". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Friday the 13th: Downtown Manhattan Snapshot

     . . . . A relaxed, youngish woman, back against the Greek Bakery's window, knees up, feet perched upon the bench in front the one on which she's comfortably seated, coffee at her side, wearing a breathing mask, reading The New Yorker, enjoying this warm, sunny day.

I wanted to take her photo but that would have invaded her privacy.  Asking permission would have broken the picture.


     . . . . Growing up as a farm girl, raised in a community for whom memories of the Great Depression plus the annual reality of winter were their organizing forces, my last four weeks primarily have focused on preparation for breaks in the supply chain, isolation, quarantine, being sick at home.  This began even before Postmambo realized that ya, the For The Funk Of It tour in NOLA was going to have to be, at the least, postponed.

Watching the news from China and Italy made it clear covid-19 would arrive here, was probably already here, but we had no idea when the 'leadership' would even bother to take notice.

Fortunately our state and city were noticing and attempting to take action even by the start of the new year.  9/11 and Hurricane Sandy taught us all something. But in Washington?  We all knew they'd do nothing, blame it on others, and when they had to do something, they'd make it worse. And even worse than that, even if forced to, they wouldn't know what to do or how to do it, and then they'd lie some more.  So ....

The first supplies I bought were over the counter remedies such as Nyquil, aspirin, Riccola Drops, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, chlorine bleach, lysol and chlorine hand wipes, mouthwash, toothpaste (some of which I had already, since I try to stay ahead on these items).  But even by then, due to the flu season being so bad here this year, there was no hand sanitizer.  Then came the rice, couscous, pasta, lentils, beans, tea and so on -- which again I always have on hand anyway, but never in a quantity that could hopefully get us through 3 weeks to 2 months (if it goes beyond 2 -3 months -- well! who knows?). 

We have a lot of coffee beans -- like we have a lot of rum -- because of Cuba --people there are always giving us gifts of coffee and rum. We also had a couple of packages of unopened sanitary gloves, and the masks, which are useless for anything but mild home cleaning up plaster and other repairs or accidents.

Over the following days, my usual daily shopping included something extra for storage every day, beyond the necessary for making dinner, having breakfast, doing laundry, cleaning.

We made new wills and had them notarized.

Now that the mass prep buying is in effect, we could concentrate on the more perishable, but still with a good shelf life, foods like yams, potatoes, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squashes to use now.  I am making spinach soup today, for instance.

Some I'll freeze, some I'll give out right now to two male friends and neighbors who have no idea of what to do, some I'll give to some of the people in my building who haven't had either the good fortune and privilege to do anything like this, and at this moment, can't do anything either, because all these things are missing from the shelves now.  They all have freezers, so this is going to be what I'm doing. Making soups and legume dishes for friends and neighbors. Nobody's doining a run on fresh baby spinach, packages of carrots, yams and potatoes! At least at the moment.

Other snapshots from Thursday (a particularly black day, particularly in NYC, due to the markets) and yesterday: elderly gentlemen, depressed and defeated, staring hopelessly at the fairly depleted shelves in our wonderful local Morton Williams supermarket, having not a clue as to what they should be doing.  One reached out finally, and dropped two rolls of toilet paper in his basket.  My heart broke.  These are men -- like some of our friends, who live alone, have never done meal planning or preparation in their lives, who now that they're alone eat in little restaurants or fast food, or -- I don't know. Heartbreaking that we care so little for all of us sharing our communities

Then there are these gougers, weeping for their lost investments as state and other regs against gouging kick in. For them, we shall not squeeze a tear (though, perhaps? squeezing the trigger would indeed be appropriate?:

Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.
“It’s been a huge amount of whiplash,” he said. “From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?"
They don't know what to do with these supplies, even as local hospitals and other medical facilities are without masks, sanitizer and these other essential supplies.

In Cuba, the men in the Morton Williams supermarket wouldn't be left alone and neglected to try and figure out what to do without the experience or means to do so. In Cuba hoarding would not be tolerated by either government or community.

In fact, now that two Italians  have brought the virus there, Cuba's mobilizing for it:

Nevertheless I am again, so privileged because I live where I do.

Number 1) I am not facing this alone.

Number 2) The population is generally young and prosperous, i.e. healthy. 

Number 3)  City and state have a certain amount of preparedness for emergencies -- we've all been through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, for starters, seen what was not done at all, before or after, in the aftermath of Katrina and more lately, Maria and Puerto Rico. So we have a lot of people in government and privately, who have already been thinking on these lines. But like everywhere else, our public health systems have been shut down, reduced, over and over and over, due to the thugs in D.C. cutting budgets, and destroying anything that could help the enormous population of homeless, mentally and physically challenged.

But here the churches are mobilizing -- not for services, but for watching out for each other, looking in on elderly neighbors, providing them with food.

Even our own landlords have been proactive, hiring already two weeks ago extra help to regularly disinfect and deep clean the public spaces such as laundry room, central staircase and railings, floors and doors, mail and delivery spaces. They sent email update with pertinent phone numbers to each tenant outlining what to do if one feels in need of help. One of  the young men in our building volunteered to shop for the two elderly tenants who have compromised immune systems due to cancer -- thankfully, they are both in remission. 

Here, learning distance teaching is in effect. NYU is in spring break so there's time to learn to use Zoom, hopefully (a real pita, but hey). We are working out protocols to live together 24/7 in this tiny space in harmony, including taking long walks separately.  And fortunately, having self taught video-audio tools, there is the Cuban music documentary to work on.

As I begin and end: even though I have the 9/11 dry rasping cough that afflicts so many down here, and there are allergies, and have a bad back, am in some ways in the high risk category -- still I am truly privileged, unlike way too many others.

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