- Warmer Dryer
- Green Wave
- Reach Out
- Freda Fox
- WWII Nurse
- Christine Town
- Drive-in Church
- Great Influenza
- Steam Laundry
- Ed Notes
- Johnny Folsom
- Wasted Recycle
- Joe Beer
- Safe Shopping
- Wildlife Alternative
- Yesterday's Catch
- Twin Pandemics
- Jonesing RV
- Corporate Stranglehold
- Divide & Conquer
- Old Red Hen
- Chatty Socrates
- History River
- Quick Sculpture
- Three Weeks
- Easily Controlled
- Found Object
DRY WARMER WEATHER is expected to prevail through mid week. An upper trough may generate isolated showers over the mountains toward the end of the week. (NWS)
FORMER SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN: When 2020 started (just a few months ago) my prediction was that this year was going to be the best ever. Boy was I wrong! We are now experiencing the strangest year ever. Society will never return to how it was before this virus, and now the “New-Normal” is being accepted by most of us. Handshakes, hugs and close contacts will never be the same as Pre-Coronavirus (PreCV).
Realizing that Mendocino County is a leading county in suicides (per capita), I’m asking that you reach out and call, email, text and wave to your friends and family. We don’t know what others are experiencing, but as a person who has had several close friends and relatives choose the permanent solution to their temporary problems, I’m hoping you can be a good listener and a great supporter.
Where will we be in 12 months? I hope stronger, healthier and wiser but let’s all get there together.
I’m not a counselor, therapist or doctor, but I can be a good listener. If you need to talk, send me a private message and we can talk. The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. Our local number, 707-463-HELP, is staffed with good listeners who can help also. I’m concerned that as we start to come out of this foggy crisis, there will be financial worries, family burdens and employment stress. We are all in this together.
We have made it this far, let’s go all the way and get out of this crisis together. We will be stronger and better.
We like to read all the funny messages, laugh at all of the new memes and giggle at the toilet paper crisis. Thanks for reading a message that is none of those.
TERRY A. VAN REE FOX remembers her mother, the late Freda Fox of Boonville:
If alive today she would have seen two pandemics and would wear an mask. Loved our mom, she was one of 39 nurses to go overseas after Pearl Harbor, and the only one to be there the entire war. She lived each day to the fullest and even at her last days she was personable and a health educator.
NIGHT LIGHT OF THE NORTH COAST: What the Moon Saw
by David Wilson
Dear reader, I must explain that I’ve been battling a stomach thing, and, well, here I am writing to you from a very fuzzy brain. I am probably about as spaced out as the stars in these images. The difference being that while they form definite points to be seen in the heavens, I’m not sure I can form many cogent points myself today.
It was the day after the supermoon of April 8, 2020, the largest full moon we would see this year. But while we have seen photos of the full moon, did you stop to wonder what the moon saw?
I drove out to the wilderness to catch the moon’s light as it rose, to witness what it saw as its light began its sweep across the landscape. I watched as its first light touched the distant hills, followed soon by its golden glow falling upon the far end of the meadow in which I sat. As it rose, one by one, the high points of the meadow were illuminated in turn, the lighted areas approaching closer and closer to me as the minutes passed.
I turned to watch as the moon crested the hill behind me; the photograph failed, but believe me, it was beautiful to behold its brilliance peaking over the grassy hill. The contrail of an airplane, shining in the moonlight, passed nearby it; an arrow to infinity.
As it painted detail into the landscape feature by feature, its brightness simultaneously washed out the details in the sky. Nevertheless, the heavens were replete with stars and constellations. Because I can’t string a couple of thoughts together today, I annotated the notable stars and their formations.
As I labeled them, I reflected on how their names have permeated our civilization’s consciousness. We re-use the names of famous stars and constellations all the time, whether in naming our spacecraft or ships of sea, or using them in our literature, television, and movies. Thus the movie “Betelguese” came to mind at one point as I worked. Star Trek episodes where they visited Rigel IV, or Capella flashed by; Harry Potter’s godfather Sirius shone brightly, while the evil Bellatrix crouched within the constellation Orion.
With that, my friends, I will be signing off for an early bed. Let’s meet again for the next “Night Light of the North Coast.” In the meantime, good luck avoiding COVID-19.
My solo Covid moment, watching the moon rise as its moonlight swept across the land. On a meadow somewhere up Monument Road, Humboldt County, California. April 8, 2020.
(To read previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. To keep abreast of my most current photography or purchase a print, visit and contact me at my website mindscapefx.com or follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx.)
KATHY BAILEY writes to adjust some Valley geography:
I noticed an article the other day called out the town of Christine as being at what is now Reilly Heights. Unless I have had it wrong over the many decades, this is not correct. The town of Christine was located directly across the highway from what is now Lula vineyards and tasting room. When I first lived on Gschwend Road back in the early 1970s one could still walk through a gate from Gschwend Road along what was once the old highway and walk along the remains of very small cabins, more or less the size of mill shacks. Daffodils also marked the home sites. Over the years these foundation fragments have mostly disappeared. Standing at the wide spot on 128, you can look south and see the remains of a road cut that eventually meets up with Clark Road. The woods that start right there towards the west, with the large old survivor redwoods, are what's left of the Christine Woods, named for the town. I have lost track of whether the first white settler baby born in Anderson Valley, who was Christine Gschwend, born 1857, daughter of John Gschwend and (so sorry I do not remember her mom's name, a Guntley perhaps?), was named for the town or if it was the town named for her, most likely the latter. For whatever it's worth, an old map I once had also identified a very nearby location as that of a prominent Pomo settlement.
Here's also a link to Steve Sparks' interview in the AVA with Christine Clark, from which I cribbed the birth year of young Christine.
DRIVE-IN CHRISTIAN CHURCH, Daytona Beach, Florida
MENDOCINO COUNTY AND THE GREAT FLU OF 1918
by Katy Tahja
For fascinating reading or listening there is “The Great Influenza” by John Barry. It’s available from the County Library and provides hours of informative material on a disease that killed millions world-wide in 1918-1919. The book set me to wondering how the Mendocino Coast persevered through the national epidemic back then. I went to the archive of the Kelley House Museum and read almost century-old Mendocino Beacons for a local perspective on the epidemic. The newspaper archives of the county’s historical society’s Held-Poage Library on Perkins Street in Ukiah has reports on how the rest of the county fared.
Called Spanish Influenza, the disease started in Camp Funston, the 14th National Army Cantonment in Kansas. A viral variation of the illness developed and spread through soldiers, and as those men were transferred, they took the disease with them.
October 19, 1918 was the first mention of the great epidemic in Mendocino County. In a story called “Flu was busy in the County Seat - Spanish Influenza has Ukiah in its grippe.” The Grammar School and the High School were closed, and public gatherings were prohibited. No dances, motion picture shows, lodge meetings or religious gatherings were allowed.
Uncle Sam’s advice suggested guarding against droplet infection. “It’s as dangerous as poison gas shells!” a reference to the introduction of poison gas in the First World War then being fought in Europe and Asia Minor. “No one but a nurse should help the sick and it is foolish to ask a druggist to prescribe patent medicines as they are reported useless,” it was reported.
The Beacon warned, “Cover up each cough and sneeze; if you don’t you will spread the disease.” Masks were to be worn in the business section of town. By the end of October, Fort Bragg had 175 cases and the Apple Fair in Mendocino was cancelled. Families were being notified if their military sons were sick with the flu. Dr. Preston’s mansion, where the Mendocino Art Center is now, was turned into a private hospital with 20 beds.
Young and healthy folks in the prime of life were often the first to fall sick. Tie makers, donkey bosses and choppers in the logging camps, undertakers in town and especially doctors and nurses, died. The wife of the owner of the Cecil Hotel in Ukiah was a graduate nurse and did everything she could to save her husband, but he died at age 30. The malady secured a foothold in the State Asylum at Talmage where 85 persons fell ill. All saloons and poolhalls were shuttered, and stores closed from noon to 2 p.m. daily on the coast so employees could go out and catch some fresh air.
Fort Bragg had five people die in one November week. There were 35 cases reported in Albion and doctors were being called to Point Arena. The Albertinium Orphanage in Ukiah said 50 boys and three nuns were in bed sick. Turnout in the November election was low. Caspar Lumber Company stopped operating their night shift because so many men were ill. At Fort Bragg, undertaker Constantine “Lemos” Silveria, a nephew of the Lemos brothers of Mendocino, died at age 38 with his wife and four children sick. Schools in Mendocino stayed closed for seven weeks.
In Comptche John Peterson was reported busy motoring patients to the doctor in Mendocino. So many men in the logging camps outside Caspar and Greenwood were ill work was at a standstill.
By December 1918 things were improving. Services were allowed in churches for Thanksgiving. Most every issue of the Beacon listed Influenza Death Notes. One week listed a merchant, a child, a lumber company employee and a housewife as taken by the flu. But by years end it was reported, “Influenza is Pretty Well Stamped Out Here.”
People whose immune systems were weakened after the flu were now contracting tuberculosis and pneumonia. The camp boss at Wages Creek died caring for his sick workers. But by mid-February 1919 Greenwood residents declared the epidemic was over and staged a Grand Ball. “Don’t diagnose your own condition. Become a fresh air crank and Enjoy Life!” the newspaper advised. But it was July 1919 before the Beacon did NOT notice a death due to influenza.
(This article was first published in May 2015.)
A READER REPORTS FROM GUALALA: "I went to the grocery store in Gualala a couple of days ago. It's the only time I've been out in the last 10 days. Gualala Supermarket has the hours between 9am and 11am set aside for seniors and they give a 10% discount during those hours. They have a person stationed at the entrance who counts the number of people going in the store, if there are too many, you have to wait until someone comes out. They also wipe down the carts after each person puts their groceries in the car and returns the cart. Some things are well stocked, others not so much. I haven't seen toilet paper on the shelves in nearly a month. The papergoods aisle is pretty much empty except for some napkins. The first couple of weeks of the stay at home order the grocery store did not receive deliveries of refrigerated and frozen items. But those things have since been restocked except for a few things like hot dogs and other stuff like that I rarely buy. There is no flour, eggs were in short supply this week. You could buy a flat of 2 1/2 dozen eggs for $15 or a half dozen eggs for $5, nothing in between. Bread is getting delivered only on Mondays and Fridays for now but the bread guy comes late so I haven't gotten any fresh bread recently. I'm pretty much stuck buying the leftovers! Bottled water cases are the store brand, no more name brand. Cleaning supplies that contain antibacterial properties are gone. But thankful that the grocery stores are still open and are being proactive about sanitizing. I've never been that crazy about Gavin Newsom but have to give him praise for what he has done so far with the stay at home orders. California is way ahead of the pack in keeping the numbers down. I'm pushing 70 years old and have COPD so it's a major concern for me."
DON McCLEAN on today’s top tunes: “It’s a single note or three or four notes repeated over again with a chorus that's drummed into your head or it makes you want to hang yourself. We have kind of a nihilistic society; no one believes in anything, no one likes anything, no one has any respect for anything and the music shows that. Music does not exist – there's some form of music-like sound, but it's not music.” Amen, bro.
BERNIE. Makes two consecutive capitulations for the old socialist, this second one to Biden even more shameful than the first one to Hillary. Can anybody even imagine the great American socialist Eugene Debs stepping aside for Woodrow Wilson or Taft? Biden is barely a lateral move from Trump, and as usual us pwogs are asked to waive everything we think we stand for to vote for a guy (and a political party) that represents everything we’ve always opposed. Dr Stein? Jill? White courtesy phone, please.
BEEN WATCHING the excellent PBS documentary on the Roosevelts. Teddy R was no liberal but, ironically, he was more of a liberal than most libs today, especially the libs who think Biden is an alternative to Trump, the kind of alternative the Democrats have had on offer for fifty years now. When Roosevelt broke away from the Republicans to run against incumbent Repug Taft, his platform was pegged to a promise “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.” Sound like Biden to you? But Roosevelt, for all his Kipling-like bellicosity saw that his party no longer represented what he thought it should represent; Bernie says he sees the same corruption in the Democrats he claims not to belong to but, when it’s time to stand up to corruption, he says, “Well, gosh, he isn’t Trump so what’s a guy to do?”
EVEN IF we got the all-clear tomorrow to re-start capitalism’s faltering engines, it’s already too late to spare millions and things could get real ugly. Trump can’t be blamed for all of this rolling catastrophe, but he’s made it worse, and his bumbling will make it even more unnecessarily painful in the weeks to come. Dr. Fauci revealed Sunday that he and other immunology experts recommended shutting down early February, which would have prevented the spread we’ve seen since.
GEORGE GOWAN, or more precisely, George Gowan Jr., managed to create something of a rural Superfund site at the Gowan property on Gschwend Road, jamming it with junked cars, trailers and just plain junk-junk, converting a once-pristine site into acres of dead whatevers. Prior to George, Monte Hulbert did a perfect job care taking of the place, keeping it as the beautiful 20-plus acres bordering on the Navarro River with Floodgate Creek running through it. George, reappearing in the Valley some twenty years ago after years in Oregon, commenced creation of his vehicle cemetery, ignoring county clean-up orders until he was formally abated. And there’s still industrial detritus strewn everywhere. We understand that George’s daughter will be either selling the place as is or, a neighbor says, “cleaning it up and selling it for much more. It was a lovely piece in George senior’s day with access to a wide stretch of the Navarro River and a large swimming hole.”
JAN THE MAIL LADY, now Jan the Former Mail Lady, says she’ll “miss the views on her long, long daily route from Cloverdale to Point Arena and back again, a regimen that began at 4am at her Yorkville home and ended, weather permitting, after 6pm. “If I do wake up that early I just tell myself the only thing I have to do is go back to sleep.” After nearly forty years, and never a single accident on our winding country roads in all that time, Jan, who consumed whole libraries of books on tape, is now “catching up on all the tv series I’ve missed.”
CRV - REDEEMABLE CANS AND BOTTLES
FORMER SUPERVISOR NORMAN DEVALL WRITES: CalRecycle manages the program, county by county, across the state. Our contact person is: Brian Orlando (916) 341-6410, his e-mail is: email@example.com. If we can’t redeem our taxable containers the tax should be eliminated. Recycled glass bottles, most plastics have little or no markets and the more rural the source there is less or no interest in collecting. The cost of transportation is more than the value of the product. Redeemable products have little value and to retrieve them the waste stream has to be run through a MRF (materials recovery facility). The closest one to the coast might be in Willits (Solid Waste of Willits). All of our “waste” is shipped to Solano County and land filled near Fairfield. Mendocino County has yet to buy one sheet of recycled paper.
NO, YOU DON'T NEED TO DISINFECT YOUR GROCERIES. BUT HERE'S HOW TO SHOP SAFELY
TAXPAYERS SHOULD NOT PAY FOR LETHAL WILDLIFE OPTION
To the Editor:
A key piece of information is missing from the March 7, front page article in the Ukiah Daily Journal entitled “Non-lethal Wildlife Option Explored.” It’s laudable that the Board of Supervisors is investigating non-lethal means when it comes to wildlife/human conflicts. But the Board’s current proposal is to have taxpayers continue to foot the $170,000 bill for the County to contract with USDA Wildlife Services to kill thousands of wild animals annually, using neck snares and other brutal killing methods that have been proven to be wildly ineffective and even counterproductive in protecting livestock.
Ranchers and homeowners would continue to receive this lethal, inhumane and ineffective taxpayer subsidized service from Wildlife Services for free but would have to pay to have an animal removed using non-lethal means. Human behavior dictates that most people will opt for the free service, thereby setting up a non-lethal program to fail and perpetuating dependence on the cruel and arcane status quo approach.
What’s needed is an alternative model that replaces Wildlife Services with a locally administered non-lethal program that addresses the site-specific nature of human-wildlife conflicts. An increasing number of counties across the west are rejecting the status quo top-down approach of USDA Wildlife Services and adopting new and innovative methods to address human-wildlife conflicts that are cost-effective, ecologically sound and ethically defensible.
The cost to County taxpayers to employ non-lethal means is estimated to be significantly less than the current contract with Wildlife Services, given the experiences of Marin and Sonoma Counties.
It’s time for the Mendocino County Board to abide by the science, signal their respect and compassion for wild animals, commit to saving the County scarce funds, and redirect taxpayer monies to support an effective and humane non-lethal program instead of killing the public’s wildlife at taxpayer expense.
Project Coyote and Mendocino Non-lethal Wildlife Alliance
Camilla Fox, Rose Ireland, Carol Lillis, Don Lipmanson, Carol Misseldine, Jon Spitz
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 12, 2020
JAMIE HERRALA, Santa Rosa/Hopland. DUI, parole violation.
JAMES REESOR, Oakland/Hopland. DUI-alcohol&drugs, smuggling controlled substance or liquor into jail, resisting.
WALTER VANSANT, Ukiah. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
GIOVANNI VILLA-VICENCIO, Willits. DUI, suspended license, no license, probation revocation.
PANDEMIC’S UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
by Jim Shields
As if one global pandemic was not enough, we are now dealing with two pandemics.
Sharing front-stage center with the COVID-19 outbreak is the economic pandemic that has re-set history’s clock back nine decades to the Great Depression.
At daily Coronavirus updates, President Trump continues, as he puts it, to “aspirationally” speak of reopening the economy, or at least segments of it, by May.
Tempering, perhaps dampening those plans, was Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell this past Thursday when he cautioned it was premature to start thinking of an early return to what used to be normal economic times.
Powell was prompted to issue his warning after hearing that earlier in the day Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he believed that the country could be “open for business” by May.
Powell said while it was OK “to have a serious conversation” about how to resume conventional economic activity, it’s still too early to lower your guard because it could lead to another round of business closures and employee layoffs if the virus reboots or spikes.
“We need to have a plan nationally for reopening the economy. We all want it to happen as quickly as possible,” Powell said in a Thursday video interview with the Brookings Institution.
But he added that it was imperative to “avoid a false start where we will partially reopen and that results in a spike in coronavirus cases, and then we have to go back again to square one.”
One thing is for certain, workers and the middle class are at the greatest risk of not surviving if this shutdown lasts another 60-to 90 days unless there is another ongoing economic stimulus plan to see them through the duration of shelter-in-place orders.
These are the forgotten and unseen folks who are bearing the brunt of the virus-caused economic plague that is sweeping the nation.
An additional 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, according to data released this Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Thursday’s figure adds to the some 10 million people that have already applied for unemployment insurance due to the pandemic that has forced non-essential businesses across the country to close.
This means in just three weeks more than almost 17 million people have filed for unemployment assistance, an uneviable record-setting event.
Needless to say, the number of claims will keep growing along with the number of small businesses that continue to close their doors. Keep in mind that small businesses employ the majority of American workers.
“This week’s unemployment insurance claims are yet another indication of the recessionary dynamics created by the coronavirus pandemic,” Moody’s Investor Services Senior Vice President Robard Williams said Thursday.
“The stimulus from the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve will soften the shock to some degree,” Williams added. “But with business restrictions and closures still in place, the coming weeks will likely reveal more people facing income and job losses, further trimming household spending and economic activity in the second quarter.”
Drought, Wildfires, Firefighters, and COVID-19
With California now officially being designated as in a moderate drought, it does not portend well on the wildfire front as the National Interagency Fire Center continues to warn that California will likely see an early start to fire season.
A quick look at news reports finds:
• Firefighters across the country are ill or under quarantine. Others worry they’ll contract the coronavirus in crowded base camps during wildfire outbreaks.
• In wildfire-prone states like California, the pandemic has already strained emergency resources and hindered preparation for the upcoming season.
• In California wildfires typically start in mid-May and will be made worse this year by low spring snowpack and a dry winter up in Northern California.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Tim Edwards, president of CAL FIRE Local 2881. “When we have firefighters falling ill, we’re not going to have personnel to respond appropriately to fires. And the fires will get bigger and more destructive.”
• Federal funding sources for firefighting efforts may be more scarce due to to the pandemic, leaving states on their own to deal with more fires.
• In light of the “unprecedented challenge” of the pandemic, U.S. Forest Service resources will be used “only when there is a reasonable expectation of success in protecting life and critical property and infrastructure,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen said this week.
I guess you could call this wildfire issue just another unintended consequence of the pandemic.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
JIM JONES IN REDWOOD VALLEY (1960s)
THE WEEK WE SHOULD NOT FORGET FOR OUR OWN SAKE
by Ralph Nader
Much happened this week and we can’t afford to ignore any of it. The events of the last seven days provide significant opportunities for civic action.
Bernie Sanders suspended his peoples’ presidential campaign while staying on upcoming primary ballots to acquire more delegates to take to the Democratic convention. He concedes the nomination to Delaware corporatist Joe Biden. But he is determined to use his leverage to get Biden to adopt many important and practical reforms and redirections that would benefit the people instead of greedy big business CEOs. The unsteady Biden needs Sanders voters more than ever in several swing states.
The seriously unstable, ill-informed Trump is consumed by his destructive, all-consuming ego. This is no time to have a mindless madman at the helm of our careening ship of state. Each day, Trump spreads lies and misleading information and regularly and repeatedly contradicts himself as well as his honest government scientists and doctors. His delusional fantasies about the COVID-19 pandemic and his boastful role, combined with medical quackery, has led some media to stop broadcasting live his deceptive news briefing to protect the public. He nastily lashes back at criticism, blames, scapegoats and he flatters his easily manipulated sycophants. His delusions of grandeur know no bounds—on a scale of one to ten, he shamelessly rates his efforts to address the deadly pandemic a “Ten.”
When will influential Americans—in and outside of Congress—call for his resignation for the sake of the country? For far less erratic behavior, Senate Republicans, led by Barry Goldwater, visited President Nixon in 1974 and told him his time was up. Even stubborn Nixon quit, as do failing prime ministers in other countries.
The so-called Republican Party, which has long suppressed voters in minority, low income districts, is seizing on the coronavirus crisis to block more voters they don’t like from the polls. Republicans insisted on holding Tuesday’s chaotic and health-threatening Wisconsin primary.
Get this: only 5 of 183 voting precincts in Milwaukee were open. The regularly fascistic, gerrymandered Republican legislature refused to heed the Governor’s request for postponement, and shopped for Republican judges to support this criminogenic sham enterprise. Get ready for more tyranny in Republican controlled states, like Florida, Ohio, and Arizona in November.
Republicans falsely claim that mail-in voting opens the door to widespread voter fraud. Voting fraud is as rare as whooping cranes. Trump lies about mail-in voting fraud because he knows the higher the voter turnout, the more likely it is he and the Republicans could lose (See: A Short History of Presidential Election Crises: And How to Prevent the Next One by Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College).
Trump and the Federal Reserve’s multi-trillion dollar bailout of recklessly indebted corporations, from Wall Street to Houston, invites waste, commercial crimes, and price gouging. This bailout also opens the door to all sorts of scams harmful to consumers, workers, and the poor. Trump is busy firing his watchdogs and defiantly blocking Congressional efforts to shine bright lights on these massive hand-outs.
The big question is whether smug, profiteering corporate capitalism will come out of the pandemic with an even more control of local, state and federal governments. Will stock buybacks and other reckless practices continue unabated? Will Wall Street be able to avoid accountability for its crimes and misdeeds which triggered the 2008-2009 great recession? Will the taxpayers again be forced to bailout the business fat-cats at the expense of the American people on Main Street?
Less accountability, unrelenting crony capitalism, and weakened labor and consumer rights are on the horizon. It looks as if the voices of the people may again be ignored. Dear citizens, you must politically mobilize to ensure that the 535 members of Congress use their awesome constitutional powers for the public good.
Bernie Sanders is right to call for a people’s political revolution to roll back the silent corporate coups d’état. Corporatism has taken over public budgets, destabilized the tax system, and undermined the checks and balances that came out of the American Revolution against monarchical despotism. Corporate control left us totally unprepared and defenseless against pandemics that our public health officials, scientists, and yours truly warned about for years.
The problem is that too many voters have lost confidence in themselves as the sovereign authority in our constitution (“We the People”) and did not listen to Bernie Sanders, an honest and dedicated elected U.S. Senator, who has been so truthful and right for forty years.
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!)
MY NEXT-TO-LAST CHICKEN DIED. (Damn covid!) She was old, an old red hen, and there she was lying on the bottom of her run, deader’n a doornail. At least she was intact. I recently lost her favorite peckee, the cute little black silkie, when something skinny wormed its way into the chicken run and bit her head off. Ol’ Red used to spend more time keeping the silkie away from food than eating. Finally I took to squirting her with the spray bottle. They say chickens are stupid, but when people say that about animals, it’s usually they who are stupid. If you watch things, you see the most (thought-to-be) brainless creature making sensible decisions and acting on them. Red mostly quit pecking Silkie.
She was past making eggs, like the last of my birds, last and oldest, Blackie. Blackie has survived massacres and natural deaths—departures of many kinds--among her friends. She’s a smart, calm old hen. I hope I can get another bird or three to keep her company.
I didn’t want to eat Red. I didn’t know what her meat might be like. She was old, and I noticed, the night before she died, that she stank.
So—what to do with her? Troubles me to put my friends in the trash, but I was not inclined to bury her. Burying has always seemed a poor custom to me, and burying a dead bird seems pretty lame. (I’d make an exception for an old parrot, say, but a chicken? I don’t think so.)
So I threw her over the fence. It’s open and grassy on that side, bounded by deep forest. She’d complete her dust-to-dust trip soon enough there. This is country, and there are plenty of mouths.
So I was surprised to see her still lying there, forlorn, the next day, but later in the day Ellie called up from downstairs and said the chicken has company. What the foxes, lynxes, lions, coons, weasels and wood rats spurned, the vultures relished.
There were maybe twenty of them and a couple of ravens, hoping for a bite. There was a boss vulture. The others made room when he (or she) moved in. You grab, yank, pull, shake and gobble. Then you rest a bit. The red hen dismantles fast. Vultures thrive. I was surprised that the ravens sat and watched without trying to horn in. Ravens are serious birds, but they deferred to the vultures.
Now I have a solo black hen.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
A Banquet of Consequences—
I was visiting with my sister’s in-laws when at the conclusion of a fine dinner I picked up a crust of bread or some such and began to eat it. Her mother-in-law, who happened to be Russian, became agitated and exclaimed, in Russian, “A hungry man is a dangerous thing!” We had to calm her down and assure her that I had indeed had my fill and my interest in the morsel was of no consequence. Obviously, the memory of the Nazi invasion of Russia was still clear in her mind, as was that of her husband who, upon our meeting, made a point of showing me the scars from a dive bomber attack.
There’s a saying that might be attributable to a Russian. The revolution is only nine meals away. There’s another attributed to Lenin that goes something like, ‘decades of history can happen in a few weeks.’ We’re not out of the woods on this coronavirus thing. The so-called leadership has dropped the ball. Upon hearing of it and it’s character they should have pounced with everything at their disposal to contain it. Things that spread exponentially have a way of getting out of hand very quickly. However, they chose to err on the side of indolence. Churchill said the Americans will do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else. This current crisis is not the sort where delays play out well. It should be obvious they’re not in control. They had the chance and they lost it in bureaucratic inertia and inane bravado.
There’s another thing about revolutions that’s important to know. Most uprisings fail. As long as the police or military stay loyal, the insurrectionists don’t stand a chance. The state really is the monopoly on violence. When that monopoly fractures, the elites are usually through. The coronavirus is spreading among the police and at least one branch of the military, the Navy. Rather than address the problem in the Navy, a fine officer was taken down over the objections of his crew. If those who are charged with keeping order or fending off enemies begin to doubt their leaders, things can become unstuck. We have not turned the corner on this crisis and it seems doubtful we will anytime soon. There is plenty of room for dissatisfaction to grow.
History has a kind of emergent quality. There is no predicting the outcome when so many factors are involved and difficult to quantify. Am I advocating or predicting the coronavirus will lead to a revolution? Not just yet. However, it is useful to understand how revolutions come about and perhaps not to fear them when they come. What’s the point? The river of history will take you where it will and there’s not much you can do except bring an innertube and a few beers. Keep an eye on the currents and paddle a few stroke now and then to hopefully steer around things that might drown you. As the current carries you along to who knows where, remember to take in the view.
THREE WEEKS IN THE EPICENTER
by Gib Appell
The Times, even in the best of times, presents a picture of New York barely recognizable to the majority of its residents. In a state of emergency their reporting resembles local reality even less. In response, I wanted to give AVA readers a street-level view of life at the COVID-19 epicenter so that they can compare, and perhaps prepare for their own experience.
For starters, it was strange to see people wearing respirators on the Times front page every day when on the street it was an extreme rarity. Now that has changed and face masks are common, though still by no means de rigueur. But the photos of empty streets and boarded-up storefronts present a similarly slanted portrait, playing up public fears.
Sure, there is plenty to worry about. But even in a city ostensibly on lockdown, life goes on. A million New Yorkers may have fled—or so it seems from the number of darkened windows in the wealthier neighborhoods—and another million are following a strict home quarantine. That still leaves a lot of folks to fill the streets, especially with schools shuttered and a large number of people out of work.
“Unessential” businesses are supposed to close, yet what that includes is vague. Smoke-and-vape shops are bucking the edict, as are liquor stores. Bodegas and newsstands are making steady sales, and so are a sprinkling of juice joints and cafes. A nice surprise is that many bike shops and hardware stores have stayed open too.
The amount of business and bustle varies widely by neighborhood. Brighton Beach is thriving, with booksellers hawking Russian tomes on the sidewalk and nail salons crowded with customers. No social distancing in evidence. In comparison, Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side are like graveyards—though the graveyards themselves are full of people exercising and reflecting on their own mortality.
The sidewalks of Park Slope are lined with people, but they’re all members waiting to get into the Food Co-op, queuing up for as long as two hours in the rain. I witnessed a Beatles sing-along on a brownstone stoop. As for Prospect Park, I’ve never seen it more packed.
In Union Square the chess players are still set up at their rickety tables, ready to take your money. Until this week, the hot dog stands were also doing a brisk business. Each day, another fixture disappears from the landscape as the death toll climbs and the virus closes in. Today the fruit vendors on the corner were gone, though they’d been replaced by an impromptu boxing ring.
In fact, closing the gyms seems to have affected public life more profoundly than any other shut-down, since this is such a fitness-obsessed town. Even a plague won’t keep New Yorkers from their daily workout. Now, instead of spinning class, they’re riding real bikes. Instead of a treadmill, they’re running down the middle of the street.
Me too. On Broadway today I got passed by a longboarder with a massive afro wearing only boxer shorts and pink gloves. The smile on his face said, “My day has arrived.” A disaster brings out all types, and all shades of reaction, from apocalyptic paranoia to peace of mind. My control freak friends say they’ve never felt so relieved; everything is out of their constantly-washed hands.
Cabs are scarce, but the busses and subways are still running steadily—perhaps even more steadily than usual—and both are free. The bus drivers stopped collecting fares, and no one will chase you if you hop the turnstile for the train. Choosing where to board, however, has never been so fraught. It’s crucial to find a seat where it’s not crowded, yet a seemingly empty subway car is something to avoid at all costs. A decomposing human wreck is often hidden inside—the type of “walking wounded” the AVA editors would like to place in a state hospital. I wouldn’t mind the MTA designating special sleeping car sanitariums until they find a vaccine.
There’s always speculation about cockroaches surviving an apocalypse, but a surprising survivor here is the subway musician, if you’ll pardon the comparison. The plague is in full swing, yet the saxophonists and folksingers are still at the station platforms playing their plaintive tunes. The incense seller is still set up, too, in the tunnel between the 2 and L trains, though the place looks like the Black Hole of Calcutta, with bodies lining both sides. The passage is enough to make even the most devoted city dweller doubt the choices they’ve made.
And yet, it’s the way that life here refuses to be stopped that warms my heart and gives me hope.
Greetings from the epicenter. A capital of culture is a nice place to be, but not the capital of a virus—or so you would think. Yet it’s sometimes better to be in the middle of a crisis than to watch it unfold from afar. Death is a drag, but the anticipation of it is even worse, so it’s a relief to draw straws and get the waiting over with. There’s a comfort that comes from being at the forefront. While the plague continues its spread across the country, the peak of infection here may have passed.
Besides, the situation looks different on the ground than from a distance. My faraway friends call up worried, responding to reports of mobile morgues and hospital ships. Harrowing developments for sure, but they still don’t accurately reflect daily life here. Neither do photos of an empty Times Square, since it’s a place New Yorkers studiously avoid, as central to the life of our city as Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 are to SF. An empty Zabar’s would be news fit to print.
The streets have, however, emptied noticeably since last week. Union Square is down to one chess player, and most of the subway musicians have fled their posts. Sadly, the we’re-all-in-this-together spirit has also faded as fear has taken hold. Instead of cell phone cases, the sidewalk vendors are selling surgical masks. Paranoia seems rampant everywhere, whether it’s pedestrians keeping a twenty-foot distance on the street, or columnists in the AVA predicting an oncoming police state. Just as important as washing hands, it seems to me, is safeguarding our mental health, and striving to keep depression and conspiracy—not just each other—at arm’s length.
I remember disasters in earlier eras, with crowds huddled around transistor radios on street corners waiting for news. Strangely, radio served just as crucial a need here in the first weeks of the COVID outbreak. DJs were the only voices offering calm and comfort to the masses while keeping the message upbeat. They acknowledged the public’s fears, yet soothed them with humor, kind words, and rousing tunes—and by delivering simple, homespun truths. DJs were the unsung heroes playing the role that government mostly left unfilled.
Which is why, when they too began to disappear, it was a very bad sign, the proverbial canary in the coalmine. The radio personalities didn’t die so far as I know, yet one by one they were removed to “undisclosed remote locations” for their own good—playful wording that had an unintended chilling effect. Prerecorded airchecks took their place, with none of the warmth or charm.
And that’s the feeling this week in the city that never sleeps: Life goes on, but with the hope at half-mast and a lot of the vigor gone. Pets are the only thing thriving in this crisis, as WCBS’s Broadway Bill Lee pointed out before he was unceremoniously whisked away. Cats are getting the attention they crave, and canines are being walked by their owners for a change, instead of the professional dogwalkers who shepherd whole packs at a time.
People compare the deserted landscape and boarded-up storefronts to a zombie apocalypse, but to me it’s like living in Delaware in the 80s, which was even worse. Still, the city is unchanged in some respects. At 4:00 AM bodegas and a few restaurants have always been the only places open, and most people you meet are crazy or drunk. The change is that now 4:00 PM is no different. The city’s hidden, dark side is in plain view. The can collectors and homeless are still on every block, but the daytime population is sequestered around-the-clock, and commuters and tourists are nowhere in sight.
The trains I mentioned running with regularity in my last report? They are few and far between now that the MTA trimmed everything but “essential services.” The predictable result is packed subway cars that make social distancing a joke. Trains are one of the few crowded places to be found, along with the plazas in Midtown which legions of young skaters have taken over now that the security guards are gone. The same goes for Washington Square, where the legendary fountain has become a skatepark, and the drug dealers are out in greater numbers than ever before.
Besides the day-long wait outside the Park Slope Food Co-op, the only steady lines I’ve seen lately are in the Village, and not for the staples you might expect. Grubhub freelancers on bikes queue up at St. Vincent’s Triangle every afternoon for homecooked West African meals served by an enterprising woman with a van. In New York, even the delivery guys order delivery! Meanwhile on Broadway a crowd of weary people stand outside the Strand—not to get into the shuttered bookstore, but to line up single-file for the beauty supply shop next door. I braved that line myself, and it was well worth the wait. Being called “baby” by the counterwoman was probably the only affection I’ll receive this week.
One last thing. Are you ready for some good news for a change?
If you’re reading this, you’re alive—and it’s good to be alive.
And in New York City, for the first time ever, you can hear the birds sing.
I took a long ride through the middle of Manhattan to begin my week—and this weekly report—with a panoramic view.
On the west side waterfront, men were boxing and moms were dancing with their kids. You wouldn’t guess this was ground zero of a pandemic except for the social distancing and face masks which have come to seem almost normal now. The widespread use of bandannas has given the city an Old West feel, and there were lots of bandits on the bike path. Some people can smile with their eyes, but not these folks—or most of the people I passed this week, to tell the truth.
The population of Hell’s Kitchen was a bit warmer, made up of the usual split: half desultory doorway smokers and half enthusiastic waving guys in wheelchairs. But Times Square was empty, confirming reports I’d been highly skeptical of. In a five-block stretch I saw 40 or 50 people max, and half of them were cops.
The Diamond District was rather lovely in its desolation, deserted besides a few more officers of the law and one extremely animated doorman with what we used to call a ghetto blaster pumping out Latin songs. He gave me what I’ve been looking for since this damn quarantine began: a cheer and a fist in the air.
The nearby Japanese market was open, the Algerian embassy closed. Outside UN headquarters a solitary demonstrator beat the drum both figuratively and literally—a handheld and shallow drum of the variety I associate with Mickey Hart. “Eliminate the Communist Party of China” read his defaced Chinese flag. A lone translator edged past us to show her ID and gain entry from the security guard at the gate. Otherwise there were no signs of life.
Ferries departed and arrived on the East River, though far less than in pre-apocalypse times. The throngs of joggers, however, seemed just as thick as they had always been. I was touched by the sight of a man running alongside his tiny daughters on bikes while the whole family kept up a marathon pace. The spray of water in the air warmed my heart, like the smell of jasmine in the breeze. Plague or no plague, spring had finally arrived in New York.
I was reminded of a recent proclamation by our macho governor: “Now is not the time to be playing frisbee in the park with your friends.” Those were foolish words for anyone to speak, but particularly offensive coming from a powerful figure at a time when physical and mental health are essential to maintain, and ways to stay active or social at a safe distance are hard to find. Having failed to deliver the promised ass-kicking of the virus—or any meaningful tax abatement or rent relief—Cuomo made a bold stand instead against friendship and frisbees. He’ll fit right in as a presidential candidate.
That was just one example of the government’s increasingly paternalistic approach to protecting us. Loudspeaker trucks cruised at a crawl through Prospect Park, blocking joggers and ruining one of the very few remaining options for a moment of peace. Their broadcast was unintelligible despite being blasted at an ear-splitting volume, but a similar warning played nonstop on the subway, seemingly recorded by the same folks who did the voices of the parents for the Peanuts specials on TV. In case we still didn’t get the message, huge signs were erected around town telling everyone exactly how far apart they should stay.
The result was exhausting and insulting. Even someone like me who gets their news from anti-social media like the AVA is well aware of the protocol by now. “Thanks Mayor Bitch Ass” read some fresh graffiti on Fourth Avenue, though whether it was a response to this current waste of tax dollars or something else, I couldn’t tell. Meanwhile, the state’s largest healthcare provider ran ads telling anyone who felt sick to “get rest and binge-watch your favorite shows.” Nowhere did I hear the message that this pause could be a much-needed opportunity to get our lives in order, or simply a chance to read and reflect.
I’d hoped the plague would lead to a flowering of truly direct messaging, but have only spotted a few examples so far. A poem that began “I have always been socially isolated” was taped to a lamppost in the heart of the Village, while manifestos wheatpasted near Union Square were filled with headache-inducing fine print. Graffiti has multiplied, but not to the extent I would have guessed, and mostly on the handful of upscale businesses that boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of civil unrest. “Cowards” says the note outside the Aesop outlet in Chelsea, though instead of being tied to a brick, it was printed neatly and attached with scotch tape.
Finally, I have to take back what I said last week about the goriest developments not intersecting our daily lives. I hadn’t realized that the double wide semi I pass every day is a mobile morgue. Still, it would be shortsighted to see myself, and for us to see ourselves, as victims-in-waiting or the ones with the most to fear. This virus is not chiefly a New York or American problem. As bad as it is here—or in China, Italy, and Iran—it’s going to be far worse for the countries that are crowded and poor, not to mention countries like Yemen and Syria that are currently at war. The developing nations of the world have still barely had a chance to find their feet. I worry for them with this new plague. Relatively speaking, we are going to be alright.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
History has a kind of emergent quality. There is no predicting the outcome when so many factors are involved and difficult to quantify. Am I advocating or predicting the coronavirus will lead to a revolution? Not just yet. However, it is useful to understand how revolutions come about and perhaps not to fear them when they come.
I would genuinely welcome significant change, with massive reforms and a serious re-set of so many things (starting with, but not ending with, the elites of Wall Street).
But I check my privilege – I sit here snacking pretty high on the food chain, with more than two-thirds of my life over, and plenty of income without having to work. I miss the freedom of movement, the closure of cultural institutions, and the capacity to travel to exotic places, but otherwise I’m not hugely inconvenienced.
But I think the young, with families, with mortgages or relentless rent, plus no job, and many other issues (from ageing parents to autistic kids) – they won’t seek a revolution – I think they will be far more interested in some “return to normality”, as soon as it can be safely done.