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Archive for the ‘Books, Journaling, Wedding, Country’ Category

The rioting we are seeing now in Minneapolis – a city I’ve loved ever since the Flapper and my two brothers adopted it as their own – isn’t just about a policeman’s knee on the throat of George Floyd. Breaking his neck, cutting off his airway, murdering him on the street in broad daylight just a few days ago. It’s about Philando Castile shot by police at a traffic stop. It’s about Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Eric Garner in New York. It’s about Michael Brown in Missouri.

I’m not surprised the state police arrested a Black CNN reporter. Are you? I am surprised Amy Klobuchar declined to prosecute police accused of racial brutality. She used to be my gal, not anymore even though I’m sorry her husband caught Covid.

Americans seem surprised whenever bigotry rears its ugly head. Like somehow the KKK only exists in the deep South; we fought a Civil War and now everything’s supposed to be good, real good. That is until two people named Cooper, one Black and one White, met up in NY’s Central Park this month. Luckily, the bird-watching Black Cooper began filming the White dog walker’s tirade, and her threats to call the police. She lost her dog, that she appeared to be strangling, and she lost her job.

And we wonder, if there were no film in the woods that day, would he have lost his life? Intelligent people say #alllivesmatter, but do they really believe it?

It was almost 30 years ago when my family witnessed, in real time, the police in LA beating up Rodney King. For 15 minutes, a bystander filmed the brutal attack that left King with broken bones and brain damage. The Bride was around 9 or 10 and the Rocker 5; I’m pretty sure that TV footage burned itself into their memory banks.

But it wasn’t until the 4 police officers charged with “excessive use of force” were acquitted that the riots began. Everyone was incredulous at the verdict.

“One of the most astounding things about the 1992 Los Angeles riots was the response of the LAPD, which is to say no response at all,” says author Joe Domanick, who has studied and written about the riots, in an interview with Grigsby Bates.

That night, Gates went to speak at a fundraiser in West Los Angeles and reportedly ordered cops to retreat. Police did not respond to incidents of looting and violence around the city until almost three hours after the original rioting broke out.” https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots

It lasted for 5 days and fifty people died, including 10 who were murdered by the LAPD. King himself made a plea on TV, “…can we all get along?”

After 9/11 we all DID get along. Firefighters drove from the heartland to help fight the smoldering remains at Ground Zero, a fire that burned for more than 100 days. Women knit booties for rescue dogs. We were united against a common enemy – farmers and hedge fund brokers could be friends. But we are now more divided than ever, with a president who says – by Tweet – that Democrats belong in coffins and our police officers should start shooting when rioting begins.

What do most police shootings/killings/lynchings of unarmed Black men have in common? The officers are exonerated, and there’s the problem that eats at social justice from the inside out. This is our apartheid moment, and we need to fix it. https://www.cnn.com/2015/04/05/us/controversial-police-encounters-fast-facts/index.html

Racism is systemic in our country. It doesn’t need to carry tiki torches or guns or wear Hawaiian shirts. It’s not endemic to one part of our country, or even to one party. It starts with where you are born and educated, and ends with where and how you die. Only now, in this climate, it can be filmed and viewed by millions almost instantly. Ca Suffit.

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I’m beginning to feel my age. Texting has changed our language, no longer can we write a complete sentence, we can barely complete a word. That baby isn’t adorable, he’s “adorb!” But what trips me up from time to time is the abundance of new acronyms! OTOH = on the other hand; IDK = I don’t know; YOLO = you only live once; WTF = what the ….heck?” It’s almost as if young people are creating their own cryptograms as a get-around for our generation.

Recently, I had to look up one of these – WFH! Short for Working from home,” a very popular post these days! It is usually accompanied by a smiley face emoji with a wink. I immediately laughed at this particular acronym because as a woman of a certain age, I’ve always worked from home. Even when I was driving to a job as a pre-school teacher, I would come home to cooking, cleaning and the usual things it takes to run a household.

When I settled into writing for a newspaper, I always wrote in a corner of my dining room. When I was done, I’d email my copy in and walk into the kitchen and start dinner. Even Great Grandma Ada had her counseling office right next to her kitchen!

But today, our generation has raised some strong, post-feminist women who believe in an EQUAL partnership with their spouse. They make flow charts about who changes the sheets and does the laundry, who cooks and who cleans up the kitchen, who makes the list and shops. And all the quiet work of scheduling doctor’s appointments for the kids, or tracking their currently non-existent playdates and sports events.

In Nashville today, we have nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of Covid19,  – “IOW” – in other words, lots and lots of people are WFH.

Working from home means we see cats crawling across keyboards, dogs still bark at the mailman, one guy accidentally picks up his knee and we get to see his boxer shorts, we hear babies crying! During our virtual will planning session with our lawyer, her baby was inconsolable and I wondered, “Where’s your husband?”

So if you were wondering how the division of home labor stacks up, gender-wise, during our Corona Crisis, I’ve got just the podcast for you! NPR’s Terri Gross interviewed the author of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time,” Brigid Schulte. She tells us that even today, women, enlightened, smart, woke women are bearing the brunt of the housework. https://www.npr.org/2020/05/21/860091230/pandemic-makes-evident-grotesque-gender-inequality-in-household-work

“We’ve got this grand mythology (breadwinner vs homemaker model) that that’s really what a family should be,” she says. “We still think that one person should go out to work and be responsible for all of the work and earning and supporting the family. … And there should be … somebody always available at home to do the care and carework.”

But Schulte says that families aren’t monolithic and shouldn’t be treated as such. She says the pandemic has created an opportunity to start a dialogue about the distribution of household tasks.”

Schulte says that she had been carrying alot of radioactive anger around, feeling overwhelmed in her marriage. But she brought up the Notorious RBG, who once had a call from school to pick up her child, and she told the school secretary to call her husband, it was his turn! She said to treat your marriage and family almost like a business, you wouldn’t want your business to fail, right?

I saw a funny YouTube of a woman pleading to God NOT to make her teach math. I remember when the Bride first started homeschooling, I told her her husband is a natural teacher. In higher education it’s called being an “academic.” In fact, he gets awards for his research and teaching skills. Harmony prevailed when they figured out he could do some home-schooling when he wasn’t in the hospital, and she continues to enjoy cooking and baking bread. Sourdough bread.

When she’s not saving lives in her ER. Or teaching a Yoga Zoom class.

I have a feeling since our pandemic quarantine, lots of men around the world are waking up to the tireless domestic work it takes to run a household. The patience it takes to teach and nurture a child. Our L’il Pumpkin learned how to ride a two-wheeler during our lockdown. The Love Bug built a diorama of a fox for her last day of Zoom class.

Now’s the time to have that critical conversation with your loved one. Don’t keep picking up their socks and putting them in the hamper. Don’t hold grudges. If you’re both WFH, pick a day to do housework – Bob always vacuums, I always cook. He weeds the garden and has started doing the laundry, I do the bathrooms. We both sew masks. Don’t let underlying resentment eat away at your marriage.

OTOH we’ve started doing Pilates together, two mats on the floor and a Zoom class every Tuesday and Saturday. And it’s a wonderful thing.

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I started off in 1966 at a college in Beacon Hill. Our children were born in the Berkshires. We spent every Spring on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve always loved the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I remember fondly strolling around the Boston Commons watching the gorgeous swan boats in the pond. So I was a tad surprised when Bob mentioned, “the tragedy of the commons” while we were listening to President Cuomo. Our lives in New England were the opposite of tragic!

Turns out this is the perfect term to describe where we find ourselves today – starting to reopen the country amid a cultural war over masks.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, under investment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.”  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tragedy-of-the-commons.asp

Bob usually has no luck trying to interest me in economics, but this was different, it’s behavioral economics. The tragedy (sometimes called “paradox”) of the commons refers to selfish individuals going after a “common” resource, like toilet paper, only to undermine its infrastructure causing the total collapse of the resource. And supposedly its origin is from the Old English – 18th Century settlers who would let their animals out to graze in the park at the center of town, the commons. This would result in very little park left for the people, or the animals for that matter.

Remember, in Europe only the wealthiest landowners had beautiful parks and gardens behind high, closed walls to enjoy. Designing parks in the center of our colonial cities represented America’s wish to avoid another class/caste system. And so we had a paradox. Over time, the “tragedy of the commons” came to represent not just landscape destruction, but road and bridge decay as well. It became a metaphor for power and authority trampling over the common good.

Whenever the ME became more important than the WE.

Last night I tuned into Netflix to watch The Great Hack. It is a stunning documentary that helps to explain how we actually got here in the first place! I’ve become accustomed to seeing ads for something I was looking up on one site appear on another, but I had no idea how incredibly my data, and yours, have been harvested, tracked and targeted – in particular by governments and political parties. The film delves into Cambridge Analytica, and how they weaponized our data to influence our 2016 election.

Maybe you’re not one to watch horror movies during a pandemic, but this shows you how, without a drop of blood, Mr T the first ME president, was elected by 0.23% in Michigan!

“…this data trail is being leveraged against us, every day: to sell us things, get us to vote or to stay home from the polls, to divide or unite us according to the whims of whoever has paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires….

It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”  https://www.wired.com/story/the-great-hack-documentary/

It’s strange isn’t it? The Boston Tea Party of 1773 kicked off our liberation from colonialism, and Mark Zuckerberg turned a dating site for Harvard’s elite students into a data capturing monolith. From his dorm room, long after I was walking through the Commons to Filene’s Basement. Could it be that this great technological connection we are all needing more and more, isn’t at all about the WE?

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Anyone else feel like you’re mutating? Like we’ve gone into the Matrix, and how the heck do we get back out?

When we drive around town, which is maybe once or twice a week, we are seeing people walking into restaurants, no masks, no problems. We saw a protest on the capitol lawn of American flag-waving, freedom-loving, red-hatted zealots who probably think this virus was a hoax. Clumps of young people sunbathe on blankets all over our local park; probably 10% have masks on.

The city’s Black funeral home is busy every single day, maybe 50% of mourners are wearing masks.

You’ve heard of the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” I’m almost tempted to go back to “normal,” throw caution to the wind, but the doctors in the family say it’s too soon. It’s as if the combination of spring weather mixed with partial re-opening has affected everyone’s short-term memory. But I urge you to take a look at this website, click on the arrow to the right of the United States to find your state, and look at the graphs for social distancing compared to newly confirmed cases of Covid.

https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america

I once said you have to suspend your disbelief to function rationally under Mr T’s Twitter rule. And now he tells us he’s been taking a dangerous drug, hydroxychloroquine, ever since his “Valet” tested positive. And guess what, I don’t believe him.    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/us/politics/trump-hydroxychloroquine-covid-coronavirus.html

I don’t believe anything that vulgar person says. I do however believe my husband, who tells me that deaths will spike on those charts in just a few weeks. I dreamt about Great Grandma Ada last night – we were sitting too close to people at a table in a mess hall that looked like Camp St Joseph for Girls’ St Augustine’s Hall.

If my dream life is getting weird, why not try weird on for size? I enjoyed reading this article in the NYTimes Magazine on Sunday. The author decided to practice some radical behavioral changes while confined, like getting rid of chairs and sitting and working on the floor. It’s almost a Zen reaction, to give into the craziness, the loneliness of this time with the coronavirus.

“If you believe that identity is behavior — that you are how you act, not what you think or how you feel — then you understand that adjectives like ‘‘normal’’ or ‘‘functional’’ require constant tending. If you change your conduct, you can change your life: how simple, and how daunting! All it took for me to become unrecognizable was to start acting like a different person. In theory, this should work in reverse too. When this is all over, I can return to chairs and forks and sleep. It would probably be for the best.”    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/11/magazine/quarantine-insanity.html                           

Stay in your PJs, throw out your bras, serve pancakes for dinner! I could actually exist on Bob’s sourdough bread with Irish butter. Submit to the “Evil Empire of Amazon!” My sister Kay just told me I hadn’t changed much over the years, but she was talking about my appearance. Thanks Kay, maybe that’s why I dyed my hair pink? And why I learned how to mend clothes with Shashiko embroidery. If you told me last year that I’d be taking a Pilates class on Zoom today, I wouldn’t believe it.

Change is just about all we can rely on; if we change our behavior, do we change our identity?  92588620-7413-4943-93BD-EC245C16467A

 

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I’ve never been a morning person, I’m more of a late afternoon type.

But having babies that woke with the birds and school buses showing up before dawn turned me into one. I always thought that once the nest was empty I could sleep until noon, but my biological clock just doesn’t permit it. And now living in a city, the sounds of trucks compete with birdsong to get me up early; and hearing the ding of a text from the Bride punctuates what always threatens to be another ground hog day of cleaning and cooking.

She asked about bringing the Grands over for “Lunch in the Garden.” Of course I immediately said, “Yes!”

Bob and I got the corn hole set out of the shed and put the finishing touches on a lovey who had required stitches. I found the book I’ve been reading to them about authors when they were children. Today they chose a chapter on C S Lewis, who was born Clive Staples, but changed his name to “Jack” after his dog Jackie was hit by a car.

I told them that I once had a dog that was hit by a car, and it’s absolutely the saddest thing in the world. The Bug looked at me as if to figure out what that might feel like, so I quickly moved on. Their dog Guiness is the same age as Ms Bean, so we have a few years left.

After lunch, we set off for a masked walk in our neighborhood, the Love Bug was looking for a certain flower. We found trees to climb, a fountain of freezing cold water, but not the particular purple flower she was thinking of, although we found some red roses and pink dahlias.

When we returned, the mailman (in a mask) had delivered a present for them – it was the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. The Bride seemed intrigued and I’m pretty sure tonight’s menu will include a special English pudding. The Groom has been reading Harry Potter at bedtime, if he’s not On Call at the Covid ICU.

I have a funny feeling we may want to plan our first trip after quarantine to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Hollywood. That way we can visit the Rocker and Aunt KiKi too. Day dreaming about travel is a good use of my time.

This morning with the onset of sunny, summer temperatures, the wind seemed tropical. I could close my eyes and think about our favorite island in the French West Indies. We would always shower after the beach and the pool, after the heat of the day, around 4pm. Then we would dress for dinner. Dinner on a French island can take hours, and Bob never complains about the time. I live with someone who cannot wait in a line, except on this island.

Because on vacation we all slow down, and now we have the opportunity to slow down in real time. There is no hurry to accomplish anything on our 9th week of lock down. We were supposed to have a little FL beach vacation with the kids on 30A next month. We were hoping we could isolate for a week or two, and then be able to vacation together, to really hug the Love Bug and my Pumpkin. But right now, that’s looking very unlikely.

Bob is baking sourdough bread and I am mending corduroy pants. My first attempt at Japanese embroidery has been frustrating, but I have all the time in the world to pull out stitches and try again.

How about you? Are you doing time, marking time, are you crossing the days off your calendar? Or can you appreciate how this Great Pause is changing us for the better? Here are the Grands right before I asked them if they could do a tree pose on a tree limb.

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Yesterday, I woke up and felt the day looming large. Every morning Bob asks me what’s on our agenda, which should be funny right? My reply was “Absolutely nothing!” I was somewhat short and slightly incredulous while trying to smooth out a bumpy start to another day in quarantine. Day number 62 or 63 or 64? After coffee, I reconsidered.

I wanted to change the sheets, I needed to do a Shipt grocery order, and before long the Bride called because she needed Bob to print something out for her. Kids today don’t have printers. Or landlines or clothes lines. Or cable TV.

This morning is different. I woke up on clean sheets and thought to myself, “Hooray it’s Tuesday.” Today I’ll be writing and listening to Dr Tony Fauci on CNN speak remotely to a Senate panel about the coronavirus. Bob’s planning on listening to SCOTUS discuss Mr T’s taxes on NPR. We’ll be having a dueling listening party in our separate offices/guest bedrooms with a background of birdsong in the garden. Deciding our lunch plans seemed a long way off.

Yesterday, I also remembered I wanted to mend a pair of pants, an old, soft corduroy pair of Eileen Fisher pants that I love. So I picked up my iPad to scroll through Pinterest because I knew I had saved a tutorial on the Japanese art of Sashiko under my “Corona Crafts” board.

Time really flies on Pinterest! Before long, I realized I’d ordered the wrong iron-on facing and I was going to need an embroidery hoop. I thought I had embroidery hoops because I’d made dream catchers for the Grands with ribbons of feathers since we’d moved to Nashville. So I opened up my overflowing office closet and began organizing my jewelry making materials while looking for an embroidery hoop… My office was littered with beads and unfinished knitting projects.

I was also trying to find a picture of me at 13 so the Love Bug could compare me to Hayley Mills. Then my phone dinged and it was Vanderbilt texting to tell me that I had an eye doctor appointment. “Text YES to confirm or NO.” And for a day with nothing planned, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. I’ve never been great at multi-tasking, but could I be developing adult-onset ADHD?

Now Dr Fauci is talking about the “inevitable return of infections,” and I thought about the wisdom of our Native people. A governor in South Dakota is threatening to sue native tribes for attempting to keep the virus out of their community by setting up roadblocks, “checkpoints,” on state roads.

“The chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Harold Frazier, issued a statement in response to the governor on Friday, saying: “We will not apologise for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death.”

“You continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation,” he added.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52615311

Our country has infected Native Americans before, we have thrown them off their land and herded them into reservations like the Cheyenne River Sioux, who have only one hospital with no intensive care beds. It happens that my Parnassus First Edition Club book this month is all about tribal history. “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdich.

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.”

Today Dr Fauci is “cautiously optimistic.” I wish I felt the same way. I used to worry about violent, mentally ill patients in the ER when my daughter announced she was interested in Emergency Medicine. I never thought about a virus like this, even though Bob has dealt with Ebola, H1N1 and HIV over the course of his career. This morning the Bride called on her way to work, she is a courageous and resilient young woman, so I must let go of my fear. I must focus, and try to create an island of calm in the midst of this crisis.

I must order an embroidery hoop online. This was yesterday, in the garden.

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The Love Bug went to her first socially-distant birthday party. It was just a few girls, in her friend’s backyard, watching a movie. The Bride texted me afterward because she knew I loved this particular movie, the original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. In the summer of 1961, when it was released, I was a 13 year old camper; when the Flapper picked me up from Camp St Joseph for Girls and we drove home, I had no idea random people would mistake me for the actress who played twins so perfectly.

Strangely enough, the movie started out at a summer camp. But that feeling of being displaced – one city twin switched her life with the other country twin – hit home. I was always being displaced. I had moved back in with the Flapper when I was 11, but still went to visit my foster parents almost every weekend. I went to Catholic School and then to public high school.

And my mantra, whenever people found out about this strange arrangement, was to say how lucky I was – “I have TWO mothers!”

I had a modern day working mother, and a more traditional stay-at-home mother. The Flapper curled her hair and did her nails every Sunday. She drove a car and swore like a sailor. She was the exact opposite of Nell, and I loved them both. I don’t remember Mother’s Day being a big celebration back then, but once I became a mom, things changed.

My fondest Mother’s Day was back in the Berkshires with my BFF Lee. We both had babies and made the men cook and serve us dinner. Bob and Al were grilling while we luxuriated in the warm sunshine. Spring in New England was such a relief, seeing crocus pop up out of snow, and our Windsor pond melt. Soon crayfish would be nipping at my toes.

Once we moved back to NJ, we were living near Great Grandma Ada, and so we became Mother’s Day Brunch buddies. We’d exchange gifts, usually flowers for planting, and get all decked out like the ladies who lunch. It became a tradition, a rite of Spring, meeting up to celebrate motherhood everywhere.

But how does one celebrate Mother’s Day in the time of coronavirus? We had to leave a package for Ada in the infamous pecan pie vestibule. Peonies from our secret garden (thank you Ms Berdelle), sushi from Whole Foods. And tomorrow Bob and I will have dinner with the Bride and Groom – although he is On Call in the ICU, so who knows? – and I will bring my famous homemade mac and cheese. We will sit a good 6-10 ft apart on their porch in the setting sun.

I feel as if my work here on earth is done. My daughter is an amazing mother. She is an Emergency Room doctor who takes care of the most vulnerable among us, and she loves her children with a ferocity beyond measure. The Bride has started baking sourdough bread, and just gave Bob a starter. The Flapper would be so very proud. Great Grandma Ada should be there with us.

We delivered masks to the Grands in their PJs – Star Wars for the L’il Pumpkin and Scrabble for the Love Bug. Happy Mother’s Day to all my mother…friends! Celebrate like nobody’s watching.

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What makes a worker essential today? Certainly nurses, and Happy National Nurses Day, are critical to our healthcare system, and doctors and therapists and pharmacists. So are grocery store workers, the postal service and delivery people too. But why have pawn shops stayed open; and do we really need a gun store to remain open? In Georgia, you can now take your family bowling!

Just as some states are easing coronavirus stay-at-home orders, do you feel safe to re-enter society? Gov Lee may have let his order expire on May 1, but Nashville has its own health department and our mayor is extending our quarantine for another few weeks. We think…

In this piecemeal approach to public health, with a president who uses the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open but not to manufacture PPE, I sometimes feel as if I’ve dropped down a rabbit hole. Initially, I refused to believe a global pandemic could become political fodder, but every day gets curiouser and curiouser.

When I used to drive around town, I’d flip the NJ state bird at the small group of mostly men who would stand outside our Planned Parenthood facility. They held big, grotesque signs and appeared to be “praying.” Now that the sunroof can be open, it would be quite gratifying to continue! But I was beyond belief to read that the GOP agenda had been toiling away under cover of this virus to ban abortions as “non-essential” medical services.

What if you’ve found yourself pregnant, maybe alone and out of a job, imagine having to drive 300 miles just to find a reproductive health provider deemed essential in a neighboring state. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52535940?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/world&link_location=live-reporting-story

The state of Texas usually performs about 50,000 abortions a year, that is until they were banned. The BBC story is about a married woman in Austin who was delighted to find out she was pregnant with twins. She’d been trying for a long time, but unfortunately she lives in a Republican state in the time of coronavirus.

When she was only fourteen weeks along, she was devastated to find out that one twin had died in utero. Then she and her husband received more bad news;  doctors had found “…lethal skeletal dysplasia for the remaining twin. We were told that condition was incompatible with life and that the baby would suffocate upon being born and never be able to draw their first breath.” 

I know what that feels like. One of my 3 miscarriages, in 1982, was a surgically induced abortion – the heart beat was gone and I had a choice. Wait out the pregnancy to deliver what, a dead conglomerate of cells? A blighted ovum? I chose surgery, and it wasn’t easy. In fact, I had some grave complications; but to wait, and have people ask me “How far along are you?” every day was unacceptable.

The woman from Texas, with twins, had to drive to New Mexico because her doctor could not perform the procedure. Even though she would never hold two living babies, her doctor said only if it was to save her life could he perform the procedure. Her emotional life was of no consequence. Because her legislators could play with a woman’s constitutional human rights.

While they deemed gun stores essential services in Texas!

We are at a crossroads. How much do we value a human life? I know we all want this quarantine to end, but what if you had a child who was taking immunosuppresive drugs? What if you have a grandmother with a heart condition, or a grandfather with diabetes? How about that aunt of yours who won’t stop smoking?

Is it more important to you to buy a cheeseburger, and not to look silly wearing a mask? B96985A6-CA43-4105-9B32-92AA5538D06B

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It’s the first Sunday in May and I’ve had my hands in the dirt, potting soil that is; I’ve planted Thai basil and regular basil, oregano and English thyme, French tarragon, rosemary and Italian sage to name a few. Our patio garden is like the UN of horticulture, resplendent with aromatic kitchen herbs mixed in among pots of flowers. And that makes me very happy.

We’ve had lots of time to think about things lately, and to do more of whatever brings us joy and less of the obligatory stuff. Today marks 2 months of our Coronavirus stay-in-place order. For 2 whole months Bob and I have been learning how to navigate staying home, with each other, all the time. Since Bob retired, I figured we’re veterans at this. And for the most part, our 40+ year marriage is a safe harbor, that is until the other day.

I opened the refrigerator door and couldn’t find the lox. I really wanted a lox and bagel, I’d even ordered the “plain” bagels, the kind Bob likes. Turns out, I’m a pro at using Shipt to shop Publix! I prefer “everything” bagels and whipped garden veggie cream cheese, but he’s a purist. It’s Philly’s original bar of cream cheese schmeared on a plain toasted bagel, or nothing at all. And nothing and nowhere could I find the Nova lox!

“You ate ALL the lox?!” I shouted at him.

While the Bride and Groom are on the front lines of this pandemic, the rest of us are holding our own in this storm, staying at home. We even ordered our herbs and vegetables and flowers from our local nursery online, which was difficult for me. I usually put my pots together as I go along, in person, inspecting roots and picking the most beautiful plants. I had to trust them to find just the right boxwood and lobelia.

Then we drove up, opened our back hatch and voila, no-touch garden shopping! But I wasn’t always a gardener, I used to be a newspaper reporter. I went to school board meetings and borough council and planning board meetings. I wrote biographies about colorful characters. I wrote expository essays and tried to make boring press releases palatable. Back in the day, when I had a deadline and people held the actual paper in their hands.

Today is not just the 8th week of quarantine, it’s #WorldPressFreedonDay. Without the fearless pursuit of the truth, without a free press, our democracy will become a true kakistocracy, run by incompetent, lying fools.

“3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story. ”  https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldpressfreedomday

Today 67,000 Americans are dead, and Mr T tweets about “fake news?” This was his May 1st Tweet :

“Concast (NBC News) and Fake News CNN are going out of their way to say GREAT things about China. They are Chinese puppets who want to do business there. They use USA airwaves to help China. The Enemy of the People!

A free press keeps us honest, it shines sunlight into the halls of power. This pandemic too shall pass, just like this presidency, it will be found on the pages of a history book. And Mr T will not be able to deny the numbers of dead, or his magical/delusional thinking in January and February.

So if you don’t subscribe to a news outlet, preferably one that is independently-owned like the NYT or WPO, think about getting an online subscription. We can plant all the seeds we want this spring, but without sunlight, nothing will grow.

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Like the phases of the moon, our country has slowly moved from embracing conservative, anti- (big)-government ideology toward a more socialist democracy, and back again. In the 18th Century, we threw off the mantle of a king, and instituted checks and balances with our elected leaders in Congress. It was working pretty well for awhile and our political ship was trending toward starboard.

Then in 1994, Newt Gingrich happened.

Wanting to bring back orphanages was actually not a part of Newt’s “Contract with America,” he was just “thinking aloud.” Wanting to build more prisons and give tax breaks to millionaires was! He started complaining about “big media,” and comparing Democrats to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sound familiar?

“The states’ main fear is that if the federal government could not legally run a deficit, it would simply pass on safety, environmental, health, and other obligations to the states, without giving them the money to pay for new programs. Congress’s habit of enacting “unfunded mandates” has been the major strain on state budgets in the last decade. A federal balanced-budget amendment would likely make it worse.”

His nightmare scenario has come true, Mr T passes on everything, including his responsibility, in this public health emergency to the states. When I watched Gov Andrew Cuomo in his  daily presser, complain about having to get in a bidding war with other states just to acquire life-saving PPE and ventilators, I thought we were deranged… and when he said FEMA would jump in and UP the price even more, I knew we were deranged and possibly doomed.

I remembered reporting on Rumson Borough Council meetings in the 90s, how this Republican group of mostly old, white men waxed on about unfunded federal mandates. They choked at the idea. And just the other day, Mitch McConnell (a modern day Newt) told states to declare bankruptcy??

This morning I found this article about a billionaire enlightening in a creepy way. How does American capitalism work, how should business work; for the greater good, or for their investors’ greater bank accounts?  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/coronavirus-marc-benioff-salesforce.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

In a nutshell, The Chancellor of the University of California San Francisco could see the writing on the wall in early March. Cases of Covid were starting to skyrocket and he knew his medical center’s supply of PPE was low. So he called his buddy, the billionaire and “hyper-connected” donor, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.

“…that phone call set off a frenzied effort by Mr. Benioff and his team that drew in major companies like FedEx, Walmart, Uber and Alibaba. In a matter of weeks, Mr. Benioff’s team spent more than $25 million to procure more than 50 million pieces of protective equipment. Fifteen million units have already been delivered to hospitals, medical facilities and states, and more are on the way.

The relative ease with which Salesforce acquired so much protective gear stands in sharp contrast to the often chaotic government efforts. While states have had to compete against each other for scarce supplies and the strategic national stockpile of protective gear is depleted, Mr. Benioff and his team simply called up their business partners in China and started writing checks.”

 

Some might call Mr Benioff a saint, but while I found his actions altruistic, I was concerned that our country had to depend on his beneficence. Do we live in a democracy with a small “d” or is this an oligarchy, or a kleptocracy?

I sent a box of Lysol wipes and Formula 409 out to the Rocker and Aunt Kiki in LA last week, and somebody stole most of the contents en route. We are making masks in our kitchen and we can’t find disinfectant wipes, but Benioff can find a warehouse full of N95 masks from China in LA? To make matters worse, Republicans are still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/03/republicans-could-kill-obamacare-in-the-middle-of-coronavirus-recovery

As our quarantine wanes piecemeal, state by state, we must remember this time in history when governors had to beg to save peoples’ lives.

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