And now, let's pause for a moment of gratitude

I‘ve been trying to write a post about the COVID-19 virus for three or four days, only to cave in and quit, under the weight of so much bad news. And who can blame me? The last news bit I read yesterday was that Chicago, our hometown, has plans to turn its huge convention center into a field hospital to treat up to 2,500 people, and to lease refrigerated semis and a warehouse to hold the bodies of those who don’t make it.

Such grim news pile up on your mind and soul like withered fall leaves on the ground, and make the already unnatural exercise of “social distancing”—in effect, to isolate ourselves from other people—all the more onerous. Plus it makes me feel that as if the dreaded black dog, always lurking nearby, is coming closer to my door.

So as an antidotal exercise, I’ve made a list, partial I’m sure, of things I ought to be grateful for. Feel free to add your own items.

1. Sharing my life, including the present crisis, with a wonderful guy, who as an added bonus, is a terrific cook. I can’t imagine going through this alone, or surviving on take-out. The downside, of course, is that when the quarantine is lifted, whenever and by whoever, Stew and I might look look like Jackie Gleason, waistline-wise. Occasionally, Stew reaches for a frozen pizza from Costco, but, hey, even God took a break on the seventh day.

House arrest could be worse: Dinner
on our back terrace. 

2. We’re lucky to live in San Miguel. The mayor somehow got wind of the upcoming crisis and, two weeks ago, ordered the shutdown of public gathering places and events—even the Good Friday procession, a major religious and touristic event, has been cancelled.

And the rank-and-file folks in town seem to be going along. Our housekeeper Rocío, and Félix, dutifully scrub their hands up to their elbows when they come in to work.

Other tourist towns in Mexico, particularly Puerto Vallarta, until a few days ago continued with their party-hardy ways, including boozy sunset cruises packed with people, most of them half out of their  minds.

Only one case of the Covid-19 virus has been reported in San Miguel, though I’m sure more will show up as time passes. But if the early lockdown reduces the extent of the contagion only by a modest degree, the sacrifice will have been worth it.

I worry about the economy of the town, though, and how the tens of thousands of residents barely surviving even during good times, will survive in the long run. Fellow blogger Steve Cotton suggested ordering extra portions of take-out to give others of more limited circumstances. That’s a generous and graceful gesture.

Stew demonstrates proper
use of a coffee filter
protective mask.

3. We’re also fortunate to live in a beautiful, seven-and-a-half acre ranch where isolation comes naturally, though I wish it wasn’t government-mandated. I shudder at the thought of being cooped indefinitely in a highrise apartment in Chicago or New York during this lockdown. 

4. Difficult times spur personal creativity, and to deal with the scarcity of face masks I came up with a homemade version, using Melitta #4 paper coffee filters held in place with rubber bands around the ears.

Sure, you scoff and guffaw, and my masks may look ridiculous, but do you have any better ideas, huh? You can even use them on your dog. (Patent pending.)

Our dog Lucy models
the doggie face mask.

5. I checked yesterday and we have tons of paper towels and toilet paper, should an outbreak of dysentery follow the COVID-19 pandemic. Please, don’t call or email me, begging for part of my stash. I’m not giving away any, particularly to those fair-weather friends who’ve never called or written to find out how Stew and I are doing.

6. Dr. Anthony Fauci is a special blessing. As a gay man who lived through the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s, I remember Fauci as a voice of reason and science, during that long and dismal night of death, and homophobic witch hunts by many preachers and politicians.

During this crisis, the diminutive Fauci, now 79, stands taller than ever next to our corpulent president, who during press conferences prattles on about his knowledge of everything, including epidemiology, like a volcano of bullshit in full eruption mode.

Did you know that Trump’s uncle got a doctorate in electrical engineering from M.I.T.? And that means, therefore, that the president has a “natural ability” for all this scientific stuff?  Now you know.

Dr. Fauci protecting his face from the bullshit splattering
from the guy to his right. 

7. We must thank the internet too for breaking through our otherwise hermetic isolation. We can write and read blogs, exchange emails, visit Facebook, watch streamed performances from the Metropolitan Opera and even the Bolshoi Ballet, along with interactive AA meetings, church services and other spiritual support. All free.

Many schools are offering free online courses also, including M.I.T., so you can become as smart as Trump’s uncle.

On the other hand, the internet dumps on us such an avalanche of unfiltered “news” and “information” about the pandemic, that our heads sometimes feel as if they’re about to explode.

Better make the internet a qualified gratitude.

Fauci tee-shirt, courtesy of Jennifer Rose, who also
keeps tormenting me about typos.

8.  Then we have spring, at least according to the calendar. The rainy season won’t start until July, and until then the San Miguel landscape will look lifeless and brown, as if blowtorched. But the peach trees are flowering along with the pomegranate bush. Better times are coming. The bees, too, are so happy their hives look like they are levitating above the ground.

9. All the free time permits us to read more books and magazines. Right now I’m reading Albert Camus’s “The Plague,” not the most felicitous choice, I grant you. I’m only 20 percent into it, and already we’ve had hordes of rats vomiting blood, and men felled by an unknown disease involving dark patches on their legs and “suppurating ganglions,” This is not going to end well.

Next I plan to reprise “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles, a wonderful read about an aristocrat sentenced to house arrest at a luxury hotel in Moscow.

10. Finally, we must not forget to thank our president for guiding the ship of state with a sure hand through these turbulent times. His honesty, consistency, willingness to cede the spotlight to experts, and to put the public welfare above his trifling political interests, will be an inspiration for future presidents.

What’s more. . .wait a minute! What the hell am I talking about? I must be losing my mind with all this social isolation stuff. Forget number 10. I’d better go take a nap.

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