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Be Prepared & Don’t Panic

By the time I picked the miners lettuce in the meadow it had already flowered and was tougher than it would have been if I had picked it a week earlier, before the sun and warm weather. No, I’ve not become a gatherer and certainly not a hunter. Except for squirrels and wild turkeys there’s not much to stalk and shoot where I live on the outskirts of Cotati, where Sylvia Bracamonte was stabbed to death the other day, maybe connected to the virus, maybe not. It’s often difficult to pinpoint cause and effect, though less so in the immediate crisis than at many other times in the past. The corona virus makes people sick and then kills some of them. Go ahead and point the finger.

I never was a strict cause-and-effect person. No one single thing triggered World War I, the arrival of rock n’ roll big time in the 1950s and 1960s or my last divorce, which really messed with my head. I don’t mean to shun personal responsibility, but as the actor, Alec Baldwin, says in a recent movie, “It’s complicated.” 

These days, people are urged not to panic and to get outdoors, relax and enjoy nature. Then thousands of northern Californians all leave their homes on the same day and at about the same time. The parking lots along the Pacific fill up and beaches are so crowded that it’s nearly impossible for people to walk or stand six-feet apart. That’s called unintended consequences. No one thought. Helping a friend or a neighbor could blow up in his or her face if you have the virus and don’t know it. 

The unknown produces anxiety, which I’ve always had in abundance. As a kid, I saw and felt disaster at nearly every turn until my dad told me about Chicken Little who thought the sky was falling. My dad also told me about the boy who cried “Wolf” when there was no wolf around and then when he cried, “Wolf” and there really was a wolf no one believed him. 

I haven’t been dangerously anxious since the arrival of the coronavirus, probably because I’m taking precautions and because I’m going through the crisis a day at a time with my housemate and our neighbors right next door who are Jacks and Jills of all trades and can create homeopathic remedies, repair toilets and heating systems and make delicious salads with miner’s lettuce. 

When I look back at my own life, I can see that I‘ve been really freaked several times in conjunction with travel. In 1965 in Tunisia, the government grounded all planes and didn’t allow travelers to leave the country on scheduled flights. Another time in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, in 1980, the airline company messed with the list of travelers permitted to leave. So no one left until a bright passenger came to the rescue and we all flew to Oaxaca on an old DC-10 that Indiana Jones wouldn’t have been eager to board when traveling to and from civilization. Two Salvadorian friends are stuck right now in Florida because of the virus, but they’re in a big comfortable house with all the modern conveniences and aren’t freaked, at least not yet. 

It’s human psychology that’s pushing the panic button, though there are many small things that we can all do to make a big difference, like washing our hands frequently. A friend of mine in San Francisco thinks hand washing is a waste of time and that the whole coronavirus thing is a conspiracy by the government. I hate to say it, but she and other paranoid individuals strike me as enemies of the people. 

In France, my French friends tell me that Parisians have to carry ID cards, and show them to the cops, and that they can’t travel more than a two-kilometer radius from home. It might come to that here in the U.S.A., though I hope not. If and when it does, we ought to be psychologically prepared. Oh, also, I just remembered that my dad always said to me “Take it easy, but take it.” I didn’t get it when I was a kid. I do now.


  1. Jonah Raskin March 25, 2020

    Here’s one that isn’t hyper local.

  2. Greg Kremenliev March 25, 2020

    Woody Guthrie also was fond of “take it easy but take it.”

  3. Jonah Raskin March 25, 2020

    Thanks Greg. How could I forget Woody! I hope you are healthy.

  4. Mark Bean March 26, 2020

    In the spirit of taking it easy, my fellow union carpenter buddies say, “don’t just stand there, do some thing, even if it’s wrong!”. Keep it up Jonah, and be well.

  5. Ken Tray March 28, 2020

    Keep Cotati in time of plague stories coming!

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