Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tourism in the Time of Covid19

When we stopped for breakfast on the first morning of our long-weekend trip to the Niagara area of New York State I didn’t think much about using the drive-through window at the fast food place. We’d been doing that occasionally at the place near our home. No big deal. However, if someone needs to use the bathroom and the interior of the store has signs that say “Employees Only” then there might be a problem. So, as we moved on down the road, feeling a little uncomfortable, I started thinking about the logic of that inconvenience.

At the rest area just south of Watertown (our next necessary stop) the bathrooms were open and only occupied by a couple of people. It was an exceptionally clean place and a couple of attendants were hanging around making sure it stayed that way. When an older woman came into the building without a mask on her face one of the attendants told her to go back to her car and get the face covering or go somewhere else. This order by the janitor was not delivered in a kind or reasonable way. The woman left and when I left the building, I saw her hustling back to the rest room wearing a mask that didn’t hide her discomfort or embarrassment.

Later in the day we stopped at a burger joint near the town where we lived for many years. The place was remarkably busy and, at first, didn’t seem that much different from past visits. We still approached the counter (though we were masked-up and standing on the appropriate floor markings) placed our order and paid. But when our order came the usual condiments were missing. When I asked the counter person for some ketchup and pickles, I was handed little ketchup packets and a tiny cup of their usual pickles. In the past the customer could spoon pickles from a big tub and squirt ketchup into little cups. How many people catch a virus like Covid19 from a pickle jar? Can a virus even live in pickle brine?

But the most noticeable difference in our visit to the burger place was an almost visible tension in the customers. This place, in the recent past, was always relaxed, full of pleasant conversation and laughter. The employees had always been noted for loud and friendly good service. But now, in the time of Covid19, the place was sullenly quiet. Service was efficient but not friendly. People seemed more concerned about following the new rules than about enjoying some good food in a pleasant lake-side atmosphere.

We traveled on. At our destination motel we were checked in at the Plexiglas shrouded counter. We got our instructions on how the free hot breakfast would be handled and filled out the appropriate breakfast form. We were instructed on procedures for making an appointment to use the pool or fitness room. We were instructed on elevator protocols, housekeeping limitations and the availability of sanitizers. Finally, we got to our room on the fourth floor. It was spotless, smelled like Lysol, and was littered with little signs saying, “This surface has been sanitized in accordance with recommendations from the NY Department of Health and the CDC.” There was even one of those signs on the TV remote and mini-fridge handle. 

When I went online (on my un-sanitized laptop) I looked up the State regulations for Hotel/Motel/B&B operations. They are many. Page after page of bureaucratic minutiae instruct these establishments in every facet of their business. My bet is that the good places, the ones that are already doing a good job, will continue to do a good job. The cheap, less than stellar operations will still do a shoddy, corner-cutting kind of cleaning, just as they had in years past. But they’d better be careful. On every set of instructions from the State is a plea to anyone who observes violations (or violators) to report these individuals and establishments to the appropriate authorities. Fines, jail terms, severe scolding are probably all in the folio of punishments available to the State in its enforcement efforts, though they are not spelled out.

Since we were in a tourist area, we wanted to do a few touristy things. We planned a trip to see the US side of Niagara Falls (can’t cross over to Canada due to Covid19), visit the Buffalo Zoo,visit Old Fort Niagara and, most importantly, visit a winery or two.

To do a zoo visit we needed to go online and make a reservation. Then, when we arrived, we had to have our temperature taken. Once we got through the entry process, we were encouraged to follow social distancing rules, keep our masks on, follow the approved visitation path, avoid touching the glass, railings, signs, and other people. It was fine. But again, people seemed awfully tense. No one seemed to be enjoying the experience, not even the little kids who usually are thrilled to see the animals. We made the circuit and headed off on a calming ride in the countryside. By the way, that not so hot visit to the zoo cost thirty-six bucks including parking.

The next day we drove up to Old Fort Niagara. There was no reservation required and when we arrived the place was not too busy. Before we could enter, we were reminded of the Covid19 rules about masks and distance. At various stops along the walking tour of the fort we were asked to wait before going into buildings. Capacity limits have been reduced to twenty-five percent of the usual allowances. Eventually, as more folks entered the place, little traffic jams occurred, and it got harder to maintain the six-foot spacing. This fort is not a small place, but the current rules make it feel crowded, even at twenty-five percent capacity. And once again, people seemed to be uncomfortable, slightly edgy, and lacking patience. A beautiful day, at a beautiful location, was not as fine an experience as it could have been.

Over the weekend we visited three wineries. Two required reservations. Since a wine tasting room is basically a bar the NY government insists that a food purchase be made, or no alcohol will be served. Most small wineries have no kitchen facilities. When they have events requiring food, they bring in a food truck or a caterer. To meet the NY requirement, they now sell little packs of snack food. Airline size bags of pretzels or chips cost a dollar. The wineries were the most relaxed places we visited. They were friendlier as well, friendlier than restaurants and tourist attractions and hotels. The wine might have something to do with that, but I’m not sure. My wife would know better than me.

So friends, if you go out touring in time of Covid19 be sure to prepare carefully, follow the rules, avoid riling folks up, bring extra masks and sanitizer, and, if you decide to break a rule or two, watch out for snitches. As for us, we think we’ll limit our traveling to family visits. They’re more relaxed and welcoming, have fewer rules posted in their houses, and are less likely to turn us in to the Covid19 cops.

Travel safely and be good to your new neighbors, wherever you find them. And have a fine day.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Quarantine - Covid19


My wife just got back from spending time helping our daughter in Maryland. She flew from Dulles Airport, just outside of Washington, to Ogdensburg. Maryland is on NY State’s list of restricted areas due to high numbers of infected folks. I’m not going to give you a bunch of statistics. Let’s just say that the numbers are not as bad as NY City but they’re worse than Franklin County. Before she got on the plane yesterday, she had filled out a required form online, providing information on her health, where she will be quarantining, and other data having to do with demographics. This form was also printed out and dropped into a little box in the terminal upon her arrival in Ogdensburg.

Then, tonight at dinner time, she got a call from the NY State Department of Health contact tracer employee. Brittany was her name, I think. Brittany asked about my wife’s health today. Then she asked every other question that my wife had answered on the online form. Brittany was just doing her job, I suppose, but why was this necessary? My wife is too nice a person to give a “Government Official” a little bit of feedback. If I had been the returning traveler, I might have asked a few questions. Why do you need all this demographic information again when you already have it? Why do you need a medical history, with questions that have nothing at all to do with the current virus, questions I already answered online yesterday? Why do you need to know my race, something that has absolutely nothing to do with whether I have the virus or not? And what is the point of asking someone if they have dementia? Is a person with dementia going to give a reliable answer to that question? This whole questioning process is intrusive and patently unnecessary.

It seems to me that there are only a few questions that should be asked. What’s your name, address, and phone number? Do you understand what quarantine means? Do you have any of the following virus symptoms? That’s it. That is all they need to know. If they want to call again and ask if there has been any contact with other folks, then I suppose that would be okay. But someone is going to call, email or text my wife everyday for fourteen days. She is required to respond, or a contact tracing official will come to our house to make sure the rules are being obeyed.

Now, I understand that this is a real disease with the possibility of serious consequences, especially to a certain age group. We happen to belong to that age group. But adding a whole level of new bureaucracy to collect mostly useless information that doesn’t have anything to do with tracking infected contacts is just one more example of government excess. And good old New York State is no stranger to government excess.

Well, my wife, being a good citizen and a good neighbor, will put up with this horse-manure. As I said, she’s much nicer than I am. So, she’ll be out of touch with you folks for a couple more weeks. She’s just trying to be sure you all have a nice day.



Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Facts and Figures

Facts and Figures

Statistics are not something I usually worry about. But with this Covid-19 crisis going on there are pages and pages of numbers and graphs and models being shown all over the place; internet news sources, social media pages, newspapers, regular network TV and cable TV. I’ve even seen cartoons alluding to facts and figures. And I guess it’s good that all this information is so readily available. However, given the American tendency to argue about everything, I wonder if there’s any value in spreading all these numbers around. It’s especially worrisome if there are conflicts in various sets of research results or predictions based on different extrapolated models. (Extrapolated models – two words I’ve never used and barely understand)

We Americans like to think we’re pretty smart. And, to borrow a phrase I saw in an article yesterday, we think because we’ve attended the University of Google we know lots and lots of stuff about nearly everything. Supposedly, according to Google, we’re the best-informed population to ever squat in any place on this planet. A friend of mine recently posted a longish article describing what real research looks like. It was all I could do to finish the thing. But I did, and I decided then and there that I would stick to a more pedestrian layman’s form of research. Real research is hard work. Checking multiple sources, finding original sources, weighting the bias in a source, looking up words to see if they mean what they seem to mean, reading footnotes (who the hell reads those things?) constitute hard mental labor.

So, I skim the news, pay close attention to visual aids, read columns from really smart people who get the information down to my non-expert level while throwing in some good jokes, and then formulate my opinions (also known as brilliant observations) from all of that. Then I run my mouth as if I’ve done months and months of research. Just kidding.

And that brings me back to data analysis. The Corona Virus numbers are confusing. Depending on the source, we are either headed for complete extinction or we’re well on our way to beating the pants off this thing. Just figuring out how each study arrives at the little lines on the graph is a daunting task. Some studies include something they call “unreported cases” or “suspected cases.” Apparently, they use some fancy algorithm (what the heck is an algorithm, by the way?) to get the numbers of these cases. This is what statisticians do. They make informed guesses. Which is suspiciously like weather forecasters, and we know how often they’re right. But the actual facts in their charts and graphs don’t always match up with each other. A lot of people have been killed by this virus. But some people doing the counting are saying a person died from the virus even if that person already was very sick from lung cancer or heart disease or some other awful ailment. And some of those who died “from the virus” were never actually tested because tests were not available at the time.

All of this doesn’t matter. People are getting sick. Some people are getting very, very sick. And some people are dying. This is not unlike the flu. But the official line is that it is not like the flu. This virus is much more virulent; we don’t know enough about it, it spreads faster, it affects more parts of the body, good treatments are not available, there is no vaccine. And here’s one of the “brilliant observations” I mentioned earlier: arguing about whether it’s like the flu or not is just kind of silly. Let the medical people figure that out. And let the medical people figure out the best treatments and let them create a vaccine in due time. If I’m sitting here on the River arguing on line with a very kind poet lady from Petaluma, CA about whether the University of Sacramento’s study on hot spots is better than the University of Michigan’s, I’m doing nothing good at all. We should be talking about what a fine poem she just wrote. We can commiserate on the terrible nature of this disease. We can offer sympathy to each other for the personal losses we have experienced during this crisis or others. We can even offer each other suggestions on how to deal with the loneliness of quarantine. But arguing about statistics won’t help either of us and our arguments very well could be based on opinions derived from lack of expertise.

I know a couple of people who are actually doing the hard research. They study the studies, they read the deep journals, they compare, check sources, understand science and know how to apply filters to all this information. And they are very cautious when they speak on what they’ve learned. They also don’t argue with angry voices. One of my friends has done a whole lot of research and he has also listened to nearly every briefing put out by the White House, the CDC, several state Governors, FEMA and even the Public Health Agency in Canada. He told me, quietly, that it would be better to listen only to the people directly involved in the sciences of epidemiology, virology, internal medicine and general health care. He advised me to stay away from politicians and the politically motivated, pollsters, commercial news sources and statisticians. Another friend out in California (which seems to be a test lab for societal problems) also watches daily briefings and pays close attention to the numbers, pointing out discrepancy after discrepancy in an excellent, near daily recap. He’s a calm and reasonable fellow but his increasing frustration reflects the chaos he observes.   

And, of course, don’t look for much good, solid information on social media. For every accurate, reasonable, fact-checked piece on Facebook you’ll find hundreds of bits of foolishness and fantasy. Social media is fine for many entertaining things but it’s not the place to learn science and medicine. Enjoy the funny skits, excellent musical postings and friendly banter from relatives and acquaintances. Just don’t rely on social media for answers to important questions.

I need to bring in some more firewood for the wood stove now. And I think I’ll read some poetry. A friend sent me a volume of James Wright’s work and that will require enough concentration to effectively distract me from all this statistical business. Hope you all have a fine day in your varying degrees of isolation.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Some Thoughts on Pandemic Panic

Some Thoughts on Pandemic Panic
By Jim Bourey

Pandemic panic still moves on like an out of control stagecoach in an old western movie. Naively, I thought it would subside after a week or so. The medical response folks were cranking things up with people making plans, assessing their supply situation, asking for help from the government. At first it seemed like people in high places were going to make a quick response to the needs. But political squabbling got in the way and it took the better part of a month to get that aid package done. Meanwhile, some parts of the government did what they could and, if we do a little research, we can see that it was considerable. Some of my friends have done the research. They have checked in medical news sources. They checked with the data collectors – including those who are independent. They checked with world-wide health organizations. And the findings are (not reported in our more hysteria driven media) that we are meeting the challenge here in the US.

But the panic continues. Food supplies are still good except for a few odd sections of the supermarkets. Shortages can mostly be blamed on continued hoarding during this alert status. Truckers are out doing their jobs. Food production folks are working. Farmers are working. Essential service people are doing their essential things. And thank goodness for all those terrific health care people who are still treating things like heart disease, cancer and most everything else while they battle this flu-like attack. Fire companies, police departments and the military are all geared up to provide protection and support where it is needed. Even the media, in all it’s doom-saying glory, is out there freely disseminating a huge amount of information twenty-four hours a day. And let’s not forget the entertainment sector as it fills screens across the land. We could be in a TV and game playing stupor all the time if we chose to. And yes, some do choose that option.

We know all of these things. Yet folks are still in a panic. Some politicians seem to work pretty hard at driving the feeling. I’m not accusing them of doing it nefariously but there aren’t many voices of reason being heard. Top directing officials make plans, announce them, provide data backing their decisions and recommendations then get hammered within minutes with a barrage of disparaging, contentious comments and tweets and “special reports.” It would seem that there is no inclination to wait and see if they’re right. Nope. Self-appointed “experts” start shouting before the last syllables are out of the mouths of people who are actually doing the work of dealing with the problems.

And there are problems. I’ve been alive over seventy years. I’ve seen crisis after crisis. Polio was a big scare when I was a kid. Meningitis. The Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, gasoline shortages, several epidemics and threatened epidemics including swine flu, SARS, opioid escalation, 911. It seems like every year we face something. There may be an initial panic period. But it usually dissipates pretty quickly. This time the panic seems to be hanging on for a long time. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Some blame social media. Others blame the ineptitude of the president. He’s an easy target, always saying foolish things that need to be explained or walked back by his more rational team members. And there are rational folks on his team. His medical advisers are smart and qualified. His Surgeon General is a reasonable and diligent person. A few of his other advisers have a handle on the issues. But for some reason, political I suspect, they are not given any positive coverage. Blatant insults, antagonistic questioning, lack of willingness to wait for results are the reactions to these people who are working so hard to deal with these issues.

The politics of disease containment is something I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime. But we have it. And it’s been around at least since the HIV/AIDS crisis. We are slow learners, I guess.
Using a medical crisis in the unending games of politics is just wrong. But it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

So, we go on. We try to use our common sense, though many don’t seem to have that resource available. We minimize contacts with other folks. We pay attention to our physical condition, go outside and walk where we can, eat properly. And we should be careful to get our news and information from the less agitated sources. Check out the information you read. It’s actually possible with the amazing capabilities of the internet – though it isn’t always easy. Stay in touch with your family and friends. But ignore a whole lot of the crap you scroll across on social media. Lots of unbalanced opinion is on there disguised as reality. Be patient. Let things work. Have a little faith. And have a fine day.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Book Review "A Paris Table" by Allen J. Kourofsky

A Paris Table
By Allen J. Kourofsky

Bloated Toe Publishing

After WWI a renaissance of sorts occurred in the arts and letters of Europe and the Americas. Some of the participants in this movement thought of it as political and personal rebellion. Many authors and artists decided to move away from the rigidity of their homelands and they migrated to what they considered as more tolerant venues. Paris became a focal point for many of these rebels. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Dorothy Parker and John Dos Passos were all part of the literary movement in Paris. Artists included Picasso and Modigliani. Musicians, clothing designers and hangers-on of various sorts added to the mix of the vibrant café scene.

Author Allen Kourofsky enters this era with an interesting coming-of-age story set mostly in cafes and side-streets, a bookstore and a brief side-trip to the Riviera. He uses real people as characters, cameo appearances by contemporary figures who help advance the story. The narrative is from an omniscient point of view focused on the conversation and thoughts of a young American who may or may not become a poet. This unnamed character was scarred by his service as an ambulance driver in the Great War. He is in Paris against the wishes of his father who had hoped his son would be a businessman. To support himself he has taken a job as a bookkeeper in a bookstore.

This novel moves along at a steady pace. The opening pages introduce the main character as he is identifying a dead body and this foreshadows the rest of the story which is revealed in a lengthy flashback. We see the earnest young writers and artists as they drink and talk. They do a lot of drinking and talking. They talk about their work but it seems they devote much more time to the conversation and refreshments. We meet the hero’s acquaintances, friends and lovers in these raucous settings. We follow him to his job and to his seedy room as he thinks about his poetry. Some lines of poetry show up now and again but he rarely writes. His memories of the war, of home and family and his uncertain hopes are exposed in inner dialogue.

As I read this novel, I was struck by the author’s ability to capture the tone of the times with relatively spare description of the surroundings or the characters. He uses voice for the latter and iconic Parisian images for the former. And I was also struck by his non-linear narration, similar in many ways to that of Dos Passos. It is an effective technique and particularly suitable for this story. This is a literary novel, not an action-packed thriller. And though there is a love story this is not a romance. It is gritty while retaining a cerebral quality. Again, not unlike Dos Passos.

Technically, I feel this novel could have used a slightly firmer editorial hand to eliminate some repetition. But the writing is of a high enough caliber to let this small matter slide. If you have an interest in the wild and raucous “Roaring Twenties” particularly the ex-pat era of American literature then I highly recommend this book. And if you just like a good, thoughtful coming-of-age story then, again, this is a fine book for your summer list.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Great Pajama Wearing While Shopping Movement Mystery

Conspiracy? Something like that might have been what was happening. Or maybe it was a warped corporate policy designed to dominate the retail market. And believe me, I did my best to look into this thing. Someone needed to investigate and this is that exciting story.

A few years back I noticed some people in the big box store (the one we all know) wearing pajama pants. It was November and fairly cold, not weather for that kind of garment. Most of the pj wearers were female and they looked as if they were part of the low-income demographic group. It didn’t seem important.

As the months passed this trend increased. More women of all age groups were wearing pajama bottoms while shopping, mostly in that same big box chain. I saw them in upstate New York, downstate Delaware and just outside of Washington, D.C. The women didn’t seem well off. And now and then I saw pajama bottom wearing men. I didn’t see this trend in Sears or Macy’s or even Old Navy. People in Old Navy seemed to favor sweat pants.

I took an informal survey of people I know, people across the spectrum of economic solvency. Not one person, rich or poor, would admit to wearing sleepwear while shopping. My survey sample included about eighty individuals. Some pre-election poll results rely on smaller samples than that.

The trend continued to grow. I started to see sleepwear wearers in the grocery store. One day I decided to ask a couple individuals why they were wearing pajamas for shopping. Every one responded that they were either going later to, or had just come from, that big store and that they liked wearing these comfortable clothes when they shopped there. So it seemed that shopping at one particular retail chain was driving this abhorrent fashion trend. Why, I wondered?

I went to one of the stores and asked for the manager. This was the conversation I secretly recorded:

Me: Mr. ________, I wonder if you could answer a question for me?

Manager: Okay. What is it?

Me: Why do so many people, especially women, wear pajamas while shopping in your store?

Manager: Why do you ask?

Me: Well I’m trying to find out what is driving the trend.

Manager: Why?

Me: Because it seems odd and I’m curious?

Manager: Don’t you have better things to worry about?

Me: It could be important.

Manager: Good bye. Have a nice day.

As you can see this manager was obviously avoiding my probing questions. So, I went about five miles down the road to another store in this worldwide chain and asked to see the manager. She kept me waiting for fifteen minutes before having someone escort me to her office. Again, I recorded the conversation:

Me: Can you tell me why so many of your customers wear sleepwear as they shop in your store?

Manager: Why don’t you ask them? Furthermore, why do you care?

Me: Well it seems to be an odd fashion trend and it seems to originate with your company. Why would that be?

Manager: With all due respect, sir, I really don’t have time for this nonsense. Please get out of my office. Security!

Again, an official of the company was concealing information. I called corporate headquarters and could not get any answers from the automated call-receiving system. And no one returned my calls after I left detailed messages that the system asked for. Why was this company afraid of my investigation? Was there something illegal going on?

I decided to go undercover. I went to one of their stores, one I had never visited, and bought a nice flannel sleepwear outfit. Normally I sleep in the nude so I had no appropriate garments in my home. The next day I headed to the closest branch of this chain and proceeded to push a cart through the aisles, engaging in casual conversation with other customers attired as I was. I recorded these conversations and here are some samples.

With a large woman driving an electric scooter cart:

Me: Hi there. Nice pjs. You shop here often?

Woman: Get lost ya’ freak!

With a younger, very thin, very agitated woman pushing a cart full of electronic equipment:

Me: Hi. You’re certainly well equipped. For video and sound, that is. Those are very nice pajamas you’re wearing. Did you buy them here? My wife might like some of those.

Woman: What? What did you say? Are you some kind of pervert? Are you? Get the hell away from me you pervert! I’m going to call the security people. Go away!

My last approach was to another young woman of substantial size who had two small children in tow. All three of these people were wearing sleepwear. The little ones had pjs with footie things.

Me: Hi there. The family that wears pjs while shopping together stays together, right? (I chuckled at my little witticism)

Woman: Que pasa?

Me: Why are you all wearing pajamas for shopping here?

Woman: Que? Yo no hablo ingles. Dejanos solos, idiota!

Me: Have a fine day.

Were all of these customers aligned with this corporation in some kind of organized movement? Was it dangerous? I was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of these questions. I needed to go deeper undercover.

Online I applied for a job with the company. I carefully avoided stores where I had spoken to the manager. That’s easy to do since there are so many locations in this vast retail empire. Within hours I had an interview and was hired as a store greeter. The very next day I was given an orientation and got my special yellow vest with the asterisk on the back. At no point in the orientation was there mention of encouraging customers to buy, and then shop in, pajama bottoms.

On my first day I followed company protocol and merely greeted customers and checked their receipts against items in their bags and carts as they left the store. I accosted two people trying to shoplift and was complimented by my immediate supervisor. The next day I began (casually) asking other employees about the pajama trend. All denied any knowledge of conspiracy or corporate policy. It wasn’t until the morning of the first day of my third month on the job that I got a break. A new person was cleaning the bathrooms near customer service. He was an older gentleman and he told me right away that he had transferred from another store so he could be closer to his new girlfriend.  I casually introduced a question about the sleepwear issue, which seemed to have increased even more in the three months I had worked as a greeter.

I recorded this part of my conversation with the new janitor.

Me: So, do you think the company encourages people, in some way, to wear pajamas while shopping.

Janitor: Why sure. A couple years back the company hired a few women in each area to wear pajamas and walk around the stores like they was shopping. I noticed they never checked out those carts they was pushin’. And I know they was hired ‘cause they’d come to the manager late at night and get a envelope.

Me: I see. Are all the people wearing pajamas getting paid? And why did the company care about this?

Janitor: Well no, dummy, they ain’t all getting paid. People copy other people. And the big bosses in the company came up with the idea because they think if people are real comfortable shopping in these places then they won’t shop nowhere else. You see? Nothin’ as comfortable as walkin’ around in pjs, right? Warm and cozy. That’s all it is. Comfort. Now look at that woman over there walkin’ out with two TVs. Go check her out. Do your damn job, fool.

It seemed I had finally solved the mystery. It was just another case of corporate greed destroying the good fashion sense of a vast part of the world’s population. And isn’t that a sad commentary on our times.

Monday, December 4, 2017

My First Holiday Blog of 2017

It’s December 4th and the annual holiday improvement in kindness, generosity and all-around goodness is more and more apparent. Well, maybe.  Haven’t noticed any of that in the political world. And it doesn’t seem to be happening in our shopping places. The folks on the roads are certainly not making strides in any of those areas. Social media does show an occasional sign of good will. But that sign is usually followed by eight or nine posts of name calling vitriol.

Of course, when it comes to politics there is no middle ground. My kind hearted liberal friends think they’re fighting evil incarnate. My well intentioned conservative acquaintances think they’re being unjustly vilified and demeaned by, yes you guessed it, evil incarnate. The issues are pretty big, I guess. That tax bill is important. The immigration questions are still questions, no resolution there. Foreign affairs seem to be pretty much bogged down in wars both ongoing and up-coming. While the economy seems to be rebounding a little, there’s still a pretty big crowd of homeless folks here at the public library every day. And I know lots of older people who are just getting by. And, of course, that health insurance problem is not getting fixed by any of our intelligent, caring legislators. Some of my acquaintances who rely on the new government sourced plans have been hit with premiums so high that they are just planning on taking their chances with no insurance.

When I read yesterday’s newspapers I saw lots of space dedicated to the increasing scourge of heroin and other opioid use. A bunch of money is going towards that problem but the good results of those programs are not too apparent. Another pile of articles was dedicated to sex assault cases of prominent politicians and entertainers. I grabbed the comics just to get a little relief. Then I did a crossword puzzle. Then I read the advertising flyers. After the eighth page of the Boscov’s ad I finally calmed down enough to start drinking.

What’s my point? Hell if I know. Kindness? I know in “one on one” situations most folks are kind. And pretty much all of my friends are generous with their time and money as they support charities, causes and churches. But that underlying current of hatred for people who hold opposing opinions is pretty apparent. It’s kind of like one of those quiet cancers that swims around in the bloodstream and then suddenly bursts to the surface of the body in a terrible lesion. And there are a mess of lesions popping up everywhere and often. Quick treatments are applied and the sores subside but the main disease is still cruising around. Who knows when the cancer will be too big to contain?

I’m done worrying today. I might not resume my pose of cynical indifference for now. I might adopt a new pose of holiday cheerfulness, kindness and goodwill. Even though it’s not totally sincere it might catch on. Gotta make the effort anyway. You’re welcome to join me. And have a fine day.