The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #17

Your cracks are showing

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

Alki Pano
Harbor Ave, Elliott Bay, hints of the mouth of the Duwamish

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,486 confirmed positive cases (up 155* from yesterday)
  • 230 confirmed deaths (up 8 from yesterday)

Love those single digit deaths. Zero would, of course…

News on the Bridge front:

Since our initial recommendation, our biggest concern has become the extent and rate of cracking near the quarter points of the main span could lead to collapse in the near future if strengthening is not implemented quickly. 

So the West Seattle Bridge was probably a lot closer to catastrophic failure than we realized. And the engineers say that 80% of its burden is, I think they call it unloaded weight or dead load or something – it just means that its greatest stress comes from its own weight, even without a single vehicle on it. So it’s getting worse even as it sits unused. That sucker won’t be open for years, and at the front end of the plague year that’s a dirty little serendipitous way to heap misery onto tragedy.

Was the bridge built poorly in the first place? It was finished in 1984, after the previous bridge was rammed by a 550-foot freighter called the Antonio Chavez, piloted by an alcoholic Norwegian named Rolf Neslund. Some people believe he did it on purpose because the city was taking too long to get it replaced. He and his equally afflicted wife lived in the San Juan Islands, where they screamed and threw things at each other in drunken rages, and from where he eventually disappeared. It’s a wild story that’s well worth the short read here. 

In any case, the city’s hand has been forced again, this time by damage that has set in quite a bit sooner than expected. They’re still trying to figure out what’s causing the advanced cracking (which is still growing, oh BTW), so they know what to prevent when they fix it. Is it the increased traffic from the incredible population growth on the peninsula? Is it pile driving in the harbor below? Is it the sinister red paint of the highly controversial bus-only lanes? Or is it Rolf Neslund, tugging on hazy bottles of spicy aquavit and repeatedly ramming his ghost ship into the concrete knees of that behemoth span, screaming curses at his terrible wife?

You know which explanation I’m going with.

While pretty much everyone is complaining about how it’s been handled, as well as assuming that the only possible explanation is a combination of negligence, ignorance, and malice, I am just glad they caught it and kept everyone the heck off of it. A bunch of armchair engineers complaining on the internet is a lot more tolerable than dredging the Duwamish for bodies. Call me naïve, but I never expect every possible danger to be anticipated. I expect the greatest possible effort to be made to anticipate every possible danger, but when the experts issue a report that says “we don’t know the cause” or “we didn’t see that coming,” I don’t immediately scream accusations of incompetence. As Robert Louis Stevenson said:

The world is so full of a number of things

We can’t possibly see them all coming, and have to content ourselves with reacting honorably when the surprises come.

………

One of the highlights of this past week or two has been watching our neighbor’s 3 (I think) year old son learn to ride a bike. Our dead-end street angles upward towards its terminus, and he starts at the top of the hill on his no-pedal scoot bike, shooting with unchecked speed straight down towards a very small speed bump and the basketball-sized rock at the end of my driveway, which sits at the mouth of our sanctuary. It was hard to watch, and thrilling, as he would fly down with his feet out at angles and the little bikle wobbling with that “brink of disaster” shimmy that you always see on motorcycles right before the bike crumples nose-first like a horse getting shot in a movie, and the rider soars over the handlebars. But he’s always been able to get his feet back to the ground and Flintstone himself to a stop. There have been crashes, to be sure. His parents are great about it – no panic, no rushing to pick him up, just a casual walk to the crash site where he’s already picked himself up and is in some diminishing state of tears. He does like to veer towards our rock, though, and apparently one night when we were inside, he ramped himself off of it and took flight, swelling up his hand and scraping pretty much everything. He turned out ok and boasts now of the time he “back-flipped off of the big rock.”

The rock is fine.

He’s pedaling now, without quite enough strength to make it back up the hill, but with the semblance of control that comes with having brakes that aren’t the rubber soles of his Keds. Of course, knowing how to drive and knowing where the obstacles are doesn’t preclude the odd, unforeseen circumstance that ends in tears and broken things. You can’t prevent that forever no matter how much information and experience you have. Sometimes you even run into things that you can see perfectly clearly in front of you. Just ask Rolf Neslund. The key is not getting bent out of shape about it. That’s how you finish Stevenson’s poem up there, in agreement with the line that says:

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

………

Skyline

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Sounds good , I have to go set up a living quarters. It’s going to be as good as I can possibly make it
Have an awesome day

You too. You too.

—Ramming speed, Comrade Citizen!—

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #15

Is it 15? I’m not checking.

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 3,167 confirmed positive cases (up 269* from yesterday)
  • 208 confirmed deaths (up 8 from yesterday)

*Many of the new cases being reported today were diagnosed in days prior and do not necessarily represent a spike in new cases. The “new confirmed positive cases” figure we publish each day represents all new confirmed cases reported to us through 11:59 the night prior. Some of these test results were processed on days prior but were delayed in being reported to us.

Plus 25 other deaths on Friday and Saturday (combined, not each).  This thing is still rolling steadily along. I’m a natural skeptic, but I’ve acquiesced to the reality of it. Not with any real panic or fear; just shrugged shoulders and acceptance – like going to see a band that you don’t really like, but doing it with the best friends you have.

The best – and to some extent only – friends I have are my family. This isn’t me selling low on self-pity; it’s just that without a job or a particularly outgoing personality I don’t have any kind of a network outside of the home. I quit drinking a few years ago and things dried up quickly on the social front, too. Turns out sobriety is a kind of mild leprosy, which is ok because if the lepers could boast of anything, it was a better relationship with the saints.

The neighbors are good, too. I’ve already said as much here in the Plague Diaries. Good neighbors are a form of good fortune that even money can’t guarantee. Solitude’ll seal the deal, but that’s not everyone’s bottle of sanitizer. For most folks, you buy a home and cross your fingers, and if it turns out like it did for us you acknowledge the presence of luck in at least one corner of your life.

In a quarantine it is hard to want, expect, or ask for much for your birthday. Well I suppose you can want a whole lot, but unless it’s coming from the pharmacy or Home Depot, it’s best to aim low. All I really asked for was a break from the chores. A day without dishes and laundry. I also wanted the kids to be helpful and to not fight with each other, but as I said just now, it’s best to aim low. I spent the day watching movies and TV. Watched Onward with the Boy. It was a pretty solid effort about trying not to wish for something impossible to such an extent that you miss the fact that you already have it in a different form. I don’t know that my son picked up on that message, but at least now he knows what a manticore is.

I half-watched Toy Story 4, but that franchise doesn’t pull me like it used to. When I woke up for the ending it seemed like pretty basic stuff – Woody still can’t cope with the idea of being replaced or left behind, and he makes an ass of himself and endangers all of his friends because of his obsession with his human. Plus super-capable-strong-independent female Bo Peep makes derpy-clingy-hapless male Woody look like an idiot over and over again, which is a trope that got very old with the sitcoms of the 90’s. Until the part when everyone who had just finished dressing him down for his selfish foibles finally understands the value of loyalty. They see that Woody isn’t simply obsessed – he’s dedicated and faithful. Sometimes to a fault, yes, but he’s a Good Man. And a cowboy, to boot.

Which brings me to His Dark Materials. I love me some fantasy, talking animals, and parallel worlds. I was honestly enjoying this one for little other than the visuals, the polar bears, and the British accents, and then I finally made my way to the final episode. This is the one where a mostly palatable and engaging series turned into another droll criticism of religion and adulthood, linking the two by laying on them both a sentence of ineradicable ignorance. I suppose it was always there – the good guys were the gypsies, children, and the University, while the bad guys are all well-dressed adults who believe in sin and control the population through fear. There is the gray area though, populated by two people, one of whom is clearly meant to be capital-G Good, but does some awful stuff along the way; and one very, very Bad person who shows glimpses of virtue that clash with an otherwise cruel march towards maniacal goals.  But (gasp!) are they really after the same thing, after all? I’ll watch more.

I also started watching Tales from the Loop, which looks ok. Fun, thought-provoking, and not overly moralizing. Yet.

Did somebody say birthday?

Plague Birthday

Limited supplies meant a cheesecake made from scratch with no sour cream. My wife said that she found a recipe for just that sort of thing, and without divulging any other information she teamed up with our daughter to make that beauty up there. I like cheesecake. A lot. The more plain the better. All those crazy concoctions at the Cheesecake Factory are nothing next to a well-executed, unadorned, New York style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. Maybe a little fruit drizzle, but not much. Yesterday’s Plagueday cake was glorious. My girls hit it out of the park, and – holy cow, why haven’t I already had a slice for breakfast?

I was also bidden to rise from the couch and head outside sometime during a clockless afternoon. On the way out the door my parents serendipitously FaceTimed me, so I walked with them out the door, where the neighborhood was gathered (with some, but probably not legally enough, distance between them) to sing me a rousing happy birthday song. There was even a shiny tuxedo and a tiny guitar in the mix. Babies, children, adults, and pets. It was unexpected, wonderful, and more than enough to make me rethink all that stuff about friends that I said in the beginning.

HERE COMES THE BOY! I can always tell the way the day is going to (at least) begin by his demeanor. Today he marched right down the stairs and said “I guess I’ll have some emails to check,” on his way to grabbing the Chromebook that his school sent home for him. Today shoud be a good one. Let’s see what his sister’s first words are (she’s just arrived on his heels). It took a few minutes, but she’s started making her scranbled eggs without a word until her brother walked past her and she said “go away.” Good morning to you, too, sunshine.

This has gone on long enough without saying anything. So here’s your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Hope your birthday was a good one!

I didn’t even have to ask for that.

Tune up that ukulele, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #8

Let me see your papers!

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

Hogan's heroes

It’s troubling (or comforting) that here in Seattle, the public is looking more and more like old Schultzy, while the Governor is creeping closer to his inner Hogan. My faith is in all the wrong places for a refreshing change.

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 1277 estimated positive cases (up 107 from yesterday)
  • 94 estimated deaths (up 7 from yesterday)

The language has changed from “confirmed” cases and deaths, to “estimated.” That’s a significant shift, but it’s only because:

“Cases reported today are an approximation. Case numbers draw from a Washington State Department of Health database that is in the process of being updated. We expect to have an official count tomorrow.”

update
Imma go with sleep.

Imagine if all this was going down in, say, November of 1999, with Y2K looming on the horizon. The panic! The toilet paper hoarding that would have happened! A plague and IT issues? That’s a different kind of virus altogether. But I shouldn’t joke – people will take it too seriously and rumors will circulate. Like here in West Seattle, where the combination of our bridge closure and restrictions on non-essential nouns already started the spread of the particularly, predictably paranoid rumor that the “essential” personnel would have to carry some kind of ID or badge on them to prove their worth while driving on the alternate bridge with a Subaru riding extra low from a heavy load of bootlegged kombucha and toilet paper.

In the important tradition of good rumors lacking details, this one was unclear on who would issue those badges ((no doubt THE GOVERNMENT (or Amazon, for the truly skilled conspiracy theorists)). In any case, it’s garbage, but garbage fueled by absurd realities and the dependable absurdity of people. In this case, it appears that as soon as the governor said “essential workers,” employers started taking it on themselves to create and issue passes of various kinds.

RUMORS
“WSB” is the editor/founder/proprietor of the West Seattle Blog. She’s very good at this.

“Federal Response Directive.” Sounds like some regional manager at Safeway caught a serious case of the “I’m Importants.” But that’s not the only one. Many commenters reported being issued some kind of pass, despite the fact that the Washington Dept of Commerce has flatly said that no, there will be no requirement whatsoever for anyone to show any kind of ID/pass/badge/token/ticket/trinket/talisman (hold my beer).

………

Yesterday – and by extension this post – was the dullest day of the apocalypse so far. I stayed in, nursing my back. It’s much better today, thanks.  I schooled the boy, waxed the floor, made a big pot of food that’ll last 4 or 5 days, and baked another loaf of soda bread. It’s so good my wife eats it, and that’s saying something, friends.

IMG_3242
A lil’ rosemary in there.

I’m having it for breakfast right now. Cold, with a butter blanket laid across it, chased by fresh coffee. Good morning!

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia update for today:

Umm…I dont know. I think everyone is dead. It’s quite empty. And I need a dang room. So I’m out panhandling bc my mobile apartment and driver have vanished with my  belongings. Clear as a bell this morning though…

He likes to find his silver linings. It’s probably an odd time for panhandling. People feeling extra compassionate during a hard time, while wanting even less than usual to get anywhere near a homeless person, besides so many fewer people being out to begin with. I get dizzy thinking about all the problems people have in this world. Problems that I know too little about. Coronavirus will fade away. Poverty, addiction, mental illness – they’re not going anywhere.

Squash the rumors, comrade citizen!

 

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 #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—