and generally meant to cast a wider net than the waters being fished really call for. Neighbors, on the other hand, yes. And we have good ones. To ride the cliché of looking for the good in all this strangeness, our neighbor-cluster has been a very bright spot. We gather nightly (the weather’s turning, though, so watch out) in camp chairs, with drinks ranging from scotch to coffee to last night’s appearance of a Bloody Mary. The talk is good and fun, with nobody harping on political/governmental issues, no opinion-slinging about whether we’re over- or under-reacting to this whole thing (as a community, haha). Just the usual jokes about social distancing and the obligatory prediction of the coming lockdown. It seems to be a foregone conclusion in the minds of most that Seattle ‘s shelter-in-place order is just a Governor’s presser away (that’s a very short article that uses the term “shelter-in-place” six (6!) times) I don’t know. I don’t care. Speculation wears me down faster than a belt sander, so I just refuse to do it (with the exception of maintaining my very general prediction that this’ll be over sooner than we think. But that’s saying very little, and committing to less). Outside of our 5:00 happy hour at the end of the dead-end road, we (the neighbors) see plenty of each other out in the yards now that we’re all home. No soccer games or swim meets, no piano recitals, no fund raisers. Just everybody, here. The gardens are being refreshed, the daffodils are being complimented, the decks are being washed, and indeed (don’t get off the cliché wagon yet, Andy) the sounds of the kids playing their ridiculous and fluid-ruled games are ever present.

………

Last week I met a friend for a walk. This is Alki beach. It’s been in the news lately, an example of the people’s refusal to take the plague seriously. This beach (and all of Seattle’s more popular park and public spaces) has been very, very crowded since the social distancing mandates, school closures, and working from home began. But guys, the weather has been amazing:

Alki Weed
Last Thursday at Alki.

The beach smelled like weed and Thursday.  In other words, unremarkable. It was more crowded than the picture shows, and the crowding has increased daily since then. My opinions are meaningless, but it is the opinion of the general public (the part that is generally not going to the beach, anyway) that this is very irresponsible and dangerous. So that is what all of the talk is about now – the crowded parks and what our community of armchair epidemiologists have learned from the internet about how a virus spreads in the open air. I begrudge them nothing, neither the beachgoers (I was there myself!) nor the ersatz experts. Everything that everyone is doing and saying today is not a concern for the present, but a bet on the future, seeding the narrative in the hopes that when the end of this thing arrives, their opinions will be awash in the glow of righteous hindsight, that soothing balm that only comes by chance, and yet whose truth is always claimed by the accidental victors. An opinion made today is nothing but a desire to say “see, I was right” tomorrow. And it’s a safe bet, because when we lose we are not expected to say “see, I was wrong.”

………

The short version is simply that, after a weekend hiatus here at the PVPD, not much has changed. We’re all still healthy and haven’t tried to kill each other yet. I threw my back out moving a giant stone birdbath thing – broke one shovel that I had comically praised for its longevity not 30 minutes prior, and eventually used a floor jack to make the bigger moves. I have enough time on my hands to try a handful of different strange pain remedies, none of which are nearly as effective as ibuprofen and a little careful stretching (he said, in the absence of any prescription narcotics). CBD oil I think is the biggest sham going these days, but that doesn’t stop me from using it. This morning I picked up the boy’s new homework packet for the week, and dropped off the old one, feeling very much like we accomplished a great deal and had a successful week of homeschooling.

Stone Dead
The stone what broke me, in its final resting place. Army gnome for scale.

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

We are fine, just waiting on our checks…
There was a resonating collective sigh of relief when the government pulled that out.
It’s like getting paid for a snowday

I’m not sure “the government” has quite put that one together yet. I may be wrong, but he shouldn’t get ahead of himself. Maybe.

 

— Stay off the beach, comrade citizen!—

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #4

You’re just smearing it around!

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus.

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 562 confirmed cases (up 44 from yesterday)
  • 56 confirmed deaths (up 10 from yesterday)

Ten. Ouch.

I wanted to start things a little differently this morning, by writing (or at least starting on) a poem. Something touching on all this madness. But the only things that come to mind are snarky or dark, and that’s too cheap for poetry. I’ll have to keep trying – to steer the eyes and ears and thoughts towards the beauty that settles humbly in the murk and muck.

Walking at Lincoln Park last night was a good way to lean in that direction.

The sky was clear and bright, and the sun was out. There’s a strange perfection to weather sometimes, such that my layering of a sweatshirt under a wool coat wasn’t too warm, but I would have been comfortable in my shirtsleeves (if I may use archaic language in an appeal to much older readers and bibliophiles). For some reason “shirtsleeves” brings Tolstoy to mind, but it sounds too English, so I’m probably thinking more of Dickens. It’s an odd word that seems to refer to some kind of a reverse vest. There were more people out than would normally have been at 6:30 on a weekday evening, even with such wonderful weather.

Park People

That’s a view looking mostly North, from near the Fauntleroy Ferry dock that sits at the South end of the park. Those are the Olympic mountains in the distance. We live across the street from there, East by a block or so, and can walk down to the spot where that picture was taken in about 5 minutes. I’ve done it a hundred times, and still I take pictures like I’ve never been there before. It’s too right:

Ferry
Southwest view, Fauntleroy dock out of the frame to the left.

Local statutes mandate that all citizens stockpile not toilet paper, but photos of the ferry on its journey to/from Vashon Island or Southworth, never centered, with an implication of sunset. Driftwood is not required in the composition, but the Stasi like to see it, so…

As you walk back from the North end of the Park the view shifts to this:

Fibonacci

If you look closely, you can see Fibonacci on a stand-up paddleboard, saying “see?”

I don’t know if this section of the Puget Sound has a particular name. Elliott Bay is part of the same water, but it’s North of West Seattle, and Lincoln Park is on the Southwest part of that. From here we look West to the aforementioned Vashon Island and Southworth, but also the much smaller Blake Island, where I have never yet been. We get Orcas and submarines and Gray whales and aircraft carriers through these waters, and now at least one of Washington’s representatives in Congress is asking for a US Navy hospital ship to sail through here and drop anchor in Elliott Bay. The hospital ships are not equipped for infectious diseases, but can be used to house and treat trauma patients, freeing up space in the local hospitals for Coronavirus cases.

Oh yeah, Coronavirus. I almost forgot there was a plague on. Not that we needed one in order to realize that no matter what you’re doing, there’s always someone there to tell you it’s wrong. 

Like all human crises throughout history, COVID-19 has its deniers. I don’t mean people who deny the Coronavirus is real, though I have no doubt those people are out there. The people I’m talking about are every bit as confident in their own twisted truth as the flat-Earthers or the Holocaust deniers, but they are a far greater threat to the safety and cohesion of society and to the future of human kind. They are the …

Sanitizer Deniers

I really don’t understand this any more than I understand hoarding toilet paper. People are balking at hand sanitizer and denouncing it vehemently. It’s become a favorite piece  in the big game of armchair-expert-in-a-crisis nonchalance.  They can’t stop weighing in on its uselessness, and even go so far as to say it makes things worse. I could appeal to authority, say that my OB/GYN cousin uses it and makes her kids use it, and that my wife’s married friends – one an OB and the other a vascular surgeon – are using it and say it’s a good idea, but I know there will be doctors out there who say don’t bother with it, so the whole thing is a wash (haha). And I don’t care, anyway. I’m not carrying water for team hand sanitizer, I’m just trying not to get sick. But FWIW, I’m willing to bet they use it on the hospital ships.

………

It wouldn’t kill us to talk about the bright side a bit, right? The West Seattle Blog reports a positive note from the Southwest Precinct of the Seattle Police Department:

Emphasis Patrols have been modified, or canceled, due to the current lack of activity in most of the locations.

Crime is down. Homes are burgled far more often during the day than at night. Dare I say it’s another unintended consequence of the dual-income family model? I wonder how those home invasion numbers have changed as the domestic dynamic has evolved? There would be more factors to consider, of course, but still. For our purposes today, it’s enough to note that an awful lot of homes that are usually empty are now occupied full time, so the petty crooks don’t have as many soft targets. Chalk one up for the low-level quarantine!

I suppose there are a lot of unoccupied shops/stores of various types out there. A bunch of merchandise that isn’t being watched very carefully. Criminals might be feeling like there’s some opportunity for them. Maybe if this thing goes a little too long we’ll start seeing broken windows, but I would guess that most of the smaller businesses at least would be doing something to secure their merchandise off-site. I think I’ll take a walk through The Junction to see how things look. I know that bookstores are closing, but that’s no big opportunity for the thugs. The criminals are only literate in Hollywood.

Speaking of Hollywood, here’s your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today, courtesy of my brother:

Oh everyone is gone
They all ran inside
Its creepy
Seriously though its quiet

He’s getting by, just like the rest of us.

—Don’t use the hand sanitizer, comrade citizen!—

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #3

In search of the Raggedy Man

Notes on the general state of the neighborhood, the family, and the masses in the time of the virus.

Yesterday’s Numbers:

518 confirmed cases (up 30 from yesterday)

46 confirmed deaths (up 3 from yesterday)

Who runs Barter Town?

Master Blaster

MASTER BLASTER RUNS BARTER TOWN!

I’ve been to the grocery store every day for the past 3 days. Casual stockpiling. I make sure to use different checkers each time, so they don’t catch on to my game. I’m so clever. It was early and quiet this morning. Staples are low – bread, pasta, flour and sugar, frozen veggies. But it was clear that they had already restocked several things from my visit Sunday – I remember the ground beef being completely gone, and most of the chicken. Today there was a little of both to be had. The checker said they’ve been consistently very busy, though they still expect their customary 6 deliveries a week, with perhaps a slight delay on some items (that “slight delay” would send a lot of people back to the toilet paper aisle faster than you can say “Aunty Entity”).

Entity

What’s left are the organics – sanity gaining a foothold in an insane time, as people forced to think about actual survival (justified or not) instead of vanity subsistence leave the high-dollar items on the shelf. Nobody’s coming over for dinner tonight anyway (lemme get a covert COVID AMEN! from the introverts in the shuttered apartments).

This morning at the store I also talked to a notable Seattle chef who owns a couple of very popular restaurants around town. Since the dawn of the plague, people have been using restaurants to virtue signal in their usual convoluted way. At the very beginning the populace was a vociferously threatening pack of kombucha-swilling armchair entrepreneurs: “You penny-pinching restaurant owners had better have a plan in place to take care of your employees when you’re forced to close! And also you had damn well better close, FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD.”

Except they didn’t close right away, so the worry over the contagion being spread in restaurants abated, and the virtue signaling changed to “I’m making sure to get out and support local businesses so they can survive this difficult time.” (wait for it) “AND YOU SHOULD TOO.” (there it is, the obligatory social directive) I’ve heard the phrase “support local business” so many times in the past several days that I want to get a sack of takeout from Applebee’s and eat it in the parking lot of a Home Depot while ordering McDonald’s through UberEats.

At this point pretty much all of the restaurants have contorted themselves into full-service takeout places. I think it’s great, and I alluded yesterday to how big of a bullet we’ve dodged in terms of our descent to Thunderdome by not being faced with the consequences of full-scale restaurant closures. The grocery stores would be decimated by now.  The West Seattle Blog is tracking availability, hours, etc. for all the places that have gone to takeout and delivery service. That blog has been an incredible resource for everything in this community for as long as I’ve lived here. But it’s still run by people, so it has its hiccups. Today someone asked the editor/founder/proprietor if she knew what Starbucks was planning to do, and she replied that she wasn’t bothering with the chains (Starbucks! In Seattle!) until she found out and reported on the local (UNLIKE STARBUCKS IN SEATTLE I GUESS) businesses. Here’s the quote:

“I’m hitting all the indies before worrying about the chains.”

She said as she pensively dabbed the oil that was pooled on her hummus with the corner of a piece of small batch artisanal naan. Spare me. As if every single one of those baristas in their little green aprons isn’t one of your neighbors. The things people choose to ignore. There’s so much middle-finger-waving in everyone’s morality that it’s amazing they can free a hand long enough to unplug their cars.

Anyway, that guy I talked to at the grocery store, the restaurant owner. He’s running takeout from one of his two places – a smaller joint meant more for lunch and fast eating anyway. His other restaurant is a more formal venture, about which he says “I don’t sell food there, I sell an experience. We can’t do takeout.” They’re shut down for the time being. I’m sure the community is aghast. I would have asked more questions – what are your employees doing, how’s your family, etc. – but grocery store encounters aren’t meant to drag on and we had already maxed out our allotted time, plague or no.

………

It’s my first day of homeschooling the boy. Third grade. I mentioned yesterday that his school left us a homework kit that I picked up and brought to the house. We put together a daily schedule based on his usual school program, with some changes because there are some things they just can’t expect us to do here – music, for instance. It’s not as rigorous or complete as his sister’s, but it’s important, and he’s taking fairly well to it:

There is some resistance. Home has a lot of distractions – there are snacks in the cupboards a few feet away. The remaining segments of two delicious Cookie Monster cakes are on the counter. TV and video games are in arm’s reach. But mostly it’s just the different feeling to it, the natural beleif that it isn’t actual school, and can therefore be taken a little less seriously. It’s been a bit challenging to keep him on task. But he’s got strength, and we’re a good team.

Trash is still getting picked up, mail’s still coming, Amazon’s still delivering. We’re doing alright. There were no new proclamations from the Governor’s office today, and no news is good news, as we all know.

Gnus
Remember this guy?

The new cases and the death toll today both increased at a lower rate than the day before, but that’s been inconsistent. It doesn’t take a statistician to understand the concept of small sample size. In other words, I am not about to start drawing any conclusions. Not that I would, anyway. Unlike the rest of the internet, I am not an epidemiologist. 

I asked my homeless brother again how things were going for him and his people in sunny Coronafornia:

Well, I’m selling hand sanitizer for 3 dollars if you’re interested
I have the motherload
Its hooked up to a fire hydrant…I’m just dowsing people with it.👉😤👈
Things are good, poured down rain yesterday,  beautiful today
But this pandemic is threatening my ability to purchase four loko. So I may just buy a case and hide in a bunker
Poetry. I know what you’re thinking, and believe me I agree. That’s my brother, and he’s homeless, so I should tell him he needs to charge a lot more than three bucks for the sanitizer. He’d get a lot more Four Loko that way.

 

4loko

 

—Don’t touch your face, comrade citizen—