The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #18

Day is night, and night is day.

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

The usual place I pull these numbers from didn’t update, but the synopsis at the top of the page had the new numbers:

Public Health reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the official case count in King County to 3688. Fourteen new deaths were reported, bringing the total of COVID-19 deaths in King County to 244.

So…14 more deaths. Every day seems more and more sane and normal, more and more routine, more and more natural. Then you find out 14 more people died in one county in the past 24 hours and you thank God that it isn’t. Isn’t normal, isn’t natural. This is an anomaly, a bump, and it will pass.

………

My word, in yesterday’s entry I wrote “Robert Louis Stevens.” Must have been too early for those last two letters – coffee hadn’t kicked in.

………

It’s starting to feel like I’m telling you the same things over and over: Neighbors are good, bridge is closed, kids are studying, weather’s nice. We ran out of any functional amount of flour a while ago and haven’t been able to resupply. There’s none available on Amazon Fresh, and I’m not going to the store if I can help it. They haven’t had it any of the other times I went. So I haven’t made any new bread, and there hasn’t been pancakes for breakfast in a while. We’re good on eggs and sausages, though, and fruit and bread and butter and jelly, and I like those better than pancakes and waffles anyway.

I was reading 100 Years of Solitude for what felt like 100 years, and I can’t bring myself to finish it. My interest has all dried up in the absence of any substantial thread to follow in that frenetic tome. It was entertaining for a while – I like magical realism, and Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is one of my favorite stories, but Solitude just whiplashes all over the place and only occasionally zeroes in on a feeling, and it gets old. A little while ago I read The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. It was a great read, but practically the same damn book as 100 Years of Solitude. The mountain of similarities between the two was just one more thing that blunted my interest.

A short time ago, a post at American Digest referenced Moby Dick in some oblique way, maybe even only in the comments, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it (the link will take you to a different post, more directly cetacean, and specifically Melvillian). I have no interest in reading every classic novel ever written, but every now and then I think of one that I should take a run at. And so I bought Moby Dick and started reading it today. The entirety of my experience so far with Melville is Bartleby the Scrivener (peculiar little guy), so I have no preparation or prejudices to carry into this novel. I just want something I can get into, deeply, for a while. At this point I’ve only just met Queequeg, so there’s nothing to report just yet. The seafaring books hold a strange interest for me – Conrad’s Lord Jim is easily a top 5 read of mine, and I’ve been through a few of his short stories as well. The Open Boat by Stephen Crane is another killer. I’ve never been a sailor, haven’t spent much time at all on boats or around the ocean. But maybe it’s like Melville says in the beginning of Moby Dick; maybe there’s just something eternal and immutable and ineffable that draws us all to the sea, whether we know it or not. Life has spit me out here on the shores of the Puget Sound, after all.

No Boats

I have no interest in owning a boat, in case you wanted to know.

………

Sometimes you hear something, laying in bed, and you stop breathing for a little more quiet. You look at the back of your wife to see if she’s moving or as asleep as you expect her to be. You lay there and listen through doors and down stairs and around corners, and after a few moments you satisfy yourself that nothing bad’s happening and you can go back to sleep. Other times you hear something, laying in bed, that makes you jump out and grab your pants, phone, and Louisville Slugger all in one motion, and head downstairs.

That happened two nights ago, just after 10:00. It was a short-lived rage, as I had already been starting to remember, on my way down the steps, that we had an Amazon Fresh order scheduled for delivery at some point. I recalled my wife telling me, but had purged any details relating to time.  We both went to bed without a thought of it in our heads. There was some alcohol in the delivery, which required ID, so the driver had knocked lightly and shuffled around on the porch, which was what got my half-asleep self to leap out of bed in the first place. Heart rate normalized, shirt on, I placed my ID on the ground between us and stepped back so that she could scan it without touching it, or me.

Of course she had already touched all the grocery bags, albeit with gloves on. I brought them in, washed my hands, emptied the contents, washed my hands, folded up the bags and put them away, washed my hands, went back to bed. My wife greeted me on the way into the room: “That was supposed to be 10:00 in the morning.” She stopped short of either accusing them or admitting her own scheduling mistake, and I didn’t care enough to press the issue. It’s the blame thing again, and I just have so little interest in it.

………

I’ve been wanting to put some music here. I probably should – keeping a record of what I’m listening to during the plague is as useful and informative as anything else. It’ll certainly be interesting to look back on. I can’t remember what made me think of Buffalo Tom today. I haven’t listened to them in years. It was nice to look them up and see that they haven’t stopped making music after what feels like another hundred years. And not only that, but the album they made in 2018 sounds every bit as good as the one that got me hooked back in 1992. There’s a whole bunch in between there to catch up on. Here’s ’92. I’ll pepper in some newer stuff as we go:

I was in high school back then, hit the Army in ’98, a few years after barely graduating. That song just sounds so much like the 90’s. It’s poppy, but somehow barely better than the mass of drivel that caught on and got popular for a minute – The Spin Doctors, Wallflowers, Jesus Jones, Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows. Throw in some Blues Traveler and you have every high school party I ever made fun of like some reject from a John Hughes movie.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Hawaiian Virus

I checked in with him throughout the day, but didn’t hear from him until about 1:30 this morning. I was up, because Moby Dick and Tales from the Loop. I asked if that was his shirt, but he didn’t answer. It’s a pretty instructive or iconic picture for the times: a lone shirt in an empty laundromat after hours, safely distanced from everything else, next to a suspiciously open back door. Ready your escape! The Hawaiian pattern is hopefully festive, but missing the mark in color and composition so that it looks more like the camouflage Army uniform of a 2nd world island nation. It’s all just flourish and fancy in the end, and the fight must be dragged out into the sun, because nothing hides like a virus.

 

Bone up on your archaic whaling vocabulary, Comrade Citizen!

 

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 #16

School’s out for-evah!

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 3,331 confirmed positive cases (up 164* from yesterday)
  • 22 confirmed deaths (up 14 from yesterday)

For some reason this reads like some piece of mild guidance, delivered in passing, from the time before this all got serious:

The virus that causes COVID-19 is highly contagious, and each face-to-face interaction is an opportunity for it to spread. In addition, it’s important to wash your hands with soap frequently and avoid touching your face.

Because honestly, here on April 6, 2020, my reaction to that statement is, “Are you new here?” And by ‘here’ I mean Earth.

Imagine, though, coming across someone who had no idea what was going on? Or heck, waking up from a coma today.

“I’m sorry, doctor, a what now?”

“A pandemic. COVID-19. Or Coronavirus. Or the Chinese-“

Doctor!

“Yes, nurse. Of course. I almost forgot. Haven’t watched the news in a while. Anyway; big virus, very contagious, people dying, world on lockdown, social distancing, toilet paper’s gone.”

“Social what?”

“You have to stay at least six feet away from everyone. People are walking around with six foot poles. Yelling at each other for getting too close. Some guy in California – I think California. Had to be California – got arrested for paddleboarding. Alone. On the Pacific Ocean.”

“How did they arrest him if they have to stay six feet -“

“I stopped trying to understand a long time ago.”

“Can I have my coma back?”

………

My wife’s office is in our bedroom. Wait, let me say that a little differently: My wife’s office is our bedroom. I avoid it as much as possible so as not to disturb her, being on Zoom meetings most of the time that she’s working. From the very beginning, If I do need to go in there for something, I’ve been texting her this gif:

Is it Safe

I don’t expect her to know what it is. I barely do. I watched a few minutes of Marathon Man years ago – enough of it to have “is it safe” burned forever into my cultural consciousness, to the extent that I knew there would be a gif for it when I wanted it. Now my poor wife endures that brief madness a few times a day, and we’ll both remember it for reasons far different than most other people ever will. In her case, possibly without even knowing where it comes from. I still don’t know what “it” is. I’m sure she recognizes Dustin Hoffman, though. It’s a pretty good gif for the times, and would make a nice t-shirt:

CORONAVIRUS 2020

IS IT SAFE?

Different shirts could have different pictures: parks, beaches, libraries, malls, schools. TV sets with a CNN logo. The Pacific Ocean.

………

Here’s a tweet:

That’s a pretty steep downward correction. Fewer than half the projected deaths. So I guess I get a sort of limited vindication. You may not recall my prediction that this would end up being a lot less severe than we initially thought. The UW numbers up there seem to be on my side. But if I’m being honest I have to admit that it’s already worse than I expected it to be. I honestly thought a couple of weeks would go by, the virus would prove to be a big nothing burger,  and we’d be back to work and school, probably by now. Next week at the latest.

Except Governor Inslee just issued the order to keep schools closed for the rest of this school year. So the severity of the illness might be angling down and making me look good, but the lengthy duration is going to fly well past my Nostradamian soothsaying about when we’d get to “break’s over, everyone back on your heads” time. And the lower death toll may very well be entirely attributable to the draconian reductions in liberty that, let’s face it, are pretty palatable in the end. Good job, everyone.

I think the school news is going to hit a lot of people hard, though. I got a little smug about this in one of my earlier entries: the widely followed model of two working parents looks like a horrible idea all of a sudden. One of our neighbors has already expressed some displeasure and worry about the extended closure. You wonder what things will be like after the all-clear, what will be different. I’ve said that I disagree with the idea of a profound change. With the people who say “life will be completely different after this.” I still believe that. We’re not going to substantially alter the way things are produced and purchased, the way jobs are given and taken away, the way education happens (or doesn’t). Our drive to reduce fossil fuel use will be in the same state as it was in January, electric cars won’t be any farther along on the timeline, and the moon won’t be suddenly colonized by December. Communism will still be evil, and people will still want it (until they have it).

But will some families who’ve had a parent lose a job because of COVID-19 maybe say, “This isn’t bad, honey. Do you think we can make it work?”

A man can dream.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

It was great
Still no signs of a sick person, I mean besides me

There’s no telling what he means there. He’s probably sick, yes. But that’s always a safe assumption. He likes to say things like that, depending on his mood, because he knows how the conversation will go. I’ll be practical and concerned, he’ll be glib and dismissive, and he’ll enjoy making me look like the one who’s out of touch and focused on the wrong things. Understandably, he gets a little satisfaction sometimes from my frustration. The best – I should say the best-off of us – have vulnerabilities, and we play a lot of stupid games to keep them from being exposed. Imagine if your whole life was a vulnerability. Self-defense would be your default mode.

Cheesecake for breakfast, 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 #13

Have a slice and celebrate.

Lucky 13!

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 2,496 confirmed positive cases (up 166 from Monday)
  • 164 confirmed deaths (up 14 from Monday)

14? I keep looking for the new deaths to stay in the single digits. The governor does consistently ac-cen-tu-ate the positives, letting us know regularly that what we’re doing is working. The best measure of that, as I understand it, is the transmission rate – how many new people are infected by each confirmed case. In Washington state it’s gone down a good deal. From 2.7 in February to 1.4. And:

In order to sustain a drop in new cases, each infected person, on average, must infect fewer than one person.

That’s a bit of the bright side for you. Some people will look at that and pick it apart for its cracks and its “yeah-buts,” but I will do you the favor of sparing you any dark side. I don’t watch the news, have abandoned Facebook, and pay no attention to Twitter, so I don’t know much about any dark sides, anyway.

Another bright side: I’ve written a few poems during and about the plague, you’ve seen them if you ‘ve been reading here lately.  I’m submitting those poems, along with a couple others that line up thematically, to a competition looking for a group of poems that share an idea or topic. I read last year’s winner, and I like my chances. Still, these things tend to go to previously published, well-established writers with MFA’s and teaching careers, no matter how much lip service the journals give to “emerging and new writers.” But that all sounds like the carping of a loser. I’ll slip through a crack somewhere someday, and it’ll get easier from there.

Here’s that cake the birthday girl put together the other night while I wasn’t prepping the coffee:

Adri's Cake 4-1-20

She has fun. Her birthday will be pretty humdrum, not being able to go anywhere. But I’ll exempt her from her chores and feed her sweets all day. I know her school will be having everyone sing a plague-era happy birthday via Zoom this morning, and her soccer team will do the same thing later tonight.

LATER

She started school today with an April Fool’s joke. When she signed into Zoom for class, her little brother was at the screen with his head down. Her teacher asked her “Are you hiding from us this morning,” and then her brother popped his head up and waved, saying “April Fool’s!” She came on screen and introduced him, and then everything went along as normal. Ohhhhh, those plague-time antics!

Form my part, I made bread. The boy wanted to see the picture I took of it, and now I know why.

60746654324__E613DBFA-567D-4923-8B2F-0704306A00E8
Hilarious, son. Just hilarious.

This is a yeast bread, light and airy and holy cow is it good. I still haven’t found yeast at the store, but a friend had some the other day and he gave it to me when I brought him a sack of flour. What wholesome, old-timey bartering this virus has led us to.

I spent a few minutes here, reading up on what Amazon’s been doing about the plague. If you figure that Microsoft, Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, Google, Facebook, Apple, Et al. are making similar efforts, then continuing to beat that “capitalism and corporations are evil” drum starts to seem a bit silly. No doubt there’s some of those horrible-awful-mean oil companies and world-killing car manufacturers joining in on the goodworks, too. It will do nothing to change the AOC’s and the Kshama Sawants, the Bernies and the college professors, because screaming at giants who have no interest in hurting you has always been a handy substitute for courage (just ask Greta).

For all the birthday cake and April fooling around, yesterday ended on a somewhat low note. The whole situation bears down a little heavy at odd times, and in the quiet house just before bedtime, when the old people are tired and lights in the kitchen are being turned off, the low mood can start to stir.  The soul feels like an early dough: wet-heavy, hard to shape, and impossible to keep from sticking to your hands. The day-to-day can be too much at the best of times and you’ll never see the mundane ague descending soon enough to stop it. You sit, you hang, you slump, and you ride it across the slow river like an old ferry that can only be pushed by a long pole and a short memory.

And you wake up the next morning with nothing to do but turn on the pot, because you prepped the coffee the night before, just after eating birthday cake.

Yaycake
Happy 12th, young lady.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today is short and sweet:

Not too bad.

I know he talked to Dad yesterday, and Dad says he’s doing pretty good. Which lines up nicely with what I like to think about life – perhaps more than ever in a plague: Sometimes “not too bad” really is pretty good.

Make lemonade, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #12

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

Yesterday’s Numbers:

  • 2330 confirmed positive cases (up 171 from yesterday)
  • 150 confirmed deaths (up 9 from yesterday)

Updates complete, numbers “confirmed” again.

I’d do some math and kick out a percentage, some kind of hack-job fatality rate that takes exactly nothing into consideration, no context, but you’ll notice as you go around that whenever someone does that it is only to preface an “I told you so” kind of article about the virus being either far more dire or far less interesting than the perceived morons who disagree with them believe. Besides, what would “6.4%” mean anyway, in the big picture? (oops)

………

I’m in far less of a hurry these days. I wonder if that’s a common feature of the quarantine. There’s a lot of time saved by not having to commute. My wife is…sedate, almost. Usually I don’t even get to see her before she leaves for work. Hers is a commute that uses the now-closed West Seattle Bridge, so the longer this quarantine goes, the better. That’s a fiasco that will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. You’ll be surprised to hear that, here in the early stages of the review/recommend repairs process, there is a general hue and cry to see the rolling heads of anyone connected enough to the issue to be in the meetings. Everyone at the DOT is an idiot who kept the city council in the dark about this danger for far too long, but also the city council are all evil people who knew from the beginning but chose, maliciously and with true foul intent, to ignore the issue and divert funds to painting curbs and bike lanes. It’s alarming to read how many people come right out and say “it’s important to find out who is to blame for this.” My God, we love us some blame, don’t we? I don’t know why I’m so averse to it. Maybe because blame is completely unrelated to solutions, so it seems kind of irrelevant. Of course if it’s murder? Rape? Robbery? You find the culprit, duh. But…

“The West Seattle Bridge is going to collapse this week!”

“Naturally, we need to fire somebody. Close it off, and fire somebody.”

“And fix it?”

“Well, sure, but we’ve got all these pikes that last year’s voter-approved property tax hike paid for, so let’s put some heads on ’em before the voters start worrying that we’re wasting their taxes on things other than their original intent.”

“Won’t we still be wasting their taxes on —”

“Yes, yes. But there will be heads. They like that sort of thing.”

It’s funny that the primary target of the mob is a guy named Sam Zimbabwe. I keep reading “it’s Zimbabwe’s fault,” and I think “wait a minute now, if ‘Wuhan Flu’ is racist…”

Here’s a particularly hot take:

An nobody at SDOT will even get a slap on the wrist for this debacle.  Anyone associated with this needs to be shown the door.   But we all know that will never happen.  Unbelievable. 

Why do I keep forgetting to buy low on pitchforks and torches?

………

Without school, and with the lack of sports and other extracurriculars, I am down a minimum of 26 car trips between Monday and Friday. And that doesn’t include the grocery store, hardware store, etc. Lots of gas, lots of miles, and lots of time saved. Normally, by this time on a Tuesday morning (8:17) I would have cooked 3 breakfasts, made and packed 2 lunches, and issued at least 4 orders to brush teeth (one command is never enough, of course). We’d be making sure everyone’s backpacks have all of their supplies, and anything that needs my signature gets it (it’s surprising how many things require a signature, and not just missing homework/bad things). “Are we picking up so-and-so this morning?” “No, that’s tomorrow.” The routine is well-established and we’re never exactly frantic, but it’s nothing like now: breakfasts as they all trickle down (usually me first!), no bags to pack, no time-eating drives to two different schools. Instead it’s coffee already made, and me – on my second cup, butt half-swallowed by the big chair next to the fireplace (normally I’ve just gotten back from dropping off the first child at school), and casually pecking away at the laptop like someone who gets paid for this (maybe I should pitch this to someone, now that I think of it).

I won’t see my daughter again until lunchtime, she’s starting school by way of a zoom class in her bedroom right now. The Boy will bounce down the stairs in a few minutes, fully dressed and singing or shouting or throwing things in general jubilation (he is an absolute cliché of boyness, thank God, rarely quiet and always moving). He likes checking emails and doing his own thing and so he’ll more or less get started with his school on his own. I’ll slide in to introduce his schedule for the day and make sure he’s productive well past his 5 minute attention span. We sit together at the round kitchen table throughout the day and team up pretty handily on his duties. This is not me on a “my son is perfect” kick (we know too many of those parents). He would get nothing done at all without significant guidance, and ten minutes don’t go by without some kind of complaint or him asking to play Fortnite. Yeesh. But if I step back and take the broad view? Yeah, he’s doing alright.

I have 15 minutes before his school starts.

………

Boy, that day got away. It’s almost exactly 12 hours later. I finished the landscaping earlier (haha, right). The boy joined me for a short but necessary walk up the hill and down the Thistle Street stairs. I think it still rates as the second longest staircase in Seattle (outdoors, anyway), at 367 steps. Judging by the fresh wood on that handrail, this is a fairly old picture.

Stairs

My daughter has just finished decorating her own birthday cake, and my wife is taking her picture. Letting her do it herself is a bit of a birthday present. She loves baking, and especially the decorating part. She’d probably be mad if we bought her a cake or made it without her. She has an April Fool’s Day birthday, and one of these years I’m going to come up with something huge. So far we’ve spared her.

I suppose tomorrow we can expect a bunch of Coronavirus April Fool’s jokes. China jumped the gun by saying “it’s totes no big deal” months ago (Good one, China. A real knee-slapper), but the CDC should really issue a huge notice announcing a vaccine tomorrow, only to have Trump appear on Maddow at about 10pm Eastern time and say APRIL FOOL’S!

………

I was hoping to have a “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today, but it is not to be. We’ll catch back up with life on the SoCal streets tomorrow, hopefully.

Well I’m glad I didn’t quit on him too early, he comes through at exactly 9:00 PM with your HIC update. It’s a comforting bit of nothing interesting:

Sorry phone was out of commish
just back at the ol’ laundromat
You?

I never want to tell him exactly what I’m up to, because it always comes out as “plenty of food, nice warm house, happy family,” and that seems a little insensitive considering his circumstances. I know he’s happy for me, but there’s gotta be a line. There’s always a line.

Shore up your bridges, comrade citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #11

Rub that rabbit’s foot

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 2,159 estimated positive cases (up 82 from yesterday)
  • 141 estimated deaths (up 5 from yesterday)

We’re estimated again, the website is updating again.

This is entry #11 in the diary, let’s see how we look compared with entry #1:

  • 420 confirmed cases (up 32 from yesterday)
  • 37 confirmed deaths (up 2 from yesterday)

Those were the March 15th numbers. 104 deaths in one county, from a single cause, in two weeks. Jst about 7 per day. Now I know there’s a lot of ways to kill enough people all at once, that would make 104 in two weeks look pretty insignificant. But for me, this is quite enough motivation to stay home and let my car enjoy its little vacation. I keep hearing gas prices are down. I don’t know.

I want flour though. If you have flour, send flour.  Baking’s been fun.

Here’s a short article with that kind of tepidly good news that’s nice to hear, but doesn’t uncross any fingers or get any rabbits’ feet put back in their drawers.

Do they still do rabbits’ feet? They do!

Rabbit footI don’t know how advertising works at all, but I suppose it’s nice that you can pay a few extra bucks to have your wash basin (and such a nice one) pop up when someone searches for rabbit’s foot. After all, you gotta clean ’em after you lop ’em off, no?

Everything’s gotten so normal that I have to remember that I’m writing this to be interesting 15 years from now, not 15 minutes. So what’s going on? Well, we landscaped quite a bit more over the weekend and are almost done with our little project. The weather’s gotten strange on us, too. Cooled off a lot, hit us hard with some rain last night, and today the hail came from nowhere. It was spectacular. I know you know those days of peculiar weather, when the wind blows like the loudmouth who knows he’s just the bully’s little sidekick; the sun blares down through a sky that’s far too friendly for the suggestion of darkness that’s creeping into its edges like an old photograph, and suddenly everything’s an unnatural slate color. Then the rushing. It sounded like the ocean if a single wave never stopped breaking. Things don’t usually hit our windows unless the wind’s blowing strong, and today it was. The hail came down a bit smaller than marbles, bounced around like popcorn on the hedges, and then just went away.

Hailstorm 2

It’s just raining now. I’m out on the porch listening to it. Some of the gray light is still stuck to the roads and pooled around the bottom halves of the cedars, but the sky has something silver and grand happening over where the sun’s going down.

I remember being young, around 8 years old probably, and stuck at home with my two brothers during a hailstorm. This one was bad enough to break a couple of windows in the house and get a whole bunch of new roofs in the neighborhood. The three of us were terrified. I guess dad was at work and mom was at the store or playing tennis or something. We had no idea what to do, really. It’s a kind of paralysis that nobody will ever know again – no text messages, no cell phones. There was no way I could just push a couple of buttons and know that my mom was going to respond in seconds. And how she must have felt – knowing that all the frozen Titleists were spilling out of God’s golf bag and onto her poor sons, alone in the house. She could at least get to a phone and call home, which she eventually did, being probably in not too much of a hurry because it couldn’t have seemed as apocalyptic to her as it did to us. That was a wild time.

Our storm today was more of a novelty than a worry – nobody’s out checking their cars for broken windows and dented hoods. It’s cold now, though, and our gas fireplace is wonky. It’s 15 years old. We’ve only lived here for 2 of those, but I’m guessing it hasn’t seen service in its lifetime. Blows out sometimes, then roars back to life. I’ve verified at least that the pilot stays lit throughout. The internet’s given me plenty to do in the way of possible fixes before I go calling in a professional (which won’t happen until after all this quarantining, anyway). I kind of wish I wasn’t fretting about the fireplace in April, and really it’s not a big deal, but it’s something that’s not working right in the house, and as such it needs some attention.

………

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Its desolite
Dark and gloomy
So I choose to cue music
And I wish I had spam

News2

He used to read my blog sometimes. He does a phenomenal job of staying upbeat and positive, and I think he’s got a pretty good soul at his core. I know he hates it, where he is and what he’s doing, but I sure do wish he’d hate it to the point of changing. Ohhh, it’s so much more complicated than that.

Have you guys ever quit an addiction? Smoking? Drinking? I have – both of them. It was tremendously difficult up until the time it worked. It’s amazing how easy it suddenly seemed once I finally aligned all the tumblers. So strange. The hardest part is remembering afterwards that you’re not an expert, especially when you know someone who needs it. Quitting doesn’t make you better than them. It doesn’t make you better than anyone. It just makes you better than you were yesterday.

Be a comfort, comrade citizen!

 

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #10

Tired of me yet?

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 1,577 confirmed positive cases (up 218 from yesterday)
  • 109 confirmed deaths (up 9 from yesterday)

Yesterday’s update from the county includes these reassuring words:

“Some initial indications suggest that these types of community mitigations are having a positive impact on decreasing the spread of disease, even if we can’t measure it precisely yet.”

I know a lot of people will be skeptical of that kind of statement and will want specifics – what information, what data, has led to this optimism? For my part, I don’t care. I resist clichés where I can, and the reflexive haughty suspicion of the government’s every attempt to send positive messages is just plain boring. Or any message, really. Look at how it always plays out: 1) Some government official makes a statement. 2) The masses rise up in righteous doubt, demanding data! numbers! science! to back it up. 3) Government official provides numbers! data! and science! to back it up. 4) The masses rise up in righteous doubt about the credibility of the numbers! data! and science! that they asked for and were given. The masses love their righteous doubt, and faithfully follow it up with reluctant compliance.

There’s a website for tracking cases by zip code. It’s down. NO! IT”S UP! (Prolly down again by the time you click that). Here’s me, as of 3/27/20

Annotation 2020-03-27 095355

Yesterday was a trying school day. The boy does not like art. Like most of us, he believes he is terrible at all of it, which makes it impossible to be motivated. We worked at putting together a still life – salt box, glue bottle, apple, and spoon – and he drew up a full color rendering of it all, with shadows and form. Was it good? It was my son’s, and it was genius.

But today is Friday, so I want to make it a little more fun. Mark it as better. There’s not much I can do about it while still expecting him to finish all his work. I think I’ll just sprinkle Fudge Stripe cookies throughout his day, maybe drop a little glass of root beer in front of his grammar worksheet, break out an Oreo during cursive practice, right when it looks like he’s getting discouraged.

Did I say Friday? Our first day without school was March 12. We’ve had a full two weeks of The Change. It’s been smooth. My biggest personal loss has been writing – these diaries have been consistent, but the isolation that helps build a more creative mindset isn’t available. I get up early to eke out an hour or two before the kids get out of bed, and it’s a beautiful little calm before the storm. The book I had started writing, however, is on hold until I get back to my mornings at the bakery. I do miss that place.

Probably the job that I have taken most seriously over the course of these two weeks has not been stocking the larder or cooking the meals, rather it has been prepping the morning’s coffee the night before. This is crucial. We are nearly out of whole bean (two bags of pre-ground on backup duty), but the grinding of it absolutely means doing it the night before, so as not to fire up the bean-chipper in a dark house at 6:00 AM (I know, I know – Six o’clock is already too late for a stalwart traditionalist like you. You get up earlier. Cows to milk,  pails of water to fetch from the well, hardtack to gnaw, politicians to be smarter than). There isn’t a much more gratifying way to start the morning than by breezing past the coffee pot and just switching it on.

Honest Work

 

Ten full entries in the books now. I’d say that I didn’t see this coming, but I didn’t see anything coming because I wasn’t looking. I’ve said how little I care for speculation, and speculation’s all tied up in expectations, so I prefer a strategy that focuses more on just taking things as they come, with a smattering of sensible preparation. Hence the coffee. I am, however, girding myself for the coming admission of wrongness that I must make. I made one prediction: that this would end sooner than we thought it would at the beginning. I never did put a date on it, thinking that it would all be fairly obvious. But we are definitely creeping up on a point when I’ll have to admit it’s gone on long enough. At first I figured that the initial return-to-school date of April 27th would easily be met. I’m starting to doubt that a little. We shall see.

………

I am saddened to have no “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for you today. My brother has not responded to my messages. This always sends a spike of worry into me, but it is also very much SOP to lose contact with him for a while. He might be in jail. He might have been robbed of his phone. Anything could have happened. He might also just have better things to do, I work hard to remind myself.

Prep the coffee, Comrade Citizen!

The Perfect Vision Plague Diaries #9

Straighten the path

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

Yesterday’s numbers:

  • 1,359 confirmed positive cases (up 82 from yesterday)
  • 100 confirmed deaths (up 6 from yesterday)

An even 100. Let’s keep it under 200 for the duration, eh? They’re back to confirmed numbers, too. I guess their Windows XP system finally got those updates installed. And there’s this “new” campaign now called “Stand Together, Stay Apart.” They’re finding new ways to say the same thing. Fine with me. Constant escalation of restrictions is the fast lane to defensiveness and panic. Whether they mean to or not, the government here is sending the message that we’re already doing enough, as long as we just friggin’ do it. It keeps the sense of threatening heavy-handedness from creeping in (says the guy living on a peninsula whose government just cut off access to the mainland with 4 hours notice).

This is the first time since the beginning of things that I didn’t start writing today’s post yesterday. Maybe that means we’re normalizing. Our quarantine is no longer a surprise or an adjustment – at least not much of one. The changes are small and connected enough to the last change that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Doesn’t seem like things are getting worse. That’s a feat that our public health people can be a little proud of. They’ve managed to manipulate a ridiculously fickle public into being reasonable about this. Oh, there’s griping and complaining and theorizing and second-guessing, but we were doing that before all of this – in the midst of incredibly prosperous and liberty-filled times.

Around here, “please stay home if you can,” became “schools are closed,” “don’t go to work,” and “practice social distancing;” then a small shift to the outdoors with “don’t crowd the parks and beaches,” which became “the parking lots are closed at the parks and beaches.” And now, for all the zigging-and-zagging of the past two weeks we’re really still just at “please stay home if you can.”  It’s interesting to note that the second thing – schools are closed – was the last thing we did that was motivated by the coronavirus. Everything else was necessary because of us, in our tendency to combine denial with resistance, and then rather pridefully confuse that mixture with wisdom.

Which makes me think of elections, for some reason (haha). What if we’re still being socially distant on election day? Do you think anyone’s planning for that right now? I would be, if I were somehow connected to that process. In Washington we vote by mail, so no worries. The ballot handlers would have to be careful, but there’s no shared equipment, no lines, no screens to touch, pens or pencils or however the rubes in other states do it. Are there still chads anywhere?

chad

Throughout it all, it’s worth mentioning, the government (bless their souls) is still encouraging us all to go outside and get some exercise. I agree wholeheartedly and appreciate their faithful adherence to that basic tenet of human health. It’s important to move, and to breathe fresh air. And now that the parking lots at the parks are closed, and the weather’s a bit worse, it won’t be socially irresponsible to go there. The crowds’ll be diminished, perhaps back to something close to “locals on a weekday” levels. I hope so. Mind you, the best I’ve done along the lines of exercise is some minor landscaping – taking a curved path of large stepping stones and turning it into a straight path of large stepping stones. My wife did a great deal of the work herself, having begun it the day after I wrenched my back moving the birdbath. We’re doing it via a system of shortcuts and disregard for the correct way to lay stones, but that’s ok because it’s a lot harder this way, and is taking longer.

Path
Those gnomes were painted by wife’s grandma, well before the time of hanging chads.

Otherwise I’ve been idle, probably because I feel genuinely ashamed somewhere in my subconscious for being part of the crowding problem at Alki beach. I mean, there’s no getting around it – I was one of the bad guys in all of that. There’s an impulse when one is guilty of something to cast aspersions on the crime, but that’s childish. I find it healthier, more gratifying, and more honest to simply put my hand in the air and say “that was me.” Makes it easier to move on. Try it sometime. Ah, who am I kidding, you already do.

I’m busy though, too. We’re taking my son’s schooling perfectly seriously, so he and I are pretty thoroughly occupied from 9-3 every day. Third grade is fascinating – basic math, bad handwriting, cursive practice. But that’s all expected. What warms me is the art history – looking at Durer and Velasquez, at modern marble quarrying and Michelangelo. Chiaroscuro, foreshortening. I didn’t hear those words until high school. And also the literature – they write their own stories, proofread, edit, and revise. He’s reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh right now. I’m going to read it along with him for the flashbacks and nostalgia, and also to make it something he and I can talk about.

And his sister in 6th grade – she just finished reading Steinbeck’s The Pearl, with an accompanying series of interpretation assignments that were impressively layered. In the mail yesterday she received her next reading assignment: Animal Farm. I don’t think I had it that good in 6th grade. There’s an odd serendipity or synchronicity to the universe that I like to note in times like these: I used a quote from Animal Farm in the 2nd episode of these Plague Diaries, having no idea her school would be sending the book to her.

Anyway, the sun’s up, and I have to go see what I’m going to write about tomorrow.

………

 

Your “Homeless in Coronafornia” update for today:

Um still pretty quiet but it seems more people are starting to come out and do things

Not very exciting, that one. He’d know more about people getting out than I would. He is out all the time, having no “in” to enjoy with any regularity. And that’s probably the way things are going to go. We’ll all just start acting more normal without the government telling us to (we’re no slaves, amirite). We’ll creep back into the public places, nobody will tell us not to anymore, and the “all clear” will come when we’re already back to meeting the mailman at the door.

 

—Admit your mistakes, 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!