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THE PANDEMIC DIARIES: Blue Skies Over LA

For every day we humans huddle inside, the planet takes another deep breath. The photo included in this article is from today in LA, sent to me by my daughter. Brilliant blue sky spread over dad and daughter flying a kite. A puffy white cloud. There’s something so Norman Rockwell-wholesome about it. In so many ways, life has suddenly become very simple and very quaint. We are baking bread and cookies, calling on old friends and relatives, playing board games in our living rooms, catching up on long forgotten projects—and flying kites.

From my mountainside perch on a hike yesterday, the sky was so clear I could see detail in the far-off Channel Islands. Social media has been swarmed with photos of dolphins and swans enjoying the crystal clear waters of the usually murky Venice canals. None of us has experienced an environment this pure, this clean, in our lifetimes. And it’s stunning.

But you can’t get very far with the beauty of it all before you bump right into reports of medical staff wrapping themselves in garbage bags because they don’t have enough protective gear, temporary morgues being set up outside hospitals, videos of infected people telling us what it feels like to be unable to breathe, and Governor Cuomo desperately broadcasting every morning from the front lines as the Corona cloud settles over New York City. Doctors, nurses, police, all coming up positive from repeated exposure. Followed by the daily broadcast from our emperor with no clothes who claims New York City is exaggerating.

Meanwhile, the stories keep coming. A formerly-healthy thirty-eight year-old teacher from Brooklyn dies, a 45 year-old nurse on the front lines dies due to inadequate protection, and a 17 year-old from California dies because he had no insurance and the urgent care facility he went to wouldn’t treat him. Here in Santa Barbara county, we are all about social distancing and self-isolation while we wait for the wave to hit in earnest. So far we have no deaths. From 1 to 2, to 5 to 8 to 16 to 24 and now 37 active cases, but 31 of those have either recovered or recovering at home and only 3 in ICU. Shreds of hope.


Our vile excuse for a president shamefully displays his malignant narcissism at every turn; playing games with resources to spite anyone who won’t consistently lick his boots. Who sees the numbers rising and the chaos spreading and declares that Americans need to get back to work and pack the churches two weeks from now at Easter.

Instead of coordinating a nationwide plan designed to help the country as a whole, he watches from his box seat at the Hunger Games while states are forced to bid against one another for protective equipment and ventilators, then uses his monstrous resources to outbid them all; displaying all the darkest sides of humanity in one human being. And his approval ratings are going up. Yes, up. Who are these people? I am unable to absorb a kind of person who would watch what he is doing and approve. But all I can do is sit here in disbelief and be appalled and ashamed and terrified and outraged.

And change the channel, back to the world where people now make eye contact and say hi and good morning when you walk by in the parks and on the hiking trails, exuding warmth and kindness as they respectfully step aside to keep the recommended six foot distance. Where the water runs clear and the skies are blue. I am soothed to read about Italians singing to each other nightly from their balconies, and people around the world who take to the rooftops at dusk to applaud their hospital staff. Musicians are offering concerts from their living rooms. These are the people I believe in, the world I want to be in.

We are living through something extraordinary; tossed moment by moment between extremes of beauty and horror. But right here, right now, as I tap away on the keyboard, the birds are chirping in the Jacaranda tree outside my window, the howling wind and stormy clouds of the past week have turned into a spring breeze and the sun is beginning to set in a flawlessly blue sky.

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