When partners from communities reach out to us with requests, it is our goal to respond to their needs as quickly as possible. The month of September was no exception as our communities experienced a spike in COVID cases in mid-September.
In many ways, all of us are fighting to survive COVID and its attendant economic fallout. Those who have less than us have the same needs as us, echoed in the poster shown above. How can we help when we have so little we can give financially to the multiple groups asking for help?
We can spread the word and hope somebody hears it, perhaps even our Congresspersons and Senators who seem to be as immune now to the needs of indigenous communities today as they have been in past centuries. I just read an article in Montana, The Magazine of Western History called “Investigating Negligence in Indian Affairs.” The Blackfeet and others were starving in the 1880s, Washington knew it, and did nothing. That attitude still rules Washington today.
So, it’s up to us. First to help. Second to get rid of those in government who won’t.
COVID is changing a lot of people. I have seen a range of emotions coming out of folks craving normalcy.
What started off as families coming closer has turned into families tiring of the confinement and frustration. People who fear going out and about turn angry at those who have decided they’ll return to pre-COVID normal and continue on. Parents and teachers are fussing with each other over how children will return to schools, with both sides scared.
Even if you’re not a writer, you need a happy place. If you are a writer, you need a place where you can block out the slings and arrows and polarized politics of the day and write stories that may ultimately help others cope with the world.
Hope Clark writes great novels. She also has great advice in her Funds for Writers website and her free weekly newsletter. Her words are always comforting, yet pragmatic. When it comes to happy places, we need to find one and keep writing.
In real life, I’m staying inside a lot, wearing a mask when I go shopping, taking a car with 81,000 miles on it to the shop, and constantly mowing our four acres of grass. Yesterday’s mowing, at 95 degrees and sunny, featured cows staring at me from the pasture on the other side of the barbed wire fence, unconcerned about the noise of the riding mower but startled and watchful the minute I sneezed. All of this seems far away from the protests and the pandemic.
Re-reading old books
I read fast. Always out of books. So, trying to cut down on my book-buying habit by re-reading old books. I just finished re-reading John Hart’s gritty The Last Child and The Hush set in a small town in a rural county where bad things happen. Now I’m re-reading Lisa See’s China Dolls, set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It features three young women who become friends while seeking dancing/singing careers. These books contrast greatly with Dark Arrows, my novel in progress, which is set in the KKK-infested Florida Panhandle where I grew up. I have to re-boot my brain when I switch genres–or watch the news.
Pandemic and Protests
As far as I know, I haven’t gotten Covid-19. Nor have I seen protests, looting, attacks against the police, and burning stores on nearby streets. This is, of course, real-life, but as it unfolds on social media and on the news, I feel culture shock again as though I’m looking back to the anti-war protests and race riots of the 1960s. The entire country seems to be torn apart by the multiple issues which we’re confronted with daily. Meanwhile, the Presidential campaign has heated up and we’re all trying to figure out what’s true and what’s an empty (or impossible) promise.
I’ve lived in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco: thank goodness I don’t live in those cities now, much less in Minneapolis (where I once wanted to live) or Portland (where one of my brothers lives). Or St. Louis, Seattle, or NYC. The riot in Atlanta where the Wendys burnt down occurred in an area my wife and I drove through frequently when we worked there and were involved in a non-profit organization that met a few blocks away.
I don’t know where all of this is going to end up, but the polarization and lack of tolerance bother me a lot. So, I continue to read, write, and cut the grass, and when I see images of big cities on fire, I remember a 1960s riot several blocks away from my San Francisco apartment on Dolores Street in the Mission District, and I feel sad for those who are pulled into the horror of protests gone bad. Seeing it all again is the worst of culture shocks.
When I run out of factory fresh books, I turn to my bookshelves and re-read older books. I stumbled into the Cormac Mcarthy section recently (I have most of his books) and read Cities of the Plain. Most things go wrong in this book, but I read it all the way through because l like McCarthy’s dialogue, descriptions, and the tone of his books. I think he writes with grit and stars rather than ink. This book has a few good people in it.
I thought, what the hell, I’ll read another. I chose Outer Dark. This novel has a lot more grit in it and even the stars aren’t clean. It doesn’t have any good people in it, though some try hard to be good in narrow ways.
Guy Davenport, in The New York Times, said, “Nor does Mr,. McCarthy waste a single word on his character’s thoughts. With total objectivity, he describes what they do and records their speech. Such discipline comes not only from mastery over words but from an understanding wise enough and compassionate enough to dare to tell o abysmally dark a story.”
The fact that it’s so well written commits one to keep reading even though reading McCarthy is often like drinking poison for recreation. If it were badly written, it wouldn’t bother readers so much, especially when the world around us during this pandemic seems to have come out of something McCarthy might have orchestrated for his next novel or screenplay.
Time to move on to another section of my bookshelf.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s Mountain Song is free on Kindle.
My novel in progress, set in the Florida Panhandle in 1955, started me thinking that if only I had a time machine, I could go back to 1955 until the Pandemic is over. That means worrying about the KKK, but I’ll stay out of sight.
Crap, there’s a cold war going and the feds are developing ICBMs with nuclear war heads, Eisenhower might use force to protect Taiwan while sending military advisers to South Vietnam. All of that is bad and might wipe out the world. Little did he know how much of a mess those advisers would ultimately cause: 1,353,000 deaths, including 58,220 U.S. casualties.
Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about polio, with over 16,000 new cases each year, 1,879 of which were fatal. Those who loved gallows humor suggested saving the coupons (redeemable for merchandise) from their Raleigh cigarette packs for an ion lung. Since I’m suddenly psychic, I know that Salk’s polio vaccine will be out in a couple of months.
Marian Anderson has just become the first Black singer to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. My characters would like that. About a month later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was kicked, handcuffed, and verbally abused by police in a Montgomery bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white lady. My psychic powers tell me that her lawsuit resulted in bus segregation becoming unconstitutional the following year.
The U.S. is in the middle of the second, so-called “Red Scare.” McCarthyism is sweeping the country like a virus.
Okay, the hell with it, I think I’ll stay here in 2020 in spite of the year’s threats and challenges.
There have been complaints about how the crisis has been handled, from the seeming impossibility of getting straight answers to when quarantine restrictions should be relaxed to the progress (if any) made on cures. People who work outside the home are often without a paycheck. People with kids don’t know when the kids are going back to school and that leads to uncertainties about the whole family’s scheduling.
The twenty-four-hour news channels keep up continuous coverage, trying to account for every fluctuation in illness and death levels, policies and procedures, and unexpected and unfair incidences of collateral damage caused by the lockdown and the disruptions of products in the supply chain.
Add to that the fact some of the COVID-19 symptoms match what people experience with seasonal allergies, chronic sinus problems, colds, and low-grade flu-like symptoms. One wonders am I getting it? And, if so, getting tested is an apparent crapshoot, and then if there’s no cure, what good does it do to know you have it when medical aid is limited?
In one respect, I’m not impacted as badly as most people because I’m semi-retired and work from home. On the flip side of the coin, my age and my wife’s age put us in the group of people who are the most at risk.
The bottom line for many of us is the tidal wave of uncertainties, including the rather hopeless opinions from many that even if the virus were snuffed out tomorrow, “normal” is a long way off.
In many ways, it seems as though the emotional damage caused by the pandemic and our response to it might be worse than the virus for most people. Though, as the death tolls increase, more and more homes will experience the virus first hand and/or will know friends and close acquaintances who died.
Plus, everything’s up in the air: sports, concerts, beach time, flying anywhere, getting back to work, eating out. . .
Some editorialists wonder if we’ll ever get back to “normal” or even if we want to get back to “normal.” They suggest some things might be changed forever, while other things might need to be re-invented in new ways that are better.
I have no answers for any of this, but my sense of things is that COVID-19 is the biggest disruption to our way of life since the flu epidemic of 1918, World War II, and perhaps the Korean War. It will be hard to recover from this, I think, even when the virus is gone.
Bloggers love visits and comments but are often discouraged when they see that some of those come from spammers.
At least the spammers aren’t here in my den and, insofar as I know, their messages don’t transmit COVID-19 even though some of them promise that they can provide the most accurate information on the planet about the pandemic. I see those people as just another example of folks with no qualifications who are disputing the statements being made by people with medical/research qualifications. Plus, they want me to pay for their opinions. I think not.
Fortunately, WordPress screens all that out and puts it in a special trash bin where I can glance at it to make sure it’s SPAM. 99.99% of the time, it has no value. So, gentle reader–as Dorothy Parker used to say in her columns–I screen all the schlock to you don’t have to see it and then figure out how to un-see it.
Basically, I think the Feds should round up all the spammers and put them in asylums where they will learn the errors of their ways or, if they can’t/won’t, are kept confined to they don’t harm innocent people.
Every once in awhile their comments are funny (or at least slightly creative):
Receive one hundred rolls of high-quality, gently used toilet paper per month in unmarked packages for less than the cost of a dinner for five at Antoine’s in New Orleans or a new Maserati (Levante). Not responsible for shipping delays.
Stay ahead of the Pandemic info by subscribing to our COVID newsletter which collects all the half-truths and spurious ideas together in one place, making it easy for you to compare right and wrong in the daily news.
Our six-foot poles made from oak will make it easy for you to maintain proper social distancing at grocery stores, pharmacies, and take-out lines at restaurants. No longer will you have to believe the drunk standing next to you who thinks four feet is okay. Our poles can be used as lances should the need arise.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve spared you from everything beneath the surface. I’m sure you’re all grateful.
“Widely Scattered Ghosts” is currently free on Smashwords.
Once when I was picking up a prescription at my pharmacy, I said I was ready to make a profit by selling the pills on the street at a dollar each.
The pharmacist said that I’d be losing a lot of money pricing them that cheap. Shows what I know about the DIY drug biz.
This morning, I found a couple of store brand packages of toilet paper at the Food Lion. First time I’ve seen any there in almost a month. They also had paper towels and Kleenex. My lucky day.
People in the parking lot saw the toilet paper and looked envious. Since I hadn’t bought any fresh ammo, I hoped they weren’t armed. I knew one thing they didn’t know. There wasn’t enough toilet paper left inside the store for all of them.
Hmm, how much would they be willing to pay for one roll? $10, perhaps? That seemed fair since I have expenses, insurance, transportation costs, etc. But no one came over to threaten me or propose a deal. So now we’re stocked up to a little while.
That’s a relief. Like everyone else, we were running low on a product that several months ago we took for granted.
In the 1970s, I never expected (and didn’t like) the gasoline shortages. As I drove around looking for a service station that had something to sell, I never thought the next shortage would be toilet paper.
Maybe we should all use the grocery store restrooms every time we go shopping. Naah, with a virus around, I don’t think so.
If you want a roll, send me $10 plus shipping and maybe I’ll ship one back to your house and you’ll feel inspired or relieved.
My latest post “How are You Feeling?” was written in hopes followers of this blog would respond with their own comments and stories about coping with the pandemic. I was disappointed in the lack of response.
I’m coping by working on my next novel. It seems to be about halfway done, though I’m usually the last to know. It continues where my Florida Folk Magic Trilogy ends, though it’s by no means a sequel (unless my publisher tells me it’s a sequel).
I’m also coping by re-reading old books, currently James Patterson’s Instinct about a serial killer who leaves cryptic clues to his next victim by placing a playing card next to each person he murders. The novel came out in 2017 and was co-written by Howard Roughan. It demonstrates the problem with the police using the services of an expert. If the murders keep going on and on an on, the expert really isn’t solving anything. If the murders stop right after the expert solves the whole case on page 20, you don’t have much of a novel.
My wife and I see to be trading the low-grade flu back and forth. Not sure how to fix that except for both of us to take it easy and get extra sleep.
I listened to Queen Elizabeth II’s brief pandemic speech on TV last night and though it was a reasonable appeal for working together to solve this crisis as Brits have done before. She’s old enough to remember the Blitz, the country’s attempts to find safe places for the children, and the resolve with which everyone mobilized for efforts in battlezones and on the homefront.
Comfort food is a high priority with us right now. I just took a squash casserole out of the oven to be warmed up for several meals. My wife’s been making pies and rice casseroles. We usually pair these with whatever we can find on TV, including “How to Get Away With Murder.” Our joke with that series is that (like “Lost”) we seem to know less and less about what’s going on after watching each episode.