American Nightmare

One Egg Family: aka, Hold On

Holding hands: Congo Gorilla Forest, Bronx Zoo

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this and I’m too lazy to read back, but I’ve been without gas (which = no stove or oven) for a couple of months now. Gas leak was discovered in the building, so it’s nothing personal, the entire building’s gas was shut down, no end in sight. Others I know or have heard of where this has happened, it’s taken anywhere from 8-13 months to get it repaired. With coronavirus in the mix, who knows? I figure I’ll be lucky if I can bake and roast in time for Christmas of ’22.

A friend saw me tweet about this when I figured out how to cook something (can’t remember what) in the slow cooker and sent me an electric skillet. How lovely, right? For all we’re drowning in right now, there have been some wonderful moments of friendship, community, and support.

I was happy to make eggs for breakfast the next day, we’d missed them. After everyone ate, I told them I hoped they enjoyed, because for the foreseeable future, we’re now a one egg family.

I’m not an epidemiologist, not an economist, not a historian. But I’ve lived through some shit, and this is unlike any other. For all the politics and discussion, it seems to me many aren’t understanding the extent of the toll this Covid-19 pandemic is having on our world–and will have, for a long time to come. This isn’t producing a short glitch in the economy that can be rectified by a stimulus package. Hell, half of our elected representatives are still arguing about whether or not all workers deserve to get enough money to eat. Or, yanno, children. The magnanimous bill passed, with $1200 to be given to each adult? A one shot deal, we’re being told some shouldn’t expect to even see that money until September. Sure, I’m sure everyone can wait to buy food, medications, pay rent, electric, gas, water, until September. And they only need to pay those things once, absolutely. And oops, that $1200 “gift?” Maybe not a gift. Maybe an advance on 2020’s tax credit/refund. (Don’t @ me here, as far as I can tell, this is yet to be made clear or official one way or the other.) Besides the obvious ramifications on everyone’s health and societal interactions, we’re looking at hard times ahead. Unemployment, rising at a shocking rate, is expected to reach levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. 

I’m still seeing a lot of people complaining about not being able to go out to eat at their favorite restaurants. Again, I’m no financial analyst, but unless you’re in the highest of economic brackets, that may soon be the least of your problems. This video, from two weeks ago, shows lines outside of a food pantry. Reminiscent of the old photos of bread lines circa 1929, no?  There’s a rising number of people who can’t afford to go grocery shopping, and then there are disruptions in the food supply chain, expected to increase. Do I think we all need to panic? No, and it won’t help if we do.

We don’t all have to choose deprivation and starvation diets. If nothing else that would cause lowered resistance if we get sick. but it is time to choose with an eye towards frugality and stretching. Two eggs per person, for breakfast, is a lot of eggs gone–and in the scheme of breakfast foods, expensive. Two eggs plus flour and small amounts of other stuff (I recommend buttermilk if you can get it, lasts longer than regular milk, tastes great in pancakes, adds some richness) and you’ve got a big batch of pancakes.

We don’t know all of the ramifications of Covid-19 yet, not how many will die, how many will have died because of the vanity and lack of compassion of a reality tv president, not how high the unemployment rates will rise, not how many will become homeless, not how many will become newly food insecure, not how our society will permanently change, not how long we’ll be under stay-at-home-regulations, not how much longer we’ll have to be under those regulations because of certain pseudo-news organizations’ disinformation and certain governors pretending the US doesn’t stand for the United States, and therefore are refusing to put real stay at home regulations in place (because viruses are partisan, checking to see if you’re a registered Dem or Republican before cozying up in your lungs. Mmmm hmmm). We won’t for a long time. But we know much is uncertain.

There’s an expression from when I was in kid in the old country of pre-hip South Brooklyn: Mr J is so cheap he’ll squeeze a nickel until the buffalo shits. (yes, young ones, there used to be buffalos on nickels). I hope I’m being an alarmist here, and we’ll get all of this under control well before it gets as bad as I’m imagining. Either way it’s time to hold on. And just in case, have a one egg sandwich while you squeeze that nickel.

Fear Gone Rabid


New York is that cab. I am that cab. Hell, we are all that cab. Balanced precariously, not on the tip of a friendly well-trained nose, but on the edge of the undomesticated and aggressive Covid-19, while the sun continues to rise in the background each day, unconcerned by the dramas and traumas of human beings.

I’ve ranted over the past couple of weeks, vented the anger and frustration of not enough people in the US taking this seriously enough, the hideous politics of a literal pandemic while we have a president and administration that cares nothing for its citizens. These last days, though, no matter how I try to hold tight to the protective coating of anger, anxiety has continued to ratchet up and fear has coated the surface of every thought. Writing, whether fiction or blogging, is my way of taking control and muddling through, always has been. So I’m writing now hoping it will help me get a handle on this. I’m not sure it’s possible, with no end in sight and no certainty as to the scope we’re facing. I may or may not actually post this one.

If you are a reader who follows Mrs Fringe, whether long term or more recent, you know I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in emergency rooms, ICUs, hospitals. More than most, not as much as too many. My fears today, the anxiety that’s taken a blowtorch to my gut over the past month, comes from those experiences, from knowing how these things are “supposed” to go, from being able to envision but not able to face what lies ahead for too many of us. The other day I went to the grocery store. A long line to get inside, but once I was all was neat and organized, people (for the most part) working to keep their distance from each other. Not necessarily six feet, but this is Manhattan, it just isn’t physically possible in most shared indoor spaces. As I walked up the frozen food aisle I had to stop because the cases on either side of me took on the gray fuzziness of oh shit, am I going to pass out? I wasn’t, and am not, ill. This wasn’t the first time I got dizzy while out and running a necessary errand in recent weeks, had a moment of oh my god, this is not right, not a personal trauma, the world is wrong and will never be the same. Not even the first time it’s happened outside of Covid-19. I have a strong stomach and high tolerance for medical stuff, but oh man did my knees go out weeks? after Husband’s second open heart surgery, when the physician’s assistant was removing the drainage tubes from his chest and abdomen and I heard the peculiar, specific, sucking, squishing thwok of that first seal being broken. Other times also, with no particular, obvious trigger, always after a crisis has passed, when the fear, emotion, excess caffeine, lack of sleep and often lack of decent nutrition hit me in a mundane moment of checking for a ripe avocado. This time my brain isn’t waiting until after. I’m panicked now.

I, Mrs Fringe, am fucking terrified. Our closest hospital is one we’ve been to many times, both their adult ER and the Peds ER sections. Many fine doctors there, some inpatient units are excellent, never had any problems in the ped ER. The adult ER? Another story entirely, and over the years it’s gotten worse and worse, to the point where I’ve said I will not go there for anything anymore. Why? Because they’re chronically understaffed, and an understaffed and overcrowded ER is dangerous, no matter how good and well trained the nurses are. Less than a year ago we were there, Husband, it was a guy from housekeeping who turned on the oxygen and gave him a nasal canula when I couldn’t get a doctor or nurse to come over when his o2 was dropping. One story of many, and that’s with me there, staying out of the way when I can/need to and making noise when I need to do that too. Again, not the fault of uncaring or lackadaisical nurses, but the limits of how many high needs patients any one person can reasonably care for, with new patients streaming in and needing assessments every few minutes. Stretchers stacked like a damned game of Tetris, many times I watched workers from transport needing to move 4-10 patients just to reach the patient they were there for and be able to get them to their next stop in the hospital.

I stay when Husband is in. I stay when Art Child is in. For all our hospital time, we don’t go unless it’s absolutely necessary. And part of when an ER visit or hospital stay is absolutely necessary, by definition, means the person being seen/assessed/admitted isn’t feeling strong, maybe can’t speak, certainly can’t make a fuss if they need something and staff are busy elsewhere. Other hospitals. It was me who yelled for the nurses in the step-down CICU after Husband’s first open heart surgery, when he turned blue and all tubes and bags filled with blood, his aorta ruptured along the suture line of his new valve. Would they have come running thirty seconds later? Would thirty seconds have mattered? It might have, considering they needed to reopen his chest there in the room and manually pump his heart on the way back to the OR. Or when Husband was on a vent and the ICU dr decided this was the perfect time to preen for the nurses and show off how the temporary pacemaker leads were/weren’t working, giving unnecessary shocks until I spoke up because he didn’t know about damage to a nerve he was expecting to see a response from because of a prior surgery (Husband, obviously, unable to tell him). Or, less crucial but important, when we had the (thankfully rare) experience of an unkind EEG tech who was too rough placing leads on my girl’s head, and she was too terrified to do anything other than cry quietly. Or the times food service sent non-diabetic meals to Husband. Or the many other times when calories in take precedent over what type of calories, so I go out for foods to tempt while the hospital trays sit uneaten. Or with MIL, when some slick talker from billing came into the room to offer threats about insurance claims and what would be owed. Yes, I kindly invited him to get the fuck out and take it up with Medicare, not a vulnerable elderly woman who’d had her chest cracked open two days before who’d only been off the vent a matter of hours.

These are just a few bad moments of lapsed or potential lapsed treatment in otherwise great care, with many, mostly reassuring moments. Every ICU nurse I’ve ever interacted with (Peds, cardiac, or general) has been great to oh my god this person should be nominated for sainthood). ICU nurses are extraordinary, with training that goes well beyond the nurse drawing blood at your local GP’s office. But when hospitals have literally overflowed into tents, it isn’t just equipment that will be in short supply, it will be staff, doctors, nurses, nurses aides, physician’s assistants, because both there are too many patients and because they themselves who are getting sick.

Yes, there are the very real extra fears that go with knowing people in my immediate world are particularly vulnerable to more severe manifestations of this virus because of pre-existing conditions. And it’s more than that.  If one of those I love needs to be admitted because of Covid-19, or what about the non-Covid-19 related reasons I have the experiences I do that haven’t magically disappeared, how will I be able to just leave them there? Maybe in a hospital, maybe in a fucking tent? Nerd Child isn’t even here. He’s safe and healthy, for now, but if things go sideways and he was to get sick? I couldn’t go to him. If Husband or Art Child or Man Child was to need hospitalization he couldn’t come to be with them either. The thought of walking away, not being there if Husband is on a vent? Literally makes me sick. One of my children? I can’t imagine it, because the pain of that very real possibility overwhelms my ability to paint that mental picture. But I can’t stop thinking about it, at least the edges of the possibility, because I have been there in “normal” times. Our normal abnormal. In fully staffed hospitals with all the needed equipment. It’s knowing that if medical equipment needs to be rationed, there’s the very real possibility those preexisting conditions will render them ineligible for a needed ventilator. It’s the incredibly stupid comments I continue to see and hear online, in the news, in the community, from stupid people still blaming the ACA, or Obama, or saying those same rationing conditions existed under “Obamacare.” Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you’ve never experienced a loved one on a ventilator I’m glad for you. I hope you never do. It’s awful, and illness, injuries and novel viruses don’t give a shit who you vote for. But for those of us who have, repeatedly, who deal with chronic illness and disorders that make things like staffing patterns, hospital admissions, ICUs (hell, the fact that we “joke” about July being the worst time to have a crisis requiring admission because that’s when the new residents come on board), know the best cart to get coffee from part of our basic facts of life, there’s an entirely different level to this hell we call the Covid-19 pandemic.

This isn’t a potential crisis, it is a crisis. It’s real and it’s here. That was a few days ago. As of last night, there were 26,697 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in this city, 5,250 hospitalized, 1,175 in ICUs, and 450 deaths. Those numbers are just in NYC, just the confirmed cases. It may or may not be futile, but I’m doing all I can to keep me and mine safe, keep others safe from us should one of us get it. Please, please, all of you do the same.

Say. The. Words.

Come now. You–and I’m talking to you, 45, GOP, Fox News, et al–and I both know what it is you aren’t saying out loud. I have no special mind reading powers, we ALL know what you mean. So say it.

When you state the cure (social distancing, purposeful slow down of the economy) is worse than the disease, you’re saying your stocks and bank accounts are worth more than people’s lives. Hell, Tmp doesn’t even care about the economy of the country (outside of wanting to see big numbers, YUGE), he cares about his personal bank accounts and businesses.

Let’s put to the side that this makes no sense in terms of basic, surface logic. I mean, if 40-70% of the population is sick, dying, overwhelming the health care system, how great is the economy going to be? Who will be buying shit? working? The wealthy, but contrary to popular GOP opinion, the wealthy aren’t enough to keep the economy going.

When you say grandparents are willing to die for the economic health of their grandchildren, you aren’t only talking about grandparents who are 90+. You’re talking about everyone over the age of 60. You’re talking about the…what? one million? two million? grandparents in the US who are currently raising their grandchildren. You’re talking about all of the vulnerable population regardless of age, due to cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, homeless, incarcerated, hospitalized for other illnesses or injuries. For all the nonsense war analogies, this isn’t war, no one is pointing a gun at people in a particular uniform. It’s a virus, not checking to see which flag you’re waving, or the date of your birth certificate, before penetrating cells. You know it. I know it. We all know it. I guess you’re assuming your wealth will protect you from dying, despite your advanced age. Statistically your odds are better than the average Joe retiree, the fact that you can access a Covid-19 test, and access it before you’re at death’s door–will automatically tip the scales your way, so not a delusional thought, though of course, no guarantee.

It is no surprise this administration has created such a dangerous scenario with its mishandling of this pandemic. It is no surprise you were unprepared and unwilling to do or say anything to upset Dear Leader, point out his lack of clothing or unwashed, groping hands. It is no surprise the cult following still standing behind this administration will throw themselves on the proverbial funeral pyre in order to stay in line and protect him, sacrifice millions–including themselves, because many of them are not only among the most vulnerable because of age, health, and economic status, but those sparsely populated red states–very limited access to health care even without a pandemic. No surprise at all. We knew it the day the GOP fell in behind Tmp as their nominee in 2016, when millions voted for him knowing what he did/didn’t stand for, what he did/didn’t understand, or care about.

I understand that doctors in some countries have had to make these types of decisions that place a value on each life because of limited supplies and equipment. I understand it may come to that in certain regions of the US. My heart goes out to the patients and their loved ones and the doctors. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons, some altruistic, some not, but I don’t know of any who go into it in order to be placed in these types of positions. A doctor, a panel of doctors, making these impossible decisions based on the best science and information available to them in the moment is a very different thing than a government making these types of decisions not because of last resort, but because money is worth more than lives–as evidenced by discussion of decisions that will increase the number of human beings who will become seriously ill, with a percentage of those dying.

Frankly, I am very willing to sacrifice myself for my family. If there is one ventilator available, and I and another member of my family need it to live, don’t hesitate. Save my children, my husband, my mother in law. But that is a personal choice. I will not decide your life has less value than mine. I do not believe the lives of my family, my friends, even myself, are worth less than the lives of the uberwealthy nervous only because of the worth of their stocks. So go ahead, you cowards, blustering behind your stock market charts from under the shadow of your red ball caps. Use your words. Tell me it’s worth it to you to take the life of my 18 year old immunocompromised kiddo. My late 50s husband who has worked his entire life, paid taxes, cared about others, raised three very fine children, isn’t done with life yet, and is more upset by the term unemployed than he was facing a rare and risky open heart surgery.

Reopening everything, ordering people back to work, will not save the economy. It will kill people unnecessarily. Seniors, yes. Also health care workers, middle aged people, young people, maybe even pregnant people–and we all know how much you care about life pre-birth. I understand this, and you do, too. Fucking say it.

Top of the Heap

There’s a bit from the manuscript I’m querying that keeps going round in my head. Is it in poor taste to quote from my own work? Do rules about poor taste apply when we’re in the midst of a pandemic and facing the apocalypse? *shrug* I’ll quote it anyway.

He should have missed me. Pined for me when we weren’t speaking, begun to waste without my dumplings. But in fact he looked fine when I snuck upstairs and watched him hauling cases of clean glasses to the bar. Healthy. Maybe he’d gained a pound or two. How could that be? I was good for him, damn it. I would be there, even later, when he got sicker and most people got afraid. Maybe. If he wanted. If I wanted. I turned my mind sideways, so’s not to think how people could be good and bad for each other at the same time. Simulcast, like a presidential speech, or a Grateful Dead concert, when the sound was supposed to line up from the TV and the radio exactly right, but there was always that lag, so you didn’t know where to put your ears.

That last bit, not knowing where to put your ears. That’s how I feel these days, but I don’t know where to put my mind, can’t quite think about anything straight on without needing to let my thoughts slide to the next, and yet now matter how much slip sliding between the neurons, those thoughts always slide to another aspect of Covid-19. The danger to my family, personally, health-wise? Slip. The economic ramifications? Slide. The thought that if one of my loved ones ends up hospitalized I don’t think I’d be allowed to actually, physically be with them? Slither. The entire country changing forever? Well, that one is something we’ve been looking at for close to four years now, isn’t it? Sigh. And what I’m talking about today. New York. The city. My New York.

The rate of confirmed cases in New York City is, so far, following the terrifying curve that’s been expected, with confirmed cases rising exponentially. For the most part the parameters for testing are still strict because of limited tests available, so when I say there were close to 4000 confirmed cases by late yesterday afternoon, it isn’t my imagination run wild to say there are likely tens of thousands of actual cases through the city already, confirmed or not, severe or not, symptomatic or not. The only thing moving faster than the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in NY right now is the number of jobs lost, which dwarfs the number sick &/or testing positive. People in the music industry, hospitality, restaurants, retail, on and on.

Much of the city looks like a movie set right now. The flats and backdrops are there, subway cars empty and waiting, lighting is right, but still far from filming, only a few people moving about here and there. I know that is good news, our best and–except for testing (out of individual control) and hand washing–only defense. Still creepy as fuck.

Being a born and bred New Yorker is its own cultural identity. You can be anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and if you say you’re a New Yorker, people have images that come to mind. Images of the tourist traps you avoid, the cultural institutions you grew up frequenting, the shops and restaurants they’ve maybe dreamed of visiting but for you are–were?–daily life. If, like me, you’re of a certain age and/or from certain boroughs, you don’t actually have to identify yourself as a New Yorker, not for nothing but your accent does it for you, recognized no matter where you are.

Broadway is dark. I love live theater, and yes, I love Broadway shows. I haven’t been able to go regularly in years, out of budget, but man oh man, nothing like it. Those shows are mind-bogglingly expensive to produce and run. With weeks, maybe months, of no sales, how is it going to get up and running again? And those are the big boys, what about the off-off Broadway shows?

The Metropolitan Opera laid off its union employees yesterday. Union employees. Think about that.

Though still technically allowed to run delivery/pick up service, many of the restaurants have closed. Restaurants in New York, even the top ones with the Big Name Chefs, run on a very, very narrow margin. The restaurants everyone has seen on tv shows/movies, read about in Page 6, and or the local corner joints that have been serving locals for decades. Katz’s Deli (1903), Lombardi’s Pizza (1905), Peter Luger (1887), Tavern on the Green (1934), The Rainbow Room (1934), Totonno’s (1924), The Russian Tea Room (1927), Delmonico’s (1837), Sylvia’s (1962), Nathan’s (1916), Jing Fong (1978), Russ & Daughters (1914), Barney Greengrass (1908) and I’m guessing literally, easily, a hundred others people world wide would recognize the name or interior shots of.  Weeks/months of no income?

And the shops. Not just the big names that are more of a tourist attraction than shopping expedition for most (Bloomingdale’s, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman), but the ones that are known through the city and often across the world. Shops that represent New York, make this city this city. Mood Fabric, Matt Umanov Guitar’s, Rudy’s Music, Canal Street Market, Moscot’s Eyewear, Kiehl’s, and on and on and on. I can’t think anymore.

I’m no stranger to long running businesses closing their doors, no New Yorker is. With the rise of commercial rents having gone from ludicrous to impossible over the past couple of decades, the sight of a beloved local shop gated with a big long sign saying goodbye, thank you, and after X generations we’ve had to close because we lost our lease (only to sit empty for months, years, before being replaced by yet another half empty high rise, a CVS, a Starbucks, a bank whose name is going to change by the time you blink because it’s been absorbed by another bank) is a familiar one. Always a moment for sadness and reflection on how very clean and cold and corporate so many old favorite areas have become. But not everywhere, and not all the businesses.

So I’m thinking, when we get to the other side of this–and we will, whether it’s weeks, months, or over a year–what will be left of New York? My New York, our New York. Who and what businesses will be able to ride it out in this city of those that represent the city and the people in it, not the chain outposts that are already all too common a sight. Yes, we are a constantly evolving city, it’s what allowed it to become an icon and identity unto itself, self-absorbed though it may be. But those often small, multi-generational, not necessarily big name or big dollar places? They’re the heart that keeps beating.

 

Are You Okay?

Normally bustling hallway of hospital

The question on everyone’s lips. Well, not everyone, some are still licking toilet seats because they think it’s funny or just moaning about the inconvenience of bar closings, having to cancel vacations, having to self-quarantine if ill/possibly exposed to Covid-19. But pandemic or not, stupid’s gonna stupid and selfish is gonna selfish. The good news is there are also incredibly generous people working to feed the hungry/about to be hungry, some (too few) companies who are continuing to pay employees they’ve been forced to lay off or furlough while their doors are shuttered.

But back to the question. I am not ok. I know this, knew it, thought if I acknowledged the fact it would help keep my anxiety under control. Until Husband’s appointment yesterday with his young, upbeat doctor who just a couple of months ago said I was feisty, whose face was somber and I found myself having to work not to cry in response. The above photo of the hallway in the hospital? Yeah, that hallway is usually a hub of activity with an outpatient lab, cash machine, tea/snack kiosk just behind, and elevators leading to many of the individual doctor’s offices and departments. more than once we’ve had to wait for one of the elevators to arrive and open a second or third time because they were just too crowded. Not yesterday.

For everyone who is practicing social distancing, there are many of us who can’t stay home for two or three weeks, or six months, or a year, or however long this breath holding season is going to be. There are people performing essential services who have to go to work–and don’t kid yourself, it isn’t only doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and EMTs who are performing essential services–it’s also your pharmacist, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, truck drivers, bus and train operators, etc. And people who have to get to the doctor for appointments that can’t be put off if we’re going to try to avoid needing an array of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds for non-Covid-19 related reasons.

There would never be a good year for a pandemic, but this timing feels particularly devastating. This is a life altering event. Fuck, this is a world altering event. On a personal level, Husband and Art Child, who would both always be vulnerable, are both at points where they have no reserves for their bodies to call on. Mother in Law, who’s at a stage where every year seems to take an exponential toll. Nerd Child is in his senior year of college, campus now closed, though he was able to successfully petition to stay because of extenuating circumstances. Great! Except eek! he’s still my heart, and I really, really hate having him far from me during this. Man Child, who is currently strong, healthy, and miraculously still employed for the moment, but don’t think for a second I’m not thinking about him having contracted viral meningitis less than two years ago.

I was still reeling, just beginning to process the medical mayhem of the last several months for our family when this virus hit the US. On a national level, when we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the definition of civil service, or science, or compassion. At a time when it couldn’t be more clear the US needs nationalized health care, the citizens are showing with every Democratic primary they don’t want it. Not enough, not yet. On an international level, with not only our country deciding they miss the good old days of nationalism and sanctified subjugation, and global climate change threatening everyone and everything.

I haven’t been able to focus to escape into reading. Or writing. Or querying. Can’t stress bake because my building has a gas leak, we will have no gas (means no stove/oven) for who knows how many months. I’m still doing my yoga every morning, checking in with friends through text, email, and social media, here at home we’re counting toilet paper squares but we have enough food. I’m hand washing and disinfecting and elbow sneezing, no-face-touching (iffy on that one, it’s freaking hard!), and you better believe there is no toilet licking. At this point no one in my immediate circle has or seems to have Covid-19, but way too much of this is out of my control.

So here we are, in the year of 1918 and 1929 decided to have a baby and call it 2020.

I am hanging in and hanging on, doing what needs to be done, but I’m not ok, how about you?

Is the Ceiling Caving In or Is the Sky Falling?

 

My natural state is a sluggish ball of anxiety, but I’m not someone prone to panic. Definitely not for medical related issues. But at this moment? Yeah, I’m…not panicking, but I am worried. And pissed off.

Yup, I’m talking about coronavirus, covid-19.

It isn’t ebola, but it is a big deal. A very big deal, for all of us. For some of us, the big deal will be in the form of disruption to daily life, economic repercussions, which are important. Not just vague ideas of stock market losses (I’d be the least qualified to even offer an opinion on the stock market). Lots and lots of us live on the financial edge. And if, like me and mine, you’ve already taken a financial hit this year because of medical mayhem or anything else, you can’t afford another. And for some of us, it’s a very big deal for health reasons, either for us individually or for loved ones who are vulnerable.

I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, watching the spread of this virus over the last weeks, but still, the ground under me felt pretty stable. Be careful, do what’s within your control (have whatever supplies you can that you’d absolutely need in the house, wash your hands until they’re cracked and bleeding, etc). Yesterday, though, well. I am appalled at the number of comments I saw blowing this off, saying it’s no big deal, and who some of those comments were/are coming from. I mean sure, the red hat wearing folks who swallow whatever snake oil being sold by nutty televangelists and our vile, inept administration. Why would they believe in a highly communicable virus? A percentage of them believe the earth is flat. But I definitely wasn’t only seeing lol, look at the libs panic posts from that quadrant. I saw comments of this nature from people I generally respect as practical, thinking, caring human beings.

For most who contract this virus, it won’t be a big deal. No symptoms, mild symptoms, sick and miserable for a week or two and then all better. For anyone who is vulnerable, ie: seniors and or people with underlying health issues, it’s a very, very big deal. The truth is regular flu is a big deal for people who are immunocompromised. But the regular flu has a vaccine that many take, our systems are prepared for it, and it’s less communicable. I have three immunocompromised people in my immediate world. As in, living with me and/or I feed them, people who can’t just put off their annual checkup until this all gets under control, because they have to get to (and I take them to) multiple  ologist offices (usually in hospitals) and labs every week. And when you live in a city– like oh, say, New York–you can’t avoid crowds as long as life is still happening. Social distance of 6 feet? Hahahahahaha! Any of my readers ever been on the subway here? The bus? A doctor’s office? A grocery store? A freaking elevator?

Nerd Child is in his senior year of college. Last night I received notice the school will basically be shutting down until who knows when. They explained their reasoning, and it’s frustrating and in some ways infuriating, but above all it’s fucking terrifying. His school is one of many finding themselves in this position. Does anyone think these fancy shmancy private colleges and universities would be shutting doors, switching to remote classes if there wasn’t such a good, science based reason it overrode both their mission and financial interests?

Italy is closed, for all intents and purposes. Closed. An entire, democratic, modern, western country. Closed. No travel in, out, around. My understanding from people there who live in northern Italy (people I know irl, not tweets from who knows who) are telling us they’re running out of hospital beds, ICUs are over capacity, the system has been overwhelmed. This isn’t some super secret insider info I’m getting. Read the papers, watch the news, listen to the damned scientists. Forget Ireland, Boston canceled its Saint Patricks Day parade (if you aren’t familiar with the demographics, this action would have been unimaginable up until two days ago).

But here? Once again, American exceptionalism overrides logic for too many. Ever been to an ER here during regular flu season? Overflowing, literally. More than once, twice, three times, I’ve been in various city ERs with a loved one for days, waiting for a bed. The extra fun part of this is that you’ve technically been admitted, so the ER staff is no longer responsible for the patient (keep in mind the ER staff is already overloaded with patients who are their responsibility), but you’re physically in the ER, so the staff that is? Not physically there on a regular basis. So sick enough to be admitted, yet treatment and attention is less than minimal.

Ever have someone you care about on a ventilator? It’s frightening. Scary to see, scary to think about the need for it, scary to think about what that machine is actually doing to keep your loved one alive, and then more frightening still every day they’re on it, because the longer someone is on a vent, the more difficult it is to get them off of it. You know what’s downright terrifying? The possibility of someone you care about needing to be on a vent and there are none available. Now multiply that one person by many.

Covid-19 is worldwide now. Even our lying American government admitted yesterday we are past the point of being able to contain this, it’s become about mitigation efforts, trying not to overwhelm our healthcare system with too many getting sick at once. America has 330 million people. Not everyone will get sick, and of those that do, again, for most it won’t be a big scary deal. That still leaves thousands, tens of thousands, maybe more, getting very, very sick, some fatally. Diabetes is a risk factor. Last I saw, there were something like 30 million people with diabetes in the US. Heart disease is a risk factor. 120 million people in this country with some form of heart disease. Being a senior citizen is a risk. 47 million seniors. Asthma. 25 million. Autoimmune Disease. 20 million. Cancer. About 600,000 people receive chemo each year. The umbrella of rare diseases and disorders. 25 million. Again, not every senior and/or person with underlying conditions will get Covid-19, and of those that do, not all will become need-a-hospital sick. And you can’t just add these numbers, many who have one risk factor are in several groups. But that still leaves us looking at a very large number, with finite, limited resources.

Because guess what? While this coronavirus is spreading, people will still get sick with cancer, pneumonia not caused by this particular virus, the flu, have heart attacks, strokes, need pacemakers, need new heart valves, develop pancreatitis, need amputations because of diabetes, have serious accidents, have babies, all the million and one things that land people in the hospital, requiring emergency treatment and admission on any given day.

There are fewer than 1 million hospital beds in the US. There are 62,000 ventilators. I’m no math wizard but…

Our government, here in the US, has not done us any favors by fudging the numbers by not testing, being slow to develop tests, and focusing solely on the economics (and here, mostly for the corporations and wealthy, this administration couldn’t be more clear they don’t give a shit about the dish washer in back of your local diner who doesn’t have sick days, health insurance, and will be afraid to go to the hospital and find themselves in the custody of ICE) and not the health and human factors. Hell, we have elected officials who were making jokes and blowing this off who are now self-quarantined.

You can tell me not to panic, and you’d be right. Panic helps no one and nothing, and much of this is out of our control. Scientists are doing their thing, working on developing a vaccine, and it will take time. Time and a toll on many.

But don’t you dare fucking tell me it’s no big deal.

 

 

Dear Dems: Please and

 

If you squint it says Thank You.

 

You know how infuriating and offensive it is when we hear the media and the GOP talking about real Americans, and by that they mean white, male, Christian, straight, cis, born in a cornfield, swaddled in the flag, and weaned on Bud/Coors/Pabst Blue Ribbon middle American farmers? Yeah, how about we stop doing that to ourselves.

We dislocate shoulders patting ourselves on the back for how diverse our party is. Cool. And it is. We are the party of looking forward, to growth and prosperity, equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities and safety for all. We howl in outrage and anguish at the recent, systematic dismantling of our all too fragile democracy. Now how about we act like we mean it?

As harmful as it is to pretend there aren’t millions of voting Americans who support this administration (yanno, the whole thisisnotwhoweare), it is equally–if not more so–harmful to pretend the only Democrats who matter are your kind, whether your kind is progressive, moderate, or some other faction. If you are saying the only possible Dem candidate to take back the White House is the one you support, if you are preemptively spouting conspiracy theories about why your candidate won’t win the nomination and is being robbed by the establishment/socialists/whatever; please stop.

Please. If you are passionate about your choice for the Dem nomination, excellent. Campaign for them, brag about their accomplishments, vote for them, make your case about why you believe they are the best choice, buy them flowers, tell them you love them and call them in the morning. But don’t viciously rip the other candidates and their supporters, don’t bellow they are the same as those who support the current White House and GOP. They aren’t. You may not agree with them/their candidates about everything, or even most things. But they aren’t trying to take away your democracy, your right to clean air and water, your right to freedom of religion/speech/marriage equality/voting rights–your basic human rights.

But someone else is. Millions of someones are. And the GOP, by their Senate vote on impeachment yesterday, made it clear. They are all for a dictatorship, they’re done with equality and justice for all, the rule of law, this little experiment called America. I know there are some who will read this post and splutter, Mrs Fringe is romanticizing the America of 2015, she’s forgetting the ERA was never passed, voting rights have been under attack long before 2016, she’s forgetting Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, and Flint Michigan, and stop and frisk, DREAMERS, the opiod crisis, children in cages, the school to prison pipeline, the imaginary weapons of mass destruction that got us into Iraq, and climate change, and mass shootings, and the working poor who have been living in their cars and in shelters for years, and unaffordable medicine, and why we need strong borders, and Israel, and the deficit, and on and on.

I promise, I am not. I am remembering. I am not imagining a pipe dream of who we are. I am remembering this. is. not. normal. It isn’t normal, but it has now become normalized. I am remembering the upcoming elections are our last shot for who knows how long to try and get this country back on the path of democracy. I know how this sounds. We’re taught–and we teach–to shoot for the stars, go for the gold, marry the person who makes your heart sing and your consciousness expand (or something, I dunno, I’m not a romance kind of gal). But we haven’t been taught–and don’t teach–to give up and starve to death if we don’t become movie stars and instead wait tables until retirement, lay down and die if we get a thanks-for-playing certificate instead of the gold, marry the person who beats you to death if you don’t marry the one who first broke your heart.

Be passionate. Be loud. Make your case and share your dream of our country led by your candidate of choice. When the caucuses and primaries are over, maybe your candidate will have come out on top. Maybe I’ll agree they were the best choice. Maybe not. Whether they were my first choice or not, I will support them, and I will believe even if they were my last choice, they are THE choice. I may not love them. You may not love them. We don’t have to. We’re choosing a President for four years, not a dictator who will in turn hand their golden scepter to their progeny, not a God (despite the current theories and apparent intentions on the right). I will know, whether it’s the most progressive candidate or the most moderate, they will not implement the hellscape currently being crafted by those in power today.

 

 

Let’s Chat, Shall We?

Come, sit, I’ve poured you a fresh cup of my favorite tea.

I was going to avoid political talk for a little longer, but that seems unrealistic these days, doesn’t it? Actually, it feels irresponsible to avoid it completely if you have any type of platform, no matter how small. I’m not going to address last night’s performance piece of a State of the Union speech, I’m going to focus in a bit more. On health care. Yeah, that old topic. You’d think we’d have exhausted and put it to bed by the year 2020, but far from it.

So. When I was a kiddo in the wilds of south Brooklyn, everyone knew one other kiddo whose dad had died in his thirties or forties–maybe when we were a little older, in his fifties–from a massive heart attack. Shoveling snow, working construction, running to catch the train, maybe eating Sunday dinner. “So young,” it would be whispered. It happened, and really, outside of the immediate family/friend circle, it wasn’t all that shocking, because it happened. Not frequently, but. Actually, it often wasn’t all that shocking within the circle either, because more than half the time you’d hear the same had happened to Grandpa/Uncle/Cousin. Genetics, though then we’d say “it runs in the family,” like freckles or broad hips.

We also all knew at least one someone whose Grandma/Grandpa lived with them, but you didn’t know until you’d been to their house or apartment twelve times, because Gramps was hidden in the basement or a back room. Gran was creepy, with an odd lurch to her step and slurred speech in the brief periods that she was awake and banging for dinner. Sounds like the setup to a gothic novel, doesn’t it? No, an elderly person post-stroke, with a poor or working class family who couldn’t afford home health attendants or a decent nursing home. There was social security and medicare, but it didn’t cover enough for many families who couldn’t supplement.

Now we hear, “So young!” when someone dies at 75. Because health care is better, and more broadly available. Not for everyone, not enough, but certainly better. The 43 year old who has nausea and sharp jaw pain goes to her cardiologist and gets a stress test, the 38 year old with chest pains goes to the ER and has an angio resulting in a drug eluding stent placed to unclog his left anterior descending artery. True, pollution was much worse (in our air and water) and everyone smoked, but it’s now rare to hear of someone under the age of 70 who had rheumatic fever as a child leaving them with cardiac issues, and the number of people living with diabetes has skyrocketed. Oh, you didn’t know diabetes is actually a multi-systemic, devastating disorder?

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, things improved for many. Medicaid was expanded, adult children could stay on parents’ health care plans until age 26 (so important in this age of shrinking unions and gig economy), lifetime caps were eliminated. If you don’t think the elimination of lifetime caps is a big deal, congrats! Your life has been charmed. Annual caps were eliminated (also, a really big issue for anyone dealing with chronic disease). Insurers were no longer allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, insurers were no longer allowed to jack up the rates for those with preexisting conditions (making health insurance unattainable), preventative health care had to be covered, garbage plans that basically offered no protections were banned. Was the ACA enough? No. Was it still too expensive for too many? Yes. Are there too many doctors who don’t accept ACA plans? Yup. But it was better than what we had before. Much better for many, and a huge step in the right direction for all.

One of the first things this administration and GOP did was try to roll back the ACA. By the grace of John McCain (there’s a phrase I never expected to type) and the huge push of constituents nationwide, they were defeated.

Well, guess what? They’ve been successfully chipping away at it ever since. The individual mandate has been eliminated. States were allowed to tie work requirements to Medicaid (now in court, but so far tens of thousands have been kicked off Medicaid in Arkansas). Access to garbage (called short term or skinny plans) was expanded. And now, right now, this administration is in court, trying to take away protections for those with preexisting conditions. Of course, this President spews lies about this along with everything else. Why does he lie so much? Because he can. Because he gets away with it. Because of his supporters, many aren’t informed enough to know he’s in court trying to take away their healthy care–and savvy enough to tell SCOTUS not to hurry to hear the case, wait until after the 2020 election. A number of his supporters know and don’t care, they’d rather lose their own protections and health care than know one of those others is getting a bypass in the operating room next door.

My personal favorite (and by favorite I mean drooling/sobbing/ready to throw myself off the terrace) is when I see/hear people who continue to support this administration and President because who knows why, but they know it’s ok, and they’ll be ok, because they aren’t like those greedy libs who want entitlements. Sure they want and need their Social Security and Medicare, but those aren’t entitlements. Oops. But come November, they’ll still vote for him. Why? Because in the meantime he’ll lie, and they’ll swallow those lies because they want to, and really, when you think about it, maybe Uncle Joe’s had a good run after all.

Communication Breakdown

Hello all.

I know, it’s been a long time. What can I say, the world’s gone to shit, and somehow my rage at the daily news left me howling but without words. Honestly, the Kavanaugh hearings and subsequent confirmation did me in.

I’ve stayed on Twitter though, and that’s what prompted this post. A funny thing happened to me today. Funny-strange, not funny ha-ha. As a woman of a certain age, I’m used to a certain level of invisibility. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but there are other aspects to it that are kind of…pleasant. Peaceful. But I’ve been particularly enraged these past days as the US states have ramped up their attacks on women through abortion restrictions and plans to criminalize women. Note that I’m not, however, surprised. So when I logged on Twitter this morning, I saw #Lysistrata and #sexstrike trending. Yeah…no. Sure, I understand the idea behind it, and it seems clever–after all, it’s all about sex, and sex gets attention and sells, right? No. I tweeted my opposition to the idea, and offered an alternative, #spendingstrike, and lo and behold my little invisible tweet blew up. I don’t know that it falls under the going viral category, but considering I usually interact with the same little group of ten people or so, maaaaybe twenty if it’s a Big Thing, finding a tweet of mine with 1000 likes, over 200 retweets, and lots of comments is a big deal. Kind of nerve wracking, in a holy shit my phone is going to spontaneously combust from vibrating so much kind of way. I also had to locate and use the block button, because I was noticed by trolls. A nuisance, that, but meh. They’ll forget I existed by midnight.

You know what does feel like a big deal? How many people don’t seem to understand the point–why the whole sex strike thing is not a great idea in this day and age. Why maybe showing our fury and frustration about being told by other people what we can or can’t do with our bodies by telling each other what we can/can’t do with our bodies isn’t…logical. How maybe the idea of sex as a tool/weapon reinforces the whole patriarchy thing. That it reinforces that it’s “natural” (excuse me while I puke) for men to want sex and women not too. How it reinforces the falsehood that women are only valuable as sexual objects &/or incubating capabilities. How it reinforces the idea that only *certain* women (yanno, the straight, cis, childbearing age ones) are valuable, only certain women can take a stand against barbaric rules that threaten all of us. How it ignores the fact that most of these threatened and threatening male Republican lawmakers & voters are mostly having sex with threatened and threatening self-hating Republican women. Did I puke already this paragraph? I know, a nauseating concept, but it is reality, and for a hippy I’m quite the realist.

I’m not going to really talk about abortion or sex or babies here, because those aren’t the point, not of this post and not of these laws. This is about women and power and fear.

I have this idea that’s been floating in my head for a while now. What does make a difference? What gets attention? Money, of course. So I thought of a hashtag, #spendingstrike and posted my idea. What if all the non self-hating women didn’t make any purchases for a week? Women, collectively, spend a lot of money, power a significant portion of our economy. I’m not looking for anyone to hurt themselves or anyone else, so it would have to planned well in advance. We’d have to go into it knowing that a percentage wouldn’t participate because they do hate themselves enough to believe they should die before having a D&C, even if and when the fetus is not viable &/or they’ll die without the D&C. Fine, they’re zealots, brainwashed, whatever you want to say, no point wasting time and energy arguing with them. Another slice of women won’t participate because life is fucking hard and it’s all they can do to get through each day, they aren’t screwing around on Twitter; they’re either working or sleeping or taking care of their families or trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night. That still leaves a whole lot of us. A whole lot of dollars not spent.

Think about it. No purchases for a week. No grocery shopping, no cars, no phones, no Metrocard. If planned for it could happen. Some people saw my hashtag and tweets, and misconstrued them, thinking I meant women shouldn’t go to work for a day (or a week, whatever). No. Again, I’m not looking to hurt anyone, and a lot of women don’t have the luxury of saying they won’t go to work because Hear Me Roar, their bosses would respond with Don’t Come Back. I’m not looking to hurt any one industry, or the people of any one area, with a prolonged strike. It isn’t about deprivation. Choosing deprivation is again a luxury that many don’t have, and these laws will hurt just about all of us–the exception, of course, being the uber wealthy who will be able to afford to go wherever they want/need for safe health care, and hey, if they do get arrested because some judge doesn’t believe they didn’t cause their own miscarriage, they can afford great lawyers. It’s about getting attention–yeah, yeah, I seem to be confused about the whole attention whore thing–and making a point. THE point, that they may not value our rights or our lives, but I’m quite certain they value our money. Congress has the power of the purse. Guess what? We do too.

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Babies

Sunrise, it’s beautiful until you face the news.

The truth is I started this post yesterday–and by started I mean I typed in the title, uploaded the most recent photos, and then was crushed by the weight of it all. When creating a new file and starting a new…novel, maybe? is easier than writing a blog post, yeah, it’s heavy.

Often the anticipation of a thing, something bad you know is coming, or even the unknown of waiting for medical test results, is worse than when that thing happens. I knew, and if you weren’t in denial you knew, this swift, systematic dismantling of America and American rights was going to happen as soon as 45 was elected. The worst is now happening, and it isn’t any better than waiting/not knowing. Is it worse? Yes, because as quickly as all this is happening, it feels like well more than half the country is still in denial–and not just the racist, homophobic, misogynist supporters on the Right, but too many on the Left with their “Mueller will fix everything, it won’t get that bad,” and my current favorite, “Senators Collins and Murkowski will do the right thing.” If they were going to do the right thing they would have disavowed the rest of the GOP two years ago. Unless something immediate, drastic, and miraculous occurs, Kavanaugh (45’s latest pick for the Supreme Court) will be confirmed, and Roe v Wade is going to be overturned.

Whether or not we can change this (and yes, we should continue doing everything in our power to try), every woman and every man who so much as nods to the idea of women’s rights and equality needs to acknowledge what this means, just how far back this clock is spinning. Because guess what? It isn’t about abortion. There have always been abortions, but not safe, legal, and affordable ones. It sure as shit isn’t about the sanctity of life. It’s about punishing the poor and people of color–because those who are wealthy and white will always be able to hop on a plane to somewhere it’s safe and legal when they need to. It’s about putting women in their place, taking away our freedom, our agency, our power, our right to life. It’s about punishing females for having a uterus, girls for developing breasts, women for believing we too should have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s about being told by men and wealthy corporations what we can or cannot do with our bodies, specifically our secondary sexual characteristics, to be used and abused only as these men and corporations deem appropriate and advantageous to them.

I know the popular stories from those on the right like to focus on the millions of imaginary evil wimminz who tempt men with their short skirts and girly bits, have unprotected sex while “taking” promotions in the workplace, and then skipping to their nearest Planned Parenthood for D&Cs. If you listen to these stories, these women choose to have abortions more regularly than most have menstrual cycles–yanno, when they’re bleeding from their wherever. There won’t be medical necessity exceptions, that’s been made very clear by those bullshit, alarmist campaigns against late term abortions–which are just about always performed because of medical necessity.

If and when this happens, I’m certain we can also look forward to the good old days where birth control was banned and illegal (since health care will be unaffordable, by that time birth control will also be a privilege for the wealthy). We’ll go back to the days of rape is impossible within a marriage–because there are plenty who still believe this–rape in general will be decriminalized and always the woman’s (girls, men, boys) fault. Hey, maybe they can start criminalizing and prosecuting women who have miscarriages. Don’t worry, there will be a natural limit to the cost of this, since a number of these women will die without the ability to have doctors perform D&Cs.

I thought I would go on and on with this post, detailing the history of abortion, birth control, and women’s rights, with a ton of links and photos, but no. I’m too tired, and I just can’t. Because those who are screaming that this is about criminalizing women’s sexuality are wrong. It’s about criminalizing women.