Welcome to my diary. My plan is to write something daily about life during the coronavirus crisis. For me, it’s a way of putting thoughts together, perhaps making sense of things, either now or in the future, when we all look back at what we have been through.
I began this March 24, 2020. That first entry is pretty heavy, an overall picture, some ideas to chew on. It does not appear to be the first entry because I retroactively added a few events. My plan is to keep other entries short and quick, maybe even fun.
Feel free to leave a reply, either via email or on this site, which means scrolling to the bottom of this file, which has become a long way down.
JULY 17, 2020
An update from the New York Times on one of the most important scientific races of all time. Who’s developing what type of vaccines? What will work? What will kill innocent chimpanzees?
Interesting how the process of trials and dispersal to the public works. Operation Warp Speed!
JULY 12, 2020
I know of only one friend who has had coronavirus this year. So, considering I have thousands of friends, that’s pretty good, right? (OK, maybe it’s really more like just eighteen friends, but let’s pretend.) So in my world, only one of thousands of people have contracted Covid-19.
La Plata County, where I live, is up to around 150 positive-tested cases. With a population of 55,000, that’s 1 in every 367 people. Compare that with surging counties in Florida and Texas, and the states themselves. Here’s a National Geographic story on the latest surges. It shows that in Boston, for example, 1 in 39 people have had it. New York City is 1 in 38. So 1 in 367 is a really good ratio. (About that ratio has died from Covid-19 in New York City.)
All good so far. But I’m still not breathing easy, so to speak. It’s very easy to see how our county ratio could balloon easily and quickly.
There is no wall between us and the county to the south, despite the fact that it’s across the New Mexico border. San Juan County, New Mexico, has a ratio of about 1 in 46. Drive at certain times in Durango and you see more New Mexico plates than Colorado. Really. Add to that our tourists, many of whom come from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, and we even see a fair share of Florida plates. These are all hot spots. All places from where people are leaving to escape coronavirus outbreaks.
Wish us luck.
JULY 9, 2020
How does this virus spread? Inside without masks is bad; we know that. Can it spread outside? Not as likely. But scientists are trying to make people realize it can spread outside as well. This doesn’t sound like anything all that new to me, but supposedly this is a breaking story. The WHO announced today it is reviewing “emerging evidence.” There are a lot of factors in actually contracting the virus, in any conditions. Read this Scientific American story and see what you think.
Note: After posting this I realized the Scientific American story was from May 12. Which kinda proves my point. There’s not a whole lot “new” to know.
JULY 8, 2020
A nice cooling off session for the dog on a very hot early July afternoon. We have temperatures shooting up into the low 90s. Not unheard of around here, but definitely above normal.
We went down to the Animas River near the Durango Dog Park. We were in a hurry and the dog was hot, so we took a steep shortcut down to the river just past the BuRec fence for the Animas-La Plata water project workings. Federal agents might chase you down if you get anywhere near touching that fence, but that’s another story.
It’s not a bad thing that people are cooling off in the river. You can’t see this in the far-off shots I took, but there are kids out there wading. You probably can see the rafters and the inflatable kayakers. But there certainly are a lot of people in proximity. We’re still learning, but it’s possible this might not be a great thing. People jammed on a raft might be OK, or it might not. The guy rowing probably gets all the spit in his face.
What I really don’t think is OK is that after the commercial raft trips are done, everyone gets back in these buses to get dropped off back downtown, or wherever.
Bottom line: We have a lot of people visiting Durango from places like Texas, Arizona, as I’ve pointed out before. Hard to think this isn’t going to increase our number of cases here. Fortunately, we’re still waiting for the surge …
JULY 7, 2020
People are desperate for a vaccine, and so is the Trump administration, so keep that in mind as you read this breaking story – my link is to the New York Times, although I’m sure there are plenty of other media sources breaking this.
It’s not clear how far the vaccine really is, and whether it’ll be effective or just give everyone who takes it liver cancer or the heebee jeebies. (Is that how you spell heebee? Spell check wants to make it the “herbed jeebies,” just as good.) Anyway, we’re throwing $1.6 billion at Novovax to develop this vaccine, and well, why not? What’s $1.6 billion at this point? The government could throw a couple hundred million my way and no one would EVER notice. I’m not suggesting anything, but again, why not?
The vaccine will be ready by early 2021 and we’ll all (100 million of us, anyway) be safe and can go attend Broncos playoff games. Super!
JULY 4, 2020
Happy Independence Day!
As you go about your business or pleasure today, you may wonder if you’re putting yourself into harm’s way. You’ve probably figured a lot of this stuff out on your own, but here’s a good breakdown of what activities are most risky in the Covid-19 era. Three experts put it together and dubbed it a “Risk Index.” Good to see tennis is fairly low, and interesting that outdoor dining is medium.
Thanks to my cousin Jean for posting this on her Facebook page.
JULY 3, 2020
It’s a typical Fourth of July weekend in La Plata County. Tourists are arriving in droves, trying to beat the heat.
It’s a bit sobering that they’re arriving from several states that are suddenly beginning to see a large uptick in coronavirus cases. Texas and California leap to mind, but our direct neighbor New Mexico floods our county with visitors (and workers and shoppers), and even Florida plates have been a common sight this summer. Arizona plates, too, are abundant. Yay for us.
La Plata County has seen a small rise in cases this week, but a small rise can quickly lead to a bigger rise which is yet to be detected. I’ve been impressed when going downtown at how many people are wearing face covers, but also alarmed at the crowds. Downtown has metamorphosed in a month from a ghost town to its nearly normal busy summer self.
The streets are busy, and that fact, combined with the current construction of a new three-story motel on Camino del Rio, created the worst traffic jam I’ve ever experienced in Durango. Might as well have been in Manhattan. Sure, we’ve canceled our fireworks displays. But the more people cluster, the more they spread viruses, other diseases, and even crazy political beliefs.
And stupid things happen like motorcyclists crashing into our new “bump-outs” downtown, built to create more room for restaurants.
Mike Pence is praying for us, and I hope you will too.
JUNE 30, 2020
We’ve covered this before, thanks to Mythbusters, but here’s another look at what happens when you sneeze. Large droplets can go several feet, actually up to 27 feet, and misty clouds with all your nasty germs can hang in the air for a while.
Covid-19 carriers don’t necessarily sneeze due to the virus, but they might for other reasons. So if someone starts to sneeze uncovered, run quickly and see if you can put 10 yards on them before those water droplets come shooting out at 100 mph. They might cough more, and that can be a problem too.
Check out the National Geographic story on this here.
JUNE 27, 2020:
(Note: This is about political philosophy, but is very relevant to the debates, and perhaps lack of good dialogue, we are having about the coronavirus, Black Lives Matter, and other issues. Read on at your own discretion. The author takes no responsibility for exploding brains.)
I feel badly for people who are only capable of seeing the world through their polarized political lenses. That’s the sympathetic way of saying that people wearing blinders frustrate me.
I’ve been reading Rousseau’s “Social Contract,” and I found a passage that seems profound to me in this regard. Wait, who’s Rousseau, you ask? That’s OK, I didn’t know much about him either. He was a Swiss-French (Genevan, in his day) political philosopher whose writings played a part in the revolutions, American and French, of the late 18th century. I’m doing some study of that time period, and instead of reading something fun like Dafoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” or Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” I took on the dense, challenging English translations of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s major political writings. His words were considered poisonous by powers of his time, and he spent quite a few of his latter years on the run and in exile.
An excerpt from Book II, Chapter 3 of “On the Social Contract.” The chapter is titled, “Whether the General Will Can Err.”
“If, when the people deliberates and is adequately informed, the citizens were to have no private communication among themselves, the general will would always result from the large number of small differences and the deliberation would always be good. But when factions – partial associations at the expense of the larger one – are formed, the will of each of these associations becomes general in relation to its members and particular in relation to the state. There can then no longer be said to be as many voters as there are men, but only as many as there are associations. The differences become less numerous and produce a less general result. Finally, when one of these associations is so large that it prevails over all the others, you no longer have for a result a sum of small differences, but rather one single difference. Then there is no longer a general will, and the opinion that prevails is merely a private opinion.”
Read it two or three times if necessary. I had to. I’ll wait. …
I think that, very unfortunately, we have broken into the factions Rousseau described. Instead of making their own study and choices, Americans rely on loud voices to make choices for them. Someone like Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump or Sean Hannity or Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow is leading a large faction. In Rousseau’s thinking, as I follow it, these people and others are voting multiple times. Citizens have turned their thinking over to these “leaders,” and forfeited their own will.
I wish this were an oversimplification or exaggeration of a monumental problem in our country, but I don’t think it is. I’ve heard too many people spout the party’s, or the right-wing talk show host’s, line. This polarized thinking is affecting our social/political discourse in deleterious ways. Instead of 100 million citizens (voters) offering their thoughts, we are perhaps down to 1,000 or 10,000 factions.
That’s it. I’m done trying feebly to explain this concept. You take it from there: Who in America is really in control, and why?
JUNE 26, 2020:
Yesterday I talked about kids spreading Covid-19. Same will happen as we open up the sports world, pro and college.
NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL. College football. All are at the mercy of the young players who undoubtedly want to socialize and aren’t as threatened by the virus as those overseers of the sports who are trying to set boundaries. Quick spreading of the virus among and within teams will could put a screeching halt to the season attempting to be pulled off.
We’ll find out soon how this works, if and how outbreaks among players can be controlled. Several MLB teams, college football squads, and NBA teams are already reporting outbreaks and some officials are “terrified.” Baseball players report July 1, NBA a few days after that. MLB begins games July 24, the NBA July 31, NHL a few days after that. NFL exhibitions begin in mid-August.
We are nowhere close to having the virus under control, and kids love to party. How will this work?
JUNE 25, 2020:
Schools are gearing up. It’s two months approximately until students are going full-bore. It’s painfully obvious to anyone concerned about Covid-19 that this is a problem with no good solution.
Already, youths are congregating, whether it’s just because that’s what they do, or for swimming at the rec center, or tennis lessons at the local schools, or at the park, or on the river … They don’t social distance very well or wear masks most of the time. It’s not so bad, in my opinion, when they’re outdoors, but when they begin gathering inside crowded classrooms, or socializing on and off college campuses, these places become perfect incubators for spreading the pernicious virus.
For students themselves, this will generally not be a health problem – but maybe enough so that a few (enough?) parents will make a big stink? But it will become a problem for society as a whole, for communities where all of a sudden parents are contracting it and giving it to their parents or co-workers and quickly people need hospitals and some die, and so on.
Is this simply the price we need to pay? Can we deny students from attending public schools and universities for another year as scientists and lab techs rush to find a vaccine?
This really came into focus for me last night at the Needham Elementary courts, where we were playing pickleball on one side and ten to twelve youths (ages 13-16ish) were playing on the adjacent court. They were gathered fairly tightly at times, having fun and messing around as kids do, seemingly oblivious to any coronavirus concerns. Maybe that’s fine and the way it should be. But the older, prone folks will pay.
Chilling note for horror movie buffs and Stephen King fans: If kids were surreptitiously at war with older people, congregating like this is exactly what they should be doing.
JUNE 23-24, 2020:
I spent three hours outside Maria’s Bookshop today (the 23rd) signing copies of my new hiking guidebook. Well, a few minutes was spent signing. Mostly it was chatting with a few customers who couldn’t by books because Maria’s was sold out, and with Sara Knight, who works for Maria’s and was taking orders for books soon to arrive.
Anyway, I had a face-cover on most of the time. Almost all the time.
The next night (the 24th) I went to a small gathering hosted by a friend to celebrate a career accomplishment. Pretty much nobody there was social distancing, and no one wore a face cover. One woman had hers available, but probably just gave up wearing it because it seemed pointless. Two women were from New Mexico, much more a coronavirus hotbed than La Plata County. I realized that this is how trusting, unassuming people contract coronavirus and spread it around.
Hopefully we did not.
JUNE 20, 2020:
The latest crisis over real or perceived racism: The Chief.
This is a 20-foot-tall Indian man, made of aluminum (I assume), painted in jeans, native vest and a feather dropping off his head. He’s several inches thick, hollow inside. He began life at The Chief Diner on north Main in the ’50s. He was bought and moved by Toh-Atin Gallery about 40 years ago and now points the way across the street from a parking area to the downtown gallery. With Confederate and white-sanctioned, racist statues being yanked down all over the country, it was a matter of time until The Chief became a target. An online petition by the progressive group Change.org garnered around 3,500-plus comments from those who want it gone. Some are Native American, some are locals embarrassed by the caricature, and others are just going with the cause du jour. (A pro-sign petition has 2,000-plus comments for keeping it.)
The Clarks, gallery owners for 60-plus years, are good people who have helped Native Americans when no one else was. They don’t want to lose The Chief, and right now are struggling through tough economic times like any business and would rather have the controversy go away.
My guess is it won’t. the times are changing, anything with a hint of racism is being cast aside, mostly with good reason. There is no malevolence behind The Chief, but that’s not the issue, as the Clarks themselves point out. Navajos are in dire straits and need serious economic help, for starters. This is a Third World reservation in a First World (right?) country.
The Chief isn’t blatantly racist, but it’s not something you’d build today and place there. It comes from a time when Indians were thought of as second-class citizens, weren’t supported by the federal government, were left in squalor on their dry, hot reservations. Oh yeah. Not much has changed.
It is time to change. Arguments for keeping him are just as hollow as The Chief himself. The Chief must go.
(Addendum: Here’s an op-ed from Fort Lewis President Tom Stritikus and Ute Mountain Ute leader House. And here’s a story about the City Council weighing in. Photo pilfered shamelessly off durangoherald.com)
JUNE 18, 2020:
Colleges could create “fertile social conditions for an epidemic spread” this fall. Even if dorms aren’t open. Yet, most colleges are planning to welcome back students in some fashion.
Colleges need students. They’re losing a ton of money now, they’re losing state and federal funding because of the slow economy, and they’ll lose more if student enrollment drops. So college officials are under a lot of pressure to open this fall. One college president, bucking the trend, in this Atlantic article says it’s a bad idea to bring students back this fall.
Yes, most students will just get a little sick from Covid-19, or might not feel anything at all. But a few will undoubtedly get hospital sick, and some might even die. And that’s not really even the issue. The more people who have it, the more it will be passed along. Meaning, obviously, that all age groups will be affected at some point. Big outbreaks will bring back stay-at-home orders and affect everyone negatively, health- and business-wise.
Should colleges, and grade schools, reopen this fall? It’s not the smart thing to do health-wise. But economically there will be pressure to do so. Interesting and life-changing choices will need to be made very soon. I’m kind of glad I’m not in charge.
JUNE 16, 2020:
This started out as a Covid-19 journal, and that subject will continue to be the bulk of it. But it’s impossible to ignore the Black Lives Matters protests because that’s become part of this strange, eventful and historic year. The two have been linked.
One of the latest issues regarding the latter has been the use of the Confederate flag. Jim and I talked about that on our sports radio show Friday. NASCAR, top organization of the good ol’ Southern boy sport of stock car racing, last week banned the flag from its tracks. This is a good thing, but it’ll be interesting to see how easy it is to enforce. Confederate flags are on T-shirts, bumper stickers, bikinis, hats, and more. Some brainiacs wear them as capes.
In 2010 I attended a NASCAR race in Bristol, Tennessee. Confederate flags were prevalent all over the South, and there were some at the Bristol track as well. It didn’t seem to me a major presence, but as you can see from the attached photo, some fans did flaunt it.
I got to thinking: Can someone skirt NASCAR’s ban by bringing a Mississippi state flag, in which one quadrant is a Confederate flag, to the track?
Interesting you bring that up John, because the Mississippi legislature is currently debating the flag. Many legislators want to rid the flag of the Confederate symbol. Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas flags are also seen by some as an ode to the Confederacy.
I see both sides of the issue. I think to some, the flag is simply honoring their past, honoring their ancestors who died for the South, honoring youngsters born into a situation in which their honor demanded they fight for their neighbors. I really do believe that. Many of my clients have had Confederate ancestors, and I would vouch that these are good people and not racist.
But the time has come to accept the other side, that to most black people the flag is a sign of racism, and it’s certainly been used that way by the neo-Nazi, right-wing, white-supremacist types.
Put the Confederate flag in museums and history books. That’s where it now belongs.
JUNE 15, 2020:
Covid-19 rates are going down. And they’re going up.
It depends who you talk to and where, and who has been ramping up their tests lately.
Arizona is a hot spot. North Carolina, too. In many other states, infection rates are dropping. It’s a mixed bag, and it’ll probably stay that way. When we let our guard down, it creeps back. And when we start going inside more this fall, it’ll probably creep back again.
That’s the thing; we just don’t know.
Historically, according to a National Geographic email newsletter (and how can you not trust National Geographic?), pandemics last more than one season. The 1918 flu kept rearing its deadly head until 1920.
And while Covid-19 is nothing to laugh at, it doesn’t come close to the virulence of the 1918 pandemic. Somewhere around 50 million people are estimated to have died worldwide back then, and I’m willing to bet the average person was younger and healthier. Covid-19 has killed fewer than 500,000 worldwide. That’s 1 percent of the deaths that occurred a century ago, and we have way more people now – something like four times as many. If Covid-19 was hoping to put a dent in the human race, it’s failing miserably.
We may be wearing masks for another year or so, epidemiologists say. But for those of you getting impatient and tired of the Covid-19 hassles, there’s hope for a vaccine. Here’s a pretty decent roundup (thanks to my really smart friend Carol) of what’s going on vaccine-wise. Some of it I even understand.
JUNE 11, 2020:
The worst thing would have been to underestimate the severity and the potential spread of Covid-19, so health experts have erred on the side of caution. So it’s probably no wonder that statistics are beginning to show the virus isn’t as lethal as feared.
The latest estimates indicate that the death rate among those who contract the virus is between 0.5 and 1 percent. Still something to be worried about, and multiple times more lethal than the common flu. It’s hard to argue that certain communities haven’t been hit hard by this thing, and it’s not something you want to spread around if it’s possible to avoid.
It should be emphasized that these estimates are from one or two studies, but it likely is fairly representative. See the story here.
The Indiana Department of Health studied more than 4,600 people, most being selected by random. Results showed about 3 percent of those tested had the virus at some point, and about 45 percent of those infected felt no symptoms of the disease. The death rate was very low, about 0.58 percent, or 1 of every 172 people infected.
A New York study revealed similar results.
Older adults, and those whose health is already compromised, have higher death rates, as we’ve learned and have come to expect.
What doesn’t get talked about much, including in this linked story, is how many people suffer long-term effects from battling Covid-19. There may be a much higher percentage of people who end up with chronic heart or lung or other diseases due to the virus. Trust me, some people are very worried about this possibility.
JUNE 9, 2020:
Little by little, our thoughts are shifting from “coronavirus all the time” to “business as usual.” It’s going to take a while, and there will be probably be some jolts back and forth, but the shift is there.
I think it’s good. It means I can, say, go play tennis and not worry every moment about how close I am on the court to my partner. It means I can ride my bike past a small group at the trailhead and say “hi” just like normal and not think twice, it’s all right. (That was a fairly oblique Dylan reference, by the way.)
It doesn’t mean, however, that every time my throat seems just a little bit sore, or I feel just a little bit worn down, or I start sneezing, that it doesn’t enter my mind that, “Oh my God! I have coronavirus!!!” So far every time I’ve thought this, two weeks have passed without anything really drastic happening to my body. No hospitalizations, no breathing tubes, no forced comas. I and everyone I know at all well has been fortunate.
The virus is out there. The more we keep that in mind, the less prevalent it will become. But also the more we keep that in mind, the more it will distract us from what’s good about life and worth living for. So there’s a tradeoff. I think I have a good balance, but caution remains.
You never know …
JUNE 6, 2020:
We’re letting down our guards a little, or a lot, and I think I’m fine with that, but I’m sure it heightens the chances for us (as a community, as a country) to produce more outbreaks of coronavirus.
I just visited a client, actually two sisters whose mother was the subject of a family history. I showed up with my face cover around my neck, and we all agreed as I entered that we were fine without the face covers. We’d just sit fairly far apart across a table. Other than trying not to laugh or talk too loudly at them, I didn’t worry too much about it.
The tricky thing with Covid-19, of course, is that you can be an asymptomatic disease spreader for days or a couple of weeks. The state is currently hiring “tracers” – workers who will trace the contacts of those who test positive and warn them, and try to get them to self-isolate for a while or to get tested. One of the sisters said her daughter is applying for a “tracer” job.
When I returned home I got a text from our across-the-street neighbor. She was talking and laughing with Judy last evening like they were old friends, and they were not thinking a whole lot about distancing. Today our neighbor says she is experiencing “low grade fever, aches, fatigue, sore throat, sniffles. No need to panic and I will keep you posted.” (She didn’t have Judy’s cell number so she sent me the text.)
I am not panicking, but I will certainly not go anywhere close to Judy for a couple of weeks.
JUNE 5, 2020:
Cross & Peel is a half-hour sports radio talk show on every Friday morning at 9 on KDUR-FM, the station at Fort Lewis College. You can also get it at kdur.org. Cross and Peel do the talking. I am Peel. Too complicated to take calls since you need a third person.
Anyway, we’ve been doing this show for 4½ years. At first I was very nervous. I’m a writer by trade, not a talker. But it got better and I learned to just talk to one person instead of thinking about everyone who might be listening. It became a little easier when I realized the audience isn’t exactly NYC-drive time-big.
Today’s show was one of the most intense I’ve done. We discussed the Black Lives Matter protests in regard to the death of George Floyd. Mostly we stuck to the ramifications it has to the sports world, and the good and bad reactions that players have had. What made me nervous was the thought of possibly saying something that could be misconstrued, or taken as being out of touch or naïve. I realized that, when you’re thinking on your feet, it’s easy to say stupid things. Our show is certainly not scripted. So I gained some sympathy for people who do this for a living. And even for politicians who have to go on live radio or TV and say meaningful things that don’t come out sounding like a press release. It’s not easy.
We talked about Drew Brees apologizing for saying that he would never kneel during the anthem because it disrespects the flag. We talked about Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio apologizing for saying there was no racism in the NFL. We’re all learning during this crisis, and many of us are listening and evaluating our own attitudes; that’s the point I wanted to make.
I don’t think I said anything hurtful or insensitive. But I was sweating by the end of the show. If your curiosity if piqued, you can still listen. Here’s the link.
JUNE 4, 2020:
It’s summer and it’s hard not to get the travel bug. Is it worth the risk?
I found this story from National Geographic that discusses multiple aspects of travel, and some things to think about – probably some you’ve already considered, and I bet many you haven’t. I’m not going to fly for a while, but many people will. The story says that it’s more likely you’ll catch Covid-19 standing in line at security than when you’re actually on the plane. I wouldn’t have thought that. Interesting.
Drive if you can, stay in nicer motels than we did in Loveland (see May 29), and avoid crowds. You know the drill.
JUNE 3, 2020:
It’s almost getting to the point where I barely think about coronavirus. I noticed that when I ran five errands yesterday morning. I almost forgot to don my face cover before heading into Backcountry Experience, City Market, and Creature Comforts. I don’t worry so much about personal spacing, or touching the same items that someone has just touched.
I believe we’re all getting used to the “new normal.” But I also think that a week of protests, often violent, has shifted our minds briefly off the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus is still hovering around, but there’s only so much we can do to keep it away if we want to resume any semblance of the “old normal.” The “old normal” is many months away.
* * *
If you haven’t seen a summary of how the George Floyd incident went down, you probably should. Granted, it’s not that fun to watch. Here is the New York Times’ version with photos and video.
JUNE 2, 2020:
I guess I should tell you about my Trump dream.
I was with two other friends and we got into a sedan driven by Trump, me in the front passenger seat.
I was trying to get along with Trump, and I could sense my friends were not so inclined. I’m not one to be immediately confrontational, and really, what good would that do? He’s heard all the criticism and would quickly dismiss you if you took that attitude. Better, perhaps, to weasel into his tiny, underdeveloped soul and make changes from within? Or is that just selling out?
He started driving us up a hill, and I noticed our car listing to the right. I looked over and he was asleep! I nudged him pretty hard and thought that would wake him, but in another moment we were listing again to the right and he was once again dozing.
The sedan came to a stop and began rolling backward. I was worried about hitting a car behind us, so I yanked back on the emergency brake – one of those you pull, and one that happened to be within easy reach of the passenger.
We continued heading backward no matter how hard I pulled, and about that time I woke up. And if I was one to analyze dreams I would think this was all very symbolic.
JUNE 1, 2020:
All else is unimportant today, as Christo has died.
What, you don’t know Christo? If you don’t, then it’s not for his lack of trying.
Christo decorated nature and buildings in gigantic ways. I remember him most because he wanted to lay miles of colorful fabric over the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City. His huge plans were dialed back, and ultimately scrapped after a couple decades of effort when people protested.
As I recall, the river runners weren’t too thrilled – nothing like drowning because you’re tangled in a bunch of cloth while navigating a difficult and dangerous rapid.
This has nothing to do with protest or coronavirus. It just deserves to be noted. That is all.
* * *
President Obama wrote an editorial about how to use this moment to improve racial discourse, and how to bring about change. Protesting is one way, but getting out to vote is extremely important. Hopefully these protesting youngsters find time to vote in five months.
Mr. Trump is just incapable of grasping this moment to do good, so our leadership must come from elsewhere. Even George W. Bush took the time to write about how our country needs to unite at this crucial moment.
MAY 31, 2020:
The arrow was green when I started through the intersection. I know it was. It was yellow as I pulled through, and I never saw it turn red.
This was 1977; I was 16. I drove three or four blocks and pulled into Der Wienerschnitzel, a few minutes before my 3:30 p.m. shift. I was surprised when a police car pulled in just after I did, lights flashing. What was up? A robbery in progress?
The Lakewood officer was busting me, as it turned out. Can’t remember if I was already out of the car at that point. I don’t think so. I showed him my driver’s license and registration for the hand-me-down Olds Delmont 88, once my grandfather’s car. He let me go with a warning for running a red arrow. I suppose I listened to him earnestly while thinking, “You just embarrassed me at work for running a green/yellow arrow?” I have never in my lifetime NOT run a green arrow, even when I knew it was about to turn yellow.
So, I remain convinced to this day, the only thing that makes any sense: I was pulled over for looking too young. I was short for a 16-year-old, and young looking for a 16-year-old.
People are discriminated against for many reasons – being male, driving a hot car, or, as we all realize, for being black.
Fortunately I soon grew up; I changed my skin, so to speak. But black people will never be white. They will always fee that discrimination, and always have to deal with that. Some handle it better, more calmly, than others. Sometimes there are bad policemen who sew mistrust toward the rest of the force. Sometimes the wrong two people collide – bad cop, black man with a little bit of attitude – and really bad things happen.
I will never totally understand, first-hand, this discrimination. But I do know that a black man should not die for committing the equivalent crime of running a green arrow.
MAY 30, 2020:
You lost your job, Covid-19 remains a threat, you believe your leader is a fascist thug, your future seems glum, and police have murdered another black man. And, you still have a ton of energy because you’re young.
Yeah, I just don’t see why these people are out there protesting.
A great many Americans get it. They understand why people are upset. But at some point, usually around dark, these protests get destructive and pointless. Maybe some think they rightfully have to make a big scene, be confrontational, to get their point across. Maybe they think they have to fight back against the police.
If I think back far enough I can remember a time I would’ve been tempted to join the protest.
Maybe I’m a college student in Des Moines. And my black football player friend, or my black journalism classmate, asks me to come downtown because this protest needs to be multiracial. My white roommate says yeah, we should go check it out. So we do, and we take video with our phones and we post it on Facebook or TikTok so our friends know we’re there.
And we feel heroic, like we’re sticking up for our black friends and we’re trying to make a difference and bring racial justice to the world. And I just hope this young kid has the sense to go home at dark and not get caught up in the weirdness and not get hurt.
MAY 29, 2020:
Tourists are beginning to trickle into Colorado. A very steady and strong trickle. That’s one thing we noticed on our drive up from Durango to Loveland today.
Around South Fork, lots of Texas plates, as one might expect. As we neared Denver the traffic became thicker, but not quite the masses normal for a Friday afternoon.
We stopped to pee in the forest a couple of times, trying to avoid any unnecessary contact with the world. Only went into one gas station, near Conifer.
If you travel much, I can see how differing regulations from county to county and city to city would be tough to follow. In Durango we have to wear a mask in any public place where you can’t social distance – basically where you can’t allow at least 6 feet. I don’t think those are the rules here, but that’s what I’m used to and what I expect.
When we checked into the motel here in Loveland the lady clerk was not wearing a mask although we were. At the Subway we went to, everyone wore a mask. After further study, it appears Loveland and Fort Collins have basically the same rules as Durango.
Loveland has opened up tennis courts and dog parks, and is trying to figure out how best to open up the rec center, museums, and more.
We’re all adjusting to this new reality. Not easy to do, but it’s happening. The new reality just seems so unreal.
MAY 28, 2020:
Baseball seems highly unlikely in 2020. So strange. We were about to have a season in March, then came coronavirus and the necessary shutdown. Now that it’s feasible to play again, the owners and players can’t come to an agreement on salaries.
There’s a long history here, and it’s pretty amazing that there hasn’t actually been a long strike since the last half of the 1994 season was wiped out by a labor agreement impasse. The players union is strong, but the owners are the owners and don’t like to be pushed around. They also really do have a limit as to how much loss they want to absorb. Once the owners’ offer to the players came out yesterday, it started sinking in to me that the two sides are so far apart, and both are so sure this agreement will affect future agreements, that it’s just not going to happen.
Perhaps there will be baseball in 2021. Maybe it’s better to just wait to 2021 anyway, due to safety reasons and not being able to have fans in the stands in 2020. It’s just so pathetic that this is coming down not to player safety protocol, but salary.
Right now I will predict no baseball in 2020. There almost certainly won’t be an agreement by the deadline (around the first week or second week in June) to get things cranked up by July 4. The motivation is just not there to get it done.
We’ll survive. I’ve found plenty of other things to do, and there are other sports on the way. I just prefer baseball and enjoy the pennant chase.
It’s just really disappointing.
MAY 27, 2020:
You want the good news or the bad news first?
OK, here’s the bad news. The CEO of Ballantine Communications, the guy who oversees and ostensibly nurtures the Durango Herald, does not wear a mask inside South City Market. I will admit that I saw him only in the foyer today, or whatever that area is called between the inside and outside doors, but he did not have on a mask and was not in the motion of taking one off as he exited.
If I didn’t have antagonism toward this guy already – for gutting the Herald with little regard to its history or importance to the community, and for many more reasons – this episode cemented the feeling. The CEO of a major Durango business cannot deign to wear a mask, as is the law in the city?
There is no excuse; not even “I forgot” works here. He certainly can’t claim ignorance – unless he wants to say he doesn’t read his own paper, online or print version. He’s an important community player – or at least should be – and if nothing else needs to set an example.
Well, enough of that.
The good news is that Maria’s Bookshop is nearing a reopening. The shop had scheduled a big remodeling this spring, coincidental to the coronavirus pandemic. So while it would have had to shut anyway, the remodeling began. While delivering a copy of my about-to-be-released hiking guidebook (see the plug there?) this morning, I got a quick tour from co-owner Peter Schertz. More room was added for upstairs offices, and more room for downstairs book display. And it seemed to have a less clustered feeling, which will play well in the Covid-19 era.
It could open as soon as this week, but my feeling was that a few more days will be needed to finish up.
In any case, Durango’s popular, independent shop will be open in plenty of time for the planned June 23 release of my book (another plug!).
MAY 26, 2020:
Quick note to any concerned readers out there: I think I’ll stop trying to do an entry a day. Too much pressure.
MAY 25, 2020:
Restaurants can re-open in Colorado in a couple of days. The governor said so today.
He suggested it’s safer to stay at home, but if you really want to go out, we have a bunch of rules to follow and hopefully you won’t get sick if you follow them.
Meanwhile, Durango is working out new rules to create more outdoor dining space: using parking spots along Main, or even closing off the whole street as a pedestrian mall. It’s high time to do this, in my opinion.
* * *
A special Memorial Day thought to those soldiers who died while representing us. I always think of my World War II veteran Dad when thinking of military vets, but this thought is for those who didn’t survive. My cousin Bob Peel, age 19, died in 1971 of meningitis while training at Fort Ord, California. A victim, indirectly, of the Vietnam War.
MAY 24, 2020:
They were soaked, but they played through the rain, which earns them even more bonus points. The live, televised golf match today between Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning and Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady was a very welcome sports event, as contrived as it may have been.
They played hard, had fun, showed it could be done, and entertained a sports public dying for a new, live event that at least seemed in the ballpark of being real.
A camaraderie existed within the foursome, and that same feeling of togetherness carried over the distance to the viewers at home. You could feel there were millions of other Americans watching from sea to shining sea, and you could sense that connection.
Excuse me if I don’t place the blood sport of mixed-martial arts in the category of real sports, but I’m not into watching things where half the audience thinks it would be really cool if one of the competitors dies. And auto racing is OK, and I’m not going to knock it, but not among my big four or five.
Because NFL superstars were involved in this golf match that brought together four paragons of sport, this was truly an event that could attract a large and diverse audience.
MAY 23, 2020:
About 200 people marched from the train parking lot west of McDonald’s to Main Avenue and north through downtown on Friday evening.
At least on one level, I do see why they’re upset. We need to fire up businesses and get people working again so we can all pay our bills. But I can’t abide the blind anger. These people are mad that the American dream is collapsing (it had to someday), and that this virus isn’t helping, and that rural areas should probably be treated differently than big cities.
But I’m watching the video and it’s hard to be impressed. To make signs that say, “0.4 percent chance of getting COVID” is ridiculous in on a couple of levels. First, the young woman with the sign used incorrect figures. It’s really even less, at least to her way of thinking, because 74 out of the county’s 58,000 people have been diagnosed with it, which is just 0.12 percent. She used the city population figure of 19,000. (A guy following her had an even less accurate sign: “Wuhan Flu cases La Plata County .0012095 %)
This is addressed to the sign wielders – not you, oh perceptive reader – but to explain the obvious: If we weren’t social distancing and wearing masks, the figure would be way higher, you numbskulls!!
MAY 22, 2020:
To continue on with yesterday’s line of thinking:
It’s so clear why we’re in such dire straits in this country: Our far left and right wings take a side and then simply try to show they are right or try to show the other side is wrong. There is no debate, there is no more thinking when new information comes up. They have bought into their side so heavily that contrary evidence must be hidden, or ignored, or explained away. They are so entrenched that it is more important to stay with their arguments than see the truth.
The mask issue is a classic example. What we should be doing is agreeing that, yes, right wing folks, we can be brave and open up more businesses and allow more freedom of movement, but also, yes, left wingers, we should wear masks, not gather in large groups, and do the best we can to stave off major outbreaks of coronavirus at least until a vaccine is developed.
That last paragraph seems like kindergarten logic to me, but it’s not where our politics are. So frustrating.
Maybe sometime I will talk more about “The Radical Moderate Party,” that third party that we need so badly.
MAY 21, 2020:
I once interviewed Phil Lyman on the phone. It was 2014, I believe. He was a commissioner of San Juan County, in Utah’s southeastern corner. The county is huge, lightly populated, home to part of Canyonlands National Park, much of canyon country, and the northwestern part of Navajo Nation.
Back in 2014 Lyman was organizing a group of ATVers to ride through Recapture Canyon, a BLM wilderness near Blanding that is closed to motorized vehicles. He was protesting the fact that the feds had closed off land uses that had once been acceptable. There were other issues there with the feds, who had been arresting and prosecuting locals for hunting and dealing ancestral Puebloan pots and relics. The ATV ride captured national attention, and brought the famous Bundy family from Nevada to “help” out. The Bundys, you may remember, had held an armed standoff earlier that year with the BLM over grazing rights.
Anyway, Phil Lyman, now a Utah state House rep, is back in the news for saying basically this: If the federal government tells me to wear a mask, I will not wear one. If my doctor tells me to, I will. And if the federal government tells me not to wear a mask, I will. Interesting logic. Perhaps it’s possible to utilize a little reverse psychology on this guy – and others who think like him?
MAY 20, 2020:
Would cyclists ignore the fact that the Iron Horse has been canceled, and that Silverton is shut off to visitors, and ride their bikes from Durango to Silverton regardless?
That is the worry of State Patrol and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. (Silverton is the seat of San Juan County, mainly because it’s where four-fifths of the 700 or so county residents live.) Silverton – and the backcountry surrounding it, even though it’s mostly federal land – has been declared off limits to visitors.
It’s rumored that cyclists have been gathering in Durango over the last few days, and many plan on doing the ride Saturday, the day it was scheduled. Perhaps these cyclists are angry that they paid their $100 entry fee and were denied both the chance of doing the ride and 70 percent of their entry fee.
The San Juan sheriff is hopeful he doesn’t have to barricade the main street (Greene) heading into town Saturday, and that he doesn’t see a bunch of vehicles congregated, waiting for riders to arrive in town for a shuttle back to Silverton. It’s another one of those things that 58-year-old John rolls his eyes at, but 22-year-old John might be tempted to try.
MAY 19, 2020:
Within two days we’ve received orders to wear a mask in public and to not burn anything. The world hasn’t quite come to an end here, but some days it seems that way.
The city actually hasn’t yet passed the ordinance (that might happen Thursday) that will make it law to wear a face covering when within 6 feet of others in public places in town. The Health Department has been recommending something similar to this, of course, since March.
Even though it’s ridiculously obvious that face coverings lower the rate of spread, some people feel that wearing them (and protecting others by doing so) is an infringement on their comfort and their rights as Americans.
How can you argue with such nonsense?
Meanwhile, the city has banned open fires, as has the National Forest since April. It’s really, really dry here.
MAY 18, 2020:
Here’s a really interesting (if not scientific) look at how our exercise habits have changed during this global pandemic. It’s a country-by-country look.
The United States and Russia may have fought a Cold War for many years, but we both are into indoor cycling. Canadians and Australians have been doing more hiking than ever. Take this story with a grain of salt, because it was put together by Garmin, and they are a big company but they don’t know everything. But it does seem to ring true.
There’s a worldwide decrease of 12 percent in steps taken per day. Simultaneously, workout activities have increased, apparently to make up for that decrease. Or maybe it’s just because people have more time to work out, or more opportunity – it’s easier to spin on your Peloton for 30 minutes when it’s in the same room and you don’t have to shower, or even get dressed again, after the workout.
The link above is to Part III of a series. If you need more from Garmin about these pandemic exercise trends, here’s Part II. And Part I. (Full disclosure: I read everything I link to on this blog, but I haven’t read these fully. I think Part III tells you most of what you need to know.)
Thanks to my friend Steve for the link. And now I’m going to Google “Zwift” to see what the heck that is.
MAY 17, 2020:
People are beginning to travel more. I noticed on Facebook that a Denver friend of mine went to Moab this weekend for a jeeping/mountain biking trip. People around Durango are getting higher and higher in the mountains, and ignoring the 10-mile rule. (The guv says to recreate 10 miles or less from your home.)
Tourists will likely start showing up here, and there are businesses that will encourage this. There lies the possibility, of course, that these tourists will also bring their Covid-19 with them from Texas, or Louisiana, or Europe, or wherever. Kind of a scary thought, but that’s the deal when your economy relies on tourism, right?
I’m trying not to judge, because meanwhile, we are going to visit Judy’s parents next weekend. That means an 8-hour drive from Durango to Loveland, a couple of gas stops, and maybe a visit to a Subway or other sandwich shop along the way. And a two-night stay at a motel.
It’ll be a little tricky because it is strongly urged, but not enforced, that we do not enter the independent living building where Allen and Dorine reside. My idea was to just meet outside for a couple of hours at a time – just to be able to see them and give whatever emotional support that might provide. Maybe we can bring them some supplies they need.
But undoubtedly we will be invited inside, and if we have to use a restroom while we’re there, well, there’s really no place else to go. I will try to resist being in their building any more than possible, but we’ll see how it goes.
MAY 16, 2020:
We shouldn’t expect Don Trump to speak eloquently about coronavirus. It’s science, and science has no place in his lexicon. Come to think of it, the word lexicon has no place in his lexicon, so he wouldn’t even know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, I’m going to try to make his case for him, to explain what he meant when he said something about testing being “overrated” because it shows there are more cases of Covid-19 than we really deserve to have. It makes us look bad compared to other countries.
It’s kind of like when people carry a bad gene, and when they mate with another person with that bad gene, there’s a chance their offspring could end up with that bad gene. If you test and discover this, then it screws up the people thinking about mating, and they might not get together at all because of the fear of passing on their bad gene.
So, doing all this coronavirus testing is bumping up the totals of positive tests and merely making us more fearful to go out in public. Most of those people tested aren’t even feeling that poorly and might not even pass it on, particularly if they are wearing masks and social distancing. On the other hand, if we tested only when we had reason to suspect someone has coronavirus, the numbers would be lower, and we would be less fearful because we wouldn’t even know about the danger lurking.
It’s like, if you knew that 1 out of 100 people who went to ski at Purgatory were going to break a leg, that’s what you’d think about, instead of going skiing and having a great time.
You follow that?
Well, sorry Donald, I tried.
MAY 15, 2020:
This date left intentionally blank. (I got busy.)
MAY 14, 2020:
Harm reduction, not pandemic shaming, learning to live with the virus. This Atlantic story, which makes an interesting comparison between Covid-19 and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, says just about everything important I believe needs to be said. (And it’s not horribly long.) We have to open up, but do it INTELLIGENTLY. We can do it, right?
MAY 13, 2020:
It’s basically been two months since the curtain fell on the stage that was our pre-Covid-19 lives. I still remember watching the Denver Nuggets-Dallas Mavericks game on March 11 when the announcement came that the NBA season had been suspended. Two players on the Utah Jazz had tested positive for coronavirus.
My apologies if I relate too many life events to sports, but that’s how I am. And to anyone watching, sports fan or not, if it hadn’t hit home already, this was a sure sign of the official end of normalcy. Sports don’t suspend seasons for a virus. For wars, sometimes. For 9-11, yeah for a couple days. For players strikes, sure.
But never for anything like this.
If it hadn’t sunk in before, I knew from that moment that it would be a long time before we would greet each other without worrying about personal barriers. The fact that it’s been two months and we’re still isolating as best we can is a bit disappointing, but not a shock.
The NBA is still on hold but hoping to finish the season in the summer or fall. Baseball is making rumblings about returning by July 4. The NFL is set to start on time in September. The thing that’s frighteningly clear, however, is that if these sports resume, they’ll have to have the mindset that one player’s positive test does not stop everything. Because it’s going to happen.
Distancing, testing, tracing – it’ll all have to be figured out intelligently. And I believe it can be. But it’s going to take some courage. And some players – those with certain conditions such as diabetes, previous bouts with cancer – just shouldn’t play this season. Too risky.
Those in charge, when they raise the curtain on major U.S. sports, will be crossing their fingers. And probably their toes too.
MAY 12, 2020:
We have tickets to an outdoor concert this summer in Denver, July 28 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It’s the Hella Mega Tour, presented by Harley-Davidson. So we planned to ride our Harley there, tailgate the night before the show with a couple of cases of Bud Lite, and get whopping sunburns while moshing for hours on end until we were trampled by our rowdy friends who also love Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer.
The first two sentences are true.
I’ve been checking periodically to see if the concert is still a go. So far it is, although other shows on the tour up to a couple weeks before the Denver date have been postponed. Here’s the deal though: There’s no way we’re going to go. I’m not going, Judy’s not going, and my nephew and his girlfriend are more worried about germs than we are.
I’m hoping they postpone (or cancel), and I’m pretty sure they will. Otherwise, we’ll be looking for a few people who think they can survive the Hella Mega Tour in the Covid-19 era to take the (expensive) tickets off our hands.
(P.S. – Tell me that’s not a cool poster.)
MAY 11, 2020:
First coronavirus death in La Plata County! Nothing to celebrate, but something to note. It was an adult, and it was announced over the weekend. That is all I can tell you.
So far there are 66 confirmed cases in our county of 60,000 or so, and 10 are hospitalized. Surely the numbers of cases will grow by quite a bit, either from more testing or a spreading of the disease.
During this crisis I’ve tried to understand more about how the flu and colds are passed around. Of course we don’t know exactly when and how this specific virus is transmitted, and how easy that transmission is, but we do have some idea how it happens.
My friend Steve linked me to two videos that, while not scientific, are fun, disgusting, and actually pretty informative from those fun-loving dudes at Mythbusters. This is about how to sneeze safely. (If you’re not sneezing into the crook of your elbow …). And this is about how easy it is to pass around germs at a party.
And for extra credit, you can watch this about how far an uncovered sneeze travels. (Spoiler: More than a couple inches.)
MAY 10, 2020:
I could tell you about this morning’s trip to Kroeger’s, and how almost everyone is wearing face-shields these days, and how the couple walking around without face shields stuck out and struck me as immoral and selfish, but maybe I’ve already said something like that. So I’ll discuss something else.
I’ve been pushing to “open up” the economy in an intelligent way for quite a while, and I think this backs up that position, so maybe you should read this because it’s more intelligent than anything I feel I can add on this Sunday afternoon when I should be outside working on a house project. It’s a gamble to open up; if we knew when a vaccine would be ready, this decision would be immensely easier. Sweden is gambling the vaccine is a long way off, and they’ll look stupid if it’s instead a couple months away because people will have died needlessly.
I’m already of the opinion that Baby Boomers are robbing and will continue to rob the coming generation in myriad ways (skyrocketing deficits, environmental damage, staggering Social Security payments, for starters), and that shutting down the economy benefits Baby Boomers (basically the plus-60 age group) way more than the 50-under group. So maybe Baby Boomers need to bite the bullet this time. We’ll need some goodwill when we get really old and aren’t in charge anymore, and youngsters will be wheeling us around and feeding us meds and making us comfortable – or torturing us and laughing behind our backs because we robbed them.
I’m not siding with Trump, per se, but just because he says something doesn’t necessarily means it’s always wrong. If he says golf is a fun pastime, I’m going to agree. I just won’t drive my cart across the green.
Anyway, here’s the link, and don’t worry, this isn’t the typical long Atlantic story.
MAY 9, 2020:
This blog, written by a researcher on infectious disease, is a great look at where the dangers lie in contracting Covid-19 or other virus. How much of the virus is in a cough, or breath? I learned, for one: don’t work in a meat-packing plant. Don’t be around anyone who might sneeze or cough anywhere near you, particularly in an enclosed room.
If you’re like me, and who isn’t?, this will make you more paranoid about some things (public bathrooms) and less paranoid about others (grocery store shopping). There is lots more here, very good info to consider: Knowing and avoiding risks.
MAY 8, 2020:
A neighborhood driveway party was held tonight for Doug and Patty, who are moving to Seattle to be closer to a child and grandchild. Not the easiest time to move, but they seem to be pulling it off.
I felt a little uneasy going to this gathering of 15 or so people (10 is the legal limit), with fold-out tables in the garage where food was splayed out. Pizza, grapes, cookies, brownies (mmm). Everyone brought their own drinks and chairs. I think we held the transmission-danger level fairly low, but still, only one person wore a face cover, and some people had no problem getting right up into your face to talk.
I brought a face cover but didn’t use it; guess I just went along with the crowd, which was all older and more vulnerable than I am. We didn’t stay too long, and I didn’t talk to a lot of people. It was outdoors. Everything like that is a judgment call these days, but I think overall the gathering was probably OK.
MAY 7, 2020:
A few days ago I bought two Mother’s Day cards at City Market and brought them home for Judy to choose from. Today she brought back the one she didn’t use to the service desk. However, they are not taking returns at the moment because of the virus. This makes sense for a lot of items, I suppose, but probably isn’t a large issue for a paper greeting card. Many cards on the shelves are being touched repeatedly anyway.
So Judy kept the card, did her shopping, and as she went down the card aisle, just returned the card to the proper place. Ha! That’ll serve ’em right for not giving a refund!
MAY 6, 2020:
A couple of things happened today that made me feel I’m living a slightly different existence from others at the moment.
We (finally) got the sod for the strip of land between the sidewalk and house. To set the stage – and this is hard to explain, partly because I don’t understand it all – but there’s a layer of bureaucracy among the subdivision division developers (the Southern Ute Growth Fund), construction companies (our is Shaw), those companies’ subcontractors (various), and maybe even their subcontractors (perhaps the sod layers, Advance Designs Land & Waterscapes, among them). I am not privy to the underworkings of all these layers. And that’s fine; spare me from that loop. But I’m still the owner of this house.
So a guy rings the doorbell at 3 p.m. or so to set the sprinklers for our new sod. OK. He can just tell me approximately what the schedule should be, right? But maybe it’s easier for him to do it, since he does this stuff every day. So I don’t argue and let him around the back gate and we meet at the sprinkler control box on the outside south wall. I’m still trying to decipher this box, and he’s actually fairly helpful explaining, although he’s having trouble talking to my level of (un)expertise. He sets up the system as I try to watch and understand.
To the point: He is not social distancing and has given no indication that’s even a thought entering his brain. He’s wearing no face covering – which I have to say I’m not going to judge, because I’m not outside in the 75-to-80-degree heat all day working and sweating. He doesn’t care about getting within a foot or two of me, or if I get close enough (which unfortunately is pretty close) to see how he’s programming the system.
The second time I felt out of synch with the rest of the world was when we ordered take-out from Taco Boy. I called and placed the order with a guy who, while not rude, was not helpful to someone trying to figure out what kind of meats, salsas, etc., were available for our menu choices.
We biked to pick up the order, a tough 2-minute ride on empty sidewalks. As I went inside, Judy guarded the bikes from the hordes passing by in downtown Three Springs. (That’s right, nobody.) On the glass entrance door there’s a lengthy typed note explaining the protocol for entering, but the guy inside was obviously waiting for me, so I pulled my face cover over my mouth and went in.
The worker had noface cover, which I assume is illegal – workers in everyother establishment I’ve entered in the last several weeks have worn face covers – and remained less than helpful when I inquired about pico de gallo and other salsas available. OK, fine.
It was fine but unsettling that I was the only customer within miles, and almost comical when he said, “So you ordered the chimichanga and the tacos?” He seemed startled when I inquired about how business has been, and when I wished him good luck. Maybe he’s simply used to dealing with regulars right now.
I do wonder if health inspectors from San Juan Basin Health, which has been active and adamant and seemingly in control of slowing our “opening up,” is coming around to check up on our local establishments right now. Maybe it’s my responsibility to tell restaurant employees to wear face covers?
Doubt I’ll return to Taco Boy soon, even though it’s the only restaurant within 3 miles. It’s the service, and, call me shallow, something about the name “Taco Boy” that just weirds me out a little.
MAY 5, 2020:
When I arrived at the downtown Bread bakery right around 9 a.m., I was prepared for the usual parking battle. I was stunned to see one car parked on Eighth Street between Main and East Second. Too many choices of where to park!
Still weird after 6 to 8 weeks of “stay-at-home” orders, and this week’s transition to “safer-at-home.”
The door to Bread was open. Nobody around, but it must be open. Two others waited in line as I walked in tentatively, donning my Hoo-rag face cover.
I had one more errand to run, and bumped into my friend Kirk, who owns a downtown hotel, and now owns a beard. I barely recognized him. Tough time for hotel/motels, restaurants, any business that relies on walk-in customers. Any struggling business that has been looking for a reason to shut down permanently will probably be doing so soon.
MAY 4, 2020:
How frustrating that the debate we should be having over the best way to handle this coronavirus is missing from any kind of public setting, such as Congress, or even state houses, at least to my knowledge.
Shouldn’t there be some honest-to-goodness task force filled with medical and social experts, as well as a smattering of governors and congressmen/women, and business leaders, who debate the best course of action?
Well, yes, there should be. And it would certainly not be perfect. But it would be better than the incoherent and uncoordinated response that our country is using. (I again posit that we’re probably now just too damn populated and uncompromising for this to be possible.)
This debate is being held piecemeal, in the news media and on social media – the latter of which leads to all sorts of questionable results. Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, gets somewhere toward the heart of the debate we should be having in this April 28 column. (Thanks Matt for leading me to it.) Check out the public comments (NYT Picks) with the column, which offer some well-reasoned thoughts and counter-arguments.
Friedman talks about Sweden’s response, which may or may not work out well in the end. (I wrote about this back on April 8.) If a vaccine or therapy comes along soon, then shelter-in-place was the best option. But if we have to wait another year or year-and-a-half, then that’s just too long to hide from the virus. We’ll have to ultimately choose business health over human health.
Anecdotally, I think society is already leaning toward the Swedish model that Friedman discusses. At least we are here. That’s just the way people are acting. Youths are obviously getting together, throwing parties, whatever, and the 60-plus population continues to social distance with face-coverings. It’s a pretty laissez-faire attitude, but in the end it might actually be the best approach.
* * *
A much bigger concern: I have not been uppercasing Covid-19. Should I be?
It’s an acronym for COronaVIrus Disease 2019, which in more official medical lingo is SARS-CoV-2.
I haven’t been writing COVID-19 because I think it looks stupid and ugly and takes up too much space. The Associated Press says you should make it uppercase – actually it doesn’t say anything, it just all-uppercases Covid-19 on its newly released coronavirus entry. The New York Times, however, does it my way, assuming its consistent with Friedman’s column.
MAY 3, 2020:
Maybe you can categorize people and their attitudes toward Covid-19 in one of three ways:
Ignorant: “I don’t even know if this thing exists, no one I know has it, and it’s not as bad as they say it is. It’s just a nasty flu.”
Fatalistic: “Well, I’ll take a few precautions but I don’t think I’ll get it, and if I do, I’ll deal with it.”
Paranoid: “Did someone just touch that door handle? Where’s my disinfectant? Where’s my antibacterial gel?”
People have reasons for falling into one of these categories, and sometimes they’re good reasons. If you’re immunocompromised, it behooves you to be careful. These people might survive a battle with this coronavirus, but they also might come out of it in far worse shape than they were beforehand. That’s not a fun thought. My sister, with MS, tends toward this category.
If you don’t believe in science and don’t trust the government, you’ll fall more easily into the “ignorant” category.
I think most of us land in the middle. We don’t worry too much about it, and we don’t think we’re going to get it, and if we do we’ll stay home for a couple of weeks and it’ll be fine. And that might be ignorant, but (and I get the irony here) we just don’t know yet.
MAY 2, 2020:
Not contracting the virus is all about lowering your odds, right? But where does our responsibility end? With ourselves, our family, our friends, our neighbors, with strangers? Do we scold or at least give dirty looks to people in the cereal aisle who have no face-cover? I have no answers (sorry), just some thoughts.
It’s good to see, at least around here, a plethora of face-coverings now being worn. Most are bandannas or similar varieties, such as what I’m wearing now, a brand called “Hoo-rag.” I’d say that on my grocery and hardware stops yesterday, 75 percent of customers and all employees (now by law) were wearing them.
Here is more information on when/why/who cloth face-coverings help. You may know all this, but it’s a good review. Warning: It’s from the CDC, so if you’re one of them conspiracy theorists, it won’t help you.
If you prefer Fox News, well even their favorite expert, Dr. Oz, grudgingly says face coverings are better than nothing (and gets in a plug for hydroxychloroquine – did I spell that right? – while he’s at it). A couple weeks later Dr. Oz, who actually sounds sane even though he may not quite look it (he didn’t “backpedal” quite like the headline says), agreed that how and when to administer hydroxychloroquine was still an open question:
OK, that took me down a rabbit hole.
What I was trying to get at here is that doing what we can to decrease the chances of getting Covid-19 ultimately means decreasing our exposure. Limit trips to grocery stores, hardware stores, etc.. Be aware of your social distancing. Get away quickly from people who aren’t wearing face-coverings and are sloppy talkers. (You know the kind – spittle going every which way, plenty of spurting when properly pronouncing “p’s.”)
So, that’s what you can control. The harder part is when, or if, to police others. I tend to shy away from this and let the authorities speak for me. But what if, like my sister, you see that your neighbor (who works in a Covid ward!) is throwing a party for possibly 15-20 people, definitely more than 10? Do you go over there and join in? Do you call them and say knock it off? Do you call the police? Do you leave threatening notes under all their windshield wipers and scare the bejesus out of them?
As an older, responsible adult, I see the world differently than I would have 30 or 40 years ago. I know that. But when I see several skateboarders chatting face-to-face my first thought is they should all have face-coverings. They are immortal, they are cool, they don’t understand the risks to themselves (actually very low), and they just don’t care about the risks to others.
People gotta party. They want to get together. Americans don’t like to be policed.
The virus is going to keep spreading, and we’ll have to keep knocking it down when there’s a large outbreak. This is just the way it’s seemingly going to work in the U.S.A.
MAY 1, 2020:
Things aren’t great on the Navajo Nation, which is both sad for them and has a possible impact on us. Many Navajo workers are employed in Durango, whether it’s fast food or hotels or construction. Could these workers spread coronavirus here? Well, sure.
Looking at the statistics tells the story. La Plata County has about 70 known cases and no deaths, Montezuma about 20 cases with 2 deaths, Archuleta 8 cases, San Juan (Colo.) and Dolores zero cases. Just across the border in San Juan County (N.M.), there have been 637 positive tests and 49 deaths. The city of Gallup, on the southern border of the Navajo Reservation in McKinley County, has been basically locked down because “the virus is running amok,” according to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Roads into town are closed, you can’t have more than two people in a car in town, and businesses can’t be open after 5 p.m.
This order runs through the weekend, but could be renewed Monday.
The Navajo Nation has the third-highest infection rate in the nation per capita, behind only New York and New Jersey. Good luck to the tribe, which has enough problems as it is.
* * *
If you haven’t watched a Durango Community Update, and you live here, you should at least once. They’re being done every Thursday (it was Friday, but not after today), and they offer a good rundown of what’s up around Durango concerning the virus. This is one of the shorter ones, at 23 minutes. Others have gone nearly 40 minutes, but they’re all informative, and hopefully leave you with a feeling that our city and county leaders are thinking hard about what’s best for everyone.
Liane Jollon of San Juan Basin Health is a regular, usually there’s a county commissioner and city councilor, and others such as Trails 2000, school principals, business leaders, and other timely guests are invited. I actually liked Ron LeBlanc – before he left ignominiously last year – but no question, Amber Blake, interim city manager, is a much better host for this than Ron could have possibly been. Below might be a link to the Community Update, but I’m only crossing my fingers on that.
APRIL 30, 2020:
Some tough but not surprising news this morning. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic announced that there will be no weekend of racing and touring this year, marking the first time since 1971 that this is the case.
The Iron Horse is the second-longest-running bicycle event in the country, behind only the Tour of Somerville in New Jersey, which started in 1940, skipped a few years during World War II, and has been held annually since 1947. Both events are usually held Memorial Day weekend, and neither will occur at all this year.
Earlier in April the Iron Horse announced it would try to hold the event in September, but things are so up in the air with group gatherings, the prudent decision was to cancel.
Some people are mad that they have forfeited most of their entry fee. If they choose, they can get 30 percent back. Judy wrote Director Gaige Sippy an email today saying he’s doing a great job and the community supports him. He said that email basically made his day, because he’s been getting some grief. Not everyone realizes they won’t get an entry refund when the event isn’t held because of weather or coronaviruses. But many of the expenses are still incurred (including Gaige’s salary), and providing refunds might bankrupt the event.
So tough to lose this event.
* * *
Hate to get too excited, but things may (MAY!!) be happening faster than we were thinking in the race for a vaccine. This story about a new vaccine being tested is from my friend Carol, who is into this stuff because she helps drug companies get their patents.
APRIL 29, 2020:
It is springtime, and that is uplifting. Today was a beautiful day, warm and sunny and not too windy. But truth be told, this has been a very windy spring, dry, and not all that warm until the last few days. Today we’ll turn over the diary to my friend Rinda, who, I want to point out, is pretty much the last person to ever complain about things. But she wrote this ode (screed perhaps?) that expresses her feelings toward a nonhuman element. She says it’s a work in progress. And yes, she’s been working outdoors a lot.
An Ode to the Wind
To the relentless, tiresome, aggravating,
irritating, exhausting wind.
Words cannot express
the intensity of my dislike of you.
Your ability to take an
otherwise beautiful day
and turn it into hell on earth
You are the nails on the chalkboard
the sand in the frosting
the prickly stickers in my socks
the mosquito humming in my ear at night or the fly buzzing and crashing
from window to window.
You grate on my every last nerve.
You are the killer of pioneer women.
You suck the life-giving moisture
from the ground.
And turn the most benign spark
into an environmental holocaust.
If you were a person
you’d be Hitler.
If you were food
you’d be liver and lima beans
only with the nutritional value of a Twinkie.
And if you were media
you’d be Fox “News” -
blowing across the land,
spreading hate and destruction.
You broke my compound miter saw!
You soul-sucking bastard!
APRIL 28, 2020:
The news is always very sobering to watch, and upsetting if you take every story to heart and feel you need to do something to improve things. The news is even more upsetting during our crisis. It’s about death tolls and broken businesses and political battles and racial inequality – all in a life-and-death setting.
The news – TV or radio or newspaper – also gets you to wondering what’s wrong with America. We’ve been hit hard by this virus; now we’re No. 1 by far in worldwide death toll numbers (around 60,000 as of today). Australia and New Zealand – one with a conservative government, the other liberal – both were able to shut down quickly with strict protocols and now believe they have this virus practically licked. Was it just good timing, that it hit elsewhere first? Was it a more trusting populace going along with restrictions? Was it simply the numbers – that it’s easier to control New Zealand’s 5 million or Australia’s 25 million, populations equal to a medium to large U.S. state?
Hard to say. But we can say with some assuredness that Americans’ distrust in their own governments has deteriorated in the last 4 (Trump), or 20 (radical talk-shows), or 50 (Vietnam) years. 330 million people is a lot to govern. Maybe it’s a ridiculous number, and we’ll look back 100 years from now and see that more clearly. But the U.S. has certainly packed a huge international wallop over the last century, and accomplished some impressive and good things, and that is hard to ignore and to discount. If we aren’t strong now, we definitely were. Can we be so strong again? This is looking more and more unlikely to me. But maybe we can patch things together and soldier on, despite the discord and loud conspiracy theorists and lack of homogeneity. Maybe the news will get better.
* * *
Something from Gov. Polis that has a lot of statistics, if you’re into that kind of thing. Lots to chew on here. OK, full disclosure: I really just wanted to see if I could embed a PowerPoint onto my web page. I think I can, I think I can.
APRIL 27, 2020:
A look at the world through the Lone Cone lens is entirely different. The Covid-19 pandemic means nothing in our daily lives here. The herds of 12 and 7 elk we saw in the evening are unaffected, the budding shrubs aren’t changed, the clouds and the sun and the steady wind remain the same.
When I wash my hands it’s to remove the dirt. When I leave our tiny 10×12 shed I don’t put a bandanna over my face.
It’s a reaffirming view, a dose of sanity into what has become an unreal time. The non-human part of this world is doing mighty fine right now. It’s so quiet, even more so than usual, and it’s probably because there is less traffic (although a surprising number of cars Sunday when we drove in, plates from South Carolina, New Mexico, one that might have been Nebraska?), and fewer commercial airlines. We saw two planes in the sky at the same time yesterday, but probably only about six total.
There is the reality that we do have to return to the coronavirus-infested civilization. We’ll run out of water soon, and although we could sneak down to Disappointment Creek, we don’t have the means to purify or boil much. With adequate water we could probably figure out how to stay here a month. Or more if I could shoot and dress and preserve elk meat.
APRIL 26, 2020:
I don’t think we broke any laws or regulations, but maybe we pushed them a bit? Today we drove 70 miles from Durango, crossing into two counties, to reach our getaway near Lone Cone Peak. Assuming we don’t have an emergency (Pulaski chops off a toe, fire spark ignites some sagebrush or someone’s jacket), no one will be affected at all by this trip, and we can’t spread the virus here, unless a juniper is susceptible.
We are now in Dolores County, which has reported zero cases of Covid-19. This is possible. Dolores is a very rural county: The town of Dolores (population 960) is actually in Montezuma County, leaving Dove Creek as Dolores County’s largest metropolis with 700 inhabitants; Rico is a distant second with 300. It’s also possible the virus has reached Dolores County, and no one’s bothered to be tested for it, which I assume you’d have to go to Cortez or Durango to do.
APRIL 25, 2020:
Watching Bill Gates last night on The Late Show with Steve Colbert gave me a little bit of hope. And it’s hard not to make a Gates-Trump comparison.
Bill and Melinda Gates have been leading health efforts around the world, whether it’s curing polio for all-time or something else. He’s up on the latest developments and understands what it will take to develop therapies and vaccines. He was informative. There are 100-plus efforts being undertaken by various labs to develop a vaccine. The way he sees that, a half-dozen or so of the most promising of those will get more funding to be developed more rapidly, and one or more of those will be good enough to work as a worldwide vaccine. (For more from Bill Gates, check out his blog.)
Could it take a year or two? Yes, but there is a chance that it will come quicker. So many resources are focused on this one virus like never before. Our technology is always developing, and it is possible that the timeline might be beaten, Gates believes. If nothing else, it is reassuring that people such as him, and others with great resources and business skills, are involved in making this happen.
Meanwhile, you have President Trump telling people that injecting disinfectant or being subjected to blinding light might just clean your lungs or otherwise cure your Covid-19 problem. Drink some Lysol. Or, as one Arizona man apparently did after one of Trump’s press briefings, ingest chloroquine phosphate. (He died. Oops.)
I’m not one to constantly rag on Trump. We knew what we were getting. Also, he is not actually to blame for this novel coronavirus, and I’m not even sure how much better off we’d be if we’d started mobilizing a week or even a month sooner. And I do know that if there was a Democrat president (Hillary), and she was telling everyone to hunker down, the Tea Party folks would be demonstrating in droves. So maybe it’s really for the best that we have a Republican. Too bad it’s not Jeb Bush or even Marco Rubio, someone who might be a bit brighter and able to appoint smart people (not Mike Pence) to key positions like the Covid-19 Task Force.
* * *
The New York Times keeps up on things pretty well, with decent stories, links to good maps and charts. What’s the best way to “open up” the country? Here’s one version of what happens next.
APRIL 24, 2020:
The NFL Draft’s first round was held last night, and I suppose it returned a little bit of normalcy, and a little bit of hope, to the sporting world. But it was somewhat quirky. With panelists on Zoom, draftees on Zoom or Skype in their living rooms, ditto for coaches and G.M.’s. Furthermore, we are not heading into a normal NFL season. It’s pretty much unfathomable that huge crowds will be allowed until a vaccine is available, and even participants in practices and games will have to be monitored for quite a while.
Rookies always have the “first day of school” feeling when making the leap from college to the pros. Now, no one can even tell them what the pros are actually going to look like.
* * *
Another tennis match with Ted. It’s beginning to seem a little more normal to use two sets of balls – one when I serve and one when the opponent serves.
You pick up the other guy’s ball with your racket and foot, and both of you are appreciative to not have to touch the other guy’s balls. (Hey, you were going to say it if I didn’t!)
The disheartening thing about the match was that Ted won the set 7-6 (7-3), which didn’t used to happen that much. This could be a much more serious issue than the silly pandemic.
APRIL 23, 2020:
So we’ve had a month or more of training on how to live in this time of pandemic. Now it’s time to release the shackles, or at least to lengthen them a bit. It’s likely that that training has made us cognizant of the best practices to use to keep from spreading this virus we call Covid-19.
So when we in Colorado move in a few days from “Stay at Home” to “Safer at Home,” it won’t be an instantaneous free-for-all, back to the way we lived in early March.
The older you are, the more compromised your body, the more you trust science – the more likely you are to continue to use extra caution. Some will flaunt the expert-based recommendations, and some will pay the price for doing so, but most unfortunately, those rule flaunters will contaminate those who can’t fight off the virus.
We’re in this for the long haul here, many months of altering our lifestyles and relearning our once-set social customs. As Gov. Polis said, we’ve done the sprint, and it’s time for the marathon. I feel I’m pretty decent at marathons.
APRIL 22, 2020:
Little by little I’m catching on to how this virus will spread, how it will affect our lives.
Today, after reading about how little “herd immunity” can help stop the spread because there is no vaccine to increase that herd, I realize the harsh reality of how long this will take to play out.
We’re just trying to keep it from spreading quickly, and trying to keep it away from vulnerable populations. That’s all we can do for now. It’s out there, and will continue to spread in large or small numbers, with pockets of outbreaks here and there.
Georgia is going to “open up” several weeks before experts with models think it should. This could be an interesting, or disastrous, experiment.
APRIL 21, 2020:
If we’re looking for silver linings, how’s this: Because people are losing their jobs (many temporarily we hope), because there are shortages, because there are questions about surviving, people will come out of this with more humility.
They will appreciate having work, they will appreciate having toilet paper and meat and beans, they will appreciate their health and simply being alive.
How people will truly react is really a mystery to me. But there is a chance many people will learn, become more humble and appreciative.
We shall see.
APRIL 20, 2020:
Weekend protests of the shutting down of life were held in many cities around the country.
Meanwhile, many states are slowly easing restrictions. Colorado will do some easing on Monday the 27th.
Some estimates are that by the time this is over, 60 percent of the population will have been exposed to the virus. Estimates of a vaccine run anywhere from 12 months to 24 months or more.
APRIL 19, 2020:
Here’s the procedure when you show up at Urgent Care at 27th and Main: You call the main desk, and the assistant brings out a clipboard of papers for you to read and fill out and sign. Then, when they’re ready for you, the nurse comes out, mask on, and escorts you, mask on, to an exam room. The nurse asks a few questions about your ailment or injury, then leaves and tells you that Matt the physician’s assistant will be in shortly.
Matt enters and does the exam, then provides the analysis and remedy. Mask on.
Here’s why you show up at Urgent Care on a Sunday morning: You’ve been riding mountain bikes along the trails to the north/northwest of your Three Springs home early that morning, and your wife cuts a corner just a little too sharply on a narrower section of tread. Her handlebar clips a branch, wrenching the handlebar and wheel suddenly to the right, and your wife’s momentum takes her straight, over the bike, sprawling onto the trail ahead.
She lands hard, apparently on her left shoulder and helmet-covered head, and takes a short rolling tumble, coming to rest of her back. You’re just far enough behind – she was flying through there! – that you don’t see it happen, but you hear the tumble and the “oof!!” as she lands.
It takes her a while to gather her wits and ascertain that nothing horrible has happened before she gets up off her back. There are no other riders around, which is good because we’re right in the middle of the trail where she has landed. Maybe bad if we need some help. But we really don’t. The adrenaline helps her at first and she manages to get back on and ride home, fairly slowly but without too much problem.
As she begins to stiffen up in the neck and shoulders she gets a little worried, and then you discuss where the E.R. or the Urgent Care is preferable. Is it an emergency, or really just to get checked out just in case?, I wonder. Urgent Care is cheaper and at this point in time, seems like less hassle in the coronavirus-infested world. So that is where we end up.
We leave with the diagnosis of no apparently structural damage, but possible ligament damage, a 7- to 10-day recovery period, and a prescription for some strong muscle relaxants if needed. (Note: A week later she had not picked up the prescription.) It will be a painful several days with husband help needed to pull clothing on and off her body, but the progress is reasonably fast.
APRIL 18, 2020:
The neighborhood is pretty quiet, so when three light-duty pickups drove fast and loud up Confluence as we were walking Buda this evening, it really caught our attention. They weren’t doing anything illegal, but the motorcade stood out. Were they being rebellious? Probably in some way, but I don’t know. It must be tough for 20- and 25-year-olds to stay at home and do nothing on a Saturday night.
* * *
San Francisco has made it mandatory to wear a face covering when you go outside into public. They’ll have one grace day, then begin enforcing this temporary ordinance on Monday, believe.
APRIL 17, 2020:
Quite a few people in their 20s out on the trails when Judy and I mountain biked Friday afternoon from Three Springs over to the top of Telegraph Trail, down Crites Connection, and back home via Grandview. You figure that the waiters and waitresses of Durango are all now in reallygood shape because they’re getting out on the trails a ton. And hopefully collecting unemployment. And hopefully not becoming alcoholics.
* * *
Did an interview for a work project at a small ranch on La Posta Road. The subjects were a couple who are around 70 and pretty much keep to themselves out there. We kept our distance pretty well. I think the odds would be really low of passing along a virus in that situation, but I don’t know for sure, do I? We all seemedhealthy, but that doesn’t guarantee anything either.
I’d say that meeting might have violated the stay-at-home order because it was not an essential business meeting. But as far as being a highly dangerous social situation, it hardly made a blip on the scale. When construction crews work in teams, when grocery store workers walk around with no mask for eight-plus-hour shifts, this was not an encounter that registered on the big scale.
It’s too bad that people can’t be trusted to limit their social interactions and to be responsible on their own, without having to mandate rules such as wearing a mask and gathering in small groups. But I think those rules are probably necessary in the short term.
I’m still struggling with this. Without testing, as a health expert said on PBS tonight, we are blind in understanding and battling the spread of Covid-19. We really don’t know the best way to fight this war, and how much exposure is safe, or perhaps necessary to rid the planet of this virus in the long run. There is no apparent immunity naturally; heck, we don’t even know if people who’ve had it are immune from getting it again.
These unknowns create a high anxiety level among the population.
APRIL 16, 2020:
Taco Bell is doing all right. I’m sure McDonald’s is doing OK too. Seemed strange to drive through today at The Border, but I did. I had no mask or bandanna with me, so I grabbed a dirty T-shirt being used as an oil rag from the floor of the back seat and tied it around my head.
Went to Albertsons like that too. It looked legit, but was it healthier for me to just go without?
Everything is a risk. Drive-through, grocery store, gas pump handle, P.O. Box lid. I’ve taken to wearing gloves a lot, but will I want to in the summer?
How much risk can we stomach?
Life is a risk, driving is a risk, smoking is a risk, mountain and road biking are risks. Some of us are more willing to take risks than others.
APRIL 15, 2020 (not tax day, which was pushed to July 15):
Death is final, it can be tragic and sad.
But it’s also a reality. In all my genealogical research a couple of things stand out. No matter how successful or bad or adventurous or bring people were, they all were born and they alldied.
And although it seems so ridiculously obvious to say that, there’s some underlying truth: Everyone has to go through these processes, and you definitely have no say about when you’re born, and often little or no say about when you die.
People fear death, as they fear many things. And it seems that maybe our city-dwelling lives shelter us from natural death, from the process. How many of us have actually seen a person die in close proximity? I haven’t.
If you live on a ranch, you see death all the time among animals – you may even butcher animals yourself on a regular basis.
The point here is that I believe this new, over-developed fear of death among the general populace is affecting our ability to function at this time. COVID-19 will take down people, and some of those will be moderately healthy people who otherwise might have lived long lives. Many, however, will be unhealthy people who may have died in months or weeks anyway.
We need to get people back to work so they don’t start turning on themselves to an even greater degree than they do already, as statistics indicate.
We need to do this, as best we can, taking reasonable precautions as far as amassing large groups of people, and testing as widely as is possible.
We need to accept death for what it is and always has been: a part of life. No reason to bring it on needlessly, but a humanity-saving understanding and a lesser degree of fear would be useful.
* * *
Played tennis for the first time in a month. It was a blustery day but not so horribly windy that tennis was impossible.
Courts are dusty, but they’re open. Ted and I used two sets of tennis balls; mine had my initials on them. The rule is you can only pick up with your hands the tennis balls you brought.
We didn’t play games – just hit back and forth – so we didn’t have to brush by each other when trading sides, because we weren’t trading sides.
It was easy to become complacent at times and feel “normal” again and forget the rules and social distancing and all that.
Hopefully neither of us passed on the coronavirus to the other. Nor to the two on the other court, Matt and Rick.
APRIL 14, 2020:
Trump is battling the Democratic governors for power, and it’s pretty sickening to watch this play out. The governors want to take it nice and slow on easing restrictions, and Trump is ready to life pretty much all restrictions and try to get the economy rolling again. I think he would do this anyway, but the upcoming election adds another wrinkle. He’s running out of time to get the economy back on its feet by November.
The states with Democratic governors happen to be the most urban states and the ones being hit the hardest by coronavirus. New York, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois.
Who has the authority to end the stay-at-home orders? Can Trump force states to not enforce their own orders?
APRIL 13, 2020:
So we’re stopping the surge of cases, bringing down the death toll. Is it worth the cost?
Even our health officials say that by flattening the curve we’re just delaying the ultimate bottoming of the curve and the end of the pandemic.
People aren’t good at staying cooped up. They begin fighting amongst themselves. Domestic violence is skyrocketing, at least that’s what we heard anecdotally from our vet, whose husband is a local assistant D.A.
The fact that our national leaders are untrustworthy is another reason to be fearful of how all this plays out. Another four years of Trump might be enough for him to consolidate enough power to make it four more years after that – if not of Trump, then of Pence or someone equally evil. If Trump controls surveillance, and learns how to threaten his enemies effectively …
Lord help us.
Time to do something productive, like trying to solve a crossword.
APRIL 12, 2020:
Maybe it’s just me, but I think people are starting to get a little more impatient in regard to staying at home, following rules, wearing a mask when they do go out. In Colorado we’ve been told to stay in place for another two weeks, and it’s difficult to see the situation changing much by then.
Our coronavirus “peak” is supposed to come in May here, and our numbers seem so low in La Plata County (43 confirmed cases) that one has to wonder if we’re doing too fine a job at “flattening the curve.” That is speculation on my part, but there does seems to be agreement among health officials that in order to really feel confident that the threat has passed, either a large number of the population has to be exposed already, or a vaccine developed. The latter is many months, perhaps a year or more away. So that leaves us with option one.
That’s a scary thought. It could be months before a good deal of the population is exposed. I would postulate that it’s very possible we should actually loosen the social distancing requirements a bit and spread the virus around – just a bit. But because we don’t know how many people have it, and we don’t know what the best method is to save the most people we err on the side of caution.
This leaves the possibility that city, regional and state officials will request or order that we keep social distancing rules in place perhaps all summer. Meanwhile, this will lead to the death of dozens of businesses – many are probably not salvageable even at this point.
If people are already becoming more tightly wound – I can feel it in my own mind and body – what will a few more weeks mean?
We’re nervous and unsettled, we’re losing our jobs and income, we can’t gather socially for support. At what point does the threat of contracting coronavirus – which is an estimated 98 percent not fatal – take second place to the threat of becoming emotionally and financially destitute?
I found myself reacting viscerally to a post on the Three Springs by a well-meaning (I guess) person reminding dog owners (that’s me) that “Three Springs is not a Dog Park. Please be mindful of the signs reminding dog owners that a leash is required by law.”
Do we all need the World Police to remind us of all the rules we need to be following right now?
My advice: Cut people some slack, and be as understanding as possible. This is Durango, we ignore leash laws, and we leave green bags of poop lying around.
One of my favorite stories, which maybe could have been me but wasn’t:
A friend was riding as a passenger along Junction Creek Road, a narrow county road that leads from town to the Colorado Trail, and spotted up ahead two bicyclist riding abreast. A no-no, for certain. This friend had her husband slow down, and she yelled out the window as they approached: “Hey, single file!!”
One of the riders turned and right away the car passenger was stunned to see it was one of her best friends. Quickly she smiled and acted like it was a joke, never being quite certain if it was taken that way or not.
In other words, the moral of the story is, “Be careful whom you’re casting stones at.” And there’s the “glass houses” thing and all that.
To put it more simply, be a good neighbor, try to be understanding, and cut people some slack. I hope I’m listening to that advice.
APRIL 11, 2020:
As an essential business, Mountain Bike Specialists remains open. Yet the doors are actually closed and locked. The process to get something works like this:
- Call the store and place your order.
- Pay over the phone.
- Meet the employee at the door to receive your purchases.
In our case this employee was Heath Garvey, who was very nice and fun to have a bandann-faced conversation with on the sidewalk. We were probably out there for 5-10 minutes, waiting briefly for our order, then chatting with Heath. In that time I only remember maybe two other people walking by. Maybe possibly there were others, but I think I would remember.
* * *
Today we got an alert message on our phones saying that Colorado’s stay-at-home order has been extended to April 26. We knew that already, but it was interesting to get that message.
We also got an alert text from New Mexico saying something similar.
“They” know where we are and how to get our attention. Didn’t I see this movie once before – maybe Charlton Heston was in it?
APRIL 10, 2020:
Life is tough without sports, and I do miss not having a fantasy baseball team. In the last few days a plan that MLB is putting together has become public: All 30 teams would play in Arizona, no crowds, and the teams would be sequestered as long as necessary in Phoenix-area lodging.
Games would be on TV, of course, but other revenue sources would be meager.
A sports-starved public would be thrilled to watch, even without the cheering crowds, I would think. But it would definitely be a strange atmosphere. All in all, I like the plan, and hope it can be pulled off.
Almost every day at lunch, to replace the baseball season, I’ve been watching highlights of old World Series. I’ve found half-hour highlight reels from the 1950s and ‘60s, even back to the ‘40s. I remember the ‘70s, but I’ve watched some of those too. I started with the ’65 Series, despite the Twins losing to the Dodgers in seven games.
APRIL 9, 2020:
In my dream, water was scarce, and we (whoever that was) had a limited time to gather some to save. My task, as I analyzed the situation, was to try to connect rivulets running atop a rock, get them all flowing together to create a bigger rivulet that could be collected in some sort of container.
With some sort of straight edge, or piece of cardboard, I scarped at the rivulets to combine them into this bigger rivulet. There was some snow and ice, and I moved and aligned that so it would melt along my larger rivulet. I knew that once the bulk of this water was gone off this rock, there would be no more water.
I worked at it until I had a nice flow, and it cascaded off the rock to the ground. I hadn’t thought ahead, so I had nothing to gather this water. I frantically looked about and found a container, which I filled briefly until realizing that all the pine needles and twigs inside needed to be removed. From both ends of the contained I quickly slid out the sticks. This meant that it had no bottom, but in my dream that didn’t matter. I placed the container under the cascade and it began to fill.
Then I woke up.
Not with a cheery feeling, but at least a feeling that I had managed to do something that seemed unlikely, which was to make that larger rivulet big enough to be of use.
And then I was really awake, thinking apocalyptic thoughts. Thinking how fortunate I am, at the moment, to have adequate water, to have enough money to survive right now and pay my bills, to not be living month to month or week to week, or paycheck to paycheck.
As the economy worsens for the next few weeks, probably months, maybe years, it’s frightening to consider the stresses it will put on our system. Renters can’t pay, landlords can’t afford repairs or tax bills, foreclosures are next. Cities won’t have the necessary funds to keep up infrastructure, whether that means water, sewer, electric, roads (if we need them anymore).
Things may quickly turn around economically. They likely will. This time.
But this pandemic gives us all a little insight into how quickly conditions can crumble in a major disaster, natural or man-made.
APRIL 8, 2020:
Interesting tack by Sweden to not shut down everybody, but just certain groups when needed. Some epidemiologist is apparently in charge, and he could either look like a genius or a mass killer when this is through. Just to the south, Denmark is shutting pretty much everything down, so it’ll be a fascinating comparison to make when everything is said and done.
Sweden is trying to develop herd immunity by exposing all the healthy people. That would have been my chosen plan of action at first, but now I’ve come around to the “flattening the curve” theory. Was I right the first time?
APRIL 7, 2020:
Do we need to shut down city trails in order to stop the spread of coronavirus?
I don’t know for certain (nobody does) but I don’t think so. It’s possible that the virus could be spread from people congregating at trailheads, parking next to each other, passing closely on trails, but really?
There are so many other ways that people are coming together – at grocery stores, hardware stores, convenience stores, some work places. Shutting off trail use would at best make a small dent. Maybe no dent at all.
On the flip side, the damage to our psyche might be far larger. This is how we recreat, how we enjoy life, how we stay in good physical health, how we let off steam.
Note: The next day I wrote the following email letter to the five city councilors, Trails 2000 director, Parks and Rec director, and acting city manager:
This is a tough time for you, and for all of us, and I appreciate the hard work you do and the extra stresses you must be under.
I’ve given quite a bit of thought to the possibility of closing city trails, and it just doesn’t seem to me like a good idea. You have more information than I do from health officials, the state government, law officers, etc., and they are likely advising a very strict course of action in this crucial time.
I’m sure it would be a tough decision for each of you to close our beloved trails. If you do, please consider very hard the entire scope of the health benefits. After a bandanna-covered trip to the post office, grocery store, and pet store, I can very confidently say that no matter what you do with trails, these aforementioned places will be at least 10 times more likely to contribute to coronavirus spread.
Being a 20-year-old would be incredibly difficult right now, but would closing trails actually make them more likely to congregate in friends' homes? (It’s very apparent that the younger you are, the less likely you are to follow the current advisories.)
My gut feeling (sorry, I don’t have the science to back this up, and nobody does) tells me that closing city trails will do very little to help the virus spread, while doing greater damage to our collective psyche, our willingness to cooperate, our ability to get along in this difficult time.
I would suggest a different tack, and that would be to open up more trails, perhaps even earlier than the “early date” of April 15. Open them now and let people disperse.
APRIL 6, 2020:
Well, anyone paying attention to what’s going on in the world can hardly be surprised. Tonight, Gov. Polis extended Colorado’s stay-at-home order through April 26. Guess I had just assumed that would be the case through April, and this seems like a fait accompli, as the French would say.
So at least another three weeks. We haven’t hit our peak of case numbers, and I would assume we’d at least wait until that occurred. And any optimism that all restrictions will be suddenly lifted at April’s end is likely wishful thinking. Logically, we’d work backward, allowing smaller groups first, then larger and larger groups with fewer travel restrictions.
The guv crushed anyone’s false hopes that this would be a quick outbreak and we’d soon return to normal.
APRIL 5, 2020:
The hoarding of goods – mostly paper products (T.P., paper towels, Kleenex), canned goods, cereals, pasta – is an interesting phenomenon. We’ve been told that supply lines have not been affected, and there is no need to hoard.
But people don’t necessarily trust the authorities, and it is a little hard to believe that everything is being manufactured and shipped exactlyas it was before this outbreak.
All that said, I feel very fortunate that in this crisis, we do have plenty to eat, and it certainly appears we won’t starve, and gas, electricity, Internet, will continue more or less as usual.
So what if we had a pandemic or other crisis, and all or some of these “necessities” were affected? How crazy could people get then? Hoarding would quickly create black markets, money would take on new value, home security might become a little more serious, neighborhoods woud become more vigilant and wary of outsiders. Very weird things would start to happen. Fear would spread, conspiracy theories would become more pervasive, lawlessness would either lead to panic and desperation or an iron fist of the law.
It’s easy to envision how life and the common decencies we take for granted could quickly shift or disappear altogether. Kind of chilling to consider.
APRIL 4, 2020:
Attended two social parties via technology today. After a mask-wearing trip to the grocery store, I gave Frank a WhatsApp call, and we each did a shot. I had tequila, he had slivovice. Na zdraví!
At 5 p.m., just after Judy and I performed mountain bike tune-ups, I got on Zoom with Jim, Ken, and Steve for almost two hours. Got to meet Sheila, Jim’s fiancée, so that was fun. Also got to talk with Zoe, who was on spring break when the virus hit and never returned to law school in North Carolina. Attending online now. Ken can’t see his 1-year-old granddaughter in person – sad. Good to see everyone.
APRIL 3, 2020:
We figured out a way to make our KDUR show work, and did our first show since March 13, when Jim and Jon Lynch were on. I set up a Zoom meeting, Jim and Jon joined in, and Jon patched us in to the system at KDUR studio, and we did a pretty normal half-hour show. Looks like we’ll try to keep doing it. There was plenty to talk about on our first show. However, we’ll have to see if we can keep it up for the duration of the virus. May not be so easy. Could probably have guests though.
APRIL 2, 2020:
It was announced today that the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic will not be held on Memorial Day weekend for the first time in 49 years. (They delayed the announcement for a day to not coincide with April Fool’s.) Every year starting in 1972 there have been Iron Horse races in late May; a few times the ride to Silverton has been shortened or even canceled, but other races went on as planned.
If you need a gauge for how momentous this pandemic is, then just consider the sports world. Olympics not held as scheduled for the first time since World War 2. Wimbledon the same, and the Indy 500. It’s as if we’re fighting a world war.
Many Durangoans are heading to the desert to camp and recreate. One said on Facebook that it’s a good way to social distance. Our friends in Mancos went to Southeast Utah and a BLM ranger chased them away. (More accurately, they were allowed to camp the night but leave early the next morning.) I’m a bit hesitant to draw judgment, but it seems to me that as a responsible adult I have to set an example. If everyone goes to the desert who wants to, it would be hard to social distance. (Gas stations, motels, grocery stores.) So, why is it OK for them to go but not me?
APRIL 1, 2020:
Well, I was trying to avoid this, but it looks like I’ll have to figure out how to tie a bandanna so I can wear it as a mask.
The San Juan Basin Health Department just came out with an advisory to cover your mouth and nose when you go to the store or doctor’s. I thought I had some painter’s masks, but I guess I threw them out when we moved.
MARCH 31, 2020:
The good thing is we get a chance to reset. To take inventory of our lives, see what we like and don’t like, what’s important or superfluous, what’s necessary and not.
Those of us not in the thick of the fight have time to step back and look at the big picture.
Then, when things get cranking again, we’ll have a chance to make meaningful changes, to live more focused and dedicated lives.
If, of course, we survive.
MARCH 30, 2020:
When you think about it, there was a time when toilet paper didn’t exist. Humankind, in 21st century U.S., apparently cannot live without it. I think that says a few things about us, some good, some bad.
* * *
The death toll is now a media staple, a daily statistic to ponder. Today was 486 or something, and it grows each day. I think we’re fascinated by this, and with the face we’re living through such momentous and apocalyptic times. We’re also sickened and frightened by these numbers. Each one of those numbers is a real person, CNN’s Chris Cuomo* emphasized, and their family is going through hell; sometimes, probably often, they’re not able to comfort their loved one directly as they die.
* * *
Trump has obviously not handled this well, but I’m trying to give him some slack. He’s doing the best that a petulant, narcissistic, unempathetic, immature, egomaniac can do under the circumstances. It’s no surprise he’s overmatched here. He’s had no experience in this realm and has never thought about it seriously, and tried not to as it became an obvious problem. That’s our fault for electing someone like that.
It’s just frustrating. If he could just listen to the experts he has around him and parrot their words, that would be fine. But he’s incapable of even that. He gets in the way of the truth, and isn’t telling people what they need to hear. He’s been two or twenty steps behind since the get-go. And even when you want to think he’s doing the right thing, helping states organize to get the masks and ventilators or whatever they need, he still manages to insult someone. Where’d those tens of thousands of masks go that “I” sent to New York, he’ll wonder aloud.
The media beats him up, and it’s become a knee-jerk reaction. Even if he was doing the right thing they’d say it was wrong. People are emotional, and Trump’s lack of sympathy, his brutal anti-journalist messages, come back to bite him.
Somehow, still, apparently with a feeling that we need to unite behind our “leader,” Trump’s popularity seems to be increasing. Now, more people say he’s doing a good job than say he’s doing a poor job. But it’s close – something like 48% to 46%.
We need more tests.
* A day later Cuomo announced he has tested positive for Covid-19.
MARCH 29, 2020:
We went for a 1¼-hour hike this evening and returned serendipitously just as the neighbors had come out on the porches to clap for two minutes. I had seen this was going to happen, but had put it into the back of my mind. Glad we didn’t miss it.
I honestly didn’t know this at the time, but a Google search tells me that the reason for the clapping was to honor the “essential” workers – the first responders, hospital workers, grocery store and restaurant employees, etc. New Yorkers apparently first did this Friday night at 7.
MARCH 29, 2020 (early morning):
Woke up to the yapping of coyotes, noticeably closer than last time I heard them. The wildlife is closing in on humanity, read to pounce while we’re weak and vulnerable. Buda is here to protect us. She wants to go outside and bark and claim her territory. She’s being good about not barking inside.
Seriously, the wildlife must innately wonder what’s going on, why we really are so quiet. Fewer planes overhead, fewer vehicles on the road, few humans yelling and crying outside. Is it exciting for them? Eerie? Just different? They are adjusting, I’m sure.
* * *
Perhaps fear is keeping us from what must be a strong instinct, which would be to go about our business as usual. Our fast-paced way of life is clashing with our desire to be safe and we’re all trapped in the middle.
MARCH 28, 2020:
Long walk, almost hike length, this morning on the road north, past the old barn, on trail to the far road, and a hike back down the far Spur Line trail, then the road back around the new barn. Follow that? Lots of birds, easier to notice with the quiet that’s descended, especially out here in the empty fields to the north. Judy heard a meadowlark, I saw a swirling hawk.
* * *
La Plata County is up to 18 positives as of Friday afternoon.
I just can’t see the end game where everybody agrees, “Oh, the worst is over, it’s fine to go back about your normal lives. I guess we will do this gradually at some point. I just have trouble envisioning when that’s going to be.
MARCH 27, 2020:
I wrote this as a blues song. Still working it out on the guitar. But it’s in E, with A’s and B7’s and a G or two thrown in there. It’ll go something like this:
Woke up today
A little scratch in my throat.
Guess it was nothing
But I’m not gonna smile and gloat.
Can’t see my friends,
Gotta keep up my resistance.
I’m looking at everything now
From a social distance.
Don’t have to shower,
Don’t have to shave.
Don’t have to go anywhere,
But I’ve gotta behave.
Don’t wear any pants,
Don’t even have to tie my shoes.
Don’t have much to offer,
I’ve got the Covid-19 Blues.
I’m not a nurse or a doctor,
A lab tech or provider of food.
I’m just a regular stay-at-home,
Shelter-in-place kind of dude.
I’m not a young man,
But slowly I’m beginning to Zoom.
I party hard with my friends,
And don’t even have to leave my room.
Don’t have to shower,
Don’t have to shave.
Don’t have to go anywhere,
But I’ve gotta behave.
Don’t wear any pants,
Don’t even have to tie my shoes.
Don’t have much to offer,
I’ve got the Covid-19 Blues.
My leaky gut tell me,
This won’t be over soon.
Don’t have much to offer,
I’ve got the Covid-19 Blues.
MARCH 27, 2020:
Is it OK for three unrelated people to meet for a run at the break of day, if they keep good social distance?
Well, technically, apparently not according to “the rules.” The limit is two unrelated people. But that’s what we did this morning, I and my two “brothers,” David Buck and Peter Schertz.
It was an overcast morning, the clouds close, the quiet perceptible. As we started running up the front side at Animas City Mountain, three deer scurried away from us uphill through the mist. We discussed business, and sports, and politics, and how each relates to coronavirus.
Maria’s Bookshop is going ahead with its planned remodel, and Peter spent the day before hauling books to a rented space. Construction is on the list of vital businesses, but whether this remodel qualifies is a little unclear. (Construction continues on the house across the street from us, and a neighbor is having some gutter work done.) Maria’s had to close its shop completely on Thursday, and is now open by phone just a few hours a day to take orders. David is reeling from a newsroom cut the week before, supposedly coronavirus related.
As we continued on, a light snow began falling. We stopped at the huge overhanging climbing rock and dismantled a nearby ladder set up by mountain bikers to ride off an 8-foot-high boulder, scattering logs in the vicinity. It’s not on a trail and not really close enough to let it slide. Sorry, boys, the trail police have struck again.
MARCH 26, 2020:
It’s baseball’s Opening Day!
And so I just watched FS1’s rebroadcast of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. As you’ll recall, 9/11 had just occurred, so a lot of non-Yankee fans were actually rooting for the New York City team as it took on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Our hearts bled for the Big Apple, and that was back when we all thought Rudy Giuliani was pretty cool. The Yankees just needed three more outs to celebrate, but their unanimous Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth and the D-Backs won.
Hard to feel too badly for a team that had just won 3 World Series in a row. But also hard to feel real happy for D-Backs pitcher Curt Schilling, who starred in that Series and again in the 2004 Series but since retirement has become vocally anti-gay and even pro-white supremacist. ESPN fired him for comments.
Anyway, baseball season is still far off. I’m going to guess it’ll start in empty stadiums in July, once all the players and coaches and umpires can be quickly tested for Covid-19. Maybe cameramen and announcers, too.
Sports are off-kilter, just like the rest of the world. No NCAA tourney, NHL and NBA suspended until …? The NFL Draft will be held in mid-April, but it won’t be a big show in an arena as it has become.
So many things make this such an unreal time.
MARCH 26, 2020:
A few words that we’ve been using a lot lately, and my short comment:
Narcissistic: It’s probably cliché by now, but all the dictionary needs here is the face of our fearless leader.
Draconian: Judy asked if I knew the derivation of this word, and I jokingly said that Draco was a Greek god. The real answer is that Draco was a Greek lawyer in the 7th century B.C. whose delivered edicts whose punishments were extremely severe. Is an order to stay at home Draconian? Draco is also a 30-round semi-automatic AK-47 pistol, which we all need, right? Draco, or dragon, is also a huge constellation near the Northern Star which you can see year-around. (That wasn’t a short comment, but it was just oh so interesting.)
Pandemic vs. epidemic. There’s a huge gray area here, but a pandemic is simply a bigger epidemic. When an epidemic becomes a pandemic it’s hard to say, but nobody’s arguing that this coronavirus is about as pandemic as you can get.
MARCH 25, 2020
Just learned to play “Splendid Isolation” by Warren Zevon on the guitar. Some other songs that have popped into my head in the last couple of weeks:
“Nobody Told Me (There’d Be Days Like These),” John Lennon.
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” The Police.
“The Disease,” Echo and the Bunnymen.
“My Own Space,” Steve Miller.
You get the picture.
The Zevon song, from a 1993 concert with Neil Young, popped up on my YouTube suggestions, which means that either lots of others have been watching it, or YouTube knows I like Zevon.
* * *
The state is going to a stay-at-home order tomorrow. (Orders are an authoritative demand that law officers can enforce. In Uganda they chase you down the streets with machine guns; here, I think they just give you a nice educational warning.) Certainly never seen this in my country. It doesn’t feel right from a personal liberty sense, but I guess it’s the right thing to do for the more vulnerable and for the medical community. Perhaps in the end we’ll save lives, although will we ever really know? Are we simply postponing the inevitable?
La Plata now has 3 or 4 cases, so the county was going to enact the same order, probably on Friday. The state just beat our county to it by a day. How many cases are really here? Hundreds? More? Testing is really just cranking up, so we don’t know. A well-placed hospital source says there may be one death here already from Covid-19. How exciting.
Judy and I took our mountain bikes this afternoon on dirt roads to the north and the east along County Road 235 to County Road 234. Back the same way until we cut south onto the Spur Line trails, taking the west side of each loop back home. The mud is packed for the moment, but precip on slate for Friday could change that.
Check out this interesting story in The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Will End.
MARCH 25, 2020:
I created this as more of a journal, not a collection of essays. I’m aiming for a day-to-day look to track my thoughts and moods as this pandemic hits. Guess I had some bigger thoughts to unload first. (See March 24)
The progress of Covid-19 is this: On Monday, La Plata County announced its first positive test, a resident unnamed. A stay-at-home advisory was then issued by both the county and the city of Durango. (Advisories are a request, but have no enforcement teeth.)
The streets are much less-trafficked. I rolled through downtown at 4:30 p.m. yesterday with only a few other vehicles around, traffic lights an annoyance that I could have safely ignored. A couple of stray pedestrians made their way along the lonely downtown streets past many closed businesses.
To find crowds one must visit the picked-apart grocery stores in the morning. There is worry that people are not social distancing properly, but it is unarguable that people have certainly changed the way they are moving around.
MARCH 24, 2020:
Well, the ’20s have begun with a roar. But unlike the previous century’s Roaring Twenties of frivolity, this is a frightening roar that has sent us scurrying into our burrows.
We are in the midst of a worldwide plague. Although we talk among ourselves about the unprecedented nature of this plague, it is unprecedented merely to our era. For perspective we must understand history.
It was just 100 years ago that a flue pandemic – the so-called Spanish Flu – spread across the globe. This happened just as World War I drew to a close, and it greatly complicated much of the world’s recovery from the man-made disaster of war. This flu spread among soldiers and, as I understand it, the mass transport of people around the globe greatly contributed to the spread of the Spanish Flu. Never before had such a killer virus been given such easy accommodations in its journey.
That flu was much more deadly than the one we’re dealing with today. The healthy were hardly immune, as they seem to generally be to the flu of 2020, a coronavirus, specifically Covid-19.
For the last century there has been no similar, highly deadly, hard-to-detect, easily spread flu. We’ve had measles, scarlet fever, chicken pox, polio – all viruses. Malaria, a parasite, continues to plague a good chunk of the world.
Meanwhile, the world population has ballooned from about 1.8 billion in 1920 to 7.8 billion in 2020. And while 1920’s world population was around one-quarter urban, today more than half is. Of course, a virus spreads more easily among a concentrated population, particularly a more mobile one.
If another species became so prolific so quickly, undoubtedly some force – a pest, a predator – would keep it in check. Humans, however, are an unprecedented species here on this planet, able to use their wisdom (technology, stored and shared knowledge) to battle predators and pests alike. This wisdom has increased health and life spans and survival rates, and has helped us to greatly expand to numbers and densities that alarm many of us. Humans can quickly harm the natural environment and alter the ecosystem in seen and unseen ways.
We can see the clouds of haze created by vehicles, industrial smoke, dust stirred by our movements. We can measure these particulates (CO2, mercury, dust, etc.) and understand that this is not healthy. We measure plant and animal population decreases, species decline and elimination. Loss of forest, increase of landscape altered to create more food for this growing population.
We are beginning to get a hint for greater changes that may come: An alteration of the climate that will affect many or most species, killing off some and forcing others to adapt by moving around – perhaps putting them in conflict with other species.
With the brewing of this potentially devastating human-caused catastrophe-to-come, perhaps you’ll pardon me for secretly harboring thoughts that Covid-19 should do its worst. The world could use a population check. Honestly, the greater, long-term good of the planet would be served if this flu wiped out 10 percent of the total population. As someone who tries to see the big picture, this thought is inescapable: Are we really better served by allowing this pandemic to do its thing, to live as normal and watch as it takes out the physically weak among us?
For better or worse, human nature in the 21st century does not afford us this perhaps cruel, unempathetic view. We believe life is precious, and our community empathy prevents us from allowing this virus to run unchecked throughout our vulnerable, physically challenged populace.
And so we mobilize. We don masks, we develop tests, we begin work on a vaccine, we build hospitals, we manufacture more ventilators. We prepare for the onslaught of victims who will enter our medical system in the coming weeks and months.
Those of us who are not vulnerable (or who assume we’re not) stand by and watch to see what happens. Soon, if predictions and precedence hold true, our medical facilities will be overrun, the death tolls will rise, a powerful tsunami will roll through and test our ability to cope. It will sweep away with it the lives of many loved ones.
And it will leave us wondering if this is the worst that nature can throw at us. Or if perhaps there is something even more deadly, even more difficult to fight, brewing even right now in some small, microscopic nook of this vast planet.
MARCH 17, 2020:
I was scheduled to meet with an 85-year-old friend for lunch today. The day before, I realized this might not be a good idea and offered to pick up food at Steamworks and bring it out to him at his place north of town in the Animas Valley. Ultimately we decided not to do that. As it turned out, March 17 turned out to be the first day that restaurants were closed to dine-in service anyway, although pick-up is still allowed.
MARCH 12, 2020:
I went to King Soopers to stock up on a few items so we didn’t have to eat at the center’s cafeteria. By then the paper aisle was ransacked, and a few other aisles with nearly empty shelves. I waited through the longest grocery line ever, and wondered about the health of those I’d stood in line with. Everyone was a suspect by now.
We stayed two days in Loveland, then quickly packed up and headed out. The center was requesting no guests, and I felt awkward there, to say the least, particularly since we were sleeping there.
MARCH 11, 2020:
Judy and I drove up to Loveland to visit her parents, who are in an independent living center. It was going to be a major family reunion, but two weeks out, Judy’s aunt in Canada had canceled her flight. What a fraidy cat, I thought.
The world changed a lot that day. In the time it took to make the drive, the reality and accompanying panic had begun to set in. When we arrived we couldn’t enter the main independent living door, but were sent to the assisted living main door, where a nurse and other assistants were taking names and, I guess, inspecting people. A man in a wheelchair seemed to be irate that we were being ushered through so easily. He was shouting at someone, questioning their procedure, which I’m sure had been hastily conjured that afternoon.
I never felt comfortable there. We’d also made what retroactively we realized was a mistake by stopping at the Centura Health center in Summit County to meet two women whom Judy is working with. That was where Colorado’s first Covid-19 patients had been found a few days prior. It seemed unlikely we could have picked it up in our short tour there, but there was that sniffling guy at the E.R. check-in, and we did use the restrooms …
MARCH 10, 2020:
Stupid, stupid. I really want to attend the National Genealogical Society conference in May in Salt Lake City, so despite the website giving me a hard time, I persisted in paying my $250 fee. Basically after I got off the Internet I started regretting what I’d done. No way, I began to realize, this conference is really going to happen.
MARCH 6, 2020:
I got my first shingles vaccination at Walgreen’s on North Main. As I waited in a short line, I saw a sign acknowledging that masks had already disappeared from the store. Somebody walked by looking for either masks or antibacterial gel or something. I wasn’t paying too much attention.
In the exam room I watched as the nurse mixed together a couple of vials to prepare my shot. I remember thinking that probably soon, her focus was going to shift away from giving such things as shingles shots. Then I got the shot, and spent the next two days feeling horrible with a very sore arm. I started feeling sick and achy. I spent 20 minutes on the toilet Saturday night thinking I was going to simultaneously have diarrhea and throw up, and woke up delirious Sunday morning with a headache that lasted three days. I hope my second shingles shot is not so potent.
MARCH 5, 2020:
For a project I’m working on, I went to the home of a 95-year-old woman and interviewed her and an 85-year-old man. We had a normal chat. When setting up the interview a day or two beforehand, Jim had talked about his upcoming trip to India in May. He said India hadn’t been hit that hard yet by the virus, and was hopeful of still making the trip.
Things were beginning to change. I listened to the tape about four weeks later. Jim was not quite so sure about making the trip as he had been just a day or two earlier. And my comment was, “I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” We were starting to get it.
FEBRUARY 29, 2020:
On a Saturday morning, David Buck and I headed for Canyonlands National Park to do a 16-mile run that took us to Druid Arch. We stopped for breakfast at Absolute Bakery in Mancos, and were joined by former co-worker Herb, my wife, and friend Jane. The talk did shift to the coronavirus, and at the time I was thinking that the best thing would be to just go over to China, be exposed to it, and get the ordeal over with.
Yes, that was a little selfish. But that’s how I felt. It seemed to be coming this way and would affect us eventually. “Eventually,” however, seemed a long way away. I don’t think we had our heads in the sand regarding the severity of Covid-19, we just didn’t understand how soon we’d have to deal with it.